Making Required Homework More Effective: An Experiment in My Class

It is increasingly common knowledge that homework is modestly effective in the upper grades, but barely effective at all in elementary.

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While we all have our own thoughts and opinions on how to empower students to engage in learning activities at home, most schools have specific policies in regards to homework, including how many minutes per night and on which days homework should be assigned. This presents most elementary teachers with a challenge: How do we make these required homework minutes more effective? 

Thanks to the fabulous Karen Boyes from Spectrum Education, I was able to publish a second article in her Teachers Matter Magazine all about my recent experiment with making homework more effective, which started as a blogpost that you can read here. This follows my first article on the arrival of fidget spinners in my school in Sudan.

My plan is to keep contributing as many publications as I can to those who like my ideas and writing, including guest blog posts such as my Guest post: Balancing work and play in the sands of Sudan on Mr. Hill’s Musings. Feel free to contact me if you think my writing can make a difference in the lives of our teachers and students.

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With Karen Boyes at AEC 2017

To read my contributions to Teachers Matter Magazine in PDF form, click on the links below:

Fidget Spinners: Annoying or Cool?

and. .

Making Required Homework More Effective


 

Thank you for visiting educationrickshaw.com, a website by international teaching couple, Stephanie and Zach Groshell. We have plenty of articles on our blogroll that will fit your interests, so feel free to explore and learn more about the international teaching circuit.

– Zach Groshell @mrzachg

10 Great Resources for Teaching Mindfulness

In addition to presenting about BLE design at the AEC Conference 2017 in Nairobi, Stephanie and I had the opportunity to attend a mindfulness workshop by the amazing Robyn Harwood (@rsharwood1). Since this powerful experience, I’ve begun to explore how teaching mindfulness can impact my community of learners. Here are some of the resources that I was given at the workshop, some of which I’ve tried in my own classroom, others which I am eager to explore deeper. Enjoy!


Screenshot 2017-11-05 12.24.581. VIA Institute Quiz on Character

Students and teachers can take this quiz to identify strengths to help them with their learning.

 


2. 5 Reflection Activities to Help Students Glow and Grow

A resource we cooked up to get students thinking about their day. Easy to implement now!

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3. Mindfulness with Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn

From Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, this video is very memorable in helping teachers to grasp mindfulness concepts. “Check your watch, it’s now”


4. Action for Happiness

A website for exploring what matters, endorsed by Dalai Lama. Lots of tips and strategies for happier living, including a happiness pledge!

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5. Mindful Schools

Take the intro course to get yourself trained and ready to teach mindfulness in your classroom.

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6. This Diagram

Great for explaining ways to create space between a problem and your response to the problem.  stimulus-response_1


7. Find Your Anchor

We learned about how you can teach students to “find their anchor” to return to the present moment. 22da73966e02bdf6a3c51a8afb655835--present-quotes-psychology-quotes Often this can be found by placing a hand on your belly or on your chest during mindful breathing. A good explanation for this can be found here.


 

8. Why Mindfulness Is a Superpower: An Animation

A Happify video on mindfulness as a superpower (Dan Harris). Great for thinking about mindfulness as something that it is not inherently easy, as some might think, but a lifelong pursuit that you need to work towards.


9. Campfires, Caves, and Watering Holes

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These three archetypal learning spaces, originally identified by David Thornburg, has been so beneficial to my class that I will probably do a totally separate write-up on how I’ve implemented it. I’m a total summer camp person, having worked at camps for 6 years before I became a teacher. Check out this article explaining campfires, caves, and watering holes, and also check out my article (sort of related) on how I turned my class into the Survivor reality show!


10. Flip Your Lid Metaphor

The final resource that I will share here that I have found useful is the Dr. Daniel Siegel Hand Model of the Brain. Just watch below… it is great for explaining to kids how to avoid those animalistic instincts.


Thank you for visiting our website, and we encourage you to share it around and keep coming back. I want to extend a special thank you to Robyn Harwood (@rsharwood1) who was the first collector of these resources, as well as a great facilitator.

