April 16, 2014

Expert Corner: Differentiating with Student Exploration Sheets

LauraC-2014Laura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.

When conducting whole group lessons with students, you can use Gizmo Student Exploration Sheets to guide the lesson path and your questioning with students. But you may wonder, is it desirable to print out those sheets for my students, or should I do something else?

As always, you will want to look to your lesson objectives to make that decision. If you are using the whole group Gizmo lesson to engage your students and get them to begin thinking about a concept, it may not be necessary for them to have a document to write on. On the other hand, if you are using the Gizmo later in your lesson to build understanding, the support of a document to guide them might be very beneficial.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to use the entire Student Exploration Sheet “as-is.” You can pick just one activity and modify the Word document to meet your needs. You can also create entirely new documents by using the snapshot feature in each Gizmo to embed pictures, graphs, and data into your documents. A quick question around a picture can be a great formative assessment to be used before, during or after a lesson in your sequence.

Other ideas for student documents that can support whole-class instruction:

Before the lesson:

• Prior Knowledge questions from the Student Exploration Sheets can be handed out as bell-ringers as students enter class.

During the lesson:

• Create an outline of the lesson on which students can take notes. As you proceed through your planned whole group lesson, what do you want students to notice? What conclusions would you like them to come to? Create a student document to scaffold questions and observations for the students so that they can achieve the objectives of your lesson.

• Provide data recording templates for individual analysis. If your whole group lesson includes collecting data that will be reviewed to identify patterns, it will help students to have a document they can record the data on as you collect it as a group. Not only will the students be able to practice the skill of recording data accurately in a table or other appropriate format, they will have their own copy for the analysis exercises.

After the lesson:

• Create a follow-up activity that applies the concepts learned during the whole group lesson. In the ExploreLearning PD Team, we love creating writing prompts for Gizmos that support the Common Core standards.

• Exit tickets. One of the questions from the Student Exploration Sheet may lend itself perfectly to a question for your students to answer before they leave class.

• Differentiated homework (with or without a computer.) By using snapshots of Gizmos and data, you can create homework where students can practice the skills learned in the whole group lesson without the need for a computer. Or, for students that have computer access at home, give them a second option so that they can use the Gizmos at home.

If you've created interesting lessons around a Gizmo, please help out your colleagues by sharing your lesson materials on the Lesson Info tab of the Gizmo.

To see our previous articles on whole group instruction, go to http://blog.explorelearning.com/implementation-ideas/


Posted by Heather Jones at 11:14 AM in Implementation Ideas, Training and Professional Development, Using Gizmos | Permalink

March 12, 2014

Expert Corner: Fostering Inquiry through Effective Questioning

Laura Chervenak PicLaura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.

 

Inquiry learning centers around exploration, asking questions, and building understanding of the concept at hand. Teachers' good questioning strategies support the work students are doing in the classroom by arousing curiosity and motivating students to seek out new knowledge.

Effective questioning in an inquiry classroom follows several key principles:

1. Plan questions ahead of time that will support inquiry.

  • To make the most of questioning in a whole class lesson, plan key questions prior to class so that you can word them with precision. Clear questions mean that students don’t have to spend as much time processing the question, but can instead focus on formulating an answer.
  • Think about your lesson objectives as you plan questions. They should be ordered logically to move students towards those objectives, supporting their learning along the way.
  • Ask open-ended questions that invite multiple interpretations. Ask “What are your observations?” instead of “What color is the bug?”
  • As you plan your questions, keep a Bloom’s revised taxonomy reference handy. Be ready with questions from the higher levels of Bloom’s. Asking questions from the lower levels on the fly is relatively easy, but it can be much harder to spontaneously come up with a good Analyze or Evaluate question.

2. Ask questions in ways that include everyone.

  • In the February Expert Corner article, we discussed how to engage all students in a whole class lesson. In addition to the methods mentioned there, a strategy I’ve seen recently is to count the number of students with hands raised before calling on one, “One person has an answer. Two, three.” When students see that you want to know how many people have an answer before selecting one, more will join in.

3. Give students time to think.

  • Provide students with ample wait time so that they can process the question and formulate an answer. Mentally, count off 3-5 seconds at a minimum before taking an answer.

4. Avoid judging students’ responses.

  • Research (Rowe, 1974) shows that when teachers respond to students’ responses with negative or even positive comments such as, “Good job!” or “Not quite,” students will respond less often. Rather than offering judgment in your responses to students, reply with neutral comments such as, “Thank you.”

