videos by Zachary Fromm
Zach Fromm has been experimenting with Canvas and is now willing to share what he's learned from trial and error! The first video covers setting up navigation links with the motto of K.I.S.S. and how he organizes his content using modules. In the second video, he delves further into the area of discussions and how to set them up in Canvas. P.S. Does anyone else think Fromm looks and acts just like John Green?
Stay tuned for more videos and information on Canvas. Also, if you would like help with Canvas, please let an instructional coach know.
written by Jennifer Larson and Sarah Zbornik
Stepping into Jennifer Larson’s classroom, you have hard time believing that what you are seeing isn’t staged or a one time event. Calmness exudes, yet Jennifer is standing off to the side. Watch this Decorah Middle School student use finger cymbals to start class as others pause, listen, and breath.
Jennifer turned to The MindUP Curriculum: Grades 6–8: Brain-Focused Strategies for Learning—and Living to assist with this endeavor. (You can find this book in the DMS library.) The brain-based research has been impactful for Jennifer. She can explain to the students that when they are preparing to perform, they may feel anxious or even fear. But in actuality, this is simply the brain sending signals to the body. A student can decide that this is perceived fear and use mindfulness techniques to calm the body down and tell it that all is okay with the world.
It hasn’t always been like this in Jennifer’s class. Several years ago, she attended a “Mindful Class for Teachers”. One activity has stuck with her and helped her find patience and calmness for her students. The orchestra class begins with a “ bell of mindfulness” led by a different student each day. When the student leader steps on the podium the class becomes quiet. The students are taught to think the mantra pause, listen, breathe- the bell is rung and the students concentrate on the sensations of a resonant sound and their own breathing. This becomes a time for setting the tone and getting everyone- teacher and students- to achieve a state of mind in which they can all participate purposefully and thoughtfully.
Jennifer has used this method plus many more for a calmer, more mindful class. For more information and lessons plans on mindfulness check out mindfulteachers.org and the Do’s and Don’t’s When Teaching Mindfulness.
written by Amy Courtney and Sarah Zbornik
With the new National Core Arts Standards and its emphasis on creating, performing, responding, and connecting, there has been much discussion to how we will now assess our students. In the arts, we say that creativity is the most important aspect, but in the past it we have rarely assessed it, primarily because of the difficulty in doing so. Thus, questions emerge. How does one assess creativity? Can a letter grade be attached to it? Is this type of assessment possible with standards-based grading? For Amy Courtney, addressing these issues, and at the same time allowing for improvement and student reflection, is now essential to her pedagogy.
Amy’s greatest challenge is changing perceptions and perspectives, especially with parents and teachers whose art experience is focused around technical skills. She focuses her attention on showing a student that he/she can be successful in the art room even when a student doesn’t have the highest level of technical skills. For her, art isn’t about being able to draw perfect still life photo; art is about changing the world around you.
Throughout her career, Amy has sought to educate students, families, community members, and fellow educators of the positive impact that artistic development can have. She hopes for people to understand that artistry is a learned skill that anyone can enjoy rather than something that is simply innate. Ultimately, she strives to make her classroom a safe and supportive space where artists of any skill level can learn and grow.
This shift in focus also impacts the way Amy assesses students. Previously, her priority has been on craft, technique, and the end product. But, if creativity is the most important element, how can this be reflected in assessment?
As Amy reflects, she realizes the process is important, if not more so than the end product. Now, she focuses her attention on “What do I want the kids to understand?” instead of “What do I want the final product to look like?” To get to this point, she built the assessments from the ground up. To assist in the process, she utilized the book Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe. For each grade, she broke down the four separate standards: Creating, Presenting, Responding, and Connecting. Then, she determined the most important strands for each area.
From here she developed the questions and built rubrics. Here is one section of her rubric for her unit on Power and Privilege:
To view the complete rubric , please see Grade 7 Rubric - Power & Privilege.
Even though she still struggles with putting a grade on the process, this rubric helps the students see that work is always in progress. Students can see that creativity is a learned skill and can be improved upon. In an area where innate talent is often assumed to be critical, everybody can now show growth.
written by Shannon Horton, DMS Librarian and Collaborative Teacher
More and more I notice students looking and finding an “easy button” when it comes to independent reading. They choose graphic novels because the pictures help them enter the story quickly, they choose realistic fiction about characters and places that are familiar to them, and they often pick up books they’ve read before. That’s not all bad, don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of graphic novels, books that reflect my own life, and even books written well below my abilities, BUT I also push myself from time to time and reap enormous benefits.
What methods have you found to push students in a direction that will get them out of their reading comfort zone? Here are a few ideas to get us started:
READ A CHAPTER ALOUD
Read a chapter, or a few chapters, to hook students and help them with the work of getting into a book. List the books in your classroom or on Canvas for student reference. (So many of you have done this as teachers, and I’ve seen the positive results in the library.)
CONNECT WITH PEERS
Make reading social. How can students talk about and recommend books to other students? This is satisfying for readers and can also hook new readers on books they wouldn’t naturally pick up. Could students be given a choice in how to share the books they love with their classmates? In Canvas start a discussion so that students can add books they recommend by attaching files, such as a picture with their book or a short video.
ENCOURAGE NEW DIRECTION
Assign an occasional parameter to their Independent Reading that requires them to reach in a new direction. Gene Yang, author and recently appointed National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature, has a fabulous idea for teachers and students alike. His challenge is called Reading Without Walls, and I think it’s just what this world needs. Could we as teachers take the challenge? Could students take the challenge and reflect on their experience? Here’s what I picture: teachers reading graphic novels, such as the ones written by Gene Yang, while students pick up a book about a life lived in a way they have no reference for.
Self-selected, independent reading is key to developing readers. Give them choice! Praise and show interest in their choices! Let them be “lazy” and read something below their abilities. And, every now and again, find creative ways to push them.
Gene Yang, pictured above, has been chosen for a 2016
MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, so he must
know what he’s talking about. (Photo Credit)
P.S. If you want one of the posters that outlines the reading challenge, just let me know. I see it as a great way to advertise on your door how you’ve accepted the challenge yourself or to post in your room for students. I made it using http://www.canva.com/, my favorite tool for making posters and signs.
A blog dedicated to discussing instructional practices and reflecting on why we do what we do.
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