Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Teacher Spotlight: Mrs. Nadorff, Science PBL Roller Coasters

Teacher Spotlight: Mrs. Nadorff, 6th Grade Science
Forms of Energy Roller Coaster

Today's spotlight looks at the engaging PBL Project Mrs. Nadorff designed for her students in her 6th grade Science classes.  

What are the students doing?

      My students are building roller coasters out of paper and card stock.  The roller coaster should be able to safely move a marble from the top of the roller coaster to the bottom of the roller coaster.  My students are also making a brochure to go with their roller coasters.  

What do you hope students accomplish by completing this activity?  
      I hope that students are able to apply their knowledge of shapes, simple machines, and slope to build a roller coaster that will have a marble move down hill for 30 seconds.  I would like  for students to describe how potential energy is shown when the marble is at the top of their hills on their roller coaster.  I would also like for students to see how the marble has kinetic energy as it's moving down hill.  Some students may be able to see the marble demonstrate more or less kinetic energy due to the slopes and heights of their tracks.  Finally, I want for students to make a brochure highlighting potential energy, kinetic energy and the Law of Conservation on energy for their roller coasters.  In their brochures, they are going to have to attract their audience with their description of their themed roller coasters.  They will also need to include graphs of when their roller coaster demonstrates potential and kinetic energy.  Finally, their brochure should include pictures that lure the audience to what to check out their ride.  

How did this activity tie to your standards?  

Students are expected to be able to identify potential energy and kinetic energy from information or a graph.  Student are also expected to understand the law of conservation of energy.  Simple machines and types of energy are a part of the SC state standards.  Their roller coasters and brochures gave students real world applications for potential and kinetic energy.  Students also learned how energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred.  This was the main point in making their roller coasters.  The law of conservation of energy is a difficult concept for students to understand because there's not much out there the students can relate to.  Once they made their roller coasters and we started discussing the law of conservation of energy, it was much easier for students to understand this concept and relate it to their project.   Simple machines and types of energy were also discussed when making their roller coasters and in some of the designs the students had. Simple machines in their projects included an inclined plane and a screw.

How did this activity promote student learning?

         The key component to this project was student engagement.  Students had a purpose to their learning, therefore they were excited to come to class and work on their projects.  I've never heard so many students say they didn't want to leave my class because they loved what they were doing.  Students were having so much fun collaborating and creating that they did not pay attention to time going by during my class.  Once students bought into the design and creating process of the project, the information to go with their roller coasters and the analyzing their work (the hard part) was something they were more than willing to do.  From the designing, to making, building and rebuilding, analyzing, creating informational text and presenting their information, learning was an essential part of the entire process of their roller coaster project.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

#SCFloods Writing Across the Curriculum - Written Literacy in Orchestra

#SCFloods Writing in Orchestra 
Writing Across the Curriculum

What are the students doing?  

7th and 8th grade orchestra students were given the task of composing an original SC Flood reflection composition (at least 8 measures long). They were also allowed to complete "program notes" about their composition for extra credit.   

What do you hope students accomplish by completing this activity?

My hope is that their creativity was able to "flow" and they were able to express their personal feelings and emotions about the flood through music.   

How did this activity tie to your standards?

SC Standard 2: The student will improvise, compose and arrange music within specified guidelines.
SC Standard 3: The student will read and notate music
SC Standard 6: The student will make connections between music and other arts disciplines, other content areas, and the world. 

How did this activity promote student learning?

Students were able to transfer all of the music theory symbols and skills we use on a daily basis to their compositions. They experimented with using different rhythms, time signatures, key signatures, composing for multiple instruments, dynamic markings, slurs, ties, tempo markings, etc.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Teacher Spotlight: Lara Schmitz, Career Development Facilitator

Teacher Spotlight: Lara Schmitz, Career Development Facilitator

This is a major day in the life of BMS as students are able to learn about tons of different careers.  Teachers and students alike look forward to the work Ms. Schmitz does to coordinate this day.

What are the students doing?  
Students are learning about the many different careers and the process of how to bridge their education to prepare them for the world of work.

