Friday, March 21, 2014

Short post: “I noticed” notes to build relationship! Great idea for teachers and parents!

So, my father found my blog the other day on LinkedIn.  I asked, “What do you think?”  He replied, “Very professional looking.”  I prodded a bit further, “What about the content?”  He replied, “Too many words, I didn’t read it.”  So… this post is for him, nice and short! 

A teacher at my school, @jodierandazzo suggested using “I noticed” notes to build relationships.  Great idea!!!!

How it works:  Simply place post-it notes on student’s desk when they least expect it!

I noticed you finished your project today… nice work with great detail!
I noticed you are being a good friend to Johnny… you are kind!
I noticed you helping Sally with her math at lunch… you are a good friend!
I noticed you put great voice in your writing today… nice focus on our target learning!
I noticed you being a good listener… you rock!
I noticed you filling Johnny’s bucket today… you are kind!  Side note:  Read to your class, Have you filled a bucket today? By Carol McCloud and illustrated by David Messing.  
I noticed you asking for help on your assignment… way to take charge of your learning!
I noticed you using "active listening" strategies with Sally during turn and talk… keep it up!

You get the idea!  I wouldn’t walk around the room giving “I noticed” notes all day… it could decrease the value.  Use it sparingly, maybe 3-5 per day and keep track, making sure you are noticing everyone over time.  I love this strategy because it provides encouragement and accolades to support a positive relationship between you and your students.  It will also teach students to self-regulate their behaviors, assuming responsibility to academic and social learning.  Students will love it and so will you!  

Idea for parents:  Place “I noticed” notes in your child’s lunch or backpack.  They will love receiving notes, showing how much you care even when you are not around:

I noticed your effort on reading practice last night… I am proud of you!
I noticed you being kind to your sister… you are a good big brother!
I noticed you made your bed before school… you are a great helper!
I notice each and every day that I am lucky to have you as my son/daughter… I love you!!!!

Show your child how much you care when they least expect it!  I have seen parents do this at our school... so much fun for the students! They love receiving kind words and it always put a smile on their face!  The best part, you are giving a reason for the complement to build self-concept.  It also teaches self-regulation, increasing the likelihood that positive behaviors will continue.

This isn't just for teachers and parents... administrators can do it too!

I noticed you being great educators and parents focused on compassionate relationships while supporting learning… I am thankful for positive teachers and parents!

Next week's post:  Just went to conferences… Now what????

Enjoy the week!!! 

Keith Howell

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Facilitate Learning: Engagement Strategies to Empower Students!

I recently saw an article on twitter: Should We Be Engaging or Empowering Student?  Great question!  I believe that our positive relationships, leadership, enthusiasm for each subject/activity, questioning/discussion techniques, and engagement strategies will excite students to learn.  Once we have them excited it is easier to empower them.  We need to model empowerment… show them what it feels and looks like.  Charlotte Danielson suggests the following within Domain 3 of our teacher evaluation process:

-Allow students to assume the responsibility and take initiative to modify learning tasks to make it more relevant to them.
-Provide extensive choice in how students can complete a task.
-Allow students to suggest modifications and/or additions to the materials being used.
-Provide an opportunity for reflection and closure on the lesson to consolidate understanding.
-Allow students to help establish the evaluation criteria.
-Provide an opportunity for students to monitor their own understanding, either on their own initiative or as a result of tasks set by the teacher.

These all sound like examples of empowerment.  So, the question asks… Should we be engaging or empowering students?  I believe we need to do both with the ultimate goal of empowering them to be life-long learners.

Below are some techniques that many of our teachers are using to support student engagement:
Tell a friend     
Have students tell a friend before asking for classroom response.  Sounds simple… because it is.  Important to teach students the signal to redirect class back to teacher.  Create anchor chart on how to be a good listener.

Turn and Talk   
Answer questions, have discussions, etc. with turn and talk partner before answering to the class.  This encourages 100% participation and active discussion. Consider having A/B partners during turn and talk, giving each partner a task to the discussion.  Create partners by proximity, ability level, o’clock partners, etc.

Article, story, textbook reading, etc. is divided into sections.  Put students into groups.  They are responsible for becoming the “expert” on their particular section.  Then, regroup students so that each group has one member from each original group.  Students (topic experts) share out - creates 100% participation and each student is responsible for dissemination of information.

Say Something
Consider the most important point from the article, story, chapter, video, read aloud, etc...
Say something:
-          Which I agree
-          Which I disagree
-          That puzzles me
-          I am reminded of
-          That was new to me
-          I wish the author had said more about
Place on chart paper and allow students to utilize post-it notes to display thoughts.  This can also be used with google docs and/or kidblog.

Chalk Walk       
Utilize chart paper with 5-7 specific questions related to the target learning (1 question per chart paper).  Put students into groups.  The groups should have different color post-its or markers when commenting and answering questions on the chart paper. This can also be an individualized silent task to encourage independent thinking. Again, kidblog and/or google docs could be utilized to answer questions instead of chart paper.
I wonder... I noticed     
Jot down a wonder and notice (use as exit slip, journal entry, post-it, etc.) during an article review, video, student presentation, teacher lesson, etc. This will enrich classroom discussion and raise level of concern.   Also great for staff meetings and professional development. 

A/B Pyramid    
Partner A faces the board/Partner B faces away.  Partner A describes the word (science/SS vocab/spelling word, etc.) or concept on the board without using the actual word.  Partner B has to guess what it is.  (Think $25,000 Pyramid).  Great for a review.

Think, pair, share, square
Students think...pair with another student... share with that student... then move into a square with 2 other students to share with them.  At the end - one person from each group of 4 provides info to the entire class - group of 4 picks the speaker. 
Sample Anticipation Guide                       
When reading, create a couple statement questions - have students agree/disagree with statement, see if they were correct after reading, provide page number and evidence – student could provide info in a journal or different media that teacher provides.

