Skip to main content
Wednesday, March8, 2017

students in a science classroomJustin Uhlenhopp and Tyler Wedemeier are science teachers at Forest City Middle School (FCMS). As a first-year teacher at FCMS, Justin was introduced to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which are the basis of the new Iowa Science Standards, by Tyler, who explained how he had used these standards the year before. Now three years later, they have jointly developed a plan of attack for the implementation of the standards. In this blog, they are sharing what they learned over the past three years.

The new Iowa science standards are complicated and even overwhelming at times. They are clearly nothing like the prior Iowa Core standards that most of us were accustomed to using to design instructional units. The complex language is enough to hold back many teachers from full implementation. But there are ways that teachers can dig into the standards to help them create the experiences students need to learn them.

Unwrapping the standards

First, it is important to discover what students actually need to know and be able to do. Starting off with the “Big Book of Standards” can be very intimidating. Take for example, MS-ESS3-3: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing human impact on the environment. We remember thinking, “Wow, what does that even mean?” It sounded like a ridiculous expectation and we had no idea what students would do to demonstrate understanding of that standard. We quickly realized that we needed to dig deeper and that is when we began the process of unwrapping our standards.

Although it is a long process, in our opinion, unwrapping (also called unpacking) is the most important piece of understanding the standards. The Sample Unit Unwrap document is an example of how we unwrapped a standard and then how we used the unwrapping process to help develop engaging tasks and assessments. While we tackled this unwrapping process on our own, educators undertaking this process today are lucky because Area Education Agency science consultants are currently offering professional learning workshops (called Module 2 in most AEAs) that include bundling and unwrapping/unpacking the standards. If you take a minute to review the process we used you will see all of the legwork that went into pulling this standard apart. In a nutshell, unwrapping will help you:

  • Identify the prior knowledge that your students are “supposed” to know when they come into your class;
  • Determine what students need to be able to do by looking at the practices/verbs of the standard;
  • Select core ideas of content concepts that students will need to know in order to be proficient on the standard;
  • Use cross cutting concepts taken directly from the NGSS evidence statements;
  • Write essential questions that students will need to be able to answer as a result of your core instruction;
  • Create learning targets for your unit; and
  • Design instruction, lesson plans, formative assessments, labs, activities, and summative assessments aligned to the standards.

It took us about a year to complete the unwrapping process for all of our standards, but the time was well-spent. Unwrapping all of our grade-level assigned standards has made the rest of the implementation process much smoother. We now know specifically what students are supposed to learn and how they should best demonstrate their learning. As teachers, the process also gave us an idea of what content we might need to brush up on ourselves. I admit, as a new teacher, there were some times of major struggle in having to relearn some of the science content, but fully unwrapping those standards really helped me to focus and understand my content in a new way.

It is hard work, but worth the effort

At Forest City Middle School we take chances. We push the limits and are always looking for new ways to improve our instruction. Implementing these standards was challenging. Many hours went into unwrapping them, and then aligning them with what fit our building and district needs. We made changes as we implemented and found support when we needed it. There were definitely times of struggle, but our science department is no doubt better because of it. We now have better consistency in our science department across sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. Our students are coming into our classrooms with a better ability to be proficient scientists.

As our elementary school begins implementation of the new science standards, we hope to see the content gaps that currently exist start to dissipate. Over time we know that the standards are undoubtedly a major step forward in science education. Our students are asked to do things that they never would have been asked to do with our old standards. When implementing these standards, remember that anytime you try something new, things aren’t going to be perfect. Chances are the new things you are doing will be better than what you did before.

Implementing new standards, especially standards written in a way that focuses on all three dimensions of science learning, is not always easy; actually it is really messy. However, we determined that when we take the time to really unpack and learn our standards, and when we keep a growth mindset, we are successful. Overall, we really like the new standards and the process we have used for implementation. Our science curriculum is now focused on 21st century instruction, there is better alignment in grades 6-8. We teach with a big picture in mind and focus on how the science and engineering practices overlap and build on each other across the grade levels, and we have consistent language to use when talking with our peers and with parents.

Commenting to this blog

Can't see the commenting block or comments below? Check that social media is not being blocked on your network. We are using a product called Disqus for the commenting portion of the View from a Field blog.

  • It is easiest to post comments to this blog through your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Disqus account.
  • Another option is to comment as a guest. After typing your comment in the box, place your cursor and type your name in the Name field. Then, type your email address and mark the "I'd rather post as a guest" check box. Finally, submit your comment by clicking on the gray button with the white arrow.
Posted by Justin Uhlenhop...

Monday, February6, 2017

children at desksIn my role as a literacy consultant for Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency, I have the opportunity to work with teachers in many different school districts. I often hear from teachers that the majority of their day is spent teaching reading and math. As they struggle to find time to teach social studies and science, many teachers are using content area trade books and other text sources during their literacy block.  What does this look like and how can it benefit students?

Content area literacy instruction happens in all classrooms, kindergarten through 12th grade. By complementing content-area textbooks with other sources, teachers can provide motivation for reading and may improve content-area learning.

If children are to be prepared for the literacy demands of the future, they need access to informational trade books, magazines, newspapers, and electronic text. Content-area literacy focuses on the similarities of literacy in the content area with general strategies – like summarizing, questioning, and making inferences – that help students with comprehension and can be applied universally across content areas.

teacher in classroomJodi Jacobsen, a fourth grade teacher at Manson Northwest Webster, has been successfully integrating literacy into content-area instruction.  I recently visited Jacobsen’s class to observe what she calls "workshop" time. This is when her team integrates literacy instruction with science and social studies content.

