Tag Archives: Process Portfolio

How to Create Graphic Organizers for Seesaw – Igniting Learners into Leaders

This is an interesting article that describes in some detail how Seesaw Activities can be a holding area for useful graphic organizers for learning & learners.

These ideas have been developed by Melissa Burnell who is in her 13th year of trying to brighten the futures of her amazing learners! She’s taught in the USA for five years before moving to Dubai, then China, and now she calls South Korea home. She approaches learning with inquiry and a growth mindset.

What is impressive is the ease with which these organizers are created and deployed to her students. These organizers could also be co-created based on criteria or intents developed in class. Or they could have differentiated easily enough within the Seesaw environment simply selecting a subset of students to deploy the activity too.

 

 

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Disclaimer: If you want to read about the WHY behind designing custom graphic organizers in my class, keep reading.  I like to talk, so if you want to go straight to the instructions, scroll down!

This is the first year that I have had the opportunity to guide my learners through Project Time, sometimes know as Genius Hour or Passion Project.  If you are not familiar with this, Project Time is one period a week in which learners have the freedom to learn about something that speaks to them, or interests them, and probably wouldn’t appear in the usual units taught in the classroom.  Maybe a students wants to know more about composing music, or harp seals, or making slime.  As long as learners have a purpose in mind and are working towards their goals, it’s doable!  Pretty cool if you ask me.

I was eager to jump on the Project Time bandwagon at the start of the year and was happy to have some help getting started with organization thanks to Kath Murdoch’s The Power of Inquiry (a must read for any inquiry teacher!).  She includes several great tools in her book to get learners on the right track to be purposeful in their personal inquiries.

As Project Time got underway in my classroom, I found myself running to the photocopier more than I wanted.  Two students wanted to change their project topics–go copy.  Another student can’t find her daily planning sheet–go copy.  And each week daily planning sheets needed to be handed out again.  Plus, with learners working at their own pace, new project proposal sheets needed to be made at different times.  I knew there had to be a better way to avoid this headache.

My first attempt at going digital was to ask my class to hop onto Seesaw and add a quick post at the end of each Project Time period to let me know what they accomplished and what their next steps were.  Not bad, but this only cut down my paperwork a little bit.  I needed to do something more.

When I became a Seesaw Ambassador this year, I remembered coming across a slideshow containing different graphic organizers that could be used for Seesaw.  Aha!  I could create my own and go completely digital!

I used Kath Murdoch’s graphic organizers from her book and recreated them with small changes to the spaces for student input.  Here are the final products:

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I wanted to make sure it worked the way I hoped it would, so using Seesaw’s file upload option and the abilities to add text and draw, I was able to do this:

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BINGO!  Now I have a solution to paper waste and wasted time!  The beauty is that you can custom make ANY kind of graphic organizer you want for you learners.

Here’s how:

1.)  Use Google Slides, PowerPoint, or Keynote to make your custom graphic organizer template.  For mine, I used Google Slides and added lines, shapes, images, and text boxes to create the desired look.  I started with a blank layout, changed the background color, and built up from there.

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2.)  Once your graphic organizer is made, save it as a JPEG image.

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3.)  Now open Seesaw.  In Seesaw, choose the green add button to add a new item and choose the option to Share Activity.

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4.)  Choose Create New to create a custom activity for your class/group of students/individuals.

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5.)  Fill in the information for the new activity.  Choose “Add template for students to edit.”

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6.)  Choose the option to Add File.  This is where you will upload your custom graphic organizer.  Choose your file from your device.

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7.)  After you have selected the file, click the green check button.

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8.)  On the next screen, you can either choose the green check button, or if you want to add further information, choose one of the options at the bottom of the screen.

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9.)  Next, either choose to Preview the activity or Save as Draft.

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10.)  Finally, choose the green Share button at the bottom of the screen.

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11.)  When your learners open the activity in Seesaw, they will have the option to add text anywhere on the graphic organizer and draw/write their responses.  It’s that easy!

