Model Schools Conference Updates

The June ’06 Model School Conference in Orlando was a great success. The conference was hosted by Willard Daggett’s International Center for Leadership in Education. As a Senior Consultant for the ICLE, I presented four workshops. I’ve included workshop descriptions and updated handouts below.

I pleased to come home to this email from one of the participants:

Hi Mr. Pappas,
I saw you this week at the model schools conference and attended two of your sessions, the one on Publishing and Strategies for Rigor, Relevance and Reading for High Performing Students. I was completely moved, motivated and excited. …I cannot wait for school to begin again so I can put your ideas and strategies into practice!  I wanted to thank you for reenergizing me and giving me solid strategies that I can take back to the classroom!!! Many thanks,
LaDonna Walker ~ 7th grade language arts teacher

Reinventing High School – A Focus on Instruction. I used a Turning Point audience response system to gather data from over 500 attendees in the session. Here’s an updated version of the PowerPoint which includes the responder data Download pre-con-slides.pdf 1.4MB pdf  Want to know more about TurningPoint response systems? Contact Mike Venrose at mvenrose@turningtechnologies.com Tell him you saw the system in my session at Model Schools. More on my use of TurningPoint.

The Power of Publishing – Academic Success for Struggling Readers and Writers
“This workshop will showcase examples of successful programs that have motivated struggling readers and writers.  The power of publishing enables students to think like writers, to apply their learning strategies and to organize and express their learning. Tips for funding to incorporate the publishing workshop into your academic intervention program make this a viable and cost-effective solution for any district. Participants will also learn simple technology tips that produce great results.” Download Publishing-success-handout.pdf 1.8MB pdf. More online at my website Read > Think > Write > Publish

Rigor, Relevance and Reading for High Performing Students
“Designed for honors / AP level teachers who think that an engaging learning environment is more than an inspired lecture. Learn strategies to enable your students to read, reflect, and write like historians, scientists, mathematicians, and literary critics. Teachers will find out how to support subject area mastery while building student literacy skills in defining, summarizing and analysis.” Download high-performing-handout.pdf  1.5MB pdf. More online at my website Content Reading Strategies that Work

9th Grade Academy – A Small Learning Community That Works
“Boost student achievement with rigor, relevance and literacy strategies for academic success. This workshop traces the success of the ninth grade academy at East Irondequoit CSD, an inner-ring suburb of Rochester NY. High standards, parent partnerships and assessment driven instruction are helping teachers of all disciplines support their subject area while building student literacy skills.”
Download NGA-that-works.pdf 1.5MB pdf. More online at my website Small Learning Communities that Work

Read > Think > Write > Publish – The Power of Student Publishing

I’ve launched a new website Read > Think > Write > Publish to promote publishing, an activity that enables students to think like writers, to apply their learning strategies and to organize and express their learning. The site provides sample student books and writing prompts.

Students at-risk for literacy need immersion in literacy tasks, reading and writing, that replicate the real world because they are the learners who lack the schema that defines literacy in the real world. Without publishing the student does not complete the writing process so they never rise above the level of “school work” to “real work.” They never function as a writer. Literacy must be grounded in the real world to have value.

Publishing student writing encourages the reluctant writer by strengthening self-confidence, rewarding interest and promoting a positive attitude toward writing.
When students publish, they think like writers. They have to problem-solve and make decisions as writers to assume the responsibility of a published writer. This supports them as readers. If they haven’t written themselves, they have trouble analyze another writer’s work. If they have experience they know what to look for and how to evaluate what they see. Publishing is an excellent method to accomplish three central tasks:
• Understand topics thoroughly
• Actively use the information they assemble
• Move knowledge into one’s schema

Teaching American History Grant – “Student as Historian”

This  week I  had the opportunity to work with secondary social studies teachers in Volusia County Florida – a talent group who are participating in a multi-year “Teaching American History Grant.”

The focus of my two-day workshop was the “Student as Historian.”  We practiced strategies that teachers can use to shift their role from teacher as “education dispenser” (gathering, distilling and delivering information); to teacher as “educational architect” who can design classrooms where students do the work of constructing meaning. Lessons were designed to enable students to do the work of historian using a variety of comprehension skills:

Identify details – can you identify key symbols, words, visual elements?
Recognizing context – where is this taking place, time period, who’s involved?
Identify relationships – who are these people, what is their relationship to one another?
Identify opinions – is there a point of view expressed in the source information?
Infer meaning – is there meaning that can be extracted from what’s between the lines?
Make predictions – based on the information, what will happen next?

