Issuu on Google+

Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us a collaborative resource of the Office of Teaching & Learning

WINTER 2012


From Ann Koufman-Frederick Deputy Superintendent for Teaching & Learning Dear Faculty and Staff: Welcome to the first issue of Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us, a collaborative resource of the Office of Teaching & Learning. Our goals for this publication are to share some of the highlights of the important work that is helping define the future of learning in Newton Schools and to provide a forum for collaboration between faculty. For this inaugural issue of Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us, I asked all of the Curriculum Coordinators to share news of innovations and practices in their disciplines. We hope you enjoy these articles, and also that you will share feedback and stories of your own. We envision this resource as a forum not only for news, but for true educator-toeducator communication and collaboration, and we encourage you to participate in the conversations started here. Please email any comments, suggestions or story ideas you may have to: kelly_mcnamara@newton.k12.ma.us. In addition to innovations in curriculum development and delivery, the Office of Teaching & Learning is working behind the scenes with the Information Technology Department to design and implement enriched learning environments in which technology opens doors to new resources and the globally connected world beyond the classroom. In alignment with the district’s Vision 2020 strategic plan, we are designing and planning the launch of OurNewton, a comprehensive learning management platform. OurNewton will give teachers the communication, collaboration and design tools to share curriculum and effective practices, design or renovate units and lessons, access curricular resources and digital content, and build learner portfolios. For students, access to OurNewton’s multimedia tools and the up-todate digital content will provide a vast forum for learning beyond classroom walls. Thank you for taking the time to read our first issue. Future newsletters will feature other ongoing teaching and learning initiatives such as Instructional Rounds, Innovation Lab, Making Thinking Visible, Curriculum Advisories, and Blended Learning. It is exciting and wonderful to be in Newton, working and learning with all of you. In the Office of Teaching & Learning, we are all looking forward to what the remainder of the school year will bring. Sincerely,

Table of Contents: Google Apps for Education: eBooks and the Classroom:

Missy Costello/4! Chris Swerling/5!

Who is Asking the Questions?: I Discovered it Myself:

!

Anne Mikulski/6!

Jenny Craddock/7!

Global Citizens in Grade 2:

Puzzling Mathematics: Mary Eich/10

Lucia Sullivan/8!

Middle School World Travel: Alison Mulligan/9

Who is Doing the Talking?:

Jody Klein/12

Beyond the Bulletin Board: Richard King/14

!

Move, Think, Learn:! Gwen Smith/16

!

Learning Powered by Technology: Leo Brehm/17


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

Vision 2020 NPS STRATEGIC PLAN Preparing All Students for Success in College, Career and Life To become a model 21st Century school system, Administrative Team has recently updated the original Vision 2020 goals, including objectives and improvement strategies. The following strategic goals lay the foundation for improved student success: Support high academic achievement ‣

Improve achievement for all students, including defining and narrowing achievement gaps for identified student groups.

Provide students with a coherent, consistent curriculum aligned from Pre-K through Grade 12 that includes authentic learning experiences, a variety of assessment strategies, and the use of digital tools.

Ensure that instruction cultivates curiosity and incorporates communication, collaboration, critical thinking and opportunities for students to create and invent.

Develop and support educator collaboration around looking at student work, sharing effective instructional practices, and analyzing data on a variety of student learning measures, and provide focused and job-embedded professional learning that supports district teaching and learning goals for all teachers, administrators and staff.

PROMOTE LOCAL AND GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP THROUGH COLLABORATION ‣ Nurture a respectful and caring educational environment in which all students learn to become empathic, engaged and ethical citizens. ‣

Using the Internet, expand beyond traditional school boundaries to cultivate collaborations within and beyond the district that support and enhance improved teaching and learning.

ENSURE UP-TO-DATE TEACHING AND LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS ‣ Engage in multi-year financial planning that maintains educational excellence, supports equity, and is financially sustainable. ‣

Develop concrete next steps to address the short-term and long-term needs of facilities across the system.

Across the district, build and support network infrastructure and hardware environments that support robust access to the Internet and allow students to learn anywhere, anytime.


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

Google Apps for Education is Here! Missy Costello, K-12 Coordinator, Information Technology Google Apps for Education launched this fall for all Newton Public Schools. After a year-long pilot last year in the middle schools, we were excited to offer this powerful online tool for teachers and students at all levels.

