What Teaching Study Skills REALLY Involves

The long term effects of learning to study can stretch much further than than the average high school sophomore may think.


Bart’s Story

When Bart started school with a half-tuition scholarship that would renew yearly pending his GPA performance, his college career future looked bright.  Once classes began, however, he says he “blew off” his classes and lost the scholarship after two semesters.  This required him to get a part time job on campus, and eventually a full time job–ultimately extending the time until graduation as he had to cut back on classes in order to function.  He hadn’t realized the thousands of dollars he could lose–beyond just the scholarship itself–until it was too late.

Declining Studying Stats

Bart’s story is becoming an increasingly familiar one for college students.  Research shows a significant decline in time students are devoting to their studies.  Until the 1960’s, undergraduates spent about 40 hours per week academically.  Today, that number is down to 27 hours each week–which includes both class time and studying.  The time spent on studying alone is comparable; in 1961, it was 25 hours per week–by 2003, it had whittled down to 13 hours.

The Math and Money of Study Time

Bart urges other students to carefully examine the monetary value of their time spent studying.  Below are some figures to consider:

  • $19 per hour: studying 13 hours per week over a 16-week, $4,000 tuition semester
  • $10 per hour: studying 25 hours per week over a 16-week, $4,000 tuition semester
  • $67 per hour: studying 13 hours per week over a 16-week, $14,000 tuition semester
  • $35 per hour: studying 25 hours per week over a 16-week, $14,000 tuition semester

Whatever the tuition rate, the value of time spent studying to keep up grades and scholarships is worth more than the $7.25 minimum wage jobs students would otherwise need to work.

Genuine Preparation for the Future

University of the Fraser Valley students and teachers. Rick Collins Photography - UFV 1-604-799-0219
University of the Fraser Valley students and teachers.

Informing our students of the numbers listed above is just one small step in preparing them for the realities of college and beyond.  We believe that it is paramount that students cultivate intrinsic motivation if we hope they will dedicate every effort required to succeed in their desired field as adults.  What do the child who has always been denied sugar and the student who always been denied opportunities for self-directed learning have in common?  Both are likely to spend their time and resources unwisely the moment they gain autonomy.

That said, we also find value in encouraging “college and career readiness” strategies to help students view the long term effects of developing study skills.  An example might be teaching a third grader to develop stamina in reading a book without distraction.

As we empower students to develop such motivation and skills, our expectations of them should remain high–not out of pressure-inducing fear that they could otherwise fail in the “real world,” but out of belief in their ability succeed.  This is key in fostering the kind of love of learning now that will truly prepare them prepare them for the future.

What are some ways you prepare students for the future while still encouraging them to live and learn with passion now?  Share in comments below!

Sources:

Campo, Carlos. Jan. 29, 2013. “A Challenge to College Students for 2013: Don’t Waste Your 6,570.” Huffington Post.

Photo Credit:

Featured Image: Francois de Halleux

University of the Fraser Valley

 

 

3 Practical Formative Assessments

When you barely have time to suck down occasional gulps of air amid swells of paperwork, it’s understandable to lose some perspective.  Unfortunately, this is a condition many teachers face when it comes to approaching formative versus summative assessments.


 

Opportunity for impact?

But how important is it, really, to keep track of such minute details on student progress?  Well, Google defines formative as, “serving to form something, especially having a profound and lasting influence on a person’s development.”  Black and Wiliam found “that innovations which include strengthening the practice of formative assessment produce significant, and often substantial, learning gains.”  And we have discovered teacher-student relationships become elevated as students recognize just how invested teachers are in their daily progress–not just in what they produce at the end of units.

The nature of the beast

Formative assessments do not cast the intimidating shadow of their summative counterparts.  They are so authentically woven into the day, it can feel almost spontaneous as you uncover quiet learning moments, pinpointing students’ true understanding. Meanwhile, summatives are not only highly concrete and measurable, but they’re also accompanied by pressure for results–pressure that may come from administrators, parents, politicians, and even sometimes teachers themselves.

