Monthly Archives: March 2016

Week 10: Understanding by Design (UbD) Fractions Unit for EDET637 — Unfolding Planning

Stage 1 Desired Results

Instructional Focus: Sixth Grade Standards—

2. “Students use the meaning of fractions, the meanings of multiplication and division, and the relationship between multiplication and division to understand and explain why the procedures for dividing fractions make sense. Students use these operations to solve problems.” (Alaska English/Language Arts & Mathematics Standards June 2012, p. 140)

Students will be able to independently use their learning to…    

Reduce, calculate and conceptually apply fraction in addition and subtractions.

Recognize concepts and terminology related to reducing, calculating and applying fraction concepts.

Transfer their knowledge to pre-algebra concepts and understanding of how fractions are used in the real world.


Students will understand that…

Multiplication and division fluency directly impact their ability to calculate addition and subtraction of fractions.

Fluency in recognizing different types of fractions and how fractions relate to a whole helps them understand concepts and terminology.


How can reducing or increasing fractions, using least common multiple or greatest common factor, help me in the real world—at home, on the job? (cooking, sewing, construction, water treatment, computer coding. . .)

What type of math does knowing this prepare me for?

Students will know…                         

Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication and division to divide fractions by fractions 6.NS.1. Interpret and compute quotients of fractions, and solve word problems involving division of fractions by fractions (e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem).

Students will be skilled at…  

According to individual needs: reducing and calculating fractions through addition and subtraction.   They will work on multiplication and division fluency to help them complete fraction calculations with 95% or higher accuracy.

Stage 2 – Evidence
Evaluative Criteria Assessment Evidence
Pre and post test PERFORMANCE TASK(S): Students will take a pretest and post test to demonstrate their strengths and weaknesses in adding and subtracting fractions, including a few word problems.   They will use a paper and pencil test for this.
Students will use computer games to increase skills in calculations.

Students will use worksheets to practice skills where they can practice their computation accuracy at an instructional skill level.


The teacher will observe and track which games they are using to make sure students are working at an appropriate level for their skills as shown on the pretest.

Worksheets will be collected as evidence of calculation for accuracy.

Students will be observed for engagement, understanding, and motivation.

Increases math fact fluency will be noted through timed multiplication / division paper pencil tests.


Stage 3 – Learning Plan
Summary of Key Learning Events and Instruction

To begin with, students will complete pretest activities using worksheet and pencil. Then they will start using gaming to get started with fluency. When fraction concepts need to be further clarified, students will view and go over mini-lessons that are presented in for visual support and discuss this concept with the teacher.

Three days per week of paper pencil practice at individualized levels.

Two days per week of game practice. Students will choose a game that will strengthen personal areas of need.



Group Composition

Student Group is made up of one sixth grader, two seventh graders, and two eighth graders. They are sent to me for response to intervention (RTI) each day for extra practice in focus areas of math for them. Two students are on an IEP and are preparing for pre-algebra for next fall. The other three students will likely be in small group basic skills RTI math again next year.

 Technology Resources for practicing terminology and fluency:

CoolMath Fraction Splat Instructions:

Click on the types of fractions for each round, (There are three rounds.) Click the finished button once you have found them all.

Round 1 Target: Mixed Numbers

Teaches terminology: improper fraction whole number mixed number

Round 2 Target: Fractions that are greater than or equal to 1

Round 3: Target=Fractions that are less than 1/2

FractOne – Your goal is to get sums of 1. Get it? FractONE:  Click on pairs of squares that add up to 1 and do it as fast as you can!

Technology Resources through Cool Math using simple explanations and visual representations for mini-lessons that will be used to individualize according to student needs:

  1. Factors and Primes
  2. Divisibility Tests
  3. Factorizations
  4. Prime and Composite Numbers
  5. Prime Factorizations
  1. Intro to Fractions
  2. Mixed Numbers
  3. Equivalent Fractions Part 1
  4. The Magic 1 (fluency in matching fractions to make one whole)
  1. Common Factors (Common Divisors)
  2. Greatest Comon Factor (GCF)—Also known as Greatest Common Divisor (GCD)
  3. Common Multiples
  4. Least Common Multiple (LCM)

Game choices

Technology Resources for practicing terminology and fluency:

CoolMath Fraction Splat Instructions:

Click on the types of fractions for each round, (There are three rounds.) Click the finished button once you have found them all.

Round 1 Target: Mixed Numbers:  Teaches terminology: improper fraction whole number mixed number

Round 2 Target: Fractions that are greater than or equal to 1

Round 3: Target=Fractions that are less than 1/2

FractOne – Your goal is to get sums of 1. Get it? FractONE

Click on pairs of squares that add up to 1 and do it as fast as you can!

Teaches fluency in adding numerators with a variety of denominators to equal one whole. Results produce how many seconds it took the player and what this adds up to in minutes and seconds.

Students will track their progress for fluency in games and paper pencil.

Game: The Clue Finders Math Adventures Ages 9-12 with multiplication, division, and fractions. The Learning Company—Windows & Macintosh. With 10 levels of difficulty; auto-leveling, 50 printable activities, personalized workbooks and rewards. Game to practice multiplication and division fluency and fractions:

Game: MindTwister Math by Edmark. Increases math fact fluency and strengthens mental math skills.

Game: Math Blaster Hyper Blaster II-HD

Game: Fractions and Smart Pirates In App Store

 Resources Read:

Alaska English/Language Arts and Mathematics Standards pp. 144-162. Retrieved on 3-27-16 from:

Childre, A., Sands, J. R., & Pope, S. T. (2009). Backward design. Teaching Exceptional Children, 41(5), pp. 6-14.

Donhauser, M., Hersey, H., Stutzman, C., & Zane, M. (2014). From lesson plan to learning plan: An introduction to the inquiry learning plan. School Library Monthly, 31(1).

Keeling, M. (2015). Backwards design considerations for the 21st-century school library. School Library Monthly, 21(4), pp. 22-24.