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Starstruck by this amazing facilitator!

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, and join our facebook group, Over-Posting Educators!

– Zach Groshell (@MrZachG)

5 Reflection Activities to Help Students Glow and Grow

After a recent mindfulness training by the amazing Robyn Harwood (@rsharwood1) at the AEC Conference 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya, I started beginning the day with structured and intentional mindful breathing exercises to help my students find some inner peace after their highly stimulating morning. The success of these breathing exercises to get students “in the zone” for learning pushed me to think about ways to end the day just as well as we started it.

The following are five reflection activities that I have done successfully in my class, followed by 22 from Edutopia. Enjoy!

1. Weather Check

My day started out a bit rainy. . .

This is one that I learned as a camp counselor. At the end of every day of summer camp, after all the teeth were brushed, we would come together as a cabin and talk about our day in a time called “embers”, which I now call “campfire” in my classroom. This was a time to reflect on the day and to look forward to the days that lay ahead. Weather Check is just a way of using metaphor to explain the feelings that you had in the day that anyone can relate to. If your day was gloomy at some point in time, it tends to be cold and rainy, and if your day became nice, the sun came out.

2. Rose, Bud, Thorn

My day started out a bit rainy. . . (1)

Another easy closure activity I picked up working at a summer camp is is Rose, Bud, Thorn, which is great for having students think of what they want to learn tomorrow (the bud). It is also nice to hear students explain their thorns, and why they allowed their thorn to affect them. So today, my rose was. . and my bud is . . 

3. Snowball

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Great for both anonymity and to get kids moving, snowball is a nice reflection activity as well. Simply have everyone write their reflection about their day on a piece of paper, have everyone ball their paper up, have everyone throw their ball across the room and each player picks up someone else’s snowball and reads a reflection aloud. This activity can also be modified as a way to have students give each other compliments, review for a quiz, or ask each other questions.

4. Glow and Grow

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In this easy activity that just sounds nice, students name one thing that they are proud of for the day (their glow), and one thing that they would like to improve in their learning, or possibly one goal that they would like to achieve in the near future (their grow). Great for keeping things positive and for looking ahead to the learning experiences ahead.

5. #3GoodThings

My day started out a bit rainy. . . (4)

This is a great activity to take advantage of social media as a tool for learning. Have students type up the 3 good things that happened to them that day or week and make sure that the character count is on so that they don’t go beyond 140 characters. This forces students to really keep their thoughts concise and to use abbreviations or search for shorter synonyms. It also might be the only social media exercise that will actually lower the amount of emojis students use! Once students have created their tweets and included #3goodthings, tweet them out and look through the other responses on the hashtag that people are making all around the world!


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I hope that you found these useful, and thank you for visiting educationrickshaw.com, an international teaching website that is constantly updated by the fabulous Stephanie Groshell (@Sgroshell) and her goofy husband, Zach Groshell (@mrzachg). For more reflection and closure activities to do with kids, check out this edutopia article.

– Zach

That digital program your school bought will never transform learning

It seems like most teachers and students have access to a paid-for digital learning program. You know the kind – RAZ kids, IXL, Spelling City, any one of those listed in the featured image of this article – and they all promise to raise achievement while making learning “fun”. These CAI (computer assisted instruction) programs can be traced back to  when Skinner first created his “teaching machine”, the original solution for replacing the teacher, pictured below.

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Skinner’s Teaching Machine

The thing is, these “learning” programs have not been proven to be as effective as the edtech industry overlords would like us to believe. In fact, the meta-analysis of John Hattie, which was shared with me at AEC 2017 by Dr. Sonny Magana (@sonnymagana), clearly shows that telling a kid to “go do Mathletics” will not make a sizable difference in the learning of our students.

