Classroom Assessment


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Learners in Context Reflection 2

We have reached the half-way point to our course Learners in Context and already covered a significant amount of material regarding biological and cognitive development. Between our two texts, including Child and Adolescent Development for Educators by Pressley & McCormick (2007) and John Medina’s Brain Rules (2014), we’ve inspected nature versus nurture, as well as varying and similar perspectives regarding biological and cognitive development in children.

The very term “nature vs. nurture” seems outdated and incorrect. Instead, the term “nature and nurture” ought to begin circulation. Medina suggests that it is overly simplistic to invoke a purely biological or social explanation for human behavior. He says that “As scientists explore how genes and cells and behaviors connect, their findings give us not completed bridges but boards and nails. It’s dangerous to assume the bridges are complete.” Even if we study identical twins who are raised in similar environments and share the same DNA, we find that human brains are wired very differently. Medina says that this is because we are constantly rewiring our brain by learning different information from different perspectives. This causes their brains to connect to neurons in different ways.

There are many implications when it comes to ones’ teaching practice and ways to address a diverse student body within the classroom. The first step is simply recognizing and honoring that every student learns in a different way. This would prevent the tendency to make assumptions about individual student’s intelligence and thereby retaining high expectations upon individual learners. As educators, it is our job to provide students an idyllic environment that offer differentiated learning opportunities, allowing students to learn at their highest potential. Some suggestions to aid students in transforming learning into memory based off of both Pressley and McCormick, as well as Medina include:

  • experiment with same-sex classrooms (Medina, p. 238)
  • the hook has to trigger an emotion (Medina, p. 122)
  • smaller class size (Medina, p. 99)
  • use real world examples (Medina, p. 139)
  • exercise (recess is important, use physicality in class) (Medina, p. 32)
  • analyze, or, begin with the end in mind to proactively predict difficulties (Pressley & McCormick, p. 55)
  • simplify, or utilize “chunking” to reduce information into shorter bites (Pressley & McCormick, p. 55)
  • coach/prompt students with handouts, prompts, mnemonics, etc (Pressley & McCormick, p. 55)

In our discussion posts, the reoccurring theme that stuck out in my mind during these first few weeks was the controversy over the basic definition of “intelligence.” Meghan Milam shared that she was wary of the assumption that nature and biology are fully responsible for intellectual capabilities. She asked, “How do we know what someone’s ‘range of possibilities’ are, and is it inherently limiting to define that range?” This debate surfaced while we discussed a quote from Pressley and McCormick stating that “No one is much surprised if two intelligent people marry and produce intelligent offspring” (p. 44). Meghan continues to ask what type of intelligence the authors are talking about and would we, as teachers, be selling our students short by assuming that we can determine their utmost potential through our perceived assumptions? My favorite quote to summarize the learning thus far in the classroom is another one of Medina’s. He states that “We have a great number of ways of being intelligent, many of which do not show up on the IQ test.” I really look forward to the opportunity to take these ideas to the arts classroom and teach to the students who might feel marginalized or forgotten within the school’s walls.


Medina, J. (2014). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Pressley, M., & McCormick, C.B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Posted in 1 Expectations, 2 Instruction, 3 Differentiation, 4 Content Knowledge, 5 Learning Environment, Arts Education, Exceptional Students, Learners in Context | Leave a comment

Learners in Context Reflection 1

I’ve yet to study child development any further than the parenting books that have assisted my journey of sleepless nights and toddler tantrums. Some of these books include Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina and Love and Logic for Toddlers. Ironically, I have been assigned two other versions of these same books for this summer quarter’s MAT program. That has reaffirmed that parenting and teaching must be closely aligned and I may, in fact, know more entering into teaching than I think I do. Now having my second child, I’m learning first hand about the different stages of development and how varied each child can be. Each are born as unique individuals and I feel like very little changes in their personality from that first day until their last. For example, my daughter hated tummy time and anything remotely physical. Instead, she spent her spare energy absorbing language and social cues. She finally decided to walk at a year and a half – perfectly, across the whole room without ever practicing (at least in front of us)! However, her vocabulary and articulation are extremely sophisticated and beyond her years. She is cautious and careful, avoiding most slides and playgrounds in exchange for conversation with anyone who will listen. My young son, on the other hand, was born with both fists up. Even in utero, the kicks were relentless. At four months, he’s rolling over, insisting on standing up and will not stop moving. There are stark differences between their physical prowess and desires.

The main lesson I have gathered from my two children is that nature and nurture are powerful. And yet, even being surrounded by the same environment, these two children were born with different desires, skills and personalities. When one looks at babies, there is a surprisingly wide spectrum of healthy development amidst the age groups. This only continues into secondary school as students excel in different fields, reach puberty at varying ages, and represent the diversity of humanity in the petri-dish of a high school. Knowing this foundational truth of variety can prove extremely beneficial for the high school teachers’ perspective and practice of patience.

Acknowledging that all of us vary greatly, even within our age/gender demographic, could potentially encourage a teacher to practice a more holistic approach to their curriculum. Students will absorb more information when a teacher utilizes a wide spectrum of the senses. Students come from such limitless backgrounds and experiences, and are ready to contribute a unique voice to the classrooms’ culture. Viewing that as an asset and taking some time to explore those differences could benefit everybody. We as teachers can support our students by not only meeting them where they are at, but also by providing multiple ways of sensory learning.

