Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 17, 2013

The Common Core Standards will be the topic of discussion at this week's staff meeting. If you remember, we moved our staff meeting to this week to accommodate for our 2013 IPR.  This will be the first time that Crystal Middle school has had our entire staff participate in our IPR. What is an IPR? It is our annual In Progress Review. The point of the IPR is to look at the goals of our school and see how we are progressing towards those goals. We then have the opportunity to reach out to Ed Services, who will also be in attendance, to get additional guidance and support.

The format for this IPR will be a unique set up and a great opportunity for everyone to be a part of the discussion. We are going to set up in a "fishbowl" like setting. In the inner circle will be our math, science, English, and history department chairs, as well as me, Leslie, and members of Ed Services. In the outer circle will be all other staff members. The department chairs are each going to give a brief five minute presentation on how their department is implementing the Common Core this year. They will give us insight to how they are working with DOK levels and how they are implementing writing. They will also speak to the support they need in order to best move their department forward with implementation of the Common Core. During this time the outer circle will log into a back channel using either their Ipad or Smartphone. On the back channel you will be able to make comments and ask questions without stopping the presenters. We will then be able to cycle back to the comments and questions in the back channel and review those. Not only will this be a new format for our staff and for an IPR, but my hope is that it will give you ideas of how to incorporate both "fishbowls" and back channeling into your classroom.

Technology Update: We have only the "E" wing and part of "F" wing left to receive the new teacher laptops. The rest of the campus has now received their new teacher laptops. Everyone should have theirs by this Wednesday. We are in the process of ordering a second cart of Chromebooks. That will end up giving us a total of 71 Chromebooks once the second cart arrives. We are also in the process of ordering and transitioning seven more classrooms to the 70" flatscreen displays with Apple TV. Once that transition is done we will have half our campus moved to the new student display system!!! Once the devices are installed there will be some "How To" sessions for those teachers. The seven teacher that are transitioning are: Ken Baptista, Carole Schneider, Tammy Collin, Carla Accetola, Tara Spinelli, Beth Ellis, and Jonathan Dunsworth. These seven will join the seven teachers that are already using that student display set up: Rachel Chang, Shannon Balthazor, Cynthia Merrick, Dawn Kasperson, Clement Lau, Nelda Taylor, and Joanna Rockwell. We need to know what Ipad productivity apps you would like to see purchased and "pushed" out to all the teacher devices. Please let your department chair know before you go out on winter break any apps that you think would be beneficial for all the teachers to have.

The Hour of Code is officially set for December 13, 2013. We will be on assembly schedule that day. Depending on if you are an "A" assembly or "B" assembly teacher, you will have your sixth period participate in The Hour of Code during your normal assembly time. I will continue to promote and advertise with students and parents that December 13th is a BYOD day. Additionally, student can access the tutorials on their smartphones and we will have the Chromebooks and our current computers to use. For any student that does not have their own device or one of our devices, he/she will be able to participate with the "unplugged" version. More details of The Hour of Code will be distributed and reviewed at our December staff meeting. Posters are currently being printed and will be placed around campus as soon as they arrive. Feel free to visit to watch promotional videos and learn more about The Hour of Code. 

No Excuses Update:  The No Excuses Team met on Friday and is working on a two-sided laminated "How to Get To College" document that will be provided to all our students very soon. We also discussed incorporating social norms into our monthly Character trait lessons. The November lesson has been moved from Monday the 18th, to Wednesday the 20th. A separate email with the short ten minute lesson will be sent to you. All teachers will introduce the lesson during 4th period this Wednesday. We have two new members that have joined the team, Jonathan Dunsworth and Clement Lau. We are working on starting a NEU student club too!! Any ideas or suggestions you have please share with any of the NEU team members: Kristen Witt, Leslie Marley, Shannon Balthazor, Lisa Lewis, Rachel Chang, Clement Lau, or Jonathan Dunsworth.  

WORD OF THE WEEK: DIAGRAM: is a simple drawing or plan that shows exactly where something is, what something looks like, or how something works. 


Monday, November 11, 2013

November 11, 2013

A week in review..........

We have only had the Chromebooks now for one week and they have been used each day so far. Shannon Balthazor used the Chromebooks in each of her math classes to incorporate "coding" and use of Google docs for note taking.  Cynthia Merrick used the Chromebooks with her English classes to continue to work on their research papers and specifically to use Google docs and Easybib to cite sources.  If you want to use the Chromebooks in your class, remember to sign up using the Google Form. I have included the link here for those of you that may have missed that email.
The calendar at the bottom of this blog shows what days have already been chosen by another teacher.

English 8 students working on Easybib and Google docs.

Algebra I students working on (coding) and Google docs.

