EDU 596: Strategies for Creating Success for American/International Schools. Buffalo State, State University of New York (SUNY) 3 Credits (as per attending EARCOS 2012, Bangkok, Thailand) Tim Gascoigne Grade 3 Teacher Beijing BISS International School Beijing, CHINA
Euling Ewing Monroe (Pre-‐Conference Speaker): Mathematics Title: Helping Learners Develop Mathematical Practices That Yield. This workshop, presented by Euling Monroe, was a pre-‐conference workshop designed to challenge attendees in the area of mathematical practices. It took place the day prior to the start of the EARCOS ‘12 regular conference sessions. I was excited to be able to attend and learn strategies to, refresh, and challenge my practice in the area of mathematics. My initial training for teaching mathematics in the elementary grades was about six years ago. Since that time I have had a few opportunities to attend some math professional development. I felt going in that I was fairly current with my thinking about mathematics but knowledge doesn’t always translate to good practice. It can be easy to lose sight of good mathematical practice in the goal of trying to cover many outcomes. I currently find this more of a challenge this year, as I am in a new grade level and teaching within the PYP framework, which is also a new program for me to teach within. My goal was to walk away from this workshop day with some new understandings and a challenge for implementing them into my daily practice with the children. The day began with some good activities aimed at math discussions. I think we often forget about the importance of having those oral language discussions surrounding mathematics. I feel competent in having my students “do” the math and yet too often forget how important it is to have them “talk” about the math. In my third grade classroom I have a number of ESL students meaning that this is an area of increased importance in the building of their understanding and ability to communicate their learning. So often they have the knowledge but lack the ability to use language to communicate it. Vocabulary building was one practical area that I will be able to implement in the immediate future to my teaching. I always talk about the vocabulary words at the beginning of the unit, put them up on the wall and then often leave them there. I was challenged to think of more interactive ways to use a math word wall. I now see, just like a language word wall, how important it is for the students to use those words in practical ways to build understanding and develop their cognitive thinking. Having them posted on the wall is not enough for building proficiency in using them. Another area of challenge and reflection is in the area of ensuring that students are not just given activities but rather meaning tasks that have them working towards achieving the goal of
the lesson. What makes something a good task or a meaningful task? In groups we brainstormed the answer to this question. Some of the thoughts that were shared include ensuring that the task is engaging, meaningful, involves everyone, is varied and differentiated and is scaffolded just enough to ensure success. I wanted to further explore this issue and visited a blog by Jennifer Piggott on the nrich.maths.org website in which she questions the very thing we were discussing in this workshop. Her conclusions about good tasks or “rich tasks” as she calls them is that they are largely dependent on the support and the questioning that is used by the teacher to support learning. The most important thing I took from her understandings is that it is important our tasks that we give students are accessible to all in the beginning and that they are open ended enough to allow for differentiation. This is not to say that all students will be at the same level upon entry to the task but rather they have the support and scaffolding to have access to it. I have been challenged in my teaching to ensure that I am providing my students tasks that are rich in nature and provide good assessment of my students’ thinking and understanding about the concepts. My final reflections on her workshop are in the area of the structure of an engaged math lesson. I challenged my own thinking when this was presented. She often referred to how the structure of a math lesson should follow the pattern of “Launch, Explore, Summary”. The launch being the time when the teacher introduces the concept or lesson and then circulates asking questions and then summarizes with the students to consolidate their learning. My initial question to this structure was: Does this format discredit the creativity of the teacher and the freedom of students to inquire and explore the areas that challenge where they are in their mathematical thinking? The answer I believe is no. I think, after doing some further research, that this model allows for more inquiry from the students during the explore phase. During this face, after a short introduction to the problem based on what the teacher has for a goal in the lesson, the students are left to explore and get “messy”. What about the students that struggle? I think that this would be a good time to work individually with those students who need more direct instruction and explicit teaching. I am challenged to implement this model into my teaching and ensure that I am delivering problems for them to solve rather than practice questions and teacher-‐centered lessons. The learning from others comes at the end when we consolidate what we have learned together during the summary portion of the lesson. It is so important and valuable to make sure
that the lesson is not left with students finishing the problem but rather the teacher allowing for the students to talk and discuss about how they went about solving their problems. In summary and reflection, I take many valuable points of discussion away from this pre-‐conference workshop. I am reminded of good mathematical discussions and how pivotal they can be in a students learning. The concept of a “good task” is another area that I will be focusing on during my math lessons. Does the task meet the needs of all my learners? This will be a question I will ask myself at the beginning of the lesson to ensure that the task I give my students is indeed worthwhile one related to the goals I have for their learning. Finally, the structure of the lesson is an area that I will be working on improving in my classroom. The link below is an additional resource I used in writing this paper in conjunction with the workshop reflections: http://www.smartconsortium.org/user-‐files/launch%20explore%20summarize%20math%20lesson%20model.pdf