5. Follow up students’ responses in ways that encourage deeper thinking.

  • One of my favorite follow-up questions is to ask, “What evidence supports your answer?” This prompts students to provide not only the ‘why’ behind their answer but also specific support.
  • In addition to asking the responding student follow-up questions, it is beneficial to ask the rest of the class to weigh in with a hand signal. Use a thumbs up to indicate agreement, thumbs down for disagreement and a thumbs to the side if the answer is okay, but there is something missing that would allow for full agreement. With this strategy, all of the students are thinking deeper about the answer given, and not just the responding student.

As you work on building your own questioning skills to support inquiry, set incremental goals for yourself and monitor your progress against those goals. Don’t try to master everything at once! For example, begin with improving your wait time after asking a question. Once you have mastered wait time, you can work on eliminating judgmental comments to student responses, and then asking more questions from the higher levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.

To monitor your progress, you can videotape your inquiry lessons and analyze your question types, wait time, or other metrics for effective techniques. If a video camera isn’t available, ask a colleague to observe a lesson and collect data on your current questioning goal.

Because teacher questioning is key during whole group instruction, ExploreLearning provides great questions at various levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy in our Student Exploration Sheets included with almost every Gizmo. Teachers can also refer to the Teacher Guide discussion questions and even the assessment questions for more inspiration. To see a demonstration of the power of good questions with a Gizmo, watch our video, Teaching with Gizmos: Function Machines.

Posted by Heather Jones at 03:19 PM in Implementation Ideas, Training and Professional Development, Using Gizmos | Permalink

February 14, 2014

Expert Corner: Whole Group Instruction- Part V

LauraLaura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.

Students can easily become disengaged during a lesson in a whole class setting. Students who are not called on to answer a question can passively wait for the answer to be given to them, rather than thinking it through for themselves. Teachers usually seek ways for all students to participate so that they are actively thinking and learning during a whole class lesson.

One of the simplest ways to help get all students actively thinking about a whole group activity is to provide think time for questions and ask them to write their answers down before calling on one student to answer aloud. Many questions and challenges in the Gizmo lesson materials have multiple correct answers. This format is a great opportunity to ask pairs to devise a solution and then have them come up one at a time to share their solutions on the Gizmo.

If the Gizmo calls for students to design an experiment, have pairs or small groups work together to create plans at their desks. Each group then presents and defends their plan to the class for the privilege of performing that experiment on the Gizmo.

You can also have students use physical manipulatives similar to the Gizmo at their desks. This will allow them to follow along and explore even when they aren’t using the Gizmo directly. In the User Lesson Materials for Toy Factory, the contributed lesson from Elsie Rivard includes a page of toys from the Gizmo created by using the snapshot tool. Students can cut out and use the toys to participate in a whole class lesson. Recently, I purchased pencil toppers in the shapes of animals to use similarly.

There are even more ways to ensure that all students are participating rather than zoning out during a whole group instruction lesson.

• When one student answers a question, ask the rest of the room to give a thumbs up if they agree, thumbs down if they disagree or a thumbs sideways if they don’t know.

• Use individual whiteboards to have all students respond to questions.

• Use mobile devices so that students can answer the Gizmo assessment questions individually, or use iPads so that students can manipulate the Gizmos with our new iPad app!

Want more ideas? Check out the outstanding book, Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner by Pérsida Himmele and William Himmele.

Posted by Heather Jones at 02:23 PM in Implementation Ideas, Training and Professional Development, Using Gizmos | Permalink

January 17, 2014

Expert Corner: Whole Group Instruction- Part IV

Laura Chervenak PicLaura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.

When you are using Gizmos in a whole-class setting, it is very easy to slip into “lecture mode” using the Gizmo as a visual aid. While it is true that their visual nature really helps students to understand concepts, Gizmos are even more effective if students have the opportunity to explore and experiment with the simulation directly.

So how can you make your whole group instruction student-centric so that they are getting the most from the experience? Here are three guidelines:

1. Allow the students to control the Gizmos. If you have an interactive whiteboard, select a student to manipulate the Gizmo controls. You can use many methods for selecting the students (i.e., popsicle sticks, the “popcorn” method of allowing the current student to select the next, or even an app that will select students randomly like iLEAP Pick a Student).

2. Have the students make decisions about the activity. Whenever possible, have the students decide what to do next. As you are following your Student Exploration Sheet, you will see many places where you can select variables or settings. Ask students to make those choices rather than just doing it yourself.

3. Don’t say something the students can say. Rather than the teacher doing the explaining and the students doing the listening, reverse the dynamic! If students are making and describing their observations, predictions and explanations, then they will be active participants in their learning. Sometimes this is difficult for teachers who are used to explaining concepts. For one lesson or one hour each day, practice speaking only in questions!

