Sunday, 17 August 2014

Leadership, Policy, and Practice: Block 3: Systems & Structures - Chapter 6 of U.D.L

     To help us work towards our school goal of purposefully implementing the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning (sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind), my principal has provided our staff with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. As I make my way through the book, I will be summarizing my learning as a means of organizing my thoughts and getting clarification on particular ideas.

Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at: http://www.amazon.ca/Teaching-Diversity-Three-Block-Universal-Learning/dp/1553793536


Policy and Practice in Ministries of Education
- The essence of the education system is still closely modelled after
  the post WWII design, which did not address inclusive education
- Inclusive education has been formally addressed by UNESCO for
  more than ten years
- Policy on Inclusive Education
     - Every province in Canada has a policy towards inclusive education
     - Manitoba's policy is called the Appropriate Educational Programming
       Act or Bill 13
       "Inclusion is a way of thinking and acting that allows every individual
        to feel accepted, valued, and safe."
     - Many times, students are placed in the classroom but are on such
       an individualized program or segregated with an EA that they are
       not involved in the social or academic life of the room
     - Inclusive classrooms help all types of students (gifted, low achieving,
       those with learning disabilities, etc)
     - Perceived lack of resources, lack of training, or unavailable support
       leads to resistance towards inclusion
     - Incorporating the Universal Design for Learning has been part of the
       Appropriate Educational Programming Act since 2005, yet many
       schools have not incorporated it
- Curriculum Development and Assessment
     - Curriculum does not always allow for cross-curricular opportunities
       which result in students sometimes covering similar topics in
       multiple classes without the teachers realizing it
     - Standardized testing has not been changed to be inclusive
- Community Education and Involvement
     - Teachers and parents should see each other as allies
     - Make sure that what you asking of families is realistic; try to find
       their strengths
     * Case Study: Jose (reading with a light box)

School Divisions: Supporting Inclusive Education
- Creating a Vision for Inclusion
     - Segregated classrooms leads teachers to believe that other teachers
       are responsible for "those students"
     - To successfully implement change, divisions need to:
           1 ) commit to and believe in inclusion
           2 ) see difference as a resource
           3 ) encourage collaboration between staff & students
           4 ) encourage willingness in staff
           5 ) approach inclusion as a social/political/academic issue
           6 ) commit to inclusive ideals
- Professional Development and Capacity-Building
     - Teachers need support and regular feedback with new ideas,
        just like students do
     - Implementing UDL on a school or divisional level requires a multi-
       year plan
     - Some tips for UDL include:
          1 ) Focus on the big picture, you can't choose to just differentiate
               assignments yet still keep students in rows. Focus on one of
               the three blocks, if needed
          2 ) Have school "experts" that have been trained in certain aspects
               and can help support others
          3 ) Bring in a professional for PD
          4 ) Follow up
- Hiring Qualified Personnel
     1 ) Teachers need to have a strong understanding of curricula
     2 ) Teachers need to mix their understanding of disabilities,
           teaching strategies, and curricula, so they know how a
           student will interpret the information
     3 ) Teachers need to take full responsibility for their students
     4 ) Teachers need to fully understand their students as 
           individuals

___________________________________________________

     I looked more into the Manitoba Education Philosophy on Inclusion, which is summarized as:
- Inclusion is a way of thinking and acting that allows every individual to
   feel accepted, valued, and safe. An inclusive community consciously
   evolves to meet the changing needs of its members.
- Through recognition and support, an inclusive community provides
   meaningful involvement and equal access to the benefits of
   citizenship
- In Manitoba, we embrace inclusion as a means of enhancing the well-
   being of every member of the community.
- The philosophy of inclusion goes beyond the idea of physical location
   and incorporates basic values and a belief system that promotes the
   participation, belonging, and interaction

Monday, 11 August 2014

How Much Time Is Enough?

