Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Training Day

I was recently out of my classroom for day three of GATE training. This day of "training" was considerably more interesting and relevant than previous two days. I picked up a few ideas and got some reaffirmation about some things that I am already doing with my students.

Some of the 'suggestions' from today's in service will take some getting used to, should I try to work them into my classroom structure. We heard from our presenter about such the idea of frequent seat changes. For me, seating arrangements of my classroom are changed, not frequently, but periodically. My students are also seated based on visual needs, disciplinary needs, and by occasional parental request for certain classroom locations for their child. According to our presenter, "variety stimulates the brain, so students should frequently change seats"
This can also be done by doing more pairing and trio work, with pairs or trios assigned at random rather than the often used "find a partner near you....."

Our presenter did emphasize that high achieving students do not want to be paired or put into a group of lesser performing students, because they feel they end up doing most of the work for the group. I have found over the years that this tends to be true, and that the parents of high achieving/GATE students do not want their child paired or grouped with lesser performing or trouble making students. It was suggested to let kids pair themselves up, but be sure to limit the time allotted to getting into pairs or trio groups. Our presenter shared with us his belief that four or more students in a group was too many, especially at the middle school/junior high school level, where "work" would often be edged aside in favor of social jabbering and such.

The presenter also keyed in on "less teacher, more student" in terms of the assignments. Give students some general guidelines and let they determine how to best complete the assignment. Teaching junior high, I believe many of my high achieving/GATE-level students can do this with little prompting. But those who are lower achieving, less motivated, etc., need more guidance and instruction (and maybe even some examples) to understand what is expected.

I was also introduced to a new teaching concept that I don't know if I would be able to implement; that of moving on with the lesson when one-third of the students have indicated that they have completed a section of the task. In my highly mixed ability classes, would this totally leave behind my ELL and RSP kids ? For example, today in class we did peer evaluations of a cornell note taking assignment. The first instructions I gave were to get out the assignment and a clean sheet of notebook paper. My high achieving/GATE-level kids did this within about a minute of hearing the instructions and were ready to go on to step two, which was to create their evaluation sheet. Meanwhile, my "lower achieving" kids were digging through backpacks and binders trying to find their assignment, asking me when we did that assignment or asking their neighbors for a sheet of paper.

I might point out here that contrary to what we have heard about GATE and high achieving students in these GATE Teacher training in services, the school I teach at does not offer any GATE classes with the exception of a GATE-Language Arts. Small clusters of GATE classified students are lumped into other classes with ELL, mainstreamed RSP students and the chronically under/low achieving students. So anyhow, I am not sure using the one-third finished, move on rule would work for the majority of my students. I dislike the down time for the GATE-level, high achieving students I have, but I don't think this one-third done- move on idea would work well for me. The pressure on us teachers is to get our low achievers UP, and not to worry about the GATE-level/high achieving students. To me this is not right, but unfortunately, the powers that be in my district, like many school districts, care more about the test scores and being politically correct than doing what is right or needed for ALL students.

Lastly, I'll share this idea. I have always heard about pausing an audio- visual presentation at times for the students to catch up with their notes or for the teacher to let them know that something that was just said was important and they need to write it down in their notes. The suggestion at this in service was to do this, but for the teacher to also write down three to five questions during the audio-visual presentation to use as a quiz at the end of the presentation. This lets the teacher know if students are getting what they should learn from the presentation and lets students know if they are catching the important data and producing quality notes. I can see this happening more at the high school level than with me at the junior high, at least with my seventh graders. Too many of my students have never taken notes about anything, and I usually give them a guided activity to do in conjunction with an audio-visual presentation. For example, I'll give them a worksheet with questions and a set of answer choices for each question prior to beginning an audio-visual presentation. Before the presentation, they are to read over the questions and answer choices. They answer the questions as they view the presentation, then we go over it so they have the correct answers. I will then assign them to pick five of the questions that they believe contain the most important data about the subject, and write five statements [combining the question and answer(s) into one statement.]

I hope you found something of interest that can help make your teaching job a bit easier for you.

Thanks for reading my blog. I welcome your comments !