Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Question 2"- Chapter 8

Well, I've never posted a question before and I thought it'd be fun to try something different... Since the last chapter focuses on the issue of time (or lack thereof), and the topic of poetry comes up as well, let's combine the two in our responses. (Side note: I absolutely loved "Your World" by Georgia Douglas Johnson.)

Please write a poem on the subject of time as it pertains to teaching.

I don't want to write much else, because I want the doors to your creativity opened wide on this response. Have fun with it, and enjoy the creative process!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Week 4::Question 1::Chapter 7

I am a firm believer in the consistent assessments throughout the learning process, but I find it challenging to implement it to the best of my ability. I want my students to directly benefit from the formative assessments. I do not use a notebook (I am thinking about it and hoping to create a small form that will guide my ongoing assessments) My Questions for you: What tips or tricks to do have and use that you find success with? How do you incorporate your formative assessments and observations at grade card time? Do you factor in the assessments or are your grades based on only summative assessments? I have truly enjoyed the book study and all of your responses. I have seen growth in myself as a teacher and my students have grown as well as students. I hope that you find success in the second half of your school year! -Alexis

Monday, January 23, 2012

Week 3 Question 2 Chapter 6

In Chapter 6 “Lesson Design: Creating Lessons on Principles and Practices You Believe In”, Debbie Miller is an advocate for the releasing responsibility instructional model. This model is one that requires teachers to do their own thinking and not rely on teachers manuals to think for them.

Miller describes on p. 82 that when she was using teacher guides and textbooks they studied “everything and nothing flitting from one topic to another.” She says “with intended outcomes and gradually releasing responsibility to students flitting was no longer fitting.” I can remember many times teaching something because I was “supposed to” and asking myself why I was wasting precious time. She discusses the importance of thinking through the focus of the lesson, its importance to the learners, and making connections from the lesson to prior knowledge. We all recognize that when learning is relevant to the learner the potential for success increases.

As educators we understand the importance of students sharing in the responsibility of their own learning. Essential to that is fostering an atmosphere that encourages students to be responsible for their own learning which generates students that are more engaged and self-directed.

Share your personal strategy or strategies for encouraging students to accept responsibility for their learning.

The lesson design model involves putting the following in writing: What is the focus? What do you want students to learn? Why is it important? How will it help students? How do I use this myself? What connection can you help students make?

What value do you see in working through this process or a process similar to this? Do you think the value would be great enough to warrant the time?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week 3 Chapter 5

Miller talks about the nonfiction features (pictures, captions, etc.) that make texts more accessible. What strategies do you use to make difficult texts and concepts more accessible to your students?

Miller also talks about using the big file folders to demonstrate and make schema visible to students. Do you talk to your students about schema - using that term? What strategies do you use to help them understand and utilize schema? Tell about a lesson you have taught, or that the reading made you think you'd like to try, that helped students with schema.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Week 2, Question 2 - Chapter 4: Melanie Fifield

"Creating Classroom Cultures that Support and Promote Student Thinking"

This book has struck a lot of chords with me so far. Chapter 4 made me think back to the 75+ Strategies when we were told to throw out all of the store-bought posters we may have. What hit me most was the purposeful use of language and teaching thinking skills.

In terms of language, I've always known deep down that my use of language in the classroom has a tremendous impact on my kids. I’ve thought about the vocabulary I use with kids, but some of the examples she gave and the way they validate a child's ideas and thinking and promote more of those ideas really made me think about other ways I talk to my kids. It made me realize that there are times when my frustration gets the best of me with certain kiddos and I fail to “elevate children in their own eyes as well as in the eyes of their classmates” (pg. 54).

My first question to you is:

In what ways do you “elevate” kids with your use of language? And how do you manage frustration in order to avoid having the opposite effect?

She has also repeated several times in the book already, the three bullet points on pg. 48: putting our thinking on display, intentional use of language, and making thinking visible, public, and permanent.

My next question to you is:

How do you go about making student thinking visible, public, and permanent? What kinds of charts/posters do you create (and when do you make them?!)?

The chapter, in summary, talks about creating cultures and promoting thinking within the classroom. I still have a few kids who only share when they know they have the “right” answer.

What do you do to create a culture/community within your classroom that encourages kids to share their thinking and gives them the confidence to do so, regardless of “right” or “wrong” answers?

Week 2, Question 1 - Chapter 3- Dave Harmon

Environment, Environment, Environment.

Well, let me first say, welcome to the book study. I know you've heard that already, but I haven't had the chance to say so in this particular book. Special welcomes go out to Delaware City Schools employees and Buckeye Valley Local Schools employees. As always, we hope you find this to be an interesting, convenient, and most importantly, valuable way of doing a book study.

