As a teacher you are highly engaged by your students on a daily basis. This is a fact that we as teachers should always keep in mind when working in class. I felt quite inspired when having read the article about how to evaluate a teacher. For sure, it feels a little strange when there is another person evaluating you. At our school, during a new teacher’s first year, our principal and colleagues visit the classroom to look at the teaching strategies he/she uses, the content and level of teaching, the routine, the resources being taken into the lesson, and also the language that is used to differentiate learning. I had these visits too, and I must admit that I felt a little hesitant. But the more the visits took place, the more self-confident I felt. One of the main reasons is our school culture – the honesty, fair treatment, respectful argumentation and kind way of talking – fostered by my principal and colleagues. I felt there has been a lot of respect related to my work taking place, and also felt a positive atmosphere when talking about what I could have improved for the upcoming lessons. I think that one of the main aspects being observed by colleagues is that the feedback is relevant to my teaching and shows an honest way of criticism, so you don’t feel unvalued or upset about the statements. This way of reflection has helped me to improve my teaching, and today I feel quite calm when being observed and not fearful any more. As I haven’t been observed and judged by students, it would be very interesting to see the outcome, for instance, to read on a paper: what makes me a “good” teacher? (By the way, what makes a good teacher?!”)
In the article “Teacher Evaluation 2.0” it is said that there exist several problems related to current observation systems, such as not enough meaningful feedback of lessons given, statements about how professionals teach, or not enough opportunities to differentiate the observation.
Instead the students can evaluate a teacher quite well, as they can master academically rigorous material, regardless of their socioeconomic status. A teacher’s primary professional responsibility is to ensure that students learn. Therefore, measures of student’s learning should play a predominant role in teacher evaluations. Evaluation results should form the foundation of teacher development. Although there must be meaningful consequences for consistently poor performance, the primary purpose of evaluations should not be punitive. Good evaluations identify excellent teachers and help teachers of all skill levels understand how they can improve; they encourage a school culture that prizes excellence and continual growth. The following statement is taken from another online-article. AFT president Randi Weingarten said: 
“…teacher evaluations must be about improving teaching, not just rating teachers.”
I haven’t been evaluated by my students yet but I developed a survey that could be easily used as an Early Years survey, even for our three to five year old students (see below link).
Pre-assessment and innovative differentiation strategy related to a different learning level of students
Today I will write about the importance of assessing students, while using differentiation related to each student’s learning on a good, medium or lower learning level.
For a long time I have been assessing our youngest learners at the International School of Stuttgart. This has been challenging sometimes: on the one hand we have a wide range of students that have no, hardly any, or some English knowledge (EAL learners = English as an Additional Language), and on the other hand a group of English native speakers. Therefore I will use pre-assessments that will also include the individual child’s language development.
Our team and I always need to find strategies how best to assess our students: for example, amongst 36 youngest learners in a mixed-age group of 3 to 4 and 4 to 5 years we/I differentiate according to their age and cognitive development while assessing them. Also, there will be differentiation according to their knowledge, individual learning level, special needs, and understanding. Children who just started school need another assessment than those who have been with us already for one year. For example, for some pre-assessment related to our Unit “The Natural World” I will individually ask which parts of a tree a child will remember or know. Our youngest learners who just started new at our school mostly have no idea how to describe a tree. The older children being with me for one year (even EAL students) already might differentiate and use vocabulary such as, branch, bark, etc. These students will be more challenged during the follow-up assessments as their learning level will raise: they will gain more knowledge about nature, the forest-area, the vocabulary related to the unit, etc. As a pre-assessment I will develop a quiz related to the Unit “The Natural World” that each child is able to play- related to their age, their language (if necessary for EAL students I might ask for some Mother tongue support), their learning disability and their cognitive development. Assessing on a one-to-one correspondence will give me a first impression what about each child’s learning level and knowledge. At the end of the unit the quiz will be assessed another time, to show what the child has learned during this period of time.
I created a quiz for young learners. It is a game for Early Years and Kindergarten students that have no, only little or some more experience related to “The Natural World”. Teachers (and parents!) should help read on a one-to-one correspondence. I hope it will be accessible and the students will enjoy.
I created the following links to the “Lucidchart”platform, where I created a flowchart that shows differentiation of pre-assessments for young learners. I hope that one of these will show my flowchart.
Analyzing the use and implications of high stakes assessments on students and teachers in the International School of Stuttgart
Teachers need to think about how to best assess student learning and how to implement assessment effectively in order to understand the outcome of the tests for each individual student. I have been thinking about this topic a lot, and have had several discussions with my colleagues. I’ve also realized that there has been a gap of knowledge related to assessments in other countries.
First of all, RTI has been new to me. What is it?
Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavior needs. The RTI process begins with high-quality instruction and universal screening of all children in the general education classroom. Struggling learners are provided with interventions at increasing levels of intensity to accelerate their rate of learning. These services may be provided by a variety of personnel, including general education teachers, special educators, and specialists. Progress is closely monitored to assess both the learning rate and level of performance of individual students. Educational decisions about the intensity and duration of interventions are based on individual student response to instruction. RTI is designed for use when making decisions in both general education and special education, creating a well-integrated system of instruction and intervention guided by child outcome data.
