Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wikified Research Paper- Year 2

In most English classes, inventing new verbs is reserved for confused students. However, in English 9 honors, wikified has become a universal verb penned by none other than the teacher herself. As last year’s classes dipped their feet in Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind, they also embarked on a research paper, however this paper was far from ordinary. A WRP, or wikified research paper, is made on and allows students to link to resources within their papers, along with embedding various images and videos within their papers. This concept broadens the research paper from words on a piece of paper to a worldwide published work that includes interactive and supplementary elements which help define and support the student’s thesis. The starting points for these research papers is A Whole New Mind, and students may choose any concept from the book, whether it be a rebuttal of one of Pink’s main points, or a closer look into a detailed aspect of one of his arguments. The subjects of these papers range from video gaming to analyzing how empathy relates to medicine; they are as varied as the students who write them. Many students were inspired by this prompt to broaden their ideas beyond text, to include songs, pictures, videos, and interactive websites. In this way, the reader is able to be an active participant in the student’s ‘assignment’ and their work is not only ‘turned in’ to the teacher, but published to the world for others to critique and compliment. This knowledge of worldwide access to their papers has seemingly inspired students to give extra time and care to their papers, because they understand how many people could be reading them in the future. -Hannah L

Linked here are this year and last year’s wikified research papers from Moritz's and my English 9 Honors classes:

Smith 2:

Smith 5:

Last year's WRPs:

Smith 2:

Smith 5:

Mrs. Moritz's class WRP's:

Moritz 3:

Moritz 4:

Last year's WRP's:

Moritz 3:

Moritz 4:

So, we invite you to take a look at this year's WRP's, leave some constructive feedback, and maybe even reflect on the growth from last year's WRP to this year's. Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

LC Week 8

Margaret emailed me this in response to an incredibly long email I sent her regarding my AR project:

“This is your action research and you make the decisions. Here is what I think is the important question. When you created the no-D policy did you have the idea of multiple redos and student created rubrics as a part of the process? If not, when did you develop these ideas? Did they both come at the same time or were they in sequence. If, for example, you say I have always done student created rubrics than it shifts to part of the context of the work. But if all these changed, how did they come about? What prompted what?”

I have been feeling really frustrated lately as though I am accumulating so much data on cycles 2 and 3 (or what I had thought would be my 2-3) and wondering what to do with it all. With MR’s earlier comments on my paper (version 3 of the paper), she was seeing it moving in a direction that I was unsure of. I was picturing all my work in three separate but interconnected cycles. She was seeing all this work as under one cycle. At first that was hard to hear, because I felt like I have been doing so much work for it to all fit under one cycle. As we talked more about this though, (this is the glory of having a Skype conversation to talk out ideas versus just reading emails), I can see what she is saying. We talked about this being a spiral effect where one thing leads into the other-the ultimate goal of AR. I think the challenge will be to go through all the data I have on the minor cycles within this larger cycle and add it to my cycle one report. Here is the structure I think I am using now for my cycles:

Two large cycles with sub cycles:

· First cycle: how to change how I assess students: how to solve the problem with students who are failing
o No D lead (wrote about this already)
o Which lead to multiple redo (have data on this- need to add support to cycle one report already)
o Which lead to student rubric ( not sure about this- I have data on this with their reflections)
· Second cycle: change how I give feedback to make it more meaningful and relevant to my students, help Randon become more meaningful in terms of the feedback he gives- help him become a more successful learner.
o What changes in teaching lead to these sub cycles? (think about this)
o Student teacher feedback helping him become a better teacher/ learner
o Which lead to mimicked feedback
o Which led to blind feedback/ dual feedback
o Which lead to one to one sessions in writing
Through all of this I need to remember MR’s words: Everything you do is not your AR, your AR is not every single thing; it is a particular strategy you took, feedback or process you went about.
I am excited to finally be seeing some clarification on where I am going, and the support to finish all this work, now if someone could just give me some time, that would be the best present ever and you would have my undying love and gratitude!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ED 665: Week 8

In your ARP, are your learners engaged in their learning? Why or why not?

In my ARP, my students are engaged in their learning at times. I think one of the challenges with the ARP is that all of first semester it was just me teaching my kids and interacting with them about my AR. But now, I have a student teacher and the transition has been more challenging for my students to be engaged learners. There was a difference between the way I taught and the way my student teacher instructs the class. However, thinking back I know there are times when my students were not engaged learners in my own class. This could be a result of not clear expectations on assignments, kids needing to blow of steam, work completion not done so kids are behind, etc… I do see my students much more engaged this year than the have been for the past couple of years. I think one reason why is that they know they are part of my AR work. I have spoken with them many times that I can’t succeed in this project without them. We are all in this together. This has created buy in and a special bond for me and my students together. A perfect example of this is that I needed some students to interview with me about the cycle three work they have done with the multiple revision policy. I wasn’t sure any student would want to talk with me, but before I knew it, I had 8 kids sign up wanting to interview giving me their feedback personally. Also, the students readily give feedback about each step of the process throughout my AR work. So, in a sense they are engaged, but at times.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cycle 3 notecards intro-1

Note card reflection 2/11 after the received dual feedback from Randon and I on intro -1. This is the first time the kids are writing such a large paper and this is also the first time Randon has taught writing. My instruction has been limited to mentoring Randon and helping him teaching writing in the class.

The kids had received our feedback on their intro paragraphs before the intro-1st body paragraph reactions. The difference in the feedback this time was that we did it separately on two documents each giving our own feedback without seeing what the other was giving feedback on. The initial time we gave feedback we did it on the same document where I gave the initial feedback and Randon responded afterwards. I reflected about process earlier as did Randon.

Randon created the question below and we had kids respond on a note card in class about their thoughts and reactions to the process.

22 kids responded out of 23 kids. Male to female ration of class 13 males and 10 females.

1. Name
2. On a scale of one to five with five being the highest. How helpful has the double feedback been?

a. 5-6
b. 4-9
c. 3-4
d. 2-1
e. 1-1
f. Nothing- 1
Reflection: I am not sure about their reactions to the feedback. Was the quantity of feedback too overwhelming? Most of the class felt that it was helpful and meaningful but I am wondering for those that are 1-3, what did they need to make it more meaningful? I am glad for a majority of the class the feedback was helpful and really focused them on the right track as far as their writing. They have never written such a large paper before; I am really hoping that having two sets of feedback and two teachers to assist them in the writing process will be incredibly beneficial and work towards making them more successful learners. We should be able to meet all their learning needs here.

3. Are the two sets of feedback overwhelming? Why?
a. No- 12
i. It is helpful to see two points of view
ii. They help me know what to do
iii. I know what I need to work on for both of you
iv. One teacher may catch something that the other teacher missed
v. I know what I did wrong
vi. It gives two points of view of view on what you have done and what you can improve
vii. They are both saying almost the same thing
viii. no
b. A little-3
i. It is a little overwhelming. There are so many things that need to be fixed by the next day
ii. It can be hard fixing one of them
iii. Kind of overwhelming because they are not always the same
c. Yes- 5
i. There is too much
ii. There is so much to change
iii. It is very overwhelming
iv. It is a lot to take in
v. there is so many things to look at
d. Didn’t answer question-2
Reflection: It is good to see that over half the class fins the dual feedback helpful and meaningful. But I still think there has to be a way to meet all kids needs as far as feedback. Maybe next year or on their next writing assignment, I can find out what kind of feedback they would prefer and then we (Randon and I) work towards meeting that need.

