Professional learning opportunities for educators should mirror what we want to see in the classroom. A 21st century learning environment has multiple opportunities for students to connect, communicate, collaborate and construct learning with others, both within the classroom setting and the world beyond. Yet, too often, educators are asked to sit through passive learning opportunities.
As a professional development provider I have always tried to incorporate classroom strategies that educators can transfer back into the classroom. I have used many cooperative learning strategies such as Think-Pair-Share, Numbered Heads Together, Jigsaw, and Save The Last Word for Me to name a few. After we’ve used the strategies as adult learners, we’ve discussed their utility in the classroom.
A New Approach
Thanks to the collaboration of PLN members Lisa Dabbs and Fran McVeigh I am working to strengthen an approach to “workshop” a presentation to help teachers construct their own learning. Lisa and Fran have been instrumental in pushing my thinking! I completed my first professional learning opportunity last Friday using this approach and I am putting the final touches on another for this coming Wednesday! Friday’s feedback provided me with areas that worked well and areas to improve.
“Workshopping” a presentation allows for participants to collaborate and construct their own learning around particular strategies or approaches allowing for them to be active and engaged learners. The approach allows for more participant voice, more sharing of ideas, and more application back in the classroom.
The Steps I Took
The presentation I was asked to do on Friday included introducing a K-8 staff to vocabulary strategies that could help the English Learners in their classrooms. The goal was to provide them concrete ideas, but not overwhelm them with too many. I narrowed my search down to five.
I started the afternoon with some background information on language acquisition which lead to them looking at their own student data so that they would understand where their students were in terms of their English abilities. From there I introduced 5 learning stations. Since the group was large, I actually had two sets of the stations. The K-4 staff used one set and the 5-8 staff used the other. I ran the directions (below) on two different colors of card stock so participants would rotate the correct set of stations. The stations sets were both the same and rotated every 15+ minutes between the groups. I used an online timer to keep us on track. Each station included a set of directions to guide the learning, but were open-ended enough to allow participants to share and expand their learning. Necessary materials were also included with each station.
Since I was unsure of the space we had, I decided to have the stations rotate rather than the participants. I put the materials for each station in a plastic tote. I just happened to have several empty ones on hand after having a garage sale last weekend!
I had intended to use Padlet throughout the station rotation to add even more depth to the learning. I wanted participants to share ways they could use the ideas learned in their classrooms to assist English Learners (and ALL students). BUT … it helps if you actually introduce participants to the Padlet link! SILLY ME! We did use the link as a closure at the end of the session – introducing some to another new tool to use in the classroom!
The stations for last Friday’s workshop included:
1. Nonlinguistic Representations
2. Using Cognates
4. Using Images
5. Words Across Context (Multi-Meaning Words)
Reflection and Next Steps
I was appreciative of the feedback provided by the participants. They appreciated the concrete examples and the time to work with grade level partners. I found they were more apt to ask questions as I roamed around the room than if we were reviewing each approach together in a large group of about 65 participants. The FOLDABLE and IMAGE stations were the biggest hits! The school is wanting each teacher to implement something they learned and be ready to share at their next professional development. I have a feeling there were be a lot of FOLDABLE usage and expanded use of IMAGES to convey meaning for the English Learners. Many were appreciative on learning how to find images that are FREE TO USE!
Time was a factor either way. Some felt they needed more time with each station and some felt they could have rotated faster. I did have a set of materials in their handout of additional vocabulary strategies to discuss if they finished a station early. Others felt the group size could have been smaller. Each grade level group was between 5 to 8 participants. I will continue to experiment with group size. I will also make sure I explain the rotation of stations more clearly since this is a rather new approach for most educators. Modeling “check for understanding” strategies would be a added benefit!
All in all it will be an approach I continue to develop. My next workshop (at a different school) is Wednesday. We are looking at a whole different subject matter, but I intend to follow a similar format. The group will be smaller and more concentrated and I know we will have a larger space to work in allowing for the use of video demonstration to be added into the station. My stations on Wednesday will not rotate. Each group will have an article to read and discuss, a video example of the approach we are studying that is applicable to their content area and time for constructing their own lessons to implement.
Have you tried a similar approach? How do you engage adult learners to construct their own learning in the professional development setting? I would love to hear your ideas!
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