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Reflection is something that we as teachers do before, during, and after class. When I am preparing a lesson, I need to consider which approaches worked best in the past with the majority of individual students. During class, I am constantly making adjustments in my teaching, as students’ needs change on a daily basis. After class, I am usually thinking about how I might have handled content delivery and classroom management differently when I experienced difficulties. When I am successful in guiding students to understand and learn, it is important for me to understand why and how that learning occurred. I am constantly talking with my specials teaching team members about to serve students who may need some type of additional attention.

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Mod 6 Cooperative Learning

This video illustrates what I am moving towards. As a first year teacher, and still getting the hang of this curriculum, I didn't do this as much as I wanted. This summer I intend to create my lessons based on this model as much as possible.

I set up my cooperative learning groups based on a blend of grades, capabilities, personalities and discipline. I didn’t implement a seating chart for a few weeks at the beginning of the semester to learn these things about my students. By the time we did this lesson, students had already done several assignments together in these groups.

The design and implementation of the cooperative learning activity pushed the instruction from me doing all of the work, to the students doing all of the work. It also encouraged participation because I also implemented a competitive element to it. As I pit the groups against each other for candy. The first group finished with a task would each get a piece of candy. I don’t always do this, but I happened to have after-Easter sale candy.

I actually did this activity a couple of times this semester. The first time I had each group identify four words each from what we were about to read as a class. This worked great as a pre-reading exercise, but it created a small bit of chaos in that each class had different vocabulary words. The second time I did this sort of thing, I had them find words I gave to them verbally, so they would have to find it in the text for the spelling. Then as a group, they identified the type of word (noun, verb, etc.), defined the word and used it in a sentence. It worked much better the second time and I intend to do most if not all of my vocabulary assignments this way in the future.

Mod 5 Technology Integration

The Edutopia articles I read all noted that technology integration should deliver content in new and interesting ways. “Effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine and transparent and when technology supports curricular goals.” This was a both a simple and difficult assignment for me in that my students have iPads, we don’t use text books, and nearly every lesson and certainly every unit utilizes some kind of technology.

The lesson is, of course, to try something new. So, I began looking for iPad apps, because why not? I found several that would cost money, a few that were free but terrible. I aimed for grammar lessons, and writing lessons, but nothing really seemed that useful. Now, I’ve no doubt that continued search and more time spent would likely garner something I’d like to use. However, I decided to shift my focus to more curriculum-specific searching and I found a really fantastic app from Rockstar that covers Of Mice and Men.

The main benefit to the students is that the app provided a plain-spoken breakdown of the important parts of the story, including literary analysis over rock music (though students can select pop music).

The challenge is that it doesn’t retell the story so the students still have to tie what the app speaks about to the actual story.
This type of technology showed me how I could adopt their style to give an overview like this without getting into story specifics. It’s something I don’t particularly excel at.

The greatest limitation is that after the first couple of portions of the book, you have to purchase within the app to unlock the rest of the story. As you know, in Kansas, schools do not have much money thanks to our horribly incompetent Republican legislature and Governor. I doubt I will be able to purchase 120 copies of the app for my students. But, we can still utilize it for the first to sections and such is not a bad thing.

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KWL Mod 2

I chose this site because it did not force me to watch a video to glean its information. Nothing wrong with videos, but I’m taking a few of these classes and must sit through lots of videos that I do not end up using. It covers the KWL chart pretty thoroughly and offers some strategies as to ways different teachers/subjects could use it.

In my classroom, I would use its suggestion from the article: "Reading/English

KWL can be used before reading a novel or section of text. Select an author and have students complete the "Know" and "Want to Know" sections of the chart. Read a brief biography about the author and see if the students have all attained the information they wanted to learn. If not, make a plan for further investigation to answer their questions.


Students can use KWL charts to reflect on their learning after completing a written piece. After completing their writing, students can write an explanation of what they learned and examine whether they were incorrect about any information. This can be an opportunity for students to reflect on their learning and to articulate their thought processes."

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KWL Strategies. Sorry I did not publish this earlier.

Mod 4 Pre/Post Assessment

The Pre assessment data informed what portions of the material I would have to emphasize and what portions of the material I could touch on but not delve into deeply. When it came to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, they did not know anything about it, but the notion of an allegory in which the animals represented real people, students were familiar with and did not need much explaining beyond who represented whom.
My pre assessment was after one day of reading about the author and light lecture over several key ideas from Animal Farm: Socialism, Communism, Fascism, and Patriotism. I had the students split into groups and each take a whiteboard. I assigned one of these words to each group and had them write the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How for their word. It not only gave me a good idea of their understanding of these concepts, it also generated some great, and hilarious student discussion about our current presidential candidates.
Primarily, the post assessment told me that my choice to diversify my test into five (small) parts was a good choice as some students who did poorly in one type of test, excelled in others. Of course, there were students who did universally well, but very few who did universally poorly.
It showed me that the many ways I presented the information, through group work, video, lecture, reading, class discussion. By the time we were actually reading the book, the students knew what its purpose was and could quickly and easily draw the connections between the characters and places of the book and their real-life representations.
Formative assessment and summative assessment are both extremely valuable tools in shaping a teacher’s content delivery and emphasis. I feel the work I did with Animal Farm was some of the best teaching I’ve done to date.