     In Manitoba students will be back in the classroom in approximately three weeks... three seemingly-short weeks... and I am beginning to plan out how those crucial first few hours, days, and then weeks, will play out in my classroom. When I look back at the beginning of last year, my first year in the classroom, I strongly feel like everything went as smooth as it could have been. I had over planned to compensate for my lack of experience, nervousness, and excitement... the students were reserved while they got used to the new setting and were pretty accommodating when it came to school procedures that I was unfamiliar with... and we slowly acclimatized to one another as the first few weeks progressed. I felt that this time was a great learning opportunity and necessary since I didn't know my students yet and they didn't know me yet either.

     This year, however, I know ALL of my students before class even starts and they have all had me for at least one class before. (Take a look below to check out what my teaching schedule looks like). In similar fashion to last year, I am still the Grade 8 homeroom teacher and will, thus, be their primary teacher. You will notice that they are with me ALL morning, EVERY morning; which makes planning awesome because this is the only time in which I have flexibility to change around classes if needed.
- I had this year's Grade 8's last year in Grade 7 Science and there are
  no new students joining this class.

     In the afternoon I am mostly teaching high school math (with the exception of one random Gr 8 social class on Friday!).
- I had this year's Grade 9's last year in Grade 8 and, since I was their
   homeroom teacher, they had me as their primary teacher last year. There
   are, however, three new students who will be joining us from another
   school in our division.
- I had this year's Grade 10's last year for both Grade 9 math and science
  and I also had them for a few months during my student teaching placement
  as well. This class is actually smaller this year due to a few students
  transferring to a nearby vocational school and there are no new students.


     Here comes my question... to what extent are the back-to-school procedures and policies necessary in a class where you already know one-another? I was re-reading some information by Harry Wong and was reminded that, "On the first day of school, your students want to know seven things":
1 ) Am I in the right room?
2 ) Where am I supposed to sit?
3 ) Who is the teacher as a person?
4 ) Will the teacher treat me as a human being?
5 ) What are the rules in this classroom?
6 ) What will I be doing this year?
7 ) How will I be graded?
Of these seven, I hope that my students will know the first 5 before they even come back to school for the fall. Numbers 6-7 can easily be addressed in those opening few classes but I feel like the procedures and policies that we spent so much time on last year can just fall into place... or is that just wishful thinking? I, of course, will spend time reviewing:
- my expectations for when you are in the classroom
- my classroom rules (all two of them)
- where supplies are and how to get them
- how to use our classroom website
- how to use the classroom blog
- etc
- etc
- etc
but I really shouldn't have to spend much time on this, should I?

__________________________________________________

I'd love your feedback!
Please leave comments below, thank you :)

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Teaching in the Classroom: Block 2: Inclusive Instructional Practice - Chapter 5 of U.D.L

     To help us work towards our school goal of purposefully implementing the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning (sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind), my principal has provided our staff with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. As I make my way through the book, I will be summarizing my learning as a means of organizing my thoughts and getting clarification on particular ideas.


Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at: http://www.amazon.ca/Teaching-Diversity-Three-Block-Universal-Learning/dp/1553793536


Classroom Ecology
- The physical space of your classroom affects your students as much
   as what happens within your classroom
- The direction in which the desks face demonstrate who is in power and
   what kind of interactions can take place between individuals
- Interest Areas
     - Decide what activities will happen in your classroom and make sure
       you have space to accommodate them
     - Ex. science labs, student meetings, technology stations, etc
- Personal Territories
     - Take into account what belongs to who (more important in single
        grade classrooms, not so much when students change rooms for
        every class)

Pedagogy and Classroom Management
- Teachers manage their students and then complain that they act out
   once they leave the room, it should not be a top-down approach
* Case Study: Derrick (paper balls)
- Dealing with Challenging Behaviour
     - Bring down situations and solve conflicts together
     - Too many rules overwhelm kids and are unnecessary

