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Showing posts from 2018

5-Minute Energizers to Activate You and Your Students

We're officially in the grind. I ask my teacher colleagues how they're doing, and the standard response is a sigh: "I'm really looking forward to catching up on grading over the 3-day weekend," "I'm counting down the days until Thanksgiving," "I have 20 letters of recommendation to write." If we're feeling this way, our students are too! Here are super quick activities to inject energy back into your classroom: Snap, Stomp, Clap (Partners) Each person counts off to 3, i.e. Person A: "1", Person B: "2", Person A: "3", Person B: "1", etc.  When everyone gets the hang of it, try it again, but replace 1's with a snap of the fingers (snap, 2, 3, snap, 2, 3, etc.)  Do it again, but also replace 3's with a stomp (snap, 2, stomp, snap, 2, stomp, etc.)  Do it again, but also replace 2's with a clap (snap, clap, stomp, snap, clap, stomp, etc.) Gift Giving Game (Partners)

"Sorry Ms. Witcher, but I hate science."

This week I want to share a quick story of a student comment that I've been chewing on. I have a student in my 8th grade science class who I really enjoy working with. She's funny and frank and a few days ago she said something that just kills me: "Sorry Ms. Witcher, but I hate science." I followed up in the way I usually do: "Oh, that makes me so sad! Tell me, what subject do you like?" We went on to have a great conversation about her love for social studies and English, her favorite and least favorite books, and what she does in her free time. The next day, she brought it up again and added the detail that hit me hardest: "Ms. Witcher, do you know why I hate science? I had this teacher in fourth grade who didn't explain anything and then failed me in math and science." This explains a lot. It's wild to me that a student could hate a subject--but I get it. I hated math as a student...and now I teach math. It has me thinking,

Anatomy of Useful Feedback

Useful feedback is... It tells the learner... Teacher feedback might look like...   Peer feedback might look like... Try Floop

How Floop Started: Startup Weekend EDU from an Educator’s Perspective

Re-posted from the Seattle Public Library's Shelf Talk blog . I wrote this blog post back in 2016 to commemorate the 1-year anniversary of Startup Weekend EDU Seattle 2015, the weekend where Floop got started! It's been almost 3 years since then, and now, Startup Weekend EDU Seattle 2018 is just around the corner. Learn more about Startup Weekend EDU Seattle here . Last year, Startup Weekend EDU started with rapid-fire pitches. In one minute each, participants shared their idea for improving education. One problem pitched by an educator jumped out to me: Teachers don’t have enough time to give the high-quality feedback that students need. Floop would enable a fast feedback loop between students and teachers. As a high school math and engineering teacher, I related with this problem all too well. I was even carrying around my paper stack of 150 quizzes with the hope that I could grade during downtime. Team Floop at SWEDU 2015 After the pitches, we formed teams around t

3 Free Feedback Tools You've Never Heard Of

Today is a quick post with some free stuff! 1. Growth Report Google Sheet Get It Here If you're interested in producing a richer, more useful "grade" (i.e. growth) report for students, try this Google sheet template. You'll need some intermediate Google sheets/ Excel skills and it works best if you're already using standards based assessment practices. 2. Rapid Feedback Authoring Tool Get It Here This website helps you create a form and then use it to quickly write narrative feedback to students. The drag-and-drop comment bank makes writing feedback even faster, freeing your brain to focus on student work. 3. OBS Screen Recording Software Get It Here This open-source screen capture software is really easy to use and produces high-quality videos in many formats. I like to capture myself inking on student work and narrating feedback. I then paste the video into OneNote, or upload it as unlisted to YouTube and send students the link. It'

User Story: Social Sciences + Floop

Seeking inspiration for how to use focused peer review or single criterion assessment in your classroom? In our User Story series, we feature our teacher innovators with examples of student work and feedback from their classrooms. Why Peer Review? Feedback is most useful early in the writing process. Peer review is a great tool for engaging students in the feedback process. Focusing in on a single criteria makes for strong feedback and stronger writing. Meet Katie Katie Joyce teaches a 9th grade Western Civilization course. This is a survey course using a case study approach. Students use a variety of sources, including primary source documents, to study the origins of civilization. The class focuses on taking a flexible approach to history, using critical thinking skills to evaluate perspectives and facts. It actually makes my job easier! I can speed up the feedback process because the students have usually said everything I would say, or I can focus on one element of the wo

Teaching Teamwork in 10 Minutes: The Birds Activity

The first week of school is a powerful time to set norms, and one of the most important norms in a collaborative classroom is valuing others’ perspectives on teams. There are lots of great activities out there - for example, lost at sea or the marshmallow challenge - but when you run a chaotic, project-based classroom, sometimes you crave simplicity. So, here’s a simple and engaging activity that requires only 10 minutes and pencil/paper. Image courtesy of All About Birds The Birds Activity The Birds Activity (courtesy of Ellen Browne ) shows the value of different perspectives on teams. For this activity, students should be in teams of 3-4 and need paper and a writing utensil. Here are the instructions - try them out yourself! As a facilitator, do NOT show all the instructions up front. Instead, show one instruction at a time. Independently, write a list with as many names of birds as you can. Discuss strategies with your team. You cannot share specific names of birds,

