6 Practices that “Work” to Accelerate Student Learning

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In education, we are often inundated with programs, curriculums, and frameworks that are “guaranteed to increase student learning”. Promises of a silver bullet that will fix all learning difficulties find their way to teachers and administrators alike. But as John Hattie points out in Visible Learning, it’s hard not to show growth or “evidence” for a program when the bar is set at zero.

As I began my study of Visible Learning for Literacy, much of the initial learning was not concentrated on what works in literacy, but what accelerates students’ learning in any classroom. Hattie identifies what works in education based on his research and a hinge point of .40 or greater. (The hinge point is any influence with an effect size of .40 or greater as having a positive impact on learning where acceleration extends beyond what a student can achieve in one year of simply attending school.)

Identifying high-impact influences and practices enhance an educator’s role as they reflect and evaluate their teaching by placing research and evidence in their hands. “What Works” in the classroom shifts from a buzzword to intentional practice that will accelerate learning. While Hattie identifies many influences above .40, I’ve narrowed the list down to 6 that apply to all educators.

6 Practices that “Work” to Accelerate Student Learning

  1. Teacher credibility (.90 effect size) Trust, competence, energy, enthusiasm, and consistency are among the top characteristics students consider when determining if their teacher is credible and if they are going to choose to learn from them.
  2. Teacher-Student Relationships (.72 effect size) Positive teacher-student relationships involve trust, fairness, open communication and maintenance to sustain and impact student learning.  
  3. Classroom Management (.52 effect size) Students understand expectations and are consistently held to those expectations. Promotes healthy relationships with teachers and peers.  
  4. Self-Reported Grades/Student Expectations (1.44 effect size) Students set their own goals, monitor their own achievement, and reflect upon their process of learning.
  5. Teacher Clarity (.75 effect size) Learning targets are clear and articulated with success criteria. Students should be able to answer: What am I learning today? Why am I learning this? How will I know that I learned it?
  6. Feedback (.75 effect size) Just-in-time feedback identifies where the student is at, what the expectation is, and actions they can take to close the gap.

Simply put, be genuine and clear, relationships matter, create a safe environment that nurtures independence, and feedback moves students not grades!

Blogging in the Classroom: Teacher Roles

blogging-in-the-classroomBlogging is a powerful way for students to share their voice on a public platform. Depending on the purpose, blog posts demonstrate student understanding, allow for a virtual space to share ideas or thinking, and acts as an interactive mode to question, create and share. While I believe blogging is useful across the curriculum and applicable to multiple grade levels, I do believe that there are teacher and student roles or responsibilities that are essential to establish when embarking on blogging in the classroom.

In February I wrote a post on Blogging in the Classroom: Student Roles which shared my own personal experience of having my students blog, as well as the student roles to consider when adding blogging to your classroom. This post will highlight the Teacher Roles that are important to consider when having students blog.

Teacher Roles

  1. Model, Be a Writer! – You are the best writer in the room. To have students be successful at blogging the teacher must see themselves as a blogger too. Modeling writing skills by sharing your own work takes the mystery out of the process. Post regularly, fine-tune your own craft and share. Providing students with “mentor examples” of digital writing and bloggers provides students with people’s work to emulate. Modeling also provides an opportunity to create a positive, online presence; as well as address digital citizenship areas that frequently surface when writing for a public audience.
  2. Explicit & Scaffolded Instruction – Like traditional unimodal writing, blogging requires a mastery of skills and strategies that students do not naturally have in their toolbox. Direct instruction through mini-lessons and then application in their own writing helps set students up for success. Not only should content be a focus of learning, but the structure, format, and design elements need to be explicitly taught to our young bloggers. Start with length, visuals, and typography as a way to communicate their message effectively.
  3. Read & Respond – As the teacher, it is important to read and respond to student blog posts. To alleviate the volume of posts I would have to read in my own classroom I would divide the class in half and read and respond to half of the students each week. Students were to read and respond to peers in our blogging community (made up of 4 classrooms around the country) twice a week. Teaching students how to respond on a digital platform was another area that demanded explicit teaching. The driver in their response was to connect personally to at least one thing in a post and to comment in a way that moved the writer forward.
  4. Assess – Finally, assessment of blog posts. While you can use some or all of the posts as a type of summative assessment I would frequently use the students’ posts as formative assessment. This type of formative assessment would help drive my instruction. It was clear what the students grasped as well as what needed further reteaching. When assessing blog posts, it is important to consider both content and product. Aesthetics, voice, design elements are important to bloggers and were all part of the feedback I would provide to students.

A classroom full of bloggers is a daunting and exciting symphony to orchestrate. Depending on the purpose for blogging, teachers can view their roles and responsibilities as ones that are helping develop digital writers now and whenever they write in the future. Interaction with a public audience helps to make writing engaging and relevance and it is through the intentional instruction by the teacher that our youngest bloggers can find success!

