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 Please don’t get me wrong, in its day it was very good, but it is outdated and set up in a fashion that does not suit my classes.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.

 

 

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.

 

Holiday Clean Up

Ahhhh…holiday break has started and I have so much to do, Christmas shop, well at least finish it, I started it yesterday after work.  In my defense, I have been looking for the presents I wanted to get people, but they are no where to be found…”Thank you Nintendo.”  This holiday season I need to do some digital housecleaning, dumping emails, publishing or deleting blog drafts, and generally organizing some digital clutter on my desktop.  I am an early riser, so 20-30 minutes a day with my coffee before everyone else wakes up may not complete the task; but it should get me close to my goal and set me up for my New Year’s Resolution.

#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.

Baseball Dad?!?!?!

Today one of my students said I looked like a baseball dad…I have no idea what that means or meant.   When I inquired as to the meaning, the students who were sitting there whispered amongst themselves then replied, “We don’t know…like a dad who likes baseball.”

I have no idea if the comment was complimentary or not.  It is dress down day, I have on jeans, my KTI Golf Shirt, tenna shoes (in my best Pittsburghese), and my $1.00 reading glasses on top of my head.  No full selfie to go with the description, I thoroughly dislike the angle needed to show the entire pic, but here is part of me…

 

Later I overheard the term “Soccer Mom” being used by these same students.  It was not directed at me, but knowing how many of these terms have both positive and negative connotations…I must expand my culturally aware vocabulary.

Until next time…

 

 

EverFi Teacher Sign Up

I am blogging about my EverFi trial run with my students.  While our school is in the throes of Keystone Testing, I thought it best to take a side excursion with a lesson on Digital Citizenship; students are sometimes fried from 3-4 periods of standardized testing so why pile on.  There is also a lesson on STEM Education, but I am not attempting that with my students as of yet.

Starting out with EverFi is easy, the URL for the site is www.everfi.com/loginIf your school is not listed in the drop down menu while creating an account, it may take a bit of time to become verified.  You could also email my contact at EverFi Alyssa Mahramus, her email is amahramus [at] everfi.com, I checked with her about publishing her email before posting it here.  

Once you have your account started, the easy to use dashboard allows you to create classes, I made one class for each period, I will explain more in a bit.  You can also use the dashboard to review student scores, review ands reset student information, create student accounts, access your courses, and review support materials.   The entire menu is uncluttered with an easy dropdown interface.  You can also preview the lessons from the students’ perspective which I find very helpful.

I actually started by creating a class for my daughter, jumping right in without previewing the resources, it was easy to maneuver through the lessons.  I did preview the resources before rolling out the courses with my students at school, I wanted to be prepared for any questions they may ask.  

So, I clicked on the “Classes and Codes” tab and set up one class for each period of students, I like keeping the groups organized so I can filter information during class in an easy fashion.  I set up for the “Ignition” course; EverFi automatically creates a course code for the “Future Goals” STEM course if you go this route.  I did find that creating a course for “Future Goals” does not seem to reciprocate for “Ignition” in the same fashion.

Armed with class codes and pre-made curriculum I was ready to rollout the courses to my students.  The roll-out will be discussed in another post.