Tuesday, September 16, 2014

But I thought BINGO was going to save me?!

You're thinking of Lassie.

Students are slowly but surely (mostly slowly) internalizing another new understanding of our Studio D process this week: Even BINGOs have rules.

The first rule of BINGO is: You do not talk about BINGO. 
Wait. What?! How are you possibly going to make this analogy work, Mrs. A?!
As in, actions speak louder than words. Don't talk about it, be about it.

The second rule of BINGO is: You DO NOT talk about BINGO! 
Talk is cheap.

Third rule of BINGO: Someone yells "stop," goes limp, taps out, the fight is [NOT] over. 
It may seem we are pushing you off the ledge at times, but you have to trust us to hand you the parachute first! If you have trouble correcting your errors or making the grade, ask a teacher to help you - it doesn't make the BINGO go away, and the teacher might help you by reminding you to check your notes instead of just telling you the answer, but if you continue to take appropriate action, you will eventually succeed.

Forth rule: Only two guys to a fight.
This is just you against the work. Teachers are going to show you how to find answers, not give them to you. This may be frustrating at first, but it is better for you in the long run. Along these same lines, copying someone else's A+ work, or asking them to fix yours, is not the same as BINGOing your own. By all means, seek help when needed, from peers, parents, teachers - but be careful that you are learning to correct your own mistakes, not waiting for your neighbor to hand you the answer.

Fifth rule: One fight at a time, fellas.
BINGOs have this tendency of accumulating. Studio D work can seem overwhelming because if you are redoing everything all the time and then the teachers keep giving me more work but I still have to finish that old work, and now I have so much work... This is where organization, time management, and attention to detail come in. Keeping a calendar of all deadlines and schedules, organizing your free time and incorporating "homework chunks," and paying close attention to all directions while working slowly so as not to make careless errors are all strategies I recommend. Too often a student has to BINGO work because of a format error. The more carefully you attend to your work the first time you turn it in, the more likely you are to  be successful and not need the BINGO.

Sixth rule: No shirt, no shoes. 
No work, no BINGO. You can't redo something you never did in the first place. If your work is not complete and on time the first time, you can't BINGO it. Period. BINGO can't save you if you do nothing.

Seventh rule: Fights will go on as long as they have to. 
If you are actively working through the BINGO process, and I can see that you are trying to improve your work, that you are considering feedback to improve, and you resubmit assignments as early and often as possible, I don't care if it takes you 27 BINGOs - you WILL be successful and I will see to it! But if you tap out, if you stop and give up, if you take a 3 week hiatus and mentally check out, BINGOs will reach a limit and you might be stuck with a crummy grade after all. The design process does have deadlines, and therefore so do BINGOs - it's up to you to submit as many redos as you can within the windows of time given to you.

And the eighth and final rule: If this is your first time in Studio D, you have to fight.
You asked to be here. Don't flake out on me now. It's early, and we promised you REAL work for REAL people. We promised you collaboration and leadership potential and hands-on learning. I've done this before, so I know I can and will deliver on these promises. But you aren't sure yet. You're starting to think this is more work than you thought it would be - this is too much work. They really think I'm going to write that thing AGAIN?! Yes, I do, and you may not believe me now, but you will be better for it! That's how you get REAL work done. You do it FOR REAL.

Stick with it, D9. You will do great things this year! <3 Mrs. A

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Winners Never Quit

By Barbara Soblo 

     Well, the honeymoon period is definitely over. The new clothes and supplies aren’t so new, the novelty of high school is becoming routine, and Studio D 9 is ramping up the expectations! Part of what makes our program so innovative and out of the box, is our focus on quality work over quantity. Doing multiple drafts is the norm in our class. But getting students to dig deep to create that quality requires a very different classroom vibe.

