Every day I am thankful for the opportunity I have to work with all of you and to be inside classrooms across the district. This past week I was able to get into classrooms to see some fantastic learning taking place. One first-grader asked me if I liked to read and write sentences-a-day when I was her age. I replied, "Absolutely!" Other first-grade students shared with me their books they made about themselves using book creator and then how they were sharing it out to parents using the SeeSaw app. They worked through this process with ease and with excitement and were thrilled to share with me their stories when asked! When we stop and think about how much time we spend with all of our students, please take note on how we have such a meaningful, direct, and positive impact on their lives. Every little moment and connection matters. Every smile matters. Our students thrive on it.
This week, take a moment to think outside of your classroom and move into the hallways, cafeteria, playgrounds, bus duties, and extracurricular activities. How can you make a connection with a student who isn't in your own classroom? What can you do to find out a little more about their story? What can you do to put a smile on the face of every student you see? There is tremendous power in saying, "Hello, How are you?" to a student that you do not yet know. Try to get to know at least one new student this week.
Do you use your students' names frequently?
Do you greet students you don't know with a hello? Do you try to learn their names?
Are you at their after school events? Are you visible in the hallway during passing time?
Is your school a climate where everyone greets one another with smiles and hellos?
If you want to learn more about curiosity, spend some some time in a kindergarten classroom. Kindergarten classrooms are filled with wonder, excitement, and curious questions. How can we transfer this curiosity and wonder throughout the K-12 learning experience?
In Edutopia's article A Case for Curiosity, they talked about the importance of valuing and modeling curiosity in the classroom: "Children will stay curious if they feel that curiosity is valued. Curious children emerge from curious adults." When teachers incorporate curiosity into lessons, curious students become more open to learning about the topic.
This week put yourself into the mind of a curious kindergartener (or 12th grader) and consider what would make them curious about the topic.
Questions to Consider
"Homework." Just saying the word, brings about lots of feelings, experiences, and opinions. For me, well...I have to admit I actually liked doing homework when I was young and a beginning student. It made me feel important when I started getting some homework. I felt successful when I completed it and knew what to do. Then there were the times when I was older and hated homework, because I had to stay up too late after I got home from games or practices or there were the times that I hated it because I had no idea what the teacher wanted me to do because the directions were unclear. Other times I was frustrated because I didn't know how to do some of the problems and had to get lots of extra help to complete it.
Then when I became a teacher, I felt homework was really important. There was so much content for the students to learn, homework became an important extension of our classroom learning. In retrospect, I buried my students with homework some weeks, especially the AP students. I believed, how else would we dive deep into all of world history in one year? We also weighted it heavily at 20% of the overall grade, so yes....you could do terribly on the tests, but pass the course by doing homework and the opposite was true where you could pass the tests, but possibly fail if you didn't do homework. I shudder right now to think of how wrong our thinking was on homework at the beginning of my teaching. Fortunately, with time and experience in education these views shifted.
Then I became a high school building administrator and our school committee at the time wanted us to review our district homework policies about time on homework and the purpose of homework. In our school councils with representatives from all stakeholder groups, we held onto our personal beliefs about homework and tried to come to consensus on what would work best at each of the schools. Much of the conversation drifted to the grading practices associated with homework, how students get bombarded with tests/projects all at once, as well as the amount of hours spent on weekends and breaks. We made some improvements in our homework practices through collaboration.
Then I became a parent. At first, I liked the homework that was sent home. It mostly focused on literacy and numeracy and my boys liked doing it. Much of the practicing was with web-based programs and they found those really fun and engaging. Time spent on homework was minimal, but they developed good habits, practiced their skills, and it allowed me time to interact with them at home on their learning. It provided me with confidence in the schools when I can see visible ways they are instructing our children and I'm able to interact with that learning with my boys.
Then they got older and the homework has started to look different. For example, now my son in 6th grade is getting graded on his homework by some of his teachers. One of his first assignments that came back he lost -3 points for every period he didn't put at the end of the sentence, although he got all of the content correct. He also has homework over the weekends for the first time. The shift in grading and increased amount over weekends has been a tough adjustment, often leading to tears and frustration. Although his favorite homework assignment was writing an opinion piece on something he was passionate about. He wrote an essay on why we should get rid of homework. :) ( I seriously don't make this up.)
My other son who is in 4th grade has spelling where it has the appearance of choice activities to practice his spelling, but in fact he has to do all of the activities at least once. One of the activities took him forever as he had to create a secret code of numbers or symbols to then write out all of his spelling words in the code. He did complete it, but with his head down and a perplexed question to me... "How is this supposed to help me with my spelling?" Yet, he likes doing other homework like choice reading about football, practicing fluency, or doing math problems.
