Featured Post

Word Magnets

What it is: Word Magnets is a fantastic little website that lets you type or copy and paste words into a field and create virtual word magnets out of them (think of the popular word magnets sold for refrigerators).  After you have typed in the words to transform into magnets, you can choose a “magnetic”...

Read More

We choose the moon: assessment without labels

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, Classroom Management, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 10-07-2014

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0

“With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a bit longer.”- unknown

Yesterday, @Kevreadenn shared the quote above with me on Twitter. It had me thinking about assessment and John F. Kennedy’s, “we choose the moon” (embedded above – you should watch it again). The declaration that we WOULD send a man to the moon, that we would do the impossible, seemed like an unworkable task given the technology of 1969. It is astounding to me that the technology I hold in my pocket is significantly more capable than the technology that sent a man to the moon. Kennedy inspired a nation to dream together, to achieve the impossible using the resources that were available. How can we inspire kids in this way as they quest for learning? How can we help those students who look at the goal of reaching the moon and think, “this is impossible, I only have 1969 technology,” to be inspired, to look at their resources in new ways and believe that they can do the impossible?

Everyone wants to know that they are “winning” and contributing to something meaningful. The declaration that a man would go to the moon was a lofty goal. It seemed incredibly  important, as a nation, that we achieve this goal together.

It strikes me as strange that the majority of assessment that we focus on in education only shows lag data. The lag data reveals to us where a student landed in a given moment, but doesn’t offer any opportunity for course correction. It also doesn’t take into account outside influences (not enough sleep, home struggles, lack of nutrition, friendship stresses, etc.). If our goals are lofty, and we want learning to be better, we will stop focusing on the lag data as the most important, and instead focus on the lead data. Lead data shows us what leads up to the learning, it gives us insight in the journey and process so that we can adjust as we go.

The majority of grading systems fail to compel action from students because they show historical data only. Students are left believing, “I’ve failed, and now I have to move on knowing I already fall short. Now I have to continue forward from a deficit.” Or they may be left believing, “I aced this, I already know it all, I don’t have anything more to learn.” Traditional grades tend to end learning. Traditional grades also measure students against everyone else with the goal being a perfect score. (Notice that I did NOT say that the goal was learning.) This comparison can be demoralizing for students who know they will fall short of the perfect score. They begin to label themselves as “stupid” and often arrive at the apathetic stance of, “it’s not even worth trying.” The other scenario is the student that believes the goal of the perfect score signals that they learned everything they need to know. For these students, apathy comes in already having hit the mark. “I know everything I need to about x.” This line of thinking closes down creativity and the drive to learn more. Apathy is the killer of learning. It matters not if you are a straight A student, or a D student, traditional grade systems breed apathy and don’t encourage kids to go for the lofty goals. There will be no choosing the moon.

Grading systems need to be upgraded so that they engage students in the process of reaching lofty goals. When students are able to help set their own goals and the assessment happens as a part of learning, students are continually pulled forward in their learning. Each small win adds learning momentum that begins to snowball into something bigger. For those who struggle, the small victories reveal that they can win and they are making forward progress. This gives the confidence that all learning is possible and worth engaging (even when the end goal feels impossible). The students who find that learning comes easily aren’t halted by artificial ceilings. They aren’t left believing that the learning has ended and are encouraged to keep moving forward.

In starting Anastasis Academy, we quickly found that no traditional grading system could adequately assess students as they were learning. We ditched formal A-F grading and instead used standards based grading. The idea was that if we assessed students based on standards (which we used as some of our learning goals), stakeholders would be able to better map progress as they went. We use standards differently, at Anastasis the standards aren’t organized by grade levels, they are simply a continuum of foundational skills. It didn’t take long before the standards based grading was also falling short. There is SO much more to learning than simply meeting the standard. We were interested in helping students understand how their attitudes toward learning impacted academic progress. We wanted to help them understand how character spills into everything else that they do. We wanted them to see that more important than a “Math” grade, was the ability to think like a mathematician. We wanted students to be able to “choose to go to the moon” and contribute to something meaningful. We needed something more holistic that helped students see the intricacies of how learning works. We wanted them to be able to make correlations between their attitudes toward learning and the outcomes that they could see.

Anastasis Report Card

This is the “report card” that I created. It is our attempt to help kids better understand what contributes to learning. It is a helpful way to show students that they aren’t “stupid in math,” but instead help them realize that they aren’t risk takers in math. The aversion to risk taking in math is what really holds them back.

