HUSL--Help oUr Students Learn

A place for teachers to place strategies that help our students become effective learners. * Does being an effective student mean being an effective READER? * Setting Purpose * Signals of confusion in reading

Saturday, July 08, 2006

As you think about your students in each class, we know many of them struggle with reading our textbooks and content information. I know many teachers even wonder if they read the textbook at all! I went to a conference this summer that discussed the following site. It has online field trips, resources for teachers on content, strategies, classroom managment, technology tutorials--you name it, and they have thought of it.

What is important though, that is a quick link to check out, is the last link below that gives you Reading Tools. Check it out! ~ an excellent site for most content areas. Visit this link to find resources on how to improve reading:

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The juggling act begins each year: a new grading program (Infinite Campus) in one hand, tossing curriculum and standards while retrieving a depth of student knowledge. How can I possible add more? Community of learners, team meetings within departments, district meetings, mentor/mentee obligations, student organizations, and coaching just to name other "hats" we pull from our teaching closet. But now to add another, districts including ours, are discussing the implication of grades. What are assessments? What do they measure? What do they indicate? Can a student who has a "D" really know more than an "A" student in the same class?

Interesting discussions many of us in the district are having regarding grades. Do they honestly reflect their knowledge of economics, English, or algebra...or are they simply a compliance grade? Students who care about their grades realize that if they turn in an organized paper, an assignment, on time, they can earn at least a "C" even if the content is weak. We have students scoring poorly on tests that demand student's ability in a subject, but still are able to pull off an "A." This was a question raised by one of LPS teachers, Tony Winger; he was rethinking his grades as he realized that many, if not most of his "A" students do not have a strong grasp of micro-economics or macro-economics...or both. He sought research to support his questioning and to see what others in the field were already doing to remedy this result. He was thrilled with the forerunners challenging educators to rethink what these iconic letters symbolize.

In the Curriculum Innovation Team, members raised many questions such as the value of teaching responsibility. Tony challenged himself, and us, to then label it a work ethic/responsibility grade... or at least a portion of it to that and then apply what is really content-focused to a separate category. The challenge is to weight these categories so they accurately show a student's work and knowledge of content, plus a teacher's value on responsibility.

I think this fits well with the HUSL's committee goal: improving students' effectiveness through teacher strategies. Tony challenged us to consider instead of offering extra-credit to increase low scores, or simply compliance--turning in assignments on time--ask students to learn more. Re-do a paper, re-learn a chapter, re-calculate an assignment--simply learn more. I was intrigued as so many other AHS colleagues were.

Add your comments (even if they are short!) and let's start the grading discussion. We don't have to jump on the unicycle donning a cheerful grin, but discourse among colleagues often creates continued professionalism.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Use Background Knowledge
Students often forget that they have a lot of information already stored away. Making connections to what they already know makes learning a new concept easier.
Purpose: Students reflect on what they already know about a task or topic so that it is easier to learn and understand new information. The strategy helps them see the connection between what they know and what they are learning.
Language Arts – The Lord of the Flies – Goal: Identify themes of the novel.
Ask the class to imagine themselves as a group of students who has taken over Arapahoe; there are no adults and they have no access to anything outside of the school. What do you think would happen? Students would use knowledge of their peer group to determine what might happen and how they would create a hierarchy.

Science – Goal: Identify ecological biomes
Students are asked to list different places that they have been on vacations and trips. How where the areas different? What was the weather like? What kinds of animals did they see? What kind of vegetation did they see?

Social Studies – Goal: Identify the effect of new inventions on the industrial revolution.
Ask students to think about new innovations in technology in the last ten years – i.e., iPods, DVD, internet access, etc. How have these innovations changed their lives? How do they think changes made during the industrial revolution might have effected peoples’ lives?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Setting purpose--
This is an easy way to help students understand the purpose of their reading, their homework, and why we are asking them to do what we do. Once I have started communicating the purpose of assignments to my students, it first focused my purpose for the assignment and made me outline and focus what I wanted the students to learn and get out of a text, an assignment, etc.

According to Cris Tovani in I Read It, but I Don’t Get It, “A reader’s purpose affects everything about reading. PURPOSE determines what’s important in the text, what is remembered, and what comprehension strategy a reader uses to enhance meaning.”

When teaching PURPOSE, have the students ASK:
~ How does this prepare me for a discussion of main ideas?
~ Am I looking for details to support a specific position?
~ Am I identifying steps in a process?
~ Am I recognizing the causes and effects of a particular event?

For post-reading, students should self-evaluate how reading with a specific purpose in mind improved their comprehension and enabled them to stay focused.