Dare to Care

create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

18/Apr/2017
by Denise Krebs
5 Comments

Standards and Assessment

Standards and Assessment – A few random thoughts for this week’s #edublogsclub prompt.

I’ve taught with and without standards, but I prefer and believe we need standards-based education.

I also believe we need standards-based grading. We should be able to look at the standard and using descriptive narration tell how the student is and isn’t meeting the standard. It seems simple to me. However, I spend so much of my precious preparation time grading and recording numbers around learning. Sometimes numbers make sense, like recording how many sight words this child can read. More often than not, though, numbers don’t give any added information. For instance, in the following standards, how can a number help us know what the child can do?

Pose and respond to specific questions by making comments that contribute to the discussion and elaborate on the remarks of others.

Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb tense.

Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

I think a number does not show growth. Numbers tend to stop conversation. The student and parent are either happy or unhappy with the number, but not much else is discussed except the number.

Tomorrow we will have Student Learning Presentations, where parents, teacher and student come together and report learning. It’s a beautiful thought, but I know from experience, the numbers will trip us up at times.

This year one of the goals of our School Improvement Plan is “All students at Al Raja School in grades KG-5 will improve reading and writing in English.” We have chosen to measure our success on this goal using the fall and spring scores on our computerized standardized test: Measures of Academic Progress (MAP).

Last year we had only 26% of that age group make annual yearly progress. This year at the winter midpoint, I’ve just stopped to look at the data I had so far. This winter, we had 46% meet or exceed their progress goals.

So, there is an assessment that helps us see if we are growing. I’m pleased with the progress so far, but not satisfied, of course. We have work to do.

Fortunately for us, we aren’t driven by tests. We are new to standardized tests. It’s only our second year taking the MAP. We look at the data, and try to let it help us get to know, teach, and help our students, but it’s not the only measure.

I still hope we can eliminate grades and use paper and digital work, photos, video, stories and other evidence of the students’ learning to report about their learning.

I guess I feel the way we take the MAP test can help in that reporting, as well.

What do you think?

12/Apr/2017
by Denise Krebs
6 Comments

The Pendulum Swing – Or maybe just finding a better way

When I started teaching in the 1980’s, I was given a stack of books to teach, and that was what I taught–science, social studies, reading, grammar, whatever the school board or admin or committee chose for the books, that was our curriculum. I did it for five years in grades 2 and 3, in a public school and a private school, in two separate states. There was no such thing as curriculum, just the books we were given to teach.

Then, I became a stay at home mom for ten years during the 90s. During those years, the pendulum swung toward standards-based education, or what they called in those years Outcome Based Education. I wasn’t paying that much attention, but I did read a few articles because I was surprised my conservative friends seemed so against it. It made sense to me that we should ask what students should know and be able to do. Then figure out how to get them there. Education was obviously a more complicated idea than just covering a stack of books.

Now, “I wasn’t paying that much attention” was the truth because when I went back to teaching in 1999, I took my stack of books and carried on as I had years before. I was in Arizona at the time, and fortunately, I had a great instructional coach. One of the first times she came to see me, I was proudly finishing touches on a gigantic dinosaur mural. It had 3-D mountains and trees and a volcano flowing with lava. My students and I had made it. Grade 2 artist dinosaurs populated the prehistoric landscape.

She asked me why we were doing dinosaurs. I said it was a chapter in our science book, and I let the students vote on which chapter they wanted to do first. She then opened the Arizona State Standards for grade 2 science. She showed me how there were no dinosaurs in second grade science.

“What? How can we not do dinosaurs?” I thought or said. I don’t quite remember which one. I was in tears before she left, but that experience left an indelible mark on me. It began my journey to understand standards-based education.

I went on to teach grades 2, 7, 8 and work as a reading specialist, using the Common Core State Standards for most of those years.

When I moved to Bahrain, I found the pendulum hadn’t really swung. I am in a school with American curriculum–that is American books. We are kind of in the 1980s mode of teaching from books.

