Tag Archives: LIBE 467

Assignment Two – Collaborating and Mentoring a Teacher to Evolve Practice

Examples of potential resources in way of book covers, and citations.

 

**Disclaimer: Mr. Gains and Ms. Middleton are fictionalized characters pulled from a variety of experiences and encounters in my teaching career.  Names and details have been changed or modified to allow for anonymity.

 

Case Study #1Mr. Gains is a grade six teacher who is in the tail end of his career.  He has the school year down to a science: his lessons are organized by what worksheets will be completed on what specific week and day.  The worksheets are compiled from a variety of sources: teacher/student text book black-lined masters, and worksheet booklets based on subjects like math, English, science, etc.  Some may be worthwhile in conjunction with other tasks, but in the context that they are delivered it ends up being busy work for the students.  Mr. Gains often complains in the staff room that his students aren’t “what they used to be” and that they are “like trying to corral cats,” other teachers on his team would say it is because his students are not involved in their own learning and are therefore checked out.  At the end of the year students have become masters at rote memorization activities and have no conceptual understanding to accompany the “learning” that has taken place over the course of the school year.  These specific skills that have been acquired from spending a year in Mr. Gains’ classroom have no transference into any practical real world use.   For novel studies he has a set of questions that correspond with each chapter that students respond to individually with little, to no opportunity to discuss or extend their thinking/understanding.   Mr. Gains relies on his worksheets, and textbooks for all lessons, and while he does utilize and access some decent reference materials, he does not implement them into his lessons in a way that engages his students.

Goal: To help Mr. Gains reconnect with his students in methods of practice which allow students to be involved in their learning, and not merely a subtext of it.

Approach:

Mr. Gains loves any opportunity for extra help in his class, therefore i think it should be relatively easy to convince him that collaborating and team teaching could be a worthwhile experience for the students as well as himself.

Here is a great video by Elizabeth Buckhold, a grade eleven teacher, outlining her experience using literature circales with her students.  I would use this as a video to further illustrate the purpose of literature circles and to give a bit more exposure to the concept to Mr. Gains.

Potential Roadblocks:

Not being open to trying a completely new approach.

Ways to combat roadblock:

  • Provide examples of success stories from the past.  Speak passionately and confidently about the process and why it works.
  • Reassure that we will tackle this together and that I am there for support throughout the entire process.
  • Only as a last-ditch effort: Merge new ideas with existing so that elements feel familiar.

 

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Step One: The Hook

Offer Mr. Gains the opportunity to have an extra teacher in the room for the duration of a class novel study.

Introduce the idea of literature circles, where students will be given individual, rotating roles within a small group followed by weekly opportunities to discuss chapters in a formal small group setting.

Step Two: Planning

Provide choice of novel study, either the whole class reads the same book, or various books are chosen based on a similar theme at varied reading levels.

Pull literature circle teaching resources from the library and allow Mr. Gains to peruse the various graphic organizers and to further understand the process and purpose of literature circles.

Discuss what roles should be permanent, and which roles will be integrated in as occasional roles.

Create an end task where students will showcase what they have learned.  (Movie book trailer, book review, etc.)

Step Three: Implementing

Invite Mr. Gains’ class to use the Learning Commons space for the weekly or semi-weekly meetings.

Take turns sitting with each group and listening to their conversations.  Asking questions to continue conversations when appropriate or necessary.

Debrief after each meeting and share personal notes with Mr. Gains about students’ thinking and progress.

Provide feedback about where students are at and personal interpretation about how meetings are going.

Check in: How do you feel? Do we need to reevaluate our process? What will our next lesson look like?

Step Four: Integrating into the Future

Ask students to reflect on the process, what worked for them, what didn’t? Is this a format they would like to continue to work with in the future?

Reflect with Mr. Gains: What worked? What didn’t? What would you be willing to try next time? How can I best support you in the future? Where do we go from here?  How have your students’ reflections impacted your feelings about this process?