Educator’s catch 22

And so, we run into the classic teacher dilemma: on the one hand, we know part of the value of formative assessments lies their authentic, unassuming quality; on the other, it is precisely that quality that makes it easy for them to slip under the radar.   The key is to make a plan for a record-keeping strategy that works for you.  This sounds easy enough, but it does take a little trial and error as you find one or more methods that feel comfortable and easily accessible in the flow of your classroom.  Below are a few personal favorites, all of which have functioned well in various contexts.

3 Strategies

1. Confer App
Image retrieved from Conferapp.com
Image retrieved from Conferapp.com

This is the Mary Poppins carpet bag of education apps.  No matter how full I’d pack in anecdotal notes for each student, it stayed organized and easy to navigate.  It was also easy to share with parents during parent-teacher conferences.  Some details I appreciated include:

  • The option to sort notes in practical ways, including by student names, groups, and feedback.
  • A design in that’s conducive to appropriate feedback with fields like “strength,” “teaching point,” and “next step”–great to remind teachers to look for what’s going well along with what needs work.
  • The ability to apply one note to multiple students simultaneously–and the fact that it saves a previously-used note so you don’t have to type out the same phrase again.
  • The color coded flags to remind you who currently needs some extra support.

Note: At first, some students were unsure about my typing on my phone during our discussions–they worried I was texting, or otherwise distracted.  Be sure to introduce this method of note-taking to your whole class, telling them exactly how you are using your phone during your conferences.

2. Notecard Waterfalls

This one is a bit old-school, but I found it especially handy for reading groups.  I would write each student’s name on one notecard, sort them into their groups, and then tape them into a waterfall on half a piece of laminated cardstock per group.  (see photos below) I found this to be the perfect place to keep tallies for simplified running records and reading notes.  After a student would read aloud, I would say something like this:

“Ok, I’m writing that you are rocking your punctuation expression.  You paused appropriately at every comma and period!  I’m also writing that we’re working on paying attention to the endings of words, since you left off -ing and -s a couple times as you read.  Do you want me to add anything else for us to remember next time we work on reading together?”

This kind of feedback was quick and simple, but extremely effective as it kept us both on the same page.  Another bonus: when a card would fill up, I could easily throw it in the student’s file and pop in another one.

Waterfall booklet

3. Status of the Class
Image retrieved from Teacher Supply Store
Image retrieved from Teacher Supply Store

Status of the Class is the perfect tool to keep track of student-driven projects or independent work time.  Simply call out each student’s name, and then jot down their selected task on a class list.  This works well for long-term processes involving steps, stages, or centers with which the students are already familiar, such as the Writer’s Workshop, the scientific method, or math or literacy stations.  Some advantages include:

  • Stay informed of where you can coach students in their individual processes.
  • Teach students metacognition as you require them to give a brief statement explaining both the what and the why of their choice. (I would periodically model how that would sound right before taking Status of the Class to remind them how to explain their choice.  For example:  “I’m working on illustrating because I want to better visualize how to describe my characters,” or “I’m going to read to myself because I just got to a cliff-hanger in my book.”
  • Keep track of students who seem to be stuck in one place.
  • Maintain accountability for students who may get off-task during independent learning time.
  • If appropriate, give on-the-spot feedback as you help students learn to spend independent time wisely (ie, “I see you’ve chosen that 3 times in a row here.  How else could you spend your time to help you grow?”)

Tips: Use wet-erase marker to write on a laminated class list chart, such as the one pictured, and keep it posted in the room so students can also keep track of how they’ve been spending their time.  Make a key for your abbreviations on the bottom.

What are some of your favorite methods for practical formative assessments?

Featured Image: Elli Pálma via Flickr Creative Commons

More Evidence for Twitter’s Professional Development Potential

We were impressed by one school’s use of Twitter for a teacher-led professional development chat.  We’ve written on Twitter’s potential for professional development before, so we thought it would be a great idea to share what that looks like in action!  We interviewed Principal Matt Webster (@MWebster158) and teacher Laura Komos (@LauraKomos) at Martin Elementary School to find out how they did it and how you can get started, too!

