I had been looking forward to the CEC 2012 Convention & Expo ever since I found out I was selected to be one of the Reality 101 Bloggers. When I arrived at the Denver Convention Center, I was a little bit overwhelmed. Looking through the Convention program, I found myself wishing I could be in more than one place at a time. I took an initial look through the program, and found some sessions that interested me. I went back a little later and narrowed my choices down. Before I knew it, I picked sessions based on two themes—vocabulary instruction and math instruction (two of my loves!).
When I go to professional development, I really love the sessions that have me sitting there thinking about how I can use it in my classroom. I get as excited as my mind wanders and I start planning how I can use the new idea as soon as possible. Here are some of the new things that I have been trying out and that I plan on using soon in my classroom.
During a session about Vocabulary Instruction for ELLs, I was introduced to this formula: Word = Category/Synonym + Attributes. For example: A [river] is a [flowing body of water] that [empties into the ocean]. I have already started using this when introducing new vocabulary. My students love being able to see the formula and I have seen them understand the word a lot quicker.
I also attended a session on improving vocabulary-using multimedia. It was my first exposure to Content Academic Podcasts (CAPs). I had heard of podcasts before, but I was not sure how to bring them into my classroom or if it would be too hard to do. All you need to do is take a PowerPoint, turn it into a video, and then record your voice to it. It is important to include picture to help the student understand the concepts, and not to overload your PowerPoint with too many words. Make sure you only introduce one vocabulary word or concept, include a non-example, and clue your students in with phrases like “it’s time to learn” and “this is why it’s important.” I have been playing around with my own CAPs, and I think after a few more tries they will be ready to launch in my classroom!
The math session that really stood out to me was on students with learning disabilities and word problems. As I was listening to the presenters talk about the common struggles students with LD have with word problems, I was immediately making connections to my students. What I learned is that it is important to teach our students how to use diagramming to help them solve word problems. Diagramming helps students organize the information on paper and explain their thinking. They can also ask themselves these questions: “What is the question?” “What am I looking for?” “How many steps are needed?” and “Does the picture fit the problem?” We need to teach our students to put information on the paper in useful ways and think about the math decisions they need to make.
As I learned these new strategies one thing kept coming up again and again – explicit instruction. I felt like something finally clicked for me. In January, I wrote about my mini lesson struggles, and how I was teaching my students to be active participants in mini lessons. What I have been trying to do with mini lessons is to explicitly teach my students a concept or a skill that they need to know. Continuing on the rest of the school year and further into my career I am going to take with me the ideas and concepts I learned at the CEC 2012 Convention & Expo, explicitly sharing them with my students.