Sunday, October 4, 2015

Articulating Expectations into a Personalized Learning Environment

I missed my monthly update so I guess I will have to do two in October.  I wanted to talk about some new attributes to my curriculum that have really altered how teachers and students engage in answering the age old question “Where am I?”.  I touched on this idea in July when I discussed "I can" statements.

Once we have the “I can” statements established, they are then used to form a proficiency table.  These table have filled an important void that existed in my previous curriculum.  We have always offered pre and post assessments to teachers.  Ostensibly, the resulting data was to assist teachers in differentiating the curriculum.  However, it quickly became apparent that most teachers did not have a clear view of how to make that happen.  The proficiency tables are a way to fill in that blank.      
Shown below is an example for grade 3 :

Pre-assessment data which indicates students master prior knowledge/processes and current content/process (via performance) are level 4.
I can:

  • Use scientific evidence to explain how a design solution reduces the impact of weight from a weather-related hazard such as a blizzard
  • Design and build a structure to withstand the impacts (weight and wind of a hurricane and/or a blizzard.
Students at this level build  their own structure from scratch to withstand an additional weather-related hazard such as wind from a hurricane and/or blizzard.  They are given the parts to build the structure and may also bring parts from home to build the structure within the construction parameters. 
Pre-assessment data which indicates students master prior knowledge/processes and on grade level content are level 3.
I can:

  • Explain and interpret data presented in a table, graph, or chart
  • Compare weather v. climate
  • Predict weather based on information presented in a graph, table, or chart
  • Evaluate information from print and nonprint resources
  • Describe and explain how climates vary in different regions of the world
  • Use patterns of change in climate to predict typical weather conditions in different regions
Students at this level should be given more time to conduct the investigations.   The teacher should spend less time modeling the investigation.  Students can also be given more time to design, build, and refine their structural designs.  
Pre-assessment data which indicates students have mastered the prior content but does not demonstrate understanding of on grade level content and processes are a level 2
I can:
  • Use print and nonprint resources
  • Use data presented in a graph, table, or chart
  • Identify and describe types of weather
  • Identify and describe impacts from weather-related hazards
  • Describe ways weather affects our everyday lives
  • Work with other students to conduct an investigation
Students are ready for grade level appropriate content and processes with modifications as needed.
Pre-assessment data which indicates students who do not understand the prior content are a level 1.
I can:
  • Not identify types of weather
  • Not understand how weather changes from season to season
  • Not identify weather-related hazards
  • Not identify impacts from weather-related hazards
  • Not understand data presented in graphs, tables, or charts
Students at this level should be given the opportunity to access digital data from the weather unit from kindergarten to build background knowledge about weather, climate, and visual data representations.

As you move from bottom to top, students expertise increases.  Ultimately, students should be ready for level 4 by the end of the unit (transferring learning to a new solving a new problem).  This idea is very new to me and to my teachers. It will take a lot of refinement over the next several years to get this process "perfected".

Here is the new problem that has developed.  While we are finally able to determine student levels of mastery after pre-assessment, the problem is "then what".  

To be specific,  imagine a classroom where you have students spread across all four proficiency levels.  Three students do not have the prior knowledge necessary to engage with the grade level content (Level 1).  There is one student who spent a summer at meteorology camp and is past level four.  Fifteen students are ready for the curriculum as is (level 2) and the remaining nine pretty much know the content (level 3) and just need time to work on their prediction skills.  That's a class of 29 if you are keeping count.  What do multiple needs groups look like in science?  It is very different than reading where we litterally have moving parts.  If we are working towards a personalized learning environment for students, we need to develop strategies for teachers to manage it.  Anyone have ideas or good references for what this might look like in the elementary classroom?

As always,  keep the comments and questions coming.  We are in this together.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Reflections on a Second Summer of NGSS Curriculum Writing

I'm happy to report that I survived the summer curriculum writing adventure.   I have to honestly say that this year's work went a lot better than last year's.   This is not to disparage last year's writers in any way.  I simply did not have the experience with the NGSS at that time.  A year of working on that curriculum coupled with a healthy infusion of evidence statements yields much better work.  I can't compliment my team enough.  They far exceeded my expectation.  Among the tasks completed:
  • Unpacked standards using the evidence statements and converted them to "I can" statements.  
  • Created performance assessments including rubrics
  • Created "content assessments" and loaded them to our assessment engine
  • Wrote every lesson for the unit using Understanding by Design and 5E (see previous post for lesson plan outline)
  • Edited lessons within our learning management system
  • Made partnerships with outside entities in order to provide students with local and realistic roles within our performances.
  • Tested many of the hands-on aspects to the units. ( This is why we do this job.  Let's be honest.)

