Monday, December 18, 2017

Mastering the Madness of Mythology

Mythology is a genre most students enjoy reading and studying, however few truly comprehend.  In order to help students deeply analyze the elements of this genre and demonstrate their understanding of the structure, Mrs. Davis, 7th grade GT ELA teacher at Chisholm Trail Middle School, challenged students to write their own original myth.

Students were asked to collaborate with peers to craft creation myths.  Through each unique tale, students explained how a natural phenomena came to be, while teaching the audience a valuable lesson about the choices we make and the impact they can have.  Students spent a week working through the process described below.  

Planning and Drafting
A key part of this project involved students collaborating on all aspects of the myth.  In order to easily facilitate collaboration, Mrs. Davis shared template resources with students through Google Classroom.  Student groups were then able to access the files from their own Google Drive and work together  to develop a solid plan.  Students also relied on Google Drive as they drafted the first version of their myth.  Google Docs allowed students to simultaneously access the same document so all group members could serve as active participants.  The use of the “History” feature available with this tool enabled the teacher to clearly see the individual contribution of each group member.  This encouraged full participation and aided in the assignment of individual student grades.

When it came time to publish, students were given the option of using Adobe Spark Video or Pages.  Spark considers itself, “a one-stop content shop for creating and sharing visual stories that will wow any audience on any device.”  This was the perfect tool for students to blend their text with images, bringing their stories to life!  Click on the images below to see their creations.

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Reflection & Feedback
Mrs. Davis utilized Lino sticky canvas for students to provide feedback to one another.  The canvas was created by the teacher and then shared with students.  Each group created a note with their names and a link to their presentation.  Groups were required to view at least 2 projects and use the TAG feedback strategy to provide authentic peer feedback.  The collaborative aspect of Lino allowed all students to view one another’s projects, as well as access the feedback.  While Mrs. Davis was happy with the overall experience Lino provided students, she did mention that she would set things up differently if she utilized the tool again in the future.  She suggests creating the original notes for each groups and then allowing students to comment around them.  This would allow the teacher to lock the notes in place and prevent any confusion caused by a lack of organization.

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In years past, students completed this project using paper and art supplies.  It’s always been a project students love, but this year, the integration of technology took things to an entirely new level.  A common frustration reported previously was the limited time students had to complete the myth.  With the use of collaborative tools, students could access their work anytime, anywhere.  The increased accessibility, improved the overall quality of the projects and provided students a deeper understanding of the content.  While all of these benefits make the project worthwhile, the most meaningful benefit would be the ability to instantly provide students with a global audience.  Since the assignment was completed using a digital tool, students were able to link their Adobe Spark Videos or Pages to their ePortfolios.  This will be an experience students can look back on and share for years to come.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Discovering Jamestown – a Multi Grade Level Approach

Mrs. Swearingen, Mrs. Franco, and Mrs. Ahmad , all fifth grade teachers at Sendera Ranch
Elementary, know the power of feedback and praise.  They wanted their students to experience learning about Jamestown in a new and exciting way.  Mrs. Swearingen contacted an eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Kristen Mouser from Wilson Middle School.  The two teachers began to brainstorm to take the learning outside the four walls of the classroom.

First, the students in fifth grade classes were presented with the two learning targets for this project.
  • I will analyze a DBQ document, so I can answer the question, “Why did so many colonists die?”
  • I am successful when I can write a paragraph to explain my thinking.
Immediately students went to work and created a collaborative slideshow to brainstorm questions they wanted to know about Jamestown. The next day, students found out Mrs. Swearingen and Mrs. Mouser had set up a time for the eighth graders and fifth graders to Zoom to have conversations. Zoom is a web-based tool that allows anyone to virtually connect and host a video web conference.  

5th Grade, 8th Grade, Google Docs, Sendera Elementary, Wilson Middle School, Zoom, Fifth Grade, Eighth Grade, Collaboration, Peer Feedback, Social Studies, Jamestown, DBQ, ELA

A few days later students began to write their paragraphs using Google Docs.   Using Google Docs allowed communications and collaboration for students to receive comments

and feedback from their peers.

“I liked reading what the 8th graders said.  They had some good ideas of how to make my DBQ
better.” said Brooke

“It was fun to see the 8th graders and hear what 8th grade was like and what an 8th grade DBQ was like.  They do it a lot faster than we do.” stated Logan

Research supports the value of peer collaboration and discussion across all content areas and concepts. By providing students the opportunity for peer feedback on their writing, students were able to offer one another constructive critique in order to improve their own communication skills. Extending, receiving, and evaluating feedback is a critical skill for all 21st Century Learners.  
1. Empowered Learner - Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning
 - 1b. build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.
 - 1c. use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways

2. Digital Citizenship - Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
 - 2b. Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices.

3. Knowledge Constructor - Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
 - 3a. Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
 - 3b. Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.
 - 3c. Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
 - 3d. Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dear Future 4th Graders...

Fourth grade students in Ms. Doroodchi’s math class at Beck Elementary were recently given the challenge of creating instructional videos for their peers and future fourth graders. With their recent studies on division and understanding remainders, the problem solving block transformed into a time of creating and explaining their thinking. To say they were excited about the task would be an understatement. 

