Today, I attended the last of four scheduled Cleveland Diocesan workshops designed to assist teachers in adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in our classrooms
As a result, I'm feeling rather reflective.
Love it or hate it, the CCSS is here to stay, adopted by 46 states, and expected to be implemented for the 2014-15 school year.
Honestly, I'm still on the fence about the whole CCSS debate. The OCD side of me likes the idea of consistency and uniformity, but the rebellious side of me doesn't appreciate the government issuing mandates. And then I read Jacqui Murray's recent article about the 7 Ways Common Core Will Change Your Classroom, and I now kind of get it. Murray fairly and succinctly summarizes the expected major changes to the current curriculum, and I don't necessarily think these are bad things:
1. Depth over width
Fewer topics will be covered in greater detail.
2. Nonfiction over fiction
Expository writing and critical reading take precedence over inferential reading.
3. Evidence Is required
Regardless of the subject matter, students will be required to back-up their claims with clear and authentic evidence.
4. Speaking and listening
These two skills, necessary in college and employment, will be emphasized.
5. Technology is part of most/all standards
Collaborating, sharing, and publishing are real-life skills in our global community, and tech tools will be integral to all subject matter.
6. Life skills are emphasized across all subject areas
Critical thinking, writing, and cognitive processes will be performed--in every subject.
7. An increase in rigor
Students and teachers will be expected to dig deeper, to show more evidence of learning, and to create more authentic products of learning.
I believe most teachers (and parents) would agree that these seven pedagogic changes are not only necessary, but necessary in a very crucial way in 21st century education.
And that's what makes the workshop I attended today pretty timely. It addressed performance-based tasks & assessments--an approach to learning that covers all of the points listed in Murray's article.
What's so great about the application of PBT & PBA is that it provides for authentic outcomes, it involves collaboration, and it makes use of different learning styles. Instead of having students show what they know in a passive way (e.g., multiple choice tests), students show what they know in an active and engaging manner (e.g., podcasts).
Performance-based tasks aren't simply just "cool" and "fun" alternatives to tests--although they certainly can be cool and fun! They have proven outcomes clearly in line with the CCSS purpose to better prepare our students to require less prompting and scaffolding to show what they know.
Don't believe me? Take a good look at the "Cone of Learning" above.
I don't want to belabor the point about PBT & PBA; you can get a quick overview here. What most performance-based tasks have in common, though, is the use of collaboration through cooperative learning, and it's that on which I'd like to focus with some quick information to get you started.
With that said, here's the condensed version of the very best and the most useful of what I learned today--and even some stuff I found on my own:
Cooperative Learning Resources
Cooperative Learning Assessment Tools
Finally, here's my very favorite resource of the day from iLearnOhio. I suggest you type "performance" in the keyword search engine before you choose the grade level and discipline. As for resource types, be sure to choose "lessons."
Of course, being from the Buckeye state myself, I'm unapologetically biased, but this resource from our neighbor to the south isn't so bad, either. :-)
I'm that person who arrives early at the theater to catch the coming attractions. Sometimes I become so riveted by the movie trailers that I forgot what I paid to see in the first place!
It's this peculiarity of mine that's the inspiration behind what was today's highly-anticipated Book Trailer Film Festival with my 8th graders. After many weeks of researching, compiling, and creating, we had our very own premiere, where we viewed (and peer reviewed) the trailers.
Book trailers are gaining in popularity as an alternative to the stale and often overused book report. Last year, my son's language arts teacher--who was as weary of grading book reports as her students were writing them--opted to give book trailers a try with her 7th graders, even though she'd never done anything like it herself and had certainly never taught the process before. (I admire her bravery to "let go and let the digital natives" go exploring on their own!)
In short, the kids were thrilled. Ecstatic. Engaged. Excited. And their individual creativity was pleasantly surprising.
If creating is now the highest-ranking domain of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy, then we as teachers need to allow more opportunities for doing just that. Furthermore, we should also take into consideration when devising formal assessments the authentic audience. For example, the book report's audience is an audience of one--the teacher. On the other hand, the book trailer's audience includes students within the classroom, within the school, and across the globe. (Thanks, YouTube!) More importantly, I believe, project-based formal assessments like this create enthusiasm in and ownership of learning--and isn't that what we as teachers most desire of our students?
Finally, book trailers are a simple yet effective way to merge 21st century learning and the Common Core reading standards for literature & informational text; writing standards; speaking & listening standards; and language standards.
So how do you get started?
(1) Establish a clear schedule with a step-by-step process for creating the trailer. Here's a useful image that does the scheduling for you.
(2) Determine which software you want to use. I'm blessed to have a computer lab of Macs, so we used iMovie. However, I also provided students a list of cloud-based video options, such as Narrable, UTellStory, and PresentMe. PowerPoint is always a low-tech option, too,
(3) Visit Book Trailers for Readers to show your students examples of what good trailers include.
(4) Have students create a storyboard. I used this example and this template from the Highland Virtual Learning Center's book trailer unit. I also discovered some cloud-based storyboard making apps on my own: Padlet, Lino, Storyboard Generator, & Storyboard That and encouraged students to try them.
(5) Explain Creative Commons and how to gather copyright-free images. Students were directed to use Creative Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and this link to collect images. Students were permitted to use Google images, but only if they followed these explicit instructions.
(6) Direct students to cite images. We used BibMe to keep track of our images in separate Word documents that were copied and pasted at the end of the trailers.
(7) Explain the use of a soundtrack to establish mood, and direct students to use Creative Commons to find copyright-free music.
(8) Create a rubric and a peer review rubric. (Thanks, again, HVLC!)
(9) Create a YouTube account or a SchoolTube account to upload and share the students' trailers.
(10) Roll out the red carpet, pop the popcorn, and host your own Book Trailer Film Festival!
The Two Most Valuable Links I Used to Create This Unit:
Why Game-Based Learning Works
What attracts and "glues" kids to today's video and computer games is neither the violence, nor even the subject matter, but rather the learning the games provide. Kids like, and all humans love, to learn when it isn't forced on them." --Marc Prensky
I am the mother of a digital native. A millennial. A member of the Net generation. Whatever you call him (and I've called him a lot of things--believe me), my eleven year-old isn't the same type of learner as I was when I was his age. Whereas I'd studiously and laboriously pore over my vocabulary flashcards, recopy my class notes, and just engage in some plain old-fashioned buckle-down-lock-myself-in-my-room-pace-recite-and-study for exams, my son resists and rejects my proven approach to learning. No matter how many frustrating and fruitless attempts I've made to get him to be more like me, somehow he just doesn't see the appeal of doing things my way.
But can I blame him?
Back in the early days of my career, like any eager and young teacher, I'd create study guides and chapter outlines and test-preparation materials for my students in anticipation of upcoming exams.
It was boring. They were bored. I was bored teaching it.
I thought about ways I could spice it up--make it interesting. And one night, plopped in front of my favorite TV game show, I became inspired. That's how the next day's test review session was born: "Romeo & Juliet Jeopardy."
It was a hit. They had fun. I had fun creating it and playing it with my freshmen.
And guess what? Judging from the increased test scores that time around, it appears that most of them actually learned something. Today, there isn't a unit I teach that doesn't include some kind of game-based learning to it.
Let's face facts: we can't keep teaching and treating digital natives as if they're us. We'll lose them. No, it's not our role as teachers to necessarily always entertain our students. To be the juggling clown in the front of the classroom.
But we could meet them halfway. And on their turf.
I've had to accept the cold, hard fact that my son is a gamer. Personally, it's sometimes a hard pill for me to swallow. It means he not only plays video games, but that he'd rather game than do anything else: create his own study guides, color-code his notes, and organize them into multi-tabbed binders. But there is a valid argument for playing to learn.
I still demand that my son make flashcards for his science vocabulary, but now we make them on Quizlet and turn it into a game. We review for math tests at Math Playground. And for his most recent language arts quiz, we drilled adjectives. Whatever the subject, we Google it for online games. The digital native and the digital immigrant have found some common ground when it comes to learning.
I'm game if he is.
image via Knowledge Direct
QR (Quick Response) codes are like barcodes on steroids. They're used to link you to a website, to send short messages and emails, to get coupons, to purchase items, to watch a video, to connect to WiFi networks, to learn more about a product, to...well, the possibilities are endless. QR Codes in the classroom have limitless potential, they're just plain fun, and kids love them, so adding them to your curriculum is a win-win for the students and for you.
I've used QR codes in a few different ways in my curriculum, and I'll share them with you in future posts, but for now, let's just ease into it. I promise you, they are WAY fun!
If you're thinking of introducing QR codes into a lesson, I suggest you first show them this video from Century Link as a way for students to start brainstorming ways we could use QR codes in the grocery store, the movie theater, museums, etc. Next, take a look at an easy QR code generator, so that students can practice creating their own QR codes with links to maps, websites, videos...again, you get the picture.
Play with the QR code generator yourself a few times to get the hang of it, but also don't be afraid to let the digital natives help you out. It gives them a sense of ownership of their learning, and, honestly, most kids I know enjoy collaborating with their teachers--especially when technology is involved.
With that said, here are some very simple and small ways to start adding QR codes to your classroom tomorrow.
1. Make a bulletin board a virtual museum. Choose a theme (dinosaurs, Women's History month, Picasso). Have students generate their own QR codes with links to websites, videos, etc.
2. Students can make bookmarks for their favorite books. The QR code could link to info and videos related to the author and/or the book.
3. I wish I had come up with this brilliant idea: The Periodic Table of Videos. Each chemical element on the Periodic Table is replaced with a QR code that links to a video with more information about that element. Still, taking a concept like fractions or types of verbs and linking them to explanatory videos with QR codes is an idea worthy of merit.
4. Add QR codes to take-home study guides, with links to video tutorials.
5. Post homework assignments as QR codes for students to scan before leaving class.
These ideas are small-scale ones, designed to get your feet wet with this new technology. If you're interested in trying any of these ideas and need some help, please contact me! If you do try out some of these ideas, let me know how it worked. I guarantee students will generate more than just QR codes; they'll generate some great ideas on their own.
And by the way, the QR code in the photo above? It's from my classroom and links to my class website. Students and parents just scan and go!
Learning Designer. Instructional Coach. Trainer. Working my hardest to create Teacher-Bordered Classrooms.