I have been teaching our youngest students for a very long time (nearly 26 years), and throughout this time there have always been students who need a little, some, or a lot of teacher’s support. And honestly, I have asked myself several times: how could I help the best? How can I best help my student develop in a way that is not interruptive, and where he/she is engaged in reaching a higher learning level? Where do I get the tools to help, to assess and to use the best practice?
I have read several articles about how to assess students, also using the RTI. In one article it is mentioned that students mostly get support when they are interruptive, not fitting into the classroom routine, disturbing all the time.
So –I went to a page where RTI is translated into German to get an idea how this is set up.
The article itself has been very interesting: It is about RTI related support for children’s learning in reading at German schools.
RTI describes three levels where it is shown that the approach is effective:
Phase 1: all the students get tested in a way where the level isn’t too high so each student might achieve the score.
Phase 2: If there are students who show some kind of learning difficulties in the test the teachers figure out how, when and what might cause a problem.
Phase 3: there will be individual training for all these young learners related to their reading level. Strategies will be taken on board to engage the children’s learning in a way that there are little steps for success. So –the child is taken where he/she is assessed related to their current ability, brought to higher learning by finding out which strategy works best, and also to slowly integrate them into class.
German Article: Inklusive Schulentwicklung durch response-tointervention (RTI) – Realisierungsmöglichkeiten des RTI-Konzepts im Förderbereich Lesen Christian Huber, Michael Grosche und Peter Schütterle
At the International School of Stuttgart (ISS) assessments are used to show how a child works for the IB (International Baccalaureate) curriculum. I need to find out whether RTI is used for assessing our students.
First I met with one of our Educational Psychologists Melanie S. who mentioned that there is Standardized Testing going on at our school, such as: ACER tests from grade 3 to 10. She, as a school psychologist, analyzes the data once a year.
MAP testing for Grades 2 to 5 (and further, sometimes). This MAP testing is taken two times per year.
MAP® Growth™ measures what students know and informs what they’re ready to learn next. By dynamically adjusting to each student’s performance, MAP Growth creates a personalized assessment experience that accurately measures performance—whether a student performs on, above, or below grade level. Timely, easy-to-use reports help teachers teach, students learn, and administrators lead.
PIPS testing: This testing is taken in Kindergarten (for 5 to 6 year old children) two times a year. Our school counselor Paul M. runs this and we use this data twice a year.
PIPS measures the progress of a 5-year-old new entrant over their first 12 months of school. PIPS provides a profile of a child’s strengths and weaknesses to help plan appropriate learning experiences. It is an early indicator of special educational needs and can monitor progress made over the first year at school. It helps answer the questions:
What do children know when they start school?
What progress is made in the first year?
How effective is my school program compared to other schools?
In talking to our 3rd grade teacher, Kimberly V., I learned that the students are tested through ACER, MAP, and Fountas and Pinnell.
Benchmark Assessment System (BAS)
Using the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems to determine student’s independent and instructional reading levels, teachers are able to observe student reading behaviors one-on-one, engage in comprehension conversations that go beyond retelling, and make informed decisions that connect assessment to instruction.
Also, Kimberly works with: rubrics, Mathletics tests, normal ones like formative assessments and reflections. She said that reflection forms, self reflection forms and anecdotal records are taken as well.
ACER: ACER is a recognized international leader in the development and provision of high quality assessment and reporting tools and services for schools, universities, TAFE institutes and Registered Training organizations, health professionals, employers, and governments in Australia and internationally.
I also had a conversation with our Lower School Principal Mr. Paul Morris, and our PYP coordinator Mr. Alexander Whitaker. They told me how or students are assessed, especially those children who have special needs or disabilities.
As I live in Germany I also know about the Europe Testing called PISA, a test that is taken for 9th graders all around the world. Just a few weeks ago there has been a report from the “Stuttgarter Zeitung”, a local newspaper with the PISA results for Baden-Württemberg. Those results have been unsatisfying – the reason might be too many children in one class, too many different learning levels, a wide range of students with migration background who still need some German language support, and also children with specific needs (such as ADHA), which is important to be supported individually- but there are teachers missing. So far, the outcome of this article has been that the government will make an attempt to support schools in finding support from teachers, assistants and others, especially in providing extra support for children with special needs.
However, Germany still ranked among the top European countries for education, according to the PISA report.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published its highly anticipated PISA report for 2015, comparing the aptitudes of around 540,000 15-year-olds from 72 different countries in the fields of science, reading and mathematics.
Overall, German students performed above the OECD average in all three areas tested. Germany also had a higher share of top performers – those who scored the top levels or 5 or 6 in at least one subject – than the OECD average, as well as a smaller share of low achievers – those who scored below level 2 – than the OECD average.
The ranking placed Germany on par with the United Kingdom, and below Slovenia, Finland and Estonia, which performed the best of the European countries. There, less than 5 percent of students were low performers in all three subjects, whereas in Germany this proportion was more than double at nearly one in ten students.
German students performed best in science and reading, but science scores saw a drop since the last PISA report in 2012 by 15 points out of a possible 1,000, and math scores dropped from 514 to 506. Reading scores increased by one point.
In the category of science, 11 percent of German students were top performers, which was 3 percentage points higher than the OECD average.
Rich-poor achievement gap
Germany has more of a gap between students based on their socioeconomic backgrounds than other countries on average: there was a 16 percent variation in student performance based on socioeconomic status, compared to the OECD average of 13 percent.
Still, this gap did shrink by 4 percentage points since 2006.
