COETAIL Final Project

Video Reflection Link

https://youtu.be/rMHDRvE8ewA 

Redefinition

I wanted to excite some of my students about reading and, hopefully, inspire them to practice their reading skills at home.  As part of the reading intervention program, students are asked to read easily decodable texts that, to be completely honest, are not exactly the most thrilling tales. Students are expected to reread these passages to practice comprehension and oral reading fluency and prosody. In order to enthuse students about reading, I decided to try alternate texts in class and then create a project whereby students could practice reading with a text that they had chosen.

Promoting Agency

I went back and forth on whether students should choose their own texts or whether I should select them. In the end, I took a step back and considered the final outcome. What skill did I want students to build for the future? Did I want their choice of book to be dictated for them or did I want them to develop a sense of agency when choosing their own literature? The choice was obvious. I believe it is important for students to choose their own texts to read aloud because this fosters interest and intrinsic motivation. However, I still needed to have some parameters to ensure that they weren’t going to choose a book that was too difficult to read in one sitting. I also was concerned that some students would feel overwhelmed by having an abundance of choice.

I asked the students to choose picturebooks that they felt would be suitable to share with kindergarteners. I was really pleased with how seriously the students took this task. They really kept the audience at the forefront of their minds when selecting texts to share. Some thought of stories that they had enjoyed when they were younger, while others chose stories that they knew had a message that they felt strongly about.

Changes Throughout the Unit

During the pre-planning stages, I had a clear goal in mind: present a novel way for students to work on their fluency and prosody in order to build confidence in their ability to read aloud. As soon as I began the unit, however, my goals shifted. One of the most important things I gained from this project was a deeper understanding of my students’ attitude towards reading for enjoyment. The hard truth is that for many students, reading is not enjoyable. It is something that they have to work hard at and therefore, they will try to avoid reading while at home. In their free time, they will choose to relax after a day of working hard at school. I think we all relate to this feeling.

After these surveys, I expanded my goal by presenting them with a motivating reason to practice their reading skills independently. I only see the students I work with for an hour or two per week which, in all honesty, never feels like enough time. I wanted to foster in them an intrinsic motivation to take control over their learning,

ISTE Standards for Students

When planning this unit, I wanted to hit the following ISTE standards for students:

1: Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.

1a: Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.

6: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.

6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.

6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

I chose these ISTE standards for students because they seemed to correlate closely with what I wanted the students to achieve. I wanted my students to harness the power of technology in order to work towards their own personal goals. I used a PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) with the students just before our Student-Led Conferences so that they could discuss what they wanted to work on and so that we could develop a plan as to how they could meet their goals. The majority of my students wanted to become stronger readers and so that helped lead the conversation as to how we could achieve that.

When we discussed methods of achieving these goals, my students recognized that they needed to practice reading at home. This allowed me to present the idea of creating a read aloud to share. I felt as though it had to be the student’s choice as to whether or not they participated in this project, as they would be doing the majority of the work at home, by themselves and with their family’s support.

Then came the method of sharing. Once I began to talk about the project with my students, they were all concerned that their faces would be seen and that other students would see them.  We discussed ways that we could avoid this such as using images, rather than showing the students, while they read aloud. This is where I made a mistake, but more on that later.

ISTE Standards for Educators

6a: Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.

7a : Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology.
7b: Use technology to design and implement a variety of formative and summative assessments that accommodate learner needs, provide timely feedback to students and inform instruction.
7c: Use assessment data to guide progress and communicate with students, parents and education stakeholders to build student self-direction.
These standards really appealed to me and helped me build my final project because I knew that I wanted to help students take ownership of their goals. All too often I have written IEP and ILP goals for students and met with parents and teachers to discuss them without the student present. Partly this is to do with the students’ age. I have only ever worked with students in grades K – 6 and whilst I have had some 6th Graders join IEP meetings, I always felt, and possibly wrongly so, that students younger than that may find these meetings intimidating and demotivating. Following these meetings, I have always just expected students to receive additional support towards their goals, without the students necessarily fully knowing the reason why or what we are working towards. This project really helped me see the importance of students knowing what they are working towards. How could I expect students to take control of their learning if they didn’t know what they were working towards? This was a revelation, to say the least.

 

I began the unit by having students perform a cold read of their chosen book while being recorded. I was then able to chart progress by comparing recordings of their reads. I was pleased to see the progress that the majority of the students made in terms of their reading fluency. More telling, however, was in the interviews with students at the end of the project. All of the students said that they had ended up reading more often as a result of this project. Goal achieved, right? Well, not yet.