4. Would you rather prefer one teacher feedback? Why?
a. No-13
i. There wouldn’t be enough
ii. I like a lot of advice
iii. It is still good to get double feedback
iv. No
v. This gives me more info on what I need to do
vi. Each person gives slightly different feedback and the more feedback I get the better I can make my paper
vii. I get two sides of my essay
viii. It is fine
ix. I think that having it from two teachers gives you more info
x. I like both points
xi. I prefer both because sometimes there are things missed by one teacher and caught by the other
xii. Prefer double feedback
b. Yes-5
i. Less overwhelming
ii. I would get just what is required of me from Mr. Ruggles
iii. Probably
iv. Not so overwhelming for me
v. Only one teacher is grading the paper not two
c. Doesn’t matter-3
i. Doesn’t matter (2)
ii. If you say different things, it doesn’t matter
d. Didn’t answer-1
Reflection: 3 of the kids that marked that the amount of feedback was overwhelming, marked that they would not prefer only one teacher’s feedback. This is really interesting because I wonder if they think even with the quantity of feedback they know it is valuable and will make them a better writer. They are just not excited about the amount of work associated with dual feedback. I am glad to see so many kids appreciate the dual feedback and see it’s connection to helping them improve their writing. I am just wondering if there is a better format that the feedback needs to happen in so that it is not to overwhelming for some and as satisfactory for others.

5. What is one thing we can do to improve your feedback on these paragraphs and why?
a. Feedback and a half
b. Write in print so I can read it
c. Give us more time
d. Both do it on one sheet
e. It is good feedback
f. One to one things with everybody
g. To improve I am going to fix all the feedback
h. More one on one
i. It is good
j. Edit and help me on the things I need help with
k. Feedback has been very helpful
l. Explain more
m. Explain some things
n. Focus more on format
o. Point out different things and help explain ways to fix it
p. Nada
q. I don’t know
r. More explanation on why the things need to be fixed
s. The second teacher read the first teachers feedback and write new things so there is no repeated feedback
t. Be more specific in your feedback and write everything you think about it
u. elaborate

After these feedback sessions, we started having one to one sessions in the hallways with the kids who are behind or are ahead depending on how Randon wanted to approach the day. The first few times, I went into the hallway to try and catch the kids up, and the other times Randon stayed in the class with the kids that were behind. We collected feedback and goal sheets with this 1-1 time and I need to analyze those results as well. There is so much feedback for me. It is like I am the kid getting all the feedback and trying to find the best way to put it all together.
I know next year with having only one teacher back in the classroom, the feedback piece will be tough to continue. One thing MR and I talked about was how to teach my students to become better editors and I think that is one thing that has taken a back seat this year with Randon and I working on helping him become a better teacher. I know I really want to find a way next year to continue the 1-1 time and maybe that is one way to continue the feedback in a manner that meets those students needs without overwhelming myself or the students.

Cycle 3 note card reflection intro-3

Note card reflection 2/18/09
Only 11 of the kids had completed the writing up to this point on their change the world position paper to receive the dual feedback Randon and I were giving them, so this data set is limited to those 11 kids out of a class of 23 kids. This was their last editing session where they received feedback from Randon and I. Randon gave his feedback on his set of papers, and I gave feedback on my set and then we compared sets before handing the papers back to the kids. Randon wrote the questions for this reflection of the feedback for the intro -3rd body.
1. Name
2. On a scale of 1-5 with five being the highest, how helpful has the double feedback been?
a. 5-3 respondents
b. 4- 7 respondents
c. 3-1 respondent
d. 2
e. 1
Reflection: I am slightly disappointed that only 11 kids out of the class are up to this point and ready to move along with the paper. The paper is due the next week. What is going to happen if they don’t get the assignment done? Is the multiple revision policy not working in their best interests? I know the writing needs to be a process but I worry about them getting so far behind that it will be daunting to try and catch up. Hopefully our 1-1 days will help them catch up with extra time writing, revising and working with either Randon or myself. I am glad to see such high numbers in regards to the feedback and how helpful it has been. That is really encouraging about the kinds of feedback they are receiving.
3. Are the two sets of feedback overwhelming? Why?
a. Yes- 5
1. They are still a little because it is hard when we have two different thoughts.
2. Because they do not always mesh
3. Because they are
4. There is so much paper
5. It is like pleasing two different people
b. No-6
1. They say almost the same thing
2. They help a lot I think
3. Sometimes confusing because you don’t know what to write if both write something different
4. No
5. They give just enough feedback
6. It is helpful to get both
Reflection: This makes me think that maybe we should do dual feedback for those that really want both perspectives and those who do not, they can submit one paper. I wonder if it would make a difference to have all the feedback on one paper rather than the students submitting two papers with two sets. Randon and I could have alternated between who adds comments first to see if that would make a difference.

4. Would you rather prefer one teacher feedback ? Why?
a. Yes-4
i. Because only one person is grading my paper
ii. Because I feel overwhelmed and need as little as possible
iii. Because then it is not so much information
iv. IDK
b. No-6
i. This way you get double ideas
ii. No
iii. I like the double feedback
iv. Two is perfect
v. It is helpful to get both
vi. Prefer more time
c. Different response and suggestion-2
i. More one to one time
ii. More time
Reflection: The same four responses that were in the yes category of this question were in the yes category of the previous question. I think the reason I see kids struggling with the dual feedback is that there is too much for some kids to handle. Two sets of feedback and, with their struggles in writing, might be too overwhelming. With the kids that responded that they wouldn’t prefer only one teacher’s feedback, I wish there was more expansion on their ideas. Maybe asking them specifically “why” it is more helpful to them and their writing. Can they see a connection between the dual sets of feedback and improving as a writer or as a learner?

5. What is the one thing we can do to improve your feedback on these paragraphs?
a. Put it on one piece of paper
b. Read each other’s feedback so there is not double feedback on the same thing.
c. Help answer our questions and give us work time
d. Be consistent
e. One to one time
f. Write neater, I can’t understand what you are writing.
g. Nothing
h. Look over each others feedback
i. Feedback is very helpful
j. Give examples
Reflection: it is interesting because a few people commented on randon and I looking over each other’s feedback which we do, but they are not seeing some consistency with our feedback. I wonder if our language in our comments is different and that is the reason why? Or is it the amount of feedback and so it seems different in the manner and style in which it is written?

6. Is this more or less helpful in your writing? Why?
a. More-10
i. Helpful because I know my errors
ii. It is still helpful
iii. I think it is more helpful. I just don’t think the specific order our paragraphs have to be in
iv. More helpful because both of you give different ideas
v. It shows what I need to fix
vi. I see all the grammatical errors
vii. More
viii. It gives us more ways to better our writing
ix. It is helping me to see all of my mistakes from 2 different people’s points of view
x. Between the two feedbacks more mistakes are caught
b. Less-1
i. Less helpful because it is hard getting two different thoughts on each sentence

Reflection: Interestingly, on the previous two questions the kids were basically split 50-50 in their responses about the helpfulness of dual feedback, but in this last question resoundingly the kids feel that it is better for their writing. So why the difference? What could bring about the disparity? Is it that they do not like the multitude of responses but value the feedback? So, if we could combine the feedback into one document, would that make a difference?

On our first feedback, we did it this way having only one paper turned into us, and then I did the feedback first. We realized afterwards though we weren’t really looking at feedback between Randon and I because we weren’t aware of his original feedback thoughts. He just followed my thoughts. Now, we sit down with our two sets and compare the two sets seeing what commonalities and disparities we have and then add comments to our paper set before we return it to the students. So , I would think our feedback would be similar since we have gone over the feedback ahead of time.

Reflections on student teaching and mentoring

Randon, the student teacher Kristin Leclaire and I have this semester, has made it through the half way point. He surely deserves a party after putting up with the two of us! I wanted to take some time to reflect on the process of being a mentor and the growth and changes I have seen in Randon. Randon already spent some time reflecting on his half way point.

I remember meeting Randon at NCTE when Kristin and I were presenting about some of the changes we had made in our classroom here at AHS. Randon attended both this session and one that I did with Karl Fisch. His excitement and interest in what we were implementing was infectious. It was so good to hear him talk about the passion he had for learning and his willingness to jump right in and try new things.

