Teacher Reports on Professional Development
Along with Kinkaid's 2012 PLP (Powerful Learning Practices) team, I traveled to the Garrison Forest School in Maryland to help present our Action Research Plan/Project to the other teams in our cohort. This was the culminating event in a yearlong professional collaboration. Our school team is comprised of colleagues from each division. We are also an interdisciplinary team. Our project will take several years to manifest results, but this year has given us a strong foundation to help our faculty increase their positive digital footprints so that we can teach and model this behavior/skill set with our students. Our next step is to show our three-minute "teaser video" at the May faculty meetings to promote enrollment in the Summer Technology Workshops, two of which will be taught by PLP team members.
Upper School English
I have just returned from Baltimore for the last leg of my PLP experience. While this trip was quick, it was an eye-opener for me. I have struggled through the PLP process this year because I didn’t understand how it all worked and how it would benefit my students and me as learners. Today it all came together for me.
The September trip was overwhelming. On the other hand, the May trip was enlightening. I gathered ideas that I can take and use with my colleagues and students. I feel like I am better prepared to live in a Web 2.0 world!
We arrived at the PLP culminating event at Garrison Forest School in Maryland at 8:30 a.m. to set up our station for presenting our action research project. The morning began with a tour of other groups’ action research projects. We rotated around the room and talked to different groups about their projects, and rotated our jobs as docents of our action research project. After a welcome, two speakers discussed shifts in education with web 2.0 and summarized the journey that we have been on this year. Four groups were selected to present to the large group, and a Q&A session followed each presentation. At lunch we broke out into different groups and discussed challenges with this paradigm shift. Overall, it was a worthwhile and educational experience that I value and that will impact my instruction for many years. I also enjoyed working with our team—what a great group of professionals!
Upper School Spanish
The PLP final meeting brought many great ideas for advancing 21st century learning in my classroom. At this meeting we presented our Kinkaid “Digital Footprint” project and other PLP teams presented theirs. I found the many projects presented at the event to be both interesting and informative. One school’s use of iPads in the classroom provided great solutions for reducing the amount of paper used in the classroom to assess student learning. I learned of the “app” iAnnotate that will allow students to write on any document I create and save it digitally. This will help me organize and store student work. Another wonderful web-based software I learned about at this PLP event was Pearltrees. This tool will be helpful in organizing & sharing research information students gather on the web. Attending this conference allowed me to learn about many different web 2.0 tools that make learning more meaningful and engaging for students.
The 2012 PLP team participated in the culminating event of the program at the Garrison Forest School in Baltimore. During the course of the year, our team focused on the use of social media and developing a positive digital footprint. Students are very active participants in social media, and educators need to be aware of how social media are used and the impact they can have for years to come. We surveyed the Kinkaid faculty about what a digital footprint is, what social media are used on a personal level, and what social media are used in the classroom. It is our hope that through this project we can inspire our faculty think about their own digital footprint and help our students create their own positive digital footprint. We analyzed the results to help us begin to form an action plan to accomplish our goal of positive digital footprints.
Middle School Science
Janet Allen’s presentation on “Real Kids, Real Books, Real Reading, and Real Results” was excellent. I would recommend her workshop for any teacher of reading at any level. She challenges teachers to start teaching with an engaging text to get our students interested in reading. It is important to integrate literacy instruction with content learning because reading has to be connected to something meaningful for the kids to be actively reading for understanding. She gave us several activities and tools that we can immediately bring to our classroom. Ms. Allen said several times, “If you give them content, it is just information; if they build it, it is knowledge.” They have to build it to have ownership. Mrs. Allen also gave us tools to help students make connections with informational resources and to read critically. She talked also about vocabulary and how to teach it effectively, which is more than just handing out a weekly vocabulary list. We need our students to begin to use their vocabulary words in their speaking and writing. Overall it was a very good workshop, and Janet Allen is a very engaging speaker.
“Real kids, Real Books, Real Reading, Real Results,” by Janet Allen, was outstanding. It was based on the premise that if you give information, that is all the receiver gets, whereas if he builds it himself, he gets knowledge! Children two or more years below grade level in reading would require 90 minutes a day to catch up! She reiterated that the least effective way of teaching vocabulary is having students look up the word and put it in a sentence, then test them. The key is to integrate words from a meaningful context, have authentic and diverse ways to ensure repetition, and put words to meaningful use. She gave many examples of practical classroom uses that involved active participation and learning by the student. Vocabulary is an area we have found needs explicit teaching, which in turn enables students to comprehend more challenging text. She is truly a master.
