Setting High-Performance Expectations among My Students

I teach high school Biology with mixed-grade(9-12) students, all of my students are from mainland China or Taiwan, most of them are from socioeconomically well-off families because the tuition fee for my school is relatively high compared with public schools in China.

Setting high-performance expectations for students is one of the most important dynamics in teaching. So here I would like address how I will do this for my students:

  • Changing my mindset, really believe in students. Students are very sensitive and smart, if you don’t believe in them in high academic performance, they can feel it, there is no way you can hide it and pretend you believe in them. For my class, I have a few low-performing students who are always disorganized and don’t do their work for the class. Originally I kind of give up on them because I think they are being lazy and refuse to work hard to bring changes to their academic performance, and my opinion about them also shaped their thinking about themselves about being a slacker in the class. I have to really change my opinions about them first so they can start feeling the high expectations from me and maybe change their mindset about what type of students they are. For one or two students, I think I will need to talk to some of them individually to convey my expectations for them and help them identify the barriers of their academic success. Sending them a message that together we can achieve success.
  • Doing more Project-Based Learning (PBL). I went through all the required study and reference material part, one word got stuck in my mind: PBL, which gives me an illusion that the activity is all about PBL. All the videos and materials made realize PBL is one of the best methods for creating high-performance learning environments for students. In doing PBL, we are not only engaging the students but also empowering them. Students feel they are in control of their own learning, they are trusted and feel more confident about themselves in learning. Also, students cooperate and collaborate to solve real life problems, this is like building a bridge between the knowledge in the ivory tower and the real world. Students can learn how to function in the real world, teaching and learning are not just the teacher talking and lecturing in the classroom.
  • Adopting more physical movements in the learning process. This idea is from the whole brain teaching and learning video. I do agree with the idea of physical movement enhancing the activity of the brain. I will try to use some of the strategies such as raise both of your hands give yourselves ten fingers as an encouragement. I also think the fast reading part from the whole brain learning is a good idea of creating a positive learning environment for the students and I will probably use it. But the format is not very clear to me since I am not sure what are the students reading in the video (it sounds like letters), I think what I can do with my students for this strategy will be reading one paragraph from the lesson together with your partner, so the students will be reading key vocabularies to each other in turns of one word at a time, but there will be one problem about how to keep the team on track and talking about the topic or reading from the textbook.

In conclusion, I think Project-Based Learning is the best strategy out of all the methods I learned in the activity for creating high-performance environments for the students. And I will absolutely be using it to the largest extent to benefit my own students.

References:

  1. “Roller Coaster Physics: STEM In Action”. Teaching Channel. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.
  2. “3Rd Grade Chinese–Math Class.Avi”. YouTube. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.
  3. “Whole Brain Teaching Richwood High – The Basics”. YouTube. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.
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Videos Analysis

Case 1 Roller Coaster Physics

This is really a good example of STEM, which combines science, engineering, and math learning together. Additionally, the teacher also set up this project to be real life based which the students have to budget their expenses for building the roller coaster model. It is really impressive and thought-provoking, especially for me as a science teacher. Although the video and the Glog are talking about the same topic they seem to be for different level students. Anyway, it is an awesome project-based learning example from which we can learn a lot. My Analysis will be based on the video, which is about 5th-grade students.

  • Academic expectations: Apparently the teacher had a really high expectation for the students, she trusted 5th graders’ ability to design and create a roller coaster model which might be difficult even for adults. The teacher here was not the knowledge dispenser, but the facilitator. She believed students’ discussion and collaboration can sparkle and yield crystals of knowledge. She had full confidence of the students as a group can all play their roles and make their team work so they can successfully build the model.
  • Behavior expectations: As one comment below the video said, “how are these 5th graders so serious, focused and on task! Please tell me there was at least one group rolling around on the ground and fooling around with all the tools for the project”. It also amazes me how focused the student were in the video, I know it’s a video and the teacher might select some good students and rehearsed the class a few times, but there is no deny that the teacher had positive behavior expectations for her students and she was getting rewarded by her students’ behavior
  • Norms and Procedures: The teacher had procedures when she was distributing the materials for the project. However, besides that I don’t see too many procedures set in place, the teacher simply said “now let’s go and do the computer simulation for the roller coaster model”, and all the students went to the computer corner and sat down, there were not enough computers for every student, but they all sat down without the problem about who was going to control the computer. All the students had different roles in a group and I guess that can also be considered as one part of the norms and procedures.