“As in the majority of OECD countries, a more socio-economically advantaged student in Germany scores more than 30 points higher in science (the equivalent of one year of schooling), on average, than a disadvantaged student,” the report explained, noting that this point difference was 42 in Germany.
In contrast, Canada, Estonia, Finland and Japan all had 10 percent variation or less between advantaged and disadvantaged students.
“Germany’s education system is less equitable than the average across OECD countries,” the report added. “However, equity has improved in Germany since 2006. Students’ socioeconomic status became a less reliable predictor of achievement.”
Blog: How to incorporate diversity and multiple perspectives into lesson plans
by Carola Deinet-Knittel
Today I‘d like to give some input related to the International School of Stuttgart, where I have been working for about eleven years.
For thirty years, the International School of Stuttgart (ISS) has been the only school in the Stuttgart region to offer a truly international education – authorized and accredited by the Council of International Schools, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and the International Baccalaureate Organization.
From Kindergarten through grade 12, ISS is a vibrant, student-centered learning community where both subject rigor and character development are fostered, where tradition is valued and innovation embraced and where partnership with parents is a fundamental part of our philosophy.
Philosophy Statements: (Our beliefs)
We believe in the importance of:
Innovation: Emphasizing creative problem-solving and confident adaptation to change.
Respect: Fostering empathy and integrity to nurture a caring responsibility within a diverse cultural community.
Engagement: Challenging and inspiring understanding through active curiosity and individual involvement in learning.
Relevance: Accessing and discerning real life connections between intellectual experience and the changing world.
The ISS experience inspires its learners to develop a sense of pride and commitment to making a difference. A transparent and reflective partnership between students, teachers and family is fundamental to our mission.
Mission Statement: (Our purpose)
Leading education for internationally minded families
Our school mission is to inspire, challenge and actively support our students and each other to become positive participants in a changing world. I am a member of the International School of Stuttgart and teaching the youngest students (aged3 to 5 years old)for the past eleven years. What I absolutely loveand honor is the fact that, we, as a school community highly value each cultural background. Overall we have about 40 countries represented in our staff and students. The children I work with are mostly from Japan, Germany, theUnited States, and Great Britain. There is a great diversity and cultural perspective at our school: daily I see people communicating in their home and family language,or dancing on the floor to some Indian music. Each kind of event is highly valued and celebrated related to our mission. It is necessary that everybody feels welcomed, accepted and respected by each and everyone – whatever colour, background or handicap we have. We treat people respectfully, and are open-minded towards our community.
I am convinced that sharing and celebrating events brings people together- this is my personal experience. We celebrate big events, such as the Multicultural evening that takes place every March. People show their cultural diversity through all kinds of performances, such as dancing, singing and sharing food with one another and getting dressed in their national costumes. Also, we ask the parents of our class to tell us about their individual cultural background, and how to share their events or celebrations with us. This diversity is shared during the circle-time in the mornings, where we have had people performing through music, dance, art and special treats from all around the world (including “Diwali”, “Thanksgiving” or “Hinamatsuri”). Living in Germany is a part of sharing our/my own cultural background as well. Sharing the local environment is a great opportunity to tell people about our history, community and events. With the younger students we share the St. Martin festival- a festival full of light, and lanterns with a background that leads to deep understanding: how we take care of other people. Through this event the children have a chance to learnabout respect and support for other people, -a message that St. Martin sent hundreds of years ago as he always helped the poor, and became a bishop of Tours in France. Related to this event I created a lesson plan that gives my youngest learners input in learning about this cultural background of a part of Europe.
I realised, that the older I get, the more open-minded towards other cultures and nations. I trulyfeel that we share the whole planet with one another so therefore also need tocare for one another. I get a cultural perspective not only by sharing food or celebrating, but also through feedback related to international diversity from teachers, parents and children. They feel that they are all valued people in a world where each of us is unique. And this we teach our children- respect others however they are dressed, behave or move, andaccept their languages. One aspect I also appreciate is one of the standards we teach: all our languages are special- in a way that we communicate whether non-verbally, through performance or conversation, share cultural background and events, laugh and sing and celebrate being together –as a great community.
In my lesson plan about “St. Martin”, I have included several different languages so people can understand one another better, and share ideas and thinking between one another.
I hope that I could contribute in sharing ideas how to include the diversity of Multicultural Perspectives between one another.
Lesson plan related to the topic: “St. Martin Celebration”
This is the link of a flowchart I created related to the blog.
As a teacher you have to differentiate every single lesson, deal with each situation throughout the day, be highly flexible and always take strategies on board that engages student learning individually. I would like to write about two students in my current class for whom it is very important to differentiate instruction for their learning.
is a four -year old boy, who started school this year, and seems to be very shy. He has difficulties to step from one place to the next, seems to be scared to transition into other rooms or areas, and seems to need constant adult supervision. When teaching indoors, I have him with me most of the time, and always need to think about a strategy to get him involved into the lesson. So far, I have figured out his main interests numerals and letters. This is important to know as these allow him to feel safer during an activity. The strategy I use is quite simple: I hand over a number to him in the morning that he carries with him all the time. We have an agreement that this prompt goes into his pocket as soon as he needs his hands free for an activity, such as drawing and writing into his journal, or Mathematics related activities where he needs to use his hands. Also, when he gets emotional I prepare him for transitions ahead of time: together we go through the daily schedule, which is hung up on the wall, and shows transition times of the day. During outdoor learning he walks and stands close to me, and I give him simple instructions related to his learning level, such as to find one natural resource instead of five. In this way he shows engagement, as he started showing curiosity in the outdoor learning and picked up a leaf. “This-for Mommy”, he said and smiled.