     Students know quality when they see it and when they produce it. The scary part for a teacher is that getting to quality can take a lot of time! Our first mini design challenge (what will your one sentence legacy be?) finally got to the Go! stage on Friday. For two weeks, students have designed a single sentence that captures who they are; a sentence that goes deep into their core and really captures their complexities using imagery, metaphor and words that carry multiple meanings. Friday they submitted their final work for grading; our job is now to print & post them before open house Thursday.

     In the Gather stage, students listed adjectives about themselves; don’t select words that describe what you do, but describe who you are. During the Glean stage, students boiled their list down to essentials elements. In the Generate and Gauge stages, students wrote their sentence and through several feedback sessions, the sentences changed into something wall worthy. Both teachers & students focused the critique on three things: word choice, flow, and pizazz. Students presented orally both in small groups & to the entire class. I got goosebumps when a sentence really hit the mark. But them react to the quality created by their peers really blew me away. These kids were mostly strangers some 15 days ago, and they were baring their souls to each other & asking for feedback.  

     The assignment is so simple- write a sentence about you- but in Studio D we don’t do simple. Here we begin embracing the ideals we’ll build on all year. That here we support & push each other in order to create something we can all be proud to put out in the community. That feedback must be given & received in the spirit of striving to make the work better. It’s exciting to be watch their brains switch on as they begin to understand more about Studio D and what we do.

     But the work has only just begun because our first big design challenge starts on Monday.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Creating a Culture

By Barbara Soblo

It’s not easy organizing 50+ freshman all at once, but that’s what we did this week.  Using several team building and communication activities, students began to learn each others names and some of the concepts that drive our design thinking process in Studio D.  And whether they knew it or not, they also began the process of building a classroom culture that will become the foundation for all we’ll do this year.

Whether they were constructing towers with spaghetti noodles (& don’t forget the marshmallow on top), guessing which celebrity they were using “yes or no” questions only, or lining up by birthdate without talking, students were beginning the process of being comfortable outside their comfort zone.  Our work in Studio D is all about innovation- creating something that never was.  Doing something different requires stepping away from old habits and ideas, but doing the same as everyone else doesn’t create anything new.  We like to say “if everyone is thinking the same thing then no one is thinking.”

But the activities were also training for what we’re going to be doing later in the year.  The students practiced a formal greeting and firm handshake in a scavenger hunt;  in teams, students dreamed up a whimsical product then presented it to the class.  I was really impressed at their poise in presenting to a room full of 50+ peers and four teachers!

All of the activities were connected to our process and design thinking.  This gives us a starting point for next  week as we add some Studio D specific vocabulary and begin working some mini design challenges to build on our beginning exploration of the four Cs (creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication).  In everything we’ll do, individual reflection helps students step back and examine their thinking and learning.  As teachers, we get a chance to evaluate them through these reflections and use this information to guide future instruction.  This week we also started doing reflections and I want to share of our student’s thoughts with you.

We asked them about a major lesson they learned:
“Not to underestimate my colleagues because we all shoot for the same goal.”  Hector V. 
“No one can have any negative energy or the work won’t flow.”  Jacob F.
“Be open to friendly criticism.”  Faith E.
“That everyone can have an idea that can benefit the group.”  Winnie T.
“It’s important to listen and test our teammates ideas because they could be right.”  Dayonte F.

We asked them to explain the significance of prototyping:
“It gives you a chance to work out the kinks before the final product.”  Aiden C.
“See problems with the model before you build it so it saves you time and materials.”  Destiny M.
“It provides a visual for the outcome.”  Darius H.

     I love it when I see them making connections on their own!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Studio D 101- Welcome to a New Year!

By Barbara Soblo

So you’ve made it to high school and have become a member of our RedHawk family- Congratulations!  You’re one year closer to being an adult, being self sufficient and being able to make all your own decisions.  But best of all, you enrolled in Studio D and that’s something to really celebrate!  You made a great choice to join Studio D!  The teachers are going to guide you through a design process that will help you learn about yourself, learn about your world, and create spectacular work.  In our classroom, good is just the starting point. We don't settle for the norm; we push beyond to make something new and exciting.  Our students get opportunities that few other high school students do; we are truly on the leading edge of education innovation.  As your teachers, our job is to create a culture of open and respectful communication that will both challenge and support you while you work toward independence and making a difference in the world around you.  As students, your job is to be present, open-minded, and engaged each day.  You are at the beginning of a new life stage, a new school, and a new learning experience, so get ready to jump in!  I know you probably have a few questions about what we do & who we are.  Well, read on my curious friend, and I’ll do my best to give you some straight talk about what Studio D is, and what Studio D isn’t.

