End of Course 4

The Sitch

filled white coffee cup
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

The majority of students I work with admit that they are not currently reading at home as they find it difficult and frustrating. My hope is that this project will provide them with a purpose for daily independent reading practice that can be monitored and measured. I will work with six students from grades 2, 4, and 5 for this project.


The First Plan


How does this project reflect your learning during COETAIL? How might this unit be different from or similar to other units you have designed/facilitated?


My first idea for a unit really builds off the project that Shalene, Julija, and I worked on during course 3, experiences over this semester, and some feedback from students during distance learning. My struggling readers have always enjoyed the opportunity to read stories aloud to younger students. The lexile level tends to be closer to their independent reading level and they are able to build confidence in their ability to read aloud while developing fluency comprehension skills. The difference between this and my previous units is a greater emphasis on independent reading at home. By providing students with higher levels of technology use, I hope to also encourage daily reading practice and therefore support students’ progress towards their reading goals.



Describe the unit: What will your students be able to do? What will they understand? What skills will they build? What ISTE Standards for Students will you prioritize?


Throughout this 10 week unit, the students will be selecting books to read aloud in front of the camera with an intended audience of students in younger grade levels. The goal is for the students to read 5 books aloud in order to build reading fluency and comprehension skills as measured by DIBELS and Fountas & Pinnell assessments. I want to prioritize the Empowered Learner ISTE standards as students will be creating content and sharing it with the school community.


Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?


I think this is a good course 5 project as it helps tackle a big issue I am seeing with my students. Namely that they are avoiding reading when they are outside school. Reading aloud is frustrating and some students report that they do not see the purpose behind cultivating this skill. It will also provide an opportunity for both myself and homeroom teachers to monitor student progress and allow us to give feedback. I want to improve in aligning SSP and ILP goals with the classroom teacher’s goals to allow for greater transparency with how I am supporting students.


What evidence might you collect to support students in demonstrating their understandings?


Weekly reflections will be a big part of this. I want to make the reflections easy enough so that students will complete them, but also use this as a tool to hold students accountable. In order to monitor students’ comprehension, I plan on adapting the Wilson reading recount rubric.


What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?


My biggest concern is that students still try to avoid reading at home. I am struggling with how to ensure that they are held accountable in a way that is empowering. My larger goal is to instill a love of reading in each of my students, but I am worried that this could backfire. By increasing the expectation for independent reading, I am cautious not to inadvertently causing more stress or pressure around an already challenging task.

My other big concern is related to how students share their readings. Living in China means that I am limited in some of the programs I can use. My school’s technology policy restricts me from using any apps with students that require a VPN so that means no YouTube, Google Drive, or (frustratingly) Thinglink. I’m also unable to use Padlet or FlipGrid as they are currently unreliable in China. I am leaning towards students sharing content through SharePoint and using Handbrake to shrink video sizes.


What shifts in pedagogy might this new unit require from you?

This unit will require me to share more of what I am doing with classroom teachers, something that I really want to do. It will also provide me with an opportunity for getting back to new learning partnerships. I have found myself more in the role of a traditional teacher during class times and I want my students to feel as though they are doing more than being passive learners. I want to put them in charge of their progress towards their learning goals.

What skills and/or attitudes might this new unit require from your students?

The students will need to show grit throughout this 10 week unit. I would like to provide them with the opportunity to discuss difficulties and frustrations while simultaneously providing them with an opportunity to plan for their next steps.

The Second Sitch

person holding a book and pen
Photo by Lewis Keegan – Skillscouter.com on Unsplash

My second idea stemmed from working with a few students who are finding Maths frustrating. This unit would focus on fewer students. Four individuals in grades 4 and 5. These students are struggling to make progress towards their Maths goals as they do not know their multiplication facts and have found learning them frustrating. As a result, these students are becoming increasingly disengaged in Maths classes as they feel they are unable to do the work.

The Alternative Plan


Describe the unit: What will your students be able to do? What will they understand? What skills will they build? What ISTE Standards for Students will you prioritize?


This six-week unit will harness the concept of remixing and have students create Maths music videos for multiplication facts. They can have the freedom to choose from their favorite songs so that they can take ownership of their work. We would begin the unit by looking at examples that already exist online and then students would have the opportunity to write their own lyrics and produce their own videos in collaborative groups. The ISTE standards I would focus on for this unit would come from the Creative Communicator strand.



How does this project reflect your learning during COETAIL? How might this unit be different from or similar to other units you have designed/facilitated?


