2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Top posts from 2014 include:

Top posts continuing to be viewed in 2014

The self-discipline to watch, wait, and coach (TBT Remix)

Do we applaud the process that our learners use to solve a problem or respond to a question?  Do we praise them when they try something different?  Are we promoting and encouraging risk-taking, creativity, and problem-solving?

On our 4th day of cookie baking, AS taught me a couple of really great lessons about learning with my students.  Once again, by popular request, we were making Reese’s peanut butter cup cookies.  We make peanut butter cookie dough, roll it into balls, and cook them in mini muffin pans.  As they come out of the oven, we press mini Reese’s peanut butter cups into the center of the cookies.  Delicious.  My small extended family blazed through 8 dozen in two afternoons.

For the first 4 dozen, I made the batter and rolled the cookies.  Together we pressed the candy into the cookies as they came out of the oven.  No big deal. 

How often do our students watch us do the work to solve the problem or answer the question?

Baking the second 4 dozen was a very different story.  My mother gave AS her very own measuring spoons, spatula, and mini muffin pan that bakes 1 dozen muffins.  Now she had her own pan; she was in charge.  It would have been so much faster for me to have rolled the cookies.  But, no…her pan; her cookies.  Her mantra: “I can do it myself!” 

So, I watched, waited, and coached.  Some of the balls were too small and would have been difficult to press candy into after baking in the oven.  Some were too big and would have blobbed out on the pan during baking.  She fixed most of these problems with a little explaining from me. 

Isn’t this happening sometimes in our classrooms?  It is so much faster and more efficient for the teacher to present the material.  We can get so much more done in the short amount of time we have.  But, how much do the children “get done” or learn?  When efficiency trumps learning, does anyone really have success?  How do we encourage “I can do it myself!”?  How do we find the self-discipline to watch, wait, and coach?

That was the story for the first 2 dozen cookies.  Can you believe that she would alter my recipe?  We cooked our second dozen cookies, and while I was busy pressing the peanut butter cups into my cookies, she decided that Hershey kisses would be just as good or better.  With no prompting (or permission) she created a new (to her) cookie.  Santa left kisses in her stocking and she wanted to use them. 

Does it really matter which method a child uses to solve a problem or answer a question?  Isn’t it okay if they use the lattice method to multiply?  Does it really matter which method is used to find the solution to a system of equations?  Shouldn’t they first find success?  Don’t we want our learners to understand more than one way?  Is our way always the best way?

Was AS pleased with herself and her creativity?  You bet.  Were her cookies just as good as the original recipe?  Sure!  How can you go wrong combining chocolate and peanut butter?

Do we applaud the process that our learners use to solve a problem or respond to a question?  Do we praise them when they try something different?  Are we promoting and encouraging risk-taking, creativity, and problem-solving?

Can we find the self-discipline to be patient while learning is in progress, to watch, wait, and coach?  Can we promote and embrace the “I can do it myself!” attitude?


The self-discipline to watch, wait, and coach was originally published on December 26, 2010.

Believe in every learner

How do we demonstrate faith and trust in our learners to develop thinking and understanding?

What are the active steps we take to help our learners find tangible evidence of success and learning?  How does our feedback indicate that we have faith in their ability to learn, to work collaboratively, to problem find and problem solve?

How do we face the challenges of ensuring that everyone learns? How do we grow, excel, create, and expand our abilities to differentiate, enrich and intervene, so that everyone is making progress.  When we overcome the subtle, and not so subtle, barriers in communication, expectations, confidence, and support, we begin to teach learners to overcome these barriers too.

I aspire to believe in every learner.

Who has faith in you?  In whom do you demonstrate faith?

#TEDTalkTuesday: Aimee Mullins 1998 & 2009

Aimee Mullins: Changing my legs – and my mindset (Feb. 1998)

Aimee Mullins: My 12 pairs of legs (Feb. 2009)

Thinking from different angles. Facing challenges.

Thinking from different angles. Facing challenges. Making thinking more visible.

The modern world demands that we all think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally; that we think from a different angle, with a different set of muscles, with a different set of expectations; that we think with neither fear nor favor, with neither blind optimism nor sour skepticism. (Levitt and Dubner)

This means that facing challenges, both problems and opportunities, is vital to personal success. This is the arena in which we can grow, excel, create, and expand. Without these challenges, we wither. Because of this importance, it is equally vital that we examine the way in which we meet the challenges by questioning our path from the outset. (Lichtman)

So, if we really believe that good communication is core to intelligent strategy, to seamless teamwork, to the pursuit of excellence, we must take seriously the limitation of being literally blinded to larger realities. We don’t know what we don’t know until we ask others to add their perspectives and until we start drawing it out for everyone to see. (Brown)

The costs of changing nothing are stagnation and resignation to the status quo. But the benefits of changing your reality— and sharing that positive reality with others— are the kinds of successes, discoveries, and breakthroughs that can transform not only your own life but the world. (Achor)

How might we change our part of the world?


Achor, Shawn (2013-09-10). Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change (p. 232). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Levitt, Steven D.; Dubner, Stephen J. (2014-05-12). Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain (p. 8). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Lichtman, Grant (2010-05-25). The Falconer (Kindle Locations 1330-1332). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

Silos Suck: How to Doodle Everyone Onto the Same Page.” Sunni Brown. Sunni Brown, 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 22 Dec. 2014.

