Teaching Strategies: Are They Worth It?

img_0384Teaching strategies is a topic I give a lot of thought to. Hattie’s Visible Learning and effect size is getting much of my attention as of late. The FIT teaching approach as a framework for growth and leadership piques my curiosity. Carol Dwerks’s Mindsets make mind sense. And, the teachers throwing out grades (#ttog) movement has me focused on feedback versus letter grades.

Finding effective teaching methods has been a goal of mine for the past five years. I have to admit that I go into most teaching situations with an idea and content that has to be covered. Rarely do I have time to think about how to best help students learn the concepts, ideas, and content with a scaffold that helps provide structure and support in order to move learning forward.

So, I hunt for the elusive silver bullet that will help me make a difference for my students and colleagues. Recently, I purchased a book of strategies that had examples and processes for over 50 types like anticipation/reaction guide, discussion partners, mind maps, think-pair-share, jigsaw, etc. I know that I will be able use many of these with success in my classroom.

One of the problems I’m trying to solve is how to effectively teach vocabulary. img_0383I teach three sections of 9th grade theology and there is a lot of new vocabulary that then represents ideas or concepts that are highly elusive in the best of times. So, I was searching for strategies and came across a website for Marzano research that offers access to over 300 teaching strategies for $30.00 per month yearly subscription. I was wondering if anyone has used this subscription service and whether it is worth the price?
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Knowledge: Easy Come, Easy Go

Knowledge about educational psychology, educational technology, relationship building, and being able to implement sound pedagogy are all essential tools for helping a teacher to be successful. So why then do many teachers appear to either lack one or more of these skills or they lack the time and energy to research these topics? Why do some teachers appear to be so skilled and competent, whereas I feel like I can never consume enough research or learn enough about my students to just keep my head above water?

I know that most teachers believe that what they teach is very important for our kids to know for success in life, but do these same teachers truly believe that kids will actually remember what they were teaching decades later? The only thing I can recall from my high school chemistry class is that the chemical equation (if that’s even the proper term) is C6 H12 O6. Most of the material from high school geometry and algebra is either very deeply buried in my subconscious or lost because I haven’t had to use it for quite some time. Heck, maybe I’m literally losing my mind because much of what I learned in college geography and earth science has been lost to the ages. And I majored in geography with an earth science minor!

  
There is an old saying I recall, “it’s like riding a bike.” The saying is meant to convey the idea that anything learned can be easily recalled just as if you have not rode a bike in a few years you will be able get back on a bike and ride it any way because you learned to do it at one time. Well, I beg to differ. I think that the mind begins to let go of ideas, concepts, and information after they have not been used in quite some time and this is much different from learned psychomotor skills. Although, muscles that are not used do tend to retard or even atrophy over time.

The question for this teacher is which happens quicker, the loss of learned ideas, concepts, and information or the loss of psychomotor skills OR were the ideas, concepts, and information ever fully understood? I guess I need to do more research.

Ending Strong

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimjarmo/6011264840/

Creative Commons via jimjarmo

I don’t feel on top of my game today. I know that old adage, “you choose your attitude.” I want to feel good, excited, motivated, inspirational today, but I am literally drained. Some people say, “well it’s that time of year.” Others say, “how many days do we have left?” And still more say, “get ready for your schedule to be disrupted.”

What should we do to make even the small moments of time we have left with our students meaningful? How can we re-charge and motivate ourselves and our students to end the school year strong? I feel as though I have been flying by the seat of my pants all year and now I want to end strong.

This is my first full-year back in the classroom after a five year hiatus and I want to end the year with excitement for me and my students. They don’t want to read any more, they don’t want to do vocabulary or discuss religion any more. It seems as though the kids’ heads are already in summer vacation mode. It feels like pulling teeth just waiting for them to respond.

What will motivate us for the next three weeks so that we can end the school year strong?

What Would Happen if the Lights Went Out?

What would happen to society if all our electronic devices failed? I’m not talking about just for a few hours or days but what if it was months or years? What if our electronic infrastructure was attacked, or began to fail as rapidly as it arose? No, I’m not a defeatist or a doomsayer. I genuinely wonder what would happen?

A single candle burning in the darkness

Without Electricity

 

I’ve talked to more than a few teachers recently who have used this argument as justification for supporting the argument that kids need to know some basic information in areas like history, English, math, and science? What happens if we throw out the textbooks and we put our faith in web based or cloud based materials?

I think that these are reasonable questions and I confess that I don’t have a good answer to them. I also remember an old saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

TWITTER STRUGLES

I’ve been trying to get people to join in a new Twitter chat that I started a few weeks ago and I have heard all kinds of excuses.

“I don’t tweet.”
“But, it’s the best free professional development  around.”
“That’s nice, but I’m okay with that.”

Here’s another, “You want to get together and talk, let’s pick a night and do that instead of banging some keys and staring at screens.”

And another, “here comes that techno geek who doesn’t even know what’s going on in the world.”

