M5U1A2 – Standards & Backwards Mapping

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For this assignment, I have selected the following standard: EFL 4th grade, social and instructional language, personal information and opinions. This standard comes from WIDA and I plan to use it as a summative standard. There are five levels of ascending difficulty and complexity. For example, level three of this standard is “use sentences to provide information about self or opinion in response to picture prompts.” This is an excellent standard to unpack for an EFL class because we do this type of activity almost daily. There is also a lot of room to make those types of activities more or less difficult and complex, depending on the level of my students. It can be used with many of the units in the book we’re using, and I think it will fit well with the upcoming lessons on seasons and hobbies. The students will be required to meet 3 proficiencies, do 3 assessments, and of course do a variety of learning experiences throughout the unit.

Proficiencies: The first proficiency for Grade 4, from Level 3 of the standard, will be using present progressive tense to describe what someone is wearing in a picture. They can also describe what they and/or their classmates are wearing. The second proficiency is from Level 4 and involves expressing why they like or dislike certain hobbies. The emphasis is on providing details about themselves and using correct grammar. The third proficiency is asking correct questions about seasons, weather, and what other people like to do in those settings. The questions will be modeled by the teacher, and students will be expected to ask and answer these questions with each other. I decided to start the proficiencies from Level 3 with this class because they’re the highest level in Grade 4, so Levels 1 and 2 are too easy.

Assessments: 1 assessment will be the midterm test that all students are required to take. It covers the first 2 units of our book and will be primarily listening, reading, and writing questions. The students will take this test as the formal, summative end of my unit. Another assessment will be a presentation for Earth Day. The students will be given a prompt, such as “why is taking care of the Earth important,” and they’ll do group presentations. Each student is expected to participate, and I’ll give them a grading rubric beforehand so they know what to expect. The third formal assessment will be a quiz in preparation for the midterm exam. The quiz will have fill in the blanks, sequences, picture prompts and more covering what we’ve learned. It will be the same style of listening, reading and writing questions as the midterm. We’ll have other, more informal assessments throughout the unit such as speaking questions about the unit content, participation points, and team-based review games.

Learning activities: 1 activity we use a lot in my EFL classes is picture walks. Their books have plenty of pictures about the topics, but I’ll also put pictures or short videos up on the TV followed by questions like “what are they doing? Do you like to do this? Why or why not?” Depending on the level of the class, I’ll press for more details or be satisfied with short phrases. Another activity I want to do with this high-level class is a debate. I’ll organize them into pro and con teams and give them a topic like “should we give stray animals food?” The debate wouldn’t be a formal assessment, so I would just expect students to participate and use the target language. A third activity could be conducting class interviews about hobbies. Students would interview each other about their hobbies and record the conversation. They could then use the recordings to self-correct and receive feedback from the teacher.

This WIDA standard offers many opportunities for creativity and building useful language skills, especially in an EFL class. I look forward to implementing my proficiencies, assessments, and activities later this month.

References:

WIDA. (2014). Search the ELP Standards – Detail. Retrieved April 04, 2017, from https://www.wida.us/standards/ELP_StandardDetail.aspx?es=101

Hidden curriculum (2014, August 26). In S. Abbott (Ed.), The glossary of education reform. Retrieved from http://edglossary.org/hidden-curriculum

Jay McTighe and Associates. (2016). Jay McTighe and Associates: Educational Consulting. Retrieved April 8, 2017, from http://jaymctighe.com/resources/downloads/

 

 

 

 

M4U5A1 – Applying Classroom Rules & Procedures

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This post concerns positive and negative reinforcement of rules and procedures in the classroom. The key to my strategy here is consistency. I do my best not to show any particular students favor, be even-tempered in my distribution of praise and criticism, and show students that there are real consequences to positive and negative behaviors. My decision-making process can be seen in a flowchart at the bottom of this post. It can also be accessed here: https://www.lucidchart.com/invitations/accept/4ac1f6b0-78aa-48af-8419-3986032bdf03.

