Saturday, October 25, 2014

Learners need Affirmation

Students need to know that we greatly appreciate the work that they do. They need to know that we appreciate their individuality and creativity. Author, Phil Schlechty, talks about nine Design Qualities that help learners be authentically engaged in their work.

The picture to the left is an example of one of these design qualities, affirmation of performance, which refers to the possibility of designing tasks and activities so that the performance of students is made visible to persons who are significant in their lives. In addition, designing the work in ways that make it clear that the quality of the performance of the student has meaning and value to peers and others whose opinions the student values and cares about.

This student's teacher brought him to me so that he could show to me and explain his project about the water cycle. The student was grinning from ear to ear and explained the content of his project very well. These impromptu performances are just a s important as the more formal performances. Students need a purpose greater than getting a grade, passing a grade, or even getting a medal at the student recognition day. They need affirmation that what they are doing is important.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Rube Goldberg Project

Mrs. Dawson's ALS Rube Goldberg project has to be one of the most comprehensive projects we have witnessed here at NSE. On the second day of school, Mrs. Dawson challenged her students to design and build a Rube Goldberg contraption that would accomplish pouring a bucket of cold water on me, the principal. I can remember the first conversations and drawings that actually involved a bowling ball and kites. Thankfully, the final product did not include a bowling ball being dropped.
Today, Mrs. Dawson's class put their design to the test. I came prepared for the event, but probably not adequately enough.

This project (check it out below at  the "show.") set the stage for Mrs. Dawson's class and those (students included) who were entertained by its success for the remainder of the year. There are so many skills and concepts that can be taught from such a project. I am sure that mini-lessons had to be taught to accomplish the goal. Collaboration, communication, and creativity had to be at the forefront of the conversation. Accurate measurement, cause and effect, gravity, trial and error, simple machines, etc... are just a few of the skills and concepts I can imagine were discussed and learned.

The level of engagement throughout the process was incredible. Parents and grandparents were telling me stories about how their child or grandchild was involved in the design and building of the contraption. Students, teachers, parents, grandparents, community members, the principal of Summit Parkway Middle School and his SIDI lead teacher, a former USC PDS liaison, and others came out to see the "show."

NSE now challenges the Summit Parkway to accomplish the same challenge in a bigger and better way to soak Mr. Andrew Barbone!

Monday, October 20, 2014

The 2X10 Strategy @ NSE

I sent an email that had a link to the following article to our faculty and staff: The 2×10 strategy: a miraculous solution for behavior issues? 

You would be amazed at the response that we have had. I have had a first grade teacher who said that she started the intervention with several students and has already seen a difference. There are others who have started to have these one on one conversations and beginning to develop these types of relationships with students. 

There are others who I have had similar conversations with and expect that this sort of strategy or intervention will make a difference in the student. About 80% of our discipline referrals are boys. Finding out what makes our boys tick and understanding how they learn and socialize at school is critical to their success. 

Too many of our boys and girls are diagnosed with ADD, and ADHD at an early age. I believe that we need to adjust the school environment to meet the needs of the students. The era of accountability has limited our level of creativity, thinking outside the box, and summer activity/camp mentality when it comes to August-May. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Text Dependent Questions

This past Thursday, October 16, our faculty had a professional development session devoted to the use of text dependent questions. The structure of the day was that our best practices implementation team presented definitions, categories, and samples of text dependent questions. Ms. Garrett, our second grade team leader, presented a real life example from her classroom. The other faculty members were able to practice in small groups developing text dependent questions (Fisher and Frey) from a second grade informational text. We then discussed the results of this practice as a formative assessment of understanding. Teachers were then allowed to go to their pods and create text dependent questions for an informational text on their grade level to bring back to afternoon session and share out. Teachers will implement the text dependent questions in an up and coming lesson. Later, each teacher will have the opportunity to share with their colleagues the evidence and reflection that comes out of the lesson.
I was excited about the examples of how teachers plan to implement the use of text dependent questions in their classroom. I am also excited about the comments that I heard about the importance of using text dependent questions and getting students to slow down and think more critically about their reading.

In addition, we gave each teacher a North Springs Standards ToolKit for them to store all of the great strategies we learn about during the implementation of the state standards.