Dodd'sBlog

Insights Out of the Classroom

Five Lessons I Intend my Students to Learn

May 5, 2014 by · No Comments · Educationl Practice, General Perspective, Our Classroom Community

Decisions Ahead

As my students begin to see the summer light at the end of the hallway, I think about the set useful experiences they will carry from my classroom as they matriculate away in June. Beyond knowing the content of the fourth grade NC Standard Course of Study, I intend my students to have embedded habits that will give them the learning-independence they need to meet with confidence the coming challenges of school and beyond, or at least the seeds of those habits.
First, I expect my students will assume responsibility for their own education.
Second, I expect my students will maintain comfort in the midst of uncertainty.
Third, I expect my students will thrive on metaphorical expression.
Fourth, I expect my students will differentiate academic language from basic interpersonal communication,
and fifth, I expect my students will have a sense of when and how to negotiate, that is, yes, how to argue.

Self-regulated learners distinguish themselves with a unique set of assumptions. I work to get my students to embrace these assumptions. When my students do well, they think they had something to do with the results, which encourages them to repeat such actions. When things go awry, they believe the associated problems are correctable, and they are encouraged to fix what missed the mark. In class, praise for things done well are easily expressed. I believe that limited praise and false praise deter upward progress. I make it clear to my students that they have not been successful by accident. This may seem trivial, but I believe it is important for them to know that success is linked to their action. Self-regulated learners take responsibility for their education. The work of Barry J. Zimmerman and Dale H. Schunk goes into greater detail about self-regulated learning.

When kids get confused, they initially tend to think that being a little bit lost means being greatly lost, but instead, that disequilibrium is the very point in time when they learn. Thoughts of self at that point distract, so I encourage my students to stay focused on the topic and not on themselves. It is a difficult skill for classmates to avoid saying, “You are wrong,” instead of, “I think the solution is more like this.” Fear of focus on being wrong deters upward progress. Feeling safe to be wrong leads to comfort with uncertainty.

When I shared the first sentence of this blog entry with my fourth graders, they understood that summer light means summer fun. We all need to use abstract metaphors to think and to express our thoughts effectively, so providing plenty of opportunities to cipher them is an important and welcome challenge. It is a pleasure to watch while one student explains to another what just happened in the class discussion.

Too often students learn vocabulary in isolation by simply knowing a definition that does not strike a melodious chord in context. I try to use comprehensible input, as Stephen Krashen has explained for second language acquisition. (See this clip for Krashen’s explanation of comprehensible input) Helping students use academic language instead of interpersonal strategies parallels the way they learn second languages. Mathematics has its own language students need to acquire. Instead of vague descriptions and smiles, I encourage my students to use the correct words for the concepts they mean to express.

Students need the skills and experience of presenting themselves and their own ideas beyond doing what they are told to do. They need the means to come to terms with things that are important. Once students take responsibility for their own learning, they take a serious interest in what they are learning. They develop depth of interest that gives them the will to weather uncertainty. Curious metaphorical connections interest them, and they care to explain their thoughts well using the right words. Any student ready to do all that will certainly need to negotiate meaning, and to negotiate direction. Once my students have begun to separate and wield academic language effectively, they are ready to use interpersonal communication to express their point of view. They know to present themselves calmly, and that “I don’t want to…” holds very little argumentative weight.

It is great to know stuff, especially standard course of study stuff, but when students make the knowledge their own, they begin to see all things in a new light, and then go there.
I look forward to your input and comments.

Free Range Students Make Better Choices

April 17, 2014 by · No Comments · Educationl Practice, Our Classroom Community

Bulletin Board fourth grade students created to promote exploration, but not exploration that goes too far.

Bulletin Board fourth grade students created to promote exploration, but not exploration that goes too far.

I shared a notion with my fourth grade class last semester. It occurred to me that free range chickens are very good at what they do because free range chickens cooperate well, and live a good life, short as it is, as they scratch and explore about. I pointed out to my class that free range chickens are not contained by a fence, and yet, generally speaking, they do not run off. It is a curious thing. I added the fact that not all chickens get to be free range. Some farmers maintain their chickens very tightly. Some farmers bound their chickens within small areas,and control their experience.