Digital Portfolios with Bloomz

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As a high school English teacher in a technology-rich school, I realized the importance of digital portfolios to capture and showcase learning. Upon graduation, each one of my former students left with both a digital portfolio and a YouTube channel accessible across platforms and shareable via links .

Can you imagine how powerful a digital portfolio would be if students began capturing their learning as early as elementary school?

A digital portfolio, I believe, holds 2 main purposes:

First, it is a curation of learning and experiences students can use in reflection. Reflection provides cognitive insight into themselves as learners, as well as an account of their learning journey.

Second, a digital portfolio is a living artifact in which students can share their skills, passions, and understandings with a larger community or a potential employer. Having a positive digital footprint is essential for young people. Employers and colleges rely heavily on what they see and read online about potential employees or students, a digital portfolio could help in this area.

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In a few of my more recent posts, I shared an exciting school to home communication app called Bloomz. Recently Bloomz launched another option perfect for students to demonstrate understanding and to enhance digital portfolios –  Video.  This new feature allows teachers and students to share videos via  phone or other previously recorded videos from the library.
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Student Timeline

The addition to the new video feature, Bloomz allows students full capability of creating a multimodal digital portfolio utilizing the Student Timelines feature. The Student Timelines feature allows teachers and students to post to the class feed as well to individuals (parents). Teachers can edit, annotate, and review work that students submit to their timeline before it is posted. Photographs, texts, and now videos shared in a Student Timeline provide a real-time insight into learning and conceptual understanding.

As you can tell, I am a huge fan of this award-winning app. As both a parent and an educator, I love when digital resources are agile in capabilities and serve multiple functions. Every student should graduate with a positive digital presence. Bloomz makes this easy to do with Student Timelines!

4 Brain-Friendly Practices in a Student-Centered​ Classroom

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Adolescence is a vital time for our students. During the ages of 11 through 18, young people are making habits that last a lifetime. And since many of their waking hours are spent in school, it is important for educators to incorporate brain-friendly practices into their classrooms. These practices, when consistently incorporated, impact the whole child and help to develop habits of mind that will support students throughout their lifetime.

4 Brain-Friendly Practices in a Student-Centered Classroom:

  1. Choice – Provide choice! This simple concept is one that research shows not only increases reading achievement when a child chooses what they read, but also engagement when the choice is theirs to make. Move from teacher-centered to student-centered through choice, for instance, provide choice in content. With a learning objective as a skill in the writing process, student choice can be given in paper content. Or choice can be given in end product; why limit the demonstration of understanding to just text? Multimedia products are a perfect way for students to demonstrate understanding.
  2. Task Design – In a student-centered classroom, brain research can be applied to task design. Chunking information, using graphic organizers or guiding questions, connecting learning experiences to a larger concept are all brain-friendly practices that educators can incorporate while designing lessons or units. Our brain naturally identifies patterns, groups, and organizes items.
  3. Peers – Teaching others is a highly effective, brain-friendly practice and during adolescence, nothing is more important to young people than their peers. When students teach each other it boosts understanding to both partners and is often taught in a different way than a teacher could explain.
  4. Authentic – Brain-friendly practice includes authenticity in learning. Read, write, and create for real purposes instead of doing school for school’s sake. In a student-centered classroom, an example of authentic writing is Blogging. Through blogging, students share their voice with a global audience, a shift from the traditional, lone teacher.

Sources:

Thomas Armstrong

BrainLady

Top 4 Take-Aways from EdcampUSA

edcampusaIt’s been less than 24 hours since I left Washington DC and returned home to Iowa after having the privilege to attend Edcamp Us DOED a collaborative effort between the Edcamp Foundation  and the United States Department of Education. This ” intimate gathering of teacher leaders and policy leaders in order to discuss the most important issues in education” ignited excitement in the heart of this small-town Iowa girl.

On July 8th, 150 educators from across the nation, members of the US Department of Education, and other educational thought leaders gathered at the US Department of Education for EdcampUSA. The majestic ambiance of the location, along with the professional discourse throughout the day makes me proud to be an educator.

Edcamp is a Global Movement, and together, we CAN create change! Three incredible women helped make EdcampUSA possible: Hadley Ferguson, Shannon Montague (Hamilton Fanatic, email junkie, and general organizer of chaos), and JoLisa Hoover  (whose warm smile lit up the room and who also has a new role this fall with our youngest learners).

