Thursday, September 27, 2012

Common Core Resource: Stanford's Reading Like a Historian Curriculum

If you read my post on Common Core “look-fors” last week, you already know that the new national standards demand the use of more non-fiction texts and primary source documents.

Given that many of the textbooks in American schools feature few, if any, primary sources, where can teachers turn to find the texts they need?

One place is Stanford’s Reading Like A Historian Curriculum. It features a series of lesson plans, complete with primary source documents and suggested instructional strategies.

I like what Stanford has put together for 3 reasons:
  • The questions in the lesson plans are engaging. – Students grapple with real issues and ambiguous situations in history. For example, which account of Pocahontas’ life is accurate? Why do you think so?
  • The texts are rigorous. – Students read actual historical accounts and examine documents from different time periods. The lessons also provide accounts from historians, allowing students to examine and evaluate bias first hand. This builds the context that history is an active process that requires interpretation.
  • The topic selection isn’t comprehensive; it’s purposeful. – You won’t find a lesson on every event from the beginning of time to the present. Stanford presents a carefully curated series of topics aimed at building student understanding.

I hope this helps!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

1st Annual Bammy Awards

NOTE: This is crossposted at Eye on Education.
From left:
Chrissi Miles, ME, Dan Callahan, Hadley Ferguson

What if…. we honored educators with the same style and flair as celebrities and athletes?

Enter the 1st Annual Bammy Awards.

Hosted on September 14, 2012 in Washington D.C., this event sought to celebrate and distinguish the true champions of public education. The event was a black tie affair, complete with a red carpet and orchestra.

I was honored to participate in the event as one of the top 100 educational bloggers, and I had WAY too much fun on the red carpet. (How was I supposed to know that handing out Twizzlers to other red carpet go-ers like an eager soccer mom isn’t exactly appropriate?)

Although I’m not usually someone who relishes in awards or trophies, I believe the night was about more than glitz, glamour, and fun. To me, it signaled that the role of education and social media is changing. No longer are the “Twitterati” (Read: Educators who tweet resources) merely lingering on the fringes of the educational scene. Instead, they are becoming a powerful voice in important areas like educational policy, action research, and instructional innovation. During the Bammy Awards, even Diane Ravitch mentioned that social media has brought her a new community of connections.

As educators, it can be easy to bemoan unfavorable changes and intimidating shifts. However, we are the experts when it comes to teaching children. Our voices should be heard, and social media provides us with the tools to engage both local and national levels.

Want to get involved? Want to add your thoughts to the growing dialogue about how we should educate children?

Here are two simple ways you can get involved:

  1. Check out at least two educational blogs and leave comments. I recommend Diane Ravich’s new blog or Scott McLeod’s blog. Your comments will not only demonstrate that educators are ready to solve today’s pressing issues, but they are also articulate and prepared.
  2. Join Twitter and follow some educational leaders. Examples include @grantwiggins and @samchaltain. Enjoy their resources, get informed, and add your thoughts.

Things are changing. With any luck, continued momentum from this event will contribute to a positive shift in the American educational narrative. Maybe by that time I will have figured out how to navigate that tricky red carpet!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Great Example of Teaching for Understanding

I think simulations can be very powerful instructional tools. The video below (from the Teaching Channel) features an energetic social studies teacher who uses a simulation to explore overspeculation and the unpredictable nature of the farming occupation. One of the things in the video that I noticed was the teacher's ability to articulate the transfer goals for students as well as the need for selecting pieces of content purposefully among a sea of standards. Great clip!
Click here if you cannot see the embedded film.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Team Building- It's Like a Band-Aid

I've spent the last few days getting to know an amazing team. Although I love informed discussion, deep thinking, and synthesis, the last few days were exhausting. When people come together for the first time, the meshing of ideas, personalities and strengths can be tricky.

Usually, team building time begins with the pleasant "getting to know you stage." Occasionally, this is followed by the "intense debate and compromise" stage. While such intense debate can be rewarding, it can be challenging when you are still learning about each member of the team and their individual strengths. In some ways-- it hurts! The faster your team can move through this stage, the better. (That's not to say that there won't be extended discussion and dialogue-- just not in the first encounter.)

So, for me, good initial team building is like a Band-Aid. Rip through the difficult parts, and you'll be satisfied with the results.

