Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Sorenson’s Ranch Student Motivation

At Sorenson’s Ranch, teachers try to keep students active and engaged. Active students learn more and do better in the classroom. We recognize the importance of motivation, and we work hard to celebrate student progress. ​Teachers choose assignments that allow students to use their creativity. When possible, we allow students to pick their own genre—such as reports, poems, creative writing stories, or plays—when assigning a topic. Students are able to choose their own theme when creating computer programs. Many CTE classes allow students to create their own topics for projects. We want them to take pride in their work and this helps them buy-in to assignments stay more motivated. Teachers pride themselves on being open-minded rather than judgmental. We try to make it clear that we are here to help students succeed, respecting student efforts. Teachers try to share an observation or ask questions without criticizing. Teachers provide feedback geared toward student success. Student are more engaged and learn better when they exercise choice, feel important, receive accurate and timely feedback, and know that they can be successful. Feedback, not pressures of low grades, leads to better performance. After relearning material, students have the opportunity to redo assignments to get to mastery level. This creates a feeling of success which helps with motivation. Students come to us with different abilities. Teachers create lessons for everyone—taking into consideration the different ability levels. Teachers try to provide feedback to students promptly, frequently, and efficiently. Accommodations, like more time or reduced workload are implemented for students where needed. Students need to see a direct connection between their effort, a response from their teacher, and work completion. We work with students individually to get students to graduation or to grade completion.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Safety is an essential part of learning.

Students need to feel safe in their environment in order to learn. If a person is worried about getting beat up - physically or verbally, that person cannot open his or her mind to effectively put things into long term memory. Effective teaching requires that teachers create an atmosphere in the classroom where students are free to ask questions without fear of being made fun of or being made to feel stupid. The tapestry of life is woven from discovery and memory. From the moment of birth, we are exposed to a continuous flow of sensory experience — sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Our remarkable brain takes the images and sounds, the feelings, scents, and tastes of each moment and creates an internal representation of the external world. In the beginning of life, all is new: each experience is a first. Each image, melody, scent, and caress bathes the newborn's brain in data as it attempts to organize and make sense of this world. Over time, we create memories, and we learn. Learning is fun when it is curiosity driven. In the words of one of my former students whom I refer to as “the great philosopher Ned”, “Math only sucks until you get it.” The difference between a student “getting it” or just trying to survive by memorizing enough information to pass the test is whether the learning is curiosity based or fear based. It comes back to safety in the classroom. The fear response is essential to the health of the human brain and body. Under threat of any kind — hunger, thirst, pain, shame, confusion, or too much input coming in too fast — we respond in ways to keep ourselves safe. When the fear response is triggered, our minds will focus only on the information that is, at that moment, important for survival. Fear kills curiosity and inhibits exploration. Hear at SRS, most of my students come into my classes with math anxiety: a fear of math (and the experience of learning math in a group) which requires that they never ask a question which could expose them to an uncomfortable social experience, and a fear that I will find out just how much they don’t know. To combat this self-imposed barrier to effective learning, I tell them about what I call the “basic agreement.” This agreement stipulates that I will do my best to teach them from where they are at any given moment. As a result, they don’t need to pretend to know things they don’t know, and if they ask a question, I will do my best to answer it in a way they can understand without editorializing about when they should have learned it and how many times it has been explained before. Their responsibility is that they will do their best to learn. This means asking questions to help me learn how they learn. Once I know how they learn, I can teach in a way that allows them to understand and remember. All of us can vividly recall a situation (perhaps many) when a teacher reviled a student with words like, “How many times to I have to tell you?” or “You should have learned this in 1st grade.” The anxiety is present in students of all subjects, not just math, and teachers play the dominant role in creating physically and emotionally safe places for students to learn. I find that after the initial “I hate you” phase, students who receive consequences for aggressive behavior toward peers quickly become champions of protecting other students from aggression. Here are some key behaviors I try to use in creating a safe classroom here at SRS: • Maintain a clean, organized classroom. All people feel safer and more comfortable in a clean organized classroom • Be the same teacher yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Follow through on promises. Be consistent in discipline • Be kind, and let students know you care. I chose this profession to make a difference, and I want my students to know that I care about the long term effects of my teaching. I want to my students see higher goals for themselves and help them believe in their abilities by helping them master challenging tasks. • Protect students from misbehavior. Always follow through on discipline for students that threaten others. Demonstrate that you care enough about not to allow bullying, triggering, coercion, or intimidation. These behaviors can help students overcome learning anxieties in any classroom environment, but they work particularly well among our population at SRS