Lower School Instructional Specialist
Attending Janet Allen's workshop, “Real Kids, Real Books, Real Reading, Real Results,” inspired me to work more purposefully to engage students in their reading. Ms. Allen gave example after example of direct teaching strategies to activate students' prior knowledge and set up situations in which children build knowledge by making meaning themselves.
One of my favorite strategies that Ms. Allen demonstrated was the "Facts and Questions Ladder.” After reading the introduction of a short article to the group, she asked us to list facts that we heard. Then we focused on just one fact and generated questions about that fact as a group. We then moved on to another fact and generated questions specifically related to it, and so forth. The more we questioned, the richer our discussion became. The simple act of brainstorming questions with a group triggered deep thinking and truly activated my prior knowledge. Several of us whipped out our iPhones and iPads to get more information on the topic. We could not wait to finish the article so that we could answer our questions and prove ourselves right. As an adult, I was surprised how enjoyable this exercise was for me. I was impressed by my peers and found myself trying to step up my thinking to make a respectable contribution. I also responded to the social nature of the exercise. No longer was it a boring article to read in silence, but a springboard to an interesting discussion that left me wanting to learn more about the topic later. As Ms. Allen modeled each strategy, I started daydreaming about how my students would respond to each one.
My overall take-away from the workshop is that I assume too much when teaching reading. I was reminded how much deeper comprehension is when a reader understands the context of the writing, the author's perspective and the vocabulary. Ms. Allen’s strategies force the kids to interact with the text, break it down, ask questions, and make meaning. I cannot wait to try some of these strategies with my students.
I attended Janet Allen’s workshop, “Real Kids, Real Books, Real Reading, Real Results,” at the Harris County Department of Education. Janet Allen is known for her ability to motivate, support and increase students’ reading abilities. The workshop focused largely on strategies students need to learn to be independent in comprehending complex non-fiction texts. I came away with a lot of ideas for pre-reading activities to activate students’ background knowledge and engage their interest before they begin to read for new information. Ms. Allen shared resources such as graphic organizers, strategies for teaching vocabulary and how to showcase student learning through writing. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to attend this workshop with the Lower School reading specialist, instructional specialist and other members of the third grade team. We were able to discuss our learning throughout the workshop and make some plans for next year.
The workshop led by Dr. Janet Allen (“Real Kids—Real Books—Real Reading—Real Results”) was excellent for one primary reason: Dr. Allen was a classroom teacher for over 20 years. She knows how valuable time is, and her workshops are designed so that teachers have many templates and ideas to use immediately.
A point made often by Dr. Allen is that, contrary to the old adage, "Children in first and second grade are learning to read; children in third and fourth are reading to learn," children are still learning to read far beyond fourth grade and should be taught accordingly. She emphasized that we must continue to teach students how to use decoding skills at all levels. Dr. Allen introduced an activity she calls "wordstorming," in which groups of students are given 15-30 words that appear to be randomly chosen. They are then asked to group the words and explain their choices. The ensuing discussion is as valuable as the final groupings.
Lower School Reading Specialist
Along with my new team, the instructional specialist, and the reading specialist, I had the pleasure of attending Janet Allen’s workshop, “Real Kids, Real Books, Real Reading, Real Results.” The materials we were given are ready to use, and she demonstrated how to use most of them. We are eager to try them!
One of the ideas we all enjoyed was called a “facts and questions ladder.” After reading an entire book, or just a section, the teacher models how the facts and questions ladder works. The title is at the top, and below that a fact about the reading. The class calls out questions they have about the fact. Below the questions the class generates, a new fact is written, and the ladder continues with the fact/question pattern. This allows the students to focus on the fact they wrote and think about the questions they have about it.
Another demonstration I enjoyed was her “five-finger rule” for previewing a nonfiction text. The students draw a hand in their reading notebook and, using the acronym PREVIEW, preview their book before reading it, looking for a variety of things: Predictions using the cover; Review chapter titles (main ideas); Examine the pictures; Vocabulary (how hard will it be? use the captions of pictures to help); Index (look at the index to find supporting details; Explain what you know; What’s your connection?