 

Case 2 3rd Grade Chinese Math

The singing really triggered my old memory when I was in my primary school 25 years ago, I also learned how to sing the multiplication rhyme. I think it really helps Chinese kids and their math skills especially mental arithmetic skill. Now I can calculate my students’ final exam scores simply by combining different sections’ score in my mind while my foreign colleagues will have to do it with a calculator. But of course, the reason why Chinese students are doing better in the subject of math is much more complicated and comprehensive than just the multiplication rhyme.

  • Academic expectations: The teacher was expecting the students to repeat after her and she believed they can do it, but as for how much the students understand about the content of the rhyme, I don’t think she has a clear expectation.
  • Behavior expectations: Teacher was expecting the students to behave well in the classroom and all the kids are following her instructions.
  • Norms and Procedures: She obviously has norms and procedures set in place for the students, such as put your hands on the back, the kisses, and the clapping encouragement for yourself. I think these procedures are really helpful for low elementary kids at a younger age.

Case 3 Whole Brain Teaching

This case reminds me one video I watched in one previous module which was a TED speech made by Sir Robinson. He stresses the importance of physical movement for learning, he said dancing class should be as important as math and English. It seems to me Whole Brain Teaching or Learning is also about this idea, your brain works the best when you activate all parts of your brain. I think for some people it does work better when you are physically moving, but maybe for some others, it will be better for learning when they are not moving.

  • Academic expectations: In the video, I can’t quite tell the academic expectations of the teachers because it kind of makes me think she is treating 9th graders as kindergarteners, but I think she also believes in her students’ capability of academic achievement no matter what kind of method she is using.
  • Behavior expectations: Undoubtedly, all her students are doing what she expected them to do, all of them are doing physical movements while they are repeating the teacher, interacting with each other and collaborating.
  • Norms and procedures: She also did the Whole Brain Teaching for the classroom rules. She also has procedures set in place for the class (she shouted with a whispering voice and all the students followed and stopped discussing, she told the students to give themselves ten fingers as an encouragement). So these rules and procedures supported her students’ performance.

References:

  1. “Roller Coaster Physics: STEM In Action”. Teaching Channel. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.
  2. “3Rd Grade Chinese–Math Class.Avi”. YouTube. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.
  3. “Whole Brain Teaching Richwood High – The Basics”. YouTube. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.

Establishing a Positive Classroom Climate

  1. The importance of creating a climate of caring and concern:

Creating a positive climate increases students engagement in the classroom and encourages students collaboration and participation. Establishing a positive classroom environment where students are respectful of themselves and others will help reduce the risk of conflict. Students only learn when they feel safe, valued, and comfortable in the classroom.

Students hope they will get along with their peers and teachers and enjoy the process of learning. These hopes define positive classrooms for students. Often, teachers are so focused on ensuring that students pass achievement tests that they have little or no time to address students’ social and emotional needs. we can combine the need for positive classrooms that support the whole child with the need for accountability and improved academic performance. Since a negative environment can be an obstacle to learning, it is essential to understand how to create and sustain a positive climate for all students.

  1. How can you develop this climate for diversity
  • Honoring students’ experience: teachers must provide safe spaces where students are seen, valued, cared for and respected. It is also important that students have opportunities to learn from one another’s varied experiences and perspectives.
  • Thoughtful classroom setup and structure: without saying a word, classrooms send messages about diversity, relationship building, communication and the roles of teachers and students. So teachers have to set up a classroom with careful thoughts and respect.
  • Encourage shared inquiry and dialogue: Teachers must provide students with ample opportunities to do shared-inquiry and dialogue. Dialogue is more than conversation. It is also different than debate, in which someone wins and someone loses. Dialogue requires openness to new ideas and collective learning.
  • Create social and emotional safety: Create a classroom contract with students. Students should participate in shaping the contract, identifying a list of agreements about how class members will treat one another, talk together and so on.
  • Establish value-based behavior management: Adopt a “zero-indifference” policy instead of zero tolerance policy Zero indifference means never letting disrespectful conduct go unaddressed; school staff always name and respond to behaviors, but they do not implement automatic suspension, expulsion or other punishments.
  1. How to develop a classroom caring environment for students different from my own cultural background 