Let me explain the research:

The Bad News: When technology is used to replace a teacher, it has a very small positive effect size on student achievement. Hattie’s research includes studies on the use of CAI programs across curriculum and contexts, as well as other approaches that mistake the transmission of information for authentic knowledge generation (Powerpoint use by teachers, for example). The graph below indicates with a black arrow the average of all of Hattie’s researched initiatives, programs, and strategies in education to be a 0.4 effect size. When we look at the effect size for how technology has been implemented over the last 50 years, including using computers for passive absorption of information transmitted by a CAI teaching robot, it falls below the average at 0.34. In short, Skinner’s Teaching Machine wasn’t particularly effective and neither is your school’s CAI program.

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“Despite the extraordinary developments in computer technology since the Kennedy Administration, not to mention the vast sums of taxpayer money spent on digitizing classrooms since the 1960s, the average effect of computer technology in education has been stuck well below the zone of desired effects. This is hardly cause for celebration.” Dr. Sonny Magana at #AEC2017

The Good News: When technology is used to enhance proven teaching and learning methods, the positive effect size is off the charts. When you compare the status quo, which is a below-average 0.34 effect size on student achievement, and the 1.6 effect size of a framework like the T3 (see below to learn more about this), it is clear that we need to change the way we facilitate learning with technology.

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Edtech models for transformation of learning

Poke around this blog a bit, and you will see several articles we have written on best practice technology integration. I hope that the theme that all of these articles have touched on is that technology should only be used as a tool to transform and maximize learning. Replacing traditional teaching with a computer is not going to ensure achievement for our learners. The use of a CAI like Mathletics or Spelling City to replace teacher and student-led instruction only gives them automated, rote practice. While this is not a bad thing, we need to refocus our planning so that students are spending more time developing their higher-order thinking skills through producing, inquiring and contributing with technology.

Here are some models that can guide the 21st century teacher away from edtech as a direct substitute to edtech as a tool for transformation:

#1 Early Years Blended Learning Development Guide (Zach Groshell et al)

The first model I’ d like to share is a guide that I created last year, in collaboration with Brad Arnold and elementary teachers at my school, which was subsequently implemented in early years classrooms. It uses 5 common and observable student actions (seen on the left column) and the SAMR scale to measure the level of edtech use. When teachers observe student learning that falls under the examples of modification and redefinition of the learning task, we know that instruction is likely going to have a positive effect size on student achievement.

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Click here to see the whole thing

#2 Blended Learning Development Guide (Brad Arnold et al)

This is another blended learning design model that I helped to develop with Brad Arnold (@leybradly), and it is slightly different from the rubric above as it is less focused on observable student actions and more on the traits of the learning environment. The 7 traits of a learning environment are the observable traits of any learning environment, shown in the left column below, and the top row of the rubric includes the SAMR scale to measure the level of edtech use. This guide is best used to facilitate teacher self-reflection on the effect of educational technology on the learning environment.

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Click here to see the whole thing

#3 T3 Framework for Educational Technology Use (Dr. Sonny Magana)

The third and final model I’d like to share for edtech instructional design is the T3 Framework (see video below). Based off of the body of research and implementation by Dr. Sonny Magana, the T3 Framework is designed to disrupt the current narrative about educational technology by contextualizing its use into 3 stages: Translational, Transformational, and Transcendent. Grounded in sound research and theory, the T3 Framework is designed to support how educational systems measure the ways classroom technologies are used to unleash student learning potential. Teachers seeking to base their instruction on the most effective strategies for student achievement should be looking up at the T2 and T3 stages, and pushing themselves to transform education by having students produce and contribute, and to “transcend” by using technology tools to facilitate inquiry and solve world problems that matter.

 


While the edtech companies may not agree that their expensive math and reading programs have limited effect sizes on student achievement, we should be looking closer at the last 50 years of research on this topic and seeking a better way forward when it comes to edtech use in the classroom.