CC Photo Credit: Flu Shot by rocknroll_guitar

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book Review: A Value Added Decision

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I only do book reviews when I read something that really moves me. Well, I’ve just found a book that moved me. Really moved me.

The book is by Margo Guillot and Gaylynn Parker, and it’s called A Value Added Decision: Learning About Learning Together.

Here’s why I love this book: It provides a simple, flexible protocol for building a culture in your school that honors the tenets of teacher-directed learning. In short, it gives you very specific tools for doing learning walks in your school or district.

OK, OK. I know what you’re thinking: learning walks are drive-by, evaluative, checklist-driven fear tactics. However, this book completely reframes what should happen when teachers visit each other’s classrooms. Consider the following elements of the framework prescribed by Margo and Gaylynn.
  • The point of the walk is NOT to evaluate the teacher you’re visiting. It is a professional learning experience for the people on the walk.
  • When you enter the classroom, you do NOT focus on what the teacher is doing. You focus on what the students do and say.
  • You do NOT take any writing utensils for paper into the room. Instead, you have short debriefing conversations with your team after every visit.
  • The walks should promote collegial connections when teachers follow up with each other.

If you want to build a positive learning culture in your building, this is the way to do it. It honors best practice that is already happening, and it models a cycle of continuous improvement.

The Edcamp Connection
Frequently, people ask me how they can adapt the Edcamp model for their school or district. This book is a great way to start building the type of culture and collegial expectations that is primed to Edcamps. Think of Margo’s protocol as an Edcamp prep for your school. The authors’ perspectives align very closely with Edcamp paradigm.

Get this book!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tips for Collaborative Meetings

It’s that time of year again! (You know, back to school faculty meeting time!)

As someone who loves Edcamp, I hate (really, really hate) top-down, didactic meetings. In many ways, it’s a waste of time. If you're just going to tell me what to do (without my input), save us both a lot of grief and write me an explicit memo or email.

With that being said, I love (really, really love) collaborative meetings where everyone’s ideas are honored and shared. However, running a collaborative meeting can be risky (whether your audience is adults or kids).

If you’re in the process of planning a faculty meeting, consider the following tips (taken from a recent meeting I observed in a fantastic school in New Haven, CT) to make your meeting more collaborative.
  1. Give people an agenda with specific times and goals relative to each component of the meeting. Setting these expectations helps people to understand how and when they can best contribute. It helps people understand why they are there and values their time.
  2. Put the school/department/classroom mission on the top of the paper. Use it as a tool to steer conversation in positive directions when it gets off track.
  3. Have people self select specific roles to make the meeting run more smoothly. For example, have people volunteer to be timekeepers, note takers, or prodders. (Prodder is my favorite role. That person should ask provocative questions or keep conversation moving forward when it’s stuck.)
  4. Design the space and the size of the meeting to allow for extended dialogue.  Groups shouldn’t be too large and the furniture should allow for people to have eye contact with comfort.
  5. Use language that honors and values people throughout the meeting. Shut down dialogue that is disrespectful to students or colleagues. Consider the following statements I overheard in my meeting at New Haven:
“I’ve been documenting what I’ve done well.”

“Nobody is ever done growing.”

“The point of this meeting is not to start over. It’s to build on what’s already been done.”

Good luck, and I hope your school year gets off to a good start!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Value of Intellectual Discourse

I love learning. For me, debate and extended intellectual discourse is critical to the learning process. I could sit in a room and analyze learning designs with a colleague for hours. However, I'm not sure if these types of learning experiences are valued enough.

In fact, it's been my experience that many people think "sitting in a room and talking" is a waste of time. Personally, I have a different opinion.

Critical conversations encourage us to make meaning of what we read, what we experience, and what we believe. Further, the ideas that are generated from thoughtful dialogue often prevent mistakes and accelerate change.

Yes, we have to move slow to move fast. Although that can be frustrating, it's the only way to create lasting change. Fullan reminds us that true change happens when the impetus to change is removed but the new behaviors remain.

So, find a conversation partner. Think. Talk. Learn.

CC Photo Credit: 365 arlophotochallenge 103/365 by Arlo Bates

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Curation via Livebinder: Financial Literacy Resources

Brian Page has put together a great collection (via Livebinder) of financial literacy resources for K-12 students. I've gone through many of the links. Almost everything is free and useful to K-12 teachers. Financial literacy is a great way to make math relevant, especially with the election coming up. Enjoy!

The binder is embedded below. If you can't see it, click here.


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