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Detox: the most important event of the school year

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Art, Character Education, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, education reform, Evaluate, Fun & Games, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 13-08-2013

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Anastasis is in the midst of gearing up for the start of a new school year.  It is year number 3!  In some ways, we are still very much a start-up (I think this will always be the case in some respect, it’s part of our philosophy to keep innovating!).  We are also beginning to establish some nice traditions and events that we look forward to each year at the start of school.

Each year, we take a few days to meet with each student individually to build a Learning Profile.  Teachers sit down with each student and  go through a survey that helps them better understand a student’s interests and passions as well as gain a glimpse at multiple intelligence strengths, learning style preferences, and brain dominance.  These Learning Profile days give students a chance to meet their new teacher in a safe space, help the teacher to learn about the student, and ultimately are used to help Team Anastasis individualize instruction for each learner.  I’ve played around with different ways to gather this information: Google forms that the teacher fills in during an interview, Bento for gathering information in one place, an interactive PDF.  This year I took a different approach, I am hopeful that it will be more fun for the students.  I created a set of cards to sort of gamify the process, giving students a tangible and visual way to think through each statement as it relates to them.  Teachers will record this process and then hand the data collected off to me for future planning.  I used my new favorite find http://thenounproject.com to help me illustrate these cards.  Fun fact: I have an ACTUAL artist working on the next version of these cards that I will be able to share with the world!  @mdusing is creating illustrations for each card to help students better understand what each card represents, some of the concepts can be pretty abstract (empathy is always a tough one for kids to connect with…even when they are VERY empathetic!).  This version will be available for all of you as a download; it will also be woven into The Learning Genome Project.

Learning Profile Interests/passion survey

Learning style preference cards

Multiple intelligence cards

Brain Dominance cards

Because our philosophy and model are so different, we start each year with a week of detox (fitting since our initials are AA) ;).  During this week, we help students “stand up again” in who they are as learners, as creators, as individuals.  We undo some of the messages they have learned about learning: that it happens in specific ways and at specific times, that the goal is answers, that the teacher knows it all, that a test is the only way to measure success, that they are bad at learning certain things, that they can’t be friends with kids who are a different age than they are, that only some people are creative…the list could go on and on!

Our detox week is a time for students to remember that they matter.  It is an opportunity for them to re-frame the ways that they think about learning.  It is a time for them to share their passions with each other.  It is a chance to realize the working together is more productive than competing in learning.  It is a safe time to explore creativity.  It is also the week that new students start to discover that the relationship with their teacher is different here.  That the goal of coming to school isn’t an “A” at the end of the semester.

I love this week!  We see kids who begin to come back to life.  The spark in their eye that can only come through discovering something new.  For some kids, this week is life changing.  Others are a little more hesitant, they don’t trust the freedom that we offer.  They wonder when the “real work” will start and they will settle back into mediocrity.  For these students, the detox week is a glimpse of things to come that they aren’t sure if they can trust.  It usually takes about a month to really settle in and see that we really do mean what we say.

Individual classes explore what it means to be vulnerable.  How to be proud of the individual talents and gifts that make up a class.  How to work together to do hard things.  We also bring the whole Anastasis community together for some activities.  Our first year, students worked together to create iPad styluses out of sponge and wire for less than 10 cents.  Last year we held an all-school day of play (highly recommend that!) and marshmallow/spaghetti tower challenge.  This year we have some fun group art projects and challenges planned.

At the end of second week, we will hold our third annual identity day.  This is an opportunity for students to share an area of passion with the school community.  Students can choose to share anything they want to in a way that they want to.  We hold a school-wide fair and invite families to attend.  The set up almost looks like a science fair when all is said and done.  We spend the day getting to know each other- apart from classroom constraints.  We take a moment to see the world from another point of view.  It is a spectacular day of honoring each child for who they are (teachers participate, too!).  After a half day of sharing ourselves, we spend the rest of the day building community at a local park where we go ice-blocking.  For those who have never had the privilege of ice-blocking, it involves purchasing a block of ice from a grocery store, finding a large grassy hill, sitting on the block of ice, and sledding down the hill in the sunshine.  We have a blast!  Parents, teachers, and students get involved in the fun.  Barriers are broken down, friendships forged and a community bound together for a year of life and learning together.

Our detox week may be the single most important week of the entire year.  It sets the tone, letting students know that this is a safe place to be who they are.  That this is a place where learning looks like life.  That the questions this year will be as important as the answers.  I’m not sure Anastasis would be the incredible place of learning it is without our detox week.

I collect ideas for inquiry units and our detox week on Pinterest.  If you are interested in hosting your own “detox,” check out the ideas saved here!

Of course, you can always follow all of my boards on Pinterest here.

Also random side note, I’m trying to convince Anastasis staff that it is a good idea for us to start an Extreme Combat Juggling team.  It’s a real thing, which is awesome.  Feel free to help me in this encouragement, on Twitter they are: @michellek107, @dweissmo, @bestmscott, @nancybabbitt, @matthewquigley, @lancefinkbeiner.  :)

 

CompassLearning Learning Profiler: Getting to know your students

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blogs, Classroom Management, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, web tools, Websites | Posted on 09-04-2013

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Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 12.19.05 PM

What it is: At Anastasis Academy, we individualize curriculum for every student.  We don’t purchase any boxed, one-size-fits-all curriculum.  Instead, we create a learner profile for each student.  I pulled together a variety of learning style inventories, multiple intelligence strength finders, and brain dominance predictors and mashed them up into a child-friendly teacher/student survey.  Our teachers spend two days before the first day of school going through these inventories with students.  I compile the information (along with their interests and passions) and put it all in an at-a-glance document.  I’m just revamping the document a little bit to look more like a big baseball card with learning stats.  We use these learner profiles all year long as a starting point for pulling curriculum, lessons and resources that will best meet the individual child’s needs.  (Learning Genome 1.0)

Educators often ask if we can share this process, unfortunately right now it isn’t pretty or sharable in any meaningful way.  When the Learning Genome is completed and launched, we will be able to share this process with the world.