TECHNOLOGY ISSUES

Because I use technology to try and become a better teacher and person, I have to put up with quite a few snide remarks from colleagues that have it all figured out. Sometimes I wish I had it all figured out. Sometimes I wish I had no knowledge of the impact that technology can have on teaching, learning, and connecting myself and my students to a global audience.

I have even been told to just be myself, to forget  what other teachers are doing in their classrooms. Quit reading “Teach Like a Pirate.” Quit reading blog posts. Quit Tweeting, Googleing, and all that social media stuff. Just quit trying to be someone you’re not.

The thing is, I’m not trying to be someone else, I’m trying to become a better teacher and person by learning from others successes and failures. And I’m trying to transcend mediocrity. I feel that if I’m not learning then I’m not improving. If I’m not engaged with what’s happening in the field of education then I will have to work harder to catch up in a few years.

PEDAGOGY

What would happen if I just closed my classroom door, assigned textbook readings, lectured, and then threw in a quiz here and a test there? What if I closed my classroom door and did whatever I wanted because, “unless parents or students are complaining you can do whatever you want.”

What if I bought into the philosophy that I’m going to do what’s best for me because the students and parents are ungrateful toward teachers and I don’t get paid enough to put up with this crap?

Would anyone really care as long as I kept out of their hair and didn’t ruffle any feathers?<p/>

I would care.

What would we do if the lights went out?

Is Throwing out grades just a Flash in the Pan?

 

 I have been thinking a lot about the movement Teachers Throwing Out Grades. There is even a group dedicated to the topic with a Facebook page and a weekly Twitter chat #TTOG. My inner voice says this is right, but the 20+ year teacher in me says that society and higher education aren’t ready for it yet.

So many questions come to mind. On what should we base student achievement? Should we test or quiz? How do we quantify ideas, creativity, imagination, mastery? Do we really want kids to be masters of content or well rounded generalists? 

I’m not against this movement, because, my inner voice says it’s right. I would like to see how we can get from where we are to the point of throwing out grades. I imagine that if I were to throw out grades, that I would get a lot of push back. I have thought about grading against standards, but that seems like a stopgap measure at best. How do I assess what students know and how do I orchestrate that learning? 

Is it simply enough that my students know how to learn, get excited for learning, and can teach others the strategies that work for them? Add to that the things that are important to me as a parent; getting along with others, following directions, leading, is kind, helps others, and taking on appropriate challenges.

It’s definitely a lot to think about and it causes a lot of cognitive dissonance. I rack my brain and just can’t bridge the gap between where we are in education and where we are going in education. Could it be that there is such exponential change that I can’t think fast enough to keep up? Whatever it is I really wish I had a little more clarity on the topic of throwing out grades.

Twitter High School Theology Education Chat

twitter-bird-callout  #RCTheoEdChat 

One of the groups who do not appear to have a voice in education are Catholic high school Theology teachers. There are many Catholic blogs and bloggers and some, in my opinion watered down, lesson plans for Theology teachers but no where have I seen open dialogue. There is a Theology teacher who has posted her lessons on iTunes U but resources are scarce.

In this day and time we must gather together to discuss issues related to technology use, pedagogy, best practices, engaging students, building relationships, sharing resources, and supporting each other. We can utilize technologies including social media spaces as forces for good.

I propose that we come together as high  school teachers of Theology on a weekly basis. I am willing to lead this new chat but word of the chat needs to spread across the globe in order to be most effective. I invite you to join me for the premiere of #RCTheoEdChat on Sunday, February 22nd at 7:00 pm CST. The topic for that evening will be Creating Reflective Learners. If you have ideas for future topics please Email, text, tweet, call, or leave a message. Expand your Personal/Professional Learning Network (PLN) and join us for this great adventure!

Student Voice and Choice: The Future is Now

Just out of curiosity, how do we move to prepare for the future in education while leaving many schools behind where those who are preparing for the future are at?
Dr_Who_(316350537)
Ever since I personally tried to catch up with where the movers and shakers of the edtech community are at I have oftentimes felt that I have been riding on the shirt tails of educational reform. I have tried to keep up to date with the research and trends in education by reading blog posts, attending conferences, creating a stellar PLN and engaging with colleagues via Twitter, Voxer, Flipboard, and other social media sources, but I always feel like I am behind everyone else.
Now, I’m not talking about “keeping up with the Jones’s” by having the newest technology, I am talking about knowing what is right for my students and being able to put what is right into action. Things such as getting rid of desks and putting in comfortable seating, making my classroom more inviting and collaborative, and getting my students connected with a global audience. A student first mindset is essential in moving education forward.
What about all the things students need to know so that they can move on to upper level courses? Should student voice and choice lead education or do we as teachers know that there are certain things that kids need to know, just because?
I would like to know how you plan for the future while trying to catch up with the now? How do you plan your professional development? Should students really have choice and voice or do we as teachers know them well enough to decide for them?
Flying Tardis

“Dr Who (316350537)” by aussiegall from sydney, Australia – Dr WhoUploaded by russavia. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dr_Who_(316350537).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Dr_Who_(316350537).jpg