is also a four-year old boy who started school this academic year. He shows lots of interest everywhere, all the time, and in each learning environment. He is like a“busy bee”flying -moving around everywhere. He is not able to stay focused for a longer amount of time, and usually switches places after two minutes. Especially during circle time it is hard for him to listen to and follow instructions. I get his interest if I involve him into our daily routine, giving him little tasks, such as: be a helping hand, help go through the schedule, hold the calendar. Then he shows a lot of engagement and is able to focus much better. Also, I have been using a strategy that is a very helpful tool: each time he chooses a learning environment I tell him that he needs to stay there for a longer amount of time. He fetches the sand-timer, turns it and becomes his own “Time-keeper” and needs to stay in the room he has chosen during that time. I started with the 3 minutes sand-timer, and he already is getting better using the 5 minutes timer. I am aiming to have him stay focused for 10 minutes using the sand-timer for this amount of time. This strategy is important as it makes time ‘visible’ for the boy, and clearly gives him an instruction he is able to follow. Throughout this differentiation of classroom management he gets more learning input, and his concentration span will be developed by focusing on one specific learning activity. Also, I modify my teaching by sitting next to him on one-to-one correspondence, and repeat what is asked for in his Mother tongue, which is German. This is also an important strategy, as he understands tasks much better. For example, when asked to collect five different objects into a paper bag during the forest-project he could only show me two. The next day I went with him outside on the playground, and together we went on a“nature” hunt. He finally could manage to find the five different objects without my support, and collected: a little twig, an oval leaf, a maple leaf, a rock and a wood chip.
Related to the mind-map “How to support a student in class I created a longer time ago I like to mention that throughout a variety of strategies each child is able to be supported in class, for example:
set up achievable goals
offer strategies for support
communicate with the parents
related to a child’s learning give visible, auditory, kinesthetic input
get into contact with psychologists, health service at school ( such as school nurse)
Throughout this variety of teaching strategies I hope that the students will benefit from differentiation, and will be taken to a higher learning level.
Before writing about assessing students I first like to clarify:
What is a performance-based assessment?
The definition of performance-based assessments varies greatly depending on author, disciple, publication, and intended audience (Palm, 2008). In general, a performance-based assessment measures students’ ability to apply the skills and knowledge learned from a unit or units of study. Typically, the task challenges students to use their higher-order thinking skills to create a product or complete a process (Chun, 2010). Tasks can range from a simple constructed response (e.g., short answer) to a complex design proposal of a sustainable neighborhood. Arguably, the most genuine assessments require students to complete a task that closely mirrors the responsibilities of a professional, e.g., artist, engineer, laboratory technician, financial analyst, or consumer advocate. 
What are the essential components of a performance-based assessment?
Although performance-based assessments vary, the majority of them share key characteristics. First and foremost, the assessment accurately measures one or more specific course standards. Additionally, it is:
Normally, students are presented with an open-ended question that may produce several different correct answers (Chun, 2010; McTighe, 2015). In the higher-level tasks, there is a sense of urgency for the product to be developed or the process to be determined, as in most real-world situations.
I would like to write about assessing student’s learning in relation to nature. I teach children aged 3 up to 5 years (Early Years students) at an International school, which follows the PYP curriculum of IB schools.
I will assess students against the standard ‘Showing an interest in and wondering about the immediate environment’ I would like the students to reach the following goals/objectives:
– The student is able to identify and name the 4 different seasons (spring, summer, autumn/fall, winter) related to the Unit of Inquiry “The Natural World”
– The student shows awareness of how to take part in activities related to the Natural World
-The student makes links to their own experience when sharing the experiences with others
– The student listens to and demonstrates understanding by discussing experiences related to the Natural World
– The student gains some experience of the three columns of the forest pedagogy that are PURE –Protect (nature)-Use (Nature) –Relax (in Nature)
– The student recognizes natural resources (such as specific kind of leaves)
– The student identifies vocabulary-linked to the UoI “The Natural World” (such as soil, sun, rain, water, leaf, tree, root)
How are students able to make their learning visible?
Throughout the year I take the students to the forest, which shows some project-related learning. It is important to show what the students have learned throughout the forest-project.
Each time upon their return from the forest the students are asked to draw a picture reflecting the forest-trip. They make visible their learning as they express themselves artistically.
Each student is asked individually to describe what they have drawn on their picture. The children that are not able to express themselves verbally (we have 27 out of 34 children being EAL learners) will get an opportunity to explain what is on their picture while getting some extra Mother tongue support. This means that there are many adults being involved in assessing student’s understanding of the four different seasons in Germany.
Also, key vocabulary used identifies what the student has learned: through using words such as: tree, branch, color (red, orange, green), roots, mouse, squirrel, bunny – they show their understanding of what we saw and experienced in the nearby forest. Finally, their picture will be displayed with the children’s comments (that are written down in English, as well as in their Mother tongue).
At the end of school year the students will have a student-led-conference to show the parents what they have learned in relation to their nature experiences, – whether in the forest or at the outdoor environment nearby school.
