Sunday, May 29, 2011

Daily Assignment #65: Retention Part 2: How to tell the student

Once everyone has agreed that retention would be the best decision for a student, someone has to tell the student.   Some parents prefer to do this themselves.  While other parents prefer the teacher tells the student and then the parent does follow-up conversations at home.  Some parents and teachers, jointly tell the student.  In most cases, when I retained a student, the parents and I told the student jointly.  We would meet with the student at the very end of the year, but before move-up day.  The conversation would begin with a question for the student, such as "How do you feel the school year went for you?'  With follow-up questions, "What was your favorite subject?"  "What did you like best?"  "What did you find challenging?"   "Was there something you would like to have more time to learn or something you would like to improve on?"  "What do you feel was the hardest/most challenging subject?"   I would then explain that... "some students just need a little more time to learn math or reading, or whatever.  It is like that for everything we do.  There are somethings I can do really well and there are somethings I need more time to learn.  That is true for everyone."  Give examples of things that the student does well and then what he/she needs to work on.   Do not give a laundry list of what the student needs to improve on, that can be overwhelming.  Only mention a few areas that need improvement.  Have the parents share areas where they have had to spend a lot of time learning something, hopefully a school related topic.

Tell the student how fortunate he/she is to have adults who want to make sure their learning is right where it should be before they go to the next grade level.  "So, we, your parents and I, have decided we are going to give you that time to make your learning the best it can be at this grade level.  You are going to spend another year in grade_____, to make sure you are totally ready for grade______."  Let that settle in for a few seconds, then clarify any questions the student might have.  Most importantly, be as reassuring as possible.  Make sure the student understands that they have done nothing wrong.  This is all about learning and be well prepared for the next level.

If possible, let the student know who the teacher will be for the new year.  Arrange for the student to visit the new class.  Check to see if the student has any friends going into that class as well.   Suggest to the parents to arrange for play dates during the summer to help build relationships within the new class.

Now, having said all that, please know that this strategy is not researched based.  It is experienced based.
It is what worked best for me, my families and my students.  I hope, however, this will help you with your conversation with a student you may be retaining.

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Best Effort,


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Daily Assignment #64: Retention

By now, you have probably identified a student who is not yet ready to face the challenges of the next grade level. This is a difficult decision and not to be taken lightly. I have yet to meet a teacher who hasn't agonized over broaching this subject with parents.  As difficult as it is, parents should be given a heads up long before May.  However, if you haven't yet, all is not lost.  Still discuss retention with parents at this point.  I have found most parents are not surprised when the idea of retention is brought up.  They usually have had questions and doubts about promotion also. Whatever the situation parents must be involved in this decision, as well as the administrator.

So, when do you retain a student?   In my opinion, you just don't retain a child because he/she's academics are not on grade level.  Instead look at the whole child.  A friend, and former principal, recommended that I use Light's Retention Scale when I was struggling over retaining a student.  I gave a copy to the student's parents to fill out and I completed one as well.  It was very interesting.  When we did the scoring of both forms, the scores actually came out the same.  The scores indicated that the student would be a "Good Retention Candidate".

Here are the 19 categories that are covered:

  • Knowledge of English Language
  • Physical Size of the student
  • Student's Age
  • Sex of Student
  • Siblings
  • Parents' School Participation
  • Transiency
  • School Attendance
  • Present Level of Academic Achievement
  • Student's Attitude About Possible Retention
  • Present grade Placement
  • Previous grade retention
  • Immature behavior
  • Emotional problems
  • History of delinquency
  • Experiential background
  • Motivation to complete school task
  • History of Learning Disabilities
  • Estimate of Intelligence
Each response has a numeric value.   For example:
 Knowledge of English Language:
-Student has good communication skills using the English language...........................................0
-Student has limited use of the English language but is acquiring new skills quickly...................2
-Student has little or no knowledge of the English language and is not acquiring new skills........5

At the end of the 19 categories, total the numbers and compare to the Interpretation Guidelines Table.
Example:  A total score of 0-9:  Excellent retention candidate.
This is the link to Light's Retention Scale:'s%20Retention%20Scale.pdf

This tool should not be used as the only method of determining a student's retention.  It is another aid to help in that decision..

