Posted on May 28, 2009 in Uncategorized by wssmith

I’m no longer using for hosting my blog.  If you’ve been subscribing, thank you and please change your subscriptions to this new feed…

I have a new post ready to go on my new site tonight!  Hope to see you there!

Students as Scientists

11 students in grades K-5 will be presenting, “Students as Scientists” on Monday, November 24th at the NYSCATE Annual Conference.  They have spent numerous hours afterschool and during their lunch time  brainstorming and organizing their ideas, writing their scripts, creating a PowerPoint, and rehearsing their presentation.  Their session will be “hands-on” with audience members learning how to collect data on water quality and identifying macroinvertebrates that the students will be collecting at three different stream locations on the morning of the presentation.  Check out their Stream Team Wiki to learn more and don’t forget to read the incredible discussions taking place on the wiki pages!  They’d love some outside voices added to the conversations taking place. 

We plan on streaming the session at starting at 10:45 EST on Monday.

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

Posted on September 24, 2008 in Inquiry,Science,Technology by wssmith  Tagged

Doug Johnson just wrote about Joy in the Classroom and asks at the end of his post, “How do you bring joy to learning in your classroom, library or computer lab?”  Today, however, the joy was brought to me by two classes of kindergarten scientists.  I had the best day ever.  Some of these kids aren’t even 5 years old yet and they were in the stream collecting data, making observations, and asking questions.  It was awesome.  So my question to you is, “What joy did kids bring to you today?”

Educational Malpractice

Posted on September 20, 2008 in Assessment,Collaboration,Professional Development by wssmith  Tagged , ,

In an opening keynote for a Professional Learning Communities at Work Institute in Washington, DC, Richard DuFour presented “Hard Facts, Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense in Education.” Rick stated teachers are engaging in educational malpractice if they don’t work in a collaborative environment.

He went on to explain that in a collaborative environment, members of the team should work interdependently towards a common goal with all held mutually accountable. But the focus of the collaboration is critical. Energy and attention should focus on student learning. Professional Learning Communities look to evidence that their students are achieving the identified knowledge, skills, and dispositions and use that information to drive their instructional decisions.

So what is the best way to collect and use evidence? DuFour shared research supporting the use of formative assessments.

A focus on the use of formative assessment in support of learning, developed through teacher learning communities, promises not only the largest potential gains in student achievement, but also provides a model for teacher professional development that can be implemented effectively at scale.

Dylan Wiliam and Marnie Thompson (2007)

To the extent that teachers work together in teams to 1) analyze, understand, and deconstruct standards, 2) transform standards into high quality classroom assessments, and 3) share and interpret results together, they benefit from the union of their wisdom about how to help students continue to grow as learners.

Rick Stiggins (2005), p.82

Two strategies seem especially promising for schools. One is to expand the quality and variety of formative assessments; a second is to promote and organize collective inquiry into and discussion of student progress and achievement based on a range of assessments.

Judith Warren Little, (2006), p.9

Working in true Professional Learning Communities will help eliminate what DuFour refers to as the “educational lottery” of our children’s school experiences. If research identifies the effectiveness of teachers working in collaborative teams using formative assessments to increase student achievement and educators continue to resist, should educational malpractice be the charge?

Little, J.W. (2006). Professional Community and Professional Development in Learning-Centered School. Washington, D.C: National Education Association.

Stiggins, R. (2005). Assessment for learning: Building a culture of confident learners.  In R. DuFour, R. EAker, & R. DuFour (Eds.), On common ground: The power of professional learning communities (pp.65-83). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Wiliam, D., & Thompson, M. (2007). Integrating assessment with learning: What will it take to make it work? in C.A. Dwyer (Ed.), The future of assessment: Shaping teaching and learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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Stream Team: Wading into Environmental Education

What is Environmental Education? According to the Campaign for Environmental Literacy , environmental education:

  • Includes learning in the field as well as the classroom
  • Incorporates the teaching methods of outdoor education, experiential education, and place-based education
  • Is inherently interdisciplinary
  • Promotes school/community partnerships
  • Is hands-on, student-centered, inquiry driven, engages higher level thinking skills, and relevant to students everyday lives
  • Develops awareness, increases knowledge, builds skills, and creates the capacity for stewardship and good citizenship regarding the environment upon which we depend for life support.
  • Helps address the causes of “nature deficit disorder”
  • Boosts student achievement in math, science, reading, writing and social studies

Our work with students on our HP Technology for Teaching Leadership Grant directly ties their learning to real-world issues and challenges as we examine human impacts on the limits of our natural resources. With just nine days of school under our belt, 280+ students are now primed and ready to assume their roles as environmental scientist and take action. What have we accomplished as a team so far as we wade into environmental education with our kids?

  • Team name: We are now known as the Klem South Stream Team.
  • Collaborative space set up:
  • Making connections: So far we have 3 other schools across the country joining our work. Keep checking the wiki to see how the kids communicate their experiences with one another while extending their learning. Our first Skype call to chat with our learning partners took place today.
  • Identifying on-site stream locations: This was tricky finding safe, accessible sites with homeowners permission to allow us access throughout the year, but we did it.
  • Starting point for learning: We developed and administered pre-assessments K-5. As part of our partnership with SJFC, pre-service teachers will be conducting data analysis of both classroom and individual student performance and sharing their findings with our team so we may target instruction appropriately.
  • Generate excitement: A core group of students held an assembly for all of the classes to introduce them to the project. Not a polished performance, but with only 30 minutes of planning time & writing their scripts, they did a good job.
  • Start exploring: All classrooms have visited the MST room to explore the Why? and How? of the project. We’ve learned how to collect water quality data using handhelds and sensors as well as conduct a visual survey of the stream and surrounding area. We’ll also be examining and documenting the macroinvertebrates in our stream samples to provide important information on stream health.
  • Get outside: Trips for 14 classes are scheduled and begin next Tuesday. Let the fun begin!

After all of our initial on-site visits have been completed, the real work by students in the classroom begins. Stay tuned for more.

Teachers at Klem South Elementary care deeply about environmental issues. If you are not familiar with the importance of environmental education for our children, please visit the Campaign for Environmental Literacy for more information. They have also been leading advocacy efforts on H.R. 3036 No Child Left Inside Act of 2008 , scheduled for a vote in the House this week. Click here to have a voice and take action on environmental education issues.

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