I told my class that I like to be able to act more like the free range chicken farmers. I like to give my students the liberty to explore, but that requires them to be ready to stay on relevant topics, and to make reasonable choices, and to not get lured away by things frivolous, silly, or social, and to make safe choices even when I am there to supervise. The trick, I told my class, is to get this group of fourth graders to use exploration as a problem solving skill. Of course, sometimes frivolous and silly ideas help the problem solving process, but the successful free range skill is to not get carried away by those ideas.

So, driven to thought by this whole comparison thing, my fourth grade students decided, and asked, to make a bulletin board (posted above) to express their need to go out and explore,along with their need to not get carried away. They came up with the slogan/ mantra/ bulletin board title: Be Free Range, but Not TOO Free Range. Each student created him or herself as a free range chicken, and each likeness was set in the scene with two barns and a path. Not all the chickens were placed on the path, but they were all nearby.

I had to point out to the class that the beauty of this comparison of students to chickens works well because students and chickens are so different in so many significant ways. That is what makes the overlap clear. My students are learning that, given lateral opportunity to figure things out, there is an inherent reward that comes with staying purposeful when traditional restraints, and the expectation of traditional restraints are loosened.

Validity and Reliability of Testing

June 3, 2013 by · No Comments · Educationl Practice, Our Classroom Community

If all students started doing really well on the standardized tests, the tests would probably be considered less valid and therefore, less reliable. Test creators would be forced to change the test so that a bell curve would reemerge. I recognize that standardized testing success does not demonstrate a complete expression of learning, and that the act of answering multiple choice questions well is not an enduring life skill, but since the tests reflect the content, the tests do provide enough feedback to create an academic passage. Although students are required to go through the standardized testing process, they move on from the tests whether they do well on them or not.

Students must display a degree of creative application to demonstrate learning in all topics that are more than training, and it is difficult to assign statistical results to creative application. So the portions of the content that standardized tests evaluate so well with high validity and reliability are an incomplete assessment of the student’s learning. Teachers can use strategies to make their formative classroom assessments reasonably valid and reliable, but the narrative of learning looses value in a straight-jacket. Well crafted rubrics serve as the best attempt to make each student’s unique application to the content valid and reliable. While valuable to a point, standardized tests need to be viewed in concert with data that captures more authentic manipulation of the content that is not as easily numerated.

Pictures of a Mice do not Mean Pictures of a Mice

March 19, 2013 by · No Comments · Uncategorized

My professor asked my to check out this NPR link, <http://www.npr.org/2011/02/09/133601966/language-essential-for-understanding-large-numbers>

And then added, “Again and again we hear that mathematics is universal and language-free, but is this really true?”

Here is my response:

I teach the language of math. Within my lessons I also teach number sense. Last week I taught 3rd-5th graders the basics of the Trivium through poetry, which means that our logic, our words for the logic, and the way we put those word together are all separate events. The classic reference words for the three are logic, grammar, and rhetoric and they are distinct. That is an important notion because students need to realize that a number is as different from a digit as a mouse is from a picture of a mouse, and as different, again, as the mouse scampering across the floor (but not my floor). While E.A. Poe and A. Einstein may have processed their thoughts differently, being able to separate symbols from the objects they represent is profoundly important.

Matthew Peterson explains to us in a Ted video how he has been able to teach mathematics while circumventing words. I think that is great. Working with adult ESOL students, I recognize how I do not need to teach the students how to think. They have the notions organized in their heads. We are focusing on connecting English language.  The language we teach must be about the concepts and relationships between concepts beyond their definition. Of course students must be able to demonstrate their understanding via language, but we do not want them to be talking about a picture of a mouse when they display a picture of a mouse. We want them to be referencing the actual scampering mouse.

I believe there is a trans-cultural language of math that we cannot do without, but meaningful language must be based on a logic that is real with or without the words, and I see no reason  mathematical reasoning cannot come without words.