The Latin root of Assessment is assidere, which means “to sit beside.” At Anastasis, we believe that assessment is more than just a measurement, it is an opportunity for apprenticeship, a time for us “to sit beside” and guide. We’ve used various tools for assessment in our short history, our search was for the assessment tool that would offer a more holistic picture of learning. We’ve used Mastery Connect and Jump Rope, but they fell short in giving us that holistic picture because they were tied to Common Core Standards alone (and limited by grade levels). What our students do at Anastasis every day is SO much bigger and deeper than these standards, and yet we didn’t have a good way to demonstrate that. Beginning in January, we rolled out our own grading system. We call it UpGrade because that is what it felt like, an upgrade!

Our goal for feedback on the UpGrade report is twofold:

1. To give students feedback that causes them to think, engage, and reflect on their own learning process as they learn.

2. To give families a detailed account of the student’s learning journey and forward progress.

The UpGrade reports are designed to explain what students know and are able to do, rather than determining grades based on point averages. This kind of grading allows teachers to more effectively tailor instruction to students based on what they actually know and can do, no floors and no ceilings.

The UpGrade report contains the proficiency marks 1-5 (explained below). These numbers are intended to demonstrate the process of learning, students move through the levels of proficiency as learning progresses. A “1” indicates that a child is new to the learning or requires a lot of guidance. A “5” indicates that the student is able to apply the learning to new situations and make connections to other learning.

1- Novice Concept and/or skill is brand new, student is just getting started in the learning. Student requires much teacher guidance and prompting.
2- Apprentice Some prompting or guidance is needed for the new concept and/or skill.
3- Practitioner Concept and/or skill can be done consistently and independently. Student may require occasional prompting or guidance.
4- Scholar Student can apply concept and/or skill to new and/or different situations with little guidance. Student is ready to build on the learning (next level of standard). 
5- Change Maker Concept and/or skill come second nature and can be used to make connections with other learning. Students understand concept/skill and can apply, evaluate, analyze, and create using the skill/concept. Student can use skill/concept for in-depth inferences and applications.

Of course when you create a report card that looks like this, you also have to craft a grading system to populate the report card. Dang it.

This is where I had to get creative and use my limited resources to make something (that seems impossible) work. I used Apple’s Numbers as the method for creating the grading system. It is tedious work, the user interface is messy, but it allows lofty goals and the impossible.

On the back end, teachers can fill in rubrics, or learning evidence pages. These compile and end up as the final 1-5 on the image that you see above. Why did I use Numbers? It is the only spreadsheet program robust enough to incorporate the graphic above. The evidences of learning (assignments) and scores are the easy part. Getting the rubrics to work the way I wanted them to, not so much! I sent out a call for help the other night on Twitter and had some AMAZING spreadsheet ninjas step in to help me find solutions. I promised to share what I figured out…for those not interested in the technical bits, feel free to skip ahead. :)

Anastasis self-grading Writing Rubric in Numbers

This is the rubric that I was working on. I wanted it to “self grade” and then for the score to transfer as a learning evidence. It seemed like it should be simple, but this honestly stumped me for days. Thankfully my PLN stepped in to point me in the right direction!

I started out by creating a highlighting rule. This is simple in Numbers, just click on the cell(s) that you want the rule on and in the “cell formatting” pane, choose “Conditional Highlighting.” In each cell where teachers could leave a score, I wanted the cell to highlight when the score was added. I chose to add the rule “Text contains” and then the number that corresponded to the row of the rubric. Then I chose a color to highlight.

Next came the tricky part. In the cells full of text, I wanted the last cell to recognize when a teacher had typed in a number, and to add up all the numbers of the row so that we could get a total that would populate on the Learning Evidence sheet. I could find all kinds of ways to accomplish this in a Google Spreadsheet or in Excel, but none of the solutions seemed to work in Numbers. I kept getting a syntax error. I finally solved it by using the following format: =COUNTIF(B2:H2,”=*1″) In each row, I changed the number to reflect the score that it would count. This got me most of the way to what I needed, but it was only giving me a count of how many of the number were in the row, not giving me the sum (=SUMIF didn’t work). SO, I added another column to find the product of the “Countif” with the row number. Success! I’ll hide these two columns for the final grade system and just have the total at the bottom show up. This total is easy to then transfer to the Learning Evidence sheet.

THANK YOU @mathlioness @katieregan88 @mrmatera @alicekeeler @royanlee @jasonschmidt123 @benlouey @malynmawby @thomascmurray, you all are truly wonderful for spending time to help me solve this. I am seriously elated that there was a solution! Anastasis teachers will be thrilled as well! :) YOU ARE NINJAS!!

