21C Presentations: golf, gardening and man’s best friend

In October, students in 21st Century Skills completed self-designed projects in the format of group presentations. My goal was to allow students the opportunity to complete something that interested them (doing a presentation was their request) but also to involve them in the process of creating and assessing the project as a way to practice more 21st century skills.

Topics for the presentations ranged from demonstrations of about golf and lacrosse skills to gardening, playing a riff on the guitar and learning about man’s best friend. Students used rubrics that they collaborated on as a class in order to evaluate each other’s presentations, which included a section in which they graded their own and their partners’ efforts.

Because we have just finished a unit about different learning styles and Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, students included an element of each of the VARK learning styles (visual, aural, read/write and kinesthetic) in their presentations. For example, as a part of our guitar lesson, we watched/heard a video/audio of the song we were learning in addition to a slide show of written information, we were able to try it on a real guitar as well as a student-created manipulative which helped us practice finger placement on imaginary frets.

This weekend, students were asked to reflect on the process of creating, presenting and assessing these projects. They identified the 21st century skills they used; problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and technology literacy were among those mentioned most. They also provided me with suggestions on what I could do to improve the project for next term (including a time limit in the rubric, streamlining the brainstorming process) and spoke about the challenges they faced as they worked in partners.

I think that next term I will make the task even more challenging by allowing groups to choose topics and then forcing them to trade topics. That way, the “experts” will be grading and those doing the research will have to work to meet the high expectations of their peers. I know this probably won’t be a popular decision but I really feel that it will be a worthwhile challenge!


Assessment for Learning

Last week, I attended  PD session with my department and the presenter talked a bit about how “assessment” can sometimes be considered a “dirty word.” And it is true: sitting through 3 hours of PSATs today with the sophomores and juniors, I do know that there are times when tests seem to eat up a lot of our time in the classroom with students.

However, when assessments are used “for learning” they can be really powerful tools. The 1:1 program has provided us with many options for formative assessment and today I was able to use a couple of them to help me decide if my students were ready for a formal or summative assessment on the geography and spelling of the countries of the Spanish-speaking world. With the 4 day weekend, time is really flying. I needed to decide if I could quiz students this Friday or if we needed more time practicing these two topics. Instead of simply guessing or asking students informally, I spent class today on 3 formative assessments.

results of country kahootStudents used the app “GeoChallenge” to practice their geography skills. They got instant feedback while playing the game and I asked them to play until they hit 100% accuracy or as close as possible. Then, we played a Kahoot with the same material and I was able to see exactly which countries students were still struggling to identify as well as the individual students and the class averages. They were pretty good! Lastly, students practiced the spelling of the names of the countries in Spanish on a set of terms in Quizlet. That program showed me which words students were getting correct/incorrect and from the looks of things, they only had a few names to practice! Hooray! It’s time for a summative assessment and I’m fully confident that my students came away from class today with a good idea of the specific terms/countries that they still need to study for their quiz on Fridayquizlet results for blog countries

“Small talk”

Spanish 1 is coming to the end of their first unit of the year. Every day, we have been adding basic questions and answers to build a short conversation – the kind of small talk you make when you meet someone. In addition to practicing these short conversations with a multitude of partners in class every day, students in Spanish 1 have used their Ipads to take advantage of the ability to record both their voices and to make short videos.

Students made audio recordings of themselves spelling their first and last names, practicing those words as well as the alphabet. They made short videos of themselves describing “¿Cuántos hay?” as they counted objects in order to practice their numbers. (We sped up the videos to make them more entertaining!) As a larger assessment, students collaborated to create video puppet shows using at least one phrase from each of the vocabulary sections learned.

On Monday, they will take a more formal, written quiz on all of the questions and answers learned so far, something that will require them to show their awareness for Spanish punctuation, accent marks and spelling. On Friday, their work on Quizlet – where all of their vocabulary is available to them 24/7 in a format in which they can practice by playing various types of games – was due. Students were required to complete 5 of the 6 possible activities for each set onces, giving them targeted but fun ways to practice on their own time. This work was the majority of their assigned homework for the year so far.

