Podcasts are Great Way to Develop Speaking and Listening

If you’ve ever checked out our Friends of Educationrickshaw.com page, you may have seen mention of my best friend Jim Stewart Allen’s ongoing podcast project, Historiography!. While the content is geared towards adults, we were able to collaborate on an episode that made it into my classroom:

 

 

In the episode, Jim makes a call out to all of my kids in Sudan, which immediately blew their minds when I showed it to them in class. He then goes into his typical dissection of a media piece, this time being the Phases of Matter episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy, which my students had just watched in preparation for this surprise event. The listen not only led to a lot of laughs and conversation about the science, but it intrigued my Year 5’s  to the point that they wanted to record their own podcasts!

Recording the Podcasts

Like a piece of writing, there are both linear and non-linear ways of arriving at a published podcast. For brainstorming, the kids and I love Inspiration, and I made sure to have students practice with partners or small audiences before they launched into the publishing stage. For the actual recording, I had students create a cover photo and then record their voice over it using Seesaw.

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Thanks @MrsGadtke for the poster!

See Also: 5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Seesaw, which has been retweeted a few times by Seesaw themselves

Learning Potential

Almost all of the students felt that they needed a few shots to actually get it right, and it was wonderful to watch students struggle to produce the exact words they needed to convey meaning. One of the biggest hurdles that some students had to jump was filling airtime with entertaining banter and commentary. Many at first experienced a sort of podcast stage fright that forced them to scrap their recording and start over again. In one outlying case, a student had to switch over to recording in iMovie so that they could edit out the long pauses that kept making it into his final recording.

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The more that I think about the potential learning that can occur from planning and recording podcasts, the more I want to get going on another unit that includes them as a learning engagement. As you can see from the below photo, most of my kids’ podcasts would be considered “segments”, but I am sure there is room for the other two methods  as well. Interviews especially sound cool.

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Photo: https://coschedule.com/blog/how-to-start-a-podcast/

As we connected our Seesaw blogs to a class outside of Sudan, the students also can learn how to promote their podcasts to reach a larger audience, how to provoke and stimulate thinking from others, and how to keep the conversation going in the comments. The parents in my classes have been very engaged with all of our online tools, so their podcasts could be the source of discussion at the dinner table, thereby extending the learning into the home. If you’re looking for ways to meet speaking and listening standards, podcasts might be the way to go.


What do you think? We at educationrickshaw.com appreciate the feedback that you leave in the comments area below, and we always respond.

Thanks for visiting!

 

The Power of Digital Manipulatives

I wanted to share this Infographic by MIND Research Institute today, as it confirms some of my experiences with digital manipulatives in my classroom. My biggest takeaway from the infographic is the idea that you can scaffold the concepts by first starting with physical manipulatives (we do learn with our bodies!), and then transitioning to digital manipulatives to “improve transferability of math concepts”, and then finally representing the concepts with numbers and symbols.

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This webapp allows students to see money with the number blocks of their amounts – from mathlearningcenter.org

In my class, I created an elink of digital manipulatives so that students can have most of the digital manipulatives from mathlearningcenter.org at their disposal. You can download all of these tools as apps, but I found that the webapps were almost just as functional (downloading takes up precious storage on student iPads!). I very much followed a scaffolding strategy similar to what the infographic describes.

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I created an e-link on my Moodle course with links to all of the webapps. For more on elink, see Easy-Peasy Way to Give Great Links to Students)

Good teachers use everything that they have at their disposal, and don’t get caught up in searching for silver bullets. There is a place for physical manipulatives in the 21C classroom, as well as a place for digital ones.

Thank you for visiting educationrickshaw.com! Enjoy!


Digital Manipulatives Infographic

Courtesy of MIND Research Institute. 


What do you think about the role of digital manipulatives? Comment below!

A Plea for Education: A Response to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Something that’s been getting some buzz on Twitter has been Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s request for ideas for where he should put his money. On behalf of educationrickshaw.com, I wrote him a letter that includes discussion about the teacher turnover crisis and the importance of the maintaining a strong teaching profession. Enjoy!


Dear Mr. Bezos,

I see that I am already late to the party that you’ve started on Twitter, the one where you ask for “philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now – short term – at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.” If you allow me to be so bold, I would like to use your money towards a kind of charitable work for which many of the solutions have already been identified. It also may be the most important issue of our time, as well as the most expensive. I’m talking of course about education.

Education is a complex beast, and one that I am relatively new to. I started teaching in a Bureau of Indian Affairs school in Washington State, before moving to teach in international schools in Vietnam and Sudan. Despite my enthusiasm for the work I’ve achieved in my classroom, I’ve begun to become disillusioned with certain aspects of this profession. You may very well have better data available to you than I have, but I feel that the teaching profession, specifically in the United States, is in a state of crisis. Sadly, due to a variety of reasons including the an American teacher’s inadequate pay, the steady loss of teacher autonomy, and a culture of teacher bashing, many of us American international educators – those talented teachers that could very well be teaching stateside – have chosen to move for greener pastures overseas.

