Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Timetoast, and a 24 hour classroom

On Monday, I began a assignment with my students. Love Timetoast. In the assignment, they chose 10 Latin sentences from the current story that they are studying and placed them in chronological order. In the description of each event, they provided an English translation, and also had the option of adding a picture to illustrate the event. Then, they published their product and sent me the link in email. From the email I was able to give feedback on my tablet and send them an individualized response to their work. (I used Jing to take a snap of the work).

But eek, Tuesday morning,about 3 AM I was sick, and I was not able to be in the classroom on Tuesday when they were completing their work, so I had to put in for a substitute. Thank goodness for a great sub :) and my instructions already having been delivered on Monday, as well as in print in blackboard, made the difference. The students completed the work, and I received it (in the doctor's office, then home) and was able to write responses to them! We didn't lose a day. Today when I was back, with a little voice and a little shaky, they let me know how much they appreciated getting feedback asap. Yes, a few even asked if I was okay and gave me well wishes!

The image is of a student's work with my comments added, which I emailed back to the students so that they can correct and perfect. For some students I needed to add oral comments, which is no problem with Jing, since it has a movie-screencast recorder and I can walk them through corrections.

Technology saved the day on this occasion.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday with Tullus-Quia

Guest blogger, Tullus, is in the 6th grade and makes use of online Quia games to help him learn, here are his reflections:

Quia games is a fun, helping website for students to learn about subjects to help them prepare for quizzes and tests, rather than just reading out of the book. Things I like about it: it involves technology, which I like, it has a variety of things so that you don't have to do the same thing over and over again every time you log on. It definitely helped me for my Latin quiz (my father's class), and I've used it for language arts, social studies and science.

Things I don't like: Even though it gives a variety, there are only 4 things, and one doesn't really help me (the crossword), so I'd like different choices, I'm not sure what kinds of things that I would want. The teachers should be in charge of that.

It doesn't give you immediate results (in my opinion) it doesn't tell you at all-you don't see results until you take the quiz in the class. Can my teachers see what I study? Because I don't know.

I wish I got some results sooner.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Clean up

The reteaching is almost complete, with the students having looked at errors, made corrections, set new goals, completed activities that fill the gaps, worked in small groups and created demonstrations of their improved understanding. Mr. K. and I have given short assessments at each step to make sure that what they are doing is hitting the mark, and everything is coming along.

Probably the best conversations were about test taking strategies, and those came out when students chunked a Latin reading and composed their own comprehension questions. 7th graders developed a completely different insight when they read a sentence "Apollo puellam petit.", then formed a simple question about it, "Quis petit puellam?". Even better was when they made the question multiple choice and decided what a hard wrong answer would look like, and what a stupid easy wrong answer would look like. One student said, "If somebody picked that one, I'd know that they hadn't even read the story!" Message received.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Analyzing a Common Assessment Non-Success

Well, it seems it was widespread. So let's look at what we found.
1. The students aced the straight vocabulary questions.
2. When the questions asked the students to apply material in an analytical way, they went
with a practiced, memorized answer from an activity rather than looking at the new
question and thinking through the question. (jump to a familiar answer, don't think)
3. We have some test-taking issues. How to cross-reference a test, and how to use context to
produce a higher level answer.
4. We have some GREAT test takers, who marked their thought processes on the tests in
ways that showed us what led to them the precise answer they needed.

Here is a resource that we have used for a few years to help us with common assessments that's based on Marzano's research. It also has a rubric that helps to analyze the questions that a teacher is asking.

Our responses:
1. We are going to break down the objectives and do the reteaching in varied ways so that
they practice analyzing. We'll give feedback on those smaller chunks.
2. We'll put it back together a piece at a time so that we can see when we lose students and
catch them before they fall.
3. Lots of personalization. The students did well when they had used the material in a
personal way (they were great with infinitives following timeo, which means "I fear",
because we had and activity where they shared what they feared to do, but when we
replaced timeo with volo "I want", they fell apart.

Other items:
Mr. K noted that I was flying through material, and I didn't listen. He was right. I should have recognized a red flag when I incorporated venn diagrams and the students could not use the vocabulary that they had mastered to describe the relationships in the diagram. Why? Because they were not at the analysis level, they still were just memorizing. That's the flag that should have stopped me, but didn't.

Lessons learned:
Slow down. Chunk more. Check for transfer, not just recall. Things I know, and thought that I was doing, but I needed more, and these students need more. Shifting gears. I hope the transmission can handle it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Common Assessment Meltdown

Was it me, the test, the students or can I please blame my "work husband" (the very wonderful Mr. K)?

Mr. K and I both teach 7th grade Latin at Indian Hill, and like every year, we're giving common assessments after co-planning activities, quizzes, drills, games, readings, all the same stuff. And the test was yesterday. My students took it first, on Wednesday, his took it today (a scheduling issue) and my results were dismal.

So, for 24 hours I have to wait to see if his students do better than mine (in which case it is all on me), or if it's something much more complicated. It's not often that we are caught by surprise on a test because we get a constant flow of input and give feedback daily to our students, so the fact that they did not hit the mark I was expecting (75-100% mastery), and actually fell off a cliff into a chasm (there were scores below 50%), is shocking. We started unpacking the data after school today, and will pinpoint the problem areas and reteach. But what if it's ME?

2nd period tomorrow we'll pore over the results. In the meantime, my students have received their results and completed corrections in class today, and gave me lots of feedback as we went over the questions and the answers. I have an inkling. . . but the facts will be reported tomorrow.

Round 2: Ding

The Toshiba's hard drive failed after one week. Exchanged it and the young person is back in business. He handled it with grace-much more than I show when one of my machines fails to even do a service boot. I also received my first comment from him on the blog. He knows what I write about him, and gives me lots of input, but now he's out there commenting.