One part of these conferences is a presentation, where each child:
Receives pictures of a tree related to the season: how does it look like in spring/summer/autumn-fall/winter?
The child shares with their parents what they have seen and concepts which they have understood.
Afterwards there is a slide show with different topics related to Nature:
In their Mother tongue the student talks about what they have seen, and what has been important to them.
Although some of our young learners don’t talk about these experiences at all, but the older ones are highly engaged in telling their parents about the forest and everything they have learned. For example what squirrels collect in autumn, why there is hardly any food for them during winter time, that they build nests in spring and like the warm sun rays in summer time.
As a teacher of the International School of Stuttgart I use the IB standards of the Primary Years Program. The standards are used by the teachers for students of all grade levels in our school. It is very important to unpack these standards as they need to be used in relation to students’ age, development and background. Mapping them backwards is important as students develop their learning individually, and related to their age, and it aids us as teachers to plan for our units. For instance, mapping backwards by thinking about what our summative assessments will be, informs how we introduce and pre-assess the students.
If there is a student that gets some tasks related to one of our Mathematics standard, such as
“Making use of previously acquired knowledge in practical or new ways”
we discuss this in our weekly PYP team meetings. Together we look where this standard can be implemented into our unit, lesson plans and which concrete examples of learning can be given to the students.
In this case I would use this standard as follows:
If my students have gained some awareness of inquiring into common shapes (such as triangle, square, circle), I will teach other lessons while implementing their acquired knowledge. For example, I will go on an outdoor walk. Looking for objects that remind my students of these common shapes makes the understanding of their learning visible and shows whether they have understood the concept of shapes. It could be that my youngest learners (3 to 5 years old) find things that they relate to their former experiences. I then will take a photo, hang it up and let them explain where they found it, what it is made of, where else it could be found, etc. Creating a mind map is also a good tool to reflect on former knowledge, and deepen the students learning to make them sensitive for new experiences. The assessment of their learning (for example, an audio of the child explaining the shapes found) will be taken into the Evernote database, to which each parent has access to learn about their child’s understanding and growth related to the given standard.
This video is a good tool to make clear what a standard is about, how it can be unpacked and how it is taught- related to components taught by the teacher in one or even more lessons. The video has been helpful to me, as it has deepened my understanding of how to unpack standards at my own school.
I would like to give a statement related to our Mathematics Standards, written down in the Common Core State Standards Initiative as:
These standards define what students should understand and be able to do in their study of mathematics. But asking a student to understand something also means asking a teacher to assess whether the student has understood it. But what does mathematical understanding look like? One way for teachers to do that is to ask the student to justify, in a way that is appropriate to the student’s mathematical maturity, why a particular mathematical statement is true or where a mathematical rule comes from. Mathematical understanding and procedural skill are equally important, and both are assessable using mathematical tasks of sufficient richness.
I believe that this statement –mathematical understanding and procedural skill are equally important – is absolutely true. I also like to make the standards work for my young students, and bring enthusiasm and engagement to class in order to unpack them.
This is my blog post related to the standards that are taught at my current school. I am a homeroom teacher at the International School of Stuttgart and in my 11th year teaching the Early Years students. The blog I have created is used for this grade level (3 to 5 year old children, Early Years). The standards we follow are related to the PYP (Primary Years Program) curriculum, and manifested in “Atlas”, a computer program to which all our teachers have access to. We as a team meet weekly together with our PYP coordinator, Maths coordinator and EAL coordinator to improve children’s learning by discussing a variety of activities related to our four Units of Inquiry which are called ‘Form’ (Mathematics), Communication ‘(Language), Relationships (socil Studies), and ‘The Natural World’ (Science). The standards are given by the IB organisation, and we/I are mapping these backwards to make the learning happen related to our students’ age.
I chose the standard of:
Showing an interest in and wondering about the immediate environment
This standard I like to be reached by my Early Years students throughout the two years, during which they are a member of our mixed-age group (3 to 5 years) .
When I started 10 years ago there was hardly any outdoor learning offered, the children spent most the day inside the building. Since then a program has been developed to engage the children in some outdoor learning, what is a part of our daily schedule, and usually is about 1 up to 1 1/2 hours per day.
I have realized that there are many children with hardly any outdoor learning experiences. Also, I have observed that sometimes they feel uncomfortable and struggle to be outside, even showing some fear if being taught some outdoor learning (science related lessons). I like to take their fear away, become them curious about the outdoor learning environment, and engage them in becoming critical thinkers and inquirers while saving and protecting this environment, and finslly our planet.
As a forest pedagogy person (in German: Waldpädagogin) there is a lot of teaching experience I have been gaining throughout the last years. The main aspect of saving Nature, the environment and especially the forest-areas (globally!) are these three columns: PROTECT –USE –RELAX in the forest.
With my youngest children I started this way of learning through a huge variety of activities, such as: making our playground a home for butterflies and insects, protect little animals, such as rain worms and spiders, give us shade through planting trees, collect water if it rains, don’t break plants and flowers as they are a part of our ecological system, plant a hedge for birds and other animals, etc.
It has been one of my personal goals (what is also included in the school’s curriculum) that outdoor learning becomes a constant lesson of the Early Years schedule. Our students from 3 up to 6 years get to learn outside a “save classroom”, and get outdoor learning in the nearby forest-area as well. Daily with a small number of students one of us teachers goes outside, working on activities that are related to the standard, and the Unit we are currently teaching.