The education version of Google Apps provides a secure environment for students and staff free from ads and other privacy concerns.

NPS Google Apps include docs, presentations, spreadsheets, drawing and forms. Files and resources are available anywhere there is an Internet connection and are compatible with all computer operating systems and browsers. Students and staff are using these tools to communicate and collaborate with their peers and colleagues in a variety of ways.

Teachers are using Google docs for their gradelevel and content-area lesson development. Files can be shared between teams of teachers providing more flexibility in planning and can be easily accessed at work or home. Teachers are using Google forms to create surveys, collect data and online assessments. Google provides a variety of colorful templates for forms and they are easy to make and share. Students can now easily access and organize their assignments and projects with fewer opportunities to misplace papers or homework. Teachers are distributing and providing feedback on assignments for students reducing copying costs and the use of paper. Go Green!

WINTER 2012

These online files or collections are creating virtual portfolios that can be kept from kindergarten through 12th grade. Collaboration between students is simple to facilitate, groups are working simultaneously on projects to communicate and provide peer feedback to their classmates.

At all the school levels students are using Google docs in exciting and creative ways, including: •

Online reading logs and book reviews

Anti-bullying presentations

Collecting data for science experiments

Graphic organizers

Essay writing mock debates

Students are communicating with their peers at other schools, both in Newton and beyond. Classroom walls are being removed and students are actively using 21st century skills to communicate, collaborate, create and think critically anytime and anywhere.

The Google Apps is the perfect tool to help integrate the new Massachusetts Common Core Standards into Newton’s curriculum. The vision for these standards calls on schools to provide interactive, multimedia communication tools so that “students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use.”

This exciting online resource is already transforming communication and collaboration throughout Newton schools and will continue to shape our educational practices for years to come.

4


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

eBooks & the Classroom Chris Swerling, K-12 Coordinator for Library Media Services Are you ready to try out an eBook but don’t know the difference between a Kindle and a Nook? Look no further than @ your school library! The NPS library department has a TumbleBooks subscription that provides access to eBooks in the library, in the classroom and at home. All you need is computer with Internet access. TumbleBooks are eBooks for today’s digital learner that enhance the traditional book format through the addition of animation, music and sound. Text is highlighted as it is read aloud for students to apply decoding skills. Log in and browse the easy to navigate site! Speak with your elementary school library teacher for log in access and take the TumbleBooks tour! Your school library teacher is ready and willing to partner with you as you introduce TumbleBooks to your class and experiment with using eBooks in your classroom.

You will recognize many of the included titles used to support ELA, Science, and Social Studies curricula and/or replace the cds and cassettes in your classroom listening centers. Though the use of eBooks in Literacy Programs is still in it’s infancy, some schools that have embraced Tumble Books in their instruction have seen demonstrated growth in reading achievement among students.

Here are some of the ways eBooks are poised to have an impact on teaching and learning as school libraries and classrooms begin to incorporate their use into instruction: •

Struggling readers and those with visual impairments can benefit from enlarged and read aloud features.

When used on an Internet ready device, eBooks often link to video clips and additional information to explain a concept or deepen understanding in a visual way, sparking the natural curiosity of the reader and making information accessible to all learners.

Text can be highlighted and notes added by the teacher and student.

Click here to watch a video from Follett eBooks illustrating the possibilities for using eBooks in libraries and classrooms.

Piloting eBooks Across the district, teachers and librarians are evaluating eBook titles and platforms. Margaret Schoen, Franklin School’s Library Teacher, is piloting a 4th grade class text eBook program in collaboration with FollettShelf. eBooks are making their way into NPS Middle School Libraries as well. Library teachers are in varying stages of investigating and experimenting with eBook titles for student and teacher use.

As you plan projects for your students, be sure to consult with the library teacher in your school. There are resources beyond what you see on the library shelves for you and your students to delve into!

NPS school library collections are evolving from traditional rows of books to include electronic resources such as eBooks. In doing so NPS library teachers have made the subtle shift from being gatekeepers of information to being the gateway to information, emphasizing instructing students in information seeking strategies – not just finding answers. WINTER 2012

5


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

Who is Asking the Questions? Anne Mikulski, K-8 ELA Coordinator As we near the end of progress reporting season and consider the semester’s work to find the evidence of students’ achievement and signs of growth, we are also crafting next steps for teaching and learning practices that would benefit individual students as well as groups. We are seeking to identify the practices that awaken the heart and mind of the learner within each student, as well as to teach those skills that, when learned, practiced, and owned, form a repertoire of habits that shape the possibilities for independent, interdependent lifelong learning.

