Hack The Classroom ISTE 2019 | Jessica Tozzi
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Hack The Classroom ISTE 2019 | Jessica Tozzi

– Our first speaker, today,
is a third-grade teacher from the LeBron James Family
Foundation’s I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, as part of the
Akron Public Schools system. She’s in her fifth year of
education in urban setting, and she’s here to share
how she and other teachers in her school, are using the power of social and emotional learning, to make a difference, every day, and share the impact, it’s
having, on our students. Take it away, Jessica. – The I Promise School is created, thanks to a partnership between the LeBron James Family Foundation
and Akron Public Schools. This partnership began seven years ago. The Foundation wanted to
work to regional scholars, both academically and social, emotionally. However, this was challenging, with having our scholars
across the district. Therefor, they knew that the
next steps was going to be, to create one school
for all of its scholars, and that was the I Promise School. Scholars are selected to
attend the I Promise School, based on a lottery system. Those who have trend data, they show that they are reading at the
25th percentile, or lower, by the middle of second grade,
are placed into a lottery. There were approximately 600 scholars that that fall into this category. However, that number
just was not sustainable. Therefor, 120 scholars
were randomly selected, through this lottery, to attend. Scholars and their
families attended a meeting during the middle of
their second-grade year, to finalize their
enrollment into I Promise. We strive to ensure that our
school encompasses students from all of our clusters
to create a balance. All of the staff at the I Promise School have a similar believe, and that is, that we create an
environment that is loving and compassionate for our
scholars and their families, and that is of the utmost importance. At the I Promise School, we
focus on five habits of promise, and that is to help our
scholars, acquire qualities that will help them become
strong community members. Those habits of promise, are
perseverance, perspective, problem solver, partner
and perpetual learner. At the beginning of the school year, we try to teach these habits of promise, to explicitly show them
what these words are, what they mean, and
examples of them, but then, we stretch our scholars
to recognize these habits of promise, within themselves and others, and understand that these are habits that are gonna carry them
through all walks of life. The I Promise School has
three guiding principles, one being trauma informed and responsive, meaning that we support the whole child, and we strive to create an environment that encompasses their
social and emotional needs and respect what they have experienced, trauma-wise, before coming to us. Therefor, we are very mindful of all of their needs, social and emotionally. I Promise circles that
we conduct each day, is similar to a restorative circle, and this came because of the LeBron James Family Foundation’s initial
plans to start in our school. We start, by listening to a song that I have chosen for that specific day. The song’s theme’s typically tend to be inspirational, motivational
or encouraging, and I try to select songs
from a variety of genres, to allow for a cultural
exposure, but, before listening, I always share that you
can have your eyes opened or closed, your heads can be up or down, but be comfortable with where you are. Notice what you’re feeling,
going through your mind and your body, and become aware of that, and prepare your mind and your body for the day that awaits you, ahead, and after listening to the song, we transition into sharing
our promise for the day. We pass around a healing
drum to identify the speaker, and I prompt our sharing,
with, what can you do today, to demonstrate the best version of you, no matter where you are, who you’re with, or what you’re doing, what are you going to
do, to be better, and the scholars, at the
beginning of the year, are definitely reluctant to share, but gradually, they all begin to share. Sometimes, they share with just a beat on the drum, but they always
encourage one another. Scholars decide their promise,
and they greatly differ. Sometimes scholars will select promises, based off, off their habits,
and they usually choose the ones that they know,
they struggle with the most. Other times, the scholars will
choose to share a promise, of something that happened the day before, and how they wanna fix
that for this present day, and they wanna make themselves better, but what’s really neat,
is that, other times, scholars will share something
that, maybe, happened at home, or on the bus, or on their
way into the classroom, and they’ll share, how this
has disrupted their peace, and they’ll ask their classmates
for help and strategies to get them going, and it’s really neat, because we make sure that
our words are not worthless, and we put action behind them, and so, we hold a promise
circle, in the middle of our day, to do a check in and a share
out, and it’s really amazing, because our scholars
will hold one another, and myself included, accountable, saying, now, don’t forget
your promise for the day, or, maybe you should try
going to the cool-down corner, so that you get yourself back
