Google Classroom built specifically for education

This is the fourth year I’m using G Suite for Education, but the first year with my 5th graders. I can see a lot of potential working with online documents, as I can easily provide feedback and comments. I can now send all my important messages and reminders there, plus assign homework and classwork. My students are all in one place, each neatly organized in a class.

It was a bit challenging at first as there were too many instructions for creating and sharing documents. Now all they have to do is go to Classroom and see what work they need to do. All the information they need to access is in one place.

Google Classroom is simple to setup and since it was built specifically for education, there are instructional benefits to using it with students. For example, you can use Classroom to send specific assignments to individual students instead of the whole class. This feature allows teachers to provide students with the resources they need when they need them. Classroom also provides the flexibility for group work too. Teachers can promote collaboration and assign work to groups of students using Classroom so learners can work together to complete projects.
Use Classroom to send messages, assign, collect, and grade work, and share learning materials in one single place.

Click on each card below to get started.

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Create an Assignment in Classroom

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Add Links, Videos, and Files to Classroom Assignments

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Add Drive Files to Classroom Assignments

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Viewing Assignments

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Share a Resource Folder in Drive

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Make View-Only Documents for Students to CopySmarter Assignments for All

The Impact of Technology on Teaching. G Suite for Education and Google Classroom.

Think about the impact of technology on your life. Has technology saved you time and made you more efficient? How it might affect or is actually already affecting your teaching.

The role of rote learning has decreased as students have instant access to the world’s knowledge. Students can take ownership of their learning. Additionally, technology helps cater to individual student needs: resources can be personalized for students and teachers can offer digital feedback. Accordingly, technology is a tool to support teachers in their efforts to increase student learning.

G Suite for Education is a suite of tools that can help you increase opportunities for critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity, all while supporting the learning objectives that you have for your students. These tools are free, ad-free, reliable, and secure. They are already used by millions of students in schools around the world. Of course, free is great, but the best thing is that these tools are relevant to students, easy to use, and open doors to many new ways to learn.

G Suite for Education also includes a number of Google products that promote collaboration among students and with their teachers. Students can work together, in class or at home, to complete assignments and group projects. All of their work is auto-saved, and they can even edit without WiFi.

  • Google Docs: documents come to life with smart editing and styling tools to help you easily format text and paragraphs. Choose from thousands of fonts, plus add links, images, drawings, and tables
  • Google Sheets: spreadsheets for analyzing, visualizing, and charting data
  • Google Forms: quick & easy surveys to gather information
  • Google Slides: a presentation tool that makes it easy to tell stories
  • Google Drawings: Graphics and flowchart creation with shapes, text, and images

Additionally G Suite for Education includes tools that can be used to save you time and increase student engagement. These include:

  • Gmail: Email, contacts, tasks, and communications
  • Google Calendar: Scheduling, calendars, and appointments
  • Google Hangouts: Live video conferencing and messaging
  • Google Sites: Webpage creation and publishing
  • Google Groups: Group communication and web forums

Most educators dread using printers and photocopiers, but they’re necessary when you need to make class copies of your documents. All this changes when you use the G Suite for Education. The great advantage is the concept of a live document: there is only one version of it and edits are made in real-time. When you (or someone you are collaborating with) make a change to the document those changes are all saved in the same place for everyone to see.

Communicating information to all members of your classroom community – students, parents and other teachers – is one of the most important yet time-consuming tasks you face as a teacher.

For help, click the icons below.

What Skills Will You Need?

You’re likely already sharing your students’ work with the wider community whether through parent / teacher nights or a display of student artwork on the walls. Communicating to this wider audience is not only important to keep them informed of the success you’re having in your classroom, but it also makes the students’ work more authentic and important:

Create a Google Site

You can create a Google Site by clicking NEW in Google Drive and then selecting More then Google Sites. Give your new file a name and it is automatically saved in your Drive. You can also visit the Sites homepage and click the red + in the bottom right corner.

LEARN HOW

Google Classroom is perfect for copying and sharing docs with your class. You can also use it to distribute and collect assignments effortlessly. Google Classroom saves you time, keeps you organized and helps you communicate with your students. Get started today, with resources, tips and tricks from educators like you.

Acquiring Vocabulary for Young Learners

If learning English seems very challenging, break it down into smaller tasks. For example, your child/student shouldn’t try to learn lots of new words in one go. Instead, they should focus on learning a few new words every week. They will be much more likely to remember them!