We need to stop:

  • Using CAI technology to replace teacher and student-led instruction
  • Using technology to fill time
  • Calling the use of CAI programs “blended learning”
  • Thinking that a game or a program can teach just as well as a teacher

And start:

  • Looking at student actions through the lens of transformational and transcendent learning.
  • Considering the traits of an effective learning environment and how we know students learn best
  • Seeking to increase moments of “redefined” or “transcendent” learning  in our own practice

 

What do you think? Could this help to improve your teaching? Comment below with your thoughts on blended learning and keep coming back to EducationRickshaw.com.

– Zach Groshell, @mrzachg

Student Inventions Face Evaluation in the Shark Tank

This week, my students will be presenting their inventions to an audience of parents and community members. Instead of doing a traditional exhibition, where students stand for an hour and answer questions next to their display, we are doing something different: A Year 5 Shark Tank.

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Many of us already know the reality show, “Shark Tank”, that has celebrity entrepreneurs deciding on potential investments from wannabe inventors. The intrigue of the show is found in the neat and sometimes quirky innovations that come from these novice presenters mixed with the pressure that is put on them by the judges, or “the Sharks”. A similar scenario is going to take place at our PYP school for the students’ summative assessment.

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As students have gotten to work on their inventions, there have been some beautiful learning experiences, including:

Math Skills – Adding cost of materials and cost of labor (based on a agreed upon minimum wage) and subtracting from retail price to determine profit. Also, creating surveys and graphs to gauge interest in the product.

Presentation Skills – Creating a presentation with certain criteria made by students, using Keynote slides with interactive features so that visitors can pick the questions that are relevant to them as they come to the invention convention.

design cycle

Design Thinking – Students followed the design cycle of “Investigate – Plan – Create – Evaluate” to ensure that their product turned out how they envisioned it. Many students also wanted to create a beta version of an app that would go along with their invention, so we found ways to do an interactive mock up for these as well. Students really got into the spirit of collaboration and design thinking throughout the unit.


At the end of the Shark Tank, some community “Sharks” will decide on the invention that would make the world of work and leisure easier. I’m trying make sure that this small piece of competition does not get in the way of the important part – the process of design. It is merely a formality that frames the whole unit and ends with a bang!

What do you think? Check out the flyer for the event below, and be sure to comment!

– Zach Groshell @MrZachG

However, that being said, it is becoming increasingly obvious that our world is developing an unhealthy attachment to it. (1)

Is it worth becoming recognized as an Apple Teacher?

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As my husband and I have been busy recruiting for positions in the 2018-2019 school year (I know, international schools hire early!) I wanted something extra to add to my CV about integrating technology into the classroom. Although I can say that I work in a 1:1 classroom, I wanted to give schools concrete evidence that I know what I’m doing. That’s when I began looking around for free online iPad professional development courses or certifications and found the Apple Teacher Program.

 

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The Apple Teacher Program

The relatively new Apple Teacher Program aims at giving teachers basic knowledge on how to use iPads or Macs and inspire them with ideas on how to use them in the classroom. Teachers need to gain badges in 8 areas for either the iPad or the Mac: (1) iPad/Mac, (2) Pages, (3) Keynote, (4) Numbers, (5) iMovie, (6) GarageBand, (7) Productivity, and (8) Creativity to earn their recognition as an Apple Teacher. There are then additional badges for Coding Concepts and the Swift Playgrounds App.

 

What Do You Do?

You have three choices for how to learn the content: download a free Teacher Guide, use the iTunes U Course or attend an in-store workshop. I chose to download the Teacher Guides.

All of the Teacher Guides for the iPad and five apps are split up into generally the same sections (which makes it easy to read).

  • Chapter 1: Welcome/how to use this guide
  • Chapter 2: Getting Started with (fill in app name) – the most basic app information
  • Chapter 3: Practice creating a real project that your students could potentially do
  • Chapter 4: Sharing Your Work/Collaborating/Revising
  • Chapter 5: Going Further – ideas on how do use app in different subject areas

As with most everything that comes from Apple, the guides are easy to read and have pictures and videos that make everything very clear to understand. What could have been a very dull read, though, was made much more interesting by chapter 3. In chapter 3 of each guide, you practice using the app by creating a school project. As the guide walks you through building and designing the assignment with pictures and graphs, it describes how to add content and format. This was my favorite part of the guide, because I learned some really useful tips that I hadn’t known about, even for apps I’d already used quite a bit.

