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

Friday, 21 November 2014

Personalized Extensions in Grade 7 and 8 Science

The core skills that science students need to develop are effective scientific inquiry and problem-solving. In Grade 7 and 8 science, we focus on helping students to build those skills. 

To ensure all students push their personal limits, they are challenged through individualized extensions. Opportunities to do so are provided on a variety of scales and embedded into the program to ensure each student is consistently and appropriately challenged.

During labs, students have extension opportunities that expand their critical thinking skills and help them connect the material to other subjects. In our Grade 8 "Systems in Action" unit, students are investigating the mechanical advantage of pulleys. Students have the opportunity to extend their learning by building increasingly complex pulley systems with various mechanical advantages. They may also link their learning to math by creating a graph comparing the actual and ideal mechanical advantages.

In Gr. 8 "Systems in Action," students can extend their learning
through integrated mathematics .
In the classroom, students can challenge themselves when completing practice problems. In the same Grade 8 "Systems in Action" unit, some students are extended by being given more difficult challenge questions to complete when determining the work and mechanical advantage of various systems. The challenge questions are designed to push the students' conceptual understanding and may require more advanced computational skills. The focus of these questions is on different practice, not more practice.

Personalized choice in projects allows students
to communicate their understanding using their
individual strengths
Science is also personalized through a choice in projects. To convey their knowledge of cell organelles and their appearance during the Grade 8 cells unit, students are given the choice to build an edible cell model or write a creative story that incorporates cell organelles. This choice between written and visual expression allows students to communicate their understanding of cell organelles using their individual strengths.

Extension opportunities are also delivered on a larger scale to ensure each student is consistently challenged. Last year, a Grade 7 student demonstrated a keen interest in science and the ability to quickly learn new concepts and scientific skills. To ensure she remained challenged, she was given the opportunity to learn Grade 8 Science that same year. A self-paced program was developed for her, in which she had reduced work for Grade 7 Science to allow her time to focus on the Grade 8 curriculum as well. This individualized approach gave her the opportunity to explore a subject she was passionate about on a deeper level, develop time management skills and foster independent learning skills.

Elysia Jellema
Teacher, Science and Mathematics

Friday, 31 October 2014

Computer Literacy Skills Both Stretch and Support Student Learning

Grade 7 and 8 students at Greenwood participate in a Grade 9 course titled Information and Communication Technology in Business (informally referred to by staff and students as BTT) which gives them the opportunity to reach ahead and develop skills they will use in their other courses. BTT teacher Sarah Thornton discusses how this personalized, independent course helps students gain valuable skills in communications, technology, planning and organization.

Students complete the BTT course independently over two years (with fifty percent of the course completed in Grade 7 and the remaining fifty percent in Grade 8), which is both valuable and challenging. To scaffold this effort, there is a BTT coordinator appointed to the Grade 7 and 8 programs respectively. The coordinator oversees the BTT co-curricular periods that are supervised by each student's Adviser, marks assignments, and tracks and reports individual student credit accumulation to students, Advisers and parents. The personalized support provided by the individual Adviser and the oversight of the coordinator ensure that the students are able to set and meet clear goals so that they can achieve the credit in the most efficient and organized way possible.

The enrichment that Greenwood students gain by participating in the BTT course is twofold. Firstly, they are able to demonstrate the mastery over communication technology and online organization necessary to be successful in Greenwood's innovative technological environment. Moreover, participating in the course challenges and further develops students' executive functioning skills, as they are required to take responsibility for their work in a course that exists beyond the walls of their physical classrooms.

In this way, their participation in the course encourages perseverance. It teaches them how to implement and execute strategic plans, as they negotiate their way through the personalized assignment options. It provides an opportunity for Advisers and the BTT coordinators to coach the students on how to choose the best and most effective way to navigate an assignment or topic. Finally, the BTT course challenges students to maintain a clear organizational system that allows them to balance the homework and assignments required to complete the BTT course in a timely manner.

Grade 7 and 8 students benefit in both the long and short term by participating in a BTT course. This course prepares them to be successful throughout their high school careers, by giving them freedom of choice to personalize their schedules and perform to their best, as well as equipping them with critical technological skills. It also allows them, with the support of their Advisers and the BTT coordinators, to practice and apply executive functioning skills that will allow them to be successful in their current courses and beyond.


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Personalized Independence

This week, English teacher Jennifer Walcott explains how she encourages students to customize the what and where of our Grade 12 Writer's Craft course to suit their needs and interests.

The Grade 12 Writer’s Craft course is an English elective, usually chosen by students who enjoy creative writing. As the course is process driven rather than content driven, students have many opportunities to make choices based on their interests and to develop a work plan that suits their schedules.

The recent non-fiction unit allowed students the option of what forms of writing they wished to learn, but also gave them the option of where they would complete their assignments.

All of the course steps and requirements were outlined to students in class on the first day of the four-week unit. The readings, quizzes, tasks, and rubrics were all presented with a weekly due date for each of the four tasks for the unit. Students then had several options they could follow. They had to select two forms of non-fiction writing from a menu that included: travel, interviews, opinion, feature, sports, reviews, and obituaries.

As is the norm in this course, students:
  1. Read expert guidelines for success criteria and complete two reading quizzes.
  2. Find six real-world samples of the forms of writing. I offered several suggestions of sources plus samples of magazines for these, but students had to secure their own.
  3. Write an analysis of how one of the samples met the criteria they had identified.
  4. Write two original pieces of their own and annotate them to show where they were meeting the criteria. Students were encouraged to create one of their pieces for the school newspaper.
Students were also provided a package of exercises to improve their diction, syntax, and punctuation. These were warm up activities that they could do on their own. Two peer editing sessions were built into the schedule as students have repeatedly said they prefer face-to-face peer editing rather than online editing.

Each student was invited to a conference with me and with a weekly due date for tasks, I was able to see how students were progressing through the tasks and to call in any student who needed additional support for another conference. Students were also able to request a conference during class time if they wished. I was always available during class time, and several students chose to work in the room where it was quieter and they could be more focussed. However, some students preferred to work on Writer’s Craft tasks late at night and used our class time to complete work for other classes as needed.

Writing is a fairly solitary task. Once you know what you are trying to do, it’s a matter of drafting and revising. This personalized and blended approach allowed students to work at their own pace - a few students completed tasks ahead of time - and when and where they found most conducive to the tasks. The challenge was time management. Those who planned were successful, those who did not, were less so as they lost revision time. However, with weekly due dates, I was able to contact those who needed help in managing time and the frequent check ins meant no one fell behind in submitting work.

At the start of the unit, students were offered a challenge to work as a group to create a magazine or newspaper and build their writing around a specific target audience. Three groups selected this option, but only one actually completed it. The others found the challenge of working together too much and gradually opted to work alone.  Interestingly, the group that stayed together to produce a magazine of their articles was made up of the students with the most mature time management and organizational skills. My challenge for the future is how to teach those skills beforehand so more students can have this real world experience.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Blending and Personalizing a Creative Writing Unit

One of the courses I teach at Greenwood is the Grade 12 Writer’s Craft elective. Students in this course either have an interest in creative writing or want to improve their writing. The units are organized such that students first encounter criteria for success in a particular form, read examples of that form by established writers and then write their own samples having explored good models. In a recent non-fiction unit, I had all the instructions and activities online so that students could choose two of three forms to study, and could work at their own pace using class time for peer editing and teacher feedback.

The first part of the preparation was done through collaboration with my colleague Kyle Acres. I prepared all the instructions and the content while Kyle created the online modules that students would use to access the materials and submit their assignments.

While all instructions were written, there was an audio clip at the start of each module in which I gave verbal instructions as I would have done in a live class. Since the module was laid out in sequence and online, many students completed the tasks on their own time outside of class. There were two places in the module where they had to collaborate with a peer. I used class time to work with students individually or in small groups to assist with their writing.

Feedback from students at the end of the unit indicated that they enjoyed the process and having control over the pace of their work. Some admitted that time management was a challenge for them and that the process allowed them to see where they needed to improve that skill. Students who need more verbal instructions found parts of the process a challenge, even though I was there in each class and repeating some of the instructions in that way. Students who were absent for one or more classes during the seven lesson unit were most disadvantaged because they did not get the feedback they needed during the writing process.

I noticed that even though peer collaboration was required, it was not as thorough as when I orchestrate it in a regular class. Students like to work online and tend to focus in on their own work. There are aspects of the writing process that demand collaboration and so I will need to ensure that it takes place in future blended units.

I also learned that the executive functioning skills of time management and organization have to be reinforced continually so that all students can have greater success using this method. The students who possess those skills were more productive and had greater success while the others underestimated how much time each task would take. I appreciated how some of the more mundane instructional information could be put online either with audio or in writing, leaving more time for the one-to-one conferences that lead to better writing.

That said, however, I also found that I had to spend more time doing administrative tasks such as checking which tasks were completed and who needed reminders to submit work as everyone had their own schedule for doing so.

What the unit has shown me though, is which students can be allowed to move ahead more quickly with course content and which ones need more structure and reinforcement so that I can better personalize instruction. To readiness for content, I can also add readiness by organizational skill to create learning pathways for the class.

Jennifer Walcott
Director of Teacher Development