Reflection

Connected Feedback

Today was a great day.  It may have something to do with the fact that we start a two week spring break today.  But it also was a day in which I made connections with the following ideas:

1. It is great to be a connected educator. 

2. You can be connected online or within your own school environment. 

3. Feedback is essential to move forward.

We have recently started blogging with students and so I have been looking for ways to help students connect on each others blogs and leave feedback for each other.  With one grade level, we are looking for students to comment on each others posts. In another, students have made videos and were seeing feedback.  I found this video which I thought was good but still wanted a little more:

Today, a 4th grade teacher shared Austin’s Butterfly with us. It is a great example of the power of feedback and how specific feedback can help a student in their learning.  The progress made by Austin is amazing but even more amazing is the powerful reaction of the students in the video who are guided through the feedback process.  It is so powerful:

Austin’s Butterfly: Building Excellence in Student Work – Models, Critique, and Descriptive Feedback from Expeditionary Learning on Vimeo.

As I sat down to write this post, I first glanced at my Twitter feed and Grant Wiggins was at the top with a new post:

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The post he shared, was an article about the use of video footage from different angles so baseball players could see specifically what they were doing, how they were responding, and how they could improve.  Watching footage of themselves prior to a game, was become just as important of a part as stretching in order to make sure they were optimally prepared during Spring Training.

Both of these examples of feedback, point to the power of specific, timely, accurate feedback in order to best move the learner forward.

When I zapped off an email of thanks to my colleague, she replied with a link to a post where she had got the video from in the first place – fellow COETAIL participant, Reid Wilson, who’s work I have shared a lot of in the past. His post has a wealth of ideas of how to draw better comments from your students when giving feedback on the work of others.  Well worth a read.

I feel really lucky to work in a time when we are not limited to our immediate environment for inspiration and ideas in our teaching. I love that there is so much out there to help me become a better teacher and a more reflective thinker, and I am so pleased that I have invested the time into growing a network of educators who inspire.

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Assessment

3 Brilliant Resources from Wiggins & McTighe

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Many people may be familiar with the Understanding by Design work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. I was first introduced to their work in 2003 when teaching at Bonn International School. I have continued to adhere to their philosophy but it wasn’t until recently that I picked up their book and re-read it.  And in doing so, I experienced renewed surprise at how in-depth and thorough their work is and how ‘watered down’ it seems to have gotten where it matters the most – in the classroom.

Some people love to throw buzz words around and ‘backward design’ appears to have suffered in the overuse of edu-speak. When you read the book, the way in which the planning process is laid out is so detailed and thorough with such a strong emphasis on understanding (versus simple knowledge acquisition). The blueprint for deriving authentic assessments is also incredible thorough and the whole process really helps you to stop thinking like an activity planner and start thinking like an assessor with your goal being to provide a meaningful context in which kids can develop their understanding.

So, what are the three brilliant resources?

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1. UbD Design Guide Worksheets – This is a series of examples of what UbD performance tasks look like. It is really helpful for me to see a ‘worked example’ and this file does a great job of walking you, step-by-step through the process with examples of a myriad of assessment possibilities to determine understanding.

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2. Techniques to Check for Understanding – From pp.166/167 of their book, this file is 2 pages of 8 techniques that you can use to check for understanding from your students. These could be used anytime but in particular would be good to modify as needed for exit tickets to give your students at the conclusion of lessons.

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3. Essential Questions – This is probably my favorite of the three resources. As teachers, we ask so many questions – but are they essential? This is a longer read than the other two resources but very thorough and detailed and will definitely give you a lot to work with when designing questions to ask in your classroom.

21st Century, Change

Are You A Modern Teacher?

Thanks to Twitter (#pypchat) and my COETAIL course (#coetail) I came across this graphic from fellow Coetailer, Reid Wilson.

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I love it. I think it embodies everything I believe in when it comes to 21st learning. A quick look through Reid’s classroom blog (he teaches fourth grade at my old school, NIST, in Bangkok) shows that he is an avid user of technology in an integrated way to add value to his students’ learning.

Read this list.

Slowly.

Let in sink in and ask yourself if you are nodding along.  Or are you realizing that there are things on this list that you could embed in your own professional goals in the year to come? How could your mindset impact that you teach?

Grant Wiggins asked himself what it was like to be a student and this stunning, must-read description of ‘a day in the life’ and the changes he, a veteran teacher, would immediately make to his teaching, is a must-read for every teacher. If someone like Grant Wiggins (half of the Understanding by Design guys) is able to make thoughtful reflections on and modifications to his teaching practice, isn’t there room for all of us to make a change?

Innovation, Learning

Weekend Reading: Rubrics, Red Lanterns, and Redesigning Math

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Here is a round-up of three interesting articles to enjoy over coffee this weekend:

Rubrics

Grant Wiggins provides some really interesting insights into rubrics in his article How To Use A Rubric Without Stifling Creativity. Firstly, Wiggins reminds us what a rubric does:

It summarizes what a range of concrete works looks like as reflections of a complex performance goal.

He goes on to describe the process in which a rubric is best created and the importance of strong anchor papers or exemplars that illustrate the key points of a rubric. It really is a fascinating article. I have read it three or four times already and each time I am getting new things from it. We are in the process of examining the language arts scope and sequence at our school and will be thinking about the use of rubrics and exemplars in our classroom practice. This will be an article I will definitely be referring back to as I continue to synthesise my thinking on this topic.

Red Lanterns

My hero, Seth Godin, wrote recently on the Red Lantern and, with many schools beginning a new academic year, encourages us to think of employing a ‘red lantern’ philosophy in our classrooms, lecture halls, and institutions. He encourages us to “celebrate the Red Lantern winners” – essentially, applauding and encouraging those who finish last but with massive amounts of gusto, determination and drive.

He concludes his post with a challenge to educators everywhere:

How do we celebrate the Red Lantern winners instead?

What are you doing for those in your class who continually push themselves without giving up?

Redesigning Math

I am a huge advocate of the Khan Academy. What I want to work on in order to supplement my use of this phenomenal resource, is a map of PBL – Problem Based Learning – math tasks. I take my hat off to the incredible amount of work done by Geoff Krall in combing the internet and his own brain for ideas for such an approach in middle and high school math classes. His blog, Emergent Math, and the post on problem based curriculum maps is amazing and would take more than one weekend to peruse. His work goes down to a sixth grade level – an area he confesses needs the most work – so if you teach math at a younger level, like I do, you won’t find it easily transferrable but you will find it incredibly inspiring. If it leads me on a trail to PBL math maps for younger grades, you know I will share them!

Happy Weekend!