Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Thumbs Up and Down of My Tech Experiences: Pear Deck (GUEST POST)

In my role as a Digital Learning Coach, I have the privilege of working with teachers ("fellows") supporting them in finding ways for technology to improve / enhance the lessons they teach with the goal of better & deeper student learning. Several fellows have taken the leap to blog about their experiences and share specific lessons with all of you. I hope you benefit from reading about their journey.

GUEST POST by Tala Pirouzian, HS English Student Teacher

As I reflect on my student teaching experience thus far, I have not only enjoyed experimenting with the different technology to support and engage my students in their learning but also have learned from them. While I will be sharing some of my most memorable and successful lessons, I would also like to share ones that have been more challenging than I imagined. The one that first comes to mind is Pear Deck. This is a multidimensional tech tool with a unique system set up, but it can also be quite overwhelming the first time a teacher, especially a new teacher, uses it.

Pear Deck

First, let me provide some context for the lesson before explaining the benefits and challenges of using Pear Deck. I used this tech tool during a lesson that also featured a competitive game element in that students worked in teams of four to six to justify their analysis of the text.

Each question posed to students had two parts to it:
First students would type in a quick response (thumbs up/down to indicate agree or disagree, or one word response), which served to check understanding and offer clarification on the topic
Next, we would review the answer and then students would work in their team to find textual evidence that best supports the assertion/topic.
For example:
LOTF Ch. 7 Modified.pptx (33).jpg
LOTF Ch. 7 Modified.pptx (31).jpg
LOTF Ch. 7 Modified.pptx (32).jpg
Some of the questions had several correct textual evidences; thus, I had to switch between different slides in order to double check that the textual evidence students selected corresponded with the ones on the “survey says” list. A part of this has to do with experience and familiarity with the text too in that for this lesson it was a balance of comfort with the tech and proficiency with each significant passage within the novel. Thus, I do believe that as one gets more familiar with teaching a certain novel, this allows for more risks and novelty with tech activities.
Furthermore, as students read their textual evidence I was listening to see if they were reading the passage that contained the specific literary device. For example, in some instances students would read textual evidences that were close or part of the page but did not contain the actual language or literary device. The pressure of time also contributed to the challenging aspect of the lesson and tech.
One of the most challenging management aspects of Pear Deck for me was the display format in that there is a projector and a dashboard setup. The desktop computer is on projector setting so that the electronic whiteboard displays what the students will see on their screens, yet on my laptop I have a dashboard display setup so that I can check their short response data, read their incoming responses, lock/unlock the response page, highlight student answers, and reveal the answers.

The different features of this tech tool are useful and valuable because it keeps students engaged and allows the teacher to assess students responses in real time. For example, during the lesson, I was able use the tech tool to display student responses as models or to use the visual data of the “thumbs up/thumbs down” as an assessment of any remaining misunderstandings, confusions, or understandings  about a topic, character, or literary device. There are so many options and features embedded in PearDeck, such as designing slides with clips, images, questions, and text, selecting from different types of student responses (multiple choice, short response, agree/disagree), and managing the responses by highlighting certain student answers, making the student work anonymous, etc.  
After reflecting on this particular lesson, I believe that there was a discrepancy between how I envisioned and practiced the tech tool to work, beforehand with my mentor, and how it actually worked out during the lesson because there were many moving parts. However, students were engaged in the content learning and given the opportunity to practice their close-reading, literary analysis, justification, vocabulary, listening, and speaking skills with this interactive tool. Next time I use PearDeck, I will have had experience with the tech formatting and will make appropriate adjustments to the task. Although this was one the most challenging lessons and tech tools that I have used thus far, I would definitely use it again and do recommend it to others because with practice comes competence and development.

Purchase my book today!  Click here for more details and to place an order!  Also on Amazon.com at bit.ly/fwkirch

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Using Let's Recap as a Post-Discussion Activity: Enhancing Individual Reflection within Group Discussions (GUEST POST)

In my role as a Digital Learning Coach, I have the privilege of working with teachers ("fellows") supporting them in finding ways for technology to improve / enhance the lessons they teach with the goal of better & deeper student learning. Several fellows have taken the leap to blog about their experiences and share specific lessons with all of you. I hope you benefit from reading about their journey. 

