Computer Coding: An Essential Skill

We all wonder what our students and children will face in the future.  How will they be successful, what kind of work will there be for them, what skills are necessary to be able to be successful?  These questions are at the heart of everything we do!  We know that students need to be creative, able to problem solve and think critically.  Also, we know that our curriculum and our classrooms should be inclusive of technology.  But what about understanding where it all stems from?  What are we doing about that?  We need to realize that computer software coding is an essential skill that will be necessary for success. We need to be able to address this in our classrooms.

Here is a link to a wonderful video, where world class athletes, musicians and great business people, discuss the importance to this very skill.

Well, what does that mean for us? Visit the website www.code.org and find out how students can learn to code in elementary schools, how they can develop their critical thinking skills and problem solving skills. Share with us what you think and what you have tried.  It is never too late for anyone to learn to code!

 

The Tuesday 12: 12 Resources All About Descriptive Feedback!

In this week’s edition of The Tuesday 12, we’ll be looking at resources to help teachers understand and incorporate descriptive feedback on a regular basis.  Just click on the links below to be taken to the resource.

1. “Descriptive Feedback” (video)

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to view the abundance of resources on the EduGAINS website, then I highly suggest you check it out right away! If you are struggling with assessment for and as learning, then this site has so many resources for your teaching and learning.

2. “Descriptive Feedback Fosters Improved Student Learning” (article)

This short two page article illustrates the importance of feedback by telling the story of one school’s journey to apply meaningful feedback (aside: this school is part of our board!).  Tips are given at the end to help teachers incorporate descriptive feedback in their classes.

3. “Descriptive Feedback at Winona” (blog post)

In this blog post, three different tools are used to provide descriptive feedback: Livescribe Pen, Google Docs, and Snowball Mic.  I like how technology is being used as the vehicle for providing descriptive feedback.

4. “A Focus on Informed Assessment Practices Webcast #3” (slideshow)

If you’re still unsure about assessment for learning, this slideshow takes you through the six areas of assessment for learning and provides examples of effective descriptive feedback.

5. “Feed Back…Feed Forward: Using Assessment to Boost Literacy Learning” (article)

I found this article by Anne Davies effective because it uses an example of a teacher going through the process of providing descriptive feedback with her students and how they together develop a list of “what good readers do” and then they created a recording sheet together.  What a meaningful and engaging way to make students active leaners and contributors!

6. “Descriptive Feedback Examples” (chart)

This chart provides three sample teacher comments for three different Social Studies assignments.  You’ll notice that for each teacher comment, it is directly tied to the specific curriculum expectation.  The comments provide positive aspects of the students work, as well as points of reflection, next steps, and areas to consider.

7. “Teachers Demonstrate Effective Descriptive Feedback” (video)

A great video to display descriptive feedback in action!

8. “Types of Feedback and Their Purposes” (Chapter 2 in the book “How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students”)

Susan M. Brookhart provides detailed information regarding various dimensions of feedback, including timing, amount, mode, and audience. For each dimension, she provides examples of good and bad feedback with a discussion explaining each set.

9. “Do You Coach or Do You Judge?” (blog post)

A great article about the key differences between assessment for learning (similar to the role of a coach) and assessment of learning (similar to the role of a judge).

10. “Lucy West: Why Feedback?” (video)

You all know by now how much I love Lucy West! The first video on the page is about feedback, but I’d watch all of them if I were you…Lucy West is that great!

11. “Let’s Talk Assessment…” (newsletter)

This is absolutely fantastic! It summarizes everything you need to know about effective feedback!

12. “Teaching and Learning; What works best” (research article)

A very thorough research article that looks at the impact various teaching innovations and methods have on student learning.  It references John Hattie’s research in 1992, which shows that the “most powerful single moderator that enhances achievement is feedback. The most simple prescription for improving education must be ‘dollops of feedback’” (p.4).

Atherton J S (2011) Teaching and Learning; What works best [On-line: UK] retrieved 4 March 2013 from http://www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/what_works.htm
Read more: What works best http://www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/what_works.htm#ixzz2MdWsMCXP
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

Filmpossible: Bringing Visibility to Disability! View and Vote Please!

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is “Canada’s largest children’s rehabilitation hospital. [Their] vision is to create a world of possibility for kids with disability.  [They] pioneer treatments, technologies, therapies and real-world programs that give children with disabilities the tools to participate fully in life.” (source)

Our school has a Multiple Exceptionalities (M.E.) Class for students with special needs.  Our school’s goal is to allow these students to have a safe and nurturing space to grow and develop to their full potential and learn essential life skills, all while having the opportunity to be integrated with their peers as often as possible.  We are lucky and honoured to have an M.E. class at our school because we are given the opportunity to see first-hand how much our students CAN do and the amazing goals they achieve each day.

Our students are even luckier to have such dedicated, caring, and supportive people working with them.  Their teacher (Michelle) and educational assistants are so proud of their achievements that they have entered them in Holland Bloorview’s filmpossible 2013, an online video and photo contest to bring visibility to disability .