The Question Formulation Technique: Step 1: Teachers Design a Question Focus The Question Focus, Q Focus, is a prompt that teachers develop. The prompt is used as a way to engage students and to stimulate their thinking and questioning about a particular theme or topic. For example, in a history class, students might listen to a piece of music, view photographs or read a statement crafted by the teacher that addresses a particular time period.

One source of creative thinking around innovative practices has been research by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana from the Asking the Right Question Institute at Harvard. At the heart of their research is the question:

Step 2: Students Produce Questions The students learn a 4-step protocol for developing their own question. The protocol is designed to be open-ended and to elicit a broad array of questions.

What if, daily, at every level, we wrote these three words on the classroom whiteboard:

Step 3: Students Improve Their Questions Here students learn to analyze questions, to change any closed-ended questions into open-ended ones, and to pay attention to the wording.

Ask More Questions What might, what could happen as a result?

In their book Make Just One Change, Rothstein and Santana suggest that the results of shifting the responsibility of questioning in our classrooms from our minds to the minds of our students would be nothing less than transformative. They 6-step process called The Question Formulation Technique. Using this technique, students learn how to formulate and analyze their own questions.

“Teachers tell us that using the QFT consistently increases participation in group and peer learning processes, improves classroom management, and enhances their efforts to address inequities in education.” Rothstein, D. & Santana, L. (2011, September/October). Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions, Harvard Education Letter, 27: 5, pp. 1-2. WINTER 2012

Step 4: Students Prioritize Their Questions The students learn to focus their inquiry and make a plan by selecting a few questions to probe more deeply. Step 5: Students and Teachers Decide on Next Steps Together, students and teachers decide how the questions will be used. Step 6: Students Reflect on What They Have Learned As students reflect, they become more adept at recognizing the possibilities to deepen thinking and learning in a variety of settings. Rothstein and Santana present a compelling case for looking at the teaching and learning experiences in our classrooms through the lens of who is asking the questions. They propose moving away from the model of teacher as chief architect of classroom questions toward a model in which the teacher is a facilitator of classroom inquiry and students are the lead architects of their questioning and learning. 6


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

I Discovered it Myself: Science & Engineering Jenny Craddock, K-8 Coordinator, Science and Technology Engineering In classrooms students are discovering the ideas of science by investigating objects and/or phenomena, making observations and developing the skills needed to make sense of their observations. Rather than memorizing static information out of context, students are struggling with problems, thinking about what they know already and then considering what they need to learn and make new discoveries.

The Problem of the “Ice-Penguin”

Which of These is Not Like the Other? In the challenge of determining which seeds are the same species, students described seeds to their partners to figure out which did not belong in the following. They shared the following observations:

Challenged to keep a two-inch tall penguin from melting when placed under a heat lamp for fifteen minutes, students were students are encouraged to apply their knowledge of heat transfer as well as their critical thinking skills to design technologies to solve the problem. Students asked the following questions:

• “It looks a lot like paper (referring to the texture of the seed.) “

• “Are we building this in a cube?”

• “Let’s put it in water to see if it sinks or floats”

• “Are we using the felt? That keeps so much heat out.” As students designed a structure that will protect the penguin from melting they considered the properties of the materials, and how the structure they created would or would not achieve their goal. Over the course of the project students deepen their understanding of a concept by actively applying it to a real world problem.

For more information and resources visit: http://www.sciencenotebooks.org/

WINTER 2012

• “It felt prickly” • “Could we eat it? We know the corn is not the same as the others because we can eat it, and we can’t eat the others.” Further, students thought of ways to generate more evidence by “testing” the seeds in different environments to see how they behaved. Among the tests:

• “Let’s cook the seeds, because one is popcorn. Maybe we can test the popcorn and see if it pops, and then do the same with the others.” Finally, students tested out their ideas with each other, built on those ideas and developed a plan: • “We can plant the seeds and see the difference of the seeds by the plants.” By working through challenges like these students as scientists gain an understanding of how the world behaves. Many scientific concepts are counterintuitive, and uncovering and considering the basic underlying ideas is the important first step in truly effectively learning them. Only then can students have their thinking challenged, relinquish more abstract intuited ideas, and move to a more accurate and scientific understanding.