A few words about our assessment model.  You will see that I mentioned both performance and a "content" assessment.  Our units start by asking students to solve a problem using only their background knowledge.  This is a pre-performance assessment.  Whatever standards cannot be realistically assessed through the performance are assessed using the "content" assessment.  These usually assess more than content but I could not come up with another name.  "Leftover" assessment just would not work.  At the end of the unit, students are given a parallel set of assessments.  The performance is a chance for students to iterate their original design.  In between these two assessment events, every lesson comes back to solving the problem.  


Relevance, if you have not heard already, is of paramount importance to me.  To that end, one last comment about the evidence statements.  The team did a great job writing a curriculum that which assess the vast majority of them.  However, my charge to team was that if they could not make an evidence statement fit into the curriculum, they were not to use it.  Doubtless, this may come back to bite me whenever the assessments come out, but I would much rather have kids see their learning as meaningful to them.  


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Once more onto the breach, dear friends, once more...

I have had a couple of request for my lesson plan format, and as I am about to embark on writing grades three through five, I suspect my postings will be limited for a while.  Our legacy curriculum was already based on the 5E model.  Happily, this integrates with Understanding by Design (UbD) fairly easily.  Keep in mind that UbD is more of a curriculum design framework rather than a just a lesson plan template.

During stage 1, we spend a lot of time unpacking the standards and making sure we understand exactly what students are asked to know and be able to do.  This process was made significantly easier by the addition of the NGSS evidence statements.  These really clarified what the writers had in mind and doubtless signal what and how students will be assessed.

Now, I will say the release of these statements drove me mad.  They came out on the day we wrapped up grades K-2.  A quick analysis of what we wrote showed that we were close, but some work will need to be done after our field test next year.

Back to stage 1.  These evidence statements will be converted to "I can" statements.  For my purposes, I define these as a restatement of the evidence statements in student friendly language.   A task I am dreading when it comes to my rewrite of Kindergarten.

  • I can push
  • I can pull

These might be the limits given the reading ability of most Kindergarten students.  I have seen some "I can" statements based on the NGSS.  These, however, are a restatement of the performance expectations.  These are far too coarse for my purposes.

Once we understand the standards, it is time to move on to stage 2.  This is the assessment development portion.  Here is where we dip into problem based learning and develop a performance based assessment.  For our units, these problems are locally relevant and attempt to tie as many of the "I can" statements together as possible.  These are also the basis for our storylines.

I am of a firm believe that a good curriculum should tell a story across each lesson.  It is our goal that at some point during the lesson, students are asked to apply what they have learned to the problem in the unit.  By the end, these individual applications become the basis for a final iteration of their original solution. Whatever does not fit into this performance assessment is assessed through more traditional means using our learning management system's assessment engine.

The assessments form the bookends of the curriculum.  For each unit there is a pre-performance assessment.  Here students are given the opportunity to solve the problem with whatever background knowledge they bring to the unit.  By the end, their new iteration is a measure of how much they have grown across one unit of study.  An important feature in our new era of teacher accountability.

At stage 3, we carve individual lessons plans.  Just so we are on the same page, a lesson is not necessarily built on a specific amount of time.  It is built on whatever it takes for students to accomplish the "I can" statement (formerly known as an objective).

The next page shows the lesson plan format we are using and was discussed above.  I look forward to your questions and suggestions. 


For NGSS use the specific coding you were given.  Copy and paste.  USE HYPHENS IN PLACE OF BULLETS
Look for opportunities to integrate CCR and P21 as well. 

Description: Gives the teacher a brief summary of what the lesson is about and what students will be doing.  Finishes with estimated time to implement the lesson expressed in number of 60 minute classes.(Two-60 minute classes) 

Stage 1- Desired Results

Essential Question: Avoid yes or no questions or those with a “Google-able” Answer.  Should drive instruction during the lesson.  Conveys the big idea to the teacher.
Enduring Understandings: 
Students will understand that: 
-What specific understandings should students have after the lesson?  There can be multiple items.  USE HYPHENS IN PLACE OF BULLETS
Objective:  STUDENT FRIENDLY LANGUAGE which starts with “I can”

Stage 2- Assessment Evidence

Assessment Type
What tool will teachers use to collect the evidence that students have mastered the “I can…”? 
What is the evidence of mastery?
What should a teacher observe during the lesson in order to make modifications along the way?
What specific evidence should guide teachers to making modifications?

