Sunday, August 28, 2016

Exponential Problem with PBL

I was talking to a group of students this week at NSE. One of the students was talking about how hard it was to understand exponents in math. I asked her when she might need to use exponents in real life. She went on to say that, "...all you all really want is the right answer, right? You give us the problem or question and we have to give you the answer." I tried to save the day and say, "No! We want you to be able to use what you learn to solve bigger problems." Fortunately, it was time to start the morning news show and I was off the hook! 

Interestingly enough, I recently read an article by Gisele Huff, Executive Director of the Jaquelin Hume Foundation. The article is titled Project Based Learning Needs More Learning. In the article, Huff states that, "At some level, doing must be based on knowing." This made me think about my conversation with the student earlier this week. She is not going to get how and why exponents are important unless they have a purpose. How are exponents going to help her as a 10 year old solve a real world problem that is important to her. 

So, when are exponents important to a 10 year old? Solving exponents to complete a worksheet or set of problems in a math workbook is showing your knowledge. Using exponents to draw and build a diagram of your dream bedroom with a budget attached to present to your parents is project based learning. As this student goes through her educational career and future career, she will have had an experience that will allow her to better know what exponents are, why they are important, and how they are used in real life. Experiences like the one mentioned above should be part of the culture of every classroom.  

One of the components of AdvancED's Effective Learning Environment Observation Tool (ELEOT) is "creating a supportive learning environment." In order to create a supportive learning environment, teachers must "provide support and assistance for students to understand content and accomplish tasks." Some content is very difficult to learn without being able to connect the content to a real world problem that is important to the learner. Knowledge connected to a Project Based Learning project done well can help make this happen. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Teacher Think Tank and Collaboration Space

I posted back in February 2016 about NSE's Think Tank space that was being created here at North Springs. Well, the space has evolved over the summer and is starting to come alive with ideas, resources, goals, data charts, etc... A number of grade levels and collaborative groups have used the space this summer to plan and design units for this coming school year. We want this space to be a collaborative space where teachers and school leaders can work together to achieve the goals and priorities set by RSD2 and NSE. Below are some of the resources that have made their way to the NSE Think Tank so far:

1. Think Tank Norms - voted on by the teachers
2. Lexia Core 5 Scope and Sequence chart (a reading intervention program used at NSE)
3. NWEA Comparative Data to Inform Instructional Decisions chart
4. The SAMR Model chart (enhancing technology integration)
5. The NSE Curriculum Map for the first nine weeks of school
6. MAP and PASS Data
7. NSE Goals and Initiatives
8. Reading and math MAP Strands
9. AdvancED ELEOT areas of focus for the first nine weeks of school
10. NSE Beliefs, RSD2's Teaching and Learning infographic, The Four Squares explained, RSD2's Priority Areas, and BIE Gold Standard infographic

Other resources include:
1. SC Standards
2. PBL 101 Workbooks
3. PBL for 21st Century Success
4. Step up to Writing manual
5. Pre-referral Intervention Manual
6. NWEA Continuum of Learning and DesCartes Vocabulary

The NSE Think Tank will be used by teachers on a weekly basis to collaborate on units of study, discuss student success, discuss effective learning environments (ELEOT), align SC standards to MAP skills, celebrate successes, and discuss benchmark and progress monitoring data.

One of the dry erase boards in the Think Tank has the MAP math and reading strands listed for discussion and goal setting. It also has the AdvancED ELEOT focus areas for the first nine weeks of school. First quarter walkthrough observations will focus on these areas.




Another dry erase board in the Think Tank is our first quarter curriculum map. This is a work in progress. The goal is to have all grade levels post units of study, and specific topics on the board for all grade levels, related arts, and support service teachers to see and discuss.
One corner of the Think Tank has this year's NSE Goals, Map Data, and PASS Data. Once SC Ready data arrives, we will post it as well. These data charts help us set academic and instructional goals as well as generate conversations about how to improve student achievement at NSE.

Each classroom teacher will have a data notebook that will contain data on each of their students as they are assessed throughout the year. Some of this data may include MAP scores, Lexia progress, EasyCBM reports, Accelerated Reader reports, Reflex math reports, PASS and SC Ready scores, parent conference information, etc... These notebooks are great when collaborative teams such as IAT and RTI meet to discuss student progress. They are also important when parents and teachers have conferences about student progress.