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Mastery Learning at Sorenson’s Ranch School

Sorenson’s Ranch School uses mastery learning which enables students to move forward at their own pace as they master knowledge, skills, and concepts. Effective implementation completely changes how students learn, how teachers teach, and how schools work. Mastery learning transforms how Sorenson’s Ranch School develops curricula and how learning is measured, as well as how teachers are trained. Mastery learning as a concept and even as an instructional practice is not new. It has been around since the 1960s. We use it to better enable our students to be successful on an individual basis. It allows us to individualize classwork for each individual student. Our classes are student paced, teacher guided which has worked very well for us at Sorenson’s Ranch School. Mastery learning entails the concept that all teachers can teach and all students can learn. At our school we believe using this concept, all students can be taught to learn excellently. Each student controls the delivery and flow of their classes and learn independently adapting the curriculum to fit their needs. We believe in a personalized method of instruction to meet all student’s needs. Typically, most students are more successful with this learning model. Students learn at a faster rate and learn more. At SRS, we believe this model is perfect for our students. Students who have not done well with the traditional lecture classroom, often thrive in mastery learning. The motivation for mastery learning comes from trying to reduce achievement gaps for students in average school classrooms. As students may be out for group therapy or discipline, they can successfully come back into the classroom, pick up where they left off, and continue progressing. The mastery learning method divides subject matter into units that have preset objectives or unit expectations. Students, alone or in groups, work through each unit in an organized fashion. Students must demonstrate mastery on unit exams, typically 80%, before moving on to new material. Students who do not achieve mastery receive remediation through tutoring, peer monitoring, small group discussions Additional time for learning is prescribed for those requiring remediation. Students continue the cycle of studying and testing until mastery is met. This gives students the opportunity to be successful. Pier tutoring is an important part of this model of learning. When students help other students, it solidifies the learning for the tutor and teaches the one being tutored. We believe students will feel successful, move quickly, and complete their education. We strongly believe that all students should get the high school diploma. We are committed to push students to achieve this goal. For students who struggle, we adapt curriculum to fit their needs yet still getting credit for them and having them learn. We enjoy working with students and seeing success in all students. We are happy to report that we have a high graduation rate. We are very successful in placing students after completing their education. Teachers, therapists, and case managers use this learning model to get results getting the student to graduate.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Growth and Change