What do you hope students accomplish by completing this activity?  
I hope they learn about themselves; what are their interests as it relates to a future career and how to begin planning for this long-term outcome by making short term attainable goals with their academic planning.

How did this activity tie to your standards?  
It ties into the standards by introducing students to the State of SC's recognized 16 Career Clusters.

How did this activity promote student learning?  

The career discovery process achieved through activities such as career day, in-class career guidance lessons and off campus filed studies, promotes learning by providing students the opportunity to explore self interests, gain new experiences and then connect them to careers, thus beginning their "Pathways to Success".

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Teacher Spotlight: Mrs. Dobyns, Orchestra

Teacher Spotlight: Mrs. Dobyns
Orchestra Party! Student Mentoring

What are the students doing?

Students have the opportunity to come in to the orchestra room every morning for "Orchestra Party." This is where they can come in and practice alone or in small groups. They can also use this time to receive extra help from me or from fellow orchestra students.  

What do you hope students accomplish by completing this activity?

A daily extra practice session, and to start their day off of on a "good note!"  

How did this activity tie to your standards?

Orchestra Party ties in perfectly with the first SC Academic Standard for the Visual and Performing Arts:
1. The student will sing and perform on instruments a variety of music, alone and with others.   

How did this activity promote student learning?

Younger students benefit immensely from coming to orchestra party. A few 6th graders have been coming in and older 7th and 8th grade students are helping them reinforce skills (correct hand position, note reading, etc.). Students learn a lot too just by watching each other perform! 

Questions to ponder:

How have you created mentoring opportunities for students in your classes? 

What difficulties have you experienced establishing mentoring for students?

What successes do you have with mentoring?  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Teacher Spotlight: ELA Teacher Ms. Anderson, Music Mondays

Teacher Spotlight:  Ms. Anderson, 6th Grade ELA

Music Mondays


What are the students doing?
At the beginning of the school year during our Interest Survey, I asked students to list their favorite artists, songs, or genres of music. Each week, I look through their responses and choose a song that best fits the purpose of the lesson. I print the lyrics and upload them to our Google Classroom. Before playing the song in class, I ask students to read the lyrics while listening and make notes with a specific purpose in mind. I play the song twice and give students the length of the two songs to complete the warm-up.
What do you hope students accomplish by completing this activity?

I wanted to create a weekly assessment that would engage students with real world examples.  They hear a song on the radio, sing along to it, and move on to the next one when it ends. In my class on Music Mondays I tell them, "Hold on, let's analyze what the author is saying and how they are saying it". We  worked on symbols, themes, subject, and supporting details with Katy Perry's "Roar." We analyzed conflict in the Black Eyed Peas, "Where is the Love." This week, we went on a verb scavenger hunt with the song, "Cheerleader." This led to an unplanned discussion on contractions and artists that do not use verbs correctly in their lyrics. With Music Mondays I hope my students will go home, listen to the lyrics of their favorite songs, and be able to discuss authorial purpose and the parts of speech.  


How did this activity tie to your standards?  

Music Monday ties into reading, writing, communicating, inquiry, and LCS standards. Students analyze lyrics looking for authorial purpose and structural components. They examine the grammatical and linguistic choices that the lyricist made and determine how the speaker (the author in this case) used style and media to articulate a message. I use Music Mondays as an inquiry based assessment before I teach a lesson or as a formative assessment to gage student understanding after I teach a concept.

How did this activity promote student learning?

Students are actively involved in choosing the songs that we use in class each week, which puts them in charge of their learning. They look forward to Music Mondays because they are able to listen to the songs they love with a new analytical mind.  I play the songs twice so that the first time they can listen and sing, and the second time they can read along and complete the warm up. The learning is relevant rather than disconnected from their lives. They are able to work on their own during the inquiry process and then collaborate on their answers before sharing them with me. Finally, this activity is one that changes on a regular basis. One week we may work on the author’s message, the next we study pronouns and antecedents. It is one that I can modify for my students’ needs while simultaneously keep as a routine.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Make Common Sense Common