Lubiner, G. (2014). Understanding by design: A unit on color theory. Arts & Activities, 156(1), pp. 20-44.

Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2011). The understanding by design guide to creating high-quality units. Alexandria, VA: ASCD

Blog 9 Reflection Assessment From Past to Present

Blog 9 Reflection

for EDED637 Differentiating Instruction through Technology

with Dr. Lee Graham

Assessment From Past to Present

by Aleta May

Here is the link to what I wrote:

This week’s essential question was How can I use both formative and summative assessment to enhance (or at least not interfere with) intrinsic motivation?

I read extensively about this topic and found video clips to view regarding authentic assessment and sharing assessment data with students. Since I teach students individually or in pairs most of the time, with small groups some of the time, my experience in this area is different that of a regular classroom teacher. Further, my training started out as a special education teacher.

We were extensively trained in how to use individualized academic achievement standardized assessments; such as the Woodcock Johnson for reading, writing and math, the Key Math test, adaptive observation tests; The Brigance Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills; for students with significant cognitive impairment, and so on. I learned to administer the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-III (WISC-III or IV), and another more visually oriented IQ test.

Then we learned about taking the information from the academic achievement tests to write global annual goals and how to look at the details such as taking notes while giving the reading test, and watching the process students use to complete a math calculation problem. This information extended to making a determination as to what skills to focus on, writing goals, and making a criteria for deciding whether that student had reached mastery before moving on to another goal. We learned strategies for teaching, and always felt that we needed more of these. Our cohort had excellent instructors for every area.

Now I am a Site Test Coordinator where I am responsible for overseeing and giving tests at our school. This year I have given WorkKeys career test to 11th grade students; prepared AIMSWeb benchmark tests for teachers to help them be ready to test then completed make-up tests for AIMSWeb and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). A lot of time is spent just scheduling teachers to give the test or encouraging them to create a schedule in a timely manner.

Then there is the WiDA test for English Language Learners who are tested if they are Limited Proficient (LP) in English. This test is extensive (listening, reading, writing) in that it is in Tiers, has a Kindergarten piece that is individualized (and very time consuming), an individualized speaking test. If a student passes, they are considered to no longer be LP. This was set to be more manageable by using a computer version this year—but it did not work in most remote areas of Alaska—so back to the paper and pencil version after many weeks of waiting to receive all the pieces required to give it (tests without scripts are not okay; the listening test without the CDs, not okay). Next on our testing plate is the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP). Since it uses less bandwidth than say the MAP test, we are hopeful that the AMP will run as smoothly as last year—although this test will not exist next year after only two years of giving it. The MAP test, by the way, takes a lot of bandwidth and our school had serious problems giving this in the fall—testing was very disruptive when I could not give it to groups of 10 to 20 without it failing (kicking students out). A question here is whether it actually measures what it is designed to measure with so many disruptions. Another question is why can’t we stop giving such a test rather than take groups of no more than 4 at a time to give each section (reading, Language Arts, math), thereby disrupting instruction significantly?

As I read about how we as teachers could be teaching and assessing using a cognitive phase strategy, for example, for math called Solve It! I wonder why we are not using portfolios for students and backing away from so many standardized / norm-referenced tests. Presently, my special education teaching portion of my job has been usurped by the testing duties. When I am not giving or guiding people to give tests, I intensively teach students. My area of focus is reading. I am using a lot of books that have to do with what students are interested in as I build their skills, and a reading program, Lexia, that will track and monitor progress for me. Regarding ongoing assessment as I teach, I take notes, keep records such as the Quick Phonic Screener (QPS), and look at data from MAPs or AIMSWeb. We take a lot of short breaks to stretch and get a drink of water, because learning to read is intense. We talk about what we are reading and enjoy pictures, or for older students at higher reading levels, we look up pictures for better comprehension of a concept. I especially enjoyed using to allow students to visually represent their understanding of the book as they read. These types of assessments are much more natural.

Regarding accountability to the public, I think it would be easier to demonstrate learning if our students break free from the walls of the school and get out there to take notes, ask questions, observe, and volunteer. For parents and guardians, student-led conferences with portfolios would make it much more meaningful and actually draw more parents in to come to the parent/teacher conferences.

As I read through blogs in class this week I responded and grew just from listening to teachers talk about how they apply authentic assessment and what they want to do next. Here are my responses to them that were inspired by reading:

Week 9 Responses


Using formative assessments to focus on both strengths and weaknesses is so important. I have used bar graphs on paper to help students watch their overall reading fluency progress. This visual is very motivational. If it takes a dip downward, we discuss together what may be the reason, how much we want to focus on that story or if we want to just move on; and we keep our eyes on the overall gains. I think the upcoming Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) is an example of a summative assessment with high stakes; it does adapt to the students’ ability somewhat, but still only within that student’s particular grade level range.

When I think about “knowing each student’s interests, learning styles, strengths and weaknesses”—this at first just overwhelms me. Then I refocus on how there is a lot of overlap between students in these areas. It is like a set of letters in a coding system (DNA is an example) that shares letter with other sets of letters; but the combination possibilities are endless. That’s what it is: We are teaching people! J

I remember reading about cheating from Kohn this week. He also wrote a book called Punished by Rewards. With a cooperative learning environment (as opposed to a competitive environment), learning amazing new things with and from each other is a reward. Why take away from that by using artificial rewards?

I agree that there is a clash between current statewide testing and classroom reform.   This is where we must trust our own professional discernment about teaching students where they are, and in motivational ways; and apply this whenever possible.


Best-practice assessment to me includes measuring what students Can do as much or more than what they still need to learn. If our curriculum and instruction model is different from that of other schools, as it is in our Dual Language model, I think measuring competency in English needs to focus more on formative assessment and smaller increments of learning.