Here is the Ted link: <http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=7odhYT8yzUM&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D7odhYT8yzUM>

Five Six-Word Stories by Scott Dodd

March 14, 2013 by · No Comments · Educationl Practice, General Perspective

Here are five six-word stories I conjured.

Do any rivet you?

 

He expected to die laughing. Ha!

 

 

Becky, is that Stine or Stein?

 

 

Up, up, and away, he fall.

 

 

She got $1,000,000 and some change.

 

 

Duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, duck….

 

 

Keep Track of Student Independent Reading by Using the Three-Way-3-by-5 Card Method

August 26, 2012 by · No Comments · Educationl Practice

3-by-5 cards are really fun, and a great resource for learning in many different creative ways. Have you thought about what can you do to learn using a 3-by-5 cards?

One use I have figured out to help students with their independent reading is what I call the Three-Way-3-By-5-Card Method.

I want my students to choose to read, and to show me their efforts.  I also want them to capture the new and interesting words they encounter, and I always want them to be able to get back to the page they left the last time they closed the book, so this method is an easy way for students to  document and administer their reading accurately and handily using a simple 3-by-5 card. It all makes reading easier, so students are more likely to choose to read more often.

First, I teach students to get into the habit of having a 3-by-5 card and pen in hand whenever they read.  On one side of the card the students make four columns along the five-inch width of the card. The columns are titled; Date/ Time/ Title/ Duration. That is, D/T/T/D, which is easy to remember. Eventually, the students will begin to put the title and author at the top of the card once along the three-inch edge to have room to document Date/ Time/ and Duration more times.

On the other side of the card, the students are ready to jot down challenging words they come across. It is important to include the page number to find the word again later. Often times the meaning of the words can be determined well enough from the context, so I do not have a rule forcing the students to stop and look up every new word. It is upon review of the list of new words, after the book is finished, that the students will determine whether they need to look up words.

All the while, the three-by-five card serves as a handy book mark, and ready straight edge for underlining, if underlining is permissible. There is the Three-Way-3-By-5 Card. When the book is finished, the students turn the cards in for credit, and eventually, the cards go back to the students. We discuss the words found. We discuss the story or information using the words as a jump-off point, and the books come more alive between us.

If you try this method with your students at school or your children at home, I would be interested in knowing how it worked. I would love to hear your feedback, so I encourage you to leave a comment.

We are at the beginning of the new school year. It ia a geat time to incorporate The Three-Way-3-by-5-Card independent reading method!

Back attack: A new card game I invented using a standard set of playing cards

August 15, 2012 by · 2 Comments · Educationl Practice, General Perspective

Here are the directions to a new card game I invented. It is fun, and I would like your feedback. Try it out! Let me know. I think it can teach students how to create strategies in new and novel ways.

Back Attack

A new trick-winning game for three to six players using a standard deck of cards

Directions:

  • Setting up the game
    • Dealer deals out cards, face down, to players evenly.
      • Left-over cards serve as a blind, additional hand until exhausted.
    • Each player must privately arrange cards accordingly:
      • Descending order, left to right, from Aces to threes,
      • Descending suites within each similarly valued cards,
        • left to right spade, heart, diamond, club,
      • Twos distributed according to arranging player’s choice.
    • Each player passes the arranged hand of cards to the player to the right face down.
    • Each player never sees cards in-hand until each card is played.
      • Each player fans cards out- face out- looking at the backs of the cards.
      • Each player can see the cards of all the other players, but not the cards in hand.
  • Play begins
    • The player to the right of the dealer goes first by choosing a card in hand, but not seen, knowing the higher cards are to the right, and the lower cards are to the left.
    • The next player to the right plays a blind, in-hand card knowing values increase to the right, and knowing all the other players’ cards.
    • Each player plays one blind card each round.
    • Any left-over card due to the number of players playing, is played blind last with the potential to win the round.
    • The player with the highest valued card wins the trick.
      • If the left-over card wins, the trick is discarded.
    • In subsequent rounds, the dealer is the player to the right of the last dealer.
  • How tricks are won
    • With aces and spades high, all the cards have a unique sequential value.
    • The highest-valued card wins the trick. Any card may be played any round.
    • The twos are all distributed throughout the unplayed cards in-hand.
    • The lowest of all cards, the two of clubs, is wild, and is therefore the highest card.
  • Sample strategies of play
    • Each player may attempt to win tricks using the lowest cards possible.
    • After playing a blind card, a player knows that the all the cards to the right are higher than the played card, and that all the cards to the left are lower- except for possible twos.
    • Each player can figure the number of twos in-hand by counting the other, exposed twos.
    • In the first few rounds, players can sample their hand by choosing cards according to position.