If you want to use a common graphic organizer, you can search online for an image of one, save to your device, and use the same steps as above without the hassle of designing your own.  If you have a resource book with graphic organizers, you can take a photo of the desired organizer, upload to your device, and again follow the steps above.

I hope this helps you as much as it helped me!

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Marin Voice: Grade expections — focusing on learning instead of letters – Marin Independent Journal

Two thing stuck out in the article for me: The willingness of staff and administration to look at more than just grades as a measure of what a student is or is not. And the ability to “sell this to parents” by highlighting standard criteria related to “soft skill” areas (skills that the business world is in fact looking for) like those put forth by Michael Fullan’s 6 Cs!


At the beginning of each year, I am asked by parents, “What is the homework load for my child?”

What they’re really asking is, “Will you see my child if she is soaring to new heights and needs to stretch?” Or, “Will you see my child if she is flailing under an avalanche of anxiety?”

Really, “Will you see my child?” is the point.

Teachers and administrators are tasked with educating students and effective assessment is integral to the process. Yet the predominant form of assessment via grading eliminates opportunities for comprehensive evaluation and in fact offers a narrow view of one’s abilities.

In response to the IJ’s Sept. 17 article, “Private schools join up to dump A-to-F grading,” I applaud the goal of the Mastery Transcript Consortium to create a more balanced approach to grading and wanted to highlight that changing the grading system is just the beginning of a needed overhaul in how we as educators prepare our students for their future.

The Mastery Transcript Consortium advocates for change due to good reason. As Madeline Levine documented years ago in “The Price of Privilege,” we who live in Marin see stress bubbling up from our students and their parents on a daily basis.

Anxiety about college and future work is one culprit.

According to the World Economic Forum, in less than five years our lives will be even more transformed by advanced robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Listen to a handful of the jobs predicted by the Institute for the Future: soil programmer, pre-crime analyst, neuro-marketer, (and my favorite) gut florist.

We can’t predict and teach to each future job. That’s why we need to teach students to think, to adapt and to search.

I ask you, is it possible for a single letter grade to measure a student’s ability to adapt, or would an authentic demonstration and narrative assessment better measure learning?

Moreover, the purpose of education has expanded beyond offering mere content and a student’s success extends far beyond letter grades on a report card. The future is dependent on kids who also master life skills. These include social intelligence, cross cultural competence, virtual collaboration and computational thinking.

To measure such life skills requires that we adapt our assessment techniques beyond letter grades.

As parents and schools across the country debate the adoption of the new grading standards proposed by the Mastery Transcript Consortium, I wanted to offer a perspective of a school right here in Marin that has been using narrative grading for the last 15 years. Greenwood School has used comprehensive teacher reports and standards-based criteria to provide a fuller picture of the whole child — assessing for academic achievement, artistic expression and life skills like the ability to focus (mindfulness) and compassion (emotional intelligence).

As educators, our goal is to release into the world students who have grit, a zest for life and are grounded in the belief that they can tackle any problem that comes their way. It is a fuller picture than any traditional grading system can depict and while at Greenwood we do believe there is a place for letter grades in middle school, we augment them with a narrative on each student, written by teachers who truly understand kids.

In this way, we can reassure the parents that their child is actually seen. After all, isn’t the goal of grades and assessment to offer a full picture of a student who is prepared for their future?

Shaheer Faltas is the head of school for Greenwood School in Mill Valley and was selected as a finalist for the California Legislature Assembly’s Project Tomorrow’s Innovation in Education Awards for use of science, math and technology in the classroom.

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Intentional by Design: We Build in Opportunities to Learn in the Presence of Students, by Risking Our Own Significance and Demonstrating Instructional Cycles

Interesting look at conversations around intent sharing, co-creation of criteria, & learning along side students & how it affects the learner and their process….


In January, we identified hallmarks of a structure that we use when working with a system or school over time. The following is the fourth of seven posts that serve to illuminate those hallmarks.

As leaders, we know that the most important relationship in schools and school systems is the instructional relationship between teachers and their students. We talk and write about the primacy of this relationship and, yet, it can be easy to simply do that – talk and write about it.

