Tag Archives: Student Success

How can instruction be engineered to benefit the entire class?

Stephen M. Shore, Ed.D. is a clinical assistant professor at the School of Education at Adelphi University. As a child, Dr. Shore was nonverbal and diagnosed with “atypical development and strong autistic tendencies.” His parents rejected institutionalization and instead opted for intensive early intervention and support. Today Dr. Shore is an internationally renowned professor and author on issues pertinent to students with disabilities, particularly autism.

In a workshop hosted by School Leaders for Change, Dr. Shore gave a presentation and shared autobiographical experiences to illustrate how schools and teachers can develop and use educational accommodations in inclusion settings to support all students in the classroom.  Participants learned about curriculum modifications and their appropriate usage. Shore’s discussion focused on educating students by employing their strengths.

Do you remember the pictures in Highlights Magazine where there are two pictures and you have to spot the differences between the two images?

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It is a visual perception exercise and Dr. Shore was making the point about how we perceive disabilities. We need to reframe how we view the students in our classroom who are on the spectrum. We want to look at the whole spectrum. Move from deficient model to a strengths model. Autism brings challenges but how can we use their strengths so these students can succeed in our classrooms? For example, a child who is judged to be learning disabled, hyperactive, dyslexic can also be considered learning different, a kinesthetic learner, a spatial learner (For more see Turning Lead Into Gold by Thomas Armstrong, 1989).

When addressing student challenges do the following:

  1. Indicate how you would go about determining the functions behind these behaviors,
  2. Suggest a plan that would help this student keep him/herself properly regulated
  3. Describe what you might do as the teacher to implement this plan

Everyone has strengths and challenges. Rather than looking at students on the spectrum from a deficient model, look at strengths and match their special skills with the curriculum or find something closely connected. With all learning differences, how do we make it work? Think about size, time, levels of support, input, difficulty, output, participation, alternatives, and substitute curriculum when modifying and implementing special ways and techniques for all students to succeed.

For example, maybe a student needs the size and quantity of information reduced. You might even think about having students complete five questions early in the week and then five more questions when everyone else is taking the test to chunk the test into more manageable parts. Thus, the student it still completing the same amount of work, it is just broken down over the week to support their accommodation.

Think about time and the executive function of time management, teachers can create a timeline that is posted on the bulletin board or Google Classroom for all students to post where they are in the writing process and monitor the requirements of the assignment. A teacher might even employ students to help out in this situation as peer buddies and teaching assistants to monitor that students are completing the steps of a multi-step assignment.

Teachers have to adapt the way instruction is delivered to the learner (Input). The more ways we differentiate, the more students we can reach. Utilize Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and go beyond functional math and reading intelligences. Teachers need to help students process and express information (Output). Think in other modalities. Allow students to demonstrate mastery in other ways. We want to undo any barriers that get in the way of students showing their learning and understanding — these are merely extensions of good teaching practice.

The second part of Stone’s presentation was on sensory issues and having participants experience and understand sensory processing disorders to we can rethink the classroom environment to be a more sensorially friendly place.

Overall, there were so many takeaways from the morning. Throughout the presentation we addressed easy to implement, practical solutions for including children with autism and other special needs into the regular education experience. The key idea is that everyone can learn and with the right modifications, all students can succeed.

 

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How do the choices we make impact the world? Blending Science and English in an Investigative Writing Unit of Study

Saturday, April 8th is the #EdCollabGathering, an free online conference addressing innovative ideas in education.

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The Educator Collaborative, LLC, is a think tank and educational consulting organization working to innovate the ways educators learn together.

Founded by internationally recognized educator, author, and consultant Christopher Lehman, we aim to serve children and the adults who teach, learn, and grow alongside them.

I will be presenting, “How do the choices we make impact the world? Blending Science and English in an Investigative Writing Unit of Study.” The presentation will address inquiry based content area writing with investigative science research and feature articles. Grounded in informational text and research, students write their own science based investigative journalism article with the guiding question: How do the choices we make impact the world?