Stage 3- Plan
Lesson Background:
What would be helpful for the teacher to understand about the content of this lesson? Include link
Lesson Prep:
What will a teacher need to prepare before the lesson?  This is copied to the Advanced Preparation section of the previous lesson.  USE HYPHENS IN PLACE OF BULLETS

For the teacher:
 What materials will the teacher need?  Include the physical and digital assets.
For each group of students
Group work is essential to 21st century skills. Groups should be no larger than 3-4 students.
Materials kits will be built for a max class size of 32 (8 groups of 4).
For each individual student:
What materials will students need?

Lesson Planner with Differentiation:
Brief Description
How will you capture students attention and focus them on the “I can..”?
What do students already know (or think they know) about the phenomena?
Have students make a claim when appropriate. USE HYPHENS IN PLACE OF BULLETS

Each stage should be written with enough detail to guide instruction, but IT IS NOT A SCRIPT.  Be sure to include suggested questions to assist teachers in guiding discussions.  Highlight critical points in the lesson if a teacher must absolutely follow the lesson or else a teachable moment may be lost. 
How will students interact with the phenomena? What evidence will they collect to support their claim? USE HYPHENS IN PLACE OF BULLETS
How will students explain the evidence?  How will they express their understanding?  In science, students should not be limited to only written explanations.  USE HYPHENS IN PLACE OF BULLETS
How does understanding the phenomena help students solve the problem? USE HYPHENS IN PLACE OF BULLETS
What tool will teachers use to collect the evidence that students have mastered the “I can…”?  (Summative Assessment) USE HYPHENS IN PLACE OF BULLETS

Advanced Preparation for Next Lesson:

Will be pasted in from the Lesson Prep section of the next lesson. Complete after finalizing next lesson.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Interactive Notebooks with Training Wheels

An essential component to our new curriculum will be the use of Interactive Science Notebooks (ISN).  If you are among the uninitiated, check out the works of Kelly Marcarelli, Lori Fulton, and Brian Campbell.  .  I have also created a Pinterest board full of ideas to get you started.  

After conducting professional development for about 2000 teachers, I realized I needed to adopt a hybrid model to bring the other 5000 over to "light side".  There will always be a place for authentic ISNs in classroom, but I have to wean everyone off of worksheets first (#Death2Worksheets).   Thus the model I have adopted brings in the best of both worlds.  

It has the structure of traditional ISNs but built with efficiency in mind.     Traditional ISNs utilize some classroom time to building the ISN including paste-ins, foldables, and data tables.  These are all valuable tasks, but when there is only 30 minutes of instructional time (K-2 in my world), I want to make every minute focused on collecting and anything the data rather than making the data chart.  

To the purest out there that are now scowling,  I know what you're saying.  Learning how to build a data table is an instructional tasks.  Yes it is, but in NGSS the words "with guidance" appear quite a bit it the K-2 practices.  As we move to grades 3-5, the pages will get more open-ended.  Now, back to the show.  

There a couple of ways to sum up our model.  It still uses the left-right format, but when I first tried telling teachers that the output was on the left more than a few screams were heard.  So after some consultation with my friends in the 6-12 world (middle and high schools have used ISNs for many moons in my district),  a rephrasing of the model was developed.  

On the left side, the student is talking to the teacher.  On the right side the teacher is talking to the student.  Another way to look at this is through the lens of the 5E model.


At the start of the lesson, students are asked to demonstrate what they know (or think they know).
During the lesson, students engage in understanding some phenomena.  This encompasses Exploration and Explanation.  Towards the end, students demonstrate their new understanding through a summative evaluation.  I sometimes have a hard time separating the elaboration from the evaluation because in many cases, they both require students to apply what they know.  For those of you writing SLOs, the left page captures where a student started and how far they have grown by the end.  

This is not THE way.  Everyday, this model evolves a little as we build the ISNs to compliment the curriculum.  Below, are a couple of the pages currently in production for the field test next year. I produce these using Publisher.  Our printshop copies and distributes to the schools.

Lastly, as we move into grades 3-5, I am looking for a digital version to replace the paper based model for K-2.  I am having a hard time finding an efficient way for students to put down their ideas. As always, please comment.  Don't take my word for it.  Question everything.