Category Archives: student choice

Learning from Student Reflection

This year, I have made a concerted effort to build reflective prompts into the end of every project in my History classes. As I read through these responses (180 at a time), I have a hard time separating the superficial responses from meaningful commentary that indicates in-depth reflection. This post will detail how I am seeking to improve in this area. The problem of practice that I am trying to improve is the playlist (personalized) approach to learning that I have implemented this year. I have learned that giving students too many learning options and activities stresses them out. Instead of helping them focus and improve their time management challenges, the playlist approach causes a small population of students to misuse their class time, disengage from challenging work, and refuse to accept enough responsibility for their learning. The reflections that I ask the students to complete are designed to give me some insight as to their work habits, problem-solving abilities, and creative process.

Costa & Kallick (2008) describe in-depth reflection as making specific reference to the learning event, providing examples and elaboration, making connections to other learning, and discussing modifications based on insights from this experience.

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Including guiding questions like these: (What resources did you find useful while working on this project? What did you learn about your work ethic, creativity and performance skills as you worked on your speech? Which was more difficult completing the Flipgrid or delivering the speech in front of class? How did PaperRater help you with this project? Thinking about your PVLEGS (Poise, Voice, Life, Eye Contact, Gestures & Speed) growth area, how will you improve this skill before your next speech performance? What part of this project are you most proud of? What would you change if you had a chance to do this project over again?) guarantees that a significant population of students will not delve into the dangerous area of original thought.  This student didn’t even bother to construct a narrative and instead answered my questions as succinctly as possible.
I found the teleprompter extremely useful. It helped me manage my time with my speech and eliminate the unnecessary information which was a very important factor. The articles you provided for us on strong openings/conclusions were useful as well. I learned that I work a lot better under pressure than I do normally. I learned that the most challenging part of writing the speech is not finding the information but delivering it to your audience. Listening to my peers giving their speech made me realize that creating an interesting speech is far more difficult than maintaining interest on a poorly written one. It is difficult for me to discern whether this student really put any effort into this project, or got anything out of it. 

Another student, however, listed several very specific goals to improve her next speech.  
I need to work on staying still while I present my speech because I was shifting my body side to side. I also should’ve practiced using the teleprompter more because it would have improved my performance while I was presenting. I wouldn’t have been as paranoid about messing up if I would’ve been more familiar with the software. I really enjoyed completing this project because it was the most entertaining project that I’ve done in this class. I’m usually good when it comes to managing my time, but for this assignment, I let it all slip. Next time I have speech assignment
 or any other assignment, I will plan out my schedule more appropriately to complete everything that needs to be completed on time. 

One of my repeat customers (a student who had me for World History in 9th grade and now has me again for US History in 11th grade) provided examples and elaboration.
Working on this speech I truly saw an improvement in my writing style. I realized that with this speech i was able to turn some not to interesting information into a somewhat interesting speech. A source of information that I found super helpful was the book Dr. Petri gave me Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. This was very helpful because it gave me a very detailed and wide view into the overthrowing of Queen Liliuokalani, as well as the overthrowing of Hawaii in order for it to become part of the United States. My work ethic has improved greatly since my freshman year with Dr. Petri, who even said that I have improved since then. As well as my creativity, I remember when I would normally do essays and/or speeches I would not make them very creative they would just be filled with a lot of boring information that no one cares about. But for this speech, I was much more creative especially with the way I started. For example, “Your brother dies, oh but let’s not forget he is the King of Hawaii. You, a woman, has to step up to the throne and be the next one in line to run Hawaii. This was how Liliuokalani, became Queen Liliuokalani on January 29, 1891.” I wanted to catch the audience’s attention from the very beginning and I wanted to keep it that way.

Showcasing student reflections that make specific references to the learning event, provide examples and elaboration, make connections to other learning activities, and discuss modifications (or lessons learned) based on insights from this experience can help students improve their reflections and learn from their mistakes. This slideshow illustrates how I use student exemplars with the whole class to improve subsequent reflections. Although I am having some problems with a small population of my students using this playlist approach, anecdotally I can say that I am getting higher-quality work and more engagement from the vast majority of the students in my classes. Reading their comments and compliments as they recognize their own talents and growth has rejuvenated my teaching.

Example A
Each component 
I did better than last time. I realized that I got more work done in the amount of time I set for myself. With that being said my performance in this class is getting way better, I’m not as lazy and I am actually happy to be doing work, at the end, it feels great to be done with assignments either on time or earlier. Helping me improve my performance can be really easy, you can do that by working with all the due dates and giving extra time, which won’t really be necessary now because I’ve changed my ways.