The guides for Productivity and Creativity I found less useful, because I’m already using iPads in my classroom and the ideas weren’t new to me. However, for anyone struggling to decide how to use iPads or new to having iPads in their classroom, these guides might be a great starting point.

 

Would I recommend it?

By the time I had gotten about half-way through reading chapter 3 in my first Teacher Guide on iPads, I came to the conclusion that every teacher who has iPads or Macs in their class needs to do this program. This is my third year teaching with iPads and I still learned more from this program. Even more impressively, some of the new features I excitedly showed Zach, he didn’t know about yet either!

Whether you are brand new to having iPads in your classroom or not, I highly recommend gaining your recognition as an Apple Teacher. As schools are increasingly using technology in the classroom and as technology is constantly changing and improving, it is vital that teachers keep up so they can effectively use the tools they are handing to their students.

 

Have you also become a recognized Apple Teacher? Please comment to share your experiences!

-Stephanie

 

 

 

 

In education, words matter.

Many teachers use word clouds or wordles in classroom activities to have students highlighting important words or to show students which words they’ve overused in their texts. One thing I’ve never done before is apply a wordcloud to my own practice, which is exactly what I recently did for the educationrickshaw.com blogroll. Once I made it by uploading our url into wordclouds.com, it was time to start digging into what exactly was going on. Afterall, it’s important to see where our emphasis has been, and how we need to refocus our language in the teaching profession.

Below is the word cloud for our site, educationrickshaw.com, and some of my conclusions.

 

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Students First

Before I made the word cloud, I was sure that “teaching” was going to be the most frequent word. That would make sense, since educationrickshaw.com is meant to be a blog to be enjoyed by international teachers, not students or parents. I was pleasantly surprised to see that “students” is by far the largest word in the word cloud.

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I hope that this is because our articles focus on what students are doing in the classroom, with a decreased emphasis on what teachers are doing. I find that when I think about what I want students to be able to do, I facilitate lessons that more often than not achieve that outcome. When I focus on what I am doing, which I think is a common newbie teacher mistake, the learning suffers as a consequence.

I know teachers and administrators say that they put the students first, and I imagine that most believe that they do. It is a different thing altogether to actually put it into practice. Relying on tradition aka “the ways things have always been done”, ego, and acting in fear over the fallout that can come from putting students first is too often the status quo in education today.

Learning is the goal

Also up there in size is “learning”, which should always be the goal for teachers. If students are the noun, then “to learn” is the verb.

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Now, there are many ways that students learn, and our conversations need to be centered around how students best learn – Not what is easiest for teachers, parents, and administrators. The minute that we go down such a road, we begin to deprofessionalize the teaching profession, and we cheapen the quality of a student’s education. Similar to this is what I talked about in the article “The What vs. The How”, where I argued that we should give less attention to what we are teaching and what we are using for teaching, and focus more on how we are teaching. I suppose another addition should be the “why”, which I’d argue is for learning.

Yes we CAN!

The final big word I want to point out is the word “can”, which is floating somewhere over west-central Africa in the wordcloud.

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Even though I can sometimes lose my optimism, especially when I don’t have enough caffeine in my system, I believe that if we keep our focus on students and learning, we can reach our goal of making a lasting difference in the lives of our kids.

 


 

What do you think? Would you consider putting your comments for your report cards into a wordcloud? Stephanie, who’s name is currently reigning over Madagascar, and Zach (nowhere to be found 😂) would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Ways to Enhance Reading and Writing Workshop with Technology

Our school recently made the switch to Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Although Stephanie and I received some surface level training on the project in our previous school, this has been the first time that we have been asked to follow the program with a high level of fidelity.

