Raise Your Hand, Answer the Question, and Keep Your Voice Down

Reflections from a 5th Grade teacher…

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Something has been gnawing at me all year, and I realized that it’s two things.

  1. If you don’t have your systems (think organization, paper-flow, workflow, electronics, etc) in place at the beginning of the school year, it is incredibly hard to get yourself organized during the school year (at least for me).
  2. How can I focus on getting one thing better, and ignore the things I am not doing well. Another way to say that. Instead of trying to get better at everything, all at once, why am I not being much more focused on improving one area (feedback for instance) and allowing myself to struggle in the mire in other areas…Cause right now, I am focusing and struggling in every area, and it is wearing me out.

I know the human brain needs to get breaks every so often so it functions at a high level for learning, so I make sure to give my 5th graders a “Brain Break” for 10 minutes every hour that we have class. Now, I thought I had explained my reasoning for this at a satisfactory level, and I realized today that was not entirely accurate. A few students in my class asked why we didn´t have Fun Friday (my usual response is something akin to “I think every Friday is fun”). Today I asked him why we didn´t have it, and he asked, “Because of our Brain Breaks?”  This caused a small class discussion in which I asked the class why I gave them Brain Breaks, and no one had an answer…oops. I rectified that gap in knowledge this afternoon, but it doesn´t mean it isn´t still there for some of my students. Something to keep in mind.

My class is celebrating their informational writing pieces tomorrow, and I think I just realized that is my mistake. They should be celebrating what they have learned about informational writing AND the writing they´ve done. I will have to remember that for  next time. I had originally titled this post Planned Risks, because I was going to talk about how I want my students to be risk takers, and also good planners (I was worried that one ruined the other…). I realize now, that how I presented the celebration to them, I just focused on the product and not the process.

I will address this mistake with my class tomorrow. Hopefully it is not too late.

I know it is my responsibility to help my students become responsible. In my efforts to do so, I have come to the conclusion that to find out if a student is responsible, you have to give them responsibility… like all of it. If a student struggles with that responsibility, then you need to differentiate for her. I am going to start to investigate what that might look like-as of now, I usually take responsibiility away from all of my students, when a few show they can´t handle something (BIG mistake).

A kind word of warning (and a fantastic podcast to prove my point): the one thing you can not do is have low expectations for you students (when it comes to responsibility, reading, math..whatever)

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/379237713/381442303

As I was sitting, getting things organized for the end of the day, a student came up to me and asked, “When are going to write fantasy stories?” I thought about it for a second, and was just going to tell her we weren´t…but I finally realized something about workshop…The reason we focus on personal narratives, and informational pieces about things that they already know, is because we are taking away the cognitive load of creating content, so they can focus on learning and using the strategies of great writing.  I let the student know this powerful thought I had. Her reply?

“So, when are we writing fantasy stories?”

My natural instinct is to just think through my day from beginning to end, but  I am going to try and block that!

The first thing that jumps out to me is my math lesson. I used the Peer 2 Peer instruction technique invented by Dr. Eric Mazur. If you haven´t had a chance to try it out, you need to! The basic premise is having given the students some instruction, and gotten some feedback as to their knowledge/misconceptions, you design a series of questions that make that muse that knowledge.  You ask a multiple choice question, they answer, then they get to argue with their partner, or team, trying to convince each other that the other is wrong! The kids enjoy this way of learning (I actually asked on a slide today, and 54% replied they like it, and 46% said they love it…that´s 100%!!). Tomorrow I will give them a 4 question assessment to see how the learning is going, and just how effective today was.

I am having a Dickens of a time trying to get my kids to buy into their classroom jobs (note-takers, Googlers, social media team, and tutorial makers). I tried to give them a little pep talk, and got one good idea from the group, about giving them two 15 minute sessions to work together during the week. We shall see how that goes.

After totally botching Writing Workshop yesterday, today was a much better day. I need to do more prep work, so my small group instruction is more valuable, but I did some good over the shoulder group making today, and will make some plans tomorrow.