Currently, students are studying inventions and energy. Jodi began the lesson by having three students hold up three different objects: a Thermos, a blanket, and a thermal headband. Students concluded that these objects all have something in common – heat and energy. Jacobsen then showed a short video clip from StudyJams website related to heat energy. Tying both of the previous activities together, Jacobsen then read aloud from the trade book, Destinations in Science, stopping periodically to ask students if they could make connections between the book and video.

During all units such as this one, the fourth grade team ensures that their read-alouds fit into the content. For example, they’re currently reading a Magic Tree House book about inventors while they study inventions. The learning from these content-rich read-alouds is also a perfect way to spark student-led investigations or lead to students engaging in engineering design challenges.

During guided reading, the team pulls in nonfiction books that align with content-area standards. Their use of content area literacy is embedded into a Balanced Literacy classroom environment through shared reading, read aloud, guided reading, and independent reading. Content-area writing is also included throughout the day in all subject areas.

It was obvious to me while visiting Jacobsen’s classroom that a positive culture and climate exists, where students are engaged in collaborative conversations and learning that encourages the success of all. Throughout the lesson, students were asked to share their thinking with a partner or small group. As I listened to the students’ reflections, their grasp of the new material as well as their background knowledge of previous lessons was evident. Jacobsen’s lesson used a variety of instructional strategies, student groupings, and an excellent model of how the integration of science and literacy instruction can achieve deeper understanding of both.

If you’re interested in exploring more about content-area literacy, excellent resources can be found on the Iowa Core website. Check out the Science Resources webpage, which will lead you to the Curriculum Planning webpage from the NGSS@NSTA.org website, where you can find ways to integrate using science to support literacy in English language arts.

Commenting to this blog

Can't see the commenting block or comments below? Check that social media is not being blocked on your network. We are using a product called Disqus for the commenting portion of the View from a Field blog.

  • It is easiest to post comments to this blog through your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Disqus account.
  • Another option is to comment as a guest. After typing your comment in the box, place your cursor and type your name in the Name field. Then, type your email address and mark the "I'd rather post as a guest" check box. Finally, submit your comment by clicking on the gray button with the white arrow.
Posted by jsiefken@plaea.org

Tuesday, January10, 2017

civil war imagesSo what are the major differences in practice that one should expect to see when the Iowa Core Standards in Literacy are being implemented? Those differences in classroom practice, materials, and assessment are described by what are called the shifts. So what are the English Language Arts shifts? The first shift is regular practice with complex texts and their academic language. Next, reading, writing, and speaking are grounded in evidence from texts, both literary and informational. Finally, students should be building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction.

When I first read these, I thought the avenue to apply them was through social studies and science. So I decided to dig deeper into what each shift meant while applying them to literacy and social studies in my third grade classroom.

I looked at social studies to meet the standard SS.3-5.H8 Understand cause and effect relationships and other historical thinking skills in order to interpret events and issues and SS.3-5.G.1 Understand the geographic tools to locate and analyze information about people, places, and environments. Then I considered the ELA shifts and standards.

I coupled literacy: RI.3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers; RI.3.3 Describe the relationship between a series of historical events using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect; RI.3.7 Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text; and W.3.10 Write routinely over extended time frames and shorter time frames for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

You are probably thinking, “How could I possibly meet all those standards in a lesson?” It is actually a series of lessons that connect all these standards that takes a week’s time in reading, writing, and social studies.

So, what would that look like? It all started with a question posed as an inquiry to my students: How was our country divided during the Civil War? When considering the first shift: regular practice of complex texts and academic language meant infusing the close reading strategy during my shared reading block with the ReadWorks.org passage, “Slavery, the Civil War & Reconstruction: Background to the Civil War-Balance Sheet.” (Note: This passage and many others are available from ReadWorks.org, where you can sign up for a free account.) Each day had a “standards” purpose for rereading the text.

On Day 1, I read the text to my class focusing on finding the main idea (which they wrote at top of the page) and vocabulary (Tier 2 words: confident, opinion, experienced, terrain, attitude)(Tier 3 words: cavalry, cannon, Confederacy). On Day 2, we choral read the passage and the students found the big ideas related to the main idea. They highlighted them in yellow and recorded them on their note taking graphic organizer). On Day 3, the students read the passage with a partner and found five to seven details to go with each big idea (highlighting them in red and recording the big ideas on their note taking sheet). On Day 4, the students reread the passage with a partner, wrote the author’s purpose in the left margin and asked a question in the right margin. On Friday, we discussed their questions and possible sources that could help when answering them. The students read the passage on their own, answering the questions within the passage (right there and inferential) while citing their evidence in orange. During writing time on Day 5, students wrote a summary for the passage using their notetaking planner as a guide.

Another piece of this shift is considering text-complexity, the Lexile band range for third grade is 450-980. The Lexile measure is a readability scale used in many schools in Iowa to match readers’ ability to text. Knowing that the Lexile (670) for this passage, coupled with the rich academic vocabulary, it met the criteria for allowing students to move forward on the staircase of complexity.

The second shift, reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from texts, both literary and nonfiction, incorporates the close reading passage already referred to with the lesson as well as including additional text, Pink and Say, a historical fiction story by Patricia Polacco. I connected this story to another text, “Slavery, the Civil War & Reconstruction: Background to the Civil War-Balance Sheet.” Pink and Say is read during my interactive Read Aloud time where students free respond at designated stopping points. I read a few pages to the students and then say, “free response.” The students write for one-and-a-half to two minutes in the first box of the four on their notebook paper with a response to one of the following prompts:

  • Ask a question about what has been read so far.
  • Make a prediction about what will happen next.
  • Write about what you like or dislike (and why) about what has been read so far.
  • Make a connection to another text we have already read.
  • Tell how you feel about the text that has been read.

When the time is up, the kids pair/share their response with a partner and tell the evidence that supports his or her thinking. I continue throughout the book in this manner. I have specifically chosen stopping spots that relate to time sequence and cause/effect since that is one of my standard focuses.

