Today I Was My Own Resource Teacher

I am currently teaching a unit on Basic Coding to my grade 7 Design students.  The first few weeks of the unit are skills-based classes.  Each day, I introduce a few skills to the class and then the students play and create a basic animation or game on Scratch demonstrating their newly acquired skills.  I give them formative feedback on what they have created.

Over the years, I have gotten much better at differentiation and always pre-test in one form or another at the beginning of each unit.  I have identified skills that the whole class needs and I definitely wanted to make sure we had a common language for the concepts and skills of this unit.

I found a video tutorial from Clint’s MYP Design blog which was a good tutorial teaching the viewer how to double jump with the Sprite in Scratch.  It had some general background information about Scratch and I really liked the part when he shows how to make the Sprite move naturally.

But, how did I want to share this with my students?

Should I just mimic the skills and do it myself on the screen?  This would work.

Have the students watch it on their own time?  This would work, too.

However, I ended up having them watch it all in the class via the projector.

I felt a bit weird about this.  It is a twenty minute tutorial.  It’s not just a quick video I’m showing at the beginning of class, this is a substantial part of my class.  They are paying tuition for me to teach.  Was this a lazy way out?  Did this discredit my expertise?  These were all things going on in my mind.IMG_4529

It ended up being one of the best things I have done in a while.

I became my own resource teacher.

I was able to watch the students as they worked through the tutorial.  I saw students who struggled with coding.  I saw students who struggled with following the instructions and going from the big screen to their screen.  I also saw students flourishing.  I saw students helping each other.  I wasn’t caught up in delivering the content and I was able to really see the kids and where they were.

When students left the class, I gave them an exit card asking them how they felt learning this way, what they learned in the class and what they struggled with, needed more practice on, or wanted to now learn.  Many of them liked this approach.  Some of them wanted to watch the tutorial at their own pace and pause it on their computer.

I haven’t had a resource teacher since I was a Language Arts teacher many years ago. I forgot the power in actually helping while the students were receiving instruction.  I was able to really “see” my students – from the back of the room, watching how they synthesized the tutorial they were watching.

I was lucky to find a great tutorial, so I didn’t have to spend the time creating one.  Luckily there are hundreds of Scratch tutorials.  I did spend time in watching quite a few the past few weeks to make sure they are good quality, have a low “cheese” factor and explained what I wanted it to.

Why don’t you try it.  Go ahead, be your own resource teacher.  Share how it goes!

Advertisements

#beyondblogging Take Aways

IMG_3699

Two weekends ago, I attended #beyondblogging with a group of teachers from CA.  The great thing about this group of CA teachers and staff, is that I don’t always collaborate with them regularly on instructional technology and it was great to chat with them about what’s going on at our school seen through different perspectives.

Jabiz and Rebekah were confident leaders, guiding us through activities and discussions for which they did not have the answers, but allowed us to make our own conclusions and actions for our own next steps.  I feel that that is something very important as a teacher to remember.  I felt more of a learner because I felt like my thoughts not only contributed to other “students” but to everyone in the room.  These leads me to the first of my two big take-aways…

1. The Leaders. The Presentation. The Workshop.

I feel like I am a good teacher… to middle school students.  Where I know I can improve on, is my presentations and sharing with adults.  It’s a much harder gig to stand in front of the faculty or adults you’ve never met than standing in front of my middle school Design Teachers.  I think that being a good presenter to adults, especially teachers, is a really important skill to hone.  Jabiz and Rebekah did this very well.  They were down to earth, well-read, experienced and confident. They prepared a great two days of learning and collaborating.  I find it a fine balance of keeping the workshops active: talking, sharing and thinking but not forcing adults to do kind-of ridiculous hands-on jigsaw activities that waste a lot of paper, that I really wouldn’t use in my whole class anyways.  I also feel that the workshop was differentiated for beginning bloggers to those of us that have been doing it for years for ourselves and our students.  It’s hard to differentiate a workshop or just plan it so everyone can get a lot out of it when you don’t know your participants because they are teachers coming from all over Asia for a weekend workshop.

