About Me

I am a student at Riverside High School (9th grade). I play football, baseball, and enjoy learning and writing. I strive to help create the most productive environment for students to collaborate and connect. As #BowTieBoys, we work to help mold the perfect classroom with the help of student voice and teacher guidance.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Active Lessons Keep Students Engaged

Making learning fun is difficult for teachers these days due to all of the material they must get through within a certain period of time.  Although it may seem like a stretch, students still enjoy learning and taking in information when they are engaged and interested.  When I was in middle school, a lot of my history lessons were extremely interactive.  My teacher would take us into the hallway and separate us into different countries to help us understand what each army was trying to do.  This kept us on our toes and also helped us learn the material with ease.  Another example is when my geometry teacher had us create kites to understand the dimensions of kites and what helps them fly.  This not only engaged us in the classroom, but had us thinking creatively and collaborating to create the model we thought would work best. 
When we walked into the history classroom, the teacher told us we were going into the locker bay to do an activity.  We immediately got excited due to the fact that the class was not going to be taking notes all day.  When our teacher split the class up into two halves, and escorted each half to the opposite side of the locker bay.  My group was the colonists, and the other was the British.  He told us to scatter around the locker bay and look toward the big door that opened to the hallway.  The other group was told to stay in one big line and walk into the locker bay together.  My group immediately saw all of the "British soldiers," while it took them much longer to see all of us.  This activity was extremely engaging and I still remember the meaning behind it three years later.  He was teaching us that the colonists strategy was superior to the British because they spread out and knew their land way better than the British. The British had no idea where to look for the colonists and were extremely vulnerable.  All of the students understood the meaning of the activity and were excited to learn more about the topic.  We continued to do this throughout the year which made us look forward to learning in the teachers class.  The activity was a perfect way to implement the material into a fun memory in our brains.  "When you combine activities that require movement, talking, and listening, it activates multiple areas of the brain."  (scholastic.com). 
Two years later in my geometry class, we were assigned a project where we had to build a kite that could fly for at least ten seconds.  There were other parts to the project such as a write-up, dimensions of the kite, and history of the design, but for the most part this project was entertaining due to the creativeness needed in order to make the kite fly.  We were given about a month to come up with an effective design.  At first most of the students tried to make the most complex design possible.  We would have fancy paper taped to lots of pieces of balsa wood shaped in a kite.  Once we completed building the kite, we did a few test flights.  Most of us realized that the more complicated the kite was, the less it worked.  We ended up scrapping the design of our original kite, and re-created a different one with a simple efficient design.  The test flight went perfect as all the kites soared in the sky.  We learned to be extremely creative and think outside of the box.  Our teacher was supporting us the whole time, but for the majority of it, she was just letting us do our thing.  "For example, think about how much more exciting active math projects are compared to completing dittos day after day. Math is all around us. Students can actively count, measure, and graph almost anything."  (calstatela.edu).  That not only showed us we could do it by ourselves, but it showed that we were collaborative and patient enough to trust the process. 
Those are both examples of how students are willing to put in the work to learn if they have fun during the process or are able to become fully engaged.  It was not only easier for the students to take in the material but it was also for the teacher to be effective due to having all of the students ready for any kind of instruction whether it's another activity or a quick video to help explain the material.  It is important to make the classroom a place where students enjoy being.  Comfortable learning environments can result in limitless creativity.  Too much sitting and doing the same thing every class is not good for students.  Keeping them on their toes will make the class more fun, interactive, and help the students acquire the information with ease. 

Works Cited 

"Developing Strategies that Encourage Hands-On Learning." N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2017. <http://www.bing.com/cr?IG=64198CBB334A4849ADBF150ECCEF4298&CID=226A676023146DE81F876D3422256C72&rd=1&h=vC5olTSQSYtiSSIesyiJof5cSVVQnwefIl_tTHl1i_Y&v=1&r=http%3a%2f%2fwww.calstatela.edu%2fsites%2fdefault%2ffiles%2fcenters%2fspedintern%2fhints09DevelopingHandsOn.pdf&p=DevEx,5062.1>. 

"Hands-On Is Minds-On." Hands-On Is Minds-On | Scholastic.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2017. <http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3751901>. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Peer Feedback/Assessment

