October 30, 2013

Today we briefly reviewed note taking  strategies before launching into the topic of memory.  An accurate way to perceive human memory is through the concept of lost and found  vs. forgot and remembered .  The human brain is an amazing storage device, but like a messy room that has been turned upside down, having the memory, doesn't mean that you will be able to recall/find the memory.  One of the many keys to developing better recall is to develop a mental filling system that allows you to categorize and store memory in a way that you can quickly and accurately recall it later.  Students identified the importance of developing physical organization that can aid mental organization.  They also explored the importance of rituals that support better organization.  As the year progresses we will look at the relationship memory has to risk taking  and iterations  (repetitive practice).

October 23, 2013

We reviewed last weeks introduction to Kohlberg's 6 levels of moral development, and in so doing introduced a mnemonic device to aid recall.  Every Player Really Should Play Rugby IClean Clothes.  This silly sentence could be used to help remember... 2 Extrinsic levels: Avoid Trouble (Punishment) and Seek a Reward; 2 Societal levels: Please Others and Follow Rules; and 2 Intrinsic levels: Be Considerate and Follow a Personal Code.  We looked at more common every day mnemonics like ROYGBIV and PEMDAS.  We then looked at other study techniques like simplifying, grouping, color, and repetition could be used to aid memory.

Students were then provided blank maps that they could use to study for their upcoming Washington map tests.  This provided the opportunity to practice the introduced study techniques above. 

We closed the session by emphasizing the importance of when and how long to study.  I borrowed the medical terminology of "Low dose, high frequency".  Study in short bursts, multiple times throughout the day and over the week when you need to memorize something. 

October 16, 2013

Reviewed the "brain" discussion from Monday. 

Did our first in-class reading.  Discussed the risk-taking that oral reading requires and the supportive environment we need to create to encourage this "risky" activity.  Reviewed my experiences as a dyslexic when I was their age. 

Read small parts from a passage of a book by Rafe Esquith, on the classroom work he did with students utilizing Lawrence Kohlberg's 6 levels of moral development.  Reminded students that the book was written from the frame of reference of a teacher speaking to other teachers and adults about experiences he had in an east LA elementary school.  This means there are parts of his message that need to be filtered so we can get at the interesting work he did with Kohlberg.  Student's did a great job of reading.  We identified the six levels as... 1) Avoiding trouble, 2) Looking for a reward , #) Pleasing  others, 4) Following rules , 5) Being considerate , and 6) Developing a personal code .  We shared examples of many but not all of these stages.  We will continue to explore these six stages in the future.

October 14, 2012

I shared my observations about the Spanish presentations I was able to watch.  Students were both brave presenters and polite, focused listeners.  Discussed how note-taking can act as a focusing tool for listening if your attention as drifting.  Transitioned to a brief 10 minute note-taking exercise.  Reviewed all of the difficult challenges note-taking presents: practicing transitions between listening, watching, writing, thinking and participating. 

I presented a brief explanation of what is cognitively happening in the brain when we take risks and engage in difficult work.  Similar to working out the body, where stress on muscles breaks the muscles down and the body responds by rebuilding with bigger/better muscles, the brain responds to intellectual challenge by building increased synaptic activity between brain cells.  This increased connectivity between brain cells has a direct impact on... creativity, problem solving, memory access, and processing speed.  These changes can sometimes have an impact on aspects of our lives in the future... self-confidence, happiness, and/or success (defined in many different ways). 

October 9, 2013

Some students submitted past-due journal entries to be checked. 

We reviewed a confusing math concept on the test students would be finishing later today. 

Discussed study techniques to prepare for vocab test.  Many students were interested in using flash cards.  Specific techniques with flash cards: test both sides, partner quizzing, right v. wrong piles, practice utilizing small dose and high frequency .  Also explored: general importance of study techniques that involve writing (product creation) and speaking, making up test questions and... brain dump .  Brain dumps are hard.  They require you to really self test exactly what you know.  Even when making one don't feel successful ("I couldn't remember much"), the process helps your brain build the bookshelves upon which they will later store the information.

We then explored organizational choices students were making.  After modeling how to share their organizational choices, students had time to do such sharing in small groups.  They then were given time to work at their organization.  Many students used this to sort, recycle or hole punch paper work.  Others updated planners. 

We discussed the power students have to "train" teachers.  "Could you please hole punch your papers before you give them to us?"  "Do you have a hole punch in this room?" 