Seeing as this is our first day of class, we’ve yet to dive deeply into the books, but I’ve almost completed John Medina’s Brain Rules because I simply can’t put it down. The most remarkable takeaway I’ve had thus far is that we are creatures of survival and have been for ages. Looking more closely at the way we have evolved explains how our bodies work and what is necessary for ideal growth and learning. Well-rested students in a non-stressed environment, who are physically healthy due to exercise and diet will be the readiest to learn. That seems obvious but it is a great reminder. When a student is experiencing stress either at home or in the classroom, they are in fight or flight mode and unable to learn. As far as the student is concerned, why would grades mean anything when they are experiencing a parental separation or coping with the death of a loved one? Being sensitive to the potential external factors will prove greatly beneficial as a teacher. I’m looking forward to learning more about child and adolescent development throughout our course.

Posted in 1 Expectations, 2 Instruction, 3 Differentiation, 5 Learning Environment, 6 Assessment, 8 Professional Practice, Learners in Context | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Curriculum and Culture of Issaquah High School: An Interns Observations


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Conflict Resolution Curriculum is Essential for the Health and Well-Being of a School’s Culture


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Cross-Disciplinary Computational Thinking Notes

We explored Cross-Disciplinary Computational Thinking in our EDTC 6432 Computer Authoring Class with David Wicks and Kim Oakley. Through a goggle online forum, we used CT thinking and applied it to our subject area. We completed the course with a lesson plan that I posted as a seperate blog. The Arts and CT Thinking seemed to go hand-in-hand. Breaking down problems into incremental bits in order to accomplish a larger task has to happen in the theatre or the visual arts classroom. Different roles are defined, especially in the theatre, in order to pull-off a major production. I also explored pattern making and it’s obvious connections to visual art. Feel free to read more in the uploaded document about Computational Thinking and the way it interconnected with teaching art.


Posted in 2 Instruction, 3 Differentiation, 4 Content Knowledge, 8 Professional Practice, Arts Education, Computer Authoring | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Multi-Arts Education Lesson + Computational Thinking

Theatre Arts Lesson: Writing a play based on a painting
Lesson plan briefs
Core subject(s)  Theatre, Art
Subject Area(s)  Creative Writing, Performance, Set Design & Construction
Suggested Age   5th – 7th grade
Prerequisites      Understanding script analysis and character development

Lesson Overview
In this lesson, students will analyze a painting pulled from a stack of images already previewed by the instructor. They will then follow a set of rules previously learned in basic storytelling in order to create their own play inspired by the painting. These rules included a setting, main characters (names and character traits), supporting characters, a problem, events (at least three of them) and the solution or ending. This lesson uses the CT concepts of decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction and algorithms. 

Materials and Equipment
Paintings to reference (one painting per group of 5-6 students)
Paper and pencil
Basic props and set

The Lesson
Introduction activity: Art History (15-20 minutes)

Short lecture given on influence theatre and art have upon one another.

Slideshow of paintings based on works by William Shakespeare.

Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a comedy where Picasso and Einstein meet in a bar and Picasso is on the verge of his Rose Period.

Highlight with a video the opening scene of the musical Sunday in the Park with George (1984) by Stephen Sondheim – James Lapine based off of Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Activity 1: Decomposition (15-20 minutes)

Activity Overview: In this activity, students will brainstorm ideas based off of their painting.


  1. Each group of students (about five groups with five students per group) will be assigned a painting.
  2. They will analyze the painting and jot down ideas for their plays’ structure in a simplified fashion.
  3. They will discuss the beginning, middle and the end of their play and how it could be accomplished on a stage, with their classmates, within a period of about a half-hours time.

Activity 2: Algorithms (30 minutes)

Activity Overview: Agree upon the “rules” of a successful story

  1. Identify the rules of a play as a classroom and later, determine if these rules were met during the presentation of each play.
  2. Filling in a chart, they will agree upon their plays required elements by breaking the painting down into smaller bits and their specifics (including setting, main characters (names and character traits), supporting characters, a problem, events (at least three of them) and the solution or ending.

Activity 3: Pattern Recognition and Abstraction (30 minutes)

Activity Overview: In this activity, students will compare their stories among the other groups

  1. A spokesperson from the group will give the less than five minute “briefs” of their group’s play, based off of the questions answered prior.
  2. The classroom will decide if their play has fulfilled all of the required fields from earlier. Constructive criticism can be used here to suggest replacing the weaker elements with stronger ones.
  3. The class will vote on the best play presented in order to flush out the script and production together as a classroom.


This will be based on participation of the production. Once individual assignments have been made, students will have different expectations required of them in order to do their part.

Unit Plan

Once a play has been voted on by the classroom as the strongest piece, we will spend the next few weeks writing our script and flushing out our characters. Then we will cast the play and develop a production. Students will be assigned as actors, costume designers, prop gatherers or scenic designers. The plays will be performed at the end of the month for their parents, incorporating the original painting as the program image. The students will be encouraged to recreate a snapshot of the painting at some point during the production.



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