Because the learning that takes place “at the desk of the student” is so critical, we often find ourselves in classrooms teaching a group of students whom we have just met and often at a level or in a subject area that is unfamiliar to us. It certainly would be far simpler to share examples and images of students engaged in learning; however, the potential benefits far outweigh the moments of doubt as one begins a lesson in front of a group of 18 or more educators. (In a subsequent blog, we will more clearly articulate the role of those educator observers, but for now, let us reflect on some recent experiences.)

The body of writing in the area of ethical leadership often refers to leaders who “risk their own significance” and we know of no better way than to model a strategy or an instructional sequence for others. Certainly, this can be done in a learning session where only adult learners are present. That is, we can engage in a strategy or series of strategies and then discuss classroom adaptations and applications. Nevertheless, inviting others to observe a strategy in action with a group of student learners allows us to watch intentional instructional design unfold and to mitigate sentiments such as, “Well, this is a good idea, but I can’t imagine how it would work with a group of Grade 10 Science students.”  

A group of 17 teachers gathered in Debbie’s classroom to observe a process of co-constructing criteria with Grade 11 Pre-Calculus students. In two or three minute chunks, I solved math problems for the students, by not only modelling, but by engaging in metacognitive talk along the way. Students gave me immediate feedback in the moments between the modelling chunks and identified what they noticed me doing and saying that would inform the criteria. At the end of approximately 40 minutes, we had, together, created robust and comprehensive criteria to answer this question – What counts, what matters, and what is important when we solve a math problem completely? The details of the criteria included statements like, “Clear your mind before solving the problem so that you can focus.”, “Think about a problem that you have done before that is similar.”, “Draw on prior mathematical understanding.”, “Take a brain break, if you need it.”, and “Determine what the problem is actually asking you.” At the end of the lesson, I invited one teacher to meet with a group of two students to discuss what he/she had learned about instruction, as a result of the observation. The discussion was not about what the students had learned or what the teachers had learned about the students. Rather, the focus was on that which the teachers took from the demonstration to inform their next instructional steps. In this way, the teachers are making their learning public to the students and modelling the adage that is often repeated – We are all lifelong learners. And perhaps more importantly, the teachers are risking their own significance by talking about something that they now know more about than even an hour earlier.

For two years, teams of K-8 teachers observed every day for four days as I taught writing in two classrooms. At 8:30 each morning 25 to 30 of us gathered for half an hour, digging into the learning destination, discussing evidence we might collect, and, after the first day, considering what the evidence suggested as next steps for tomorrow’s lesson. During those two years, I did the teaching, simultaneously working with students and teacher learners for an hour twice a morning in classrooms ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 8, with students I did not know, and on topics negotiated with teachers in advance, based on what they were studying at the time and their students were deeply interested in. I did not impose the topic to make it easier for myself. My only requirements were that we find something that would be authentic and meaningful for the students and connected to outcomes, content, topics, genres, or big ideas already under study. After each lesson we met to make sense of our evidence – the conversations, observations, and products from the classroom. At the end of the second year, the divisional Literacy Leadership team asked for pairs of teachers to become hub teachers, each planning a writing lesson study week and inviting four to six teachers from schools new to the project into their classrooms. Fourteen teachers opened their doors and made their practice public, using the structure I had modelled and the big ideas of assessment and instruction in the writing workshop that had been the focus of our two years together. In year three, while I began the work with a new team, fourteen teachers took a leadership role, benefitting colleagues from their own school and other schools in the district and making the learning their own. When they repeat the process next year, the hub teachers have suggested that they would like to include time in the visiting teachers’ classrooms. Their feedback has inspired more teachers to volunteer to become hub teachers.

As leaders we deliberately build opportunities to learn in the presence of students and risk our own significance by demonstrating instructional practices. It is our experience that this modelling inspires others to try something that may not have been attempted before.

Risking your own significance is contagious.

In our next post, we will further examine the fifth hallmark that we outlined in January 2017- We use the gradual release of responsibility model not only with student learners, but with adult learners as well.

 

Written with my colleague Brenda Augusta

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