And finally, students engaged in a lively discussion of how they feel when they ask a teacher to restate/clarify something in class.  By viewing the conversation through a different frame of reference, we explored how a teacher, as a result of being in a 1-on-15 environment, can sometimes be short with a student.  Could the teacher be feeling things similar to the student... fearful, angry, defensive? 

October 7 - 2013

We reviewed crossing protocol to the East Village after Monday morning meeting.  6th graders are not be be crossed by 8th graders at this time.  6th graders should all gather in the breeze-way and wait for Greg to cross them as a group.  This is a safety issue, a weather issue (doors are locked until I get there, so no way to stay dry) and a teacher responsibility issue (until I get there 8th grade teachers are starting their own classes and should not have to monitor 6th graders - my job).

We then shared our journal entries.  Not all students wrote all 10 sentences.  We reminded students that they should check-in with Molly when they have updated their journals so that she can mark them off.  I made an analogy to athletics.  If you don't participate in practice, it is hard to improve and participate in the game.  One of the most referred to passages from the Chapter 2 reading, ironically, was about the balance that exists between giving and receiving.  If you don't "give" the effort on HW it is hard to "receive" the benefit of the learning.  Several students shared beautiful responses to the chapter, making insightful connections to their own lives.  

We brainstormed strategies for preparing for tomorrow's math test.  Strategies brought up included: doing HW, correcting HW, redoing HW, doing extra practice problems, making up practice problems, making vocab flash cards, taking notes that you can use on the test (vocab, example problems), algorithm instructions for multi-digit multiplication and long division.  The emphasis should always be on techniques that produce writing and/or involve speaking.  Discussed the vagueness of words like "review", "look over" and "study". 

Next session we will have some group time dedicated to trying to clean up/organize binders as well as review best study practices for their LA vocab test on Thursday. 

October 2 - 2013

After reviewing last weeks lesson on students understanding of "teacher think", we did an exercise exploring how much students know about how teacher's create assignments and how students can come to depend on that teacher provided input, and sometimes actually begin to defend against the "receiving" of that information.  Even though all students are aware that each day a teacher may give them information about the what, where, when, how, why, how long and quality expectations of work, how is it that we develop habits of mind that allow us to be "surprised" or "forgetful" about that work?  We noted that you have to "stand up" and "take charge" of your learning.  Your teacher is your coach and mentor, not simply the authority figure telling you exactly what to do.

We modeled this in real world terms.  Students had to ask questions until they determined the exact nature of the assignment.  They did great. 

HW: complete the following if it is not finished after the 25 minutes of guided work time provided in class.  Read Step 2 in HOW TO BE INTERESTING.  Complete a 10 sentence journal entry where you identify one of the images in the text, copy it down and then explain what it means and how you have applied this in your own life or how you could try applying it in the future.  The key here is to avoid the "literalism" we discussed in the previous class.

September 30 - 2013

Today students wrote about their favorite and/or least favorite/confusing/concerning part of the first chapter of their "text", HOW TO BE INTERESTING.  We discussed the importance of          looking at the frame of reference you use when taking in new information.  We noted that it can be challenging  to hear a new message if we are not willing to risk  trying on a new frame of reference.  We noted the connection to learning new information at school.  This exercise also allowed us to explore the importance of moving beyond the convenience of "literalism".  Sometimes we choose to interpret a message in a way that allows us to do what we want without having to push ourselves to do what was asked.  Most students seem to connect to the brief story I modeled about the two siblings in the back seat of the car "not touching each other" after mom asked them to "stop touching."

September 25 - 2013

Started with a journal entry reviewing Tom's cultural frames of reference  exercise from the Monday meeting and how teachers and students each bring different frames of reference to their school experience.  I also used the journal writing activity as a risk taking  activity to model the importance of "going for it" in school, even when you are not sure if you are doing it correctly.

We then discussed the kinds of information that students need to collect in order to successfully complete requested work by teachers.  Students brainstormed solid investigative questions that focus on the 5 W's and H .  When is it due?  How long is it?  What are the quality expectations?  Who is the audience?  What resources will I need?  When will we get to work on it?  How will we complete it?  Why are you asking me to do this?  I suggested that it is time to start owning these questions as a learner and not wait passively for teachers to provide this information in all circumstances.

We then passed out our new "text book" for students to explore.  Next Monday we will do an in-class journal write on their favorite aspect of the "First Step" outlined in the text. 

September 23 - 2013

Journal entry: Finish this thought, "Note taking is...", and then try to write out the spelling for the first ten numbers in Spanish.