I wrote a Poem based on a borrowed Sentence. Thank you David Scheinker.

March 10, 2012 by · No Comments · General Perspective

Cats Cats Fight Fight.

I had a cat.

She fought a cat.

The cat she fought

Fought her back.

Cats cats fight fight.

But  it is not just that cats cats fight fight…

My neighbor’s dog

Bit a dog

That bit him back,

And so now I know- Dogs dogs bite must bite.

I look around and learn:

Countries countries cheat cheat,

And- People people hurt hurt,

Leading children children hate to hate.

But, so- Lovers lovers love love.

And-  Friends friends befriend befriend.

Certainly- Believers believers believe believe.

So then- Experience experience wields wields.

And in the end- Hope true hope heals heals for Good.

                                               Scott Dodd

                                               March 10, 2012

Keeping Students on Their Metaphorical Toes

January 16, 2012 by · No Comments · Educationl Practice, Our Classroom Community

Here is a comment I made to Ben Johnson’s blog  titled, College Readiness: How to Help Students Think Abstractly

Half the fun of learning and teaching is to crisscross bridges from the concrete to the abstract and back. We do it all the time. For example, in my latest post <sdodd.edublogs.org> I share the way I physically float papers to students as a way to get them to consider the abstract concept of, “Think before you speak.” Students delight in figuring out and learning metaphors such as, “The rub is….” Puns, too, help students think. (Of course, all my students know that the arguable reason cows have bells around their necks is because their horns don’t work.) Also, morphing common sayings such as, “Speak now, or forever hold you nose,” and at the end of the day announcing to the class, “Chair up! Be happy!” are ways to play with images through words. Metaphors, puns, and saying surprising, catchy statements keep students on their mental toes and engaged with the notion of, ” What will happen next?”

Teaching Moments

January 1, 2012 by · No Comments · Educationl Practice, Our Classroom Community

I teach moments, and I float papers to students to do so.

From day-one of the school year, whenever I distribute paper to individual students in class, the students reach out to receive the pages and I give the paper a slight, early push. The paper glides for a moment into each student’s hand. For a while those floating moments go unnoticed, until one day, one of the students will glance up in recognition and delight in the moment we just shared between the giving and the taking of the paper. Other students soon notice, too. Eventually one of the students will say, “Why do you do that, Mr. Dodd?” and at that point I have earned the opportunity to explain.

I tell my students about my high school classmate, Bert Raddock, who taught me the notion, “If you can’t think big, think fast,” which I get them to agree is good advice-especially the “think fast” part. Then I go on to explain to my inquiring students that I float the papers to them to give them a concrete example of hidden moments they really need to use. “In fact,” I tell them, “even if I did not float the papers, there would still be a moment between the giving and the taking of the paper, and the same moment is there when you talk.”

Now here is the point. The students need to identify and learn to exploit that moment between the instant they think of something to say and instant they decide to say it or not. There is always time in there to think and make a decision. Using that “floating”moment of thought takes practice because it is an elusive moment for young minds to recognize, but the paper makes it real. Even some of my second graders get the idea. My fifth graders begin to perfect it.

Once we have had the floating moment discussion in class, I tell them that I do not need to float papers any more, but they usually convince me to continue the float, and I am glad, because it is fun to do, and it reinforces the point they need to remember: Think before you speak.