Initially, students worked in groups and were tasked with writing and solving original word problems that would require the use of their division skills. The group captain was responsible for composing the word problem, while other group members solved the problem and analyzed the remainder.

In preparation for making the instructional video, students were introduced to Aww App. The digital whiteboard allowed students the opportunity to practice solving problems on their Chromebook. The first day students spent time simply exploring Aww App and the available tools. The initial problems solved were generated by the teacher and students used applicable tools to solve the problem and justify their thinking. Aww App provides students with the ability to add text, images, and their own annotations with drawing and shape tools. Students utilized different tools throughout their exploration depending on need.

Screencastify was used to create the final recording of their instructional video. Used in conjunction with Aww App, students were able to share their word problem and show the steps necessary for solving the problem all while explaining and justifying themselves verbally along the way. Sophia was especially excited about the project saying, “I love how easy it is to record and share. Instead of sharing your work in front of the class with your math journal, you have your work ready to be shown on the big screen”. 

This project provided students with the opportunity to demonstrate several ISTE Standards for Students. The empowered learner “leverages technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals”. Additionally, the creative and global communicator strands were addressed as students published content for an intended audience and collaborated within groups in their classroom.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Multiple Intelligences = Multiple Products

Do you know your strengths? Mrs. Champion’s 5th grade GT class at Hughes Elementary School recently did some self reflection and explored multiple intelligences. After taking a survey and watching Soar (a five minute short film), students identified their highest scoring multiple intelligence. They learned that knowing their multiple intelligence can help them solve problems, communicate ideas, and work with others. Students were asked to create a product, using the tool of their choice, that would allow them to discuss the Soar film using one of their high scoring multiple intelligences. They truly took ownership of this project and created a product unique to their own strengths.

Keet decided to focus on “Music Smarts.” Keet created a rap by Mara and Lucas (characters in Soar). He also chose to pull in his classmate Josh to help him. Keet commented, "Josh and I came together as a team. I could have done the rap alone, but I chose to add Josh because he's really good at editing video." Josh and Keet used Sock Puppets for their rap because they thought it would portray the characters well and make their class laugh.

Josh focused on "Word Smarts." Soar is a silent film, so Josh decided to create a comic that would predict what the characters were thinking and saying during the film. “I enjoyed coming up with what each character could have been thinking,” commented Josh.

Macy and Connor focused on "Body Smarts." They collaborated to build a model of the plane built in Soar. They used a Google doc to collaborate and created a summary of their model. For Connor, the most enjoyable and challenging part of the project was building the plane. "It was fun learning that we could use classroom scraps to build a plane." He added, "we had to try multiple times to get our model correct."

One neat aspect of this project was that learning was differentiated for each student. Some built digitally, some built models, some created visuals, etc. 

Intentional Feedback: 
All students shared their final product on a class Google Slides presentation. This allowed students to not only learn from each other, but also to leave intentional feedback. Students gave specific feedback, received feedback, and made changes based on the feedback of their peers.

ISTE Standards:
  • 1C: Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
  • 3C: Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
  • 4A: Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • 6A: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
  • 6B: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Academic Social Media

Students long for a platform to make their voices heard. So much so that 94% of all teens ages 13-17 are on social media. While various negative factors have influenced an adult’s perception of the value of social media, “new research is shedding light on the good things that can happen when kids connect, share, and learn online” according to this article from Common Sense Media which identifies the following benefits of students being social media-savvy: 1. It strengthens friendships, 2. It offers a sense of belonging, 3. It provides genuine support, 4. It helps them express themselves, 5. It lets them do good.

Jenny Kinzbach and Frank Ceresoli, two CTE teachers at Byron Nelson High School, are honing into these benefits by using collaborative discussion boards via Google Classroom within their Health Science Theory classes. Opinion-based, open ended questions are posed one week before the material is covered in class in order to prompt thinking; additionally, it is used to gauge prior knowledge as well as perception of topics related to the field. Based on the responses, the teachers then direct their instruction towards the needs and interests that the discussion brought about.  

According to the Health Science TEKS, TEK b4 states “To pursue a career in the health science industry, students should recognize, learn to reason, think critically, make decisions, solve problems, and communicate effectively. Students should recognize that quality health care depends on the ability to work well with others.”

While it’s important for students to have a platform to express their content-based opinions, it is equally important that students sharpen the life skills that are associated with the task. Below are examples in which students respond in agreement or disagreement to their peers, as well as ask each other probing questions and foreseeing and understanding opposing viewpoints on the same topic.

Teacher-posed Question: "To combat doctor shortages, should their medical school tuition be free? (Paid for by taxpayer dollars). Explain."

