Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Creating a Learning Space

So I was recently part of a twitter chat with other PYP teachers.  Now, even though I am no longer in a PYP classroom I believe the methods and theory of approach to teaching and learning is one that should be part of every classroom.  There were several questions discussed about how we start the year.  The question I will focus on tonight is, "How will you involve your students in creating the learning space so they "own" it?"

This is basically what my classroom looks like on day one.(It's slightly messy since I took the picture while the children were at lunch) I didn't save the picture from before school started, but the anchor charts with multiple colors were not there.  What you will notice is that it is fairly blank.  I have no cute charts that  I bought from some store, there isn't a shrine to myself in my room.  What you will see is a focus wall that will display our goals for the unit and the House Points board that we are using to monitor behaviors.  Think Harry Potter, and you'll understand where I'm coming from. And, that's about it.  I want kids to know this is our space- I don't dictate what goes on the wall, what I feel is important- that is for them to help co-create as we move through a unit.
 I also don't have some monstrosity of  a desk that takes up a great deal of space.  It's our space- to learn, create, fail, and help one another grow.  So as the days progress more of my walls will be covered, with OUR learning.  The "rules" posted outside the door are the essential agreements THEY made.
This isn't my classroom, it's OUR classroom.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Movin' On Up!

    Well grade levels that is.  I have left the elementary and taken a position teaching 6th grade science at a local middle school.  Was I ready to leave elementary...? No.  Am I loving my new position...? Yes! This move has been the best for me both personally and professionally.  I am able to do what I love- teach.  I am able to do that without the ridiculous constraints placed upon me at my former school.  Sometimes it is just fate when these opportunities present themselves and all you can do is jump in with both feet and leave your worries at the door!
    Our school has first and foremost an emphasis on building relationships with children.  I am provided the opportunity to not only teach the child science, but also get to help develop and build children up to be successful outside of the classroom and school day.  That, my friends, is what is missing in so many of our schools.  This is a tough group of children who have needs that I have never known- but to be provided the opportunity to work with them and help them find their successes- is why I am here!!
    Of course the content is important! But, students need to know that you not only care about their grade in the grade book, but that you care about them as a person.   I want my students at the end of the day to feel empowered with their new knowledge gained in my room and also brave and confident enough to do something with it.  Make that change!!
   I hope to continue my reflective blogging as I navigate the waters from elementary to middle school.

To those who visit here, we wish a safe journey and the joy of discovery." - Bill Nye 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Learning Targets

      Tomorrow will be our first supervisory walk-through.  It is stressful, no doubt about that.  The focus I am sure will be our learning targets and the way kids are able to articulate their understanding of just what they are doing.  Having learning targets presented to children is nothing new.  I remember doing them back when I used the SIOP model in my classroom.  Students were given the objectives for each lesson.  Now though it is a little different- these learning targets need to be written in a student friendly way called and " I can" statement.
       For example,  "RL 4.3  I can uncover reasons for a character's’ thoughts, words, and actions, and use them to describe the character". Now I will still say that if my students don't know what they are doing and have to refer to an " I can" statement in my classroom then I am not doing my job. The purpose of each lesson should be given at the beginning and the end so students can articulate their job once they leave. I don't think that it will make a big difference as to whether or not the student will be successful, like I said it's my job to be sure they know what they are doing and why they are doing it. What good is an " I can" statement if the child can't read it- say a kindergartner. Again, it comes back to being explicit and concise in your teaching so your lesson is focused enough so that the child knows what they are doing.
So, while you think on this I am off to type of up my " I can" statements for our next units and get them in my fancy new table tents. How does your district use learning targets?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Math in Thanksgiving Diner

      Planning before a break is always tough. The kids are excited their minds are dreaming of turkey and potatoes and sleeping in. Oh wait, that's me.  Well I'm sure they are just dreaming of not coming to school for five whole days! So, using their excitement for break I created some Thanksgiving math activities.  It's always ideal to bring in the real world application of math so they understand that what we do is purposeful and they will use it! This is no different.  I am trying to incorporate more three-act math into my workshop.  You can see in previous posts that I love inquiry based teaching, so this is perfect.

     The first act is to show a picture and the kids brainstorm questions about the picture.  Since they are familiar with this their questions are naturally in the direction of math.

