Guided Focus Study Guide?

Teacher or researcher in library Library NaUKMA via Compfight

Let me start with this declarative statement, “I hate our US History Textbook.” Please don’t get me wrong, in its day it was very good, but it is outdated and set up in a fashion that does not suit my classes.  It breaks eras up so that they may be split over several chapters.  Students would read a chapter on the politics of an era, then then next chapter covers social culture, but we jump back 10 years to start the chapter.  This is rather cumbersome and extremely time consuming in my not so humble opinion.

Our department’s goal was to go without texts, replacing them with primary sources and other materials, sometimes we can achieve that goal.  My iPads are at the end of their useful life, my classes are not split evenly, some are overcrowded and some are sparse.  This combination makes it difficult to assist students when technology glitches in an overcrowded class, but that is for another post.

I have started using the textbooks again, but only sometimes; as an addition to other class information sources.  I have enough copies for a classroom set students can use on site.

Instead of having students complete questions at the end of the section after reading the text, I started giving them a “guided focus study guide.”  The goal is to bolster students’ notetaking ability while letting them pull information to suit their learning style.  I have noticed that when review questions are assigned students do not read the book, they search for answers.  They will skim over important information looking for key words searching for specific details to answer the few questions at the end of each section.  They overlook many important details they need to understand the issues we will be discussing.  

This tendency causes issues such as students not being able to explain why an event happened, in fact sometimes they will complain the topic was never covered in class, when it was in the book and discussed, but was not a section review question.  So…no more section review questions, I use…drumroll please… “Guided Focus Study Guides.”

I need a better name, I know, but it is what it is.  I read the section or the chapter, or whatever the resource is several times.  The first reading is to see if the resource is worth my classes’ time and effort, does it fulfill a purpose.  I also get a rough sketch in my head as to what I believe is necessary for the students to understand for class discussions and how the events affected society as we move forward.

The second reading becomes a bit more labor intensive, Google Docs and/or Evernote are open as I now take notes and ponder what these events led to in the world.  I begin typing out directions on which areas to focus on, and statements as to what to look for in each section of the resource.  I add the specific details I find in the resource to my notes, students will ask all sorts of questions, I need to answer them quickly, especially in my crowded classes.

I run through the resource one last time, adjusting the focus guide and my notes as needed.  I want to make sure the guide meshes with my goals for the resource:

  • is easy to understand for the students
  • do the focus areas guide students in the proper direction.
  • does it flow well with the order of information in the resource.

Students are allowed to fill in the guides however they choose, bullet points or full sentences, on paper, in their notebooks physical or digital, which is easy since the guide is shared through Google Docs and pushed out via Edmodo.

We review the guides after students have class time to work on them, this allows for students to make sure we are on the same page if you will.  I do not make the guides worth many assignment points, many students copy, will just write anything down for points, which is not the purpose.  The purpose is to allow the students to pull information from the resource to further their understanding of the topic.  I assess that through open note essay tests, but once again…that is a post for another day.

 

 

Better Blogging with Students 2018: Week 1

This post originally was a reply to the post you can find here in a course I am taking: Better Blogging with Students 2018.  This is our first week and we were asked to reply to a post about ourselves, our goals, how we would like to integrate our blog into our classrooms, and other such topics.  Below is my reply.

I have been blogging for a number of years, but my attempts are streaky at best- I write about educational technology, best practices, or tools and projects my classes are using or creating, then I drop off. Some posts are written as a model of what the current student project should look like. At worst I post sporadically, once every month or semester. As for my students’ blogs, they blog a couple of times a nine weeks at best, with replying to to other blogs only as an assignment. They are mainly one way avenues, not the vibrant exchange of ideas I hope to create.

My overall goal is to model consistently good blogging practices that I can show and discuss with my classes. This goal is to have a platform for them to use as a model. If I cannot meet my expectations, it is not fair to require them to meet the same expectations. The short term plan is to start small, just post regularly, even if it is just a review of what happened in class that week, maybe even just a cross post from a review pencast or podcast, but just get into the habit of producing a post on a regular basis by creating a set time for the exercise.

My audience is varied, I write mainly for other educators, showing off my students’ work and new tools I have begun to use with my students. Parents can also view the blog to get more of a feel for my class.

My Honors students have their own public blogs, where they post assignments from class, they are linked under my class blog. Students publish many writing assignments, mainly opinion pieces to Edublogs instead of writing to paper and recycling them in a week.

I am entertaining the idea of having a guest blogger on the main class blog as an enrichment assignment. Students can volunteer to write a bout a topic of their choice that fits into the course curriculum, History, and have an open forum to express opinions, interview people of that era, or some other task we agree upon.

The end result is to create a higher quality blog, class and student, where conversations occur naturally, not forced by class assignments. They would need to be integrated into class time so they become part of the class culture and not just an added task.

This has been an ongoing project and goal for awhile. I make small steps forward, I am hoping to make a bit more progress this time and not backslide when done.

January 4: Another New Skill

I have owned a Livescribe Pen for a number of years.  I earned, or was rewarded with my first Livescribe Pen for attending the Keystone Technology Integrator’s Summit at Bucknell University.  I cannot remember if it was as an attendee or a staff member that I received the pen.

My students use the Livescribe Pen to take notes in class, the Livescribe is referred to as “The Magic Pen.”  The notes are pushed over to an iPad and then uploaded to Evernote.  Once in Evernote, the .pdfs are embedded in the class wiki so other students can access the notes if need be.  A written copy is printed for the students who take the notes for the class.

In my quest to take existing skills and tools and apply them to more situations, I decided it was time to learn how to create pencasts with the Livescribe pen.  Needless to say, there was a learning curve for me.  The first couple attempts…or so did not work our so well.  I ended up with an audio file, but no corresponding video to see what was being discussed.

Long story short, I was “pushing” the wrong virtual button with the Livescribe Pen.  I was “pushing” the record button in the notebook, I was supposed to just “push” the little square button on the iPad.

New Year’s Podcast Resolution?

So, for some reason I am on a podcast kick, I have been listening to various podcasts in an attempt to find new content to listen to.  Part of it is based upon my Christmas gift, a Garmin Speak another goes with my goal to use tools I already implement on a deeper level.  Yet, one more reason is to get my daughter’s interest back into creating things instead of just consuming Internet information.

I have had a podcast channel for awhile, but it has fallen to the way side as of late, mainly because no one was going there to use the information and life became hectic for me.  Why invest time that is a major scarcity for me on something no one uses.  Here is the URL for my podcasts, which can also be found on iTunes and mrsalvucci.comhttp://mrsal.podbean.com/

Well, I am hoping to change the scenario and contribute more positive information to the Internet.  I plan on utilizing my podcast channel more this year, we shall see how it goes.  Here is my first podcast/minicast of the New Year:

Old Tools, New Uses Part I

Over this holiday break I have been working on cleaning up my “Digital Clutter” and attempting to learn new concepts.  My daughter is sick, the weather is miserably cold, so we are homebound which gives me time to sit and learn when not entertaining my daughter.

I have been doing double duty, setting up study resources for my students while learning new concepts, the whole “two birds with one stone” adage.  To learn a concept in a vacuum is silly, especially with other work I could be doing.

I let my classes know that they will have a test the Friday we return from break, with two study/prep days to start the post-break classes.  There would be resources posted for students who want to use the holiday break to do some pre-prep work.

I glanced over my TES-Blendspace site that I use to host my students’ projects.  Many teachers use it to host lessons for their students, it could make a great resource for my students.  Upon downloading the app on my iPad I reviewed lessons from other teachers.  They posted various forms of information, media, text, webpages, and allowed for students to respond to the information.

This format was used for my students’ review, the original Prezis were linked via the Blendspace along with webpages that contain both video and text information.  Each block of information was followed by a block of teacher created text that explained what to focus on in the students’ notes or asked questions on the material previously presented.  Once completed, they were posted in the Edmodo classrooms and parents and students were notified via Cel.ly that the resources were posted.

There were three of these that were created for the review, it will be interesting to gain student feedback to see how these work for them.  There is a good chance that these can be used throughout lessons as a self-paced review tool moving forward, or even as a way to push out supplementary information to classes.

Time will tell…but for now it feels good to expand my repertoire and use some of the tools I already implement closer to their full potential.

 

#12DaysofSketchnoting Day 3: Communication/Creative Communicator

So for today’s portion of #12DaysofSketchnoting we have to describe Communication/Creative Communicators. This boggled my mind at first, but that happens at times, especially in the AM now that I drink half-caf coffee.

As a history teacher the first thing that popped into my head was President Reagan, due to his nickname “The Great Communicator.” Bizarre…yes, but par for what goes on inside my mind. Should I try and draw him, or an unfinished movie poster title such as “Bedtime for Bon…” with a partially drawn monkey. My drawing ability is not good enough to draw President Reagan and I was not sure if anyone would get the movie reference. The ideas were non-starters.

I had to do a hard reset and rethink how I could approach today’s topic. I decided to incorporate a blog post to explain my Sketchnote; it would be better explained in that context, than as a standalone image.

On to my Sketchnote:

I believe I can communicate well, for as non-linear as I think. I do lecture more than I should, but I try to make my classroom more of a discussion setting. While doing this, I try and relate issues to local/personal experiences, I have been known to be melodramatic, use various accents, and even act out and model situations. If nothing else, students can recall my bizarre actions, some can even recall the points I was trying to make.

Since communication is a two-way street, listening is a major component of communication. Actually, not just listening, but giving students a legitimate voice in their own educational experience. Listen to them, but put what they say to use, give them a sense of…on second thought, not even a sense, but actual ownership of their experience in your classroom.

The Sketchnote below is the mishmash of visuals bouncing around in my head as I thought about and typed this today.

#SatChat: Time to Adjust my Listening Skills

Ah, two Saturday’s ago I was awake and in learning mode rather early so I jumped into a Twitter #satchat, a fantastic learning and networking opportunity each and every Saturday.   The topic was based upon student listening skills and how we teach those skills.

I had to admit that I do not formally teach those skills in my class, I emphasize them throughout lessons, but do not actually  formally assess student listening.  As I thought more about the topic, I also realize that I need to improve upon my listening skills, in class and real world.

Often, especially in the classroom, I am multitasking as students are asking questions.  This prevents me from giving my full attention to the student which is not only impolite, but it may cause miscommunication between those involved in the conversation.  I am making a concerted effort to address this ASAP.  Modeling skills we want students to use in our classroom is key, if we cannot meet the expectations we ask of our students, WHY should they.

Some other take aways I will implement in my classes are exit questions and peer to peer review time either at end or very beginning of my classes.  This will allow students to reflect with a classmate and practice listening skills while reviewing course content.  To keep this from being a full fledged chat and gossip session, I will have to float about the room and engage the students, which IS MY JOB.  A quick student reply/summary of their peer to peer would allow for students to earn points for their efforts and hopefully give me insight to content with which they are comfortable or need further assistance.

I will post further as this endeavor moves forward.

In the meantime, if you get the chance and are awake by 7:30 AM on a Saturday, check out #Satchat.

Sketchnoting: An old dog learns new tricks…again…

Last night I sat in on a PAECT members only webinar about Sketchnoting, or visual notetaking with Sylvia Duckworth.  I have read about this concept before and encouraged a number of my students to work with the concept over the last several years.  I never practiced it due to a very basic level of drawing ability, my wheelhouse is writing.

A free refresher on the topic was too good to pass up, especially when presented by someone as well respected on the topic as Sylvia is.  I was hoping to pick up some new ideas to pass on to my students, which I did.  That being said I also gained a better understanding of of the overall concept.  This came about by actually practicing or trying out the various strategies as Sylvia explained them.  After the hour and a half webinar I can safely say that I am still far from a Skectchnoting expert.  I can say, however that I am much more comfortable explaining the concept to others.

I also see how Sketchnoting can help me when the need arises to study.  Going back to review my notes and sketching out a re-writing would benefit me the most out of the strategies discussed.  I hope to have a Sketchnote to embed in this post shortly.

Here is a short video overview of the Sketchnoting concept.

This is my Sketchnote Review of the webinar.

Cartoons Go To War 2017

Enlightening-The United States’ effort to explain and teach both citizens and soldiers how to handle the war effort was truly enlightening.

In the video “Cartoons Go To War”…five examples.

The article”When Dr. Seuss Went to War” states 3 supporting details.

One lingering question that has intrigued me during this lesson was Ted Geisel’s use of anti-Japanese imagery and how he adjusted after the war to become more inclusive and accepting of others.