Mr. Barnes' Classroom

Reaching Higher

Welcome!

Welcome students and parents into our 4th grade classroom to experience some of the most innovative and engaging learning strategies in academia! Students who enter our classroom experience high expectations, creative activities, rigorous curriculum, and satisfying academic and social development. We are constantly exploring new ways to improve our skills and challenge our thinking to ensure something new is learned every single day. This flyer gives you a general sense of several strategies that students are engaged in throughout their 4th grade experience. I look forward to working with you and your child!

Learning Styles

A Cognitive Conundrum

Things get logistically complicated when in any given classroom you find a variety of students who learn in different ways. In order to facilitate opportunities for all types of learners, I have found it best to incorporate activities and tasks that involve all three modalities. In this way, we maximize engagement as well as retention. I believe content resonates well with students when they experience learning in a way that feels right for them. As an added bonus, it keeps learning fresh and exciting for my students and me!

Instructional Strategies

Differentiation

Differentiation is both a deep-seated philosophical attitude as well as a purposeful process. It is a research based method by which educators engage students with rigorous learning goals and tasks that are specific to the needs of each student. Differentiation comes in all shapes and sizes but no matter the strategy, it effects the content, process, and product of learning. I believe strongly that differentiation is essential If we expect all our students to be involved with curriculum that is challenging, attainable, and pushes them to higher levels of thinking.

Assessment

My instructional decisions are based on assessments and day-to-day classroom observations. Once I have a clear picture of my students' current levels of understanding, I can then make informed decisions about the content, process, and product students will be engaged in. Based on extensive and viable research by Robert Marzano, our district has adopted the practice of identifying specific unit learning goals and organizing them into a scale. The scale is a graphic organizer that places unit learning goals on different levels of complexity. Students identify what they will have to be able know and do in order to move into the next higher level of thinking, thus providing a functional means by which students and teachers can developmentally realize their full academic potential.

Curriculum Compacting

Method: Compacting is the practice of ensuring that all students are challenged at their own level and safeguards against spending time on skills students have already mastered. All students are given the opportunity to prove mastery of learning objectives before the objectives are presented and learned in the classroom. This is usually in the form of a pretest. If students score 85% or higher on the pretest, they are provided enrichment opportunities to autonomously explore those learning objectives in more depth and complexity. If students score 85% or higher but still show a deficiency in a specific area, they are required to do all whole-group activities and assignments pertaining to that particular content area but are invited to explore in depth the other areas of proven strength.


Example: A math test assesses rounding, ordering, and comparing whole numbers. Amber scores 85%, accurately completing all ordering and comparing questions but missed 2 of the 4 questions on rounding. Amber would be required to complete the whole-group activities and assignments associated with rounding but would be excused from the regular activities and assignments for ordering and comparing. As you can see, compacting provides every student with a uniquely personalized game plan for learning, allowing them the flexibility to be challenged as they develop new skills and concepts.

Learning Contracts

When students show mastery of forthcoming learning objectives on a pretest, they enter a personalized learning contract. The contract ensures the students are held accountable for work they conduct independently. This document contains 3 vital components: The specific objectives students have mastered, an up-to-date log that specifies what activities they are engaging in, and the rules associated with extension activities. The learning contract assists students in being organized and responsible with their learning.

Extension Menus

Once students enter a learning contract, they are given an Extension Menu. This menu provides a list of engaging and creative learning options for students to choose from. These activities are based on the higher levels of Benjamin Bloom’s Learning Taxonomy (analysis, evaluation, & synthesis). These engaging activities are designed to be open ended and encourage creative thinking and problem solving skills. The menu also includes a “Student Choice” option, ensuring that students are not limited in any way. Personal endeavors are always encouraged but must get approval from me, the teacher, before proceeding.

Depth & Complexity

Sandra Kaplan, associate professor of learning and instruction at the University of Southern California, encourages educators to guide gifted students through ideas in greater depth and complexity. Ian Byrd, a gifted & talented education specialist and one of my personal heroes, describes it in this way:


"[The depth and complexity tools] are essential elements one needs to master a subject. For example, chemists need to understand the language of a chemist, the different points of view of in chemistry, the rules that govern chemistry, the ethical decisions chemists face, etc. Likewise, a master of chess would be an expert in the language of chess, the patterns of chess games, the rules to follow, and the way the game has changed over time."


"When students think using these tools, they learn to approach subjects from the point of view of an expert. In doing so, they will understand concepts in a deeper and more complex way." (http://www.byrdseed.com/introducing-depth-and-complexity/)


As a class, we participate regularly in activities that allow us to explore the following mediums of depth and complexity:


Rules

Trends

Patterns

Language

Big Ideas

Questions

Details

Ethics

Points of View

Over Time

Across Disciplines


Exploring information from these flexible perspectives allows every student to be analytical at their own individual levels. This exercise also presents a unique paradigm shift for gifted students as it causes them to interact with concepts in a whole new way. As gifted students gain confidence with the depth and complexity icons, they show a progressively more profound understanding of ideas.

Independent Investigation Method

This is an activity that teaches students the essential steps to successful research; from choosing a subject to presenting a finished product. Gifted students often crave opportunities to be set free to explore a subject they are passionate or curious about and this process does just that in an organized manner. The program has clear guidelines and goals for students to help them as they learn new abilities in research.

Tiered Spelling

A pretest is given on Monday for a prescribed list of grade level words. Students who score 85% or higher are invited to create their own list of words to study for that week. Students use expository texts to find their new words, which provides more challenging words and encourages learning across disciplines. In this way, students who score high on the pretest still have a list that will stretch them to new heights.

Quantum Learning

I have participated in training for Quantum Learning and have incorporated much of the model into my classroom routines. Quantum focuses on foundation, atmosphere, environment, design, and delivery. Woven throughout the Quantum approach is an emphasis on character; educating youth about principles such as integrity, learning from failure, commitment, community, accountability, and flexibility. Specific strategies include: note taking, memory devices, positive affirmations, learning style-specific activities, chunking and reviewing content, the use of graphic organizers and color, and principles of powerful communication. When these principles are embraced by teachers and students, synergy is powerful.


The Great Friday Afternoon Event

The Great Friday Afternoon Event, or GFAE as it is known in our classroom, is an activity that, I hope, inspires creativity and challenges all students to discover new things and gain confidence in front of an audience. Each week, a group of students is assigned one of four tasks: poems, declamations, play, or science in the media. Students collect their materials throughout the week and present them to the class on Friday afternoon. They get quite good at presenting from the podium!

STAR

From the makers of Accelerated Reader, our 4th graders participate regularly in STAR instruction. Based on regular assessments, students are prescribed a specific set of reading and math skills they are ready to develop. Using this data, we can tailor the curriculum to fit their needs. If STAR is showing that a student is ready for 8th grade algebra concepts, when their peers are not, that student will receive individualized instruction to help them master those particular skills. This ensures every student is on track to excel to their maximum potential.

Pursuit of Progress

I am humbled by the trust parents place in me to teach their children. My goal is to invest your trust in my efforts to provide the best education possible for your child. I want you to know that I genuinely love what I do and am constantly learning and applying new ideas to help my students be and do their very best. I have an open door policy and would elicit your feedback as to how I can improve and assist you in advancing your child to their next level of achievement. Together, I believe we can do great things to inspire your child to do incredible things.


Yours,


Mr. Daniel Barnes

Resources

Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds
Howard Gardner of The Multiple Intelligence Theory
The Characteristics of Giftedness - Project Linking Learning
Impostor's Syndrome

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