When people ask about Anastasis, they are usually curious to know how we’ve broken past the barrier of labels. We have students who are dyslexic, twice exceptional, have struggled in school, are gifted, know how to play the game of school, etc. Everyone of these kids chooses the moon. They choose to do the impossible and keep moving forward. They aren’t stifled by the learning labels. They know they are more than an “A” or “F.” They start to understand that learning is not the same as a grade. They begin to understand where their hangups actually are and can work on adjusting those instead of believing they are failures.  It is amazing what happens when you take away the labels and help kids understand that no matter where they start from, there is something to be learned, forward progress to be made. They choose lofty goals. They do the impossible.

Sorting Through the Common Core (more to the story than Facebook)

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, video | Posted on 26-06-2014

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0


In the past few months, “Common Core” has become a hot button issue for parents, educators, news media, and celebrities alike. Facebook feeds have been flooded with absurd worksheets, kids homework, and disparaging remarks about how the “Common Core” will ruin us all. The problem is, the “Common Core” really refers to two things. One is the standards and the other is curriculum. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but are being used interchangeably as if they are one and the same.

In recent months, I’ve had parents ask for clarification about what the Common Core is. They want to be reassured that their kids aren’t anywhere near the absurdity that they are seeing online, in the news, or in the new Common Core documentary. Because there has been so much confusion, I created the video above to help explain what the “Common Core” is. I tried to keep it short so that it was manageable to watch without getting lost in the details and losing interest. I recognize that there is a LOT more to this topic than what I laid out. My goal with the video above was to help others understand what the “Common Core” is and what it isn’t.

Common Core Standards are different from Common Core Curriculum. As I said before, the two are not the same. The problem is that news media outlets, Facebook feeds, and celebrities use “Common Core” to describe both the standards and the curriculum. Sometimes they even mistakenly refer to the curriculum as Common Core Standards.

The standards are the United States attempt at bringing more continuity to learning foundations for kindergarten through twelfth grade students throughout the states. They are intended to ensure that all students receive the same base skills to build on in English Language Arts and Math. Most of the United States has adopted these standards and is making adjustments to accommodate the new standards. In the past, individual states each had state created standards. This led to a lot of disparity between the states about what was learned and at what stage it was learned. The result was a chasm between what students in one state learned that a neighboring state had not.

The standards were developed in partnership by a group made up of governors, chief state school officers, education groups, and corporations and foundations. The funding for the development of the standards came from the federal government (part of Race to the Top money) and the corporations/foundations involved. In the video, I show a Common Core Standards “family tree” that breaks this down a bit more. While I don’t love the idea of corporations funding the standards, I recognize that the money to make them happen had to come from somewhere. I wish that the “somewhere” wasn’t tied so closely with the publishing companies who make curriculum. I also noticed that the educational groups were labeled as “advisory.” It seems to me that the government agencies and the corporations/foundations should have been “advisory” and the educational group should have been the chief designers. Because I wasn’t right in the middle of the creation, I can only speculate how this went and hope that it was a true partnership where educators had a large hand in the outcome. Included in the creation were: Achieve (which includes Alcoa, Exxon Mobile, Microsoft), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the National Govenors Association, Council of Chief School Officers, David Coleman, Sue Pimentel, and Jason Zimba (who sold an educational startup to McGraw Hill), the National Education Foundation, America Federation of Teachers, National Council of English Teachers, and National Council of Math Teachers.

Standards are not a bad thing. They give a baseline and frame of reference to work within. As an educator, I see the importance of having a baseline of foundational skills that we can count on. The standards are written very generally. They are just over 60 pages long (k-12) and when you read through them you will see, they are pretty underwhelming. I like the generality of the standards, they leave schools and teachers open to using a wide variety of methodologies and resources to ensure that students get those foundational skills. They aren’t prescriptive of HOW to teach, they are just a guideline of what should be taught. Do I agree on the every single standard being totally necessary for every single child? No. But I do recognize the value in a society having a common set of baseline skills, the standards are a good beginning for that. One of the biggest problems I do have with the standards is the language used. If these goals are intended for students, shouldn’t they be written in student-friendly language that is easy to understand? Instead they are full of eduspeak and jargon. That should change!

I’m sure you’ve seen these floating around (and more like it):

Common core math problem Common Core

 

This is Common Core Curriculum. The writers of the Common Core Standards do not endorse any curriculum. Anyone can label the curriculum “Common Core Aligned.” ANYONE. This curriculum is designed by publishers. The alignment to the Common Core Standards is a way for publishers to sell more. Publishers know that in the frenzy of states adopting Common Core Standards, there will be an urgency to get schools and students on the same page quickly (after all…testing). They also know that if they stamp “Common Core aligned” on their curricula, schools are more likely to purchase it so that their students are ready for the testing that is sure to follow. Here is the problem, publishers design curriculum to make money. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the money overshadows what is best for kids. The other problem: the same people who write the curriculum, write the tests. This forces a school’s hand to purchase the curriculum so that their kids can pass the tests (which is then incentivized by programs like RTTT). When they don’t pass the tests, the publishing companies conveniently come to the rescue with the latest and greatest new curriculum. The cycle repeats. This is not a new cycle within education, but it is one that is becoming more and more transparent. In 2012 Pearson, the largest publisher of curriculum, developed Common Core Standards tests.