GUEST POST by Erin Thomas, HS English Teacher

Cross-posted from techfellowship.blogspot.com

The final quarter of the school year is always my favorite, and not just because summer vacation is finally in view. My students and I spend much of the year in a metaphoric handhold, as I guide, lead, and model them through the content, until suddenly, they seem ready to let go.

But let's face it: letting go can be hard. Can we trust them to maintain a high level of discussion, if we aren’t the one playing the facilitator? Will they stay focused and on task? How will I know what they get out of the discussion, if I am not listening to every word spoken throughout a discussion? The reality is that all the hand-holding we do the first half of the year, is exactly why we should trust them to do all of these things. Whether the class is CP or Honors level, they can be trusted, as long as we have taught them how to use the tools they will need.

For me, the close of the third quarter coincided with the end of our All Quiet on the Western Front unit, so I needed this discussion to draw a conclusion to all the work we had been doing. Since our curricular units are all Common Core based, we had been analyzing the novel in connection to essential questions and a number of connected ancillary texts. It was important to me that my students demonstrated that they could apply what I had been modeling for them all year, by writing their own questions and bringing in their own outside sources.


The set-up for this discussion was fairly simple, but somehow ended up infusing all of my favorite things, both tech and content wise, from this year!

Students did not go into this discussion cold. I explained that they would be participating a Six Person Panel Discussion (named so mostly because it sounds fancier than working in group of six), and I provided them with the handout which outline what would be covered.

In addition to reflecting on the ancillary sources I had provided over the course of the unit, students were asked to bring in their own annotated sources.

Getting them Organized and Letting them Go:

On the day of discussion, I had students simply draw a color which determined their group assignment.

I tend to shift back-and-forth with assigning roles during discussions, but for this activity, since I was going to be an observer, I knew I wanted them to have assigned responsibilities.

After assigning roles and discussing expectations, I put the timer on for twenty minutes, and just let them go. It was amazing to watch them navigate this discussion. Every group talked for the entire twenty minutes, and every student, even my quietest ones, participated multiple times throughout the discussion. Watching my sophomores interact with each other, as true academics, was incredibly gratifying.

After a quick, share-out from each of the groups, I had them take one final step. Since I wasn’t able to sit with each group for their entire discussion, I wanted to find a way to still hear from all of them.

Bringing it to a Close:

Let's Recap is tech tool which allows students to quickly create short videos. It's great to use when you want to hear from all of your students, but you just don’t have enough minutes in the class period. For this discussion, I essentially used it as an exit slip. In the last few minutes of class, I had students log in and informally tell me about one ancillary source shared by a peer in their group. If you haven’t used this tech tool before, I highly recommend it. It is user friendly, easily viewed and assessed, and best of all, guarantees that you will hear from every one of your students!

This discussion definitely ended-up being a standout for me for the whole year. Everything that I asked of my students felt meaningful, and best of all, their skills and intelligence were able to shine!

Happy Discussing!

Purchase my book today!  Click here for more details and to place an order!  Also on Amazon.com at bit.ly/fwkirch

Friday, April 7, 2017

Literary Blocks (GUEST POST)

In my role as a Digital Learning Coach, I have the privilege of working with teachers ("fellows") supporting them in finding ways for technology to improve / enhance the lessons they teach with the goal of better & deeper student learning. Several fellows have taken the leap to blog about their experiences and share specific lessons with all of you. I hope you benefit from reading about their journey. 

  GUEST POST by Tracey Ryan, HS English Teacher

Cross-posted from techfellowship.blogspot.com

Everything in the English classroom is dependent on students reading the assigned texts.  I am always trying to figure out ways to engage students - to make them go back into the text to further their understanding.  Too often - I have them respond to quotes and write a "chunk."  For each chunk, students respond by providing context, close text analysis, and purpose. It's essential for them to understand how authors make meaning, but my selection of the quotes and the formulaic ways they are required to respond puts the onus for understanding and learning on me rather than the students.

After reading read a blog post from Dawn Lam [Mrs. Lam's Musings], I decided to "borrow" her idea of modifying the game "Cards Against Humanity."  I purchased wooden blocks from Amazon and wrote on each side a different literary device.  My class had finished reading the first four chapters of Lord of the Flies. Instead of me dictating what the students would examine in the first four chapters - I let them roll the block to determine what literary aspect of the first four chapters their group would examine.