Linc Jackson/Ben Sheridan (Teacher-‐Led Workshop) Title: Integrating Technology to Enhance Literacy Instruction in the Early Years I begin my reflections on this workshop with the view of my students as 21 Century learners. What does a student look like in today’s classroom compared to a student in a classroom as few as ten years ago or when I was an elementary student twenty years ago? We are living in a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) age of education and communication where our students are no longer dependent on the information that we, as their teachers, are prepared to deliver to them. Instead, today’s learner has access to an incredible amount of tools that will enable them to access the information we are going to deliver to them before we even meet them in the classroom. So, do we adapt to this change or continue as if it isn’t happening? I take the thought from one of the keynote speakers at the conference who stated that the generation of students who are currently graduating from high schools around the world are the first group of students who do not remember what life was like BT (before technology). The question is not do we adapt to the change, rather, it should be when do we adapt to the change? I propose the answer is now. I was fortunate to attend a teacher-‐led workshop by Linc Jackson and Ben Sheridan at EARCOS ‘12. The target age group was K-‐2. I have taught those grades but am currently teaching Grade 3. However, with the 1-‐1 technology in my classroom I was excited to learn about new ways to have my young students engaged and collaborating online. Ben did an excellent job of sharing his thoughts and ideas with the group. He gave us examples of how he has used web 2.0 tools in his classroom to engage his students and give them other ways of expressing themselves. He has had great success with Twitter, voice threads, Google doc’s, Skype, iPads and other tools with his Kindergarten students. The opportunity to have students develop literacy skills as well as engage in 21C skills is an exciting combination that I am eager to put into practice. In this paper, I want to reflect on three ideas. The first being digital citizenship: How can we teach important skills and responsibility to our students without impeding their creativity on the Internet? The second being on our digital footprint: What do we as professionals want our digital footprint to look like and how do we ensure that our students are also developing this at such a young age? My third reflection is answering the question: How do we make
these tools seamless in the classroom rather than an additional, imposed IT project initiated from the teacher? When I sent a permission form home approximately two months ago asking if a picture of my students could be used in a dental magazine I had an astonishing response. The request came from a hygienist who visited our class during an inquiry into healthy living. I had several parents decline the request to have their child’s picture in the magazine. I wondered where the concern lay. Was their concern about protecting identity or did they simply not value dental health? If their concern was over identity protection I wonder if they realize that their child has a wikispace page that is accessible by anyone on the internet who wants to search for it. The parents of our students did not grow up in this digital generation. They are not “digital natives”. Discussing digital citizenship needs to begin with our parents in the same way that we advocate for strong parental support for the learning that takes place in the classroom. I strongly believe that educating our parents is absolutely essential in furthering the dialogue about integrating technology into the classroom and providing a platform for talking about these issues. Even though it was not explicitly talked about in the workshop it did strike a chord with me as I think about involving my students in web 2.0 tools like blogs, Twitter, and others. After involving our parents in the discussion it is important to model appropriate language and responsibility to our students when it comes to blogging, twittering, searching Google and creating comments on blogs, wiki’s and other websites. Our students find it difficult to understand the audience that they are writing for. The understanding of “voice” sometimes doesn’t begin until upper elementary. I look forward to bringing these and other ideas into my class and beginning the dialogue at a school level with other staff members on how we effectively teach digital citizenship. My second reflection is on our digital footprint. I have often goggled my name only to find a few returns from my University, previous workplaces and Facebook. I have a very small “digital footprint”. I realized through this and other workshops the importance of keeping up with technology and ensuring that I spend some time building my footprint on the Internet. When someone wants to search me, I want to be proud of who I have become both professionally and personally. I want my virtual presence to reflect my real presence. This is, of course, a journey that can begin now. After the workshop I was inspired to set up my own professional blog. This will be useful for collecting my ideas about technology
integration as well as a space for my lessons and projects, which in turn can aid future employment or can simply become a great place for a sharing of ideas. What is our role in helping our students develop their digital footprint? I think we have a huge responsibility to at least model this. In twenty years it is doubtful that the blog comment they made on their peers writing in Kindergarten will be a top hit on Google. However, modeling appropriate writing and ensuring our students have good citizenship on the internet will reap them wonderful gains in their years to come when it comes to their lasting footprint in cyberspace. My final reflection is in the area of the Internet becoming a seamless tool in the classroom rather than an imposed project initiated by the teacher. Can technology become a seamless part of a student’s school day? Can technology be as seamless as a student choosing a library book? I think that the answer to those questions can be yes. I have seen other teachers create this in their classroom and I only hope that my students can, at some point, feel the same way. Having a positive attitude toward using the Internet is an appropriate place to start. If our attitude toward change is positive then our students will adopt this and be excited about the new possible ways of learning. Ben, during his workshop, highlighted how possible this was. He will present ideas and allow the class to think about effective ways of learning the material. Often his students have suggested tools such as Twitter, blogs and voice threads to communicate, create and collaborate. This is the place I want my students to be in. I want them to value all ways of learning and use them when it is appropriate for them. In conclusion, I think that we are at a very exciting crossroads in education. Allowing technology to bridge the gap that we need for our students to develop skills that they need and want to have access to is essential. I want to be an agent of change in my classroom and embrace web 2.0 tools and online collaboration. We are part of a larger community and I am excited to share and learn from others. We do have important things to consider in this journey especially when it comes to introducing this to our students. I hope that my reflections will be a starting point for me in my practice.