Starting the Year
- Don't jump right into curriculum; establish expectations and model
  behaviour by:
    - Working through the RD program
     - Introduce partner and group work
     - Introduce centres 
     - Then begin curriculum
- Introducing Partnering & Group Work
     - Discuss what does partner/group work look like? sound like?
     - Role play partner work
     - Discuss active listening
     - Practice sharing ideas/"reporting the group's findings/thoughts"
       and discuss the importance of everyone always needing to be
       prepared to be the reporter
     - Have a visual reminder in your room and use prompts to ensure
       the students invite everyone to participate in groups and work to
       find everyone's strengths
- Introducing Work Centres
     - Use centres that address the different types of multiple
       intelligences
     - If you have 9 centres, use approx. 15 classes
     - Ensure all students are participating positively
     - Barriers That Students Feel
          - Grades: they are worried that the performance of others in a
             group will affect their assessment 
          - Pace: they are worried that certain students may affect their
            ability to complete tasks on time
          - E.As: any other adults in the room should interact positively 
            with any student in the room

Teachers in the U.D.L Classroom
- Circulate during centres and complete formative assessment so you
   recognize which ones need enrichment, support, or oral options
* Case Study: Cory (suck at verbal-linguistic)
- Co-Teaching Scenarios
     1 ) One Teaching / One Drifting
           - One teacher delivers curriculum, one circulates around
           - Advantages: timely help, on-task students, saves time
           - Disadvantages: teacher control, one seen as an aide
     2 ) Parallel Teaching
          - Plan jointly but split into small groups to teach
          - Advantages: small groups, separate students, better planning
          - Disadvantages: learning equally, pacing, noise level
     3 ) Alternative Teaching
          - One manages the class, one pulls a small group out
          - Advantages: help meet specific needs of students
          - Disadvantages: labelling groups as "smart" or "dumb"
     4 ) Station Teaching
          - Teaching responsibilities are divided up and teachers hold
             certain centres
          - Advantages: easier to differentiate, small groups, cover more
            material
          - Disadvantages: lots of pre-planning, pacing, noise levels
     5 ) Team Teaching
           - Both plan and share instructional time, teachers converse &
              both manage the room
           - Advantages: active roles, equals, risk-taking
           - Disadvantages: a lot of pre-planning, needs defined roles
- Working with EAs
     - It is their job to facilitate engagement

Assessment For, Of, and As Learning with Diverse Learners
- Assessment: informal or formal, guides teaching and learning
- Evaluation: snapshot of where a student is in comparison to a
  standard
- Reporting: communication of progress
- Students do not have to do pencil-paper tasks in order to fully
  prepare for a pencil-paper exam
- Methods of Assessment
     1 ) Observation
     2 ) Conferencing
     3 ) Portfolio Assessment

_____________________________________________
I WANT TO KNOW:

How often do you use formal centres in your classroom? and what Grade level/subject?
I used centres regularly in math and quite often in science but it was less formal.

Please leave your thoughts below :)

Friday, 1 August 2014

August Currently

     If you haven't encountered a "Currently" post before, it is just a fun post at the beginning of each month that serves as a way to share what is Currently going on in your life! You can link up and share your own "Currently" post by visiting the wonderful Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade.



Block 2: Inclusive Instructional Practice - Chapter 4 of U.D.L

     To help us work towards our school goal of purposefully implementing the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning (sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind), my principal has provided our staff with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. As I make my way through the book, I will be summarizing my learning as a means of organizing my thoughts and getting clarification on particular ideas.


Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at: http://www.amazon.ca/Teaching-Diversity-Three-Block-Universal-Learning/dp/1553793536