The adoption of Common Core Standards does not require districts and states to collect more data. Unfortunately, the Race to the Top initiative incentivized the collection of more data. You see where this all starts to get really messy. Race to the Top also paid out $350 million to create computerized testing to more efficiently collect data on students. The downfall is that there are many, many schools across the United States who aren’t even well enough equipped with technology to give these tests.

Standards are not evil, but when coupled by unreasonable expectations of a one-size-fits-all system, they can be disastrous.

We use standards at Anastasis Academy, they are a framework that we can build on to ensure that our students are getting foundational skills that will carry them on in their learning. Instead of using boxed-curriculum, we approach the standards through the lens of inquiry, and build our own learning experiences based on the individual needs of every single student. Is it the most efficient it could be? No. But we are dealing with humanity, not widgets. This approach uses the standards in a way that truly does make them the floor and not the ceiling. They are a starting point, but they don’t restrict us. We choose not to use any of the “Common Core aligned” boxed curriculum. The one-size-fits-all isn’t what we want for our students. It doesn’t take into account the individuals that we teach. We choose not to give our students piles of worksheets, but instead give them learning opportunities that engage them as learners and leaders. Our goal is to apprentice our students in the art of learning. This is a very different goal than simply trying to get them through the textbook each year!

I encourage you to read through the Common Core Standards for yourself. You will quickly get an idea of how general they really are. When you see the popup of the Common Core, ask yourself if it is one of those standards that is the problem, or if it is the curriculum that is being used. If you are a parent, I encourage you to get involved with your school. Ask what curriculum is being used and why. Don’t feel bound by the tests (they are a poor measure of who your child is anyway). Encourage your school to look at ways that they can meet standards without being bound to curriculum. When those Facebook posts popup, speak out about the problem with better specifics “this curriculum is ridiculous, where is the real learning experience?!”

If you are a teacher, I get it-sometimes you don’t get to make the choice. If you have wiggle room and aren’t using a completely scripted curriculum, take advantage of it! Connect with other educators who are doing things differently. Look for ways that you can build foundational skills that aren’t tied endless worksheets and practice drills for the next test. Help your kids fall in love with learning. Be transparent, show them why you are passionate about learning.

Snap! Digital Reading Program: 128 leveled readers

Posted by admin | Posted in Download, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 08-08-2013

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3

Snap! Digital Reader Library iLearn Technology

What it is: Snap! Digital Reading Program is a set of interactive leveled books that can be printed, viewed on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, interactive whiteboards or classroom computer.  All of the books in the program have been developed to help teachers meet requirements in the Common Core Standards in vocabulary and comprehension through the use of direct instruction, close reading, modeling, guided and independent practice, and text-dependent questioning.  Each leveled reader has a digital interactive version that includes fluency exercises, comprehension and multiple-choice type assessments.  As your students read, you can track what they are reading, view the digital assessments and performance reports.  These reports include information about CLOZE scores, multiple choice scores, and fluency.  You can also see information about the  last book they read (word counts, difficulty, words read correctly, etc.).  Snap! Digital Reading Program also includes lesson plans associated with each book.  While the program isn’t a free one, a year-long subscription to all materials (interactive ebooks for student, printable PDF versions of the books/lessons/other materials, and the data analytics for all of your students is just $89.  Pretty reasonable for access for every student in your class!

How to use the Snap! Digital Reading Program in your classroom: I’ve mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating: when you have a limited classroom library (due to space, as a new teacher, budget, etc.) ebooks are such a great way to instantly expand that library exponentially!  Snap! helps you do that and more.  Not only are you able to offer your students additional access to reading material, they have the added benefit of getting interactive books that give you data so that you can better guide students in choosing books that will help them fall in love with reading.  The readers can also be used for reading interventions, guided reading, shared reading and tutoring.  The leveled readers are for students in grades k-8, so even if you have a super advanced second grade student, you can continually challenge them.