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Best Effort,

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Daily Assignment #63: Cornell Note-taking

How many of you have heard these comments when students have not been able to take notes during a lecture, reading text, or watching a video?
"I can't write down everything the teacher says because the teacher talks too fast." 
"The notes that I take are not organized."
"I can't understand what I have written."
"My notes don't help me when I study."
"I can't focus on note taking because I get distracted."

The Cornell Note-taking method provides a systematic format for condensing and organizing notes. It was created by Walter Pauk, professor of education at Cornell University.

The student divides the paper into 1/3, 2/3's columns: the 2/3 column, on the right, is for taking detailed notes. Students should avoid using long sentences  To help with quick note taking students need to be taught symbols and abbreviations. The 1/3 column, on the left, is the Key Ideas column.  The bottom of the page has a horizontal line across, about 2 inches from the bottom, for a summary.

On the left side of the notebook, (opposite page), the page should be divided, using a horizontal line, 3/4, 1/4 at the bottom.  In the 3/4 sections, students rewrite the information in a different format, such as in a graphic organizer, drawing, graph, etc...  In the bottom 1/4, students design relevant questions.

Now when it is time to study for a test, the student has concise, detailed, readable notes.  The student can cover up the note-taking column to answer the questions that they designed or to identfy the Key Ideas.  

Let's take a count how many times, and ways, students visit the information:
  1. Student hear or see the information 
  2. take notes 
  3. revisit notes to identify Key Ideas 
  4. write a summary 
  5. reconfigure the information into a graphic organizer, drawing,etc... 
  6. and finally design relevant questions
After seeing the information 6 times the likelihood of students recalling the information is very high because they are actually doing something with the information.  It is much higher than if the students just take notes.

When teaching this strategy, as with all other strategies, use familiar content so the students focus on the structure not the content.

Here is a link I discovered for designing Cornell Note-taking paper.
I hope you will experiment with this strategy, if not this year then in the fall.  It would be a great strategy to begin teaching the first week of school and then used throughout the year.  Even better would be for a team of teachers to agree that this will be the main study skill taught and used by all teachers for the year.
Go for it!!!
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Best Effort,
P.S. I haven't got a clue why part of this blog has a white background. Oh well.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Daily Assignment #62: Models of Teaching-Inquiry Model

The Inquiry Model is a strategy, created by Dr. J. Richard Suchman, to help students to develop the skill of asking questions to seek answers to solve a discrepant event or situation.  Most educators associate this model to math and science, however, it can be used in all content areas.

Steps for the Inquiry Model:

  1. The teacher selects a discrepant event/situation, which has been researched, to present to the students.
  2. The students formulate questions, which the teacher can only answer with a yes/no response.  The students must construct the questions in such a way that will give the students the information they need to solve the discrepant event/situation. 
  3. Students create a hypothesis. 
  4. Students organize the information and assess the hypothesis.
  5. Students reflect on their inquiry process and how it can be improved.
  •  Essay writing:   Two students in a 9th grade English class.  Wrote an essay of about 300 words on “Social Justice”. Both had good ideas and expressed themselves accurately (Grammar and vocabulary wise).  However, one received an “A” while the other student got a “C” . Why should there have been such a big difference between their grades ?
  • Why do snails have shells?
  • Why are archeologist conducting digs of the tomb of the First Emperor of China?
  • The first law of motion states that an object at rest tends to remain at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion.  Why? 
  •  Pour about an inch of water into a bucket.  Then swing the bucket in a large upright circle with your arm.  Does the water pour out or stay in the bucket? Why?  
  • Why did women struggle for their rights in the 1800's?  
  • There is an old Chinese custom of binding women's feet.  Why? 
I hope you will take an opportunity and experiment with this strategy.
    On another note, hang in there.  The year is almost over.
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    Best Effort,

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Daily Assignment #61: Model of Teaching: Concept Attainment

      To recap, Models of Teaching are defined as "a pattern of instruction that are recognizable and consistent" and teach a particular kind of thinking.

