What Were You Thinking!? #micon14 #micon15

06/08/2015 Update: Alice and I were asked to share this session again tomorrow at the Martin Institute 2015 Summer Conference.

What Were You Thinking!?Today and tomorrow Alice M. Parker and I are learning and sharing at the 2014 Martin Institute Conference. Alice and I are facilitating a session entitled “What Were You Thinking!?” Our goal is to help teachers learn and grow in their ability to develop students into the critical and creative thinkers they will need to be to thrive as citizens in the rapidly changing, information-rich world in which we now live.

Session Description: Blank stares. Ask your average middle school students what they are thinking, and all you’ll receive are blank stares. As teachers our primary goal must be to move beyond simply teaching content to helping our students develop the critical and creative thinking skills they will need to thrive in the modern world. This session will explore the value of critical and creative thinking and examine how to develop student thinkers by using visible thinking routines and creative thinking techniques across the curriculum and in all disciplines.

Session Outcomes:

  • Examining the importance of critical and creative thinking in today’s information-rich world
  • Insight into what critical and creative thinking looks like in a classroom
  • Familiarity with visible thinking routines and creative thinking techniques
  • Awareness of the 4 aspects of creativity and how to scaffold them into instruction
  • Reflection on current practice and transformation of classrooms into places that promote students’ creativity and critical thinking

Protocol/Routine Links:

The following are some resources for further exploration and learning:

Brookhart, S. (2013). Assessing Creativity. Educational Leadership, 70(5), 28-34. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb13/vol70/num05/Assessing-Creativity.aspx

Ciotti, G. (2013, June 22). Creative Thinking: How to Be More Creative (with Science!). Sparring Mind. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from http://www.sparringmind.com/creative-thinking/

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (20112011). Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Tishman, S., Perkins, D. N., & Jay, E. (1995). The thinking classroom: learning and teaching in a culture of thinking. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Diving Into Project-based Learning: Designing the Rubric

project-based learning

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of project-based learning for me was figuring out how I was going to assess it. I’m sure some teachers love assessing and marking student work, but honestly, I’m uncomfortable with most grading and scoring. I appreciate feedback and I  don’t mind giving feedback, but I hate reducing it to a letter, number, or score. To me, it undervalues the learning. I’m skeptical of objective tests because of what those assessments leave out or mismeasure, and I’m suspicious of subjective evaluations because they are, well, subjective.

Nevertheless, most schools required teachers to report student learning in a systematic way, and my school is no different. My school also encourages the use of rubrics to help students, parents, and teachers assess evaluate the learning. I wanted students to understand the expectations for the project, and I needed to insure that they approached the project in a balanced way. I could tell from their enthusiasm that they were eager to get started creating their projects, but I knew it was vital that they really spend some time researching and inquiring about the topics before getting started on the project itself. I also knew I wanted to assess writing, reflecting, and presenting as part of the project-based learning.

I developed the following rubric for the students to use as a guide and for me to use for assessing their work:
project-based learning

You can download the PDF by clicking: Injustice Issue Project Rubric

(Note: For the 6th graders at my school, we assign two types of grades–traditional grades on a 100%/A-F scale and standards-based assessment using a 3-1 proficiency method with three being the highest score.)

I wasn’t completely comfortable with the wording of the rubric even as I shared it with the students, but we needed to get started. Together as a class, we discussed the rubric in detail, but I still worried that the boys’ understanding of the rubric was very different from mine. Nevertheless, this iteration of the rubric would serve as our guide.

What do think about the rubric? What feedback can you give about it? What would you change?

This is the fifth in a series of posts on my “Dive Into Project-based Learning.” If this series interests you, consider reading about my professional goalmy research and resources, or the genesis of this idea, or our project brainstorms. I’d also appreciate any comments, questions, or suggestions you might want to leave below.

Diving Into Project-Based Learning: Research and Resources

diving into project-based learningMy plunge into project-based learning (PBL) started with a slow climb up the high-dive ladder. How was project-based learning different from the projects my students have always completed in my classes? My students have performed plays, created book trailers, built models, engaged in all types of creative responses to literature. How was project-based learning radically different from what we’ve always done?