After reviewing last weeks discussion of note-taking we discussed the concept of a Brain Dump .  While mostly a   written product , brain dumps can also be done at any time or place without any kind of writing tools.  A brain dump is simply an effort to think about what you know.  It is an excellent way to start a study session for an exam.  It acts as a self-test and gets the brain to begin creating scaffolding for what it does and does not recall.  I asked students if they ever walk around and just think to themselves... "The numbers from one to ten in Spanish are uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez."  (picked this content because it is simple and current)  No one raised their hand.  I described it as "one of the dirty little secrets of the A+ student.  

We then did an exercise I call Can v. Should .  Because I can do something, doesn't necessarily mean that it is what is best for me.  Modeled this idea by asking students to try and support the weight of their pack out in front of themselves with an extended arm. "This is hard."  I know.  But look at how strong you are.  You are doing it!  You can do it.  Now, move your extended hand to your chest.  "Oh, that is easier."  Now move both hands around the pack and hug it to your chest.  "Oh, my back doesn't hurt anymore."  Now go ahead and put it on your back as it is designed to be used.  "Well this is really easy and effortless."  We then had a discussion about the relevance/connection between this exercise and the choices one might make with respect to planning and organization.   "I don't need a planner."  "I can remember."  Yes you can... but should you?

Briefly introduced a conversation on   frames .  We will visit this more in the future as a way of challenging oneself to recognize your own frame of reference and the frame of reference of the teacher.  The teacher wants to understand yours and your job is to stay open to the foreign/different frame of reference they are asking you to practice or experience.

Introduced the first of many language reframings.  One student described note-taking as "boring".  I suggested that the word "boring" might be looked at as a sign that the activity in question is unpracticed, difficult or not fully understood.  I also noted that when the word "boring" is brought up, it often means that the speaker of the term may not be thinking very creatively. 

September 16 - 2013

Discussed new procedure when leaving Monday morning meetings and heading over to East Village as a class.  Students should bring their back packs to Monday morning meeting so we can immediately proceed to the breeze way and then cross all at once.

We checked in on planner choice progress.  About half the class felt they had chosen a method they liked.  The other half felt they were still exploring. 

We took notes on note taking emphasizing the following... Note taking is HARD.   Note taking feels like it requires the ability to multi-task.  We utilize five different "channels" in our brain: writing, listening, watching, thinking, and speaking.  Students often learn to avoid note-taking because they experience the "shut-down" effect of their ears turning off while they are trying to think and write.  We discussed the idea that this is evidence of "shifting gears" between channels, not simultaneously using multiple channels.  What can we do about this?  Practice, practice, practice.  Note taking is hard.  It requires consistent effort and practice to develop your brain's ability to shift quickly between these channels and avoid the prolonged shut downs.  Difficulty should equate to practice not avoidance.  Greg delivered most of this information while juggling three whiffle balls....


September 11 - 2013

JOURNAL QUESTION: Explain, discuss or ask questions about any math algorithm introduced over the last week.  This journal question was used to introduce the study concept of a brain dump .  How do you know when you know something?  Take out a blank piece of paper and try to write notes/ideas/examples of your understanding.  Focus on key vocabulary.  Write out questions about missing information.  A brain dump is a great way to define more clearly what you don't know (and thus help you focus on where you need to study), as well as give you confidence about what you do know.  We noted the power of acronyms like DMSCB when trying to remember the steps in a long division problem.  Several students came up with fun alternatives to Does McDonalds Sell Cheese Burgers.  We then studied for Linda's vocab test emphasizing the importance of writing, talking and making relationships.

September 9 - 2013

Followed-up on Sullivan's Monday morning meeting.  What is the connection between his music/dancing, making introductions with a partner and cracking your own nut?  RISK. Several students connected to this by making a connection to the idea of moving in and out of a comfort zone.  One student noted that we all may have a danger zone that may take time to "crack".

We then discussed how to study for Linda's vocab test.  Be active.  Write using words, definitions, sentences, pictures, flashcards, personal associations.  Talk with a partner, quiz one another.  JOURNAL QUESTION: What is a learner?


September 4 - 2013

Greg introduced self and discussed his dyslexia.  Discussed pros and cons of various planner styles.  Planner double entry system - day assigned and day due.   Introduced Study Skills Journal: journal questions and class notes.  Class focus: Learn How to Learn.  JOURNAL QUESTION: What do you know about being an organized student?