I am  trying to get parents more involved with their children´s  reading and writing lives, and one way I am doing that is by inviting them to talk to the students about their own reading and writing life. We had our first speaker today, and I think it went well. At times it drifted into lecture mode, so I will be sure to talk with any other parents that are going to do this before hand to remind them to keep it positive!

Well, my 10 minutes are up. Happy day to all.

 

So I have decided to do 10 minutes of writing per day. I should be able to do that. I am also doing a 10 second reflection on Twitter..I should be able to do that as well.

The things that really stood out today… My math lesson started off extremely shakey.. I have started trying out Math Inquiry lessons, and the first step is having them look at a prompt, and then pose a comment or a question. I have struggled with the sharing aspect in the past, so I wanted to try something a little more streamlined, where everyone could see each partnerships response. My solution was Padlet. I still am a fan of Padlet, but that part of my lesson crashed and burned pretty quickly.. a combination of students not able to type a goo.gl url, the internet being intermittent (the absolute worst kind), and student impatience. I quickly dropped that idea for a mixture of padlet and whiteboard, that was quite clunky, but got some good thinking going. I need a better way to do this part, and I think using post-it notes and a big sheet of butcher paper is going to be the next step. The worst part was that the waste of time at the beginning reduced the amount of time the kiddos could practice, so I hope it wasn´t a wasted lesson.

We are trying to help the school with a it´s lost and found problem. The problem is that kids don´t go get their clothes from the lost and found; they just go home and have their parents get them something new to replace what they have lost. The problem with that (at least the one we are tackling) is that it wastes resources. It takes 25 gallons of water to grow the cotton needed for one t-shirt….ONE! My whole class still isn´t on board with helping out, and I think it is because this is more my idea than theirs… but I wanted to start a sort of “Social Action Hour” to bookend our “Genius Hour” so I thought walking them through a problem and having them control some to most of the process would be a good entry point. We shall see if it was.

I did a summary workshop for my reading lesson today, and it went fairly slowly..I am not sure how I could have picked the pace up. I think it might be that my students are still not yet bought into the idea of working hard.

On that note, my ten minutes are up.

And so it begins…. Three things going well..and why:

  • Really excited that I took the time to really clean out and organize my classroom. It´s pretty crazy that I have been at it since MONDAY!!! Just shows that the new teachers should really come in two weeks early and have that time to themselves.
  • Going through  the math card games has been agonizing and worth it. It shows some perseverance as well. Still need to look at the games that are described in Investigations, and see if they fit with what we are doing. Also should see if we can think of other ways to use them.
  • Love my classroom space
  • :Photo Jul 31, 15 13 00 Photo Jul 31, 15 13 06 Photo Jul 31, 15 12 38 Photo Jul 31, 15 12 42 Photo Jul 31, 15 12 49
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Dear readers,

I have been trying to decide what I want this site to be, and I think I have figured it out. Using Farnam Street and Barking Up the Wrong Tree as my mentor blogs, I am going to dedicate my time to reading books/research on education and creating posts that follow the same format as the previously mentioned blogs, surmizes, opinions, mixed with big ideas from the readings. We shall see how it goes.

Most sincerely,

Benjamin J. E. Light

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“First I recommend that elementary students be given homework even though it should not be expected to improve test scores. Instead, homework for young children should help them develop good study habits, foster positive attitudes toward school, and communicate to students the idea that learning takes work at home as well as at school.” Harris Cooper (1989b, p. 90). 

Homework. Ugh. The research is clear, homework is not that effective when it comes to student achievement for our younger stars; yet it still needs to be assigned for the above reasons. What do we do?

I work at an elementary school and I keep thinking, what kind of student do we want to send to middle school? While that answer can be quite taxing, I have narrowed it down to two things:

  1. Someone who enjoys reading.
  2. Someone who has computational fluency.

It is with these two ideas in mind that I offer my opinion on homework. Have your students read every day, and have them work on their computational fluency (these should be developmentally appropriate: click here)….nothing else. Nothing else! Can you hear that? That is the sound of students, teachers, administrators, and parents rejoicing.

You are quite welcome.