The Briar Patch and Flight Simulator Analogy for Kids’ Test Prep

This post was first published at my teaching blog. I feel it’s a topic parents and ​some of those not reading over there might be interested in.

The fear and reverence of Common Core is all around. It permeates education. Kids who are gifted and self-starters will likely welcome the opportunity to answer high level thinking questions on a computer screen. They also will not mind the copying, pasting, bulleting, and other technical aspects of the tests. But for the rest, it’s going to come as a shock. Some kids will just give up and type nonsense into the answer boxes. Others will flutter the screens as they learn to select text and not much more. What can we do for these students? I have a suggestion.<!–more–>

Just like flight students work in a simulator to decrease the affect of flying, so we should put kids in a simulated session of the Common Core test. For us here in California it is called the “Smarter Balanced” or SBAC practice test. It’s totally free and akin to the released questions the cde used to offer on their site.

It’s too bad there is no way to download it in case they ever upgrade or otherwise choose to take it down. I still have all my material the cde put out for the “1997 standards,” or so they are now called. It comes in handy sometimes. But this is more valuable than any of that. It gives the child a chance to click around within the framework and interface of the common core test that will shine before all students’ faces in April/May. If you don’t use this, make sure your test prep includes something like the interface they will be in. Remember Brer Rabbit when he got caught? He cried and cried for them not to throw him into a briar patch. When he escaped, he yelled “I was born in a briar patch!” laughing his way out of sight. We need to get our kids exposed to the common core test. Of course, daily instruction in the standards is the most crucial thing but after that, we need a flight simulator, a briar patch to get our kids ready for success.

Darn, I Was Gonna Say That

tony-anticipates-his-next-classI’m convinced that teachers who are starting out need to learn this lesson with time. It makes little logical sense to tell kids the answers but it serves a powerful function toward mastery when you are starting a new concept. Students often don’t answer because they do not know what is being asked of them. This can be the actual math or language arts of the thing or it could just be the manner and style in which the teacher expects the answer. Sometimes when students say the predictable phrase, “I was gonna say that,” they aren’t lying. They didn’t know what you wanted from them and that is a simple problem to remedy. At the introduction of the lesson, go around pucking random non volunteers by your chosen method, I use cards. Use this pattern: 1) Say the answer 2) Ask the question and 3) Ask the question again and pick a random non volunteer. This will inform them how to listen and answer questions and get you more familiar with their process. It sounds silly to give the answer and then ask someone to say it back but it really decreases their affective filter and makes them more comfortable branching out and taking risks. In short, they become more comfortable with you so you can ease into more higher order questions like “why is that the answer?”

While it may be obvious to some, remember this is not a cognitive standards based tip. You must teach the material before you ask questions to assess learning. Having said that, the interface and platform if you will of a particular classroom is always unique. Time should be taken to get the kids comfortable with your expectations. By setting them concretely at the beginning, you have a better chance of them learning something. It is like a stage where they are seated and prepared to be entertained only in this case, they are being taught. Every child longs to be right when she/he is called on. I recommend modeling as much as is possible and until at least 70% of the class appears to be answering in the manner you modeled. At that point you can stop expecting them to just say things back, make sure you tell them the expectation has changed and how, and expect higher order thinking and stating of answers. Take time before lessons, especially non-review first-time standards and objectives, to model how correct answers look and what you will be asking of them. You will find many more of your students come out of their shell and don’t have to say after the fact: “Darn, I was gonna say that.”

The post Darn, I Was Gonna Say That appeared first on Dynamite Lesson Plan.

Darn, I Was Gonna Say That

tony-anticipates-his-next-classI’m convinced that teachers who are starting out need to learn this lesson with time. It makes little logical sense to tell kids the answers but it serves a powerful function toward mastery when you are starting a new concept. Students often don’t answer because they do not know what is being asked of them. This can be the actual math or language arts of the thing or it could just be the manner and style in which the teacher expects the answer. Sometimes when students say the predictable phrase, “I was gonna say that,” they aren’t lying. They didn’t know what you wanted from them and that is a simple problem to remedy. At the introduction of the lesson, go around pucking random non volunteers by your chosen method, I use cards. Use this pattern: 1) Say the answer 2) Ask the question and 3) Ask the question again and pick a random non volunteer. This will inform them how to listen and answer questions and get you more familiar with their process. It sounds silly to give the answer and then ask someone to say it back but it really decreases their affective filter and makes them more comfortable branching out and taking risks. In short, they become more comfortable with you so you can ease into more higher order questions like “why is that the answer?”

