Class 1: Designing a Teacher

human skeleton2
Our new semester kicks off on August 25th.

Class 1 Overview

As an ice breaker, I’ll give students an activity to design a great history teacher-  a variation of “Tool 13: Brainstorm, Group, Label” from my Literacy Strategies Tool Kit (free PDF)

  • Ask them to brainstorm all the words or phrases they can associate with “a great history teacher.”
  • Give them Post-Its and asked them to write one associated word or phrase on each sheet.
  • Put them in groups and ask them to share their Post-its and thinking. Then design an illustration that captured their collective thinking. And be prepared to share that with the class.
  • Working in fours synthesize their individual brainstorming into a collective vision on large paper, then take turns sharing and responding to questions.

I’m giving my students a copy of my 1971 student teaching evaluation (2 page pdf) Quite a relic – I’m surprised I still have it. We’ll examine it as an historic document with a critical eye for answering a number of questions: Who created it and why? Historic context? Point-of-view? What could we learn from it? What other sources might we need to collaborate?

I’ll spend some time introducing the course. Here’s a copy of this semester’s course calendar. (91 kb pdf)

Finally, we’ll log into LearningCatalytics and I’ll give them a series of questions to help me get to know them better. On the tech side I’m interested in their devices, digital skills, social media profile, and some of the programs they’re comfortable using. From an instructional perspective I’ll ask them to describe their goals for the course.

Assigned Readings for Class 2:

  1. Reading: “How to Motivate Students: Researched-Based Strategies” Link
  2. Reading: “A Taxonomy of Reflection: Critical Thinking For Students, Teachers, Principals” Link

Written assignment for Class 2:

Develop an overview of your “digital profile.” It can take any form you choose (it doesn’t even have to be digital). But it  should be something you can share with a classmate that makes sense without you having to explain it. If you look at “Reading 1” above, you’ll see why I have intentionally left the process and product open-ended.  

This profile will become your baseline analysis that you will return to later in the course as you reflect on your accomplishments meeting Course Goal #3: Develop skills for reflection, growth and professional networking. I will be giving you a similar assignment at the end of the course so that you will be able to measure your growth in this area.

Bottom line: Be sure it is useful to you.

Here’s a few prompts to get you started. No need to answer all the questions – they’re just idea starters:

  • Suppose you are interviewing for job – what impression would an employer form about you.
  • What’s your brand?
  • What links, if any, appear if you googled your name? (in quotes).
  • What social networks are you a member of? Are you a member of specific user groups? (Example, Google+ communities)
  • How do you represent yourself in these networks?
  • If you use social media networks, how do you use them? Do you share original content online? Do you curate and share content online with others?
  • If any of your social media provide metrics for number of connections (example, Twitter following, followers) record the number so you can use the metric later. (Please note: I’m not implying more is better.)



Image Credit : Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums “Human Skeleton”
Blind adults are listening to a short lecture at Sunderland Museum before examining a human skeleton.1913
“To them, their fingers are eyes”
From 1913, John Alfred Charlton Deas, a former curator at Sunderland Museum, organised several handling sessions for the blind, first offering an invitation to the children from the Sunderland Council Blind School, to handle a few of the collections at Sunderland Museum, which was ‘eagerly accepted’.
Ref: TWCMS:K13804(2)

12 Replies to “Class 1: Designing a Teacher”

    1. Torrey,
      Thanks for taking the time to give us some positive encouragement and a link to your resources. Your comment also nicely proves my point. About an hour after I post a link to our 1st EdMethods class on Google+, you see it and share some more resources. Point proven. Learning is social.

      We’ll be keeping an eye on your class as well.

  1. Peter & Class:

    Some thoughts on the Subject:
    -I love that choice is the top factor pulled out in this article. I would love to talk and brainstorm assessment processes that could be used with high levels of choice. Also I think it could be valuable to talk about maximizing parent buy in. Fighting against the “grades for college” culture can be tiring and defeating depending on the school culture.
    -The idea of reflection attached to taxonomy is awesome. I am pushing that to all the educators I know. Again, my thought might be discussing application of those ideas into assessment processes. Right now my brain is thinking of a self graded rubric that the student keeps to track their own process over a topic/project, but I would love to hear other tangible ideas for implementation.

    Some thoughts on our class process:
    -Do we as a class know where everyone is commenting on this blog so that the conversation element can be maximized?
    -For Peter- your articles on Copy/Paste are rad. Can we take some time to talk about the process you go through with those? Like time writing, editing, composing.

    Have a great weekend people! Rest and be stoked for the new school year!


    1. Erik,
      Simply put – if students aren’t making some choices, there isn’t much to reflect on. That’s why generations of students have mumbled a “I dunno” to a parent who asks “What did you do in school today?” What’s to reflect on if you spend the day doing canned activities and worksheets?
      In contrast the student who is making choices (in something like a project-based learning activity) is largely responsible for those 4 factors I identified, and thus has much to reflect on. More to talk about on Monday!

  2. Really looking forward to being in a class that emphasizes how to effectively use technology in the classroom.
    One idea that really stood out to me in the post on motivation was the second idea from the CEP report: “Tests are more motivating when students have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through low-stakes tests, performance tasks, or frequent assessments that gradually increase in difficulty before they take a high-stakes test.” Given the way the education system is structured in our country these days, I don’t think it’s feasible for a teacher to escape from the testing based system. There’s no way out, but implementing this concept could make testing feel far less “all or nothing” for students. This is a solid suggestion for how to make students master rather than fear the system that’s being forced upon them.

    1. The state tests are largely meaningless to students. The scores don’t come out for months and students have moved on. That makes them the equivalent of a postmortem. Better to test before the unit is taught to see what students know and what needs more emphasis. Little stress in those types of self assessments.

    2. Would the smaller, low-stakes along the way be considered an example of scaffolding? In that you need to structure your lessons so that you’re helping your students get to that point of readiness, one step at a time. I think that taking only one high-stakes test without the necessary preparation can be really daunting for some. Like Emily has commented, an “all or nothing” situation. For some students, that could lead to more paralytic anxiety instead of facilitating anxiety. If students are nervous and unable to perform their best, then that would make the high-stakes test an inaccurate measure of their understanding as well.

      I agree with Emily that you cannot escape testing, but that there are ways to implement strategies such as frequent assessments (like blog post comments?) in order to ensure that your students feel confident and comfortable the material, thereby allowing them to demonstrate their understanding of the content to the best of their ability.

      1. True, we are stuck with testing right now. But if administrators are true instructional leaders they will help mitigate the effects of relentless test prep in pursuit of higher test scores and let teachers proceed with “smaller, low-stakes assessments” that can measure student progress and be used to drive instruction.

        Ultimately if students are going to be the “life-long learners” that all these school mission statements advertise, then students will need to learn to reflect and self assess.

  3. For the first day of school in the classroom I am student teaching in, my cooperating teacher did a very similar activity to our designing a great history teacher. He wanted his students to design their ideal classroom. Like our class, the students split into small groups and brainstormed what their ideal classroom looked like and didn’t look like. Each group shared their thinking and findings, and then a class discussion ensued. The students were really involved and enjoyed the activity. The teacher then turned the activity into an individual essay where each student could elaborate on their personal beliefs on their ideal classroom rather than their collective groups. Students, whether it was our college class, or an 8th grade class, all seem to be looking for the same experiences within a classroom and their education. Students want to be challenged, they want to enjoy what they are learning, they want to make choices, they want what they learn to be relevant and students want teachers who care and build relationships with them. Very interesting to see both the perspectives and similarities of a college class to an 8th grade class.

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