Thursday, December 13, 2012

Research, Reading, Writing Online





Our Language Arts and Social studies teachers have standards to teach -- and the social studies teachers assigns the "Research a State" report. Sounds like a typical report, and it is, except for the tools used to learn and create the product.



Students have choices: which state and which topics about that state to research in order to meet reading and writing standards.  For eighth grade, the standards are:



READING
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

I can cite textual evidence that strongly supports conclusions reasoned through from the facts in the text and on inferences from the facts in the text.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.


I can decide the central idea of a text and think through the way the idea was built from the beginning to the end of the text. I can find the supporting ideas in the text. I can write an objective summary (facts, no opinion) of the text.



Writing


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.


I can gather relevant -- important to my topic -- information from many sources. I can use search terms effectively. I can asses the the truthfulness of each source (credible, accurate). I can quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others without plagiarizing. I can follow a a format for citing my sources.




The Web 2.0 of Diigo’s highlight, annotate, and bookmarking abilities lets students personalize the information and punctuate their own online work with that information. For example: Here a student simply highlights the information she needs to review later to summarize in her report document. Diigo allows students to highlight the webpage's important ideas, then a add sticky notes to write the main idea or a summary in their own words. 


In addition, students can read difficult text, one of the requirements of the new standards. Because our listening vocabularies are larger than our speaking or reading vocabularies,  our Mac computers are set to read the text to them with a simple key stroke (Opt + Esc). Students are able to listen to, read, and discern the most relevant facts. Then students consider what those facts mean and cite the evidence: the details that support the main idea. They type these in the sticky notes with their highlights.

These are saved in their Diigo library:



Now students can easily, copy their summaries to their reports in Google Docs and revise and edit. Their teaches can add advice and suggestions as a comment for students to work on.


We learn search strategies, and website verification strategies. We learn research, reading, and writing, all in the cloud.

As your child to share their process and first draft with you. You will learn from your student!




This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Genius

Many of you are aware of all the changes in education. For the classroom, that means a new focus on more complex reading and writing, digging deeper into relevant and valid facts. We are implementing the Common Core State Standards that Washington State has adopted. Because of the focus on more complex texts and critical thinking, our middle school has adopted a Genius Hour Project time. This allows each class to focus on longer projects, such as deeper research in social studies and lab sessions in math and science.  For language arts it means a time to research and learn a topic of interest to each student, thereby applying the needed strategies of the Common Core. It also allows them the opportunity to learn and  grow in ways that meet their needs as they focus on topics of interest. It helps them to show their genius.


Genius Hour Time also helps students and teachers to connect in ways that build better relationships; it lets students use their strengths and interests to complete projects, which adds insight into how each student works and learns. This helps teachers plan better, and helps us know the students better.

What have students been interested in studying?

Our first set of "interest" questions included:

  • What are history and rules of stick games?
  • When did basketball start?  What is the history?
  • What is marine life?
  • What are sea creatures lives like?
  • Why did Chernobyl have a meltdown?
  • Is life on mars?
  • What are the most expensive shoes in the world?
  • How can I make a paper plane that flew well.
  • What is Photography?
  • I was wondering about why people took these picture, and what is about? I was looking to see if it can explain why people liked to take pictures of interesting things, that you have to think outside of the box to see new things.
  • I wanted to learn about the Northern lights and how they are made . 
  • What are the rules of hockey.What Ii was wondering about was how the refs are better than the refs in the nfl when the good refs were on strike.
  • What are the rules of basketball? The answer that I was looking for was the dribbling, passing, the lines, coaches, the reff and the score board .............  and more. 
  • How do artists share their work and make money?
  • Who made or invented the first jet car?
In these questions you can see the beginning of careers: coaches, referees, historians, scientists, fashion, astronauts, photographers, artists, prototype designers.

So not only are we searching out our interests and applying the CCSS, we are also broadening our knowledge base of possibilities in the future.  We are adding to our "Genius."


What do you think? How do you add genius to the world?




This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dot Day September 14


Yes! It's Dot Day, and we choose to matter. We choose to make a mark and make it matter.

We've been learning about people in our community who have made a mark that mattered. We know we can make a difference too!

We choose to start a chain reaction of kindness, like Rachel challenged us.  We have started a list of how we can be kind; here are just a few of our ideas:


  • When I see someone not playing a game, I can ask him/her to play with my friends and me.
  • I would ask if they are okay.
  • When someone is hurt I would help them out.
  • When someone is on the playground and playing all by themselves then my friend and I will go join them.
  • I will say hi to people even if we don't get a long
  • If a friend or student isn't happy, I would try to cheer them up.
  • I will always say something positive about everyone.
  • I will choose to be the person doing the right thing.
  • If there's a new student at my school then I would make him/her feel safer.
And we have made our marks. All year we will make them matter. Look at the genius and creativity in the work of our students in grades 5, 6, 7, and 8.