Case Study #1-2Ms. Middleton is a grade seven teacher who is also at the tail end of her career.  While she takes the time to build relationships with her students and genuinely cares about them, her laid back approach to life is evident in her teaching style.  Ms. Middleton frequently pulls lessons or free units from the internet to “keep kids busy” while “checking off the PLOs for the year”.  In teaching one unit she printed six pages of questions on the topic from the internet, made no modifications, handed them out to students and gave them hours of internet access to find the answers.  She provided no purpose, background, or lessons around performing research for the process, she also did not mark the work once it was submitted.  In spite of some of these actions, Ms. Middleton can be motivated by other teachers and can be open to new ideas, so long as she is not required to invest too much time or energy into revamping.  She does have the understanding and experience to identify fun and engaging learning experiences versus the mundane, she just doesn’t always take the time to look objectively at her units/lessons to ensure that they are contributing to student’s higher level understanding and learning experience.

Goal: To help Ms. Middleton create meaningful learning experiences for her students that fit her style, but are reflective of quality critical thinking challenges.

Approach:

Based on Ms. Middleton’s laid back style of teaching I think introducing the concept of Project-Based Learning is something that could be easily implemented into her practice through exposure, mentorship and guidance.  She currently embraces student driven learning, however she needs a bit more purpose and direction in order for her approach to be worthwhile.

Below is a video from Edutopia that serves as an introduction to Project-Based Learning.

Potential Roadblocks:

The biggest roadblock I can foresee is that Ms. Middleton would be afraid that integrating this new approach would be too much work.

Ways to combat that fear:

  • Provide examples of past success stories
  • Provide choice and appearance of being in the driver’s seat (topic choice, right to veto, direction of lessons)
  • Emphasize that this is a team effort and that I am there to support her throughout the process through: collaboration, team teaching, resource selection and individual lessons that I can offer to help set students up for success.
  • Once Ms. Middleton has agreed make it hard to back out.  Check in regularly, communicate excitement as well as the work I am doing on the side to bring things together.

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Step One:  The Hook

Invite Ms. Middleton to be one of a small select group of staff that I could collaborate, and team teach with this term in the role as Teacher-Librarian.

Discuss potential subject areas that might be of interest for Ms. Middleton this term and introduce the concept of project-based learning.

Provide examples of successful Project-Based Learning experiences to motivate Ms. Middleton to agree.

Step Two: Planning

Review new curriculum together and narrow down potential PBL topics and establish a critical thinking question to drive the project.

Pull and select potential resources that will support student learning and the research process.  Discuss together which ones would be considered credible, good quality etc. and create a plan for how students will understand and come to similar conclusions about resource selection.

Create timeline for lessons – what will we teach together, individually, mirrored in small group.

Consider possible guest speakers who are experts in the topic to come in and present to students as a “hook” at the beginning of the learning.

Discuss how students will show what they have learned.

Step Three: Implementing

Check in daily to see how things are going.  How can I continue to support you? What is working?  What needs reworking?  How are you feeling? What will tomorrow look like?

Step Four: Integrating into the Future

Reflection:

How can I support you in integrating a similar approach to teaching in the future?
What worked?
What would you do differently?
What can I do to help continue the momentum?

 

References

 

Loucks-Horsley, S. (2005). The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM): A Model for Change in Individuals. Retrieved August 12, 2015.

Edutopia. Resources for Project-Based Learning. (2015). Retrieved August 12, 2015.

 

Riedling, A. (2005).  Reference Skills for the School Library Media Specialist: Tools and Tips (2nd ed.).  Worthington, Ohio: Linworth Books.

Theme Two: Managing Reference Materials

Theme one_SErving the clientele I am feeling a little less overwhelmed after completing the second theme.  Not because the job description is any less intimidating, in fact there are probably more bits and pieces to consider now!  However, it feels a bit more humanly possible to try to achieve the goals of being a good teacher-librarian.   So often in university courses, text-books and “how-to” manuals we are left feeling a sense of rigidity that doesn’t allow for or factor in the human element.  I felt relief in this theme with the acknowledgement of how being a relatable human being with skills to communicate can and will influence how the success (or failure) of a learning commons.   Thanks for Subscribing!   1.) Give credit for what you bring as an individual to the role.  One of the resounding messages that kept popping up, especially in Riedling’s Reference Skills chapter nine, was the role that the T-L’s personality plays in creating a successful learning commons.  So often this stereotype of the introverted, quiet and meek librarian is perpetuated, even though I never felt that this was some sort of common goal or characteristic in reality there was  a sense of validation I felt upon reading  Riedling’s acknowledgment of what an individual’s unique set of skills and  personality can bring to a learning commons experience.

