Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 3: Instruction

less us… MORE THEM!

Hot Topic!

Education Reimagined!

Small Shifts!

Questions/Comments are circling like a shark around its prey.  How have students  learned up to this point… before the “new wave” in education?  You know, the new wave of student centered learning.  Are teachers not important anymore?  What is the role of the teacher now?  What will happen next… students won’t even need a book? (well, let’s talk about that another time with Matt Miller)

Maybe the question to get you thinking right now should be…

Who wants to wake up every day knowing that the place you are going to is about to talk your ear off for 7+ hours expecting you to absorb, process, and regurgitate that knowledge to show competency?  Oh and by the way, look like your having fun AND stay out of trouble! 

Better yet, do you want a cap on your learning?   Do you want to be directly instructed without any choice? Instruction based solely on age and grade?  

Ummm, not me!  I honestly sit baffled by the practice of teaching at times.  Do you think that direct instruction is the key to success?  If I tried to learn how to tie my shoes through lecture, I would no doubt fail and fall (over my shoelaces)!  Give me a shoe!  Let me use MY shoe!  Show me the laces and create a sense of curiosity and understanding that becomes purposeful and relevant to the task.  Then I may be able to apply myself differently.  Direct instruction leaves a learner feeling:

  • bored
  • small
  • stagnant
  • data defined
  • frustrated
  • misunderstood
  • isolated- like their answer most likely is not the ONE that you are looking for
  • invisible

Or would you like your learning to factor in your ability?  your needs? your passions?

So let’s shift our mindsets to student centered.  Let’s leave our learners feeling:

  • empowered
  • relevant
  • purposeful
  • supported
  • wondrous
  • connected
  • open-minded
  • competent

Today’s session on “Education Reimagined” ( Randy Ziegenfuss and Lynn Fuini-Hetten #SASInstitute2017), left me feeling more empowered and energized.  Acknowledging that competency is not capped off  by a grade level.  Empowering learners to grow beyond their mastered skills.  Isn’t that what you want from a day of professional development… a day of learning!  This was relevant to my classroom.  This serves a purpose to my students so that when I return to the classroom I can continue to connect learning and interests, fighting the fight for growth in every child… facilitating the learning of all students!  Learning has 27 different definitions for my class this year… empowering 27 students to find their passion and light the world on fire becomes my purpose each day.

My go to “take-away” for quick implementation of this approach is:

… inquiry-based learning that generates this shift.  One that spawns curiosity.  One that requires critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, and the reward of relevance!  One that requires the focus on students and not the teacher! 

An excellent way to shift the center of teaching is through Project-Based Learning.  It is an in-depth investigation of a real world topic.  It is tailored to each student’s passion, which in turn fuels their learning.  It is then driven home through the creation of a student chosen project that will then be shown to their chosen authentic audience.  The voice and choice embedded in this alone is the creator of small shifts.

less is more

less teacher centered

more student centered

small shifts for the greater good

 

 

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction

The Day I Was So Grateful I Asked

“I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until I started collaborating with others.”

-current student

I was so grateful I asked!  

A moment is all it took.

An opportunity.

A lifetime of learning took place for me as his teacher.

It all started the day before when I was asked to teach a lesson for The Beaver County Innovation & Learning Consortium.  The BCILC is a group of teachers made of three school districts in my county.   The districts are collaborating to bring STEAM learning and Maker Education to children.  We are currently working on an area of lesson study and I was about to teach a math lesson for my team.

Let me bring you in the loop… My team consists of a gifted educator, a learning support teacher, a superintendent, and myself, a 3rd grade teacher.  We chose to have a full inclusion math lesson which included learners from the 9th percentile up to the 97th in the subject area of math.

This in itself created doubt in my head.

I have watched the dynamics of this vast ability range come as a detriment more than a benefit during my years as a full inclusion learning support teacher.  I was worried that the lower ability level students would frustrate easily and the higher ones would check out.

I doubted my own impact on their learning up to this point.

THIS IS NOT TYPICAL OF ME!

I was trying to close the door on the experience and “protect” my children… all 27 of them!  But the mere suggestion of having them all together pressed in my gut and I knew what was best… include all students!

I needed to stay focused on the goal.  To observe students using the 4Cs (Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking) with their groups.  There was no doubt this would be observed!

Typically my students have voice and choice when collaborating.  They are incredible at choosing people they can thrive with and in turn push themselves to conquer the goal set.  But on this day, the groups were picked for them.  I was so nervous.  I didn’t want them deflated before the lesson even began, but I went with it mainly because it made me nervous and I thrive outside my comfort zone.

I started the lesson with a hook first thing in the morning.  A pirate bucket covered up with a sign reading DO NOT OPEN UNTIL MATH! Oh I had them, right where I wanted them.  Then I started the lesson with a typical Mrs. Nan moment of craziness because my kiddos know crazy and fun go hand in hand with learning.  There I was…putting my sweat band on with a jump rope ready to roll!