7


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

Global Citizens in Grade 2 Lucia Sullivan, K-8 History and Social Sciences Coordinator Second graders are continuing to learn about Mexico, China and Ghana but the curriculum has been updated to reflect best practices in elementary education.  

New materials include leveled texts that allow students to access content at their instructional reading level.  This also makes it possible for social studies content to migrate into instructional reading time.  Teachers had reported feeling squeezed for time.  These changes respond to that time and expand students’ opportunities to interact with content.

A dedicated cadre of teachers has been working with scholars on China, Ghana and Mexico since the fall of 2010.  Teachers met over the summer to determine which aspects of the existing content could be aligned to the Mass Frameworks.  As they worked to create revisions for Mexico, it was decided that students should start by

learning about the United States.  This introductory mini-unit lays the groundwork for future learning by providing a basis of comparison.

The future of history education at the elementary level is rooted in making it an indispensable component of the informational reading standards.   As the Newton Public Schools moves to full alignment with the new Mass Frameworks for Literacy in History/Social Sciences, we will be adopting materials in each grade that will allow teachers to provide reading instruction using the content students are learning about in history.  This will provide students with a more integrated day and it will provide teachers with more time.

WINTER 2012

8


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

Middle School World Travel Alison Mulligan, World Languages Coordinator As teachers of World Languages, we understand that an essential part of being an empathetic and engaged Global Citizen is the ability to communicate with people from other cultures in their native language. In order to help our students advance in their L2 (second language) proficiency, a main professional development focus for the 2011/2012 school year is performance assessment. 

We are looking to go beyond assessments that focus students on low-level recall of vocabulary and manipulation of grammatical structures and instead create classroom experiences that illuminate what students are able to do with the language skills that they are acquiring.  

The central theme of the tasks is world travel. They are designed to facilitate:

Groups of colleagues that teach the same language are in the process of designing three integrated performance assessments for a learning unit of their choice.  These assessments are designed to:

Research of various vacation destinations using websites from the target culture

• Give students opportunities to demonstrate their abilities to interpret written and oral language

Discussions between classmates regarding the pros and cons of different travel destinations

• Encourage students to engage in two way communication orally and in writing

Emailing centers of tourism in the target cultures to acquire more information

• Provide students with a platform for presenting their thinking and learning to others via written language, oral language and media.

Presenting a multimedia presentation designed to convince members of the community to sponsor a school trip to their chosen travel destination

These assessment tasks often begin with smaller formative classroom activities and culminate in larger, summative performances.

 

Imagine how inspired students will be as they piece together comprehensive and persuasive presentations of vacation destinations of target culture as they develop their L2 skills.

By engaging students in activities that require critical and creative thinking and challenge them to use their L2 communication skills, not only are we preparing our students for their future education and careers, we are providing them with the skills and opportunities to participate in our global society today. WINTER 2012

9


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

Puzzling Mathematics Mary Eich, Mathematics Coordinator The new Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for Mathematics have a dual focus – they set standards for mathematics content and standards for mathematical practices. The new standards, developed by education officials from 48 states, address the ongoing concerns at the national level about the focus and coherence of mathematics education, and about the depth of understanding of mathematics among students in the United States. The Standards for Mathematical Content – which address the focus and coherence of mathematics education K-12 – require that we change the content of our curriculum by decreasing the number of topics to be taught each year, and by deliberately building

concepts step-by-step from grade to grade. That work is well underway in our elementary and middle schools, and all those who teach mathematics and support student learning in mathematics have had opportunities to work with a few of the new standards. Increasing the depth of student understanding of mathematics requires changing some of our traditional instructional strategies to promote the processes and proficiencies identified in the Standards of Mathematical Practice. Mathematicians and mathematics educators all over the country are working on ways to understand and enact these math practices. In this article, we’ll look at Math Practice #1 below.