The Chat:

Storify of “mock Twitter chat”:

Questions they discussed:
  • Q1: What’s one new (tech or non-tech) tool or idea you’ve tried with your kids recently?
  • Q2: What is a tool or technique you’d like to learn more about?
  • Q3: How are you utilizing the Collaboration Rooms in the Husky Hub?
  • Q4: What are your other students doing while you meet with small groups?
  • Q5: What does your Target/RtI time look like?

The Interview:

How often does your school’s staff have PD Twitter chats?
  • Matt: The #martin158 chat that you saw was a specific PD session at Martin today.  We have a PD Menu at our school (new this year) that is driven and created by the teachers wants and needs.  One of the October sessions happened to be Twitter as Resource.  Part II of this PD session was a mock twitter chat for new users to experience and learn the ins and outs of a chat on Twitter.  Other PD sessions offered over the next 2 months include:
    • Flipped Classrooms
    • 40 Book Challenge
    • Picture Books to reinforce Figurative Language and Comprehension Strategies
    • Co-Teaching
    • Blogging
    • Virtual Fieldtrips
    • Independent Practice Time – Differentiating
How does the Twitter chat support other PD at your school?
  • Matt: What we plan on doing is turning the #martin158 practice chat into a monthly chat where we can post questions and discussion on PD topics that have already happened or are upcoming.
How did you initially approach PD Twitter chats with the staff?
  • Matt: We introduced Twitter to the whole staff last year at a staff meeting (phones were required J).  Followed that up with this PD Menu session and will continue it with monthly chats using #martin158
Tell us about some of the logistics of a staff Twitter chat.
  • Created with behappy.me
    Created with behappy.me

    Matt: For the PD, it was all staff interested staying after school experiencing it and asking questions together.  We have 100 staff (1,025 kids 3rd-5th) so not all are interested.  But the interest is growing.  We ask a lot of questions as admin and try really hard to follow up.  So if a teacher or group of teachers say they are interested in learning, in this case, how to use Twitter as a tool, then we make sure to offer it to them.  I feel very fortunate to work with a lot of great people in this profession at this school.  It’s not hard to find an “expert” to lead the way on a particular topic.  Those interested step up and make it happen.

What are some of the effects of the chat on your staff?
  • Matt: As a result of today, people left excited–a number of them stayed and asked questions based on the tweets they read.  I imagine by next week a few new ideas will have been tried in classrooms because of the chat today.  Martin went 1:1 in 2012 and with that came a number of changes including a new reading curriculum, new technology of course, but also a new approach to PD and teacher support.  I was the assistant principal that year and became the principal the following year (2013-2014).  I see my primary role as an administrator at Martin, to one of support for our teachers so they can do what they do best which is to positively impact our students.
  • Laura: Since the chat, I have noticed several of the participants using Twitter to connect with colleagues from other schools in our district as well as teachers from other places. I’m excited to see what the future of #martin158 brings to our professional learning!
What have been some challenges of PD Twitter chats?  
  • Matt: We haven’t encountered any thus far that have been problematic.  We have a very passionate staff that want to do what’s best for their students and utilize new resources to do so.  What is comfortable for some right now is using resources and relationships on twitter to grow their practice of teaching.
What advice would you have for other school administrators and teachers to get their schools started on PD Twitter chats?
  • Matt: As with anything else in education the first question should always be student focused… what do we want our students to learn?  And then follow that up with, what will we do when they do/don’t learn it?  For us, Twitter is just another tool or resource to help us design plans and lessons in an attempt to help our students learn.  For other administrators I would simply say that if there is a desire to connect to other professionals, be inspired by other ideas, and connect to other people doing great things, then give it a try.  A collaborative culture is present in every highly functioning school.  Twitter allows you to take that one step further and collaborate with educators all over the world.

