The second session that I attended was Meet Me in the Middle: Creating a Culture of Success at the Middle School Level. For the most part this session was beneficial, however, I don't think it was really that focused on the middle school level. Maybe that was point?? Anyway, the piece of information that stuck out to me the most was actually the attention-getter. We started the session by getting into circle groups and we had to have a writing utensil. The speaker read a passage about the "Wright" family and we were to move our utensils to the right or the left whenever we heard the magic words. I definitely see adding this to my collection of team-building, attention-getters, etc. It was pretty entertaining for the adults, and I can envision the students having fun with it too.
On the second day, our keynote can be summed up to say that when working as a collaborative team, the school can accomplish so much more. If the right work is being done, this will have a positive impact on student learning and achievement. I actually stayed in the same place for my first session of the day and heard the same speaker. This session was called Raising the Bar and Closing the Gaps: Whatever it Takes in Secondary Schools. This session focused on things that schools can do to help students that are struggling or behind. Again, the key point is to act as a system and not as individuals-it's too difficult to do all this work as one person. The speaker took us through an example of a pyramid of intervention, and he made the assertion that the best intervention is PREVENTION. After presenting a school system in which there was a pyramid of intervention, he tackled the various reasons as to why a school may say that they can't do this. He took us through several different schools with different amounts and lengths of periods. I think this was helpful and it definitely led me to some brainstorming with myself and with members of my school team about how we could rework the schedule so that we had some sort of time available for intervention. We have just changed our schedule again, and I don't know if we can change it again for next year, but one of our principals seemed receptive to looking into changing it again.
My second session of the day was Connecting the Dots: From Essential Outcomes to Formative Assessment to Interventions and Enrichment. I found this session thought-provoking because as I mentioned earlier, I really want to rework the learning goals that I have set up. I think this is something that should be revisited and takes practice. During this session the speaker had many examples to show us and she had us work through several examples of identifying what type of target we were working with. She had a list of verbs to go along with these targets, which was pretty similar to what I've seen before, but I think it's good to review. She classified the targets as product, skill, reasoning, or knowledge. The product targets are the most complex and are made up of other three. She showed a schematic for listing the essential outcome and the various learning targets. I think this will be most helpful for me as I reexamine the goals I have written because I will be looking to as to whether I am setting up the appropriate experiences for the students to be able to meet that goal. For example, product targets also involve knowledge targets. Many knowledge targets involve vocabulary. If my students don't have the requisite background knowledge, they are probably going to be unsuccessful at the product target.
She also recommended making formative assessments short, with a mixture of multiple choice and short answer questions so that you are able to get them looked at figure at where your class and individual students are at. This is something I struggle with. I don't really think I assign a lot of work and I do try to include different types of formative assessment, but it seems like I still get bogged down. She also took us through using the essential concept to plan the summative assessment and the common assessements for the different targets. I think that this is something I would like to implement, as it is another layer of organization for me. Of course, she took us through the use and value of common assessments, which I do understand. However, as I said before, it' something I struggle with because I am the only teacher of middle school science. I know that this next point didn't come from this session, however, it ties in. During our team time, we talked about how we could rework the schedule so that classes that do have multiple sections could have common assessments. Our social studies teacher talked about how it could be done in his schedule, the math teachers discussed how it could work for them, and I worked a schedule that could be implemented for the middle school and high school science teachers. It would be a lot of running from two different building. I see the value in common assessment, but I struggle with the running around bit, and at another session someone talked about not being comfortable with a particular math area, so she had switched with another teacher. The session leader said that if you truly want to impact student learning, if you can have two teachers do the two sections so that common assessment if a possibility, then that is what should be done. I think that might work in some situations, but I think that some people are gifted in a particular subject and also grade level. Sometimes, practice and experience makes better, but other times, I think that a person is best suited at where they excel. I know that the whole point is to positively affect student learning, and it shouldn't be about the teachers (to an extent), but I'm just not 100% convinced on this point.
As I have looked over this post, I think this one is rather long too, so I guess there will be a part three...