Chapter 3 was about the classroom environment, something that is near and dear to me for a few reasons, those of you who know me well, know that my office is not the most organized place in the world, so this chapter served as a bit of a wake up call for me, and I hope (when I go in in the morning) will provide me with a kick in the butt to work on that...maybe some of your North Union Elementary folks can hold me to that... :-)
The second reason that this chapter hit home for me is probably the same that it did for some of you. I got to thinking about how I had organized my classrooms when I was teaching. Some of what Debbie Miller suggested in chapter 3, I'm sure I could have benefited from had I had someone take my hand the way she did with Katy when she was a first year teacher. What a blessing it would have been to have someone like that in your classroom to help you figure it out. It fits nicely with what we try to talk about somewhat regularly...use each other as resources, both for instructional content and delivery ideas, but also it may be nice just to ask someone, "Hey, do you think this is the best way to organize the physical space?" and other questions like that, all the while knowing that they aren't going to judge you. True effective coaching can't happen unless you are able to let go of the idea that you are being judged. The coach/friend/teacher next door/etc is only there to help you get better. That's it. Nothing more.

I wanted to point out a few things that seem very simple, but they sort of jumped out at me when I was reading. As is often the case, the best advice doesn't always have to be the most prolific. Sometimes simplicity is best, most accurate, and most applicable. Page 32 - Meeting spaces aren't necessarily only for primary classrooms. There is power in bringing the kids together to talk and discuss and share thinking. Page 33 - "Working independently doesn't always mean working in isolation." More and more, we are going to being asked to foster collaboration skills and problem solving within our students (21st century skills, anyone?). We have to give them places that they can do those things. Page 39 - Are the things on your walls "purposeful and authentic?" What do you see when you stand in your door way? Do you want to go in, or do you want to run and hide? If you want to go run and hide, What is one thing that you think you could change that would leave you feeling like your classroom is closer to the environment that you want it to be? What signals does you room send to you? What signals do you want it to send to the kids?
Final question/prompt/thought for the week:
Name some ways you've involved students in organization of the classroom (or ways/things you think you might like to try.) How does your classroom environment talk to those who enter it? What does it say about what you value and expect to happen in there? Give specific answers such as, "There are 3 beanbag chairs in the reading corner because I want the kids to _________"

Have a great week everyone.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Week 1- Question 2 - Danae Marquis

The second chapter is titled " Defining Beliefs and Aligning Practices" and this is a great place to go now that we have visualized and shared our perfect classroom. In this chapter, Debbie Miller discusses the importance of developing and in turn defining our educational beliefs because "when teachers have a set of beliefs that guides our work, we know where we're going." I think we can all agree we have to know where we are heading with the understanding of the underlying goal of the path we have chosen. Ms. Miller continues through this chapter talking about aligning our educational practices with our beliefs once we have established what those are. Ms. Miller suggests in this chapter to take 15 minutes at the end of each day and journal about our beliefs and practices. Personally, I know I am not good at sticking with this but I do often find myself reflecting on these exact things on my 20 minute ride home. So, maybe I need a tape recorder instead of a journal! The point she wants us to take away is asking ourselves "What do I value?" The author points out that it was the "process of defining and aligning that made all the difference" in her classroom and teaching. Ms. Miller poses some great questions that I am going to put out there for you to answer:
1. What are your beliefs about education and teaching in the classroom?
2. Where's the evidence of your beliefs in your classroom?
3. What kinds of things should you or do you see, hear, and do to support your beliefs?
4. Where do your educational practices fit into what you value?

I challenge you if you have not already to take a few moments to think about what beliefs you have and then decide if you have aligned your practices with your beliefs. I will leave you with what Ms. Miller often found when her beliefs and practices were at odds. "I had to make tough decisions. Would I change the belief statement or the practice? More often than not, it was the practice that was out of sync. I discovered that even though I'd say I believed in something, I'd find myself doing things, and asking kids to do things, that had me scratching my head."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Week 1 - Question 1 - Vickie Hoffman

Picture Perfect: How Does You Ideal Classroom Look, Sound, and Feel?

This chapter began with Debbie Miller asking the question...

"If I were to ask you to close your eyes and envision the perfect classroom scene, what would you see?  What would you hear and smell and feel?  Think big!  If everything were going just the way you'd like it to, what would be happening?  What would your kids be doing?  What about you?"

I think that is the perfect question to begin this book study.  Please tell us what your "perfect classroom" would look like.  You are also welcome to tell us which things you already have and what you would still like to change in the future.

Have a GREAT week!