Because I am a Chinese and now I am teaching in a Taiwanese school in Shanghai, 95% of my students are from China or Taiwan, so I feel like currently this is not an issue for me. However, in the future I might move to another country and teach students from other cultural backgrounds. So some of the items I mentioned above will still be effective for this part, honoring students’ beliefs, religions, and cultures, be inclusive and considerate for every cultural background in the classroom. Actually for my current students, half of them are from Taiwan and the other half are from mainland China, although the two groups share similar cultures, there can still be issues when it comes to political problems, so I will have to be very careful on certain sensitive topics such as “which country do you come from?”

 In conclusion, for students different from our own culture background, we need to pay extra attention to them, be subtle, sensitive and inclusive. The following are more tips for students from different cultural backgrounds :

  • Learn about my own culture

Become aware of how the influence of your own culture, language, social interests, goals,  and values could prevent you from learning how you could best teach your students of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Also, understanding and respecting your own cultural roots can help you respect your students’ cultural roots.

  •  Learn about my students’ culture

Understand how your students’ cultures affect their perceptions, self-esteem, values, classroom behavior, and learning. Use that understanding to help your students feel welcomed, affirmed, respected, and valued.

  •  Understand my students’ linguistic traits

Learn how students’ patterns of communication and various dialects affect their classroom learning and how second-language learning affects their acquisition of literacy.

  •  Use this knowledge to inform my teaching

Let your knowledge of your students’ diverse cultures inform your teaching. This, along with a sincerely caring attitude, increases student participation and engagement.

  • Use multicultural books and materials to foster cross-cultural understanding

Sensitively use multicultural literature, especially children’s literature, to honor students’ culture and foster cross-cultural understanding. Be open to a variety of instructional strategies as students’ cultures may make certain strategies (such as competitive games or getting students to volunteer information) uncomfortable for them.

  •  Know about my students’ home and school relationships

Collaborate with parents on children’s literacy development and don’t rely on preconceived notions of the importance of literacy within your students’ families.

  1. Developing positive relationships with students and confronting bullying
  • Increase cultural competence: Cultural competency is the ability to work effectively—and sensitively—across cultural contexts. It involves learning, communicating and connecting respectfully with others regardless of differences. Culture can refer to an individual’s race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, immigration status, and age, among other things. All these factors strongly influence people’s lives and experiences. Teachers—regardless of background or identity—must bring both cultural understanding and self-awareness to their work.
  • Speaking up and responding to prejudice, bias and stereotypes: This means intervening every time students tease, bully or use slurs or stereotypes. It means speaking up against biased jokes and criticisms. And it means pointing out injustice during discussions of history and literature, in school interactions, or in the news.
  1. Specific strategies confronting bullying

    • Know my school and district policies on bullying do your part to implement them effectively. My school has (Department of Student Affairs)DSA which is making the policies for students.
    • Treat students and others with warmth and respect let students know that you are available to listen and help them.
    • Conduct classroom activities around bullying help your class identify bullying in books, TV shows and movies, and discuss the impact of that bullying and how it was/could be resolved. Hold class meetings in which students can talk about bullying and peer relations.
    • Discuss bullying with colleagues, you will be better able to monitor the school environment. Discuss both bullying in general and concerns regarding specific students.
    • Take immediate action failure to act provides tacit approval of the behavior and can cause it to spread.