Not overgrading work may mean that in a conference with a student who is explaining to me about how they came to use the process they used, such as in solving word problems, I will be taking notes as to what part of the process they are having difficulty with. One article I read broke these processes down into four parts for a word problem. Right now I am visualizing a grid where teachers can interview students about their product and then write short notes under each category. This grid would help the teacher assess how to group students for mini-lessons to fix-up and clarify faulty thinking (not in a negative way).

I like the comic life software in the video clip you placed here. It is a drag and drop app that allow students to use pictures and write their own thought bubbles for each picture. Thank you for sharing this video as well as the 9 grading rules to follow. Here is a Comic Life site I found:

Teresa’s reference for the video clip: Edutopia. (2014). Use Formative Assessment to Differentiate Instruction. Retrieved from

Hi Sarah,

Sometimes students start out extrinsically motivated and then move toward being intrinsically motivated. Maybe external rewards is the way some students feel affirmed at home or in other classrooms. I do enjoy external rewards as well, such as a paycheck for my hard work at school. But to enjoy what I do is what keeps me wanting to improve beyond what is required of me. I think some children may associate outside rewards with acceptance. I remember well, the one year my mom asked me what two things I wanted for Christmas and which one I wanted the most so she could get that for me rather than my father having the “advantage.” But rewards and sticker charts definitely have limits. Another thought I have is that grading can be very emotional for children.

It is so true that if we grade everything, we may lead students to fear risk-taking as they learn. Feedback for the teacher helps us prepare what they need next; so going over their work and collecting it to note progress over time, such as gradually building a portfolio, can serve to help me focus on what students need and note progress.

Watching this video clip was worth the extra time—as it explains why students are motivated intrinsically (mainly because they are people and not horses J ):

In the video clip, this caught my attention: “When a task gets more complicated, it requires some conceptual, creative thinking, these kind of motivators don’t work!” It is referring here to monetary rewards, and that even the higher the reward makes it less likely to work. Further, the presentation talked about: Autonomy; Self-direction (engagement); mastery (it’s fun, it is satisfying when you get better at it); purpose motive. The profit motive needs to be connected to purpose motive.


One way I think we can work toward intrinsic motivation is to build mini-communities of students that touch base with each other both for learning and for expanding their social group. Usually I think of the smaller school I am at right now; but the high school I went to seemed enormous to me. I ended up being with the same students most of my free time. During class there was not much opportunity for learning in cooperative groups. Intrinsic motivation to learn comes from working together for a common goal.   Assessment can come out of projects completed together.

Feedback is major. I think we need to give students regular feedback to guide them such as when predicting, making connections to a character in a book, and questioning the author. More straightforward feedback might come with math so that we are not allowing students to practice the same error that will be difficult to unlearn later on. Plus, feedback just feels like care. There is enough care on the part of teachers and authentic audiences to help a student grow.


I really appreciate what you said about eliminating hunger, having paper and pencils ready for students, noticing if they are acting uninterested and not just assuming that is their way to escape the task, but may actually be getting sick. If we frame assessment as a way for students to see their growth over time, this is so much better than having them compete with some elusive group of students across the nation, state, district or even school. Those types of scores are more for educators to use as a frame of reference, a starting point, or a platform for asking pertinent questions about why the scores are the way they are, what needs to change, and how.

Government class for me in high school would have had so much more meaning if I had been steered in an interesting direction; such as a case or event and how our government addresses these—and in a small group where a teacher facilitates to make sure every voice is heard.


Here is a quote that seems to fit what you stated about how students are not motivated intrinsically by such things that range from grades to annual state assessments.

“The more we try to measure, control, and pressure learning from without, the more we obstruct the tendencies of students to be actively involved and to participate in their own education. . . . Externally imposed evaluations, goals, rewards, and pressures seem to create a style of teaching and learning that is antithetical to quality learning outcomes in school, that is, learning characterized by durability, depth, and integration.”

Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes (1993, 1999). Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

I agree that motivation for learning comes from learning that is meaningful.

“The more we try to measure, control, and pressure learning from without, the more we obstruct the tendencies of students to be actively involved and to participate in their own education. . . . Externally imposed evaluations, goals, rewards, and pressures seem to create a style of teaching and learning that is antithetical to quality learning outcomes in school, that is, learning characterized by durability, depth, and integration.”

A Beautiful Garden is Measured As it is Nurtured (Week 9)

Week 9 Blog for EDET 637 Differentiating Instruction through Technology
with Dr. Lee Graham

by Aleta May

Essential question: How can I use both formative and summative assessment to enhance (or at least not interfere with) intrinsic motivation?

Criterion referenced measurement was introduced by Robert Glasser in 1963 strategy, not test, that is useful as a teaching tool to focus student learning. A nom-referenced test was used by Glaser to compare World War II trainees to each other; a norm group of trainees over time. In the 1950s Glaser had been influenced by behaviorist B. F. Skinner, and promoted programmed instruction that was “designed to present information in small steps, provide immediate feedback, and require learners to correctly complete one step before moving on to the next” (Popham, 2014, p. 62). The issue came when student scores were so successfully high, interpretation of these test as normed (comparing students to each other) was not useful without a range of scores. However, if the aim is to measure individual students’ achievement over time as learning has unfolded, having scores at one end of a scale is fine in that the focus is instruction and whether the student is responding to it well or not. criterion- and norm- referenced measures are interpretations of students’ skills and what they have or have not learned. “Any kind of test—from multiple choice to essarys to oral examinations—can be standardized if uniform scoring and administration are used” (Bond, p. 3, 1996). Keep in mind that a “criterion identified a behavior domain, such as a cognitive skill or a body of knowledge” (Popham, p.64). To summarize, norm-referenced and criterion-referenced measures should be used as an interpretation of learning tool (and teaching); not as different types of tests.