on track for your promise, and the accountability is amazing. I get to share my promise with them, and I expect them to hold me
accountable for my promise, as well, and they do exactly that. After learning about Microsoft’s
Hacking STEM lessons, I was extremely exited,
and I felt so inspired and motivated, to make these unique learning experiences
happen for my scholars, and I wanted my team to feel the same way. We plan to complete the Brain Gong unit, within our third grade scholars, and this particular
unit, was about the brain and it was extremely important,
because of the social and emotional connections and learning, that we strive to create,
within our learning environment. Our scholars can always
feel the emotion surging through their bodies, they
can feel their reactions, and sometimes, they can
even identify the triggers, that are causing these emotions. However, they don’t understand
that this is happening, because of the functions of the brain. Therefor, understanding their
brain and the functions of it, and why this is happening to me, and why I’m demonstrating these
emotions, is so important. When you understand the
system that is running you, you respect it, and this
unit was initially created for sixth, through eighth graders, and planned for 50 minutes,
for a week session. However, this learning
experience was going to need to be redefined, if my scholars were going to be successful and if it was going to be made functional
for my teaching team. So, I found, all of the components to be important and valuable. So, I decided to use the entire unit of the Brain Gong lesson. However, what I did first, was, I printed off the student guides, and I printed off the teacher guides and I highlighted and made marginalia, but the one thing that I kept
in the forefront of my mind, while planning, was making sure, I understood the lesson’s objectives. So, then, I used PowerPoint
to create the slides, in an easy-to-read way
out, for the entire unit. The slides took on different purposes, some of them for teacher reference, others were for student
reference, and, sometimes, it was even just to drive
discussion, or inquiry. For instance, the first lesson
covered the introduction, the prior knowledge and the vocabulary, and all of these things were vital pieces for my scholars to be
successful, moving forward. So, we decided to start with a hook, where scholars had a chance
to put a peach in a jar, and slam it against each side, repeatedly, and then they completed with their group, what happened to the peach, both before and after the accident. Next, we had the opportunity to use the discussion
questions from the last theme, but we put it into a KWL
chart, which is something that my scholars are
extremely familiar with, and definitely developmentally
appropriate for them, and, in addition to that, to make sure that they understood the vocabulary, we did, sort of like a
jigsaw, within our classroom, where they have the
opportunity to pick a word, and to use that word,
and dig into it deep, but then, they taught the
entire class, that vocabulary. This entire unit was extremely beneficial, but, one of my scholars’ favorite parts, was creating the brain hacks, and those brain hacks were amazing, because they were able to color code, and see the functions of the brain, and the different
sections, and even later, after the conclusion of this unit, they were able to reference
the different parts of their brains, as
they were participating in different activities,
and that is just amazing. Scholars had ample opportunities to truly engage in active learning, and that was driven by
their own inquiries, their drive to understand
those personal connections, as to why their body and their
social and emotional learning and their brain were working all together, and how that was happening, and this is vital for our scholars, to have social-emotional learning be a part of their school day. I’ve witnessed the effects,
and it, truly, is amazing, and they are becoming
stronger individuals, and they’re putting
themselves into a mindset, that is letting them be
able to be strong learners. With this innovative STEM
curriculum, like Hacking STEM, and the we-are-family philosophy, that the LeBron James Family
Foundation has created, we have found an incredible recipe for our success at the I Promise School, and in one-year’s time, my scholars have shown amazing growth, and in our winner map,
they have shown 90%, either meeting or exceeding
their expected growth, and we expected to see this, but not in such a short time period. It, truly, is remarkable,
and special things are happening at the I Promise School, and our scholars don’t
get your typical summer. They get to do a four-week program of hands-on learning, an
innovative curriculum, and it’s exiting and
we’re exited for them, to continue their social
and emotional learning, along with this innovative curriculum, throughout the summer their summer, and I’m encouraging you to implement this social and emotional
learning, within you classroom, because you truly have nothing to loose, but everything to gain, for
both your scholars and yourself. So, please, try that today. Thank you. – Thanks so much, Jessica. I’m really amazed by your focus on social and emotional learning, and the impact that you’re making, by modifying the Hacking STEM curriculum, to make a big difference on
the large of your students. (upbeat music)

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