Snap! Digital Reader Library iLearn Technology

The flexibility of this program is fantastic!  I’ve long been a fan of Learning A-Z for their printable books, but they are limited to a printout.  With Snap! you have the option of printing out books, but students can also access them from home device, on the iPad, Kindle Fire, Android, interactive whiteboard, or classroom computers.  The eBook version of the reader includes audio, photo slideshows, glossary terms, videos, fun facts, interactive maps and animations.  The PDF version includes lesson plans, alphabet book, word books, assessment materials and individual student record books.  Regardless of how much technology you have available in your classroom, the Snap! program works.

In a one to one setting you get the best of all worlds.  Every student in your class instantly has access to 128 quality interactive books and activities.  Did I mention $89?! That is a great deal!  You also have the ability for offline pdf books that can be sent home for extra practice.  When I taught second grade, my students loved having a print copy of the ebooks that they read in class.  It was always a treat to have those printed to color and share at home.

In a one or two device classroom, you can set up a reading center for students to cycle through.  Students can visit the center once or twice a week to read.

Model reading strategies for the whole class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can practice reading along and be introduced to new vocabulary.

Tips: The iPad version is not called “Snap!” Digital Reader.  The app you will download to access the interactive ebook library is Mobl21 HD.

Snap! Digital Reader Library iLearn TechnologyPrice of app: Free* ($89 yearly subscription required!)

Device: iPad with iOS 5.0 or later, Kindle Fire, Android, computer

Yummy Math! Best Math Blog EVER

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Art, Evaluate, inspiration, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 18-10-2012

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0

What it is:  Yummy Math is an absolutely fabulous blog/site dedicated to helping students and teachers understand how math is relevant to the world.  What a great mission!  The blog was started 2 years ago…bummed that I am only JUST discovering it.  Brian Marks and Leslie Lewis are the creators of Yummy Math.  They have worked together to make an easy way for teachers to bring real-world math into the classroom.  Math (like everything else) should be taught within a context.  I believe this is key!  When understood in context, students can make connections to their learning and, as a result, really learn it.  The goal here is to engage students in math so that they yearn to reason, think critically, problem solve, question and communicate…in short: DO math!  Each week, multiple activities and ideas are added to the Yummy Math site.  This means that you are in constant supply of real-world math problems for your students to engage in.

Categories include:

  • Algebra
  • Data and Probability
  • Geometry
  • Number Sense
  • Sports
  • Holidays/annual events
  • Math and Science
  • Math and Food
  • Math and Social Studies
  • Math and Art
  • Movies and Entertainment

How to integrate Yummy Math into the classroom: You know that dry math curriculum that you feel TRAPPED by?  Yummy Math exists to free you (and your students) from the endless memorization and unconnected practice.  This is the perfect supplement to any math program.  Use these activities a few times a week to really get your students thinking outside of the (math) box.  These will stretch your students, and help them grow exponentially in their understanding of math and all of the cool things it makes possible.

These are not your typical “real” world word problems.  None of that, if train a is traveling north at x, and train b is traveling south at y what time will they meet? Garbage.  This is…what is the real cost of owning an iPhone 5?   or  The House of Representatives passed a law in 2007 to increase the efficiency of light bulbs, what is the real energy savings that can be realized with CFL and LED.  Not only relevant, but really interesting!

Tips: You know what is EXTRA helpful?  That Yummy Math has already done all the leg work to tell you which Common Core Standards these project are meeting.  Yes. They are awesome!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Yummy Math  in your classroom.

Help me personalize education for EVERY child!  Donate and spread the word about the Learning Genome Project.

Gooru: Fantastic new education search engine

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Open Source, Science, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Video Tutorials, Websites | Posted on 12-07-2012

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1

What it is:  Gooru is a education search engine for learning that helps teachers find standards aligned content and study guides.  5th-12th grade math and science topics are covered and include resources like digital textbooks, animations and instructor videos.  Gooru provides a place to connect with your worldwide personal learning network to share and ask questions.  Gooru is not just for teachers, students can use the study guides and self assessments to guide learning.  Based on the topics studied and the performance on self-assessments, Gooru begins to suggest resources and study guides to help gain mastery.

Gooru takes advantage of OER (Open Educational Resources) so that all content delivered can be accessed free of charge.

You can explore Gooru through resources, collections, quizzes, a standards library or a search engine.

How to integrate Gooru into the classroom: Gooru is a great step toward helping you personalize the learning experience for your students.  Use Gooru to find resources for your classroom and for individual students.  Invite students to create their own logins so that they can setup Gooru to be tailored to their specific needs.  As they study and take quizzes, Gooru gets “smarter” and begins to recommend content for them.

Gooru is ideal in a 1 to 1 classroom set up.  If you don’t have 1 to 1 access, much of the content can be shared using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Because of the nature of Gooru, it could be a great addition to the flipped classroom model.

Tips:  Gooru is currently in beta, sign up to help them test it out and make it better today!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Gooru  in  your classroom!

Buzz Math: Middle school math practice for proficiency

Posted by admin | Posted in Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 18-06-2012

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

0

What it is:  Buzz Math is not a completely free to use tool, but they do have a free option that makes it worth checking out! Right now, you can subscribe one class for free for the school edition of Buzz Math.  Buzz Math is intended for students in Middle School math.  All of the activities are directly tied to Common Core Standards.  You can assign activities based on a specific standard for the whole class, or just assign the activity to individual students.  You get feedback immediately as students complete an activity so that you can plan instruction accordingly.  These are not your typical math site activities (online multiple choice).  Instead, each activity is a little different, highly engaging, and provides students with great feedback.

Students can choose to do an activity of interest or complete the specific activities assigned by their teacher.  When students complete a set number of activities within a topic, a special mission is unlocked that is related to math history.  Students are challenged to help mathematicians to recover “lost” knowledge.  Students also have access to Buzzlab which connects the theme of the missions to the storyline.

Each activity is made up of 10 pages of practice question that cover a specific concept to help students practice and improve their skills.  Activities include both direct practice and interactive components.  Students must complete an activity with 100% accuracy (mastery) before they can unlock a mission.  The mission that follows is a more challenging problem solving activity.  Students can get example problems with each activity to help them solve problems.

I am really impressed with Buzz Math.  The entire program is really well thought out, great for students and teachers.  This is one I would pay for additional students/classes.

How to integrate Buzz Math into the classroom: Buzz Math is ideal in a one to one or computer lab setting.  I love that you can tailor Buzz Math for an individual student.  Instead of just giving a whole class an activity/assignment (which you can also do), Buzz Math lets you choose which students to assign a standards based activity to.  Duh! I can’t believe more programs aren’t set up this way.  It makes sense to use technology to customize learning to the student this way.  There is no reason not to!

Buzz Math would be great for in-class practice or for additional home practice.  Students can login to their individual account anywhere for anytime learning.

Buzz Math could be used in the one or two computer classroom as a learning center.  Students can filter through the computer one at a time throughout the week so that each week each student gets the opportunity to login to their account.

Tips: The teacher portal has a great breakdown of student progress including student session lengths, you can see exactly how long students practiced.  Detailed reports can be printed out for parents.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Buzz Math in  your classroom!

Using the Common Core Standards Scandalously to Bring Freedom to Learning

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Classroom Management, education reform, inspiration, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools | Posted on 04-04-2012

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

19

At Anastasis Academy we use the Common Core Standards as a basic framework to start from.  We don’t purchase ANY boxed curriculum. At all.  At least not in the typical fashion.  We tailor learning to meet the needs of our students.  All of the resources we purchase are purchased with specific students in mind.  So, if a piece of curriculum meets the needs of a student, we purchase that.  If a lesson plan, or a video, or a book, or an app helps that child to be successful in learning, we purchase that. The Common Core Standards act as our guide not our goal.   I know, scandalous.

We don’t see the Common Core Standards as needing to be prescriptive of when and how a child should learn.  Instead, we recognize that there are some foundational, basic skills in learning that help students in other learning, discovery and creativity.  Quite frankly, the Common Core Standards are underwhelming. They leave SO much to be desired if they are viewed as the learning objective. If viewed as a baseline, a door to other learning opportunities, everything changes.  There is freedom in that.

At Anastasis, we don’t have grade levels.  Instead we group students based on developmental level taking into account academic abilities, the social/emotional and maturation.  In any given class, we could have up to a 3-4 year spread.  We recognize that children don’t develop at exactly the same rate.  They must be given flexibility in their learning and not forced through a curriculum based on an artificial pacing guide.  We believe the same is true for the standards.  While the standards give a nice framework, there is no reason why a 6 year old should be expected to master all of the standards in first grade.  There is no reason why a 6 year old should be limited by the standards in first grade.  I’m sure that we don’t use the Common Core Standards quite like anyone else.  We pay little attention to the grade level of the standard.  Instead, when a child has mastered a standard, we move them to the next level of challenge regardless of the grade level the standard falls in.  Because every child in a class could be working on a different combination of standards, we have a very low teacher/student ratio.  We have 12 students to every teacher.  This allows us to truly work with students where they are at.  We use Mastery Connect to help us keep track of student progress.