 “Both tangible and intangible skills combine to create purposeful and interesting communications between the school library media specialist and the student, and hopefully, a successful reference interview.” – Riedling pg. 102

2.) Finding Balance.  Another strong takeaway I took from this theme is how crucial balance is to a learning commons.  Not only does balance play a role in the budget, but it also applies to the distribution of resource selections; being mindful of balance in all its forms is imperative to the success of a learning commons in a multitude of ways. I can only imagine each T-L’s individual struggle when comparing the purchase of hard copy or digital reference resources.  After looking over an example of what a hard copy set of encyclopedias cost, compared with an annual digital subscription my initial feeling is to go with digital.  It almost seems foolish to invest in the hard copy resources at those prices when it is merely a matter of time (the clock starts ticking the second that order has been placed) that it becomes outdated and in need of replacing.  Having said that, I can completely argue the other side saying it is not foolish to invest in print copies of resource materials.  It is important that we have a balance of various types of resources for students to engage with and from which they will learn.  So, how do T-Ls decide the allocation of funds and feel good about their decision?  I guess it goes back to some of the thoughts outlined in module six, we need to be PICKY when selecting resources, and get as many different inputs as possible from the people who will be utilizing them.  I have seen many great resources go unnoticed in a library because teachers didn’t know they existed, and neither did the T-L!  In fact, at one school the staff bought a selection of resources without realizing it already existed in the library, no one had checked!  I guess that goes back to one of the takeaways from theme one: Know your stuff!

Here is some follow up food for thought on the growing trend of moving from hard copy to digital:

Paperless Public Libraries Switch to Digital by Bill Hicks for the BBC.

References

Hicks, B. (2013). Paperless Public Libraries Switch to Digital.  Accessed August 22, 2015.
Riedling, A. (2005).  Reference Skills for the School Library Media Specialist: Tools and Tips (2nd ed.).  Worthington, Ohio: Linworth Books.

Assignment One: French as a Second Language Resources in Middle School

Teaching French in middle school can be a daunting task, especially when there are a lack of quality resources in your school.  For several years as a classroom teacher I found myself I piecing together bits from all over the place, but longed for something that was more comprehensive with a consistent approach; speaking with colleagues I heard I was not alone in the pursuit  to replace the patchwork approach with a quality program that reinvigorated the teaching and learning process.

Feeling this need first hand has made this search a personal and passionate one for me.  As a means of helping me narrow down and evaluate potential resources I have used my goals for an FSL program in my middle school to create a rubric.

Criteria Not Meeting Meeting Exceeding
Entry level lesson sequences that are accessible yet provide a sense of challenge to a beginning FSL student in middle school. Language is too complex or too simplistic for entry level FSL learners.
and/or
Images/themes are too juvenile for middle school students.
Language is simple and accessible for beginner FSL learners, but does not provide a challenge.
Images/themes are mostly age appropriate, but can sometimes feel too corny or high reaching.
Language is appropriate for beginner FSL learners.  Allows for students to feel successful and challenged.
Images/themesare engaging for middle school students and have relevance to the context in which it will be used.
Teacher’s guide that gives opportunity to bring life to lessons so that students are engaged, and teacher is well informed. Teacher’s guide does not support teacher knowledge, either assumes the teacher has strong background, or does not provide context for how the material can/should be implemented and used. Teacher’s guide is fairly straightforward to use, however teacher may at times need to go elsewhere for further breakdown or explanation of content.
Lesson sequences are easily adaptable for classroom use.
Teacher’s guide supports teacher’s ability to teach the given theme in a confident manner.
The guide provides a comprehensive approach to teaching each theme and the content within.
Lesson sequences can be used as presented.
Assignments/tasks that combine both oral and written expression in a variety of fun and unique experiences. Teacher guide does not provide variety of activities for language practice.
Activities are mostly worksheets or activities with little rigor or relevance.
Activities may need to be modified; however, overall they support student learning and language practice.
Activities tend to be repeated, with slight modification to keep students engaged.Both written and oral language is emphasized.
Guide provides a variety of engaging lessons and unique activities for language practice.
Activities are varied and allow students to feel challenged yet successful.
A variety of new activities that promote oral and written language are presented.
Connections/activities may continue in an online format.
Relatable to students of today.  Lessons tap into interests of today’s learners with a transference into practical use. Images or content is dated.
Resource doesn’t seem to take into account the audience is middle school aged (11-13)
Activities may seem too young or old.
Context for learning does not transfer into real life.
Images and content is relevant to middle school learners.
Resource mostly provides age appropriate activities for 21st century learners.
Skills and language learned can often be transfered into  real life situations.
Images and content are current or timeless.
Resource provides learning in a context that is relatable to the average 11-13 year old student living in Canada.
Skills learned is easily transferred into a real life context.

