October 29, 2013

Students had the opportunity to share their Step 2 journal entries today.  I then showed them a writing tool that is sometimes useful to help overcome writers block, as well as develop more detailed responses.  They were coached through a 3 minute drill.  During minute 1 you record as many nouns as you can related in any way to the subject at hand.  To model this I chose the topic, "things you see in a mall".  During the 2nd minute you record as many verbs (actions) as you can think of for as many of the nouns you recorded previously.  During the 3rd minute you record as many adjectives and/or adverbs (describing the noun or the verb) for the previously listed nouns and verbs.  I then showed them an optional 4th, 5th and 6th minute where you try to establish groups for all of your entries.  Each of these minutes you try to establish a completely new grouping for your lists.  This little drill has a way of freeing mental road blocks and helping you think in categorical ways that are often useful in school writing assignments.  This exercise also does a great job of reinforcing that the most important aspect of "parts of speech" is the relationship that exists between those parts of speech.  For example, I described a noun and a verb as a "doer" and the "do". 

October 22, 2013

Today students were challenged to reflect on their relationship to HW looking through the lens of Kohlberg's 6 stages of moral development.  The 6 stages (initially introduced last year) are... 1) Avoid Trouble, 2)  Seek a Reward , 3) Please Others, 4) Follow the Rules, 5) Be Considerate, 6) Follow a Personal Code.  #'s 1-4 have fairly obvious HW connections.  For #5 I suggested that one way to view HW was as a reasonable request on the part of another, not unlike asking someone if they could "Please close the door", or "Please pass the salt".  If we ignored those requests or complained about them, we would probably look at the response as "being rude".  For #6 I suggested that a student might have to be able to put HW in the larger context of learning as a whole.  Try to see the request for work, not just as a polite request, but as a thoughtfully considered practice opportunity designed by an adult to provide powerful skills and impart powerful knowledge over time (even though you may not see the end-game at the moment).

We completed last weeks 10 sentence journal entries, and will discuss them further next class. 

October 15, 2013

After updating HW requirements for the week and checking in on organizational and planner questions I facilitated an opportunity for students to practice their "teacher-think" skills.  Students asked me questions to elicit all the HW requirements for a text book assignment I had for them from "How to be Interesting".  The assignment requires students to write 10 sentences about one page in "Step 2" from the book.  They need to record the page number, draw the image on the page and then explain it's intent (no literal interpretations), followed by either how that thought has played out in their own lives and/or how they think that thought could be of benefit to them in the future.

October 4 - 2013

This is not an entry for a class.  This is a brief reminder of strategies that student's learned last year about how to effectively use a study hour at home.... 

Learning is not about checking the box that says "done". 

Learning is not about submitting something on time. 

Grades are often heavily influenced by the above two things, but grades are not always evidence of learning.  (In a perfect world they would be, but we rarely find ourselves in that perfect world.)  Learning is the result of many different factors.  Some of the most important factors include, but are not limited to: risk taking, persistence,  creativity, practice, and a willingness to be gloriously wrong .

On a practical level, try to avoid limiting your thoughts after school to, "Do I have any HW?"  There is nothing wrong with the question, but it is a very limiting question.  Instead consider modifying your behavior to, "How am I going to study tonight?"  This question implies that there is always something new to learn at a deeper level for an hour.  Ideas to consider but not limit yourself to... 

1) Complete HW due the next day.   Ask yourself, "Is this work I am proud of?"

2) Make progress on projects due farther into the future. 

3) Correct graded work. 

4) Summarize content learned.  Create notes.  Annotate existing notes. 

5) Rewrite, improve, edit, extend writing assignments. 

6) Preview content that is coming.  Read ahead.  Take notes. 

7) Make study materials: create flash cards, make charts, create memory devices to actively prepare for the next test.  (Active studying.)  There is always a next test.

8) Write out questions about anything you don't understand. 

9) Get organized: planner, binder, backpack, work space.   Try breaking a large project into smaller steps.

10) Start a conversation with your parents.  Tell them about what you are learning.  Try not to limit the conversation to "What I have to do." 

October 1 - 2013

We discussed journal entries and observations students had about their "text", HOW TO BE INTERESTING.  This provided the opportunity to explore the frame of reference that we use when receiving new information.  We noted that it is sometimes hard to hear a message if we are not willing  to go outside our frame of reference and "try on" the frame of reference of the person/book/movie delivering the content.  Noted the connection to being a student in school.  Lots of risk  involved that could take you very far outside of your comfort zone .

Reviewed strategies for preparing for their math test tomorrow:  correct work, work extra problems, take concept notes, work chapter tests and quizzes from the text, make up test questions, do previously worked HW problems again (practice).

September 24 - 2013

Following up on last weeks discussion of student awareness of the information teachers deliver when discussing class assignments I greeted students with this words, "Don't forgot to finish your work."  I then waited in the uncomfortable silence that followed.  Eventually a student piped up, "What work?"  With that as our starting point, I asked students to work in groups to determine what they needed to ask me in order to successfully complete their work.  Answering only the questions I was asked, students were able to fully discern the assignment.  My favorite moment, was when a student requested that I write the summary of the assignment on the board.  "Yes, you need to advocate for yourselves, and ask for what you need in order to be successful!"

We reviewed annotating  from last year.  Catherine will be utilizing the skill in American Studies today and tomorrow.  Students accurately described the process as adding your understanding or questions to previously written text (which could be your own notes).

We also reviewed test preparation strategies for tomorrow's Washington State history quiz.  Create a product .  Fill in a blank version of the worksheet without looking.  Use your key to correct it and try again.  Repetition.   Make flashcards .  Quiz each other.  Complete a brain dump (self-test) .

I then passed out our "text book" for the year.  The "work" mentioned earlier was to read "Step 1" and then write one 3 sentence (or longer) paragraph on each of the following questions... 

1) What was your favorite idea from "Step 1" and... 

2) Describe an idea from "Step 1" that you found challenging/confusing/hard to understand. 

September 17 - 2013

Continued to review planner options, noting the basic differences between an assignment sheet, a weekly planner and a monthly planner.  Did an exercise with the class exploring the difference between "can" and "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?

Students then paired up and made a list of all of the categories of information that teachers communicate to students in a class whenever they assign work.  Everyone demonstrated that they know the following categories of information....  Teachers tell us: Due dates, volume, quality expectations, resources needed, relevance and steps required.  We then took notes on two very different models of school.  In one model students perceive teachers as the authority figure that delivers content.  The student's job is to do as instructed and finish what is required.  In a second model the student perceives the teacher as a coach, facilitating learning.  We explored the long term ramifications of these two different kinds of perception focusing on the importance of students empowering their own learning.


September 10 - 2013

Today we studied for an upcoming Science test recognizing the power of generating a product as we study.  Student's studied Washington place names by trying to fill in a blank map utilizing a given list.  They then self corrected and repeated the process.  On the back they brain-dumped their understanding of the Rain Shadow effect.

We reviewed the pros and cons of various planner choices available to students, and reviewed the importance of using their Study Skills Journal for both journaling an note taking as the year progresses.