The point of measuring learning with a criterion-referenced test (tool) is to determine whether content that was pre-determined to be important has been learned; thus the measure needs to match the content. In math, “. . . a CRT score might describe which arithmetic operations a student can perform or the level of reading difficulty he or she can comprehend” (Bond, p. 2, 1996). The AIMSWeb measure our school uses is given at grade level. At the beginning of a school year, this seems reasonable, but when it is clear that a student is no where near that level, the students’ progress measures need to be adapted to the instructional needs of the student and carefully monitored for progress as that student works specifically on those skills. What I have just defined is a formative assessment. Otherwise we are simply measuring curriculum and whether that child has met that curriculum goal over and over. If a student is reading at a primer level and takes the 3rd grade measure again and again that year, there may be some growth in word calling shown, but comprehension is not even in the picture. An advantage of the computerized MAP test is that it is adaptive to the level of that student no matter how low or how high it needs to adjust in either direction starting from their grade level. Of course the hope here is that the test questions have relevance to the lives of students.

What we are really looking for is authentic assessment. In my UbD unit, I will be teaching fraction concepts to middle school students who missed the concrete understanding of abstract concepts. This will lead them into Pre-Algebra for next school year as well; so it will be framed as Pre-Algebra presently to make it age appropriate. There are many ways to assess students’ learning. For example, when students learn to use visual ways to represent their understanding of a process during learning, they create a product teachers can formatively evaluate for student progress. Students may use a diagram to solve a math word problem. A teacher may interview a student to explain their problem-solving process they used on a visual organizer. By using this information, the teacher is using diagnostic assessment to analyze the students’ understanding (Poch, Garderen, & Scheuermann, 2015). The teacher can individually interview students to identify their conceptual understanding “What is it?—Comprehension of what relationships a diagram can represent and how a diagram can be used when solving a problem” (Poch, et. al, p. 156). Also the teacher can ask specific questions to determine the procedural fluency in their word problem solving process (like are they getting a little too much into the diagram, and not making connections to the problem). By asking specific questions, the teacher can observe for strategic competence; and their ability for adaptive reasoning to be able to explain what they did in the diagram.

Since we are moving more and more each year toward a learner-centered approach, our assessment of students will need to move in that direction as well. Progress is being made, but my question is whether that progress is keeping up with the change of instruction pedagogy. “. . . teachers must plan their lessons and provide opportunities for individual and group work, lot of students’ activities, two way questioning, discussions, role-plays, presentations to properly facilitate learners to achieve desired learning outcomes” (Ilyas, Qazi & Rawat, p. 19). Teaching fractions is an example of a subject that must taught in such a way that abstract concepts need to be made in meaningful and relevant concrete hands-on learning to help students remember what they are learning.

One approach for teaching math in a way where students can be assessed (and assess their own learning) along the way is called Solve It! This cognitive strategy has four phases:
I. Translation phase “read the problem for understanding; and paraphrase”
II. Integration phase “visualize” and represent from prior knowledge
III. Planning phase “hypothesize about problem solutions” and “estimate the answer.
The students’ knowledge was built through a process and their development (with age considerations) is assessed as they learn how to demonstrate learning in these phases (Krawe,, Huang, Montague, Kressler, & Alba, pp. 81-82.

It is important to remember that, “before we assess our students’ learning; it is about instruction . . . Info In” (Lewin & Shoemaker p. 8). Lewin and Shoemaker propose a four step approach that includes First: Preparing the student by making connections between what students already know and new learning; Second: First Dare; implying that taking risks to try out your new understanding is a good way to learn; Third: Repair (using fix-up strategies); such as when producing a product, make needed corrections based on new understanding and Fourth: Share learning with an authentic audience rather than just the teacher (2011).

There is a place for summative assessment. As with plants, “it is interesting and important to compare and analyse measurements but, in itself, this does not affect the growth of the plants. Formative assessment, on the other hand, is the equivalent of feeding and watering the plants appropriate to their needs-directly affecting their growth” (p. 1)
I recommend watching these video clips as a way to communicate authentic assessment to staff members:
Sharing assessment data with students:

Working with students to develop their next learning steps

Developing students’ ownership of their learning

An overarching theme is that we need to keep in mind establishing learning goals that are age appropriate and allow students to take control of and manage their own learning over time.


Bond, L. A. (1996). Norm-and Criterion-Referenced Testing. ERIC/AE Digest. Retrieved from:

Ilyas, B. M., Qazi, W., & Rawat, K. J. (2014). Effect of teaching fractions through constructivist approach on learning outcomes of public sector primary schools teacher. Bulletin of Education and Research, 36(1), pp. 15-35.

James Popham, W. p. (2014). Criterion-Referenced Measurement: Half a Century Wasted?. Educational Leadership, 71(6), 62-68. Retrieved on 3-21-16 from: Egan Library

Krawec, J., Huang, J., Montague, M., Kressler, B., Melia de Alba, A. (2012). The effects of cognitive strategy instruction on knowledge of math problem-solving processes of middle school students with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 36(2), pp. 80-92.

Lewin, L. & Shoemaker, B. J. (2011). Great performances: Creating classroom-based assessment tasks (2nd Edition.). Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). Retrieved on 3-21-16, from ProQuest ebrary at: Web. 13 April 2015. (chapters 1 thru 4)

Ministry of Education Te Tahuhu O Te Matauranga Formative and summative assessment

Poch, A. L. Garderen, D. V. & Scheuermann, A. M. (2015). Students’ understanding of diagrams for solving word problems: A framework for assessing diagram proficiency. Teaching Exceptional Children, 47(3), pp. 153-162.

Creating a Website with Group from Differentiating Instruction Class EDET 637

Week 4 Reflection
by Aleta May
for Differentiating Instruction through Technology EDET637
with Dr. Lee Graham

Group Members: Teresa Harrie.; Sarah Kitzan; Anastasia Ishnook; Larissa Otness; and myself, Aleta May

Our group members divided the task of writing about Assistive Technology (AT) as it relates to differentiation in the classroom by dividing the elements between each member. I used this website with Carol Ann Tomlinson to use her interpretation of the five elements.

