Station Rotation: What Students Thought

You can read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

Today I had my students answer a few questions about how to stations went. Here’s their answers.

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 8.36.54 PMThis actually surprised me, mostly because when I’ve tried new things in the past, some students have really bristled at change.

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Well this was a nice warm fuzzy for me. But also made me realize I might need to do a little more explanation about the AP Style quizzes, and maybe tweak how they read, interact with, and discuss the example stories. I asked which stations were least helpful, and it was just about a equal split with the AP Style quiz, comma splice review, and reading feature examples.

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Sorry, 6.2% of respondents…looks like you’ll be doing stations again.

I did include a free-response, but only five people responded. They all wanted more grammar instruction via Khan Academy, so I’m glad to know that went over well.

Overall, not a bad showing. I didn’t anticipate the level of positive feedback, so I really am pretty happy with how it turned out this time. Will definitely be doing it again.

Big thanks to our district tech coordinators for providing quality professional development–something I was able to implement immediately–and thanks to our district for providing the time and the subs to allow that kind of collaboration and growth.

Station Rotations in Journalistic Writing

Read how I came around to stations in a secondary classroom here.

First, full disclosure: I took no photos of my stations.

Why did I take no photos? Let me dispel a station rotation myth. For some teachers, setting up stations that allow students to work independently might mean time for the teacher to catch up on grading, parent contacts, etc. But implementing stations that way ensures teachers miss out on what I found to be the best feature: directed instruction with smaller groups of students.

So I couldn’t take photos because though 3/4 of my class was not in my immediate teaching purview, I was working with 1/4 of my class the entire time.

Second: this post is long. TL;DR: I think I found a way to make stations really work, despite teaching in a 47 minute block of time AND sharing a classroom with three other teachers.

Here’s how it happened.

Catlin Tucker suggests instead of planning lessons vertically, plan them horizontally. So I thought about thing I would spend an entire day teaching: AP Style, peer revisions, grammar instruction, and dissecting story examples. In previous semesters, those items took up four days of instruction. But was it all that effective?

So I went horizontal. Could any of those activities be done with correct supports, a little frontloading, and with collaboration between students instead of with me directing the whole show?

Yes. Here’s what it looked like on paper:

I needed two days for it to work. 10 minutes at a station is too little time. 20 would be perfect. I divided the class into four groups, and by the end of the second day, every student would have been through all four stations.

Station 1: AP Style quiz. All students have access to the AP Stylebook online, and a generous journalism teacher wrote 40 AP style quizzes and shared them with any adviser who asked. So I printed quizzes and these instructions:

Complete AP Style quiz 3 and 4.
Collaborate with each other on the quizzes.
Use the AP Stylebook.
Correct the quizzes as a group (come get the key from me when you’re ready!)

Station 2: Fixing comma splices and run on sentences. As students transcribe interviews, recognizing these two sentence construction problems is the #1 grammar issue I see in their writing. Here’s what I had them do:

Watch the Khan Academy video about comma splices and run on sentences.
Complete the quiz that follows the video.
Create a Google Doc in your Journalistic Writing folder and title it “Comma Splice/Run on practice.
Write at least one sentence that has a comma splice, and one that is a run on sentence.
Share your Google Doc with someone else in your group, and have them correct your incorrect sentence.

Station 3: Story dissection. Writers don’t become better writers if they aren’t reading. So I uploaded some examples to Schoology for them to read, and asked them to follow these instructions:

Watch the video that explains how you will get the stories, mark on them, and turn them in.
HELP EACH OTHER!
Read both stories, and highlight the who, what, where, when, why.
Also highlight details that the writer observed, and then wrote.
Share the note to the discussion board, and then look at what your peers noticed.
Discuss what makes a good feature story.

Station 4: Peer writing time. Students had been assigned a 150-word vignette earlier in the week. I used this time to debrief how the fact-gathering process went, and helped them fine-tune their ideas. I gave them time to write with me there, and as they wrote, I had their Google Docs pulled up. Students also asked questions as they wrote. After a few minutes of writing time, I highlighted sentences in their Google Docs and asked them to read the section out loud. I pointed out strong writing from every student.

This is already too long, so I’ll write another post about what went well and what needs to improve. Bottom line, though: I think it worked. On Monday I’m having students give me some feedback about it, and will tweak things from there. And I’m hopeful those tweaks will create better writers, better collaborators, and an overall better classroom culture.

Why Continual Technology Coaching is Vital to A District’s Technology Plan

I started teaching with iPads nearly six years ago. I was terrified, not of the iPads, but of not using them the best way possible, of falling short of district expectations. In those six years, I’ve settled into a workable routine for how I use them in my classes. This routine evolved because for the first couple of years, the district provided continual technology coaching and allowed constant collaboration as more and more teachers started using iPads.

It’s been a while since I’ve received any of that direct coaching. And a lot has changed with using iPads in education. I know that my district’s technology coaches are just an email away and always happy to pop in and have a quick brainstorm session, but nothing can replace the value of directed instruction on recent research and best practices, the value of collaborating across curricula and grade levels, the value of the “gift of time.”

Last Friday, the district allotted a day for “veteran” iPad teachers in our district to meet, receive some direct coaching, and spend time honing new ideas. I went with pretty low expectations of myself–after all, I’ve been part of this rodeo for six years. How could one day possibly change me?