Example B
At the beginning when we started I didn’t really know anything about this subject. I’ve done similar work in this class before and other classes like English too. I think I’ve gotten better because I’m used to having to finish certain work by the due date and making sure
I finish it all. I think what I should improve on is my note-taking because I’m not really the best at that and I feel like I should write more notes.I think I did pretty good on all my work besides my notes because my notes weren’t really much and I feel like I could’ve written more notes that could be more helpful. I think my project was good because I had good info. to support what I was saying in my podcast. What I would like to improve on is note-taking because I need to work on writing more.

Example C
I did well on my project, but I could really improve by trying to do it ahead of time because I really waited last minute to finish the project. I’ve could have done so much better if I really focused on my project. The way you can help me solve this problem is by making the due dates shorter so that it motivates me to finish faster and the rest of my work would be much neater.

I feel like this has been my best semester ever and am excited to return to work after the Winter Break.

Indy Book Projects

As I start to reflect on the end of another school year, I want to focus on a couple of pieces of student work that have made me feel like an accomplished teacher. I always try to integrate an independent reading project into my history class. I am purposefully vague with students and only tell them that they need to complete a project that convinces me they have read the book. This year, I had two Gaby’s that exceeded my expectations.

The first student read Dead Wake by Erik Larson, which is a fantastic book to help students understand an important turning point in WWI history. This student was part of our school’s Teaching Academy and she decided early on that she wanted to transform this book into a children’s book. I was very impressed by the details she recorded and how she made the author’s text accessible to lower level readers.

Lusitania Children’s Book by scottmpetri on Scribd

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/349231228/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-qkru3nHqDM8pImqlIteb&show_recommendations=true

The next student wrote a review of the book Forty Autumns by Nina Willner but responded to my feedback with at least five new versions of her review. I especially enjoyed how she included some questions for the author. I was able to contact the author on Twitter @ninawillner and she agreed to respond to the student’s questions. I love how technology has helped bridge a previously insurmountable gap between authors and readers.

Garden of BeastsInfographic Template

The-Great-InfluenzaGreat Influenza Foldable

I love doing projects like this where students have voice and choice as to the type of book they are reading and the project they are creating. The only instruction I give them is that their project should convince me that they read the entire book. The fun part of teaching is seeing how different and creative students can be.

Semester End Deadlines

The 15 week grades revealed that many of my 9th graders are having time management challenges. The purpose of this post is to provide clear expectations for all semester end projects and deadlines for all of my World History classes.

50 pts The Plot Against America Reading Log Dec. 7
100 pts The Plot Against America Character Time Line Dec. 7
100 pts Holocaust Survivor Poem Dec. 14
50 pts Video Notes Dec. 14
100 pts Holocaust Survivor Art Piece Dec. 14
50 pts Video Notes Dec. 14
100 pts Holocaust Survivor Essay-Speech Dec. 14
50 pts Video Notes Dec. 14
600 points for your final grade. Late work will not be accepted

Students in my class started reading The Plot Against America on Monday, October 26th. For the first week, students listened to the audio book as they read. After five days, I took the training wheels off and asked students to start keeping a daily log of what page numbers they read and to summarize what happened in a reading log.

Char Evo Timeline.jpg

A Character Evolution Timeline from Olson, Scarcella & Matuchniak (2015) requires a reader to review the sequence of events that occur in a text and to plot it out graphically, much like a storyboard. However, in the graphic display, the reader can chart a character’s changing emotions by selecting: (1) a facial expression to reveal the character’s emotions during key events; (2) a quote that illustrates why or how the character experiences this emotion; and (3) a symbol to characterize that emotion. Beneath the quote, the reader needs to write an interpretation of the impact of the event on the character in his or her own words. This exercise in character analysis and forming interpretations helps students detect motivation and bias in historical texts. Students must complete a character log on one of the characters from The Plot Against America with at least 10 events. The timeline (at least 10 events) and the reading log (with at least 20 entries) are due on December 72015 at 3:00 pm.

All my World History students will complete their study of the Holocaust by creating entries that commemorate a Holocaust survivor’s eyewitness testimony. Students must turn in annotated notes for the testimony that inspires each poem, essay, and art piece they complete. Some students may find it helpful to use Video Notes to organize their thoughts on each testimony.

PROMPT: As you listen to the oral testimony of a Holocaust survivor or rescuer, you may sense a change in tone that makes you stop and listen again. Something about the way the person speaks tells you that this memory matters in a special way. For the survivor or rescuer, this memory needs telling forward.

