Community, curriculum, collaboration

I found another online community that I can use to help further my knowledge of teaching. The name of the group is NGSS which stands for Next Generation Science Standards. This one has to do with Biology teachers that are primarily in high school but there are some info and lessons that would fit into the middle schools easily as well. Within the group, there are biology teachers from around the country that help each other with standards, lessons, ideas, textbooks, labs, and lots of other great resources.

I find this very helpful for as a new teacher or a teacher that wants to mix things up and add different material. I plan on asking questions and then helping others when I can as I learn more. This expands the learning community from just the school and town that I live and teach in, to a much larger scope of assistance.

Blog Post #5 The Authentic Assessment

As wikipedia states the, “Authentic assessment is the measurement of intellectual accomplishments that are worthwhile, significant, and meaningful.” They go on to say those qualities are in comparison to standardized testing. I couldn’t agree more. I can’t think of an instance that I have used anything from my high school standardized testing career that I revisited in the real world. One of my favorite components of an authentic assessment is that they can be created in collaboration with the students. This gives students a sense of ownership with the class.

Creating an authentic assessment starts by asking the question – what should the students be able to do? To apply authenticity students should be able to mirror real tasks or problem solving skills that may be required from them outside of the school. The good authentic assessment or assessments in general should involve an act of learning. An authentic assessment will in many cases ask students to require a judgement toward the quality of something making it subjective in nature, in essence to get the student making opinions about the subject matter to display their knowledge about it.

Some other aspects, other than the real world applicability, that authentic assessments should have are: backwards design ie-creating them before the curriculum, creating rubrics to ensure rigor, gets students using critical thinking skills, they help students self-assess their learning, they measure how they think not what they remember, and perhaps most important they engage students because they are based on content that students have genuine interest in.

Blog Post #5 (Authenticity)

What is “authentic” about “authentic assessment”? Why are authentic assessments a more valid measure of student learning? Describe any authentic assessments employed or discussed by your host teacher or another teacher at your school.

First, authentic assessment is the most practical type of assessment. It is similar to how a contractor can do years of book work, but without experiencing trial and error while using different tools to build or construct different types of projects the information they received until that point is useless. Authentic assessment is the use of utilizing the information gathered and using and practicing it in daily situations.

Second, the measurement of authentic assessment is a larger scale that leaves room for improvement. On the typical multiple choice, true or false, or even fill-in-the-blanks tests all have answers that are correct or incorrect. In an authentic assessment, students are on a scale between “needs practice” and “efficient”. This leaves more room for growth and healthier practice.

Lastly, my host teacher and I have not intentionally looked for authentic assessments, but it is something we have talked about and are interested in drafting possibilities. We both believe that a student who can’t apply the material to their own life will be less likely to receive the information. We are looking towards a speech-like format while discussing persuasive essays and effective argumentation.

Blog Post #4 (Curriculum and Assessment)

What are the requirements and guidelines for curriculum and assessment in your school? How does your host teacher address district goals and mandates?   How does this relate to teacher evaluation?

The curriculum is drawn out by the Juneau School District and is set in stone. The Alaska State standards and Common Core standards are similar, if not identical, and Juneau follows the curriculum for each grade level. However, my host teacher views the curriculum for seventh grade language arts as guidelines. He follows the book nearly religiously in order to provide students with standards they must know before moving to the next grade level.

The timeline, on the other hand, is what he bends in order to make sure students have an understanding before moving on. The Springboard workbook occasionally doesn’t provide enough time for students to get through the entire lesson. He extends some lessons to multiple days while he skips over a few lessons to compensate for lost time.

Assessments are outlined in the Springboard curriculum and my host teacher uses them the majority of the time. He explains that it is the curriculum Juneau is being taught and to accurately prepare them for next year, he must keep to the curriculum. Since the book has a specified curriculum, he also sees fit to use the summative assessments the book provides. However, he does add his own formative assessments in order to identify how much time will be spent on each unit or to observe percentages of students who grasped the major concepts of the lesson. These assessments will provide feedback for Springboard who will then adapt the lesson to make the curriculum more efficient for future generations.

In my school, teacher evaluations are judged based on how efficiently, effectively, and timely they provide information to the students. I was lucky enough to participate in informal teacher evaluations to provide feedback to teachers on how easily their learning objective is to find, how relevant the lesson is, and how well the average student copes with the lesson.

Blog Post #3 (Backward Design)

I have been teaching many different lessons, but if I was able to select a learning objective for students to learn that I have not yet taught, nor will I teach during my unit, it would be to have students say “I can identify irony, and by extension satire, in common day situations and current events.”