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When I began to set up my fifth grade cooperative learning groups, my first consideration was behavior problems. Certain students needed to be placed with class members that would not encourage misbehavior. As expected at the elementary level, certain students should never be placed within close proximity of each other. I needed to place some of the quieter students with more outgoing students in order to get a discussion started. Male and female students needed to be intermixed within each group; my experience is that groups of one gender tend to stray off topic. I felt that all of the students were capable of completing this assignment, and I did not try to categorize them according to individual skills.
A few weeks ago, as part of the T2T program, I observed a local high school art classroom for a day. During Art History class, students were divided into groups. Each group used a textbook to research a period of art history, create an informational poster, and present their findings as a group. I decided to adapt this lesson for a fifth grade art class. Each group would use the course textbook and art reproductions with printed information to research and review an artist that they studied earlier in the year. The cooperative groups looked for biographical and stylistic information for their chosen artist. Each group would create a poster with this information, complete with sketches of the artist’s work, and present their findings to the class.
The students were excited about the project since they normally work individually on handmade art projects. The group members went into the project feeling like experts because they were somewhat familiar with the artists that they were revisiting. Students were surprised to find some new information on their own. By presentation time, my students had taken ownership of their knowledge. Rather than simply listening to me present, the students had worked (together) for their knowledge.
For me, the greatest challenge during this project was classroom management. I would never have attempted this type of project earlier in the year because I did not know my students well enough to allow this level of freedom. It had not occurred to me that my students were accustomed to cooperative learning in their homerooms. Even so, elementary students tend to test their specials instructors when not in their homerooms and I experienced some behavior issues. Overall though, the project was successful. Next year, I might attempt to introduce simpler cooperative learning projects earlier in the year.
My video pick was titled “Cooperative Learning Demo.” Through the video and readings, I discovered Johnson, Johnson, and Johnson Holubec's Five Elements of Cooperative Learning. I realized that I owe my students more opportunities for cooperation after reviewing the following skills involved:
1. Positive interdependence: one person cannot succeed without the others.
2. Face to face interaction: collaborative and conversational skills.
3. Individual accountability: each person is accountable for a task.
4. Interpersonal and small group skills: includes paraphrasing and listening skills.
5. Group processing: members reflect on their work to determine if they have met objectives and how they could be more effective.

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For my cooperative learning example I am using a group project my Advanced 7th Math class (very small) did.

1Q. How did I set up groups?
1A. In this class the guys and gals don't get along together. For ease I grouped the guys in one group and girls in another. This worked well because within the guys and girls groups there is a range of understanding.

2Q. How did this type of learning impact my instruction and student learning?
2A.  On this project we were discussing objects and measurements in different dimensions. I sparked their interest by reading "Flatland" to them; a story about a 3D visitor in a 2D world. They enjoyed discussion and progressed through the thinking questions nicely. Really the only teaching I did was guiding them with the questions.

3Q. What were the positives and negatives?
3A. Projects like this where students discuss questions that they have never considered before are a lot of fun.  I have used these groups with my older students for actually working problems from a lesson. The discussion seemed to work smoother than working problems as a group.

4Q. Ideas and Thoughts?
4A. I really liked the coop groups as long as the questions guided them. When students discussed ideas it seemed to work better than working algebra problems together. I'll admit I didn't fully understand how best to implement cooperative learning but I found this video ( that really helped with best practices when using cooperative learning.
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Cooperative Learning--reading, research, video
I think the first Edutopia article "Research Supports Collaborative Learning" reflects a well-developed teaching/learning system within a school. It appears to me that through-out their educational careers, students have been taught how to think and the importance of an education. I was impressed that students read the text outside of class and come to class with questions, prepared to discuss. I'm still trying to figure out how to let that happen.
"Powerful Learning: Studies Show Deep Understanding Derives from Collaborative Methods" reminds us that inquiry-based teaching/learning is more about developing a mind that asks questions than about finding the "right" answer. I like the fact that students work as a team and are responsible for what they are taught as well as helping their teammates learn. I agree that one of the challenges is training teachers to use the inquiry-based approach. I feel this is a teaching/learning style that needs to be taught consistently starting in elementary grades so students continue to be reminded of the process.
I found several other articles on Edutopia that were related to the topic to be quite useful.
After viewing several videos, I chose to share the one on Silent Card Shuffle. This is the cooperative learning activity I chose to use with my students. I think there are many lessons that would benefit from this activity and I hope to use it in several classes next year.

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Before I begin my discussion on Cooperative Learning the Kinesiologist in me wanted to share an idea I found and ended up running with.

At Kelly and Julie Starrett are starting a movement (no pun intended) to get students out of their desk and on their feet.

On their website (above) and in Kelly's book that was just released  ("Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World"). They cite facts such as:
-kids sit 85% of their waking hours
-people will burn between 15-35% more calories standing
-sitting causes orthopedic degradation and dysfunction especially in the lower back and hips
-standing reverses this
-education and test scores improve
-finally, because of all this and more, for every 1 hour sitting you effectively lose 2 hours off your life.  

Before school this year I started a DonorsChoose (donation campaign) for standing desks for my classroom and the money was donated. Granted, I believe the fact that my request was fulfilled was partly due to this being my hometown.

As the year has progressed I have slowly moved from giving the option to sit or stand to now only having standing desks in my room.  Kansas State University has been doing research on my classroom. I know my classroom is one of the first of its kinds in the U.S. and that it might be the sole standing classroom in Kansas. Read on if you're interested in joining me.

The reason I wanted to share this is because these desks are great for cooperative learning! As you can see in the pictures below one of my older classes is split into groups working on math problems together. [My post about coop learning took place earlier in the year with a combination of standing and sitting.]

And lastly, also in the works, is a Kansas-education-based program that I am trying to get off the ground that will hopefully make it much easier and cheaper to get more of these desks in schools like YOURS! If you are interested leave your email and if things get up and running I will contact you!
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