Monday, September 27, 2010

High Five (Grouping Strategy)

High Five is easy, quick, and effective. Thank you to Robin Fogarty and Brian M. Pete for your great idea!
High Five
This another great way to get your students into collaborative groups or pairs. It's also wonderful to get your students moving around.

Students get out of their chairs and walk around the room shaking hands with or high-fiving their classmates. When you say freeze they stop. Whoever they are shaking hands with or high-fiving (or is it fiving high?) will be their partner for a discussion. This pairing strategy is a variation of Three Musketeers.

I often use High Five with the quick write strategy. You will notice that what I am about to describe is a variation of Think-Pair-Share

My students watch CNN Student News in the morning. When the news is done, I pose a quick writing prompt for them to think about. After a minute or so of think time I ask my students to get out of their seats and walk around shaking hands or high-fiving their classmates. When I say freeze they partner up with someone whom they are making contact or who is nearby. The students then talk about what their writing idea with their partner. Afterward, they go to their quick write journal to log their thoughts.

I collect the quick write journals once a week to check for several things: comprehension, mechanics, complete sentences, deep thought, creativity, and more.

Try it this week!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dream Vacation Grouping

Jason has invited me to participate as a collaborator on this blog. This year I find myself in a career transition. I was a fifth grade teacher for nine years and now have moved to a reading specialist position. I work with kindergarten through second grade students on specific reading skills. You'll find some of my posts will focus on upper elementary instruction in all areas and some will focus on lower elementary instruction in reading instruction. That said, here we go!

I recently attended a Literacy Coaches Network meeting at my local ISD (Intermediate School District) and learned a new icebreaker/grouping strategy. I am a person that often finds icebreakers awkward and found this one not only pleasant but kind of fun. Here it is step-by-step:

1. Ask your students the question, "If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be?" Tell them they must choose just one place and keep the answer in their head.

2. Once they have had enough 'think time' have them line up around the room alphabetically, according to the first letter of the location of their 'dream vacation'. (Note: To keep the suspense going, tell them they many only give the first letter of their location, they may not tell their location while lining up).

3. Once kids are lined up have them turn to the person next to them and tell what their dream vacation is and why they would love to go there.

4. From this point you can have them discuss other questions, either as a social skill building activity or have them partner up with that person to complete a more academic orientated activity.

Good luck and have fun!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Formative Assessment Activities: Quick Write Challenge (Serial)

Another great activity presented by Robin Fogarty and Brian M. Pete who present on  (In)formative Assessment. 
This is one of many in a series of blog posts dealing with formatively assessing your students' progress as they participate in these fun activities. If you like them, try them.

Quick Write Challenge
You want to know if your students are understanding what you are teaching. You can use the quick write challenge as a way to formatively assess their knowledge and allow students to set goals and self-evaluate their progress.

Students write for 60 seconds about a topic, or write using as many ____ (adverbs, adjectives, sensory imagery etc.). Circle all of the ____ and set a goal for themselves before they write again. Give them another 60 seconds to see if they can meet or beat their goal.  Have students appraise their goal (meta-cognition). Did they meet the goal? Fall short? How?

Imagine you've just taught your students about onomatopoeia. You want students to write as many examples of onomatopoeia as they can in one minute. After the first round, ask the students to count the number of examples of onomatopoeia they wrote. Ask the students to set a goal for the next round. They will add to the list for another minute after setting a goal. After the second round, have students evaluate their work.

Students can collaborate in small groups to come up with the top 5 examples to share with the class. Record the examples in a word wall, or in a printable for your students to paste in their writing journals. You can collect their individual lists using their quick write as formative assessment of their knowledge and understanding.

A possible student list.
First Round: Bang, zip, zot, buzz, ticktock, beep, moo
Goal: two more than the first round
Second Round: bark, hiss, cluck, eek, hum, ping, gurgle, squish, oink, meow
Self-evaluation: I achieved my goal! One thing I did to help myself think of more was to think of animal sounds.

There are so many applications for this activity. Try it this week.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Formative Assessment Activities (Serial) AB Pyramid

Robin Fogarty and Brian M. Pete present on  (In)formative Assessment. I saw them this summer. They shared wonderful ideas and activities. Now I want to share them with you.

This is one of many in a series of blog posts dealing with formatively assessing your student's progress as they participate in these fun activities. For more formative assessment ideas and other great tips, check out the right-hand side of this blog page under the heading "More Instant Ideas".  If you like them, try them. When you do, comment back on the blog. Tell us what went right, or what you changed to make it work for your classroom. We love to read feedback!

AB Pyramid
Let's say you've just taught your students about lines, line segments, rays, and angles.  You want to find out how much they've learned. You could even use AB pyramid as a review of vocabulary and terms. Think of the game show called $10,000 Pyramid to get an idea of the game play (see video below).

One faces the screen or board, and the other faces away from the screen or board. Partners stand or sit shoulder to shoulder. Display the terms and/or vocabulary. The one facing the board or screen gives clues the other much like in 10,000 Pyramid.

Student A is facing the board, while Student B has her back to the board.

You display the word "line" on the board. You wander the room listening for accurate clues and responses while students participate.