Below are the slides for the presentation.

Check out an archive of the presentation here.

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Tools of Titans as a Roadmap for 2017

This past week I read Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World Class Performers by Tim Ferriss (2016). This 650+ page book is a  collection of recipes – on health, wealth, and wisdom from high profile athletes, doctors, investors, and entrepreneurs. Ferriss has taken snapshots from his podcasts and put them together with his own insight and personal reflections. As an avid fan of Tim Ferriss, this book was something that I savored this holiday.

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As Ferriss writes, “While the world is a goldmine, you need to go digging in other people’s heads to unearth riches. Questions are your pickaxes and competitive advantage.” Whether looking for inspiration in the new year or interested in the daily habits of Olympic athletes, writers, professional chefs, CEOs, and creative geniuses. 

Taking from Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, Ferriss extends the quote, “I can think, I can wait, I can fast” as a guide for success.

“I can think” – Having good rules for decision making, and having good questions you can ask yourself and others.

“I can wait” – Being able to plan long term, play the long game, and not misallocate your resources.

“I can fast” – Being able to withstand difficulties and disaster. Training yourself to be uncommonly resilient and have a high pain tolerance.

We don’t discover ourselves, we CREATE ourselves. The information shared in this book will help you create your best self. Ferriss states, “Success, however you define it, is achievable if you collect the right field-tested beliefs and habits.”

Below are twenty-five quotes from Tools of Titans that stood out for me.

“No one owes you anything.” – Amelia Boone

“We’re not an object, we’re a process.” – Justin Mager, MD
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“If the pursuit of excellence was easy, everyone would do it In fact, this impatience in dealing with frustration is the primary reason that most people fail to achieve their goals. Unreasonable expectations time wise, resulting in unnecessary frustration due to a perceived feeling of failure. Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process. . . Learn to enjoy the process.” – Tim Ferriss

“Be so good, they can’t ignore you.” Marc Andreessen

“It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.” – Derek Sivers

“When you can write well, you can think well.” – Matt Mullenweg

“Everyone is interesting. If you’re ever bored in a conversation, the problem’s with you, not the other person.” – Matt Mullenweg

“Investing in yourself is the most important investment you’ll ever make in your life . . .There’s no financial investment that’ll ever match it, because if you develop more skill, more ability, more insight, more capacity, that’s what’s going to really provide economic freedom . .  It’s those skill sets that really make them happen. – Tony Robbins

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“If you let your learning lead to action, you become wealthy.” – Tony Robbins

“What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.” – Casey Neistat

“If a narrative isn’t working, well then, really, why are you using it? The narrative isn’t done to you; the narrative is something that you choose. Once we can dig deep and find a different narrative, then we ought to be able to change the game.” – Seth Godin

“I think we need to teach kids two things: 1) how to lead, and 2) how to solve interesting problems. Because the fact is, there are plenty of countries on Earth where there are people who are willing to be obedient and word harder for less money than us. So we cannot out-obedience the competition Therefore, we have to out-lead or out-solve the other people . . . “ Seth Godin

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“Everything is a remix, but what is your version of the remix . . .What is the unique mojo that I bring, and how can I try to amplify that? Amplify your strengths rather than fix your weaknesses.” — Chase Jarvis

“Stories are a primary ingredient.” – Alex Blumberg

“When you complain, nobody wants to help you . . .If you spend your time focusing on the things that are wrong, and that’s what you express and project to people you know, you don’t become a source of growth for people, you become a source of destruction for people.” – Tracy DiNunzio

“Ask for help. Fix it. DO whatever’s necessary. But don’t cheat.” – Chris Young

 

“Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room – until you change that with results.” Tim Ferriss

“It’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen.” – Scott Belsky

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“Think of problems as gold mines.  The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.” – Peter Diamandis

“Are you working on something that can change the world? Yes or no? I think we need to be training people on how to change the world.” – Peter Diamandis

“I have always treated the world as my classroom, soaking up lessons and stories to fuel my path forward. . . The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough. Never stop learning. Ever.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

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Gamification & Literacy at #NCTE16

Classrooms of the digital age are interactive spaces where literate lives are groomed through the analysis and synthesis of content. Perspectives formed during collaborative conversations give rise to innovative ideas but not every teacher is ready to be part of the digital change. How can classroom environments become havens of active learning and schools encourage students to make wise technology choices to become independent learners with authentic voices?

