The Pointer Pulse

Resources, strategies, news, updates, and more

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Principal's Corner

What can you do with your students in the last five minutes of class? At the last faculty meeting you heard me ask you to ensure that instruction is bell to bell in your classroom. A few of you asked me for some suggestions on best practices for keeping students engaged until the bell each period. With deliberate planning, and a few of these strategies in your back pocket, you can see a substantial shift from students watching the clock and packing up, to using every minute of instructional time.

The article, “Small Changes in Teaching: The Last Five Minutes of Class,” outlines the following strategies that can be easily implement in just about any classroom:

The minute paper – The teacher wraps up the formal class a few minutes early and asks students to respond in writing to two questions:

- What was the most important thing you learned today?

- What question still remains in your mind?

The first question gets students thinking about the whole class, making a judgment about something important to them, and articulating it in their own words. The second question asks them to consider what they haven’t understood. “Most of us are infected by what learning theorists call ‘illusions of fluency,’” says Lang, “which means that we believe we have obtained mastery of something when we have not.” To answer the second question, students must dig for any confusion or weakness that remains in their own comprehension of the day’s material. Collecting students’ responses (on paper or in electronic messages) gives instructors valuable information on how well the class went and, if things were unclear for a majority of students, a starting point for the next class.

Closing connections – The instructor finishes class five minutes early and tells students they can pack up as soon as they have identified five ways the day’s material appears in contexts outside the classroom – current events, personal experiences, popular songs, debates in the school or college, and so forth. “You’ll be amazed at how quickly they can come up with examples,” says Lang. These might be handed in, jotted on the board, or posted on the course website.

The metacognitive five – “We have evidence that students engage in poor study strategies,” says Lang. “Likewise, research shows that most people are plagued by illusions of fluency. The solution on both fronts is better metacognition – that is, a clearer understanding of our own learning.” Once a semester, Lang has his students jot down how they studied for a test they’ve just taken. He follows up by comparing test results with study methods: invariably, effective approaches (like self-testing and flashcards) correlate with higher scores, while less-effective methods (like reviewing notes and re-reading material) correlate with lower scores. “Imagine what a difference we could make,” says Lang, “if we all took five minutes – even just a few times during the semester – to offer students the opportunity to reflect on their learning habits.”

Closing the loop – If the class began with questions, put them back up on the screen at the end and have students use what they just learned to answer them. If the class began with a question about students’ prior knowledge on the topic, end by asking students to explain how the class confirmed, enhanced, or contradicted what they knew before.

Sincerely ,


Video: "Getting Feedback Through Authentic Formative Assessment"

Resources, Strategies, and Good Reads

Pointer Profiles: Staff of the Month

Support Staff of the Month: Marlene Harris

Marlene Harris has worked in many schools over her years with Baltimore County, but loves being here at Sparrows Point the most. In fact, this is her sixth year here. Her staff of sixteen feeds four schools , prepares three different menus, and serves over 1500 meals a day. Marlene takes great pride in what they do every day safeguarding the health and well-being of our students. They serve a variety of whole grain items, fruit, and vegetables. The cafeteria menu items have 30 percent or less calories from fat and less than ten percent calories from saturated fats, with moderate amounts of sugar and salt. The cafeteria performs a necessary part in every child’s life each day. Here at Sparrows Point, they have been adding many new items to our menus, and are now offering specialty salads and fruit smoothies just to mention a few. To keep the lines running faster, they now have a serving room offering snack and drinks items. Coming soon, they will be opening an outdoor snack cart to serve the students who spend their lunch periods outside in the courtyard. Marlene and her staff offer adult lunch specials where they may choose any hot or cold entrée, bottled water, chips, a fruit, and veggies for $3.25. Marlene encourages all to come down to the cafeteria and see what’s new.

Healthy Salads As a Cafeteria Alternative

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Teacher of the Month: Irene Kirkpatrick

Irene Kirkpatrick graduated from Sparrows Point High School in 1993, and considers her years at the Point some of the best years of her life. After graduation, she attended CCBC to earn her Associates Degree in General Studies. She came back to SPHS to coach JV Volleyball, and at the same time, transferred to UMBC with the intent of obtaining a Physical Therapy degree. At the time, Irene still was not sure this was the path that was planned for her. She volunteered at Johns Hopkins and worked in a Physical Therapy office as a tech, but she still was not sure of her future path, so she took some time off from school and decided to join the Baltimore County Police Academy where she was an officer for two years. This seemed like a good option coming from a police family.

Knowing in her heart that this was not the profession she would want for the rest of her life, she left the police department to go back to school for Physical Education and Health. Irene said, "I loved coaching, fitness and the amazing human body. Becoming a teacher was the answer, it just took me awhile to figure it out." Once she had it figured out, she received her BS in Physical Education and Health from Towson University and was offered a position at her Alma Mater, SPHS. Irene teaches Aerobics Strength & Conditioning and Fitness Foundations/ Fitness Mastery, and in the next month she will receive her Master's in Kinesiology. Irene went on to say, "Everyday I feel blessed to be at the Point with our amazing students and staff. God is good everyday and everyday God is good. I was patient and I could not have planned my future any better." We are glad here at The Point that she found the right path, too.

Instruction In Action

Professional Learning : Word Walls

A word wall is a systematically organized collection of words displayed in large letters on a wall or other large display place in the classroom. It is a tool designed to promote group learning.

Consider using Word Walls next year to assist with prefixes, suffixes, year or unit long vocabulary, SAT Words, etc.

Please let me know if this is something with which you'd like assistance.

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Happy Birthday To:

4/19: Karen Taylor

5/2: Mike Whisner

5/3: Ed Baldwin

5/8: Cory Neely

5/17: Susan Shlapack

5/21: Theresa Reitmeyer

5/30: Caroline Taylor

Upcoming Dates/Events:

4/15-4/17: Spring Musical

4/18: Department Meetings

4/21 : Distribution of Report Cards

4/23: Junior Prom

4/26: Primary Election Day- School Closed

4/30: Senior Prom

5/2: ILT Meeting

5/5: Spring Concert

5/9: Faculty Meeting

5/16:Department Meeting

5/24: Spring Athletic Banquet

5/27: Last Day for Seniors

5/30: Memorial Day- School Closed

Leah Wolfe: S.T.A.T. Teacher

Please email, stop by, or use the S.T.A.T. Teacher form if there is anything with which you would like assistance.