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Like with any program, there are ways to improve outcomes by looking at how best to use technology to maximize learning. We’re all about looking at traditional teaching practices and seeing how they can be improved. The following are some of the things that we have tried in our classrooms to facilitate 21st century learning experiences within the Reading and Writing Workshop model.

Use online forums and chat rooms for class discussions, teacher and peer feedback, and ratings

Class discussions can happen in many ways. When the program asks for reading and writing partners to turn and talk about their thoughts, students can also do so in an online forum. The tool that you use doesn’t matter: This could be on Seesaw, Flipgrid, EasyBlog, Edmodo. . . whatever! I use Moodle for forums, because I find it to be very customizable, but you can have kids discussing on almost any platform. Again, it’s not about the tool, it’s about the learning.

There are inherent benefits to having discussions online. Instead of always communicating in informal language, as is the case with “turn and talk” in class, students are forced to use formalized language. There is a record of what they have said, and teachers can see it, give feedback on which terms they are using correctly, and can have students go back and edit their ideas for clarity. Students can continue the conversation at home, alone or with their parents, and you can always go back to the conversations during your conferencing, which is much harder to do with traditional “turn and talk”.

Use online multimedia journals with links, videos, photos, audio, drawings, table of contents, dictionary and thesaurus

I am a fan of both paper/pencil journals as well as multimedia online journals. While the benefits of the paper/pencil journal are well known, it is sometimes effective to give students the chance to write or write about their reading in an online journal.

In my students’ wiki journals, they are able to create new pages whenever, wherever they feel like. This creates great situations where they can [[link]] to a new page (for example, a character page), and then fill in their ideas there. If they need inspiration for character development, setting, or anything visual, they can pull up images from online and stick them in their journal. If they need to create a quick sketch, they just insert a drawing into their journal, and can move it around as they wish without feeling that they are getting in the way of their writing. When I provide them with materials from the program, they can link to these materials, refer to them, and annotate the parts that they feel they need to work on. By just clicking on a word, they can look up new words in online dictionaries and thesauruses and build their vocabulary . . the multimedia journal creates learning experiences that wouldn’t otherwise be possible with a 100% paper/pencil workshop.

Give assessments with feedback, rubrics, checklists, infographics, memes, pictures, video, inline editing

I find the assessments in the Reading and Writing Project to be easily convertible into online resources. For the beginning of the year reading assessment, I put all of the questions into an online assignment, and had kids take the test.

After the kids took the assessment, the data came back to me organized by student and question type. I was then able to give students feedback to enhance their learning. I did this in the form of inline editing, inserting the rubrics right into their answers, and providing checklists, infographics, memes, and links to previous discussions and journal entries that they had made. After I helped one student with a certain problem – using pictures, videos, or whatever – I was able to use that same teacher-created resource to help the next student that had the very same problems.

The point is, with technology you can link up all of the resources that you and your students have created – assessments, discussions, journals, rubrics, glossaries, etc –  at any time, so that students are not only making digital connections, but connections in their craniums as well.

Make the Heinemann resources accessible to students online

Instead of printing everything that I’m provided in the Reading and Writing Project from the Heinemann online resources – the sticky notes, the reading logs, the anchor charts, the exemplars, etc – I put them on my class website and into student hands. It saves a tree, and it helps students engage with the materials by actually using them in various ways.

Why not just project the resources? I find that projecting these resources without putting them up on my online courseroom makes it so that I become the “keeper of all resources”. I believe in a student-driven classroom, where information is accessible to all, parents included. By putting the resources up onto our Moodle page, students can not only access them anytime they want, but they can manipulate the content, insert it where they want, and ask questions and post comments about it.

Go nuts combining apps, web tools, social media and productivity tools!

There is so much out there that can help kids think and remove potential barriers for learning the content required in the Reading and Writing Project. I’ve written before about some of my favorite tech tools for getting kids writing, but I really recommend that you go sit on your couch with your device in hand, and explore the unlimited possibilities that exist out there.

