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Critical thinking

Innovative Ways to Encourage Writing

Knowledge is meant to be shared. That’s what writing is about–taking what you know and putting it out there for all to see. When students hear the word “writing”, most think paper-and-pencil, maybe word processing, but that’s the vehicle, not the goal. According to state and national standards (even international), writing is expected to “provide evidence in support of opinions”, “examine complex ideas and information clearly and accurately”, and/or “communicate in a way that is appropriate to task, audience, and purpose”. Nowhere do standards dictate a specific tool be used to accomplish the goals.

In fact, the tool students select to share knowledge will depend upon their specific learning style. Imagine if you–the artist who never got beyond stick figures–had to draw a picture that explained the nobility inherent in the Civil War. Would you feel stifled? Would you give up? Now put yourself in the shoes of the student who is dyslexic or challenged by prose as they try to share their knowledge.

When you first bring this up in your class, don’t be surprised if kids have no idea what you’re talking about. Many students think learning starts with the teacher talking and ends with a quiz. Have them take the following surveys:

Both are based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Harold Gardner’s iconic model for mapping out learning modalities such as linguistic, hands-on, kinesthetic, math, verbal, and art. Understanding how they learn explains why they remember more when they write something down or read their notes rather than listening to a lecture. If they learn logically (math), a spreadsheet is a good idea. If they are spatial (art) learners, a drawing program is a better choice.

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Categories: Critical thinking, Education reform, Web Tools, Writing | Tags: | 3 Comments

What is a Growth Mindset?

growth mindsetIt’s no secret many parents are frustrated with public schools. Are kids learning to think or just to pass tests? Are they spending classroom time wisely or just doing what’s always been done? Are we developing lifelong learners or simply kids who can’t wait to graduate?

If this describes you, you’re not alone in your concerns, but there’s hope. Consider a pedagogy that transcends rote memorization and the stock drills often found in today’s classrooms, expects critical thinking that teaches how to learn anything — not just school subjects. It’s called a “Growth Mindset”. In an Edsurge article by Rupa Gupta, former Redesign Administrator at Burnett Middle School in San Jose, Calif., she summarized the issue like this:

“In a recent national survey, 97 percent of teachers agreed that all students can and should have a growth mindset, and that same number said fostering a growth mindset is an important part of a teacher’s job. Yet only 50 percent said they have adequate solutions and strategies to shift mindset.”

So nearly everyone agrees this type of cerebral approach is important to real learning but few know how to make it happen.

What is Growth Mindset?

Let me back up a moment and define “Growth Mindset” more clearly. Most people believe basic human qualities like intelligence and talent are fixed traits: nature supersedes nurture. Kids are born with the characteristics that will mold their future. They are good at math or they aren’t. They can throw a football well or not. As kids grow, they figure out what they can and can’t do and adjust learning and life as needed to these truths. They come to believe that understanding and adapting to this process equates to success.

In a Growth Mindset, people believe ability can be developed through dedication and hard work. The cerebral and physical traits they were born with are just the starting point. Students are responsible for setting the patterns and strategies that allow them to succeed, by evaluating what they can do at any given point and making a plan for learning everything else.

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Categories: Classroom management, Critical thinking, Education reform | Tags: , | 3 Comments

10 Projects to Kickstart Hour of Code

Coding–that geeky subject that confounds students and frightens teachers. Yet, kids who can code are better at logical thinking and problem solving, more independent and self-assured, and more likely to find a job when they graduate. In fact, according to Computer Science Educationby 2020, there will be 1.4 million coding jobs and only 400,000 applicants.

December 4-10, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to coding, programming, and why students should love it. It’s designed to show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator.

Here are ten projects (each, about one hour in length) you can use in your classroom to participate in this wildly popular event:

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Categories: Critical thinking | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Websites for Hour of Code by Grade

hour of codeThis December will again host the Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to programming designed to demystify the subject and show that anyone can be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Last year, almost 300,000 students (age 4-104) participated from over 180 countries and wrote almost 20 billion lines of code. The 200,000+ teachers involved came away believing that, of all their education tools, coding was the best at teaching children to think. It’s easy to see why when you look at fundamental programming concepts:

  • abstraction and symbolism – variables are common in math, but also in education. Tools, toolbars, icons, images all represent something bigger
  • creativity – think outside the box
  • if-then thinking – actions have consequences
  • debugging – write-edit-rewrite; try, fail, try again. When you make a mistake, don’t give up or call an expert. Look at what happened and fix where it went wrong.
  • logic – go through a problem from A to Z
  • sequencing – know what happens when

If you’re planning to participate in Hour of Code, here are a series of activities — broken down by grade — that will kickstart your effort. They can be done individually or in small groups.