Kristin and I sent Randon a care package of AHS supplies after our visit, in hopes to get him mentally prepared for the quest he was about to undertake. Lesson plan books, books to teach, AHS apparel, and other knick-knacks were all sent away to Minnesota.

He arrived a little early for student teaching giving KK and I time to introduce Randon to our friends so that he knew some people and didn’t have to solely rely on KK and myself. We thought this was one of the most important aspects of him being our student teacher is that we wanted him to go out and visit with a number of teachers here at AHS. We still encourage him to do this because it seems for too often in education, teaching gets in the way of learning and reflecting. We get so caught up in the day to day survival that we often forget time to seek out others and learn from them. We wanted to instill this in Randon from day one.

Interestingly, when we asked others to give Randon a tip about student teaching with KK and I, most would laugh or chuckle, and say “Good Luck.” Others commented “Don’t let them down” or “Change the world.”” Take advantage of having these two as cooperative teachers.
Randon really began teaching from day one. Looking back, it was interesting to see how nervous he was. Was I that nervous on my first day? I think of the challenges he faced taking over our classrooms. These are students we have taught since the first day of the school year, some of these students picked us as teachers not knowing there was going to be a student teacher taking over the classroom, and mostly keeping up with the pace and expectations that AHS has. It was no easy challenge.

After the first lesson, and at the end of his first day, Randon and I started our afternoon debriefing sessions. I am not sure I ever took the time to really think about how these sessions were going to go. I didn’t really take notes as he was teaching, I more just sat back and listened. I guess similar to what KK wrote about, I was sitting in the back of the classroom seeing what learning looked like through the eyes of a student. I wish more teachers had this opportunity to sit back and observe as to what it is like being a student in their own classroom. I know there are teachers who leave the room when they have a student teacher, but I have truly enjoyed the time to reflect and mentor. And so I began with the same question which I continue to use today, “So, what did you think?” always ending our session with “what’s your takeaway?” Most of our sessions are more reflective than anything else. I guess I never wanted to be the answerer of his questions, but give him the space and time to reflect and seek out his own answers. I wanted to have him figure out why something didn’t go as intended and praise himself (intrinsic motivation) when something really went beyond his expectations.

It took awhile but Randon is getting there. We don’t seem to have as much time for our afternoon sessions as my other students have writing conferences and Randon is coaching soccer, but I still look forward to hearing him talk about the day. What did he take away? What went well? What would he do differently?

I want to make sure though that Randon realizes how much he has changed as a teacher and as a learner.

Think back Randon to that first day, or even that first week. Think about how you approached your first class and your first student interactions. Do you remember the students high fiving you in the hallway? Are you still as passionate to see them now as they were to see you? Do you remember taking over my English Literature classes when I had to leave and you taught all my classes? Do you remember embracing that challenge and walking away successful and learning from the experience? Do you remember planning your first unit? Do you remember teaching the kids to write thesis statements and structure to their paragraphs? They will always remember it was you who taught them; hold onto that memory? Do you remember the passion and fire with which you began your student teaching? Do you remember how tough it is at times to hold onto that? Do you remember the kids trying to figure out who you are and what they would learn from you? Do you remember when I told you that you were born to be a teacher and that you are a natural? Don’t ever forget that. Do you remember how we talked about brick walls? I will never forget your crayon lesson to me. Do you remember the worst day you have had in teaching? Do you remember the best day? I would hope your best days always outweigh your worst days.

Randon- I have told you many times I am not one who gives out false praise, so this comes from my heart. You are on a great journey. Do not forget to ever stop learning and being a learner in your own classroom. When we think we know it all in teaching, we are failing our students and ourselves. Remain passionate about learning, reflecting, and teaching. There are many days where I watch you do great things and I see the possibilities of your future. Do not forget to reflect upon the good and bad always growing from the opportunities. Most of all, remember even though you will one day be done student teaching, Kristin and I are always here. We will always be here to mentor, to advise and mostly to support your growth. We are so proud of all you have done and all you continue to do. Remember that it is ok to make mistakes and to learn from them. Being open to change and possibilities is what will make you a great teacher.

You have changed me as a teacher because of the opportunity to sit back and reflect, to learn what it is like to be a student in my own classroom. You have given me the opportunity to grow and reflect as a mentor. You have helped me get through this tough time of balancing teaching, grad school, and my family. Thank you, Randon. Thank you for all that you have done. I couldn’t do all this without you.

Now, I couldn’t leave this reflection without a challenge going forward: Never forget your passion. Never forget why you got into teaching. Never forget that you are always a learner- you have as much to learn from the students as they have to learn from you. And never forget to change the world.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

AR cycle 2 interviews - the last of them

This blog is the third in my set of three interviews I completed as a result of the multiple revision policy for my AR project. The first two interviews were with one pair of girls and a set of three boys. Now, this interview was with two boys who have been in my class all year long. I wanted them to elaborate upon the survey questions the class had responded to the week before. I asked them only to elaborate on certain questions as I did with the other two interviews. I asked them to explain more about questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 14. Then I left time at the end for them to let me know about anything else they wanted to speak about.

The students who participated in the interview were not selected but were instead self chosen. They told me that they wanted to be interviewed.

1. Has the ability to redo assignments multiple times been beneficial to you?

The first student said that the ability to redo assignments has been beneficial to him most of the time. He often has to redo assignments that he has not put the most time into. When he does redo and assignment, it helps him bump up the grade. The other student in the interview agreed to what the first students said. He also acknowledged that it was good to have the extra time to complete the work.

2. Has the ability to redo assignments had a positive change to your thinking about learning and being a successful learner?
The first student indicated that he thought so. He said it let him have an advantage by having a redo. Now he has been getting mediocre to good grades where before that was not the case. The other student agreed.

3. On average, do you do an assignment correctly the first time the assignment is assigned?

The first student indicated that sometimes he took advantage of the assignment and redo because he didn’t do the work 100% the first time. Knowing that you can redo the work, sometimes the incentive isn’t there to do it right. When you are able to redo the work, you do not always do it 100%. The other student commented that it depends on the amount of help he gets. If he is getting help from the student teacher or the teacher, which most of the time he is getting help and on serious papers, then he does.

6. Thinking about the feedback you receive on assignments, did it help you succeed as a learner?

The first student said that the feedback on each assignment helps. It shows me how and what I am doing wrong. Feedback always helps me improve my grade. The second student agreed.

Do you take the multiple redo policy for granted?
The first student said that a lot of people can take advantage because you have so many times to redo. If there was only one time, you would probably put the most you could into the work. With the redo, you keep improving, which helps learning but people can take advantage. The second student indicated that most people know they have extra time so they do not do the homework that night. But they also want to get it done so things do not build up.

The first student also had the suggestion that to redo the revision policy, maybe the student must first turn in the assignment on the day it was due, and then they can redo the assignment since they turned it in on the original due date. I asked them to clarify what that meant. He clarified that that might mean some students rush to get the work done, but it could also take away some of the flaws he believed of the redo policy.

Knowing that you have multiple opportunities to redo your work, has your effort declined on those assignments?
One of the students indicated that his effort has not declined when doing an assignment because he thinks about all the free time he could be having rather than redoing work, If he sees flaws in his work, he thinks about fixing those. The other student indicated that there could be times when others rush their work and that could show their effort has declined.

Throughout the semester, do you try to perform harder at first so not to have to redo it?
The first student indicated that when he first started redoing work, he didn’t really utilize the policy very much. He did the assignment and got an OK grade. As he progressed, he would add a little more to the assignment and his grade would improve. PLNs are an example. The other student indicated that his grade last semester supported his view. He realized this semester that it is better to do everything when it is due so things don’t pile up. He is trying not to have the build up of work which led to bad grades.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the greatest improvement, how have you improved as a student as a result of the multiple redo policy?
One of the students rated himself an 8-9. He gave the example of writing this position paper because he has been behind but the policy gives him the chance to get in the work in and grades on his paper. The other student rated himself a 6-7. He gave the reasoning behind his ranking that being able to redo doesn’t enhance knowledge. Adding sentences doesn’t add to knowledge it just makes you more aware of what the teacher wants. That is not learning.

14. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being greatest improvement, how would you rank the redo policy vs. a non-redo policy in terms of it actually improving writing?
One of the students rated himself as a10. He indicated that he is getting a lot of work night after night. A non-redo policy the kids wouldn’t learn or do the work. With redo the kids can redo their work the following night. The other student rated himself at an 8-9. No explanation followed.

Cycle 2 Interviews continued...

Last week I interviewed two other sets of kids about their reactions to our work in cycle two with the multiple redo policy. As I previously blogged about, I already interviewed a pair of girls earlier in the week. One bit of clarification, all the students I have interviewed I have had for the entire school year. I also am sharing these students with a student teacher who is implementing this policy as well and has done so since the beginning of the semester when he took over this class.

I am going to split up the two groups’ responses into two separate blog posts for the sake of consistency as well as readability. I will have another blog follow this one where there was a pair of two boys. This blog is about an interview conducted with three boys who have been in my class all year long.

1. Has the ability to redo assignments multiple times been beneficial to you?
One of the students indicated that it always has been beneficial. He explained that it seems on assignment that the initial time he completes an assignment he does something incorrectly on the assignment. But with the redo policy, he is about to redo the work and receive a better grade. Another student commented that when he forgets to do the work, or it is last minute, and “bombs” the assignment, he still has time and the ability to show his best work. The final student felt that it has always been beneficial. There are times when he has not always done his best, or had other things on his mind, and it helps knowing he can redo his work.

2. Has the ability to redo assignments had a positive change to your thinking about learning and being a successful learner?
The first student commented that most of the time it has a positive change to his thinking. When an assignment is returned to him with corrections, he is able to redo it, and receive a better grade. He also continued that he knew if he was stuck on an assignment, he could finish it, turn it in, and the teacher would help him learn how to do it correctly. The next student commented that he would turn in something on time, or he can take the time to turn in his best work. Getting the feedback helped him as a learner. The final student indicated that he needed feedback to be a better learner. The feedback helped him focus on his thinking rather than on the assignment.

3. On average, do you do an assignment correctly the first time the assignment is assigned?

The first student said that he does not do some of the assignment correctly the first time. Things like grammar errors or unsure of the assignment are part of the problem. Then the redo helps showing him what he needs to fix. The second student agreed with the first. When he turns in his work, it might not be the best work, but the feedback helps tell him the best parts of the work and what should “shine.” The final student reflected that at the beginning of the year when we were studying Chris McCandless and Into the Wild, he didn’t do the work right, but then focused on getting into “the groove” and although there are still mistakes, he has a better format to follow learning from it.

6. Thinking about the feedback you receive on assignments, did it help you succeed as a learner?

The first student said that the feedback always helped. Some teachers just give back an assignment and it is not very good. But in this class, the teacher shows us what isn’t right and we can fix it. It is more than just knowing what is wrong. The second student agreed in said that teachers give you a bad grade in other classes and you just say “ok”, but in English we can redo and we become more confident because of that. The final student commented that it is nice to know you did it right, and how good you did in your writing. It is also good to know what to do better.

Do you take the multiple redo policy for granted?
The first student replied with “not really” on taking the redo policy for granted. He said he tries to do all assignments because he knows next year he will not have the same opportunity. The second student indicated that the policy gave him confidence; even if he procrastinates, he can redo it. He doesn’t take it for granted. The final student talked about the fact there are not redos in other classes. The work is harder in this class and so it is good to have redos.

Knowing that you have multiple opportunities to redo your work, has your effort declined on those assignments?

The first student commented that sometimes his effort declined. Instead of spending the time being stuck on an assignment, he knew he had the redo and would wait to get feedback to change his assignment so that it was better. The second student commented that it was annoying to redo work. You put forth the effort so that you would not have to redo. It teaches you to do your work. The final student said it depends on what the assignment was. If it was a PLN (personal learning network entry) or a paper, the bigger projects mattered where the smaller ones were just assignments.

Throughout the semester, do you try to perform harder at first so not to have to redo it?
The first student said yes at the beginning of the semester. Then at the end of the first six weeks, all the redos are due. He had 4-5 redos and in one work he realized that it was hard to redo all of those. So, he tried hard so not to have as many redos. The second student commented again that it does get annoying redoing your work, so it is better to try hard all the time. The final student indicated that knowing you can redo the work makes he try harder because you would rather be doing other things than redoing your work.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the greatest improvement, how have you improved as a student as a result of the multiple redo policy?
The first student said he ranked himself on a scale of 9-10 because first semester he learned the structure of the paragraph. The teacher would explain it in class, and he was not doing it correctly for homework. So instead of doing it wrong all the time, he would revise with the explanations and feedback. The second student also commented that he would rate himself as a 9-10. If you aren’t able to redo, you do not learn anything. If he redo it, it teaches you the material. The final student commented about it being a “learning experience”. It teaches you to try harder because of the feedback. Since he knew what he did wrong, he could always try harder. He rated himself an 8-9.

14. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being greatest improvement, how would you rank the redo policy vs. a non-redo policy in terms of it actually improving writing?
The first student commented that he would rank himself a 10 since all English is writing. This takes more thinking than with other subjects. With the redos, the first time, he does not always use the best words, or structure, but with the redos, he learns from his mistakes. The second student said he felt the same way as the first student. The final student said that it all connects with feedback. If you did get an assignment back, but you didn’t get a second chance, you don’t learn anything.

The all agreed at the end of the interview that the multiple revision policy should be in place for all English classes. I told them I would work on that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How did I get here?

Randon Ruggles, my student that I share with Kristin Leclaire, and I reflect each day after school about how the day went. We take the time to break down issues, talk about things that went well, and of course, have our takeaways for the day. At the end of the week, we also try and set some goals to focus on for the next week.

Lately, Kristin and I were talking with Randon about classroom management and Randon’s struggles with figuring out his style. It was one of those really interesting conversations that came together as a result of previous conversations. We had talked about my wanting to “save” randon and fix his problems with classroom management, but if I did that, it would be a huge disservice to him as the teacher, to the students to learn about respect, and to me, because then I would be “MOM” stepping in to save the drowning child. He isn’t really drowning but the waters are a little rough!

So, after some time talking through the various ways he can deal with classroom management, I turned to KK and asked her, “How did we get here?” I feel like I am dispensing all this advice to Randon and am unsure of how I even came to know what I know. I mean wasn’t I once a student teacher? I remember good days at Discovery Middle School with Mrs. Snyder and Mrs. Rosenburger (two of my ninth grade teachers). Wasn’t I once trying to figure out how to plan a lesson, or a novel, or a unit, or a whole semester? Wasn’t there a time when I was sitting up late at night grading papers and wondering what feedback kids need and how do I give feedback, what kind of feedback should I give, how much should I give, etc…Wasn’t there a time when I was teaching, coaching, and trying to have a life all at the same time? How did I figure out all of this?

I really enjoy the conversations Randon and I have after school because it does give me the time to reflect about how things are going for him, what issues and challenges I can help him with, and help him realize how much he has grown and changed since he has been student teaching here. The questioning with him of his choices is one of my favorite things. I really enjoy listening to the change in him. At the beginning of the year, the focus was so much on me and my interpretations of what he did, and now, I can see him fixing mistakes, recognizing growth before I even have to say anything. It is like watching your students change over the course of the school year. You first watch them flounder in these unknown waters of learning, and gradually they learn to tread water, then they learn a few strokes, and before you know it, they are competing with the best of them in the long distance race of learning and growing. Randon has come so far, I just wish he would recognize it. Maybe I need to do a better mentoring job of helping him see it.

