Authentic Learning

I was sharing with a teacher the other day as we reflected on a lesson of the advantage that as a lead learner and leader how I have the opportunity to visit all classrooms at East Side and see the progression of learning.  The discussion ensued about how it is fantastic to see students grow as learners, simply starting to turn to their shoulder buddy in a PreK classroom and talk about a question posed, to watch a 5th grade classroom simply go into a cooperative group, easily, to discuss characteristics of a novel such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardwrobe.  This isn’t just something that comes with osmosis, but is careful, systematic teaching and modeling that you all do throughout the years to get our students to this level of cooperative learninng, dialogue and discussion as you use protocols for inquiry.

It hasn’t always been this way.  Remember times of the end of the unit test, the memorization.  There are times when we do need to do this, but do we need to do it all of the time?  Gone are the days of the teacher led lecture, when the teacher is the ONLY voice and memorization of facts was the only method.  How boring is that?  Larissa Pahomov, the author of Authentic Learning in the Digital Age states that “When we ask students to memorize content that they are never going to apply to a task, they quickly forget it.  Why base education on a rudimentary skill?”  Think about it.  What would it be like to have students be able to  have authentic learning with inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection?  Where the teacher takes the role of the facilator and guide on the side rather than “sage on the stage.”  This is a total shift in mindset of how school run.  (Larissa Pahomov and the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA created this type of High School.  It’s a movement that is taking off in various areas.)

In the elementary grades, we need to set the foundational skills for our students, but this doesn’t mean we ignore fostering inquiry, project based learning, wonder, and imagination.  We cannot ignore what is happening in their world, like the blending of technology into the curriculum or project based learning activities.  But you say, “Vicki, we can’t do it because we are so tied to the common core curriculum, the modules, the SuperKids curriculum.  We are worried about our test scores.  We don’t have the time.  We are stressed.”  Yes, yes, and yes.  But, if we know what is right for kids, then we will figure out how to teach this in a way that will be not a “cookie cutter” approach.  Know the essential questions for learning, identify what students need to learn, build a flexible framework for assessment, and model inquiry on a daily basis.  Also, check out Larissa’s first chapter here.  It is geared to secondary, but we can glimpse into what our students SHOULD experience as high school students and where we need to get them to so they can be productive students and citizens!  Have a great week.


Other News

  • Bus Duty for Dec 8- Dec 19:  Team 8:  Jennifer Prevost, Marci Woods, Gina Caldwell Upcoming bus duty: Jan 5 – Jan 16 Team 9:  Jessica Serviss, Teresa Kiechle, Brandi LaRue, Denise Croasedaile
  • We will be sending out the 2015-2016 Budget Memo this week.  Please be congizant of spending next year.  Thank you!
  • Thank you Paula again for opening your house for our staff party!
  • There is a staff meeting this Thursday at 7:30a.m.
  • For teachers who received my email about the second walk through evaluation, please make sure you schedule a time with Mrs. Sheen on my calendar before the break.  Thank you for your help!
  • The Sheriffs Department will be here December 15th and 16th to get our students their picture id’s for the Operation Safe Child id’s for your planning purposes.
  • I have been published in my professional organization’s SAANYS Vanguard journal here about being a Lead Learner.  It is a reflection of our building and the East Side staff!  You ALL make me that much better!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!   Just do right!

Other Items of Interest (Read at your leisure!)

  • Although more accurately called active participation techniquesrather than student engagement strategies, this list includes good suggestions, nonetheless.
  • Although it is unclear whether New York will adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, these sample assessment tasks can suggest a direction for science, nonetheless. There’s a lot to them.
  • The Upstate Cancer Center has a head and neck cancer awareness campaign going on now, through education and art. This explanation includes resources for learning about it.
  • The title of this post, “Investigating Authentic Questions,” doesn’t do it justice. There are many suggestions and resources here related to the goal of inquiry.
  • Here are some perspectives about Project-Based Learning, from students and from parents.
  • Not only is Project-Based Learning effective at the elementary level, it can also close achievement gaps. This paper describes a second-grade social studies PBL approach.
  • This list provides ten great reasons for Project-Based Learning (in plain, compelling language).
  • Grant Wiggins has some concerns about NY’s 8th grade math test… big concerns about the questions and their alignment with the Common Core, as well as with their construction. You can read about it here.
  • Don’t forget that students can’t learn from books that they can’t read, says Richard Allington. This points out the need for scaffolding and other supports.
  • Mike Mattos told us that most schools don’t have a Tier 2 or Tier 3 problem; they have a what-we-do-all-day-long problem. Asking (and investigating) these questions can help us develop a better system of RTI and for “all-day-long.”
  • The essential characteristics of a Professional Learning Community (PLC), explained in this infographic, will help you to build common understanding about just what it means to be a PLC.
  • The four questions of a PLC have been translated into student-centered language.
  • This Ignite! Session points out some common decisions in math classes that we never think about… but should. Annie Fetter points out the hazards of being “All what, no why.” By the way, many of these things apply to all classrooms, not just math! Cliques are stronger at some schools that at others. Size matters, according to this research. Tracking matters, too.
  • Watch the story of one schools’ implementation of technology in the classroom as part of a bigger shift toward a collaborative future (and away from traditional silos).

 A Touch of Humor

Check out this Zazzle product!


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