Dive Into the Mind of a Middle School Teacher
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Dive Into the Mind of a Middle School Teacher
Whew what a fast four weeks! This year, I decided to attend the overseas program of Michigan State's Master of Arts in Educational Technology. I had the opportunity to work with some amazing educators to create the 7th annual Great Resources in Education and Technology or GREAT14. With a group of 20, we planned the schedule, the website, the sessions, and the promotion.
Throughout the planning process, myself and two other educators created the website for the conference. It was an amazing process and we received many compliments on the organization and the format of the website. In addition, a colleague and I presented on the idea of cyber bullying. We focused on a collaborative approach by facilitation discussion for the first half of the session among attendees and presented on research-based tips that attendees could return to their classroom and implement.
For more information on the conference or to view the resources from the conference, please click here.
This week I have been helping a fellow teacher with the struggles of classroom management. It wasn't until my principal asked me to help out that I realized I actually had my classes managed.
Last year was a struggle. It was my first year teaching and I jumped in with little experience and no plan as to how I was going to manage my classes. By the end of the year, I was in survival mode (especially with my 5th hour!). I vowed to myself that I would spend the summer making a new classroom management plan that would work and would make the students respect me.
Last summer, I read Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov and The First Days of School by Harry Wong. I took copious amounts of notes and used Pinterest to my advantage.
Since this is teacher appreciation week, I decided to share some of my insights that have helped me get my classes under control and to get my students to respect me.
I started the school year off by showing a PowerPoint of my life. I included pictures of my family, my pets, and my friends. I wanted my students to see that I was a human too and not someone to fear.
I know everyone says it, but it is true. Procedures are everything! I have a procedure for how students come into class, how they sharpen their pencil, how they get out of their seats, how to pass out papers, how to share their ideas, etc., etc. I spent the first two weeks of school reminding students of how to behave in class and how to follow the procedures. I would often say things such as "you know better than that" or "you know the procedure for that." I never called them rules because rules have consequences. If procedures aren't followed, students will practice some more.
The best procedure I came up with was the one for students getting out of their seats. Last year I struggled with students following me around, walking around the classroom, etc. I taught students that they must remain in their seats at all time. If they needed to get out of their seat they needed to show me with their fingers a 1, 2, or 3. A "1" meant they had to sharpen their pencil, a "2" meant they needed tissue, and a "3" meant they needed to use the pass. To make things even easier on myself, I used a whiteboard with sharpie on it written "pass" for students to leave the classroom. They showed me a "3", I nodded and off they went. It was a dream!
Another piece of amazing advice that I received was to never allow students to talk over you. When you are talking, the classroom should be silent! If it isn't, stop talking and wait. Eventually students will begin to understand that the class will not continue until they stop talking.
One thing I am always complimented on is my rapport with students. I love hearing about my students weekend, what they did the night before, where they went out to eat, etc. The most important thing when you are listening to students is to ask questions and remember what they said! Ask them the next day about their game the night before and you have them hooked! They will be so excited that you remembered that they will tell you when the next one is scheduled.
Try to understand your students. I once read somewhere that sometimes it isn't that students don't want to do something, but maybe they don't understand. Be patient. Maybe they had a rough day and they just want to go home and go to bed. We all have those days. Try re-explaining it and maybe they will feel more inclined to do the work.
I hope everyone has a great teacher appreciation week! Enjoy it!
If you have any other ideas to add, feel free to add in the comments.
During my grad class this semester, I had the opportunity to create an online course for students. The course I created is considered a hybrid course which means students would be using the online course as well as meeting face-to-face. It is geared towards 8th graders who are learning about Plate Tectonics. The course is divided up into three sections: "What is Plate Tectonics?", "How do Plates Move?", and "What is Pangea?" At the end of each section of the unit, students have an assignment that allows them to show off the knowledge they have acquired while learning about Plate Tectonics. At the end of the course, students take an online test that would be administered during class time.
To view my course site, use the information below.
8th Grade Course
For a detailed review of my thoughts during the course creation, view the Google Doc below.
Earlier this year, I viewed the EdCamp Home on Healthy Grading Practices. This, along with teachers at my own school, inspired me to begin implementing standards-based learning in my own classroom. I began reading Elements of Grading by Douglas Reeves. In this book, Reeves talks about the importance of feedback and how our current grading system does not truly tell students how they are doing in school. Instead, teachers use grades to punish students for behavior, reward students who are prepared, and boost students' grades who have parental support to do homework. Today, an A doesn't mean "I am proficient," instead it may mean "I was well-behaved," "I came prepared to class everyday" and "I completed all of my homework." Should students be rewarded or punished for something that should be expected of them (well-behaved, being prepared) or something they have no control over (no support at home)?
To truly succeed with implementing standards-based learning, I had to transition myself to unit lesson plans. This created way more work at the beginning of a unit, but made things much easier overall. I saw a vision and a goal for my students and knew the objectives (or "I can" statements) ahead of time.
Prior to beginning standards-based learning, I had to have a talk with students about what proficient, partially proficient, and not proficient actually means. I started by asking students what they thought it meant and placed the following scale on the board:
3: Proficient = 100%
2.5: Partially Proficient = 83%
2 Not Proficient = 67%
1.5 - Incomplete = 50%
At the beginning of each hour, we read the "I can" statement as a class. The first week or so, I reminded students that this was their goal by the end of the hour. Students needed to feel as if they felt proficient in the objective for the day. At the end of each hour, I have students think silently for 30 seconds on a grade they would give themselves based on their goal of the "I can" statement (3, 2.5, or 2). Students then show with their hands how they would grade themselves (I preface this with "it is ok if you are still a 2"). If I am seeing a lot of 2's, I create the next day's Do Now related to the concept or revisit the concept at the beginning of class. I also have students grade each other on their thoughts and ideas. Students have a journal where they write down their answers/what they learned relative to the "I can" statements. I have students trade journals and give each other a grade (3, 2.5 or 2) and explain WHY they gave them that grade.
