Thursday, June 25, 2015

Learning like a Pirate Book Study FOCUS!

Here we are again, ready to Learn like a Pirate! This week we are looking at Section 2: Chapter 4 Improvement Focus vs. Grade Focus. I really think that my principal has read this book, because one of our last PDs discussed stepping away from traditional grading. You could hear the gasps in the hot (and I do mean HOT) library full of teachers from pre-k all the way to 4th grade. Our district will be switching to the Graded for Learning Policy, meaning basically that students are encouraged to do their best and to redo their work so that they can learn from their mistakes.

This chapter has a lot of meat to it, and I LOVE it. Some of the things we are already doing in my classroom, just not consistently. Why not? Great question. I think it was more because it’s easier to teach, do an activity, check for understanding, reteach or move on. The problem was, however, when April came… students had NO idea what the review was about. I’ve already begun making some changes in my thought process of how to teach the new standards. My first unit has the frame made. Now what?

After reading this chapter, I want to look at my units a bit more carefully. I know some of my kids for next year, so I can think about how I am going to accommodate them. What feedback do they need to grow? I think that if I get started at the very beginning of the year, then it will be easy for them and myself to grow into better people.

At the bottom of their literacy menus, there is a spot for Friday reflections. I found that most kids just told me that they did math well (umm… I didn’t really teach math….). I realized that I didn’t model it enough. Students have no clue what I mean by reflect, let alone how to write a reflection. A goal I now have is to model what I expect more, so that the activities I have are more meaningful. Paul has thrown tips in on how he improves his class’ reflections:

·         Tell Me More-1 sentence to answer the question and 1 sentence to tell me more about the answer

·         Thinking Deeper- Thinking more holistically through the question and to write it into a paragraph form to show fluid thoughts.

The one thing I want to try from this chapter (other than the CONSTANT feedback) is the ePortfolios and their use for reflections and growth assessments. Once again, with us using Microsoft 365 this next year, I feel confident in being able to do that. I want to use this to have my students learn to

·         type better,

·         write better,

·         edit,

·         persevere,

·         think deeply about their learning

·         explain why

·         get emotionally attached and intrinsically motivated

·         be proud of their work

·         see that their work and learning opportunities are NEVER over

So, now I just have to learn how to use Microsoft 365 and see what my kiddos can get out of it. That’s going to be my learning experience this next semester! #alreadyexcited

The quote that really made me smile was this one: “Rigor is different for each student.” As teachers, we look at our class sometimes as a collective body. We are asked to look at numbers. We are asked to raise the bar and add rigor to raise the scores. Students are more than just what they made on one test. What is good for one, will damage another. Students have to be looked at individually, which is hard. Class sizes are not getting smaller. The ranges of levels the students enter the room on are wider and wider. To be a good, effective teacher, however, I have to STOP and LOOK at each child’s needs. Look and see what I need to do to move them that inch. After all….

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Learning like a Pirate Book Study Ch. 3

Thanks for tuning back in for the continuation of the Learn like a Pirate Book Study hosted by The Primary Gal! This week I got excited because I was at a TNCore training, learning about our new standards and new state test, and the instructor quoted Paul Solarz! I was like I know that quote, and then we got to talking. Isn’t it great how people are united over great things?

This week we are looking over section three, which was all about getting kids to collaborate.

“Collaboration allows us to know more than we are capable of knowing ourselves.” 

What a powerful quote, don’t you think? I’m getting this one put on a canvas or poster for my room. I really go to thinking about the adult perspective first. In teaching, we are so about ourselves. 
These are my kids. The scores go against me. I don’t have time to do extra. 

Aren’t you guilty of having thoughts like that? I know I am. This past year, I was really like that. I really liked what Paul said about what collaboration brings to the table:
If you don’t have collaboration in the classroom, then you see the adverse effects: cliques, animosity brewing, and students isolating themselves. Then it hit me hard. I had to stop everything. This had been my problem last school year. I hadn’t allowed students to lead in the classroom. I hadn’t taught them how to collaborate. I hated to give them group assignments. All because there were arguments; there were people not pulling their weight. It was too hard for me. “Cindy,” I thought, “Since when is the school year about you anyways. You’ve already been in 4th grade. You’ve already gotten your dream job. It’s now about helping them feel comfortable as they learn, so that they grow.”  Maybe if I had realized that, then maybe the year wouldn’t have been a constant battlefield.

(gif) high school musical 'were all in this together' photo wereallinthistogether_zpsfe029b7a.gifYou’re right Paul, we are in this together. I was really good about telling my kids that the class was ours, they were really good about doing some of their jobs, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t do all that I could to make sure we had a safe community for learning and to keep it up all year long. My goal for next year is to implement the “Give Me 5” idea. I use it regularly, but never had I thought about kids using it. Why not? I want them to share what they learned. I want them to be excited about what their partner found out. So why not?

