A Few Modest Goals

drizin3

Welcome to my first blog for SUSD Site Tech Cadre (STC). I have been tasked with keeping a blog as a member of the STC and I have been struggling with what to contribute. I am embarking on new adventures in technology and looking for destinations unknown. I am just getting started on this adventure and feel that I really have a great deal to learn and very little to share. I have set a few modest goals for myself this year:

  •       Tech up my ELD classes.
  •       Retool my Graphic Design Pathway to better meet industry standards
  •       Create collaboration opportunities among the CTE (Career and Technology Education)  and core teachers.
  •       Build lasting bonds between middle schools and high schools.
  •       Strengthen CTSOs across the district

drizin2

My first goal is to introduce more technology into the ELD curriculum. I noticed almost immediately that my ELD students were disengaged and bored when interacting with the curriculum; if you are not engaged, you are not learning. My first adaptation was to incorporate Google Drive, Google Classroom and Google Docs for Joint Construction Paragraphs (JCP). JCP involves students working together as a class to construct a paragraph on a topic about which they have just learned; students dictate while the teacher writes out what they say on chart paper.  The process allows students to contribute what they have learned without the pressure of writing alone. It works well if you are not a member of the legibility challenged (I am the in the Hall of Fame), and if your students are not timid when it comes to participation (A persistent challenge in any class but even more acute in ELD). A quote from the textAs a replacement for writing on chart paper I started to use Google Applications for the JCP activity. I created a folder in Google Drive, a shared link which I posted to Google Classroom and then added a Google Document in the folder for students to enter in their contributions. This allows the students to add without having to raise their hand and be singled out. Students’ contributions appear on the document as they type, each having their own color allowing the instructor to see who is participating. Additionally, the instructor can see who is logged in and contributing at the top of the page. I went from about 20% participation to about 90% participation. Students edited as we discussed, correcting spelling and grammar for each other, shifting sentences up or down for continuity and adding ideas freely. When we debriefed after the lesson they unanimously agreed that it was a great deal more fun than watching me writing their ideas out. It was the first time in the class that the majority of students had been genuinely engaged and participating all year. I am now looking for the next upgrade.

Here Is Where You Come In

As I embark on each one of these goals, the first improving the ELD experience, I will share the journey and look to you, the reader, to help direct my course. I would like to hear how you apply technology in your classes or about the challenges you are facing that might be solved by applying technology. Please email me at Doctor.Izzn@gmail.com and I will share your contributions (anonymously if requested), questions and potential solutions here on the blog. I may not be able to find all of the answers but perhaps we can solve them together.

Let the adventure begin,

Dr. Izzn

Titanoboa: Giant Snake From Earth’s Past

With all the hype right now with Megalodon Sharks (Meg), Prehistoric Dinosaurs (Jurassic Park), even the Predator films are dealing with evolution and (future) fossils. My kids this month took a step back as well. We took a step back in time, nearly 65 million years back!

This past summer I was lucky enough to receive a travel grant to attend a conference at the University of Florida Natural History Museum’s @iDigFossils Teacher Program. There we learned about incorporating fossils with our current 3D printers into the subject matter across all educational domains. We learned how to blend NGSS into CCSS, and include engineering, art, reading, and even PE into lessons about Earth from millions of years ago. We went panning for shark teeth, digging for miniature horse bones, and even got to touch the well-documented find-of-a-lifetime, Titanoboa vertebrae.

Image of 3D printed fossils

These students are working with the 3D fossils they printed.

Now, my 10-year-olds were more interested in what did it eat (full crocodiles), how did it catch its prey (asphyxiation), and how big was it really? To help answer that last question, we created our own PBL units that were published by the department. My class used the vertebrae template, the scanned image(s) of the fossilized bone found by UofF professors in Columbia, and worked in groups to design ‘the most efficient way to print them on our printers.’ Students worked in groups using computer assisted drafting (CAD) software, TinkerCad, to complete their tasks. They used math measurements to try and minimize supports (these are tree-like structures a 3D printer uses on overhangs, to keep the shape of the object you are printing). The problem with supports is that is wastes your printer filament (the plastic it prints with). So the kids finally managed to design a print that contained two bones on one printing plate, with minimized supports, and settings that allowed us to print twice a day, on each printer.

an image of students doing a compare and contrast activity with their printed fossils.

Students do a compare and contrast activity with their printed fossils.