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Categories: Critical thinking, Problem solving | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Hour of Code 101

Coding–that mystical geeky subject that confounds students and teachers alike. Confess, when you think of coding, you see:

coding

 

…when you should see

coding

It feels like:

When it should feel like:

December 4-10, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to coding, programming, and why students should love it. It’s designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator.

(more…)

Categories: Critical thinking, Problem solving | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Hour of Code is Coming!

December 4-10, 2017, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to students on coding, programming, and why they should love it, designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Throughout participating websites, you’ll find a variety of self-guided tutorials that say “anybody can do, on a browser, tablet, or smartphone”. You’ll even find unplugged tutorials for classrooms without computers. No experience needed.

Here’s a video to kick things off–you can’t watch this and not get motivated:

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Categories: Critical thinking, Problem solving | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

How the Frayer Model Helps Thousands Learn Vocabulary

Frayer Model flowchartIn a perfect world, vocabulary is learned in context: The phrases and sentences around the unknown word define the meaning. If that isn’t sufficient, students use affixes — prefixes, suffixes, and roots — to decode meaning. But because the world isn’t always that pristine,  Dorothy Frayer and her colleagues at the University of West Virginia came up with a vocabulary teaching tool that has come to be known as “the Frayer Model”. Now used by thousands of educators, this approach to word study relies on analyzing words rather than memorizing definitions. Somewhat like Concept Circles, the Frayer Model uses a graphical organizer that asks students to describe words by much more than a memorized definition. They must:

  • define the term
  • describe essential characteristics
  • provide examples
  • provide non-examples

Because the Frayer Model digs deeply into understanding the word, it promotes critical thinking and a granular familiarity with unfamiliar vocabulary. It draws on a student’s prior knowledge to build connections among new concepts and creates a visual reference by which students learn to compare attributes and examples.

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Categories: Critical thinking, Teaching Strategies, Word study/Vocabulary | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

10 Projects to Kickstart Hour of Code

Coding–that geeky subject that confounds students and frightens teachers. Yet, kids who can code are better at logical thinking and problem solving, more independent and self-assured, and more likely to find a job when they graduate. In fact, according to Computer Science Educationby 2020, there will be 1.4 million coding jobs and only 400,000 applicants.

December 7-13, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to coding, programming, and why students should love it. It’s designed to show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator.

Here are ten projects (each, about one hour in length) you can use in your classroom to participate in this wildly popular event:

(more…)

Categories: Critical thinking | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Hour of Code Website and App Suggestions for K-8

Here are ideas of apps and websites that teachers in my PLN used successfully in the past during Hour of Code:

hour of codeKindergarten

Start kindergartners with problem solving. If they love Legos, they’ll love coding

  1. BotLogic–great for Kindergarten and youngers
  2. Code–learn to code, for students
  3. How to train your robot–a lesson plan from Dr. Techniko
  4. Kodable--great for youngers–learn to code before you can read
  5. hour of codePrimo–a wooden game, for ages 4-7
  6. Program a human robot (unplugged)
  7. Scratch Jr.

1st Grade

  1. Code–learn to code, for students
  2. Espresso Coding–for youngers
  3. Foos–app or desktop; K-1
  4. Hopscotch–programming on the iPad
  5. Primo–a wooden game, for ages 4-7
  6. Scratch Jr.
  7. Tynker

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Categories: Critical thinking, Problem solving | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Hour of Code–What is it?

Coding–that mystical geeky subject that confounds students and teachers alike. Confess, when you think of coding, you see:

coding

 

…when you should see

coding

December 5-11, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to coding, programming, and why students should love it. It’s designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator.

(more…)

Categories: Critical thinking, Problem solving | Tags: , , | 6 Comments