Thursday, April 25, 2013

Professional Development with Professor Alec Couros

Over the past couple of years, a number of Regina high schools have been working to create technology catalyst teams.  The mandate of these teams has primarily been to pursue opportunities to learn about technology integration, to support the team members and the school community at large, and to learn more about the implications of technology in improving student achievement.

This year, the teams at Sheldon, Thom, Campbell, Scott and Balfour will be coming together on the afternoon of April 26th.  These team members will have the chance to listen to (and learn from) Professor Alec Couros, currently on sabbatical from the University of Regina.  Once they have had the opportunity to hear him speak, they will be able to work collaboratively with groups from other schools to discuss the changing role of technology and how to support this in their buildings.

Alec Couros is a professor of Educational Technology and Social Media, however, he has spent much of the last year travelling and speaking at local, national and international educational conferences. Teachers may remember Alec as he most recently spoke at the Teachers Convention in March, encouraging teachers to consider the changing role of technology and the implications of social media in the classroom.  He has also overseen the #etmooc sessions offered this year (Educational Technology Massive Open Online Course) drawing hundreds of educators from all over the world.  We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear him speak again to the changing role of social media, the importance of digital citizenship, and the use of mobile devices to increase student engagement and achievement.

If you are interested in learning more about Alec Couros and his thoughts and view on educational technology, you can access more information at the following sites: Alec Couros About Me; Alec on twitter, or on his educational blog, Open Thinking: Rants and Resources from an Open Educator.

Those following us on twitter for this amazing PD opportunity should follow the hashtag #regteach.

Photo Credit: courosa via Compfight cc
Monique Bowes & Ian Mitchell (Instructional Consultants with teams Lerminiaux and Nistor)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Writing Workshop

Persuade Me!

I recently had the pleasure of working with Heather Matichuk on writing with her grade 6 students. 
 Kelly Gallagher says, “Writing well does not begin with teaching students how to write; it begins with teaching students why they should write.”  It was evident Heather had spent time earlier sharing the many purposes or reasons writers write with her students. We also shared some real-world examples of why being a persuasive person/writer would come in handy.  And so… our persuasive writing unit began.
As an introduction to persuasive writing we engaged students in oral activities that would help build their understanding of a well-constructed argument and to see both sides of an argument.  These included:

Sorting Activity from First Steps Writing Resource Book

Arguing Both Sides from Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading by Harvey Daniels and Nancy Steineke

Writing is more interesting and fun to read when it is filled with voice, so we spent some time explicitly teaching the voice trait. We asked students to revise a short piece where the voice was absent. We used the picture book Dear Mrs. LaRue Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague as our mentor text because it is filled with voice.  We also asked students to identify the persuasive writing techniques that were used in this picture book.
Anchor charts were useful to keep track of our learning.  Some anchor charts we created included: 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"No lights, no camera--but lots of action!": Using Advertising and Simulation to build Digital Fluency

Simulating the media industry provides an engaging learning
environment in which students are inherently familiar.   
Students rehearse their lines, check their props and scripts one last time, shuffle in behind the TV frame and someone yells, "Action." -- Welcome to Rosemont's new full service marketing firm.

This was the scene in Jillian Tunison's grade 5/6 class last month when the students presented their summative projects for a unit designed around persuasive language. Their presentation, which were TV commercials for their "new" brand of cereal, gave students the opportunity to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they acquired by trying to answer a key inquiry question:  "How do companies convince us to buy their products?"

Setting Outcomes

What began as a planning session for persuasive writing tasks quickly turned into a multidisciplinary inquiry, project based simulation unit that incorporated outcomes from four subject areas. We started planning with the general idea that we would use advertising to explore the nature of persuasive language. While looking at the ELA curriculum outcomes, specifically those that require investigation and creation of multimedia texts, we came up with the plan that each student would create a brand of cereal, complete with a box design, TV commercial script and presentation. We quickly realized we could cover several ELA outcomes (writing, oral language, media investigation, etc.), but we were surprised by how easily we could incorporate outcomes from health, social science and math, as cereal boxes are a perfect palette for having students demonstrate knowledge in many areas. For example, the back of the boxes could contain student designed games (math problems, quizzes, geography hunts, crosswords, etc.), while the sides could contain health and nutrition information (possible connections to science, health, and math outcomes). As well, since the advertising industry was our context, we included health outcomes related to body image and stereotypes.

Establishing Indicators, Instructional Strategies and Assessment Plan

As we worked through the curriculum, we wrote indicators for each outcome (in the form of 'I can' statements), followed by establishing how each outcome would be addressed with the students. Below is a portion of the plan for two of the outcomes:
Sample of backward plan template. Two of the outcomes shown. 

