I had such a wonderful time chatting and collaborating with my JCS colleagues the other day about depth and complexity. My teaching partner and I presented a mini seminar on Depth and Complexity. I believe whole-heartedly that teaching gifted strategies is good for all students, but necessary for gifted students. Starting with the prompts of Depth and Complexity is the beginning of having students think deeply. The origin of these thinking tools stems from Dr. Sandra Kaplan. I have had the wonderful opportunity to be taught how to teach to gifted children by her and how to use these prompts fully with my scholars. View the Powerpoint to get a starting point for the use of these tools. https://docs.google.com/a/juliancharterschool.org/presentation/d/1gGtfMgCjIPGu9H2fYTOBhTKrTY7u4ZxtvAUIR1L149o/edit?usp=sharing
In late June 2015, Jennifer Cauzza, the executive director for Julian Charter School, set up a meeting with Tasha Wahl along with other JCS employees to learn more about "The Butterfly Effect" with Tasha. The purpose of the meeting was to create a Butterfly Effect Tribe through JCS. Tasha Wahl's mission is to "Changing Lives One Butterfly at a Time." ~ She "wants to be the change, and hopefully set into motion molecules of hope, that will set into motion molecules of faith, that will set into motion molecules of love." Read about her mission in the press here: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2014/apr/11/tasha-wahl-butterfly-drop/
I LOVE what Tasha is trying to do! I feel it so important for our children to learn to be compassionate learners who strive for independence, but who keep in mind the people around them. Like the title of book reads, "It Takes a Community." Teaching our children to know that we are part of a bigger picture is so important to developing compassionate, life-long, self-directed learners.
One project that would be good to do alongside Tasha's Butterfly Effect is one that I have always done with my students, "Making a Difference Project." The idea of this project stemmed from my love of the novel, Tuck Everlasting. There are so many important elements in this novel from discussions about the literary elements to understanding deep messages like "Life's got to be lived no matter how long or short" to "You can't have living without dying." One important quote that drew me to the creation of this project was:
"She looked at Miles, and then she then asked him, "What will you do, if you've got so much time? "Someday," said Miles, "I'll find a way to do something important." Winnie nodded. That was what she wanted." (17.26-8)
I have always wanted my students to see that as children they too can make a difference in the world, that maybe they could help teach adults to recognize their importance, that they can be producers in the world, not just consumers. See my project plan for the scholars below. Along with this project plan I wanted scholars to keep a journal of their journey. To the right is basically what I had them do in their journals:
Yesterday was another great day for me at CAG. When I go to these trainings I feel motivated to create lessons that help facilitate independent growth in my scholars. I took away a lot of good ideas. One idea that I find that is important in the development of self-directed learners is the environment that we create for our scholars. I found I gravitated toward these particular ideas for creating interactive bulletin boards. I love the idea that teachers should create bulletin boards that are functional, places for students to work from.
Today was the first day of the CAG conference in Oceanside. The keynote speaker was Dr. Sandra Kaplan! I am looking forward to the next couple of days in this training. In one day, I continue to be amazed by what Dr. Kaplan has to say. So much of what she shares is exactly my belief/philosophy when it comes to teaching children. It all comes down to guiding our students to be life long, self-directed learners. Using the GATE strategies help a teacher facilitate the thinking and skills necessary for students to be successful learners. This is one component I always want to use when developing students to be deep thinkers who strive to continually learn.
What I took from the today was how to create lessons that are differentiated which is to differ the curricula in some way to meet the styles, abilities, and interests of ALL students. It is not just using the formula: T/S (thinking skill + C (content with Depth and Complexity) + R/S + P = Differentiation. We need to also think about other layers in the development of our lessons, so that we will fully engage and "know" our students. We need to think about the 3 Rs (replace, reinforce, and redefine) when differentiating our curriculum. We also need to think about this acronym:
D - Discriminate
I - Imagination
F - Flexibility
F - Follow - up
E - Engagement
R - Relate
E - Exposure
N - Nuances
T - Theory
I - Intellectualism
A - Attitude, aptitude
T - Tenacity
I - Individualizing
O - Opportunity
N - Navigate
As teachers we need to recognize that all students will take different paths toward their learning. With that said, we need to provide instructional opportunities for our students so that they get the help or push they need to progress on their learning journey.
