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This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Cheryl Uy, who is currently working as a nursery teacher in the ECC.

She was nominated by her peers for her work in bringing the “Third Teacher” into the classrooms at Mountainside.

What is the “Third Teacher” you ask?

Well, it actually was coined from a small town in Italy, called Reggio Emilia, where they have a constructivist, school based in play.

There are three teachers in this type of school, where the first teacher is the teacher, the second is the parent and the third…

Any guesses?

Students, admin…no it is actually the environment.

Yes, the environment is the third teacher as it teaches the students new things on a daily basis.

1. What did you want your students to know or understand?

That the classroom is really just an extension of the home. I wanted both parents and children to feel cozy, comfortable, and safe. A place where their uniqueness will be appreciated.

You can actually see this when you enter my room as the first thing you enter is the family space. It is all about them. A bookcase, sofa, and plants.

Additionally, I placed the cubbies in the back and filled the space in between with a lot of COOL stuff. However, the most important element is the hook…the fish tank. It always faces the door, as it acts like a magnet for them to enter the room. There are lights, different color objects, and of course the fish.

The children are naturally attracted to it!

2. What skills did you want your students to gain?

Two main things.

First, curiosity.

I put a huge emphasis in the first few weeks that it is ok to touch everything. I tell them this is your space, go for it! Build a city, stand on the table…I want them to be comfortable.

Everything is based is sensorial and tactile as well. This is so important for this age group (2.5-5) as they learn so much through their five senses.

For example, this week we put out dried coffee out on a table and have on average about 5-6 kids who play with it every day. They grab it, let it fall through their fingers, and squish it in their hands. However, the most important element is the smell.

This is an element which was not present in the first semester, as there was only sand.

Second, collaboration and communication.

I want kids to collaborate and communicate, negotiate with friends in whatever space they are in the room.

I actually saw this the first time I entered a “Third Teacher “classroom where 3-years old were respecting each other, not screaming and fighting.

I asked, “How did you do this?”

They responded it was taught to them last year when they were 2-years old.

I was hooked and wanted this in my classrooms.

3. How did you teach this lesson in the past?

I would literally follow a book. A home center, a block center…a scripted way to arrange, my room.

It was very teacher centered and I set everything up without knowing the competencies of the children in advance.

I was already telling the students and parents that “this is my room.”

Back then I really did not have a clear philosophy but knew I wanted the kids to have ownership of learning.

So the search was on…

4. How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?

I actually trained at a Reggio Emilia inspired school in Los Angeles.

I was able to soak in so much information which gave me a good start but kept growing and modifying by consuming more resources, but also experimenting in my classroom every year.

Today, I come in every August to set up and literally get down on all fours so I can see what my future students will see.

I’ve become intentional in setting up their learning space – whilst making sure that the curriculum goals are met. It’s a delicate balance. 🙂

I love the Constructivist model of learning and believe it empowers kids. It puts them in the forefront and makes them the center of the learning.

Again, I want them to not see a classroom, but an extension of the home.

Cozy, comfortable, and safe.

This enables Children to be calm so they can one, communicate, but two, collaborate with each other.

This produces amazing results in their learning.

Lastly, the environment itself has changed my perspective as a teacher. I have learned how to listen and respect their thinking – so I can enable them to express their thoughts visible.

Resources:

Designs for Living and Learning by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter

 

It started as a project…but now it is a regular set activity which kids love!

This week the LI team had the pleasure of interviewing Meaghan Wilson for her “extraordinary” work in providing PE classes for the Nursery students’ at Mountainside.

Her work with the Nursery involves TWO main components.

First, she creates lessons teachers can run on their own and models for the teachers how they can do this at the beginning of the year. However, Meaghan strictly becomes a facilitator and helps identify physical development and motor skills for teachers as the year moves on.

Second, she builds community by incorporating her 7th and 8th grade Life Skills students, who pick a topic or concept they are learning and then demonstrate their mastery by taking it down to a level where a 3-4-year-old understands.

Oh yeah, Meaghan does all of this on her prep, when she is not teaching her own classes.

The results have been noticeable. Pawel, says there is a definite difference since Meagahn has started providing these services. The students are ready to go and ready to learn when they enter Kindergarten, whereas in the past they were not.

For example, Ritu’s son went home and told his parents what the 7th and 8th-grade students taught them about the harmful effect of eating Nutella. This prompted them to make some changes in their diet.