For demonstration, I assembled a group of documents that students could use to answer essential historic questions. I’ve put the documents and guiding activities online at a temporary web site: Selections from an American History Collection

Is NCLB Narrowing the Curriculum?

A recent report by the Center on Education Policy entitled Is NCLB Narrowing the Curriculum? notes that since the passage of the NCLB, 71 percent of the nation’s 15,000 school districts have reduced the hours of instructional time spent on history, music and other subjects to make more time for reading/language arts and/or math. Twenty-seven percent of the districts reported reduced instructional time in social studies. Twenty-two reported cuts in science and twenty percent reported similar cuts in art /music. I guess the thinking is – if a subject is not tested, why teach it? Or perhaps they think that reading, writing and ‘rithmetic can only happen in English or math class.

Of course these shifts in instruction fall most heavily on low performing students. As if being a struggling learner is not punishment enough, increasing numbers are pulled out of classes that offer hands-on learning and outlets for their creativity. What awaits them is likely “drill and kill’ that doesn’t sound like much fun for students or their teachers.  Daily reading, writing and application of math should be common to every class. Let music students explore the mathematical elements of rhythm and then journal what they had learned.

Educational decision makers haven’t got the news that new technologies have spawned an explosion in creativity that could be harnessed to engage and support learners. They could take a lesson from the folks in Hollywood who are using innovative techniques to shore up the declining youth film audience. New Line Cinema is tapping into the creativity of their audience to promote their new film “Take the Lead” starring Antonio Banderas as a professional dancer who volunteers to teach NYC school kids all the moves. 

The Take the Lead  website includes a do-it-yourself music video maker. The viewer gets to select from a variety of images and sound styles and create their own movie trailer. They can enter it to win free stuff – like iPods. More importantly to the filmmakers – viewers can email their digital “mash-up” to friends to show off their emerging skills a music video auteur. Viral marketing at work.

Smothering struggling readers with remedial classes isn’t the answer. Instead educators might want to talk with designers of the “Take the Lead” music video maker. They said, “the goal is to encourage consumers to make a proactive decision to engage with the content… You can’t force-feed younger movie goers with traditional top down advertising…it’s all about giving these kids our trailers, our songs and letting them take control… our assets become their assets and that’s how they become fans of the movie.” Going Unconventional to Market Movies, NY Times 4.6.06

Glad to see that someone knows that engagement beats drill and kill.

For an update on this theme click here.

Exploring Landmark Supreme Court Cases: A Document-Based Questions Approach.

nine members of the Supreme Court of the United States

Peter Pappas will serve as an advisor to the Bill of Rights Institute – the recipient of a 2006 National Endowment for the Humanities “We the People” grant. The Arlington Virginia-based institute received $190,000 to develop Exploring Landmark Supreme Court Cases: A Document-Based Questions Approach a teacher resource book and web-based component to bring the intellectual arguments of landmark Supreme Court cases into the classroom.  This resource book will use a document-based questions approach to help the next generation comprehend these ideas and see how abstract constitutional principles are applied in specific situations and how the U.S. Constitution continues to affect their lives.

He will join a team nationally-recognized scholars and educational consultants taking part in the intellectual development of the project; providing guidance and review of the Institute staff’s work in creating the document-based questions; and writing a 500 page introductory essay about the pedagogical effectiveness of document-based questions. His award winning website, Teaching with Documents has long a been a leading resource for document-based instruction.

This important project is designed to help high school American History and Civics teachers develop in their students a deeper understanding of the documentary history and enduring significance of landmark Supreme Court cases. “We are taking a thematic approach to the cases, such as the role of federal courts and students and the Constitution,” said Claire McCaffery Griffin, the Institute’s vice president of education programs. The lesson plans will cover 19 landmark cases frequently cited in state standards and often referenced in U.S. History and Government textbooks.  The cases will deal with the six constitutional issues: “The Role of the Federal Courts,”  “Equal Protection and Affirmative Action,” “The Rights of the Accused,” “Students and the Constitution,” “Expansion of Expression,” and “Personal Liberty.”

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