Friday, July 24, 2015

Student Goal Setting, Monitoring and Reflecting

As adults, we set goals all the time. I have goals for everything; from what I want my electricity bill to look like in August, to how much I want the scale to read when I step on it. Following through with the goals we set for ourselves can be difficult at best and downright impossible if we don't find a way to monitor our progress and make adjustments along the way. The habit of setting, monitoring, and reflecting on goals must be taught to our students since it is not a skill that is inherent in most people.

The district that I teach in embraces the Continuous Improvement (CI) model.  While there are many fantastic tools to help drive goal setting; the Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle is the cornerstone to using the CI model in the classroom. Every teacher uses this cycle a little differently, I'm sharing how I approach this cycle in my classroom for whole class goal setting, monitoring and reflecting.

I will also share a link for my PDSA for individual students and a link for an assessment tracker for district-level assessments.

Two Teaching Taylors Plan from PDSA

The plan is determined by your curriculum. You control how you want to present the lesson to the students but the overall concept is decided by your state's student expectations. I live in Texas, so my PLAN is usually one of the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). On my PDSA board under Plan, I post anywhere from one to three "I can" statements that reflect the state expectations that will be covered that week. I have the students copy the plan on their personal PDSA sheets in their data folders as well.

You have a lot of flexibility for the DO in your PDSA cycle. This is where you describe what you and/or your students will do in order to achieve the learning plan. I use Marsha Tate's 20 Instructional Strategies that Work as the DO options for my students. I select 5-6 of the strategies (which I have on individual, laminated cards) and have the students complete a consensogram to select the four learning strategies that they want to do during the process of learning that week. In reality, we complete a dozen or more learning strategies but I make sure to fit in the four that the class chose. This gives the students a sense of ownership over their learning and ensures buy-in for my lessons. After the students have selected the DOs for the week, I post them on our PDSA board as a reference. They remain posted until we complete the PDSA learning cycle. Then the students select new DOs for the next cycle.

Other options that you can use for your DO learning strategies include: Marzano’s High-Yield Instructional Strategies, Rich Allen's Teaching Techniques That Accelerate Learning, Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures or a mixture of all of them.

Two Teaching Taylors PDSA for Success

Assessment is a necessary part of all learning in our classroom. We have to make sure that the students are progressing and that they ultimately meet the expectations set in the learning plan. Formative assessments allow us to tweak our lessons as we go so we can provide additional support for struggling students. However, summative assessments are where the data for the STUDY portion of the PDSA cycle comes from. In my classroom, I use a bar graph to display the results of the assessment each week. I make sure that my assessments are relatively short (5-10 questions) and that they are targeted to cover only the expectations of the PLAN for that week.

When graphing the results, I use the percentage of students in the class who passed the assessment to determine the value on each bar.  In addition to this measure, I also record the number of students who passed and the number of students who took the assessment, in fraction form. This allows me to model the same data in two different ways for the students. I really like using the fraction of students who passed over students who took the assessment. After a few assessments, the students start to see how one individual student can effect the results and it leads to a discussion on team work and helping others to be successful.

After studying the results of all the learning that has happened, the students have to decide what they will do to ACT on this information. We are looking at classroom data, so I group the students into cooperative teams and have them discuss what went well with the learning that week. They talk about whether or not the learning strategies they selected worked or if they should have chosen something different. They also talk about personal and group effort. After 2-3 minutes of monitored discussion, I pass out two post-it notes per team. One post-it note is for the team to record their Pluses (what went well and should be continued for the next learning cycle) and the other post-it note is for the team to record their Deltas (what did not go well and needs to be tweaked for the next learning cycle). I then take all of the team Plus/Delta post-it notes and post them under the ACT for their class on my PDSA board. 

Each step in the PDSA cycle should be posted where the students can easily see it during the learning process. I teach more than one class so I've adapted my class PDSA board to accommodate three classes worth of data.  The Plan box is one long box because all three classes will have the same learning plan.  The other sections are separated for each class so that their PDSA cycles are customized for them. This picture shows my classroom PDSA board all set and ready for school to start. As the year goes on, it will be filled with goals, graphs, and reflections. I'll post a picture after we've completed a few cycles.