Here are some ideas you can try at home or at school.

Free vocabulary picture books and lists

Use these books and lists to encourage young learners to speak, read and write in English

Download Cambridge English Assessment free Pre A1 StartersA1 Movers and A2 Flyers Word List Picture Books.
Download Cambridge English Assessment free vocabulary lists for A2 Key for Schools and B1 Preliminary for Schools.

Learning tips for young learners

Playing fun games

Try learning vocabulary and playing fun games at the same time! For example, you could use the words in the free picture books and vocabulary lists to play Charades or Pictionary.
Look at the vocabulary pictures together. For example, here’s a picture called At the doctor’s. Try using a mixture of closed questions, which assess quick factual knowledge (e.g. Where is the doctor?), and open questions, which assess reasoning (e.g. Why do you think the doctor is looking surprised?).

A busy doctor's waiting room.

Talk about the pictures.

If you are a parent or a teacher, find time to sit with your children and look at the book. Talk together about what you see. The ‘Let’s talk!’ questions on the picture pages give ideas of what you can talk about. Try and help your children to move from one-word answers to longer answers.

Find words in the pictures.

There is lots of action in the pictures. Ask your children to talk about what they see. Can they tell stories about the people in the pictures? They can then begin to use the words for a real purpose.
See if the children want to test your English too! What can they ask you to find in the pictures?

Always use the words in context and help young learners develop short responses into longer phrases and sentences

For more information about Pre A1 Starters, A1 Movers and A2 Flyers and for preparation materials, visit:
cambridgeenglish.org/starters
cambridgeenglish.org/movers
cambridgeenglish.org/flyers

Digital Citizenship

The topic of digital citizenship is certainly gaining momentum around the world. Whether it is called digital citizenship, digital wellness or digital ethics the issues are the same: how should we act when we are online, and what should be taught to the next generation. Digital Citizenship is more than just a teaching tool, it is a way to prepare students/technology users for a society full of technology.

As teachers, we know the value of good citizenship in the classroom and school community. But today, students need to be good citizens in the digital world as well. Their digital behaviour has a big impact on themselves and others, and what makes good or bad digital citizenship may not always be clear.

One of the first agreements that needs to be made is that preparing students to be literate digital citizens is everyone’s responsibility. Teachers, administrators, parents, and students all play a role.

What can all teachers do in their classrooms to help shape responsible students? (Select all that apply.) From Google for Education “Create Safe, Responsible Digital Citizens”

  • Show students how to create strong passwords
  • Provide opportunities for students to practice good behaviour
  • Create a safe environment for talking about digital citizenship topics
  • Integrate digital citizenship lessons in class.
You should have selected all of them because these are the four pillars to learn Digital Citizenship.

Several organizations have developed support materials and full curricula that can be used when planning instruction. For instance, Common Sense Media’s K-12 Scope and Sequence provides lesson plans, activities, and assessments.

Vicki Davis in an article on Edutopia presents “What Your Students Really Need to Know About Digital Citizenship”. She wants her students to know the “9 Key Ps” of digital citizenship, but for my purpose and for my students I will take into account only these seven Ps extracted from the above-mentioned article:

1. Passwords: Do students know how to create a secure password? Do they know that email and online banking should have a higher level of security and never use the same passwords as other sites?

2. Private information:  Do students know how to protect details like their address, email, and phone number? She recommends the Common Sense Media curriculum on this.

3. Personal information: While this information (like the number of brothers and sisters you have or your favourite food) can’t be used to identify you, you still need to choose who you will share it with.

4. Photographs: Are students aware that some private details (like license plates or street signs) may show up in photographs, and that they may not want to post those pictures? Do they know how to turn off a geotagging feature? Do they know that some facial recognition software can find them by inserting their latitude and longitude in the picture—even if they aren’t tagged?

5. Property: Do students understand copyright, Creative Commons, and how to generate a license for their own work? Some students will search Google Images and copy anything they see, assuming they have the rights.

6. Permission: Do students know how to get permission for work they use and do they know how to cite it?

7. Protection: Do students understand what viruses, malware, phishing, ransomware, and identity theft are, and how these things work?