After rolling for their literary device, the group had to figure out how they would present their analysis.  We've practiced with a few tech tools this year so I gave them free choice as to how they wanted to present their findings.  My suggestions included;  Google Slides, Google Drawings, Adobe Spark, Infographics, Hyperdocs or even just a Google Doc.    Most students played it safe and went with Google Slides but some ventured into Google Drawing, Adobe Spark, and Popplet.  Examples of some of the final products follow:
Imagery - Google Drawings

Characterization of Jack - Adobe Spark 

Analysis of Conflict - Google Slides

Analysis of Symbolism - Popplet

After sharing the assignment with my grade level team we came up with a series of variations on how to grow the assignment.  

  • Roll two blocks - one for the literary device - the other for the purpose.  We came up with two separate lists.  The device list included:  conflict, characterization, syntax, motif, imagery, figurative language (metaphor/simile, symbolism, personification, etc.).  The purpose list included:  theme, character,  setting, tone, mood/atmosphere, and point of view. Some of the devices are interchangeable with the purposes. (Thanks C.Kirch for the suggestion)
  • List the lens of literary criticism on the sides of the block and have students roll to determine through which lens they will examine the text.

Purchase my book today!  Click here for more details and to place an order!  Also on Amazon.com at bit.ly/fwkirch

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Deadly Red Pen Strikes No More: Grammar Instruction Enters the 21st Century (GUEST POST)

In my role as a Digital Learning Coach, I have the privilege of working with teachers ("fellows") supporting them in finding ways for technology to improve / enhance the lessons they teach with the goal of better & deeper student learning. Several fellows have taken the leap to blog about their experiences and share specific lessons with all of you. I hope you benefit from reading about their journey.

Post by: Tracey Ryan, High School English Teacher

Cross-posted from techfellowship.blogspot.com

Grammar is not the reason I became an English teacher.  It's not sexy.  It doesn't require higher order thinking.  In fact - grammar might be the only place in an English classroom where there is an explicitly correct answer --  none of that gray area that makes the study of literature so endlessly fascinating.  Instead, grammar requires adherence to a set of seemingly arbitrary rules.  These rules, however,  help students navigate difficult text and write cohesive essays.

Each year as the grammar books grow older and the model sentences more obscure, I religiously dust the books off and trudge through grammar instruction.  The goal is to start with the rules, practice the skills and then apply.  Current trends advocate teaching grammar in context - the drill is "dead."   However, we don't send basketball players out to play the game without hours of dribbling and passing practice. It's only after they've mastered the skills that players enter into a real game situation. In the same manner, before I send students out to read complex text or write analytical essays - we practice the fundamentals of grammar.   Once we have a basic understanding of the grammar rules, we move on to the application of those rules.  For example, my sophomores open the year with phrases and clauses (after a crash course in parts of speech).  Once we've mastered the rules - we apply the skills to our own writing before ending the semester with the syntactical analysis of Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities.  For me, the difficulty with the direct instruction of grammar comes with trying to differentiate it.  Some students are able to quickly grasp the rules while others struggle.  Enter NoRedInk.

NoRedInk provides lessons, practices, and quizzes that help students to master selected grammatical skills. It allows students to work at their own pace and tailors the questions to student interests.  The company offers a free version and a premium version.   My experience is with the free version.

The program is easy to navigate.  I set up my classes once and then assign lessons, practices, or quizzes to the students.  It as easy as going to NoRedInk.com and signing up with Google.

Step One: Set up classes.

Step Two:  Select the lesson or practices 
The lessons available include active vs. passive voice, phrases, clauses, sentence structures (compound, complex, etc), punctuation, parts of speech, misplaced/dangling modifiers, parallel structure, and agreement,  They even have practice on embedding quotations and topic sentences.  I choose to go through the rules whole class and then assign practices which students can work through at their own pace.  NoRedInk offers diagnostic tests, practices, and quizzes.  With this option, students go through the lesson on their own and then practice the skills as needed.  Once you've decided on how grammar instruction will work in your class and are ready to select the assignment, go to taskbar select assignment and choose the practice.