Each Dot Picture considers the goal of each student.  For instance, this picture shows seeds in the center blooming into flowers of kindness to represent Mint's kindness goal.  Lovely, isn't it?


How about you?  Will you make a mark, and make it matter?

This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bubbles and Brains


"When we blow a bubble it’s like a brain full of knowledge," commented one student as we learned about the science of bubbles through reading, writing, and playing with bubbles. Another student let us know that "Learning is like a soap bubble because some people’s brains pop!"

Do you know how soap makes bubbles last longer?

Some words you might use to explain why are: surface tension, water molecule, soap molecule, 
hydrophobic, hydrophilic, evaporation. Ask sixth, seventh, and eighth grades students about it.

We also discussed similes, metaphors, and analogies -- ways to compare things that have something in common. We compared soap bubbles to learning and learning communities.

Here are some of our analogies:

  • Soap molecules attract to water and dirt, and learning groups attract to each other.
  • Instead of trying to stretch apart, the soap bubbles share water molecules and the groups share ideas. Both are pulling together.
  • Soap molecules and the water molecules work together to make the bubble last longer and the groups work together to help each other get work done.



 We learned so many things: following directions for experiments, reading for research and analysis, writing to explain, comparing ideas.

Check back for more of our reading and writing class work!













This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Welcome Back !


I am so glad school is almost starting !
This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Talks

Ryal's Certificate
It's been a great year for reading at our school. In grades 6, 7, and 8 we asked students to try to read 40 books this year. Many students had never read a book on their own before. During class, students who finish work early, take out their own reading book to read.

In my reading class, students read their books for 15-20 minutes at least three times a week. At least twice a week, the students would respond to reading prompts based on our reading lessons, which are based on the stems of our GLEs (Grade Level Expectations).

Often students would come to class and say, "Could we just read today?" I've heard kids say to each other, "You should check out this book; then we could read it together." These are firsts: how exciting to have kids excited about reading.  The total pages read by sixth and eighth graders was 8,691! That translates to about 86 one hundred page books!  The seventh graders did not get a chance to share their total pages, but Rista read 72 books on her own! Whether they have read five books or forty books, it's a wonderful step towards better readers.

The last activity we did was to create certificates. Students used Keynote to choose a template, add book cover and portrait images, and declare their book reading progress.

Some students then wrote a book talk on their favorite book, recorded it in Photo Booth, and dragged it into their Keynote. We then exported them as movies, and some students added them to our class blog, or their individual blogs. Click here for the the book talks filed under the "book review" tag.

Tish just finished hers; enjoy her "Book Talk:"





This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Writing to Share

Sketch by Quill
We've mastered our reading requirements, and now work on projects that apply our learning in reading and writing. We'd love more time to do this in class, and perhaps now that we've started, we will continue right into the fall start of the school year 2012.

What are we doing?  Blogging. Blogging more frequently to share our learning in projects. One project was a reflection on the assembly by Gene Tagaban, inspirational Native American storyteller and performer.  The students so enjoyed his "aaaawwwweeeessoooooooome" music, stories, and performance. They came away knowing they needed to be careful about their own stories, which is the life each leads.


Here is a link to several blog posts about the assembly by our students in grades six, seven, and eight:



These seventh grade students have just started their own blogs, and wrote their first two posts, one about Gene Tagaban:








Note: Students use pseudonyms, not their real names.


I wrote a post here that includes a video of our assembly:


Enjoy...


This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Science Sensations

I wonder...

Why can't we live on other planets? Who was the first "person" on earth? Why did the dinosaurs die? Why is the sky blue and does the color of the sky tell us the sky is healthy? What will happen when the sun dies? What causes one crystal to grow faster than another? Is there life on other planets? Do animals behave like humans? How are dolphins behavior and social issues similar to humans? Why are there 365 days in a year? How do speakers work?


Writing Class? And Science !


These are just some of the questions grade six, seven, and eight students wonder about and have found a way to answer their questions: Personal Persuasive Project. Mr. Johnson, our math and science teacher, and myself (Ms Edwards, language arts teacher) have joined our objectives into a project for students to learn science and practice reading and writing skills and strategies. Students choose a topic of interest to them. Their main task is: "Your task is to pursue an area of interest to you and to others to learn and understand the information and issues, and prepare a solution or recognition of the issue that persuades a leader outside of school to understand your solution or to recognize the issue." Check out the site to see the process and possibilites students envision and explore while pursuing their interests.