Math Practice #1: “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.” Mathematically proficient students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution. They analyze givens, constraints, relationships, and goals. They make conjectures about the form and meaning of the solution and plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution. They monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary. Older students might, depending on the context of the problem, transform algebraic expressions or change the viewing window on their graphing calculator to get the information they need. Mathematically proficient students can explain correspondences between equations, verbal descriptions, tables, and graphs or draw diagrams of important features and relationships, graph data, and search for regularity or trends. Younger students might rely on using concrete objects or pictures to help conceptualize and solve a problem. Mathematically proficient students check their answers to problems using a different method, and they continually ask themselves, “Does this make sense?” They can understand the approaches of others to solving complex

In Newton, we’re fortunate to have some of the authors of the Common Core right down the street at EDC. In particular, Al Cuoco and Paul Goldenberg are among the leaders in the on-going and urgent work of making

the math practices accessible – to teachers and to students. Here’s an excerpt of Paul Goldenberg’s thoughts about “making sense of problems and persevering in solving them” in elementary school

“The problems we encounter in the “real world”—our work life, family life, and personal health—don’t ask us what chapter we’ve just studied and don’t tell us which parts of our prior knowledge to recall and use. In fact, they rarely even tell us exactly what question we need to answer, and they almost never tell us where to begin. They just happen. To survive and succeed, we must figure out the right question to be asking, what relevant experience we have, what additional information we might need, and where to start. And we must have enough stamina to continue even when progress is hard, but enough flexibility to try alternative approaches when progress seems too hard.” WINTER 2012

10


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

The Standard in Elementary School The same applies to the real life problems of children, problems like learning to talk, ride a bike, play a sport, handle bumps in the road with friends, and so on. What makes a problem “real” is not the context. A good puzzle is not only more part of a child’s “real world” than, say, figuring out how much paint is needed for a wall, but a better model of the nature of the thinking that goes with “real” problems: the first task in a crossword puzzle or Sudoku or KenKen® is to figure out where to start. A satisfying puzzle is one that you don’t know how to solve at first, but can figure out. And state tests present problems that are deliberately designed to be different, to require students to “start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution.” Mathematical Practice #1 asks students to develop that “puzzler’s disposition” in the context of mathematics. Teaching can certainly include focused instruction, but students must also get a chance to tackle problems that they have not been taught explicitly how to solve, as long as they have adequate background to figure out how to make progress. Young children need to build their own toolkit for solving problems, and need opportunities and encouragement to get a handle on hard problems by thinking about similar but simpler problems, perhaps using simpler numbers or a simpler situation. One way to help students make sense of all of the mathematics they learn is to put experience before formality throughout, letting students explore problems and derive methods from the exploration. For example, students learn the logic of multiplication and division— the distributive property that makes possible the algorithms we use—before the algorithms. The algorithms for each operation become, in effect, capstones rather than foundations.

Modifying Word Problems for XYZ Another way is to provide, somewhat regularly, problems that ask only for the analysis and not for a numeric “answer.” You can develop such problems by modifying standard word problems.

WINTER 2012

For example, consider this standard problem: Eva had 36 green pepper seedlings and 24 tomato seedlings. She planted 48 of them. How many more does she have to plant?

Or you might leave off some numbers and ask children how they’d solve the problem if the numbers were known: Eva started with 36 green pepper seedlings and some tomato seedlings. She planted 48 of them. If you knew how many tomato seedlings she started with, how could you figure out how many seedlings she still has to plant? (I’d add up all the seedlings and subtract 48.)

Or you might keep the original numbers but drop off the question and ask what can be figured out from that information, or what questions can be answered.

Eva had 36 green pepper seedlings and 24 tomato seedlings. She planted 48 of them. I could ask: “How many seedlings did she start with?” and I could figure out that she started with 60. “How many she didn’t plant?” and that would be 12. “What is the smallest number of tomato seedlings she planted?” (She had to have planted at least 12 of them!)

These alternative word problems ask children for much deeper analysis than typical ones, and you can invent them yourself, just by modifying word problems you already have.

11


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

Who is Doing the Talking? Jody Klein, Director of Language Acquisition Small group instruction/RTI One of the learning experiences in the Category 1 class Introduction to Language and Culture, asks teachers to reflect on the percentage of language input and output in a typical class – meaning language that students are hearing versus language they are producing. The exercise is designed to facilitate teachers’ reflections on the input/output of their classrooms, and how these inform and are informed by their interactions with individual students. The purpose of this article is to get your thinking more about the talk that is happening in your classroom.

