Theory of Action: Refining Practices to Address Student Needs

I have chosen to frame my marker students’ essential individual learning needs, outcomes for learning, and theory of action within the 4C’s and a P. My focus this year will be critical thinking.
Busy Bee 1, 2, 3
Busy Bees 1 and 3 have attention deficit disorder, and Busy Bee 2 exhibits obsessive compulsive behaviours that are often distractions for him while he is trying to learn. Bees 1, 2, and 3 have yet to acquire many of the strategies and skills that were taught in grade 1 and in grade 2, but they have positive attitudes, they try their best, and they want to achieve success.
Creativity:Bees 1 and 3 find it difficult to visualize how they might share their learning in a creative way when given materials and open-ended activities. Busy Bee 2 has many creative ideas, but finds it challenging to complete tasks that require the use of different fine motor skills. By offering these students the choice of using iPad technology to be creative, the iPad’s touchscreen design makes it easier for these students to express their creativity, compared to a computer mouse and keyboard. With a built-in framework of support within each app to help guide them through the creative process, these students are taking more risks and attempting new activities with greater independence and increased self-confidence. Open ended activities take on a little more structure which for some, helps them achieve greater success. For example, when the students are given materials in an app, they can test out all of the different options and available choices without committing to a final product right away. There are menus, icons, images, and text to help guide the students through the creative process while still allowing them to be creative.
Communication: Bees 1 and 2 find it difficult to express themselves orally, and all 3 Bees require extensive support throughout the writing process. When speaking Bees 1 and 3 repeat phrases over and over again before finding the words they need to finish expressing their thoughts. In writing, all Bees find it challenging to properly match their letters and their sounds when working with words, despite knowing all of their letters and sounds. After integrating technology in their programs I have already seen improvement in their ability to express their ideas orally and in writing during video conferences and when they write on their blogs. All Bees have shown some improvement in the number of ideas they are able to express throughout the day, and they are engaging in follow-up activities and games on the iPad designed to improve their word solving skills and sentence building skills. Busy Bee 2 said to me on Thursday, “Mrs. Cassell, I like typing better on the iPad more than writing because I don’t have to think about how to make the letters. I can tell more ideas.”
Collaboration and Problem Solving: Busy Bee 1, 2 and 3 enjoy working with their peers, but most often sit back while others complete the tasks. After conferencing with these students I learned that part of the reason they don’t engage in activities is because they believe they don’t know as much as their peers. They also said they don’t know what to do when they don’t know the answer to a question. By integrating technology I want to provide these students with the tools they need to become more independent “researchers” during group activities. Assigning group roles is a strategy that works for everyone because it provides structure within a group activity. If the students have opportunities to ask questions, and we give them the necessary tools to research the questions they want to answer, they can contribute to their group in a meaningful way. In their online blog environment, these students can enter into a conversation with other students, their parents, staff and others to share their learning, and continue meaningful conversations in a number of unique collaborative partnerships. Since these students are often quite shy during face to face interactions, opportunities to collaborate in a virtual environment should help these students focus more on improved outcomes, rather than the way they behave socially when working face to face with their peers. Throughout this process students are reflecting on their learning and asking questions to further their learning. Providing these students with the right tools to fulfill their roles within these collaborative environments will elevate their self-confidence and improve student outcomes.