One last point that was mentioned today at CAG was the notion of not giving students grades. Why not provide parents and students with commentary on their learning journey, lessons, or projects? I am a firm believer that when we can give kind and specific feedback to our scholars about their work, they will learn more from that rather than just receiving a letter grade or even a test score. I was chatting with my husband tonight about this idea. We equated it to the game of baseball and practice. When a baseball player is struggling with bunting, he must practice to perform better. We don't see a coach tell the player, "Hey, you're a C+ bunter." Instead, what we find a coach doing when a batter is struggling with baseball is showing or telling the player specifically what they need to do to improve their skill. Without this specific feedback, the player doesn't have anything to help them improve. They are left to practice, but on what? How will they improve? This commentary is what is key to improvement and motivation. I love the idea of having a conversation for learning. I would like to propose this pathway for our scholars:
1. Students would start the year off with generating their own learning goals (long-term and short term goals) and complete a self-evaluation of the intellectual traits.
2. Students would start this pathway on their digital portfolios. Students would create a place on their digital portfolio for reflection.
3. Students would have periodic pathway/portfolio check ins where they add evidence or work to support their goals. Students would also continue to reflect on their progress. It would include an affective piece where they can write how they feel about their journey.
4. Midway through the reporting period - students would complete or create something that showcases their learning. See Language Arts Reflection Toward Progress. https://docs.google.com/a/juliancharterschool.org/document/d/1d9jO3Nrb8hQfXps4udRiX7AThVce91-O_Wohz9Dpojo/edit?usp=sharing
5. Have parents look at their child's digital portfolios - have parents "jot" likes and wonders. (have a parent meeting to discuss how to give critical friend feedback)
6. Report cards go out - students reflect on progress and complete their own evaluation.
7. Continue the process the whole year.
8. End the year with Scholarly Presentations - presentation of their learning journey. Reflecting on Long Term and Short term goals and providing evidence (work samples) to show growth.
Work in progress I know! But what a way to start my conference! Love the ideas!
Erik Wahl started the LEAD 2015 conference with an inspirational presentation! Erik says to "unlock your potential, break outside of business as usual. The following are words that made me think about when I am developing a self-directed learner.
Break the Boundaries
Taking a RISK is hard. Helping our students feel comfortable in discomfort is key to developing the independent driven learner.
One of my goals in education is to advocate for children and their learning. I am passionate about how important the role of the teacher is in a student's educational journey. Now, this is not to say that a teacher is important because we get to shovel in the information and that we have all authority in what a child learns! No way! I have always felt that teachers are the facilitators, the coach, the guides of the side, presenting to the students in a way that facilitates creative and critical thinking AND showing them strategies and skills to help them develop as self-directed, life-long learners! I have also felt it is extremely important that teachers TRULY LISTEN to their students. This concept is soooooo hard to explain because it is more than just listening to what they say, but it is listening to every part of the child, the whole child. You wonder what I mean about this....I know it has been such a hard thing to explain for me. One way that I thought would help was through my action research for my graduate school thesis. See my digital portfolio for more info on that process and what I discovered kathleenblough.weebly.com
Why I am writing this post today....Well....right before summer was out, I received this email from someone from whom I did not recognize the name in the "from" box. I was intrigued, and so I opened up the email. This was the email:
Let me say hello. I am Jim Bellanca, editor of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills Blogazine (P21.org) and a friend of Rob Riordan. In searching for fresh contributions to the next issue of the Blogazine, (the topic will be SDL)I scour the Grad School's site. In the past, I have also used posts from UnBox and Rob has posted as well.
In my meanderings through the GSE Portfolio's, I found the SDL postings in your portfolio. I am inviting you to contribute one of the following for the SDL issue. (deadline, July 2): (1) a fresh post on SDL (2) one or two posts edited from your wonderful essay on SDL. Each post is 600-1000 words plus any sketches, links, charts, photos etc that you want to add.