All entries and supporting materials are due by 3:00 pm on Monday, December 14th. Poem and Essay entries must be typed and in 12 point Times New Roman Font, single-spaced. Art and poetry entries must include a 100-word artist’s statement containing: the title of the work; the name of the survivor to whose testimony this work is a response, and a statement of how this work addresses the prompt. The name and class period of the person creating the entry should NOT APPEAR on the front of the entry. Keep all identifying information on the back of the entry.

View the contest’s complete rules here:

All entries will be blind judged by a panel of Kennedy teachers who will choose the top three entries that will be entered in Chapman University’s 17th Annual Holocaust Art and Writing Contest. Students will be eligible to win the first prize of $500 and the second prize of $250 in each category in the high school competition. The first place winner in each category, recipient’s parent/guardian and teacher are all invited to participate in an expense-paid study trip June 21-25, 2014, to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and other sites in Washington D.C.

Websites for Survivor Testimonies

http://www.the1939society.org/projects/

http://sfi.usc.edu/teach_and_learn/student_opportunities/chapman

http://www.youtube.com/uscshoahfoundation

To understand the level of competition in this contest, please review these examples of Previous Winners. Please note that Dr. Petri has been known to generously award bonus points to students who turn in their projects ahead of schedule. Manage your time wisely.

Make Writing

Inspired by Angela Stockman’s new book Make Writing, today my students brainstormed ways they could demonstrate their knowledge of the historical novel The Plot Against America without writing to a prompt that I created for them.

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Pictures are posted below and my review on Angela’s new book will be published in a couple of days.

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Angela’s book turns conventional writing strategies and teaching upside down. She spills you out of your chair, shreds your lined paper, and launches you and your writers workshop into the maker space! Who even knew this was possible?

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Stockman provides five right-now writing strategies that reinvent instruction and inspire both young and adult writers to express ideas with tools and in ways that have rarely, if ever, been considered.

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Many schools are converting classrooms to maker spaces–vibrant places where students demonstrate learning by constructing things, using newly-acquired skills and applying newly-learned concepts.

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With inspired creativity and ingenuity, Stockman shows you how to bring modern maker moves into your writers workshop, giving birth to new environment  that rockets writers to places that were previously unimaginable.

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We will see how well my students’ projects on the Philip Roth novel turn out.

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History Book vs Video Lecture

I operate flipped classroom where students watch video lectures with Zaption questions embedded in them for homework, then we read, practice writing and note-taking drills and complete projects in class. After three years of this work I developed two hypotheses: 1) Students with higher reading scores prefer reading the book to viewing the video lectures; and 2) Students with lower reading scores prefer viewing the video lectures to reading the book.

This week, I asked two samples of students to describe which learning format they preferred. The results soundly debunked my assumptions. While both groups of students preferred the video lectures to the textbook, 36% of students with lower reading levels preferred taking notes from the book rather than viewing video lectures.

Book v VL

Students who favored the video lecture to the book made comments like:

  • I think I am learning more from the videos because they give off more information, they clarify what the topic is about, and I can rewind the video in case I didn’t get that last piece of information.
  • Personally, the video lectures help a lot more than taking notes on the book. I can spend more time on the video, the book is more flat. In the video, main points are emphasized. It’s slightly harder to pick out key points from the book. My brain works better when it comes to listening because when it comes to reading, my eyes tend to skim and I can miss key information.
  • I like the video lecture better because it tells us what to write. You can take your time and you can rewind the video. In the book, it takes a long time looking for what information you are going to write in your notes. When I open the book it’s just like no and it’s not interesting. The book doesn’t capture my attention.

Students who preferred the book to the video lectures made comments like:

  • I think the book helps me better because you can go back and easily find something you missed, you can easily flip through pages to find something, and it is less distracting.
  • Taking notes from the book helps you go at your own pace. You can read as fast or as slow as you want. The book is easier to go back to a sentence or paragraph than the video. The book makes it more simple because you can study and annotate in a way that you will understand.
  • I work better with books, they have less complications. I am a hands-on learner, books get to the point. Video-lectures can have complications. WiFi can go down, you run out of data, problems can happen. Books are always there to be picked up and read.

These results seem to validate the flipped classroom approach. When students view video lectures which preview vocabulary terms, names and events first, they are building background knowledge. Then, when students encounter these terms, names, and events in their reading, they have familiarity with them and it is easier for the new knowledge to “stick.” Regardless of which learning method students prefer when these two methods are paired, the video acts as an anticipation guide priming the pump in a student’s memory and reinforcing the stickiness of the information in the reading. My big takeaway? Remember to listen to your students. It turns out they also are your customers.