The kids had fun working together towards a common goal. After about a week we had 45 vertebrae finally printed. We took some white yarn and our fossils and went out to the playground. I wanted the kids to really understand how long this snake was. We measured out 45 feet of yarn, and at about every 12 inches, a student tied their individual fossil onto the main string. It was quite the site to seek the shock, and terror, in some of their faces when they realized the size of this monster. We did a wiggle activity and the kids followed me around on the blacktop as we slithered back and forth as a snake playing follow the leader. Back in the classroom, we worked with units of distance and converted everything from millimeters, centimeters, inches, feet, and yards. We hit standards on standards and we weren’t trying too hard.

We finished up our Titanoboa Week with a ‘chat with a scientist’ interview with the awesome Ms. Jeanette Pirlo, representing Florida Museum Of Natural History, Vertebrate Paleontology Department! She gave kids a great glimpse into the fields of science and paleontology. We learned some new facts about Titanoboa, and she helped motivate some of my little girls to think about maybe one day going into a field of science and STEM. They are SO very excited to each be taking home their very own full sized Titanoboa 3D printed fossil!

a picture of students showing off their 3D printed fossils!

Students show off their 3D printed fossils!

Titanoboa might have been from Earth’s past, but with today’s technology, it is fueling the curiosity of kids from today. Check out the @FossilProject for plenty of 3D Printed fossils, lesson plans, and tips and tricks alike.

Cheers!

What is My Argument?

by Melody Swars

Teachers should participate in professional development because not only does it train you in new strategies but the time at professional development sessions allow teachers with similar growth areas to collaborate.

I sat in an amazing train with Karin deVarennes on a recent Saturday that was focused on how to get students to write an argument. I walked away with not only knowledge that Karin provided but also that of the colleagues that were at the training. We want our students to be successful in collaboration with each other to help build language and content knowledge. This also creates students that are college and career ready. During the training she showed us many ways to get student to collaborate, whether it is for the purpose of writing an argument or in one of the many aspects of student learning.

As a group of teachers that all have varying  years of experience, we got to collaboratively developed a list of ‘getting to know you’ activities that we do in our class. Some teachers had students write a letter about themselves, while another teacher mentioned that in her letter she has students write their future goals. She said this is important because she can incorporate this into her teaching strategy. Some strategies that were collected were:

4 corners
Fish bowl
Equity circles
Shares and celebrations
Quotes of the day with student reflections
Team Building games
Boggle

As a group of educators that were learning, we didn’t just watch a PowerPoint presentation;  we became collaborators through different strategies. One strategy that I really like was a silent debate. One student needs to write their opinion and the other student then responds by writing back their side of the argument. It was intense because you want to respond quickly but you have to take the time to write out your thoughts. I think this could be incorporated into a google doc where two students can write possibly from different classrooms.

Quote from textAn argument debate topic was “should a student have to be passing their classes in order to get their driver’s license.” The room was split in two sides; pro and con. Each side then got into small groups of three and had to discuss ones reasons why we felt this way. After that, the representative of that triad group had to share with the other side. The guidelines were set that we need to listen while one person gives their opinion. After both sides had time to share we returned to our groups and had to develop a rebuttal as to why we do not agree with something from the other side. We were also provided sentence frames to follow to help guide the conversation. While teaching it is so important to have a universal design for learning so that you can meet the needs of all your students.

Another fun strategy I felt was very beneficial for all ages was the 7 chair countdown. You can use any number but the idea is you can count out so many chairs and then stop at the last chair and find a brand new partner. You then get to share, after you share your partner paraphrases what you said. It could be used for ELD students to build language and background knowledge, or to have a better way to access the curriculum in a way that is taught to them at their peers language level.

While I could continue with every aspect I learned that day these were my biggest takeaways. I felt like I have added to my teachers toolbelt of skills as well as meet many teachers in our district with a wealth of knowledge. I would think to give thanks to Karin deVarennes for giving such an interactive professional development.

Going Digital with AVID

By David Fiore 

October 1, 2018

With the influx of technology entering the classrooms these days, and the adoption of AVID throughout Stockton Unified School District (SUSD),  it only makes sense for teachers to start using more digital tools when implementing good teaching practices.

The outlook of SUSD seems to be geared towards 21st-century learning and modernizing the way of instruction.  Getting away from a teacher-centered philosophy and transitioning more towards blended learning, seems to be the goal.

Our district is already off to a good start.  From digitizing The Units of Study, and advocating for more Chromebooks in the classroom, teachers are becoming more familiar with tech in general.

In addition to tech integration, AVID is a major component that is being utilized more than ever.  Odds are, if you teach in SUSD, you are either AVID trained or you will be soon enough. Either way, this blog is to help shed some light on a few of the digital tools that I use in my own classroom, and how beneficial they can be with the combination of AVID strategies.  