I’ll begin with my process for positive behavior. At the beginning of every semester, or whenever I start with a new class, I make sure to spend plenty of time going over the rules and expected behavior. I teach elementary this year, so I use five rules in my classes. They are quite broad, like treating the teacher and each other with respect, so I help the students fill in the gaps by showing them what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. When students do something that is positive, I give them the type of acknowledgment I think they would like best. For example, I teach a 4th grader who is quite shy but occasionally speaks up. When I saw him helping his neighbor understand a grammar point, I privately praised him and gave him an extra point for his weekly total. If a student is regularly positive or does something exceptionally good, I’ll send a message home through Class Dojo. Most of my students’ parents don’t speak English well enough to have a conversation, so I’ve occasionally had a Korean teacher relay praise or a request for help on my behalf.

I set aside a lot of time from each lesson during at least the first week of school to model behavior. If students do something that is unacceptable, I give them a verbal warning. This is followed by calling them up to my desk to talk, and if they still don’t stop I subtract points from their weekly total. Once expectations are in place and students know what is expected of them, they only get the verbal warning before they start losing points. I also give detention from time to time when students repeatedly break the rules or do something way out of line. For example, I’ve talked to one of my students several times about how noisy and disruptive he is in class. One day he started howling, and after about 30 seconds of silence after I told him to stop, started again. I gave him detention and brought his case to the school’s attention, as that wasn’t the first bizarre or highly disruptive thing he’s done.

Like Mr. Hutchins in The Art and Science of Teaching, I also like to have Friday recaps of how the week went. I give out stamps in relation to how many points the students accumulated throughout the week, and 20 stamps can be traded in for merit cards, which in turn can be turned in for prizes at the end of the semester. 20 stamps can also be used to change the student’s avatar on Class Dojo, which many students are eager to do.

M4U5A1 - Applying Class Rules & Procedures - Page 1

 

References:

Marzano, R. (2010). The Art and Science of Teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

 

M4U3A2 – Creating High-Performance Learning Environments

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In this entry, I will be evaluating three different videos showcasing different teaching methods. I will be evaluating the methods based on academic expectations, behavior expectations, and norms and procedures. I will also address how I set high-performance expectations for my own students.

The first video features a roller coaster physics lesson for grades 5-8. From the outset, it seemed clear that the academic expectations are very high for this class. The students had a daunting design challenge to tackle: make a roller coaster with the longest ride while keeping the marble on the track. The students were put into groups and would choose a daily “chimer” to speak for them. The emphasis on collaboration was great, but the expectations went even higher with the requirement of individual sketches that would have to be “sold” to the group. The group would then come up with a consensus for their roller coaster design. There was a lot of emphasis on “systems thinking” and a high level of academic rigor.

In addition to high academic expectations, the behavior expectations were quite high as well. The students had to work in highly demanding group settings, so not doing your part would be readily apparent. The teacher worked many constraints into the project, including a budget, so students had to work well together and explain their choices to the teacher. The class was also able to run computer simulations of their designs, so the students had to logically assess their shortcomings and devise solutions. Another factor was how the students were able to choose which jobs they would have on their teams. This is a great idea and something I want to integrate into my classes whenever possible. The teacher’s norms and procedures promoting high academic and behavior standards were clearly already in place. The teacher acted as the facilitator and left a lot of the responsibility for success with the students.

The 2nd video showed a 3rd-grade Chinese math class. The class had reasonably high academic standards because students were expected to quickly solve math problems. These math problems seemed quite challenging for their age. The teacher used lots of signal phrases and chants to efficiently keep her class on task and focused. The students had also seemed to master an efficient counting system using either their hands, spoken numbers, or both. The only drawback was a lack of individual attention, especially for students seated in the back. The behavior standards were also high but not perfect, as students were allowed to be noisy and occasionally drift off if the class as a whole (or near whole) could solve the math problems. The teacher’s norms and procedures were centered around a rapid-fire, call and response type class. This appears to be a great strategy for young students, as it hardly gives them time to get bored or disruptive. The teacher can follow up by checking individual comprehension after the group lesson.

