Month: March 2015

#slowchated week of March 30th – April 4th, 2015

“Building capacity on experiential learning”
#slowchated week of March 30th
Moderated by Allison Fuisz (@allison_fuisz) and Mari Venturino (@msventurino)

Last week, March 23-28, the #slowchated conversation delved into the world of deep learning.  The goal was to bring some light to what deep learning is and how it is an essential part of student success and learning.  In summary, those who participated in the chat saw deep learning as a means for students to fully immerse in their learning and apply it to their life.  In the words of students, “deep learning is something that sticks with you, like root”.

So how do we get things to stick and become roots in students’ understanding of the world around them?  Experiential learning may be the answer.

Today I attended a PD session with Jennifer Stanchfield.  Her common sense and imaginative approach to teaching revolves around experiential learning and the simple day-to-day activities that teachers can present to students in helping to form their understanding of content and collaborative opportunities.  Comments in the room from teachers were varied when it came to this line of thought.  They ranged from “this is hard” to “wow, I never thought of approaching a class like that!”  These varied responses shows the different levels of understanding as to what experiential learning means and how it can be a positive in the lives of students.

According to the UC Denver Experiential Learning Center,
“Learning that is considered “experiential” contain all the following elements:
1. Reflection, critical analysis and synthesis
2. Opportunities for students to take initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for the results
3. Opportunities for students to engage intellectually, creatively, emotionally, socially, or physically
4. A designed learning experience that includes the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes, and successes”

To some, experiential learning is second nature; to others, it is a chore that involves more work than what they deem necessary despite the benefits it carries for students.

So how do we build capacity around experiential learning?  It seems like a no-brainer yet not everyone is on board. Perhaps this twitter chat will be a starting point for some or spark some interest in others to spread the ideas of experiential learning forward.

TED talk on experiential learning: Tools

Q1: What is experiential learning? #slowchated
Q2: What personal experience do you have with experiential learning? #slowchated
Q3: Name a resource that is a must for Ts RE: experiential learning? #slowchated
Q4: How does experiential learning promote critical thinking and deep learning? #slowchated
Q5: Based on this week’s chat, how are you going to implement experiential learning into your classroom? #slowchated

#SlowchatED Week of March 16, 2015

Week of March 16th
Topic: Homework

When I woke up this morning, I saw that #slowchated was mod-less. I volunteered, but didn’t have a topic in mind. A few rolled through while getting ready and heading to work, but nothing struck me as authentic or something I needed to discuss. However, this all changed once 1st period started today. Only about 25% of my students had their big unit project completed…I was furious. <rant> My students have had this project assigned in early February, and have had multiple opportunities in class to work on their project. I have been available before school most days, at lunch, and occasionally after school. Additionally, I check my work email frequently. How is this possible?! I expected maybe 25% to have an incomplete project. This project is in place of a unit assessment, and students were excited to not have a test. I feel disappointed, frustrated, and angry. *deep breath* </rant>

Out of this, I decided I need to spend some time thinking about homework. I know my students don’t have the support for doing homework at home, yet I don’t know where, why, and how their disregard for homework started. I’ve started assigning less homework, and when I do, I’m finding fewer students completing it. I need to revolutionize my classroom, and go in with a new game plan next school year.

I don’t have any extra resources/research because this topic comes purely from my need to grow as a teacher, and my curiosities about how other teachers are handling similar issues. If you have resources, please share in the comments below, or on Twitter with the hashtag #slowchated.

Here are the questions:
Q1: What does homework mean to you and your students? #slowchated
Q2: What is the purpose of homework? Are there alternatives? #slowchated
Q3: How do you handle students who do not do their homework? #slowchated
Q4: How can we make homework more manageable for students?
Q5: What’s the best excuse you’ve gotten for why a student didn’t do their homework? #slowchated

*Questions are subject to change, based on where discussion goes*

Sunday Summary: Authentic Audiences

You can relive the entire week’s chat with the Storify archive!

From hanging work in the hallway to having my students publish their own book blog, giving kids an authentic audience has been a powerful force in my classroom this year. I was happy to jump in and moderate #slowchated this week to find some other perspectives on authentic audiences.

I started the week with this question:

I was surprised by the wide range of answers. This one matched my initial thoughts on the topic:

But these ones made me realize that there might be more to choosing a truly authentic audience:

I’ve been successful at giving my students an audience they have no connection with. I often share our book blog on Twitter tagged with #comments4kids As a result, my kids have received feedback from teachers I know in other parts of the country along with others who have absolutely no connection to me or our school. When we’ve discussed it as a class, everyone agrees that they take more care with their writing when they are truly publishing it for the world. We don’t know who will read it.

I really like the idea of using people with expertise as an authentic audience. When I invited judges for my school’s Invent Idaho competition, I asked a friend who is an accomplished tinkerer to view the projects. With his experience in electronics projects and scale modeling, he was able to give students feedback on their projects that I wouldn’t have considered. Our district technology coach also judged. He has judged at many of these competitions, so he was able to offer yet another perspective. Going forward, I want to find more opportunities for my students to present to “logical consumers.”

There are so many appropriate audiences for students, the key is getting their work in front of someone. The background photo above is a poster some of my math students made after learning about scale drawings. It’s been hanging in the hall facing our playground for months, giving my students an authentic audience for their work each time students go in and out the playground doors.

