Category Archives: Common Core

Why STEM Projects Work

As the Tech Ready Team has been working on building STEM projects this year, I’ve had a chance to see how these projects are working in the classroom and the great opportunities that these projects are opening up across our district.

The slideshow below is part description, part reflection on the ways they’ve been successful, and part vision of how they could be expanded.  Take a look at it.

Finding Common Core Passages Online

Common Core, or as Arizona calls it, Arizona’s College and Career Readiness Standards, states,

To build a foundation for college and career readiness, students must read widely and deeply from among a broad range of high-quality, increasingly challenging literary and informational texts….By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, students build a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give them the background to be better readers in all content areas.

Some school districts are purchasing “common-core aligned” curriculum to help their teachers find those complex texts in other disciplines.  However, many school districts do not have funds for this.  Teachers are left to search endlessly on the internet to find informational texts at their students’ reading levels.  Until now…..

ReadWorks.org is a non-profit website which offers high-interest passages and comprehension questions.  The passages are fully-searchable.  Teachers need only type in a keyword, select the reading level, and search.

The site is free and sign-up is quick.  There are hundreds of high-quality passages for grades Kindergarten through 6th grade.

Go to ReadWorks.org to start searching now.  You can search in the box in the top right corner.

When you have created a profile, you may save passages to “My Binder”.

If you don’t know exactly what you want to read about, you can search by standard.  Click on “My Standars Alignment” at the top.  If you already have a profile, it will direct you to your state standards.  If the pacing guide (curriculum map) for the week says “Cause and Effect” you can select that standard.  **Make sure you select the correct grade level.

Lesson plans are designed with the Gradual Release of Responsibility framework of “I do, We do, You do”.  Most lesson plans also include:

  • learning objectives
  • a vocabulary routine
  • guided practice
  • graphic organizers to scaffold understanding
  • student engagement strategies (Turn and Talk, Buddy Buzz, etc.)
  • independent practice with multiple choice questions and constructed response prompts
  • extension ideas
  • novel studies (for 5th and 6th grades, however, I have used some of those novels in 4th grade)
  • paired text

I want to take a minute to explain the paired text feature.  Common Core asks for readers to make connections between texts.  If your district-adopted curriculum does not provide paired texts, it can be very time consuming for teachers to find texts on the same subject and reading level.  On ReadWorks.org, the work is done for you!

For a tutorial on finding specific texts, watch this video:

Innovation Nation: A STEM Festival

Ination poster

Click the picture to download the poster in pdf format. Print on legal size paper.

The rest of the country has set their clocks forward, Spring is around the corner, and it’s time for a STEM festival.
On Wednesday, May 14th, the Chief Alchesay Activity Center will be host to Innovation Nation.

This event has been designed to bring awareness of STEM opportunities to the White Mountain Apache Nation as well as spotlight student STEM projects in the Whiteriver School District.

Booths will be set up from private companies, STEM organizations, Universities, and Government Agencies that will highlight innovation, new ideas, and creativity.

Winners of school contests at each school will be presenting their projects at the festivals.   During the event students, community members, and teachers will receive tickets for participating in activities at the various booths.  Participants can use the tickets they earn to “purchase” food at the event.

Students can participate and win prizes at various engineering and math problem solving competitions during the event.

What Can Teacher’s Do to Participate?

1) Advertise it to your students.

You can download the Innovation Nation Poster here.  Make sure to print the poster out on legal size paper.

2) Participate in the Class Innovation Contest at your School.

Winning classes will receive a pizza party, and we’re also working on prizes for winning teachers.  Contact your STEM curriculum developer or principal for information about the deadline for this contest at your school.  You can download a flyer for this competition here.

3) Attend for Professional Development hours on Wednesday, May 14th.

You’ll receive more information about how to register in mylearningplan.com to receive PD hours for attending.

4) Volunteer to help.

If you’re interested in volunteering to setup, hold student contests, or clean up, please email me: bgoode@wusd.us

Innovation Nation Contest

Click the Image above to download a pdf version of this flyer.

What Does Common Core have to do with Project-based Learning (PBL)?

What is PBL?You might be surprised to learn that there is a direct connection between preparing your students for Common Core and the PARCC exam and using project-based learning in your classroom.  Project-based learning is a great tool to have in your teacher toolkit as you make plans and efforts to prepare your students for the deeper thinking and higher difficulty of the Common Core Standards.

The new standards aim to prepare students for college and career readiness.  Project-based learning (PBL) is a great way to prepare students for Common Core because it emphasizes significant content and real-world outcomes.

Consider the following quote from David Ross, director of professional development for the Buck Institute for Education.

Everyone knows that content is king and Common Core wears the crown. Significant content is one of our eight Essential Elements of PBL. Make an easy connection: Significant Content=Common Core.  Now let’s use a shorter word. When designing a rigorous, relevant, and engaging project, Common Core is the “what.” But what about the “how?” In our minds the answer is obvious: PBL is the solution for Common Core implementation. PBL is the “how.”