As part of a round table session at National Council of Teachers of English Annual Conference, I presented gamification ideas and strategies for engaged, active, student-centered classrooms where choice leads to increased voice.

Here are a few of the games and activities referenced in the slides that I have created for my students that correlate with units of study.

MidSummer Night’s Dream Symbolism Connect Four

Roll the Dice or Think Dots

Here is how this activity works, using a set of dice [or have task cards Think DOTs that have assignments on one side and colored dots that match a “dice” roll on the other side], students can “roll the dice” to see which activity or question they have to complete. You can use different cubes for different students depending on their readiness, interests and learning profiles. The example that I provided below is a for reading response questions for To Kill  Mockingbird. There are two sets that are differentiated based on students level of understanding.

And for a random Dice Challenge

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Formative Assessment Strategies to Support Student Success

Formative Assessment is a constantly occurring process, a verb, a series of events in action, not a single tool or a static noun. — from Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction (NCTE, 2013)

Assessment is an integral part of instruction determining whether or not the goals of education are being met. It is used to measure the current knowledge that a student has. It is through assessment that teachers are continually asking: “Am I teaching what I think I’m teaching?” and “Are students learning what they are suppose to be learning?” Teachers are engaged in assessment every minute that they are in the classroom. As teachers we are always observing, noting, and evaluating. Here are some ideas to add variety to assessment strategies to promote student success.

Here are eight formative assessment strategies to try out with your students:

1. Whip Around: Teacher poses a question, students write response, students read written responses rapidly, in specified order. This develops closure, clarification, and summary.

2. Status Checks: This can be a thumbs up/thumbs down, students can use colored cards (red, green, yellow) to show their understanding.

3. Quartet Quiz: Teacher poses question, students write a response, students meet in quads and check answers, the summarizer reports, “We know . . .” The teacher can record responses on the board. This allows for closure and clarification.

4. Jigsaw Check: Teacher assigns students to groups of 5-6. The teacher gives each student a question card, posing a key understanding question, students read their question to the group. The scorecard keeper records the number of students for each question who are: really sure, pretty sure, foggy, and clueless. The students then scramble to groups with the same questions they have to prepare a solid answer. Students then report back to their original groups to share answers and re-do scoreboard.

5. Squaring Off: Teacher places a card in each corner of the room with one of the following words or phrases that are effective ways to group according to learner knowledge: Rarely ever, Sometimes, Often, I have it! or Dirt Road, Paved Road, Highway, Yellow Brick Road. Tell the student to go to the corner of the room that matches their place in the learning journey. Participants go to the corner that most closely matches their own learning status and discuss what they know about the topic and why they chose to go there.

6. Yes/No Cards: Using a 4X6 index card the student writes YES on one side and NO on the other. When a question is asked by the teacher, the students holds  up YES or NO. This can be used with vocabulary words, true/false questions, or conceptual ideas.

7. Thumb It: Have students respond with the position of their thumb to get an assessment of what their current understanding of a topic being studied. Where I am now in my understanding of ______________? Thumb Up = full speed ahead (I get it), Thumb Sideways = Slow down, I’m getting confused, Thumb Down = Stop! I’m lost.

8. Journal Prompts for Ongoing Assessment: Choice A – Write a step by step set of directions, including diagrams and computations, to show someone who has been absent how to do the kind of problem we’ve worked with this week. OR Choice B – Write a set of directions for someone who is going to solve a problem in their life by using the kind of math problem we’ve studied this week. Explain the problem first. Be sure the directions address their problem, not just the computations.

 

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