The last video featured “whole brain teaching.” In the video, the teacher demonstrated a high-energy, call and response type method. The teacher kept his students on excellent behavior by using signal phrases with lots of expressive hand motions mixed in. The academic expectations were also very high because the students had to teach their neighbors quite often. I liked how the class was very segmented and the teacher offered plenty of opportunities for reflection and learning by teaching. The biggest downside seemed to be the sheer amount of time one would have to put into all the hand motions and signal phrases. I don’t really see how a class without much scheduling leeway could pull it off.

Setting high-performance expectations among my students:

After researching whole brain teaching more, I found another useful strategy in lesson plan “power cards.” These cards divide the lesson into easily manageable chunks, with plenty of chances for students to teach each other and really reinforce the key points of the lesson. They’re something I’m going to look into more and consider experimenting with. I recognize and value signal phrases and keeping my classes’ attention, so I’d like to be able to learn the skills shown in videos two and three. While I may not have the chance to do an experiment like the one shown in video one, I loved how responsible the students were and how expertly the teacher acted as a facilitator. That’s something I strive for, but I run up against a lot of obstacles in the Korean education system since it’s more traditionally focused on teachers leading, students meekly absorbing knowledge. I teach 2nd, 4th, and 6th grade EFL, so the most immediately useful parts of these videos are the efficient management techniques shown in videos two and three.

References:

Biffle, C. (Director). (2017, February 1). Whole Brain Teaching: Intro to Lesson Plan Power Cards [Video file]. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqRK68zMNGg

Biffle, C. (Director). (2010, February 12). How to Begin Whole Brain Teaching [Video file]. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJw9mzCtWbk

Chen, C. (Director). (2011, June 13). 3rd grade Chinese–math class [Video file]. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7LseF6Db5g

Teaching Channel (Director). (n.d.). Roller Coaster Physics: STEM In Action [Video file]. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/teaching-stem-strategies

Wei, K. (2014, March 25). Explainer: what makes Chinese maths lessons so good? Retrieved March 6, 2017, from http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-makes-chinese-maths-lessons-so-good-24380

 

 

M4U1A3: Establishing a Positive Classroom Environment

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So many pieces go into the puzzle that is a positive classroom environment. While it is challenging, and requires constant effort, it is absolutely critical. A trusting, caring classroom reinforces deep learning and critical thinking. Although I teach classrooms of entirely Korean students, teaching to diversity and building identity-based responses are skills I can always practice. From the first day’s introduction to the closing of a semester, here are some strategies and tips for creating a positive classroom and school culture.

  1. Get to know your community and students. As we saw in M4U1A1, respectfully and thoughtfully telling your students about yourself can go a long way towards them opening up and trusting you. Consider creating an introductory presentation with personal and professional information. Share amusing stories about yourself. I’ve found that in Korea, gently poking fun at myself goes a long way the students. In addition, make efforts to learn about the school’s community and how it changes. Bring real-world places and people into your lessons. For example, I’m putting together a project in which my 5th graders give us a virtual tour of their community. They’ll take pictures or video and tell us about the important places and people in their lives.
  2. Give students a major stake in the shaping of their identities and the classroom culture. As the teacher, you are of course the adult in the room and a guide, but students should feel empowered to make choices. Also, take the lead in avoiding and challenging stereotypes. This includes promoting anti-bullying and an ally culture wherever possible.
  3. Put a lot of thought into your classroom setup: play around with U shape desks, clusters of four or more, and have co-teachers do “audits” of your classroom with an eye for constructive criticism. One thing that I’m considering is instituting a system of student “promotions” involving special tasks or small rewards. I’ll need to be very careful with designing this, as I want it to be fun and a moderate incentive, not something that inspires jealousy and “teacher’s pets.”
  4. Rethink the meaning of “participation.” When I was in school, I was quite shy and afraid of speaking in front of the class. I wish more of my teachers at the time had allowed for small group discussions, talking circles, and active listening. Promoting good questions, paraphrasing, and listening pauses as part of active listening is something that can be touched on in almost every class.
  5. Make social and emotional learning (SEL) a part of the class. The benefits of social and emotional learning are huge, and research from Activity 1 showed that better test results follow from curriculum that values SEL. Involve the students in shaping “Classroom Contracts” governing behavior and academics. Try Mix It Up Day at lunch to get them interacting with unfamiliar faces. Also, research has shown that “zero tolerance” is actually less effective than “zero indifference,” in which no instance of bullying or harassment goes unchallenged, but the perpetrators are not automatically suspended or otherwise harshly punished. Work toward establishing a school wide system of restorative justice rather than simply punishment. This will help victims heal and for aggressors to be knit back into the school community fold.
  6. As professionals, teachers must sharpen the tools they’ve developed over time. PLNs, professional development, and co-teacher feedback are all great ways to keep improving on your classroom culture. Consider using cross-class projects to boost collaboration.

