Blog #5

Blog Post #5: What is “authentic” about “authentic assessment”? Why are authentic assessments a more valid measure of student learning? Describe any authentic assessments employed or discussed by your host teacher or another teacher at your school.

I’m glad I started to write these blogs after creating my UbD because authentic assessment has a different meaning to me now.  At first I thought that authentic assessment was more like the thought of having an original assessment and that it was something I created instead of just copying an already used or book-made test.  But now I believe an authentic assessment is a varied way of making sure the students really understood the big ideas and objectives.  Yes, by not using pre-made tests can be a way of being authentic but there is also a world of assessments outside of tests.  I have never been a fan of test-taking to being with, so this makes assessment much easier for everyone.  By authentic assessment, I will make sure there are varied and challenging ways of making sure the students are grasping the concepts and big ideas.  For example, in the unit I created there is time and space for a written test but my focus is on the progress they are making in their journal reflections and project-based learning.  There is something so valuable about having them work in groups for an extended amount of time on one idea/challenge.  These authentic assessments are a valid tool for measuring their understandings because it is varied and the grade doesn’t ride all on one assessment.  They have time and valid proof that they are learning new things and working towards a goal with journal reflecting and project-based learning.  Some of my students would much rather have a written test to demonstrate what they have learned but I know, as a student and teacher, this is not fair to everyone.

There is a teacher within the Stikine house that is also very project and place-based heavy and she created a project where the students had to pick a theme and create a periodic table based on how the periodic table is arranged using whatever theme they picked.  A lot of the students picked their favorite book series or show on TV and were able to understand the periodic table after applying some basic understandings to their themed periodic table.  The emphasis was on the big idea/concept and not on if they could memorize and write about how it was organized in a test format.

Blog #2

Blog Post #2: Research the GLE’s (Grade Level Expectations) and Alaska State Student Standards for content and performance for your discipline. What are you teaching at the moment that might be considered a big idea? Why is it a big idea? Anything that might be considered “worth being familiar with” or “ Important to know and do?”

SB Students develop an understanding of the concepts, models, theories, universal principles, and facts that explain the physical world.
SB1  Students develop an understanding of the characteristic properties of matter and the relationship of these properties to their structure and behavior.
SB2  Students develop an understanding that energy appears in different forms, can be transformed from one form to another, can be transferred or moved from one place or system to another, may be unavailable for use, and is ultimately conserved.
SB3  Students develop an understanding of the interactions between matter and energy, including physical, chemical, and nuclear changes, and the effects of these interactions on physical systems.
SB4  Students develop an understanding of motions, forces, their characteristics and relationships, and natural forces and their effects.

These are the Science 6th-8th grade concepts of physical science.  At Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School we are separated into houses.  There is one 6th grade house and two 7th&8th grade house.  I teach in Stikine House which is only 7th and 8th grade students.  Because there are two different grades, when it comes to science they alternate every year with life science and physical science.  This year we are doing physical science.  The current unit I am teaching is chemistry, which the kids have been really excited about.  We first started with the periodic table and now getting into chemical reactions and labs.  SB1 and SB3 are best aligned with the chemistry unit I have been teaching.  When we first started the unit, the focus was more on atoms and matter and what makes up an atom.  Now we are transitioning into chemical reactions and the effects of these reactions and how we can tell something has occurred.  A big idea in this chemistry unit is that students observe how elements are arranged on the periodic table by how they bond with other atoms to make molecules.  Another big idea has been on the structure of an atom and every element is unique based on certain characteristics.  It’s important that the students see the periodic table as something that is well thought out and organized and every element is in its placed based on specific characteristic(s).  In order for them to understand this big idea, they would have to know how an atom is structured.  This is something they all know well now–protons, neutrons, and electrons.  They have to take those numbers and structure into consideration in order to understand the periodic table.  The students have spent time taking notes, working in small labs, reflecting in their journals, discussing with classmates and working on projects in order to show they are really grasping these big ideas in chemistry.  It has been a trip for me as well since I always struggled with chemistry and had to be reminded what “basic chemistry” looks like.  All-in-all, everyone seems to be enjoying and learning lots with the chemistry unit.