Finally, I came away from this workshop with a wonderful list of mentor texts to use. Ms. Allen gave a book title for elementary, middle, and high school for each activity. Her list of books was current, ones the children would enjoy. She prides herself on enjoying the “classics,” but also reading and using books that kids are reading. I plan to purchase many of the books she mentioned!
I so appreciated this time, not only to attend the workshop and come away with new reading tools, but also to get to know my new team. We had a chance to “bounce” ideas off of each other and discuss things we wanted to try next year. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity!
I went to Arlington, Virginia to the Learning and the Brain Conference, “Web-Connected Minds: How Technology Transforms Brains, Teaching and Attention,” with approximately one thousand neuroscientists, educators and technology experts to discuss the impact of technology on the brain. At this conference, co-sponsored by, among others, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, leading experts in their fields presented research about how different types of technology affect the brain and shared ideas for using technology with learners. Keynote speakers of particular interest to me were research psychologist Dr. Larry Rosen from Cal State who talked about the psychology of technology; Dr. Paul Howard-Jones, who talked about the impact of Google on the human brain, and Dr. John Ratey, who talked about using gaming in the classroom to improve learning. I went to several breakout sessions that explored applying technology in a brain-based classroom to draw in our "digital natives." This was a fantastic conference, and I came back inspired and ready to start redesigning some of what I do in my classes.
Middle School Science Coordinator
The Interscholastic League Press Conference convention was a great educational experience. I attended a session on feature writing and was reminded how important it is for the students to research and interview in order to give voice to an article. The speaker recommended the New York Times feature column, "One in 8 million," because it is based entirely on quotations and interviews. She also recommended "300 Words,” a series that runs in the St. Petersburg Times.
Finally, I was reminded how important the First Amendment is to us. I heard from several other advisors how important the student voice is in the newspaper.
Upper School Journalism, Yearbook Advisor
I am writing to summarize my attendance in the Leadership Houston program, a program that I would strongly recommend. I was thoroughly impressed not only by the breadth of subject areas discussed, but also by the depth of information covered by professionals at the highest levels from throughout Houston. Whether it was learning about Houston's economics from representatives of the Federal Reserve or about arts from the head of Houston Ballet, I was exposed to a wide array of information that will help me better educate the students of Kinkaid. I believe I now possess significant knowledge of the greater Houston community. The topics that Leadership Houston dedicated class days to included Houston's demographics and history, economics, health care, government, and the arts.
In addition, I will be better able to assist the students of Kinkaid because of new professional connections and networks I now have. I have become friends with leaders in various spheres, including non-profits, government, energy, and civil engineering. I believe I will be able to translate these connections into professional opportunities for Kinkaid students.
Finally, the program helped to broaden my perspective on the skills necessary to be a leader. While I learned a lot of fascinating facts, I also personally benefitted from the training I received in leadership skills. I have a better idea about how to build teamwork and balance differing personalities, cultures, and beliefs. These skills will help me better serve my students and to create cohesion on the Kinkaid debate team.
Overall, it was an amazing experience.
Director of Debate
I have been taking advantage of The Apple Store’s One-to-One opportunity. Once I figured out their scheduling, it has been great. I have been going for an hour a week and just working through everything Apple, and I think that I have another six months or so to go. I am so much more competent on my Mac and have synched iPad and iPhone, organized photos, created a new library orientation video using GarageBand (never again!) and am looking forward to going more often this summer until I master all things Mac.
Dorian St.Clair Myers
Director of Libraries and Archives
I absolutely love the opportunity to take Apple One-to-One course. It is basically private tutorial sessions based on my technological needs. Some of the areas I have covered involve creating charts and diagrams, improving my skills with Keynote, working through and becoming familiar with applications on the iPad, and downloading and editing video clips. Each session has been tremendously useful. I find that when a question arises during the week, or I run into a “glitch,” I make a note to myself and generally get my answer during the One-to-One session.
I am looking forward to getting lots of tutorial sessions in during the summer months, too!
Middle School History
I took three classes at Rice this year. Last summer I took an oceanography/geophysical field class, in the fall I took an oceanography class, and in the spring I took the earth and space science class. The latter class was designed for people who will be teaching the new Earth and Space high school level class that is being offered in Texas public schools. These were interesting and useful classes. The research I conducted on the beach in Galveston last summer concerned the status of natural vs. man-made dunes. What a mix of science, economics, and politics! The classes keep me updated and provide activities I can use in the classroom.
Middle School Science