As a starting point I have decided to turn to the resource that  currently sits on the shelf in the teacher’s resource closet to establish its validity and relevance.   Every single edition the school owns sits here looking as though years have passed since its last use;  is this a sign?  Visages is “a highly visual, full-colour magazine” published by Pearson Canada, and authored by none other than Judy Mas, the now retired coordinator of Languages and Multiculturalism in our district.  It is now becoming clear why I have seen this resource grace the shelves of pretty well every single school I have been in within the district.

Flipping through I have instant flashbacks, this was the program used in 1995 when I was in fifth grade!  The “Télévision” unit makes references to popular TV shows at the time: Little House on the Prairie and Asterix.  The CD which plays theme songs to accompany each unit is cringe-worthy upon first listen, but smoothed over by colleagues as the hook that is so silly and ridiculous that kids just buy in (I’m not so sure I’m buying that!).  The activities are juvenile, but of course upon further inspection on the Pearson Canada website it is aimed at “grades 4-6,” not 6-8 which is now considered middle school in our district.

On the bright side, the teacher guide does provide lessons that would benefit even a novice FSL teacher, and are organized in a way that provides a choice of two routes for teaching the various themed units.  At the end of each unit is a performance task, which allows students to practice their oral skills in a fun, interactive and social way.  Even with those positives, I’m not sure I need to go back to the rubric to know this resource is no longer in the realm of reasonable for today’s students.  Originally published in 1994, over twenty years ago, it no longer meets the needs of today’s learners, and does not provide context that transfers real life.  Using it because it is the only resource available isn’t fair to anyone and tells me this needs replacing ASAP to prevent further torture to the delivery of the program!

AIM-2

Criteria Score Rationale
Entry level lesson sequences that are accessible yet provide a sense of challenge to a beginning FSL student in middle school. Meeting/Not Meeting While the language is at an appropriate level, the lessons are too juvenile for the intended audience.  The recommended delivery and materials feel too corny and forced
Teacher’s guide that gives opportunity to bring life to lessons so that students are engaged, and teacher is well informed. Meeting Looking past how dated this resource is, (which is extremely difficult to do) it does support the teacher with options for delivery as well as English and French explanations, so it gets a very reluctant pass.
Assignments/tasks that combine both oral and written expression in a variety of fun and unique experiences Not Meeting The activities are juvenile and simplistic for this age. The assessment activities don’t have a lot of rigor and it feels like a stretch to see the relevance or purpose as to why a teacher would assign them.
Relatable to students of today.  Lessons tap into interests of today’s learners with a transference into practical use. Not meeting Images and content are over 20 years old, and completely unrelatable to a middle school aged student in 2015.It is hard to see a real life connection where students will have to use their knowledge of 90s TV shows to communicate.

Overall this resource fails.  Whatever merits it had 21 years ago when it came out are lost because it is just so unrelatable now.  Clearly this resource needs replacing, it is taking up too much valuable space on our shelves and it isn’t right that teachers are left with this as the only choice.

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Years ago I had done a search for a current resource that would replace the piece-meal program I was using.  The problems I encountered when I called publishers were that unlike the rest of Canada, BC doesn’t introduce French as a Second Language until grade four/five.  So, all of the resources I came across that were aimed at my target audience were either far too advanced, and the resources that were at an appropriate level for beginners were far too juvenile as they were aimed at primary students.  Coming back to this search this time around I decided to try something different and start by calling friends in the profession rather than publishing companies.  That is how I was introduced to the program AIM: Accelerate, Integrate, Motivate by Wendy Maxwell.