We have some good benchmarks for the KG-grade 2 department, so it was easier to not rely totally on the books. When I moved to grade 5 this year, I realized that our curriculum is focused on the textbooks. We have lessons on interrogative, declarative, imperative and exclamatory sentences, not because our English language learners need to know that terminology. They don’t. We have those lessons because Houghton-Mifflin put them in our books.

As the English coordinator this year, and the ‘owner’ of the school improvement plan goal to “improve reading and writing in English grades KG-5,” I have an important reason to help the department swing toward a better place with appropriate standards-based curriculum.

We have made a lot of progress, and I look forward to seeing a curriculum in place that is appropriate for our students to learn.


It’s Tuesday. Time for a Slice of Life post.

This is late, but I was interested in the topic from Week #13 in the #edublogsclub about pendulum swings in education.

10/Apr/2017
by Denise Krebs
2 Comments

Pink Prepositional Pandemonium

On Thursday I wore a pink top because I like alliteration and I had lots of pink paper.

On Wednesday, I made up my first Breakout EDU game as I sat in the hospital keeping my post-surgery husband company. Since I was there without my computer, all the game pieces were hand-written. Before I had left school for the hospital on Wednesday, I grabbed a small pile of colored paper from the cabinet. When I got started working, I realized most of the paper I took was pink, so that’s what I used for the puzzles. Thus the pink theme was born, and I added Pink to my Prepositional Pandemonium game.

I’m working on a @breakoutedu game for tomorrow!

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It had been several months since my class participated in a Breakout game. It was definitely time to do it again, and I wanted to leave for spring break on a high note. I created the game to use and review prepositional phrases–one of our topics this week.

I reached my goal to end on a high note! They all BROKE OUT, and we had lots of fun!

If all didn’t succeed, no one would breakout.

For this game I decided to make five separate puzzles and assign one to each of five small groups. That way the groups wouldn’t be in each other’s way, while trying to solve all the puzzles. The last time we did a Breakout, all the groups were working independently from the others, trying to open all the locks. It seemed half the time was spent in the queue to try out the combinations they were solving. Not this time. Each group was responsible for just one lock. (They weren’t told which one when they started, but as they solved their puzzle, they could figure out which lock their combination could open.)

Here are brief descriptions of the five games:

  1. Team 1 was given a sheet of sentences that they had to mark the prepositional phrases. The students were to circle the letter at the beginning of each sentence that had only one prepositional phrase. They then had to unscramble the letters to come up with something that was in my pocket, the next thing they needed to solve the problem. After they figured out it was a deck of cards, they had to find the cards that were marked with prepositions and turn those into a five-digit directional lock combination. This was the hardest puzzle for both classes.
  2. Team 2 was given a worksheet as well. They marked sentences that had two or more prepositional phrases. The letters that were circled were unscrambled into a preposition. Students then used that word as the combination for the letter combination lock. This was definitely the easiest puzzle.
  3. Team 3 had a difficult task. It had a math problem: Page 4 + Page 8 = the 3-digit lock box. Since it was page 4 and 8, they did a lot of experimenting with the four guided reading books on the ledge.  I didn’t really give them much information before or during, but eventually they found the UV flashlight. They discovered one highlighted preposition on each of pages 4 and 8 in one of the books. It took them another while to discover they needed the code that was hanging on the board. They then had to add all the numbers in each of those words. That gave them the three-digit code to open the lock box, where they found extra hint cards to help the other teams.
  4. Team 4 was given a page with prepositional phrases written all over in four quadrants. They discovered, after some trial and error, that the phrases were found in one of the books. Each quadrant’s phrases were found on a separate page in the book. They then used those page numbers to open the four-digit combination lock.
  5. Finally, Team 5 was given Hint #1 of a prepositional phrase treasure hunt. The first clue said, “in the dialogue journal basket.” They found the second clue in the dialogue journal basket and continued from there through eight not-so-easy hints. My favorites were “inside a tall desk” and “across the hall.” More about those:
  • We have about five desks that are taller than all the others, so it should have been an easy one, but I taped the clue up on top of the inside of the desk. The students in one class just kept giving up and saying it wasn’t there. I would find students falling away and start helping another group. Occasionally, I would remind someone in that group that if they didn’t break out no one would break out because we needed to open all the locks. They got back to trying, and then finally someone found it. He nearly went through the roof jumping with such excitement!
  • “Across the hall” was another good one. I have English language learners, and in one class no one in this group knew the words hall or across. They used Google Translate and the online dictionary to help them. (I had to give them the word hallway since hall was only a large meeting room in Translate.)
  • Finally, the last clue was “under the carpet,” where they found a key to the padlock on the Breakout box.

