Monday, April 27, 2015

SOL Review Test

At the beginning of our SOL review I gave the students a release SOL test. For those of you not familiar with SOL release tests they are old SOL tests that are no longer in use and are available to the public. The test is 60 questions. In addition to the student simply writing their answer I gave the students a purple sheet that is fill with a grid. The grid looked like this:

There were 60 boxes for the students to write their answers and the keyword. During the test, students were to keep the SOL blank. Before I handed out the test I went through this short presentation.
Students were to identify the key word from this practice release question. Once we determined the key word(s), Great Wall of China, I had them tell me all they could remember about the Great Wall. Answers included: it's in China, it was started by Qin Shi Huangdi, it was built to keep invaders from the north out, it's long, and it's made of wood and stone. I then had the students look at the possible answers given. I asked them which one of the options sounds like something we just mentioned? The students came to the conclusion that C is the correct answer.  
 Having students do the test this way takes longer than I was expecting. I thought that students would take the entire class period and then the next day we would go over the answers. However, some students ended up taking two entire class periods and we went over the answer the third day. Most students did the keyword- I did not make it mandatory.

When we went over the answers, I had the SOL strand (SOL2.3) written on the test. Once we went over all of the answers I encouraged students to identify patterns of missed SOLs. I also pointed out that SOL 5 (Greece) and SOL 6 (Rome) make up 25% of the test.

I got this idea from a fellow social studies teacher who teaches at a middle school across the county. She has had success with this during the SOL. She encourages the students to use their scratch paper in a similar way. Again, your fellow teachers are your best resource!

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

SOL Review

At our school we are in the thick of SOL review. We wrapped up the our last new content, The Renaissance, right before Spring Break. This has allowed me to give the students a release test (which I'll blog about soon) and then use another WHI teacher's notes to review.

On Friday, I wanted to shake things up. Overall, students have a difficult time with geography: blank maps, labeling places, identifying a place on a map stump my students. I brainstormed with a fellow 8th grade teacher and she gave me the idea of the students creating their own review. I identified six SOL strands and divided the students into six groups. Students were given paper, butcher paper, mini-dry erase boards, makers, and index cards to create a review lesson to present to the class.

Students work busily for about fifteen minutes and then present their lessons. They were to identify important land features, water feathers, and explain how the geography influenced the civilization.

I was pleased to see that students drew maps for each of their lessons. Drawing and creating are at the top of Bloom's taxonomy and hopefully the lesson they created will help them come SOL day on Thursday.

Happy Teaching!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Captain of their own ship

I am on a sub-committee for personalized learning. Our task on this sub-committee is to investigate instructional methodologies. We were tasked last week to identify characteristics needed for rising  high schoolers. These characteristics would enable these rising 9th graders to be successful in a personalized class setting; however, I think these characteristics would help any student become successful. 

Here is the list we generated:
  • independence
  • organization
  • self-assessment
  • self-advocation
  • self-monitor
  • self-motivation
  • invested in SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goals
Surely, you noticed that five of the seven goals start with self. The group was discussing what this meant. A group member, who is a math/science lead teacher, said, "It's like they need to be the captain of their own ship". What a great thought! Students are only truly successful when they are in the drivers seat of their education. 

Now for the million dollar question: as educators, how do we get students to realize this? This part of the discussion was a bit more difficult. We discussed having teacher buy-in to this idea and emulate these ideas in the classroom. Also identified was the teachers ability to make a connection with students. 

I am planning on having this conversation with students this Friday. No coincidence, that is when report cards go out. Additionally, I've thought about having some kind of theme like this next year. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Keeping up with....the progress

Last go around, I spoke with each student once a week. I checked the grade book and them bring me their current task sheet. It worked well but there wasn't a tangible way to keep a record for the students. I devised this quick "My Progress" sheet. I copied it on yellow paper and had the students fill in the last date with the last day I will be using class time for the personalized unit.
A screen shot of "My Progress" sheet. 
The first time we chatted I went to every student in the class. That was a bit tedious and I did not have time for students who needed my help with quizzes or other questions. The last school day we had (we are on day two of a snow break) I had students with last names A through J. Yesterday I would have had K through R, and then today would have been the rest of the alphabet. I was going to skip one day and then start the process again. 