A very happy coder!!!
As you plan your lessons you need to be looking at what DOK or Depth of Knowledge level you are asking your the students to be at. You want your lessons to be planned for DOK level 2 or DOK level 3.  There were several examples this week of students working at DOK level 3. The best examples are the classrooms where the teacher acted as a guide and posed excellent questions for the students. The questions were not off the cuff, but were pre-planned to encourage critical thinking on the part of the students. I have a 30 second video clip here of 6th grade math students in Baptista's class working together to solve their problems. Keep in mind that they had begun this the day before and most of them had "hit a road block."  What you see is the students working through that "road block" to determined their reasoning.

Dunsworth's World History class.  Students worked in groups to analyze primary source documents. Every student had to write after each turn.

Group work where students are working together to develop a level of understanding was also seen in Dunworth's class this week (pictured above). The big take away, you don't need to spoon feed information to the students. In fact, students are more engaged and excited about the learning if they are actively discovering. You must spend a great deal of time planning that discovery out in advance, but the end result for the students is so worth it.

As a reminder we are all signed up to participate in the Hour of Code in December. As I mentioned before we will have both "unplugged" versions and both computer and smartphone tutorials. We will be on assembly schedule that day so that no one loses a class period.This will be an opportunity for all staff to participate as well. I am very eager to work through the tutorials to see how much coding I can learn in an hours time. I have had several conversations with many of you about needing a computer literacy class, computer coding class, etc. We are looking at our options.

Our next Technology PD with Geoff Belleau is this Thursday after school in the library from 3:45-5:30. These have been valuable learning experiences for all those that have been attending. Come out this Thursday and learn some strategies to help improve your classroom. You can earn some Buy Back time in the process.

WORD OF THE WEEK: DETERMINE:  is to find out the facts about something.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

November 3, 2013

Why should we collaborate? There are many benefits to educators collaborating with one another. It provides an opportunity to share strategies and ideas and also brain storm on ways of making projects and activities even better. Despite the fact that we do not have collaborative time built in to our weekly schedule, there are many teachers at Crystal finding time to collaborate. The Common Core standards are making collaboration not only important, but truly a necessary piece to planning. Collaboration makes it possible  to effectively implement the new Common Core standards.

In order to most effectively introduce research to her students, Cynthia Merrick and librarian Jenn Roush have collaborated with each other. The result has been a multi-tiered lesson that both Cynthia is implementing in her classroom and Jenn has implemented in the library. The two of them have decided who will deliver which part of the instruction and at what time. Additionally, they were able to modify and adjust the lessons together after seeing what the students were able to do and not able to do.

The sixth grade English team has worked for several hours with Paul Walpole to go over primary source documents. Not only have they worked together to identify which primary source documents would be best to introduce to the sixth graders, they have worked with Paul to identify how students should read, annotate, and work with the primary sources. To date they have spent over three hours collaborating on this topic.

Ken Baptista, Carole Schneider, and Tammy Collin are collaborating weekly to create common lessons. They work on developing guiding questions, and activities that encourage critical thinking and a high level of rigor and student engagement. Because they collaborate so often, they are able to tweak and modify their lessons to be as beneficial as possible for the students. They have noted to me on several occasions that the new Common Core standards require much more time for planning. By working together to plan, it helps make the process easier.

The Math 8 teachers have collaborated together to implement the problem of the week. All Math 8 students are working on the agreed upon problem of the week.  The problem of the week includes word problems that students must not only solve, but write explanations of how they worked through the process to get to the answer. Additionally, the word problems are real world based and relevant to the students' lives.

We have three of our teachers, Ken Baptista, Shannon Balthazor, and Cynthia Merrick collaborating with the district level team of teachers to create the best vertical alignment approach to the Common Core standards for English and math. I mention this so that you can make sure to get your ideas and suggestions to each of them so that they can pass that on at the district level meetings. They each have met for three days to plan for English and math.  There will be a total of nine full days of planning time this year.

I have been able to learn from educators across the country via Twitter. Following educators that are innovative and working towards implementing 21st Century skills at their sites, has given me new insight and provided ideas for implementation at Crystal. We don't have to only collaborate with the educators at our site or even within our own district, we can branch out to districts across the country using social media.

Since all of us have Ipads, the time constraint to collaborate is not really so much an issue anymore. The reason I say that is that any teacher at Crystal that wants to collaborate with another can do so using Facetime on their Ipad. You don't have to be at school or even in the same location. Try it and see what happens.

The Site Council has also realized the great importance of collaboration. Especially collaboration following the 20% time model. As a reminder, the 20% model provides educators autonomy.  The collaboration time is time spent working with any member of the staff on any projects or ideas you want to work on.  The time allows educators to be innovative and work on what they feel is most important at that time and with whom they want to work with to have the most successful outcome. To this end, the Site Council has allocated $12,700 for collaboration for the 2013-2014 school year.  

How has collaboration worked for you? Share your story about collaboration by posting a comment below. 

WORD OF THE WEEK: DESIGN:   DESIGN is to plan or develop something for a specific purpose.

Our Chromebook mobile lab is in. A Google form will be sent out for you to sign up to checkout the cart. There is a total of 35 Chromebooks in the cart. 

Have a GREAT week!!