Sometimes teachers need to be taught too, and Storm Lake Middle-School teachers learned a lot in a workshop presented by a San Bernardino, Calif. educator last Thursday in Storm Lake.
Ron Rohac, a 23-year science educator, who has worked in curriculum development, assessment, teacher training, and staff development, presented four workshops, two Thursday at the AEA building and two Friday at Storm Lake Middle School.
In his workshops, Rohac asked teachers to view the relevance of education a little differently-from their students' perspectives.
"I want feedback from everybody, not just one of two people," Rohac said. "Checking for understanding is a very significant feature."
Making major changes is not something for which teachers should always feel they need to strive, Rohac said.
"We're not looking at wholesale changes," said Rohac. "We're looking at real subtle changes."
In one activity, Rohac suggested that teachers do 'word-mapping' in which they have students put words in different columns depending on how familiar they are with a certain term. Students may know, not know, or think they know what a word means but not be sure. By assessing students qualitatively, teachers can then know how close to the mark they are in their teaching. While teachers often do not know whether they are successful or not, word-mapping helps teachers move their teaching strategies closer to the needs of student learning.
Teachers need to set a purpose for their reading, Rohac said. He had workshop participants read a passage and underline what they thought were the key ideas. He then had participants focus on a theme and underline related passages.
"What that does then it becomes the filter," Rohac said. "You teach the kids to be strategic readers."
By giving students a particular area to focus on, "suddenly those pens are a lot more active, Rohac said. Teachers in the workshop agreed that it was easier to pick out the main ideas when they focused on a particular theme.
Rohac also had participants participate in cued retelling. They would give three clues to a partner and try to get that partner to state the main idea.
Rohac also works as an independent education consultant with clients in 25 states as well as throughout California. He is one of the authors of Houghton Mifflin's DiscoveryWorks science programs for grades K-6.