Showing posts with label Classroom Management. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Classroom Management. Show all posts

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

CSI Meets Newton's Law of Cooling

Creating scenarios that allow students to use skills and knowledge to solve real world problems is a great way to make learning stick. Our Advanced Functions (MHF4U) class did this recently through an activity where they played the role of detectives examining a crime scene.

Students worked in teams to solve the puzzles
Students were divided into three teams, assembled in one of our breakout rooms and given a puzzle to solve in three stages. In the first stage, students worked together to use prior knowledge to solve a series of exponential and logarithmic functions. Once they had these answers, they used them and Newton’s Law of Cooling to determine the time of death of the body found at the crime scene.
The timer counting down added excitement to the activity
With the correct time in hand, three members of the team escaped from the breakout room to find a website URL that had been hidden in the classroom. Once the site was located, the remainder of the team left the breakout room and together the team used graphing software to create a function that reflected the function related to the time of death.
Each team worked in a separate breakout room
Rich performance tasks like this one enable students to develop valuable critical thinking and problem solving skills, and learn how to work effectively in teams, all of which are vital skills for the future.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Leveraging Technology to Monitor Student Learning & Streamline Assessment

Hapara allowed teachers to reinforce
positive behaviour and promote
digital citizenship through encouraging
collaborationon shared documents.
In December, Grade 8 students immersed themselves in Toronto City Council business and municipal politics with proposals to improve City of Toronto drinking water treatment. We were able to leverage Hapara, an online education platform, throughout the project to help improve student learning and streamline teacher assessment.

Throughout the learning process we shared templates and resources with students in their Integrated Project Folders on Hapara. Students used these same folders to develop their ideas and create their proposals. All Grade 8 Teachers had access to the folders and we could monitor individual progress to prompt deeper learning and identify students who required additional support. This technology also allowed us to reinforce positive individual and group behaviour, and promote digital citizenship through the collaboration process with shared documents.

Once the Grade 8 students completed their final proposals to the City of Toronto and presented their ideas to City Council, the integrated project was complete. Each student’s proposal included curriculum expectations for mathematics, English, Canadian Social Studies and science. Teachers worked together to mark the final products. Hapara significantly streamlined the assessment process as teachers from different disciplines could efficiently access students’ products to mark the appropriate curriculum expectations.

In the integrated project, students created products that examined a social issue with improved breadth and depth by looking with different subject perspectives. The careful design and implementation allowed curriculum expectations from four disciplines to be effectively addressed. Using technology, we were able to help ensure each student was supported and challenged throughout the process, and student products could be efficiently evaluated.

Elysia Jellema
Grade 7 & 8 Math and Science Teacher

Erin Klassen
Grade 7 & 8 Math and Learning Strategies Teacher

Want to read more about our Grade 8 Integrated Project? Read a student's perspective and a teacher's perspective.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Teaching and Learning in Greenwood's LearnLab Space

Room 207 is a flexible space where students and teachers learn in tandem with one another. A flexible space demands a flexible approach. This post focuses on the value of having a flexible physical space in terms of the diversity it creates for instruction.

In Grade 9 English we have found a good balance between consistent classroom routines to start and end the class, and a variety of cooperative learning strategies throughout the lesson. The large room provides opportunities to co-teach and the teachers act as facilitators of learning, moving smoothly throughout the space

In the classroom, abstract learning goals become concrete physical arrangements. In advance of the class, we determine groupings and seating arrangements so that students may choose, or be placed, in a grouping based on their strengths, their interests, or the level of support they need to learn and interact with the material for the day. We also have the benefit of being able to easily rearrange students as the lesson progresses. When students work ahead, or need to meet with a teacher one-on-one, their needs can be met right away. The teacher-student conferences have been especially supportive and informative. We are able to meet with students one-on-one for anything from conversation assessments of learning, to relaxed check-ins. Getting to know the students in this way informs us about how to make our groupings and how to adapt our teaching to meet the needs of each student.

This space allows the more abstract elements of differentiated instruction to be made tangible. Students make choices and have to partner their choices with a physical action. Something as simple as moving to the corner of the room that reflects their favourite style of instruction, their need for support in the moment, or their choice of text to read, allows students to become partners in designing their course. While reading Into the Wild in our survival unit, students were able to choose to actively read the book alone in one corner of the room, read the book with a partner in another corner, read the book in a 'popcorn' style in a larger group, or have the book read to them by one of us teachers aloud. Even as the activity was taking place, students were able to move to the corner that they realized suited them best for the day. The fact that Grade 9 students are aware of their learning style to this degree is excellent. Similar activities have been done with instruction and support. It has been interesting to observe their level of engagement and self-awareness as the year has progressed.

In our current unit about family and friends, students will be in literature circle groups based on one of four novels that they chose based on interest and stretch. We're looking forward to applying what we have learned about the space and the students to these discussions.

Catherine Menard
Teacher, English

Caley Blyth
Subject Team Leader, English

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A (Novel) Study in Personalization

Providing students with choice not only allows greater personalization in the classroom, but gets students really excited about learning. English and Student Success Centre teacher Kathryn Connelly details how giving Grade 7 students three book options for a recent novel study made a big impact.

At Greenwood, all sections of Grade 7 English meet at the same time in adjacent rooms. We also see this class every day. This method of scheduling in Grade 7 English allows for a great deal of flexibility, which benefits both students and teachers.

Our most recent novel study unit gave us the opportunity to work in flexible groupings based on the individual learner’s interests and needs. Before beginning the unit, each teacher gave a brief introduction of the novels, all by Canadian author Eric Walters: Safe as Houses; Wave; and Shaken. These novels varied in length and difficulty. Students then selected one of the three novels by filling in a preference sheet. Based on both student interest and literacy skills, which were assessed in previous units, the students were grouped.

The English classes were then mixed and regrouped based on which novel the students chose to study. Each teacher took a different novel group.

The individual strengths and needs of each particular group of students determined how the class was taught. Where one class took more time to read and analyze the novel through basic story devices, another class worked on examining and analyzing the novel through real-life examples.

These groupings allowed each student to be stretched to reach their own individual potential, as well as develop a genuine and inquisitive interest about the topic. As a result, all three classes had great success!  

At the end of the unit, student reflections highlighted how happy they were to not only have had the opportunity to explore a novel they were interested in, but happy to have had lessons, activities and assignments that were tailored to meet the strengths and needs of the wide variety of learners in their grade. 

Eric Walters visited Greenwood during this novel study unit to discuss his work with our Grade 7 and 8 students. Read about his visit on our website.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Personalizing in a Flexible 21st-Century Classroom

Personalized learning isn't just about the content of the lesson - it's also about the space in which students learn. Geography teacher Christine Joannou discusses how Greenwood's new flexible classroom allows students to choose the learning method that works best for them.

The flexible setup supports individual, small
group and teacher-led lessons - all in the
same room.
The Grade 9 geography class (CGC1D) is one of the most unique classes at Greenwood. Two teachers are in the classroom at all times, working within a 21st-century classroom with flexible seating arrangements. This setup has allowed us to personalize the classroom, so that students are able to choose the type of learning they want:

  • Individual lessons
  • Peer-to-peer or small group lessons
  • Teacher-led lessons

If students choose the teacher-led option, one of the teachers will take them through the lesson, explaining concepts, asking guiding questions and pacing the lesson based on student needs.  

Students also have the option of learning in the "quiet zone". In the quiet zone, students work independently to go through the lesson on their own; a teacher is always available for questions, should students need clarification. Learners work through the lesson at their own pace, and dive deeper into certain topics if they finish the lesson early. 

The classroom setup also allows students to work in small groups around small display screens. They can still work at their own pace, but have the support of either their peers or the teacher if needed. This option fosters student collaboration throughout the learning process.

The flexible classroom setup has allowed us to cater to each student’s needs. Students who need more time to understand a concept are given that opportunity, while students who want to complete the lesson and move on to enrichment activities have this opportunity as well. 

Students have enjoyed this lesson approach, as many find the pace of a more traditional lesson does not cater to their needs. They enjoy the flexibility of this 21st-century classroom set up, which uses two teachers and blended learning tools to enable them to choose the most effective learning method for them.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Math Mix 7

At Greenwood, the three Grade 7 math classes meet at the same time, on the same day, but with three different teachers. In fact, the three teachers teach their math classes on the same floor, all in classrooms next to each other.

I’m one of the Grade 7 math teachers, and I have loved being part of this program. This “block scheduled” format allows us to mix and mingle our students based on student interest, or on the level of support needed on a topic. Sometimes, the mixing is done at random.

One day last year, two of the Grade 7 math classes reshuffled and grouped students based on gender. Students were tasked with assembling a brownie recipe based on their calculations of fractions, which allowed the students to work on a math problem with peers with whom they don’t normally work.

This year, after evaluating a geometry assignment, we split up our classes based on the different concepts for which students needed additional support. Rather than teaching a “one size fits all” class on the topic, which can often lead to disengagement or stress, we grouped students by readiness and were able to keep them engaged.

The re-shuffling of our classes happens about once per unit, so as to not disrupt the structure and routine of the class. The Grade 7 math team has found that students find these sessions engaging, useful and fun. In addition, the Grade 7 teachers have appreciated the opportunity to get to know even more of our wonderful Grade 7 students!

Kelly Smolinski
Math Teacher

Monday, 21 October 2013

Strategies for Personalization at the Intermediate Level

Last year, one of my goals was to provide more personalization within my intermediate science classes. However, personalization at the intermediate level presents a few additional challenges. How do we offer choice and individual experience to a younger group of students who also need structure and clear expectations? In addition, the study of science at this level provides an introduction to the different disciplines within science, so students are not yet ready to follow their own individual interests.

In Grade 7, my students used the blended learning model to work through part of the Heat and Energy Transfer Unit. I set up a series of online learning activities that students could complete independently, covering the concepts of conduction, convection and radiation. Once they felt that they had mastered a particular concept, they would answer an ‘entrance card’ that would allow them to begin the associated lab activity. This allowed them to personalize their experience by moving on when they felt they were ready.

At the beginning of the mini-unit, the students were arranged into two main groups with two different suggested pathways, generally alternating between a class spent learning content, and a class performing a lab activity. 

There was one day set aside partway through the unit where we all came back together to perform a series of teacher-led demonstrations, ensuring that everyone was again at the same spot in their learning journey. For students who worked through the content quickly, extension activities were available at the end of the unit allowing them to deepen their exploration of radiation.

By removing myself from the active teaching of content, I was able to spend more time in conversation with the students ensuring that they had a good understanding of the material and its applications.

The students enjoyed the feeling of a higher level of academic freedom – they felt trusted in their abilities to self-pace and to decide for themselves the best way to spend their time. By removing myself from the active teaching of content, I was able to spend more time in conversation with the students ensuring that they had a good understanding of the material and its applications. The series of entrance and exit cards allowed me to keep track of the students, and to have a good sense of their individual progress.

Using technology-rich resources, I was able to guide my Grade 7 students through a series of lessons at their own, personalized pace with reinforcement and extension if needed.

Samantha Moser
Science Teacher

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Blended Learning Courses Help Students Better Organize And Manage Their Time

At Greenwood College School, one way that we personalize the student experience is through self-paced blended learning courses. Some believe that successful navigation of these courses requires students to be organized and have strong time-management skills. Although it can be advantageous for students to have these skills, I do not feel that they are necessary prerequisites. I believe that with proper guidance and support, the students enrolled in a self-directed blended learning course will develop these skills.

When we talk about personalizing a student’s experience in a course, we need to look beyond how they acquire course content and the explicit curriculum. Our role as educators is to help students develop the skills needed to achieve personal success now and in the future; skills such as working effectively with others, self-motivation, organization and time management. We cannot expect each student who enters our classroom to have mastered these skills.

The beauty of a blended learning environment is that there is more space and time available to spend coaching students in these areas. Two examples of how a teacher can guide the development of executive functioning skills follow.

The first example involves a teacher in a classroom that has students working through material at their own pace. This teacher needs to identify which students have the skills to self-direct and which students need support. The teacher can then work with the individuals needing support to make a plan outlining which to cover each day both in and out of class. Eventually, this support should transition from the teacher helping the student create the plan to the teacher checking the student’s plan.

Secondly, any teacher - whether the focus is on personalization or otherwise - can instill effective work habits in their students by establishing classroom norms and routines early in the year. In a classroom that has all students working on different tasks, strong classroom management affords the teacher the time and freedom to support individual students.

Students need to be taught a routine to start the class so that they effectively get to work. They need to know that productive conversation is encouraged but that while a teacher is helping others, the student will be held accountable to work effectively and quietly on their own.

Establishing these routines and norms often requires “policing” of students at the beginning of the year – a task that most teachers do not enjoy. However, once the classroom management is in place, the teacher can spend their time supporting both the curriculum and the growth of their students.

The combination of strong classroom management and blended learning materials creates an environment in which the personalization of more than the curriculum can take place. Within this type of classroom, students can both work at their own pace and obtain guidance as they better develop their organization, time-management, perseverance and communication skills.

Heather Rigby
Director of Personalized Learning