I also enjoy it because I am able to reflect on my own teaching journey and remembering all the lessons I learned from my various screw-ups, bad choices, too much placed on my plate, and lack of sleep. Yes, Randon, even I have made bad choices! I am definitely not perfect and I am sure that many can tell you of things I did in my first years of teaching that left others with an uncertainty about me and teaching. But no matter what happened, I survived. I learned from those mistakes; I took them as opportunities to grow and change. After all, that has to be how I got here: mistakes, bad choices, great days, long hours, reflection, life jackets, laughing, teasing, learning, relearning, changing, adapting, connections, relationships, tears, coaching, playing, reading, writing, revising, and the support of those around me encouraging me to succeed and see all that I had done.

Cycle 2 Interview 2/17

I completed the first set of interviews with two students who volunteered to expand on the survey results from cycle 2’s focus of the multiple revision policy. I have a group of boys I will be interviewing on Thursday as well. I told the girls that I wanted to use the questions from the survey as a basis for our discussion but I wanted to expand on their answers asking “why” they answered as they did. The interview took place after school on February 17, 2009.

For question one “Has the ability to redo assignments multiple times been beneficial to you?” , the students responded that it was beneficial because they were able to redo mistakes they had made. One student also responded that it made her want to improve as a writer.

For question two, “Has the ability to redo assignments had a positive change to your thinking about learning and being a successful learner?” one student reacted that it made her look at assignments not as a have to as she had previously in classes, but she now looked at the assignments as a want to. She saw that she could do better each time she worked on an assignment. The other student commented that she was not as stressed about homework because she could redo the work and that she could learn about what to do and not do going forward on other assignments.

Question three, “On average, do you do an assignment correctly the first time the assignment is assigned?”. The students both commented that they try to do the assignment correctly the first time, but that they needed further direction or corrections and thus redid the work. Additionally, one student commented that there were times when she turned in the work just to get feedback to do better work the next time. She saw it as a chance to improve and that when she was stressed about homework, it gave her a break being able to redo an assignment. So sometimes she would not turn in the best work the first time in because of how stressed she was.
Question six, "Thinking about the feedback you receive on assignments, did it help you succeed as a learner?”. I added an additional question onto this question asking about the dual feedback they are receiving from Mr. Ruggles, the student teacher, and myself. One student remarked that the dual feedback was overwhelming. She felt like she was trying to please two teachers and do what two teachers wanted. With one set of feedback, it would be much easier. The other student responded that she did not mind the dual sets of feedback. She said she honestly liked all the feedback because she did not feel lost in her writing. The feedback gave her simple changes to improver her grade and the positive feedback was encouraging.

Question seven “Do you take the multiple redo policy for granted?" . One student reacted that she did take the policy for granted. Stress played a big role in this. She knew that she did not have to get the assignment done on time and that she would still receive credit. But then she would get stressed by the redos because it eventually had to be done. She commented that the multiple revision is a privilege and she took it for granted. It is a good as a back up or safety net when she can’t get the work done but you end up cheating yourself when you rely on it all the time. The other student agreed that it could be used as a backup and that sometimes she takes it for granted. If she is busy and has a lot of homework, then she uses it.

Question nine “Knowing that you have multiple opportunities to redo your work, has your effort declined on those assignments?”. Both students commented that their effort did not decline because they realized that the work just leads to more work when assignments are not done correctly. All of it just builds on another. And their answers for question 10, “Throughout the semester, do you try to perform harder at first so not to have to redo it” supported that with their responses echoing the same idea that if they didn’t do their best work the first time around, the work would compound with new assignments and then redos all at once.

Question eleven, “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the greatest improvement, how have you improved as a student as a result of the multiple redo policy?”. At first one of the students wanted me to define what a student was to them. I put the question back on her asking her to tell me what a student was. Although she didn’t define what a student was, she did answer the question saying that she improved as a student by learning more from her mistakes. When she would mess up, she would learn not to repeat that mistake a second time. The other student commented that she improved as a writer with the feedback she was receiving. She learned techniques of getting work done. She learned a lot about the process of redoing work. She commented about how stressful it can be when there is so much to redo, but she learned skills that will help her throughout life. She even remarked that this privilege is not ever given to students. I asked her if she would want other teachers to give multiple redos and she said it should be a piece of advice given to all teachers at AHS. The other student then commented that some students would take the policy for granted, but a majority would use it. One solution is that it could be given to only some students especially students with ADD or that need more understanding.

From this question, they traversed into talking about grades and learning. One student commented that this class wasn’t as strict as others. The students in this class are not as stressed and they feel lucky to be in here. One of the students went on to talk about how this class focused not on a grade, but on writing. She continued that she felt she was benefitting more in this class and benefiting from learning from one another. She had trouble expressing exactly where she was going with this comment, and I did not want to lead her on, but I think the sentiment is there that she is feeling a change and inspired by that change.

Question fourteen, “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being greatest improvement, how would you rank the redo policy vs. a non-redo policy in terms of it actually improving writing”. One of the students reacted that her writing has improved a lot. That things that were once weaknesses (spelling, punctuation, grammar) now those are things she has improved on. She knows what to do, how to do it, and fix the mistakes. The other student remarked that she noticed a change right away. The redo policy allowed for her to complete her work where as before she would complete an assignment just to get through it, rushing her work, and didn’t put herself into her world. The redo helped her learn structure and that she could take her time so that she could express what she really thought.

At the end of the interview, I asked if they had any final thoughts. One of the students commented that the redo policy was one of the best things. She remarked that she has problems staying on task, and this policy helped her with that. She also commented that this policy was a privilege and that all teachers should have this. The students and teacher benefit by having the knowledge not the focus on the grade. The students are changing their focus from trying for a grade, to trying for the benefits of knowledge. The other student added that she didn’t care about her grade in this class as she did in her others, she was too busy learning. The also both echoed that this class is hard and challenging but with the multiple revision policy, they felt they could take risks with their writing instead of just shooting for a grade.

One students quote at the end: “Everyone deserves a second chance.”

AR cycle 2 survey reflection

Hopefully I can remember to split this blog into two posts, but in case I forget, there is so much going on with cycle 2 and 3 of my AR. I am trying to “wrap-up” cycle 2 of my AR in order to concentrate on my cycle 3 which is quickly becoming overwhelming. Cycle two is focusing on the multiple revision policy of so that students can redo their work as many times as necessary in order to receive a passing grade. Cycle three, I am focusing on student feedback in order to increase student success with my students writing their position papers and are able to receive feedback from me, from my student teacher, and both written and oral feedback.

With cycle two wrapping up, I gave the students a poll online to complete using Google Spreadsheets. The poll was fabulous because it allowed for me to get some structure to follow regarding their responses. I focused the question on the multiple revision policy because this policy has been in place since the start of the school year in August and now going into its 24th week of use. I wanted to see with this amount of time devoted to helping my students succeed, is the multiple redo policy working towards that goal? Here is an attachment to the results.

As I was watching the poll populate into Google while the kids were taking it, I was amazed at the data I was receiving from them. 20 kids completed the survey out of a class of 23. Of the 20 who completed the survey, 16 said the multiple revision policy was “Always” beneficial to them. As far as the positive impact the multiple revision policy had on their learning, 10 said always and 6 said most of the time, and 4 sometimes. No one indicated that it had no impact on them. This is another affirmation of the change the kids are experiencing in this class with No D’s and with multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning and understanding.

The class was more split about the question that dealt with doing an assignment correctly the first time: 1 (always), 10 (most of the time), 7 (sometimes) and 2 (not at all). In conjunction with that question, the next question asked the students to think about when they redo an assignment, how often does it take them to redo it correctly. Interestingly enough 19 of the 20 were in the 1-2 times range. This could be that students are not understanding the assignment the first time it was given, or needing further clarification in order to turn in their best work.
Kids responded to the questions about taking the policy for granted that 11 (sometimes) and 7 ( not at all). I will react more to this with the interviews that were conducted on this question as to the reasoning behind the students choosing “sometimes”.