Our students are involved in the process of coming up with learning goals.  I know in most cases this responsibility rests solely on the shoulders of the teacher or the curriculum company.  Students should have a say in their learning.  If they don’t, we are doing a disservice to them.  The problem we quickly ran into: students couldn’t easily read and understand the standards so that they could weigh in.  Have you read the Common Core Standards? They are ridiculously full of eduspeak BS.  I mean honestly, do they have to make everything sound so convoluted? I ended up rewriting the standards in student friendly language so that our students could work with teachers to create learning goals for each block (five week period).  Below, you can see my re-written versions for first-sixth grade standards.  I’m going back through the seventh and eighth grade standards for some additional tweaking.

First

Second

Third

Fourth

Fifth

Sixth

Our students are so brilliant in the way they plan their goals for each block.  One of our intermediate students showed me a video yesterday that he put together to show which standards and goals he had set for himself and his action steps to get there.  It is seriously creative.  As soon as he has it uploaded to YouTube I’ll share. Whoever decided that standards should be printed out and posted during the lesson that addresses them should be ashamed.  Who is that for, honestly?  The standard cards that get posted are full of the eduspeak. They aren’t for students.

Standards have gotten a bad reputation in the education community.  The way they are being used is distasteful to say the least.  Standards are being used to make every learning experience look exactly the same regardless of the child. They are being used to sell curriculum.  They are being used to help students pass a test. They are being used to judge teacher abilities. They are being used to determine funding. They are being used to churn out a generation of kids that have the exact same skill set.

I like standards.  I like that there are food standards that ensure that the food I eat is safe.  I like that those standards don’t dictate which dishes end up on my table. I like that they don’t hinder chefs from being creative with food.  I like that there are standards for the safety of children’s toys.  I like that those standards don’t dictate how creative a toy maker can be.  I like that they don’t dictate how a child can play.  I like that there are standards in the construction of my house. I like that those standards don’t keep me from personalizing my house.  I like that those standards leave plenty of room for creative architecture and design.  Standards that are used as a framework and baseline allow for freedom.  They give us a starting place and let us create and work all the way around them.  When you view the Common Core Standards this way, they aren’t mind numbing, they are freeing.  They help us empower students with the building blocks of learning so that they have freedom in learning. They give students enough of the skills and foundational understandings to build on in any direction they would like.

I realize that this view of the Common Core Standards isn’t where most of you are.  For most of you the standards are very prescriptive. Very limiting. A very narrow view of what it means to be educated.  My hope is that by sharing the way we scandalously use the standards, other classrooms and schools will be able to make changes toward freedom in learning.  My hope is that more schools would break free from the boxed curricula and testing.  Students should experience freedom in their learning.  All teachers should experience the freedom that comes with really being a teacher (as opposed to script reader and test giver).

If I could change one thing about the Common Core Standards it would be this: get rid of the grade level separation of standards.  Let it just be a continuum of learning.  It is so silly to think that children should be able to master learning because according to the standard, they are the age for it. It is so silly to think that a student couldn’t possibly master standards well above their age.  I call BS on both. We have students who exist in both camps.

Our goal is to empower students as learners.  Our goal is to do what is right for every child.  Our goal is freedom in learning.

 

 

Learn Zillion: Learning without limits

Posted by admin | Posted in inspiration, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Video Tutorials, Websites | Posted on 05-12-2011

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0

What it is:  Today I learned about a resource called Learn Zillion in a Skype conversation with Sam Schillace, creator of Google Docs.  Learn Zillion has a tagline that resonates with me: Learning Without Limits.  This is why I love technology, it enables learning without limits.  One of the things I have dreamed about, is a world where the very best teachers around the world could be connected with the students that need them.  Learn Zillion does just that through asynchronous video lessons organized by the Common Core Standards.  Learn Zillion was started by E.L. Haynes public charter school who had a passion for sharing best practices across classrooms and to connect students with just the right lesson, at just the right time.  The site started small and grew along with the passion that every child should have access to incredible teachers and resources.  Learn Zillion is now a place where teachers can learn by “sitting in” on other teacher’s lessons, and students can get a playlist of lessons that meet their needs.  Pretty awesome!
How to integrate Learn Zillion into the classroom: It has always bothered me that I only had access to the teachers I had access to.  Let me explain that a little: I had some really incredible teachers growing up; my first, third, and fifth grade teachers were beyond exceptional.  I think about them often and model my own teaching based on what they did.  I had an incredible creative writing teacher in high school.  I had an Algebra teacher who made me believe that I was a gifted math student (I’m average at best).  I also had years with so-so teachers, teachers who didn’t really inspire the best in me.  That is not to say that another student didn’t connect with them and remember them years later.  It always irked me that I didn’t get to pick ANY teacher in the world to be my teacher.  I knew that there were amazing teachers out there, why didn’t I get to learn from them?  Would my education have been different if I was matched up with the very best teachers in the world?
Learn Zillion is the first step in this direction.  It may not be the rich experience you get from clicking with someone on a personal level AND learning from them, but does give students the ability to learn a concept in a new way from a teacher who may “click” with them educationally differently than you can.  Sometimes it is just a matter of being able to pause, rewind and repeat a concept at will that makes all the difference.  With class sizes that are growing out of control, the ability to work one on one with students is diminishing quickly.  Learn Zillion allows every child to enter their learning at the right level, it is available on demand (day or night), it utilized fantastic educators from around the world, and it helps teachers create custom playlists of learning for students.  Using this technology, students can get the extra support they need with foundational concepts.
Learn Zillion would make a fantastic support center in the classroom.  Students can visit the center to find out where they are in their personal learning journey, watch videos and practice new skills and concepts.  Because the videos are based on Common Core Standards, your students will get extra support for the foundational skills that support additional learning.
Learn Zillion is a nice resource in a “flipped” classroom where homework looks a lot more like preparation for practice that happens in the classroom.  Students can watch the preparation video at home and come to class prepared to practice and explore using the new knowledge.  The great thing about a flipped classroom is the ability to offer students support where and when they need it-in the practice and honing of skills.