The theme of their video (WE CAN) is to show the world all the things our students CAN achieve, instead of focusing on things that they can’t do. It is truly inspirational.

Please consider voting for their video, so that they are able to win filmpossible 2013! To vote, simply go to filmpossible.ca, sign up for an account, click on “WE CAN” video, and vote each day!

Thank you so much!!

Please click on this link to vote!  “WE CAN” VIDEO

Voting for Round 1 is open until March 25, 2013. Please consider voting for “WE CAN” as often as possible!

Grade 4/5 Science Unit: Pulleys and Gears & Forces acting Upon Structures and Mechanisms

Gr 4:5 badgeWe have been hard at work!  Here is another great science unit for Grades 4/5.  Our first unit on Habitats and Communities and Human Organ Systems was a great success.  With great feedback from other teachers, we know that you find our products engaging, thorough and distinguished!

This new unit is a cross curricular Gr. 4/5 Science Unit  which allows teachers to meet the Ontario Science curriculum expectations all the while teaching a split grade!  Our science unit: Pulleys and Gears (4) & Forces Acting Upon Structures and Mechanisms(5)  combines the following overall big ideas:

  • Machines, mechanisms, and structures are designed to improve efficiency or simplify tasks
  • Forces act on and within structures and mechanisms
  • Mechanical systems have various impacts on society and the environment

Our Lessons include the following:

  • Learning centres: students work in small groups or individually to rotate between four centres over the course of the activity (four types of centre activities: technology, reading/writing activity, creative response, and a fun or hands-on activity);
  • Whole class lesson/discussion followed by either small group activities or whole class activity

Our unit is cross-curricular and integrates the following subjects:

  • Language Arts (Reading, Writing, Oral Communication, Media Literacy)
  • Math
  • 21st Century Learning
  • Art

We have many activities that are both engaging and active.  Differentiated instruction is also key and diverse assessment methods are incorporated.  We hope you find this unit useful for your classroom.

Here is a preview of our Gr 4/5 Science Unit.  Click on the picture above and you will be taken right to the full product!

Part 3 of 3: Music and the Social and Emotional Development of the Child

Music and the Social and Emotional Development of the Child

This is the last part of a 3 – part post.  Music has always fascinated me and to understand that it has great value in the physical, cognitive and emotional development of a person makes it more intriguing.  My first two posts were entitled:  The Effects of Music on the Brain and Music and its Value in Education (click on the links to be brought to those posts), todays post discusses how Music develops the child socially and emotionally.   The basic reason that every child must have an education in music is that music is intrinsically woven into our daily lives and within society as a whole.  Every human culture uses music to carry forward its ideals and concepts.  Music possesses the ability to shape individual abilities and character and contributes to broadening the students’ understanding and appreciation of the world around them. Through music, educators can introduce students to the richness and diversity of the social constructs of the world.   It allows for the development of  “self esteem as a learner, long-term pursuit, empathy, self assessment, peer and parent collaboration” (New England LTM Conservatory, 2003, p.12).  Studying music encourages self-discipline and diligence, traits that carry over into intellectual pursuits, which lead to effective study and work habits. Essentially, we as educators must realize that music is about communication, creativity and cooperation and by integrating music within the school, our students will have the opportunity to build on these skills, enrich their lives and experience the world from a new perspective.

We hope that you find today’s post and the previous posts of value.  Have you attempted to integrate Music into your curriculum delivery?  What suggestions, advise or ideas do you have?  Share, so together we can grow and learn.

 

Part 2 of 3: Music and its Value in Education

Music and its Value in EducationIn my previous post, The Effects of Music on the Brain, we discussed how music helps develop the brain by building connectivity between the two hemispheres.  In this post, we discuss how this knowledge helps us to understand its value in Education.

Every stimulus that is inputted into our senses allows for us, as humans, to interpret information and to generate new information.  We can use all of our receptors or only one, but regardless of which one, the brain will allow us to interpret, deduce, recall or create information ourselves stimulated by external variables.  Also, different people interpret, create, and process this information in varied modes.  As humans we relate it to our environment, our experiences and our life.  What I have experienced is quite different from what another experiences.  When I smell the sweet scent of gardenias, my mind transports me to a place and time that reminds me of where and when the smell of gardenias had an impact on me.  I cannot expect that anyone else would have the same experience as I.  This thought can also be transferred to Music.  I can relate a song to a specific event in my life that no one else has experienced. Maybe that event was a negative occurrence and therefore, I find displeasure in listening to a specific song.  Others have a different reaction to the same song as well.  If information has a certain significance to me, how do I determine whether that significance is personal to me or whether it is actually conveyed in the external information and therefore available to others who receive the same information? How do we communicate those aspects of our knowledge that are personal?  We rely on a system of symbols that helps us communicate, our language.

