The CIA Review

Office of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Edition 6 December 4, 2015

Spotlight on Strategies

Concept Circles

Concept circles are tools which help students move beyond memorization of terms and definitions by focusing them on analyzing the relationships between those words. In this strategy, students use a circle organizer to analyze how vocabulary words are or are not related through a concept or topic.

Download the pdf version of the strategy or watch the strategy in action below.
Concept Circles

Three Lessons For Teachers

Grant Wiggins was an extraordinary educator who passed away in May. In the article Three Lessons For Teachers From Grant Wiggins, written by Jay McTighe, we are reminded of three of Wiggins' sensible and salient lessons for teachers.

Lesson #1—Always Keep the End in Mind

There is tremendous value in designing curriculum, assessment, and learning experiences “backwards,” with the end in mind. Instead of looking at all of the content and standards you plan to “cover” and mapping out your day-to-day lessons, the idea is to plan backward from worthy goals—the transferable concepts, principles, processes, and questions that enable students to apply their learning in meaningful and authentic ways.

  • Consider long-term transfer goals when planning curriculum. What do you want students to be able to do with their learning when they confront new challenges, both within and outside of school?
  • With transfer goals in mind, ask yourself these questions: What will students need to understand in order to apply their learning? What specific knowledge and skills will enable effective performance?
  • Frame your teaching around essential questions. Think of the content you teach as the “answers.” What are the questions that led to those answers?

Lesson #2—Feedback is Key to Successful Learning and Performance

Here’s a straightforward test for classroom feedback: Can learners tell specifically from the given feedback what they have done well and what they could do next time to improve? If not, then the feedback is not yet specific enough or understandable for the learner.

  • Ask your students. Periodically, teachers can elicit student feedback using “exit cards” or questionnaires. Here are a few sample prompts: What do you really understand about ____? What questions do you have? When were you most engaged? When were you least engaged? What is working for you? What could I do to help you learn better? Response patterns from such questions can provide specific ideas to help teachers refine their teaching.
  • Ask your colleagues. It is easy for busy teachers to get too close to their work. Having another set of eyes can be invaluable. You can ask fellow teachers to review your unit plans, inspect the alignment of your assessments to your goals, and check your essential questions and lesson plans to see if they are likely to engage students.
  • Use formative assessments and act on their results. Grant often used analogies to make a point. He likened formative assessment to tasting a meal while cooking it. Waiting until a unit test or final exam to discover that some students haven’t “got it” is too late. Effective teachers, like successful cooks, sample learning along the way through formative assessments and adjust the “ingredients” of their teaching based on results.
  • Regularly analyze student work. By closely examining the work that students produce on major assignments and assessments, teachers gain valuable insight into student strengths as well as skill deficiencies and misunderstandings. Grant encouraged teachers to analyze student work in teams, whenever possible. Just as football coaches review game film together and then plan next week’s practices, teachers gain insight into needed curriculum and instructional adjustments based on results.

Lesson #3—Have Empathy for the Learner

Wiggins reminded us of the value of being sensitive to learners who do not have our expertise (and sometimes not even an interest) in the subject matter that we know so well. He pointed out that “what is obvious to us is rarely obvious to a novice—and was once not obvious to us either, but we have forgotten our former views and struggles.” He cautioned us against confusing teaching for understanding with simply telling. He encouraged teachers to remember that understandings are constructed in the mind of the learner, that understanding must be “earned” by the learner, and that the teacher’s job is to facilitate “meaning making,” not simply present information.

Mythbusters Christmas Special Rube Goldberg Machine BEST QUALITY
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How to Get a Job at Google

Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google, or in other words the guy in charge of hiring for one of the world's most successful companies, noted that Google had determined that "GPAs are worthless criteria for hiring and test scores are worthless... We found that they don't predict anything."

So what attributes does Google look at when hiring new employees?

General cognitive ability
"Not IQ. It's learning ability. It's the ability to process on the fly. It's the ability to pull together disparate bits of information."

"In particular, emergent leadership as opposed to traditional leadership. What we care about is when faced with a problem and you're a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead? And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading? What's critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power."

"It's feeling the sense of responsibility, the sense of ownership, to step in and to try to solve any problem."

"Your end goals is what can we do together to problem-solve. I contribute my piece, and then I step back. Without humility you are unable to learn. Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don't learn how to learn from that failure."

Do you expect these same attributes from the students in your class?

Source: Friedman, Thomas L. "How to Get a Job at Google." The New York Times 22 Feb. 2014. Print.

Figurative Language and a Poem

Tell students that they will watch a video segment with a famous poem about Christmas. Review types of figurative language with students, such as similes, metaphors, and alliteration. Explain that students will work in pairs to find figurative language in this poem. Partners will work together to draw a picture that exemplifies one literary device as it is used in the poem.

Project the video The Night Before Christmas (embedded below). Pause regularly to allow pairs to discuss the figurative language that they have noticed so far. After completing the video, give students time to draw and label their pictures. Collect student work into a classroom gallery and give students time to complete a gallery walk.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

The Cost of the Twelve Days of Christmas

The PNC Christmas Price Index® is a simple, yet entertaining way to introduce basic economics to classrooms around the country. By pricing out each gift from “The Twelve Days of Christmas” year after year, PNC is able to provide a snapshot of our current economy, lessons on inflation and other economic trends.

Visit the site for educator resources and the gift prices calculator.
The Math of the 12 Days of Christmas