The chosen math problem was a poem about jumping rope that tied in fractions.  Simple?  Well, considering we are smack dab in the middle of a VOICE PBL and my students just wrote “Odes”, but have never learned fractions this was definitely a SMASH MIX UP of learning!  Literally one student asked if this was math or reading class.  I WAS LOVING THAT MOMENT TO THE CORE!

Groups were formed and off they went.  This is when my keen observation skills went into hyper-mode!  I just took it in.  Some literally did not know where to begin, but were not giving up.  My students are “raised” on T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. in my class and this was a time for that to shine!

But here I was noticing what I felt was different.  I noticed:

  • Sketch noting… in math? What? Why?
  • Numbers that weren’t even in the problem.
  • Confusion for a higher level learner.
  • Full engagement for most, but most is not enough for me!
  • I was stuck… stuck on the learner that I though would get it, but “appears” to have checked out.  He never checks out.  What is going on?
  • Jump ropes out.  String being cut.  Rulers being taped to the ground.  Pure madness.
  • One higher level learner “checked out”

The lesson came to an end.  We debriefed and gained great insight to what they knew, what they felt they needed to know to complete the problem, and yes the 4Cs were fired up and easily noted.

The next day came.  I questioned it all… Did this have impact?  Did this opportunity pay forward?  I couldn’t help but think about that one student who appeared “disengaged”.

SO I ASKED!

Me: So tell me about yesterday’s lesson… what did you think?

Student #1: It was cool.  I liked it

M: What did you like?

S: I really liked how “Student #2” was sketchnoting

M: I saw that!  I didn’t expect that in math… what are your thoughts?

S: I didn’t expect it either, but I was so happy he did it.  It really helped me make sense out of the problem.  I’m used to just looking at the numbers and figuring it out, but I couldn’t figure it out until I saw him sketch-noting.  It distracted me at first because I’m not used to that way of thinking, but then it really helped me.

M: WOW!  That is amazing!  Was there anything that you didn’t like?  Anything you would change?

S: No, not really.  It was a great mix of people and ideas.  I would definitely want to work with “Student #2” again because he thinks so different than me.  The problem pushed me.  I couldn’t figure it out. I am really happy that I have people to work with this year. 

“I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until I started collaborating with others.”

M: THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Thank you for taking the time to talk with me and sharing your feedback.  I thought you were checked out.  Bored.  I had no idea that was what unfolded for your group.

S: S-M-I-L-E

Note:

  • Student #1 is 97th percentile in Math
  • Student #2 is 9th percentile in Math

This teacher just learned another great lesson!

I was so grateful I asked!  

A moment is all it took.

An opportunity.

A lifetime of learning took place for me as their teacher.

#collaboration 

 

 

 

 

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 3: Instruction

Student Voice Shines with Project Based Learning: Igniting Empowerment and Instilling Empathy

Increasing student empowerment and engagement is wrapped up and delivered in “Life Changing Lessons“.  The gift of Project Based Learning (PBL) is one of intense impact… the kind that continues to give, as if you are unwrapping it for the first time throughout the entire journey.  It creates a student driven environment that is begging for more… more opportunity… more hours in a school day.

Project Based Learning is a connection beyond your four walls… a chance to open up the windows, blow off the door to learning, and ignite global impact with student empowerment!

I recently posted “A Walk In My Shoes” (One Ah Ha Moment within the Voice PBL) on twitter and have received countless DM’s asking how to get this VOICE PBL started.  So this one is for YOU!

The Voice PBL that I teach is one of great magnitude.  It covers concepts from every subject in a depth and understanding far beyond a worksheet.  This is a way to take Common Core Skills/Standards and light a fire under learning! Before the Driving Question is even asked, I hook them in like a pirate  …

It starts with the universal language… MUSIC!   

Students are given a choice to write/draw/sketch their interpretation on a variety of music shaped cutouts or use of poster paper to sketchnote

  • Allow students the freedom to personal space in the room… on floor if desired
  • Quiet space… lights out… reflection time!
  • Copy and paste each URL into google for each song
  • I do not show videos.  This is auditory only!

This is a quiet journey that typically lights up quickly because the students (UM… and ME) cannot contain ourselves… we end up singing and dancing… moving to the beat of our own hearts!

First up:

Man in the Mirror-From A Joyful Noise (It’s shorter than Michael Jackson’s version) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9paJyh8t_sE

This is a WOWZER!  Students stop in their own tracks when they realize that looking in a mirror can give them so many answers… so much POWER! (C-H-I-L-L-S)

Count on Me- Bruno Mars https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc6T9iY9SOU

Every student responds to this song thinking of a time they needed someone or were there for someone.  This is the moment most of them start putting the pieces of their voice together.  

Firework Kidz Bop https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2s-9Kyumgo

Thank you Katy Perry!  What happens when you don’t light a firework?  That’s right, NOTHING!  Let that speak to each of us… we must light learning up if we want to see what is inside!  Fireworks splatter their drawings with thoughts and ideas coming from within! 