    Then once they are thinking of their question we will work to solve it.  Now, I am planning on them asking about how much it costs for these groceries or a Thanksgiving diner in general.  I have gathered up some ads we will look at and created a differentiated recording sheet where they can track their thinking.   This is an example of the "hardest" version.  For my other children I have changed the numbers of servings to "friendly numbers" or made alterations to the final question and required number of dishes.  I  also am providing my struggling math students with items that are already priced out to numbers that will be easy for them to work with.   (GLEs 4.OA.3, 4.OA.2 4.NBT.4)  (MP1 MP5 MP6)

     Differentiated learning is a building goal of ours and is quite easily attainable when you think about your learners and their needs.  Changing the numbers to those "friendly numbers" or changing the amount of problems that a child has to complete can change their attitude about math, especially when they struggle. Now, no it is not always so simple as in this task where my struggling students have a completely different set of materials.  If you want to learn more about creating a differentiated classroom you need to read this book by the "guru" of differentiation!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Buddying Up to Teach Relationships

      I look forward to our little buddies each week. We have partnered up with our kindergarten friends again this year.  Mrs. P and I have taught together now for 11 years. She is one of the most creative and amazing teachers I have had the privileged to work with.   My children  look forward to it each week and get very bummed when we have to reschedule.  Working with our  buddies has really developed in my kids some seriously caring children.  Just the other day one of my  guys saw his little buddy crying in lunch and went right over and asked him what was going on and just welcomed him into his group of friends.  These relationships that have developed create that culture of caring and compassion that is so desperately needed within a school community.  Just the other day a little guy in Mrs. P's room came up and whispered in my ear that he had a crush on one of my girls. Now, that's not what I mean by relationship, but it was completely adorable none the less!
Modeling Reading Behaviors 

A Little Pumpkin Math

Apple Pickin' Time 

                                                         Goin' Bananas for Fruit

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Examining Conflict a PYP Perspective

Theme: How We Express Ourselves.
Central Idea: People use various forms of expression in times of conflict.
An inquiry into the ways in which we  discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, believes and values; the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.

     So how do you teach conflict and expression to children? How do you make it global and yet make it relevant to them so they can take action?  Well this year we approached it a little different than last. For the week prior I had images on my door of various conflicts, Civil Rights Movement, Holocaust, and Japanese interment camps, throughout the week students posted questions about the images- they were very curious to say the least.  We then moved into our provocation to create a conflict within our room.  We selected a few students who were to be our "privileged" ones throughout the day. Boy, were the other students upset.  The chosen ones got candy, computer time, extra lunch time.  There was definitely conflict and the rest could not understand what they did to get so much special treatment!
    Next we had the kids look at how our the idea of conflict was related to the key concepts of Change, Causation, and Perspective. The kids worked in groups to find the relation between the key concepts and related concept of conflict. For example:
               Perspective - What the are the points of view?
               Change- How is it changing?
               Causation- Why is it like this?

    This provocation and concept study led us right into our study of the Civil Rights Movement. The kids looked at expression as a means to create change.  They watched Martin Luther King Jr give his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, they studied how the children expressed their desire for change with the Children's March.  We also looked at the other side- how those that were opposed to integration expressed themselves, violently or with politics.  It was very powerful for the students to see just how our country has changed in the past 50 years.  They began to understand that expression is not just art, or song- but also protest, and action.
    We have continued our study by next looking at the Holocaust.  Believe me teaching this topic is very difficult- but I feel that it is important that children understand all aspects of our history, even those parts that are most difficult to understand.  Now, that being said, I did have to tread lightly on the topic they are only 10 after all! But, in the end they have developed a true understanding of this injustice and have really thought about our role in preventing such atrocities again.  The students each researched and wrote about a different aspect of the Holocaust from the Ghettos to the Death Marches. We looked at the amazing poetry and artwork of the time- including propoganda.

     Our study is coming to a close so it's time to bring it back to them.  Our school recently adopted the Olweus anti-bullying program.  So we are going to look at how we express ourselves within our conflicts here at school and at home.  They are going to use what they learned about propoganda to create some posters (for the poster contest) to put up at our school.  As part of their summative assessment they will look at images, art, or writing from different conflicts and reflect & respond to how they see the use of expression.  


Teaching Kindness

"Nothing can make our life, or the lives  of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness." 
- Leo Tolstoy 

      This idea of kindness has never been more prevalent in my building that it has been this past few weeks.  Some staff members noticed the stress that was consuming so many of the teachers and they decided to take action! (IB in action).  Each week these teachers have challenged us to acknowledge each other and our successes.  It is not big things that make a difference, but just these little moments that can change someone's day.
  It started with #fantastic5  find 5 people and give them a postive shout out on instagram, twitter, or other media.

    This week, inspired by this video, the staff have been leaving little messages for one another. I tell you, it does put a little smile on your face when you see a little post it on your door with a positive message.  I love this staff!!