Finally we hit the third shift, building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction. A part of this shift is realizing that nonfiction texts can be more than just books. In his article, “You Want Me to Read What?,” Timothy Shanahan identifies nonfiction as “biographies and autobiographies; books about history, social studies, science, and the arts; technical texts, including directions, and information displayed in graphs, charts, or maps, and digital sources on a range of topics.”  With this in mind, I couple my literacy and geography standards by playing an I Spy game focusing on inquiry for my lesson. Watch a video clip of a lesson where students are locating places on the map, determining geographic features, and making connections to the story, Pink and Say, and references to their own independent research.

After incorporating a variety of both literature and nonfiction texts, providing space for inquiry and opportunity to dig deeper into how was our country divided during the Civil War, students were assessed through a quick write. Here is a student example and class sharing of quick write responses.

Connecting social studies and literacy is the perfect way to gain time in your day, allow students to develop a rich understanding of concepts and skills, and provide sources to support students in systematically developing knowledge about the world. It is time for all of us to shift our thinking.

Resources:

ELA Shifts: http://www.corestandards.org/other-resources/key-shifts-in-english-language-arts/

Article: You Want Me to Read What? by Timothy Shanahan

Mapping Lesson Plan

Close Reading Procedure linked to third grade ELA standards:

Reading Passage from: ReadWorks.org Slavery, the Civil War & Reconstruction: Background to the Civil War – Balance Sheet

(Note: This passage and many others are available from ReadWorks.org, where you can sign up for a free account.)

Free Blank United States Map

Note Taking Graphic Organizer

Literature books:

Pink and Say by Patrica Polacco (lesson focus)

Other Related texts:

  • Words That Built A Nation (Marilyn Miller; 1999, Scholastic.)
  • Addy's Surprise: A Christmas Story (American Girls Collection) (Melodye Benson Rosales (Illustrator), et al; 1993, Pleasant Company Publications)
  • Addy Learns a Lesson: A School Story (American Girls Collection) (Melodye Benson Rosales (Illustrator), Connie Rose Porter; 1993, Pleasant Company Publications)
  • Abe’s Honest Words (Doreen Rapport; 2008, Hyperion Books for Children)
  • If You Lived At the Time of the Civil War (Kay Moore; 1994, Scholastic)
  • Under the Freedom Tree (Susan VanHecke, 2014, Charlesbridge)
  • Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation (Pat Sherman; 2009, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
  • Abe Lincoln Comes Home (Robert Burleigh, 2014 ,Macmillan)

Video clips:

Commenting to this blog

Can't see the commenting block or comments below? Check that social media is not being blocked on your network. We are using a product called Disqus for the commenting portion of the View from a Field blog.

  • It is easiest to post comments to this blog through your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Disqus account.
  • Another option is to comment as a guest. After typing your comment in the box, place your cursor and type your name in the Name field. Then, type your email address and mark the "I'd rather post as a guest" check box. Finally, submit your comment by clicking on the gray button with the white arrow.
Posted by kheckart@crprai...

Tuesday, December13, 2016

winding roadIn the fall of 2014, I had an amazing professional opportunity to join a venture called the Cross-State Mathematics Teacher Leader Project. There were teachers from Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana who formed a collaborative group. Our mission was to assist teachers in rural states with professional development to improve mathematics instruction. We were interested in creating professional development modules to best support teachers in implementing the Common Core Standards for mathematics. I had an awesome opportunity to work with educators from various size schools as we collaboratively studied the book Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematics Success for All to guide our work. 

Before reading and discussing Principles to Actions, I would usually want my students to enter a problem the same way and to use one pathway to the solution. This was convenient for me as an instructor because there was a set script for solving problems. I realized that I was doing what was best for me, not what was best for my students.

Learning through Principles to Actions made me realize that my students needed to have multiple entry points to the problem and be able to develop their pathway to the solution. Now, students are presented with the problem and allowed to determine where they want to enter the problem and what pathway they will take to get to the solution. Students share their solutions with each other and justify why they chose their pathway. 

My students are frequently heard saying “Here is how I solved the problem.” Instead of following my old method to solve the problem, students are devising their own path, which has led to a better understanding of math concepts.

Reading and learning about the mathematics teaching practices outlined in Principles to Actions caused me to ask questions. Was I doing each of these practices on a daily basis? If so, which ones did I do well and which ones do I need to do better? How do I know if I am doing things better? Getting the answers to these questions required me to learn more about these practices. My own questioning caused me to choose to focus on posing purposeful questions. I wanted to effectively use purposeful questions to formatively assess the reasoning of my students and allow them to make their own sense about really important mathematical ideas and relationships.  

As I was learning about posing purposeful questions, I reflected on my practice and asked if I was using questions that would allow me to determine what my students know so I could differentiate instruction to meet everyone’s needs. Was I helping my students to make mathematical connections? Was I supporting students to pose questions of their own? Was I using the different question types at the appropriate times for my students?

I realized for time and efficiency, I was asking questions that were lower order and required answers that were more about gathering information. Students gave answers and I informed them if their answer was correct or not. By changing my practices and asking probing, thinking questions, I required my students to defend their answers and explain how they arrived at a solution.  

Now when a student gives an incorrect answer, the student, in explaining his thought process, will usually discover his error and correct it. Students also discuss among themselves their misunderstandings. Instead of being the giver of information, I have become the facilitator of learning. Students are also making mathematics visible through their discussions of problem solutions.  

Through learning about Posing Purposeful Questions and applying this practice, I have found that my students are able to understand mathematical standards and standards for mathematical practice at a higher level of rigor. This ties different areas of mathematics together and allows a focus on the skill our students need for the real world – problem solving, communicating their ideas and solutions, and modeling with mathematics.

