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.

Letter From A Sick Teacher

So I caught a little virus.

It was a bit worse than previous colds I’d had. This one brought along a couple friends, 72-hour Fever and Total Body Aches, and I was forced to take two days off from work.

This is not easy for me to do, to take time away from my students. When I taught English, I could leave reading or writing assignments and grammar exercises and call it good. But in my electives world, it’s a bit tougher to be gone.

Not only was I too weak to go to school or do any schoolwork, I could not even stay awake through the next film in my movie project, “The Great Ziegfeld.” So you get to wait another week for a movie review.

This virus lingered for a good week; even yesterday I could barely accomplish the few tasks I deemed necessary for a successful week, and when my editor-in-chief asked me if I could read stories so she could publish them, I responded “Are they time sensitive stories, or can they wait until tomorrow?”

If you’re not familiar with the Action for Happiness project, every month they produce a calendar of ways people can be a little happier. This month is self-care September.

This is a well-timed experiment for me, as I was forced to do next to nothing for seven straight days–a reminder that if I don’t take care of myself, I am absolutely of no good to anyone around me.

I loved this tweet from a fellow educator:

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Dear teachers and students, can we all follow this advice this year, and can we all give each other a bit of a break when we notice people on the edge? Then maybe we will stop wearing exhaustion and stress as badges of honor, stop compbragging (complaining yet bragging at the same time) about how much time we spend at work, and start living slightly better lives.

 

 

 

Changing Worries.

Things I was worried about prior to teaching, July 2000

  • Class size
  • Classroom management and getting the kids to respect me
  • Keeping up with all the grading
  • Not having a set curriculum for the two senior English classes I was assigned
  • Making friends with my colleagues
  • Reading all the books I needed to teach my students

Things I am worried about prior to teaching, July 2018

Granted, part of the difference in these two lists is I’m no longer naive about teaching and all it encompasses. However, part of the difference is intense political and societal upheaval, especially in the past 15 years.

In a matter of weeks, teachers across the country will head back into their classrooms. Some teachers are already there. Some teachers are preparing from homes and vacations right now. Despite the ill-advised jokes about how much teachers love summers, so many of us really consider it a year-round job.

This upcoming school year in Omaha, district superintendents from across the city have pledged to embark on a #bekind initiative. I am pretty sure the intent is to make sure kids are kind to each other, a cause I believe in. But I hope we can extend it the the adults.

Parents, be kind to your child’s teachers. Teachers, be kind to your students’ parents. Administrators, be kind to your staff. Staff, be kind to your administrators. And if teachers haven’t already figured this out, be kind to your support staff–the paras and custodians and secretaries, for they shall move mountains for you and shower grace upon you when you don’t deserve it.

And probably most important, teachers, let’s be kind to each other. Look at that list of what worries me. Some of those things might worry you too. Click on a link or three–these worries are not unfounded. We could probably stand to shower each other with a little more grace.

This work is not for the faint of heart. I left at least ten more worries off that list, and you might notice that not a single worry is related to the actual art of teaching my curriculum.

The work we do as teachers, administrators, support staff, students, and parents is more important than ever. Education as a core value seems to be declining–especially when that education happens at a public school. But as the author of this linked article writes:

Our public-education system is about much more than personal achievement; it is about preparing people to work together to advance not just themselves but society.

I hope the 2018-2019 school year sees a little more kindness, sure. But I also hope it sees all involved stakeholders working together to improve our society.