Online Learning Planning for Perspectives Unit

The adjustment to online, asynchronous learning over the course of the second half of the 2019-2020 school year was challenging for students, parents, and teachers alike. But after an initial adjustment period, I feel like we settled into an interesting, predictable, and fair routine where many students thrived under difficult circumstances.

Online learning pushed me to consider new approaches to teaching, experiment with new technologies and teaching methods, and to really consider the individual strengths and challenges faced by each student.

In preparing for this new school year, I hope to build off the successes and experiences from last school year while continuing to strive to build a safe, rewarding, challenging, and interesting learning experience for the students.

Last school year, I felt myself, our team and grade level as a whole did well in showing the students we cared about them, while clarifying expectations and building multiple examples and explanations to help make assignments, projects, and learning goals as clear as possible. I am also confident that students enjoyed the units we created while also understanding the frustrations that came with being tied to their computers and stuck at home or in hotels.

This year, I hope to improve in individual and small group conferences to help guide students, monitor their progress, encourage them, and help support their confidence in their own abilities and ideas. While Mr. McLean and I offered prompt and in-depth feedback and encouragement to the kids, I’d like to improve my efforts to confer with kids in real-time as they explore and practice the concepts we are learning in class. If we are online, this includes making more use of zoom break-out rooms and scheduling more frequent individual and small-group conferences. This also means more long-term planning so all students understand the objectives, expectations, and due dates for assignments and assume more responsibility and empowerment over their progress.

Final Reflection for 2019-2020 7Cs Goal – Clarify & Care

At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, I chose CLARIFY as my primary area of focus, with a secondary focus on CARE. For Clarify, I chose to specifically focus on explaining concepts clearly and summarizing/reviewing at the end of class, as well as providing timely constructive feedback to encourage student reflection and help guide students toward needed next steps.

Prior to the beginning of Chinese New Year break and the beginning of eLearning, Tony McLean and I were making good progress on our goal by ensuring we were more purposeful in our explanations and monitoring frequently for understanding, creating clear examples of sample assignments and projects which students could use as a frame of reference, and grouping students according to the needs of activities or based on progress to give them targeted, timely feedback. I also created detailed step-by-step visual guidelines for activities ranging from whole projects to publishing online work and posting and embedding assignments and videos to their blogs. This way, students were not reliant on a one-time explanation where they would have difficulty remembering each step.

Since the beginning of eLearning, I feel this area of focus has been crucially important. I have made sure to create detailed, visual plans each day, recorded video lessons in collaboration with my Humanities team, individual video lessons, and zoom chats, as well as continue to develop my own examples for projects and record tutorials for using Sway, uploading videos to Steam, Dragon’s Tube, and Flipgrid, and other topics. I also continued to complete model assignments while sharing my thinking during those recorded lessons.

In addition, I have greatly improved the speed in which I offer detailed, timely, constructive feedback to the students. Clint Hamada commented on how helpful this was when he asked to use my 6-8 Humanities class as an example for his tutorial screencast for teachers. Of course, Ophelia Hamada is in my Humanities class, but Clint remarked how he liked all of the feedback Tony and I provided to students. Finally, I have tried to keep the habit of ending each video lesson or Zoom session by reviewing the main goals or learning targets for our activities.

Student (DX) View of Feedback and Rubrics 

For my secondary goal of CARE, I have tried to demonstrate my interest in the students’ well-being and offer regular encouragement. This includes my emails to parents. In those emails, I often need to communicate my concern over missing assignments or non-engagement, but I also try to communicate my genuine concern and hope that a student will re-engage and that I am available to help them. I also make an effort to reach out to students and parents of students who are working hard to praise their efforts.

 

Post- Fall 2019 Tripod Survey Reflection – focusing on “Consolidate”

After initially choosing “Clarify” as my area of focus for Tripod’s 7Cs for Effective Teaching during the 2019-2020 school year, I chose to change my focus to “Consolidate” after reviewing my fall survey results in October. “Clarify” continues to be an area of importance, as I strive to anticipate multiple explanations when we study new concepts as well as provide timely constructive feedback. I also, however, decided to focus on dedicating more review time at the end of classes for questioning, summarizing, and exit tickets. I also want to improve reviewing important, previously introduced concepts more consistently and incorporate them into newer units.

In teaching new ideas, techniques, and material to both children and adults, I have also felt learners begin to internalize concepts more effectively after multiple practice attempts and reminders over the course of the school year. In reviewing the reflection questions for Tripod’s discussion of consolidation, I feel my strength are making explicit connections between lessons and referring to relevant current events and making use of examples from the students’ own life experiences and knowledge, but an important weakness that I have struggled with my entire teaching career is time management. Therefore, when Tripod asks the question, “Do you summarize big ideas at the end of lessons and review them periodically?” the short answer is, “No.”

I will review topics frequently and refer back to ideas we have already introduced, but I do not reserve time effectively at the end of class for review or informal formative assessments. My teaching partner and I are agreed that “consolidation,” should be an important area of focus this school year. We will work together to budget our class time for more beginning-of-class short reviews as well as more time at the end of each lesson for informal reviews and low-stakes assessments. I will also work to limit my initial explanations to essential information to better maintain student attention – especially for our many EAL students who become quickly tired focusing on each English language word – as well as to allow more time for “doing” rather than “getting” information.

