Browse Month: September 2017

Welcome Back! Checklists Aren’t Just for Students

For students, the back-to-school checklist mainly consists of the standard list of supplies, the requisite instructional materials, and maybe a new backpack. Educators, however, have a much more daunting task to prepare for the year. Not only do they have to round up the supplies they need, but they also must create lessons, prepare the classroom, and put in place a plan for ensuring their students come away from the year with a truly educational experience. It’s a few weeks into school now, but we know how chaotic those first weeks can be. We’ve put together our top three suggestions for any educator looking for ways to set their year up for success.

 

Let’s Get Personal

It can be easy to become so focused on the needs of your students the first few months of the year, that you forget to take care of yourself. As you design lesson plans and meet with students and parents, take some time to set personal goals. What do you want to achieve this year? Be it career advancement, personal progress, or even just a focus on improved relationships with your peers, construct a list of ways you want to improve yourself over the next year. Giving yourself something to work towards can improve the overall classroom environment in surprising ways.

Maybe try keeping a journal. Noting and reflecting on your ideas and experiences not only allows you to keep track of the ever-mounting tasks at hand during the school year, but it will also give you a chance to see how far you’ve come at the end of the year. Between goal setting and journal keeping, our hope is that these measures help highlight the impact you are making as an educator.

 

Establish Your Baseline

Most educators have experienced at least one instance in which they worked hard on a lesson plan they loved, only to start over when realizing it was overly ambitious for their students’ skill levels. Using assessments helps educators track their students’ level of knowledge and skills. There are variety of helpful tools geared towards this, all of which have unique approaches. Some teachers may choose to simply have the students conduct a self-assessment, while others may utilize a specific formal assessment (summative, formative, benchmarking, etc.). The key is using whatever tool you have to establish what your students know, where they are in terms of their skill level and to identify a clear path for advancement.

It’s a simple fact that your students are all different in terms of skills and knowledge. There will be some far ahead of the curve while others lag behind. A baseline assessment of your class as a whole will allow you to differentiate your instruction to the needs of your individual students.

 

Establish Benchmarks

While it is important to have goals for yourself as an educator, it is also essential to work out clearly defined benchmarks and progress points that you want your students to reach throughout the year. These benchmarks may be observational, they may be the result of a running record, they may be formal assessment opportunities throughout the year, or they may be a defined set of test scores and portfolio elements. The important thing is that they are clear with target dates and goals to track student progress towards standards mastery allowing you to modify instruction to meet those goals.

 

The goal of the Measuring Up suite of digital and print instructional materials is to provide educators with the tools to assess students, target instruction, and provide each student with adaptive practice at their just-right instructional level. With over 25 years of experience and research backing us, we are dedicated to making student assessments simple for educators, with the goal of testing to track true yearly progress. To learn more about the Measuring Up solutions, visit us online today or contact your local sales representative!

5 Ways Educators Are Using Real World Connections to Bridge the Gap Between Concept and Curriculum

As an educator, there might be one question you dread above all others: “But when am I ever going to use this?”

For many students, understanding how classroom curriculum applies to the real world is notoriously difficult. In areas like English and Mathematics, many students fall into the trap of regurgitating information without really comprehending the underlying framework. To successfully understand and apply these concepts, students must be able to think critically about a subject matter area and draw conclusions about its importance and application.

Generating positive results on end-of-year tests is a function of helping students make real-world connections between what they are being taught in the classroom, and how those ideas frequently impact their own life.

Research conducted by famous educator Edward Dale showed that when students are able to apply curriculum to authentic experiences, knowledge retention skyrockets to over 90%.[1] This is 18x more effective than when they simply listen to teachers or watch a lecture.

Mastery Education, the developers of Measuring Up, created new state-specific, print instructional materials, which utilize real-world connections to support knowledge retention. Learning objectives are tied into existing background knowledge, which encourages students to focus on real-world connections and applications. This creates a better opportunity for students to internalize the information.

