Monday, April 21, 2014

How do Students Show Proficiency?

I procrastinated on this post because I really didn’t have anything to say for the longest time. March was the craziness that we in Colorado know as TCAP, but everyone has to deal with that. Lamenting about the long hours of testing seems self-serving and not productive. So I’ve been waiting for something to speak to me. The fact that it happened last week was very surprising.

Last Week:

4/15/14 Tuesday, the day that the UPark community suffered a tragic loss. Everyone is still speechless at what happened. All afterschool enrichment, including the 5th grade Shakespeare Feast, was canceled.

4/17/14 Thursday, we called 911 for one of my students during lunch/recess. It has been the fourth time we’ve done so for her, and this time, she went to the hospital with paramedics. I’ve never had to deal with a medical emergency before this student, but this year is quickly making up for that.

4/17/14 Thursday, the night of the BL PTA meeting.

Background: Evenings with PTA
At the beginning of the year, the school leadership and the PTA wanted to try something new. To encourage more people to attend the PTA meetings and to explain all the various initiatives we had at the school, we would offer monthly evening sessions right before the PTA meeting with childcare provided. Teachers signed up for the topics they were interested in, and they planned it.

This month’s session was on “Blended Learning”. When the PTA president reached out to us three weeks ago to start planning this session, we knew that we wanted to showcase how students use technology in the classroom. The six of us teachers who signed up got together to plan the session and lined up student presenters. We sent home permission slips, planned out what they were going to demonstrate and practiced with them at lunch etc. Everything was ready.

BL PTA Meeting
After what happened earlier in the week, we anticipated a small turnout. We didn’t have many parents show up, but that ended up being a good thing in the end because the students got plenty of practice presenting. The session started with a quick introduction, a video on “What is Blended Learning?” and updates on the Janus grants before parents were released to go to stations of their choice.

The five stations were:
- A video of how students use technology in the primary classrooms
- 3rd graders sharing about their Public Service Announcement on iPads
- 4th graders sharing about projects they had created with Chatterkids/Educreations on iPads
- 5th graders sharing about Google Docs/ Google Drive on Chromebooks
- +Laura Mitchell sharing about SAMR

Proficiency in Action:

I asked three students to present from my class. The three 5th grade students that I selected all loved technology and were very talkative and active in class. They had the best smiles, and most of the time, there was a mischievous glint in their eyes, great personalities one-on-one but challenging in a classroom setting. All three of them hated writing by hand, and two of them didn’t like to read for long periods of time. They were bright kids who didn’t fit in the standard mode of well-behaved, smart kids. They loved the idea that they would be teaching the parents about technology.

On the night of the session, all three of them arrived early and helped set up our station, setting up the Chromebooks and seating arrangements.Our first guest was our technology teacher. Even though she was someone familiar, the boys were nervous and froze up. I reminded them that this was good practice for all the other parents that will show up. One of them started presenting from their “script” that they had written with me. Imagine a ten year old standing in front of you, presenting with an ipad in his hand.

Once they overcame their initial shyness, I faded into the background and just watched. We had originally planned for 5 rotations so each of the presenters knew when to present (“You’re first, second, etc.”) However with our small turnout, we didn’t enforce the strict timeframe, and parents just drifted from one station to the next as they wanted. This turned out to be great for us because each student got to present multiple times.

From my perch on the wall, I would periodically guide them with leading questions (“Where do we go to see who made changes to the document?”), but for the most part, I stayed on the sidelines and let the students talk. Parents asked questions that we didn’t plan for, and every single boy was able to answer them on their own without asking for help. When parents asked to see how GAFE worked in the classroom, the students pulled up their own Google Drive and shared the projects we’ve been working on in class. These three students were demonstrating their proficiency by their verbal explanations.

Assessment and Proficiency Ideas from Other Teachers/PD Books that came to light:

- If students are engaged and interested in the topic, they will remember even if you don’t do test prep.
- In-depth mastery of a topic means that students will make connections beyond what you’ve taught and can apply it on their own.
-True proficiency comes from being able to teach other people about it.
-Assessments come in different forms, and not all students like the paper and pencil standardized tests.
- The less the teacher talks, the more we find out what the student knows.