The successful acquisition of reading and writing in early childhood depends on a solid background in oral language skills. Oral language is an interactive and social process, and music is a natural way for children to experience rich language in a pleasurable way.   Young children are naturally at ease with sound and rhythm.  Besides providing enjoyment, music can play an important role in language and literacy development.  Strong social bonds are encouraged through music and songs beginning in preschool.  Toddlers can begin to experiment with grammatical rules and various rhyming patterns in songs and other written text.

Establishing a sense of rhythm can be used to increase a student’s awareness of rhyming patterns and alliteration in other areas of reading and writing.  Through music, “memory skills can be improved, and aural discrimination increased” (Chong & Gan, 1997, p.98). Music can focus the mind on the sounds being perceived and promote learning through an interactive process.  It is important in teaching early childhood students to be conscious of auditory and discrimination skills.  Music and songs help increase these listening skills in a fun, relaxed manner. As Wolf (1992) stated,  “Listening skills are key in singing, language and expressive movement, and later reading and writing” (p. 92).

Music has always been a way for children to remember stories and learn about the world around them.  Using music as a stimulus can effect one’s emotions and make information easier to remember.  Music also creates an environment that is conducive to learning.  It can reduce stress, increase interest, and set the stage for listening and learning.  As Davies (2000) has noted, “The similarities between literacy acquisition and musical development are many, therefore, teaching that combines music with language arts instruction can be the most effective ”(p. 327).  Furthermore, it is important for emergent readers to experience many connections between literacy in language, music, and in print.

Language in music and language in print have many similarities, such as the use of abstract symbols.  Both oral language and written language can be obtained in the same manner “that is, by using them in a variety of holistic literacy experiences, and building on what the students already know about oral and written language” (Clay, 1993, p. 232).  For example, emergent readers will attempt to read along in a shared reading of a familiar text, just as they will join in a sing along to a familiar song.  Similar to emergent reading and writing which are acquired to drawing and pretending to write, musical learning is connected to song and movement. According to Jalongo & Ribblett (1997), “Children instinctively listen to music and try to identify familiar melodies and rhythms, just as early readers will look for words that sound alike, have patterns, or rhyme” (p. 86). For example, song picture books illustrate how the use of familiar text, predictability, and repetition can encourage children to read.  Using songs put to print can expand vocabulary and knowledge of story structure, as well as build on concepts about print.  Repetition in songs supports and enhances emergent literacy by offering children an opportunity to read higher-leveled text and to read with the music over and over again in a meaningful context.  Print put to music also allows children to build on past experiences, which in turn invites them to participate in reading and singing at the same time.  Brain function is increased when listening to music and studies have shown that music promotes more complex thinking. Basic skills are generally regarded as reading and writing for the communication of thoughts and experiences. Music learned and appreciated enhances the basic skills of thought processes inherent in critical reading and writing.  The positive link that is apparent between reading, writing and music also extends to mathematics.

Rauscher, Len and Shaw, while studying higher brain function found a connection to the brain linking music with improved spatial temporal reasoning abilities.  While music is viewed as a separate intelligence, as per Howard Gardner, there is a high correlation between mathematics and music.  Music involves ratios, regularity and patterns, which are all mathematical concepts.  An example of this is the musical scale, which is a “neat logarithmic progression of frequencies” (Harris, 2002,  p. 3).  There are also similar connections between patterns of notes and patterns of numbers.  With such connections the concept of odd and even numbers are also interplayed. In addition, music enables students to learn multiplication tables and math formulas more easily and through rhythm students learn the concept of fractions at a quicker pace.  The research conducted by Harris (2002) found that “students who were taught using rhythm notation scored 100% higher on fractions tests” (p.8).  Music is able to stimulate children in order to make new connections among music, math, and science activities by encouraging them to probe into what Jeanne Bamberger (2003) terms “underlying conceptual structures and problem-solving strategies”(p. 34) shared among these core subjects. Essentially, concepts embedded in musical activities and their representations can be used in elementary schools to facilitate new understandings of fundamental concepts, processes and representational systems utilized in core curriculum.

Within all academic subjects there are fundamental concepts and processes, which are present within music. There is extensive literature with these correlations and I have highlighted the ones for Language and Mathematics.  The reason for this is due in part that Language and Mathematics are viewed as the back to basic core subjects.  Other benefits and correlations are found in Science, such as “utilizing experimental methods, research skills, systems analysis, investigation and discovery, observation, metamorphosis, cause and effect, and classification” (New England LTM Conservatory, 2003, p. 11).  Such correlations are extended to History, Social Science and Art as well.   Processes such as “time line event ordering, diverse social perspectives, interpretation of events, understanding diverse cultures, expressivity, form, character, colour, design, movement and composition” (New England LTM Conservatory, 2003, p.12) are all found within the context of Music.

Again, we hope that you find this information and research valuable.  The 3rd part of this series is on Music and the Social and Emotional Development of the Child.  Let us know what you think thus far.