I laughed out loud when I saw this comment from my own son under my blog post:

Tmister said...

My name is Tullus. I am the son of Andrea Weis. I am the one who got the AWESOME laptop for my birthday.

That all changed today.

I was trying to get onto my laptop. The first time I tried, it worked. When I tried the internet, it froze. It was connected to the wireless connection, and all was right in the world.

But, for some reason that I can't explain, when I tried to restart it, it wouldn't get past the standby phase on windows 7.

My mom fooled around with it, being the smartest one in the family dealing with technical issues. Well, she made a few calls, and somethings up with the hard drive or something.

So, tomorrow, I am sorry to report that she will be returning my laptop. It was a good laptop, and whatever went wrong with it....


September 15, 2010 6:49 PM

He was absolutely right-not his fault, it was the hard drive. So now he's reinstalling his favorite things on the laptop, like Skype and Picasa, and I realized something. I have my own little feedback person right in my own home. Hmmm. You'll be hearing more from him very soon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Going well, thank you for asking.

We are now at one week with the 12 year old having his own laptop. So far, so good. Parental controls enforced, and only one reminder necessary. All messages meeting expectations and time restraints honored.

Problem 1: I want to Skype my cousins at all hours. They are family.
Solution: Hours of conversation created.

Problem 2: I am going to volunteer to make a video project in one day for my
social studies group. It has 35 clips that need to be edited.
Solution: You will make a PowerPoint with a few flash clips. Do not volunteer
for a project that takes 20 hours to complete in a 3 hour window.

Problem 3: My sister clicked on a contaminated link that was given by (gasp) her teacher!
Solution: Run virus scan and email teacher so that others do not suffer.

These, I think, are opportunities for learning, not setbacks. But they cost me a few hours. Learn from my mistakes.

Positives: I (young person)can check my web portal with no assistance and get my homework checked off my to-do list!

I (young person)can create a set of online flash cards to study for my quiz!

I've (young person)learned how to use sticky-notes and followed through on what was on them!

So, it's been a good week. Way to go, young person!!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

1:1 in My House

I believe in 1:1 computer access in schools. My son, who is in 6th grade attends a school that has plenty of computers, but the school is not even investigating a 1:1 program, so my husband and I made the decision in the last week of how we want to handle this as parents. We've been talking about it for years, but the moment was upon us.

It just happens that we are both teachers too, and if I think that all students should have a computer at 6th grade, I'd like to see how that works in my own home.

The boy's birthday is September 8th, and he'll be turning 12. He's a first-born who is the model of responsibility and it's really a little gross how genuinely attuned he is to what his duties are to himself, family, and community. So here is what is going on. He's been saving for half of the money toward a laptop for three years and has about $1000 in his savings account. Also, he has cash on hand that he uses for his entertainment (church festivals, comic books, movies), and has proven that he knows the value of money. He took a babysitting certification class over the summer, paying half for it, and has begun working for other families.

As far as usage at home, we monitor all his e mail communications and texts, and have dealt with a few blips in appropriate language (two incidents a year ago) and have allowed him to Google chat (no video except family), and audio chat as long as he is in family common areas. We bristle at the word "suck", so we're really pretty conservative about what we approve of him saying aloud let alone in print. We're completely aware that in his tree house and playing basketball with friends the conversation will be what they deem appropriate, and that's part of his growing up, etc. But we like that he knows how to censor himself and change gears based upon the situation.

Therefore, with the great deals on laptops at the moment, (and pressure to walk the talk) we decided to go ahead and do it at the time of his birthday with grandparents and us (parents) covering our portion so that he can have a very nice laptop. It's a Toshiba Satellite, 15.6" display with 3 GB of memory (expandable to 8) and a 320 GB hard drive. $500.

We know that we are jumping off into a new world, but we want him to learn to handle information and manage the technology. Anyone else facing this great new leap?

Here is the agreement that he will have to sign on Wednesday. It will have drool on it by the time he signs it, I'm sure. I'll let you know the first time we have an infraction, and the first two weeks are sure to be ugly.

Agreement for Computer Usage

1. 11.Having access to a computer is not a right. I will remember that I may only use my computer for school or entertainment as my parents allow. I will provide all passwords that I use to my parents.

2. 22. Anything that is on my computer may be viewed at any time by my parents.

3. 33.I will use my laptop DOWNSTAIRS. If I want to take my laptop upstairs to my room, I will ask for special permission and explain why it is necessary.

4. I will ALWAYS tell a parent or another adult immediately, if something is confusing or seems scary or threatening, or just doesn’t seem right.

5. I will NEVER give out my full name, real address, telephone number, school name or location, schedule, password, or other identifying information when I'm online. I will check with an adult for any exceptions.

6. I will NEVER set up a face-to-face meeting with someone I've met online.

7. I will NEVER respond online to any messages that use bad words or words that are scary, threatening, or just feel weird. If I get that kind of message, I'll print it out and tell an adult immediately. The adult can then contact the online service or appropriate agency. If I'm uncomfortable in a live chat room, I will use the "ignore" button.

8. I will NEVER go into a new online area that is going to cost additional money without first asking permission from my parent or teacher.

9. I will NEVER send a picture over the Internet or via regular mail to anyone without my parent's permission.

10. I will NOT give out a credit card number online without a parent present.

By agreeing to these terms, I accept responsibility for my actions, and will remember to protect my online reputation just as I protect my reputation in face to face interactions.

Young Person___________________________ Date__________________

Parent/Guardian________________________ Date__________________

Parent/Guardian________________________ Date__________________