Fight Song Rachel Platten https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8qDOGLCSFo

Drop the Mic… this song allows every student and every teacher to connect!  This is the song that opens up their little world to you.  Are they struggling?  academically? behaviorally? socially?  Is there worry on their mind?  Are they scared of something? Do they lack self-esteem?  Are they the “little girl with the crooked pigtails?” (Getting R.E.A.L. with Tara Martin)

I actually play 7-10 different songs and it is never enough, but the song pick changes from year to year because my students change and I need to make sure that my choices will resonate with each of them.

#Sketchnotes

So about that Driving Question…

DQ: Why Might Having A Voice Matter?

Empowerment/Empathy/Citizenship/Government/Family/Bullying/Debate

Where do we go from here?

Students pick a song and add creative movement to the lyrics.  They now understand that they can express themselves in many ways.  This is one more life changing moment for them.

This is a video of my amazing students from last year interpreting “The Fight Song”.  (My current class in interpreting “The Man In the Mirror” which they will definitely post on YouTube soon!)

Is this “just a free for all” Ahhhh… NO!  This is a creative way to connect an incredible amount of skill in a unique way to impact all students.  Skills are endless!

ELA:

  • Books from Dr. Seuss’s My Many Colored Days to The Invisible Boy by Trudy Luwig
    • This is where “Walk In My Shoes” was created.  This very lesson is a blog in itself… soon!
  • Choosing a book that shows your voice in a way you haven’t been able to… we end up reading 30+ books in a 4 week time period!
  • Use song lyrics to discuss parts of speech (highlight nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.)

Math:

  • Creating Conjectures and Arguments
  • Collaborating and critically thinking to solve a problem
  • Writing and reasoning

History:

  • Choosing a person of impact such as Rosa Parks, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr., President Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, and so many more.

Government:

  • Voting
  • Being a Good Citizen
  • Debate

Let’s not forget that doors are blown off to this process!  Students learn (to):

  • blog
  • code
  • design
  • create
  • paint
  • draw
  • dance
  • sing
  • poetry
  • build
  • invent
  • 4Cs

This list is endless because students CHOOSE their own project that in turn answers the Driving Question.  They also choose their Authentic Audience to which they powerhouse to impress!  My former students created this video showcasing ALL of their voices and then chose YouTube as their “Authentic Audience”.

I can’t wait to see what this year’s students choose!

While leading my book chat on “Teach Like A Pirate” by Dave Burgess, I posted this reflection for my fellow colleagues to ponder:

Untitled presentation
Teach Like A Pirate Book Chat #tlap

     If there were a “Life Changing Lesson” that “I could sell tickets for” I believe this is the one!  I hope that this was what YOU needed to get started…

Go light them up and find out what’s inside! #VOICE and #CHOICE

 

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 3: Instruction

Don’t Agree With Me! it stunts my growth

My growth mindset is perpetually developing to the point that it becomes a relentless voice in my head.  I find myself rereading books and blogs, buying more books, listening intently to keynotes and conversations, and connecting with others outside my experience.  Still, I sit wondering about the unknown.  The unknown that creates an excitement of learning something new!

The excitement is what intrigues me about

others, 

teaching,

students,

LIFE!

A growth mindset requires thinking beyond isolation.  Collaborating is essential… if done correctly.  It is not a matter of grouping a handful of people together and assuming there is balance.  It takes action.  Action on the part of those facilitating and those collaborating.   Empowering the collaborators to bring their game… contribute, listen, question, and create.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
[kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n]

NOUN
the action of working with someone to produce or create something:

So when others agree with me, I cringe.  Not so much if it is a give and take conversation, but more so when I throw an idea out and it is jumped on without hesitation.  Taken and run with as if there is no room to grow.

It is simply a thought… an idea… a lightbulb moment!  It is one raindrop in a very big puddle.  One small fish and in a very big sea.  One crayon in the Ultimate 152 Pack!  So why are we just going with it?  Let’s create a rainbow of colors.  Let’s create a collage of ideas!

collage portrait

This is where my frustration gets the best of me.  Where I shut down and don’t want to give.  Not because I am the educational hoarder that must sign my name to every idea so that others give me credit, or worse yet don’t get to use at all (Not that I have ever been around that type… sigh).  Oh no, I am the giver of ideas.  I want to make things happen together.  I want others to toss their idea into the ring, grab my hand, and take me along for the ride!  I want to create life changing experiences together!

As Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like A Pirate, would say,

“I want to bring it!”

I am an idea generator.  My mind accumulates ideas faster than I can write them down.  I am not the best refiner by nature.  Execution of plans becomes a hot mess of moments that fall apart if I don’t stay on top of my game.  I NEED OTHERS!  I need balance and I NEED GROWTH!

Bottom line is…

Our classrooms are no different.  We need to remember that we have all types of learners and they all need to grow.  There are the idea generators, the makers and creators, the refiners, and the executors.  Collaborating is at the forefront because it creates a better overall learner.  Collaboration isn’t about one type of learner tossing an idea into the ring and the group takes off without feedback, discussion, and questioning.  Students would have little success being wrapped up in an isolated idea that simply needs more!

I am a student. 

We are all students. 

We need one another to grow!