This just highlights how well the 7th and 8th-grade students taught the lesson!

But, on to her responses.

1. What did you want your students to know or understand?

The focus was for ECC students to be more aware of their mental, emotional, and physical states.

The ECC teachers are amazing at helping them create habits already, and I just wanted to come in to help them learn more about how to take care of their bodies.

We work as a team to develop the whole child from a young age.

For my 7th and 8th grade students, it is about cultivating empathy, as they get to see how difficult it is to be a teacher and learn more about themselves in the process.

2. What skills did you want your students to gain? 

For the ECC students, I wanted them to improve their listening and collaborative skills. Additionally, how to better behave and respect their older buddies.

For the MS students, I wanted them to learn how to improve their confidence. Especially the ELL students who are scared to talk in front of their peers, but talk so much in front of ECC kids.

Lastly, I wanted both groups of students to understand how to change their habits bit by bit. Often times students are told you are too young and have time in the future to form quality habits, but I want them to realize they can create these habits now!

3. How did you teach this lesson in the past?

In the past, I would just give a lecture to my MS students and then show them a video. Then, I would have them write a paper for one unit, and then create a presentation for another.

(chuckles)

Pretty amazing to see where we are now.

4. How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?

A lot of it came from research for my doctorate.

I immersed myself in material dealing with Project Based Learning (PBL) and reached out to others who were using the model to improve student learning.

Additionally, I started experimenting with my own lessons and built in a feedback loop so I could gather information from the students’ on how to improve the lessons.

You know, what worked, what didn’t.

This helped ensure the learning for both me and my students and helped us make the necessary changes to get the program where it is today.

I am so glad I was able to start incorporating the PBL model in my life skills class.

It started as a project, but now it is a regular set activity every 8 days, where kids from both ECC and MS love it!

It reminded me of the importance of providing learning experience to help our students become a better version of themselves, whatever age level they are at!

Resources:

Ria and Ritu have vast knowledge about PBLs. They presented at EARCOS about it.

Any class at SIS…all you have to do is step into any class and it is an opportunity to learn. There are so many great teachers and learning happening daily!

 

 

The best way is for teachers to support other teachers

Welcome to another edition of Teachers of SIS Rocks!

This week we want to highlight Rachael MacMillan, a Pre-K 2 teacher at Mountainside.

She was nominated by her peers for her leadership in fostering a strong grade level team.

In her words, “The best way is for teachers to support other teachers.”

1. What did you want your fellow teachers to know or understand?

We are a team, everyone has a place in a team.

It does not matter if you are a team leader or not, you can always help others.

I remember when I was new you always felt behind trying to balance all the daily things you had to complete. This is where a team can come in and help sort these things out.

This helps them get organized and settled as a teacher. Which in turn, allows them to focus on what is important…improving the student learning in the class. Additionally, this makes it easier for the new teacher to give back to the team.

2. What skills did you want your fellow teachers to gain?

Every new person brings something to the table. The more we are able to make them comfortable, the quicker they will be able to add their unique abilities to the students and to our team.

Essentially it is the idea to “pass the buck” or “pay it forward.”

When you are able to give, it will come back to you!

3. How did you lead in the past?

Well, for me it started out at a very young age.

First, there was babysitting. Then I worked as a manager at Dunkin Doughnuts. Through it all, I always was the person to teach and train new people.

Even when I go home for a break now, my mom waits for me to teach her about the newest technologies.

4. How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?

I have always been an introspective person, but this has improved as I have gotten older. This growth came because I grew as an adult, which then impacted my leadership abilities.

Leadership centers around being open, asking questions, and making mistakes.

I am consistently asking myself,

How could I have done that better?

Or, collaborating with other teachers and asking,

How would you have handled that, what would you have done differently?

 These questioning coupled with my calm nature help me get to the root of the problem.

Also, I am not afraid to admit when I make a mistake, as this usually leads to a big learning.

Lastly, is the ability to see everyone as equals. Everybody is human.

I still remember what my mom told me when I was a young child,

 “ Who do you think you are.”

That still reminds me to see everyone eye to eye.

Resources:

Everyone needs a Smart Auntie (a role model who has had more experience, maybe an admin figure).

SIS has been the most collaborative environment I have ever been a part of!