Digital citizenship is a topic that we need to address more carefully and thoroughly in our schools. Our students must be aware of what they should and shouldn’t be doing, with the goal of keeping themselves safe online.

 

Do you use cooperative learning in your classroom?

Cooperation is working together to accomplish shared goals.

Cooperative Learning is particularly beneficial for any student learning a second language. Cooperative Learning activities promote peer interaction, which helps the development of language and the learning of concepts and content. ELLs (ELL is a person who is learning the English language in addition to his or her native language) learn to express themselves with greater confidence when working in small teams. In addition to ‘picking up’ vocabulary, ELLs benefit from observing how their peers learn and solve problems.

How students should interact with one another is the point.

How teachers structure student-student interaction patterns has a lot to say about how well students learn, how they feel about school and the teacher, how they feel about each other, and how much self-esteem they have.

Assign each student in a team a role (such as reporter, recorder, time keeper, and materials manager), you might want to rotate roles each week or by activity or by project. This prevents what typically happens if students select their own roles: the same students wind up performing the same tasks. By rotating, students develop the skills they most need to practice.

There are some popular strategies that can be used with all students. Most of these strategies are especially effective in teams of four: take a look at this past post on this same blog: Cooperative Learning: Kagan Structures for English Language Learners.

In this post, I am going to focus on two cooperative strategies that I found very useful with my students.

Numbered Heads Together

Ask students to number off in their teams from one to four. Announce a question and a time limit. Students put their heads together to come up with an answer. Call a number and ask all students with that number to stand and answer the question. The aim is to recognize correct responses and elaborate them through rich interactions and discussions. This strategy ensures that each member knows the answer to problems or questions asked by the teacher. Because no one knows which number will be called, all team members must be prepared.

A very useful strategy, moreover, if you have hoarders and shy students in your classroom. The hoarder likes to talk, so they are getting an opportunity to talk within their small group and even teach them.  The introvert students will have to pay attention and participate because their number might be called.  You have just differentiated learning.

Heads together instructions from teachingwithsimplicity

Jigsaw

Just as in a jigsaw puzzle, each piece — each student’s part — is essential for the completion and full understanding of the final product. If each student’s part is essential, then each student is essential; and that is precisely what makes this strategy so effective.

Assign each student in a team one fourth of a page to read from any text (for example, a narrative text or a short tale or biography). Give students time to read over their segment at least twice and become familiar with it. Form temporary “expert groups” by having one student from each jigsaw group join other students assigned to the same segment.

Give students in these expert groups time to discuss the main points of their segment and to rehearse the presentations they will make to their jigsaw group. Bring the students back into their jigsaw groups.

Each student presents her or his segment to the group and then teaches the others or helps to put together a team product by contributing a piece of the puzzle.

Jigsaw instructions from Cult of Pedagogy

You could appoint one student from each group as the leader in order to prevent troubles (e.g., a member is dominating, disruptive or not collaborative),

After each Cooperative Learning activity, you will want to debrief with the children by asking questions such as: What did you learn from this activity? How did you feel working with your teammates? If we do this again, how will you improve working together? And finally, have students celebrate the hard work of group members.

An Overview Of Cooperative Learning David W Johnson and Roger T Johnson

Numbered Heads Together Cooperative Learning Strategy

4 Things You Don’t Know About the Jigsaw Method

The Jigsaw Classroom

Cooperative Learning: Kagan Structures for English Language Learners.

The teacher no longer is the “sage on the stage” but rather a model and facilitator of learning

Why use this method of teaching?
The 21st century learning skills* require students to build reading, writing, problem-solving and application competencies. The teacher is supposed to teach less content and more skills. Cooperative learning is the perfect teaching methodology to teach students strategies and skills. It also a great model to show students how to apply those skills to study content.

*The 21st century learning skills are often called the 4 C’s: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. These skills help students learn, and so they are vital to success in school and beyond.

If you teach your students skills, they will become proficient, adaptable and life-long learners. And this works for ALL SUBJECTS. No matter the content, students who are skilled learners can study any subject, at any time and at any place. Cooperative learning also fosters a student’s ability to work in a team and to regularly reflect on his/her learning.

