Cures for the Grading Blues: 5 Strategies to Improve Peer Review

Phillips' David Wilson explicitly teaches his students the traits of effective feedback.

Phillips’ David Wilson explicitly teaches his students the traits of effective feedback.

Grading can feel like one of the most cumbersome parts of teaching.  It’s time consuming to provide thoughtful comments and there’s no guarantee that the information will be applied to students’ work. The more students are able to refine their work before it gets to the teacher, the less tedious grading will be.

In theory, peer feedback should save teachers a lot of time and effort. However, the quality of student feedback is not usually up to par with that of the teacher.

Students need to be taught how to provide quality feedback and they need to buy in to the process in order to put forward their best effort.

If students are able to see how their feedback can lead to improvements in their peers’ work and if they can see how feedback from their peers can enhance their own work, then they are more likely to commit to the process of peer feedback.

Here are 5 ways to explicitly teach students how to provide quality peer feedback: Read more

Why Can’t Math Be Fun? Tips to Shift Mindsets and Push Motivation

math-chat“Math is plenty rigorous, but it’s not really fun!,” teachers so often tell me.  Followed by…you guessed it, “What can I do to make math more fun?” The answer seemed simple enough: do more fun things.  

But there’s more to it. As I reflect on the successful math teachers I’ve coached and observed, a trend emerges:When students are perceived to genuinely enjoy math, it has more to do with the classroom environment and culture of learning that the teacher has established than with the actual math.  

This more nuanced view on “fun” raises several questions. What role does the learning environment have on students’ attitudes towards math?  How much does the lack of motivation or knowledge or even the teachers’ approach to instruction contribute to classrooms where students’ engagement is perceived as lacking in effort, participation and persistence?

To some extent, all of these things are important. So let’s chat about all of them! Read more

Cooking with STEAM: 11 Project Tips to Impress the Judges in April

The 7th annual AUSL STEAM Fair is coming up in April!

Here are the basics you need to know:

  • What: STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art (as design), and Mathematics
  • When: April 20, 2018 (9:30am-1:30pm)
  • Where: Collins Academy High School
  • Who: Each school will send their 4th-12th grade winners from their respective fairs to the finals. Elementary schools send one winning project per grade. High Schools send two winning projects per grade. Students may work individually or in pairs.
  • Why: The STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art as design, and mathematics) Fair is a natural setting to promote learning of important academic content (i.e., CCSS and NGSS) and to support student development of 21st century skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving—skills that are in high demand in today’s workforce!
  • How: Check out our STEAM Fair resources here (including example timelines, graphic organizers, and project ideas): 

Read more

Halfway There! It’s a Great Time to Reset Your Classroom Environment

Congratulations! You made it to the halfway point of the school year!

Mr. Myers from Howe School of Excellence greets a student before class starts. It's a small routines like this that contribute to a caring and productive classroom environment.

Mr. Myers from Howe School of Excellence greets a student before class starts. It’s a small routines like this that contribute to a caring and productive classroom environment.

Athletic coaches will often use this halftime opportunity to look back at the first half and give advice for how to improve coming out of the locker room. As a teacher going back into the classroom for a new semester, there are so many aspects where I could coach someone who is looking to flip a bad first half. 

How do you get the most out of this new semester? I have found that focusing on building a better classroom environment is the one area which enjoys the most benefit from the least amount of effort.

It’s so important to build positive trusting relationships with your students, and it’s even a component in the Chicago Framework for Teaching. Domain 2a is specifically about creating an environment of respect and rapport in the classroom.

So how does a new teacher go about building these positive, trusting relationships?   Read more

Stepping Back: 7 Ideas to Transform Student Science Discussions

“The person doing the talking is the person doing the learning.”

stem-blog-121317There is little point in covering material if students don’t have the time to process and internalize it. We need to stop trying to fill students’ brains with so much information and focus on depth over breadth.

Now that we have Google, there is a plethora of information right at our fingers. We don’t need to store random facts in our heads. Carving out time for students to make sense of and apply those facts to new situations will have a much stronger return on investment in the long run.