Peer feedback/assessment is underutilized in the current day and age of school.  Giving students the responsibility to give each other feedback and constructive criticism builds a strong bond in the classroom and empowers students to make each other better with the knowledge of each individual.  Too often students are worried that the work they created is either right or wrong.  Peer feedback enables students to use and trust the learning process without only focusing on the end result.  If a student puts all the effort into the process the end result will come, as opposed to only focusing on the end result, which would eliminate the whole point of the learning process. 
When students are empowered to give feedback to their peers and make each other better with their individual knowledge, it creates trust within the class.  "A teacher that achieves a relationship with his/her students has the opportunity to influence their thinking," (Response & Analysis, 2004).   A common area of school where peer feedback is given is with essays.  While this may seem pointless or as if the teachers are being too lazy to grade the students essays themselves, it has the potential to be very beneficial.  When grading each other's writing, students commonly just grade the rough draft, then hand back the paper with their edits and the student changes things then turns in the paper.  I believe that if students were to have a say in the grade of their peer, the peer feedback would be taken more seriously.  If the students were to have a say in each other's final essays, the teacher could take that grade into consideration while grading and use the student notes and edits to grade the paper.  This eliminates students pairing up with their friends to get a "perfect essay" due to the fact that the teacher would still be grading the paper themselves, just using the peer edits and grade to help bring them to a final score.  Doing this allows the students to feel confident in their work throughout the whole writing process, instead of worrying about the grade they will get. 
Understanding that learning comes in a process is difficult for students due to the grade they receive meaning more than their learning.  Incorporating the peer feedback strategy will help students value the process without even realizing it.  When planning an essay, it is important that the students collaborate with ideas and concepts.  This will help them evaluate each other constructively to create an idea that they can back up and have confidence writing about.  The students can help each other by asking questions about the writer's topic to help the writer decide if that is genuinely what they want to write about.  It is important that the students are not restricted by rubrics so they can have the most effective writing.  It is acceptable to have standards when grading an essay, but not to have standards that make each student's writing look identical and sound robotic due to the rubric.  The students should be getting in groups of two and helping each other.  The feedback received from the editors should be constructive criticism in order for students to trust the peer feedback.  The students should want to be able to share their work, and building it by using each other will only help the students reach that point.  Students should then take in consideration the recommended changes and re-model their essay if they feel it is needed.  Then the editor should read over the essay and give it the grade they think it should be along with reasons why they chose that grade.  This allows the students to be not only more independent, but also learn to give advice, take advice, and collaborate, which are all major attributes needed in life.  "Listening is easier for some students," (Adolescent Literacy, 2007).  Students will then feel comfortable with the process and become more focused on their essay in each stage, instead of only the final essay. 
While this may seem irrelevant due to the fact that the teacher still has say over the final grade, it shows the teacher that the students put in the effort needed to establish an essay on a topic that interests them.  Peer feedback not only creates trust within a classroom, but it also prepares students for the real world with collaboration and communication with peers.  This will also help students learn to trust the process and not only pay attention to the end result.  This is because in each stage the student has to focus only on the current part they are in.  Students editing each other's work will lead to more detailed writing and connection due to the students genuinely giving edits and feedback. 

Works Cited: 

Beers, G. Kylene, Robert E. Probst, and Linda Rief. Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2007. Print. 

Probst, Robert E. Response & analysis: teaching literature in secondary school. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2004. Print. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Changing Assessment