Question and answer cards                       
3-5 index card - have answers on card and you provide the question.  Students need to hold up the answer on their card to show teacher if they have the answer or not.  Quick formative assessment, great for review, and keeps kids engaged.

Story Circle of Thoughts          
After reading story the teacher will put students into groups.  They must discuss the story, taking on the point of view of different characters from the book, creating a society within each group. Then share out with the group or write a summary of ideas/thoughts.

Quick Draw
During read aloud have students do a quick draw of setting, character trait, big idea, prediction, etc.  Supports active listening during the story.

5 minute quick write
Take 5 minutes to summarize, predict, defend, compare/contrast, etc. after classroom discussion, story, activity, etc.  Time bound assignments will raise level of concern and enhance engagement.

Choreographed physical movement
Teach hand-clapping patterns, chanting verse of math facts, spelling/vocab words, etc.  Listen to songs set to math facts, social studies/science concepts, etc.  Older students can take their favorite songs and change the words to support learning, taking concepts and/or vocab words and putting them to song is fun and engaging. 

Connect, Extend, Challenge     
Use 3 sticky notes to take notes on an article, video, chapter, story, etc.
1. Connect - make a connection with another text, idea, etc.
2. Extend - How has this article helped you to extend (grow) your thinking?
3. Challenge - What challenges or questions do you still have after reading/viewing?

Exit Slip
Post "I learned" and "I loved" and “I can” column on the board.  Have students place each post-it note (name on back) under each column.  This can provide teacher with good formative information regarding student learning and engagement to the target objective.    

After reading an article, section in a book, or discussing a topic as a class... the students can create a headline to summarize the most important part.  They should try to style the headline, as line one that they would read in a newspaper. It should be attention-grabbing and support the target learning. 

CSI (Color, Symbol, Image)
Fold paper into 3 sections:
1.            Chose Color that represents a big idea that stood out for you.  Color section one.
2.            Draw a symbol to represent a big idea in section two.
3.            Sketch an image to represent a big idea.
Students should be prepared to discuss the reason for the CSI.   They can even write one or two sentences explaining each section.

6 learning methods
Additional engagement strategies/methods:
-          Inquiry-Based Learning
-          Problem-Based Learning
-          Discovery Learning
-          Cooperative Learning
-          Authentic Learning
-          Project-Based Learning

Remember, don’t try everything at once…  pick one or two that will support 100% active participation and build your repertoire of engagement strategies.  I hope you find this helpful, supporting a new idea or something you want to get back to using. 

Feel free to comment and share some of your engagement strategies, let’s learn together! 

Enjoy teaching, engaging, and empowering your students!  

Keith Howell

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Popplet: Supporting son's writing homework… he loves to build!

Used as a mind-map, Popplet helps students think and learn visually. Students can capture facts, thoughts, and images while learning to create relationships between them.  This is how it helped our family:

My son is a typical 1st grader who loves to build.   Many times I will get home from work to see an extra-large airplane made of construction paper on the living room floor.  He loves getting cardboard boxes to build space ships or jetpacks.  Lego’s are a fan favorite at our house (side note, the Lego Movie is a must see, great movie with a better message).  He enjoys the 3 in 1 Legos, creating multiple possibilities from the same set.  I would say his top building game is Minecraft on the Ipad.  The creative and building aspects of Minecraft allow players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world.  Extremely exciting for a 1st grader!  It is all he wants to talk about.   Unfortunately, as much as he loves to build, the opposite is true for homework

Homework can be a challenge for him, particularly writing assignments.  He becomes very frustrated, not because he is unable to do the work, because he thinks it is boring.  We try to make it a game and provide some incentives from time to time.  We always “talk it up,” showing excitement when he brings it home, giving accolades for his effort, and breaking assignments into chunks so it isn’t as overwhelming.  His homework is appropriate (needed practice) focused on skill building and the writing assignments seem to connect to student interests and ability level.

Over the mid-winter break he received a writing assignment that was challenging, lacking interest to even start the homework.  He was asked to write about his hero, directions were clear and expectations were appropriate for his ability level.  With that said, it was like pulling teeth to get him motivated (not that I have ever pulled teeth… I’m sure it isn’t easy).  He picked his hero, that was a great conversation (made my mom happy, see his Popplet below); however, he had no interest in putting his thought into words.  We tried to create a brainstorming web to organize our conversation, had no interest.  Can you believe it???  The son of a principal has no interest in his writing homework… actually, reminds me of myself when I was a child. 

So, I introduced him to Popplet.  He loves to build, figured this might be helpful… building his mind-map using technology.  His attitude quickly changed, using the app to “build” ideas was exciting (or at least more acceptable than writing).  I even think he had fun!!!!  Check it out:

He did all of the typing, with limited help w/spelling, then copied onto provided sheet without complaining.  
Finished product:

Popplet is a great brainstorming tool that motivated him differently than other strategies we have used.  Of all the tricks... this one worked (at least for this assignment)!  Check out the website if you are looking for a new way to motivate your new writers... at home or at school!

As a final thought, if you are required to give homework (my HW philosophy is for another post), make it as exciting, purposeful and relevant as possible.  Be mindful to the amount you are giving.  Try to create homework experiences that motivate your students.    Differentiate your homework based on need and allow for choice.  Please, please, please… do not provide busy work that students (families) might resent, this will only hinder your goal of creating an excited life-long learner. Provide homework that will strengthen your classroom teaching and support student engagement, empowering them to learn. 

Have a great week of teaching!!!! 

Keith Howell