Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Daily Assignment #56: Dipsticking

Madeline Hunter, an education theorist, is credited for coining this term.
Dipsticking, as a teaching strategy, is a metaphor for checking for understanding. Car engines contain a dipstick to check the oil supply.  It is used to determine if more oil needs to be added to the car. Dipsticking in teaching does the same thing and it takes very little time. Dipsticking is used frequently during instruction and on the same topic or concept to check on students' understanding to see if more instruction is needed before moving on. This can be done by asking questions throughout the lesson to the whole class. If the students consistently answer the questions correctly, then the teacher can assume that the lesson is going well.

There are two types of dipsticking:  student self-evaluation, and direct content checks.  Some examples of quick  student self-evaluations are asking your students to nod their heads if they’re with you, or to ask for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down signal to indicate how well they understand a concept that has just been presented.  However, the one significant problem with self-evaluation is that the audience may think they understand your content material when they actually don’t.
Hence, direct content checks that quickly evaluate recall and comprehension of the material presented may be provide the clearest answers for the teacher.  For example, create a brief oral true/false quiz and have the whole class respond with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down signal.  Remember, the entire class must be answering the question for you to be able to make a correct visual assessment of their understanding.  Too many teachers rely on a correct answer from a single student and assume that the rest of the class gets it.
Whenever you reach a benchmark in your instruction, or a certain point where the entire class should understand some content information or risk being lost for the rest of the lesson, be sure to dipstick!!  You’ll give yourself the opportunity to correct misunderstandings and keep your students with you consistently throughout your lesson.

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Best Effort,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Daily Assignment #55: Numbered Heads Together

The structure of Numbered Heads is from the work of Spencer Kagan. 
There are a number of variations on this strategy,some are very simple and others have a greater degree of complexity. 

The purpose of Numbered Heads is to process information, communication, developing thinking, review of material,and checking prior knowledge. 

This strategy can be used as a precursor to teaching Cooperative Learning structures, such as a Jigsaw.

  1. Divide the class into equal groups of 4.  Number off the students in each group. If one group is smaller than the others have # 3 answer for # 4 as well. The teacher can give numbers or students can give numbers themselves.
  2. Teacher asks the students a question or sets a problem to solve. It must be stressed that everyone in the group must be able to participate and answer the question.
  3. Ensure enough time is given for the group to do the task.
  4. The students work together. They quite literally “put their heads together” in order to solve the problem and also ensure that everyone in the group can answer the question.
  5. The teacher asks for an answer/response to a question by calling a number. (this might be at random, e.g. pulling a number our of a hat, or can initially be decided by the teacher in order to ensure the process is successful) 
  6. The students with the number called then answers/responds to the question. 
This is a great strategy for students to learn how to work together and be responsible for each other's learning.

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Due to spring break I will not be writing my blog again until April 27th.  Don't forget to check in at that time.

Have a safe, healthy vacation and see you on the 27th.
Best Effort,

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Daily Assignment #54: Blurt Alert

Have you ever noticed some students who are constantly blurting out the answer, without raising their hand or waiting for their turn.

There are many ways to address the problem of students blurting out the answers.  One way would be to ignore the student. Another way would be to praise the student who does raise their hand. 

Here's a list of other possible strategies:

  • Give the blurter a specific number of chips for the day/period. Each time the student blurts out the teacher takes a chip. Once the chips are used up the student can no longer speak. There should be consequences if they do continue. Hopefully, the student will recognize how often they do blurt out and will begin to stop.
  • As the student blurts out give them a chip.  At the end of the day/period count up the chips. Establish a goal.  Have the student work towards reducing the quantity each day and striving for the goal.  Provide a reward when they have reached a goal.
  • Red Hand Alert  (Excerpted from the book, Class Cards.)
          Red Hands are cut from red construction paper. They are kept on the teacher's desk. Whenever a        
          student blurts out an answer or response when it is inappropriate to do so, stop everything, pick up one
          of the Red Hands, and extend it to the blurter. He/She is then required to write their name and the
          date on the hand. The hand is then dropped into a plastic container that "holds hands."
          At the end of the week, one of the students goes through the container and records on a grade sheet--
          using a simple stick tally--the number of hands each student received. The students with the most Red
         Hands have them stapled to Student Bulletins which are then sent home. It's this type of specific, goal-
         oriented communication that really gets results. We're not saying that Calvin is completely irresponsible.
         He just needs to exercise a bit more self-control.
Red Hand Bulletin

Note: For middle school teachers pass out red squares instead of hands. This will reduce the possibility that your students might see this technique as being a "baby school" thing.