Sarah got the wikispace started. It is titled “Assistive Technology and the Differentiated Classroom.” The home page is:

Larissa came up with the idea of dividing responsibilities by element; each person researches an element. Larissa researched “Using AT in Content of a Differentiated Classroom.” Sarah researched “Product Using AT in Differentiated Instruction (DI).” Teresa researched, “Environment/Affect.” Anastasia researched “Process of a Differentiated Classroom.” I went with researching clarifying the learning destination through Tomlinson’s Knowledge, Understanding, and Do (KUDs) model for engagement and understanding. Along with this, I blended in research regarding “Monitoring and Adjusting Teaching to Ensure Students Reach that Destination,” also from Tomlinson’s model.

In reflection, I was very impressed at how everyone in our group participated in such a way that we came up with some really strong research. I decided to create a new page on our wiki space and just post them in a sort of “as is” structure and by putting each contributor’s name above their writing. Then I started a new discussion on our homepage letting our group members know that I had compiled our research. I opened the door from my end for others to edit and rearrange the paper into a more organized manner. Likely, all of our references should be placed at the end of our paper together, but wanted to leave this for someone else to either suggest or do. I believe that it is important not to just take over in a group project like this.

I gained a lot by seeing how we as educators can create a lot together. This would be a great way to approach a topic in professional learning communities (PLCs) at our school. I have often thought about how at our school we should read professional literature and books on a topic that would benefit all of us; even with a small K-12 school we could divide up topics like we just had at a site based professional development—that of mind mapping. Also, I believe students would benefit from reading at different levels of research and writing a piece according to their abilities and interest as long as the overall topic has a common goal.

I did take the liberty to use subtitles next to their names as shown on our wiki home page by the category each person chose to research. I noticed that my research overlapped Anastasia’s some, but that our focus was different enough that our writings could be placed together.

Our research is on a new page where together, our research looked like this:

Place Based Learning, Brain-based Learning, and Poverty—Teachers are the Thread that Links Together a Growth Mindset

Week 8 Reflection for
EDET 637 Differentiating Instruction through Technology
with Dr. Lee Graham

by Aleta May

Although our students here participate in Place Based Learning (PBL) through their Yup’ik instruction, the term PBL is new to me. I was able to compare how PBL looks here to an example of a local tree-mapping project I read about in an article about students integrating science, math and geography in another state. Amy and I noticed how much easier it is now for students to access instant information through a mobile device when compared to the hard copies of the old encyclopedia. We can easily take pictures of things we study near the school area to bring back to the classroom and to share with other students.

When I responded to Natalie, I was drawn into her discussion of neuroplasticity and how brain based education is so important for educators to keep in mind. I focused on how music can help students focus, or relax for a test. Classical music can help students increase problem solving potential.
Sally presented a list of strategies for educators to address when teaching with the brain in mind. I summarized her list in my post to her: Exercise, socialization, brain development, stress management, celebrate differences, teach in chunks, embed the arts into instruction, teach with emotional states in mind, special education is more than inclusion, and review, review, review. Sally’s focus on scaffolding instruction and how that connects to brain based learning was clear, as was the challenge she wrote about how she intends to organize her instruction in a way that considers both.

Larissa helped me think about differentiating for students’ learning needs through genuinely believing that each student can progress. We have such an impact on the lives of our students; even more when we see students coming in with the stress that poverty brings to their lives and how this often sets them back in their brain development.

Students who come from lives of poverty have learned to adapt to lives that are environmentally more threatening. Threats may range from exposure to community violence to having to move frequently or doing without electricity. What may present as a “bad attitude,” may actually be lack of sleep from an overcrowded home, etc. If we as teachers begin to recognize these behaviors, we can act in response more appropriately. For example, if a student seems to be agitated or distracted, he/she may need more frequent breaks. Also, I believe that educators need to team up with each other and with outside resources to make connections and plans to figure out how best to help our students who live in poverty. In the village where I live, some students may come to school dressed especially well. By the standards of larger towns or cities, this would be the norm. By local standards, this may simply mean that when adults in charge of them gain access to money, they are more likely to spend it on their children’s needs. Since most students come to school dressed very basically, it is easier to come in and not have the deep concern for how you appear to others. But the older they get, the more sensitive they become.

One point I picked up through reading chapters on brain-based learning, was how adolescent students may benefit from walking into a class with music playing and a little time to wind down after being in the hall where they may have just dealt with an issue that is big in their mind; such as, a friendship breakup or something taken from their locker. Movement during learning; like gallery walks to place sticky notes onto posters in categories around the room, or taking stretch breaks are ways to keep the brain alert and give it time to absorb new learning. For adolescents, plenty of time to discuss new learning with peers in multiple formats before moving on to teaching more curriculum will help them access their developing social / emotional parts of their brain to retain knowledge.