The Planning Continuum
- Students need to connect concepts in order to develop deep
  long-term understanding (teachers can set up year-long plans
  to help accommodate this)
- Planning For The Year
     - Try to set up an even number of units per term to ensure
        that everything gets covered and you can easily manage
        your time (combine connected units where needed)
     - Set up units between different subject thematically in order
        to build strong connections and big-picture thinking
          - Ex. Human Impact (Social Studies) and Ecosystems
            (Science)
          - Easily done when multiple subjects are taught, but require
            careful planning and open communication when done 
            between teachers
     - Build in other subjects so that all subjects are included
     - Determine what units will fit into what term. There may
       be a natural skill progression or seasonal progression
- Strategies for Variations on The Year
     - In multi-grade classrooms, teachers may build two-year plans
       that allow them to cover both grades units over the two years or
       combine similar units from both grades
     - In one-class classrooms, teachers may collaborate with other
        teachers
- Planning the Units
     - Start with the end in mind and determine what assessments will
       fit the needs of the students while covering the outcomes
     - Understanding is a conceptual approach, which emphasizes
        thinking
     - Outcome is a skills-based approach, which emphasizes performance
     - Determine essential understandings from each subject and then
       combine to reach approx. 15 understandings for three units
- Creating Inquiry Questions
     - Hook students in
     - Build questions off of the essential understandings developed before
- Creating Rubrics for Assessment For, As, and Of Learning
    - We need to assess using different methods to meet the needs of our
       students but do not change standards for students
    - Use your essential understanding as the highest level of your rubric
       since it is essential, then use descriptive verbs to build the rest
     - Give students input in the rubric in the sense that they revisit the
       rubric and alter as necessary after the project/activity has already
       been explored
     - Use formative assessment to understand where your students are
        starting from
     - Make sure you incorporate multiple intelligences and don't "teach to
       yourself". A lot of times, teachers who are musically-inclined incorporate
       a lot of music in their rooms, kinaesthetic incorporate movement, etc
     * Case Study: Sara (music lyrics)
- Planning Lessons
     - Follow a pattern that allows for a gradual release of responsibility
     * Case Study: Karl and Mitchell (memorized rap lyrics)
     * Case Study: Nate and Michael (industry)

Literacy Across The Curriculum
- Covering topics thematically can help a student's literacy because they
   have a basis to build vocabulary off of
- Reading fluency means they can recognize 95% of the words
- Don't get into the trap of grouping by ability level
- Buy 5 copies of 6 varied books about the same theme

Numeracy and Integration
- Making sure to include math in your thematic approach drastically
  strengthens the ability to make connections and helps ensure that
  math concepts are not taught in isolation
- Ex. Teaching about the north in Grade 4 Social Studies, practice
  fractions to demonstrate the population of First Nations, Metis,
  Inuit, and Other - Fraction in food groups - Create a song using
  a certain beat

_____________________________________________
I WANT TO KNOW:

How closely do you include math in the thematic approach?
I feel like math has a more specific skill progression that needs to be incorporated and this may not fit naturally into a thematic approach.

Please leave your thoughts below :)

Friday, 25 July 2014

Block 1: Social and Emotional Learning - Chapter 3 of U.D.L

 To help us work towards our school goal of purposefully implementing the Universal Design for Learning approach to our formal planning (sometimes referred to as "Backwards by Design", "Understanding by Design", or "Planning With The End in Mind), my principal has provided our staff with a copy of Dr. Jennifer Katz's book, Teaching to Diversity: The Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning. As I make my way through the book, I will be summarizing my learning as a means of organizing my thoughts and getting clarification on particular ideas.

Teaching to diversity, the universal design for learning, teaching to diversity book synopsis
Teaching to Diversity Cover. (Accessed 2014). Uploaded to Amazon; Portage& Main Press. 
Available online at: http://www.amazon.ca/Teaching-Diversity-Three-Block-Universal-Learning/dp/1553793536


Link between Emotion and Academic Achievement
- Students need to feel comfortable and safe in the classroom environment
  in order to be socially and emotionally prepared to learn
- A child that is stressed, or uncomfortable/threatened, will not be able to
  effectively concentrate an absorb/apply new information
- Teaching to the Heart and Mind
     - Gifted students may experience higher levels of anxiety while at school
       do to the high amount of connections their brain makes when looking at
       information
     - Recognize that social and emotional learning is not necessarily linked
       to economic status, home situations, peer groups, etc
     * Case Study - Micheal (chains)
- Multiple Intelligences and Social and Emotional Learning
     - Do not stereotype or label children based off of prior knowledge alone
     - Children need to know that their life has meaning, they are valued, and
        that they have something to contribute to the world
     - Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences factors in two social and
        emotional areas: Interpersonal and Intrapersonal
          - Inter: social awareness and respect for others
          - Intra: self-awareness and self-respect

