Friday, January 25, 2013

The Monday morning memo ~ 19

Society has for a while now been deleveraging the value of information. Since vast quantities of information are easily accessible and readily available, the focus is no longer just on what you know...

The success of our students will not be determined by what information they know; it will be determined by how they use and adapt to the information they are able to find...

As we continue to shift our instructional practices as a result of the Core Academic Standards, we continue our focus and commitment to helping students not just learn information specific to a particular content area, but rather to learn skills that are transferable across all content areas and beyond.

Here are a few of the great things happening in our district:

Drago the Dragon: Bobbie Meyer, Laurie Gillison & Cathy Nowak - Central Elementary

For a while now, something pretty incredible has been happening at Central Elementary. Kindergarten students have been learning about and writing to "Drago the dragon." Drago is an actual lizard that has completely engaged and intrigued students at CE. Most importantly, Drago has opened their eyes to the power and value of writing and communicating. Here is a picture of Drago:

Writing for purpose: Noah Assareh - Union High School

Students in Mr. Assareh's English classes have been "writing for purpose." Basically students are not just writing to write, they are taking their skills much further and beyond. Most recently, students were asked to develop a method that would safely capture whales allowing humans to extract a compound that has been found to cure cancer.

Josh Skaggs, a student at UHS, developed an innovative idea called the "extractor." This device would be shot similar to a harpoon, and it would safely attach itself to a whale. From there, from a remote location, the device would be activated and would be able to extract the cancer curing compound from the whale. Once the compound was extracted, the device would simply fall off the whale and await retrieval from a boat. Then the compound would be harvested and used to cure cancer.

This activity required Josh to be creative, innovative, and most importantly, he had to focus on more than just the writing part. In the end, Josh had to present his device as if he was trying to market his product to a company possibly interested in acquiring his patent.

DECA role playing presentations: Charles Gehlauf - Union High School

Students in Mr. Gehlauf's DECA classes have been preparing and practicing for their upcoming role playing presentations. Most times, students are given a random topic they are supposed to support and/or recommend. The most difficult part is the students are typically only given 10 minutes to practice and rehearse upon receiving their topic. The topics can range from selling car insurance to trying to fill a hockey arena with excited and interested fans.

In this activity students are forced to be quick on their feet, while also being able to speak in front of others under extreme levels of pressure. They did a wonderful job demonstrating their skills during our most recent Board of Education meeting! Great job: Lillian Edwards (10th Grade), Kyle Kloeppel (11th Grade), and Beccah Kramer (11th Grade).

Just a few of the great things happening here in Union R-XI!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Monday morning memo ~ 18

What is an "essential question?"

Essential questions are not answerable with finality in a brief sentence. Their aim is to stimulate thought, to provoke inquiry, and to spark more questions - including thoughtful student questions. They are broad and full of cross-curricular transfer possibilities.

Essential questions enable students to uncover the real riches of a topic otherwise obscured in texts or routine teacher-talk.

Not only do essential questions stimulate thought and inquiry, they can be used to effectively frame our content goals. For example, if the standard is to learn about the three branches of the government, an essential question could be, "why do we need the three branches of the government?"

The best questions serve not only to promote understanding of the content of a unit on a particular topic; they also spark connections and promote transfer of ideas from one setting to others. We call these such questions "essential."

Tips for using essential questions:

Use a reasonable number of questions (two to five) per unit. Make less be more.

Frame the questions in "kid language" as needed to make them more accessible. Edit the questions to make them as engaging and provocative as possible for the age group.

Ensure that every child understands the questions and sees their value.

Design specific exploratory activities and inquiries for each question.

Sequence the questions so they naturally lead from one to another.

Post the essential questions in the classroom, and encourage students to organize their notes and work around those specific questions.

Good essential questions engender other good questions. It is therefore useful to think of a family of related questions as anchoring a course and a unit, and also to make clear to students that their questions that arise naturally are part of clarifying the essential questions.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Monday morning memo ~ 17

One of the many beauties of working in teams is the value we all add to the discussion. The Union School District is rich with experience, knowledge, and varied backgrounds which provide the foundation to effective and productive collaboration.

The key to tapping into the experienced, knowledgeable, and varied backgrounds of our staff is to make sure all voices are heard. As part of the PLC process, one of the key components is ensuring that all members have an active voice in every discussion. As a district, we are working diligently to provide opportunities for ALL our staff to contribute.

"Collaboration allows teachers to capture each other's fund of collective intelligence.” 
― Mike SchmokerResults & Focus

"Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world.  In fact, it is the only way it ever has."  
Margaret Mead

**If you haven't yet had a chance, please be sure to spend a couple minutes filling out our Jan. 2 PD survey. We appreciate and value your input!