Tag Archives: differentiation

Fascinating Data: One step closer to a thinking classroom

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Are your students lacking motivation to begin a task?  Does their typical discussion involve headphones and iPhones?  Do they stop working at the first sign of trouble?

If so, read on…

As is often the case, I Googled one thing and found myself several links later reading  Peter Liljedahl’s research on thinking classrooms and was fascinated. His research included 300 teachers, the majority of whom taught 6th-12th grade, on the elements that supported or impeded a thinking classroom.

“A thinking classroom is a classroom that is not only conducive to thinking but also occasions thinking, a space that is inhabited by thinking individuals as well as individuals thinking collectively, learning together and constructing knowledge and understanding through activity and discussion. It is a space wherein the teacher not only fosters thinking but also expects it, both implicitly and explicitly.”   ~Peter Liljedahl, Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University, Canada

One of the elements Liljedahl found impactful was the student workspace.

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And this is where it gets interesting.

Liljedahl  looked at five different workspaces.  He gave each group of 2-4 students only one pen to ensure group work, then gave students a task to solve.  The five workspaces included:

  • a wall-mounted whiteboard (vertical, non-permanent (i.e. easy to erase))
  • a whiteboard laying on top of their desks or table (horizontal, non-permanent)
  • a sheet of flip chart paper taped to the wall (vertical, permanent (i.e. can’t erase marks))
  • a sheet of flip chart paper laying on top of their desk or table (horizontal, permanent)
  • their own notebooks at their desks or table (horizontal, permanent).

Eight data points were collected to measure the effectiveness of each of the surfaces.

  1. Time to task
  2. Time to first mathematical notation
  3. Eagerness to start (A score of 0, 1, 2 or 3 was assigned with 0 assigned for no enthusiasm to begin and a 3 assigned if every member of the group were wanting to start.)
  4. Discussion (A score of 0, 1, 2 or 3 was assigned with 0 assigned for no discussion and a 3 assigned for discussion involving all members of the group.)
  5. Participation (A score of 0, 1, 2 or 3 was assigned with 0 assigned if no members of the group were active in working on the task and a 3 assigned if all members of the group were participating in the work.)
  6. Persistence (A score of 0, 1, 2 or 3 was assigned with 0 assigned if the group gave up immediately when a challenge was encountered and a 3 assigned if the group persisted through multiple challenges.)
  7. Non-linearity of work (A score of 0, 1, 2 or 3 was assigned with 0 assigned if the work was orderly and linear and a 3 assigned if the work was scattered.)
  8. Knowledge mobility (A score of 0, 1, 2 or 3 was assigned with 0 assigned if there was no interaction with another group and a 3 assigned if there were lots of interaction with another group or with many other groups.)

Here is the data:

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Non-permanent surfaces outperformed permanent surfaces in almost every measure. Are students more willing to take risks when they are working on non-permanent surfaces?

Vertical surfaces outperformed horizontal surfaces in almost every measure.  The act of standing reduces the ability to hide.

Vertical whiteboards decrease the amount of time it takes students to get something on their surface;  from almost 2 1/2 minutes down to 20 seconds!  Eagerness increases when moving to a vertical whiteboard – a perfect 3!   And, Participation and Discussion jumped from less than 1 with a notebook to close to 3 with a vertical whiteboard.

How cool is that?!  This is impactful data!  

Get some white boards, people! Get them on the wall! Get them now!!  

And, let me know how I can help!

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P.S. If you are in need of super cheap whiteboards, just laminate a piece of construction paper or tag board!

P.S.S. Find a concise summary of Liljedahl’s research of the 9 elements of a thinking classroom here.

Finding/Creating Text Sets Just Got Easier

File this post under, “You know you’re an Edu-geek when….” My enthusiasm is right up there with Navin Johnson’s declaration, “The new phonebooks are here! The new phonebooks are here!” Read on English Language Arts, Social Science, CTE and Science teachers, ye beholden to CCSS Literacy Standards!

Venisha Bahr, our District K-8 Library Coordinator (extraordinaire) shared an email today announcing a new service from Newsela: Text Set Collections and the ability to create your own text sets! First, simply a definition from their website: “A text set is a collection of articles that share a common theme, topic, or standard.” In addition, the text sets featured by Newsela and ones you create through their resources are all available at multiple reading levels, allowing for easy differentiation.

If you’re not already familiar with Newsela, I encourage you to check out their web-based service. There is a free version and a paid subscription Pro version. Text Sets are accessible and can be created in either version. In this era of Common Core and its assessments, text sets also allow for comparison/contrast and analysis of multiple sources based around one topic/theme.

I went through the process of developing my own text set; the simple process is described in a series of support articles in their Text Sets Toolkit:

Step 1: Create a Text Set Create a “folder” by topic, theme, or other category.

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Step 2: Add articles Once you’ve created a Text Set folder, add articles by searching the archives for compatible titles:

  • Open an article
  • Click the “Add to” drop down menu
  • Select the text set to which you wish to add the article
  • OR Create a new text set in the drop down menu
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Step 3: Share your Text Set(s) On the “My Text Sets” page, select a text set name and click “Make Visible” to share with colleagues/team members and others in the Newsela community via email, Facebook, Pinterest, and/or Twitter.

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Yes, you can edit your text sets adding and deleting articles as you see fit. You can also assign text sets to your students if you choose to create a class. Our efforts to make school real for our students by explicitly teaching and providing opportunities for practicing literacy skills is paramount. Using text sets help model the research process where students dive into a topic, read multiple texts, and draw conclusions on an important topic. Good for you; good for them.

Two Tools: Screencasts & Rewordify

I came home Thursday all jazzed from the day, and my husband asked what was up (as if I don’t always come home jazzed from the day). “I just created my first Screencast about this online tool called Rewordify!” I answered enthusiastically. Reminiscent of Jimmy Fallon’s tween character, Sara (with no “h” cuz h’s are Ew!), he replied, “Screencast? Never heard of it,” or something like that. (Aside: I fully suggest you check out Jimmy Fallon’s skit, EW! on your own). So, you won’t be in the same bind as my husband, keep reading!

About Screencasting: A BIG shout-out to Venisha Bahr, our new District K-8 Media Specialist, who introduced Screencasting to me through one she created to teach me how to share my CCSS Literacy Symbaloo. Upon further inquiry, she showed me how use the tool, and created “How To” Screencast (see below) for you! Fortunately, we teachers each have access to QuickTime on our new Apple MacBook Air which allows us to make and share simple Screencasts. There are several other apps out there, both free and not, like Jing and Camtasia, but they would require you to submit a Tech Ticket or to contact Tech Support to have them downloaded onto your laptop.

So, why Screencast? Probably the main use of Screencasting is for tutorials. As I was reminded while planning a recent professional development presentation, it’s good to deliver material to our students in multiple formats (linguistic and non-linguistic). Screencasts are short (around 3 min) instructional clips that teach us how to do something on the computer…so if you’re trying to show the class how to access something on Google Drive or how to use library resources or how to use an online tool, you can Screencast it!

I’ve also been researching how Screencasting can be a powerful tool for feedback (remember that high-yield instructional strategy I blogged about a couple weeks ago?). You could try having students submit an assignment electronically and then Screencast your response. You can highlight specific parts for audio/visual feedback. I know what you’re thinking: how will my students ever be able to access that feedback when our computer labs are lacking accessibility, and they don’t all have access at home? I wish I had a good and consistent answer for you, but creative solutions must be available. Tap me to help if you’re interested in exploring this line of Screencasting. I’m a big believer that two heads (especially with open minds) are better than one!

On Rewordify: Way back at the beginning of this post, I mentioned I tried my own Screencast about a tool I learned about called Rewordify. Basically, Rewordify is a web tool whose main feature allows you to enter text manually or through the copy/paste function, then click a button, thereby simplifying the text by providing synonyms for difficult/unfamiliar words. It doesn’t fully change the Lexile of a piece of text because sometimes simplifying means adding more words to explain a complex meaning. Check out my “How To Rewordify” Screencast below:

Rewordify could be a great tool to use to differentiate instruction for individual students or small groups. Sometimes the tool provides more than one option for simplifying, so I’d recommend skimming the changed text before handing it off to students. Still, it’s a time saver and provides a FREE service that may allow you to reach more of your students.