Step Three:  Assign students the lesson or practice
Beware the practices run from super easy to fairly challenging.  There is also a preponderance of practices.  My first experience with NoRedInk, I overloaded my students.  I learned to trust the suggested time allotments offered by the program. If the program says the practices will take 10 minutes to complete, the average student will complete it in 10  minutes.   Below is an example of Active or Passive Voice lesson and a sample question on that topic.

Sample passive voice question.

Students work at their own pace, answering increasingly difficult questions until they reach mastery. If, however, they miss a series of questions - a review of the skill will pop up and students have an opportunity to review the rule before they move on.

Step Four: Once students have completed the practice - the teacher can follow-up student learning by looking at the data compiled during the lesson. After examining the data, the teacher can decide to assign more practice or assign a quiz.

NoRedInk is a really simple alternative to grammar books. Even on the free site - there is a sufficient range of topics and practices to engage and teach.  Some students did get frustrated that they'd be one problem from mastery, miss a question and have to go back and restart the process.   NoRedInk requires students to get three correct answers at each level before they can reach mastery.  In spite of their frustration, students came away knowing that they mastered the skills.

The first time, I assigned a set of grammar practices - I went way overboard with the sheer number of skills I required my students to master.  Now I limit the number of practices I assign. Instead of being tied to a computer for the period I try to pair the practice with a writing assignment that requires students to use the skills that they've been practicing.

I just introduced the ever difficult who/whom conundrum.  My students are already asking when they get to practice with NoRedInk.  A sure sign that something good is happening.

My students' reaction to NoRedInk.
  • I love NoRedInk. It is super helpful!
  • I liked the exercises we did on NoRedInk and I felt that it genuinely helped me in real-world examples of grammar usage. Even though it is kind of cheesy, I definitely appreciate having it as a learning tool to help me practice.
  • I think that NoRedInk was beneficial because it gave a lot of repetition which is necessary for grammar -  practice makes perfect. It also gave good, simple lessons to help us understand the concept. 
  • It's fun and I feel it helps me practice and understand grammar better!

Purchase my book today!  Click here for more details and to place an order!  Also on Amazon.com at bit.ly/fwkirch

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Using Adobe Spark to Explore Essential Questions (GUEST POST)

In my role as a Digital Learning Coach, I have the privilege of working with teachers ("fellows") supporting them in finding ways for technology to improve / enhance the lessons they teach with the goal of better & deeper student learning. Several fellows have taken the leap to blog about their experiences and share specific lessons with all of you. I hope you benefit from reading about their journey.

Post by: Erin Thomas, High School English Teacher

Cross-posted from techfellowship.blogspot.com

One of the struggles I have been faced with as a teacher is figuring out how to encourage students to slow down and think critically about a complex topic or text. The art of “wondering” our way toward an answer over time seems to have dissipated as technology has made it increasingly easy for students to arrive at immediate resolutions. One way we have been combating this issue, and working toward fostering ongoing, academic inquiry is through the use of essential questions.

Last week, I introduced a project to my classes which uses Adobe Spark to engage students in an investigation of the essential questions associated with their current thematic unit. When I designed this project, one of my main focuses was to encourage my students, through the details of the project, to “wonder” about a topic over an extended period of time. I first introduced the essential questions to my students at the beginning of the unit when we started our first core work, Lord of the Flies. While reading and analyzing Golding’s novel, students explored the questions in relation to the core work, various poems, visual texts and nonfiction texts. Once we had finished the novel, I introduced the Adobe Spark project.

As I explained the project to my students, I made sure to emphasize that this would be a project that we would be adding to at different benchmark points throughout the unit. Again, one of the goals being to have students explore an essential question through multiple core works and ancillary texts. Since we have three core works for this unit, I decided to have students create the first segment now, before we begin All Quiet on the Western Front, again before we begin Antigone, and then at the end once we have reached the conclusion. By having my students revisit, and add to, their Adobe Spark videos over the course of the unit, my hope is that they will get to closely examine how their own understating of a topic evolves through a deep examination of multiple texts. For me, it is very important that I create opportunities for my students to participate in a rigorous academic environment, which teaches important skills by exposing them to rich and complex texts.

