Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20, 2013

"Student Voices" Update:

I shadowed my third student on Friday. I was able to attend two of his classes, Physical Science and Honors US History.

Upon entering Physical Science the students were already seated and busy working on their warm up activity. My "shadow" student and the other three students at his table were all busily writing vocabulary words with definitions and pictures into their notebooks. As I sat down my "shadow student" showed me what he was working on. As I was setting up my paper to complete the vocabulary, my "shadow student" turned to the pages in the book that I would need to complete the assignment. He graciously pointed out each vocabulary word to me.

 Each student also had a States of Matter worksheet. Mrs. Spinelli gave me a States of Matter worksheet and I quickly got to work on it. At first glance I was a little apprehensive that I may not know how to correctly identify the items in the table. However, Mrs. Spinelli went to the Smartboard and did a whole class 30 second review of how to complete the table. Her explanation was clear, she modeled it for us, had us repeat the vocabulary multiple times, and it made the expectation of what to do much clearer for me. Honestly, it was her 30 second review/model that enabled me to fill out the table with 100% accuracy. I can say that the way that she modeled how to first identify the state of matter then go back and check it it takes the shape of the container, if it has definite volume, and/or if it has definite shape made a huge difference. She explained that liquids will have the same properties, that solids will have the same properties, and that gases will have the same properties. So, by first identifying if it was a liquid, solid, or gas, you could then quickly be able to identify the properties.

After about five minutes, Mrs. Spinelli had fourteen student volunteers go up to the Smartboard and mark their answers on the table. The rest of us were asked to check our answers against the answers the students were putting up. Each student that approached the Smartboard placed their answer quickly and each student gave a correct response.  Everyone at my lab table also had their tables filled out correctly.  We then transitioned to our next part of the lesson.  Mrs. Spinelli went back to the board redirected us to the objective of the day and explained what we would be doing next that would work us towards that objective. We were going to begin working on making a graphic organizer to display the different states of matter and the different phases that they go through. We each received a large piece of drawing paper and were told to get out two different colored pencils or pens. Each table was given enough rulers so each person could have one. Mrs. Spinelli showed us a few excellent examples of finished products and then walked us through step by step how to set up our organizer. We had to use our measurement skills to block off the columns based on the specific dimensions that were given. We had to place the appropriate vocabulary words in the correct columns as well. The last step was to use our second color to place arrows showing changes in states and we boxed certain vocabulary words.

Throughout this process, Mrs. Spinelli modeled for us, walked the room and provided one on one guidance and encouraged and provided positive feedback to students that helped their table members. As we were working on our graphic organizer my "shadow student" said to me, "So, do you have any big plans for this weekend?" I answered him and asked him what his plans were. He let me know that his older brother was going to be in a video game competition which was a pretty big deal. I was rather excited to hear that and shared something with him that I had read just the day before about a 20 something year old that was in a video game competition. Now, you might think why did you engage in off task conversations with the student. Well, it happened very organically and it didn't stop either of us from continuing to work on our graphic organizer. We both were still measuring and completing our organizer but it did allow us to have a moment of sharing/getting to know each other.

Mrs. Spinelli wrapped up the period by enthusiastically telling us we would continue this on Monday. When I say enthusiastically, I am not exageratting. She made this learning not only accessible to all of us, but also enjoyable and fun at the the same time. I want to go back on Monday and learn more about the phases and be able to put together my graphic organizer that shows how much I know. That is a very good feeling. I am confident in saying that the majority of the students in the class feel the same way as me.

I left my "shadow student" to go to his next class alone, PE, and I met back up with him in his Honors US History class. The first part of the class each student was asked to answer in his/her notebook one of the two warm up questions. The two questions were: "Tell me a time you were falsely accused of something. Were you able to prove your innocence?" and "What did you bring today that defines who you are?" Each student was allowed to pick either of the two questions to respond to. I liked that there was choice on the warm up, so that students could respond to the question that was most relevant to them. After about five minutes Mr. Lau asked for student volunteers to read their answers.  About six students shared and all but one answered the first question on being accused of something they didn't do.