 Of course, we realize that PBL is not the only way to help students master these new standards. As states move toward implementation of the Common Core, however, more and more schools and districts are focusing on PBL as their go-to instructional strategy to prepare students for deeper thinking. Next-generation assessments aligned to the new standards (still in development at this writing) are expected to emphasize application of knowledge rather than recall of facts. Here, too, we find common ground with PBL, in which students demonstrate and share what they know or can do through performance assessments. For PBL veterans, student demonstrations of learning are not new at all. They’re an essential element of every project.

 Common Core Standards for English Language Arts include tasks that are very familiar to people who know PBL:

“Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions”

“Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners”

“Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others”

“Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question)”

Common Core Standards of Mathematical Practice also echo PBL best practices. The math standards set expectations for students to do real-world problem solving, use mathematical modeling, apply statistical analysis, and communicate their understanding. “Mathematically proficient students can apply the mathematics they know Loading…to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace,” according to the Standards of Mathematical Practice. Such applications naturally have a place within high-quality projects that ask students to use mathematics concepts and procedures in authentic contexts.  (Excerpted from the book PBL for 21st Century Success: Teaching Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity, published by the Buck Institute for Education, 2013)

doonlinecoursesIn the Whiteriver School District, the Tech Ready Grant is currently developing STEM lesson plans for every grade-level that implement Common Core standards.

These units are structured around Science, but also include Math and ELA Common Core standards as well as digital PARCC-type questions in the units.  The Science and Technology elements of the units are used to engage students as well as fulfill the need for informational text required by the ELA standards.

These units are being developed to give WUSD teachers access to PBL units aligned to their curriculum and resources without having to develop them from scratch.  Teachers will be given complete access to the units so that once they are implemented they will be able to make changes, extensions, and additions to the STEM units.

You can access the units that are being developed here.
Use the following login to explore the units:
(Username: wusdteacher  password: pass123)

Common Core Math Resources (Free of Charge)

It’s tough to know where to start when looking for Math resources online- there is so much good stuff out there. It’s even more difficult to know where to start when looking for math resources that are aligned to and address the common core standards. This list of math resources has been compiled by http://www.ccedtech.com to specifically help get a handle on Common Core. I’ve added a few more resources to their list. Here they are:

The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives: This site is developed by Utah State University to support K-12. It includes plenty of online exercises.

Inside Math (videos and lessons): A resource for math educators that you should be familiar with.

Interactivate– Common Core Aligned Lessons:  A collection of digital interactive resources aligned to common core math.  Similar to NSDL below.

Learn Zillion – Common Core Aligned Lessons: Video tutorials, guided practice, and lesson plan downloads for teachers.  Read the TechReadyTeam post here.

Opus Math Problem Bank:  This is a search engine to find math problems aligned to common core.  It focuses on 7th and 8th grade.

Eureka Math– Common Core Math Maps: This is a pay site that has a free preview of their digital common core curriculum for grades K, 3, 6, and 9.

National Science Digital Library: Browse the Common Core Math Standards and find plenty of digital resources associated with key learning goals.

Math Video Sites:

Teaching Channel
Numberphile
SEDL
Mathalicious

I think you will find these sites a great help if you take a few minutes to look at them.

Capture

Troubleshooting Guide for Dell Latitude Tablets

The first phase of the tablet deployment is underway.  Many students have completed a required online technology orientation, in which they have learned the basic operations of the device, their responsibilities and digital citizenship.

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Teachers have also received training and in class support.  Many have already started using the devices to support instruction.  During this second phase of deployment, we have learned a few lessons  have caused trouble for teachers and students. The Tech Ready Team has created a troubleshooting guide to help with the most common technology glitches and difficulties. You can download the Tablet Troubleshooting Solutions guide for your convenience.

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Teachers are not the only ones that are learning how find solutions to technology difficulties.  Students are also learning to become excellent problem solvers and eager to help each other by showing off their troubleshooting skills.

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Challenges and technical difficulties are inevitable, especially when using new technology, but providing teacher support and finding solutions is a critical factor for success.  A BIG thank you to all the WUSD teachers for their participation and dedication!

Finding Common Core, I mean AZ CCRS, activities.

Masteryconnect.com has released a new tool to help teachers find classroom activities that meet specific Common Core Standards.  The new tool is called Resource Pins.

Resource Pins is  a free service that allows teachers to post and view activities tied to specific Common Core mcStandards.  If you’re familiar with pinterest the layout will be familiar.  It has only been open to the public since the middle of November; however, there are already over 10,000 resources posted!

If you would like to try the service simply go to http://masteryconnect.com and click on the “JOIN FREE” button.  Once you have set up your free account, you will be able to access the Resource Pins.

  You will find the “Resource Pins” button on the top menu.  Simply use the search boxes to choose the Subject, Core, Class, and Standard categories.  If you wish to add Resources use the “Add Resource Pin” button on the top right.