The slow climb  started over two years ago when I kept reading tweets and blog posts from fellow teachers touting the blessings and benefits of project-based learning. I decided I needed to know more and began looking for resources online.  My research led me to Edutopia’s overview of project-based learning. It was the first website I explored and bookmarked when PBL initially piqued my interest. The site provides a nice overview with several videos and some helpful research. It’s a good place to start.

The Edutopia site provides links to several more resources including the Buck Institute for Education (an organization focused on project-based learning), PBL University (I considered this, but never took a class), and High Tech High (I hoped to visit them this year). Of these, I used the Buck Institute resources the most. The BIE site has some great resources and tools and I even worked my way through a few of their webinars.

Here are several of the articles and posts I found helpful as I researched and read in preparation for trying PBL:

In addition to reading I also made an effort to connect with other teachers who already had experience designing project-based learning. Specifically, I connected with Bo Adams, Hadley Ferguson, Jill Gough, and Mike Kaechele. Most of my interaction with these folks was online via Twitter or through their blogs, but I also sat down and talked with several of them as well. I met up with Bo and Jill last summer at the Martin Institute Conference and Mike and I connected at Educon in January right as I was leaping from the board into the pool of PBL. Mike was kind enough to sit down with me, listen to my plans, and offer some really helpful last-minute feedback and suggestions.

I’m sure there are many other great resources that I never found or haven’t included, and I’d appreciate your sharing more resources in the comments below. I know of a couple of books I should probably have read as well, but I had already identified two books to work through as part of my professional goal. I didn’t feel I had time to add any others.

What do you think about all of this? Which resources do you find most helpful? What do you think is missing from all of this?

Just Doodle It!

I failed miserably last year when it came to having my students write and document their learning through their journals. I started the year strong with a daily writing prompt, but it became too much. I couldn’t find the time to write back to them the way I wanted, and my 50-minute classes didn’t afford us enough time to use them as well as we might have–or so I told myself. This year I planned to use the “learning logs” only with our third trimester book clubs. Now Royan Lee has changed all that.

Yesterday Royan shared “The Thinking Book” on his blog. I subscribe to Royan’s blog, but I first learned about the post from a tweet by John Spencer. The sketchbook photos Royan posted are remarkable and I expressed  that to John and Royan. This led to additional conversation and sharing on Twitter, and now I think I’m going to steal Royan’s “Thinking Book” idea for use with my own students.

Here are a few resources Royan uses that he shared with me:

  • RSA Animate videos – I have seen several of these and they are amazing, but I never really thought about using them to inspire the students to create their own sketchbooks. The drawings really make the messages of the videos come alive. Some of the topics may be too deep for many of my 6th graders (and their teacher) to follow, but I think the animation of Dan Pink’s Drive might be accessible and a good starting place. It could also spark a good conversation on motivation.

  • Sunni Brown’s TED Talk: Doodlers, Unite! – I had no idea that doodling could be so powerful. As a teacher, I was particularly struck by Brown’s statement that doodling “engages all four learning modalities simultaneously with the possibility of an emotional experience.” If that’s true, I would be wrong not only for discouraging students from doodling but also for not encouraging/teaching them to do so. I’m also wondering why I’m not more of a doodler myself.

  • Giulia Forsythe’s Work on Visual Practice – Giulia, whom I just started following on Twitter, has written about how the art of SketchNoting has helped her “stay focused and be a better listener.” I highly recommend checking out her Visual Practice post (linked above). In that post she shares a video about her own experience, a great SlideShare of her presentation “Drawing Conclusions,” several sample SketchNotes, and some links where you can learn more. Here’s a great example of one of Giulia’s sketches.

  • Coincidentally, my wife is introducing the concept of Zentangle to her elementary art students. I had never heard of Zentangle before yesterday, I found it interesting that both SketchNoting and Zentangle approaches focus on creativity and improve problem-solving. Here’s an example:

Pretty cool, huh? What are your perceptions of doodling? How do you respond when students doodle in class? Would you encourage more doodling knowing it might help your students learn? How would you incorporate it into the learning? My head is spinning. I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this.

In Retro Cite 07/15/2012

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In Retro Cite 07/05/2012

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