2. Students Sharing in their Own Way… Even Unedited (gasp!)

Throughout the workshop, we were asked to share our thinking.  With the exception of a few times, we could share how we wanted to. I shared my learning through a Vine, Instagram photos, blogging, Tweeting, and sketching on chart paper.  Other teachers shared in different ways, but we all contributed in our own way and showed our learning.  In my MYP Design classes, students can turn in products using a variety of media, because that is the nature of the course.  However, I don’t differentiate the reflection piece (design folder) too much.  There are some parts that don’t really lend themselves to other formats – like their sketches, but I could encourage them to post however they want, as long as they meet the criteria and I can find their work fairly easily. I could also encourage students to use the social media they use regularly to share their learning and passions.

Taking Action

So, I jumped right into it.  The Monday after the workshop was the second week of my MYP Food Design 9 course, and it was the perfect time to present how I want students to share their “learning journey with food” throughout the course of the semester.  I want students to share what they have created in and out of class and any other food products that inspire them to create.  I offered some suggestions to the class. As I’m typing this, I’m thinking I should have had more of a discussion with the students as to what they want to use…  (maybe we can talk next week, it’s still early in the semester to change).

But, already, I’ve gotten some great results.

I have students sharing photos on Instagram.

They’ve created Picasa albums.

They’ve created new categories on their blogs.

Now, the organization for me to find them all is not the best workflow in the world – it’s a Google Doc with the link to where they are posting work.  For some kids they are just hashtagging their Instagram pictures with #cadesign9. This makes it a bit more than a one-click solution.  BUT, it’s easy for them, and I think I’d rather it be easy on them than on me.  Also some of their pictures have been retweeted and shared, which is great.  I want them proud of their work.  I don’t want them creating for me, for a grade.  I want to see what they are passionate about.  I want to see what they want to create and that they are thinking about food.

Now, this is much easier with my ninth graders, because they all have iPhones and are of the age where they can open up social media accounts.  I need to figure out how to bring this down to my sixth grade.  I can easily have them record their reflections with Photobooth and post their work.  But is there more?  What else can I do?

I also want to use specific language in my class for “un-edited work” and “finished, polish work”.  A finished video takes a lot of time and can sometimes distract from the purpose of the task, but I think video is a great tool for documenting a variety of work and reflections.  Video, with both the audio and visual piece can really show who the student is at that snapshot in their life, better than a bunch of text on a screen can.

So, I’ve gone off on a tangent a bit here, but as you can see, I’ve taken a lot away from the #beyondblogging workshop.  I still need to think about our school blogs and their purpose and what students may be using in 5, 10, 15 years to share their growth, learning, service and passions.  As always, I have 99 more ideas running through my head and got a few other great take-aways from the weekend, but I’ll save them for another day.

Teacher Goal: Holiday Sushi Class

IMG_3086My teacher learning goal this year is to improve my technical skill levels – both with food technology and digital technology.  Over the past five years, I feel like I’ve had a lot of PD and growth with my teaching strategies and I have developed a good curriculum for our design department.  However, teaching a very skill-based course,  I need to acquire new skills, especially since I haven’t worked professionally as a designer.

One strategy was to attend cooking classes to:

1. Learn new skills and cooking techniques

2. See how other people teach cooking

3. Evaluate the kitchen space and how materials/ingredients are managed

IMG_3094

I not only gained confidence in creating sushi, I learned about Japanese ingredients I had never purchased or worked with before. I saw how much the teacher prepped for the class. (It was a lot.) But, I came to the conclusion that when creating a highly technical product, there may be more prep time needed, especially for a limited time frame (like my 60 minute class).  Our chef-teacher and her team had measured out the quantity of all the ingredients, while still leaving a lot of the prep to the participants, like mixing, cutting and manipulating the food.

