Thursday, October 30, 2014

Scenes from an Unquiet Classroom

by Ashley Coblentz and Jackie Moreno

Do our students help write the script for learning or do they sit in the audience?
This is a question we regularly ask ourselves, and although we definitely want to say the former, the true answer is found in how we use our time. As we count down our last days of first quarter, we are at the perfect time of year to take a close look at our daily schedule, to see if the value we place on student-driven learning is truly reflected in our day.

Today we’d like to share one of our favorite projects that fosters student choice and empowerment, student created book trailers! They are multi-media projects that encourage students to take on the roles of writers, actors and directors of learning.

A Spanish language book trailer created by a third grader.
Creating in the Classroom

Together teachers and students define which standards will be addressed. Once students demonstrate they clearly understand the purpose, the creative direction of the project is primarily up to them. For example, students might choose the theme, tone, script, etc. Next enters joy and engagement as they compose music, act, illustrate, read and write about what’s most compelling to them. In other words, students decide how they will prove they have learned what they set out to.

In Writing Workshop 2.0, in addition to publishing their narratives digitally, students might print them as well. Then QR codes leading to student-created book trailers advertising their books are placed on the copies. Other QR codes featuring a student read audio book version are placed on the print copy as well. 

Joy is found not only in the creation; it expands further as they get to share their writing and book trailers with the whole school. This is incredibly powerful for them since it creates a sense of authentic purpose for writing. By creating the trailers and books, students have more access to texts that reflect experiences of other students “like them”. This is a particularly powerful opportunity for ELL students to tell their stories and the stories of their families, especially given mainstream portrayals of immigrant communities.
How To

1. Students write and publish narratives.

2. The book trailer concept is introduced, and students are given a descriptive rubric. Students use the rubrics to evaluate professional or other student created book the trailers before creating their own so that they know exactly what the CCSS learning goals are and what is expected from them.

3. Students then use iMovie to create book trailers about their stories. Students use the rubric to make sure their trailer includes all of the key components.

4. After that, students use Voice Record Pro to record themselves reading their narratives. They then convert their voice recordings into QR codes so that other students can hear the stories read aloud.

5. Place the books with the QR codes on them in the school library so that students throughout the school can read the print versions and scan the QR codes to access the book trailers, as well as audio versions of the books.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Peer Coaching

Today, Heather Jung talks about peer coaching in her district.

During the summer months and throughout the school year, teachers are required to attend various staff development programs.  The purpose of these programs is to ensure that high-quality instruction is available to all students.  Many times the staff development that is offered does not accomplish the goals that it is trying to meet.  As school districts around the country face increased budget cuts, providing high-quality staff development is often one of the first things to go.  Often staff development is offered in a large group “one-size fits all” model, which teachers find frustrating.  This style of staff development cannot meet the unique needs of teachers and their students.

In my district, we have previously been offered time weekly to engage in onsite small group staff development that was differentiated to meet teacher’s needs and interests.  This year that time has been cut.  To meet the professional needs of our teachers we are trying a different approach to staff development.  We will be starting a peer coaching initiative at my school in the fall.  This peer coaching cycle will be based on each teacher receiving both a 10 minute coaching observation and a 15 minute feedback and planning conference every two weeks.  This format is based on research done by Joyce & Showers (2002) and Bambrick-Santoyo (2012). According to Joyce & Showers (2002), (see Fig A.) peer coaching has significantly higher outcomes than other forms of staff development.

Figure A. (Joyce & Showers, 2002)

(executive implementation)
Study of Theory
Peer Coaching

Peer Coaching builds independence and shared responsibility among teachers.  Using this approach we hope to be able to meet the individual needs of our teachers and focus staff development on meeting the unique needs of each group of students.   Meaningful learning “is based on a broader vision of learning that includes not only acquiring knowledge but also being able to use knowledge in a variety of ways (Mayer, 2002).  This is the kind of knowledge that is facilitated by peer coaching. Teachers involved in peer coaching develop strong pedagogy “with someone nearby to encourage, critique, and suggest next steps” (Cushman, 2010).  Having an expert listener available on a routine basis to notice and support growth encourages teachers to develop expertise.  There will be many challenges as we implement this initiative, both logistical and cultural, as we seek build a school climate that will support peer coaching, but the potential rewards are worth the risk.

Works Cited

Bambrick-Santoyo, P. (2012). Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Cushman, K. (2010). Fires in the Mind. San Fancisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development (3rd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Mayer, R. E. (2002, Autumn). Rote versus Meaningful Learning. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 226-232.