According to John Hattie in excerpts from an interview, he gives some good advice about how to take a look at homework and see if it is making a difference or doing what we want it to do:
“Homework in primary school has an effect of around zero. In high school it’s larger. (…) Which is why we need to get it right. Not why we need to get rid of it. It’s one of those lower hanging fruit that we should be looking in our primary schools to say, “Is it really making a difference?” If you try and get rid of homework in primary schools many parents judge the quality of the school by the presence of homework. So, don’t get rid of it. Treat the zero as saying, “It’s probably not making much of a difference but let’s improve it”. Certainly I think we get over obsessed with homework. Five to ten minutes has the same effect of one hour to two hours. The worst thing you can do with homework is give kids projects. The best thing you can do is to reinforce something you’ve already learnt.”
In summary...homework is complicated and it is viewed differently from what role you fill and the time and place you are in your life. For many it is viewed at the extremes of banning homework all together or not touching anything. For me....I really like Hattie's advice of how can we improve our current homework situation.
So where do we go from here?
Challenge and Questions
Reflect on your homework practices for the next week. Think about what you value about homework and does that match with what we value for learning for our students.
Think about the following questions:
1. Is the homework meaningful?
2. How long did it take my students to complete it? Going on what Hattie proposes....could homework time be reduced while still getting the same practice or outcome you intended?
3. Do my students have real choice in their homework?
4. Do you know if students have people at home who are able to help them?
5. Do you ever collaborate with other teachers on timing of big projects or tests so they do not all happen at the same time?
6. Do you grade homework or use it as formative feedback instead?
7. Is the homework clearly communicated to parents?
8. Put the parent hat on, would you want your son or daughter to come home with this homework?
9. How often do you ask students about their homework experience? What if they helped to identify what works and what doesn't?
10. Is our homework aligned to what we value in 21st century learning practices?
Here is a recent article that provides some strategies for improving homework.
Check out this week's entry: The H Word. "Homework"
If you didn't have a chance yet to watch the #MURSDLeads session from last week with Todd Nesloney, the author of KidsDeserveIt, you definitely should. He was incredibly dynamic and shared many of his thoughts on how to bring about positive school environments. Here is a link to the discussion.
Here is a link to his website and latest blog entry: We Show Up
Our district has a partnership with the organization Primary Source, which allows for some designated spots in their courses and workshops. Some of the fall courses begin this week, but there are workshops and courses later in the year. If you are interested in participating in one of the courses or workshops, please e-mail me at email@example.com with the name of the course, why you think it would be beneficial for the classes you teach, and if you have participated in a Primary Source workshop last year.
Additionally, because registration is virtually unlimited for their webinars, teachers can register for those sessions directly. Once again this year they are offering some of our webinars in series so that teachers who participate in multiple sessions can earn PDPs. Please take a look at: https://www.primarysource.org/for-teachers/webinars. Then you can follow the instructions for registering through their online form.
November Book Study
If you are interested in participating in the November Book Study on Empower by A.J. Juliani, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org so we can order enough books in time.
Introducing the One-Sentence Lesson Plan
Turning Your Students into Web Detectives
The Problem is Wasted Time, Not Screen Time
Mentor Training will take place this Thursday, October 19th.
Lexia Launch Webinar will take place on October 24th from 8:00-9:00.
Have a great week!
One significant way we can empower our students and reimagine our learning environments is to bring student voices forward. Begin with questions such as: What can you tell me about school that teachers and administrators don't know?" to get started with engaging in student feedback roundtable sessions. Create a "Parking Lot" in your classrooms for student questions that come up spontaneously during lessons. There are so many easy ways to integrate student voice into our schools.
Think about the following excerpts of a continuum of student voice and leadership created by Sammanish HS, Bellevue School District, Washington.
Integration: (teacher led, student collaboration) Students contribute to the class through a variety of modes offered by the teacher.
Transformation (student led): Students co-construct course content through formulating their own learning activities, questions and through regular opportunities for feedback. Students are empowered to raise issues with the class outside of teacher-designated times and are encouraged to use their own expertise to improve the culture in the classrooms.
Empowerment (Student initiated and led): Students see themselves as changemakers and key stakeholders in their education. They actively ensure that ll voices are heard when development class norms and discussing content. They take responsibility for the learning of the community as a whole, actively seek out opportunities to assist peers inside and outside the classroom environment.
Enlist student voice into either the planning of a unit or lesson to help co-construct your curriculum or enlist student voice into the design of the assessment.
Questions to Consider
For more resources check out Student Voice.org
The Department recently released grade-by-grade explanations for the 2017 ELA/Literacy and Mathematics frameworks that provide detailed descriptions of the revisions made to the 2010 frameworks for each grade level for 2017. Each document presents the 2010 standard next to the revised 2017 standard, with changes noted in red, along with a brief rationale for the change. These documents supplement the previously released "Highlights" documents, which list some of the key changes for each grade level. Each grade-by-grade document was previously available on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education site as part of the 2017 frameworks revisions process but has now been republished to support teachers and administrators with the transition to the 2017 frameworks.