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road… Unless you fail to make the turn.” This is a quote in the lobby of the school at Sorenson’s Ranch School. The only true “constant” in life is change. Sometimes we willingly choose to change our circumstances, such as when we search out new job opportunities or love interests or go on diets for better health. Sometimes change is thrust upon us because of things beyond our control: natural disasters, accidents, loss of employment, sickness, disease, death, or even through consequences of our actions or the actions of others. Despite the means by which change finds its way into our lives, we have control of our mindset. As our circumstances and opportunities change, whether by our own decisions or by factors beyond our control, it is ultimately an individual choice as to how we will respond to these changes. Most people fear change whether or not the change will bring positive rewards. People are creatures of habit, and it is easy to get “stuck in the bend” rather than moving forward to greater things at the end of the road. This is due to our mindset during these times of change. Even if we are willingly making a change, if our mindset is not 100 percent focused on the end result being positive, we often get de-railed and wonder why we made the decision to make a change in the first place. However, the opposite is also true. If someone is positive and optimistic during times of duress and unanticipated change, things most often turn out for the better. Everything in life starts with mindset (i.e., how people they think about themselves and the world around them, and how they adapt to the constant changes going on in life). Positive mindset is the foundation of success and happiness. Research shows that successful people have a “growth” mindset. This means that they believe that every day can be better than the day before. They know that even little changes can add up to make big changes over time. That realize that if they do make a mistake, it’s okay. They know that direction is more important than speed. It’s natural and healthy to experience a wide range of thoughts and feelings, including less pleasant ones like disappointment, sadness, or guilt. There are no wrong thoughts-some thoughts just don’t serve people as well as others. A person’s brain is a very powerful tool. The human brain has the amazing ability to change and adapt by forming and eliminating connections between cells (neurons). The more a person practices using positive self-talk and having a “growth mindset”, the better he/she will get at it. At Sorenson’s Ranch, students are given the opportunity to embrace every day with a positive, growth mindset. No matter how bad yesterday was, today is a new day. As is common in everyday life, students sometimes get stuck in the bend of the road and fail to make the turn for a while. They fail to recognize the greater adventure that awaits them on a more positive road ahead.. However, with time to practice and support from staff, most successfully navigate the changes that come while attending the ranch Change is the most common, yet most overlooked force in this world. Though it is feared by many, it brings with it great opportunity. No matter the changes that arise in our lives, with a little perspective and a growth mindset every change brought into our lives can ultimately empower, inspire, and direct us on a path that will lead to individual success. Do not fear those bends in your road. They are NOT the end of the road, but an opportunity to learn more, see more, and do more along the journey.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Academics at Sorenson’s Ranch

Sorenson’s Ranch School is a fully accredited high school found in a pristine valley in the Fishlake National Forest. Students can complete their high school graduation requirements and receive a high school diploma. Sorenson’s Ranch School prepares students to go directly into the workforce, go on to college, or finish a vocational training. Sorenson’s Ranch School accommodates students who struggle, average students, or accelerated students. Sorenson’s has recently added new CTE classes including Business Management, Sports & Entertainment Marketing, Photography and Customer Service. Other elective classes include Child Development, Adults Roles and Responsibilities, and Keyboarding for middle school students. Students can actually be prepared for entrance into the workforce or for entrance into college. Some online college courses may be available for students. Students are given chances for career exploration in the CTE courses. . We can help students form realistic and reachable career, personal, and educational goals. This does not imply that the goals are not challenging. The most motivating goals are those that are within our reach if we use some effort. Only someone who knows a student well and cares about his or her well-being will be able to help that student form reachable goals. Students do not attain reachable goals on their own. Like any of us, students are more likely to move ahead when they know that there is a path to get there. We here at Sorenson’s Ranch School help with the path Sorenson’s supports an independent study format. Students are able to finish their high school courses independently and at their own pace. Students may work at a slower pace if they are IEP students or move at a faster pace. We provide teens with a lot of guidance in a more restrictive environment to help them successfully navigate the adolescent years. We provide surroundings that abolish many of the distractions and triggers that accompany a public school education. We have a low student to teacher ratio and students are able to know what is expected of them. They are better able to predict their own consequences if they break the rules. In addition, the more one-on-one time your teen gets with trusted and experienced instructors and counselors, the more likely he is to get his individual needs met and become a disciplined and mature individual. One of the limitations of our educational structure is that relationships with teachers, especially in secondary school, may be caring, but they are not easy to sustain. Yet at-risk youth need relationships that are both caring and stable. They need to build a sense of trust and have the time to communicate the difficulty, obstructions, and positive aspects of their lives in and out of school. ​All Utah High School graduation requirements are met here at Sorenson’s and students graduate with a regular high school diploma. Sorenson’s Ranch School is a mastery school. Students are required to reach mastery or 80 percent before passing classes. Teachers work with students on an individual and personal basis. Sorenson’s Ranch has small class sizes with low teacher to student ratio. Students are expected to be respectful to teachers and staff at all times. They are taught discipline and respect to teachers, staff, and fellow students. Students are required to listen and follow instructions. Students will learn behavior management in the classroom. Principal, teachers and school staff develop a personal education plan for each student. Students are monitored closely by teachers and are able to learn at their own pace in a safe, secure environment. Credits are made up if students are behind in credits for graduation. At Sorenson’s Ranch we recognize the difficulty of trying a new path and both prepare students for obstacles and support them when they run into problems. This can be highly challenging, as some of the students' flawed actions may violate school rules or perhaps even legal boundaries. We handle such cases individually and with sensitive judgment. We incorporate engaging settings in the school that permit students to experience a sense of belonging and pride.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Incorporating Multiple Senses to Increase Learner Retention