How the Project Asks Students to Think:
When I design any lesson, I always ask myself, "What kind of thinking do I want my students to do?" Below you will see the general outline of the type of thinking this project requires of students. By having them revisit the project three and this type of thinking three times, over the course of the unit, they will get to trace the development of their ideas, and hopefully see the benefit of "wondering."
Marrying Technology with Content:
In regards to the actual technology, most of my students had not used Adobe Spark before, but I did create one earlier in the month to give them a refresher on how to write a theme statement, so they had seen it used before, just in a different context.

For those who are unfamiliar with the technology, Adobe Spark is essentially a forum that allows users to create video slideshows. The site offers various layouts, themes, music and voice recording capabilities, all are fairly simplistic and extremely user friendly.

Since I did this project with both my honors and CP classes, I outlined my modifications below. As I have been working as a tech fellow this year, I have been learning that I have to consider not only how I scaffold content, but also how I scaffold tech.

College Prep
  • Introduced project
  • Five minutes to explore the technology
  • Students created slides
  • Next day follow-up, completed voice recordings
  • Introduced tech the day before I introduced the project; allowed time for students to explore the technology
  • Introduced project; showed Teacher Model EQ
  • Provided students with a SLIDE ORGANIZER which I required them to complete before creating anything in Adobe Spark
  • Next day, students created slides and completed voice recordings using the organizer as a “script”
A note on CP modifications:

My rationale for making these choices is really based on what my honors students are ready to do at this point in the year. My desire for second semester to be a release of responsibility back to all of my students; however, my CP classes still require some additional scaffolding.

In addition, I made the choice to introduce the tech to my CP students at the end of the period, the day before I assigned the project, because that class in particular can get a little excited when we try something new. For my own personal sanity, this modification was key. They were incredibly focused the day they actually started the project because they had already had time to squirrel around with the tech the day before.  

Per the advice of my tech coach. I had my students submit their projects on a class slides which I posted to Google Classroom. They simply added their group names and the shareable link to their Adobe Spark videos

Overall, I was pleased with how these projects turned out in all of my classes. The feedback I have gathered so far from my students has been general, but here are their overall impressions:

  • They prefer Adobe Spark to screencasts
  • They had fun coming up with their own connections for the project
  • They preferred to create the slides in Google Slides first, and then transfer those slides into Adobe Spark, because this made it easier for them to collaborate

Sample Student Projects:

CP Student Sample
* As a side note, the essential questions I gave my CP students were slightly different HERE are their specific project guidelines

HERE is a link to the rubric I created to provide feedback to the groups. 

A few tidbits about using Adobe Spark:

  • As noted by my students above, it does not have a collaborative feature, so if you want student groups to create one video, it would be worth considering having the begin in Google Slides. They would then have to upload each slide as a JPEG into Adobe Spark, but my students assured me that this wasn’t too labor intensive.
  • Encourage students to keep the responses to 20 seconds or less. If they feel like they have more to say about a particular slide, they can simply “duplicate” it and continue their recording.
  • I had to constantly remind ALL, despite my models, to not write everything they were planning on saying on each of their slides. Once they thought of themselves as the narrator of their video, they were fine.

If you are looking for a way to increase the "wondering" in your classroom through essential questions and technology, this is a great way to go about it. Happy Adobe Sparking-ing!

Purchase my book today!  Click here for more details and to place an order!  Also on Amazon.com at bit.ly/fwkirch

Monday, March 20, 2017

#CUE17 Takeaways - as told by my tweets

I had a great time sharing and learning at #CUE17 this last Thurs-Sat.  While I was busy presenting (4 sessions and 1 workshop this year!) a lot of the time, I was still able to attend the keynotes and 2 concurrent sessions.

The keynotes by Jo Boaler and George Couros left me feeling, "All my teachers need to hear this!!"

 I also appreciated the questions that attendees posed in my questions that furthered my thinking and continued to expose me to other perspectives.  You can see all my session resources at 2017.cue.org

Here are my tweets that show my biggest takeaways from the conference: 

 Comment: "I'm not really into tech"
Answer: "It's not about U,it's about the kids!"
Stop using excuses 4not innovating in your clsrm! #cue17
— Crystal Kirch (@crystalkirch) March 17, 2017

Purchase my book today!  Click here for more details and to place an order!  Also on Amazon.com at bit.ly/fwkirch

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...