Big Goal for the Year

   In my role working constantly with technology I have developed a growing burden for helping students and teachers understand the importance of Creative Commons and Digital Citizenship.  We are doing tons of work digitally and knowing how to properly credit others' work or protect one's own work is a vitally important skill.  Complacency or not knowing are inexcusable for our schools and I want to do all I can to help people at my school pratice proper netiquette.  My district participated in a digital survey on lots of topics and Digital Citizenship proved to be an area that teachers and students showed weaknesses in.  They recognized the importance but didn't always put the process into practice.  This data is driving my work this year on Digital Citizenship.
   A first step in teaching Digital Citizenship and Creative Commons is the slogan above I created and actually created a Creative Commons license. This year I want to make common sense practice of digital etiquette in my school a reality.  This is a huge undertaking but I'm excited for the work ahead as I will be working with fellow teachers and students to develop videos, posters, and other means to inform and educate our school on Digital Citizenship.  A huge thanks for the motivation and actually caring about Creative Commons goes to our Media Specialist, Lorena Swetnam.  I am grateful for her part in teaching our school.

It's Your Turn

   What are you doing to educate your campus about Digital Citizenship?  

   How have you found success?  What areas need improvement?  

I would love to learn from your experiences.  Please share through comments or tweet me, @TylerAbernathy1 your experiences with Dig. Cit. and Creative Commons.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What do you want students to learn?

What do you want students to learn?
Think about the learning desired and then the tools 

Courtesy: CollegeDegrees 360 "Learning"  Courtesy: CollegeDegrees 360 "Student"

"What do you want students to learn?"

    This question is what I like to begin with any discussion I have with a teacher when we start a planning session for an activity or lesson.  Why start with this question?  I think it should be obvious, but if you do not start with what the intended learning outcome is, all other planning on activities and  resources is futile.  Having the intended learning identified helps teacher(s) develop a plan that effectively supports and encourages the learner to work with resources that lead to the targeted result.  
    As a Technology Learning Coach I hope that all strategies or tools I share with teachers will be used and implemented after identifying the learning desired.  I do not want teachers to try and make learning "fit" to a tool they want to use.  Fitting learning to an activity or tool will accomplish completion and sometimes engaging experiences but in the end does not maximize student learning as much as it can be when the goal is identified first.  My posts this year along with Teacher spotlights and student spotlights will hopefully make clear that learning and student success is of the utmost importance.

How I Start

1)  Get to know my colleague - This is paramount to building a collaborative relationship with a teacher.  My first questions when I meet with a teacher are "How are you as a person?"  Their answer to this tells me a lot about them and shows them I am interested in them as a person, not just a person to practice Peer Coaching with."

2) Set Expectations - I make it clear to the collaborator that this relationship is driven by them.  I am their support and want to help them meet whatever goals they lay out.  To do that I make sure protections are set up for both them and myself so meeting times are respectful and the needs of each are clear so that work is efficiently completed. 

3) Identify the Goals - This can be a short term goal or the teacher may be thinking across the entire year.  From this identification, we then begin the process of determing what is the "student learning" desired and work backwards to make an action plan to meet this learning.  It is not until we have identified learning goals that we even discuss tech tools or even teaching strategies.  Taking these steps do take time but going in this order makes the work we need to do together much clearer.  

4) Designate Future Work and Next Meeting Time - At the end of any peer coaching meeting I always ask "What is work or help you need from me before we meet again?"  Along with my work we establish "What is work the Collaborating Teacher needs to have done?"  With these items identified both have homework and clear goal of what is needed to be successful in the next meeting.

It's Your Turn

How do you begin planning for activities or lessons in your classroom or with colleagues?  

What protocols do you use?  (I find resources like Les Foltos' work on Peer Coaching is a great start.)

How has Peer Coaching or Collaborative Planning enhanced student learning in your classroom?  

Please share or tweet me @TylerAbernathy1 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

SC Midlands Summit 2015

Collaborate. Listen. Learn.
How a Media Specialist and Technology Learning Coach combined to collaborate with teachers to help make learning more engaging for students.