Even if the Reading and Writing Project doesn’t explicitly say that you should or could use technology, that doesn’t make it wrong to take advantage of the best tools at your disposal. For me, technology is ubiquitous in the learning process, and learning is non-linear.

So, have kids record podcasts and watch their speaking and listening skills grow as they engage with the Reading and Writing workshop. Put up a green screen in your classroom, and explore the possibilities this has for student learning and engagement. I also believe that learning should be shared and public, and with technology this is possible. Have kids share out their reading and writing on blogs, social media, and e-mail. Get parents engaging with the Reading and Writing Project from their phone.

There are so many ways to make this program more dynamic and better for the learner. So if you’re like me and new to the Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, keep at it. I know I will!


Thanks for coming back again and again to educationrickshaw.com, a website by Stephanie and Zach Groshell. Feel free to comment below!

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Guest Article on TeachersMatterMagazine

Last year around this time, I was invited to the AEC conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I took two institutes that really blew my mind. One of those was led by the fantastic Karen Boyes, and it focused on getting students to do the thinking and take control of their learning. I’m happy to announce that one of our articles was selected for her mag, TeachersMatterMagazine!

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Many thanks to Karen Boyes and all of those that have supported us in our never ending pursuit of excellence in education. Check out the original article here and if you’d like to join my PLN, follow me on Twitter @MrZachG, check out our facebook group, Over Posting Educators, and keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com!

Homework not effective? What about distance learning?

Homework is one of those contentious things that divides teachers as well as parents. John Hattie’s research leads to the conclusion that homework in primary school has an effect of nearly zero.  But the reality is that many schools have policies that require homework to be assigned to students on a daily or weekly basis.

This year, I am experimenting with a theory that primary student achievement can be improved with homework if there is a distance learning tutor available for coaching for every assignment.

What I’m trialing this year:

This year I’ve told all of my students that whenever they need help with their homework, they should shoot me an email. I know, it sounds like a crazy responsibility for me to take on, and I’ll see if I have the stamina to keep up with it throughout the year, but so far it has gone really well!

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“I don’t get this”

Much like my in-class helpdesk, I want my 9-10 year olds to get professional help in a timely and effective manner. I don’t want some parents to help their kids while other kids are left alone to stress about math during their valuable home time. This year, my students were instructed that if they have a problem they should screenshot their math or take a video of the strategies they’ve tried and to send it to me by e-mail. I then respond by either giving them some written or video hints, or by directing them to an available resource such as a Youtube or Khan Academy video.

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“Is this correct?”

 

How’s it going so far?

It has been a very positive experience to start the year off with this model for homework. One thing I have noticed, though, is that the students tend to ask very simple questions without really showing their work or the strategies they tried. I am going to work with students on how to ask for help, and how to get the students helping each other much more often. I am also learning how to give just enough help so as to get the students to figure out the rest of the problems on their own.

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Student created instructional YouTube video on our class channel

I am also incorporating a YouTube channel with student-created instructional videos so that students can refer to a growing library of flipped lessons from their peers. This is in the process of getting put together (so far, we only have three videos) but the students seem very excited about the prospect of sharing their knowledge with each other and the world.

It’s not that much extra work… so far

I am a fan of living a balanced life as a teacher, so taking on a “distance tutoring model” by having kids e-mail me all night long (their limit is 8:00 PM) might sound like a recipe for disaster. But the truth is that I only get a couple of emails per night, and it usually only takes me a few seconds to send back a response with Mark-Up or my laptop’s webcam. Usually just copying and pasting the link to a YouTube video can help them solve their problems. As students become more familiar with this system, and increasingly independent, I hope to teach them to search for their own answers online and to take it upon themselves to offer peer tutoring during the homework hours.


What do you think? Will this strategy help improve achievement, or is it simply homework in sheep’s clothing? Is this plan sustainable, or do you bet I’ll let some student requests fall through the cracks? Comment below! We at educationrickshaw.com would love to hear your thoughts.