Additional Resources for Principles to Actions and the Eight Effective Teaching Practices for Mathematics can be found on the Iowa Core Website for Mathematics. See links below:

Commenting to this blog

Can't see the commenting block or comments below? Check that social media is not being blocked on your network. We are using a product called Disqus for the commenting portion of the View from a Field blog.

  • It is easiest to post comments to this blog through your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Disqus account.
  • Another option is to comment as a guest. After typing your comment in the box, place your cursor and type your name in the Name field. Then, type your email address and mark the "I'd rather post as a guest" check box. Finally, submit your comment by clicking on the gray button with the white arrow.
Posted by Scott Kehrberg

Tuesday, November15, 2016

The new standards are coming! The new standards are coming! The new standards…..enough already! After new science standards were adopted by Iowa, many of the science teachers in the state probably felt either a twinge of panic, a wave of “not this again,” or a strong desire to “get it done.” I felt a twinge of panic that quickly evolved into a desire to embrace the chance to up my game and improve my classroom.

I dove in without even testing the waters. I attended my local Area Education Agency’s Module One training, I attended a regional National Science Teachers Association conference in Kansas City, and began sifting through mountains of Next Generation Science Standards-related articles, websites, and social media outlets. By June 2016, I suffered some overload.

As the new school year approached I mulled over what steps I could take in my classroom that would expose my students to NGSS-styled approaches without drowning them in new strategies and new terminology. I decided that I would focus on phenomena. I decided to expose my freshman biology students to a phenomena in each unit that will lead them to developing a new understanding. As the first unit came together, I struggled to find an appropriate phenomena. I wanted something that would capture the student’s curiosity but still benefit the structure of the unit. Then I came across a bizarre photograph from the Rio Olympics:

So...forgive the pun...we dove right in! I chose the photograph and showed it to the students. I asked them to look at the photo and discuss it with a partner. Their goal was to list as many questions as possible about the photo. Comments/questions included:

“It looks like Voldemort swam in the Olympics.”

“Where is the nose?”

“Does this swimmer have any arms?”

I was hoping for more depth to the questions, so I asked the students to come up with three questions that felt “scientific” to them. Soon I heard:

“Why does it look like the swimmer is wrapped in Saran Wrap?”

“How fast would the camera have to be to capture a swimmer before they broke through the water?”

“Can water stretch?”

Finally, success!  Questions that a scientist could do something with! That is one goal with NGSS-styled standards: Get the students thinking and working like scientists.

The unit moved on as students started to apply some previous knowledge about scientific methodology and experimental design. Thinking on my feet, I decided to take the phenomena and direct our learning toward how we could apply our questions and develop experiments to test our ideas. The next step was an old penny lab I had used before. How many drops of water can you fit on a head of a penny?  The student’s love the competition of the lab but I directed them to make comparisons about what they saw in the swimmer photo and what they observed with the penny. To entice them to observe the penny closely, I asked them to photograph the penny with their cell phones. We got a lot of wonderful shots:

water on a penny

Now, I started to hear conversations that linked two different views of similar phenomena and within their comparisons, I began to hear ideas emerging. That was exciting.

Finally, how do I link up all their ideas and assess if they learned anything? I decided to have the students take all of their questions and claims from looking at the photo, combined with their observations from the penny lab and come up with a hypothesis about what was going on in the swimmer picture. Once a hypothesis was formed, they would begin to outline what sort of experiment they could do to test their hypothesis. 

The final step (the assessment) was a short student made video (filmed on Chromebooks using Screencastify) where each student described their understanding of the phenomena in the swimmer picture with a description of how they would test their hypothesis. They had to describe the variables in the experiment.

The results are not in. I still have to look at and assess the videos, but I already like what I see. Students thinking with a purpose. Students achieving some sort of “Eureka!” moment. Students engaged in what they are doing. Students developing thoughts not from what they hear from me, rather from conversations with their peers. Again, I like what I see.

My take away is much more revealing. As I watched these activities unfold, I was reminded that the division lines between the science disciplines (life and physical) are blurred. I wonder if we should have classrooms split by discipline. As students work like/as scientists, we should expect that they will cross discipline barriers and we should not be afraid to cross those same barriers in our instructional practices.

Commenting to this blog

Can't see the commenting block or comments below? Check that social media is not being blocked on your network. We are using a product called Disqus for the commenting portion of the View from a Field blog.

  • It is easiest to post comments to this blog through your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Disqus account.
  • Another option is to comment as a guest. After typing your comment in the box, place your cursor and type your name in the Name field. Then, type your email address and mark the "I'd rather post as a guest" check box. Finally, submit your comment by clicking on the gray button with the white arrow.
Posted by brford@lewiscen...

Tuesday, November1, 2016

students analyzing slavery documentsHave you ever felt like there is not enough time to teach all the standards? This seems to be a prevalent issue, especially for social studies teachers. As teachers, we want to create opportunities for learning with space for students to use teachers as a resource but yet have the ability to question, research, and find evidence as a basis of their knowledge that meet all the Iowa Core standards. But how do you make this happen so it is not a check off of standards, but rather the development of metacognitive thinkers who know how to share their thinking and work collaboratively? The answer: the power of integration!

When I couple literacy and social studies standards together, it allows students to gain background knowledge and context into topics that pique their interest and meet all the targeted standards at once. Students become actively involved in a topic because they are continually asking questions, researching, drawing conclusions, and guiding me to determine what comes next in the learning experience.

So what does coupling literacy and social studies standards look like? First, consider what you want the kids to know and be able to do by the end of the unit. For example, I want students to analyze historical events and patterns and consider how they relate to each other and their lives today. I pose a broad inquiry question that can be answered in more than one way, but encompasses the essence of becoming a citizen who can analyze evidence and then take action on their findings. An example of an essential/compelling question: How do people overcome hardships? This is broad and can be answered in many ways. For our learning experience, I will be narrowing the hardship focus to encompass slavery through the Civil Rights Movement.

