Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reward Systems in the Classroom

The topic of my blog post for this week is reward systems.  Differentiated reward systems are seen in classrooms throughout the U.S. When teachers create their classroom management, they must consider consequences for interfering behavior and then also consequences for positive behavior.  Students need a consistent system for both positive and negative reinforcement that they can relate to and comprehend.  A reward system is a great way to give positive reinforcement to those students who show positive behavioral and academic choices.  Through my experiences in the classroom, I have seen many examples of reward systems.  One example that I have seen is teachers hand out dollars to students who make good choices and then at the end of the week students can spend those dollars in the classroom treasure box.  Another example is the teacher gives her students tickets for good choices and then the students put the tickets into a jar to be picked on Friday to go to the treasure box.  Another component of this specific reward system is when the class's tickets reach a certain line on the jar then the whole class gets a reward.  I like this component because it is rewarding the entire class for a series of positive choices.  In my own classroom, I think I will have a reward system based on each student and based on the class.  I like the second example's system and would envision something similar in my classroom.  To my reward system, I would also add that whenever the student receives tickets she or he should write it in their agenda to their parents.  I have seen this technique before and I really like it because students get excited about letting their parents or guardians know that they behaved and worked well that day.  Ultimately, I would like the students to be working towards a reward that is not materialistic, but is intrinsic.  When students are intrinsically motivated to make positive behavioral and academic choices, they are able to begin self-regulating their behavior and performance.  Self-regulation will be the ultimate goal of whatever reward system (and consequence system) that I will create one day in my classroom.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Taking a Trip Through Our Government!"

The title of this blog post is the title of my hook lesson that I have created for my group's UbD unit plan.  I am extremely excited about this 5th grade lesson plan because it is an interactive lesson that makes great use of  a Web 2.0 tool.  The overall goal for this lesson is to spark student interest in government.  In order to achieve this objective, this lesson plan transforms a classroom into an airplane flying to the capitol of the United States and the capitol of North Carolina--thanks to Google Earth.  Through this extremely neat online resource, the teacher is able to guide the students to buildings in each city that house the different branches of government.  The rationale behind this lesson is that students will be able to visualize where our three branches of government function both locally and nationally.  This lesson allows students to be able to see places that they might not normally get to see from a super neat street level view.

And the coolest part of this lesson is made possible by Google Earth.  When the teacher reaches the White House, the last stop on the trip, you are actually able to go INSIDE the White House to show the students a virtual tour.
In order to get inside the white house, click on the yellow man seen in the right side of the screen.  Then drag him inside the White House and release.  You should now be looking at a picture similar to this:

I randomly stumbled upon this virtual tour, and it astonished me.  I hope I will get a similar reaction from my students during this lesson!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Diversity in Social Studies

When thinking back to my social studies education as a learner in elementary school, I remember studying history through a textbook.  In my mind, history was a dull, boring subject that didn't impact me whatsoever.  It wasn't until college when I finally started noticing all of the topics that we didn't learn in my early years of schooling.   Minorities and those with different perspectives were left out of my education.  We simply focused on major cultures, societies and ethnicities when discussing history.  Schools have begun attempting to promote the learning of diverse cultures specifically with Black History Month and Hispanic History Month, but some teachers only mention these minorities during those months.  It is my goal as a teacher to make sure that voices and perspectives of minorities are represented in my social studies lessons year-round.  Students will be reading books and primary sources about or by minorities as well as learning in the classroom with their diverse peers.  We must educate our students that diversity is a positive that creates differences in our society that are to be respected by others.  I want my students to be comfortable sharing information about their lives and not feeling shy about others being critical of their point of view or opinion.  For specifically, ELLs and students with disabilities, I plan on including their diverse backgrounds in the classroom, and I am hopeful that they will share information about their lives with our classroom community.  I would also make sure that I find material and content that has interest  and connections to each of my students so that each student knows his or her perspective is important in my classroom.  This is why finding literature and media from minority perspectives is so essential to elementary social studies.  Students need to learn about the biases in history and how not all people are affected by history the same one way.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

UbD in Our Current Education System

In my social studies class this summer session, we are learning about how to create unit plans through Understanding by Design (UbD).  UbD is a framework of research-based practices that have been proven effective in helping teachers develop instructional activities that promote high levels of student achievement.  This type of teaching is one provides teachers with the ability to provide students with essential content understanding and multiple forms of assessment to present their understanding.  I personally really like this framework because I am required to consider the 'why?' when creating lessons and activities...something that is often left out by a lot of teachers when lesson planning.

However, there are a few challenges to UbD which could be the reason why it is not apparently widespread around schools.  One challenge is that this framework is complex and requires teachers to modify their original lesson plan frameworks.  Sometimes teachers are not accustomed to thinking about the 'big picture' when planning lessons, and this idea of the 'big picture' is a critical component of UbD.  This change of thinking will require teachers to be trained how to plan units according to UbD.  Thinking ahead to the future, UbD training sessions would be beneficial to all teachers since specifically in the areas of science and social studies teachers frequently unit plan collaboratively.

However, this framework is not one that can just be used in social studies and science.  The most advantageous aspect of UbD is how simple it is to plan interdisciplinary lessons.  This is where teachers can make up for the fact that too many teachers are not teaching social studies because it is not being tested.  UbD allows teachers to easily plan lessons that are across curriculums and domains to make the classroom a more authentic, meaningful learning environment.  Social studies for example can be found in math, literacy or even science lessons, and it is obvious that the teacher has planned for this interdisciplinary learning because of UbD.

What do y'all think about UbD?
Have you ever used or seen it used in a classroom?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Authentic Assessments to Match Authentic Tasks

During this summer, I have taken classes in both science and social studies content areas.  Through these classes, I have strengthened by understanding of effective assessment in the elementary classroom and how I can deliver assessments that show full student understanding.

When most people think of assessment, they are plagued with past memories of tests, pop quizzes, and standardized testing.  While these structures of assessments might help the teacher see which students have mastered the content, the teacher can not be 100% sure that a student has full content understanding.

According to the textbook we have been reading for social studies, Understanding by Design Guide to Creating High Quality Units, a student has full content understanding if she or he constructs big ideas in her or his mind through processes of inquiry, inference and rethinking in order to 'transfer' material learned across situations, places and times.  If teachers are expecting students to have this understanding for content in their classrooms, then teachers must learn to properly assess this understanding so that students are able to show their range of performance.  This is why performance tasks are one of the most effective assessment strategies that a teacher can use.  Typically this requires students to apply content learned to a new situation that they are not expecting or haven't seen before.  Students must use strategic thinking methods autonomously and must use habits of mind to persist with the taks and polis the work to suit purpose and audience.  Through an assessment such as this, a teacher is able to get much more insight into the students' knowledge to guarantee that they really understand versus only seem to understand.

In the areas of science and social studies, performance assessments are extremely applicable.  In these content areas, teachers are teaching authentic lessons to help students understand fundamental content that will be builded upon throughout their education.  It is only appropriate to assess students after these authentic lessons in an authentic manner that requires them to apply their understandings.  Performance assessments do just this!!