Thank you so much Matt and Laura!

Featured Image: The New School

The Universal & Essential Action Cycle

Beginning to teach at an International Baccalaureate school can be an intimidating experience.  Terminology alone, from “transdisciplinary skills” to “line of inquiry,” can be difficult to understand and incorporate into teaching, especially if you have a background that emphasizes direct instruction.  However, becoming familiar with the Action Cycle, or learning cycle, can help ease that transition–whether you’re a new IB teacher and or are simply interested in cultivating a more inquiry-based, student-driven classroom.

Continue reading “The Universal & Essential Action Cycle”

Progressive Learning Approaches in LEGO Terms

My 4 year old and I eagerly opened a crisp new box of LEGO Disney Princess Rapunzel’s Creativity Tower.  As we began, I ran into a series of unexpected choices.


  • Rapunzel TowerShould we use the instruction manual?
  • How important was the picture on the box to my daughter?
  • Should I dump all the bags of materials out at the same time and let her fish them out, or should we go bag by bag?
  • Should I have her go step by step, or should I have her decide whether she wanted to go in order?
  • The box says “Ages 6-12.”  How much stock should I take in that?
  • How much should I intervene in general when she gets frustrated with pushing difficult pieces together, or pulling things apart?

Honestly, it wasn’t long before I started drawing mental parallels to various modern approaches to learning.  Many questions remain unanswered–on both Rapunzel’s LEGO tower, and the varied viewpoints on 21st century learning–but I found that as I organized the latter in LEGO terms, I can begin to better sort out the bottom-line question:

How do you want to build with your students?

Components:

  • Instruction Manuals (curricula)
  • The picture on the box (final outcome(s))
  • Legos (school materials)
  • Construction process (scope and sequence)
  • Age Recommendations (how age is organized)

Traditional Schooling:

  • Instruction Manuals: Teachers of each age group possess the instruction manuals, which are handed down from a variety of organizations.  The sequence of all the steps is usually executed without deviation.
  • The picture on the box: Students who have learned the instruction manual, at least in multiple choice format.
  • The LEGO materials: Teachers regulate when, where, how, and why all materials are used.
  • Construction process: Depending on the step the collective class is on, the teacher photocopies a page from the instruction manual for each student to work on.  They do this for a variety of boxes (subjects) throughout the day, but each box is done during separate times of the day.
  • Age Recommendations: Generally, very strict adherence to age is practiced.

Problem/Project Based Learning:

  • Instruction Manuals: Teachers design projects or questions with specific learning goals in mind, based on the mandated curricula.
  • The picture on the box: Students who can monitor their time and are intrinsically motivated to pursue new ideas.
  • The LEGO materials: Teachers try to provide students with the materials they need to build their learning.  This can be inhibited by limited school budgets.
  • Construction process: Students may spend a day or weeks in investigation.  They typically work in groups with the teacher as the tutor or “guide on the side.”
  • Age Recommendations: Can be applied in any environment, but often done in high school classes.
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Bill Ferriter

Flipped Learning:

  • Instruction Manuals: Generally same as in the traditional classroom.
  • The picture on the box: Students who come to class ready for lively discussion, experimentation, and investigation based on the instructional input already received at home for homework.
  • The LEGO materials: Videos–either made by teachers themselves, or found on websites like Khan Academy or LearnZillion–that are assigned as homework.
  • Construction process: Teachers seek to take better advantage of classroom time by removing all lectures to homework via videos.
  • Age Recommendations: Often done in high school settings, but in-class flips are known in elementary classrooms as well.

Sugata Mitra’s SOLE’s, or self-organized learning environment:

  • Instruction Manuals: Mitra has created a SOLE toolkit for educators and parents alike.  This explains how to set up a SOLE, lists examples of “Big questions” the teacher might ask students to research, and cites troubleshooting challenges.  The teacher presents the questions.
  • The picture on the box: Students who can unlock inborn curiosity with collaborative research time–able to find answers to questions without adult instructional input.
  • The LEGO materials: 1 computer per 4 children, paper and pens, and maybe a nametag for the peer helper student.
  • Construction process: The teacher poses a question and then students investigate it in groups of 4.  They can change groups, get ideas from other groups, and move around.  A peer helper manages behavior.
  • Age Recommendations: Ages 8-12 is the current framework for the SOLE toolkit.