To piggy back with this question, I asked the students if I did require homework to be turned in immediately, how often would they do it.? 10 said most of the time, 5 always and the other 5 sometimes. Even with the multiple revision policy, these numbers seem consistent with what work they turn in now with a chance to do redo.

Looking into the effort they are putting into their work with being able to revise assignments over and over again, students commented that 11 indicated the effort has not declined, 7 indicated sometimes, and 2 sometimes. The effort was something I worried about with having the policy in place for this long as well as them taking the policy for granted. I was concerned that they would slack off and not take the work as seriously knowing they had the opportunity to redo the assignment. One student commented about the work load in an interview that would entail as a result of having so many assignments to redo. The stress of having assignments to redo because she didn’t do her best work the first time compounded with new assignments so that she realized it was better to do her best work the first time around on all work.

The last few questions on the poll were some of my favorite. I was interested in the change in their learning as a student and as a writer. As a result of the multiple redo, on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being greatest improvement, 14 were in the 7-10 range. With the question directed more towards their writing and improvement as a writer, 18 out of 20 were in the 7-10 range. And finally, when asked if they would hold themselves accountable to redo assignments even if there was no redo policy, 14 said yes.

The entire poll was anonymous with no names or gender submitted. After talking with my LC last night, I wish I would have asked for gender information especially to see the breakdown on some of the questions. They were really impressed by the feedback I received from my students. We talked even about the kids in my class thinking differently about grades and learning.

Taking these survey results forward, I asked for students to volunteer to be interviewed about the multiple revision policy so I could receive some “why” explanations to their answers on the poll. I interviewed two girls yesterday and have a group of boys tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

665: Week 7

For your ARP, how did you select the technologies that you are utilizing? How have your learners responded thus far?

For my AR project, we have used Blogger, Google docs, Google spreadsheet, Google sites, Skype, and various Microsoft Word tools. I am also going to podcast the interviews I am conducting so that I can reference them later and the students can hear themselves as well. I already did one podcast with my student teacher as we were looking over cycle three AR feedback .

I selected each of these tools because I thought they were the most applicable to what I wanted the students to produce. For example, with Blogger, I wanted the students to be able to reflect about the No D policy and multiple redos. All of those responses as well as the work we are doing with Cycle two and three are posted here: . I also use Blogger to record and reflect on all of my learning . Additionally, I needed a place to store all of my writing and data collection as well as the work I am doing for my other classes. At first I was going to use Dreamweaver to create a website, but then MR had us use Google Sites for our LC’s ( ) and I found that to be a tremendous resource to combine all of my reflections and learning . I have also used Google Docs to create a survey for my cycle two report and have used it to plan work with my LC . Skype has been a great tool when discussing my AR with my LC. It is so nice to have the dialogue with my LC when I am showing them data, needing assistance reworking parts of my lit review or cycle reports. The verbal feedback has proven to be invaluable.

All of my learners, as well as myself, have responded positively to all the technology tools. They really enjoyed after our survey this past Friday, seeing the poll automatically fill and data appear instantaneously. I also think it was important for them on the reflective pieces to respond to one another’s comments. I am anxious to see their reactions to the podcasts and hearing one another reflect verbally about the multiple redo policy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

AR and LC working together

I am just plain confused on what to do. Although I began my cycle three focusing on Randon and helping him become a more successful learner/student/student teacher, I am not feeling that it is as aligned with my over all AR as it should be. I feel as though I am almost forcing it into the overarching focus of making my students more successful learners. I can see a flow and a possibility to the idea that through helping him become more successful I in turn am helping my students become more successful, but I am wondering if it is from him, or through him that I am making the changes.

To clarify, tonight in our LC meeting, I was asking my group about my problem. I see myself doing a number of things to improve student success and learning. I had the No D policy, the multiple redos, and now with randon there, I am able to focus on more one on one instruction with writing. Randon and I first took a set of essays and I gave feedback on them initially with his comments following and we discussed the presence and absences we saw between our comments. I blogged about that previously. Then over this past weekend, we took the intro and first body paragraphs to comment on. We did this as a blind set where I had one set of papers and he had another. When we met today, we discussed 5 of the papers specifically looking for absence and presence of comments as well as any changes we were making in giving feedback.
We noticed that we commented the same in regards to mechanics, grammar, citations, lead-ins, and structural elements. What was interesting were the differences we had looking directly at their quotation analysis. I focused on kids explaining the quotes in three parts: what the quote says, what it has to do to prove the point of the paragraph, and finally relating the quote to the overall point of the thesis. In other words, making sure the kids are explaining the big picture. Randon and I talked about this as an absence in his comments and focused on adding that to his feedback.

Additionally, we noticed some stylistic changes with our feedback. I made sure to add more positive feedback as I saw Randon had done the first time we did this, and he approached the feedback offering more in text comments as well as lists of things to correct and change. Another interesting point of change is that I tend to ask questions of the writer when giving feedback, and this is a technique Randon added this time as well.

Although this is all good analysis, at least good in my opinion, I am not sure how this is helping my students become more successful learners. I know that by helping him, I am helping them, but it feels very far out in left field in terms of the approach.

I wonder how the kids are feeling about getting dual sets of feedback. I think I need to have them reflect on it since this is the second time they have received feedback. Is it helping their writing? Do they feel like they have a better sense of what changes to make? Do they feel more successful and understand the writing process better? Or does having two sets become more confusing? Is it too much to consider?

So, this all got me thinking, to bring this back to my LC conversation, of my true action in helping my students be more successful learners. Randon and I are trying a strategy in our English 9 class where on editing days, if the kids do not have the work ready to edit, they come into the hallway with me, to receive 1-1 instruction and help them get caught up. I love this because I get to stay in contact with kids, especially my struggling students, and help them along. We created a feedback form for these sessions so that the kids have to think about what they want to accomplish in their time with me, and then rate the effectiveness of the session. I am not sure if the feedback form is accurately capturing what I want from them, but it is at least giving me some details on things I need to be thinking about. It is a start to say the least. And so far, most of the kids have rated it at a minimum of 3/5. The kids that are ranking it at that level are saying so because I wasn’t able to give them more time. The kids that I am able to move further along are usually rating it at 4/5 to 5/5.

The other thing is that some of the kids reflect that they are just lazy and not getting anything done. They lack the motivation to accomplish anything. It is almost like it really needs to be one to one writing instruction out in the hallway instead of 1-8 which is still more instruction time than in a classroom.

So, I am not sure where to go from here. Matt discussed in our LC that my focus should be on the kids. It is not really about Randon at all, because my AR is about me. What changes I am making and results I am seeing. Maybe that is part of my confusion and my need to feel like I am back in track on this AR work. I feel so separated from my kids and almost like the project isn’t mine because I have been trying to complete it through randon when it is still about me and the kids. I feel like it is about me and the kids when I am giving my feedback and having the instruction time in the hallway. Matt even alluded to me still being able to do what I am doing if I had a sub in the classroom so that I could meet with the kids in the hallway. I am not sure I totally agree with that because having Randon in the classroom has given me time to reflect and think about engaging my students. But, I see what he is alluding to. Also, he really urged me to focus on getting my students reflections about this change with dual feedback and 1-1 instruction time.
As always, more to think about, more to reflect on, and more to change. I just wish I could have some of my own 1-1 time with MR to think all this out. I am such a talker of ideas, that it helps just hearing her pose the questions back to me. I need to figure out where I am going with this cycle before it gets too unmanageable and possibly loses focus.

Monday, February 09, 2009

ED 665: Week 6 blog

Blog: As learners, we are often focused on completing assessment activities successfully as opposed to acquiring the outcomes indicated by the course- why is this? Describe a learning experience where either you have combated this learner tendency or you felt a teacher handled this well.

