Sunday, September 11, 2016

Student Notebooks, Part 1: Learning Inventories

All of our students have data notebooks that we are using to keep track of their academic goals, achievements, and progress. Research shows that students that keep track of their learning goals and achievements are more successful than students that passively receive (and disregard feedback) such as quiz scores and test grades. On average, students that tracked their own progress had a 32 percentile point gain in their achievement. You can read more about Marzano's research HERE. We decided to implement that research this year by creating student data notebooks.

Student Notebooks: Notebook Covers
To help students take ownership of their notebooks, they have been working hard on the notebook covers. There's room for them to fill in information about themselves, and it's a fun and creative way for students to tell us who they are and what they like. This is important because it helps us build rapport and trust with students. You can download a copy for yourself by visiting Science and Math Doodle's Teachers Pay Teachers account.

Student Notebooks: Learning Inventories
There are five tabs in each student's notebook. The first tab holds the learning inventories we conduct during the first week of school (or during the student's first session with us). These inventories tell us how strong each student's intelligence is in eight areas.

According to Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University, "students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways." According to his theory of multiple intelligences, "we are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences - the so-called profile of intelligences -and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains."

In other words, all students (and people) learn differently. Our brains have an easier time learning and remembering information when it's presented in a style that suits our intellectual strengths. Our intelligences can change over time. In our tutoring sessions, we use knowledge about how our students learn best to make the curriculum they are learning in their classrooms more accessible.

Let's take a quick look at three of the intelligence graphs completed last week.

Student 1: Jake (not this student's real name)
According to Jake's graph, he has heightened visual and musical intelligence. People with visual intelligence think in terms of space, such as architects and pilots. They are very aware of their environment, and they often enjoy puzzles, drawing, and daydreaming. Tools such as models, graphics, charts, photographs, drawings, 3-D modeling, video, videoconferencing, television, multimedia, and texts with pictures/charts/graphs will help Jake learn and remember new information. People with musical intelligence show sensitivity to rhythm and sound. They may study better with music in the background, and they can be taught by turning lessons into lyrics, speaking rhythmically, and tapping out time. Helpful tools include musical instruments, music, and multimedia.

Similarly, because his verbal intelligence is the lowest, he might not always think in terms of words, so demonstrating his knowledge through writing or speaking may be more difficult for him than it is for other students. This doesn't mean that he's not able to write, play word games, read complex texts, or understand poetry; it simply means that he will require additional support for those tasks, and when given those tasks, they might not represent his actual knowledge.

What does this mean for our tutors? It means that we adjust our instruction to make use of his strengths and develop his weaknesses. We can take a list of vocabulary words and make up song lyrics to help memorize definitions. We can review the steps for a long division problem by writing the problem on the ground with sidewalk chalk and then moving from part to part to "walk through" the steps (divide, multiply, subtract, bring down). It also means practicing skills that help develop the other intelligences, and building lesson plans that use at least three intelligences. The more strategies we use, the more likely the student is to remember the material.

Student 2: Olivia (not this student's real name)
According to Olivia's graph, she has heightened kinesthetic intelligence. People with kinesthetic intelligence use the body effectively, like a dancer or a surgeon. They have a keen sense of body awareness, and they like movement, making things, and touching. They thrive when taught through physical activity, hands-on learning, acting out, and role playing. Helpful learning tools include equipment and real objects.

Similarly, because her verbal intelligence is the lowest, she might also struggle with word-based learning and assessment tools. For her tutor, this means that using real objects such as coins, clocks, counters, word sorts, crafts, and puzzles will help Olivia learn best.

Student 3: Frank (not this student's real name)
According to Frank's graph, he has heightened naturalistic intelligence. People with naturalistic intelligence have the ability to make natural distinctions amongst things found in nature, and have ecological sensitivities towards nature. This ability was important to our evolutionary past, and people with naturalistic intelligence often pursue careers in biology, marine biology, food science, farming and agriculture, and zoology. Students with this intelligence crave connections between their learning and their natural environment, and many prefer to be outdoors. 

Similarly, because his logical intelligence is the lowest, he struggles with math. To bring math concepts to life, he needs instruction that utilizes movement and connections to nature to keep his interest and make the learning goals accessible. To practice finding the mean, median, and mode of a series of numbers, we might take a walk around the neighborhood together and count the number of trees on each block. We could use the numbers from our walk to practice calculating these averages, and then appeal to his visual intelligence by graphing (and comparing) the numbers.

Why is this so important to us?
With an average of 30 students per classroom, teachers simply don't have the time to complete assessments for each student and then tailor their instruction to the needs of each student in the class. At best, they have the resources to vary their instruction to address each intelligence in their instruction. However, most textbook companies don't create curriculum that accommodates all of the intelligences, and so it's left to the teachers to help adapt the curriculum.

We use our one-on-one tutoring sessions to help tailor our students' curriculum to their strengths, weaknesses, interests, and intelligences. We love getting to know our students, and know that presenting knowledge with their intelligences in mind helps make our students successful.

Click HERE to read: Student Notebooks, Part 2: Common Core Standard Bubbles!