Since I left American education nearly 5 years ago, so has much of my cohort for my teaching certificate. The difference is, however, that many of them are not remaining in education related fields. They are bankers, businessmen and women, and stay at home moms and dads. As has been reported with increasing frequency, teacher turnover is costing us billions of dollars.

Unfortunately, the real cost of this crisis is more difficult to measure. According to years of John Hattie research, the ability of a teacher to teach with effective strategies is far and above the most important factor that we can control. Just look at this following chart of effect sizes (minus the 6 Super Factors) and you’ll see that teaching skills and strategies (i.e. teacher clarity, teacher credibility, etc) hold the top of the list in regards to effect size:

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Additionally, one of the identified “Super Factors” in Hattie’s research, and the factor with the highest effect size that can be manipulated is collective teacher efficacy:

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It is clear, Mr. Bezos, that it is the teacher that is at the center of what makes students achieve. A teacher’s skill, competence, and attitude towards the profession is what improves educational outcomes. A sound policy to improve education would be to keep those teachers that have the most talent, and attract a new generation of talented undergraduates into the field. However, recent reports of teacher shortages suggest that we are doing neither.

What can you do?  

Some, including myself would say that it is the low salary that dissuades young undergrads from choosing teaching as a career. I remember an important moment in one of my lecture hall classes of 500+ students (it was Sociology 101, I believe) where the professor asked students to raise their hands if they would consider entering teaching if money were not a factor. Nearly the entire hall was filled with raised hands. Then the professor asked who student to raise their hands if they were seriously considering becoming a teacher. Only a handful of students raised their hands with me. Smart people don’t enter into professions where they aren’t adequately rewarded for their services.

Other findings point to the lack of control and teacher autonomy that is experienced by most in the profession. Maybe your money is best served there, as raising all of the salaries in the teaching workforce is an expensive proposition. Either way, if your philanthropy could focus short-term on re-professionalizing the teaching profession so that teachers are rewarded both intrinsically and extrinsically for the wondrously challenging day-to-day task of educating our children, it will pay off in dividends in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Bezos, for your time and your interest in philanthropy. If you’re needing an education czar for your new philanthropic organization, you know where to contact me.

Sincerely,

Zach Groshell


What do you think? Did I focus on what matters most in education for you? Did I leave anything out? Please comment below and follow me on Twitter, @MrZachG. 

Photo credit of Jeff Bezos: CNBC.com

Co-Founder of Education Rickshaw Celebrates Birthday

For those of you in the know, Educationrickshaw.com is run by two traveling teachers, Stephanie and myself. We love sharing what is going on in our international school classroom, and learning through the experiences of the educators in our professional learning network.

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Stephanie and Zach traveling by rickshaw in Ethiopia.

Stephanie’s dedication to education far outpaces what is required in this profession. She is hardworking, determined, and above all, creative with her teaching practices. In honor of her birthday, here are some of the top articles she has put out since Educationrickshaw.com was founded. Enjoy!

These are of course only a small sample of what Stephanie has written over the past year, and there are many more to come. Make sure to follow Stephanie @SGroshell on Twitter, and check out her Teachers Pay Teachers.

3 Fun Inquiry Math Activities for the Last Week of School

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Picture from Classroom 2.0.

One of the most endearing that my students are is when they are helping younger children. Preparing the classroom at the end of the year for the next group of students is considered a critical job for them, whether they are sharpening pencils or throwing out markers that no longer work. This year I decided to maximize this learning experience by having my students figure out how to prepare for the new class with some guided inquiry math.

1. Where will the new table groups go?

When I first posed this question, my students looked back at me with confusion before one of them replied, “wait, will you still have the same number of students?” The fun part of inquiry is that you don’t start out with all of the information that you need. Instead, you use your critical thinking skills to figure out what questions you have to ask to find that information before you can even begin to solve the problem.

The lesson went something like this:

  • There will be 20 students next year (I know, working at a school with a 20 student limit is awesome!), meaning we don’t have enough tables.
  • Where do we get tables? Exploration team to the school storage room
  • Division to make equal groups puts the new class into 4 groups of 5…. But when we moved the tables – which sit 2 students at each – we found we need two extra tables to accommodate odd numbered groups.
  • 5 groups of 4 means that students can’t push out their chairs without hitting each other
  • 2 groups of 4 and 2 groups of 6 works perfectly

 

2. How should we organize our supplies? 

We have tables, so students in my class store their books in these handy trays that pull all the way out. Most other supplies are also kept in the trays, including each table groups’ tray for colored pencils, crayons and markers that they can pull out and bring to their table to share.