STUDIO D IS different from other classrooms you’ve been in. 
We strongly believe that school is the real world and that trying to separate the two is impossible.  We are passionate about project based learning and design thinking.  The methods we use in Studio D are proven to develop critical thinking, confidence, and leadership and to prepare our students for whatever the future brings.  As student designers, you’ll collaborate with experts beyond our classroom walls in order to find new solutions to real problems.  For many of the challenges we set, you’ll interview people through email, phone calls, and face to face meetings in order to benefit from their expertise and share ideas.  Forget the notion that your school work is seen only by teachers and parents.  We believe that in order to do authentic work, you must have a public audience; this means your final designs will go beyond our classroom walls, too.  This certainly ups the stakes!  In here, we never settle for good enough because our name and reputation are on everything we do.  Through our creative design process and a classroom culture of excellence, you will learn how to design and create unique products to meet real world needs.

STUDIO D IS sometimes noisy and messy.
            In our classroom, you get to speak up about what you know and what questions you have; this is the first stage of learning in our design process!  Our students come up with the questions that lead us through the content together.  The end stage involves students explaining solutions they’ve designed and why they best fit the challenge.  You will present your work to the public, but first you will practice by presenting your designs to each other.  A big part of Studio D is critique and revision of our work.  Students learn to look with a critical eye in order to provide meaningful and honest feedback.  As teachers, we believe we are smarter and more creative designers when we work together as a team.  We all have strengths we bring to the table.  Our design challenges are set up so that each person adds value to the team.  Our process sets the framework for and facilitates building these dynamic teams. By creating a culture of respect and cooperation, Studio D will help move you further than you thought you could go.  Your job is to be open to the mind blowing experience of expanding your world view through this type of collaboration.

STUDIO D ISN’T a pat on the back or a prize for every piece of paper you scribble on.
            Our design process emphasizes high quality work and the idea that the product can always be improved.  The journey to this level isn't quick or easy; to finish with an end product that has lasting value, many drafts get left behind.  The process of designing never stops; this is how design works in the real world.  Just look at one innovation near and dear to your heart- the computer.  The first computers took up an entire rooms and having a bug in your program was a literal thing.  Today, most of us have a smartphone with us every day, which is basically a computer in your pocket.  And while the phones of today are pretty cool pieces of technology, the designers haven’t stopped working to improve the design.  In Studio D we’re going to introduce you to our five design stages: Gather, Glean, Generate, Gauge and Go!  This process is really the heart of what we do.  Get rid of that notion of a rough draft, a few edits, then a finished product and you’re done.  Sometimes you might present a seventh draft, and it’s still not ready for a public audience.  That's ok, because it always centers on the product we're creating, not on the person who's creating it. 

            We’re going to ask you to come up with solutions that haven’t been designed yet.  This isn’t a cookie cutter classroom where teachers give you all the steps to come up with the same finished product that everyone else has already achieved.  We expect you to blow us away with your creative solutions - ideas we didn’t imagine when designing the challenge.  I’ve seen amazing work from students that left me speechless; I have no doubt that will happen this year, too.  Being innovative isn’t easy, but don’t worry.  As teacher innovators ourselves, we get that.   We’ll be working right beside you everyday helping guide you and push you to keep those creative juices flowing.