This idea really started to grow over course 4. From the very beginning, I had my first idea taking shape and I was excited about starting it. Then, I started thinking more about how I could use technology to support student’s learning in meaningful ways and I tried helping a fifth-grade student by having her create a video to walk herself through the process of two-digit division. This really helped her and she started to become more confident in herself. This opportunity to use technology at a higher level instead of just for information consumption really helped to jolt my thinking. It got me excited for other ways to integrate technology meaningfully and provide students with more deep learning opportunities.




Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?


I think this unit would be great for taking technology integration beyond simple substitution and augmentation. I also believe that it could help excite students about a subject that they are finding difficult and frustrating. The combination of integrating technology in a meaningful way through supporting student growth towards their goals is something that I feel excited and passionate about.


What evidence might you collect to support students in demonstrating their understandings?


The end goal would be for students to be able to apply their new-found knowledge of multiplication facts to solve maths problems with greater confidence and fluency. I think the use of personal reflections from students would be paramount to see if they felt a change in their attitudes towards Maths, as well as their own abilities. Just today, I had a student tell me that she felt “stupid” because she could not solve a fractions problem in the classroom. I think that having pre- and post-unit reflections from students would be vital evidence.


What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?


My biggest concern for this is that the end product might only prove to be valuable for the creator rather than for any audience. I am questioning whether this is necessarily a big issue or not and I am settled somewhere in the middle. My intention is to have these four students learn their multiplication facts in a meaningful way and then share them with each other and their classmates. This feels a lot smaller in scale to my other unit idea, however, and I am worried that the focus is too narrow. I am also thinking about the enduring understandings box on the UBD planner and I am unsure of what the enduring understandings are for this unit.


What shifts in pedagogy might this new unit require from you?


I think that one of the things that really came to the fore for me over course 4 is that I have found myself drifting away from incorporating technology in meaningful and authentic ways. This has definitely come with the change in my role this year and feeling as though my time with students is very limited. I also believe, however, that this unit can be integrated into students’ service hours.


What skills and/or attitudes might this new unit require from your students?


Video production skills will be a review for all of these students. They have all participated in filming and editing projects either in the classroom or as part of after school clubs. Choreography, lip-syncing, and a shift in attitude towards Maths classes will also be necessary.


How Deep is your Learning?

blue scissor near papers
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

My first thought when it came to evaluating the effectiveness of new pedagogies was to create a student survey. As Paulo Freire said, “Teaching begins with students, not teachers.” As I mentioned previously, I arrived at my current school when the PYP was being introduced. This proved to be a challenging yet rewarding experience for both myself and my students. Just before the end of the year I sat down with a group of five students and asked them how they felt this year was different from the previous.  A couple of students mentioned that they enjoyed a greater emphasis on asking questions and, as the year progressed, a feeling that they could shape our units of inquiry. The thing they all agreed on was they enjoyed the opportunities for collaboration more than anything else. When students are happy they are more engaged and so I feel that this is a good starting point. I was curious how else I could measure the effectiveness of new pedagogies.

With each year I have worked at my current school, a new model for measuring student growth has been introduced. If I take writing as an example, my first year we had grade-level rubrics designed for assessing students, the following year teachers and students created rubrics, after that a skills rubric for writing was introduced, this year that rubric has been refined to correlate to the How Language Works training that teachers have taken this semester. I feel as though changes are nothing new to educators, however, without consistent rubrics, I do feel as though it’s difficult to measure the effectiveness year to year as to how writing has been taught. We are still working towards implementing assessments that are “comparable across different types of tasks, subjects, schools and systems,” just as Fullen mentions in chapter 5 of A Rich Seam.

One area I was interested in digging deeper about was the use of the Tripod survey as a tool for measuring student engagement. I feel as though surveys that are aligned with the 7 C’s framework could be a useful tool for measuring the effectiveness of new pedagogies and curricula as they are introduced to the school.

“Making assessment much more intrinsically formative is a starting place, as it would develop students’ capacity for incorporating feedback in ways that are much more like how performance is measured in non-school contexts.” – Fullen, Langworthy, A Rich Seam.

Much of the feedback I currently give to students is formative in order to guide them towards the ILP and SSP goals. I am currently using the Wilson reading intervention program with a few students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia. This program is highly explicit and involves a lot of questioning in order to help students solidify their understanding of the English language. I am currently in the process of preparing for the possibility of returning to distance learning at some point in the future. Looking back at how my department supported students before it seems as though the learning specialist helped individual students work through assignments set by classroom teachers. While I feel this would be highly important to ensure student engagement I am also wondering how reading intervention can be successfully integrated into an online-only program that is engaging and allows for the level of feedback that students need in order to make progress.