Place Based Learning, Poverty and Brain-Based School

Place Based Learning (PBL) accesses the tenets of constructivist learning theory. New learning should be connected to the prior knowledge of individual students. In an online setting, students may come from a wide range of regions. Where they consider their home region to be impacts the learner’s way of knowing. “Sense of place is not simply an attachment to a place, but it also contains a cognitive aspect” Sumrall, Clary, & Watson, 2015, p. 37). It is important to note that where I teach, the people have ways of looking at the world that often does not match with the worldview that teachers bring and the books provided to the school. Here is a quote I found at “While western science and education tend to emphasize compartmentalized knowledge which is often de-contextualized and taught in a detached setting of a classroom or laboratory, indigenous people that traditionally acquired their knowledge through direct experience in the natural world” (Barnhardt & Kawagley, 2005, Our students participate in a dual language program in the elementary school. They are taught in the Yup’ik language, through locally created curriculum, in the areas of science and social studies by teachers who grew up in the same area.
There is common ground among students in our school and students in schools in other parts of the United States. As students enter specialized areas of study, there is common knowledge. For example, students who entered a master’s degree program, many of whom were Earth science teachers at the time, had basic knowledge in common from prior learning and K-12 teaching experiences. But when questioned on a presurvey about meteorology and geology, the students showed how their knowledge was tied to the region they had marked as their home region (Sumrall, Clary, & Watson, 2015). In order to make connections to earth science, for example, in other regions, students need to first apply new earth science concepts to what is familiar to they already. When students begin the inquiry and research process, they begin with place-based education experiences “where local settings become the integrating element in students’ education” (Blatt, 2013, p. 100). One example is from Erica Blatt’s (2013) example of implementing a local tree mapping project to learn many concepts, across the curriculum. By learning to use geographical information systems (GIS); such as global positioning system (GPS) to find longitude/latitude data, draw charts by hand or by inputting data into excel, and measuring/plotting distance; students are combining science, math, and geography. They divide into groups to collect different types of data, like the circumference of different trees to use for finding the age of the tree on a growth rate chart and finding the percentage of each type of tree. Then they collaborate to share data toward a goal.
Additionally, students can use mobile devices to collect information away from school, since learning does not stop at the school doors. “For today’s students, learning is a 24/7 enterprise. . . The traditional school experience is but a fraction of their overall learning day, and for too many students, it’s the least productive and most restrictive component” (12). It is amazing how our students have access to cell phones with internet here in their pockets. Overall, the students in the community where I teach are living in poverty. The expense of an internet plan includes very limited data. Adults are commenting to that they prefer texting to talking even to avoid using up their data before the end of the month. So students may use their phones to take pictures out in the field, and could come back to school to upload these directly to computers rather than trying to send them through their internet service. I am not sure how much they can send and receive within the school without it affecting their own service. The school uses GCI. Most people here use UUI at home.
When it comes to the need to activate learning, such as using the knowledge of how the brain works, teachers need to understand that when students have grown up using the computer, they have often learned to scan a website by noticing visual icons. When people who were not as computer-savvy researched on Google, often taught traditionally to read books from left to right, they did not rely on “the frontal cortex known as the dorsolateral prefrontal area. . . the brains of the inexperienced users changed, and in five days newbies were using the same networks” (Sprenger, 2010, p. 12). Further, computer-savvy students have relied so much on interpreting through visual images, that “their visual systems are much more reflexive and intuitive about what they see . . . They simply learn better with visuals” (Sprenger, p. 101).
Connections I noticed while reading from Jensen’s 2009 book about poverty were many common known factors in our village that are listed is overcrowding in the home is frequently an issue, access to a very small and often dysfunctional/expensive Laundromat is limited, students tend to stay outside without adult supervision for many hours per week, and in the cold months, video gaming inside is a primary activity. During the long, dark and cold winter months, students often present with signs of chronic stress. The stress hormone, cortisol, affects the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus—these are “crucial for learning, cognition, and working memory” (Jensen, 2009, p. 25). One way to calm students is to note that there are four distinct brain states. To bring students to relaxed alertness, accessing the alpha wave through mood music, classical from the Baroque composers to “balance the body and mind by regulating heart rate, respiration, and brain waves” (Sprenger, 2010, p. 94); something to think about during this testing time of year.
In reading, I have found that moving throughout the day is crucial for students. In fact, Sprenger (2010) notes that one school has even “developed a Zero Hour P.E. class, so named because it occurs in the morning before the school day begins. I am all for waking sleepy students up in the morning! Try the introduction to go noodle to view GoNoodle 101: An Intro for Students:


Barnhardt, R. & Kawagley, A. O. (2005). Indigenous knowledge systems and alaska native ways of knowing. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 36(1), pp. 8-23. Retreived on 3-11-16, at:

Evans, J. (2015). A vision for mobile learning: More verbs, fewer nouns. Educational Leadership.

Gonoodle Retrieved on 3-11-16 at:

Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the brain in mind (2nd Ed.). Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). ProQuest Web. 7 March, 2016.

Jensen, E. (2009). Teaching with poverty in mind: What being poor does to kids’ brains and what schools can do about it. .). Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). ProQuest Web. 7 March, 2016.

Sprenger, M. (2010). Brain-based teaching in the digital age. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). ProQuest Web. 7 March, 2016.

Sumrall, J. L., Clary, R. M., & Watson, J. C. (2015). Geographic affiliation and sense of place: Influences on incoming online students’ geological meteorological content knowledge. Journal of College Science Teaching, 45(1).

Week 7 (3-6-16) Reflection about: Problem Based Learning (PBL) –Practical Structures and Reasons for PBL in the Classroom

EDET 637: Differentiating Instruction through Technology
with Dr. Lee Graham
by Aleta May

Essential question: What practical structures could we use to implement PBL in our classrooms?

Teachers use PBL to help their students think deeply. They guide their students to investigate something that is new to them, and develop a problem to design a solution for. As I looked at PBL from the perspective of the authors, I came back to how this type of instruction is exactly what our students need to help them expand their communication skills, and to learn concepts they do not normally get to experience. We are remote, so there many situations in textbooks that do not apply to the lives of our students. PBL is hands on, visual learning. With structure we can flexibly facilitate student learning with the additional use of technology. This opens their worlds to interview people anywhere—from the food industry, virtual tours guided by Fish and Game representatives, to an art or history museum in our own state. I believe the opportunity to expand the world of our students in the village where I am is on the way. We have progressed so much from when we first arrived: now there are cell phones, Internet is more readily available than it used to be, we have Polycom T.V. now for live teaching from Bethel. We have more computer based programs available to us than we used to have.
Catherine talked about how the atmosphere needs to be set prior to using a Problem Based Learning (PBL) structure for learning. One way to further support students is by scaffolding learning. Though I replied to Catherine with a focus on the English Language Learner (ELL).
I learned more about how to actually set up a project when I visited Sara’s posted a YouTube video clip at :
It is called “The Design Thinking Teacher Training: Part I.” Here are notes I took from an eight minute video that really helped me understand how I could actually implement, or begin to implement, a project.
In this video, the structure is set up in phases:

Empathy, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Feedback, Reflect

Part I covered Empathy and Define.

