This week I am at the AVID Summer Institute. For those who are unfamiliar, AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination and was a program developed over 25 years ago to help students become successful for the road to college. Interestingly, in times when there are huge budget cuts, the AVID conference is sold out. As expensive as this program is, it is supported because of its proven success. It is one of the only programs that has documented success in overcoming the achievement gap. Data collected here in California shows that there is no difference in meeting college entry requirements (A-G) between racial groups of those in AVID, a divergence that is quite clear in non-AVID students.
If you are unfamiliar with AVID, you can learn more at AVID Online
Today was an introduction/review of the AVID essentials and an introduction to College Readiness. Many students are not "ready" for college. Although they have passed the required classes and made the appropriate test scores, there is much more to being "college ready".
Although college seems so far away for an 11 year old, 14 is too late to start thinking about college. Students need to start planning and developing those skills long before high school, if they are going to be ready. Besides developing those college-ready skills, students are more likely to stay motivated and focused when they have clear goals to focus on.
Starting Tuesday, I will be in the advanced AVID science strand. Hopefully, I will have a few special activities or strategies to share that are especially effective for science. I have been using AVID strategies for several years and I am quite experienced but there is always something that can be added, improved or revised.
Although not nearly as exciting as Todd Williamson's Marine Academy, hopefully I will have something useful to share.
In our science strand, we focused on the InterActive Notebook (IAN) and helping kids work towards higher level thinking strategies, using Costa's levels of questioning. We also reinforced Cornell notes, reflective writing, and organization. One of the main focal points of AVID is revealing the "hidden curriculum", educational expectations that are never explicitly taught.
For example: How did you learn to take notes?
-No one actually taught me. But, my teachers... in junior high, high school, college... all assumed I knew how to take notes. I developed my own strategies over time that were mostly effective through trial and error. I am tenacious, like a terrier, and kept trying until I was moderately successful. But, not all students have the motivation and endurance to keep at.
How often do we assume students have skills that may be lacking. Note taking, organization, time management, collaboration skills, reflective thinking...
The best part about the AVID Institute is the modeling of best practices. We always do what we say we should do. Because we are experiencing the activity, it gives us the opportunity to see the methodology in detail and reflect on the benefits and steps of implementation.
We have spent quite a bit of time on Problem Based Learning. By having students work together to solve more open-ended projects, students can practice analytical skills, apply content knowledge, and evaluate the quality of their product. Since they often complete the projects using time and resources outside of class, students must coordinate responsibilities, plan and manage time, and communicate clearly with their team. Some of the PBLs we talked about include catapults, water shoes, water rockets, and so forth.
We have been addressing different learning styles as well. I have spent a great deal of time working with learning styles and spend time with all my students helping them with metacognition skills, understanding how they learn and think. A simple and visual tool our instructor uses is a program called True Colors
. Its a simple tool and is easy to communicate with the kids and is easy for classroom management and can be observed at a glance. We have chatted about a variety of ways to keep kids motivated by addressing their learning needs, including skits, songs, and other kinesthetic needs.
But most importantly, in addressing the rigor, we are focusing on critical thinking and reflective writing. These are skills are essential in developing students who are college ready. We spent time today analyzing AP test questions and the skills students need to be successful. AP seems a long way for our middle kids, but for a student to be ready to pass the AP test as a junior, they need to be able to analyze, evaluate, and justify and organized response to the questions. These essay questions require skills that take time to develop and refine. To be ready for these tests, students need to develop the skills in the middle grades, so they have time to apply and refine them through out high school.
To often, we focus so much on our current school year and content area, we lose track of the student. We easily forget the continuum of development in content and skills.
Since this post is becoming a long AVID philosophical post, I think it might be easier to make a new post for activities for each main components of WICR (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, and Reading).