Student initial response with peer agreement:

Student initial response with peer disagreement:

Student initial response with peer-posed probing questions:

Student initial response composed of supporting arguments for opposing viewpoints:

Student benefits of using this collaborative discussion board:
  • Since nine classes collaborate on the same discussion board, this exponentially expands a student’s audience and power of their voice through expanding the walls of the physical classroom.
  • A majority of the questions are opinion-based requiring students to agree or disagree and provide an explanation that defends their answer. This provides a platform where all opinions are welcomed and heard.
    • Student Mickayla states, “I really like the discussion boards because it helps me see other peoples opinions on the topic. I also like that I can see people’s opinion of my own opinion which can further my education on parts of the topic that I didn't know or think about before.”
  • Students are required to read and respond to at least two other student’s opinions; doing so requires students to explore multiple viewpoints whether that hearing evidence that hadn’t be considered to support the same opinion or bringing an opposing perspective to frame the concept differently.
  • These structured discussions provide a safe environment for disagreements to occur. Reading other viewpoints facilitates opportunities to promote tolerance and facilitate the difficult task of crafting a respectful response.
  • Providing a platform for “Academic Social Media” encourages students to pursue learning out of interest and curiosity.

Since this platform is used as a pre-assessment of sorts, these teachers plan to expand the purpose of this assignment to also include a post-assessment/reflection in which students respond to their own original post to either agree or disagree with their original opinion and provide text evidence from learned class material. Quite an interesting and engaging spin on a self-reflective summative/closing writing prompt!

This meets International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)’s standard of an Empowered Learner in which “students build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process” (1B) and “students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice…” (1C). Furthermore, these students are also meeting the expectations of a Digital Citizen through which “students engage in positive, safe, legal, and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices” (2B).

Monday, November 6, 2017

Breaking Up: Rhetorically Speaking...

The exhilaration of a new relationship and the world-ending-feeling after a breakup summarize the range of emotions that occur in the daily life of a high school student. The longing for acceptance by self and others is everything as high schoolers gain a better understanding of themselves as a friend, partner, student, and job-worker. What better way to get students interested in Rhetorical Analysis than to compare it to element’s of their everyday life.

To begin, students in English III at Byron Nelson High School deconstructed one of the nation’s oldest break up letters, the Declaration of Independence. They analyzed its literary text structure which included the Preamble (introduction to the conflict which is also the claim), the Declaration (rights and beliefs), a list of grievances (specific complaints), and a counterargument (perspective from the “other side”). Next, student’s scrutinized the popular Country song from Old Dominion called “Break Up with Him” to study the tricky use of sound counterargument.

As a culminating, summative activity, students then wrote their own break up letter using the rhetorical structures and devices they’ve been studying throughout the unit. The lesson objective states “Using “The Declaration of Independence” as a model, you must “declare your independence” from something that is a problem for you: something that makes your life difficult, unhappy, or stressful. This can be a relationship with a person, a problematic object, a bad habit, or even a situation you find yourself in often. You may be as creative as you like!" Once the subject of the essay was chosen, students then had to incorporate the rhetorical appeals of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos and include at least one rhetorical device of choice; furthermore, the location of these literary devices were easily located by color-coding the corresponding statements within their essay.

Breaking Up with Anxiety

Breaking Up With Sugar

Because of its cross-curricular emphasis through incorporating Historical text in conjunction with the relevant, meaningful, and personal context of the assignment, this lesson met multiple objectives outside of the English III, 15A TEK. This meets International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)’s standard of a Creative Communicator (6D) in which “Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.” in addition to being a Knowledge Constructor (3D) in which “Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.”

Additional examples include Breaking Up with Cats and Breaking Up with Loneliness.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Advancing Academics: More than Test Prep

As educators focus on growing their Advanced Academics programs and improving AP test scores, too often their conversations begin and end somewhere around “test prep”. While there is value in traditional test prep strategies like multiple choice practice and repetitive text analysis, students also desperately need to be able to think critically and apply their knowledge in meaningful ways.
Northwest High School’s AP World History teachers, Jeanette Jones and Nicole Olson challenged their students to collaboratively depict the effects of historic trade routes based on the five major themes of their AP course. Student Sam clarified, “We were given a map of all of the trade routes …and had to accurately describe the interactions between those empires on an environmental, economic, social, political, and cultural level.” Students worked together to research and create an infographic that compares trade routes and visualizes key points of their research. (You can access the full instructions here.)

Students were given choice in how to create their graphics; however, Jones & Olson specified that students couldn’t use PowerPoint or Slides to create their presentations because while useful, these platforms are too visually limiting for the needs of this assignment. Instead, they recommended Piktochart, a platform designed for creating professional presentations and graphics. (Check out these student examples: Sample: Smore & Sample: Piktochart.)

Student Bailey reflected on how this task prepared her for the AP exam, saying, “Trade routes are a major part of how things got diffused in the world… how language got diffused and cultural trade… those are important things to know for the AP exam because they are such a huge part of history.” She added, “And when I make a presentation for something, I typically try to make myself an expert in it…”

Creating infographics as a way to present research and demonstrate understanding of content engages students in a hands-on, student-centered learning process. Sam points out that, “When [you] read a textbook, you’re just looking for answers to the reading guide or for vocabulary. Having to do a project, to write it down and describe it, you really think about what you’re doing and how you’re learning it”. When students engage in collaborative tasks that require in-depth analysis and critical thinking, they gain sincere ownership of their learning that results in a lasting understanding of content in ways traditional test prep alone cannot provide.