When a student walks into a classroom, the strive for understanding and the dedication to learn is starting to gradually diminish.  Classrooms have turned into a discouraging arena for students.  It is almost as if there is no room to fail and learn from mistakes, or students think that everything is a competition to get the best grade, instead of focusing on coming to a clear understanding of the material.  Since school is about preparing students for the workplace, there needs to be far more real-world application into each class.  Students should be walking into classrooms ready to take on a challenge together and collaborate to figure out a problem, rather than figure out who can get it right the fastest alone.  Each core class has unlimited opportunities to incorporate tactics that a student will need in the workplace, into everyday lessons.  In the English classroom, instead of teachers focusing on grading students grammar with quizzes and tests, students should be learning this grammar by incorporating it into their own writing and be able to use it comfortably.  In history, while learning about all different empires and civilizations, teachers could help students make strong connections by acting out scenarios, and comparing modern-day civilization to ancient times.  Science is one of the classes that currently keeps students engaged quite often by incorporating hands-on labs.  Labs are a great way to help students learn how to keep track of statistics and use the scientific method.  Math is one of the harder subjects to incorporate real-world scenarios in a lesson due to the fact that an effective way of learning math is repeating problems over and over again, however, problems that involve possible scenarios that could happen in certain occupations such as finding the distance of something or designing a house are very beneficial.  Incorporating these tactics will prepare students for the future. 
English classrooms often consist of a lot of essays, vocabulary quizzes, and silent reading.  Essays are not necessarily a bad thing at all, it is just when a student feels that his/her writing is restricted and forced, the product that student creates is not always where the teacher would like it to be due to the student feeling annoyed that the writing had to be about something that did not matter to them.  Rubrics play a large rule in this mentality students obtain while writing essays.  Rubrics force students to write with less creativity, and often forces the essay to be robotic or poorly constructed due to the student trying to cram all of the necessary pieces of said rubric into one essay.  It is still beneficial to have guidelines if a teacher is looking for a certain type of essay, however, those guidelines should not  be restricting the student from including ideas and creativity into the essay.  "The creative process is never too clear." (The Essential Don Murray, 2009).  Vocabulary quizzes are very inefficient for one large reason.  If a teacher is trying to teach students how to incorporate proper grammar into their essays by giving out quizzes, it just adds stress on the students and doesn’t solve the problem.  Grammar should be assessed on how well the students essays are, not one sheet of multiple choice question answers.  Teaching students grammar could be accomplished by revise their essays with them one on one and having students analyze pieces of literature.  Doing this will strengthen the students writing skills for the future.  Silent reading may be beneficial for some students, however, it is often to aid the students in finishing one book so they can move on to the next.  Another option that will still help students learn how to read effectively is by analyzing pieces of literature.  This is beneficial because if a student was to read a poem and fill out a quiz on what it means or what it is talking about, that student could have interpreted the poem completely different than another student.  When students analyze together and do not have to worry about a quiz after, it is much easier to understand the poem.  Analyzing as a class also works in collaboration and creativity with each student's opinion.  "More collaboration equates to higher efficiency."  (Mcgraw Hill, 2016).  It also helps students connect all of the opinions shared to see the big picture. 
History is a very diverse and interesting  subject. Unfortunately, students often get too focused on remembering dates, names, and events instead of making an effort to understand the material fully.  This is because of frequent tests and essays forcing students to memorize the material through repetition.  Instead of focusing on giving students more and more worksheets until they understand the material, a teacher should focus on being more interactive with their students by giving students a chance to personalize the learning in a way that is effective for each individual student.  An interesting way to incorporate effective learning of events in class is to have the students live through the event themselves.  When reading about an event that occurred have students give their opinions and questions about the causes and effects of that event.  In one of my history classes, we acted out a scenario one time and it was very effective.  Each group had a part of The Odyssey and assigned each member a part.  This created a memorable and fun experience for the students.  It also helped the students come to a stronger understanding of the material that we needed to know.  This helps students create strategies for effective public speaking by performing in front of their peers.  Judgement is eliminated due to each student having fun with the activity and incorporating their own twists to the script.  "Gradually grouping students together makes them feel more comfortable around each other."  (Adolescent Literacy, 2007).   Another effective way to engage students in a history classroom is to analyze and connect current government with ancient government.  It also does not have to be government.  It could be culture, religion, achievements, or economy.  This will help the students appreciate the evolution throughout time and compare and contrast the material. 
One of the most hands-on classroom environments is a science classroom.  Students often enjoy participating in labs that is in their control.  Science classes can often be a lot of note taking due to the large amount of content teachers are forced to teach their students.  While it is a large amount of notes, it is an opportunity for students to practice what they just took notes on.  One way to avoid losing the students attention is instead of going through a slideshow with notes on it for students to blindly copy down, keep the students engaged by having breaks with videos throughout the presentation and activities for the students to apply the information they just received.    Labs keep students engaged due to the large effect their effort has on the results on the lab.  Science offers a large variety of subjects for students to learn about.  One lab I participated in at my school was a lab called "Angiosperm Lab."  In this lab we were assigned trees throughout the campus and had to do certain measurements on each tree.  Once we gathered the correct data we published data on an online database where each group see compare their data with other groups allowing us to observer where on the campus the trees grow the best.  "Personalized learning encourages engagement throughout the process." (Mcgraw Hill, 2016).  The teacher did a very good job on explaining what to do so the lab made a lot of sense and was completed effectively.  This helped students connect data with the big picture.  After analyzing all of the data, the teacher had us graph out everything we collected, organize it into tables, and reflect on the whole process so we could incorporate real-life skills into this project.  Labs should be a time for students to collectively apply knowledge into a meaningful experiment.   
Math is a very unique subject due to the way it is taught.  Most math can be mastered through practice, which is typically not the most effective learning strategy within other subjects.  While this may seem inefficient, practicing formulas helps students apply them into problems on tests and quizzes.  Instead of including numerous tests in math, it would be beneficial to assign a project in the place of a test that creates a scenario for the student to apply their knowledge.  An example is have a student create a house or building of their dreams with all of the architectural measures written out on the paper.  This will not only allow the students to get creative with their ideas and feel free to construct anything they want, but it would also help them understand how the mathematics of that house would work, and also teaches them how architects work to create interesting yet effective structures.  "Detailed interpretations lead to detailed ideas."  (Adolescent Literacy, 2007).   Math can be a boring subject when a student knows that the whole class is going to be practice problems.  Another way to help the students understand the material at a high level is to give practice problems to the class that are challenging, but allow the class to work together to figure out.  This way the students are collaborating but also applying their knowledge to find the answer. 
School should not be a place where students are anxious to leave, but are anxious to create.  There should be opportunities everyday for students to apply their creativity into each subject, whether it is practice problems, and essay, a skit in history, or a lab.  Students need to be preparing for the workplace early, and taking notes and regurgitating that information back onto a test is not preparing them for anything.  Giving students real-world scenarios helps them prepare by collaborating and learning to work well with others, being creative and not assuming that their idea does not matter because every idea has potential, and lastly helps them connect acquired knowledge into a bigger picture.   

Works Cited: 

Beers, G. Kylene, Robert E. Probst, and Linda Rief. Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2007. Print. 

"Connect." McGraw Hill Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2017. <http://www.mheducation.com/highered/platforms/connect.html>. 

Murray, Donald Morison, Thomas Newkirk, and Lisa C. Miller. The Essential Don Murray: Lessons from America's Greatest Writing Teacher. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook/Heinemann, 2009. Print.