Example: if we work on numbers or shapes, we use the maths outside. In the forest we collect a huge amount of acorns and cones, bring them back to school, use them at the maths area for sorting, weighing, measuring and creating shapes.
The students get the following efficiencies:
respect our Nature and its resources
get an awareness how nature can be used in daily life
get an awareness of responsibility for the outdoor environment
We assess the students individually and document our observations on our e- portfolio which is called “Evernote”.
If going through the woods in autumn, I will assess the following:
the child is able to look at natural resources related to fall/ autumn (such as hazelnuts, acorns, colourful leaves)
the child is able to describe in own simple words what about the identity of a natural resource (such as: flat surface, oval shape, rough, spiky, flat surface, etc) Therefore we also use some Mother tongue support, (for example German and Japanese) as most our students are EAL learners.
The child is able to count objects being found (for example, rote- count acorns). Most of our young learners start rote counting up to 5, will develop rote counting acorns to 10, 20 and even 100 (only a few students are able to get this far).
The formulation of the assessments are the following:
Science Standards Assessment – Communication
Describe and compare things in terms of:
-Draw picture of object being observed or described.
I hope this blog has shown and made transparent some learning related to my standard above.
How to give positive reinforcement and how to react if students breaking rules
By Carola Deinet-Knittel
Positive reinforcement is a very important way to improve a student’s behavior and learning, and also to deepen their self-confidence.
During my teaching career I have always had some children that needed more attention than their classmates, have been more restless, aggressive, needy than others. And as a teacher you learn step by step to get an idea how to ‘get them on track’- as you realise that otherwise teaching will become more difficult in class.
I have had students from 3 up to 13 years so far. In Germany there are educators who take care of students before/after school, as often school finishes at 1 ish pm. Since a few years ago there has been a change in childcare, so more students are taken under a teacher’s wings than a few years before. Also, there is much more time spent on “after school activities” around school what has become a very engaging way to effectively support the children in being with their classmates.
I would like to give a few examples how I have interacted with children having difficulties in being with others (behavior wise, needy, aggressive potential, etc.)
Having a boy in class who likes hitting a lot:
I first have a closer look at his behavior, take some notes, when aggression shows up, and related to withitness might see it coming (depending on time, schedule, being exhausted, being tired, for example). I gently try to have him around me, doing some activities together with him to keep him engaged, praise him if there is any kind of positive effect, such as: ”You are a real constructor today. Your tower you’ve been working on looks very impressive!” Also, one-to-one correspondence is often needed to get the child’s positive action. If hitting, pushing, starts there will be an immediate reaction following, such as direct appeal. I will stand next to the child, keep him away in a kind of way the students in class are not aware of (otherwise he might be in a negative ’drawer’ related to his behavior), and I also signalize: ‘I am the person that sets clear borders’.
Borders in class I always discuss with my students, -I call these borders ‘agreements’, such as be kind with one another, keep your hands to yourself, raise your hand if you like to speak during circle time, etc. With the children there will be group discussions. The children and I talk about what happens if these agreements won’t be fulfilled, or not respected. To make it visible, I take a mind map collecting what about their ideas if the rules, procedures will be not accepted. Then the children/teacher take photographs related to a specific agreement (for example: Me ‘pulling, pushing’ another teacher: this picture is “red crossed”, next to this picture a photo related to the agreement: ”We are kind” showing two children helping each other to get dressed). These aspects on our mind map are hung up on our classroom wall -being obviously for everybody. Also, the main aspect is translated into students’ Mother tongue, as the parents also can translate this important agreement.
Back to my first case:
If the boy breaks these, there will be further steps we as a class have decided as a follow-up: that means, the boy needs to learn to reflect on his behavior issues, as there will be another step set he might not like, such as not participating in the next library session if disturbing the slot. Also, I have constant discussions with angry, screaming and shouting students that don’t like to get dressed in their puddle pants for outside recess if it rains! But the agreement is: no outside recess -if you are not properly dressed. It might take a few days (maybe a week) until a misbehaving young student realizes –the teacher won’t let me be outside, if it rains. She likes to protect me from getting sick in wet clothes. Most of these issues are also discussed in the afternoons during key group time. Reflection (even with the youngest students) is a great tool to avoid stress in class, as the children realize that they are taken seriously. Also, related to any misbehavior we do read stories related to the topic.
For example, just this last week there was an English speaking boy (4 ½ years old, Indian background) screaming for about 15 minutes because it was time to tidy up the play dough area. He started hitting the teacher, too. I needed to react immediately: I took him aside from the others, so no one could point at him, and brought him to an area called the ‘calm space’: there a bear is sitting on a chair waiting for someone who is upset. I placed the screaming student there, gave him the teddy into his hands, and left him a bit. After a short while (I always could see the boy sitting there!), I went back (2 minutes), and started talking: ‘I am here if you get calmer. Hold the bear, he might help you.’