Do you have comments or questions about whole group instruction? Feel free to share your comments or question about whole class instruction below. 

To see our previous articles on whole group instruction, go to http://blog.explorelearning.com/implementation-ideas/

Posted by Heather Jones at 12:04 PM in Implementation Ideas, Training and Professional Development, Using Gizmos | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 11, 2013

Expert Corner: Whole Group Instruction- Part III

LauraLaura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.

 

In the past two EL newsletters, we presented ideas for how to plan whole group instruction. Here’s a video of a teacher using some of these techniques:

 

With the Mineral Identification Gizmo, students are engaged in learning as they test various mineral properties and analyze data using a key. The teacher models best practice by asking students to verbalize their thinking, justify answers, and explain their thought processes to other students in the class. These types of questioning techniques lead to a deeper understanding of the science content and practices.

In January, we’ll be back to talk about how to make your lessons student-centric.

Have a great winter break!

Posted by Heather Jones at 02:28 PM in Implementation Ideas, Quick Tips, Training and Professional Development, Using Gizmos | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 13, 2013

Expert Corner: Whole Group Instruction- Part II

Laura Chervenak PicLaura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.

 

We all know that deliberate and careful lesson preparation can separate an okay lesson from one that is vibrant and effective. But teachers don’t have hours to review materials and make decisions about instructional strategies. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day!

VideoTo help busy teachers get the most out of their lessons, ExploreLearning Gizmos provide a suite of materials to help streamline the preparation process. To provide an example of how I would plan a lesson, I selected the Gizmo, Measuring Motion, and created a video as I prepared my lessons. In this 10-minute video, you can watch as I “think out loud” during the planning.

My entire preparation took about 20 minutes and I finished with a 3-day series of lessons, combining the Gizmo, textbook exercises, and assessment activities. My thought process is outlined below, but you should watch the video and review the finished whole-class instruction script for more details.

When using whole-class instruction with Gizmos, you want to make sure that you use standard classroom best practices for whole-class instruction. Be sure to “chunk” your material in short segments. This will give your students lots of opportunities to be active participants. They can do so either by volunteering, or by using participation techniques like Think-Pair-Share, QuickWrites, and individual response systems (electronic or whiteboard). Design your questions ahead of time within a whole-class instruction script. You will want to include questions across all six levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, scaffolding as you progress through the lesson. Be sure to identify formative instruction strategies that you will use to see how students are doing as they work to master the standard(s).

The important steps to follow as you plan your Gizmo lesson:

1. Identify the standards you are teaching and select an appropriate Gizmo.

2. Preview the Gizmo while referencing the Student Exploration Sheet Answer Key.

3. Decide how you will use the Gizmo to address the standard(s). Does the Gizmo make a good introduction to engage the student and allow them to construct meaning for themselves? Or would you rather use the Gizmo to explain the concept and provide students with practice?

4. Utilize the Student Exploration Sheet, Teacher Guide, and Vocabulary Sheet to plan the whole-class instruction script. Remember, each of these is easily customizable to meet the individual needs of all your students.

Please share your comments or questions about lesson planning for whole-class instruction. 

Posted by Heather Jones at 07:55 AM in Implementation Ideas, Quick Tips, Training and Professional Development, Using Gizmos | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 17, 2013

Expert Corner: Whole Group Instruction- Part I

Laura Chervenak PicLaura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.

Research has shown that effective use of simulations in whole class instruction significantly improves student understanding in science (Smetana, 2008). In a series of articles this school year, I will be highlighting whole group instruction with Gizmos, including best-practice strategies for maximizing student engagement and achievement.

We will begin with an exploration of lesson planning with Gizmos, including how to pull the best whole class instructional sequence from the Gizmo lesson materials to meet your needs. We will return in January, after the winter break, to focus on making your Gizmo lessons more student-centric, even when you have a single computer in your classroom. In February, we will discuss strategies for engaging all students in the classroom in your whole class lessons. In March, we will look at questioning techniques that foster inquiry, and we will look at the role of seatwork and homework in April. Finally, in May, we will wrap up the series with a discussion of what comes next — instruction beyond the whole group.

I’m looking forward to exploring all of the ways that a teacher can use Gizmos in a classroom with just one or two computers and a projector. I’d love to hear your ideas and strategies as well! If you have strategies related to whole group instruction with Gizmos to share, please comment below.

Posted by Heather Jones at 04:32 PM in Implementation Ideas, Training and Professional Development, Using Gizmos | Permalink | Comments (0)