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Busy Bees 4 and 5
Busy Bees 4 and 5 are very bright, full of creative ideas, and incredibly imaginative. Busy Bee 4 is currently being assessed for ADD, as well as CAP, and he needs constant repetitive cues to attend in class. Busy Bee 4 is also still learning socially appropriate behaviour, which at times makes collaboration a very challenging process for everyone.  Busy Bee 5 is a very motivated self-directed learner who asks A LOT of questions and understands the processes he needs to follow to find answers to those questions. Busy Bee 5 displays a number of different repetitive behaviours, which at times can make it difficult for others to focus when he is working in a group setting. 
Creativity: Both Bees thrive in a learning environment that supports creativity. However these students often deviate from the defined success criteria because they are so inspired by their ideas, and therefore don’t achieve our learning goals. By integrating technology into my classroom program, my goal is to provide these students with a more structured, self-guided learning experience using apps that will encourage their creative ideas within a flexible framework. In other words, these Bees can explore their creative side within the parameters of the app they are using which will help them remain focused on our success criteria and learning goals, therefore improving student outcomes.
Communication: Busy Bees 4 and 5 find it difficult to express themselves orally, but require very little support to share their ideas in writing (once I get them going 🙂 When speaking, Busy Bee 4 is able to express himself, however whenever he becomes frustrated he often engages in socially inappropriate behaviour when communicating with others. Busy Bee 5 repeats phrases over and over again before finding the words he needs to express his thoughts, which often makes it difficult for others to attend to all of his ideas. In writing, Busy Bees 4 and 5 always have more ideas than they can get down on paper, and this becomes frustrating for them. Using iPad technology will provide these students with a platform to express themselves without the added thought processes required of form letters as they write, or attend to social cues which they often misinterpret. Blogging is an independent way for these students to communicate their ideas to others. If these Bees are contributing regularly to their blogs, and engaging with apps designed to support their language development and improve the quality and quantity of their written work, then their academic performance will improve.
Collaboration and Problem Solving: Busy Bees 4 and 5 are quite different when it comes to collaborating and problem solving with others. Busy Bee 4 has yet to learn appropriate social behaviour for cooperating and collaborating with others when working in groups and/or solving problems. Turn taking, attentive listening, and speaking respectfully when engaging with this peers are skills we work on daily. Although he wants to participate, there are always conflicts within his group as a result of his behaviour, so he often withdraws from the group.  By integrating technology, I want to provide Busy Bee 4 with the tools he needs to become a more independent “researcher” during group activities. Assigning group roles is beginning to work well for him, and with regular access to technology, his role as “researcher” will allow him to focus on contributing in a more positive way during group activities. Learning socially appropriate behaviour during face to face interactions can then be focused on during small teachable moments throughout the inquiry process.  As well, opportunities for Busy Bee 4 to collaborate in a virtual environment should help him focus more on collaboration for the purpose of sharing ideas, asking, and answering questions, rather than the way he is supposed to behave socially when working face to face with his peers.
Busy Bee 5 on the other hand is very respectful of his peers. He is always willing to share his learning and ask more questions to help the group achieve their learning goals, and stretch their thinking further! Busy Bee 5 is also thriving in our online blog environment. He has been able to increase the number of ideas he shares in his posts, and he is collaborating with a large audience of classmates, family, and friends who share his passion for inquiry. By providing Busy Bee 5 with an unlimited number of opportunities to ask and answer questions, and by giving him the necessary tools to research the questions he wants to answer, he is achieving even more success and becoming a real leader in our class.

FOCUS AREA FOR ALL MRS. CASSELL’S BUSY BEES

Critical Thinking: The challenge of improving student outcomes in the area of critical thinking is especially difficult because it does not come naturally to us, or our students. Not only must we work at becoming critical thinkers, but critical thinking requires us to slow down, ask questions, take time to research, reflect, and discuss our new learning before making a judgement or decision.
A fundamental skill that both teachers and students must practice is the ability to ask and answer questions. And in order to engage students in meaningful inquiries, we need to provide them with access to an authentic audience who is engaging them in conversations about learning. Integrating iPad technology into my classroom program allows me to provide my students with a platform to engage in these meaningful conversations and work towards a shared goal – improving student learning. Blogs, and blogs as digital portfolios provide teachers and students with a platform that supports communication, collaboration, problem solving, and critical thinking. Busy Bees 1-5 will continue to blog about their learning in creative ways to start those conversations, join partners, find answers to their questions, change minds, make a difference, take action, and drive change.
Leigh Cassell
Grade 2 Busy Bees
Stephen Central PS, AMDSB

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