Source: https://www.cecweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/deep-learning.pdf

When I look at the 6 C’s of Deep Learning I feel as though I am doing a pretty good job of planning lessons that help build the competency of character. I try to build resilience in students by showing them how their hard work has resulted in their progress towards goals. Where I want to get to is to feel as though I am delivering lessons that consistently include all of the 6 Competencies for deep learning. I am hoping that through my COETAIL Course 5 project I will be able to do this and, just as importantly, that I will be able to assess this.

The Wrath of Khan Academy

The above video is the oldest memory I have of using a computer in school. It was on an old 8 bit BBC Microcomputer gathering dust in the back of our classroom featuring the newest 8-inch floppy disk drive. The game itself was a basic text adventure but at the time to my friends and I it was glorious, even if all I really remember doing is endlessly trying to use a rope to fix a broken bridge. Except for some nostalgia, however, it’s difficult to point out what, if anything, I got from this experience. I consumed 8-bit music and graphics in all the different ways the BBC Micro could throw at me but I didn’t actually create anything. Instead I learned some rudimentary keyboard skills and that certain trees may contain magic.

One thing that first surprised me when I first read chapter 4 of A Rich Seam was that, “up until now, technology use has had a below-average impact on learning relative to other interventions” (A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning Fullen Langworthy.) In order to prepare for my basic skills exam while I was training to become a qualified teacher, I used Khan Academy to prepare for the maths component. I found it a useful tool, however, I can certainly see the limitations that come from repetitive practice. I’ve always been a little hesitant in recommending Khan Academy’s use for elementary students as Sal Khan often speaks very quickly in the videos and I felt that the feedback system could be more frustrating than helpful for younger students. NWEA scores can be plugged into Khan Academy to help drill students on their ‘weak’ areas in maths but, to me at least, there seems little opportunity for knowledge construction over consumption.

Alphabet, Communication, Emotion, English, Feeling

At the beginning of the school year, I started to re-learn Japanese. In order to support my learning, I ordered the basic package of Rosetta Stone Japanese. I already have a basic daily conversation level of language so I assumed I’d be able to pick things up fairly quickly. When I originally learned the language, however, I would meet with a teacher and then we would go out to a restaurant or bar after to practice on the unsuspecting Japanese public. It was this human interaction that helped me to learn how to speak as much as I can and, without that, it has stopped being as meaningful.

This thought made me reflect on how I use Lexia to support students’ reading. On the one hand, there is a lot of repetition and students are encouraged to practice the same skill over and over again. If they make more than one mistake they receive “instructions” from an unskippable video and are forced to start over. I feel that this cycle is pretty frustrating for students and I wouldn’t recommend this program were it not for the way it tracks student progress and has intervention lessons alongside resources for teachers to use. I go back and forth on my feelings about this program and whether it is truly making a difference in supporting students’ reading. On the one hand, I have a data source where I can follow my student’s progress and look at where they need support, however, I worry that the repetitive nature could lead to them falling out of love with reading. Last week I had a student with moderate dyslexia read aloud to some kindergardeners. She came away from that experience feeling proud of herself and motivated to keep on practicing her reading. I feel like that experience alone proves that technology, by itself, does not promote learning. Instead, it is the opportunities we create for students to interact with “authentic audiences” that make a difference.

Mistakes, Mishapes, Misfits

As much as I can, I try to own my mistakes when I make them in front of students and model appropriate reactions. I speak openly about things I know I find difficult or that I found hard in the past. When I was in primary school I found multi-digit multiplication and division really frustrating. I’m not sure I really understood the concept behind either until secondary school. Now maths is one of my favorite subjects to teach but I really had to work at it and it never came easily to me. I don’t mind sharing those experiences and frustrations with students as I hope it demonstrates what it means to have a growth mindset.

Head, Silhouette, Mindset, Mental Health, Speedometer
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Dweck’s research seems to have become synonymous with modern education and more than one of the grade levels at my school begin with an Inquiry into Growth Mindset as part of there Who We Are UOI. I feel as though these are important lessons for students in order to promote the idea of showing grit in the face of adversity. Last year my class designed surveys asking their parents or family about a time when they had to show a growth mindset. Some of the conversations that this inspired were amazing and most of my students came back having learned something new about their parents. Looking back at this activity my students definitely used technology in a basic way, we formed questions as a class, they drafted a reflection, and then typed their findings. Looking back I think that this could have been a great opportunity for students to create a presentation or an animation of what they found out in order to allow for a higher use of technology.