In addition to our class PDSA board, I have each student keep their own PDSA learning cycles.  I've created a single sheet tool that students can use for an entire grading period. The PDSA cycle is designed for short cycle learning (a week or two tops).  The assessment data usually comes from short quizzes or other types of assessments.

These short assessments prepare the students for the many district-level assessments that are given several times a year to prepare the students for the state-level assessment. Whew! That is a lot of assessments!  The students keep their PDSA cycle sheets in their Data Folders. They also keep their district level assessment tracker in that folder. I've given links to both tools below if you would like to take a look at them.

I'd love to hear how you use Continuous Improvement or the PDSA cycle in your classrooms.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How can I get every student to turn in their homework?

To give homework or not to give homework? 

That is the teacher's dilemma we have to answer for ourselves. There are great arguments on both sides. I'm all for giving homework as long as it is relevant and SHORT. I might also add in that the students should be able to complete the work on their own as not every student will have support at home. All students must be accountable for the assignment, even if you are not going to put it in the grade book. (That is for another conversation). We have to make completing the assignment "attractive" to the students. They have to want to do it. In a perfect world the students would be intrinsically motivated and not need any incentive to finish their work but there will always be a select few who cannot (or will not) get the work done.

There are a lot of options out there, so you have to find one that works for you. Here are a few that I've tried in the past. Some have worked great and some I quickly put in the NEVER AGAIN category.

  • Reward card: 
    • individual accountability 
    • initial the student's card when they turn HW in on time
    • works great but takes a lot of time to maintain the system
  • Behavior mark:
    • individual accountability 
    • tracks student's behavior to communicate with parents
    • results can vary, some students are very motivated by the behavior mark system but others are not and those are probably the students who have a pattern of not completing their work
  • Working recess/lunch:
    • individual accountability
    • no official consequence or reward
    • students stay in from recess to complete work or they complete work during lunch instead of visiting with friends
    • works great but takes away valuable socializing time from the students
  • Whole class incentive:
    • group accountability 
    • whole class earns points or credit towards a whole class reward each time EVERY SINGLE student completes the homework for the day
    • works great because students feel positive peer pressure, they don't want to let the group down by being the one to cause the class to not earn a point
    • every effort should be made to not advertise who didn't complete their work BUT the students will still feel the pressure

Although I like several of these strategies, I've found that using a combination of the last two works best for me and my students. When I assign homework, students can either complete it at home or study hall. We have study hall set up during recess for those students who did not complete their work on time, who need a little one-on-one help or  who want to get work done at school so they don't have to take it home. Our recess/study hall is 30 minutes long but if students finish before that time, they are released to go play outside. I tend to come to work really early so I never have an issue if a student wants to work in my room before school.  Ultimately, the goal is for the student to FINISH the work and turn it in on time.  It doesn't matter to me if they want to work in my room before school, or in study hall, or at home as long as it is finished.

...and finished on TIME.

I hate having to hound students to get work turned in.  If I can get them to turn it in when it is due, I save myself a huge headache.

In previous years I've used marble jars, brownie points and tally marks to track whole class homework completion.  On the day that an assignment is due, the class can earn a point if every single student has their homework finished on time. Once the class meets a certain number of points, we celebrate.

I ran across these key chain organizers at CVS and my brain started churning ideas for how I could use them. I knew I wanted them because of the ROYGBIV = white light lesson that I could tie into it when I teach light energy but HOW would I use it. I finally settled on an attendance and homework tracker for my classes.

A little measuring, designing, cutting and Mod Podging later and I have a new tracker system. I made one to track attendance for my homeroom and four to track homework completion for my classes.