This week we highlight Jaime Bacigalupo and Ceci Gomez-Galvez from Bayside. They have been nominated for their cross-disciplinary and curricular work in bringing about SIS stories.

 

What is SIS stories you ask?

 

It is a platform where students are able to build community and connect with others through storytelling.

 

The inception started when Jaime attended a couple sessions of the famous “Shenzhen Stories” in 2016.

 

She was floored by the power of storytelling, so she spent the summer reflecting about how she could bring this theme into her 10th-grade class.

 

Below are there answers to this innovative student learning.

 

1. What did you want your students to know or understand?

 

Jaime: Largely the power of storytelling. Stories have the power to connect us on a human level and while also building empathy and compassion.

 

Ceci: Our students have been writing personal narratives since the third grade and we wanted them to understand writing and telling stories is more than academics. We wanted all students, especially the quiet ones, to understand this could be a vehicle to share their voice.

 

2. What skills did you want your students to gain? 

 

Jaime: In terms of the English there were two main components. Frist, the writers’ craft, which consisted of mentor texts, short memoirs, deep reading, and annotations. Also, Stylistic approaches used to reach readers.

 

Second, was how to express yourself orally. Different mediums require you to express yourself differently. For example, oral presentations are much more casual than formal presentations.

 

Ceci: We wanted them to show some vulnerability by telling their own story. This, in turn, would allow them to be brave, resilient, and take risks. All things that will help them prepare for their performance tasks in IB Diploma Programme.

 

3. How did you teach this lesson in the past?

 

Jaime: There was NO oral piece, it was only written. Additionally, there was no theme to the lesson, it was really quite open.

 

Essentially it was a narrative snapshot. Although it gave them a lot of flexibility, there was no foundational piece which ran through all of it where we could see same theme branch out in so many different contexts.

 

Lastly, I was the audience. There was no one else!

 

4. How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?

 

Jaime: One word…collaboration. Not just simply talking about things, but building strong relationships to create systems to improve student learning.

 

SIS has been the only school where this level of flexibility and autonomy are provided, which make it such a fertile environment for collaboration.

 

SIS has been the most collaborative environment I have ever been a part of!

 

Teachers are allotted the time and the flexibility to cultivate this environment. I do not know what I would do if I did not have these elements, it would be like not having air to breathe.

 

This strong collaboration is a vehicle which has enhanced my teaching more than it has for many years combined.

 

Furthermore, the collaboration opened up connections even outside of the classroom. Attending Shenzhen Stories had me thinking how I could bring in Trey, founder of Shenzhen Stories.

 

He came in a ran a workshop and gave strategies on the idea surrounding “page and stage.” Additionally, we created a setting which fostered a sense of community; snacks, signs, and furniture.

 

Ceci: Yeah, exactly. For me, it was true co-teaching. That Ying to Yang relationship.

 

Jaime had ideas and I had other ideas and questions. I would ask

 

How can we make the learning better for our students?

How can we make it more interesting?

How can we share it on a bigger stage?

How….

 

These questions led us to create SIS stories. Where we combine the power of storytelling, Voice, and interdisciplinary connections.

 

We already mentioned Trey, but Peter reached out to see how we could incorporate the services to his STEAM students. We started chatting and made the connection that we could use a motherboard which connected letters in the alphabet with buttons that triggered something when touched.

 

We would record each student’s’ golden lines and take professional pictures. Then we would be able to create posters with sensors where buttons will trigger audio files of the golden lines of the students.

 

Jaime: It was awesome!

 

Since the inception of SIS stories, everything has grown organically.

 

And it keeps growing and everything is falling into place.

 

We are actually going to collaborate with 5th graders and take our students over to Parkside to mentor them on the experience.

 

Ceci: What is awesome is the task we started with was for each student had to get up and talk for 5-10 minutes.

 

That is it!

 

However, now it has grown into this amazing thing called SIS stories

 

To think it started with a provocation and text (Persepolis: the story of a childhood) then it connected to the power of storytelling, next student voice, next STEAM, and it continues to grow.

 

Lastly, I want to mention there are many vehicles for empowerment.

 

Vulnerability and modeling what you want your students to create are powerful.

 

Jaime wrote a story herself and told it in front of the students.

This gave them a different perspective and automatically built a sense of community. Students’ were eager to share and also hear the stories of others. It was awesome!