Whole Class Instruction Focus lessons usually are taught to the whole class. Think about your teaching when instructing a larger number of students by asking yourself the following questions: • Do you call on individual students to answer a question or do you have students turn to a partner or answer a question in a group or on a white board or some other way so that all students are actively engaged? • What are some ways you allow students to process the information they are hearing? Remember Mary Budd Rowe’s 10:2 principle? According to it, students need time to process information. After 10 minutes of teacher talk (likely less for younger grades) ask students to summarize what they learned with a partner or identify key ideas or give them some task for 2 minutes to allow them to process or apply what they are learning. Some middle school teachers are having students write headlines to capture the main idea of a lesson.

WINTER 2012

Parts of a student day are often spent in a smaller learning group. For this context, consider the following questions: • What does teacher and student talk look like in a smaller setting? • What about when students are working together without a teacher? There is sometimes a lot of explaining or teacher talk happening even in small groups, or on when teachers are working with individual students. For this context, consider the following: • Do you wait for students to answer, move on to a different student or share your answer? • How long is your wait time? • Is there a word bank for students to look at to help with word/concept retrieval? • Are there talking norms so students are aware of how to share air time?

Asking questions What types of questions are being asked of students? Sometimes a question can be reworded so students need to answer in more than one or two words. As you know, some students are happy to provide one-word answers. During a recent observation I observed the following exchanges: T: Have you ever felt jealous? S: Yes. T: S: S: S:

When have you felt jealous? When my brother played Play Station 3 When another team wins the game When my brother done his homework better than me

12


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

First Grade Questions from the Double Decker Bus Unit First grade teachers asked the questions listed below in their Double Decker Bus unit. Try them in your classroom, and notice the amount of talking taking place. Students could answer these questions in a triad or with a partner so more talking is taking place.

Questions: • Can you say that in a different way? • How do you know? • Why did you think that?/How did you come up with that? • What did you notice? • Do you agree or not and why? • Can you explain your thinking? • How did the bead colors help you? • Can you explain the counting strategy you used? • How can you help your partner see what you saw? • Can you tell me how Maria solved it? • Tell me about an exciting moment of learning. • What made math special today? • Does anyone see it in a different way? Explain. • Tell me more/give me more information. • How would you explain this to a student who didn’t understand?

So what does language input and output look like in your classroom for learners? A central professional development theme for the district is Language, Thinking, and Communication. Creating an environment where students have multiple opportunities to talk across subject areas is critical to this mission. Take the time to reflect on the amount and type of talk that is happening in your classroom and “talk” about it with your building and/or department colleagues.

• Can you find a more efficient way to figure it out? • How could you make a change to your friend’s strategy?

WINTER 2012

13


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

Beyond the Bulletin Board: Student Art Exhibits at the Ed Center Richard P. King, Fine Arts Coordinator K-8 Visitors to the Education Center’s administrative offices can’t help but admire the great variety of student artwork that grace the corridor walls on the second and third floors. Those who work at the Education Center often express to me their delight in the artwork they see each day, pointing out their favorite pieces that they find amusing, touching, breathtaking, or “far better than I could ever do.” Perhaps like no other art form, visual art created by students represent their unique view of themselves and the world in which they live.

With one-tenth of the 21st Century behind us, public education is wrangling with its reorientation to better prepare students for a future where technology is ubiquitous and creativity and innovation are the ultimate skills that will ensure success after a preK-12 education. One could argue that exhibition is the ultimate goal of creating visual art. We create images that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but that communicate an idea, a belief, an emotion, or an artist’s unique view of the world. In my role as an arts curriculum coordinator, I have the pleasure of observing a wonderful array of artworks created by children of all ages. Observing students in the process of making art, however, is often times just as interesting than the finished artwork on exhibit. To that end, in Newton we recently began to broaden the scope of what a student art exhibit can exhibit.

Take the example of the Burr Elementary School project Circus BURRzirkus! A collaboration between Physical Education and Fine Arts, a PEHW unit was integrated with a visual art project in which the fifth graders created iMovies using stop action animation techniques with clay. The circus themed iMovies were amazing and featured, among other scenarios; a human

WINTER 2012

cannonball, high wire acts over shark pools, and a trained pink elephant. I immediately approached Diane Jaquith, Burr’s visual art teacher, to let her know that I wanted to show the iMovies at an upcoming art reception at the Ed Center. I worked with IT aficionado Marc Richmond, to create the multi-media display in the 3D exhibit case located outside the Superintendent’s office.

With one of the IT Department’s spare laptops to play the students’ iMovies, and an old tangerine crate, a modified cardboard box, and a decorative screen cover that resembled a circus tent, we launched the Ed Center’s first media exhibit was in the spring of 2009.