Tips: I’m impressed with the quality and organization of Learn Zillion.  Be sure to take some time to explore some lessons and dream up how you might use it with your students or even as a learning tool for yourself.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Learn Zillion in  your classroom!

Mastery Connect Widget: Common Core Standards at Your Fingertips

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Classroom Management, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools | Posted on 18-10-2011

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

0

What it is:  That serendipity that I spoke of yesterday continues today.  Mastery Connect just keeps getting better and better, this recent little goodie is very handy.  Mastery Connect has released a little widget that can be embedded on any blog or website.  The Mastery Connect app sits neatly on your sidebar until you are ready to reference a Common Core standard and then *BAM* just like that it is at your beck and call.  SO handy I tell you!  The app has all Language Arts and Mathematical standards in an easy-to-use little website widget.  You can catch a glimpse of this widget app in my sidebar —->

How to integrate the Mastery Connect App into the classroom:  At Anastasis Academy, we use the Common Core standards as a rough framework and guide of where to take learning next.  We don’t constrain students to just one grade level of standards (they are all developing skills and mastery at different rates, we move as students are ready to move).  Because we don’t use ANY boxed curriculum, the standards act as an outline and guide through learning.  The Mastery Connect App is a great little help for students, teachers and parents.  The widget makes it easy to embed in a classroom blog, website or wiki.  Just copy and paste the code and the widget is there for you when you need it.

Tips: Make sure to check out the rest of Mastery Connect!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Mastery Connect App in  your classroom!

Mangahigh: k-12 math games

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Evaluate, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 13-10-2011

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6

What it is:  The title of this post is a little underwhelming- I had a hard time expressing ALL that this site does in one line.  Mangahigh is a game based learning site where students can learn all about math. What is unique about Mangahigh math learning games is the way that the learning topics are addressed.  These aren’t your typical drill/skill math games that only address the four basic operations or introductory algebra skills.  The games adapt in difficulty to student levels as they play.  Games continue to challenge students without getting too difficult too quickly and frustrating kids.  The Mangahigh games encourage students to observe, hypothesize, test, evaluate and conclude. All games are based on the Common Core standards making it easy to integrate the games into your current curriculum.  Teachers get their very own login to Mangahigh where they can assign challenges, track student progress and use the games as a form of formative assessment.  The mathematics topic in Mangahigh are geared for elementary, middle and high school students (I am a big fan of site that meet a variety of ages and needs!).

How to integrate Mangahigh into the classroom:  Mangahigh is a great way to shake up your math classroom while injecting it with a big dose of fun, discovery and challenge.  The best way to use Mangahigh is in a one-to-one setting where each student has access to the Mangahigh site.  This makes it easy for students to work at their own pace and for you to track progress.

Mangahigh would be a great way to tailor what your students are working on so that each child is getting challenged at the level they need.  Use the built-in analytics to help inform decisions about where to go next with your students.

Don’t have access to a one-to-one environment?  Don’t discount Mangahigh yet.  The site could be used in a one or two computer classroom as a math center.  Rotate your students through the center throughout the week.  Those who have computers at home can continue the learning there.  Mangahigh would be a great way for students to continue their learning.

Tips: Do you have a pen pal or collaborating school?  Mangahigh will let your students engage in a Fai-To where they can have a friendly little math smack down competition.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Mangahigh in  your classroom!