Today, I ran across a tool that can help bridge the gap for teachers who are seeking a way to better customize the classroom experience for their students.  CompassLearning has created a Learning Profiler that is free to use and the results are easy to share.  While it doesn’t include all of the components of an Anastasis learner profile, it is a great starting point!  Students (who are independent readers) can go through the online survey and learn more about their learning style, interest areas and expression style.  This information would be SO helpful as a starting place for getting to know the students in your classroom better.  It would go a long way in helping you pull resources and tools that will best meet the needs of the individual. When a student is finished going through the profiler, they can share their result “badges” with others through a link to the badges, through Facebook, Twitter, email or a printed report.

How to integrate CompassLearning Learning Profiler into the classroom: At the beginning of a new school year (or semester), students who are independent readers could complete the Learning Profiler on classroom computers in a center rotation, or in a computer lab setting.  Results could be printed out or shared with the teacher via email.  I’ve found it helpful to compile these results so that I can see overlapping interests and learning needs in the classroom.  It would also be interesting to create a bulletin board with the different “badges” represented and with a picture of each student.  Students can connect their pictures to the badges using string and push-pins or staples.  It would be neat to have a web of information about your students visual for all students to see.  This would be a good getting-to-know-you activity where students could visually see their similarities displayed. 

For non-independent readers, the process would be a little more arduous.  During a silent reading or independent work time, pull students one at a time to sit and interview them.  I actually prefer the arduous method because you get all of the in-between commentary from the students which gives you a more complete picture of who they are, what they love, fear, get excited about, etc.  Even with our independent readers at Anastasis, we create our learner profiles through teacher interview.  There is something more personal and human about it.  Using this method may take a few weeks to get through all of your students, the information you glean will be invaluable!  If you teach younger students but have an older grade of “buddies,” it may be helpful to have the buddy help conduct the surveys and record the answers of the younger child.  Again, this would be a great way for the students to really get to know each other.

After you have received the results, use the information to help you plan learning activities.  If you have a student struggling in an area of learning, use the strengths and interests you know they have to come at the learning from a different angle.  Education blogs, your PLN, and Pinterest are great places to find the perfect learning opportunity to help the students in your class.  I promise you that when you connect with students this way, you will be showing them that they matter, that you care about them as an individual and that you want what is best for them.  They won’t feel like a number!  If you are looking for a specific technology resource, iLearn Technology is a great place to start the search.  Over there —> in my right side bar you will find a multi category search.  Narrow down the search by Bloom’s Taxonomy, resource type, subject area, etc.  Click search and away you go!  You can also search by keyword in the search box toward the top of the screen.  I try to tag the bejeebers out of all of my posts so that no matter how specific the search, you will find what you are looking for.  Full disclosure, I use that search box ALL the time when I am pulling resources for students at Anastasis.

Tips: Want to see what the future of personalized learning will look like?  Check out the Learning Genome Project.

I’ve been nominated for a Bammy Award for Educational Blogger.  I’d appreciate your vote to help spread the word about iLearn Technology.  Vote here.  Thank you for your continued support!!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  CompassLearning Learning Profiler in your classroom.

NOVA: Design a Parachute

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Create, Evaluate, Interactive Whiteboard, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 14-04-2011

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What it is: NOVA from PBS has an excellent interactive called Design a Parachute.  In this activity, students take on the role of head engineer in charge of designing the Mars Explorer Rover parachute.  The goal is to design a chute that will get the Mars Explorer Rover to the surface of Mars safely.  The interactive challenges students to consider trade-offs in parachute stability, strength and volume as they design the perfect chute.  As students begin the activity, they are briefed on system requirements that must be met.  Students are also asked to consider cost as they design their parachute.  Finally students design and test their chute.

How to integrate the NOVA Design a Parachute interactive into the classroom: In this activity, students assume the role of engineer as they design a parachute that will slow the Mars Explorer Rover as it lands on the surface of Mars.  I like the authentic feel of this activity, students are led through the thinking process of an engineer as they consider all of the requirements the chute must meet before they begin designing.

Approach this interactive as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  As a class, get “briefed” on the requirements for the parachute design.  Discuss how these requirements may impact the parachute design.  Treat this like an actual briefing and encourage discussion (all ages like to pretend!).  Before students access the interactive, ask them to sketch their thoughts about parachute design.  This lets them think through the design apart from the pre-determined categories presented in the interactive.

Students can design and test their parachutes individually in a one to one computer lab setting or take turns designing and testing in a computer center lab on classroom computers.

Debrief after the interactive to discuss the parameters that were the most successful and what students learned about volume, drag, strength and stability.

Extend this activity by creating a mock-up of the parachute they designed online.  Find a high place on the playground or in the building where students can test these parachutes.  What did they have to adjust for an Earth bound parachute?

Tips: The NOVA page has a great introduction paragraph about how engineers approach a problem.  Be sure to read it with your students!  Encourage students to learn more about the Mars Explorer Rover before designing the chute.  It may adjust their thinking!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using NOVA Design a Parachute in your classroom!