 

A much different result from reading a mentor text published by an author you do not know or have a relationship with.

Students knew right from the beginning they would have an opportunity to share with an authentic audience of their peers and teachers.

 

Both: (Sit back and sigh)…Can’t wait to see where this goes next year!

 

Resources:

 

Peters STEAM class: They are looking for new clients to build products for. Contact them if you need anything in terms of design which requires any STEAM elements. 

I wanted them to have the power to take charge of their own learning!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome back to another installment of TOS Rocks!

This week we have the pleasure of highlight Gina Ballesteros, who is a Learning Support teacher for the Grade 3 team at Parkside.

She found a way to empower students to practice basic skills independent by incorporating QR codes which provided customized tasks.

1. What did you want your students to know or understand?

I wanted to give students agency so they could learn how to practice on their own. Additionally, my goal was for them to build their confidence through this independent practice.

2. What skills did you want your students to gain?

Independence is the main skill I wanted them to gain.

Not to just wait for a teacher to walk them through the process, but having the power to take charge of their own learning.

As a team, we created two system which allowed them to do this.

First, we provided customized tasks where the skills could be tracked. For example, we tracked multiplication skills in mathematics.

Second, we provided tasks just for enrichment, as we found they need to be able to explore on their own as well.

3. How did you teach this lesson in the past?

Physical tools or manipulatives like flashcards and board games were used in the past.

4. How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?

Due to the nature of my role as a Learning Support teacher, I am only able to see a specific group of students two to three times a week.

This makes it challenging to track, identify, and support a large number of students.

Thus I asked,

“How can I best use my strengths to support the needs of language learners to access content in all areas?”

and

“How can I come in as a Learning Support teacher and produce a greater impact on all student learning?”

I am a firm believer in learning efficacy, or the ability to pool the knowledge of a group or team to maximize the output. In our case, we worked as a team and used our strengths so we could help all students learn basic skills independently

Thus, that is what I set out to do. Knowing we (Teachers, TAs, and myself) were all busy and did not have enough time to create physical manipulatives, I searched for other ways we could do this.

We live in the country of QR codes, thus I researched, tinkered, and taught myself how to use QR codes to connect websites, apps, and games to provide customized tasks.

This allowed me to organize and group all the digital resources we had organized as a team. Then, I added a QR code to specific groups of tasks, which then made it super simple for students to scan and work independently.

It has been powerful and the systems we are building are providing support to a greater number of students.

Let me know if you are interested in collaborating and learning about what we are doing, I am more than willing to share.

Resources:

Book: “Visible Learning” by John Hattie

Dives into what has the best effect on learning.

I wanted them to understand they could reach an audience greater than just their peers in class.

Welcome back to Teacher of SIS rocks!

This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Sherri Banner, a third-grade teacher at Parkside.

She started using the student-driven portfolio app Seesaw to turn simple math station reflections into an empowering activity where her students share their learnings to the broader SIS community and the world.

What did you want your students to know or understand?

I wanted them to understand they could reach an audience greater than just their peers in class.

The world is so connected today, and I wanted them to realize the work they create can be shared globally. With one click a person in Mongolia or NY can view and learn from the products of they share.

I wanted them to know that world is large, yet, at the same time, small enough to make educational connections anywhere. Especially, with the technology tools, we have at our disposal.

What skills did you want your students to gain? 

I wanted to highlight three main skills.

First, presentation. I wanted to give all students, especially the shy ones with low voices, an avenue to share their learning.

Second, voice. Both in identifying feeling in a text when reading and also speaking with it in mind.

Third, confidence. I wanted them to be able to share their understanding with their peers, who then could appreciate the insights they came up with. This, in turn, would help them gain confidence in presenting more in other public situations.

How did you teach this lesson in the past?

In the past, I used Kidblogs (taught in first grade).

Although there were pains using it (get to that later) it was a good platform for the students to reflect and share their work. Additionally, it was a way to create transparency with the parents surrounding their child’s work, which I would also show them during conferences.

How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?

It started from using Kidblog. Like I mentioned above there were a lot of pains and friction points for both students and teachers to get on and make a post.

So what do you do…research.

I wanted to a tool that would give my students more agency, while at the same time, provide them with a greater audience than their peers.

Thus, when I saw all the reviews about Seesaw, I knew I found something I could use.

