Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mrs. Hebert is Bringing Her Students' Art into the 21st Century

Mrs. Hebert, RAMS art teacher, has revamped her curriculum at Adams this year with "Teaching for Artistic Behavior," or  “TAB”. This curriculum framework emphasizes student choice, teaches artistic techniques rather than projects, and encourages students to make original work while developing creative thinking. She has also been leveraging technology to make her classes more relevant and engaging for her students. This has included the creation of instructional videos and the use of her website to feature student artwork.
In addition, Mrs. Hebert has developed an online portfolio program using Artsonia, an amazing platform for storing and sharing student work. Traditionally, portfolios in the visual arts have been used to showcase an artist’s best work. For 21st century learners, digital portfolios are an effective assessment tool, providing evidence of growth, documentation of student process, creating an opportunity for self reflection and ease of sharing with a larger audience.  Parents are able to view their son/daughter’s work as soon as they upload it. This allows each individual student to view their progress over time and to think about potential areas of improvement.

Throughout the year, as students complete W.O.W. pieces (Wonderful, Original Works of Art), they are use class iPads to scan the RAMS  artsonia QR code. This connects the student with their digital portfolio, and they can upload a digital photo of the artwork. After editing the image, the student can add an artist’s statement, an important reflective step in the creative process, explaining their techniques, materials, challenges, inspiration, etc.

Click here for more information about Artsonia.

Differentiated Instruction

First grade teachers Mrs. Wipfler, Mrs. Berman and Mrs. Bourque created a WIN (What I Need) block for their students based on assessment data.  Upon completion of a place value unit in Math, they administered  an end of unit assessment.  The teachers used Excel to do an item analysis of student data. They used these results to differentiate their instruction and  target skills for each child.

Three groups were formed.  
The Strategic Intervention group had difficulty with the concept and were in need of a concrete learning experience.  The students used manipulatives for a reteaching lesson.  Manipulatives have both a visual and tactile appeal and help to present the concepts explicitly.
The On Level group understood the concept but could benefit from continued practice.  They participated in a cooperative learning game from our online EnvisionMath program (the Core Math program).
The Advanced group demonstrated mastery of the unit and were assigned an App (Kids Math Place Value) on the Nexus 7 tablets. This extension activity provided students the opportunity to engage in challenging lessons.

The use of technology allowed the teachers to assess students' needs and then vary the complexity level of the activities. It helped them address student variables by manipulating level of difficulty of the content.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Literacy Portfolio in Ms. Mazzola's HHS Special Education Class

Students in Ms. Mazzola's Language, Literacy, and Composition special education class have been using Google Sites to create online learning portfolios of literacy strategies.

Throughout the year, students acquire and develop specialized strategies for reading, writing, and listening that they can use in the core and elective classes. As the year progresses, students add these strategies to their Google Site portfolio, organized and accessible whenever they need them.

The students get trained in how to create and customize the website/portfolios themselves, and they are in charge of managing its contents, adding new reading, writing, or listening strategies, and referring back to the portfolio when they need it. They are learning 21st Century web development skills at the same time that they are enhancing their ELA literacy, and are creating portfolios that they can use from year to year.

Virtual Coffee Talks at RAMS

In an effort to expand Adams' administrators ability to communicate in alternative ways with parents, Mr. Botelho and Mr. Jordan have participated in two online video forums to answer questions submitted by parents. The video feed of the coffee talk was hosted with Google Hangouts on Air, which produces a Youtube link for viewing. Parents submitted questions with a Google form so that we were able to view questions in real time.

There will always be a place for face to face meetings, but this has provided a nice occasional option for parents who struggle to attend in-person events. In addition, the Hangout on Air platform provides a recording of the event so that it can be viewed later.

Watch our past virtual coffee talks:

November 4. 2015
Topics discussed:
1:49 club ideas
6:04 make-up tests
6:55 retakes for poor grades
8:43 field trips
12:52 school hours
14:22 5 day cycle
16:30 online portfolios
17:30 arts portfolios
18:28 wellness
20:30 scheduling tests and projects
21:20 student stress
22:45 homework
31:00 technology
38:10 plants in lobby
41:15 block scheduling
44:30 why Chromebooks?
48:42 parent/teacher conferences
52:30 homework limits
56:00 web monitoring of Chromebooks
57:00 drug and alcohol education
58:10 Internet work on snow days
February 9, 2016
Topics discussed:
1:00 MCAS schedule
4:27 iParent
5:25 student stress task force
6:56 homework survey
8:06 advice for parents regarding Chromebooks
11:05 teacher use of technology during class
11:35 spelling bee
12:42 notification system
14:02 date reminders
15:22 budget new initiatives
21:15 9th grade Chromebooks?
22:02 assessment retakes
25:35 Chromebooks over the summer?
27:17 homework policies
35:00 homework survey
35:50 student stress
37:37 why different Chromebook each year
38:05 Spring musical
40:10 general technology issues

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Using Data to Improve Learning

Holliston teachers from across the district are participating in a data course taught by STEM Specialist Pat Rourke.  This fifteen session course, “Using Data to Improve Learning”, provides the tools that educators need to function as effective improvement teams. Participants have learned to collaboratively analyze classroom data and use it to plan and monitor instruction which leads to targeted student improvement.