Lastly, using these strategies in addition to the vast multitude of resources available online can help develop the kind of positive, trusting classroom that students excel in. Sharing strategies, especially in school-wide conversations, is also a great resource going forward. Knowing your own limits and areas for improvement is also a great boon. As a white male from the Midwest, there are many cultures I’ve had little to no contact with. Keeping an open mind and being geared toward learning more about diverse groups is an incredible opportunity to grow as a teacher and as a person.

References:

  1. Tolerance, T. (n.d.). Critical Practices for Anti-Bias Education. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from http://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/general/PDA%20Critical%20Practices_0.pdf

 

The Next Big Thing: Machine Learning & Education

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This post concerns my thoughts and research into future educational trends and cutting edge technology. Specifically, I offer my thoughts and research into how machine learning will affect teaching, students, and school systems.

Here’s the link to my Voicethread on the topic: https://voicethread.com/share/8771325/

References:

Ark, T. V. (2015, November 26). 8 Ways Machine Learning Will Improve Education. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://www.gettingsmart.com/2015/11/8-ways-machine-learning-will-improve-education/

Gaskell, A. (2016, November 4). Machine Learning and the Future of Education. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/adigaskell/2016/11/04/machine-learning-and-the-future-of-education/#787b73e7313d

 

Mobile Learning

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Mobile learning is a largely untapped and misunderstood resource for educators. As a “disruptive” technology, mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, mp3 players, etc.) are often viewed with suspicion by teachers, parents,  and administrators, or even outright banned. Working as an EFL teacher in Seoul, South Korea, this is especially pronounced for me. Since mobile learning presents an opportunity to teach our students 21st century skills, and to do new things in new ways, it should be wholly integrated into curriculum and embraced wherever possible.

Why should the stakeholders in education embrace mobile learning? Using mobile learning’s instant access to a wealth of information in the classroom reflects the world we live in. Why should a student have to memorize so many facts when Google can locate them in less than a second? Effectively using mobile learning means transitioning away from memorization and rote learning to being able to gather, process, synthesize, and communicate relevant information quickly. Also, the number of mobile devices across the world has exploded in the last decade and appears set to continue that way. Today’s “digital native” children are completely at ease using mobile technology and seem to be more engaged in lessons when using it (cite: http://www.edudemic.com/5-critical-mistakes-schools-ipads-and-correct-them/). Promoting digital literacy, which includes responsible use and creative thinking, are absolutely imperative for the digital world in which we live.