Each day that a class has every student turn their homework in on time, they get to move another day down to the hanging position. When we reach the 8th time, we have a class celebration.  I usually assign homework 1-2 times a week so the celebrations end up happening about once a grading period. To increase buy in, I let the class vote on their celebration activity.  It usually ends up being five minutes of free time in class or a special lunch group in my classroom.  They really like being able to eat in the classroom. We play music and they get to visit outside of the cafeteria.

Thank you for taking the time to look into my homework management routine.

What are some ways that you get students to turn their work in on time?

Monday, July 6, 2015

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Teach Like a Pirate: Enthusiasm

Children want to enjoy being in our class. They want to engage with our content and with each other. We have to make sure that we encourage this desire rather than smother it. Our own enthusiasm is key in maintaining student enthusiasm!

The Commitment to being "ON".

Dave Burgess is not afraid to admit that he too has weaknesses in the classroom. It is difficult to examine our own shortcomings and I appreciate that Dave puts his out there for us to see. It is reassuring to see some of my own weaknesses reflected in his list. We ALL have things we can work on, right!

His point is that, despite having areas that could use a little polish, we all have the ability to transform our classrooms by stepping up our ENTHUSIASM level and keeping it that level all day long, for each and every class. Burgess says, "I refuse to cheat a student by delivering  a subpar performance." We have to "bring it" every time.

Dave's 2 ways to LIGHT your fire:
  1. "Act as if": Burgess points out that the phrase "fake it till you make it" is absolutely the way to go when it comes to enthusiasm. Lucky for us, you can pretend to be enthusiastic even if you aren't. The great thing about pretending to feel enthusiasm is that eventually your body believes that you really are enthusiastic and you no longer have to "act as if".
  2. Shift your focus: This is another way of saying to look on the bright side.  You have to find the frame of mind needed to have a successful day and then FOCUS on obtaining it. Burgess suggests that "This job is tough enough without having to fight through self-imposed negativity".

What are some of the things that help you find your right frame of mind?

The following post transferred from old Blog on 7/1/15
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Teach Like a Pirate: Transformation

I think we have all been in that class or that PD session.  
The one that bored you to tears and no matter how hard you tried to stay on task, the instructor just couldn't keep your attention. This is a difficult situation for adults. I can't imagine being a child and feeling stuck in a BORING class with no escape.

Two Teaching Taylors blog post. Book study with reflections on Teach like a Pirate. This student is wishing that the teacher would transform their lessons to be more captivating.

So how do we avoid being that teacher? How do we have a class that kids get excited about and talk animatedly about when it is over? According to Dave it is really just about asking yourself the right questions (as discussed previously in Ask and Analyze) and then setting a firm goal for yourself. He points out that we feel disappointed in ourselves when we don't follow through with goals that we have set. I would add that you should set a goal and then share it with a trusted and supportive colleague as we are far more motivated to stick to goals that we have made public.  I think we need someone to check in with, discuss progress with and even vent with when we have a slip up.  We need someone to go on the journey with us.

The ultimate goal is to have a class that students can't wait to come to. We want our students to go home and have TONS to say when their parents ask what they did at school that day.

We want kids to experience a sense of WONDER as we spin our web of learning around them.
Two Teaching Taylors blog post. Book study over Teach like a Pirate.  Students should feel a sense of WONDER when they learn in the classroom.

Teach like a Pirate poses two questions for us to consider about our own classrooms.

1. If students were not required to attend your class, would they still show up?
2. Are any of your lessons worthy of selling tickets too?

I don't know how to answer this.  Of course, I want to believe that students would still come to my class but the reality is that I'm not sure. Can my class compete with visiting freely with friends or going to the snow cone hut? That is something to think about and work towards next year.  As far as selling tickets to my lessons, I think I have a few.  In particular, my lesson on states of matter and changing states is a winner.  

Two Teaching Taylors activity lesson over phase changes in solids, liquids and gases. 
Another lesson that my students really get excited about gets them outside learning about why the sun appears to move across the sky. My goal for next school year is to have at least ONE lesson each week that is ticket worthy. When I meet that goal I can move to two lessons each week.

What are some of your goals for making ticket worthy lessons?