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Oct 282014

question mark(This post is a continuation of our 12 Questions series.  The first post can be viewed here.)

#4  Can my students access these resources?

In addition to accessing content for whole class instruction, some web based solutions also allow students to access content on computers.  This helps teachers to make a connection between whole class instruction and individual student learning.  Some online content providers add increased value by inviting students to access content at home for further review and exploration.  Offline programs may also allow individual student access, but the program must first be installed on each computer. 

If student access is included, consider whether or not the content will still appeal to your students after experiencing it during whole class instruction.  Is the activity engaging and are the questions randomized so students will still feel challenged during subsequent visits?  Or does the program provide enough content options for each topic that the issue of repetitiveness is eliminated?

#5 Do these resources promote teacher involvement and offer flexibility?

Many software programs are designed for individual student use in learning isolation.  A computerized program replaces a teacher’s guidance by assessing students, offering recommended activities, and even adjusting activities to a student’s ability level.  While this type of program at first glance seems like an easy answer to individualized instruction, consider the implications of removing teacher guidance and peer collaboration from the learning process.

Research has shown that technology, specifically instructional software, has been proven most effective when integrated into classroom instruction.  Students who experienced teacher-led standards-based instruction with technology showed higher overall gains than students who experienced the same curricula and technology in an isolated lab setting.  

Teachers have the ability to match computer instruction with the children’s development, the curriculum sequence, and the needs of particular students.  Teachers must be involved, “orchestrators” of technology, rather than quiet observers of students in learning isolation.  Find out whether the digital content you are investing in allows teachers to choose interventions for their students and whether multiple activities with multiple strategies for learning are available for each concept.  Ask if the content includes a strong instructional component and problem solving opportunities beyond skill and drill activities.  Determine whether the digital content is numerous enough and flexible enough to be used for whole class instruction, center time, group work, and individual student remediation or enrichment.

#6 Can student progress be monitored with these resources?

If students are allowed to access content on computers, find out if the content includes individual progress accounts.  Particularly if content will be used for interventions, progress accounts allow teachers to view student scores on activities to determine if students are progressing toward mastery or if additional assistance is necessary.

(This post is the second in a series of four.  Stay tuned for more questions to ask!)

Common Core ELA Shift: Citing Evidence

 Posted by on October 22, 2014  Common Core  Comments Off
Oct 222014

This is the second in a series of posts dedicated to helping teachers understand specific changes the Common Core requires them to make in their instruction and sharing how StarrMatica’s content can help facilitate that transition.  The first post can be viewed here.

A major focus of the Common Core is requiring students to give evidence directly from the text to support their responses.  An opinion given in a response is valid only if the argument can be supported with details from the text.

Here is an example of a Smarter Balanced Assessment item which requires text evidence:  “What does Naomi learn about Grandma Ruth? Use details from the text to support your answer.”

As we prepare our students not only for the Common Core, but for life beyond school,  it is important that any answer a student gives, we require them to justify that answer with evidence.  If a student is describing the traits of a character, have them support their answer with evidence from the story where a character is demonstrating those traits.  If a student is stating an opinion that recycling should be mandatory, have them justify that opinion with facts from the text.  

If you make citing text evidence a daily follow up question, the students will come to understand that it is a requirement and will eventually offer text evidence before they are even asked.