For the SDL issue so far i have stories from several public school teachers or principals (pre-K, middle and high), a reasearcher, a grad of the d school at Stanford, two high school "makers". Each tells a story to illustrate what SDL looks and sounds. like. None are like what you have written.
If you are willing and able to spread your word to an audience that is primed to hear it, I need your response so I can pencil you into the schedule, 600-1000 word post, your photo and 2 sentence bio and your social media connections. If you are too busy at the moment, with your permission and final review, I can edit a post from your article. Prefer you however.
Thanks and let me know.
I was pretty honored to be asked to say the least. So, I busily got started on writing up my post. And through a few revisions, I was ready to send. I was asked to write two posts through the process which was shocking as well. The only other thing was that I was asked to post, but I was not guaranteed it would be published on the blog. Then on August 18th, I got this email from someone from P21.org telling me that my two posts will show on August 19th and 20th. Wow! I was so honored! I cannot believe that I have an article/post in the same blog as Rob Riordan, Carol Ann Tomlinson, and so forth. Crazy and so unbelievable. I guess this is the first step to getting my word out about my thoughts on developing self-directed learners.
Click on the following link to read my posts - http://www.p21.org/news-events/p21blog
Yesterday, as I finished my three days at the CAG Institute in Oceanside, California, it was refreshing to have my belief about educating children confirmed. I have always believed that using the GATE standards and strategies would be the perfect vehicle for instruction for all students. Using GATE strategies are a must for gifted students, but some may say, no way. By teaching this way, you may uncover some student's hidden gift or talent. I have always thought that all students come to us with some sort of gift or talent, it is our job as educators to teach in a way that unlocks or uncovers those hidden or not the norm type of treasures. What do I mean by GATE standards, I mean using the elements of DEPTH, COMPLEXITY, ACCELERATION, AND NOVELTY.
DEPTH - refers to approaching or studying something from the concrete to the abstract, from the known to the unknown - Major dimensions of depth - details, patterns, rules, language of the discipline, trends, ethics, big idea and unanswered questions. See chart below for descriptions for each.
COMPLEXITY - is about making relationships, connecting to the other disciplines, layering of knowledge, and viewing ideas from multiple perspectives. Major dimensions of complexity - multiple perspectives, across disciplines, and relating over time
NOVELTY is bringing in the new; natural talent. Using creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and logic should evoke "novel" ideas Think: What can I do to underscore talent? Try independent study. Give students choice in projects with parameters.
ACCELERATION - is speeding up the rate of learning and increasing the difficulty of materials for the academic task. This does not mean moving children into another grade level. It means you accelerating understanding; accelerate the students thinking related to... Try having students "Think Like A ________(choose the disciplinarian - engineer, environmentalist, geographer...)
Download the "traditional" depth and complexity prompts. I will follow in later blog entries with the new prompts to help children to dig deeper into their learning.
Summer is pretty much over for me, and my mind is racing to figure out all the organizational tools I am going to use with my students on their journey toward self-direction. Anyhoooo, I am thinking about the Discovery Journals my students are going to use during the school year. These journals will be a place for reflection, self-evaluation, pondering about the world, and dialoguing with their critical friends and teachers. Here is my plan:
1. Get each student a hard-bound, black marbled covered journal.
2. In each journal there will be three tabbed sections: Wonder/Ponder, Self-Reflection, Dialogue
3. In the first two pages of their journals, students will create a double page layout/author page. The only requirements will be: that they write their names in a bold, creative way and that they fill the page with graphics, illustrations, and images that represent who they are and/or who they want to be. This activity will help students take ownership of their journals and reflecting.
As I was reading around the web, I came across this cool blog entry from Education Week on procedural fluency which is very important for students to grasp when moving into solving problems in Math. Procedural fluency refers to knowledge of procedures, knowledge of when and how to use them appropriately, and skill in performing them flexibly, accurately, and efficiently ~ David GInsburg, Education Week Blog post. Click on the button to read a great blog posting about Math Stamina.