Empathy—Understand the problem, discover how the problem affects specific users When students get out into the community / field); they are developing care about the issue.
Space Saturation—Capture learning from the empathy stage in a shared space.

When students go as a group to a place like the Waste Water Treatment Plant they went to in this video, they were allowed to tour the facility, listen to a speaker explain how the system works, interview a chemist, etc.
During the Empathy stage at the site where they visit, students are assigned to:

~~pay attention to body language, emotions, responses
~~what have you learned?
~~take notes on everything you notice [this includes mannerisms and speech]

In this project, students needed to design for a certain purpose; the need of a user. Students made connections to the water crises in other countries. In Angola they learned about people their own age walking far distances and carrying water back home. They extracted information they learned to begin.
Using Post-it notes when they came back to the school, they were tasked to write for 10 minutes for the four categories (feelings, actions, heard, thoughts) within the phase of empathy. The students quickly wrote what they learned out in the field; then they put the Post-its on the board under that category. Each note had an icon symbol that shows which phase it represents. They can put what they learned from each person in the field.
Define—Students Synthesize what has been learned. They re-frame the problem in terms of user needs. They start taking all the ideas that they’ve learned in their interviews, observations, research, and synthesize this information by talking to each other about what is most important in that information and using this to define a user need. They determine which information is most important to begin the design. It is easier to design when you design for a specific need.
According to the 7th Grade English Teacher: This structure provides students with what they need to come up with; ideas that go beyond the structure.
When I start to design my UbD unit for my math group, I will need to start with an essential question or problem. Amy’s definition of PBL challenged me to be thinking about how I could write a unit that applies to real world problems. Since I get my small group as a Response to Intervention (RTI) limited time, our focus will include real world applications so they can understand the purpose of reducing and multiplying / dividing, adding / subtracting fractions. Here is a place with real application examples:
When I visited Kate’s site, I am reminded how important it is to develop my skills in PBL. We have been transitioning from traditional ways of educating students in our school. In all my reading this week, I came across a point about how our school buildings are often not structured for PBL. Our middle through high school students are seriously overcrowded. We have been on the list for a remodeled/expanded school for quite some time. There has been some effort at building up the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) program in Bethel. We need this. Recently I have heard that the STEM program may be moved to Sitka. Sitka is where Mt.Edgecumb boarding school is located. The issue I have with this is that some, not all of our high school students get the opportunity to learn in these facilities. We need spaces in the village, in Bethel and in Sitka. There are students in our school who would actually demonstrate their potential if they had the opportunity to learn in a PBL model to start with, rather than those who are selected as “STEM Ready.” We don’t even have a science lab set up at our school! No lab tables, one room has a very small sink/kitchenette. Two rooms don’t have fixed walls (rather portable walls) and no doors. So one class distracts the other who may need quiet time; or be working on another project. I grew up in the traditional American classroom system; but I also got to experience going to a new high school in Anchorage that had a simulated business office I could participate in. It was on the blue floor. I could go to the home economics room with multiple kitchenettes and apply math skills to cooking now with students—if it were available now as a teacher they way it was to me as a high school student.

Week 6 Reflection about Gaming and Coding in the Classroom

EDET 637: Differentiating Instruction through Technology
with Dr. Lee Graham

This was turned into Livetext on 2-18-16: I am posting it on WordPress on 3-6-16

Week 6 Reflection about Gaming and Coding in the Classroom
by Aleta May

Essential question: How are games providing new opportunities for differentiation in the classroom?

This week’s research led me to think about how vital it is to teach students to code for their own projects they design. First, writing stories is such an important connection to reading and using programs like ScratchJr and going to inspire students to get past the normal writer’s block many students come to. Part of the reason for this is there may be an over emphasis on the end product of writing; whereas programs that allow students to code in order to create scenes faster, or to create avatars that can behave in any number of combinations of ways by combining code gives students ways to visually express their plot. This also allows students to engage with the character and the scene in a way that allows them to make their imaginations come to life! So now when I think of gaming in the classroom, I think of the interconnectedness it has with coding.
I was especially interested in the human-like body movements that advanced students can use to create social stories for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), low or non-speaking students, and for behavioral issues that can be played out using robotics. No longer do I need to find that educator who wrote that book on writing social stories. Students are creating situations through robotics that students with social challenges can work through. In my village, we have some more unique situations, and I can see using programming of robots to teach preparation for going to Bethel and pre-teach potential responses that our high school student may encounter when he goes to the transition camp there.
Amy inspired me so much with her YouTube interview with her daughters that I actually wrote down some of their comments and posted them back in a reply to Amy, because their comments describe better than any article we can read why we need to push ourselves (and lead other teachers as well) to use technology for instruction. Here are some comments they made in the interview:
Dannie 12 & in 6th grade: She made a giant creeper, zombie and scout; in creative mode. She likes the different textures. You do have to communicate where do you want to build it. Write math problems and make your answers stylish.
Allie 14 year old daughter: She likes making anything you want; they communicate to know where they are and what they are doing. She would like for this to be used in school for communication.
Larissa agreed that her daughters made the point that “communication is key.” Also, I had not thought about how we could use MineCraft on iPads until I read it in an online environment somewhere, and then got to see Amy’s daughters using this program, on iPads. Touch screens look so “freeing” compared to even using an external mouse.
This week I created a slideshow using PowerPoint. As I created it, I thought about how I was remixing; the issues raised with this in my Ethics class came to mind continually. I described how I handled this in my Journal reflection for that class. When Lee told me about the Creative Commons site, my eyes were opened to the endless potential of using copyright free digital media for creating, both to present to students and to teach students to do this. What comes to mind is that juniors and seniors create a final presentation as part of their graduation requirements. I could volunteer to help with this.
When I read Teresa’s blog, she placed a list of steps to follow for gamifying learning in the classroom. That list by Liz Kolb, makes setting up the class for teachers new to this style of teaching seem so much more possible. It sounds like Teresa is experienced at setting up quests for her students as well.
Today I watched Sally’s screen-cast-o-matic she uploaded to YouTube. I understand better now how to create that type of video; as well as learning more about how Programming works! I appreciate learning from her. I can use her’s and Amy’s ideas as models to break free and try something new in the area of video recording.
Sarah K.’s screen-cast-o-matic came across very clearly. I am reminded how we can use this to teach concepts online that students can watch again later or even make up missed lessons.
I have considered options for my UbD Unit design. Two things came up in my mind; I need to collect consistent data, and I want to become familiar with the Aleks math program being used at our school. I have a group of six who have been using Dreambox in my room and one student requested to also use Aleks to get caught up with his math in that program for another teacher. Since I am an RTI person, and it is also an individualized adaptive program, I thought that sounded reasonable. I will individually help students to prevent them from needing to repeat lessons and avoid frustration.
This week’s topic was especially interesting to me. There is so much potential for our students. And teachers have many tools at hand to teach with. Still, I would like to learn more about free sources of gaming for supporting high school students’ comprehension in Social Studies and Science.