Groupings
The teacher* assigns students in groups with specific roles and jobs. After team members are organized into these small groups, usually of four people, and receive instruction from their teacher, students within the team cooperate with one another and work through the assignment until each team member successfully understands and completes it. Ultimately the shared goals are accomplished individually by each team member, and collectively by the group as a whole.
Teacher-selected groups have been proven time and again to be the best method of forming teams because it ensures a good mix and avoids friends from working together, which neglects to achieve the goal of improvement of social interactions among students who do not know each other as well.kaganpresentation

Team members.

Team members are responsible for their own individual learning as well as for their teammates learning. Members benefit from the contributions of the individual team members. Groups are heterogeneous are made up of high, medium and low academic achieving students. Team members acquire new skills and knowledge. Rewards are oriented towards individual and group.
Classroom Management
If cooperative learning is not accompanied with an effective classroom management system, serious problems are likely to occur. (Spencer Kagan)

Teachers usually provide verbal information along with worksheets, outlines and study guides during a cooperative learning lesson.
Students who are unfamiliar with the cooperative learning model will need to be taught about the model and be clear on their roles as well as the teacher’s expectations during this type of lesson
Reflection (group processing) is an essential part of the cooperative learning process. By clarifying and describing which actions and decisions were helpful and unhelpful the group continues the learning process and improves each members effectiveness when contributing to a collaborative group.
Researchers
The leading researchers of cooperative learning include Robert Slavin, Roger & David Johnson and Spencer Kagan, all of whom have slightly different approaches and emphases

The research of David and Roger Johnson, provides the foundation for how cooperative learning is structured in most of today’s classrooms. Their research shows that merely because students work in small groups does not mean they are cooperating to ensure their own learning and the learning of all others in the group.
Dr. Slavin suggests that cooperative learning is doubtlessly a great tool for handicapped and disabled students. Cooperative learning encourages these students and molds them to work in a professional environment. Cooperative learning of disabled and normal students is another great way of encourage disabled students. According to Slavin, when disabled and handicapped students work in mainstream and heterogeneous environments, they learn in a more productive and skillful manner.

Spencer Kagan has developed more than 100 structures to incorporate the basic principles of cooperative learning. “We are very clear with teachers that they should make cooperative learning part of any lesson,” Kagan says. “Ours is an integrated approach rather than a replacement approach.”

Kagan Structures
Kagan Structures are easy-to-learn and easy-to-use instructional strategies, ideal for promoting second language learning. In classrooms in which the Kagan Structures are used regularly, students for whom English is a second language learn both English and academic content far more quickly and far more thoroughly than when traditional instructional strategies are used. The Kagan Structures also promote language and content learning far more than does group work.

All of the Kagan Structures are very carefully designed. They are carefully structured to implement four basic principles of cooperative learning, PIESPIES

P  = Positive Interdependence
I  = Individual Accountability
E  = Equal Participation
S  = Simultaneous Interaction

For example, Kagan instructs teachers to use a “Timed Pair Share” structure. In this exercise, the teacher divides the class into pairs of students and poses a question. Within each pair, Student A talks about his or her answer for one minute, then Student B does the same.

The following examples illustrate a few of these instructional methods used:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Which Kagan Structures should I learn and use first?”, and “Where do I begin?”

Inside-Outside Circle: In concentric circles, students rotate to face new partners and then answer or discuss teacher questions.
Rally Table: In pairs, students alternate generating written responses or solving problems.
One Stray: On each team, one teammate “strays” from his or her team to a new team to share information.
Rally Robin: In pairs, students alternate generating oral responses.
Rally Coach: Partners take turns, one solving a problem while the other coaches.
Showdown: One teammate reads a question or problem aloud. Students work independently to solve the problem, then show their answers when a teammate calls, “Showdown!” They then celebrate the correct answer or coach to get the correct answer (Kagan 1994).

For more details about Cooperative Learning

On Kagan Institutes, workshops and conferences go to www.T2TUK.co.uk and www.Kaganonline.com

The “Round robin” technique

What is cooperative learning? SlideShare

Cooperative Learning Lessons Starter Kit

The Essential 5: A Starting Point for Kagan Cooperative Learning

FIVE COOPERATIVE LEARNING ACTIVITIES TO DO ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

Kagan Structures for English Language Learners

The sky’s the limit

There is no limit to what someone can achieve. LWL from the research to the ideal school

The Learning Without Limits (LWL) project is based on the idea of transformability and by the concept of learning capacity that is very different from the concept of ability.

