The COVID pandemic has disrupted many students’ connection to school and learning. Some students depend so much on school for their social interaction, for a lot of resources, and for just the comfort of something consistent. This is a difficult time to be a teacher AND a student. What steps can we employ to help students reconnect and stay connected to school?
Here are ideas that have worked for educators both in the classroom and on-line.
Looking for great read alouds for the first weeks of school? Here is a link to a padlet I created with the help of a lot of friends!
Professional collaboration was at play two weeks ago when I went to my fellow teacher (and sister-in-law) Christe Montgomery to ask for ideas for building community and managing behavior. She suggested the Ron Clark Academy house system that her school implements. It sounded fun and engaging, so I rallied the troops in 4th grade and we went for it. It was a hit very quickly. The house system teaches teamwork, responsibility, teamwork, friendship, and leadership.
I recently attended a virtual session on Visible Learning with Dr. John Hattie. He talked about what works best in order to cause dramatic increases in student learning during face to face and virtual instruction. Turns out, just about everything we do as educators causes students to learn. However, he said there's no evidence that teaching more results in more learning. In fact, through his vast meta-research, there is evidence that highly impactful teachers don't focus so much on what they or the students will do. Instead, they focus on their impact on student learning. According to Dr. Hattie, it's how we think, not what they do, that has the most impact on student learning.
Have you made your read aloud decisions for the first weeks of school? Books really bring a community of learners together and help us establish the classroom culture
During the first weeks of school, we are building our learning community. Doing this in a virtual setting presents new challenges. Here are 3 tips for setting up your class community.
Music has the ability to change the brain. In the mornings on the way to school, I throw myself a "personal pep rally" to get my mind and attitude positive for my students and colleagues. We can do this for students as they walk through the door or come into our classroom or Zoom session. When you share a screen in Zoom, be sure to check the box on the share screen that says "Share Computer Sound." This allows you to mute, but the music plays through to students.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Taking time to talk about empathy through read alouds, role playing, and discussions will help students be mindful of others. When we teach kids to have gratitude, we are in turn teaching them to be empathetic.
With many school systems starting off the fall semester with virtual learning, we wanted to provide you with ideas for making virtual learning smooth and interactive!
This year, more than ever, we as educators have to address our student's mental health. No matter if we are in person or virtual, we must discuss how students are feeling, coping, and provide opportunities for socialization (in a socially distanced world). Here are some ideas I will be implementing with my students this fall.
Have you been bitten by the Bitmoji craze? Thanks to the Facebook group Bitmoji Craze for Educators, I've been creating virtual classroom spaces and lessons using Google Slides and the Bitmoji app for the last few weeks. Teachers in this group generously share creations. You can make a copy and save to your Google Drive. I created a Bitmoji folder and have made a folder for my Bitmoji images. I think students and teachers alike will find Bitmoji classrooms novel and interesting.
I have always been a big proponent of giving students experiences! Research says we remember what we experience (Dale, 1969). How do we get students to have experiences when our instruction is virtual? I loved this idea from Caitlin Tucker, offline instruction can incorporate interests, choice, and experiences. I've also been blogging for several months about enrichment experiences for students grades K-12. Give students a choice of experiences to choose from for the week. The experiences are tied to the content area of study. Students choose an experience and then read, talk, and write about their learning through that experience.
It’s Monday morning and many students have arrived at school feeling tired or even stressed after a weekend of busyness. Some students move slowly to prepare for the day, while others put their heads down, ready to go back to sleep. In the worst case scenario, some students may have experienced trauma-filled weekends and their brains are still in fight or flight. So do they feel like learning? Probably not. Do students have a choice about whether they feel like learning?
I'm so excited to share a new book just out on using student teaming to increase the learning. In the book The Power of Student Teams, by Michael Toth and David Sousa, you will explore collaborative learning and crosswalk this strategy with SEL learning, 21st Century Skills, Habits of Mind, and more.
This August, Sanford Elementary rolled out the red carpet for their students. Literally! Students were greeted by high school football players, cheerleaders, administrators, teachers, and even the district mascot (Panthy) as they walked the red carpet to their new classrooms!