I was fortunate to reconnect with Hadley Ferguson and talk a bit of Edcamp shop. As Executive Director of the Edcamp Foundation, Hadley’s role is multifaceted. During our conversation, two points resonated with me, first, no one knows for sure how many edcamps there have been or how many educators have participated. Collecting that data is difficult and relies heavily on self-reporting; still, it is essential to have this information for future funding and discussions. Second, Edcamps have been attended by thousands of educators and continue to grow by the month. Together, that collective voice could be strong – so how do we harness this power to work together, and how do we encourage other educators who are unaware of Edcamps to attend and join the conversation? (Please send all easy answers to Hadley and Shaelynn)

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John King, Secretary of the US Department of Education gave the opening address. Mr. King took some time to reflect upon the current violence happening in our nation and the effects it has on our kids. He urged us all to “create the time and space” to work together to improve outcomes for all students, reminding us on the Civil Rights Legacy and the need for equity and excellence in education found in the Every Student Succeeds Act. Education is central to a democratic society, and our students must see a diversity in teachers and administrators around the nation!

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There were many notable conversations and shared stories; here are my Top 4 Take-Aways:

  1. Open Education Resources (OER) – In a time when technology can afford equitable access to the most relevant content, best instructional strategies, and engaging lesson designs, OER should top the list of every educator. Applying the 5 R Permissions of OER: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute helped many of us create a working definition of OER. Kristina Peters, K-12 Open Education Fellow at the US Dept. of Ed shared insights of this emerging focus at the DOE  sharing, “OER is changing conversations at a district level for intellectual property. As a member of an OER platform  via Amazon Education, Amazon Inspire, I see this culture of sharing happening daily! Kaye Henrickson shared the movement of OER in Wisconsin, WISELEARN. OER is a way to support each other collegially by sharing rich content and pedagogical strategies that work best for our students. But as with all groups, Steve Dembo (incredible thinker, educator, and favorite thought-provoker) offered these considerations: Free does not necessarily equal open, reallocation of funds must be considered, how can the best resources bubble to the top in these curation receptacles?  This, of course, launched into further discussions which sparked a “hallway” conversation and future actions. ThinkOER!  ThinkOER
  2. Literacy – Literacy is the responsibility of ALL educators. In multiple sessions I attended during the day, the importance of literacy resonated throughout. Technology has not only opened the floodgates to global information, but brought with it the opportunity for students to read, write, communicate, and learn in multimodal means. The evolving definition of literacy and what makes someone literate penetrates all grades and disciplines. To simply ignore this reality is detrimental to the success of students. Digital literacies is a passion of mine. It is my focus and drives much of what I read, write, and learn. It was only fitting to include literacy throughout the day. Whether in Genius Hour or Passion Based Learning, equipping students with the skills and strategies to discern digital resources and to create their own seeped into many conversations. Along with that, I was fortunate to meet both Barry Saide and Juli B two passionate literacy educators I have connected with virtually for years, but only face to face at EdcampUSA. These two consistently fuel my passion and shared snippets of literacy love throughout the day!                            IMG_0428 (1)IMG_0395
  3. #BlackLivesMatter: Social Justice and Culturally Relevant Practices in the Classroom – One of my favorite discussions during the day focused on social justice and cultural relevance in the classroom. Many ideas were shared, rhetorical questions asked, and passionate stories told from the group. Shout out to Valerie Lewis (an incredible educator from Atlanta) for Periscoping the session to share with the world! Watch it here. Literacy was again referenced as a way to not only build connections and relationships but as a model to reinforce diversity in learning. Juli and her colleague Justin shared insights from the book by Chris Emdin For White Folks who Teach in the Hood, “ in schools, urban youths are expected to leave their lives at the door and assimilate to “school”  causing trauma to the child and the “village”. How then can we expect young people to invest in their community? Adam Bellow (an incredible educator who  is now CEO of BreakoutEdu and gets to drive a cool bus around)  raised a great point, “often times we begin with Slavery and America, ignoring the important contributions and victories won dating back to Ancient Civilization.” This lack of balance across all content areas reduces diversity to an event or celebration. It needs to be assimilated into the curriculum and an intentional part of the agenda!IMG_0437 (1)
  4. Connected Education – My final takeaway reaffirmed the importance of being a connected educator. There are so many passionate educators who are helping to make education great, get out there and meet someone new. Attending an edcamp at a new location helps to foster new connections! First, it was incredible to be reunited with Krissy Venosdale, Wanda Terral, and Chris Aviles; we were all in the final Google Teacher Academy together, and as Chris said, “broke the mold.” I was also grateful to have the opportunity to connect with Josue Falaise, an incredible eduleader with vast knowledge in professional learning and leveraging community support! Kharima Richards,  Joyce Valenza, and Matt Frat were among the many educators that I met throughout the day whose thoughts and kindness made me pause and think! Finally, I am fortunate to be surrounded and supported by a group of educators who push my thinking and offer an endless supply of laughter and good times – thank you, Kristina, Bob Dillon, Kaye and Adam . My first time in DC was Epic! YOLO!                        All session resources can be found here!IMG_0445