Have you ever read a book or article and after finishing, can’t remember exactly what you read? Sometimes you might even catch yourself drifting while reading and then go back and reread a paragraph or two. Or while watching a movie, we might drift off and miss something important that was said or done, and we’ll rewind it to see what we missed. I’m sure most of us have done so at one point or another. The point is, if we’re not actively engaged in what we are reading, hearing, or seeing, most media goes in one ear (or eye) and out the other. According to William Glasser, students retain or remember only: 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear, 70% of what they discuss with others, 80% of what they experience by doing, and 90% of what they teach to others. Combine this with the idea of multiple learning styles (eg. Audio. Visual, Tactile, and Reading/Writing) and it might seem like a daunting task for teachers to find that perfect circumstance in order to increase student chances for learning and, ultimately, their retention. This is especially true in today’s multimedia-saturated society where it is difficult for educators to compete for our students’ attention. As teachers, we need to have a myriad of teaching strategies in our bag of tricks. An additional hurdle that teachers face at Sorenson’s Ranch School is the fact that students have to do at least part of their work independently. A teacher could also have several students working on different subjects in the same class. Additionally, students in the same class may be separated by their skill-levels/ abilities, and the majority of SRS students have an IEP (Individual Education Plan). Meeting all of our students’ educational needs here at SRS can be difficult. However, one strategy that can be incorporated in the classroom to address these difficulties is the use of videos. I have supplemented my World History classes and Geography classes with a variety of films. There are several excellent documentaries available on-line. Yes, I do get some moans and groans from students when I say the word “documentary”, but for the most part, once they start watching, most students are fully engaged: making comments, asking questions, and participating in classroom discussions. It is rare to get through an entire film without pausing to engage in such discussions. We also watch “made-for-Hollywood” movies. It’s always a good idea to preview the films for historical accuracy, appropriateness, and I also jot down notes of important information or vocabulary that may need clarification. Having a worksheet to go with the video greatly increases student involvement. I have occasionally found some suitable worksheets on-line or created my own. After watching certain movies, some students have wanted to research the topic further and have created posters, slide presentations, and/or a written report which was then presented to the rest of the class. By incorporating worksheets and class discussions with watching films, teachers can reach the audio learners, visual learners, and read/write learners. We are also increasing the percentage points of retention on Glasser’s chart. When students choose to do projects, which are then presented (taught) to the class, retention increases immensely. Active engagement in learning is critical to students’ success. Using the visual arts medium is one method to accomplish this outcome.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Math Instruction is Multi-dimensional

