Thursday, February 18, 2016

Retired Social Studies Teacher on Testing and College Readiness

Kenneth Bernstein, a retired social studies teacher, originally published "A Warning to College Profs from a High School Teacher" in Academe. It's been reprinted in The Washington Post blog "Answer Sheet."

A bit lengthy, but Bernstein touches on the challenges of class size and teaching thinking and concise written expression of thinking, the limited scope of testing in measuring deep learning and organized thinking, and his frustrations with non-educators determining what should happen in schools. It's an interesting read.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Social Book Marking

Social Book more tech savvy friends introduced me to this concept when I started whining about my school-issued laptop being collected for re-imaging each summer. All those bookmarks deleted from Safari, or Google Chrome, or Firefox...woe is me!

Not any more! I've been using a FREE account at Diigo for a number of years. I can add it to my tool bar so that I can quickly copy and paste a link to any website. I can make labels and categories to keep all my Shakespeare sites accessible and separate from all my teaching writing websites. 

Some ideas: pinterest, delicious, linkedin, reddit, are just a few of the many free social bookmarking websites available. 

Here's a link to a down n' dirty list of the top 10 social bookmarking sites for educators.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Classroom "Conversation"

Whole Class Discussion

Studies of classroom conversations reveal that in many classrooms what we might typically label as whole class discussion, is actually not discussion at all.

Researchers label what I tend to do as I-R-E... Initation-Response-Evaluation. I ask a question, a student answers it, and then I evaluate the answer and move on. Here's an example, done transcript style.

Teacher: Why does Steinbeck start each chapter in Of Mice and Men with a description of the setting?

Student: He does this because the setting tells the story. I mean, where things happen matters. Like the opening of the novel with the description of the river and the mountains.

Teacher: Yes. Good answer! Ok. Can someone explain why Steinbeck never gives Curley's wife her own name?

Student: Because she's a girl?

Teacher: Not exactly. [Now comes the part of the "conversation" where I get to show how smart I am by telling the kids the answer, or sometimes, the answer for which I was looking!]

You can see how I ask a question (initiate), some student volunteers an answer, and then I evaluate by saying, "Yes. Good Answer." I move on to the next question/initiation. 

This following link will take you to a quick read and very smart tips on making classroom discussion authentic discussion that accomplishes meaningful academic work and social learning for students.