A Culture of Iteration: Policies and Practices for a Revision-FocusedClassroom

Success in the real world depends on a person's ability to iterate. to understand the definition of success on a task to seek feedback early and often to use that feedback to revise and refine until successful As teachers, its our job to scaffold this process, with developmentally-appropriate differentiation, until our students can fly solo. As I sit here writing this, my  SO  Dan is at his desk  red-lining  a building diagram for a warehouse in Canada. When he's done, the diagram will go back to his team of engineers where they will respond to Dan's feedback with a better design. They'll repeat this process until both building code and client requirements have been met. To do this work, which requires an iteration cycle that can last over a year or more, Dan has to understand building code and client needs, seek feedback from other engineers and the client, and use that feedback to revise and refine until the design is ready for implementation. ​Dan wasn'

Want to Avoid Teacher Burnout? Iterating on Feedback Might Help

Dear teachers, I’ve been chatting with some amazing educators from the South and Midwest this week. It’s part of our effort to spread the word about the Flash + Floop fall pilot . By amazing, I really mean amazing, like a veteran elementary teacher who is the model ELA instructor for her district, and a veteran college counselor, with a terrific success rate, who coaches seniors on their college essays. First, I ask, “What words come to mind when you think of your students turning in work that’s ready for your feedback?” Here are a few responses: “Time consuming.” “Not timely enough for the kids to revise.” “I get pretty exhausted.” “I procrastinate immediately.” “Fourteen hundred papers coming at me this fall.” “Kids don’t focus much on comments that are two weeks old.” “Nights and weekends.” “Uuughh.” In short, when it comes to giving feedback, even proven and successful teachers with great paper systems in place are at risk of burnout, and feel there just

WOOP: Motivating Goals for You and Your Students

What’s the difference between a goal that’s just written on paper and a goal you actually achieve? Whether you’re thinking about your personal goals for the next school year, or how to help your students write goals, using a framework helps define goals to make them more attainable. You’ve probably heard of SMART goals , so today I’ll talk about WOOP goals. What’s WOOP? WOOP is a goal-setting framework that stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan . While most goal-setting includes only positive visualization of the goal, WOOP encourages mental contrasting between the Outcome (desired future) and Obstacle (present reality). With mental contrasting, people make a stronger connection between their future and reality. Instead of avoiding or not thinking about their obstacles, they realize that they need to overcome their current reality in order to achieve their goal. If you’re interested in using WOOP, I highly recommend you check out the Character Lab’s resources . They

What I Learned When I Gave Every Student an A

What happens when there are no grades and every student has an A? After years of fielding questions from students about grades instead of content and noticing struggling students demoralized by the numbers, I saw how grades distracted students from learning. So, when I discovered that going gradeless was an option, I decided to throw out grades in the most extreme way possible: giving every student an A from day 1. Why I chose to give every student an A “Going gradeless” is a spectrum. Some teachers reduce the impact of traditional grades through systems like standards-based grading. Other teachers don’t assign any grades, and students negotiate their grade with their teacher at the end of every grading period. After re-reading Benjamin and Rosamund Zander’s The Art of Possibility , in which they have a chapter called “ Giving an A ,” I decided to go gradeless and give each student an outright A for a few reasons: Giving an A communicates that I believe in each student and

Not Just for Students: Using a Feedback Loop to Improve Your Teaching Practice

We give our students a lot of feedback to guide their growth -- but do we do a good job of seeking and using feedback ourselves? Over the winter break of 2015, I was somewhat startled to find myself searching the internet for career alternatives that would take me out of the classroom. I was feeling isolated in a room with students who didn’t want to engage with my class and was discouraged by a perceived lack of support from my administration. After a little rest and outdoor time, and a lot of Netflix, I realized that I didn’t need a different career -- I needed more feedback. Tapping into my knowledge of the Engineering Design Cycle , I envisioned a Teacher Feedback Loop that I could use to grow as a teacher.  Observing a Problem The course that prompted this realization was a physical science course, consisting of three sections of 15-17 eighth grade girls. The previous summer I had started the 3-year   UW Physics By Inquiry Summer Institute . The institute was a transf

How I’m Implementing Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit in My Classroom

What could one author’s quest to avoid his afternoon cookie teach us about habit building in the classroom? Last spring, I read Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit , a narrative-rich and comprehensive look at the brain science behind habit formation. And I started to think about how we use the word “habit” in our classrooms. Most of us have posters on our walls like, “Habits of a Mathematician” and “Habits of a Scientist.” But how well do we teach kids how habits really develop?  Do we guide them in the kinds of reflections that will help them iterate on their strategies in meaningful and thoughtful ways?

Teacher + Peer Feedback = The Feedback Tool of Your Dreams!

All educators know: Feedback is the most impactful driver of students’ learning progress ( Evidence for Learning ), but effective feedback “must be timely, relevant, and action-oriented” ( Hattie and Timperley ). As three different teachers in Seattle, we struggled to give our students the feedback they needed, when they needed it. We decided to take this problem into our own hands. Melanie started Floop , a tool that helps teachers give students meaningful feedback, faster. Elizabeth and Christine started Flash Feedback , a tool that enables rapid, scaffolded peer feedback. When we met, we realized we were solving the same problem. Plus, as teachers, we wanted to use each others’ solutions. So, we decided join forces and build the feedback tool of your dreams! Starting in fall 2018, you’ll be able to sign up for Floop and Flash Feedback. The combined tool has the best of both worlds: fast, spot-annotated teacher feedback and scaffolded, anonymous peer feedback. Want to sh