Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Tapping the Power of Personalized Learning

The participants from our first Summer Institute
for teachers shared how they have tapped the
power of personalized learning this year.
In Tapping the Power of Personalized Learning (2016), James Rickabaugh defines effective personalized learning as “an approach to learning and instruction that is designed around individual learner readiness, strengths, needs, and interests. Learners are active participants in setting goals, planning learning paths, tracking progress and determining how learning will be demonstrated (6).”

Throughout this year, the participants from Greenwood’s first Summer Institute for teachers have shared how they have tapped the power of personalized learning. Our Grade 10 history team outlined how their program allows for choice and connects with the power of student interests. Our French teachers have demonstrated the importance of creating authentic learning contexts as a way of addressing student needs and readiness. Our science teachers have illustrated how they have used technology to provide instantaneous feedback, which allows students to track their progress. And finally, our Grade 7 and 8 teachers describe how their integrated projects allow for students to demonstrate their deep learning about such important issues as sustainability.

These are just a few of the many exciting examples of Greenwood’s ongoing efforts to make learning something we do with students. In doing so, we are helping prepare students for the world in which they will live and work.

Allan Hardy

Thursday, 2 June 2016

More Oral Communication in the Flex Classroom

With the new French curriculum, there is a significant  emphasis on the authentic use of oral communication. With the two teachers in the flex classroom, we have been able to provide considerably  more opportunity for teacher observed peer-to-peer conversation and student-teacher conversation.

The flexible space allows for a variety of groupings.  A strategy we have found most effective is to have ‘home groups’ where students start (and often end) each class.  These home groups are given a name according the the theme of the unit in order to build group identity (for example, this unit each group is named after a French invention) so we can boost opportunities for collaboration and meaningful teamwork in the target language. Often a warm-up will include questions that the students need to discuss and explore aloud with their home group. As the class progresses, students can move easily between individual activities, pair-groupings, or small teacher-led groups depending on need and interest.

Learning Through Instant Feedback

Because there are two teachers in the room, we have been able to significantly increase the amount of feedback students receive on their oral communication. We will frequently have students work with a partner to practice a spontaneous dialogue (for example, how to navigate an incorrect order at Starbucks). When students feel they have met the learning goal and are ready, they can present the dialogue to a teacher, receiving instant specific feedback about their task and discuss ‘next steps’ to improve for the assessment of learning.  Since there is always at least one teacher available for individual and small-group feedback, the students learn and grow notably from one class to the next.

Heather Maxted
French Subject Team Leader

Emma Pickard
French Teacher

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Integration Projects Offer a New Take on Culminating Activities

Final evaluations are fast approaching, and the Grade 7 & 8 Integration Team is hard at work developing a second round of interdisciplinary integration projects. Each grade will participate in a four-day task designed to provide an authentic opportunity to apply a year’s worth of subject knowledge and skills to a real-world problem. (Read about the first Grade 7 and Grade 8 Integration Projects.)

As subject teachers, we have always been encouraged to create culminating tasks that would have students play a role and apply their subject knowledge to make real-world decisions. These integration projects are a perfect opportunity to take these individual subject role-playing tasks to the next level.

This second round of integration projects are designed to primarily assess skills and learning from the year, rather than teach new content. The development of these culminating integration projects therefore present their own unique set of strengths and challenges. There is more time within the schedule for students to focus in on their task, since less time is allotted to teacher-facilitated instruction. 

The actual project design has been more challenging this second time around. Our goal is to develop an authentic problem that requires a year’s worth of subject knowledge and skills, touching upon essential learning from at least four different courses. All of this while remembering, of course, that the problem-solvers are Grade 7 and 8 students - not yet ready to take on the complex problems that actually do require this level of integration. “Please draw upon your understanding of science, math, social studies and English to solve the problems in the Middle East.”

As teachers, it is causing us to reflect upon the curriculum in our own individual subjects in a new way. We are asking ourselves questions such as “If it is difficult to find a place for a particular concept or skill within a real-world, integrated project, how essential is it to begin with?”.

As we reach the final stretch, we are excited to see these culminating projects in action.This first year of Grade 7 and 8 projects have certainly be making all of us, teachers and student alike, think and reflect in new directions.

Samantha Moser
Grade 8 Science Teacher