September 9

Technology Tools to Support the Engineering Design Process

The following blog post was written by Emily Nestor, Technology Integration Specialist and DLP Coach!

With the integration of STEM/STEAM becoming a focus in many  K-12 schools, the term Engineering Design Process has become an educational buzz word in both conversations and classroom pedagogy.

Within this methodical process, students begin with an idea or problem and follow a series of steps that emphasize the importance of planning, creating, testing, and improving. Coupled with its focus on the 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity), the EDP is an educational gold mine that encourages a growth mindset while emphasizing 21st-century skills and fostering design thinking.

At Winterboro, the integration of the Engineering Design Process is not reserved for just STEM/STEAM activities, but instead has become a guiding process for all student work. From essays to presentations to tangible products, students utilize the steps in the EDP in order to create products that are #exceptional.

Winterboro’s 1:1 Chromebook infrastructure also plays a role in how students move through the steps of the Engineering Design Process. Through the embedding of technology, students are not only more engaged, but are also encouraged to communicate and collaborate. This, in turn, allows students to deepen their level of understanding, strengthen and broaden their thinking, and also share their ideas – all of which can have an impact on how a student chooses to tackle the task/problem/challenge.

Need some ideas on tech tools to support each step of the Engineering Design Process?

Check out this week’s Teacher Academy presentation!

Tech Tools to Support the EDP-t13iyq

August 12

The Power of the Positivity Jar

What a wonderful start to school we have had this week! The power of positivity and relationships are so strong at Winterboro! I would like to take an opportunity to introduce you to the Positive Thoughts jar. It is a simple, white, ceramic jar that sits on the corner of my desk. Often times many students and teachers come to pull a positive quote from the jar. This jar is special as it gives a positive jolt just when and how you need it the most. My dear friend and colleague, Marianne Garrett, gave this to me as a present and I cherish it daily and use it as a tool to bless others.

 

On Friday, she came to my office with two sweet friends to pull the jar. Basically, without looking, you pull a card from the jar and read it aloud. Never has anyone pulled a positive quote that doesn’t directly pertain to previous conversations or struggles. These sweet students were amazed by their quotes and asked if they could come to pull positive quotes when they needed one. Easy answer….YES!

 

 

The impact and power of positivity in a school culture is immeasurable. I am looking forward to an #exceptional school year!

July 17

PBL and STEM…One in the Same!

Today during our summer planning days, we conducted a protocol with teachers about the similarities and differences between PBL and STEM. The group was split into 4 groups, each group not knowing the question given to the other. The four questions were as follows:

  1. What are the characteristics of a PBL teacher?
  2. What are the characteristics of a STEM teacher?
  3. What are the characteristics of a PBL student?
  4. What are the characteristics of a STEM student?

 

Each group brainstormed characteristics of each and we sorted the characteristics on whether they were characteristics of a Student, Teacher, or Both. All of the characteristics listed here both student and teacher!

 

Why was doing this so important? Often we see PBL and STEM as two separate initiatives. They are indeed NOT. This really helped to visually see the collective thoughts of our teachers, and to show that what they are doing matters….whether they are in a full PBL or whether they are conducting a STEM activity, they are doing what is expected, valued, and believed by our school culture! It was an #exceptional day of learning!

 

July 8

Google Certification

 Having just completed my Google Certified Educator Training, I wanted to take a second and reflect on my experience passing the first level. I cannot give away the contents of the quiz, but what I can discuss is my experience throughout the process. I consider myself an avid Google User and Educator. The certification took some time, just under two hours, but it was well worth it. It was validating that many of the questions I knew, and there were tons of morsels of information that I picked up along the way to enhance my google experience moving forward.

 

As a principal, the learning and validation were invaluable. The productivity reminders and lessons will truly enhance my work time at school, but to be in the role as a teacher and educator through the training helped me to refresh the Google Experience that my teachers experience in the classroom on a daily basis. It is important that administrators are always learning and growing.

 

If you teach at my school, let me know if you want to complete this to become a Google Certified Educator. I have a discount code that makes the certification only $5!

January 16

Reflections on Embarrassment- Part 1

One of my new year’s resolutions was not only to read and tweet about what I have been reading but also to blog and reflect on it as well. This first snow day of 2018 has allowed me to begin this journey cuddled up with a new book, (embarrassment) by Thomas Newkirk. The title and why students are easily embarrassed are what attracted me to this book. As teachers, we think students shouldn’t care about their “image”, but they do….and we secretly do too!  I only started reading it today and just finished the first section of the book.

Embarrassment is a facet of learning. Newkirk states, “If we can take on a topic like embarrassment and shame, we can come to a richer, more honest, more enabling sense of who we are and what we can do”. @Winterboro_high we studied the teachings of Eric Jensen this summer and the value that student and teacher relationships play on student achievement. Very simply put, students will not care about content until they know you care about them….GENUINELY. Having relationships be our bedrock this year has been great. We have formed advisories, made connections, etc., but after reading Newkirk’s book, one of the next steps to student achievement is to be aware of triggers in class such as the blush or the crackle of a voice. Those triggers can be characteristic of students being embarrassed in class and are potential barriers in the classroom.  Newkirk states, “I am convinced, absolutely convinced, that embarrassment is not only a true enemy of learning but of so many other actions we could take to better ourselves”.

What are ways teachers can help to combat embarrassment in the classroom (other than having strong relationships)? Meet PBL- Project Based Learning. Although Newkirk hasn’t explicitly cited this in his book so far, it is heavily implied through tapping into students strengths while in class groups as well as teaching through a variety of modalities from Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. PBL is a great venue to do this, as it allows students to recognize their current strengths and develop their areas of weakness.

“The very act of writing can also serve as a form of rehearsal”. LOVE this quote! Embarrassment can be eliminated by giving students a trial run before open classroom discussions. Students can write about their thoughts or participate in “turn and talks” in the classroom. I am always looking out for new strategies, but often times some of the most effective ones cover so many areas. The turn and talk is widely used, easy to use, and does not discriminate when it comes to content. The turn and talk is one simple strategy that packs a punch!

 

Section 2 of the book will be coming soon! Hopefully without a series of snow days!

November 8

Tech Tools to Support the 4C’s

Below is a blog post from Emily Nestor, Technology Integration Specialist! Great job!

An integral component in today’s 21st Century classrooms is the embedding of College and Career Success Skills into teaching and learning. These Success Skills include communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking and are often referred to as the “4 Cs.” Embedding these Success Skills into daily teaching and learning experiences has become almost seamless thanks to the plethora of Tech Tools that are available to students. By utilizing technology, educators are able to cultivate and promote the use of the “4 Cs” in meaningful and effective ways in all content areas.

 

With so many AMAZING Tech Tools out there, trying to sort through them all can sometimes be a daunting task! So I decided to help my #exceptional teachers out my giving them a few examples of some of my favorite 4C Tech Tools! These examples included both “oldies but goodies” and some more recent additions to the Tech Tool world. Check out these awesome Tech Tools below or CLICK HERE for an Interactive Infographic.

 

If you check out any of these Tech Tools in your own classrooms, I would love to hear about your experiences! Feel free to comment below or Tweet me – @emilycnestor !

October 23

Transforming My Classroom, One Bite at a Time

The following is a reflection from Ceci Johnson! Great reflection Ms. Johnson!

As a first year teacher, I felt like I was drowning, occasionally able to tread water just long enough to catch my breath again. But I survived and came back roaring and ready for round two. Mid-way through the first nine weeks, I was able to spend a day visiting classrooms of my coworkers to observe and reflect on my own teaching strategies. As a lifetime learner, I greatly appreciated this opportunity to reflect and redirect.

 

One of my strengths as a teacher is questioning. It is very rare that you will actually observe me answering a question directly, most times, I answer a question with a question. I do not want to give the students the information they seek, rather allow the students to discover the information. I lead them in their discovery by asking the probing questions necessary. Many of my students do not like this, it frustrates them when I do not provide a direct answer. But through the struggle, frustration, and challenge, the real learning occurs. A peer I observed has the same thought process on questioning, however she is much more consistent with the not-answering part. Occasionally I find myself giving in too soon, instead of allowing the appropriate think-time for the students to think through their struggle. This is one aspect of my teaching I know I can grow in, allowing adequate think-time.

 

Many classrooms had a word-wall posted. Each was unique to the style and personality of the teacher in the room. This is most definitely a HUGE growing area for me. I started a word-wall last year, however I only added about six words to this wall, which is not near enough. Time became my mortal enemy when it came to my word-wall. I know, I know, that every teacher is juggling a huge plate, I am not trying to use lack of time as my excuse. But at the end of the day, if it came down to preparing materials for tomorrow’s class or adding to the word-wall, preparing materials came first. In my mind, word-walls were(are) a piece of art, beautifully written and decorated. Much to my surprise, they can actually be basic, just words on a wall. One teacher had the words grouped by category, for example, “Transformations” would have the terms “dilation, translation, reflection, rotation” under it. Students need to be exposed to new vocabulary over thirty times in order for them to feel comfortable using the words in everyday life. In my mind, some of the math words require a picture to go along with it for clarification, for instance acute versus obtuse, a pictorial representation would help greatly for a student learning to differentiate the two. My goal is to find a word-wall method that works for me, efficient yet effective.

 

My absolute favorite part of a class I visited was the “Dead Word-Wall”. I love this idea because it encourages students to replace their basic vocabulary with new, grade-level appropriate vocabulary. This is something I will definitely implement in my room, everytime I hear the word “times” or “minus” instead of multiply or subtract, I cringe. The “Dead Word-Wall” will reduce the use of this vocabulary and eventually eliminate the problem altogether. My plan, is that when a student uses one of the dead words, I will point to that spot on the wall and ask them to find a better word choice.

A focus that I have continued in my class from last year is writing in mathematics. It is important for students to be able to defend their mathematical reasoning. However, as with many things, time has been my enemy with implementing this to fidelity. During my observations I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment that showed me a time-friendly method which will once again facilitate writing in my mathematics classes, an exit – slip requiring writing. This is something I can quickly look over, highlight terminology that needs replacing, errors in math, etc. Then the students will revamp their explanation the next day and the day after until perfection is achieved. This will allow students to once again acclimate themselves to writing in math while allowing them to experience success with writing, which is vital for students tackling the daunting task of writing in mathematics. Once all students have mastered this, I will implement a small weekly assignment, requiring students to defend his/her reasoning which can be completed during their individual work time as I am pulling small groups.

After much reflection, I have decided my focus for this nine weeks will be developing a time-efficient method to creating an effective word-wall. This is something I will have to get in the habit of doing, take fifteen minutes each day and dedicate that to hanging words on the walls for my students, possibly utilize my TA’s to help me be successful with this. I greatly enjoyed and learned a lot during my observation rotations. Now it is my turn, to take what I have learned and transform my classroom, one bite at a time.  

October 22

Small Group Instruction in the Secondary Classroom

Small group on the secondary level is unheard of! Today we discussed the “glue” we use to make learning stick in small group! In an effort incorporate what my teachers needed and to differentiate PD, I surveyed the teachers on what they wanted. Three themes emerged from teacher voice and input: Time Management Strategies, Strategies on how to manage the class that are not in small group, and strategies in general to use in small group.

 

Polling twitter and other peers, we were able to come up with a HUGE list of various strategies that are “go-to” strategies! One of my favorites, are “All Sorts of Sorts”. The mere act of sorting various words and phrases helps to get the metacognitive juices flowing in our students. Talking about why an item was sorted, multiple encounters with new vocabulary words or content vocabulary words, asking questions, and modeling think alouds are all part intertwined in “All Sorts of Sorts”. In today’s teacher academy, we had differentiated instruction at it’s finest through this activity. Each session was completely different and highlighted the needs/wants of the teachers present at that time. We had rigorous conversations on various topics. Teachers shared stories, learned some new strategies, and hopefully left with a clearer picture. 

 

Small group is all about ensuring what students know and how to either fill in the gap or accel them forward! Stay tuned in a for a strategies list of topics covered!

October 11

Think Outside Your Classroom

The following is a blog post written by lead teacher, Heather Studdard! Great job Heather!

 

Educators often get stuck in their own ways and lost in the world that is their classroom. Getting stuck in a rut can compromise your teaching which sets up a snowball effect of classroom trouble. The best way to get our of your comfort zone is to go and observe in other teachers classrooms. This is important for both new teachers as well as seasoned teachers. We are a community of learning and the only way to instill a love of learning in our students is to show them that we learn too.

I had the opportunity to spend the day exploring other classrooms within our school, examining classroom culture, expectations, teaching strategies, and classroom management. While roaming the school I focused on ways that I felt validated and take aways (good ideas that I could implement in my classroom). This is always an eye opening experience to look at yourself and see where your faults and flaws are as well as ways you can improve.

The list of take aways was much longer than the list of validations, however, it is important to note what you feel you do well in this can guide other teachers to your classroom to observe the areas in which you feel comfortable sharing. My validations were related to classroom management and my students awareness of rules, procedures, and expectations. While I did feel validated in these things I also saw several things in my takeaways that would help improve even the things that I felt validated in. My final validation was the use of interactive notebooks and the use of anchor charts. Anchor charts are a teaching strategy that I love to incorporate into my classroom, in fact if I could teach a professional development on them I probably would 🙂

Now the takeaways.

  • Hooking students into reading a book by showing them the first 10 minutes of the movie based on the book (These were AP students and they were dead silent during this clip and ready to get the book.)
  • Students can explain what they are working on and expectations of the assignment (This is something that I need to work on, giving more explicit instructions.)
  • The control of the teachers within some of the classrooms (These students didn’t move or do anything without being told to, these are the same students I teach and I was amazed at the behavior for the other teacher!)
  • Wait time and waiting on ALL students to put their hands up to answer before calling on someone, finally questioning in multiple ways (I like the idea of waiting on ALL students because you know they have looked for and considered the answers.)
  • Anchor Charts (Real world application of topics, ideas, subjects and expectations for when someone is speaking.)
  • Corroboration of multiple sources to help in essay writing and researching (This is something we are just starting to work on in history! I am excited about giving the students this tool to make them better historians.)
  • Don’t be afraid to make a mess (I am a little bit of an organization queen so this is sometimes difficult for me to do, but students learn more by digging in and getting messy with ideas and topics.)
  • Finally, MY FAVORITE TAKEAWAY: always answer yes or no questions with only a yes or no and force the students to figure out the why of their question. So many times a student’s second question is why but they learn more when they research the why on their own!

Hopefully, in the coming weeks I can start incorporating some of the strategies that I observed through our school. Every teacher should be given the opportunity observe within their own school and have an open mind when looking at others while be willing to examine themselves. If we don’t continue to learn we won’t grow as educators and stagnate educators create stagnate students.

October 8

Slice of the Day

What is the greatest barrier for collaborating and communicating with colleagues? Time of course! The slice of the day protocol can help bring each classroom to life in the building and spark some pretty interesting conversation and reflections.

What is a slice of the day? Slices can give teachers a quick bird’s eye view of what is going on in each classroom. It offers a quick way for teachers to self-assess themselves as to how their classroom fits into a school culture.

Two lenses were used in our Slice of the Day, Engagement and Rigor. While these two words pack a loaded punch, simply put while the short time we were in rooms, what did engagement and rigor look like.

At Winterboro, we used the end of the 9 weeks, to review our recent slice of the day as a way to open each teacher’s classroom door and learn from each other. During Teacher Academy, the teachers completed a Notice and Wonder Protocol then made a plan for the next 9 weeks!

Reflection was an underlying theme of Teacher Academy this Friday. I learned a great deal reflecting and talking with my colleagues and I hope they did as well. I cannot wait to meet with them about their next steps  and how I can support their growth!