It usually works if students get used to this routine (I also talked about this to our school psychologists). After a while I was able to talk to the boy again, telling him it was necessary to tidy up because there was a new lesson starting, such as language-time. I also repeated our classroom-agreement, be kind with one another, keep your hands to yourself, and explained what will happen if he don’t do so. We as a class (3-5 year old children!) agreed on the person need to apologize by saying: ”Sorry,” drawing a picture to make someone happy again or holding hands with the one that got hurt. Also, there is another way to say loud: ”Stop! I don’t like this!’ With this sentence we encourage our young learners in showing self-confidence if being attacked by another student. This time, the boy really calmed down, couldn’t apologize but being held by the teacher’s hand together with her went tidying up, holding the brush and broom together, got finished in time and went for the next lesson calm again. In the afternoon I read a story titled:” If you are angry, and you know it…” (being recommended by our psychologist!) Finally, I asked the group whether there was someone who had this feeling once. Nobody reacted. I asked the boy whether he might remember some, and –he did. I explained that it is okay to feel angry, and also that it is okay to say: Sorry and think how to find a solution, such as tidying up quickly to be ready for the next lesson. The boy tidied up the next day very well.
To keep children focused on positive behavior I also try to mention positive behavior of students a lot, but it needs to be not only honored but also mentioned in a way that the children feel my honesty. If being identical the students realize me being the support of their positive behavior.
For example, last week has been the start of our settling-in procedure at our school for the new academic year. My colleagues and I had 22 new students settle into the Early Years area (3 to 5 year old ones!), what could be challenging sometimes.
During the afternoon circle time with the key group students I reflected on our first week, talking about what went well, what they liked a lot, what they didn’t like so much, etc. In my opinion there existed quite a good classroom atmosphere, what lead me to do the following:
Usually I praise and positively support my students by using words, or also by giving feedback to their parents after school, if there was something that really went well. This afternoon I went to my desk, got small glittery stickers and shared them with my students who were thrilled.
I said that this special treat was something I don’t use very often, but if I take it they all can be sure they did an outstanding job. All of the children felt positively and highly valued. In case things don’t work well these are also being discussed during key group time, and solutions will be tried to figure out together as well, such as how to be treaten fair if behavior issues turn into wrong (as mentioned above).
As it is said in “The Art and Science of Teaching”, Chapter 7, page 134:
“One of the conclusions is that a combination of positive and negative consequences appears to be the optimum approach. This conclusion is echoed by
Miller, Ferguson, and Simpson (1998) in their review of the research literature:
“Clearly, the results of these studies should permit schools to strike . . . a ‘healthy
balance’ between rewards and punishments” (p. 56).
It is important to note that the topic of positive and negative consequences
is a controversial one, at least as played out in the literature. ”
I have also observed that students start interacting strange if I start praising them for things they usually do right anyway. So, for me it is a daily balance to keep the little ones on track in supporting them through voice, words and activities positively to make the class run smoothly. I also interact if there is a child being disruptive; first I try to planful ignore this but if it gets to difficult I interact by getting them into ‘time out’, talking to them calmly, or giving them some kind of attention they do need just right now.
This is the link I created related to the topic: ‘How to best support students having behavior issues in class’
 Print Products Classroom Instruction That Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement by Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, Jane E. Pollock (#101010) Classroom Management That Works: Research Based Strategies for Every Teacher by Robert J. Marzano, Jana S. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering (#103027) Grading and Reporting Student Learning by Robert J. Marzano and Tom Guskey (Professional Inquiry Kit; # 901061) A Handbook for Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert J. Marzano, Jennifer S. Norford, Diane E. Paynter, Debra J. Pickering, Barbara B. Gaddy (#101041)
When I watched this video I couldn’t stop waiting for its outcome.
The lesson the teacher Mrs. Donna Migdol offered to her students has been a great one in my opinion, as it shows how to get students into learning and deeper understanding of given tasks.
There have been several strategies the teacher set up for making this classroom project of science (Physics) an effective one.
Key concept of the lesson: “How the world works”
Problem solving: the children discussed how to make the roller coaster work –the teacher had the role of an observer, realizing by assessing individually the pupil’s knowledge, as she kept herself back and had some time to take a few notes related to the individual children.
Team Work: Through team work the whole class got inspired, as lots of discussions came up throughout the whole roller coaster project. The children stayed very focused, and also got ideas from one another. There is one thing that need to be mentioned, what I think is very important: as a student of a group you also need to keep yourself back, let others speak, accept others ideas to get the problem solved, honor others and find new ways to interact and communicate with one another. As you do this as a student you grow in your personality and focus on the outcome of the product- make it work as a ‘team’.
Documentation: Also, the teacher asks for documenting the students’ work. This is necessary, as through documentation problem solving might show up, and also it is a strategy you can assess students’ knowledge and learning outcome in detail.
Enjoy work: The task the children had to solve seemed to be inspiring, engaging and motivating them, while giving them also some positive time together with their peers. I realized the children’s smile and engagement. In class there seemed to be a positive atmosphere during work. When the roller coaster worked they all celebrated it, by raising their arms and cheering joyfully. ‘Together we made it!’ –this seems to be the message of this project! The teacher also talked about fun while working on the marble run.
Life- long learning: The children learn throughout this project for their life, as it enriches their self-confidence, patience, team support and thinking on a high level. The message is a clear one: go, give it a try, find solutions through discussions, and make choices.
Share responsibility: This is another great method to get the students into learning on a higher level. They learn to be responsible for their work and share this responsibility, such as the counter (treasurer) who has been responsible for the finances – just like in real life situations. The teacher has taken this strategy to deepen their understanding of learning, and also for ‘life-long learning’ –if you take over responsibility you need to give the best you can to make it work.
