What an enjoyable afternoon I spent with Carrie Toth. She shared a ton of ideas that I can directly apply to my classroom. I went to her session called Blooming Language: Building Proficiency with Bloom’s Taxonomy. We observed ways in which she has moved WAY beyond the simple “REMEMBER” and “UNDERSTAND” of Bloom’s Taxonomy so that she can have richer discussions with her level 2 students. When you think of a typical house unit, it is unfortunate that many traditional teachers simply have students remember the rooms of a house or create their dream house. Rarely do students actually analyze houses from other cultures, evaluate them or make cultural comparisons in a typical house unit.
Carrie explained that she uses the UBD (Understanding By Design) as she plans her units. This allows her to decide what the assessment will be first. Next she can decide which chunks of the unit she needs to add in order to prepare students for the final assessment Carrie referenced her idea of the “chuck it bucket.” It helps you get rid of the junk you do not need in your unit and instead only use the pieces that are going to get your students to the ultimate goal of the assessment. Carrie focuses on three things:
- Enduring understandings
- Important to know and do
- Worth being familiar with
The rest of the pieces you have found and do not fit these three categories go in the chuck it bucket. Enduring understandings that are essential to Carrie are those that build sensitivity to other cultures. The enduring skills are those that can help students communicate cultural understandings or that can be used in service learning.
Next, Carrie shared her awesome unit called, “Material World”. This is a unit that was based off the idea of world homes from the book “Material World” by Peter Menzel. You can read more about it and see her resources in this blog post. Peter visited homes all around the world. Everyone that lived in the houses captured in his book brought out their possessions and anything else they owned.
Carrie chose 10 houses for her students to observe. Through the unit they described these houses and compared them to their own. They discussed which houses they liked and why. They noticed that some houses had beds on the roof, which meant they had no bedrooms. This unit helped make students aware of their own culture. She gave a vocabulary list but she also gave a list for students to put meaningful words for themselves to help them compare their own house to one of the 10 that interested them. I love that even though this unit was for a level 2, Carrie is planting the seed of the AP skill of comparing and contrasting with written and speaking assessments. She is also building the skill of intercultural communicative competence.
Carrie mentioned the mad minute, which is part of her assessment writing practice. Before students write she lets them have one minute to write any words from the unit vocabulary list. She made a great suggestion to include words like, “Hay similitudes” and “Hay diferencias” because these are things students often make mistakes with.
Carrie used a Pecha Kucha-style assessment where students got a partner and discussed the 10 houses they saw pop up on the screen. Since they had interacted with these images often in a variety of ways throughout the course of the unit, students were very comfortable and confident when speaking about them. To prepare for the Pecha Kucha, she had done a Circle the Wagons (continue reading to learn more) to prepare her students before the actual assessment.
The written assessment was to have students compare their house to one of the 10 she had exposed them to. Carrie shared a video hook that she used to spark interest however she was also able to use this same resource as a Movie Talk and then have students watch it with a viewing guide where they answered questions.
She did a four corners activity about houses that had an interpersonal twist. After students when to the house they would like to live in, she would ask more questions. An example could be, would you rather live in your house or with their friends.
Carrie talked about Nearpod, which is web-based or app-based. It takes any slideshow you make and as a teacher you have control of it. You can give formative assessments such as quizzes or drawings. It is a great way to have comprehension checks that are anonymous.
Another super awesome resource that Carrie shared was Gapminder. She said it would blow our minds and it did. You can change the language from English, French, Spanish or Mandarin. It shows you how people really live in their homes. It also shows you their monthly income. This was another way for students to learn more about their own culture in the USA so that students can then make comparisons to other cultures. You can actually see the soap, cups and plates that are used in the house. Carrie explained that as students completed a webquest with this resource they were to anticipate, compile, and hypothesize for Gapminder.
Here are some examples of how Carrie’s students went way beyond remembering and understanding in her house unit. She used a gallery walk in which they were deciding and judging. Students had to decide and judge which houses fit into which statements. For example, “this house does not have a bathroom” or “this house has a lot of technology”. Carrie mentioned how she likes to take her students outside of the classroom for gallery walks because it allows for more space to walk around and see everything. I completely agree.
The unit hit upon evaluation when students completed the Circle the Wagons activity. They sat in a circle with pictures of the 10 houses in the center. Students were encouraged to pick up a picture and say anything they wanted about it. The 2 rules were that they could say what they want and not repeat what others said Students get a completion grade if they remain interested. This activity is giving students more familiarity with the houses and therefore preparing them for the summative assessment of the Pecha Kucha. These two activities had students restating the information ands supporting it.
Finally the unit hit upon the highest level of creation when students had to argue and conclude as they used the pictures to write and compare one of the 10 houses to their own. After sharing this information with my roommate Kara Jacobs, she is super excited to try out this unit and so am I!