Get your copy of this on TPT: Terri in CA (Link in the post)
Paul gives some ideas on how he teaches students to use it correctly. I think that his method allows for creativity to flourish. (Dr. Hall over at David Lipscomb- I’ll do my best to not kill creativity in my elementary classroom.)

We implement a system called STAR in our school where students are challenged to Sit Straight, Track the Speaker, Ask Questions, and Respect others. That’s basically what Paul tells the kids. This part really resonated with me this week: Try to not discourage them from taking initiative and be proud that they addressed the class. With the stress of the test(s) looming over us in the upper grades, this sometimes happens. If we want our kids to be productive learners and grow as leaders, either active or passive, we must allow them to practice the tools we are giving them, so that they can get better!!

I’m really glad that this book has ideas on how to teach leadership, how to teach responsibility, and how to teach conflict resolution. He explains in the book what one of the first days look like, and how he gets into the conflict to make it a teachable moment. I know now how to make incidents like these become more obsolete.

Pairing and Grouping children is really a must do in schools now. I mean, it’s on the TEAM Eval. :) It’s also really good for the kids. However, I always disagreed with how people paired up the kids. When I read that Paul uses his handy, dandy Popsicle sticksit made me happy. Seriously. No lie. I also love that he said that kids work together, and they might work with people they dislike, love, or don’t know really well. In real life, I get small anxiety attacks meeting people, talking to people (even store clerks), and I know that we didn’t do projects in school with other kids. I worked with people I knew if we did have a project or an outing.
Random stick etiquette teacher ecard......OMG im dying laughing. Only my teacher friends would understand this humor.
I know that I will be making anchor charts for how partners can redirect partners as well! That idea is ahmazing! I love that a choice can be to ask your partner if they need a drink of water. I tell them the importance of drinking water every day! Many of the kids only drink the wonderful drink at school.

One thing I do well in my classroom is morning meeting. We have morning meetings will all of my classes. It promotes social learning, it promotes community, and helps with those speaking and listening skills. If we talk about something in morning meeting then students really take head to it and try to focus on it for the day.

I’m so ready to get better at this. I’m so ready to start the year off right. Are you? How are you going to provide ample opportunities for students to lead this next year?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Learning like a Pirate Chapter 2!

Thanks for rejoining me for chapter two of Paul Solarz’s book Learn Like a Pirate. There are no easy fixes in elementary or education, but there are new ways of doing things. Sometimes the new things work, and sometimes they don’t. Teachers want to be open-minded, creative, and adventurous, but I think sometimes they stall. They get into a pattern of doing things; after all we are human, right?!

This chapter is all about dispelling myths or comments that people always have about any new practice in education. I thought back to this morning when I was talking with my friend, Elizabeth, and I said, “As long as you stick to what you say, you will have no problems in fourth grade.” Looking back at my notes I took when reading this chapter, I saw that I boxed in this quote…

Chapter 2 lets me know that I am still the final say so. There isn’t anything new to add to the plate really, it’s just better planning. It’s having more meaningful activities that allow the standards to stick in their brains. It’s providing the hands on career readiness skills that we need them to know, and really it eliminates that question, “Why do I need to know this?”

My goal this next school year is to give more meaningful feedback. We had a PD during the last month of school about the new Grading for Learning policy elementary schools will be doing. The one things that stuck with me was that there was a study done that showed that students who had a grade on their paper made little growth from knowing their grade, students who received meaningful feedback grew a bit, but students who received a grade and comments made the least amount of growth. (Here is the article so you can read more.) So, my head is turning! What can I do in order to help my kids do better? I created a packet that will help me get started with the process of data recording and giving feedback. It included a tracker for me to look quickly to see who I have spoken to and who I haven't. Of course, since I am reading about Learning like a Pirate, I had to make this packet pirate themed! Here is a freebie to get you started as well! You can purchase the pack in my store on teachers pay teachers.

Of course, I am terrified of starting this in my room, but I want my kids to do well. I want them to learn how to question. I want them to run effectively and smoothly. I thought about this year, with the darlings I had, and how I let them be the reason we didn’t do certain activities. Also, I thought about how the kids had to wait on me because my phone was ringing off the hook, or another teacher came in to ask me about some test! I realized I lowered my expectations for them. My kids can do this.

I also hope I can find more information about this daily photo journal. How cool would that be to have? Kids could take pictures of their projects as they are doing them. If they find an interesting fact, they can snap a pic.

What are some reservations that you have about starting a student-led classroom?

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