While it may be obvious to some, remember this is not a cognitive standards based tip. You must teach the material before you ask questions to assess learning. Having said that, the interface and platform if you will of a particular classroom is always unique. Time should be taken to get the kids comfortable with your expectations. By setting them concretely at the beginning, you have a better chance of them learning something. It is like a stage where they are seated and prepared to be entertained only in this case, they are being taught. Every child longs to be right when she/he is called on. I recommend modeling as much as is possible and until at least 70% of the class appears to be answering in the manner you modeled. At that point you can stop expecting them to just say things back, make sure you tell them the expectation has changed and how, and expect higher order thinking and stating of answers. Take time before lessons, especially non-review first-time standards and objectives, to model how correct answers look and what you will be asking of them. You will find many more of your students come out of their shell and don’t have to say after the fact: “Darn, I was gonna say that.”

The post Darn, I Was Gonna Say That appeared first on Dynamite Lesson Plan.

One Reason I Don’t Record in the Studio So Much

14306176998_1bba9583ef_oI am proud of myself that I have saved almost every song I’ve written and recorded. Listening to them brigs back memories of the various times in my life. I haven’t recorded as much in my 40’s as the decades before. There’s a reason for that. I am a comfortable guy. By that I mean I like my day to be smooth and go in a routine. Another way to say it might be that I’m lazy. I have a garage “studio” that currently is about 43 degrees. Hardly the environment for a “comfortable guy.” I use an age-old version of Cooleditpro to do multitracking and my best mic is a $70 usb one my dad gave me for my 39th birthday. My drum kit is a keyboard I bought at Target on a whim in 2005 I think. I still can’t believe my wife let me buy it. We were really struggling in those few years. I had this idea I could use it for bass and drum sounds. It was $200.

Another place I record is at my lifelong friend’s house: Eric. Recently we got together and recorded my Peace Like a River tune. It came out well but I really don’t want to release it on my page yet. I included it here just for my die hard friends old and new to be kind and not criticize please ;) It is really hard to get a decent track. There is way more involved than just songwriting. Lately it’s been more fun to go catch a movie with Eric than to slave over one of my songs. I always know the next take will be better but when you run out of time and energy, the best of what you did is the one that remains. I have a collection of those that has grown since I was 14. You can check it out on Reverb Nation. The next time you hear an awesome recording by any artist, give them props because it’s one of the hardest things on earth to produce. In fact, give respect even to the marginal recordings you hear, like mine for example … please ;)

A Flight Simulator, a Briar Patch to get our Kids Ready

brerrabit3The fear and reverence of Common Core is all around. It permeates education. Kids who are gifted and self-starters will likely welcome the opportunity to answer high level thinking questions on a computer screen. They also will not mind the copying, pasting, bulleting, and other technical aspects of the tests. But for the rest, it’s going to come as a shock. Some kids will just give up and type nonsense into the answer boxes. Others will flutter the screens as they learn to select text and not much more. What can we do for these students? I have a suggestion.

Just like flight students work in a simulator to decrease the affect of flying, so we should put kids in a simulated session of the Common Core test. For us here in California it is called the “Smarter Balanced” or SBAC Practice Test. It’s totally free and akin to the released questions the cde used to offer on their site. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s too bad there is no way to download it in case they ever upgrade or otherwise choose to take it down. I still have all my material the cde put out for the “1997 standards,” or so they are now called. It comes in handy sometimes. But this is more valuable than any of that. It gives the child a chance to click around within the framework and interface of the common core test that will shine before all students’ faces in April/May. If you don’t use this, make sure your test prep includes something like the interface they will be in. Remember Brer Rabbit when he got caught? He cried and cried for them not to throw him into a briar patch. When he escaped, he yelled “I was born in a briar patch!” laughing his way out of sight. We need to get our kids exposed to the common core test. Of course, daily instruction in the standards is the most crucial thing but after that, we need a flight simulator, a briar patch to get our kids ready for success.