A Framework for Feedback and Flexibility


Through our Google Apps, Mr. Johnson and I are able to guide students in their ideas and progress, so even though the PPP website seems like a linear flow of student directions, it's really a framework that keeps us focused on science, reading, and writing. Student questions, research, and interests guide the direction students take in developing their project. 


Student Process and Possibilities

Students monitor their learning process as they "think about thinking." They track their learning in forms they created, such as this one:

This form saves their summary or log of their work in a spreadsheet, which students review and evaluate their learning as well as share with their teachers:

Students have many options for taking notes. Here are a few examples:

Documents:



Presentations:


Resources and References

For Students

How do they find the answers? Once students log in to their Google Apps, students open their Gooru Learning resources, which look like this:



Goorulearning.org is a site that brings in the best videos and texts on math and science objectives from Discovery, YouTube, StudyJams, Science Buddies, VisionLearning Skoool.ie, PBS Nova,  etc. Students build their own personal collections (top box) on the topics they want to study.

Goorulearning is "is developed by a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to honor the human right to education and make high-quality education free and accessible to the world’s one billion students. This means, of course, that Gooru is – and will remain – free for students and teachers to use."


We are so excited to have this resources added to our Google Apps for Education. Students can access all their work anywhere they have a computer connected to the Internet. 


The classroom is noisy and active as students listen to videos and share with each other the science concepts they are discovering. 


For Teachers

Goorulearning.org
 provides lessons and connections for teachers as well as students. By adding to collections, teachers also build a resource library for their instructional needs.


Teacher Dashboard is the teachers' management system to manage student work efficiently. All student work is automatically shared with teachers, and teachers see a "dashboard" of organized folders and student work. Our middle school staff love Teacher Dashboard by Hapara. It is so easy to monitor each student's work, choose one doc for feedback, and click it to access. Picture "iGoogle gadgets" as a class/subject set of student folders, and each folder/ gadget  displays one student's documents organized by most recent. Hover over a doc to preview or click to access and provide feedback/ assess. Very nice. Just Google " Teacher Dashboard by Hapara and take a tour. They provide templates (spreadsheets) to create the organizational structure for our needs and then screen-share with to set up the system. It took less than an hour with great support. We are so appreciative of the convenience of this program; it helps us keep current on student feedback, which keeps our projects on time and interesting.






With our project presented in a Google Site ( Personal Persuasive Project ) from our Google Apps for Education, a fantastic resource for science (and math) in Goorulearning.org, and a management system through  Teacher Dashboard by Hapara, we are soaring in science and roaring in reading and writing. 


Check back again for updates on our projects.  


I wonder...


I wonder what students think? In preparation for our student-parent-teacher conferences, one student wrote this:


The project motivates students to do more than just "write what I know;" they actually enjoy the research. It's a joy to watch them hover around a computer, sharing what they found.


Technology rocks because it provides us all with access to the latest information in many forms: images, text, videos. It helps us all learn in the ways that our minds understand, which brings us back to metacognition, or "thinking about thinking." The students are sharing their strategies and skills as well as their content. They help each other search and find, summarize and compare, synthesize and share.






What do you wonder?  Our students know how to help you find your answer!



This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Strive for Success


February 27th, 2012 was a teacher training day. These "Waiver Days" provide important training for staff to focus on how to improve our instruction by monitoring what students are learning. What do teachers do on these days?

The question this day was "Change in Practice: What practices can be changed with curriculum, pacing, instruction and/or assessment to address the content-centered problem? What practices related to our strengths can be helpful?"


What follows is my process of improvement to strive for success:


Background information
Our middle school students participate in two reading classes. Mr. Erickson's class focuses reading instruction through our anthology (Language of Literature) and Weekly Reader Connects (print version).  They practice the required reading standards in weekly stories and written responses and discussions for fiction and nonfiction, graph and caption reading, and vocabulary development. Ms. Edwards's class provides time for independent practice of reading standards through books the students choose. Students have ample time to read and respond several times a week using reading stem prompts (questions similar to those on the MSP test). We also read short sections of print to discuss and respond; we respond in comments on blogs by others for real world reading. Always we focus on evidence from the text to support answers.

Still, many students do not respond in ways that earn the "points" needed to score. They write answers that summarize, infer, or generalize without using text-based evidence. If asked follow-up questions, the students usually respond with the text-based response that is "score-able."