Turns out, it changed quite a bit.

First, I had forgotten the energy I get from being around teachers in different content areas, seeing how they incorporate different technologies in their curricula. Getting away from my journalism mindset for a spell was refreshing.

Second, I had forgotten that sometimes, I still need to be taught. One of the activities during the day was reading a chapter from “Blended Learning” about stations. I also watched a couple of videos in the resources provided to us about stations in secondary classrooms. And my rusty wheels started to turn.

I had tried stations once before with the iPads, and it failed miserably. But something this time clicked. I started to see how I could make stations work in my secondary classroom, even in a room that I share with four other teachers.

Tomorrow’s post will have photos and an in-depth explanation of how the stations worked out, but for today, my purpose in writing is this: districts that expect teachers to utilize new technologies in their classrooms, but don’t provide supports to do so, will not see results they are hoping for.

I didn’t realize how complacent I’d become, how reticent I was to experiment, how resistant I was to trying anything new. Getting out of that rut is not only good for me, but is also good for my students.

About Technology…

I took a two-month break from blogging, as I was a last-minute replacement for the pianist in the school musical. The show closed 10 days ago, and I’m just now getting my bearings back. And today is a great day to blog about education.

Today was another iPad Academy day. And in the few posts I’ve written about teaching with iPads, I don’t think I’ve ever really explained the iPad Academy model. Since too often, people shout from the rooftops about everything that is wrong in public education, I’m going to shout from my tiny rooftop about something done well.

Often when districts purchase technology, it’s done so hurriedly, because whatever boondoggle an administrator saw (likely at a conference where no teachers were present) carries the promise to raise test scores, improve student engagement, vacuum the carpet and coach the baseball team, all by Christmas break. So the tech is purchased and distributed to teachers on August 9, at which time the teachers receive a 45 minute training in how to use the new boondoggle before moving on to important topics like “please take attendance” and “what you can be doing to raise test scores.”

The boondoggle then rests in drawers or gathers dust on bookshelves, save for an intrepid teacher here or there who caught a glimmer of the vision of the boondoggle’s capability.

When my district decided to start using iPads in the classroom, they did so slowly. Some teachers might argue that the district moved a bit too slowly, starting out with just six teachers. And technology implementation and maintenance hasn’t always been perfect, that’s for sure.

But we are now at 50 teachers, all of whom have received adequate training and coaching, and the district continues to provide training and professional development opportunities. Today was one of those days. We have time to collaborate with other iPad Academy teachers and learn what is working–and what isn’t working–so we can continue to push ourselves and our students outside the traditional educational box.

(Here’s how I pushed myself today, in case you’re interested. Not perfect, but I figured out how to do RSA videos and how to teach my students to do them.)

Three district trainers work with all of us, constantly looking for apps and websites that will enrich curricula, and they help us troubleshoot when we develop new approaches to assessments.

As the district acquires more iPads, they don’t have to sacrifice the cost of training more staff to use them, because so many teachers have blazed a variety of trails already. They have a pool of experts with relevant, practical experience who can train their colleagues how to best use technology. And I know I’d rather learn from someone in the trenches.

There’s so much to complain about in public education. But there is also much to celebrate and promote. I know that public opinion sometimes looks at large technology purchases and thinks, “what’s the point?”

In Bellevue, the point is to make sure teachers are supported in implementing new technology, that curriculum and pedagogy drive technology purchases, with an understanding that shrieking “ooh shiny!” will never yield positive results in the classroom.

Technology: Bellevue is doing it right.

Rolling With It.

Four years ago this month, I started teaching with iPads. At this point, teaching with them, developing lessons and assessments and activities that use the iPads are simply part of my psyche.

It’s funny for me to reflect on that first semester and how worked up and nervous and sweaty I would get, figuring out how to use them. I remember how guilty I would feel if I went one day without using them. And I cringe at how frustrated I would get when the workflow wasn’t exactly as I wanted.

For a variety of reasons, my iPads right now aren’t in the state I’d prefer them to be. This is absolutely no one’s fault–it’s been a Bermuda Triangle of a Comedy of Errors.

And yet, I am undeterred.

I looked at what I wanted the students to be able to do with the iPads, looked at what I had available to me, and continued on.

And guess what?

Today, 48 students created Pop Culture biographies in Google Docs and shared them with me, and most of them started writing. 27 students created daily writing journals as well. All students logged into Google Classroom (using Safari), and all students were able to access my daily agenda.

Things don’t look the way I want them to right now, but I am quite confident that this is a temporary situation. There’s even a part of me that is starting to let go of the idea that every iPad has to look the exact same way.

Perhaps I’m becoming a teensy bit less Type A the longer I teach with iPads. And this is something I can feel bleed into my teaching and classroom management as well.

Having to roll with the iPads these past four years has caused me to be much less agitated when teaching without technology doesn’t go the way I planned. It’s made me more open and kinder when answering questions and working individually with students (admittedly, some students might not realize this, not being able to compare now-me to then-me). But there are times when I hear my word choice and tone and think, “Wow. That’s not what or how I would’ve said that 10 years ago.”

Not to say that I still don’t have my days when I slip back into my benevolent dictatorship style of teaching, because I do, and honestly, some days and content necessitates that. But I never really considered that teaching with iPads would holistically change my attitude and pedagogy.

That’s a pretty good fringe benefit, if you ask me.