 What Mr. Lau did that I thought was impressive, was after each student shared their own personal response, he then tied it back to the content of the Salem Witch Trials. He never once just let a student share the answer without connecting back to what the learning objective of the day was. This was a great way for the students to be able to see relevance in what they were learning.  This also made the transition from the warm up activity to the primary source activity more seamless.

Each of us were given two new primary source documents to analyze, one being a chart and the other a map. As a whole class we worked on summarizing what the primary source document told us about the Salem Witch Trials.  We had to describe the piece of evidence, explain what it was and we had to be able to answer, "According to this document, what was happening economically in Salem in 1692?" In this class over the last week or so students have been analyzing other primary source documents such as court transcripts that would give one perspective on the Salem Witch Trials. These two new documents would provide another lens to look through in understanding why the Salem Witch Trials occurred. Since I have visited this class several times in the last few weeks, I was familiar with the process of highlighting and annotating the sources. It was so nice to see that the expectations were routine for these students. As soon as they had been handed their primary source documents they immediately took out their highlighters and began to highlight. That most definitely brought a smile to my face. There was not enough time in the period to complete the analysis of the documents and Mr. Lau stated that we would continue on Monday. Students packed up and when the bell rang each student waited for Mr. Lau to directly dismiss them to lunch.

My experience on Friday shadowing a student was a positive one. It is interesting, because we have been experiencing  some very negative behavior issues out at lunch and in some classes over the last few weeks.  However, while in these two classes on Friday, you would never know that we have been experiencing discipline issues. As a student in the classroom, you see what is presented in front of you and you experience what the environment is providing to you.

The reason I mention this, is that there will always be struggles and challenges in everything that we do. Those issues that arise need to be addressed and resolved, without a doubt. However, we need to remember that we can't let resistance get in the way of our progress. We are making great strides with our students as a whole. We are challenging them every day to think. By challenging the students it will cause some to get frustrated, some to get excited, and some to shut down. We need to be prepared to respond to each of the different reactions that our challenges create for the students. Sometimes it means responding as a whole staff like we are with our electronics policy. Sometimes it means having a one on one conversation with a student. Some times it means stopping a lesson midway and going with Plan B or C because Plan A was just not working. Give yourself some room to make mistakes and give your students some room to make mistakes. We all have to make mistakes in order to see how to improve. To quote an educator, David Culberhouse, that I am following on Twitter, "People want autonomy...when they feel they have sufficient mastery.  Otherwise, they want and need support alongside that autonomy..."  Remember the three guiding principles in Daniel Pink's Drive, "Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose."  On Monday, when you walk through the door do everything you can to check all your negative thoughts and emotions at the door. Focus on the positive changes you will be able to make in your students' lives on Monday. Try and see the students that are being "difficult" as the ones that are screaming out for help. Those students need more structure and guidance on how to navigate the educational system. For whatever reasons, those students don't have the tools necessary to navigate the classroom or school environment. Make it your mission to help provide the necessary tools for success. It won't be easy, and I truly understand that, but try to approach the student that has been giving you a hard time, differently this week. See if that makes a difference. Whether we think so or not, our intent comes through in every action. From providing feedback to implementing change, we must always be aware of our intent.

Word of the Week: DEMONSTRATE: To  show or prove something clearly.

Professional Development Opportunity: Technology and the Common Core #4, Thursday, Oct. 24th 3:45-5:30 in the library. Presenter: Geoff Belleau from SCOE 

New Staff Member: I would like to welcome, Barbara Macfarlane, to the Crystal staff. Barbara begins Monday teaching our World History line in F103. Stop by and welcome Barbara to the family. We are very excited to have her join the History department and become a new member of the Crystal family.  

October 21st-25th: SPIRIT Week!!  Monday: Sports Day, Tuesday: Backwards Day, Wednesday: College PRIDE Day, Thursday: Disney Day, Friday: Superhero Day!!


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