STUDIO D IS life changing.
            As part of Studio D, I’ve seen students work harder and create more than they ever thought they could.  I’ve seen student teams do amazing things when I wasn’t sure they’d get off the ground.  But when the work matters to the students, they show incredible drive and passion, and never settle for mediocre.  As teachers, we believe in designing challenges that have relevance and that students can relate to.  As part of Studio D, I’ve watched students present their work in front of an auditorium full of their peers, families, and community members and confidently lead question and answer sessions.  These students worked with me, cried with me, fought with me, and laughed with me. But they all came in to Studio D just like you.  They weren’t really sure what to expect from this kind of environment, but they all jumped in with both feet.  Watching them gain confidence, expand their minds, and imagine new possibilities for what they could become changed me forever.  I look forward to watching you take on Studio D challenges this year- I know I’m not done changing.  I look forward to an amazing new year with you!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

MAP Reading Test Results

What is MAP?
According to the Northwest Evaluation Association website (http://www.nwea.org), MAP (which stands for Measures of Academic Progress) is a “computerized adaptive assessment [...] aligned to national and state curricula and standards [which provides] detailed, actionable data about where each child is on their unique learning path.” The MAP assessment “adapts to a student’s responses as they take the test.” If a student answers a question correctly, the test presents a more challenging item, whereas if a student misses a question, the test presents a simpler item.

How is MAP scored?
Again, from their website, “Every test item on a MAP assessment corresponds to a value on the RIT Scale (for Rasch Unit), so educators gain a deep understanding of what a student knows. RIT assigns a value of difficulty to each item, and with an equal interval measurement, so the difference between scores is the same regardless of whether a student is at the top, bottom, or middle of the scale. RIT measures understanding regardless of grade level, so the information helps to track a student’s progress from year to year.” 
Essentially students receive an average RIT score upon completion of the test. This number is used to determine how close to grade level that student is working in that particular content area. For example, an average 9th grade student testing for reading in the spring is expected to earn a RIT score of 224. (A score of 220 would indicate that student is working at an average 8th grade level, whereas a score of 227 would indicate that student is working at an average 10th grade level.) The differences between grade level average scores is not always uniform or intuitive; to interpret any particular RIT score, one should consult the RIT reference charts available on the NWEA website.

The “D” is for Design, Not Standardized… Putting it into Perspective
One of the primary tenets of Studio D is that standardized tests, like MAP, do not provide a complete account of any student’s knowledge or growth. We prefer to emphasize real life experiences, collaboration, real world problem solving, and critical thinking. That being said, we also acknowledge that standardized tests, like MAP, are currently necessary in the field of education and do hold some value. While they may not provide a full picture of student’s real world skills, they can provide certain measures of achievement and valuable data related to specific skill sets and growth. No two students are the same, and Studio D strives to provide an education that recognizes this. On the other hand, standardized tests are standardized in order to assist educators in comparing student achievement levels across diverse populations and in evaluating the effectiveness of their methods.
So do we believe standardized tests, like MAP, can be valuable tools? Yes.
Do we believe in analyzing the data they provide us? Yes.
Do we believe that performance on a standardized test can tell us everything (or even most) of what we want to know about our students’ growth and achievement? Absolutely not.
Do we believe in evaluating our teaching methods regularly to achieve maximum impact on student learning and growth? Absolutely, yes (That’s how we ended up with Studio D)!

All that being said, here are the results of this year’s MAP testing.

49 Studio D freshmen took the MAP reading test in the fall as new freshmen, and again today.

  • 24% of these Studio D freshmen (12 students) scored below grade level in the fall.
    • 75% (9 of these 12 students) improved their score from the fall. 
  • 73% of Studio D freshmen scored at or above grade level today.
  • 10% of Studio D freshmen (5 students) maintained their score from the fall. 
    • 80% of those students who maintained their score from the fall (i.e., 4 of the 5) are continuing to score above grade level. 
  • 69% of Studio D freshmen improved their score from the fall. 
    • The average rate of increase of those who improved their score from the fall was 3.6 points. (On-grade-level freshmen are expected to increase their fall to spring scores by 2 points). 
  • 14% of Studio D freshmen (7 students) scored just slightly below grade level today (i.e., late 8th grade level, or beginning 9th grade level)
    • 5 of these 7 students maintained or improved their score from the fall. 
  • 12% of Studio D freshmen (6 students) scored significantly below grade level today. 
    • 4 of these 6 students improved their score from the fall.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rose-Bud-Thorn Action

This has been such the funky week for us. 10th graders were taking the HSAP exit exam all week, so today was the only really normal day we have had all week. Students were able to get in the media center and work on their documentaries some, too, which is good. It's hard to believe we're a MONTH away from our showing. We have so much to do....so much.

