Engage Your Audience with a Response System

Turning Point ARS
Turning Point ARS

I’ve always found it ironic that I give large-group presentations promoting techniques to create a more student-centered classroom. Few teachers are inspired by a lecture on “Rigor and Relevance in the Classroom,” so I’m always using new approaches to engage my audience. Recently I’ve tried audience / student response systems (ARS / STS) in my professional development workshops. Judging from teacher feedback – its working.

So far, my favorite ARS is TurningPoint from Turning Technologies. It integrates into Microsoft PowerPoint and is quick to learn. It allows me to pose questions in my presentation, rapidly gather audience response via small RF keypads, and graph their responses into my PowerPoint presentation. I appreciate the quick set up – I open my laptop, plug in the RF receiver, pass out the keypads and go. After a few ice-breaker questions, audiences are comfortable using the responders.

For a sample of the system in action, here’s a 55 minute RealPlayer video of a conference presentation I did for the Oregon Dept of Eductation called “9th Grade Academy – A Small Learning Community that Works.” All members of the audience had responders and you can see how quickly we gathered data. If you need RealPlayer click here.

The right mix of presentation material and reflection can ramp up true-false, multiple choice and likert scales questions into a higher-order experience. In a recent “Content Reading Strategies” workshop, I teachers used the ARS to evaluate the strategies I was promoting – is it engaging for the student, does it support content mastery, will it be easy to use?

The quality of the discussion was dramatically improved. Teacher had a sense of how their peers felt and openly voiced their opinion on “why” they voted that way. The ARS helped us uncover a solid level of support that empowered their instructional leadership team to move forward.

Teacher evaluations of the ARS workshops consistently point to greater engagement, a better understanding in the material and livelier discussion. That works for me. Stop back for more of my feedback on the system. If teacher are this engaged, what it would do for students in the classroom?

Literacy Strategies for the Multi-Ability Classroom: Part III

This week I’m beginning a new series of workshops for teachers from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services – a dedicated group of teachers with a strong commitment to helping their students build motivation, positive self image and academic skills. The goal is to share strategies for working with struggling readers in multi-ability classrooms in juvenile detention facilities around the state. This is the first of a three-part series designed to address the wide variety of student reading levels in their classrooms. They will return to two follow up workshop in March and April with samples of student work to assist us all in discussing what worked and what was less successful. As an incentive for their students, we will “publish” samples of student work in a showcase booklet. We strongly believe that we can motivate struggling readers through the use of student publication projects.

In preparation for the series I have done classroom observation and teacher training at one of the facilities.  Learning specialist, Suzanne Meyer, has observed classes at two others and worked with teachers and students there to complete a sample “student showcase” project. We have worked with Patricia Martin, an ELA / Reading specialist to select 18 learning strategies designed to simultaneously work with three common types of struggling readers you have in their classrooms
“Non-readers”  who lack decoding skills (430KB pdf)
“Word-callers” who can decode, but lack comprehension skills (358KB pdf)
“Turned-off readers” who have the decoding and comprehension skills, but lack motivation or engagement (389KB pdf)

For an earlier draft with more strategies see: Literacy Strategies for the Multi-Ability Classroom: Part II also find tri-fold guides at: Literacy Strategies for the Multi-Ability Classroom, Part I

For more information on my training workshops for students of all ability levels visit my site: Content Reading Strategies that Work

In Search Of the Rigorous Classroom

desks full

It seems that politicians have suddenly discovered that we’re suffering from a high school rigor deficiency. Driven by the economic competitiveness of the “flat world,” numerous states are considering mandates for more rigorous core curricula and increased graduation requirements. New federal legislation puts the US Secretary of Education in the business of setting standards for recognizing “rigorous secondary school program of study.”

Let’s be sure that high school reform isn’t just “more of the same” formulaic and predictable seat time that can already make high school the least engaging part of a student’s day. Graduating with more credits won’t do much for a student’s employment prospects unless high school reform redefines who’s doing the thinking in the classroom.

A competitive workforce is made up of people who can think independently in complex and ambiguous situations where the solutions are not immediately obvious.  Meaningful high school reform must include freeing teachers from mindless test prep. Educators need resources and training to craft a rigorous learning environment where students can function as 21st century professionals – critical thinkers who can effectively collaborate to gather, evaluate, analyze and share information.

image credit: flickr/dcJohn

Ninth Grade Academy Planning Workshop – from “Idea to Implementation.”

There is a growing recognition that ninth graders flourish in the unique environment of a Ninth Grade Academy. These small learning communities improve freshman transitions with a supportive environment, dedicated faculty, counselor and administrator. (Note: See my more recent NGA blog post updates 2007 and 2010. )

Recently, I offered a one-day planning workshop for a consortium of high schools in eastern and central Kentucky. The session was sponsored by the Pike County Schools and the Kentucky Department of Education. The goal of our workshop was to guide NGA design teams from “Idea to Implementation.”

I was joined by Matt Laniak, principal of Eastridge High School at East Irondequoit CSD. Matt and I had collaborated in the design and launch of the NGA – Matt was the it’s founding director and I was then serving as the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Instruction.

Our workshop perspective was "from the frontline,” with activities, resources and discussion to help participants address planning elements – Making use of data, Selection of faculty, Fostering faculty teamwork, Working with feeder schools, Professional development, Curriculum development, Scheduling, Physical plant, Student conduct, Support structures, Partnering with parents, Working with stakeholders.

Participant evaluations suggest it was a highly successful session –
“The workshop had a tremendous impact on our planning, it gave us a blueprint to go by – thank you so much.”
“Engaging, interactive, informative, and very motivational.”
“Real life case studies from presenters who have walked the walk."
“I am so excited to implement the NGA at our school after this workshop. – thank you.”
“Well-organized, the presenters have actually faced the problems we have. So many ideas to make our planning easier.”

Workshop resources include:
Participant Planning Guide 39KB PDF
Q and A – launch a NGA 53KB PDF
PowerPoint Handout 1.1MB PDF

For more resources visit my Small Learning Communities Website and see video interviews with the Ninth Grade Academy students and teachers.

Here's a 55 minute RealPlayer video of a conference presentation I did for the Oregon Dept of Eductation called "9th Grade Academy – A Small Learning Community that Works."  If you need RealPlayer click here.

Literacy Strategies for the Multi-Ability Classroom: Part II

Teachers responded well to my tri-fold guide for struggling readers: Non-Reader, Word Caller and Turned-Off Reader. See: Literacy Strategies for the Multi-Ability Classroom, Part I

To help teachers incorporate literacy strategies in their classrooms, Pat Martin and I went on to develop a series of targeted kits for critical skill development: Tools for the Word Caller (440kb pdf) and Tools for the Turned-Off Reader (460kb pdf). Each kit features eleven tools gathered from research-based practice. The kits feature a guide for the teacher with suggestions on how they can modify each strategy to support even more rigorous and relevant instruction. A reproducible student organizer gives scaffolded responsibility for learning to the student. Students are invited to make each skill part of their reader’s toolbox and reflect on how it improves their comprehension. I’ll be using the kits at teacher’s workshops this month to get feedback from the field. If you use one, let me know how it went. For more resources see my website: Content Reading Strategies that Work

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