To check student understanding, I have students write down answers in their journal, write down answers on a small sheet of paper that I grade, or give mini-quizzes every Friday. Either way I do it, students ALWAYS receive feedback whether it be student-student or teacher-student.
Overall, I am confident in my transition to standards-based learning. I feel as if students know my expectations, and are more confident in my class. Grades have drastically improved and students are mastering the concepts in my class.
With all of the hype of flipped classrooms and blended learning as well as my journey through Michigan State's Educational Technology program, I decided to try it. However, I wanted to ease into the idea as I continued to learn and research flipped classrooms.
This semester, my goal is to create screencasts covering the objectives that students are learning in class and place them on a website that ALL of my students can view. I also will be placing extra readings, student "I can" statements (objectives) and vocabulary lists. My hope is that students will view these materials if they are absent, suspended, or if they need help studying.
UPDATE: After doing this for two months, I have seen a slow increase in student involvement. Students come to me before a test stating how they watched the videos to help them study. In addition, I have students state that they love learning this way. I love that when students are absent they have a place to visit to see what information they have missed and can stay up to date with the class. Unfortunately, student involvement is not as high as I would like it. I include the link in my e-mails to parents and remind students about it everyday. Hopefully as time goes on, students will see this as a great asset to their learning!
Even though I teach middle school, I decided to implement a reward system that is often found in elementary school. This past summer I was struggling with getting students focused and on task. Many of the students were friends causing lots of talking and off task behavior or had trouble focusing.
To get students on task and completing work, I decided to try a raffle ticket reward system. When a student came in and started the Do Now without reminders, completed homework, answered a question, helped another student, etc., the student would get a raffle ticket. The more raffle tickets they would get, the more chances they would have for the weekly drawing. To keep students in their seats, they had to wait until the end of class to turn in their raffle tickets. The consequence was the raffle ticket would be taken away if any student turned in their raffle ticket early.
Behavior completely turned around! Students began participating more, helping one another, and were more focused.
I implemented the same reward system during the school year but changed it to bi-weekly drawings to save on money. Students always look forward to the drawing, and remind me to pass out raffle tickets. Students know they won't get a raffle ticket if they are off-task, not completing work, or not participating.
I kept the prizes simple, but the students loved them! Donuts are a big hit (I purchase one for each class the morning of a drawing) and students beg for the giant candy bars that I purchase.
The raffle tickets that I use are the kind you would get during a 50/50 drawing and students write their name on the back.
If you want anymore information or have any questions, comment below!
After seeing fellow educators tweeting about EdTechHome, I had to check it out. Unfortunately, I missed the live sessions but was able to watch both Session 1 and Session 2 online. I tuned into the talks about grades for many reasons. This year I have attempted to use this type of grading but have faced many struggles. For one, I have not been trained in this type of grading, so I was doing it a lot on my own. Due to time constraints, I found myself sliding back to old ways just to make it easier or because "everyone else does it this way too." I attempted to start showing my students that what they were learning was more important than the grade they were receiving. But the combination of students' worries about grades, the approaching end of semester, and my own background in school makes it hard to switch from traditional to standards-based.
Some ways I began changing was by taking the standards and breaking them down into "I can" statements. This was all based on my own assumptions on what the standard should be teaching. The "I can" statements were then broken down into questions on the test. Since my school district is currently attaching "proficient" to a grade above 70% and "not proficient" to a grade below 70%, I applied this to my tests. Each section was graded on being proficient or not proficient. When the students retook the test, they only retook the portions they received not proficient.
Listening to the EdTechHome chats, I have decided to try implementing things a little differently for the upcoming semester. Garnet Hillman had some amazing ideas (and I definitely suggest you follow her on Twitter). She uses the traditional software of her school district but makes each assignment based on the standard instead. In my own classroom, I can begin using the assignment based on "I can" statements. If a student was not proficient on an assignment based on that "I can" statement, I would write that in the comments section. She also suggested making different leveled problems within an assessment based on knowing, understanding, and doing. My own take on this would describe knowing as reciting facts (multiple-choice), understanding as more explanations (short answers), and doing as applying what they know to make or do something.
Wish me luck as I continue to embark on this journey!
Students often focus on their grades rather than what they are learning. They come to the classroom scared to "fail" or answer a question incorrectly in front of their peers, or getting a bad grade. The New Media Consortium (2013) has established "failure as learning mode" as a Wicked Problem or a problem that is very complex. Our group attempted to shine a new light on "failure" by collaborating and trying to come up with an answer to this Wicked Problem.
Please see this Prezi Presentation and written paper to see the draft of our answer to the Wicked Problem.
The New Media Consortium (2013). The Future of Education. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2013-Horizon-Project-Summit-Communique.pdf
As the technology age grows and children learn how to use tablets and SmartPhones at young ages, I was curious as to how teachers handle these situations. This week, I surveyed a middle school about their take on technology in the classroom. I asked teachers if they implement technology, types of websites they have found useful, what types of technology do they use, and how can implementing technology by improved.
This infographic shows some of the responses from the teachers surveyed.
For a complete report on the findings from my survey, please click here.