Getting Ready for the Breakout!

Here is my Google Document with these Breakout Prepositional Phrase papers. (It’s my #edublogsclub giveaway for your own Breakout game!)

I was really pleased with my first attempt at making a Breakout EDU game. I felt pleased that though I gave myself only one evening to create it, I managed to make it and pull it off without too many glitches. The videos below show the last moments for each class as they opened the box!

I had one disappoint, though. As a result of giving myself only one evening, I felt I defaulted too quickly to worksheets. Yikes! I don’t want to make worksheets part of Breakout EDU, so I am looking for any alternatives to those two worksheets.

Any suggestions on how to improve this game?

She persisted!

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5B figured out how to remove the clasp too!

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04/Apr/2017
by Denise Krebs
8 Comments

Tipi and Slice of Life Tuesday – No Grades

Today, to be honest, I should not be blogging. I should be finishing my grades for quarter 3, which are due any day now. (Like tomorrow, but I am having a hard time admitting that!)

After a month of blogging daily in March, I am relieved and excited to join the only-once-a-week Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge. I’m looking forward to spending a bit of time on Tuesdays with my new Slice of Life writing tribe, for I know they will help me kickstart my neglected blogging habit. Thank God no one grades me on my blog posts. Instead, encouragement from this group helps me practice and learn, so I can grow as a writer.

On a loosely related topic, at school today my small group built.

This quarter, each teacher was assigned eight students for group work, and with them we were to choose and study a tribe of people from anywhere in the world. We chose the Nez Perce in North America because our supervisor is from the Nez Perce tribe. She has lots of amazing relics, so we were able to learn from her and see first hand some of the valuable art and artifacts from this group of Native American people.

Today my group built a tipi.

It was great, and it was better than thinking about blogging.

It was most certainly better than thinking about and / or recording and finishing grades.

It was exciting.

It was real.

It was math.

It was problem solving.

It was critical thinking.

It was dangerous.

It was kinesthetic.

It was making.

It wasn’t a number on a report card, and it never will be.

It’s like life. We do things, like blogging and baking, but we don’t get graded on them. My students would be shocked and appalled if I tried to assign them a grade for their work on the tipi. It just would be a distraction and a disappointment, no matter what grades were “given” or “earned.”

It’s not that we didn’t do our best. As in life, there are always consequences for what we do. Did we do a good job? Did we figure out what we have to do to make it easier and better next time?

If we didn’t, our next attempt may result in the same mistakes. If we did really learn something from today’s activity, then we’ll be even more successful when we build it again for our presentation.

Can’t we do more authentic activities?

Can’t we do real-life work that doesn’t require grades?

 

Filling the frame with a tipi today. #cy365 #t365project

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More tipi building.

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01/Apr/2017
by Denise Krebs
6 Comments

We’re Dancing

I took Mary Ann Reilly’s advice to get dancing today. I did so with an unlikely song, and a song that I never even knew existed. (It has almost a billion views!)

When I read Mary Ann’s blog post a couple days ago, I was reminded of my sweet kindergarten students. I had spent 1.5 years with them, singing and dancing daily. Lately, though, I have not been dancing. Maybe it’s because I haven’t figured out how to dance with grade 5 students.

Yesterday, when my kindergarten teacher colleague posted this song on her Facebook feed, telling how her students had gone crazy with it, I couldn’t help but try it out. I didn’t just listen to it, though. I did what Mary Ann suggested at the end of her post:

So are you ready to dance a little?  Dance like you were 5?  I won’t tell:)

Give it a try! It does have a great beat. I wonder if my fifth graders will like it!

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