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.