Transformability is a firm conviction that there is the potential for change, that things can change and be changed for the better, sometimes even dramatically, as a result of what people do in the present.bookcover1small Learning capacity is transformable because the forces that shape it are, to an extent, within teachers’ control. In contrast with the implied fatalism of ability labels. Teachers who built their pedagogy around ability labels influence negatively in young people’s self-belief, sense of personal competence, attitudes, expectations and hopes for the future. Ability labels explain differences in young people’s learning and attainment due to fixed differences in intellectual endowment. A young student with ‘low ability’ now, in the present, is assumed to have more limited potential than others who are judged to be ‘average’ or ‘more able’ and the expectation is that these differences will persist and be reflected in comparable differences in academic performance in the future: the self-fulfilling prophecy (achieving fulfillment as a result of having been expected or foretold).

bookcover2_smallCreating Learning without Limits (CLwL) builds on the Learning without Limits study by exploring the wider opportunities for enhancing the learning capacity of every child that become possible when the educational community work together to create an environment free from the limiting effects of ability labels and practices.

CLwL was set up to explore the process of whole-school development driven by the core idea of transformability: the conviction that all children (not just some children) can become more powerful, committed, successful learners given distinctive supportive conditions and generous opportunities for learning.

Wroxham classroom

Mr Davy at Wroxham school

CLwL builds on the Learning without Limits study by exploring the wider opportunities for enhancing the learning capacity of every child that become possible when a whole staff group works together to create an environment free from the limiting effects of ability labels and practices.

The Creating Learning without Limits project was based at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education, in collaboration with colleagues at The Wroxham School, Hertfordshire. Dame Alison Margaret Peacock is co-author of Creating Learning without Limits, and Executive Headteacher of The Wroxham Teaching School. 

Dame_Alison_Peacock

“Dame Alison Peacock” by Lee Allan – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The following short passages are taken from an interview with Dame Alison on The Guardian on March 29th.

The headteacher [Alison Peacock] says she never set out to get rid of ability labelling at the school. It grew from conversations with staff, and when it worked the idea was developed. Pupils are never set tasks by ability. Topics are taught to the whole group and students are then chosen from a range of activities of varying complexity. If they begin a piece of work and think they could try something more difficult, or need something easier, they can change”… “The assumption that you can reliably put a number against what a child is capable of is flawed and dangerous. Potentially, it leads to the individual and the people around them having a very limited set of expectations.” She believes it is detrimental even if the student is given a high grade, pointing to research by Carol Dweck from Stanford University to illustrate this. When two groups of children were given a complex mathematical task, the group that was told they had good problem-solving skills progressed much further than the group that was simply told they were very good at maths…. “If teachers feel constrained, judged and labelled, then they can’t lift the limits on pupils,” she says. Extracts from http://www.theguardian.com/

Taking inspiration from the book Creating Learning without Limits, the University of Cambridge Primary School (UCPS) is the first primary to open as one of the government’s flagship university training schools and was set up as a free school. The UCPS will be governed by a charitable trust, UTS Cambridge. The school will be a mixed-ability co-educational school for children aged three – 11 and it will be highly inclusive where pupil diversity is welcomed and children will be encouraged and enabled to excel.The school will focus on exemplary teaching, high-quality governance and innovative learning practice. The Trust is delighted that these plans have been approved. They are high-quality, innovative and inclusive, reflecting the planned character of University of Cambridge Primary School.Uni Cambs primary school 01 site plan

The three-form entry primary school will open in phases from September 2015 and will serve the development site and a local catchment.

The information used in this post is excerpted from the following sites with non-commercial purposes:

http://learningwithoutlimits.educ.cam.ac.uk/

http://learningwithoutlimits.educ.cam.ac.uk/about/key.html

http://learningwithoutlimits.educ.cam.ac.uk/creatinglwl/

http://thewroxham.org.uk/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alison_Peacock

http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/mar/29/label-child-ability-flawed-dangerous

http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/mar/17/design-primary-school-learning-no-limits

http://www.nwcambridge.co.uk/news/primary-school-designs-approved

The controversy about the value of Homework

There is controversy about the value of homework, with critics saying it is either ineffective or potentially harmful if the extra work is so dull that children switch off.

Few years ago, a group of French parents and teachers called for a two-week boycott of homework in schools, saying it is useless, tiring and reinforces inequalities between children. They say homework pushes the responsibility for learning on parents and causes rows between themselves and their children. And they conclude children would be better off reading a book.

