Week of February 15, 2016

I hope you all had a lovely Valentine's Day and a relaxing day off on Monday!

As you all know, this past Friday, Ashley and Rhonda were working on 4th grade at the Panera on Houston and are planning on working there this Friday as well. This Friday, I am visiting classrooms to observe teachers implementing Reading/Writing Workshop, but will check e-mail frequently if there are any questions or requests to bounce around some ideas.

In this week's BCPS Core, I am sharing a post I wrote for my staff in their weekly e-newsletter from March 27, 2009, in which I addressed the learning goals of T-M-A.

I am also providing you with a blog written by Jay McTighe entitled "What is a Performance Task?" Consider how this (and Jay's other posts on Performance Tasks) might be helpful to your colleagues as you move forward with this work.

You also have a video from Edutopia that I shared last spring with high school UbD training participants. As you view this video, you will hear Linda Darling-Hammond make a great case for the backward design process and authentic assessment via performance tasks!

And, last but not least, another St. Louis original: Pork Steaks.

Enjoy your week!


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Friday Flyer Staff Letter from 3/27/09

A woman had two sons who were born on the same hour of the same day of the same year. But they were not twins. How could this be so?

(Hum the Jeopardy theme song here.)

They were two of a set of triplets (or quadruplets, etc.).

Did you know the answer to the puzzle right away? Or, like me, did you have to think about it for a while. My solution was that at least one of the woman’s sons was adopted.

I share this puzzle to demonstrate a possible hook that can be used to engage students into thinking around a big idea. For example, an essential question that might be asked after solving this puzzle could be: “Why does the brain search for complex solutions when there is a much simpler one available?”

Whether introducing a literature unit, discussing environmental issues or reviewing political decisions, the big idea of “overthinking” can engage students in multiple ways.

“Research in cognitive psychology (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2001) challenges the notion that students must learn all the important facts and basic skills before they can address the key concepts of a subject or apply the skills in more complex and authentic ways. And all we need to do is look at how people learn sports, art, musical instruments, or their first language to recognize that this view is flawed” (Wiggins & McTighe, “Put Understanding First,” Educational Leadership, May 2008, p. 38).

As adult learners, do we always read the entire manual before plugging in our electronic devices or appliances?

When joining friends for a game of bowling, do you take the time to learn about the history of the sport, the rules for keeping score and the new USBC guidelines for bowling balls and pins? Or, like me, do you rent a pair of shoes, find a ball that doesn’t pull your arm off when you throw it, and enjoy time with friends as you wait for your turn to try and knock down some pins?

Think about it.

“If we don’t give students sufficient ongoing opportunities to puzzle over genuine problems, make meaning of their learning, and apply content in various contexts, then long-term retention and effective performance are unlikely” (Wiggins & McTighe, “Put Understanding First,” Educational Leadership, May 2008, p. 37).

We know that acquisition of important facts and skills, time for students to make meaning of this content, and opportunities for students to effectively transfer their learning to new situations are the essential components to an effective learning situation. As educators, we must learn to balance these instructional approaches within our lessons. “All learners need to acquire facts and skills. But an education consists of more than a pile of facts or a laundry list of skills” (Wiggins & McTighe, “Put Understanding First,” Educational Leadership, May 2008, p. 37).

In the “Enhancing Instructional Practices” section of the Friday Flyer, there is a link to an article about teaching for meaning and transfer. Included in this article is a chart that demonstrates how to document and/or track the transfer, meaning and acquisition learning activities for your units and lessons. I realize we are all busy right now, but even if you don’t have time to read the article, I hope you will at least look at the chart.

Students are most energized by the learning opportunities you provide for them where they are able to participate with and make meaning out of the content in authentic and purposeful ways.

They’re really not that different from us.

Welcome back from Spring Break! Let’s get ready for another week of teaching for understanding (AND testing)!

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Five Keys to Comprehensive Assessment

Five Keys to Comprehensive Assessment
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