The Respecting Diversity Program
- Program implemented into schools that increases self-respect and respect
  for others
- Help students recognize their individual strengths
- Introducing Multiple Intelligences to Students
     - Demystify the idea of multiple intelligences and educate students so that
       they have a platform and understanding of vocabulary and concepts in
       order to understand 
     - Specific time is set aside to discuss and explore this idea so that each
       student understands where they fit in this idea
- Script for Respecting Diversity Program
     - Includes 9 lessons to introduce multiple intelligences to students

     * Case Study - Derrick (sports impulses)

Extending the Program across the Curriculum
- Use multiple intelligence language in other curricula activities to reinforce
  concepts and diversity
     1 ) Language Arts/English
          - Theatre (bodily/kinesthetic)
          - Write songs (musical)
          - Book clubs (interpersonal)
          - etc
     2 ) Math
          - Provide manipulatives (bodily/kinesthetic)
          - Word problems (linguistic)
          - Create visual examples (visual spatial)
          - etc
     3 ) Science/Social Studies
          - Build models (bodily/kinesthetic)
          - Create experiments (logical, intra-personal)
          - Environmental studies (naturalist)
          - etc
- Include social curriculum into your regular class, as well as academic
  curriculum
     - hold weekly meetings
     - talk about goal setting
     - have students reflect on their learning
- RD Program Outcomes
     - Students were interviewed and shared that they felt more self-aware
       and confident about who they were as learners
     - Students felt that they understood their peers better and found it easier
       to put themselves in their shoes when someone was experiencing
       challenges
     - Reduction in teasing
     - Strengthened sense of community
* Case Study - Jay (dyslexia)
- Spirit Buddies
     - Some students start the day having no connections with peers, adults,
       etc and are left with no positive interactions and a sense of isolation
     - Set aside time each morning for students, in small groups, to meet,
        share, and use active listening 

Creating Democratic Classrooms
- Involve students and provide them with choice
- Five Characteristics of a Democratic Classroom
     1 ) Teachers & students work collaboratively to ensure students'
          learning contributes positively to the community
          - Service projects
     2 ) Students demonstrate learning outside of the classroom &
          receive public feedback
          - Presentations to others, parents, etc
     3 ) Students are provided with choice (individual and group)
          - Scheduling, format, representation, etc
     4 ) Students are presented with a problem-solving approach
          to learning
     5 ) Students are held to a high degree of excellence
- Seven Principles of a Democratic Classroom
     1 ) Social is as important as academic
     2 ) How you learn is as important as what you learn
     3 ) Cognitive growth occurs with social interaction
     4 ) Children require a set of social skills in order to be successful
          - Cooperation, self-control, responsibility, etc
     5 ) Knowing our students as individuals is as important as what
          we teach them
     6 ) Knowing our students' families is vital
     7 ) How a school staff functions together is as important as
          individual competence 
- Six Teaching Strategies in Democratic Classrooms
     1 ) Class Meetings
     2 ) Rules & Logical Consequences
     3 ) Guided Discovery
     4 ) Academic Choice
     5 ) Classroom Organization
     6 ) Family Communication Strategies
* Case Study - Melissa (rock throwing)
- Class Meetings
     - Should be weekly but students can call a meeting when needed
     - Strengthens community and ensures that students know the
        classroom is a safe place where issues are solved together for
        the good of everyone
     * Case Study - Jason (my name)


_____________________________________________
I WANT TO KNOW:

Have you used the formal Respect for Diversity program in your classroom?
I have discussed multiple intelligences with my students and had them fill out surveys and reflect on their type of intelligence, but it has never been to the extent of this program.

Please leave your thoughts below :)