This is a representative sample of what the detractors argue against having homework, but we can add others arguments opposed to homework: The school day should be long enough to allow the child to learn and write everything they need to” homework, whether good or bad, takes time and often cuts into each student’s sleep, family dinner, or freedom to follow passions outside of school”. “Not all families have the time or the necessary knowledge to help their offspring”. “Teachers don’t realise the unbelievable pressure they are putting children under”.  (should children have to do homework? comments)

And what the students have to add to this scenario against homework. For too many students, homework is too often about compliance and “not losing points” rather than about learning: “…it’s worksheets and problems at the end of the chapter. Just busywork”, “It doesn’t matter how I get the homework done, just as long as it is done before the teacher checks it. Right?” . “If I haven’t succeeded in doing the exercise at school, I don’t see how I’m going to succeed at home”.

From another standpoint, there’s pressure from external sources to set homework and a lot of teachers see that as if they must be setting homework all the time, even if it’s not necessary. There is also a parents’ common misconception that teachers and schools giving more homework are more challenging and therefore better teachers and schools. This is a false assumption. The amount of homework your son or daughter does each night should not be a source of pride for the quality of a school.

These are not good news for “homework”, but if so why it is so popular and widely applied. Maybe what we need is a new word instead of “homework”, how about “continued learning” or “ongoing growth activities”?

We want children to understand that they are always learners even outside school. So it makes no sense to even advertise a “no homework” policy in a school. It sends the wrong message. The policy should be, “No time-wasting, rote, repetitive tasks will be assigned that lack clear instructional or learning purposes.”

As a teacher, we know that by assigning homework, the teacher significantly extends the classroom learning time, that a teacher should never assign homework on a topic that has not been practiced first in the classroom. It should be difficult enough to challenge a student, but not so difficult that the student feels overwhelmed. Assignments should be graded and feedback should be provided.

Homework will be extended learning time if the students are inspired enough to want to practice the skills obtained class. Then make homework worth doing so they will want to do it.

What about Blended Learning? In Blended Learning teachers set up learning management accounts (LMS) on places like Moodle. They assigned students work and research projects through the LMS and students did the work at home. When they came to class, the teacher would either review what they had done individually, or step up the learning by providing further opportunities to apply their knowledge in group projects.

Children should be encouraged to read, write, perform arithmetic, better understand the world around them in terms of civics, science, and the arts, and, of course, develop their people skills: their emotional intelligence. This encouragement should be part of everyday family interactions outside of school, and the school should provide developmental guidance to all parents, in the appropriate languages, to help them do this. Experts agree on the value of parents taking an interest in their children’s intellectual and academic life.

Above all, schools should remind parents to never lose sight of modeling for their children the value of close relationships, support, caring, and fun. That is the most important “home work” of all.

Reference

Two hours’ homework a night linked to better school results

Homework guidelines scrapped to give headteachers greater freedom

EDUTOPIA BOOKMARKS

Peer Observation as a way of Teacher Professional Development that improves teaching practices and student performance

There are several ways in which teachers can develop in their profession. These include reading educational studies, attending conferences, workshops or courses, joining webinars, talks, discussion forums and communities on-line, keeping blogs and reflecting on them your teaching practices. Another powerful learning tool for teachers is Peer observation: teachers observing teachers.

Peer observation is when one teacher watches another while teaching, then gives feedback, for the benefit of both of them. It’s a simple and powerful development activity. It is an uncommon practice in Spain but according to TALIS* research 57% of Teachers in the UK reported having participated in mentoring and peer observation.

coachwordle

Peer observation can be very effective when teachers acquire new skills or ideas at conferences and then model those new approaches for their colleagues and when it is used as a means of sharing instructional techniques and ideologies between and among teachers.

Being observed in the classroom can get on teacher’s nerves, and that’s because teacher observations are seen as a performance evaluation rather than a tool for professional development and, in turn, for student learning. It can be uncomfortable, intrusive or can curtail academic freedom. This is why Peer Observation should be designed to be non-judgemental and developmental rather than evaluative and externally required.