The final goal was for this unit to provide students with the motivation to continue their reading practice, once it was completed. I took another survey after two weeks of finishing the unit and the results were far more telling. Two of the students I had been working with had kept up with their reading practice and one student had even started to make a follow-up video on his own. With all of the students now I have had meetings to plan what next steps they can take to achieve their goals. I feel as though many of my students are taking grat strides in taking control of their learning and choosing the areas they feel are important for them to work on.

 

Things that went well

First and foremost each student who took part in my final project read more frequently than they had at the beginning. When I spoke to the participants, they talked about how they found the process motivating and it galvanized them to practice reading at home. I really felt too that this project allowed the students to take more control over their own learning than if I had just set them reading homework. They identified areas that they wanted to work on, as well as, how they could do that and this project served as a means for them to take charge of their learning.

The students’ reflections were good to hear too, especially as a number of students admitted they had fun reading.  I was really happy to hear about the positive reactions they had to reading books.

I also really liked seeing the ways students bonded while editing their videos. Many were familiar with iMovie but for those that weren’t the other students in the class were happy to show and teach. This collaboration was not something I had planned for, but it was great to see the students work together and share knowledge with one another.

Student Videos

https://youtu.be/Etad91OLRY4

 

Things that I would change

I would have liked to have more opportunities for students to give feedback to one another. I feel as though I could have set up anonymous feedback opportunities using Google forms so that my students could continue developing their performances. Initially, I worried that the students would take constructive criticism too personally, but on reflection, I think it would have been a valuable addition to this project.

I would really like to have had more time for this unit. By the time I started, there were only six weeks left and, in all honesty, I needed an additional four weeks, as then students could have recorded more than one book by the time I wrote this final post.

Final reflections

I had a student ask me during their final reflection why they couldn’t just read aloud in front of the kindergarten class.

Good question.

I asked him if that’s something he wanted to do and he shook his head straight away, “I don’t want to do that, they’ll know it’s me reading and I don’t want them to know if I make a mistake.”

I then asked him if he thought it was okay that they would potentially hear him read, without knowing it was him. He responded with, “Yeah, that’s good.”

I feel as though by embracing tech for this unit, I was able to provide an opportunity for my struggling readers to share their work in a safe way that they were in control of. There was no final performance, if they made a mistake they could record their story again, interestingly though none of them did. I’m proud of what they accomplished and their reflections on the steps they have taken towards meeting their goals.

Gathering Data

As part of student services, we gather and use data in a variety of different ways in order to serve our population. There are several tools that we currently use to achieve this, but I always feel there is so much more we can do. There is currently a fairly even divide in how data is gathered, some digitally and some recorded using handwritten notes. A goal for my department this year was to digitize all existing data and ensure that we had hard digital copies of all existing documentation on students. A huge part of this drive was to allow ease of access when sharing information amongst teachers and other members of the Student Services Department.

turned on black and grey laptop computer
Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Jotform

Jotform has been the backbone of our department this year. This subscription service allows users to tailor how reports are shared and to whom. We currently use Jotform for two different purposes. The first is to file incident reports and the second is to refer students who may benefit from additional supports. The forms themselves are customizable by the user and so they can be tailored for a number of uses.

Through Jotform teachers are able to file incident reports from either their phone or computer. These are hugely beneficial for my department as they help us identify antecedents, behaviors, and consequences that teachers are seeing and employing in their classrooms. In some cases too we have been able to support teachers and students earlier than if the teacher was going to just make a referral for support. We have also been able to use these reports to analyze times of day when individual students might struggle the most and so introduce specific interventions during those times.

Teachers are also able to use Jotform to refer students who may need additional supports from Student Services. One of the huge advantages of these reports is that they allow teachers to specify which branch of Student Support they feel would most impact their students. This could be from our ESOL teachers, Learning support, or Speech and Language. Teachers are also able to give detailed descriptions of what they have observed from their students, as well as, the interventions that they have already put into place. This has allowed support teachers to come to meetings prepared with ideas of how to support the individual.

brown wooden triangle ruler
Photo by Dawid Małecki on Unsplash

School-Wide Assessments

One area I am working towards this year is putting the data we gather from the NWEA Map tests to use. In Student Services I have been analyzing data from this Autumn’s MAP test to identify students who show low achievement and low growth and meet with teachers to gather further information. The current pandemic has made gathering this data more difficult than usual as this is an additional factor to think of when analyzing how a student is performing academically.

We also use WIDA testing at my school in order to measure the growth of language learners. The ESOL department at my school just moved their reports from this year and the previous years onto a SharePoint document to allow for easy sharing between departments. This has made a huge difference when analyzing student data and has streamlined the process. Through the use of the WIDA data, we have an additional source of information when determining whether a student may have a learning disability or not.

person catching light bulb
Photo by Júnior Ferreira on Unsplash

Reflection

With all of this aside, I feel as though the way I am using data is still fairly rudimentary. I feel I may be missing something. I am aware that there are many ways technology can be integrated and used to create more seamless ways of gathering, synthesizing, and distributing information, however, I simply lack the experience to know what is the best technology intervention for my department’s services. Fortunately, I have a few new members of staff that I know have served as tech coordinators at their previous schools. I plan to meet with these colleagues to brainstorm how my department can better integrate the use of technology to help us streamline what we do. I am really open to feedback so if you have any suggestions I would love to hear them.

 

Building a PLN

Community Involvement

I always knew going into COETAIL that this element was going to be the hardest for me. As a self-confessed lurker, I knew that I wanted to move out of the shadows but I still find myself getting all ‘anxty’ any time I go to post anything online. This is to the point where Facebook checked in with me recently to remind me that I hadn’t posted a status update in over 3 years. So is it possible for a lurker to come out in the daytime or will they be doomed to stay in darkness and shadow for eternity? I’m not quite sure where this analogy is going but let’s find out.

 

LEAD Inclusion

Despite COVID coming along and taking away opportunities to meet face to face, professional development opportunities have continued to abound this year. I have been helping organize and participate in Lead Inclusion at my school this year. This has been a tremendous opportunity to get to meet Lee Ann Jung, Abigail Love, and a host of other teachers from around the world. Throughout the course we have been connecting through two different online platforms. We started by using Schoology and then migrated to Thinkific to share our discussions with one another asynchronously.

In addition to discussion boards, we have also been taking part in synchroneous online discussions through Zoom. These were really useful to connect with other educators and we spent time in small groups as well as as a class sharing our reflections on how to build an inclusive school. From my school, we had a team of 13 teachers so it has been great to work alongside teachers from my own school who I don’t always have the opportunity to work with.

One of the exciting learning opportunities came from our last session where the class started to talk about supporting students with intellectual disabilities. One of the teachers from the International School Bangkok started to talk about the opportunities her school provided learners. At my school we have a student with an intellectual disability who is about to transition into middle school and so we are going to meet with the other teacher next week to get a better understanding of what middle school might look like for her.

Buidling community with families and teachers

In February my department had a new member join us from New Zealand named Kylie. She is a speech language pathologist who had been waiting for an opportunity to get into the country since July 2020. I feel as though I have learned much from her, particularly in how to build deeper connections with families. Where we have students who cross over we have formed WeChat groups with both myself and her where we share how our students are progressing. These groups also allow us to see what each other is doing as well as helping monitor the student’s progress.

One of the most beneficial outcomes from this is that these conversations have helped families know more about what we are working on in class and empower them to help their children at home. Kylie has been an amazing coach to me since joining us a couple of months ago and I have been extremely grateful to get her insight and support on the students who we are working with to support.

Contact with COETAILers

Cindy set up a group chat for the members of COETAIL 12 back in September of last year. It was really helpful for me to get an idea of where other members of the cohort were with their projects throughout course 5. I have to admit  here that I came pretty late to the party, however, I was grateful for the help and support that the other COETAIL educators were sharing.

Beginnings of a PLN

I feel as though COETAIL really helped me realize the possibilities when it comes to connecting with other educators. Twitter still remains far too intemidating for me to use with any regularity. I’m not sure if it’s possible to feel social anxiety about tweeting but if it is then I certainly have it. I have used Twitter in the past during the Global Read Aloud, however, when it comes to sharing blog posts or personal ideas I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve drafted a message and thought, “Ah, I’ll post that later.”

In some respects I am guilty of still being a lurker, however, I am so grateful for the opportunities that COETAIL has provided me in getting to meet other educators. Additionally, this blog post has definitely helped me see that I may not totally be living in the gloom anymore. I think, at the very least, I may have taken a step outside the shadows and it’s a direction I want to keep heading in.