Today, we took some time to reflect on our documentary making process by doing an activity called Rose-Bud-Thorn activity. Here's a quick 2 minute video for anyone interested. Huge shout out to Lisa Palmieri (@Learn21Tech) for this great activity! Check out her work here! 

Students reflected on their process so far, from writing scripts and storyboards, to editing and filming, and talked about what their roses, thorns, and buds were. We had some great, open, and honest conversations taking place about where we could celebrate our victories, and where our thorns were.

Surprisingly to the students, most of their thorns were similar. They spoke of a lack of communication, ineffective team work, struggles with time management, and a need to prioritize their work. Mrs. Auspelmyer was insightful enough to point out that (almost) all of their thorns were things that they could control. We didn't have to tell them to write down things they could fix, because apparently all their problems are fixable. They discussed and brainstormed ways to turn their thorns into buds and were able to take away some concrete solutions that they began to institute today. So proud of their reflections!

Mrs. A took it one step further and assigned a written reflection- one of their first grades for her for this 9 weeks. She told them to write a reflection on their group's Roses, Buds, and Thorns. We talked about the concept that a reflection is not a list, or a recap of discussion. A reflection digs deeper into the ideas they talked about as a group. A reflection considers causes and effects, and proposes possible solutions to problems. Three questions should could consider when writing:

How did Roses become roses?
How did Thorns get to be thorns?
How might we develop buds into roses and not thorns?

Writing is due Wednesday, April 9th
Must be in MLA style
Must be a hard copy- written or typed- doesn't matter
Needs a title- can get creative if you like
Minimum 250 words but should be longer
Must address Roses, Buds, AND Thorns

Students should be mindful of their grammar, punctuation, and style. This will be graded for all of those components, in addition to thoughtful content.

Make sure you spend some time going over that. Anywho, here are some pictures and videos from our session. Happy Friday!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Show-Feel-Do Maps

Students' storyboards and scripts are in full revision mode this week. Students created some great scripts with powerful examples of human rights violations and what their peers and community can do to help.

Some students at the beginning of the week were struggling to find their focus. They knew what information they wanted to include, but weren't sure how to make that information into a documentary.

I had done an organization activity with a few groups where we began with what we wanted our audience to do, what we needed them to feel in order to act, and what we needed to show them in order for them to feel that emotion. In short, I'm calling them Show-Feel-Do maps. It helped students to make a logical order and organization of what they wanted to achieve and how they needed to go about achieving it.


Students had to first answer the question, "What do you want your audience to do?" Most of what they came up with was a Call to Action or Response. They wanted their audience to do something after seeing their documentary: volunteer, donate, speak up, spread awareness, etc. So knowing they wanted to elicit a certain response, we talked about the fact that certain emotions elicit responses more quickly than others. People respond to guilt, happiness, anger, and sadness and can be moved to action if that emotion is rooted deeply enough. We then had the talk about what information would evoke what emotional response. How do people respond to children suffering? How do people respond to pictures of domestic violence victims? Students had to carefully consider not only how they were portraying information to get that emotional response, but to use that power carefully. Empathy for the people and groups they were representing was first on their mind as they decided what to show.

For some groups, this just helped to solidify the direction of their film. For others, this changed their whole approach.

As of Friday, half of our groups had begun filming and editing in iMovie. The other half are split: one quarter is ready to film as of Monday, the other quarter is still revising their scripts for approval.