As school districts prepare for Common core tests to hit schools in spring of 2015, schools are scrambling to ensure they are ready for these online tests.
At my school, in order to gauge students’ skill levels, we used the NWEA MAP tests this school year.
While the tests themselves are a fine indicator of student ability (and inability), the bigger results we gained were from the actual online testing experience. We had so many difficulties in internet speed, browser compatibility, system compatibility, computer speed, etc., that it took for.ev.er. to test our students. I am dreading the next two testing sessions unless something drastically changes in NWEA’s testing process or in my school’s internet speed.
Here are some things I learned:
-do not test all students at once; stagger testing of classes
-ensure browser compatibility before testing
-load the URL or save to favorites before testing
-buy brand new, high-speed computers and install a high-speed internet connection (a girl can dream, right?)
What are your tips and suggestions?
Tweet me @barry_christine
Balancing the needs of all the learners in a classroom is no easy task. It is certainly not something I have mastered. Every year, I try different methods and techniques to try and differentiate the instruction in my classroom. This year, I have found a balance that seems to be working for my classroom so far: small skill groups. Now, this idea of small group instruction is by no means revolutionary. Teachers have placed student in small learning groups for many years now. But what I decided to do is a bit different than what other teachers at my school, at least, are doing.
I still teach my whole-class instruction. Then, based on my students’ benchmark test results (we use NWEA’s MAP), I place students into their small skill groups. I only do small groups twice a week when our schedule allows for it. During small groups, the instruction is solely focused on a specific skill as identified from the benchmark test instead of reinforcing the whole-group lesson that was just taught. I haven’t found the reinforcement of the whole-group lesson to be beneficial to my middle-schoolers. Because my classes are so small to begin with, I can easily reach all my learners during whole-class instruction. Whereas, the reinforcement of a specific skill they need has been beneficial for their overall reading progress.
I am really liking this method I am using in my classroom to catch students up on specific skills they are lacking. What do you do in your classroom to “catch up” your students? Share it here in the comments or tweet me @barry_christine!
Since I teach in a school that does not use letter grades and instead focuses on assessing each student based on the standards, differentiated instruction is definitely the norm. While we do use the standards to guided our instruction and plan our curriculum, we see each child as an individual learner with individual goals. After completing the benchmark test at the beginning of the school year, we establish three learning goals each in the areas of math and reading. These goals are then used to determine small group instruction.
For example, in my language arts class, I use the writing and reading workshop approach. I teach a mini-lesson to the whole class, then work with small groups and individuals on their individual learning goals. I have found this dual approach of instruction to work well for my students. We are still working on meeting the grade-level standards, but I can also work with students that are above and below grade level as well as reinforcing skills for students at grade-level.
What about you? What does differentiated instruction look like in your classroom?
Comment here or tweet me @barry_christine!
I know September’s focus was STEM resources and we are now in the middle of October, but I just came across a fabulous website chock-full of STEM lesson plans, activities, and resources. I couldn’t pass up sharing it with you all!
The Science of Everyday Life is a joint venture from 3M and Discovery Education. The website has tons of free resources for K-12 classrooms, including standards-aligned lesson plans, virtual labs, videos, and more. There is a place for teachers, families, and students. The STEM lesson plans will definitely be of interest to teachers.
Check out the website today!
(Not a paid advertisement. I just really like the website and the resources it offers.)
In trolling around the web for STEM resources available for Illinois, I came across some great information and websites I thought you would all find useful.
This first link refers to five initiatives in the state of Illinois (my home state) that address teachers’ needs in the areas of STEM. It is worth a look for references to other resources.
I liked this site because it is a more comprehensive list of almost all the states and their accompanying websites that address STEM education. It seems that the website is retiring soon, so check it out now!
Finally, the I-STEM website run by the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana has a plethora of resources.
I hope you check out the links above. Let me know if you find any good resources! Leave a comment or find me on Twitter: @barry_christine!
While this month here at TeachersCount we are focusing on STEM education, I thought I would challenge the idea of STEM with a new proposal—STEAM. STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. The same principles as STEM with the added bonus of the arts. The liberal arts are an important and critical element of an educational curriculum and cannot be ignored. I fear that with the push for more STEM classes that we will lose our foundational liberal arts classes. I found this great website relate to STEAM which advocates STEAM as a framework for teaching across the disciplines. The Why Steam? framework available on the site and here–WhySTEAMshortWeb–explains why an educational program that includes all the disciplines helps provide an educational environment for all learners.
Check out the resources mentioned above and let me know what you think about the push for STEM and STEAM or find me on Twitter @barry_christine!
STEM is one of the newest buzz words in the education world. Schools are scrambling to offer STEM courses and become STEM-certified. There is a large push for STEM courses in schools. Yet, I argue, haven’t we always had STEM in our schools?
My science classes for the last six years have always included hands-on science activities, demonstrations, and lab experiments. Last year, we ended the year with Science Olympics–a series of challenges and activities related to different branches of science. One day, we made ice cream. We built free-standing structures out of two decks of cards. We built a boat made out a piece of aluminum foil and tested how much change it could hold before it sank. We designed, built, and tested egg-dropper parachutes. These activities are just a small sample of the various activities and challenges my students were given throughout the year.
Likewise, technology is a big presence in my school. My students use iPads to create videos, projects, and interact with various apps. We have laptops in the classroom for the same purpose. Each classroom is equipped with an interactive board to bring technology to the whole classroom. Math is taught at a high-level and integrated with various technological tools.
We’ve been doing STEM in our schools for a long time. We just didn’t call it by the fancy acronym.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.
(By the way, I’m no longer teaching science this year for the first time in six years. I’m teaching middle school language arts as well as working as the school technology coordinator.)
Every late August/early September brings a new school year with new classes, new students, new supplies, and new teachers.
Back to school is a time of renewal and refreshment.
I look forward to back to school time for the opportunity to begin again with a new set of students.
This year, I am looking forward to being able to teach middle school reading and writing after being away from those subjects for a few years. I am also looking forward to working with my 8th grade homeroom on their journeys toward graduation and high school after being in 6th grade for several years.
What are you looking forward to?
Leave a comment here or tweet me at barry_christine!
Here is a funny to help lighten the impending doom of the school year:
Let’s hope that these students are few and far between in our classrooms this fall.
The new school year is looming ever so closely.
As I return to the classroom to begin my seventh year of teaching, I have some expectations for this year. Expectations for my students, my colleagues, my administrators, the parents of my students, and the general public.
For my students:
All I ask is that you try and give me your best self. Giving up is not an option. I can’t is not an option. I don’t expect perfection. I expect you to work hard and produce your best quality of work.
For my colleagues:
I ask that we always do what is best for our “kids” even if that might mean a little (or a lot) extra work.
For my administrators:
I ask that you trust me as I take my students on their learning journeys.
I also ask that you do not waste my time and my students’ time with useless meetings and annoying tasks.
For the parents of my students:
I ask that you remember that we are on the same page. We both want your child to succeed. Let’s remember to have patience with each other and trust in each other.
I also ask that you make sure you are the parent of your child. Make sure they do their homework, take away electronics so they can sleep, and let them fail so they can learn from their mistakes.
For the general public:
I ask that you remember that I am teaching the children who will grow up to be doctors, teachers, senators, CEOs, mothers, fathers, and McDonald’s employees—people you now interact with and rely upon.
I ask that you remember that I give up my nights, my weekends, and money from my own pocket to educate these young minds. I teach because I have a calling. Don’t belittle me.
I expect you to work hard for your students. I expect you to advocate for your students. I expect you to give your students your best self.