Thursday, February 16, 2017

Love Your Library Media Specialist

Rose are redViolets are blueLibrarians are gold,IT's TRUE!.png
Dear Library Crush,

I’ve been trying to draw your attention for a while now.  I want to spend time with you, share experiences with you, and answer the question, “Dewey” belong together?

When I started teaching, more years ago than I care to admit in writing, I had little to no contact with my school’s library media specialist.  I’d smile and nod when I dropped off my students and sometimes make friendly conversation.  Occasionally, she’d ask if she could do anything to help me.  I had no idea what “help” meant (did I have that “I’m drowning” look on my face?) I’d politely say, “not right now, thanks for asking.”  I had no idea what was happening in the library, why it was important, and I didn’t have a clear understanding of the role of the library media specialist in the school.  Fast forward a “few” years, and my professional journey has lead me into the world of library media.  As I look back, I kick myself for not utilizing such an amazing resource, and knowing what I know now, how this partnership could have drastically improved my instruction.  So, I’d like to share with you some tips, so you don’t make the same mistakes:
  • Your library media specialist is eager to connect library/media standards to content standards.  You are not bothering them or inconveniencing them.  Although they may not show it, I get excited emails like, “guess what? The FACS teachers wants to do a project with me!”
  • LMSs can enhance/strengthen any lesson/unit by adding a tech twist.  You may want to try a new technology tool or know that you can do something different, but not sure how.  Your library media specialist can explore options with you, and can be an extra set of hands to help implement new technology.
  • Librarian does not equal books.  Yes, librarians can help pull materials and find sites to support research.  However, in this day and age, finding information is not the biggest obstacle for students. Information comes in many forms from social media, websites, print, and digital. Our world is saturated with information.  It is more valuable to teach students how to evaluate and find reliable sources.
  • Librarians can help plan deep units where students are engaged in critical thinking and creativity.  We can help students develop communication and practice collaboration. Planning is key, and it is important to get your LMS involved early in the project to be most effective.
  • The role of the librarian has changed!  The image of a librarian is traditionally a little old lady with a bun and a cardigan is outdated.  Our work has evolved and roles have changed!
A library media’s role cannot be accomplished alone.  Partnerships with the technology department, administrators, instructional coaches, students and teachers are key.  We are collaborative, and we want partner with you!

In closing, please don’t forget about your library media specialists, like I did in my early teaching days.  We are a wealth of knowledge, pillars of support, and key to improving instruction.


Your Secret LMS Admirer

Friday, February 03, 2017

Inspiring Our Students

How do we engage students?  How do we integrate subjects make to learning contextual and relevant for kids? How can we create positive and flexible learning environments? The answers may seem simple, but the implementation is much more difficult and takes time! A few areas that can make a significant difference when considering a highly effective and innovative team PLC include structures created to help the PLC be successful, the classroom environment, and the learning experiences designed by teachers.

Structures: The structures put in place can make a huge difference in the way the team PLC is able to meet the needs of all students with effective instructional practices.  Blocking core classes together allows more flexibility to implement effective PBLs. Moving through the day with no bells, creates an environment for students and teachers to use time creatively and more efficiently. Additionally, specialists pushing into the team area and the classroom allows for students to receive services without missing instructional time in the classroom with peers.

Now, let's hear from the students and teachers from team Inspire at HMS on what makes a highly effective and innovative team PLC!

When teachers were asked, "How do you create a positive learning environment for students?" They said the following:
- Care about the students personally.
- Build relationships with kids.
- Belief that we are all responsible for all kids - they are our kids.
- Provide effective interventions - all students get what they need (focus groups).
- Practice mindfulness.
- Offer students flexible seating options.

Students were then asked "How do your teachers created a positive learning environment? This is what they said: 
- The teachers have positive attitudes and are nice.
- They try to make it better if you do something wrong rather than us getting in trouble.
- Teachers make time for students.
- Teachers use humor.
- Flexible seating and choice of where to sit is important.
- Teachers let us do fun, hands-on stuff.
- Teachers creatively help students learn.
- Teachers create fun team activities and us give choices.