I hadn’t directly thought about the benefits of audience awareness before. But, I have seen my students go from assuming everyone knew all about the characters in Harry Potter and other popular series to understanding that they needed to provide that information in their book reviews. I think building audience awareness leads to developing greater empathy. It’s definitely an idea worth exploring further.

A few of our slow chatters shared some great things they’ve done with their students. These were two of my favorites. Please follow the links to see some great student work!

Although most of our discussion was about reaching out, this was a great reminder that our classrooms have a built-in audience. When work is shared with classmates rather than created for teacher eyes only, our students get many of the benefits of having an authentic audience. Doing it successfully, though, often requires teaching what it means to be a good audience, as described in the tweets below.

I’ve been able to incorporate an authentic audience in my English/Language Arts classes with our book blog, but I really want to give my math students more opportunities to put their work in front of others. Here were a couple other places suggested for authentic audiences.

During Day 4, Mark Crotty suggested that it was worth examining how the structure of school affects authentic audiences. I decided to use his question for our 5th day of discussion:

I love this idea – a school so engaging that the community wants to be a part of it. By opening our doors and sharing the great work of our students, it can become a reality.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this week’s #slowchated discussion of authentic audience. I’m excited to use what I’ve learned from this week’s chat in my classroom.
Cross posted at Teacher With Tuba Blog.

Authentic Audience #slowchated March 9-14, 2015

Image from Wikimedia Commons

I took great pride in my work for elective classes in high school: often more than I did for my academically required courses. I played tuba in multiple bands, acted in most of our school plays, competed in speech and debate, and wrote for the school newspaper. Now, of course, the fact that I chose my electives was a motivator, but the biggest difference between those classes and my others was the audience. I knew that my work would be on display for my peers and the larger community, not just the teacher. I practiced and practiced the tuba solo in the Holst Suite because I knew how many people would be listening. I carefully revised and edited every submission I wrote for the Timberwolf Times because all of my friends and teachers would read my work. I did fine on the papers that I wrote for my teachers’ eyes only, but I rarely put the same type of effort into those assignments.

Coursework in the arts and many electives have always given students an authentic audience, while work in other classes is done solely for the instructor. Why? Personally, it wasn’t something I thought about much until recently. In the past, I had my students imagine an audience for their writing, but we rarely wrote for a real audience. This year, I’m starting to give my students real audiences for presenting their work. I’ve seen how sharing their work with a broader audience motivates and inspires many of my students. Still, I know I can do more and I want to hear your ideas.

These are the questions I have in mind, but they are subject to change as you contribute ideas throughout the week.

Q1 What makes an audience “authentic”?

Q2 How do your students create for authentic audiences?

Q3 How much audience participation do you want? How do you encourage or discourage it?

Q4 What is something you already do that could be enhanced with an authentic audience?

Q5 Where do you find an audience?

Q6 What is your “dream audience” for student work?

I’m eager to discuss this with you on #slowchated and I hope that you will take full advantage of the slow chat format. We have a whole week to find and post links, photos, and blog posts. Best of all, we have an authentic audience in each other, and audience participation is required. Ask questions, challenge assumptions, and learn from one another!

Cross posted at the Teacher With Tuba blog

#slowchated – Week of March 2-7, STEM/STEAM

March 2-7, 2015

S – Science
T – Technology
E – Engineering
[A – Arts]
M – Mathematics

So we’ve all heard of STEM, and many of us have heard of STEAM, but do we actually do this in the classroom? I’m a 7th grade science teacher, but I mostly focus on science, with a little bit of technology thrown in. We look at data tables and make graphs, but admittedly, many of my students still have no clue the difference between the x-axis and the y-axis. Occasionally, I’ll spice it up a lesson with an engineering task. Arts? Well, sometimes we draw stick figures, does that count?!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not giving STEAM it’s proper place in my classroom. One of my biggest worries for the future of our students is that we will have a country filled with science-illiterate citizens making big decisions. As a teacher in California, I see a heavy emphasis on English and math, while all the other subjects are becoming secondary. I assume it is similar in other parts of the country. While literacy and math skills are important, we can’t discredit science, history, and the arts because they are what make many students want to show up to school. We all need to work together to encourage students to seek out STEM-related opportunities and careers. How will you help?

While considering STEAM, it is important to consider two underrepresented groups in STEM-related careers: minorities and women.

Minorities in STEM:



Image source:

Women in STEM:


Image source:

More Resources:
TED Talk “Growing up in STEM as a girl”:

Article on STEAM from US News:

I look forward to chatting with you all this week. Remember, one question per day Monday through Saturday!

-Mari Venturino


PS. If you’re like me, you get anxious when you don’t get a preview of the questions. Here they are!

Q1: How do you incorporate STEAM into your lessons? #slowchated

Q2: How can we break down barriers to incorporating STEAM into our classrooms? #slowchated

Q3: Share your favorite STEM/STEAM resources! #slowchated

Q4: Why do you think minority students feel discouraged from pursuing STEAM-related careers? #slowchated

Q5: How do you encourage girls to get involved in STEM-related fields, especially in MS and beyond? #slowchated

Q6: What action step are you going to take next week to add more STEAM-related fun into your classroom? #slowchated