One other huge benefit to the class, was to take the class in Japanese.  After that experience, it made me think that EVERY teacher, definitely every International School teacher should take a class in a language that they have limited proficiency in.  It was good to be a student in that environment and experience what many of our new students experience.  I was able to easily follow along, because the teacher did such a great job of demonstrating (with the assistance of the remote control camera-screen) and she was friendly and worked one-on-one with students who needed help. I think it is really interesting that you can identify good teaching without understanding language.  I’d love to try this again in a school setting to see if I can learn or see learning in a classroom without mastery of the language of the classroom.

In the end, this was a really rich (and FUN!) professional development experience.  I now give myself at least an hour to prep the kitchen for classes (which is time consuming) but worth it.  I get to spend more time giving formative feedback to my students and I can really have my students focus on the skills I want them to, rather than try to rush around and in the end make a big mess in the kitchen, because there wasn’t enough time to do everything.  I hope to do more cooking demonstration classes in the future to get more ideas to use in my classroom and continue to improve my own skills, in a variety of cuisines.

IMG_3089

Moving and Shaking

A few weeks ago, an article was circulating the edu- blogosphere about a Learning Coach shadowing a student in preparation for her new job.  After reading this and doing a little self reflection, I started to think more about sitting as a student in my class. And decided to take a little action:

1. I bought 2 yoga balls as a trial for student seating.

2. I decided to make sure that EVERY class incorporates movement.

3. I decided not to gripe when I had to clarify the instructions to individual students, but just repeat it to the students, no matter how frustrated I may have felt.

4. As a tech coordinator, I want to do this same activity with the lens of looking at tech use of our students throughout a day or two.  (THIS ACTION WILL NOT OCCUR AT THIS TIME – Hopefully in January.)

Here is what happened:

THE MIGHTY YOGA BALLS (aka Bob and Bob)

IMG_2241 IMG_2242

After the “Bob Introduction and Expectations”, it has gone swimmingly with the yoga balls.  Most of the kids want to use them and I’ve really seen great improvements with some students who struggle with staying focused and/or sitting still too long.

MOVEMENT

This point resonated with me.  I think my class is engaging and there is a lot of movement when we are creating, but on other days, while I think the kids are stimulated and there is a lot of student let inquiry and activity, they are sometimes very sedentary.  So, I have decided half way through the class that the kids would get up and do something physical/fun and hopefully tied to our learning.   Last week,  I made up an activity called “Left or Right” where students had to move to the side of the room of the graphic design there were more drawn to (that was shown on the projection on the board).  They then had to justify their selections with turn and talk and full class discussions.  This week, the movement wasn’t connected so much to our learning, but did a great job of getting them off their computers, moving, interacting and having fun.  I did the 5-4-3-2-1 activity from Three Minute Brain Breaks and plan to use more of their activities.

Here’s a clip from the activity:

From my observations, they seemed like they were better able to focus and got a lot accomplished as they were inquiring and analyzing graphic designs for their current design cycle project.

REPEATING INSTRUCTIONS

Not listening is a huge pet peeve of mine (ask my own children)… And I too, like the teacher in the article, would get frustrated when I would have to repeat something I just said in the class.  While I make a conscientious effort not to use sarcasm, I’m sure my facial expression and/or my asking someone else in the class to repeat “What I just said” was equally as not nice.  So, I’ve just taken a breath and repeated the instructions to the few students that need to hear it again for whatever reason.  That’s why I’m in class – to help.  If I see kids not listen to the instructions well, then I take a more proactive approach and use more proximity control when I see them doing something else or whispering to a friend.

All in all, these three very little things have made a huge difference in my classroom the past few weeks.  I think one of the most important things about being a teacher is connecting with your students and making the content fun and engaging.  I need to make the knowledge and skills connect with them however I can.  That is knowing my kids and also making the content interactive and engaging for every kid, for every unit.  And, honestly, I think I get better at this every year, but I can always improve.