      My last blog was on a Model of Teaching, created by Hilda Taba, called Inductive Reasoning/Thinking.
      Tonight's blog will be on another Model of Teaching titled Concept Attainment.  This instructional strategy is based on Jerome Bruner's work.  In Concept Attainment students compare and contrast examples that contain attributes of a group with examples that do not contain those attributes and then form a concept definition of the group.  Concept Attainment can be used to teach almost any concept in any subject.

      To do Concept Attainment the teacher selects a concept and develops positive and negative examples. 
      The teacher then shows the students one positive example and one negative example.  The students then work to develop a concept definition.  The teacher gives additional examples.  With each additional example the students revisit their concept definition to see if it still fits.  Process the concept definition.  Evaluate their accuracy.

      Math example taken from "Instructional Strategies Online"
      • First the teacher chooses a concept to developed. (i.e. Math facts that equal 10)
      • Begin by making list of both positive "yes" and negative " no" examples: The examples are put onto sheets of paper or flash cards.
      • Positive Examples: (Positive examples contain attributes of the concept to be taught) i.e. 5+5, 11-1, 10X1, 3+4+4, 12-2, 15-5, (4X2)+2, 9+1
      • Negative Examples: (for examples choose facts that do not have 10 as the answer) i.e. 6+6, 3+3, 12-4, 3X3, 4X4, 16-5, 6X2, 3+4+6, 2+(2X3), 16-10
      • Designate one area of the chalkboard for the positive examples and one area for negative examples. A chart could be set up at the front of the room with two columns - one marked YES and the other marked NO.
      • Present the first card by saying, "This is a YES." Place it under the appropriate column. i.e. 5+5 is a YES
      • Present the next card and say, "This is a NO." Place it under the NO column. i.e. 6+6 is a NO
      • Repeat this process until there are three examples under each column.
      • Ask the class to look at the three examples under the YES column and discuss how they are alike. (i.e. 5+5, 11-1, 2X5) Ask "What do they have in common?"
      • For the next tree examples under each column, ask the students to decide if the examples go under YES or NO.
      • At this point, there are 6 examples under each column. Several students will have identified the concept but it is important that they not tell it out loud to the class. They can however show that they have caught on by giving an example of their own for each column. At this point, the examples are student-generated. Ask the class if anyone else has the concept in mind. Students who have not yet defined the concept are still busy trying to see the similarities of the YES examples. Place at least three more examples under each column that are student-generated.
      • Discuss the process with the class. Once most students have caught on, they can define the concept. Once they have pointed out that everything under the YES column has an answer of 10, then print a new heading at the top of the column (10 Facts). The print a new heading for the NO column (Not 10 Facts).
       Math Example by Andrea Johnson: Polygons
      • Using a overhead a T-chart is drawn on a transparency.
      • Under one column are examples of polygons
      • On the other are non-polygons
      • Sticky notes cover all examples.
      • One example from each column is shown
      • Together the students design a concept definition.
      • Another example is shown and the concept definition is evaluated.  Continue this process.
      • Evaluate the final concept definition.  Does it whole true?

      I hope you will take the opportunity to experiment with this strategy.
      Please share this link with colleagues and friends.
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      Best Effort,

      Wednesday, May 11, 2011

      Daily Assignment #60: Models of Teaching

      In The Skillful Teacher, by Saphier, Haley-Speca, Gower, a model of teaching is defined as "a pattern of instruction that is recognizable and consistent."  Models of teaching teach a particular kind of thinking.  Joyce and Weil, Models of Teaching, established 4 categories of models. 
      They included:
      1. Behavior Modification 
      2. Information Processing 
      3. Social Interaction
      4. Personal
      An example of an Information Processing Model is Hilda Taba's Inductive Reasoning/Thinking.  This model was designed to improve the students’ ability to handle information.
      There are 3 categories and 9 phases to this model:

                  1. Present the data to the students or collect it from them.
                            Phase One: Enumeration and listing
                Phase Two: Grouping
                Phase Three: Labeling, Categorizing 
      2.  Present a focus statement and have the students classify the data based on common attributes.
                Phase Four: Identifying Critical Relationships
                Phase Five: Exploring Relationships
                Phase Six: Making Inferences
       3.  Apply the concepts that emerge; explore relationships; make predictions.
             Phase Seven: Predicting Consequences, Explaining Unfamiliar Phenomenon, Hypothesizing
                Phase Eight: Explaining and/or Supporting the Predictions and Hypotheses
                Phase Nine: Verifying the Prediction

      Lesson using Inductive Model:  
      The teacher will begin by asking the students to think of anything that comes to mind regarding the reasons for the war of 1898.  As they call out their ideas the teacher will write them on the board.  
      The teacher will then ask each student, why they chose what they called out.  
      The teacher will then ask them to get into their pre-assigned groups and brainstorm about which ideas belong together in a grouping.  
      The teacher will then write those groups on the board, going with the most prominent and again ask why the students chose as they did. 
      The teacher will now ask the student groups to label or put those groups in a particular category.  The teacher will write all their ideas on the board and they may vote on the most prominent.  
      The teacher will now again ask why they chose as they did drawing on their responses to ask further questions.  
      The teacher will then tell the class that they have essentially outlined an essay listing the key factors leading to the war of 1898 and may use this method individually to accomplish an essay or to clarify their thoughts on a subject.

      I hope you will take an opportunity to experiment with this strategy.

      Please share this link with colleagues and friends.
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      Best Effort,

      Sunday, May 8, 2011

      Daily Assignment #59: Mnemonics-Acronyms/Memory Joggers

      Mnemonics are devices, such as pattern of letters, ideas, associations, that assist in remembering something. 

      A mnemonic, for remembering lists, consists of an easily remembered acronym, or phrase with an acronym that is associated with the list items.  For example, to remember the colors of the rainbow, use the mnemonic: Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain or ROY G BIV  

      Here's a list of other acronyms:

      • My Very Excellent Mother Just Made Us Nine Pizzas:  Planets
      • Never Eat Sour Watermelons: points on compass
      • King Philip Can Only find His Green Slippers: Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species
      • Hi! He Lies Because Boran CanNot Oxide Fluoride,   New Nation Might----Sign Peace Security Clause,  A King Can:  First 20 Periodic Table Elements.
      • HOMES:  Great Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior 

      Spelling mnemonics are all about - creating a verse or phrase to help  remember how to spell the more difficult words. Often the sillier they are the easier they are to remember.
      These mnemonics have come from many different sources.
      • PIEce of PIE
      • You hEAR with your EAR
      • There is a LIE in beLIEve
      • Is it a son or sun? - A son is a boy and they both have an o.
      • A friEND is always there when the END comes.
      • I before E except after C - and when saying "A" as in neighbour or weigh and weird is just weird
      • Always smell A RAT when you spell separate.
      • When 2 vowels go walking the first does the talking.
      • The silent e makes the vowel say it's name. eg mat/mate
      • When you eat deSSert you always come back for the second s.
      • Your principal is your PAL - the difference between principal and principle
      • "TO GET HER" - remember how to spell together because if you "get her", you'll be together.
      • When you assume you make an ass out of u and me
      • Your SECRETary will keep your SECRET
      • BR! Its FeBRuary in  New England
      • Practice/Practise - ICE is a noun so practICE is a noun and practise is a verb - Soccer practice improves your game, so you need to practise regularly.
      • Meat/meet - I like to eat meat
      • An island is land
      • Where, here, there, everywhere - Place names all have here in them
      • Stationary/stationery - Stationery contains er and so does paper; stationary (not moving) contains ar and so does car
      • Loose/Lose - Loops are Loose and it is easy to lose a shoe.
      • Where ever there is a Q there is a U.
      • Affect - is the action
      • Effect - is the result or end.
      • Complement/Compliment - Complement adds something to make it enough and a compliment puts you in the limelight.
      • Special - The CIA have special agents. 
      Next time a student has a problem with a more difficult spelling word - consider creating a mnemonic. If a student is having difficulty remembering a list of things create an acronym to help them remember it.
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      Best Effort,