Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Strong Habits of Successful Students

  Many of my friends in college have been posting about their classes for the past several days. Many of them got a head start on their assignments. While this is a good jump on the upcoming semester, keep this list in mind that will help guide and keep you on track! Most students begin falling behind within the first few weeks of classes!

  • Read the syllabus carefully. At certain points during the term, you may want to double check it make sure that you are still on track!
  • Grab your planner and begin to fill it. You will want to schedule in the dates of important tests/exams and due dates of large projects. Make sure you give yourself enough time to devote to review and break down small tasks into an everyday to-do list. 
  • Skim your text. Skimming the text gives you a good idea the concepts you will be learning. If you have discussion questions or problems that are due weekly, read the questions, and concentrate on the sections that focus on notes from class and homework problems. 
  • Keep a journal. Not all professors collect or grade homework. However, you should do all the problems assigned in a composition book. Use hi-liters, post-it flags, or whatever it takes to figure out where the logical issues are and you will be far better prepared to ask your professor about it the following morning. 
  • Create a strong study group. Many times, study groups devolve into a chill and gossip session. Make sure you have a plan. Appoint someone to keep everyone on task but allow for breaks. Create activities that allow everyone to get involved and still learn. 
  • Forgive and forget when you fall behind. Give yourself a break then pull up your bootstraps and keep going! It may mean you have to skip out on an event you want to attend but grades come first!
  • Make sure you can read your notes. Seems obvious but most students do not have a good system of note-taking. Make sure you leave enough room in the margins to correlate text readings and homework problems to the notes or ask questions of the material for review or for clarification in class. 
  • It's ok to Youtube resources. Sometimes everyone needs really complex concepts explained in a different way from your prof. For Physics, I like Feynman's lectures. For a different view of Math, I follow ViHart. Either way, sometimes staring at your notes is not going to force the material to jump in your head any faster.
  • Eat well, don't forget to play, and get plenty of sleep! Often we forget to take care of ourselves properly when we are digging into our classes. Make sure that you are eating healthy, whole foods and getting rest. If you are having sleep problems or increases in anxiety or depression, see a school counselor right away!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Revamped English and Science SOL's throw Virginia through a loop, Math scores increase.

  When new standardized tests are given in any subject, you can usually expect a small decrease in scores for the first year or two as teachers adjust to the new testing strategies. The scores should begin improving again by the third year to the same levels seen in 2011-2012. There also may be a few other reasons why scores have dipped and those should be investigated. Here I will concentrate on my strength, Sciences.

  1. Teaching to facts and not teaching for complex synthesis. The old SOL's were highly fact-based tests. The newer tests are not that easy. They are more in-depth and require thought and strategy in solving the problems. They require a full understanding of scientific processes and how they are applied to realistic, everyday situations. Word on the teacher front in May was that this test killed the students while they were taking it. 
  2. Administrative bad attitudes. I know that it is difficult to be the boss. To constantly deliver bad news, or having a correctional meeting with a subordinate, or be held accountable for the performance of your whole team. But that is what it is about. Support. You capture more flies with honey than you do with vinegar! Remember that! 
  3. Lack of administrative support. There is a specific incident that occurred in a local Roanoke school system that I wish to tell you about. A friend of mine, who taught elementary science in 2009, was told by the head of the Science Department, that "we are not concentrating on elementary sciences." Looking at this past year's scores in that school and system-wide, it is apparent that this is the case. In light of the Obama administration's push for early education and STEM introduction in elementary systems, this kind of thinking is completely against the grain. Whether or not you agree with what is going on in education right now with the National Core Curriculum, it is essential that students are competitive in the sciences. 
  4. Don't blame technology. "The students aren't used to the new system." I heard that sentence a few times. If anything, today's students are soaked in technology. I highly doubt that they are afraid of a computer test. However, there is the sentiment that the student may be rushing through the tests and that has to be carefully monitored. Students, especially IEP recipients, will need breaks to avoid becoming supersaturated. 
  So why did students score better in Math this year? The test was revamped last year and most schools systems have caught up with the changes already. The computer-based system has been in place for a few years now, reducing any anxieties about the usability of the program. Click the link to the article where you will find links to school system reports. 

  Most of you know my personal feeling about standardized testing and exactly how the "prepare" students for college. There is not one single standardized test that prepares you for college coursework. The only thing that does is life, creative teachers, and a thirst for knowledge. Excellent teachers are not just teaching the content. They are guiding students and becoming their coaches and cheerleaders. 
  I have not heard one valedictorian speech that thanked the SOLs or SATs for the work that they accomplished in elementary through secondary school. Tomorrow I will discuss highly effective habits of successful college students and who they draw upon for their knowledge.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Classical Explorations Begins Series.

   You have to love the internet. I have met more people face-to-face by connecting with them online. So when my Facebook and Twitter friend, Elizabeth Markham, announced Classical Explorations, I thought, what a great idea! 

  Elizabeth homeschools her own mini-me and was looking for a solution for her daughter's request to spend more time in a classroom setting or getting to be around more kids. All homeschool parents understand this dilemma when they try to create a balance between giving a quality education and time for socialization. If you have a child in the 4-6 yr old category and Tuesday mornings are open, click the link above for more details! Space is limited!  

Friday, August 2, 2013

Weekly Pinterest Education Round-up

There is no shame in being addicted to Pinterest! Here, I will share a few pins from my Education Board that may be worth trying out at home or in the classroom!

Sheer Post-it Notes from 3M! Write in your books without the mess! 
Use this at the beginning of the year to get to know your students. Way more fun than a regular worksheet with a list of questions.
From Get to know your students! How fun is this?
From Learning Ideas: Music, Science, and Crafts? Yes, please!