Not only should teachers NOT be the ones articulating the science content to students (as this only serves to deepen the teachers’ understanding), but they should NOT be the only ones evaluating students’ ideas.

Put the onus on the kids! Read more

STEM Matters: 5 Facts to Share with Parents and Students

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

In the United States there are significantly more job openings in STEM-related than non-STEM occupations. At the same time, there is a shortage of qualified people to fill these careers opportunities. For the U.S. to continue to compete in a global economy and succeed in addressing our environmental challenges, we must do a better job of educating and engaging our students in STEM. It is more important than ever that all students have the foundational knowledge and skills needed to be an informed citizen and to pursue a career in STEM if they so choose.

Here are 5 things to know about the STEM field:

1. STEM is the fastest growing job market: Over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was 3X greater than that of non-STEM jobs (source).3x-block

Looking to the future, the Economics and Statistics Administration and the Center on Education and the Workforce expect the field to increase by another 17 percent.
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Special EDition: DL Professional Learning Continues

The AUSL DL Professional Development Series is Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 2.49.40 PMstill going strong. Session topics this year have included Behavior Management, IEP Development, and Universal Design for Learning. In February, educators from 18 AUSL schools explored the 5 W’s of Progress Monitoring. Progress monitoring is a standardized method of formative assessment that tells us how well students are responding to instruction. The data collected allows practitioners to estimate rates of improvement over time, compare the efficacy of different forms of instruction, and determine when an instructional change is needed. At this session, participants learned how to establish a baseline, set goals, and create a plan to monitor individual student progress. Additionally, several useful sites to guide this process were shared, including the following:

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Special EDition: Behavior Junction, What’s your Function?

The AUSL Diverse Learning Professional Development Series is up and running! The October session, Understanding + Developing High Quality IEPs, was held on October 15 at Phillips High School. Participants attended one of three sessions focused on different aspects of the IEP. Click on the sessions below to access the presentation deck and related materials shared at each session.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 3.43.28 PMThe next DL PD, Changing Challenging Behaviors: Conducting FBAs, will be offered on both November 19 and December 3 from 4:30-6:30pm at Phillips Academy High School. Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) is based on the understanding that all behavior is a form of communication and serves a function. Conducting an FBA is the process of collecting and analyzing data on unwanted behaviors to determine the purpose or function of the behavior. This is the first step toward developing interventions to teach and reinforce more positive behaviors.

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Announcing STEAM Fair 2016: Five Things You Need to Know

STEAM Fair Logo_2015

We are pleased to announce our 5th annual STEAM Fair!

Today’s job market is tough. Applicants significantly outnumber the available jobs. However, companies in the fields of science, technology, and engineering are actually struggling to find skilled workers and are looking abroad to recruit the expertise they need.

It is crucial that students develop the foundational knowledge and skills necessary to pursue whatever career path they desire. The school schedule must reflect the importance of science, engineering, and technology or we will limit ourScreen Shot 2015-11-04 at 11.10.40 AM students’ options for their future. Moreover, we need to do a better job of developing an informed citizenry that can make responsible decisions about the products they purchase, the food they consume, and the politicians for whom they vote. It follows that building our students’ scientific literacy can help to ensure their personal well being, as well as the welfare of their families, communities, and the interconnected world in which we live.

The projects students complete for the STEAM fair should not feel like “an extra thing to do.” The STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art as design, and mathematics) fair is a natural setting to promote learning of important academic content (i.e., CCSS and NGSS) and to support student development of 21st century skills, such as critical thinking a
nd problem solving—skills that are in high demand in today’s workforce!

To assist you with preparing your students for this year’s STEAM fair competition, I present you with…

Read more

Special EDition: Diverse Learning PD Series

All teachers need ongoing opportunities to learn, collaborate, and access resources to most effectively support students. That’s why AUSL is offering a Diverse Learning Professional Development Series during the 2015-2016 school year! These sessions are open to ALL teachers, paraprofessionals, coaches, residents, administrators, and directors in the AUSL network. Registration is required in advance and attendees will receive CPDUs for participating.

Over 50 AUSL educators attended our first session, Catching Em’ Being Good: BMC for Diverse Learners, on September 17 at Phillips High School. Read more