Friday, March 27, 2009

Student Research

I went to a really neat session at NCAGT today involving leading students through research using the Independent Investigation Method (IIM).

21st Century Skills for 21st Century Learners

· How does research fit into 21st Century Skills?
· Research with young students need to be hands-on, teacher directed, and short-term
· Observational cards to start research to get kids thinking
· Then start note-taking . . . teacher provides outline . . .kids can’t write words, they can only draw pictures . . . to get kids used to gathering the information and not being able to write anything down to avoid plagiarism . . . object is to gather info without copying the words out of the bool (putting the info in their own way)
· Develop a set of questions that they can answer in their own words
· ABC questions to encourage students to read between the lines to keep them reading until they find the answers
· When they are used to gathering information and putting things in their own words, they need to put together the information in an easy-to-use format (IIM . . . Independent Investigations Method . . . book is a gold mine for taking students through the research process)
· Independent Investigation Method . . . steps to follow for success in a research project (IIM Website)
o Topic
o Goal setting
o Research
o Organizing
o Good evaluation
o Product
o presentation
· the first part of the book tells you about how to do this but the second part is stuff for you to use with students(completed examples provided) and the third section is for middle and high school students . . . then assessment . . . very teacher-friendly book
· Start off by brainstorming all you know about a topic
· Then you set goals (Setting Research Goals Page) . . . and ask questions that you want them to find out (teacher questions and student questions to set a purpose for reading) . . . if they find information that doesn’t answer one of these questions, they don’t write it down! If they see it over and over again, they may need to go back and write a new questions . . . good way to focus research and exploration
· If students have problems formulating questions to ask, IIM developed Questions Cubes
· Provides instructions for writing Notefacts (to limit and require bibliography info) . . . sheet to copy to give to students
· There is also a sheet that shows how to do the Bibliography Info . . . provides generic way of doing and an example
· And Notefacts template sheet has a place for the bibliography at the top and then places to write really short notes (not complete sentences) . . . has to fit between lines so it can be cut later (getting rid of plagiarism opportunities) . . . example of this sheet in handout
· Important to have one main idea in each notefact
· Teaching the skill of taking short notes in their own words
· Put source number in magnifying glass on notefacts sheet
· Use a different page for information from each source
· Sheets work really well to use with overhead or interactive board
· Check back to see if met goals established at the beginning
· Steps to Organizing sheet . . . Then we go to organizing . . . go back to goal setting and bubble map to choose major categories . . . then assign a color to each category . . . then go back to notefacts sheet and color the magnifying glasses according to which category it belongs
· After notefacts are categorized, cut apart and put all the colors together (already have bibliographic info) . . . after they are all sorted by color, take one set of a color and arrange the slips into an order that makes sense and then glue it on a sheet in that order . . . so it is in order before it ever gets glued down
· Then if you want them to do a paper, have student figure out what order the categories should go in and then write the paragraph or page that is needed . . . since notes are not written in complete sentences, students will have to use their own words to connect these ideas
· Then go back and refer to the goal sheet to see how they did . . . evaluating research goal template to reflect on learning and product created (self-evaluation and self-assessment)
· Once you have the information and it is organized, then choose a product to create (template) . . . ex. trading card idea (2 rectangles in Word . . one for picture and one for information, then cut out, glue together and laminate)
· Oral Presentations .notetaking chart for the audience to get them involved
· CD comes with book