If you are interested in applying this methodology in your classroom, here are 5 tips that support a real-world connection philosophy.

  1. Legitimate Tools

Students want to know why something is important to learn. Providing tools for students that help them grasp how the fundamental concepts they are learning will be relevant later on is crucial. Integrating technology with subjects like math can engage students and prove the legitimacy of what they are learning.

 

  1. Culturally Relevant

Students are more likely to retain information if it reflects patterns and statistics they find in their own life. “Research on culturally relevant and responsible instruction clearly shows that knowledge of students’ family, community and socioethnic cultures—their languages, literacy practices, and values—can help teachers address the interests and build on the skills of their students” (p. 254)[2]

  1. A Community Framework

One school with a significant population of ESL students challenged their Spanish class to create a helpful video that would help new students learn more about the school and culture.[3] This project not only challenged students to use correct grammar and learn new words, but it created a context for how learning a new language could help them build lasting relationships.

  1. Current Issues

Using current political and popular issues and news is one way to create a lasting impression with learners. These areas often spark passionate debates that resonate much more than antiquated or abstract examples.

  1. Potential Products

The significant interest in entrepreneurship in the United States has created an opportunity for teachers to show how fundamental concepts can enable innovation. When students are tasked with creating products they care about, they are more likely to see how professions like engineering, business, and finance require a solid education.

 

These are just a few ways that educators can connect lessons with real-world experiences. If you are interested in learning more about how Mastery Education is creating materials for the next generation of learners, click here.

 

 

Sources:

[1] http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/education_futures/2017/03/creating_real-world_connections_and_fostering_college_and_career_readiness.html

[2] https://education.ucf.edu/mirc/docs/pp/FLaRE%20Professional%20Paper%20-%20Culturally%20Competent%20Literacy%20Instruction.pdf

[3] http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/102112/chapters/Making_a_Real-World_Connection.aspx

Are the Tools You Use to Help English-Language Learners Measuring Up?

English Language Learners (ELLs) are the fastest-growing segment of the school-aged population[1] in the U.S. educational system, with many schools needing instructional support to meet the needs of these learners. In places that don’t have large numbers of ELLs and programs to support that population, one could argue it’s even more critical to prepare educators in specializing or modifying instruction to support English learners as they not only learn academic content, but also develop key language acquisition skills.

 

A recent analysis by Taylor & Francis Online[2] suggests that even academic content tests are linguistically complex, using words likely unknown by an ELL. That’s why testing poses unique challenges for this student population. Tailored tools and options for ELLs to allow educators to take a targeted approach and individually connect with each student in order to address their unique needs for instruction.

 

Research in the field of language acquisition[3] suggests that using multiple media to provide visual aids, providing repetition along with additional practice, and highlighting and teaching key vocabulary words are some of the methods that have shown to be effective for enhancing instruction for ELLs. Instruction becomes even more powerful when educators have access to data, which drives instruction and adaptive standards-based practice, in order to target the needs of ELLs.

 

With this challenge in mind, here are some tips for supporting English-Language Learners when preparing for high-stakes testing:

  • Developing oral language skills is critical for the development of literacy skills. In listening to language used in speaking, ELLs use context to figure out what words mean and learn about sentence structure and word order. Oral language and listening skills are a critical step in accessing written language. Educators can encourage this using prompts such as “turn and talk” and pairing students to discuss reading passages or verbalize how they worked through a problem.
  • Academic language differs from conversational English in that it is more complex and it is not typically encountered in everyday settings. Effective teaching includes planned speaking practice so that students have both formal and informal practice using academic English.
  • Students may struggle to use linking words and phrases such as “because,” “therefore,” and “for example” to connect opinions to reasons. Remind students that linking words and phrases help them connect ideas and sentences, which allows readers to follow what they are trying to say or write.
  • Some ELLs may need extra help coming up with different ways to state their opinions. Give them several sentence starters like “I believe…” “I think…” and “My opinion is…”
  • When teaching math, use visual aids. For example, to show examples of fractions, divide a whole circle into equal parts.
  • Develop writing skills by allowing students to jot down notes before beginning formal writing. In this way, students can build from writing fragments to forming sentences, constructing paragraphs, and finally to writing full essays.