Most students have kept up with it. I like this method better than the other one because the ownership is put back on the student. Of course, I still keep up with progress through their grades. 

Another interesting part of this unit are the snow days. I am planning on sending out a remind text about keeping up with their unit. Many of the activities can be done at home. I have a few days to play with and can scoot the due date back a bit but we will have to move on soon. 

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Half way there!

Friday wrapped up our half way point. I have some students who have finished all 8 task sheets. They now need to complete the capstone project and take the test. However, I have some students who are still on their second or third task sheet. I try not to worry about that; after all, it is personalized and students should move at a pace that is best for them. Patience is something I'm still working on.
One of the 8 task sheets for the unit. The others followed the same principle. 

To create the task sheet I identify the information that I want to reinforce from the column notes. The column notes (based off of the VA SOLs) is always the first task. Last time I had the assignment for the column notes in the paragraph above the tasks and many students did not see the assignment and went pretty far along in the process without doing any column notes. Column notes are the backbone of my lessons and a student will be hard pressed to be successful without that information.

The activities are things that I did in the past and some activities are new. I worked closely with an ITRT here in the county to help me. She also taught WHI and put some of her old lesson ideas in these tasks. Another place I found information was either googling the information plus the words "lesson plan" or I scoured Pinterest.

This is one of the difficult parts for me. I want to be sure to convey the important information but also keep the students engaged. As with everything, this is an ever evolving process. I already have some ideas for next time.

This is the capstone project task sheet.  Students are to pick one activity and one SOL strand to work with (there is one that encompasses all of the SOLs).

Capstone for Middle Ages Personalized Unit. 
This capstone is new this go around. I wanted to students to take the information and move up the Bloom's scale from comprehension to creating.

I really enjoy personalized learning. It is different from the traditional role of a teacher. But that's okay. Personalized learning is about the student- not me. I enjoy challenging students and watching them meet those new goals.

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Let's Get Personal!

I am about to embark on my second personalized unit. I created my first personalized unit for our Rome study. That one lasted four weeks. This go around we are studying the Middle Ages for approximately three weeks.

First, let's discuss what personalization is in education. It's the insertion of choice and voice and the removal of place and pace. Let's first talk about what I've put into the lessons: choice and voice.

The idea of choice and voice is moving away from the direct instruction where the teacher drives the content delivery. This is very active for the teacher and extremely passive for the student.  Giving the student choice can through what is known as a choice board or task sheet.

Each SOL has a task sheet. A change that I made from the last personalized unit with in regards to the task sheet are each SOL has its own task sheet and each task sheet has six tasks. Click the link below to view a pdf of my task sheet.

Voice comes into play a couple of ways: First, I asked students what they thought and what they would like to see change the first time around. I took the suggestions under advisement and implemented most of the suggestions. One of the suggestions is on the task sheet- the option to test out of the majority of the work. This rewards students who come to class with prior knowledge who do not need to spend as much time on a strand that they already know. I set up a fill in the blank quiz on Schoology. The quiz is timed and the student must score a 100 in order to test out.

So let's now discuss place and pace. Pace is much easier to allow for. Students are given a dead-line for everything to be completed (all tasks sheets, the capstone (see later post about this) and the summative assessment. What they do between the introduction and deadline is up to them. I expect them to work while in the classroom. However, I tell them they probably won't finish if they just work in class. Most students utilize their connections class (think study hall) to get the work completed. Another great benefit is for students who are absent. I currently have a student who is a page at the state capital and this program is perfect for someone in this situation. The ultimate strategy for this type of learning environment is to rid the student of specific periods where they need to be in a specific room for a specific piece of time. In this scenario the student would come to school, check-in with teachers that they need to see and then work on assignments given to them: either through the choice boards/task sheets or independent assignments. I imagine it like a school/college hybrid.

In the next few posts I will be narrating how things are going in our class, challenges, and happy moments from our personalized unit.

Happy Teaching!