Montessori

  • Valilouve
    Valilouve

    Instruction Manuals: Known as “Whole Child Education” in which priority is placed on exploring all learning styles.

  • The picture on the box: Students who have developed values of creativity, self-control, problem solving, social skills, and physical coordination.
  • The LEGO materials: Teachers are trained to carefully set up learning environments that involve work centers by subject.  High priority is placed on aesthetic and order.
  • Construction process: Students are given large blocks of uninterrupted time to experiment with the materials.  Much of the time is self-directed by individual students, although they are also encouraged at times to work in groups.
  • Age Recommendations: Blended ages of young children, often in age groups of 2-3, 3-6, and 6-9.

Sudbury Schooling

  • Instruction Manuals: Teachers are familiar with manuals, but share only when called upon by students.
  • The picture on the box: None–It’s probably been incinerated.
  • The LEGO materials: Available as students and staff vote on school funding according to values on democracy.
  • Construction process: Entirely student-directed at all times.  Visitors often notice the prevalence of play throughout the school.
  • Age Recommendations: None.  14 year olds and 4 year olds may choose to engage in the same activities.

Unschooling

  • Instruction Manuals: None, except those pursued by the learner.
  • The picture on the box: Hopefully, learners who can trust themselves and identify their personal needs to live happy lives.  This is not forced however–if a learner shows no interest in this picture, it will not be forced upon him or her.
  • The LEGO materials: Chosen by each individual learner.
  • Construction process: Students learn at home on his or her own terms.  Parents offer support and encouragement, but do not force any learning on the child.
  • Age Recommendations: None.

Photo Credit:

3 Worthwhile Twitter Chats for Teachers

Looking for some lively discussion among passionate educators?  Or professional development that applies to your personal goals?  Or some inspiration for one of your current classroom challenges?  Or even just to broaden your PLN?  Then join in on one or all of these favorite Twitter Chats!


 

A Few Handy TwitterChat tips:

  • Introduce yourself when you join in.
  • Use the chat hashtag in every comment you make so others in the discussion can see it!
  • Download a platform like TweetDeck to more easily see all the incoming Tweets (they come fast during a lively discussion).
  • Questions are listed by the moderator as Q1, Q2, etc.  Start your tweets with A1, A2, etc. to correspond with the question at hand, and try to stay on topic!  If you get inspired to begin an offshoot discussion, you can always DM (direct message) an individual!
  • For more support to get started, check out or posts on Twitter in the classroom and PLN’s for beginners.
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Giuseppe Milo
#1: #PYPchat
  • What: PYP stands for the Primary Years Programme for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, but you don’t have to be a PYP teacher to join in!  We’re all about inquiry, passionate learning, and honest reflection.
  • When: Every other Thursday at 7 pm ET
  • Info & Archives: http://pypchat.wikispaces.com/
  • Sample Questions discussed:
#2: #5thchat
  • What: 5th grade teachers gather to discuss a variety of educational topics, which are voted on every Friday through Sunday.
  • When: Every Tuesday at 8 pm ET
  • Info & Archives: https://5thchat.wikispaces.com/
  • Sample questions discussed:

#3: #IRAchat
  • What: The International Reading Association (@IRAToday) moderates this chat.  Anyone interested in discussing ways to promote literacy is welcome!
  • When: Second Thursday every month at 8 pm ET
  • Archives: https://storify.com/search?q=%23IRAchat
  • Sample questions discussed:

 Others We Haven’t Tried Yet that Also Look Promising:
  • #edtechchat: Mondays at 8 pm ET
  • #geniushour: 1st Thursday of each month at 9 pm ET

Photo Credit: