January 21

The AVL….Now What?

Last week’s Teacher Academy was led by Tina Wheeler, our Media Specialist.  Mrs. Wheeler is this week’s guest blogger about our learning!

The purpose of this week’s teacher academy was to address a deficiency in our technology survey pertaining to the Alabama Virtual Library.  The teachers were given a brief tutorial on the many different sites that the AVL offers. Kids Infobits, Searchasauras, and Kid Search are designed to offer elementary school students an easy-to-use and graphically appealing search experience. We discussed the ability to search for videos, pictures, magazine articles, and lots of other areas that will give students a plethora of valuable, reliable information. Another valuable site is the Opposing Viewpoints database. It allows students to find different facts and opinions on social issues facing our world today.   We also looked at several research tools for analyzing data in all the countries of the world with the Data World Analyst site. This database provides students the opportunity to analyze countries at a glance and offers a detailed statistical comparison of countries around the world. Students can also create tables and charts as well as export information in to a spreadsheet.

To put what we had learned to use, the teachers were posed a controversial question, “Should Americans who had contracted the Ebola virus be allowed to re-enter the United States?” The teachers were instructed to use the Alabama Virtual Library to find ideas that support both sides of this issue in a fun teaching protocol called “Tug of War.” This strategy requires students to weigh both sides of an issue with facts and solid statistics as opposed to opinions and jumping to conclusions. We placed a rope on the table and asked the teachers to write their supporting facts on a sticky note.  They were to place them on the side of the rope that it supported.  These sticky notes are called “tugs.” The whole idea was to make their thinking visual.  At the end, we were able to look at the rope and determine which side had the most accurate, reliable information. This protocal came from the book Making Thinking Visible by Ritchart, Church and Morrison. 

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November 14

Aiming to Increase Student Engagement

Winterboro High School attends the Secondary Powerful Conversations Network sponsored by the Alabama Best Practices Center.  At our previous meeting we were introduced to the book, Leaders of Their Own Learning by Ron Berger.  The highlight of this meeting was Learning Targets.  Members were tasked to relay this information to their faculty and staff in a way that was meaningful to their school.  What better venue then Teacher Academy?!?!?

On November 7, 2014, we met to discuss the difference between Objectives and Learning Targets.  Objectives are the verbose definitions given to teachers in a particular grade or content.  Ron Berger defines Learning Targets as “ goals for lessons, projects, units, and courses.”

We read the literature presented by Ron Berger. Some very insightful points were brought out and discussed in Teacher Academy based on Mr. Berger’s research.  They were:

-Learning Targets increase student motivation in the classroom

-Learning Targets “shift” the ownership from the teacher to more of a partnership with the teacher and the student.

After reading the literature, we analyzed objectives that we used in our classrooms from the previous week and discussed ways we could have altered the objectives to create learning targets.  . We practiced writing learning targets for our lesson plans for the upcoming week.

If you have not read Leaders of Their Own Learning by Ron Berger, I highly recommend this book.  It will allow you to easily assess your current lesson plans, impact daily instruction in your classroom, and impact your school culture to promote engaged learning! The next post we will discuss how we took Ron Berger’s literature to the next level in our all day staff development day!

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