Next, identify Social Studies and ELA Standards in third grade that link together to provide a learning opportunity for students and how I will assess them. In social studies, SS.3-5.H.1: Understand historical patterns, periods of time and the relationships among these elements, will be my main focus. In literacy, it is (RI.3.1) Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers, (RI3.9) Compare and contrast the most important and points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic, and (RI.3.IA.1) Employ the full range of research based comprehension strategies; summarizing. When considering a formative assessment, I chose three aspects for the lesson: a story map because it addresses numerous standards, a close reading passage summary and a comparison of the texts with a Venn diagram and audio recording for explaining their evidence.

Finally, I am ready to plan my lesson(s) to couple the learning in both subjects. Kids naturally ask questions, so I need to choose purposeful complex texts that will allow them to question at a deeper level while considering answers that can be found in the text, but also intrigue kids to research and dig deeper into the social studies topic. When teaching social studies, the events and patterns in history naturally lend themselves to critical thinking, so it is important for me to choose sources that will allow them to see multiple perspectives.

Explicitly teaching children strategies of how to analyze sources is key to their success of citing evidence. In my class, students were asking questions about how slavery ended in the United States. To help answer their questions, I provided images and a KWL chart (graphic organizer) to analyze how slavery began. After analyzing the images, I provided a text set, Slavery, the Civil War & Reconstruction: The Emancipation Proclamation, from ReadWorks.org to read during our shared reading time. We used the close reading strategy to dig deeper into the text.

Viewing the images, completing the chart, and reading the text set are happening during the literacy block. During the social studies block, I integrated an interactive read aloud, The Wagon by Tony Johnston, to incorporate analyzing the primary source of the 13th Amendment. The outcome of this series of lessons piqued the kids’ interest to investigate and ask even more questions such as: How are amendments made to the Constitution? What happened after the amendment was made? Does an amendment stay in the Constitution forever? How many amendments are there?

It is important to consider a variety of sources, perspectives, and resources to truly meet SS.3-5.H.1: Understand historical patterns, periods of time and the relationships among these elements. If I had told the kids the 13th Amendment was added to the Constitution to abolish slavery, they would not have continued the questioning process that developed with the lesson focused on inquiry. Instead, it would have been a fact to memorize, more than likely forgotten, and a checkmark by the standard to say, “I taught that.” But, when reflecting on the lesson, would the kids have learned it? When we empower our students to seek answers to their own questions and guide them with resources, we allow kids to “own” their learning.

When we support students with appropriate resources as they ask questions and empower them with thinking and citing evidence skills, they begin to be citizens who can navigate situations, draw conclusions, and make connections to real world situations. Teaching essential concepts and skills while integrating literacy and social studies allows students a platform for deep thinking and understanding – and teachers more time to teach all the standards.

Resources

Reading Passages:

  • ReadWorks.org (You will need to set up an account, but it is free.)
  • Newsela.com (You will need to set up an account, but it is free.)

Books:

  • The Wagon by Tony Johnston (lesson focus)

Other Related Books:

  • Meet Addy: An American Girl (American Girls Collection) (Melodye Benson Rosales (Illustrator), et al; 1993, Pleasant Company Publications) Rosales (Illustrator), et al; 1993, Pleasant Company Publications)
  • Follow the Drinking Gourd (Jeanette Winter; 1992, Dragonfly.)
  • Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt (Deborah Hopkinson; 1995, Dragonfly.)
  • If You Lived During the Time of Slavery (Anne Kamma; 2004, Scholastic.)
  • Night Boat to Freedom (Margot Raven; 2006, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.)
  • Freedom River (Doreen Rappaport; 2000, Jump At the Sun, Hyperion Books For Children.)
  • Henry’s Freedom Box (Ellen Levine; 2007, Scholastic Publishing Company.)
  • If You Traveled On the Underground Railroad (Ellen Levine; 1988, Scholastic Publishing Company.)
  • When Harriet Met Sojourner (Catherine Clinton; 2007, Amistad, Katherine Tegen Books, An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.)

Graphic Organizers:

Primary Sources (slavery images for analyzing):

How to Explicitly Teaching Historical Thinking Strategies in an Elementary Classroom:

Commenting to this blog

Can't see the commenting block or comments below? Check that social media is not being blocked on your network. We are using a product called Disqus for the commenting portion of the View from a Field blog.

  • It is easiest to post comments to this blog through your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Disqus account.
  • Another option is to comment as a guest. After typing your comment in the box, place your cursor and type your name in the Name field. Then, type your email address and mark the "I'd rather post as a guest" check box. Finally, submit your comment by clicking on the gray button with the white arrow.
Posted by kheckart@crprai...

Thursday, September29, 2016

When Iowa adopted the Iowa Core Standards, I was teaching high school mathematics. In my school’s professional learning communities, we would discuss what the standards meant. We would sometimes differ on what we thought was important when it came to the key vocabulary, domains, depth of knowledge, strategies for assessment, and so on. I found that we could read the same standard and each interpret it a little differently.

One of the things that helped us was looking at the resources available on the Illustrative Mathematics website. It contains math tasks written to align to the standards that would help give us ideas about interpreting the standards. We could go there and see examples of what the standards looked like as a problem, example questions, commentary, etc. Doing that helped us identify what the standard meant, how they would build on other standards, and what the important concepts were which would help us have meaningful conversations that deepened our understanding.

Now, I am an elementary mathematics instructional coach and still work with teachers about what the standards mean and how that translates into classroom instruction and learning for students. I still use the Illustrative Mathematics site but also find myself using many of the resources on the new Mathematics Resources webpage on the Iowa Core website from the Iowa Department of Education to gain a deeper understanding of the Shifts for Mathematics, the Content Standards, and Mathematical Practices in the Iowa Core. The resources on these pages have been vetted by a group of expert Iowa mathematics educators called the Statewide Mathematics Leadership Team. I found lessons aligned to the standards as well as videos that demonstrate what the classroom instruction might look like. It is helpful to see what other educators are doing and it is very handy to have so many tools to support instruction and assessment for students to meet the expectations of the Iowa Core in Mathematics.

As the state moves toward the Smarter Balanced Assessment, I find myself wondering what the standards look like when assessed. I have found many resources that could help me on the Iowa Core website Mathematics Resources webpage. On the Summative Assessment in Mathematics webpage (Note: This webpage has been removed), there are grade level documents that give the characteristics I am looking for like DOK, vertical alignments, achievement levels, evidence required, vocabulary, response types, materials, attributes, questions types, and examples according to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. This helps me to look at our curriculum and see how the standards and assessment are connected.

As educators, we know our content, pedagogy, and students. However, we do not always know what standards aligned resources we should use. It makes the life of a teacher a little easier when they have access to resources vetted by Iowa experts rather than needing to invent everything from scratch. These resources give me a deeper understanding of the characteristics of the standards and help me focus on how they translate into teacher instruction and student learning in the classroom.

Commenting to this blog

Can't see the commenting block or comments below? Check that social media is not being blocked on your network. We are using a product called Disqus for the commenting portion of the View from a Field blog.

  • It is easiest to post comments to this blog through your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Disqus account.
  • Another option is to comment as a guest. After typing your comment in the box, place your cursor and type your name in the Name field. Then, type your email address and mark the "I'd rather post as a guest" check box. Finally, submit your comment by clicking on the gray button with the white arrow.
Posted by lisa.syfert@mtp...

Thursday, August25, 2016

violinMany times I hear people say, “Teachers have their summers off.” That’s a comment that makes me smile because so many in our communities do not realize how much preparation takes place during the summer months.

In our district, over half of our staff recorded June curriculum writing days as well as attended workshops on science standards and best practices in math instruction. Others spent time learning about common classroom assessment, attended Project Lead the Way workshops, and extended their knowledge at conferences on instructional coaching. Many took continuing education courses and graduate classes. Time is the cost we are willing to spend to ensure we are ready to provide our students with meaningful instruction during the school year.

When preparing for this school year, it would be time well spent exploring the Educator Resources webpage located on the Iowa Core website. Besides containing a list of all standards for content areas, you find near the top of the Iowa Core website on the right hand side three gray or yellow boxes – Iowa Core Standards, Educator Resources, and Parents & Community. Clicking on Educator Resource takes you to useful information on Subject Area Pages, Instructional Resources, Implementation Resources, and Assessment Resources.

Subject Area Pages: This resource provides links in three areas – mathematics, science, and social studies. Those seeking best practice information and professional development opportunities should check this out since numerous links are provided for tools to design instruction, tools to engage in assessment, and tools to use in professional development.

In addition to the tools, other useful connections are provided. Mathematics resources include links to Achieve the Core and the Illustrative Mathematics website. Science resources include an overview of the Iowa science standards. Social studies resources give information on statewide social studies professional development, links to a newsletter, and information on the status of the social studies survey conducted by the Iowa Department of Education. For those who missed the social studies professional development last year (year 1), there is a link provided on AEA PD Online for the course Building Literacy in Social Studies.

Instructional Resources: This resource provides information on Cognitive Complexity – Depth of Knowledge (DOK) as well as links to Iowa Learns, Achieve the Core, and EngageNY. Clicking on the link for Iowa Learns provides digital resources for teaching and learning.  There are numerous links where you can browse by grade, by subject, by standard, or by resource type leading to lessons aligned with standards.

Implementation Resources: This section will guide educators in Iowa Core planning with modules for professional development in the areas of Characteristics of Effective Instruction, common core video series, instructional practice guides, PD resources, facilitator’s guides including PowerPoints and hands-on activities. Also provided is information on Universal Constructs, and for those districts looking into a Standards-Based approach to learning, there are several modules to provide assistance with this shift.

Assessment Resources: For those educators desiring to learn more about assessment, resources are provided on Smarter Balanced Assessments, Assessment for Learning, as well as a Performance Assessment Resource Bank. Resources in Project-Based Learning and ideas for developing assessments for Next Generation Science Standards are also included. Along with assessment resources, a description is provided on the Common Core Shifts in ELA and Mathematics Assessment.

Back on the Educator Resources page, along with numerous tools to enhance instruction and professional development, there are also links to Iowa Core articles and an Iowa Core Spotlight of Iowa educators providing personal insight on their journey with Iowa Core implementation. Those spotlighted share their journey and their passion for providing quality instruction that is standards driven.

This school year holds much promise for continuous improvement in the quality of instruction in our districts in Iowa. With instructional coaches in buildings and staff organized into professional learning communities, educators are ready to move forward with developing collective clarity on the meaning behind the Iowa Core standards resulting in shared learning targets. The process of improving instructional practices takes time and commitment, but as we come back refreshed and ready for the push, we come back ready to learn right alongside our students and co-workers. The Educator Resources on the Iowa Core website provide one way to enhance professional learning that can take place individually or collaboratively.

As H.E. Luccock stated, “No one can whistle a symphony, it takes a whole orchestra to play it.” May your school year be filled with beautiful music.

Commenting to this blog

Can't see the commenting block or comments below? Check that social media is not being blocked on your network. We are using a product called Disqus for the commenting portion of the View from a Field blog.

  • It is easiest to post comments to this blog through your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Disqus account.
  • Another option is to comment as a guest. After typing your comment in the box, place your cursor and type your name in the Name field. Then, type your email address and mark the "I'd rather post as a guest" check box. Finally, submit your comment by clicking on the gray button with the white arrow.
Posted by jschmidt@maquok...

Tuesday, July12, 2016

girl with butterfliesThis summer, I went to the statewide overview training on the Iowa Science Standards at our local Area Education Agency. I came away from the training with a new understanding of the role science plays in today’s world and the critical importance it holds in its future.

Reading and math are the foundational tools we use to understand science, but the Iowa Science Standards provide an avenue for truly understanding our world in the areas of life science, physical science, earth and space science, and engineering and technology. These standards embed both the English-language arts (ELA) standards and the math standards, providing authentic practice along with critical thinking and problem solving. ELA and math standards are the tools – science is the big picture!

The Iowa Science Standards training was completely engaging as we worked in teams of three to create a catapult to project a marshmallow four meters across the room. This creative activity helped us integrate the concepts of potential energy and force by constructing a small machine. We worked with a curling simulation and measured weight as it pulled the “stone” to the edge of the table, inspiring us to talk about the forces of friction and gravity. We used the science and engineering practices as we asked questions and defined problems, developed and used models, as well as analyzed and interpreted data. We constructed explanations and designed solutions. Team building, problem-solving, critical thinking – 21st Century skills embedded in the process of discovery through inquiry.

As I worked alongside district teachers representing grades K-5, we all agreed that science is one area that has been “set aside” in our classrooms as we focused on literacy and math instruction. We agreed that part of the resistance to science instruction is a shared feeling that we do not have the confidence to adequately instruct science with our students.

After our three days of training, we realized that it is time to get over whatever fear we may have about science instruction, in part because we were challenged to ask ourselves: Why science? We came to the realization that science encourages us to question the world. It is one subject that will assist us in meeting the problems in an ever-changing world. As we received training on the standards, we began to realize that science instruction is less about what we know and more about how we find it out.

With the Iowa Science Standards, we will see in our classrooms:

  • More integration and less isolation;
  • More math to predict what might occur in an experiment;
  • More teamwork and hands-on activities;
  • More connectivity between different disciplines;
  • More literacy, thinking, writing, and justifying embedded in science instruction as well as more explaining, evaluating, and constructive argument;  and
  • More noise and more mess.

The new Iowa Science Standards are based on the performance objectives found in the Next Generation Science Standards. They incorporate disciplinary core ideas in each of the areas of life science, physical science, earth and space science, and engineering and technology. They embed scientific and engineering practices along with crosscutting concepts. These crosscutting concepts (that cut across all disciplines) include:

  1. Patterns;
  2. Cause and effect, mechanism and explanation;
  3. Scale, proportion, and quantity;
  4. Systems and system models;
  5. Energy and matter, flows, cycles, and conservation;
  6. Structure and function; and
  7. Stability and change.

There was an excitement in our training that taught us the value of “I wonder” statements. There was a newfound enthusiasm about observations and the sharing process using evidence-based thinking and using evidence to support our claims.

We ended our three days of training with the question, “If our district was at full implementation, what would it look like? What would be happening in classrooms? At the building and district level?”

We began to envision a desired state across our district where there is a strong presence of science instruction in all grade levels as we build a systemic approach to STEM in our district (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). We looked at our current reality and then began envisioning a transitional period that will require action planning. We discussed the positive forces in our district, one force being clearly defined science standards that will provide our students with an opportunity to use critical thinking skills.

Through our professional learning communities this coming school year, we will have team time to plan cooperative learning opportunities for our students. With teachers from each grade level (K-12) having received the three-day science training, we are now ready as a district to move forward with a systemic approach to science instruction. As a group, we admitted there are forces that will inhibit our progress – time constraints, cost of implementation, lack of teacher knowledge and understanding as well as an unwillingness to change as we are forced to give up some of our current curriculum with which we are comfortable as we develop curriculum based on the new science standards for each grade level.

I left the science standards training with a deep respect for the critical role science plays in our world and an enthusiasm for pushing our district forward with the implementation of the Iowa Science Standards.

In addition to the overview workshop I attended, the Iowa Department of Education hosted three Iowa science standards immersion institutes in June. At these institutes, national leaders in science education engaged over 800 Iowa educators in lessons that are aligned to the standards and challenged participants to have focus instruction on students using the three dimensions of the standards to explain scientific phenomena. As we enter the second year of science standards implementation, I am excited to know the AEAs across the state will be supporting teachers and districts by conducting follow-up workshops focused on using phenomenon-based instruction and designing/locating aligned resources, lessons, and units.

In the words of Albert Einstein, “To raise new questions, a new possibility, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” What an exciting time for both our students and staff as they explore the wonderful world of science!

Resources

Commenting to this blog

Can't see the commenting block or comments below? Check that social media is not being blocked on your network. We are using a product called Disqus for the commenting portion of the View from a Field blog.

  • It is easiest to post comments to this blog through your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Disqus account.
  • Another option is to comment as a guest. After typing your comment in the box, place your cursor and type your name in the Name field. Then, type your email address and mark the "I'd rather post as a guest" check box. Finally, submit your comment by clicking on the gray button with the white arrow.
Posted by jschmidt@maquok...

Wednesday, May11, 2016

One thing in this world we can be sure about is that change happens. Just looking at the difference between how Great-Grandpa Schmidt farmed compared to today’s precision ag is astounding. We still have the harnesses Great-Grandpa Schmidt used to guide horses down the row as they planted a field. I can’t help but compare this with riding in a tractor controlled by a satellite and the only time a farmer has to steer is to turn at the end of the rows. Once the combine is turned, the satellite lines it up and maneuvers it down the row while tabulating bushels per acre. Change happens.

There have been many changes in the way we conduct the business of education. In districts across our state, teacher leaders have stepped forward to organize and deliver professional development (PD) in new and meaningful ways. In our district, one change we made this semester to professional development at the secondary level was providing staff an opportunity to choose workshops to attend. We know that at the secondary level, research supports the fact that students desire choices. It is no different for adult learning.

