As we searched for resources for our upcoming neighborhood/community helpers unit Ms. Cargill went to one of her favorite BCPS One tools: NBC Learn. She stumbled upon a wonderful neighborhood project called “The Wishing Tree”. This tree isn’t just about wishing for toys although you could; it’s about wishing for something more, maybe not even for yourself but knowing you have the right to wish. You need to watch the story on NBC Learn!
In Kindergarten, we strive to teach more than content, we want to teach our children to be caring citizens. We wanted to spread this message of hope and kindness to everyone at Church Lane, so we made a tree! We sent out a flyer to everyone at school encouraging then to first watch the NBC Learn news story and then wish. We are very busy making more tags and branches because everyone is wishing! It feels good to wish but we have found it is even more moving to read the wishes. We don’t have to wish for wonderful students or teacher. The wishes on our tree let us know that that wish has already been granted!
Submitted by Emma Santucci, Sam Skazis, Kristen Listman and Kelly Richards
Third Grade Teachers, Church Lane Elementary School
Any third grader at Church Lane Elementary Technology School in Baltimore can excitedly show you any number of projects that they have created to show their understanding of a wide range of topics. As their teachers, we utilize this tool daily in both English Language Arts and Math instruction in order to engage students, build their independence, differentiate their instruction and reinforce their learning. One day each week our third grade team stays after school for two hours, in addition to our daily 45 minute planning period, to look at student data and third grade standards in order to build meaningful differentiated lessons. Wixie plays a significant part in this process as we integrate it into lessons as part of student independent work, small group targeted instruction and whole group practice. Wixie is an ideal tool for us to use, particularly in our math instruction, as it allows us to push activities out to our students and monitor student progress as they work through a lesson.
As in any classroom, our classrooms are full of diverse students with a variety of learning needs. Our goal is to foster student growth by meeting each student where they are with targeted instruction. Wixie allows us to differentiate instruction. For example, we use the audio feature in Wixie to record our voices reading word problems so that students with reading specific learning disabilities can access the material fairly. They can show what math they know without being penalized or inhibited by their reading struggles. These students can access the material without needing adult assistance, building their confidence and independence.
Additionally, we can easily create Wixies with different tools and individualized objectives for students. We can then purposefully select students to receive the Wixies. For example, when working on the multiplication strategy, using a number line to multiply, some of our students need the support of having a number line available to them in order to multiply. For these students, their objective is to use the number line to show multiplication as repeated addition. Other students, have the objective of creating and using a number line to solve a multiplication sentence. In this case the tools we provide to each student is dependent on their understanding of the concept at the time.
Another way that Wixie can help students build independence and self-determination is by putting anchor charts on slides and pushing them out to students. We will often put anchor charts and teacher examples of math concepts on slides and push them out to students for them to reference as they work. This strategy can be used to help remind students of a previously taught concept or in the introduction of a new topic. For example, when we were beginning to work on time, we knew that students had worked on telling time to the nearest five minutes both in analog and digital form. This is a skill extensively covered in second grade so we did not want to take away from our instruction time to review but did want to activate this previous knowledge before delving deeper into the practice of telling time. Therefore, we put an anchor chart and directions on how to access a video on telling time on a slide, before providing students with practice problems to review the topic. Other times, after a new concept is taught, we will have students work on that topic independently while we meet with small groups. To set students up for success we put guides on their Wixies that help them understand a concept and hopefully clear up misconceptions when we are not readily available to do this for them ourselves. When we taught our students how to use the distributive property to multiply, when the students went to work independently we put the steps to using this property as the first pages. Students could use this as a reference as they worked.
In some ways, Wixie is similar to pen and paper work. At times, we have students type responses on Wixie instead of write them on paper. We can design our own Wixie template with math problems instead of passing out a worksheet with math problems on it. This is a quick way to engage students in practice, particularly when they are working on repetitive math practice than can at times become tedious for children. One of the main ways Wixie is better than pen/paper assignments (and many other technology tools) is that it allows teachers to look at student work in real time without having to go up to the student. For example, teachers can be working with a small group and pull up what someone in another group is working on from their device. We often utilize this feature of Wixie to check in with our students without causing disruption. We can send messages to those students to help challenge their thinking and develop their critical thinking. We also use this strategy to display student work to the class. We pull up student work to display to the class and have students explain their thinking to their classmates. It is a great tool for showing the various ways students think about math and the multiple ways students can approach a problem.
We are entering our third year as a Lighthouse School at Chase Elementary. Over these past three years, we have been given many opportunities to evaluate our role as teachers and how to best meet the needs of our students. With 1:1 devices, we have been able to customize and personalize instruction to meet the needs of all of our students. We can meet them where they are academically. We felt the next step in better instruction was to get students more involved in their learning. We are doing that this year through individualized goal setting with our students.
In our 4th and 5th grade math classes we are having the students look at the data from their MAP assessment taken this fall, past unit assessments, upcoming unit tests, and PARCC skills to determine where each student excels and where he or she has an area of need. After looking at the data, the students set a goal for themselves. For example, “My goal is to improve my understanding of number operations by practicing fractions.” Once the goal is set the students are given multiple opportunities to practice in their identified area of need. During small group rotations, students are able to use digital math programs to play games and view reteach videos that support their area of need and collect data. We then use the data generated from their math practice games and videos to meet with the students again to do a goal check-up every couple of weeks to see how students are doing working towards their goals. We have found that when students take more ownership in their learning, there is more internalized motivation. When the motivation is internalized then it leads to deeper and longer lasting understanding.
Reflections from teachers, administrators, and students at the Lighthouse Schools.