Consortium Trays

Trays to organize school supplies found at Consortium

My students were already warmed up to inquiry by the time I began this next challenge, so I was able to start it off with a simple question. Do we need to change the trays for next year?

  • Do we have 20 trays for them to keep their books in? They can just share! Placement of two students books into one tray shows that won’t work.
  • We don’t have enough colored pencil trays for four groups either! What can we get rid of?
  • Placement of 20 trays to one side to reserve for student book trays.
  • Prioritization of trays for colored pencils first, then markers.
  • Consolidation of math resources and extra paper/colored paper/graph paper into other storage areas.
  • New labels made.

 

3. Do we have enough supplies?

One of the best teacher hacks for the last week of school is having your kids check the colored pencil/crayon/marker/highlighter conditions, sharpen what needs sharpening and throw away what needs throwing away. I started this off by asking the question: Do we have enough supplies for the kids next year? We had already set aside the correct number of trayss, so we were in good shape to begin the conversation.coloredpencil

  • How many colored pencils/markers does each group need? Consensus that each student needs one pencil/marker of each color plus two extras per group.
  • Well, how many good ones do we have now? Lots of pencil sharpening. Old markers/highlighters thrown out.
  • Colored pencils and markers divided out among the groups.
  • Shopping list made for me!

 

Have you used inquiry lessons to complete practical tasks? How have they worked?

Please comment below and enjoy your summer vacations, teachers!

By @SGroshell

3 Old School Elementary Events That Still Have Value (but Need to Change)

In a never-ending quest to innovate in the classroom, it can be easy to shun the traditional elements of Western education in favor of those that feel more trendy. Try posting a photo of a Science Fair on Twitter and you’ll get far fewer likes than if you post about students coding video games for a cardboard arcade (👈🏻 as I did). While I totally agree that there are some practices that are as dusty as an old chalkboard, this article is about three old school elementary events that may not be fashionable, but should still be a part of the curriculum.

#1 Science Fair

One of the downsides to putting on a traditional science fair is that it largely can come down to a competition between parents, rather than a good learning experience for the kids. In order to avoid this common problem, I had students bring in materials from home, but complete the experiments and boards in class. It may have taken more class time, but it gave me plenty of information to use to develop lessons that catered to the unique needs of this particular group.

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Another common problem with traditional science fairs is that the whole shebang is kicked off with little to no instructions or parameters, i.e. Prepare a science experiment, make a board and show it. 

This type of setup inevitably leads to very little understanding of the scientific method, or of basic scientific skills and concepts. Typically students end up creating cool projects like a potato clock or a volcano, but understand nothing about the science behind it. In my class’s science fair, we focused entirely on our UOI’s central idea, which was on the three states of matter. This way, students shared and built knowledge on the same topics. Students were only allowed to choose experiments that contributed to their collective understanding of the central idea, and we spent a lot of time reading texts, watching videos, and compiling information into online resources (Check out how to use Moodle in an elementary classroom).

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Finally, this science fair was not a competition trying to pit parents and students against their community members. It was a Year 5-only event that brought parents and students together to talk about the understandings that we had gained over the course of a six week unit. Did some students succeed more than others? Yes. Did anyone lose? Of course not!

#2 Spelling Bee

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Now that I just knocked turning elementary science fairs into competitions, let’s talk about the most notorious of all of the elementary academic competitions: The Spelling Bee. Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with competitions that promote learning. I have a problem with competitions that only exist for competition’s sake (aka for the benefit of parents and teachers). When teachers set up a spelling bee in a way that promotes the learning of year-level spelling patterns, commonly misspelled year-level words, and develops a love of language, I am all for it.

My class’s spelling bee was a culmination of all of the work that we had put into spelling that year, and only included words that students had been tested on in weeks prior. There was home study time built into their homework schedules, but I structured it so that students would not exceed the required 15 minutes that they’d had all year anyway. I made sure to communicate my concerns to parents about turning this friendly competition into something that stressed students out to the point of disliking spelling, and they seemed to be on board. In the end, we were all proud of what the students had achieved, and they consequently did very well on the spelling portion of our end-of-year standardized assessments.

#3 End of Year Awards

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Much debate has surrounded how awarding students for every little achievement is turning the next generation (my generation?) into one that is thanklessly entitled and overprivileged. And if we’re giving students awards for something that they don’t earn, I guess I have to agree. At my school, we reward students for achievement in a variety of ways, but only those that deserve an award get one at the end of the year Prize Giving ceremony. We show a particular emphasis on progress, growth and development so that those students that deserve recognition for effort are recognized alongside students that are academically inclined. It may be old school, but it it an indispensable part of setting goals and achieving them in an academic setting.


 

What do you think? Would you scrap all of these in favor for alternative events? Am I wrong, and all of these need to go the way of the dinosaur? Comment below and keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com and check out our Teachers Pay Teachers.