  •  Green Hands are given out at the end of the week to students who had gone through the week without receiving a Red Hand. The Green Hands were taken home, signed by one of the parents, returned to class, and then dropped in a little clear plastic container. During the week  draw out Green Hands--one each day--and give the student some type of little prize, e.g. a Jolly Rancher, leave a few minutes early for lunch, extra reading, drawing, reading time. 
Helping the student who blurts out to recognize their behavior is the key.  

I hope you will try one of these strategies and let us know how it goes.

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Best Effort,

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Daily Assignment #53:Activator/Summarizer: Get One-Give One-Move On

    Get One-Give One-Move On, is a strategy to help students brainstorm key ideas on a topic/reading to activate prior knowledge and build background knowledge, OR to help students to summarize and synthesize key concepts in  reading.  

    To make a Get One-Give One-Move On:
    1. Set up a box matrix with six or nine boxes.
    2. Have students think of a question they have or an important idea about the topic/reading and write it in the first box. 
    3. Set up a rotation pattern (e.g., pass to the left) by telling students to pass the sheet to another student. Another way might be to have students get up and find someone to exchange papers with.
    4. Students read what was written in the first box and write an idea in box 2.  No ideas can be repeated on a paper.  If their idea already appears on the paper, the student has to think of another idea to write. 
    5. Students continue passing on each paper,or exchanging papers, reading the ideas, and adding new ideas until all the boxes are filled with ideas. 
    6. Each sheet is returned to the original owner to read and reflect upon. 
    To take this strategy to the next level, have students write a summary using the ideas on their paper.

    Possible Topics: 
    • Writing topics
    • Reasons for the Civil War
    • Reasons for the Civil Rights Movement
    • Geometric shapes
    • classroom rules/expectations
    • healthy snacks
    • rules for basketball
    • woodwind instruments
    • words with 4 syllables
    • Reptiles
    • Warm blooded animals
    The Give One - Get One strategy does take some prep and it can be tough to teach students the procedure the first few times around. However, it's well worth it because it gets students to engage in academic conversation in a low-risk environment. By the time it's time for a class discussion, each student has already practiced sharing an idea with a few peers. It keeps every student accountable and is a great way to increase the energy of the class!

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    Best Effort,

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Daily Assignment #52: Calling Sticks

    Sometimes, teachers have a tendency to call on the same students to answer our questions, or to do certain jobs, or for lots of other reasons, and we don't even realize it.  However, the students know.  Some students know you'll never call on them, so they just stop listening.

    Calling sticks will help teachers to make sure to give everyone an opportunity.  It is such a simple strategy and very effective.

    Write each student's name on a popsicle stick.  Place them in a can.  So easy.

    For your next Q&A session, ask the question, then draw a name, don't draw the name first.  If the name is drawn first, the rest of the class stops listening.  After the student responds put the stick back in the can.  This lets the student know that they maybe called on again, so they need to pay attention.  If the teacher puts the stick aside the student will tune the teacher out, because they will think the teacher is done with them.

    Calling sticks are a great way to assign classroom jobs.  Just randomly pick a name out of the can.  I also used them for who would read a passage from a book, who would share their math strategies, who would go first, second, third..., for dismissal or lining up, assigning partners.  You will discover that you will use them throughout the day for many things.

    You will also find that the onus is not on the teacher anymore.  The students can no longer say, "You always call on ______."

    For teachers who have more than one class, have a set of sticks for each group, or assign numbers to students and have numbers on the sticks instead of names.  Another approach might be to number the desk, instead of assigning numbers to the students.  High School teachers have used this approach.

    I hope you will experiment with this strategy.  I know you will see a difference in students' attention and participation.

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    Best Effort,