Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Choice Boards: Personalized Learning in the Elementary Classroom

By Lisa Henriquez

We all know the importance of differentiating assignments for students of different ability levels, but differentiation goes beyond taking off a few questions for less able learners or giving the gifted students an extra project to complete. Differentiated Instruction should reaching different levels but it should also meet specific needs and be student centered. All students learn differently so they should be given different ways to show mastery. One way to address this need is the use of choice boards. They offer students a way to make decisions about what they will do in order to meet class requirements. A choice board could be for a single lesson, a week-long lesson, or even a month-long period of study.

According to Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom by Rick Wormeli in order to create a choice board:

O     Identify the most important elements of a lesson or unit.
O     Create a required assignment or project that reflects the minimum understanding you expect all students to achieve.
O     Create negotiables which expand upon the minimum understands. These negotiables often require students to go beyond the basic levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.
O     Create a final section that offers students the opportunity for enrichment.

I use choice boards in all grade levels. The younger students need more detailed instructions and resources in class. I will work on the research and back ground information during class and send the student’s research pages home for parents to help pull everything together in the project. My 1st and 2nd grade classes have approximately 25 students. The individual, creative activities can be difficult to accomplish in class. I feel that it is more important for me to spend class time, helping them get the information. I can assess their understanding of the different assignments and topics and research skills in class.  Older students are given the choice board and class time and resources, but can work at their own pace to complete the activities. They have the freedom to work at home if needed or bring in the needed project supplies if they aren’t in the classroom.

I also use the same choice board for all students in class, special education – gifted.  All students are working on the activities they feel comfortable completing.  I conference with students to help pick activities to make sure all are working at their ability level and pushing themselves to try different types of activities.  I also offer a Pick your Product opportunity for older students. They are much more creative than I am so they come up with some great ideas!          

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back to School with NHD in Georgia

By Nina Kendall

Looking for a new way to engage your students in research? Are you considering implementing National History Day(NHD) in your school or classroom next year? Are you looking for advice on how to get started? Here are some basic tips on getting started on NHD in Georgia

Get to Know the Projects

There are 5 different types of projects that are part of National History Day. Project categories include websites, performances, exhibits, documentaries, and papers.  National History Day has a detailed rule book  with detailed descriptions each type of project. LaGrange College runs an extensive support program for National History Day in the State of Georgia. Every project except for a paper can be completed by a group. You can certainly allow students to choose any type of project, but you can advise students on what is possible with school equipment and seek advice from others on producing various projects. Perhaps you have a very supportive drama or technology teacher in your building.

Get to Know the Theme

The 2015 theme is Leadership and Legacy. National History Day presents an essay every year to explore theme. It is a useful tool to help introduce students to working with a theme. This may be the first time you and your students have chosen to complete research based on a theme.

Be Prepared with Sample Topics

When you introduce the project, you are going to want have sample topics to share. National History Day creates a list of sample topics every year.  Topics can focus on any part of history. This year you will also find some lists of topics based on the history of individual states.  You can also see suggestions and discussions of possible topics at the NHD at LaGrange College facebook page. You do not have to use a topic from a list provided by National History Day or any other organization. However, these lists of topics can be sources of inspiration.  

Know where to find Help

National History Day in conjunction with several museums hosted google hangouts about each type of project that you can watch. Each state has an affiliate coordinator that supports NHD and conduct contests within your state. These organizations can offer you advice on how to get started, connect you with your regional competition, and possibly host a workshop you or your students can attend. The Georgia Humanities Council, an NHD affiliate in Georgia. Laura McCarty runs the National History Day program.  Dr. Kevin Shirley at LaGrange College runs the National History Day Mentoring Program. This year a new Research Round-Up in October will offer more support.

Find Out about NHD Contests

If you plan to compete, you need to know about your local competition which is hosted in the spring of each year. The state competition is hosted annually at Mercer University.  Regional competition sponsors include:

·         Clayton State University and the National Archives-Atlanta

·         Coastal Georgia Historical Society

·         Fort Valley State University

·         Georgia Regents University, Summerville Campus

      ·         Georgia College

·         Georgia Southern University

·         Georgia Southwestern State University

·         Kennesaw State University

·         Thomas County Middle School

·         Troup Historical Society and LaGrange College

·         The University of Georgia

  Here are some basic questions to ask about your local competition.

·         Where is the local competition?

·         When is the local competition?

·         When is the registrations deadline?

·         Is there a registration fee? If so, what is the fee?

·         Are there any specific contest requirements asked of each school? (ie… limit on number of projects, paperwork, photo release forms.)

This information will help you in your planning for a successful year.

Good Luck and Happy History Day!

Bonus: Topics List with Georgia Connections (#NHD2015)

·         Southern Christian Leadership Conference

·         James Oglethorpe

·         Andrew Young

·         Alonzo Herndon and the Atlanta Life Insurance Company

·         Richard B. Russell Jr.

·         Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center

·         Joseph Lowery

·         John Hope

·         Sequoyah and the Syllabary

·         Albany Freedom Singers

·         Martha Berry

·         Xavier Roberts-Cabbage Patch Kids

·         William B. Hartsfield and the City to “busy to hate”

·         Cason and Virgina Callaway

·         Asa Candler and Coca-Cola

·         Martin Luther King Jr.

·         Hosea Williams and Feed the Hungry

·         Morris Rich and Rich’s Department Store

·         Truett Cathy and Chick-fil-A

·         General Lucius D. Clay and the Berlin Airlift

·         Henry Wirz and Andersonville Prison

·         Juliette Gordon Low and the Girl Scouts

·         Henry Grady and the New South