Teachers were also asked "how do you engage your students in learning experiences?" This is what they said:
hands-on activities
- Use humor.
- Provide lots of movement.
- Give kids leadership and collaboration opportunities.
- Offer students voice and choice in activities and PBLs.
- Work to connect the standards and topics in different subjects and create authentic PBLs.
- Engage in professional learning - book study on differentiation, learning around flexibly seating,        assessment academy, etc.
- Make intentional connections between the subjects.

Students were asked, "What has engaged you in your learning this year?" These are some of the responses:
- Hands-on activities.
- Videos to help me learn visually.
- Opportunities to choose to work individually or with a group.
- Flexible seating options given by all the teachers.
- Teachers help us learn creatively and connect subjects.

There you have it!  The teachers and students agree on what makes a highly effective and innovative team PLC. For those wanting to move in this direction, just try something and have a growth mindset!!

Tabby Rabenberg

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Power of Self-Monitoring Tools

“I was monitoring how much I knew vs. what I didn't know. It helped me keep track of what to keep looking at and what I already knew.”
~CNA Student’s response to the question, “What were the positive aspects of the self-monitoring tool?”

Sarah Berreth, a CNA and Medical Related Careers Teacher at the Career Academy, saw the need for her students to track progress, so she experimented with a few tools. She explained, “This process took a lot of time because my students simply needed to be explicitly taught how to monitor their progress.”  As one of her students said, “It was a very hard concept to grasp for most of the year. We are not accustomed to that type of a learning tool. As a senior in high school, after 12 years of education, it was hard to grasp the concept.”

One of the CNA sub-standards is knowing the meaning of medical abbreviations; therefore, Sarah had her students research the meaning of each abbreviation and then independently organized that information in a Google doc.  
Figure 1.1
Students monitor progress by highlighting their own notes (Figure 1.1) regarding which medical abbreviations they know and don’t know.  Green - “Got it!”  Yellow - “Getting it!”  Red - “Just getting started!”  

Sarah took time out of her class to have them reflect on the terms periodically, so they could see the progress they were making toward the overall goal.  The students agreed that this was an effective tool in helping them to study, and, as the student in the video mentioned, she was able to apply this strategy in her other classes.

The self-monitoring tool worked effectively for the abbreviations, but the students and teacher did not think it was as effective while they were monitoring progress on the proficiency scales (Figure 1.2).  The students said there was too much information and sometimes they “didn’t read through it.”  Sarah is planning to alter this tool, so they can gauge their progress toward the overall goal of the standard. When Sarah was asked what alterations she had in mind, her
Figure 1.2
reply was, “In visiting with my students, the monitoring tools need to be 1) simple and 2) relatable. The proficiency scales had too many words and ideas. The students wanted it to be simplified with a clear goal. The terms worked well because they could see exactly what to study and their progress. I am trying to come up with a monitoring tool that can be used for every section.  This would save a lot of time in explaining the tool if it was the same throughout. I would like the student to write the standard/goal at the top and then write each assessment or practice on the left-hand side. I would then like to assess where they are in achieving that goal 1, 2, 3, 4… I like this idea because I would like to do a pre-assessment, after lecture/discussion knowledge check, after application activity, and at assessment time.  I would then like to have the option of a graph, so they can see progress towards reaching the end goal.”

Sarah is a teacher who is always reflecting to improve her practice; therefore, end-of-course evaluations completed by her students are important to her.  Out of 19 CNA students, their responses were favorable in regards to the benefits of using a self-monitoring tool.