The teacher who introduced me to this resource had nothing but incredible things to say about how successful the program has been in her classroom.  The following video brought to life much of what she described to me in our conversation.

 

Here is an example from the AIM website of one of the stories for this level.  Note: the theme connects cross-curricularly, and since the images are drawn it will have a more timeless look to the context of the material.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 2.25.48 PMAIM

Criteria Score Rationale
Entry level lesson sequences that are accessible yet provide a sense of challenge to a beginning FSL student in middle school.   Exceeding Even though there is no English is spoken during the French lessons students are set up for success with most common phrases, and words used in the French language along side gestures, which help to reinforce understanding and vocabulary enrichment.
Teacher’s guide that gives opportunity to bring life to lessons so that students are engaged, and teacher is well informed.  Meeting This program requires teacher training workshops which may not be available in every city.Each unit is accompanied with songs, posters, gesture DVDs, reference materials, assessment activities, power point presentations, and a video example of the final task.There is online support for teachers in the format of: online workshops, forums to connect with other teachers, and video tutorials.There are SMART board digital downloads available for purchase.
Assignments/tasks that combine both oral and written expression in a variety of fun and unique experiences Exceeding There is a combination of oral and written tasks throughout each unit.  The structure of the program promotes regular language use amongst all participants.  The activities often utilize movement and group involvement and set students up for real world application.
Relatable to students of today.  Lessons tap into interests of today’s learners with a transference into practical use. Exceeding The AIM program uses familiar stories as a mean of providing common ground to reinforce lessons.The images and storylines are relatable to middle school aged students.There is an option to access an online portal to extend learning beyond the classroom.Real life language skills are learned that will help students be successful using French outside of the classroom.

The only two draw backs with the AIM program that I can see at this stage of my research are:  Training availability, and the level of commitment required to implement this new resource.  If staff are not on board with learning a new approach and really emerging themselves in this new technique there will be no point in purchasing the resource for the school, no matter how superior the product may be.

If we can assume that staff would be enthusiastic about the AIM program I would recommend  it should replace Visages in our school as the primary resource available for teaching French as a Second Language.   AIM appears to be current, engaging in its approach, while providing material that is relatable for students and a variety of means to support teachers.

The introduction kit that I would recommend would be the  Le garçon qui joue des tours kit based on the write up on the website it sounds most appropriate for late FSL students.

“This entry-level play is suited to the older elementary student. It is a story that deals with sibling rivalry and appropriate behavior toward others. A boy who constantly enjoys playing tricks on others at their expense learns an important lesson about kindness.

This kit is for students with no prior knowledge of French, but pushes students a little bit farther and faster than Les trois petits cochons.

Students are introduced to approximately 500 words. Present and passé composé forms of common verbs (regular and irregular), adjectival agreement, the formation of questions and the use of ne…pas are introduced.”  AIM Language Learning

According to AIM’s price list found on their website each kit is valued at
$495 which includes: Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 1.36.06 PM

With the option to include: 

  • Student DVDs (min. 10) @ $15
  • SMART board digital download @ $49.95
  • Student workbooks (min. 10) @ 15.95

I would start by purchasing one copy of the first kit, along with 30 student workbooks, and the SMART board digital download (assuming there is a SMART board in the classroom).  In my experience student DVDs are impractical and will not be used, which is why I have not included them in my breakdown.  Perhaps the teachers using the resources will feel differently and we can revisit this purchase at a later date.

The grand total for our introductory kit would come to $1023.45 + taxes and shipping.

References

AIM Language Learning. (2010). Retrieved August 8, 2015.

Mas, J. (1994). Visages plus Paperback. Retrieved August 8, 2015.

Pearson Canada. Explore French as a Second Language (FSL) Products. Retrieved August 8, 2015.

The Regents of the University of California. (2015).  Evaluating resources: Home.  Retrieved August 8, 2015.

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Association. (2003). Tips for Writing Evaluation Reports. Retrieved August 8, 2015.