 

Clarify – Initial Goal for the 2019-2020 School Year

CLARIFY – After completing the reflection survey for Tripod’s 7Cs for Effective Teaching, including reflection questions, I have chosen to focus on CLARIFY for the 2019-2020 school year. Two important indicators of an exemplary classroom for “Clarify” include explaining concepts clearly – including anticipating multiple explanations in advance for potentially tricky concepts, including visual clues – and providing timely constructive feedback to encourage student reflection and help guide students toward needed next steps.

In addition, I would like to ensure that students feel CARED for by showing interest, expressing encouragement, and having high expectations for my students, both in the classroom and in their extracurricular activities.

Spring Reflection

I was somewhat disappointed by the results from the Tripod Spring survey, completed by the students in late April. My overall score went down and I also dropped (6 points) in my area of focus: “Captivate.”  I was also surprised when I experienced a larger drop in “Care.”

I wrote in my first survey reflection that, no matter the intent, circumstances, or excuse, students have their impressions of the teacher; we should respect that and work to alter any negative perceptions through our actions and words.

But after nearly an entire school year, it can be frustrating not to see tangible improvements reflected in student responses.

Part of this reaction can be as simple as “I worked really hard to create engaging lessons. Why didn’t my score go up?”  Even if my score in “Captivate” went down a little between surveys, I feel I was constantly trying to improve and was mindful about creating lessons that were not only useful and instructive, but engaged the students and allowed for creativity and choice wherever possible. In this I feel I was successful, and the students in my classes learned, demonstrated improvement, and (mostly, I hope) enjoyed 6th grade Humanities.

In other areas however, I felt more confounded by the survey results. While not letting it dictate my teaching, I was mindful of student feedback from the first survey. I worked to be more patient and clearly express my support in difficult situations as well as when students experienced personal and group triumphs. I reflect on this because other teachers also worked incredibly hard to help students and support them and some of those teachers also experienced drops based on student responses. Of course this does not change my approach to teaching and supporting kids every day, but I find myself not sure how to interpret the survey – both the results and the various contributing factors which influence those results.

Of course – in this way – I am starting to think I feel similarly to those students who work very hard on an assignment, feel pride in their effort and result, and then receive “Approaching” on each standard with little or no feedback and do not understand why.

 

Historical Video – Video Project

As we progress through the 6th grade year, here is another summative project enjoyed by the entire 6th grade. Our kids chose a civilization about which they would conduct general research. They then researched an innovation that was deemed “historically significant.” The kids, after conducting informal research over two days, focused on a topic, conducted research, and then created a script and storyboard for their historical script. They then made props, selected costumes, and acted out their videos:

“Early Humans and Us” Thinglink projects

With help from Laura Brown, the Grade 6 Humanities classes got together for the first two weeks of December to create digital infographics about how early and modern humans were shaped by developments in technology, community, and diet. We mixed up all the students in the 6th grade and each teacher specialized in a specific topic: Krista focused on diet, Shannon concentrated on community, and I helped kids examine technology.

This was another effort to create an engaging summative activity while providing students with as much choice as possible, present research findings in a visually stimulating way,  and allow teachers and students to get to know other members of the 6th grade community.

Here are some final student products:

Larry from 6.2 –

(if the links do not work, here is the link to the student’s blog)
http://blogs.isb.bj.edu.cn/24larryk/2018/12/12/early-humans-and-us-technology/

George from 6.3 –

http://blogs.isb.bj.edu.cn/24georgex/2018/12/12/early-humans-and-us-technology-thinglink/

Lydia from 6.5 –

http://blogs.isb.bj.edu.cn/24hak/2018/12/12/early-humans-and-us-clothing-technology-thinglink/

“Captivate” Culminating Activity – Book Trailers

In late October, our Grade 6 Humanities students completed their realistic fiction book clubs. As a culminating activity, they created book trailers about the books they read. Here are two examples of the trailers:

The first book trailer introduces Flush, written by Cal Hiaasen, and created by Rachel and Lydia —

The second book trailer is features Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, created by Michelle and Linda —

 

Student Survey Initial Reflection

After receiving initial student feedback in the first Tripod student survey, I have decided to keep my original goal of focusing on Captivating my students more by “integrating appropriate technology more often into my lessons to engage students in learning and search out more opportunities for interactive learning.” While this area was not specifically listed as a topic to focus on in the teacher profile, student feedback rated me as medium and lower than other areas including Care, Confer, Challenge, and Classroom Management. I will seek to continue to improve in developing more lessons that actively engage students while learning important skills and concepts that are also fun and memorable.

Interestingly, while I was rated higher overall in Classroom Management and Care by my students, the specific subarea in which I received a low mark and an area to focus on was, “Student behavior in this class makes the teacher angry.” I have tried to establish clear expectations for conduct and respectful behavior towards classmates, but I also strive to be patient and supportive. The most important role of a teacher is to be an advocate for their students, supporting them in their social, emotional, and academic development. If my students perceive me as getting angry in reaction to specific situations, then I need to work hard to change my demeanor during those times. Students need to feel that a teacher is ultimately pulling for them, even if there are times when behavior or other problems need to be addressed.

Focusing on Captivate for Area of Professional Goal

After reading through Tripod’s 7Cs for Effective Teaching, including reflection questions, I have chosen to focus on Captivate for the 2018-2019 school year. In 6th grade, students are eager to learn and will respond positively to engaging, interactive lessons if they feel those lessons are relevant and worthwhile. Specifically, I hope to integrate appropriate technology more often into my lessons to engage students in learning and search out more opportunities for interactive learning.

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