Click the picture below to see a sample query for 10th Grade ELA standard RL.9-10-10

Resourcepins

Tech Ready Team Presentation

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The Tech Ready Team recently took the show on the road and presented at the MEGA Conference on November 19th.trtmc
The theme of the conference was Spark Innovation. The presentation outlined the WUSD strategies of preparing our students for PARCC by:

  1. First preparing teachers to teach with mobile devices in order to address the AZ College and Career Readiness Standards.
  2. Creating STEM units that integrate Project-based Learning as well as mobile devices K-12.

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You can check out the powerpoint presentation on the web here: trtmegaconference

Snagit

Snagit OneClick Icon

Snagit – If “Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words”, Screencasts Must be Worth a Million!

What makes a screencast such a powerful tool?  This emerging tool has tremendous benefits and potential for both teachers and students.  Not only can it facilitate student learning, it empowers both teachers and students as creators of digital content,  a fundamental skill in the 21st century.   As students transition from consumers of digital content to creators of digital content, they take greater ownership of their learning, increasing participation, and motivation.

Whiteriver Unified School District has made Snagit accessible to teachers.  The capture button is always available on the edge of their screen for quick and easy access.  Once a screencast is produced, it can be saved, edited, and shared through e-mail or the web.  Here is a few ways of how it can be used by teachers and students.

How Might Teachers Use Snagit?

Demonstrations – Teachers can create a video to describe a step by step process or explain a concept such as, creating a digital story, a science concept or finding a solution to a math problem.

Presentations – Teacher can use Snagit to capture content  to create engaging multimedia presentations that can be used in class or uploaded to their online class.

Having computer problems? Teachers can quickly and easily capture an image with the error message to show exactly what is happening on their computer screen and then email it to Technical Support or the IT Department.

How Might Students Use Snagit?

 To Foster Learning – Screencasts can be watched anytime, anywhere and can be paused or watch over and over.  It canhelp students learn how to use their time efficiently and also help them catch up on any missed sessions.

Student Projects – Students can capture online resources for research projects, web pages, and segments of videos.  They can highlight text and take notes within the capture resource.  Snagit can also be used to document the bibliography information and will even remember the URL to where it was taken from.

Showcasing – Students can show their work such as projects, presentations and strategies to problems to their teachers, peers, and to their parents.

For an introductory video on how to use Snagit to capture an image click on:  Introduction to Snagit Video

For more educational benefits and examples of  screencast read the Edublog, Screencasts Turn Students into Digital Teachers by Katy Scott.

What in the world is LearnZillion?

What is it?
Image LearnZillion is a free website available to you that combines video lessons, assessments, and progress reporting. Each lesson highlights a Common Core standard.
It’s only been around for close to two years but thanks to millions of dollars funding they currently have 2,000 lessons based on Common Core standards. Currently they are employing over 100 teachers to develop screencasts of lessons and assessments. If you’re familiar with Khan Academy, think of it as a kind of Khan Academy structured around the Common Core standards with videos created by master teachers across the country. Below is a screenshot of a LearnZillion lesson:ImageA Little History.
Here’s a quick history of LearnZillion lifted from their website, “We started LearnZillion at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. because we wanted to solve a problem. We knew what lessons our students needed but we didn’t have enough time to teach each student the right lesson. To create more time, and to share best practices across classrooms, E.L. Haynes’ teachers began to capture their expertise on screencasts. We posted them on a homemade website and coupled them with a short quiz to help us track student progress. Soon the idea grew. What if teachers from across the country could contribute to the site? What if new teachers could learn the new Common Core standards from the wisdom of experienced teachers? What if students could get a playlist of lessons that matched their needs? What if, over time, the video lessons got stronger and stronger, as more teachers contributed and the data showed which lessons had the biggest impact? Thanks to funding from the Next Generation Learning Challenge, New Schools Venture Fund, Achievement Network, and others, we are about to find out!” Here’s a link to a Marketplace article if you want to learn more.

Is it Really Free?
That’s the question I had. Yes, it really is free for teachers as well as parents. You do have to set up a username and password and agree to terms and conditions that require you to login every time you use the site. They make money by providing professional development and premium and customized features to school districts. However all of the content is available for free.

How Can I Use It?
LearnZillion has a couple of nice features. One is that you can “assign” a particular lesson. When you click the “Assign” button you get a unique number code. You can then post this code on your LMS page or give it to you student. When they enter the code in any search bar a student version of the video appears for them to watch. These links and codes can easily be embedded in your online classroom. If you find that you really want to use this resource for RTI, you can actually set up an entire class which gives each student their unique code that gives them access to the multiple lessons you’ve assigned them.

I see this as not just another web resource, but a common core resource that will integrate nicely with WUSD’s use of Galileo benchmarks, and the review of those assessments. It can be used in addition to the Galileo Intervention Tools.
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