Please check out this week's entry on ways to reimagine learning: Bringing Student Voices Forward
October 6, 2017 PD Day
Thank you for your active participation on Friday's PD Day. The If you have an opportunity please check out all of the notes people shared in our EdCamp notes:
Access to Notes from EdCamp Sessions
If you haven't yet completed the PD Survey for the day, please use the following link, so the PD Committee can use the information for future planning: PD Survey
Social-Emotional Learning Resources
The following are resources that were shared out in the AM SEL presentation that people may want to explore further from CASEL.
Change Leadership Community
We wanted to forward you this flash (I.e. expires quickly) opportunity to join Will Richardson's ChangeLeadership community for free (usually $15.99 a month!). ChangeLeadership looks to join educators from around then globe to talk strategy and practice to increase opportunities for modern learning. Features include:
"It’s a place where we’ll explore:
Sign up here: https://www.changeleaders.community/
Please join us for our next #MURSDLeads conversation with author Todd Nesloney of Kids Deserve It! this Thursday, October 12, 2017 from 7:00-8:00pm.
How Making an Impact on the World Motivates Students
Make School about Learning Not about Grades
5 Things Happen When We Empower Students
Have a great week!
This past Friday, I had the pleasure of visiting multiple classrooms as the students worked through the process of the marshmallow challenge. I saw our high school students, as well as our grade 4 Spanish Immersion students working through the challenge, speaking only in Spanish. I observed first-grade students who were thrilled with their successes. One student yelled, "Look at the satellite I created!" Another 1st-grader exclaimed: "I made one that stood up. Look here!" as he pointed me in the direction of the cutest 1 inch high tower, which he was so proud to create.
In another classroom, 4th grade students used white boards to draw out their designs in advance and almost every group in that class was successful. In the art classroom, students crafted secure structures with technical pizazz. In the business classrooms, the students really pondered, discussed, and worried about their plan for awhile, some losing time; however, in a second-grade classroom the students dove right in with excitement and without constrained thinking.
What I saw throughout the challenge was:
Once the activity has ended, some of the biggest take-aways from the activity were the emphasis on the interactions that took place during the team activity, as well as reflecting on what went well and what could be done better next time. For it is in the biggest failures, that the biggest growth can occur.
Take the essence of the marshmallow challenge and apply the same principles to a learning activity in an upcoming lesson.
Questions to Consider
What could be a collaborative problem they could work on that has limited time and resources? What types of processing questions could you develop for them to reflect on later on how they interacted with one another and what they would change?
Check out this week's entry: What we learned from the marshmallow challenge?
October 6, 2017 PD Day
The PD Committee is happy to share out the plans for the upcoming PD Day this Friday. All of the information for the day can be found on the MURSD PD Website at http://mursdpd.weebly.com/.
Re-imagining learning experiences.
On our August PD Day, we began our journey in re-imagining how we can better guide our students to navigate a time of rapid economic, societal, and technological changes. Through Will Richardson's keynote and our follow-up pathway explorations we discussed ways to create more opportunities for inquiry-based, student-driven, and real-world learning experiences that will excite and empower our students.
This important work is what guides this year’s professional development as we collectively explore the essential question:
What could modern learning look like in the Mendon-Upton Regional School District?
Enhancing social-emotional learning supports.
In addition to reimagining our learning experiences, we continue our efforts to meet each student where they are and provide them each with the personalized support that is needed in our learning environments. In order to do so, another one of our ongoing strategic goals is to support each student to promote social, emotional, and academic success. In support of this goal, this year we will be exploring our DCAP accommodations for all students, learning about social-emotional competencies, and revising our RTI processes.
Our essential question for this area of professional learning is as follows:
How can we support each student's social and emotional learning competencies?
Below are direct links to all of the PD Day information, which will provide you with the necessary information about the schedule for the day, locations of keynotes, and the process for the afternoon EdCamp. Please read through these in advance and add to the EdCamp IdeaBoard any ideas that you would like to discuss and learn more about during the Teacher EdCamp that align with our goals of reimagining learning experiences or enhancing emotional learning supports.
Overview of the Day
Keynotes (There are two keynotes in different locations, one for elementary staff and one for middle/high school staff)
EdCamp (All of the information for the afternoon EdCamp is on this page)
EdCamp IdeaBoard (Add your ideas in advance to this board. You drive the learning in the EdCamp.)
If you have any questions about the PD Day, please reach out to members of your PD Committee.
Articles shared on Twitter this Week
Helping Struggling Students Build a Growth Mindset
The Importance of What If Questions
4 Ways to Not Let Others Dim Your Light
The Value of Establishing a Culture of Thinking in the Classroom
Have a great week!