Facilitating student reflection – #LL2LU

The primary and early elementary grades are a natural place to introduce reflection and instill in students the habit of collecting work that demonstrates evidence of learning and growth. (Berger, 281 pag.)

We learn by doing. As a faculty team, we continue to grow our understanding of intentional reflection and the impact on learning.

Deeper understanding is the result when learners think about their thinking.  The My Learning Portfolio process prompts students to think about their thinking when they select artifacts to archive, and as they capture their thoughts about learning experiences through reflection. (Mitchell, n. pag.)

Our young learners have 2+ years of entries in their My Learning Portfolios. For a glimpse of impact, check out Kathy Bruyn’s August post, Student Portfolios: It’s all worth it!.

               .

As students progress through the grades, it is important that portfolios and passage presentations evolve with them and challenge them in new ways.  (Berger, 281 pag.)

During our last professional development session, Marsha Harris (@marshamac74), rolled out our first draft of learning progressions and a vision of vertical alignment of teacher moves to facilitate student reflection and archiving artifacts.

Grade Learning Targets (Level 3)
3s/
Pre-K
I can document learning moments for my students.  I can show how I know students are learning using images and voice that reflect their strengths and interests.
K/
1st
I can offer opportunities for my students to make choices about their My Learning artifacts.  I can show how I know students are learning using images and voice that reflect their strengths and interests.
2nd I can teach my students to independently use My Learning to capture reflections through prompting into their portfolios that include voice and images/video.
3rd I can empower my students to curate their reflections into their portfolios with simple prompts for reflection that include voice, choice and images/video and I can offer pathways for my students to gain more independence for entering reflections in My Learning.
4th I can facilitate opportunities for intrinsic motivation where students become empowered and proactive learners, reflecting in My Learning with choice, voice and images/video.  I can introduce students to the RIP3 model for reflection.
5th I can facilitate opportunities for intrinsic motivation where students become empowered and proactive learners, reflecting in My Learning with choice, voice and images/video.  I can facilitate student use of the RIP3 model for reflection.
6th I can facilitate student use of the RIP3 model for reflection. I can empower my students to analyze and assess their growth as learners.  I can offer opportunities for students to produce reflective essays through a variety of media to tell their story a.k.a, their learning journey.

The corresponding learning progressions, collaboratively designed by our Academic Leadership Team (ALT),  serve as one way to reflect,  self-assess, and grow as a facilitator of reflection.

They exclaimed, “Look how little I was!” as they flipped through Kindergarten pictures of themselves and classmates. They watched videos of themselves talking in front of their First Grade peers. They chuckled at how they drew noses when they were in Kindergarten. They looked at photographs of their writing and saw how far they’ve already come. The energy in the room was evident– the purpose of online portfolios clear. (Bruyn, n. pag.)


Berger, Ron, Leah Rugen, and Libby Woodfin. Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming Schools through Student-engaged Assessment. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Portfolio Practice As Learning Model.” TRUE Learning. Rhonda Mitchell, 17 Jan. 2014. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.

Student Portfolios: It’s All worth It!” Kathy Bruyn. N.p., 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.

How do we use the December exam as formative assessment? (TBT Remix)

“For assessment to function formatively, the results have to be used to adjust teaching and learning; thus a significant aspect of any program will be the ways in which teachers make these adjustments.”
Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment Black and Wiliam

How do students reflect on their work?  What opportunities are offered to help students carry the essential learnings from first semester through second semester and/or into the next level of learning?

I’m interested and curious about different strategies and methods used to help learners process and reflect on their exam experience and the accumulation of what they know.  Since each learner will have different bright spots and strengths, what strategies are used to differentiate for intervention and enrichment?

We aim to get “in the weeds” about reflection and intervention.  We want every child to reflect on what they could demonstrate well and where they need additional help.  We do not want them to move to the next year with any doubt or weakness if we can help now.  But, how do we know who needs help?  We collect data, and we let our learners gather data.  We need to be informed; they need to be informed.  We are a team working toward the goal of mastery or proficiency for all learners.

Our process:

  1. Return the exam to the learner on the first day back.
  2. Have each learner complete the exam analysis and reflection form (shown below) to identify strengths and areas of need.
        1. Circle the number of any missed problem.
        2. Begin, and possibly complete, correcting missed problems to review the material and determine if any error was a simple mistake or if more help is needed.
        3. Write a reflection about strengths, struggles, and goals.
        4. Report results on our team’s Google doc. (This is a copy; feel free to explore and “report” data to see how it feels. You can view the results here.)
  3. Meet in team to review all results and analyze for groups to design and provide necessary intervention and additional learning experiences.
  4. All assessments 2nd semester will have questions from first semester essential learnings to offer learners the opportunity to show growth and to help with retention.

We would love it if others would share methods and strategies for helping learners grow from an exam experience.  How do students reflect on their work?

What opportunities are offered to help students carry the essential learnings from first semester through second semester and/or into the next level of learning?


How do we use the December exam as formative assessment? was originally posted on January 4, 2012.