Thursday, March 26, 2009

NCAGT Conference Session

Working with Low Income and Minority Populations
Dr. Joyce Van Tassel-Baska

· Overlooked Gems: What do we know about identifying and serving low income students in schools?
· Research on Poverty Needs: socio-affective, cognitive bridging, instructional quality, value-added opportunities, early identification/intervention/monitoring
· The Achievement Trap (2007) Jack Kent Cook Foundation (go to this foundation’s website and download this study. . . .important research that deals with promising students in poverty
· Valedictorian Study (Arnold and Denny, 1990) . . . study found student less likely to go on to advanced degrees and took them longer . . . this was the ordeal for top students in high school (imagine how much more this hits those who struggle in high school)
· Poverty students lack access to intellectual (knowing how to play the game and who to contact), social (resources based on groups membership and networks of influence) , and cultural capital (forms of knowledge, knowing the game of school)
· Cultural Ecological Theory (see handout)
· There are also social identity issues that these students face . . . voluntary vs. involuntary minorities, stereotype threat, fewness, social alienation
· Studies listed in handout are probably available online to look up
· Affective Variables play into the picture of how we understand students of poverty
· There are also psychological issues of low income students that need to be accounted for that students are having to deal with (identity, marginalization (no way this can’t be felt, so use what appears to be a negative in a positive way), ability & effort balance (these students need to understand the relationship between effort and ability . . . effort really matters to be able to succeed at certain levels)
· Issues of finding and serving these students
· Need an assessment tool that does a better job of identifying underrepresented populations . . . performance-based assessment, non-verbal tests, creative assessments (more open ended)
· South Carolina Experience (six year study) to design assessments and collect data for different approach to identification (see handout for key findings)
· Two teacher comments in handout concerning the SC Study . . . the teachers came to appreciate these kids in ways they did not originally (there was something to them beyond their potential) . . . they may not have been as strong in LA but did very well in the other areas (that were not focused on as much) . . . teachers found that when they did go beyond and probe for higher order questions, they got great responses
· Quotes from students in handout . . . student’s understanding of world broadened . . . learning not boring . . . kids appreciated the support structure they got in the gifted classes . . .student learned more about how he learned
· What is performance-based assessment?
o To do well on a performance-based assessment in an individual domain required more effort
o Emphasis on thinking and problem solving, not prior learning
o Advanced (one to two grade levels higher but still matched the curriculum)
o Open-ended
o Use of manipulatives
o Emphasis on articulation of thinking processes
· Sample Item in Handout about Year Round School (see advanced aspect, open-ended, emphasis on problem solving and higher level thinking, emphasis on supporting thinking with reasons)
· What have we learned about needs?
o Personalized options (reach out and follow up . . . mentoring/tutoring . . . doesn’t have to be formal, but a personalized touch is needed . . . they need to know that someone cares to make a difference in their lives)
o Transition counseling (we need to have targeted counseling in place when they go from elementary to middle, middle to high, high school to college . . . this needs to start at 5th grade so they will know how what they do now or classes they take affect what they are able to do in the future)
o Long-term academic and career planning (not something that can be done just one year but needs to be continuous)
o Academic bridges (summer programs to provide a bridge for academic and concept areas needed to survive)
o Instructional scaffolds (powerful way to get students up to a high level of thinking and KEEP THEM THERE . . . they may be able to do it with the help and if long enough, it will transfer so they can do it independently)
o Cultural enrichment in the community
· Advanced Placement (AP is a wonderful academic bridge . . . universities don’t pay attention to the grade but just whether or not they took the course)

· Checklist of strategies:
· Using non-verbal tools for learning
· Design science experiments (questions in handout)
· Using multicultural tools to promote relevance and connections (see handout for criteria for selecting materials to use)
o We can do a lot with choosing African American Authors for author studies (ex. read 3 books by Verna Aardema)
o Utilize this type of literature to elicit high level responses
· Using concept maps to enhance higher level thinking in content areas (example in handout)
· When talking about implications from a situation or event, make sure to look at the implications then and now (what has happened as an immediate result and as a long-term result)
· Using the Arts to Promote Learning for underrepresented populations . . . the arts are a key approach to use
· The arts should be a part of what is being brought in as a part of every gifted and talented classroom . . . it promotes learning at a higher level
· Key Art Analysis Questions (in handout)
o What is it?
o What is it made of?
o What ideas does it convey?
o How do you respond to it?
o What is its context?
o How good is it?
· Art Appreciation Projects
o Analyze selected poems, art objects, and music
o Write critical reviews of plays, movies, and other performances
o Design relevant object of art using key design specification
· When working with families of students in poverty, find a neutral place to meet . . . we have difficulty getting parents to come to school settings
· School District Issues
o Professional development about the role of poverty and race in educational disadvantagement (teachers aren’t very knowledgeable about this)
o Changing of identification policies . . . possible suggestion: take the to 10% of African Americans (or Hispanics or whatever) and work with them in a gifted program rather than looking for a magic test . . . we need to put more efforts into interventions rather than identification
· Local Level Issues
o Can include performance-based assessments in identification process as another piece of evidence . . . use additional criteria to provide more information for decision making process, so that you have a body of evidence rather than just a one shot test
· Framework for Change: NC is the only state that is reworking assessment accountability and standards at the same time . . . we are looking at a whole new assessment process (more performance based . . . ex. writing assessment being piloted)
· We are doing a disservice to our underrepresented populations by not helping them be the best they can be

Curriculum Development for Advanced Learners

“What Works: 20 Years of Curriculum Development and Research for Advanced Learners”
Dr. Joyce Van Tassel-Baska
Keynote Address: NCAGT Conference (March 26, 2009)

· How do we determine what works?
· It is not a linear process . . .we build theories based on what really works in practice
· Theory . . . Research . . . Practice
· Differentiated Curriculum is needed based on the different needs of gifted learners . . . high power curriculum that is designed for gifted learners
· Integrated Curriculum Model . . . came from her understanding of the research and combining the things that we know work . . . advanced content dimension, issue/theme, and process-product
· The value of the ICM is that it brings together what works best for gifted learners
· A set of goals for gifted learners is a very important part to gifted instruction
· It is also very important that teachers use teaching and learning models for working with these students (the most powerful models to use with any level student)
· Authentic assessment tools can tell us a lot more about the authentic learning of our students
· Curriculum for the Gifted does go along with the core standards
· For the Science curriculum, PBL is used to organize and guide the development of lessons
· Wheel of Scientific Investigation and Reasoning (doing of science as opposed to having science done to them) . . . laminated poster?
· PBL Science Units . . . students who have been exposed to this model are better equipped to developing their own investigations
· PBL is one of the most motivating tools for teachers and students! It is a mutually reinforcing and motivating kind of approach. Studies have found that it is beneficial for all types of learners (average and above) . . . shows growth!!
· Project Clarion . . . research findings for primary grades . . . show significant growth in children exposed to this type of instruction across the board (regardless of SES)
· Social Studies Curriculum . . . history is the catalyst (interdisciplinary area)
· Language Arts Framework is advanced and challenging literature
· Hamburger Model for teaching Persuasive Writing . . . research growth is outstanding!!! Have to use Laminated Poster in class?
· LA Research suggests that 2 areas show gains: literary analysis and persuasive writing
· Through using a structured approach to writing, we can increase critical thinking abilities
· To enhance Critical Thinking: Jacob’s Model is a scaffold to move from lower order thinking to higher order thinking skills (gains in ability, discussions, and interest)
· What works in assessment
· Use of multiple assessment including assessments that tap into higher level thinking and problem solving
· Assessment Instruments on Website . . . public domain. . Look at and USE
· Test of Critical Thinking (TCT)
· Performance-based Assessments
· Persuasive Writing Pre-Assessment (examples in handout)
· What works in professional development for High End Learners?
o Use teaching and learning models to demonstrate high level instruction
o Training on materials to reduce inferences about application
o If teachers see that students are responding by doing something different based on them doing something different, they are more likely to continue . . . so they need to try things to see what works and helps make changes
· Lessons Learned:
o Today is always here . . . tomorrow, never
o Lets do the things that we know work for gifted students
o Curriculum design matter . . .you have to know where you are going . . . and assess it
o Curriculum development matters . . . we have to try it out so we will know what works
o Curriculum development requires content experts and teachers working together (teachers know kids so they are the best translators of key ideas into appropriate words)
o If we provide high power learning models and give students the opportunities to use them repeatedly (5 times or more), they will transfer and work
o The more kids have the opportunities to practice these kinds of skills and high level thinking, the better results we will get!
o Learners from low-income background benefit strongly from high-powered curriculum
o Use of authentic assessment documents authentic learning (PBL is good but not only way)
o Implementation of innovative curriculum requires monitoring to keep it going (even when money runs out)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

Individual Skill Block

I turned in my artifacts for my Individual Skill Block last week. I focused on using PBL activities in the classroom. I learned about PBL in a Gifted Education class at Western Carolina this summer as well as participating in CERTL seminars this year. I also did a self-study on a book (Problems as Possibilities). For the first half of the year, I was able to try PBL experiences with students from 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and my AG students (3rd and 4th grade). I also helped do one in the 5th grade classes. I like the type of learning it develops and how it creates opportunities for children to think in different ways than the normally do at school.

Problems as Possibilities: Problem-Based Learning for K-16 Education
By Linda Torp and Sara Sage

*With PBL, you are not only teaching them basic skills but also providing a reason for learning them
*Students learn to approach learning differently in the classroom
*PBL also allows students to use the learning style that works best for them
*PBL provides rich opportunities for demonstrating learning through projects, presentations, or other means authentic to the situation
*Embedding essential instruction and assessment at critical points during problem investigation
*Knowing what doesn’t work or apply in a given situation is every bit as valuable as knowing what does
*The messiness of authentic problem solving yield rich learning
*PBL offers students an obvious answer to the questions about why they need to learn this information and how it relates to the real world
*PBL promotes Higher Order Thinking
*PBL encourages learning how to learn
*PBL requires authenticity
*PBL learning is focused instruction that fosters active learning, supports knowledge construction, and naturally integrates school learning and real life
*The teacher in he information-age environment will serve more as a coach or facilitator of learning, rather than a lecturer or drill-and-response instructor
*Constructivist model
*Requires teachers to assume the role of coach and students to be active learners and problem solvers
*We can show students how thinking one’s way to a solution can provide a personal satisfaction, which motivates more learning
*Designed to promote active student learning and provide a scaffolding of the teaching and learning process for educators
*Support for the learners may take different forms, depending on the age of the learners, as well as their interests and background
*The nature of the problem will also influence the type of support needed
*One area to avoid is teaching the content of the problem before starting
*Students learn the content and skills in the course of solving the problem
*Sometimes to afford students this stake and motivation, we place them in the role other than that of the student (Who would actually be concerned about this problem? What would someone have to gain or lose depending on how this situation was solved?)
*Look at what they did/how they did it . . . see what did and didn’t work and how that can be applied in the future
*PBL exemplifies a constructivist model for education, which serves to best prepare our students for life now and in the future
· 3 essential elements: context, students, curriculum
· in designing PBL, we begin with the problematic situation and tease out the knowledge, skills, dispositions, and standards-based learning opportunities
· PBL = Learning Adventure
· We need to put ourselves in our learners’ places and anticipate their questions, thinking, needs, and responses
· Once you know where you are going, you’ll need to consider how you and your students will travel through the twists and turns of the problem
*Group works can help promote creative problem solving and higher-order thinking skills
*Cooperative group work has also been linked with higher performance on complex problems
*Assessments for group work should include both individual and group accountability
embedded instruction refers to events planned by the PBL teacher to help students explore important information related to the problem
*“arriving where you need to be demands that you know where you are going”
*Begin with the end in mind
*Students learn by doing
*Decide what instructional strategy fits the purpose and the specific learning experiences
*Mistakes are a part of the learning process
*Mistakes are expected and help to differentiate one student’s performance from another student’s performance, one class’s performance from another class’s performance, or one school’s performance from . . .
*The research on PBL shows that students who can sustain thought and bring in a variety of perspectives to their approach to learning will have longer-lasting results from their learning experiences. They will emerge better able to meet the challenges awaiting them, whatever their pursuits may be.
*Problem solving and the higher-order thinking skills of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation are not learned through direct instruction. . . they emerge from the direct experience of doing . . . PBL provides that experience
*PBLis a motivating strategy for students with varied learning styles and strengths

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Collaborative PBL

I am learning about Skype (like telephone over the internet kinda) and ways to use it in my classroom. Through a series of people, I got connected with a 5th grade AG teacher at Bolton Elementary here in Winston-Salem. Kathy Butler and I have emailed back and forth. At the bottom of my emails (in my signature) is a link to my website, where there is a bunch of stuff about PBL. She suggested that we have our classes do a PBL activity together. Skype will allow us to be in our own room with out own students, but they will be able to see and talk with the other class while we brainstorm, plan, and solve the PBL activity. I am getting excited about this opportunity.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Collaboration meeting

In today's collaboration meeting, the idea of each grade taking a continent (each class a country on the continent) to study for the year was suggested (since we will be merging with a school whose theme is global studies the next year). I wonder if there is a way that could be turned in some PBL Problems and Activities?

I got the perfect chance to suggest the use of some of the technology tools that I learned about last week to add even more to that suggested project.


Being a "Teacherpreneur" can have a positive impact on a student's education.

o Form partnerships
o Own their problems (kaizen – continual, slow, steady improvement)
o Embed learning (build a personal learning network . . . PLN)

· Challenge: 15 minutes 2 or 3 times a week . . . EXPLORE SOMETHING NEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
· Big 3 . . . keep a list of 3 things that you want to explore and try (so as not to get overwhelmed) . . . start small
· Schools need to teach educational networking
· There are safe ways to do things people think are dangerous

· It is OK to try something new!
· It is OK to take acceptable risk or you will not get anything done to reach today’s students
· The Connected Curriculum . . . promotes cultural awareness . . . walls are needed at times

· Flat Classroom Conference Jan. 2009·
· We are building bridges today that the society of tomorrow will walk across
· It is NOT about what you are keeping OUT of the classroom . . . you have to be exposed to some things
· Kids are the best textbooks ever written for each other
· Educational connectivity networks
· We should be connecting all over the world . . . Giant world map showing the connections being made at each level . . . Global Studies Theme?
· Effective Connected Curriculum . . . give in little bites . . . facilitate ownership and expect it

· Two types of communication methods: synchronous and asynchronous
· Purposeful Online Spaces are needed!


I went to a great technology conference last week. I got so many ideas on how to use the many technology tools available (especially free ones on the internet) to go along with problem-based learning.
One of the tools that I found particulary interesting was using Skype. It could be used to connect students with other students and/or professionals concerning the topic related to the problem-based learning issue.

There are many different ways WHY we are/could/would/should be using Skype with our class.

Information from this site: