Student Choice Boards

student choice

It’s so important that we give our students options; it helps with engagement, accountability, and a sense of owning the lesson. All students do not learn the same, so when we create choice boards, you can also create the choices to cater to multiple learners. This is an example of differentiating instruction. I encourage you to view the ‘Lunar Cycle Station Tic Tac Toe’ choice board that I created a couple of years ago.                      

8th Grade Science:

Lunar Cycle Station Tic-Tac-Toe

science

Objective: Be able to demonstrate, explain, and predict the sequence of the lunar cycle.

Choose three square activities to rotate and complete. Your squares must be either three in a row (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal).

Using your notes, illustrate the 8 phases of the moon as it completes a lunar cycle, use your favorite cartoon to represent the Earth in the center. Watch a you-tube video of your choice about the Lunar Cycle and write a one paragraph summary detailing the video. Define the following terms: waxing, waning, gibbous, crescent, quarter.
Explain the time it takes to complete a lunar cycle, and the number of days it takes to get to each phase. Choose a graphic organizer of your choice and create notes about the lunar cycle and moon phases. Construct a 3-D model of the lunar cycle using play-dough.
Create a foldable that illustrates and provides short descriptions of each phase of the moon. Create a vocabulary foursquare for the terms: waxing, waning, gibbous, quarter, and crescent. In your own words, explain the process of the lunar cycle in 5-7 sentences.

 

Differentiating for Learning Styles

differntBack in 2016, I faced a huge Educator dilemma. I started the school year off teaching 7th-grade science and working diligently to bring them up to grade level. We had a routine and everything was going great. But then! I was notified that I would no longer be teaching 7th grade instead I would help to prepare the 8th-grade students (my former 7th graders) for their upcoming STAAR exam. Now, you may be thinking no big deal, but what I did not mention was it was late January when this change happened. Halfway through the semester. Not only did I need to learn a new curriculum, but I also had to create a foundation and structure for these students. I had to learn who was in my classroom and most importantly how they received information. This assignment that I completed in my Differentiating Instruction class came in handy.

The ASSIGNMENT

Content Area: Earth and Space

TEKS Objectives

8.7 Earth and space. The student knows the effects resulting from cyclical movements of the Sun, Earth, and Moon. The student is expected to:

(A)  model and illustrate how the tilted Earth rotates on its axis, causing day and night, and revolves around the Sun causing changes in seasons.

II. Interest Inventory

During this unit, students will be in stations. Each station will have a different method of instruction such as read and comprehend, organize, explore, vocabulary, and center activity. To prepare for this setup, I will provide students with a short survey on ways that they prefer to learn a concept. In this item, it will include questions about note-taking methods, research activities, and hands-on activity preference. This will be done midweek, prior to beginning this unit, as an exit ticket.  This allows me sufficient time to plan or adjust our station activities for the following week.

 III. Analysis of Data

I predict that I will have the majority of my students that have a kinesthetic and visual learning style. I do know that I will have the three common types of learners in my class which are auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. In my lesson, since I am doing stations, the grouping will vary slightly. Each group is learning the same content just in different ways. I will place students in the stations that they are in the strongest in before starting the other stations. However, because each station has a little of something for everyone, I will not have all visual learners at the organize station at once. The groups will still be mixed. I do not believe that I will have any unusual learning styles that are difficult to accommodate. Each station is designed for all types of learners.

IV. DI (Differentiated Instruction) Strategies

I will use the analysis to determine how I present the content in their station sections. As stated in the previous section, I will use a weekly five station. These stations consist of 1) read and comprehend 2) organize it, 3) center activity, 4) explore it, and 5) vocabulary.  Each station is going over the exact same TEK or content; however, students get to receive the content from different angles.  I’ll break the stations down by content and learning styles.

  1. Read and Comprehend Station– In this station, students will have an article about Earth’s Tilt and how it affects the seasons. This article can be found on paper in their folder (visual) or online that includes a voice record of the article (auditory), graphics, and items that can be clicked or manipulated such as earth revolution and rotation simulator (kinesthetic). Students have the option to read the article using the paper vision or listen to the article online that includes. Once students have completed the article, they will complete a KWL chart, summarize what they read, and complete a sentence stem of their choice.
  2. Organize It Station– In this station, students will have to create their own graphic organizer after reviewing notes on the Earth’s tilt, rotation, and revolution. Students will be given a variety of graphic organizers that they may choose from. They also have the freedom to highlight and arrange their notes in a way that makes sense and flows for them. (Visual) Students also have the option to assemble a graphic organizer and glue it in the proper section of their station booklet that also has the information. (Kinesthetic)
  3. Center Activity Station- In this station, students will create a foldable where they will illustrate a model of the Earth tilting on its axis and revolving around the sun. (kinesthetic) The illustration must be properly labeled (seasons must be properly labeled within the orbit on their illustration). The foldable already has pre-written notes, but must summarize those notes inside the flaps of their foldable. (visual, auditory) I will have a station iPad and headphones that is set to our class see-saw account that has a video which demonstrates and explains how to create their foldable. (auditory)
  4.  Explore It Station- At this station, students will be conducting research on Earth’s rotation and revolution. I will assign a you-tube video “Earth’s rotation vs. Revolution Crash Course Kids 8.1”. Students must watch the video (auditory), take notes during the video (visual), and use their notes to create a two paragraph summary and illustration on what they learned. After completing the summary, students can play a rotation vs revolution game found online. (Kinesthetic)
  5. Vocabulary Station- In this station, students will be writing down their vocabulary words found in their notes: rotate, revolve, and orbit (visual). Students will also create a vocabulary foursquare. In this vocabulary foursquare, students must include the term, an example, non-example, and drawing. Students will also build their vocabulary foursquare (only using the word rotate) by assembling a dice. (kinesthetic) When students have finished the dice, they will do a think pair share activity. In this activity, the student will roll the dice, and discuss what it lands on. (auditory)

V. Results

Differentiating learning styles in this lesson has been mind-blowing and refreshing for me. Having a variety of ways to learn the same content has made my life easier and allowed my students to be more engaged and less distracted by behavior. The stations and the options that the stations gave pleased the students. They did not feel restricted, because there was something for everyone. Our quiz scores increased to class averages of at least an 80% or better.

VI. Reflection

I completed these stations this week. It has been very challenging learning my students in the middle of the year and what works best for them. Long story short, I have been the seventh-grade science teacher for two years, in January, I was reassigned to teach eighth grade (I taught the majority of these students in 7th grade) to prepare them for state testing since they had gone without a teacher. It has been extremely challenging and frustrating to get them caught up to an entire semester, but this week gave me so much hope and excitement. The students loved the fact that they could learn at their own pace and that they were retaining information. Majority of students scored 75% or higher on their quiz today; this is amazing to me because the questions were STARR sampled questions and involved critical thinking. Out of 89 students, I only had 5 to fail their quiz. This gave me a proud teacher moment. This proved to myself and students that all it took for us to do was to find out what learning style works best for them. I was more of a facilitator and redirector this entire week and behavior issues decreased dramatically. Prior to completing this assignment, in another class, classroom management we discussed how using interest and learning style inventories help in your classroom, which is what prompted me to do the survey. Differentiated instruction is absolutely necessary and the results will blow you away. I am grateful that I took the time to complete the interest inventory and actually use the information to help me.

Here is a glimpse of survey questions that I used:

My Way of Learning Survey

Answer the following questions using Yes or No.

  1. I work better with a partner._______
  2. I like participating in hands-on activities.________
  3. I prefer working alone.___________
  4. I find it easier if my teacher provides me with notes about our lesson.________
  5. I understand our lesson better when my teacher verbally explains what to do._________
  6. I find it easier to learn if I have visuals such as graphs, drawings, and charts._________
  7. I find it easier to learn, when I am able to be creative such as building, designing, singing, or acting out our lesson._________

“Challenges for Teachers”

teacher challenges

Teaching is far from easy or smiles and kisses.  Teaching or should I say educating is a challenging, yet a rewarding adventure.  Anyone who believes that teaching is “easy” has no idea about educating young minds.  Our students are very intelligent and intellectual, and they are often times distracted by outside circumstances that stretch beyond the school walls.

Educating is bigger than just teaching a child a concept and expecting them to retain it.  Teaching is about penetrating the minds of our students.  Before you can truly educate a child, I believe you first have to reach that particular child or children.  This leads me to the most challenging, or what I believe to be the most difficult part of the learning process.  In order to reach our students, teachers have to figure out what learning methods work best for each individual student; hence, the reason I refer to it as the most difficult part of the learning process.  Teachers have to have a starting point or at least find one in each child’s mind.  I am a firm believer in, “all children can learn, but not all children learn the same”.

As a teacher, my biggest question to myself has been, “how do I relay knowledge to my students in a way that draws them in, allows them to grasp the concept, and process that information?” Teaching is searching for your student’s actions and responses to ensure that they not only get ‘it’, but understand and obtain the information that you are trying to get them to perceive.  How do you start their thinking process without tapping into a student’s mind? Again, in my opinion, this is the most difficult process; however, it can also be the most rewarding and amazing beginning, once you are able to see your students make that connection.  This is what teaching is all about; it is not easy, but instead an ongoing adventure.

Shaping Scientific Inquiry and Learning

At the After-School Program that I serve, I had students to participate in the Ping-Pong Ball and Soda Bottle Activity as a Fun Friday Choice Activity. The students were excited to participate in a ‘special experiment’ with me. Originally, I wanted the activity to be done with our 4th-5th-grade students (ages 10-11), but the 1st and 2nd-grade students (ages 5-7) wanted to be involved as well. The first activity that we did was the Ping-Pong Ball Activity. I started off by giving the students simple directions and creating a competition out of the activity.

PingPong

My instructions were using the funnel (it must be near your mouth) and the ping-pong ball, try to get your ping pong ball to rise to the top. You may create a mouth guard if you like, but this is optional.

The challenge question was will your ping pong ball rise out of your funnel, and who can get their ping-pong ball to rise the highest. With these instructions, students immediately begin to make a mouth guard and blow directly into the funnel to get the ball to rise.

One student said, “how do we get the ball to the top?” Another student said maybe we are not using enough strength. I began to ask the students what they meant by the word strength and what made them say that particular word. The students said the air that they were blowing through the funnel was not strong enough. I knew what they were really meaning was pressure. I encouraged them to use scientific language.

So, I asked another question, “is there something that is stronger than the air that you are blowing out?”. The students responded that the ball was stronger. I went back to my original directions after students tried a few times and highlighted that I never gave specific instructions to blow into the end of the funnel. One student shouted it, “wait! I got it!”. They grabbed the funnel and ping pong ball and begin to blow inside the top of the funnel that is when the ball began to rise. The students said this activity was fun but stressful. 😊

The last activity was the soda bottle activity. The goal was to be the first person to blow the paper into the bottle. The students began to ask, “Ms. Andy is this a trick like the last one?”. I chuckled and explained the last activity was not a trick. This activity went a lot faster than the last. Students started off trying to blow directly into the bottle, which the paper ball either fell out of the mouth of the bottle or did not move at all. One of the students, Emily, asked the question, “Ms. Andy, if we blow the paper from the mouth, we are just blowing air into the bottle, pushing the bottle back, right?”. I was blown away and the other students just stared at me curiously. So, I asked the question why do you think that is happening, be sure to use scientific vocabulary. One of the 5th-grade students said, “Because there is more pressure going into the bottle, than on the paper.” The students begin asking questions like how can we get more pressure onto the paper ball, should we blow on it from a different angle? One student moved to the side of the mouth of the bottle and begin to blow. The paper fell inside the bottle.

Help the Parent, help the child!

As we know most of our student’s parents have full-time jobs and go above and beyond to make sure their child or children have a place to call home and other necessities. Parents usually look for the teachers to make sure that their child has all the academic tools needed to succeed.

As educators, we know that both the parents and teachers together can play a more impactful role. Instead of complaining about what is not happening outside of the classroom, we should consider ways to educate their parents on what they can do and how. Simplifying ways that parents can help maximize the potential and mindset of our students are a starting point.

In one of my courses, we were challenged to create a weekly newsletter to share with parents. The newsletter is about what their children were doing and how they can help do more at home. Here is what I created Parent Engagement Newsletter, feel free to download the PDF and adjust as you desire.

Yours in Empowerment,

Andrea S. Bracey

“Great Teachers”

I read an article Nine Characteristics of Great Teacher for a course that I was taking. Below you can find my reflection on this article.

This article focuses on nine reasons why great teachers make great leaders. A few reasons stood out to me the most. These reasons stood out to me because they are the driving force of my growth and development as a leader. “Great teachers know how to create a strong company culture”. “Great teachers persevere”. It is so important to have a great culture and climate in your place of employment, and most people think that it should be in great shape before you begin employment. This is not always the case, so we should constantly be aware of what we are bringing into the environment and culture, and how we can make our company stronger.

Your energy, your personality, your drive, your ethics and work ethics, can shift an atmosphere for better or worse. I believe that a strong company operates as a family, we support each other, we have disagreements, but our goal is to see everyone succeed. When we operate in this manner, everyone grows including yourself. The second reason that stood out to me was great teachers persevere. In my classroom, I had my favorite word on a bulletin, which is tenacity. The word persevere is a part of the definition of tenacity. As a teacher, we face many challenges that cause us to want to walk away from teaching altogether, but it is that perseverance that keeps us going, that will to continue despite circumstances, pressure from administration and parents. Teaching is not easy or for the weak. Teaching forces us to be strong and overcome in situations that may have been designed to break us. Perseverance helps us to build character, and we become an example to those around us.

“Are You a Teacher Leader?”

demonstrate-leadership-tolisanoIn the article Are You a Teacher Leader? written by Susan Lucille Davis, it asks several questions that are all thought-provoking, and each question is designed to help you determine if you are a teacher leader.

These questions were: 1. do you feel a sense of purpose; 2. are you focused on what matters most-student learning; 3. do you listen to and learn from others; 4. do you take risks; 5. do you nurture yourself physically, intellectually, and spiritually; 6. do you transparently share ideas and stories of your teaching practices in a community of supportive educators?

These questions allowed me to genuinely assess myself and here are my answers.

  1. I believe that my purpose is to help change minds and shift lives of people that are trying to pursue their gifts and visions; this purpose begins with encouraging, engaging, and empowering people. The purest form of purpose is often found in the hearts and minds of our youth, which is why I believe that I was placed on this platform.
  2. I will go beyond the call to ensure my students are reaching their highest potential inside and outside of the classroom, their minds matter, and it is my responsibility to be that shift and the difference that helps them reach that potential.
  3. I am a very observant person, constantly analyzing, and listening to what makes people happy, what makes them excited, what encourages them, what discourages them; all of this helps me in delivering content and information to them in a way that they grasp it; I am constantly learning and growing because of my students and others. Honestly, they have pulled so many characteristics from me, I never knew existed, whether it be ways to problem solve, engage, discipline, reward, etc.
  4. I love taking risks because it puts me on the other side of fear and out of my comfort zone.
  5. I believe that for me to pour out into my students and colleagues, I must be poured into and this begins with my health, spirituality, and work-life balance; investing in yourself is so important, especially in education, because you have to deliver content and be an example at all times. You are at your best when you are healthy in mind, body, and spirit.
  6. I have started a business that revolves around sharing ideas, strategies, empowerment to educators, pieces of training, my stories, and hardships to educators all around the world; I understand that we need support, we need that extra push. I was in awe after answering these questions because I reflect a teacher-leader whether I want to admit it or not.

“Let them try their innovative ideas, you never know it might just work, and be the next big thing.”

innovationI am in my last semester of graduate school. I will receive my MEd in Curriculum & Instruction from Texas A&M Commerce in December of this year. I have learned and gained so much as I have matriculated through my core courses.

I’m excited to share some of the reflections that I have completed. One of my favorite courses was Leadership and Supervision in Schools; I took this course in the Fall of 2017. Here is a reflection from a topic that we covered:

“Let them try their innovative ideas, you never know it might just work, and be the next big thing.” The one great aspect about working at a charter school was that we had the freedom to be as creative and innovative with the curriculum as we desired if students mastered the concept and data reflected this. This opened the door to creative expression in teaching and learning, honestly, it made me fall in love deeper with teaching middle school science; my passion for the subject trickled down to my students. Learning became fun and engaging again. My students caught on to concepts quickly and retained the information for later units. I always believed for this reason our school had so much potential if everyone could get on one accord and do learning/teaching differently. This had the greatest impact on our campus; students had something to be excited and interested in, and they had something to look forward to in some of their classes. For example, most of my middle-grade students had never seen or heard of a dissection before; they were introduced to dissecting through a unit on organ systems and functions; we dissected a frog and made a rap about the organ system once we were finished, the students loved this and in return had an 85% passing rate on their unit assessment. I could hear them mumbling the rap to remember the levels of organization in an organism. This became an escape and outlet for them to express themselves.

A plan to promote this idea would be to host mini-engagement workshops during department meetings. This allows each teacher to share their knowledge on an engagement strategy or creative strategy they used in the classroom, how it worked for them, and how it can work for others. Teachers can share this information by either making a short video demonstrating this technique or create a mini resource to hand out. There would also need to be goal or timeline set in place to test the strategy and students’ responsiveness to it; this is a process and would take time and patience to ensure overall success.

Science Professional Developments

We all dread the boring professional developments that serve no purpose and are not engaging! Well, not only do I provide engaging and impactful professional development workshops, but I also decided to provide some additional options for professional development on the go.

Teaching Tolerance

https://www.tolerance.org/professional-development

Teaching Tolerance provides professional developments for educators in the following areas, school climate, instruction, classroom culture, family and community engagement, teaching leadership, and teaching tolerance workshops. This company provides online webinars, learning modules, and face to face workshops in selected cities. Some of the resources are free, while others may cost such as face to face workshops.

Georgia Aquarium

https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/experience/learn/school-programs/educators/professional-development

The Georgia Aquarium provides professional development opportunities for educators related to STEAM. Some workshops include STEAM Series where there are multiple sessions throughout the day. These sessions cost anywhere from $35-$125. The aquarium also offers some training that has a stipend, take away resources, and other great materials attached to it.

Who wants an ineffective ‘Teacher-Leader’?

Teacher-Leader1-1024x521I wanted to share with you some takeaways that I had from a course in Leadership and Supervision in Schools. No student or staff member wants to follow someone who does not exemplify the qualities that they are asking and seeking from them. It all starts with the individual first. I believe that as teachers, sometimes we forget that we are already leaders. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been drawn to this profession. We covered three main topics: the importance of collaboration, qualities of an effective teacher leader, and myths of leading from the middle. Here is what I gained from each topic:

Topic 1: The importance of Collaboration

Throughout the course, we have looked at many strategies that help us lead from the middle. One of these strategies that showed up constantly throughout Maxwell’s book, was collaboration. I learned that collaboration is necessary to help our students and leaders thrive. It is designed to help ease the burden of wearing many hats as well as reaching a common goal. It also provided us with ways to collaborate with our colleagues such as asking ways that I can be of assistance and volunteering to do certain activities. This topic was important to me because it is something that I struggled with; now, I realize that working together versus working alone is more impactful. You have other people that are willing to work with you and strengthen you in areas where you are weak; collaboration is not meant to be competition. I have a better understanding of what collaboration really is and the purpose of it.

Topic 2: Qualities of Effective Teacher Leader

This topic of what makes an effective teacher leader was also discussed throughout our course; I learned that effective teacher leaders have a passion for teaching and learning, building relationships, communicating, embracing change, and much more. I named these qualities because I learned that I have qualities of a teacher leader, whether I knew it or not. I also learned how to recognize these qualities and appreciate those leaders who possess them. I will continue to grow personally and professionally to make sure I carry these qualities with me inside and outside the classroom. Learning about these qualities helped me to be transparent with myself and my own character. It allowed me the opportunity to reflect on some qualities that needed to be strengthened.

Topic 3: The Myths of Leading from the Middle

During this topic, we looked at seven myths of leading from the middle. These myths were:

MYTH #1 The Position Myth: “I can’t lead if I am not at the top.”

MYTH #2 The Destination Myth: “When I get to the top, then I’ll learn to lead.”

MYTH #3 The Influence Myth: “If I were on top, then people would follow me.”

MYTH #4 The Inexperience Myth: “When I get to the top, I’ll be in control.”

MYTH #5 The Freedom Myth: “When I get to the top, I’ll no longer be limited.”

MYTH #6 The Potential Myth: “I can’t reach my potential if I’m not the top leader.”

MYTH #7 The AII-or-Nothing Myth: “If I can’t get to the top, then I won’t try to lead.”

This was one of the most perspective changing and important topics that I learned from throughout this class. I learned that you can be a leader from where you are, making it to the top does not mean you were not a leader prior to that. It is important to develop qualities of a leader before you become the head of any organization. The middle sharpens your skills because it is where you are naturally being a leader without the recognition or the title, you learn a sense of humility and servant leadership. These myths keep a lot of individuals stagnant or fearful of doing what needs to be done at that moment.  Knowing that these are common myths that we all have faced or will face allowed me to imagine what is on the other side of these beliefs. Now that I am aware of how to decipher these myths and move beyond them, I will not allow these limiting thoughts to defeat me or cause me to be any less than the leader I am capable of being and becoming.

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