Monday, February 14, 2011

Various Note Taking Method for Middle & High School

There are so many fun and creative teaching techniques I could share, but I think taking and using notes are just as important in a classroom as a fun lab. Notes are taken in a lot of classroom and most students to do not use their notes to study or prepare for class and tests, especially in middle school. However, I believe good note-taking skills are important and there are creative ways to teach and explain notes to engage students in their own learning process.

I remember taking notes in middle and high school and zoning out. As long as the students were quiet and were writing, the teacher would go on and on with their lecture, and I never understood the importance of taking notes until college. So when I became a teacher, I change up my notes to keep the students engaged.

During the process of going over notes, I make sure to have pictures, video clips, and visual aids to help make science fun and exciting. To this day, I still have students singing a bacteria song from August, I found on You Tube when I was explaining prokaryotic cells to them. Although students know "note days" introduce new concepts that may take the whole period, they always look forward to the fun and various ways I make science interesting and engaging. Sometimes I find T-shirts and songs that go along with what I’m teaching and students always try to figure out how my shirt or song connects with the science concept they are learning. (Having copies of the notes makes it easier for absent or new students to have access to the information. The notes can also be given to my RSP students or any student who struggles with writing to keep).

One way is through interactive notes. I give the notes to the students in advance. Students are to copy the notes in Cornell note style (a school wide system). Throughout the notes, I will ask them simple questions that ask them to reflect back on the notes they are taking. I feel it is important for students to be thinking about the material they are learning, but the questions should not be too difficult since we haven’t reviewed the concepts as a class yet. I feel front loading the students with the notes makes it a lot easier for me to break down and explain the science concepts to the students the following day.

When we go over the notes, I break the notes into short segments, and use power teaching to have students repeat the vital information back to their partner. During power teaching, students are to share the information and use coordinated gestures I have them taught them with their lab partner, and their lab partner, is to repeat back the information in their own words. I call on students randomly to make sure the vital information was learned and shared. If the student is not able to explain the concept back to me or has a weak answer, I will review the material in a different way and then ask for students to explain the concept to their partner again.

Another way I will format my notes is to place the note information into question and answer format. One partner reads the question, the other partner reads the answers in 30 seconds (or whatever time frame I feel is needed for the notes). The next time we read the notes, I have the students switch roles or we start reading at a different section of the notes. I use this technique as a way to start or end class to help review the important concepts we are learning in science.

A third technique I use reviewing notes is using the summary box in Cornell notes, in various ways. I believe it is always useful for students to learn to summarize their notes and what they have learned, but sometimes I feel it is necessary to take their learning a step further to see how well they have mastered the science concepts. For example, in learning about cell organelles, I may ask students to explain what would happen in the cell if we were missing one of the organelles? Sometimes I will ask students to create a Venn Diagram to compare 2 concepts or make predictions based on their current knowledge.

Another technique in using notes is using their lab partners to check their work. Students will read their summaries, or answers to questions, to their partners to make sure their summaries make sense. If their lab partner doesn’t understand their summary, the students are encouraged to discuss the summary, clarify the concepts, and to make sure the sentences are written clearly. Then I call on students randomly, sometimes using playing cards with their names on it, to make sure that I am calling various students of different skills. This way I can determine if the students truly understood the concept I taught in class.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cash for Grades?

This article presents several pros and cons to the idea of paying students for good grades.

Cash for Grades?

Privately funded programs try paying students to boost achievement.

By Mary Ellen Flannery

Do you really get what you pay for? At the shoe store, yes. But when it comes to paying kids for grades, probably not – especially if what you’re trying to buy is a life-long love of learning.

Long a tactic of fed-up parents, the idea of paying for good grades has migrated from the family room to the school house. In states ranging from Texas to Massachusetts, a growing number of students are pocketing cold cash for good grades or test scores on Advanced Placement and SAT exams, typically through privately funded programs.

In Houston, a three-month-old, privately funded $1.5 million program will reward fifth-graders – and, notably, their parents – when they master basic math standards. Each family stands to earn $1,050, not a small amount, especially in a community where 80 percent of kids qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Meanwhile, down the road, more than 10,000 Dallas students have earned up to $400 for taking and passing Advanced Placement tests in a newly expanded $1.5 million program funded by a private foundation.

It makes sense to some. Says Stacey Priestley, a northern Indiana teacher: “My son gets money for grades. We tell him going to school and getting good grades is his job. If he does his job well, he gets paid just like a job in the real world.”

But most Americans, and many educators, still feel uncomfortable with the idea. According to the most recent national Phi Delta Kappa poll, one out of four Americans say students should be paid for their grades. There’s something about the practice that just feels. wrong. Isn’t there greater value in reading a good book than a certificate for cheese pizza? Isn’t education cheapened when its sum value is a remote chance at a limo ride? (Yes, some schools offer limo rides as incentives, as shown below in the video excerpt from the Freakonomics movie.)

Many teachers also say paying students for grades leads to practical problems in their classrooms, including pressure to inflate grades and conflict with students and parents. In Kentucky, where the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship provides up to $500 in state lottery revenues to kids with all A’s, parents “rip teachers” when their kid gets a C, says teacher Chris Spoonamore.

But the bigger question is: Does it even work?

While proponents hope those millions will help close achievement gaps, especially in poor communities where a dollar really makes a difference, research shows that the money might better be spent on the kinds of things we know can help improve student achievement, like teacher training and smaller class sizes.
Rewarding Whom?

Barbara Marinak, an assistant professor of education at Penn State University, says the research on monetary rewards is quite clear: They don’t work. “Any type of ‘extrinsic’ reward, by and large, undermines motivation,” she told National Public Radio last year.

Similarly, Alfie Kohn, the author of Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s and Other Bribes, says the bigger the reward, the bigger the damage done.

Especially when it comes to creative work, research shows that money doesn’t work – in fact, it probably deters achievement in the long run. Moreover, any kind of extrinsic reward can be dangerous. In a well-known Stanford University experiment, more than three decades old, researchers divided preschoolers into two groups: one that would get gold stars for their drawings and one that would not. Both drew enthusiastically, but when asked to draw again – without a reward – the gold-star group cut its drawing time in half. It appeared as if they’d lost enthusiasm for the task when it didn’t come with a reward.

“What we really want is for people to value the activity of learning,” University of Rochester professor Edward Deci told TIME magazine. And, other research, with young students and teenagers, show that they all perform better and work harder when the task is interesting, fun to do, and relevant to their lives.

“There has to be intrinsic motivation,” says Kentucky’s Spoonamore.

More recently, Harvard economist Roland Fryer, Jr., ran a $6.3 million experiment involving 18,000 students in Washington, D.C., New York, Dallas and Chicago. In each city, the incentives looked different – with varying results. In New York, where kids were paid for good test scores, and in Chicago, where they were paid for good grades, achievement didn’t budge.

But in D.C., where kids were rewarded for a variety of tasks, including earning good grades, attending class and completing homework, some kids did marginally better on reading comprehension tests. And in Dallas, where kids got $2 for each book they read – more books were read, and reading comprehension scores significantly improved.

The difference? Simply playing kids for good grades or test scores doesn’t actually give them any more skills, Fryer theorized. The system needs to be more complicated – and more specific to the needs of children – to be effective.

Similarly, a growing program of rewarding kids for passing Advanced Placement tests also has a teacher training component. The National Math and Science initiative, which has poured millions of dollars into seven states, rewards both students and teachers up to $100 for each passing score, and it provides professional development for teachers. In Mashpee, Massachusetts, the local union agreed that its members should accept the financial incentive — and that money is collected in an account for teacher supplies and additional training.

A recent study showed that AP enrollment in those places is up, but it’s also increasing in many schools and districts without rewards as well. Said one Mashpee student to The Cape Cod Times, “"I think I'd just try my best anyway.(The class) is kind of a challenge, but it's a fun class because (our teacher) makes it fun.”

Blogger's Note:
Two things: 1. if students should get paid for doing a good "job" in school, then they need to be held responsible for taxes, school supplies, and other expenses. 2. I think we are forgetting that education is a free program; and we are considering paying students to do their "job" in a free program? It seems we have scrapped the bottom of the barrel when we are trying to pay students to do their job.