Possible Instruction
First, students need strategies for these tests: re-reading, re-reading for question words, understanding the question, and underlining the evidence that supports the chosen answer. Our short paragraph instructional texts work well for this practice to understand the question, find and underline the answer sources.

Second, students need a strategy that helps them write responses with text-based evidence that earns their points. I had recently read Helping Students Motivate Themselves by Larry Ferlazzo. A strategy he taught his kids was the ABC format (Answer the question, Back it up with a quote, and Comment or Connect) (p. 36 of 210 digital version). We discussed, practiced, and learned this strategy using our paragraph section texts with our reading prompt stems.


Results of Instruction and Modifications
While analyzing their responses, I diagnosed patterns: a) some students chose only one detail to quote; b) some students made irrelevant comments or connections. We therefore revised our ABC format: 

A: Answer the question (restate, and be sure to understand the question)
B: Back it up with at least two details (or include more than the question asks)
C: Conclude by connecting the evidence (B) back to your answer (A), much like a concluding sentence in a paragraph.

We practiced in our usual responses and in small groups or with individual feedback as needed.

Finally, another issues arose: answering the right question. We modeled, practiced, and applied how to carefully read the questions. 

Our strategy now includes:

1. Read and understand the question.
2. Find the evidence to answer by re-reading with key words from the question.
A: Answer the question (restate, and be sure to understand the question)
B: Back it up with at least two details (or include more than the question asks)
C: Conclude by connecting the evidence (B) back to your answer (A), much like a concluding sentence in a paragraph.

Assessment
As we daily practiced our responses, students consistently improved their standard scores from 1s and 2s to 3s and 4s. They could see and enjoy their improvement. 

However, on the day of the practice test, when "standardized protocols" were in place, when the directions were read as if it were the "real" test, students did not re-read, did not underline evidence, and did not use their successful "12ABC" format. Those that did: passed the practice test. Those that did not, did not pass the test to demonstrate understanding of the standards. They again reverted to simple "summarize, infer, or generalize without using text-based evidence" responses. In one class (and they are sooooooooooooooooo proud), 84% met standards, and one student just missed by one point.

Furrowed Brow
What evidence do you have?
Our students know the answers. They simply are not demonstrating it in a "test" situation where the teacher is unable to remind them to "remember to re-read" and "remember your 12ABC format." They read the text, read the test question, and write their 'gist' answers without backing them up. There is no 'face' to respond to, no face with a question mark in a furrowed brow that would prompt them to expand on their answers, as they do orally in their story-telling culture, and as they do when "the teacher" queries them to follow the format and write their evidence.

And that's the result of the 2/27/12 Teacher Training: 
  • a revised reading and response strategy
  • continued student success in our daily prompts and work
  • a need for internal motivation to want to continue on the "test" days

I'm proud of my students for listening and practicing so much during this required "Response to Intervention" phase of our teacher training. They know they can succeed, and so do I; it shows in their daily responses.

Keep it up, students! You read and you rock!


Photo Credit:
Found 4/6/12 on Flickr  CC 2.0  Furrowed Brow By ErinTaylorMurphy

This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Presidents Day




Mrs. Armstrong-Montes asked each class to provide three questions about presidents for our Knowledge Bowl on Friday, February 24th at 1:30 PM in the gym for the President's Assembly.

Some students in grades 6, 7, and 8 prepared this presentation with their own researched questions and relevant pictures.  How much do you know about the presidents?

View our slide show to see!




This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Science and Writing

In January, Sonny Sellars taught our middle school science students about diabetes.  From the notes in science class, students wrote compositions to explain what they learned about diabetes.

You can read and see some of the information here at our student blog, Eagles Write.

Several students (code names used) wrote their own blog posts:

Diabetes!! by Ryal

Diabetes Fight by Kimy

Facts About Diabetes by Quill

Please ask your students what they learn in school -- it may be something you could use too!



This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...

NaNoWriMo

 NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month

November, 2011

November was  a busy month for grade eight students as they composed novels to meet word goals to write their own novels. We watched our progress on our class page: Ms.Edwards and the students checked in each week to track their progress and those of our Iowa colleagues in Mr Boylen's and Mrs. Kreb's classes.

We followed the NaNoWriMo lessons and helped each other. I worked on my novel in the evenings and on weekends, and I learned so much about writing, and about writing in the classroom I wrote about it here.

We will continue to revise our novels through March.

Be sure to ask us about the characters and plots of our novels !


This is a school related site so please respect others and comment appropriately. Please contact Ms Edwards if you have any questions or need to report any inappropriate activity. Thank you. Reflect Curiosity and Wonder... Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...