The aim is not to make an overall judgment about the standard of the lesson or the teacher’s strengths and weaknesses. The aim is to be of benefit to teacher and observer, giving both the opportunity to think more deeply about particular teaching and learning issues. The teacher gets another perspective on aspects of their teaching, while the observer has the opportunity to learn about new and different ways of doing things. The most positive benefit of teacher-to-teacher observation is that it makes teaching a public rather than a private act.

Peer observations often work best when there is a specific focus for observation identified by the teacher herself. This could be to investigate an area the teacher wishes to explore in more detail, or a problem the teacher wants to try to solve.

peer coaching activities

In peer coaching, the focus is on the teacher as learner

The process involves the following stages:

  1.  Pre-observation discussion of the lesson and focus of observation.
  2.  The lesson.
  3.  Post-observation reflection on the lesson, learning points and action plans.

These stages will be developed in the next post in this blog, although, if you want to move forward, here are some practical guides and documents that will guide you to the process of peer coaching:

A Guide to Continuing Professional Development – Peer observations. www.teachingenglish.org.uk © British Council 2012
Doing Peer Observation as Part of Teacher Research. Cambridge English Teacher © Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment 2014
Peer Observation Professional Development Tasks by Alex Tilbury. Cambridge English Teacher © Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment 2015

Teachers Observing Teachers: A Professional Development Tool for Every School

*The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)

Learning to Think, Thinking to Learn.

Thirty years ago, some theories about teaching and learning were based on training exercises and drills. The idea was that if facts were repeated enough, then students would memorize them, and this was learning. Under this concept learning is shown by a change in behavior as a result of experience, but nothing is mentioned about what students believe, what process they use to solve problems, or their own awareness of their thinking.

This post is based on the idea that teaching means teaching students to think. It assumes that teaching is not just about communicating facts or mechanical skills like Math rules (of course, you must have facts in order to learn), but is a process of coming to understand how you think.

The idea that all students should learn how to think critically is a relatively new one (certainly since the turn of the 20th century) and one for which most schools are not well prepared. The point is how we teach thinking, and how to make students aware of their thinking.
vtVisible Thinking is a flexible approach to integrating the teaching and development of thinking with your content and curriculum. This is a project of Harvard University. The essence of this project is a series of routines for thinking. They are simple and to the point.

The idea of visible thinking helps to make concrete what a thoughtful classroom might look like. At any moment, we can ask, “Is thinking visible here? Are students explaining things to one another? Are students offering creative ideas? Are they, and I as their teacher, using the language of thinking? Is there a brainstorm about alternative interpretations on the wall? Are students debating a plan?”

The central idea of Visible Thinking is very simple: making thinking visibleWe learn best what we can see and hear, although thinking is pretty much invisible. Mostly, thinking happens under the hood, within the marvelous engine of our mind-brain.

Visible Thinking includes a number of ways of making students’ thinking visible to themselves, to their peers, and to the teacher, so they get more engaged by it and come to manage it better for learning and other purposes.

In DEEPdt, visible thinking is a game changer. Thankfully, Harvard's Project Zero has created some pretty awesome routines that can easily be utilized in the DEEPdt process. In trying to visualize ...

Here are some of its key goals (extract from his website www.visiblethinkingpz.org):

  • Deeper understanding of content
  • Greater motivation for learning
  • Development of learners’ thinking and learning abilities.
  • Development of learners’ attitudes toward thinking and learning and their alertness to opportunities for thinking and learning (the “dispositional” side of thinking).
  •  A shift in classroom culture toward a community of enthusiastically engaged thinkers and learners.
    Structure.

The routines are structured well and only take a single page for each. It covers:

• The thinking routines itself
• Purpose: What kind of thinking does this routine encourage?
• Application: When and where can it be used?
• Launch: What are some tips for starting and using this routine?

pageshot

Visible Thinking Routines: SEE THINK WONDER

If you go to the Visible Thinking website you can download these in zipped packages of PDF files. I have also upload these and you can get them from here. The Routine cover the following aspects of Thinking:

This visual features a number of key thinking routines together with examples of how to use them with learners:

visible-thinking

Resources:

Creat_pdfs.zipCreat_pdfs.zip 472 KB

Fairness_pdfs.zipFairness_pdfs.zip 544 KB

Truth_pdfs.zipTruth_pdfs.zip 357 KB

Understand_pdfs.zipUnderstand_pdfs.zip 701 KB

AERA06ThinkingRoutines.pdfAERA06ThinkingRoutines.pdf 238 KB