Participants explore the skills necessary to lead or participate in Data Teams, learn the roles and protocols in a Data Team process, research district data resources, prepare materials for an actual Data Team, identify student problems, verify the cause of problems and develop progress monitoring plans to execute in a collaborative learning community.   Google Drive is used to collaborate on projects and share the work that they have done including their spreadsheet analysis.

At the Primary Level a second grade teacher is using Accelerated Reader to help motivate her students to read more.  She is collecting data and uses the analysis to encourage students, communicate the progress with parents, and celebrate the progress each student is making.

At the Intermediate Level a special education teacher is monitoring students' use of content vocabulary in math in both verbal and written activities.  She rewards them for the correct use of mathematical vocabulary while encouraging students to use more of their language skills

At the High School Level a French teacher analyzed the language ability of her class at the beginning of the course and compared it with the advanced work at the end.  Her data collection led to identifying relationships between verb awareness and usage.  That data was used to adjust her curriculum and increase work on verbs at the beginning of her course.

Collaboration Across Grade Levels

Mrs. Blackington’s second grade class and Mr.Jewett’s fourth grade class have participated in a Book Buddies program all year. Each week the two classes come together to read and participate in class discussions with their respective buddies.

Enter: Chromebook carts. With the acquisition of two Chromebook carts per grade from 2nd grade to 5th, the scope of Book Buddies has broadened exponentially. Last week the two classes came together to collaborate on a Chromebook project. The fourth grade “experts” provided guidance and knowledge to the novice 2nd grade students.

Mrs. Blackington and Mr. Jewett read the book “What I like About Me”. Using Google Drawing as their tool, the students created a Venn Diagram highlighting the differences and similarities between the two buddies. The students talked about their likes and dislikes; the things they have in common and ways in which they differ. The lesson brought the students together and helped them make connections with one another

In addition the second grade students had their first official lesson in Google Drive. With the assistance of their fourth grade buddies they learned how to:
  • Use the keypad as a mouse
  • Navigate to Google Drive
  • Create a Google Document (in this case a Drawing)
  • Share their creation (through Google Drive) with their buddy and teacher
  • Collaborate with their buddy in real time
  • Create a Venn Diagram digitally

The second grade students are vested in learning when they are taught by their fourth grade role models.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Book Reports 2.0

Ms. Cormier's class recently completed a book report project that used digital technology to bring this traditional assignment into the 21st century. A traditional book report usually consists of an extended writing assignment, perhaps with an accompanying classroom presentation. In this case, the goal of gauging student understanding of a text is achieved in a more engaging and relevant manner.

First, students, used a Google form to review the book for their classmates paying particular attention to comparable texts,. Using the Google form allowed students to read their classmates reviews to find additional books to read.

Second, students used digital word clouds to represent the main idea of the book. In this way, shape, color, and text work together to create meaning. It is also another way for students to get a sense of their interest in a book.

New Computer Science Class at HHS

Students in Mr. Tom Levesque's new Exploring Computer Science class are gaining new insights into how computer technology works and how it impacts modern life. Topics include:
  • Human Computer Interaction
  • Problem Solving
  • Web Design
  • Programming
  • Computing
  • Data Analysis
  • Robotics
Students use their new understanding in practical projects, such as researching components to assemble a customized computer build, and construction of a website.

Because the class is new in 2016, students are helping to develop the curriculum and direction of the course to personalize their own experience.  

Forum discussions in HHS English classes

Teachers in several HHS classes use Moodle Forums to allow students to participate in after-class discussions with each other and with their teachers.

For example, in Ms. Finnegan's Essay Writing class, quality development of a research paper requires in depth individualized feedback between teacher and the students. Ms. Finnegan's student post topics, themes, and ideas in the forum, and Ms. Finnegan can provide suggestions and critiques. Because this is a forum, students can benefit from suggestions made to other students as well.

HHS Music Technology Lab

HHS students use the new Music Technology Lab to create, compose, arrange, and understand musical works.

The lab, used in classes taught by Mr. Bilodeau and Mr. Britton, uses high-end Mac computers with attached MIDI keyboards. These computers allow students to enter music into music-writing software for student and high-quality rendering for playback.

Equipment for the Music Technology Lab was purchased with funds from a number of fundraisers.