The behavior expectations, in my opinion, are ranked on a high level, as the children need to work closely together and definitely need to respect one another’s’ ideas, opinions, and methods. Agreements and rules need to be set up to make the roller coaster project be some successful work in the end!
Academically the teacher held up high performance expectations for her students. The physical level is a high one, and usually lots of input and teaching need to be given to make this kind of science lesson be an effective one. It seems to me that the teacher realized she could ask for more learning, – and throughout this the students achieved a higher level of learning.
I am convinced that this lesson about Kinetics and potential energy management and mechanics (in physics, Newton) gives a lot of learning depth for these students in class, as they learn through practice. Both, learning by doing and problem solving in a team, are strategies that deepen students’ understanding and learning in my opinion a lot.
Explainer: what makes Chinese maths lessons so good?
To me it seems as if the children of this 3rd grade classroom don’t seem to feel absolutely bored, -they just follow the lesson as they are expected to participate in it –no matter whether they like it or not. But there is no choice given in class to maybe work on a project, or together to problem solve a given math task. The article I read is about how math is taught at Chinese schools – such as memorize the multiplication rhyme. In China it is an old tradition to teach math in this kind of way (it was set up about 2200 years ago), and the Chinese teachers are still convinced that this kind of maths works the best for their pupils, and that routine practice is the most efficient learning method.
The outcome of documentation seems to show and underline this effect. There are highly talented students and adults that are highly valued in other areas of the world.
The main problem related to the teaching strategy I have observed while watching the video is the following:
In my ideal teaching world there exists some good relationship between students and teachers, communication is one of the keywords related to my teaching strategies, and to me it seems that the communication level in Chinese classrooms is ruled, highly structured and organized as if the children are under high pressure and kind of military drill. For sure, there are times in a classroom when the teacher needs to speak in front of the children, maybe write down on the black-whiteboard. But it is also a good practice to move from one to the next place, have a short transition time where the brain could relax for a moment and doesn’t need to focus this much.
I am not the one to value Chinese teaching practices, as we also need to learn to accept others’ cultures, also in teaching strategies. But couldn’t it be that this kind of teaching is also taken into governments’ culture of creating the Chinese population think and do “the same”?
When I was young, we also repeated the multiplication scale often and often- it didn’t do me any harm- I still know most of the outcomes and exercises.
But if talking about how to bring children to a higher level: I am personally convinced that students that are maths oriented, (or maybe not!) will reach a higher maths level if the teaching strategy is related to the real world. In China the teachers don’t show any effort to use maths in daily projects or activities, at my school the children use maths in a variety of ways, such as: go shopping at the market, compare the prizes, organize a shape hunt, go and find shapes on our playground (even with my youngest students!). I personally believe that this kind of learning also brings fun and motivation for the students, and they might reach a similar math level than children in China that are taught in the way of phasing. The teacher in class seemed to have some empathy for her students, but this culture is far away from my way of teaching understanding.
This video show that behavior expectations are also on a very high level, -no matter what a student likes to do- they need to follow the procedure of the lesson. It could well be that misbehavior might be treaten through some punishment, and the student might feel ashamed. So –better move on and don’t disturb- this is the message being set by the video, in my opinion.
Because of the norms and procedures that happen in classroom the learning will take place –no matter whether a student has understood the task, the teacher seems to move on. If there is a mistake (and mistakes are there to learn from them!), the teacher corrects it –that is all! I personally wouldn’t like to teach in this way – I for sure teach absolutely differently!
Whether there is high student performance- I think there is a low one, as the students only react on what the teacher wants them to learn! They repeat and answer all together –so there is shown no differentiation on individual learning.
Whole Brain Teaching Richwood High – The Basics
This way of teaching I have never seen before. It seems as if the whole class is very engaged in movements related to topics, tasks and procedures.
Teaching through movements such as rule number 1, number 4 or 7 gives the students input in a variety of ways. Related to geography, how the students find the exact location of a place; this they learn by demonstrating it with their arms. Also, they teach one another by using movements, such as “the Crazy Professor”, who explains through body language the task to his partner.
What -I think -is another great idea is to improve students’ brain work through reading: two students read one after the next, and repeat, what has lots of effect on their brain as it is in constant focus and concentration on what the opposite peer is doing. In this case the students learn by using their listening, speaking, visual, gross-motor and thinking skills.
All in all there seems to be a positive atmosphere in this classroom, the teacher engages the students to constant learning, and encourages them to work on movements related to what is asked for, include their peers and respectfully listen to one another.
Also, the children smile and are all very engaged in this teaching strategy.
It enhances their learning as there is lots of activity going on, – I am not sure whether it might be too much input, but related to the Chinese lesson it is much more positive and seems to show fun in class as well.
The academic expectations by the teacher are on a high level, as she engages them in understanding the given task. Also, the teacher is observing while walking around the classroom and having a look at what the students are doing.
The behavior of these students is on a high level, as they treat their partner respectful, need to listen to one another and imitate their body language.
Norms and procedures in class are set up clearly, the children know what to do and follow the teachers’ instructions.
All in all I would prefer to teach like shown in the first video, as this is the way of teaching I am quite used to, and I also think that the outcome of learning in this case is a high one.
Even with our youngest learners we try to find solutions in this kind of way, and creating marble runs our little ones like a lot. I have spent lots of time observing them through discussions whether this marble rolls up or down or into a hole or away,……