References:

  1. (2006). Building a positive classroom culture and climate. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from http://teaching.colostate.edu/tips/tip.cfm?tipid=136
  2. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from http://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/general/PDA%20Critical%20Practices_0.pdf
  3. Teaching children with diverse cultural backgrounds. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from  https://www.imaginelearning.com/blog/2010/06/esl_struggling-readers-2/
  4. OBrien, A. (2011, October 5). Bullying prevention: 5 tips for teachers, principals, and parents. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from Bullying Prevention, https://www.edutopia.org/blog/bullying-prevention-tips-teachers-parents-anne-obrien

Mobile Learning

  • Why should a teacher be prepared to allow or require students to use mobile devices to achieve learning objectives?

 

  1. Customized learning experiences.
    Online training provides learners with more personalized training than a classroom course does. For example, with online training, learners can choose whether they want to read or watch a video about a topic. They can also participate in a branching scenario with a “choose your own adventure” style. Mobile Learning further customizes the learning experience with freedom of device and the freedom of learning anywhere, anytime.

 

  1. Learning doesn’t have to stop when you’re offline.
    Mobile learning can offer the flexibility for students to continue training offline. Here’s a performance support example: if students are on a learning site but can’t access the internet, they can still reference important learning materials that they’ve already downloaded on their phones or tablets.

 

  1. Mobile learning and gamification is a strategic pair.
    Your students are most likely already using their phones and tablets for games. It’s how they stay entertained during downtime, whether that’s 15 minutes waiting for a table at a restaurant or 4 hours on a flight. What if you could take those sections of time and use them for game-based learning on students’ mobile devices? Now, that’s strategic. Rather than playing Candy Crush or Words with Friends or whatever the latest iPhone game is, your students can use their 45-minute layover to complete a short learning game. (Wroten, 2015)

 

  • GUIDING PRINCIPLES

 1. Send Regular Reminders To Their Mobile Devices: with mobile devices, it’s easy to send reminders using push notifications. All we need is a little tap on the shoulder now and then to keep us on track when we are trying to learn something new, and mobile devices make this process easy.

2. Break Things Down Into Smaller Chunks: The truth is there is no reason to be cynical about our shortening attention spans – it simply means that information needs to be broken down so that it’s easier to digest. Allow your learners to go with their own pace rather than require them to sit down for large blocks of material and you’ll see that they respond and retain the information much better.

3. Make The Process A Collaborative One: Mobile learning platforms make it easy for your learners to interact with each other.  When learners interact with each other it gives them the ability to gain unique insights and see things from an outside perspective. It also promotes an introspective process that improves their focus on the important parts of your course material.

4. Ask For Feedback:  Since this feedback can be given anonymously, many learners will be more than happy to tell you exactly what they want and what will help them learn in a more efficient manner.

5. Optimize For Multiple Devices: Taking the time to ensure that your mobile learning platform is cross compatible will save you a tremendous amount of headaches in the future. (Cooper, 2017)

·      EXAMPLES OF MOBILE ACTIVITIES

1.      One elite course our school has is called actually the example on our activity page, students need to use GPS devices as a group to complete certain activities, this elite course is for the lower-grade students, so I haven’t been there myself. But I know it is literally mobile learning, students are not only using mobile devices but also moving their bodies as they learn, and it is also a collaborative learning experience.

2.      Another mobile learning example would be online interactive classrooms apps on which students can tap and answer questions on their own devices, the websites are evolving and creating more features that students can “play” with, ranging from typical multiple choice and True/False questions to more complicated Jumble and free response questions, they are really engaging and fun to do in class.

 

  1. Wroten, C. (2015, July 9). 4 reasons why mobile learning is A smart strategy. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from Mobile Learning, https://elearningindustry.com/4-reasons-mobile-learning-smart-strategy
  2. Cooper, S. (2017, January 18). 7 ways to improve your mobile learning experience. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from Mobile Learning, https://elearningindustry.com/7-ways-improve-your-mobile-learning-experience

Strategies for ELL Students

 

Next month I will be teaching my students (9th-12th graders) unit 3 on Human Body Systems.