AVID & Technology

In my world, technology and AVID go together like peanut butter and jelly.  The beginning of the school year with my 7th and 8th graders includes digital citizenship and AVID boot camp.  Students learn how to use technology appropriately and find out that AVID is much more than a 4-lettered acronym.  

Marking or Annotating the Text

Image of marked up text

This is a screen shot showing how students are ably to digitally mark up text.

We immediately begin with a lesson on Marking the Text.  Typically, students would receive a hard copy of an article and I would ask them to complete three steps:

  1. Number the paragraphs
  2. Circle key terms/information
  3. Underline the author’s claim(s)

The first time students attempt to mark the paragraphs, I would recommend that students use a pencil and paper. Once they understand how the process works you can then have them attempt the strategy online. In a perfect world, my preference is to use Google Docs.  There is an icon for underlining, which I have found very student-friendly.  Although circling isn’t something that can be performed easily in Docs, highlighting is.  In fact, I find that highlighting text has more benefits as you can use multiple colors while reading.  However, true AVID proponents would refer to this not as “Marking the Text” but rather annotating the text.  If you’re a stickler for staying within the confines, one way around this is to copy text from a document and paste it onto a Google Drawing.  Circling at this point can be done with ease.  

Working with PDFs

Portable Document Format files, or PDFs are very common.  One of the major issues used to be that they were not editable.  They were good to view and even print out, but what if you want to avoid the copy machine and have your students manipulate the document online.  Can it be done? Absolutely!

Image of writing in the text

This screen shot shows how students can use the Kami app to write in the margins of digital text.

There are several current applications out that allow users to annotate PDFs.  Most are free versions with the option to upgrade to a paid version, which usually allows for more tools to be accessed.  My favorite program to use with my students is Kami.  Adding a document is as easy as drag and drop and offers a set of basic tools to edit documents.  The best part is that it syncs with your Google Drive, and files can be uploaded and downloaded directly.  One students get the hang of things, marking and annotating the text will become second nature.

Writing in the Margins

Actively engaging with the text is a must.  In a nutshell, Writing in the Margins allows for deeper understanding and helps students to make more meaningful connections with what they are reading.  

My preferred method again would be to use Google Docs, as there is a comment thread that can be used for making notes off to the side, or in this case…the margins.  

Untitled drawing

After highlighting a particular part of the text, opening the comments thread will then align the comment to that area.  Students can ask a question, paraphrase a description, summarize and more.

Cornell Notes     

This strategy may receive some heat.  To be honest, I wouldn’t advise teachers to use this strategy with students who have trouble typing.  There is an option for “voice typing” in the tools section but try having 30 + students talking to their laptops the next time you’re lecturing.  

The Cornell Note Template that I use allows for students to mimic the same note taking process that can be done using a pen and paper but only more efficiently.  As I’ve always told my students, the day that you can write faster than I type, I will retire. They soon buy into the importance of being able to type, but also much more.  Google Docs allows for students to annotate and interact with their notes with the following:

  • Bolding
  • Italicizing
  • Using bulleted/numbered lists
  • Adding Tables
  • Underlining
  • Changing font style/size/color
  • Adding clip art

 Digital_CNotesThe Focused Note Taking Process can be really fun for students when completed digitally.  The common clip art that is available at the bottom of the page allows for students to make easy connections and help them recall and connect key details.  Not to mention that I have plenty of students who scour the internet searching for relevant images to help improve their notes.

AVID reinforces good teaching practices and technology is the way of the future. Combining the two should help keep students stay engaged and enhance their own way of learning.    

About that monitoring software…..

+This year Stockton Unified has deployed a software program that allows teachers to see on the teachers’ computer monitor what the students in a class have on their screens.  Teachers have expressed frustration with keeping students on task when there are so many easily available distractions online. Last year a few sites piloted a couple potential solutions, and NETOP became the obvious choice.  The software is easy to use and seems rather intuitive. It does require that the teacher uses Google Classroom, the teacher must have a Google Classroom with a roster for each individual class session. That GClassroom roster is what NETOP uses to decide which students to monitor. If students transfer out of a class the teacher needs to drop that student from the GClassroom so the student can become available to the teacher that is receiving the student. To set yourself up with NETOP, follow the handy dandy user guide here:  NetopVisionforChromebooks_UserGuide Teachers

Pic of teacher and students

Netop software provides a number of sound tools to the teacher, but nothing beats moving around the room working with the kids.

While many teachers have stated that they are looking forward to being able to see what is on students’ screens, but that is far from the most powerful aspect of this software. This software allows the teacher to broadcast content to individual Chromebooks, solving the problem of weak projector bulbs or no projector at all. Instead of trying to see what the teacher is projecting across the room, the student will be able to see it on their own Chromebook! This alone can be a gamechanger for many classrooms!