Burr visual art teacher, Diane Jaquith, arranges claymation figures in the new Media Case for the presentation of Circus BURRzirkus, iMovies created by 5th grade students in 2008.

14


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

Since the inaugural exhibit in the spring of 2009, several exhibits have followed, each showing artwork, the art making process, and students talking about art. Among them:

Burr animation iMovies

Lincoln-Eliot students interpreting The Great Wave off Kanagawa via Voice Thread

Cabot students who appeared on a special segment of WGBH’s Arthur featuring their symmetry/radial design art lesson

The Memorial-Spaulding visual art/library integrated lesson based on the book, Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson

As I visit art classrooms throughout the city, I am constantly reminded by what I observe, that visual art is so much more than the end result that is exhibited at the Education Center. That is why I find the media case to be so valuable. The media exhibits takes the viewer beyond the bulletin board and provide a deeper glimpse into the creative minds that flourish in our visual art classrooms.

The next time you’re at the Education Center, I urge you to stop by the media case, don the headphones, and enjoy a few moments of student artists in action!

For Mortenson lesson, the students read and discussed the book, created ceramic teacups, and held a fundraiser in support of Mortenson’s school building initiative in Pakistan and Afghanistan. To extend the fundraising here at the Education Center, coin slots were integrated into the media case for visitors to deposit coins that were collected inside the exhibit. And, if you have a Smart Phone with a QR Code Reader – check out our latest innovation! This year, several of the exhibits have a QR Code that will take you to a website where you can see student artwork as well as link to art museums who own the masterworks used by the teacher to motivate an art lesson unit, to a school librarian’s blog which documents a school-wide project on creativity.

!

WINTER 2012

The current media exhibit showcases 2nd grade students acting out their shadow puppet plays based on Eric Carl’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

15


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

Move, Think, Learn:

Compelling Research Across the Disciplines Gwen Smith, K-8 Coordinator PEHW The latest research suggests that children learning better if movement is an integral part of each day. How does that work?

The latest research shows that in order for the brain to function at its best, the body needs to move. Physical activity “super charges your mental circuits to beat stress, sharpen your thinking, lifts your mood, boosts your memory, and much more,” says Dr. John Ratey, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of SPARK - The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

Incorporating the Research Ratey argues that exercise is the spark, like the current in a spark plug that causes deeper thinking and learning to prevail. Bio-chemically, exercise results in a shower of neuro-chemicals called BDNF that prepare the brain to comprehend, critically think, apply and remember. These chemicals “act like Miracle Grow to the brain,” says Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules. Medina research supports his point also that “an inactive body equates to an under active brain.”

K-12 Physical Education, Health & Wellness teachers across the district shared in a professional development experience reading and discussing Dr. Ratey’s SPARK, and have come to common ground regarding a movement-based curriculum in physical education in order to enhance student learning. Given the research in support of students having physical education daily and physical activity several times a day, especially prior to deeper thinking, learning skill development and assessments, many physical educators have incorporated new activities into their curricula.

If students learn to MOVE often, they are able to THINK more deeply, and they LEARN naturally. WINTER 2012

Across the district instructors are incorporating research regarding the positive effects of physical activity into their courses of study. •

Some physical education teachers have introduced instant activities where students immediately engage in activity upon entering the gymnasium.

Some have SPARK morning walk/run challenges in which students set goals for the number of laps they can accomplish over a period of time.

Secondary physical educators have offered morning fitness activities as well as intramural opportunities outside of the school day in order to augment the shortened time allowed in the daily schedule for physical education.

In addition to these new activities, all Wellness Days, Peek Weeks, Color Days, Circus & Dance exhibitions and other culminating events have been organized by physical educators to spread the message to the greater community that physical education and activity is a key ingredient to providing students with a roadmap to feeling good about themselves, enjoying a healthy lifestyle and excelling academically.

16


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

Learning Powered by Technology Leo Brehm, Director of Information Technology So the new tech guy has been here for six months... What has he been up to? During my first few months I met with stakeholders including Principals, staff groups, PTOs, Coordinators and Department Heads to get their thoughts on the state of technology in the district, and reviewed the current state of the infrastructure (wired/wireless networks, WAN, Servers, Bandwidth) to see what the district currently supports. I also took a close look at classroom technology across the district, PreK-12, and discussed with teachers and administrators their thoughts about what they are doing and would like to be doing with technology in the classroom. These observations, together with existing technology plans, led the Technology Department to its first set of initiatives.