To get students excited about writing (or anything) we need to begin by tapping into their interests. One way to do this is by having students start the year off with expert journals. Expert journals are small books of paper that students use to record their questions, findings, and information about a topic of their choice. Think of this as an introduction to research!
Have you heard the song High Hopes by Panic at the Disco? This is 5 year old Whitten's favorite song right now. He begs for it to play on repeat. I am so glad he did, because after listening to it, it became my theme song to kick off the year! The message is ageless and the vocabulary is amazing. Students will be surprised when their teacher plays this song the first week of school!
At the end of each content block, students need an opportunity to reflect on their learning for the day.This is a great opportunity for students to validate their efforts and learning, while also giving teachers an opportunity to formatively assess who hit the target and who needs more practice time.
Graffiti walls are simple to do, but can illustrate complex thinking. I ran across an article entitled "20 Ways to Teach With Graffiti Walls" on Twitter. The ideas in the blog go so well with my goal of making learning visible! Using words and/or graphics, student can share thinking and see their classmates' perspectives. This could be in a station, a center, or to start or finish class.
Effective learning communities do not rely on just one person to do everything. When citizens work together in teams to accomplish goals and share the work load, everyone benefits!
In the first weeks of school, we establish the learning community culture. We want to establish student-centered classrooms starting on day one. Everyone will need a learning job that requires thinking. We've created six roles that incorporate listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
This year my thinking was challenged when I heard the phrase "engaging students in seating challenges". My first thought was what is that? After reading the article Teaching Secrets: Get to Know Students Through Seat Challenges, I was intrigued!
How can we get all our students to share their thinking? When setting up for pair shares, students should always know ahead of time who their share partner will be. They should have a title or designation to help them know who will talk and who will listen. Each time students are going to pair share, direct specific students to start the conversation. For example, say "Partner A: explain why you think the character..." Give students a short amount of time to explain and then say something like "Partner B: Do you agree or disagree with A? Is there evidence in the text to support your thinking?"
One of my favorite classroom questions is asking students to spell love, and then eliciting "T- I- M- E." I love this idea that we express our love and caring for one another by spending time together. I think this is so true, even at school. Struggling students often don't feel connected while at school. Once a student thinks they aren't liked or don't belong, it becomes difficult for them to engage in productive group activities and accept feedback meant to move them forward.
What is Your Goal?
In 2019, I'm all about being intentional in my instruction. Since we never have enough time, my goal is to only spend time on what is most likely going to move readers, writers, and mathematicians forward. I am going to audit every minute of class time to make sure we don't spend time on things that aren't likely to make much difference. Unfortunately, basals and textbooks are full of this kind of fluff.
The beginning of the school year is all about getting to know students and students getting know you and each other. Building relationships is key to having a successful year.
Students need lots of time to collaborate with each other in order to develop vocabulary, learn content, process new learning, and the real world skill of conversation. Starting in partner groupings, students use accountable talk to learn how to have a meaningful conversation in which they take turns sharing ideas and listening.
As a member of several mom groups, I get questions about what to do to get students ready for kindergarten. We all want to prepare our kiddos for success and send them into their education career well prepared (or ahead). Here are some ideas for what to do to prepare the brains of your little learner.
Do you remember teachers reading aloud to you in school? I was blessed with teachers who read aloud in elementary and secondary school.
Relationships are the foundation of a successful school year. Not just teacher and student relationships, but parent and teacher relationships.
"People with goals succeed because they know where they are going." - Earl Nightingale
Do you have a map in your room? Is it a curriculum map? Can your students and class visitors see it? Knowing where you are going is the most important first step in planning a journey.
Ever been to baseball game and heard the different songs that play when each new baseball player takes the plate? The songs represent the player's feelings, goals, and personality. I had the privilege of hearing Stephanie Harvey at ILA this year. In her talk about striving readers, she suggested finding out each students' "walk up" song.
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Wood
An all-time favorite for the first day of school! Chester the Raccoon doesn’t want to go to school, so his mom kisses his palm and tells him to press it to his cheek every time he thinks of her. Be sure to have heart stickers to pass out as a souvenir. Students will remember and retell the story when they get home from school.