 

Seeing growth and improvement can be a huge motivator for an ELL student. But educators won’t know if growth is taking place if it’s not measured. Regular student benchmarking can show not only what they’ve learned, but give educators the tools to plan future lessons. Utilizing portfolios to show writing progress over time can also be a great motivator.

 

In addition, ELLs need support to prepare for and thrive during high-stakes testing. The Measuring Up suite of print and digital solutions prepares all students for their state assessments, and further supports educators with teaching tips and guidance for ELL in the state-specific instructional worktexts.

 

Mastery Education, the creators of Measuring Up, constantly strives to provide richer and deeper learning experiences to prepare students of all backgrounds, including ELLs, for the challenges of mastering today’s standards and unlocking all the possibilities of a brilliant future.

 

Choose a partner that evolves with the ever-changing education landscape. To learn more, visit MasteryEducation.com today!

 

Sources:

[1] http://edglossary.org/english-language-learner/

[2] http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00405841003626619

[3] http://www.cal.org/create/publications/briefs/effective-practices-for-increasing-the-achievement-of-english-learners.html

Six Unique Exit Tickets to Use with Your Students

An exit ticket can be an effective way to determine if students are understanding what they are being taught. They provide immediate feedback, while allowing students to reflect on what they have learned, and challenge them to do more than just memorize and recall. Exit tickets can help teachers evaluate their teaching methodology and approach and determine if students are able to retain the learned information. Exit tickets also aid teachers in pinpointing when and where possible gaps in understanding have occurred so that these areas can be retaught.

Most exit tickets typically include only a few quick questions and that can be effective in supporting educators. In fact, we provide those within our Measuring Up worktext lessons. For those educators who want additional, creative exit tickets, the following suggestions can be used with your students:

 

  1. Make it Personal

Make the exit ticket relevant to their lives – if the math lesson is about area, students can measure their own rooms or houses. Have them bring in pictures of their room along with the worked equation. For ELA, have them write a story about something related to the lesson that is meaningful to them. Tying in real-world scenarios and helping students make connections from the lesson to their lives is critical to deepen understanding.

  1. Use Social Media

Most students are active on various social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook. If you school infrastructure allows for social media access, tweet questions and have students respond on Twitter, or post graphics on Instagram or Facebook and ask for comments to answer.

  1. The Rap Battle

Challenge students to create a rap about the day’s lesson with extra credit earned for a performance! Variations can include haikus and short poems.

  1. A Trip to the Movies

Students can craft a movie title and description based on the lesson, and then create a marquee poster for their film! Maybe provide your students with some popcorn too as an incentive.

  1. Send a Postcard

Students can create a postcard inspired by the topic. They can write about what they learned, or even ask questions. Make a mailbox for them to “mail” the postcards as they exit the classroom.

 

Measuring Up is a state-customized blended solution that offers standards-based print instruction as well as a digital component that delivers diagnostic/formative assessment and adaptive practice. The lesson format from the Measuring Up print instructional worktexts easily allows the teacher to introduce, review and practice on a targeted standard. The lesson activities can be used as exit tickets. The digital component also provides another way to create exit tickets easy and quickly for teachers. We believe exit tickets are just one more way to prepare students for the rigors of high-stakes assessments and provide educators with the tools they need to measure understanding and target remediation where necessary. For additional ideas, we love those suggested at Edutopia, and encourage you to develop your own too. Let us know what has worked for you here on our blog.

To learn more about Measuring Up and how it helps students build standards mastery, visit us at masteryeducation.com today!

 


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