Steven Layne (Keynote Speaker): Literacy Title: Balcony People: Teachers Make the Difference Title: Successful strategies for building lifetime readers I was fortunate to attend Steven Layne’s keynote address to the conference on Friday morning. I was so inspired that I chose to attend his following breakout workshop on successful strategies for building lifetime readers. In his keynote address, Steven eloquently spoke about teachers making the difference and being the “balcony people” for our students. When I look back on my life there are certainly key people that stand out as being the balcony people that have cheered me on through good and bad times. Am I doing this for my students? Will they look back and remember me as being someone who supported them in what they needed and cheered them on to better things? I hope so. The focus of this reflection, however, is in the area of literacy and how I, as a teacher, am encouraging a passion for lifetime reading. Steven, in his second workshop, outlined necessary skills that good readers need including phonetics, fluency, comprehension, semantics, and syntax. He then went on to discuss the affective attitudes (interest, attitude, motivation, and engagement), which are key to developing in readers. With the age of technology and access to material we, and our students, are living in I believe it is important that we are focusing on the affective attitudes towards developing a love for reading and literacy. I have encountered many students who, if having the language and thought process, might say something like, “I can read but I don’t and you can’t make me!”. This aliteracy, as Steve terms it, is prevalent in our schools. How do we make the change to developing lifelong readers? Steven gave some great ideas. These will be ones that I challenge myself to implement in my classroom. He gave us some very practical ideas that we could implement in our schools and classrooms. First, he introduced “The Golden Recommendation Shelf”. This shelf mysteriously appears in his classroom unpainted and without reason. It creates a real suspicion and excitement amongst the students as they wonder where it came from. The next day the students come in and notice that it has been painted gold. The excitement ensues and conversation erupts as to the purpose and intent of the shelf. He then begins to put his “favorite” books on the shelf and allows them to be checked out. The students are eager to read the books and they become the talk of the classroom. What a
great idea to generate an interest in readers! I will certainly look at doing something similar in my classroom. Another idea he presented was the “Elementary CAFÉ”. This is setup with PTA support and a chosen teacher host. He begins this at the start of the year and often chose the P.E. teacher to host the first café. Students don’t often see the PE teacher as a literacy teacher but this teacher is often naturally the most popular teacher in the school. Using him/her creates great excitement amongst their students and provides for a greater audience during the kick-‐off café at the start of the year. The host chooses his/her favorite book and offers a question and answer time. The librarian purchases about 15-‐20 copies of the book as they will no-‐doubt all be taken out after the café is concluded. The PTA provides food and snacks which draws in reluctant students. The older students create advertisements and publicity about the event and school-‐wide interest is generated. The café becomes a monthly (or otherwise decided upon) event and a love of reading high-‐interest books is created! I love this idea. Steven is a renowned children’s author and has published a number of wonderful books that are enjoyed by children and teachers. His book, Igniting a Passion for Reading, outlines these and other helpful strategies for working with reluctant and oppositional readers. I look forward to reading further about this and generating more ideas for implementation in my classroom. He talks about how important it is for kids to know who authors are and the important role they play in literacy. Our students can name several popular titles that they, or others, have read but may be hard pressed to think of the author of these books. He suggests getting signed autographs from authors in books and promoting author studies. If a child enjoys one particular author, he/she will probably enjoy the other wonderful books that they have written. This workshop enlightened me to think about literacy from a different angle. We, as teachers, can get caught up in the “doing” of literacy that we prevent students from “enjoying” literacy. I hope to take some of his practical ideas, his love of reading, and his enjoyment of watching children fall in love with reading back to my classroom in the near future.