     Wednesday, June 10th is the big day I get to share with you all in person the exciting year I had working as a Technology Learning Coach.  My role allows me the flexibility to not only move about the school but to work with teachers of all contents and all levels.  This new role I serve in was eye-opening compared to my days in the a 6th grade Social Studies classroom. As much as I could hear about what other teachers were doing, SEEING other teachers great work was amazing!  I loved getting to sit and observe these master teachers design lessons and activities to meet the needs of students and actually get to plan and co-teach particular lessons and content.  I hope you find the work I share informative and useful for the role you serve on your school campus.  As you view some of the tiles on my Blendspace you will realize you can't open it.  Part of this is due to the fact I want to show it during my session.  The other aspect is it is a Google Classroom page or Site I created that has content I don't want to give full access.  Please contact me if you have questions or want to know more information on what I'm doing with my school.  Here's my info below.  

Tyler Abernathy

E-mail: tabernathy@richland2.org 

Twitter: @TylerAbernathy1

Presentation for SC Summit 2015

Post your thoughts and takeaways on the Padlet I've set up for my presenation.  

A quote that guides me in my role as a Peer Coach:

"A Peer Coach is a teacher leader who assists a peer to improve standards-based instruction by supporting the peer's efforts to actively engage students in 21st-century learning activities."  
                                                                                        ~ Les Foltos

Friday, May 22, 2015

Teacher Spotlight: Ms. Evans 8th Grade ELA/Social Studies

Teacher Spotlight: Ms. Evans
8th Grade ELA/Social Studies

  Today's spotlight shows the great work happening in Ms. Evans' room.  She is always thinking of how to make work exciting and engaging.  You'll definitely want to learn from this work she did to help students create Infographics and a Weebly site.  

Part One - ELA Infographics

What are the students doing?  

The students participated in a unit of study on revolutionary and world changers.  Students were then encouraged to pic a world changer of their choice and develop an argument supported with research to support and prove how this individual has changed the world.  Students then created an infographic to visually represent their information; the infographic was designed to align with their purpose while incorporating text features to create a structure that also aligned with their purpose.  After creating their infograhic, the students and I discussed public speaking and strategies to implement to speak well to an audience.  Although we have incorporated speaking and listening in our classroom all year, these presentations were more structured.  Students presented to their peers and received feedback.  The student chose the presenters, and we held an event for parents to attend and hear their student present. 

What do you hope students accomplish by completing this activity?  See above.

How did this activity tie to your standards?

According to our standards 8th graders are asked to write arguments and support them with clear claims and relevant evidence.  They are also asked to present claims and findings in a coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details while using appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.  They are also expected to integrate multimedia and visual displays to clarify and enhance their claims, reasons, and evidence.

How did this activity promote student learning?
This lesson promoted student learning through student choice, integration of technology, and parental involvement. I found that students took their work seriously as they knew there would be an audience to present their work; 98% of the students completed the assignment. The students from my ELA classes even came and presented to one of my Social Studies class to prepare for their final presentation; it was a learning experience for my Social Studies class because they provided constructive feedback to my ELA students that I then used when they presented for another assignment.  Although all parents could not attend the presentation, I was informed of parents who helped their student at home--creating a connection between school and home.  

Part Two - Reconstruction Social Studies 

What are the students doing?  
The students created a wiki to publish a reconstruction plan to help heal the United States after the Civil War.

What do you hope students accomplish by completing this activity? 
I hope students were able to improve working collaboratively, improve integrating multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interests.  This assignment also encouraged critical thinking and problem solving. 

How did this activity tie to your standards?
Eighth grade Social Studies is South Carolina History and students have studied South Carolina's role in the development of the United States throughout history.  This assignment in particular asked students to consider the differing impact of the Civil War on various groups of people in South Carolina, the development of Reconstruction policy and its impact on South Carolina, the economic impact of Reconstruction on South Carolina, and the successes and failures of Reconstruction in South Carolina.  Taking all these standards into consideration, the students created a Reconstruction Plan taking on the role of cabinet members while studying historical acts and events to make informed decisions in terms of their plan.