The post A Flight Simulator, a Briar Patch to get our Kids Ready appeared first on Dynamite Lesson Plan.

Casino Royale Review

Thanks to Jared for this editorial.

There have been a lot of headlines lately regarding the upcoming release of a new James Bond movie that will apparently be called ‘Spectre.’ There are enough Bond fans around the world that such releases have always been exciting, but it’s fair to say that Daniel Craig has raised the character and surrounding franchise to new heights—and it all began with his first turn as Bond, in 2006’s Casino Royale. So in celebration of the announcement of Spectre, here’s a look back at one of the best films in Bond’s illustrious history.

Casino Royale was in many ways a movie about new beginnings and essentially sought not only to replace Pierce Brosnan’s Bond with Daniel Craig, but to reset the franchise as a whole. To be fair, Brosnan offered an entertaining take on the character, and it’s not entirely his fault that by the time Die Another Day came along, Bond was at his most absurd. But with Craig on board, Casino Royale director Martin Campbell created a grittier and more personal character. With the movie setting up Bond’s first mission as a 00 agent, we got a chance to see a more flawed James Bond—one who blows up an embassy, squabbles with Q (instead of just teasing her), and takes a number of cuts, hits, and even shots of poison along the way.

The plot of Casino Royale isn’t the most exciting we’ve seen in the franchise. Basically, there’s a financially motivated terrorist named Le Chiffre who must be stopped and creatively bankrupted so that MI6 can prevent the attacks he seeks to engineer and track down the people he’s working for. It offers its share of intrigue largely because Craig and Mads Mikkelsen (who plays Le Chiffre) are fantastic, but where Casino Royale really excels is in the side plots and little things that help to develop a new Bond persona.

The first of those side plots that must be mentioned in any review of Casino Royale is Bond’s love affair with Vesper, the film’s de facto “Bond Girl” played in intoxicating fashion by Eva Green. Unlike Bond’s uncounted affairs from movies past, this one sees him fall so head-over-heels in love that he’s ready and willing to quit MI6 and give up his life of action and espionage to spend time with her. And that devotion doesn’t come out of nowhere. Bond and Vesper have a smoothly developed relationship, filled with all the witty banter characteristic of the franchise but supplemented by what feels like genuine connection and devotion. Entertainment Weekly also made a great point in characterizing Green as the fourth best Bond girl of all time, stating that she was in ways a combination of Bond’s best love interests from films past. Perhaps that’s why she seemed so perfect.

Another side plot introduced in Casino Royale concerned Bond’s poker prowess. We know all James Bonds look great in tuxedos, and they all seem as if they could strut through a high-end casino and excel at a high-stakes poker game. But it’s rare that we’ve actually seen this side of the action hero, and in Casino Royale it’s delivered in spades, so to speak. In fact, poker ends up playing a key part in the plot, as MI6 plants Bond in an extremely exclusive game in an effort to get him closer to Le Chiffre (and win his money away). And these scenes are actually done with surprising depth that hasn’t always been there with Bond’s side hobbies and ventures. If you watched the film without a thorough understanding of poker, Betfair has a handy online how-to guide that can offer you a quick introduction to the game. And in learning more about it, you may be surprised at how much more you enjoy some of the climactic scenes of Casino Royale. It was nice to see Bond not only fulfilling an image—that of a tuxedo-clad casino gambler—but doing it in so genuine a way.

All in all, it’s the depth of Bond’s character and surroundings that set Casino Royale apart from most any other movie from the franchise. This isn’t a character who’s meant to be merely enjoyed anymore. He’s meant to be thought about, understood, and sympathized with, even as we watch him chase down bad guys and cause explosions. There’s no definitive ranking of the best Bond films, but Rotten Tomatoes—it may be the closest thing to definitive, given that it collects reviews from critics across the web—ranks Casino Royale as the second-best Bond film of all time. And when you consider what it did for the character and series as a whole, it’s hard to disagree. That’s why I can’t wait for Spectre, and more of Craig’s Bond.

Blog Safari 12-15-2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlog Safari is my speedlinking series where I feature other peoples’ recent blog posts that I read and really like. Their links are below.