Actually, It seemed too good to be true as everyone said how user-friendly it was, how it could be used iPads, and how it eliminated frictions points of other portfolio tools out there.

I actually started using it as a math center to highlight what they learned that week, but it has transformed into so much more.

Students are now able to take a picture of a piece of work (math, reading, writing…) and then voice over with narration or draw on top of the image to show their understanding in real time with three clicks on an iPad.

It has morphed into a powerful reflection tool for my students and it houses their learning journey.

The students have become quite adept using the tool (along with others). This being paired with my attendance at the Shekou EdTech Summit conference led me to start my own SIT (Student Innovation Team). They are becoming student innovation coaches…watch out MR. K!

The SIT team will help in rolling out new apps to their peers in both our class, but also other third grade classes as well.

Thus, if you want some student innovation team to come to your room to roll out an app, let me know.

Sherri

Resources

Seesaw.me

Educreations – interactive whiteboard where kids can show their learning. Multiple pages and can link within Seesaw

 

“I wanted to foster a new mindset…multiple entry points and avenues to explore”

Welcome to Teacher of SIS, where peers nominate teachers highlighting their practices.

This week we are pleased to have Nadia Erlednson, a Kinder teacher who works at Mountainside campus.

Here are her responses to the questions regarding her lesson.

1. What did you want your students to know or understand?

I really wanted to change the mindset my students had towards mathematics.

Most students, me being one of those for many years, thought math was about solving a single problem by getting one definitive answer.

I wanted to foster a new OPEN mindset about mathematics with my students, where they had multiple entry points and avenues to explore to reach the answer.

This is so important, as every student approaches the problem differently.

Furthermore, this new mindset would foster “patient” mathematics, where students can be introduced to an idea, apply, learn, modify, and keep iterating until they reach their understanding.

2. What skills did you want your students to gain? 

Mathematically, the ability to count and use numbers between 1-10.

More importantly, I wanted them to create their understanding of the problem and what it meant to them within the task of counting.

The Common Core does this and it is what I am passionate about; solving problems in various ways with mathematical skills.

3. How did you teach this lesson in the past?

I feel I have always taught math a little open-ended, but I did not use Digital provocations with this lesson.

Their use has enhanced this lesson tremendously, as before it was a lot of direct instruction where I told them what to do.

Whereas, now, they are able to see the question and try to make meaning of it within the task on their own.

4. How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?

It all starts with my old entrenched beliefs I had about math ( a tear rolling down her cheek).

I was never taught to think of math in an open-ended manner. For me, it was really just something in separate boxes. Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1…

WHY?

Well in high school I took AP Calculus. However, I was a low student in a high class. I tried really hard, but I never had a complete grasp of derivatives and integrals. At the end of the year, you pay to take the test, but my teacher (I still remember this vividly) said,

You can save your money, just don’t take the test

Unfortunately, a lot of adults have similar traumatic stories where they have solidified the idea that they are not a “math person.”

I was awakened to a new reality when I went to a workshop on Inquiry and Mathematics. It changed my life…I cried, actually, there was a group of us on the floor just balling, as we all had these crazy stories of why we had such fixed ideas about math.

This opened me up to a whole new view of math and how it can be taught.

The key takeaway was to keep the task OPEN ended. This allows for multiple entry points and students can create their own understandings within the task they are given. Essentially, individualize instructions and learning.

This opens up so many possibilities.

For example, I am collaborating with a 5th-grade teacher and we give both of our classes the same task. We meet every week and discuss their responses, which are fascinating! Similarities, differences, but all because students were given multiple entry points to the task.

I am passionate about spreading this OPEN-ENDED way of teaching math to both students and teacher, as it will bring a whole new understanding of math and of learning.

Please reach out if you have any questions about Open-ended (inquiry-based) math!

Resources

101qs.com        Digital provocations where you can find pre-made questions to introduce in your lessons. Great for “I see, I think, I wonder.”

Nrich.maths.org       Digital provocations and open-ended tasks.

How to schedule meetings in O365…without emails

Hello, everyone.

How many emails do you think you write in order to schedule a meeting? The average is EIGHT.

30 seconds to a minute per email for each meeting can eat into your precious planning time.

Today, the LI team created a video that walks you through the process of scheduling a meeting within O365 where you do not have to exchange a single email.

Take a look and email us (Alex, Rob, or me) if you have any questions.