This tool supports a number of powerful learning strategies but sitting at the desk playing gotcha is not one of them. We suggest when you first start using the tool that you project all of the students’ screens up on the wall, mention that you CAN monitor what they are doing, and then go about your business, moving through the room delivering solid instruction, because, at the end of the day, it is solid instruction that matters.

 

Number Talks

“My students struggle with number sense.”

“I have students that don’t know their basic facts.”

“The students in my classroom lack the ability to reason about math problems.”

Common phrases heard in math classrooms. I have said them when I was teaching and I hear them now all too often in professional development sessions. But why? Why are our students not grasping these skills under our guidance? What are students missing? Our teachers are implementing the standards, providing engaging lessons, and reinforcing skills all throughout the year. What else can be done? But alas I have the answer!

Number talks. Short math conversations where students solve problems in ways that are meaningful to them. Little to no prep on the part of the teacher, with a huge return from students! You read that right, little to NO PREP on the part of the teacher. Why wouldn’t you try it?

Number talks, developed in the early 1990’s, have recently resurfaced with the shift of implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics. The CA Math Framework references them as a strategy for increasing math discourse in the classroom and supporting the 8 Mathematical Practices that are foundational for learning in the CCSS. The Framework says, “the problems in a number talk are designed to elicit specific strategies that focus on number relationships and number theory. Students are given problems in either a whole- or small-group setting and are expected to mentally solve them accurately, efficiently, and flexibly. By sharing and defending their solutions and strategies, students have the opportunity to collectively reason about numbers while building connections to key conceptual ideas in mathematics.” (CDE, 2016) Implemented routinely for about 10 minutes a session, number talks have shown to increase students mathematical abilities to think flexibly, examine errors, identify misconceptions, and solve computation problems. All in all showing a strong understanding of number sense, fluency with math facts, and the ability reason about math without struggle.

numbertalk

But, don’t just take my word for it, hear from Sherry Parish, the author of Number Talks. Listen as she describes the process and its success. Consider watching students engage in at all grade levels. Dive in and take a look at the Number Talk resources linked in your SUSD Unit of Study resources; all available as Google Slide presentations (NO PREP) and chunked in a variety of skill sets.   And, finally ask for support or a demo in your classroom by reaching out to your site Instructional Coach or me, Angela Pilcher, at the Curriculum Department.

Ten minutes a day will change your phrases to

“My students are strong in their number sense!”

“I have students that know their basic facts!”

“The students in my classroom have the ability to reason about math problems!”

Skill Mastery: Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk!

By Adriana Cruces

Currently, our school is using a new textbook, as we have navigated through the textbook in our second year after adoption, it has been found that most of the specific skills to become proficient in the subject and level have been missed by the assessments given by the publisher and or are at a higher level of study since the adoption was a college-level textbook.

Untitled drawing (2)One particular idea has been brought to the table: using the textbooks as a resource and not as the main tool used to drive instruction.  Why not select and construct mastery assessments that each student be given with multiple scenarios of assessment for one skill and be required to pass and master the skill at least at an 80% rate. This could possibly set the stage for students to know that the particular skill, one, it’s not going away, and two is really needed to understand the skills and know how to apply them in order to move forward in a real-life situation.

As a reflective practice, I have asked the question: What are those essential skills that each student must master in order to function and be successful in the next level of study? And How can I provide real-life scenarios where each student must depend on knowing how to apply this skill that will allow them to internalize and retain the learned objective? Finally, how can I continue to spiral those skills to ensure the use of the skill becomes automated and mastered?

Image of students and teacher discussing work

Educators need to work together to identify which skills students need to master in order to be successful in the next level.

Together with all reflective practices, I have come to terms that one single textbook cannot be and should not be the main nor the only driving force that provided practice for students. But rather, as a district, as a department, and as a single classroom, we could study the possibility of finding which essential skills must students master at each given level of subject matter in order to go on to the next level of study. How will students show they can walk the walk and talk the talk!

I would appreciate feedback on ideas that would help construct data-driven skills based level assessments when individuality in each class and each school and each district will be a factor as students transfer from one class to another or from one school to the next school or even from one district to the next. On more than one occasion, I have discovered that although we believe we deliver quality instruction in our individual classrooms, if one student transfers from one class to the next, or one school to another, the delivery and expectations of each individual classroom  hinder students success, as there is no common ground currently for some subjects here at SUSD! Shouldn’t we as educators be part of solutions! Shouldn’t we walk the walk and talk the talk?