After identifying where students will be at the end, the next step is to identify the what will be an appropriate measurer of ability. In this case I think it could be giving multiple situations and having students answer true (ironic or satyrical) or false (not ironic or satyrical). However, since irony would be the goal of the day, a quiz might not be the best idea because this wouldn’t be a larger lesson or unit. The quiz could be replaced with formative assessment of asking students to explain, in their own words, what irony is similar to or a definition that makes sense to them.

The final step in backwards design is to identify which activities would be best suited to get students to answer the formative assessment question and be able to define irony and satire. The first step would be to have students read a textbook definition of the words and what they mean. Next, students would draw parallels between definitions of new words and previous knowledge (e.g exaggeration, hyperbole, sarcastic, mockery, or parody). After that, students will undergo multiple activities to help them identify ironic situations or uses of satyrical humor.

Blog #5

Blog Post #5: What is “authentic” about “authentic assessment”? Why are authentic assessments a more valid measure of student learning? Describe any authentic assessments employed or discussed by your host teacher or another teacher at your school.

I’m glad I started to write these blogs after creating my UbD because authentic assessment has a different meaning to me now.  At first I thought that authentic assessment was more like the thought of having an original assessment and that it was something I created instead of just copying an already used or book-made test.  But now I believe an authentic assessment is a varied way of making sure the students really understood the big ideas and objectives.  Yes, by not using pre-made tests can be a way of being authentic but there is also a world of assessments outside of tests.  I have never been a fan of test-taking to being with, so this makes assessment much easier for everyone.  By authentic assessment, I will make sure there are varied and challenging ways of making sure the students are grasping the concepts and big ideas.  For example, in the unit I created there is time and space for a written test but my focus is on the progress they are making in their journal reflections and project-based learning.  There is something so valuable about having them work in groups for an extended amount of time on one idea/challenge.  These authentic assessments are a valid tool for measuring their understandings because it is varied and the grade doesn’t ride all on one assessment.  They have time and valid proof that they are learning new things and working towards a goal with journal reflecting and project-based learning.  Some of my students would much rather have a written test to demonstrate what they have learned but I know, as a student and teacher, this is not fair to everyone.

There is a teacher within the Stikine house that is also very project and place-based heavy and she created a project where the students had to pick a theme and create a periodic table based on how the periodic table is arranged using whatever theme they picked.  A lot of the students picked their favorite book series or show on TV and were able to understand the periodic table after applying some basic understandings to their themed periodic table.  The emphasis was on the big idea/concept and not on if they could memorize and write about how it was organized in a test format.

Blog #2

Blog Post #2: Research the GLE’s (Grade Level Expectations) and Alaska State Student Standards for content and performance for your discipline. What are you teaching at the moment that might be considered a big idea? Why is it a big idea? Anything that might be considered “worth being familiar with” or “ Important to know and do?”

SB Students develop an understanding of the concepts, models, theories, universal principles, and facts that explain the physical world.
SB1  Students develop an understanding of the characteristic properties of matter and the relationship of these properties to their structure and behavior.
SB2  Students develop an understanding that energy appears in different forms, can be transformed from one form to another, can be transferred or moved from one place or system to another, may be unavailable for use, and is ultimately conserved.
SB3  Students develop an understanding of the interactions between matter and energy, including physical, chemical, and nuclear changes, and the effects of these interactions on physical systems.
SB4  Students develop an understanding of motions, forces, their characteristics and relationships, and natural forces and their effects.

These are the Science 6th-8th grade concepts of physical science.  At Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School we are separated into houses.  There is one 6th grade house and two 7th&8th grade house.  I teach in Stikine House which is only 7th and 8th grade students.  Because there are two different grades, when it comes to science they alternate every year with life science and physical science.  This year we are doing physical science.  The current unit I am teaching is chemistry, which the kids have been really excited about.  We first started with the periodic table and now getting into chemical reactions and labs.  SB1 and SB3 are best aligned with the chemistry unit I have been teaching.  When we first started the unit, the focus was more on atoms and matter and what makes up an atom.  Now we are transitioning into chemical reactions and the effects of these reactions and how we can tell something has occurred.  A big idea in this chemistry unit is that students observe how elements are arranged on the periodic table by how they bond with other atoms to make molecules.  Another big idea has been on the structure of an atom and every element is unique based on certain characteristics.  It’s important that the students see the periodic table as something that is well thought out and organized and every element is in its placed based on specific characteristic(s).  In order for them to understand this big idea, they would have to know how an atom is structured.  This is something they all know well now–protons, neutrons, and electrons.  They have to take those numbers and structure into consideration in order to understand the periodic table.  The students have spent time taking notes, working in small labs, reflecting in their journals, discussing with classmates and working on projects in order to show they are really grasping these big ideas in chemistry.  It has been a trip for me as well since I always struggled with chemistry and had to be reminded what “basic chemistry” looks like.  All-in-all, everyone seems to be enjoying and learning lots with the chemistry unit.