When you program a computer, you tell it exactly what to do. If it is programmed correctly, it follows the instructions perfectly and gets answers quickly and accurately. When it is done, it has no idea what it did, why it did it, or what the answers mean. Students are not computers; therefore, they should not be programed. They should be taught. Teaching involves more than the memorization of facts and formulas. True teaching requires that students understand the reasons for the process, what the answers mean, why they’re important, and what they enable the students to do. Getting the right answer is the beginning, not the end. ​Learning is an exercise in individuality. Students learn at different speeds and have different levels of comprehension. The student who learns the fastest is not always the student who learns the best. A good teacher realizes the importance of individualizing instruction and the value of reaching out to the student who puts forth his/her best effort but doesn’t pick up a concept as fast as some of the others, while continuing to challenging those who master concepts quickly. Finding out where a student is on the ladder of knowledge and giving assignments that take him/her forward from there should be a priority. The green zone can be used to define learning that is challenging but doable. The black zone can be defined as containing concepts which are already mastered. Working in the black zone is usually not a good use of time. The red zone defines that work which is beyond the student’s ability. Working in the red zone feels like banging your head against the wall. Consistent focused effort in the green zone is how we learn and progress best. In the long run, a student who has to work harder to learn a concept will come out ahead of someone who learns quickly and forgets quickly. ​A comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere in the classroom is important to effective learning. The students will reflect the attitude of the teacher. If the teacher enjoys the subject and feels that it is important, then the students are more likely to enjoy the subject and feel that it is important. Students should be encouraged to ask pertinent questions and be complimented for doing so. Students’ questions are not an interruption of a teacher’s presentation, but an essential part of the two-way communication that must take place as students learn. If a student asks a question that has already been answered, and the teacher takes the time to go over the answer again, positively and patiently, it sends the message that student understanding is important, and that even intelligent people don’t always pick up on everything the first time. See it, hear it, write it down, and then ask questions until you understand. The best way for students to assimilate knowledge is through a variety of mental stimuli. Seeing, hearing and writing are all different paths to the brain. In the math department at Sorenson’s Ranch School, we use a variety of mediums on math instruction in an effort to engage multiple learning pathways. Students who are taught using all three paths will experience better comprehension and retention than those taught through only one.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Following academic plans

My name is Tina Somers, Special Ed. Director/teacher here at Sorenson’s Ranch School. In the course of our jobs at the ranch, we strive to do our very best to help every child reach his/her maximum learning potential. We serve all types of students with all types of learning issues including 504 plans, IEP’s, and emotional disturbances. We have our share of over-achievers as well. We, as school staff, work together to insure that each student is receiving the appropriate interventions and proper modifications so that we can optimize his/her learning experience. If your student comes to the ranch with an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), we follow each goal and modification as outlined in the document you signed at your local school. We work with your home school district when it is time for renewal of the IEP or if/when additional testing must be done. We offer a one-on-one tutor, modified curriculum, and a quiet place to work where your student can concentrate and get extra help. We also provide an Academic Completion Program (ACP) which allows students age 17+ to have extra time to complete their work. We discuss the students’ learning issues in a weekly staff meeting in order keep everyone current on student needs and progress. We have had many successes with the students in the academic portion of the ranch program, and have graduated hundreds of students over the years with an accredited high school diploma. Our goal is to be sure we help every child in the best way possible and to try everything we have to help them achieve their academic goals. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Technology and one-on-one teaching in the small classroom

At Sorenson’s Ranch School, I have come to the realization that one-on-one teaching, combined with technology in the classroom, enhances the learning process immensely. One of my responsibilities here at the school is teaching Spanish. I use a special Spanish compact disc that helps with speaking and pronouncing words correctly. Students are able to hear Spanish being spoken by a native speaker as they also follow along in a booklet. After using this CD and booklet, I then work with the student one-on-one, hearing him/her speak and correcting anything that is mispronounced. This really gives me an advantage in reaching and teaching each student. It also greatly enhances the students’ mastery of the skills necessary to properly speak Spanish. One on one teaching helps me really understand the needs of each student. Because of the nature of our facility, our clientele face different issues and individual struggles in understanding concepts. One-on-one instruction allows me to modify in accordance with their learning challenges. This pays off in increased comprehension and higher test scores. I love the feeling of watching the eyes of a student light up after he/she has mastered a new concept! My students frequently mention how much they enjoy the small class sizes here at SRS. They say that they often felt lost in the crowd in previous schools when attending classes with thirty or more students per class. It has been a true privilege to continue to try to change student lives here at Sorenson’s Ranch School. By continuing to refine our use of technology, take advantage of our small class sizes, and use one-on-one teaching whenever possible, I believe we are on the correct path to changing student lives. Trying to make a difference in a the life of a child is why I keep teaching.