Note that when we set the activities, our goal was to systematically remove the scaffold supports so that each activity would end in students applying knowledge to on their own.
 As well, the activities are tiered such that student move through Bloom's domains, starting with recall and remembering, to applying and analyzing, and finally leading to opportunities to create an synthesize.  Also note that we made sure we were differentiating instruction instruction and assessment strategies to engage all learners. 

Inquiry, Simulation and Gamification

Balanced Literacy is more than Literacy!

Submitted by: Sharia Warnecke [Instructional Consultant]

Whole Class Read Aloud
Danielle Delsnider is a grade one teacher at Douglas Park School who was interested in support to ensure she was providing a balanced literacy program. We began by looking at her classroom data and formed guided reading groups and literature circles. As well, we used the data to determine the need and focus for whole class strategy instruction, to make certain she was meeting all outcomes. Danielle was already familiar with The Daily Five and the components and routines were well established. We introduced The Cafe into her existing structure and the use of Literacy Place resources.

However, as part of the restructuring we quickly realized that we also needed to adjust the schedule. Several students were receiving reading intervention during her ninety minute literacy block. In collaboration with the LRT, Pat Delaney, and Marnie Hubbard, the Reading Effects teacher, who were providing direct service, it was agreed that all students would remain in the class for whole class instruction and that the reading supports would occur afterwards as part of The Daily Five structure. It was clear that balanced literacy is more than balancing literacy! 

Pat Delaney Guided Reading
Pat switched her time table and her students are now a part of Read to Someone, during the first round of The Daily Five. Marnie moved her Reading Effects time and space so she is now located in the open area. She has already seen the advantages to the move as she is able to incorporate the lesson into her instruction. Marnie also knew that additional benefits included the use of common language and reinforcing the classroom instruction (that she can now hear). The new physical space means that there is less time wasted on transitions and fewer classroom interruptions.

Marnie Hubbard Reading Effects
While on the surface this can all appear very straight forward, it was entirely dependent on the willingness, collaboration and flexibility of all parties. We have so much support available, but are we effectively utilizing that support? Are we maximizing the enhancement of student instruction? Another question to consider is how we wrap around new teachers in our schools to build capacity. Thanks to Pat and Marnie, Danielle, in the second year of her teaching career, will now receive much more than literacy support!

Friday, April 19, 2013

COME along with me!

Posted by: Mona Ruecker (Instructional Consultant)

I have always wondered how teachers plan and prepare for all their students everyday.  How do they know what to teach?  What can the teacher do to ensure that students and parents, know what the expected goals are?  Why do some students do their work differently from others?  How are all of the students needs met?
Wow!!!  I am excited to meet with the grade 3-6 teachers and teacher-librarian:  Connie Murray, Joyce Toth, Carol Irvine and Betty O'Byrne.  They will take me on their journey of "long range planning",  with their consultant Mona Ruecker.    Just take a look at the visual and the too will be inspired!

Long Range Planning includes seven major components (from the teachers):

  1. Outcomes:  The grade level goals for our students, in each of our subject areas, see Saskatchewan Education website. 
  2. Indicators: Provide us with various options on how to meet each of the outcomes. 
  3. I can Statements: Our indicators are put into student friendly language, beginning with "I  can".  The teacher will post the "I can" statements, in the classroom, when the outcome is being taught.
  4. Structures: Students will have the opportunity to learn in structures that provide them with; whole group, small groups and individual instruction ie.  Writing Workshop, Reading Workshop, Daily 5/Cafe, Explore Plus 
  5. Assessments: A formative and/or summative strategy can be found, in Damian Cooper's work.   Each outcome could include an assessment that includes:  Mode, Strategy and Tool.   The mode identifies how the student will perform the assessment (write, speak or do).  Strategy indicates the task (debate, write paragraph, interview).  Tool is the instrument that will be used to record (rubric, checklist, scoring guide, self assessment.)
  6. Resources: A list of print and e resources that may be  used to teach each of the outcomes.
  7. Know/Don't Know: Data provides us with information, that will help us better prepare for the students, we are teaching.  Identifying students that are ready for the outcome and those that may need adaptations/extensions, sets the students up for success.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Update: Students find their digital voices

On Thursday, March 14th, Kelli Lewko was joined by teachers, consultants and coordinators from five separate RPS locations in a Google+ "Hangout." She shared details about the planning, process and assessment of a recent semester end summative, which was the topic of a RPSConnectED blog post last month.  Below is a highlight reel of the "Hangout."

If you haven't had a chance to read Kelli's blog post, click here.