Even though the teacher was concerned about the amount of time spent teaching her students how to use the tool, the lifelong skill these students acquired outweighs the time she could have spent elsewhere. Her students will leave this semester class feeling empowered by the ability to use tools that will allow them to take control of their learning.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Connecting the Dots: Learning and the Brain

Read any article on brain research and you will find that learning is a two-step process. First, we must identify a pattern and make meaning of it and second, we develop programs to make this new information meaningful so that we can act upon it.  Let me give a real life example.  When my oldest daughter was four, she suddenly began to wet the bed frequently.  My mom brain knew something was wrong, this was out of character-- it didn’t fit the pattern I knew to be true.  We went to the doctor because that felt logical- what my programming told me to do.  When he came back with the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, it literally tipped my world.  Nothing in my past experiences prepared me for this information or what to do next.  Making meaning of all the new information and being able to make choices  based on that information was vital to her life.

Fast forward several years and I’m in a classroom observing students working in a small group.  Two of the students speak no English.  As a watch their confused faces, I flashed back to that time in the hospital.  Those kids must feel like we did!  These sounds coming out of the mouths of those around them have no context, no meaning and understanding them was just as vital to their lives.  I wondered if this teacher supported her students’ learning the way our doctor team had guided my daughter.  I looked for evidence of a welcoming environment, anchor charts, and activities that connected the brain with the body.  I wondered how this teacher knew the students as individuals and if she was responsive to that information when planning her lessons.  How does she create authentic learning experiences?  Does she have the tools to move students from memorizers to critical thinkers?  
8th Grade Conceptual Map
For the past two days, instructional coaches along with some administrators, spent time with representatives from the Center for the Future of Public Instruction learning about the process of Concept  Mapping to support brain-based learning.  Essentially, we took grade level standards and looked for patterns within the key points and skills within the content areas.  As we wrestled with the standards, we were forced to stretch our thinking.  We discovered that curriculum is an ongoing process and  that learning can be messy.  We revisited the importance of inquiry in making meaning.  Perhaps, most importantly, we reaffirmed the value of relationships, both with people and within objects and ideas.  

Concept mapping is a tool that not only supports our district’s big rocks, it connects them.  It solidifies our core instructional practices within MTSS and allows us to create authentic projects using standards as a framework.  The data we glean from our discussions and student evidence continue to shape our instructional practices and contribute to more productive PLCs.   Our two days of work and learning together really just scratched the surface of possibilities.  Don’t we owe it to our students to keep digging?

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Success Skills at BPS

What do we want from our students? It seems this question is being discussed with regularity in our district and districts around the world.  Maria Neset’s blog post, Mrs. Uselman’s post, and the community forum held in conjunction with the showing of the video “Most Likely to Succeed” are just a few recent examples that have contributed to the discussion locally.  A theme that I’ve noticed emerging during these discussions is that the world wants…. needs, students who can work together to solve the problems the world faces.  But, how do we go about helping students learn how to do that? The chart below is from the data collected during the BrightBytes survey and provides a glimpse into our current reality at BPS.
We know we have more work to do here at BPS, and one document that might help is the draft of Success Skills Production Behaviors .  Last year, a team from BPS worked at creating this document to help schools as they focus efforts on being more deliberate in instructing the skills sometimes referred to as 21st Century skills, the 4 C’s, or success skills.  The document outlines the kinds of things that students could be doing to develop and demonstrate these skills, and the kinds of things that teachers can do to support that development. This isn't a static document; it will continue to evolve as we get collectively "smarter" about teaching and learning.

One section of the document provides some ideas for key behaviors that students might do as they work on identifying and solving problems.  Are you seeing these behaviors in your students? In you?

Success skills aren’t “something extra” -- they already exist throughout the teaching and learning process, but our ability to contextualize and support them can make the difference between being “Career, College and Community Ready” and just “passing the test.” There are many models for encouraging and supporting Success Skills, and allowing ourselves and students time to explore where these skills are implicit in our work and how we can make them more explicit can pay dividends.  Think about how the production behaviors might support teachers' efforts to create experiences that allow BPS students opportunities to reach beyond proficiency.

Check out the Success Skills Production Behaviors document.  Does it align with your vision of what you want from students?  What changes do you suggest?  Did you notice any behaviors that should be added? Please leave comments with your suggestions for changes, and ideas on if and how you might be able to use this document.  Your ideas will help as work continues on this draft.