How can we better integrate mobile learning? I’ve created a list of guiding principles, but I know this is something I’ll revisit constantly to fine-tune:

  • First, don’t expect personal use to translate into effective classroom use. For example, administration should not just hand iPads to teachers and expect amazing, 21st century lessons. Training and collaboration are required, and should be an ongoing process. (cite: 5 mistakes)
  • Don’t be a Luddite. Many of the school systems in Korea lock down access on school computers, meaning teachers and students cannot access email and many other beneficial sites. How does this help anyone? (cite: https://www.edutopia.org/adopt-and-adapt-shaping-tech-for-classroom)
  • When making your lesson plan, always ask: is this doing a new thing in a new way? Invention, innovation, and disruption are the order of the day in our fast-paced world. Requiring students to do a standard PowerPoint presentation is only slightly different than a poster board. While it may help demonstrate understanding of a topic, it is hardly a new way of doing things. Encouraging students to tap into the nearly unlimited resources on the Internet means no one should be doing projects they have zero interest in.
  • Ask for student feedback. It’s amazing how much educators can learn if they’re willing to listen.

Lastly, here are some examples of classroom activities that I believe incorporate these principles (geared toward EFL):

  1. Use audio recording apps to have students speak about a topic, then comment on their peers’ recordings. This is a great chance for them to gain a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as work collaboratively to discuss a topic.
  2. Use different translation apps to change sentences from the student’s native language into English. Have them attempt to correct the sentences, rate the apps, and discuss the positives and negatives of translation apps. Also a good opportunity to look up and practice vocabulary, especially for higher level classes.

3. Download any number of virtual flashcard apps for test/quiz prep. Some of my favorites allow users to create their own flashcards, so students can quiz each other while they prepare for a test. I think this will be particularly useful in the test-driven Korean educational culture.

References: 

Daccord, Tom. “5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make With iPads (And How To Correct Them).” N.p., 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

Prensky, M. (2005, December 2). Shaping Tech for the Classroom. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/adopt-and-adapt-shaping-tech-for-classroom

Differentiated Instruction for ELLs

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In the coming weeks, I will be teaching a 6th grade ESL unit on “A Trip I Want to Take,” also known as vacations. This unit will focus on future tense and planning for a hypothetical trip. There are nine students in the class, but I will focus on four at different stages of language acquisition. I’ll start with level three, Speech Emergent, and work my way up.

Isaac is a quiet student who fits into the Speech Emergent level of language acquisition. He appears to be slightly uncomfortable when asked to speak, and he relies on a relatively small cluster of words and phrases when he is nervous. Isaac relies heavily on familiar context clues and familiar topics, so it is not reasonable to ask him to think creatively about an unfamiliar topic without a lot of help.  To maximize my time and effort with Isaac, I seat him next to the highest level boy (Korean students rarely feel comfortable talking to the opposite sex in middle school), who also happens to be his friend. While I don’t rely on Justin to teach Isaac, it helps to have someone he’s comfortable asking questions to. In addition, I make sure to clearly explain my instructions both verbally and written. I’ll always either make a PowerPoint, write on the board, or make handouts so he can have written and/or visual clues.

Jean is also a quiet student, but falls more into the Beginning Fluency stage. When she’s excited about something, she communicates extremely well. As I’ve gotten to know her better, I found that her range of interests is actually much broader than I initially thought. When Jean isn’t interested in a topic, feels nervous, or is confronted with something entirely new, she almost shuts down and uses the bare minimum to communicate. I’ve found that keeping the spotlight off her is very beneficial. For example, her writing is excellent and continues to improve, and putting her in small groups to practice speaking is better than in front of the whole class.

Sally is a very confident student and fits into Intermediate Fluency. She spent 6 months abroad in Australia, and it really shows in her pronunciation and overall ability. She doesn’t hesitate to offer her opinion on new subjects, although she still makes occasional mistakes. In the upcoming unit, I will push her to creatively plan her trip as if she were leading it. She often helps lower level students in the class and needs extra challenges to grow.

Justin is the highest level student in the class and definitely fits into advanced fluency. He spent large parts of his childhood in Hawaii and speaks English quite naturally. He sometimes uses idioms incorrectly or gets lost/a bit incoherent on complex topics, but overall my biggest problem is keeping him challenged in a class that has several Speech Emergent students. I’ll sometimes have to give the most difficult questions or activities to him, so I try not to make it seem like I’m favoring him more than the other students. I also give extra credit opportunities on creative topics, and he has done excellent work on these in the past.