Problem Based Learning (PBL) –Practical Structures and Reasons for PBL in the Classroom

Week Seven

Differentiating Instruction through Technology
with Dr. Lee Graham

Problem Based Learning (PBL) –Practical Structures and Reasons for PBL in the Classroom

Essential question: What practical structures could we use to implement PBL in our classrooms?

Learning through experience allows students to use thinking strategies connected to content to solve problems. Working together in groups, students begin with a problem (or essential question) to establish what knowledge they will need in order to bring together the pieces into a completed project. Students participate in self-directed learning (SDL), in a group as well as individually within that group. This includes planning who will fulfill each role in a group. The teacher facilitates this process as they guide students to “develop 1) flexible knowledge, 2) effective problem-solving skills, 3) SDL skills, 4) effective collaboration skills, and 5) intrinsic motivation” (Hmelo-Silver, 2004).

When I use novels to teach, often the students need to stop briefly to reflect on the character’s traits and the problems characters face in the story. After reflecting, the problems could be resolved by the reader if he/she were in that situation, they engage in problem-solving discussion. This works best when the student’s are able to relate to the lives, scenes, and/or situations of the characters in that novel so they may resolve meaningful problems. Sometimes students will go back to the text to remind another student of a certain point or fact that needs to be addressed from the story. According to Hmelo-Silver, “By articulating incorrect knowledge, learners have the opportunity to revise their false beliefs when they are confronted with correct knowledge” (2004, p. 250). This extends to nonfiction content discussions as well. At our school, our students need to express themselves as often as possible, both verbally and in writing. Discussions in small groups and on blogs are both ways for them to articulate their thinking. When students have discussions in online environments, research has found that “as the number of users increases, there is an increase in confusion from the simultaneous communications that may inhibit problem solving” (Yun-Jo An, p. 2).

Cognitive scaffolding for an informal discussion method does not need to be in Standard English, yet a discussion word bank and the facilitator’s insistence that these words be used as part of the discussion, guides our English Language Learners toward being able to use Standard English across content areas. Also the provision of partial outlines, sentence or paragraph frames, and lists of words to use to support different paragraph types (i.e., compare/contrast, etc.) helps students problem solve through discussion in a more self-directed way. In Yun-Jo An, students may begin going through a rigid structure for the process in order to minimize time spent in trial and error, but at the same time, students need “to gain valuable problem-solving strategies that can be learned when they make an action plan based on their knowledge and experience, revise their plan, and manage unexpected problems” (p. 14). The best way to facilitate seems to be to provide structure to small groups as needed, but not rigidly.

We are currently changing our school model, starting about three years ago now. The transition to less dependency on the teacher and more dependency on peers has been beneficial, yet as stated by Jones, “the replacement of the traditional teacher role by the facilitator which may make it difficult for trainees to emulate good teachers as role models” (p. 3, 2006) has not been easy. Through grant funding, we have had provisions for webinars, people to come out and facilitate training, the opportunity to send teachers to see first hand, in Texas, the model we base our new model on for the dual language program. Without extensive grant provisions, many of these opportunities would not exist. So the transition from traditional teaching to facilitative teaching is much steadier and continuous that it would have otherwise been.

In an article by Barber, King, & Buchanan (2015), I found a table that helped me really visualize how PBL, Authentic Assessment and Digital Communities work together. Here are two that stood out for me from page 60:

“Problem Based Learning: Real world situations, Digital tools vary Authentic Assessment: Real world tasks, Digital modes of assessment
Digital Communities: Real world student narratives; Digital Moments to narrate learning and share stories”

The three headings provide a framework for beginning a design for designing a digital community learning plan.

Starting students in PBL as young students captures their natural tendency to investigate. They are already curious and continuously asking questions. Studying deeply on a single topic and teaches them decision making skills as they learn directly and interactively. Young students need PBL to help them develop their social emotional skills, purposefully with a motivation to learn:

At this site, PBL is described with multiple videos of PBL in action, teacher discussions, and a wealth of resources: I clicked on just one resource, Game Based Learning, and video clips of students using game based learning in a variety of subjects, K-12, came up.


Barber, W. King, S. & Buchanan, S. (2015). Problem based learning and authentic assessment in digital pedagogy: Embracing the role of collaborative communities. The Electronic Journal of eLearning, 13(2), 59-67.

Edutopia: Retrieved March 2 from:

Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review, 16(3), 235-266. Retrieved on March 9 at: on March 9, 2015

Jones, R. W. (2006). Problem-based learning: description, advantages, disadvantages, scenarios and facilitation. Anaesthesia and intensive care,34(4), 485. Retrieved from: On March 9, 2015.

Sam Houston State University; Retrieved on March 2 from:

Yun-Jo, A., & Reigeluth, C. M. (2008). PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING IN ONLINE ENVIRONMENTS. Quarterly Review Of Distance Education, 9(1), 1-16. Retrieved from: on March 9, 2015.