Paulo Freire’s Five Ideas for Dialogical Learning really resonated with me, particularly where the International Coaching Group talk about their belief that “recognizing the learner as an equal is essential for true learning to take place.” After hosting a workshop on difficult behaviors a few weeks ago I had a teacher ask me what they could do to repair a relationship with a student after they called them out in class. My answer was to show humility. To own the mistake, apologize for it and then address the behavior that led to that frustration.  I really like the sentence, “Simple actions we take that encourage connection–praise, smiles, words of encouragement, signs of respect, genuine interest, and concern-can encourage more meaningful dialogue and increase the chances for learning to take place.” By showing vulnerability, honesty, and integrity I believe we can create an environement where students can do the same.



Red Wine is Healthy

Glass, Wine, Drip, Red Wine, Drink, Liquid, Alcohol
Image by Christine Sponchia from Pixabay

Reading through the article Everyone Has Invisible Bias. This Lesson Shows Students How to Recognize It (Jacquelyn Whiting). I immediately began to reflect on the story of Kyle who wanted nothing more than to show his teacher “I know what I’m going to say!” and so embarked on a quest to “seek only sources that validate that pre-formed position”.  After the first few paragraphs I started to think to myself, “To what degree am I a Kyle?” When I find a food (or drink) that I really enjoy I often find myself Googling, “Is XYZ healthy?” To which I will usually scroll down through the endless warnings from baseless fake news sites such as the BBC, Mayo Clinic, and The American Heart Association until I find a source confirming that of course, the food (or drink) that I am consuming is fine for me, in fact, I should probably enjoy it more often than I currently do. I am, therefore, left with the conclusion that I might just be a bit of a Kyle.

Invisible Bias

Invisible, Bowler, Suit, Hat, Glasses, Retro, Anonymous
Image by Christine Sponchia from Pixabay

Invisible bias is a prejudice that is unconscious and you may not realize you have. Whiting’s article talks about how many of these prejudices can affect the world around us. She references the article Girlhood Interrupted published by The Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality in 2017 when she states that, “adults see black girls as less innocent than white peers.” This is deeply troubling, particularly in education as, “Another study found that white teachers were 30 percent less likely than black teachers to predict a black student of theirs would graduate college.” We all run the risk of falling into the “bias confirmation trap” where, just as Kyle did, we actively search for information that confirms what we want to know and disregard the facts that we disagree with declaring them false.

I thought that the lesson Whiting described, a mad-libs approach to discovering bias, would be a highly engaging task for students. In particular, the impact language has on the tone of a paragraph would spark some deep conversations amongst students while, simultaneously, revealing some of their own biases. As I think again about my own invisible biases I am thinking more about how I use online sources to validate my own pre-formed ideas. I want to move away from being yet another Kyle and am prepared to explore sources that may disprove my own preformed opinions.

Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. A polyphenol called resveratrol is one substance in red wine that’s gotten attention for its health benefits. – Mayo Clinic –Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart?

Truly, Madly, Deeply Learning

Algorithm, Mockup, Images, By Machine, Learn
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Reading through chapter 3 of A Rich Seam by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy made me think about how exciting it is to be an educator right now. Deep learning tasks lead to students constructing knowledge and then applying it to the world around them. The example of Dog River from the article is perfect for showing students taking action and using their knowledge. After learning about environmental issues 10th-grade students were tasked with doing something that could make a difference. The students chose to clean up their local river and created an action plan that helped build awareness about the levels of pollution. These opportunities to take learning beyond the classroom  give students “authentic choice over what they learn and how they execute the learning.”

Agfa, Vintage, Camera, Film, Retro, Analog, Lens
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

As part of their inquiry into digital citizenship, my fourth-grade students were tasked with creating videos that would teach their peers how to be good digital citizens and stay safe online. The students were given specific criteria for their videos and they then formed questions that they wanted their films to answer. They had control over their creations and it was great to see the students learning from each other as they put their creations together. There was a real sense of agency amongst the students and they were taking pride in their creations as it had a greater meaning to them than a simple written report.

I am excited to start integrating more deeper learning opportunities this year that tie into student’s ILP goals. I feel as though since the start of this year I have been focused on Old pedagogies, namely explicit, direct instruction without providing enough opportunity for students to apply that learning outside of the classroom. This is certainly something that has been on my mind this year and something I will be implementing next semester.