A: Okay, it goes on in both directions with out ending.
B: Line segment?
A: Nope. It has two arrows at the end.
B: Oh! Line!
A: Bingo!

+ You could have the students shoot their hands up when they got the right answer giving the class a sense of urgency. Brain research says it's good to have a dose of healthy stress while learning--the adrenalin increases the heart rate which increases the blood flow to the brain.
+ You may want to show images instead of words.
+ Have your students remain in the shoulder to shoulder posture while you teach more, and then have your students discuss what you said.

My kids loved it! Try it soon!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thanks to Grand Rapids

Robin and I had a wonderful time in Grand Rapids. This blog is a very impressive example of immediate transfer.

I want to share the latest closing strategy that I am doing in my professional development.
I use this when I know that there has been a lot of input and the participants brains are full of new learning.

I say, everyone take a piece of paper and write 5 words or less that they think describes this day.
Everyone has a minute to write and then I say, "At your table share your words and then have a conversation and decide on three words that your table agrees best describes the day."
After a couple minutes I have them share the three words to the room. If I have 7 tables then the room gets to here 21 words that summarize the learning for the day. I get valuable feedback and the learners get a chance to hear all of the content for the day reduced to 21 words. (of course there will be some words mentioned more than once)

In an effort to make participants aware of the complexity of the strategy I tell them that this closing activity starts with an individual brainstorm, then a sharing of all words, collaboration towards a goal of finding the top three. Agreement on criteria and then decision making and finally consensus of the group. It is a complex task that serves as a learner lead review of content.
I don't have a name for it yet but I am thinking of calling it . . . In 5 Words or Less.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Top Ten Think Abouts Numbers 3-1

Top Ten Think Abouts are some concepts of pedagogy that I heard from Robin Fogarty and Brian M. Pete. Fogarty and Pete are a married couple who entertainingly deliver important and useful tips and activities for teachers to implement in their classrooms. This post has two prequels; which can be found here (10-8) and here (7-4).

In this post, I will give you the last three educational musings that got me thinking about ways I could improve my teaching. I hope the last three and the previous seven were as inspiring as I thought they were.

Without further ado, the Top 3:

3. Formative assessment must include a recipe for future action.
"Assessment is today's means of understanding tomorrow's instruction." - Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson

What research says:
D.R. Sadler's meta-analysis (Formative Assessment: Revisiting the Territory), of his own work and with consideration of Black and Wiliam's research in formative assessment*, maintains that it's the quality of formative assessment, not the quantity, that wins the day. Formative assessment has "coaching value" allowing students to see where they are flourishing and where they need improvements.

Black, P., and Wiliam, D., (1998). Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice; Mar1998, Vol. 5 Issue 1, p7, 68p

What it might look like:
Let's say that you just finished a great lesson about desert biome food webs. You want to find out how much your students understood. Just before dismissal you have your students fill out an exit slip. You collect the slips as they leave the class. You quickly read through the slips to determine if they are understanding, or if they need further instruction.

2. Take learning to another level.

What research says:
Usually when talking about "taking it to the next level" in education you might first think about Benjamin Bloom, creator of Bloom's taxonomy; a categorized hierarchy of learning where remembering is at the lowest level and creating is at the highest level. The idea of Bloom's taxomony is that each step up in category is an increase in student thinking skills. For example, it doesn't take as much cognitive skill recalling the seven continents, than it does creating a map including the seven continents and their relative locations.
Bloom's Taxonomy  (Revised)

The key idea is to create learning opportunities that encourage students to think at higher levels.

What it might look like:
After teaching your students about the benefits of daily exercise, you ask your students to discuss the benefits of a daily exercise (remembering). Then you have your students categorize, and provide support for, the top three benefits  of daily exercise (evaluating). 

Example (categories in parenthesis):
Keeps the heart healthy (physical health)
Provides time for yourself (personal time)
Potential for improving mental health (emotional health)

1. “The person who is doing the talking is doing the learning.” -- Robin Fogarty

What research says:
Robin Fogarty writes, "They (students) must be doing majority of the talking in the classroom." Research says that students who are actively engaged in their learning tend to do better academically. Fogarty urges teachers to keep in mind the question of "Who's doing the talking?" while teaching. Allow ample opportunities for discussion on the topics you're teaching. Doug Harwood's study suggests that teachers play an important role as coaches of student discussion. Walk around the room while the discussion is happening. Interject, encourage, rephrase, applaud and redirect student discussions to help your students get the most out of their talk. Let students learn from each other. Let them take control of their learning.

What it might look like:
If you are looking to decrease the amount of time you talk, and increase the amount of time your students talk you might begin by introducing small group discussion opportunities a little at a time. Let yourself get used to giving up the stage. You might try a strategy called Think, Pair, Share. You pose a question for students to think about; give them time to formulate an answer. On your cue, "Pair." students pair up with a neighbor. Then once every student has a partner, you ask them to share. Regroup the students and find what some groups had to say.

If you liked that strategy you might like the other strategies listed in this blog archive.

I hope you enjoyed the Top Ten. I wish you the best in your new school year, or where ever you teach!