For me, this was the first few years of teaching. Never did my education classes focus on outcomes or essential learnings. It was all about creative and interesting assignments that didn’t parallel on another or lead to one common understanding. I think as educators it is much easier to plan activity based lessons versus UbD style lessons because it is all about the activity and not really focused on transferrable ideas or learnings. UbD holds the teacher accountable that everything relates back to one major focus and that that focus is extended throughout the learning avoiding the pitfalls of a one time only piece of knowledge- regurgitation. Instead with UbD, the learning becomes transferrable and is more meaningful.

Now, with the help of a very intelligent colleague, Lauren Gaffney, I spend more time focusing first on the big questions I want my kids to pursue, and then select texts that would fit within that idea, often giving up texts that I have taught for years. That is no fun. Next, I spend the time, figuring out ideas that would work to help my students grasp the ideas. Then comes the activity portion that will support all of their investigations of the big ideas. Some big idea questions we have pursued in my class are “What matters” “What’s the point” “What does literature say about human beings” “What is a hero”. I feel like following this format, having a colleague or two to discuss these concepts and planning with, makes for a interesting and engaging learning experience creating flow throughout the semester and texts. Ideally, I would love to see a whole school approach one question where all the learning links back to one question every teacher and student explores.

Friday, February 06, 2009

LC meeting week 5

Abrash began the conversation so that we could look over where he was in his AR work and what questions we had from him. We encouraged him to make the process available for everyone to see (or at least the professors so that they can understand where you are going.)
We also spent a lot of time talking about writing and putting writing out there. How it is such a scary thing to publish for the world versus publishing for just the teacher. This is such a difference with an online Masters degree as well as with education today-Such a transformational difference. We tried to be encouraging and motivating for him to try something new and put him out there. We are here to support him and help him along. Hopefully, we can encourage him enough to at least share his thoughts with us.
Matt and tanner reviewed their projects as well. Tanner- adaptive expertise in the classroom- what classroom environment is most conducive to create experts. Learning theory and adaptive experts –cycle one, cycle two- what struggles do they face? Tanner also went over some stats from cycle one:
• Number of students who feel they are on the path to expertise 26%
• Number on path after class 70%
• Kids see change in themselves:
o Number who didn’t and now do 70%
o Expert students 13%
Tanner alluded to one struggle is with kids changing classrooms and moving into his classroom. We discussed why is this hard for them to change classrooms? Why is it hard to change? Why is change hard? We all seemed to discuss because of our OMET work that we notice the difference in teaching- we are now different teachers- we are facilitators not just teachers “provide the spark for them to learn with”, learning what is important to them and how they want to learn.
We seemed to end his presentation on looking at cycle two and trying to help him uncover the layers to get to the next cycle possibly looking at defining expertise? What how and why?
Matt discussed creating a digital computer classroom that allows for collaborative inquiry with students: teacher asked questions of students, kids came up with gold standard answer that fits that piece of history. Style of teaching turns students own ideals of learning onto their heads. Students realized lecture limits their learning and processing and thus they saw their grades tank. Learning is a three dimensional process: auditory, kinesthetic and visual- getting learning in three different ways. Rigor and time sensitive- kids are preparing for an AP exam. Collaborating online with one document- changed Matt’s views on how this was going to work. Kids aren’t talking to one another but rather than groups setting. Work in halves of the room. Cycle one- survey- learner in beginning v learner you are now. One idea we discussed is to do Myers Briggs testing? We also discussed how much responsibility for learning that lies on the shoulders of a teacher. Worst thing is to hear that you learned nothing from the class (so hard on the teacher) Kids do not remember what you teach but how you teach. That is what we need to remember.
I teach you how to learn not teach you computer science- awesome quote from Tanner
Then we went over my project and I went through my cycle one report asking them to give me feedback on this and the questions I have for my cycle two survey.
After they helped me work through the questions, we talked about the next few weeks and what we want to have done for each session. I really was pleased with our entire discussion. We were very supportive of Abrash with his anxiety over his writing, and I felt like we all developed a common ground to begin this next learning circle. We all shared our anxieties about writing and publishing work for the world. Hopefully, this will be a great starting point to move forward from.
I also sent my survey questions onto my principal and added a few of his suggestions to the form. I have the survey ready to distribute at the end of this next week using a Google form that can be embedded in to a blog. So cool!
Finally, with my cycle three work, I had been asked by my student teacher to lead small groups of students in the hallway with further work on their position papers. What I really enjoyed about this is I was able to maintain a connection with the kids, the group of 8 got more 1-1 learning time with individualized instructions, and it helped the other kids who were ready to move along, move along.
We decided after to have the kids reflect on how that 1-1 learning time went with them. Out of the 8 kids, 6 of the 8 rated it a 4-5 out of 5 on helpful. We are going to keep doing this throughout the cycle three along with the written feedback on their work to meet the AR goal of helping students be more successful learners.
Looking ahead, I can see us doing the pull outs about 4-5 more times and then we will also have our written feedback on their paragraphs that many times as well. This will be a big data set to qualify, but I think very meaningful.
Luckily, Randon and I are doing this stage together so it will be interesting with his feedback on the process as well. He and I created the feedback form for the 1-1 session:
I am revising my timeline a little as we are working through all of this. I think now I am looking at end of February/ beginning of March to be writing up my cycle two report and end of March beginning of April to be completing my cycle three report. Wow, time is moving along.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What is the purpose of education?

What is the purpose of education?

Sir Ken Robinson asked us this question while we were watching his TED talk. Mr. Fisch has already written about this and David Warlick. I am interested in what you think? So, what is the purpose of education in your opinion. Maybe ask your parents and sibilings to respond to this question as well.

What is your role? What should the teacher's role be?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

AR cycle 3 round 1

Randon and I met today going over the intro paragraphs the freshmen submitted for their position paper project. I took the weekend to write my comments and then Randon spent Monday night adding his comments to the papers as well. MR had suggested we look at absence and presence as the point for our discussion. We started looking at each paper one by one and after the first five noticed that we were commenting on the same things. Randon indicated he didn’t want to repeat my comments so he didn’t repeat what I had already written. As far as analysis, that made it more difficult to determine reliability since his comments weren’t on the paper but instead indicated orally to me. This is one thing we are going to change for the next time we go through this process. I also recorded our session using my iPod so that we can review our process later on and see what changes we have made or growth we have had over the course of peer grading these papers.
We agreed that all the students need to work on eliminating personal words and contractions in their essays that their proofreading for these features needs to greatly increase. We also pinpointed some students who need extra attention with their thesis statements before they move on. We discussed a course of action for these struggling students in that I would take them aside separately and almost conduct a writer’s workshop of sorts in order to help the student along individually.
We aren’t sure at this point why some of the students are still struggling with their thesis statements and intro paragraphs. We both commented that the form of intervention above might be the best to assist these students as well. Most of the kids who are struggling seem to be the ones who are completing only some work in class, are not following the structure of the paragraphs, and really need some one on one attention. This is going to be the intervention strategy we are going to explore and see if it makes a difference.
We are also wondering why so many kids are not completing their work. Why are we not receiving thesis statements, intro paragraphs and now first body paragraphs? These are conversations I think we need to have individually with the students emphasizing the work of a differentiated classroom. We even noticed going through our comments together that we are differentiating comments for each student. Some students who struggle more in writing receive more feedback and direction than students who are getting the concepts and formats. So not only is our classroom a differentiated learning environment but our feedback reflects that as well. We are going to make sure we are meeting all kids needs by giving them more in class time to work and to meet with us individually to hopefully see greater growth in their writing and work completion.
I wonder what will make the greater difference in their success: more class time to work or individualized time with teacher (Ruggles or Smith) or even dual feedback on assignments?
Specifically looking at our feedback we noticed that we had a lot of common aspects such as citation of sources, structure of writing, and personal words and contractions. The areas we differed were how we went about conveying other aspects. I typically write my comments into the margins of their essays offering constructive criticism and some praise. Randon writes a direct note to the writer offering praise, suggestions for improvement and a positive message of encouragement on most of his responses. He does this all in a paragraph format at the end of the essay.
What was really interesting is the lack of praise I gave in my responses to Randon’s praise of almost everything. This lead to a good conversation about accurate praise versus false praise making sure we are encouraging but no giving false hopes. I wonder if I am becoming to direct rather than focusing on some good aspects of the writing. Often times, I find it challenging on the first go around of editing papers to give a lot of praise and work towards that with each revision.
We concluded that the best thing Randon can do is to find a system of giving feedback that works really well for him. We both agreed that we really need to keep up with the differentiated instruction as well as that carrying over into the feedback. Every kid needs different forms of feedback to assist them in their learning. Going forward, we are going to use a differentiated instruction method where I pull out kids into the hallway and work specifically with each one on areas they are struggling with. Randon will remain in the classroom to work with the entire class. Then on days where they are doing peer editing Randon will work specifically with kids one on one and I will be roaming the room.
For our next round in this cycle, we are going to work on having 2 sets of the papers turned into us. We will each grade our sets and then compare the results. We are also going to ask the kids to take the intro paragraphs we went over today and add their comments and feedback to those so that they can see what they need to do to improve. I am going to save these sets of papers to reflect on with Randon.
Overall, I think it was a really interesting round of learning about each other. Randon and I had a good conversation about feedback, quality and quantity of feedback, what is important about feedback as well as what are differences are in giving feedback. I think we both walked away from the conversation excited about where we are taking this cycle. We are both in this together and it feels like this time we are both vested in seeing the students succeed. I think that Randon is directly involved in this cycle versus inheriting the other cycles is making the difference. I will be anxious to see and read his reflections on our conversations.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Power of the Web