Their quiz will utilize the app/site, Socrative, which will allow students to take the assessment on their Ipads. Because of this, students will get instant feedback on each question as they take the quiz and I will be able to post their grades very quickly as well. It also allowed me to give students to take their quiz last week as a “practice” and, from their comments, they felt like it helped them understand what I was expecting and also realize more specifically the areas they needed to study.

A trip to Block Island

Early in the year, I asked the 21st Century Skills class to compare their own ideas about what 21st century skills are with those of their parents. There were many similarities in the ideas of both groups  but one addition to our list that came out of that conversation came the suggestion “transportation and logistics.”

Immediately, my experiences with World Challenge came to mind, as students are required to make bus reservations, hire guides, and get to the airport on time as they travel through a country in the developing world.  A couple of times in the past I have suggested a day trip to Block Island as an opportunity for my teams to practice the skills they will need out of the country in a much more comfortable and “low stakes” setting. Not to mention, visiting Block Island is a lot of fun!

Our 21st Century Skills class welcomed the challenge of putting together a trip and overall, they excelled in their planning. The students began by defining the problem (figuring out what needed to be figured out!) and then presenting their initial research. Next, students used an Eisenhower matrix to prioritize the tasks they had left as well as categorize them so that each could be placed under the responsibility of one person’s “job description.”

Lastly, students were tasked with coming up with a product that would serve both as a reference for us while we were on the trip as well as a way for them to demonstrate to someone outside of the class all the effort that had gone into planning the day. They came up with a slick (laminated!) color brochure and a short film in which they documented what they imagined each part of the day to be like. Overall, their preparation made for a great day and the weather cooperated! Everyone had a role (leader, transport, morale, safety, budget, etc.) the day of the trip and each student eagerly fulfilled his or her responsibilities. Mr. Spindel joined us as a driver (thank you!!), providing his family’s 15 passenger van, and we all enjoyed the day! On the ferry ride home, I asked students to video tape their answers to the following questions: What was your highlight of the day? What would you do differently next time? How did you feel in your specific role for the day? I look forward to discussing their answers in class today.

block island kayaking 21c

Additionally, students were asked multiple times to identify the 21st century skills that they practiced while completing this project. Here’s a sampling of their answers:

information literacy: we researched several websites to pick which activities we wanted to do, which were the least costly and closest to where the ferry would land

collaboration: we all collaborated together in order to create final needs and estimation for things such as money and what we are going to do

productivity and self-direction: Researching and working on the pamphlet and video when our teacher was not here to guide us

social skills: Making a funny video by understanding social cues

organization: while using the Eisenhower Matrix, we organized our priorities to decide what we had to figure out first to have an awesome trip!

flexibility/adaptability: having a back up plan within our organized activities. Such as planning to go to the movies if kayaking turns out to be unavailable

I’m impressed with their work and I think we could definitely take another field trip! I wonder what ideas they might come up with!

Sub plans!

I was out 2 days last week – one for a personal day  and the other because my son was sick for the first time. It is a challenge to create sub plans that will keep students on task and engaged, but I was very pleased with the work that my students in Hispanic Civilization did on Friday! Earlier that week, a student handed me a copy of the Wall Street Journal as she entered class and on it was a picture of Pope Francis. This took us a bit off topic for the day but I was happy to have a discussion with the class about the role of Catholicism in Latin American culture. It turned into a 30 minute review of some important historical dates and people and I wasn’t really sure if any of the information stuck!

So… the class’s assignment while I was out was to make a short video including each member of the class in which they explained the importance of the people, places and events we had discussed! I was happy to see that they remembered a lot and created a pretty nice video. Our 1:1 program makes this type of assignment possible. Check it out!