In February, teacher leader Jenny and I conducted a needs assessment and from the analysis determined one need at our secondary level was for strategies to enhance student engagement, a critical factor in the successful implementation of the Iowa Core. At our most recent PD day, teachers had four workshops from which to select. The sessions were ones focused on actively involving the participants in the learning. We chose to focus on Socratic Seminar, the Question Formulation technique, using Quick Response (QR) Codes in the classroom, and activities to use beyond a worksheet.

When organizing the morning, we listened to what they had to say about needing time to write lessons that used the strategy, so they were to attend two sessions and during session three they had time built in to create a lesson using one of the strategies they learned. The learning did not stop there. They also had to provide evidence of the learning implemented in their classroom by providing a reflection that included the strategy and results submitted in the following ways:

  • in writing (keep it simple)
  • a reflective lesson plan - lesson plan with margin notes
  • a brief video of implementation
  • observation by a peer with a reflection by the peer

The reflections have been arriving daily via emails and what a joy to read about both successes and failures but, most important, what they learned through the process.

The session on Socratic Seminar provided a strategy to take classroom discussion to a higher level. Students involved in Socratic Seminar listen closely to the comments of others, think critically for themselves, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of others based on classroom text and use of open-ended questions. Earlier this year, I watched Kevin, a 7th grade literacy teacher, use Socratic Seminar where students were given the opportunity to read a text, write margin notes, and answer open-ended questions about the poem’s content. The day I observed, the students were discussing the poem “Captain, My Captain” by Walt Whitman, an extended metaphor poem about the death of Abraham Lincoln.

The seminar was lively and filled with timely discussion about politics and leadership. The overriding question was Who really controls the country? Students brought in what they had been learning in social studies and what they had heard on the news. With this strategy, classroom setup is important. Kevin had them sitting in a circle but included an empty chair. Half the class was involved in the discussion for a designated time while a partner placed behind them kept track of how often they participated. The empty chair was available for those standing behind if they felt compelled to join in on the topic. Rarely was the chair empty.

Keys to making this strategy work are using a rich text, providing an opportunity for students to become familiar with the text, preparing open-ended questions to keep the conversation flowing, and giving the set of questions to students ahead of time to jot ideas down before entering Socratic Seminar.

The students loved this opportunity to have rich conversations. Many said they wanted to have Socratic Seminar every Friday. What a joy to provide an opportunity for students to express their thoughts and learn about the opinions of others in a non-threatening environment where all conversation is treated with respect!

Kevin shared his success with Socratic Seminar with our high school teachers during a PD day and had them experience their own Socratic Seminar. He inspired an Algebra II teacher to use this strategy in his class. The teacher described his experience in the following way:

I tried the Socratic Seminar for a little change. It was out of the ordinary in Algebra II. I used an article about the connection HS GPA has to the amount you earn. Anyway I tried to have a discussion using Socratic to discuss stats and the article. It didn't go very well; I have never heard my classes be so quiet. I tried to get things going by bringing up the difference between men and women as well as races; nothing fixed it completely. Good news was we did get it discussed and I thought it was good information for them. Many didn't understand the stats so we discussed it. Hopefully they now have a better understanding.

Another strategy teachers could learn was the Question Formulation Technique (QFT). This is a strategy that provides a simple, yet powerful way to get students asking their own questions and building off their peers’ questions. Students are used to teachers asking the questions and one way to engage students is to get them to ask the questions. QFT is one strategy that guides students to ask meaningful questions.

The use of the Question Formulation technique was summarized by a teacher in the following way:

This week my Introduction to Health Careers class was exploring diagnostic health careers. This unit uses a lot of medical terminology so I decided that I would use the method of question formulation to help students learn four of the terms in one of the chapters. I placed Hypertension and Hypotension on the board and had them formulate questions at each table. They wanted me to define the words first! But I reminded them that this is not the first time they had heard these terms. I gave them five minutes to come up with as many questions as they could. Boy, was I surprised when they came up with EVERY question that I would have covered, if I had just lectured the entire time! After changing closed-ended questions to open-ended questions, they then had 15 minutes to answer each of the questions that I thought were important. I feel they will now actually remember what each of these words mean and I did not have to do the work. Will I do it again? Yes!

QR Codes provide an opportunity to use personal technology in the classroom. The advanced math teacher who delivered PD on this topic embeds QR Codes on review worksheets for unit tests. Students solve the problems and then use the QR Code to compare their answer with the correct one. The high school special education teacher who used this strategy in her classroom reported:

Students enjoyed learning about QR codes. They caught on very quickly (faster than I did on Friday!). They were able to scan the codes I made, scan and generate their own codes, and were motivated to watch YouTube videos on how these codes are used in the business world. This was a fun lesson!!

It has been a joy to receive positive feedback from teachers about professional development but also to hear about their implementation of new strategies in their classrooms. With the theme “Our Learning for Theirs,” the culture surrounding professional development is becoming focused on learning with direct application in the classroom. With a focus on learning for both teachers and students, change happens that is good for both teachers and students!

Points to Ponder

  • How is accountability built into your professional development?
  • How are needs assessed related to PD topics?

Resources

Socratic Seminar

Question Formulation Technique Using QR Codes

Using QR Codes

Commenting to this blog

Can't see the commenting block or comments below? Check that social media is not being blocked on your network. We are using a product called Disqus for the commenting portion of the View from a Field blog.

  • It is easiest to post comments to this blog through your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Disqus account.
  • Another option is to comment as a guest. After typing your comment in the box, place your cursor and type your name in the Name field. Then, type your email address and mark the "I'd rather post as a guest" check box. Finally, submit your comment by clicking on the gray button with the white arrow.
Posted by jschmidt@maquok...

Pages