There are six stages of English language acquisition: pre-production, early production, speech emergent, beginning fluency, intermediate fluency, and advanced fluency. According to the definitions, most of my students belong to early production and speech emergent stages. So I will describe these two stages for most of my students without one specific example, however I do have one student whose name is Cindy Wu, and she is in a even lower stage which would be in-between pre-production and early production stages, and I also have one student who is almost like a native English speaker: Ellie Jiang, so she would represent the advanced fluency stage.

  1. For Cindy Wu, the first strategy I adopt will be speaking slowly and use shorter words, I will make sure she is receiving the information from the instructions I gave, I will also sometimes give instructions to the Cindy individually about what she need to do in a project or work about human body systems. Another strategy will be asking yes/no and either/or questions, by doing this I will be able to encourage Cindy to open her mouth and at least start speaking English, so she would be able to move to the next stage, in my opinion, her case of being a really low ELL student also has something to do with her personality.
  2. For Ellie Jiang, the first strategy I use would be offering extra challenging activities to expand her vocabulary and content knowledge about human body systems. The second strategy I would adopt is using graphic organizers and thinking maps and check to make sure the student is filling them in with details(Robertson & Ford, 2009). Challenge the student to add more detailed information. (e.g. ask students to do a mind map about 11 body systems, but Ellie will have to add more details to each system.)
  3. For the early production stage, the first strategy I would adopt will be using visuals and models to help students understand vocabulary about human body system. For low level students, pictures and figures are better than words. The second strategy I will use would be having students work in pairs or small groups to discuss a problem(Robertson & Ford, 2009). Have literate students write short sentences or words in graphic organizers, because most of my students came from Chinese public education system which focuses a lot on tests and exams, so usually my students have better writing and reading skills than listening and speaking skills, having them writing down words or and sentences about human body system and discussing will help them enhance their understanding and also speaking skills.
  4. For the speech emergent stage, the first strategy will be providing visuals when introducing new vocabulary or concept about human body system and make connections with student’s background knowledge as much as possible(Robertson & Ford, 2009), because even for the speech emergent students, sometimes the terms used in biology for human body system description would still be difficult to understand, visual support is always helpful in learning. The second strategy will be introducing charts and graphs by using easily understood information such as school cafeteria food analysis, because charts and graphs are very helpful for organizing concepts about human body systems for starting level ELL students.

Extra resources for teaching science to ELL students:

  1. https://www.csun.edu/science/ref/language/teaching-ell.html
  2. http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/7079?style=print

Reference: Robertson, K., & Ford, K. (2009, October 1). Comments. Retrieved December 27, 2016, from http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/language-acquisition-overview

Analysis of Interviews

After I interviewed one teacher and two counselors, I have gained a more profound understanding of special education in general and my school special education status. The questions starting with the simplest and most basic question about the definition of special education to the evaluation process, from the responsibilities to the administration’s directive, from the school provision to the parent involvement in the referral process. There is no doubt now I have gotten a more holistic picture of what is special education.

Like I mentioned before in the interview, the definition question was really brainstorming for me, originally I thought special education only means physically and mentally disabled students, this is only level 1 of understanding. Then I realized any students with a special need can be in this category (level 2). Additionally, I realized not only students who need extra help, special education is also needed for the gifted students, high-achievers (level 3). Then the highest level will be all students are special in their own way, everyone needs special education, so special education shall be mainstreamed (level 4), this can also be related to the previous chapter about differentiated instructions.

My school deals with this problem in a different approach, they screen the kids and the parents before they get into our school. The Kids and parents will be required to fill out a lot of information about their physical and mental health, they will also be interviewed separately about these questions. This system works if you are a private school which does not need to worry about student enrollment. After the kids get into the school, we don’t have a complete special education system provided for kids who really need special education. We do have a friendly environment for physically disabled students, we also have counseling office for mental issues, but the students are really special, the best option would still be choosing a special education school. Maybe in the future, the situation will be different in my school and in China.

Finally, like a famous poet Li Bai said ‘All things in their being are good for something ’  let alone people, with proper special education, all the students can be useful and successful in the society. We teachers and all practitioners in education will have to put in more effort for kids, try our best to provide every kid with the special education which best suits their need and level.