What did the Technology Department do first? Some of my early findings required immediate action, and our technology team quickly stepped up to implement some large-scale solutions. Among these: We purchased new laptops to replace older units at middle schools and for Special Education staff K-8. We upgraded the memory (to 2GB of RAM) and operating system (Snow Leopard) to those Mac laptops that had hit the five-year mark. (Please note that our team is approximately 65 percent through this upgrade initiative. If your machine still needs an update, you will hear from us soon.) Newton South received an upgrade to the internal connections to speed up access for both its wired and wireless computers, and their connection to the ED Center was upgraded to a blazing fast ten Gigabit uplink. Both high schools received additional wireless access points to support the additional demands being brought on the wireless systems with the number of new devices connecting to them.

WINTER 2012

To support added demand for Internet access district-wide, we increased our Internet bandwidth to 180 Mbps, and plan to nearly triple that over the next two years. We rolled out a new work order management system called TASC (Technology Assist Service Center/ tasc.newton.k12.ma.us.) TASC is designed to bring you better service by more efficiently tracking support requests and routing them to the appropriate support staff. We will use TASC analytics to measure support demands, help us better understand what kind of training and professional development around technology would be helpful to staff, and support strategic planning. In addition to these upgrades our passionate webmaster Jesse Marple is diligently working to finish the renovation of the district website and reorganization of web resources. Please feel free to reach out to us with suggestions and needs regarding your area’s web presence.

And what’s next? Preparing a three-year technology plan to meet the needs of the updated Vision 2020 strategic plan Continuing the rolling implementation of Google Docs K-12 for staff and students Testing iPads and other portable devices for viability of use in our schools Testing and preparing high schools for increased access Planning the updating of the middle school infrastructure to meet future technology demands

Please stay tuned for some exciting things to come from the integrated Teaching & Learning and Technology Departments. We are inspired by the potential for greatness we see in NPS, and we look forward to continuing to work with all of you to improve learning for the entire community. 17


Teaching & Learning @ Newton.k12.ma.us

Office of Teaching & Learning Ann Koufman-Frederick, Deputy Superintendent for Teaching & Learning Curriculum Coordinators, Directors & Department Heads Jonathan Bassett, History and Social Sciences - North Department Head Brian Baron, English - South Department Head Rochelle Borg, Guidance - South Department Head Leo Brehm, Director of Information Technology Missy Costello, Coordinator of Instructional Technology, K-12 Jenny Craddock, Coordinator of Science and Technology/Engineering K-8 Suzanne DeRobert, World Language - South Department Head Melissa Dilworth, English - North Department Head Mary Eich, Coordinator of Math, K-8 Kathleen Farnsworth, Special Education - South Department Head Thomas Giusti, Athletic Director - North Department Head Charles Hurwitz, Science - South Department Head Richard King, Coordinator of Fine Arts, K-8 Jody Klein, Director of Language Acquisition Jeff Knoedler, Fine & Performing Arts - South Department Head Walter Lyons, Special Education - North Department Head Nancy Marinucci, World Language - North Department Head Anne Mikulski, Coordinator of English, K-8 Jennifer Morrill, History and Social Sciences - South Department Head Alison Mulligan, Coordinator of World Languages, 6-8 Scott Perrin, Athletic Director - South Department Head Steve Rattendi, Math - South Department Head Diana Robbins, Director of Career and Technical Education Charles Rooney, Math - North Department Head Gwen Smith, Coordinator of Physical Education, Health and Wellness, K-8 Lucia Sullivan, Coordinator of History and Social Sciences Beth Swederskas, Guidance - North Department Head Chris Swerling, Coordinator of Library and Media Services, K-12 Amy Winston, Science - North Department Head Todd Young, Fine & Performing Arts - North Department Head

Education Center Support Anne Banks, Executive Assistant Nancy Coxall, Administrative Assistant Linda Levine, Curriculum Aide Kelly McNamara, Teaching & Learning Media/Communications Specialist Maria Tocci, Administrative Assistant

The Office of Teaching & Learning is responsible for providing leadership in:

curriculum coordination and renewal, curriculum and technology integration, assessment, professional development, mentoring and induction, program review and improvement, and innovative initiatives. Contact us.


TLC Winter 2012