9/16 Blog #1

  • Due 9/16: Blog #1: What are examples of place-based and culturally responsive curriculum/instruction at your school? Be prepared to discuss in class.

I am very lucky to be placed at Dzantik’i Heeni middle school this year because of the amount of culturally responsive and place-based education that is occurring in all of the classrooms.  Specifically, I work in the 7th and 8th grade house (Stikine) and have found many examples of being culturally responsive.  My favorite example being when we started the new year and the whole house came up with a project to help set norms for the Stikine House.  The 7 teachers came together to decide on a project for the students to create Tlingit shields that honor a specific aspect of culture and adapt it to the Stikine House.  There were 4 shield completed for each class:  Wooch Yax (maintaining spiritual and social balance and harmony), Haa Aani (honoring and utilizing our land), Haa Latseen (strength of body, mind and spirit) and Haa Shuka (honoring our ancestors and future generations).  Each shield had to have the spelling in Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian and five bullet points on how it relates to our House.  We had a guest come in and explain each aspect and the importance and representation of the shield in the Tlingit culture.  This is how we started our year.  Another example of place-based instruction in my classroom is a field trip to SLAM.  The kids are very excited to visit and explore this new building, or, they are just excited to get out and take a field trip, I can’t tell yet.  The field trip is Monday and I will have to report back on their comments and experience there.  The year will continually have small and big aspects of culturally responsive and place-based education/curriculum and I couldn’t be more thrilled to see how the students respond and get a “real” chance at exploring more of Juneau/Alaska and everything it has to offer!

P.J.P Passage

As a student, this selected passage has a confusing feeling to it.  It reads so beautifully, but as a student, I would wonder why some teachers make it look so easy and if all of the teachers are struggling to bring all these pieces into the classroom.  As a practicing teacher, I know the answer is yes.  I know that it takes courage and confidence to be a teacher and that it will often tug and pull on the heart.

It’s interesting to take a step back and think about what my perspectives were of my teachers while I was in middle and high school.  As a middle and high school student, I thought my teachers were these old, uptight, and boring people who were really good at school and were taught how to teach material, not people.  I don’t have one teacher that sticks out in high school, but I do have one I remember bits and pieces of in middle school.  She was my 7th grade home-room teacher and she was a tough cookie.  She was one of those teachers that had a tough exterior but after being one-on-one with her, you knew she thrived to make us better people and that she really cared.  She was always joking around with the class and giving people a hard time (lots of sarcasm) but at the end of the day, she had complete control of the classroom and she paid very close attention to our body language and took note of our struggles.  She would often ask people to stay after class/school to “have a chat”.  It wasn’t until after I “had a chat” with her that I realized it was her way of giving her full attention and providing thoughtful words and concern.  She always wanted me to know that she was an advocate for her students and that she  always had an open ear that would listen.  She had my back and I will never forget that.


  1.  How does understanding culture and power impact your teaching?– These last three weeks have really lead to a lot of self reflection and learning about a culture that is new to me.  Listening to other’s advice and knowledge really helps me gain a better understanding for the culture’s past, present and future, and that will be powerful in my classroom.  All aspects are important in a classroom, no matter what culture they identify with.  Although I have a developed a better background knowledge of Alaskan cultures, I will always continue to learn.  The self reflection I have seen in myself and others definitely gives my peers and I some power when it comes to our future in teaching.  It has become very apparent that addressing what I identify as my culture directly relates to how I can understand another human being’s culture.  We all come from different places and we can all learn from each other.