I feel like I always tell my students about what a different world they live in and how amazing the web is at helping them learn. Over this past weekend, starting on Friday and working through today, I was able to prove it.

I had assigned a project to my seniors where they were looking into future careers that they were interested in pursuing in college. They were to select 2-3 people whom they could interview about all aspects of their profession. My hope was that the students would learn a little bit more about the profession they would like to pursue, get some questions answered, learn something new, gain insight, and possibly make some future contacts. The students were then to take that information, post their interviews and results on their wiki, and then compose a summary response paper about all they learned.

Most of the students really enjoyed the project where they were able to learn more and extend what they thought about the career. Interestingly, others discussed during the debriefing how it was challenging being a teenager making contacts with the professionals. Some wouldn’t talk with the kids, some wouldn’t return information after initial contacts were made, and some couldn’t get anyone to talk with them at all. To me, this doesn’t say much about us as adults or human beings if we can’t help out kids!

A few kids expressed how challenging it was to contact people out of the blue without knowing people in their chosen profession. This led to a good discussion about life skills and introducing yourself to someone especially when you are pursuing jobs. I think one thing I would spend more time on next year is creating a network of contacts for the kids so that they have a starting place. We discussed interview questions, but the questions aren’t going to help if they can’t find people to talk to.

Towards the end of the debriefing, one student let on that she couldn’t get anyone in her chosen profession to contact her. She didn’t know anyone in the profession and was really struggling with the whole assignment trying to get something turned in versus her best work turned in. This assignment hadn’t even been meaningful for her but rather a HUGE struggle. That didn’t fit into the goals of the assignment at all. So, what’s a teacher to do with a struggling student?

Once I found out that my student wanted to move into the FBI or secret service, I went to my computer and got on Twitter putting out a tweet looking for connections to these professions. From my tweet, two other friends (cgfaulkner and karlfisch) retweeted my request putting this student’s interest out into a much wider audience. Before I knew it, tweets were coming in from all over, emails were being feed to her and I by all sorts of people willing to help her in her quest for knowledge. I can’t tell you what that meant to me other than to say, it is good to know that all of you are out there. Thanks for showing me and my students the power of the web. Rather than walking away from a learning struggle, I hope she learns that the web can make learning possible- the web connects us. Thanks to all who assisted in this learning adventure and thanks for reaching out to not only me, but to my students as well.

ED 665: Week 5

Blog: Identify a standard that impacts your local environment or practice. Reflect on the value of the standard and its intended affect on student learning.

Our district has moved from standards to essential learnings. One essential learning that our 9th graders are focusing on this year is writing for a critical and argumentative intent. We broke this essential learning down further into focusing on their topic sentences for the first common assessment.
Amazingly, when we were first making the switch to essential learnings, our staff was not all on board and so it has taken quite some time to get us all into a place where we are all focused on the same idea. Now that we are here, we are in our second year focusing on one aspect under this essential learning; we are really working at common assessments of this essential learning in hopes that we will soon move to best practices. This has been a tough process!
As far as the standard’s value, I do think it is a good life skill to know how to write effectively and communicate a point to a variety of audiences. I think where it is challenging is how does that look to each teacher and student? We are focusing solely on the one standard because we feel that this standard would benefit so many others in our students’ whole school experience. But it seems that when we are trying to assess this standard, it also becomes a reading assessment as well because some of the kids don’t understand the story they are responding to. Actually, reflecting I think so many of the standards are built off on another that in order to be successful in one, others must accompany it as well.
In the long run, I think the standard will directly benefit the students because once the teachers have shared best practices in how to achieve the standard, all our students will be proficient in their learning and written communication. This will in turn benefit their reading and hopefully will benefit their oral communication skills as well. Ultimately, our staff hopes this will be a transferable concept so that their learning in all their classes will increase.

AR week 5

This weekend Randon and I began the cycle three part of my/our AR project. Since he gets to be part of this new journey, not only is he student teaching, but now he gets to participate in my AR project, I decided it could be our AR project. After all, I am not only looking at the changes in learning in myself, and in my students, but Randon’s changes as well. I will be anxious to see how we do this cycle together seeing as how we are focusing on his growth as a learner by my modeling feedback for students and Randon and I discussing feedback on student work. Ultimately, I hope the changes will not only effect Randon and I but our students will be more successful learners as a result.
So, this weekend I took home their second attempt at writing the intro paragraphs for the 9th grade position paper. This paper is where our students learn how to write a formalized paper using research to back up and support their position, they learn to incorporate quotations and textual citations, and also how to write in a formalized multi paragraph thesis driven essay. This year the project is a little different in that we are asking the students to not only take a position, but they are to take a stance on something they wish to change in the world. Then they write their paper, and create an action plan on what change they can make in their own lives to help change the world…thus, Project Change the World.
After reading through the intro paragraphs, I am getting a good sense of what the kids are getting and not getting with Randon teaching the intro paragraphs. It seems that we need to spend so more time on making sure all the elements are in the intro paragraph. I wonder if the kids feel like all the elements are there, but Randon and I are seeing something differently. Maybe what they are writing fits their interpretation of the intro paragraph but it doesn’t fit my perception at the moment. I might ask Randon to see if they can respond to the feedback I have given them, as well as Randon’s feedback as well so that they can identify what elements they see in their intro paragraph that maybe I am not seeing. I just want to make sure that I am sticking somewhat to the idea I want to explore in this cycle without going to overboard. I think as long as I keep the focus on making my students more successful learners, and in turn Randon’s success as a teacher, noting the changes I see in myself through this process, we will all benefit.
One thing I want to make sure I reflect on was my feedback that I was providing to my students on this first go around in cycle one. While assessing their work on Sunday, I noticed I was much more conscientious about the feedback I was giving to them. I actually took a lot of time making sure the feedback I was giving was readable and understandable to both Randon and my students. Not that I do not normally do that, but I guess I do not think about it as much. Has giving feedback become such a part of me that I am not consciously thinking about it when I give feedback.
Tonight, Randon is going to review my feedback on the intro paragraphs and tomorrow we are going to sit down and discuss what we each learned from the feedback as well as reflecting on one another’s comments and where to go from here.