How did this activity promote student learning?
This activity promoted student learning by challenging students to think critically, work collaboratively, and use technology to deliver their product.  Based on student reflections, many students learned something new about contributing to a group and creating a wiki all while extending their understanding of Reconstruction and that time period.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Teacher Spotlight: 7th Grade ELA Ms. Russ

Teacher Spotlight: Ms. Russ 7th Grade ELA

Student Rotations - ELA Skills development

     Ms. Russ is an incredibly hard working teacher who seeks to find creative methods to meet the needs of all her students.  She developed an incredible amount of practice stations for her students work through in today's spotlight moment.  I hope you enjoy learning about what she was able to do with her students. 

 What are the students doing?  

Students rotated through stations to prepare for ACT Aspire. After a mock reading test and a mock writing test, I knew I wanted to work on specific topics with all the students. The students rotated through six specific stations: Revising & Editing, Paraphrasing, Direct Quotes, Reading Comprehension, Introduction & Conclusion Paragraph Structure, and Body Paragraph Structure. The stations were designed to allow them to work as pairs and individually. There was also the safety net of an answer key at each station. I didn’t want students to feel “stuck” at any station.

What do you hope students accomplish by completing this activity? 

I hoped that students would accomplish several things through this activity. To begin with, I hoped that by rotating through the stations students were able to identify their personal strengths and areas for improvement with each topic. In addition, I hoped that students would engage in collaborative discussions about content, demonstrate a command of the content, and be able to effectively show me their knowledge. Lastly, I hope that students would have meaningful and effective review for ACT Aspire testing that left them feeling more confident about the test.

How did this activity tie to your standards?       

This activity is directly correlated to the 7th grade ELA standards. Students were exposed to literature, informational texts, writing, and language practice. Students had to analyze the structure of texts, draw inferences, cite textual evidence, determine the author’s point-of-view or purpose, and determine central ideas. In addition, students had to identify unknown words and phrases, as well as show a thorough understanding of spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammatical concepts. Students also had to produce writing that was clear and cohere. Through working in their collaborative groups, students used their speaking and listening skills.

  How did this activity promote student learning?

Each day of station work ended with a student reflection piece. Students unanimously said that they loved the opportunity to move around the room, work with their peers, and learn from one another. This activity required each student to actively engage with each task. It gave students the opportunity to be the “expert” of their group, which made students want to engage with the topic, and prompted the struggling students to listen to what their peers were saying. 

Other Pictures from the Station Activities

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Teacher Spotlight: Ms. Myllakangas and Mr. Smith

Teacher Spotlight: Ms. Myllakangas and Mr Smith     (ELA&SS)

        Today's spotlight looks at the engaging work these teachers are doing within their classes to excite students about Greek History and Mythology.  Enjoy seeing how these two teachers collaborated to develop a worthwhile experience for students as they learn this content.  

What are the students doing? 

Student in my class worked together with Mr. Smith's Social Studies class to create unique myths that showed their ability to create a narrative with accurate details to ancient Greek myth writing.  To show off their creations to their parents and peers, students participated in a Greek Myth Cocoa House.  The students enjoyed cocoa and treats as they real aloud their Greek myths.

What do you hope students accomplish by completing this activity?
Through this project, we hoped to see students effectively use the Writing Process to create a narrative piece of writing.  In addition, we hoped student would show their knowledge of ancient Greek mythology.

How did this activity tie to your standards?

This activity correlated to the ELA standards as students are expected to effectively creative a narrative piece of writing.  This activity also served as a great practice writing for the ACT Aspire writing test, which will ask students to create a reflective narrative.  For Social Studies, this activity helped students to show their knowledge of ancient Greece, for which Greek mythology is a huge component. 

 How did this activity promote student learning?

The Cocoa House promoted student learning because the students were able to work side by side with both ELA and Social Studies.  In addition, students were able to work collaboratively with their peers.

What are your reflections on this activity? (positive and ways to improve in the future)

The Cocoa House has been an effective way of encouraging students to want to write. This is especially true since they are held somewhat accountable by their peers both through the Writing Process as well as during the presentation stage of writing.  In the future, I would like to combine all four classes together to create one  large Cocoa House.

Creative Commons License
Make Common Sense Common (MCSC) by Tyler Abernathy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.