2.  Picking just three words was difficult. I went over there and ended up writing down seven.  BUT, if I have to pick three, uncomfortable, hope, and transformation would be the ones I will write about.  Uncomfortable: causing or feeling unease or awkwardness.  As talked about in the last three weeks, being uncomfortable is important in a classroom.  It is one of my jobs, as a teacher, to inform and openly talk about things that may make the students and/or I uncomfortable.  If I think back about my time in public school, I can’t remember a time where the teacher talked about something that made me uncomfortable (at least that was memorable).  But I do remember a time in college that the whole class was uncomfortable during a topic about consent and rape (it was Human Sexuality).  The teacher spent a couple of weeks creating trust, respect and openness within the classroom.  When it was time for her to bring up the “lesson” of the week, things started off very quiet.  To her, this subject/topic needed to be discussed because the stats that she knew were true (1/4 experience sexual abuse and that most victims/survivors of rape, knew the person) needed some awareness.  Thinking back on this class, I learned a lot about facts, experiences and was able to do some healing for myself.  I think that this uncomfortable feeling was resolved with support and a better understanding on what WE can do to spread awareness and how to stop this awful and harmful crime.

My second word was hope.  This sits so well with me because if I have anything, it’s hope.  I have hope that Alaska can change over these unfortunate statistics and I have hope that kindness and appreciate can be shown.  Actions are much louder than words, and I plan to be a model for these things; but I will never stop telling my students how much hope and confidence I have in their smarts and ability.

My third word from the word wall was transformation.  I think this word encompasses a lot of the work we did in this class.  I think it also directly relates to what I wish for my classroom.  It’s the transformation that directly correlates to if the student “got it” or not.  To see this happen in my class, is something I’m very excited to experience and be apart of.

3.  I plan to teach in a culturally responsive way by making sure to include all of my student’s culture within my class.  I think it’s important for them to know that I truly care about understanding all of their cultures as well as sharing mine.  Because I will be in a science class, I think place-based approach is something I plan to use most often.  Going out into the community is important and I think the kids will really get a different look at things with me.  I also realized that bringing elders and culture bearers into the classroom isn’t as difficult or intimidating as it seems!  Alaska has so much to offer!

project-based reflection

Well, the student in me was reminded how difficult project-based learning can be. BUT the teacher in me realized that it really brings in a new dynamic to the classroom.  It’s interesting to see how the group dynamics work for different people and how some work well with others.  I think it builds a lot of communication skill, or lack there of, and as a teacher, you can see this very clearly.  I think that project-based learning can be super beneficial but probably best-fit for smaller projects and less weight on the actual assignment.  It can be a great learning experience for the teacher learning more about the students and just as great of a learning experience for the students to really learn new aspects about themselves and peers.  Overall, I see the pros and cons of project-based learning from a student, and most importantly, a teacher’s point of view.

Very Last First Time By Jan Andrews

This story was about a girl (elementary-aged) that had the responsibility of going under the ice to collect food during a very tide-dependent time.  The family lived in a part of Alaska where the ice that freezes over the water eventually gets to a point where the ice is still in tact but the liquid water follows high and low tide and the ocean floor is exposed when the tide goes out.  It was an important source of food for the family and the story is about her very first time going down alone to collect clams, oysters, etc.  Her mom saws a hole open in the ice for her to jump down and explore.  She had done it many times with her mother but this was her first time alone and by the end of the book, she realizes she will never have that “first time” experience again.  When she is down under the ice, she gets too far from the hole she jumped in and realizes she is lost and the tide starts to come back in.  There is a time of panic and then she remembers to follow the glimpse of light to find her way out.  The storybook had beautiful drawings and the title is initially what drew me to it.

I think the phrase Very Last First Time is very powerful.  There is a first for everything you do and it will be your only time that it happens.  I love this overall saying for any class setting.  Also, the girl was able to overcome an obstacle based on her problem-solving skills and this lesson/skill has always stuck with me.  I hope to teach the students that they are capable of anything and they need to be the first ones to realize that.  Besides the overall meaning of the book, I think a lesson could be made out of tides and how the girl in the book knew what danger that meant for her.  Earth’s tides are so moving (pun intended) and this book could easily be a SPARK to a lesson/activity on tides.