Friday, January 10, 2014

#edcampfirstgrade Follow Up

Have you ever wanted to have a day which you would like
to freeze because it was absolutely perfect?

Today was that day for me. 

It was a great day for learning in the First Grade and the sound of learning taking place was a beautiful. 

What does learning sound like?
  • It sounds like questioning.
  • It sounds like laughter.
  • It sounds like discussing. 
  • It sounds like noise.
  • It sounds like quiet. 
What does learning look like?
  • It looks messy.
  • It looks busy.
  • It looks engaging.
  • It looks like coaching.
  • It looks like collaboration.
  • It looks like struggling.
  • It looks like imagining.
  • It looks like choices.
  • It looks like dreaming.
  • It looks like playing.
  • It looks like curiosity.
  • It looks like excitement. 
The only way to teach critical thinking is to have students think critically about something. 
They don't need a book. They don't need a worksheet. They don't need teachers
telling them exactly what to do. 

To do this, step back. Oh, just step back and enjoy the view because it is truly glorious.
This is where learning takes place. In these moments of stepping away from any agenda and letting the 
students own their own learning journey. 

I want to say thank you to the support staff and to the parents who came in to help out today. I also want to thank our district technology leaders who came in to talk to the parents about digital safety and citizenship. 
Above that, to my partner in crime, my "Ethel", my co-teacher in the first grade who never gets mad at me when I come to her with all my crazy ideas. She makes me laugh and teaching everyday with her in the First Grade is a blessing. She is my "Ethel". I am her "Lucy" and we teach First Grade. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

#edcampfirstgrade HERE WE COME

It is the night before what I am calling #edcampfirstgrade. If you have ever been to an #edcamp before, you will know that this requires a bit of pre planning as well as a bit of open ended learning.

Here is my pre planning!

I NEED HELP!!!! Oh, my gosh! How I need help!  So Here was my letter to the parents.

January 10, 2014 #edcampfirstgrade

9:00 AM-12 Noon

9:00-9:10 Opening
9:10-9:30 Session One
9:30-9:50 Session Two
9:50-10:20 Session Three
10:20-10:30 Sharing what we learned
10:30-11:00 Recess

10:30-11:00 #parentcamp
We will have guest speakers come and talk to all of us about digital citizenship as well as online safety for your child.

11:05-11:35 Lunch with your child
11:40-12:00 Calendar Time

What is an #edcamp anyways? An edcamp is a time to gather learners together for an organic self directed learning opportunity.  It is a “Do It Yourself” learning opportunity. Built on principles of connected and participatory learning, Edcamp strives to bring learners together to talk about the things that matter most to them: their interests, passions, and questions. In first grade we like to phrase our questions with, “I wonder…..”

We are asking for you as parents, or if you can’t come, invite grandparents or uncles and aunts to come and celebrate learning with the children in our First Grade. They will drive their own learning that day but we need you to help them. You may join your child in their learning adventure or join their classmates by monitoring discussions, helping them with technology to learn from/ with and finding a way to show what they learned together in that time slot. We will have three time slots available with 5 learning opportunities for each time slot.  The learners at an Edcamp can choose to lead sessions on those things that matter, with an expectation that the people in the room will work together to build understanding by sharing their own knowledge and questions.

 Please bring your devices that will assist with technology that day. We will have ipads available as well.  Thank you for taking the time to come in! Please fill out the form below.

Name of person coming:
Student I am related to:
Technology I can bring:
Please let us know BEFORE Christmas break! Thank you for taking the time to join us!

So I waited. I waited and I waited for parents to let me know that they were able to help. I got one slip back. I was feeling kind of squashed...but patience pays off I learned and I am trying not to let my feelings or emotions be the I waited some more. Just after the New Year, I got other emails that said, yes, I could come. As I type this, I am going to send out one more Remind101  note and see if I can pull one more!

Then I sat down with the children today, January 9th and explained the day to them, invited them to bring devices that they had at home if they wanted to and we created a list of ideas and I allowed time for the students to sign up for the learning experience that they wanted.

The plan is to do this again in the spring, but not exactly as an edcamp, but still involve the parents. What we will do in the spring before school is out is allow the teams to pick one topic and then SHOW and demonstrate what they know about it in anyway that they would like to show us all. This will involve some planning time between January 10th #edcampfirstgrade, but we have TONS of time...this is important. I make time for things that are important! So, we will do this and frankly, I am really excited to see what the students in the group "How to be a dragon dancer" come up with!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Making Differentiation a Habit Part 3 Its A FULL TIME JOB!
I must admit something, I have been studying differentiation for awhile now and getting bolder and stronger in my practice about how to go about it to create a culture of learning, but even though I keep trying, there are times when I feel like I am at the starting block of the race and not lap 4 out of who knows how many laps.

Sometimes, I think about differentiation and my mind gets blown apart into smithereens with trying to make sure that each learner is learning in a way that is best suited for them to learn. It keeps me awake at night and that is why my tech shut down mode kicks in by 9 and my work shutdown mode as well. If I don't do that, I'll keep thinking about it. It is a boundary that I will be better at keeping this year.

There are so many students in our classes. In first grade I have 25 my friend across the hall has 36. Differentiate. Create an unique learning experience for each student every day.

Yes. Yes. That sounds good. I nod my head.
I can do that.
How hard can it be?

BLOODY HARD I tell you! No, I don't want to teach in a one size fits all classroom, but what I need is a day set apart or two..or three maybe working by myself as well as with my co-teacher and my team to create learning plans for students. Biting this chunk off to do by yourself is hard.

It is a team effort.
The best differentiation plans are created when the players show up!
The parents, the teachers and the student.

Lay all the cards out on the table.

  • When you look at how that child was created to learn based on the 8 Intelligences.
  • When you look at the curriculum and see what is available though that.
  • When you look at  your own teaching style and see how you can teach so that each specific child can l earn.
  • When you have teamwork between home and school created by strong connections. 
  • When you have a child own their own learning journey.

I think that creating ILPs or Individual Learning Plans is the best way to go, but to do it slightly easier, I think that there needs to be a higher technology element.

When the curriculum has some type of integrated digital curriculum, when there is a better process for progress monitoring, it seems like that takes a bit of the edge off. It doesn't cut from the responsibility of the teacher to instruct nor the student to learn, it just helps to sew the learning journey together.

When there is this type of integration, it makes it easier for teachers to move away from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side which is essential for differentiation.

I have yet to come across one that is designed just for students for DAILY not quarterly nor semester by semester goal setting with action steps.

For me, that is what it needs to have DAILY action steps for the academic goal. Use the I CAN statements and have them select a process ( provide choices) for HOW to show me that they can.  I would want this for each content area in the class I am teaching. Yeah, easy when it is a self contained classroom.

Am I dreaming? Is this not a reality? Must it be quarter by quarter or semester by semester where we only look at assessment data and write nice sounding goals, that honestly, many don't look at again until it is time for conferences?

This is my goal..before the beginning of the new school year, I will have one designed. I will share it with you. I may have several prototypes between now and then...but I can see what I want...I just don't see anyone using it. If you do..would you let me know? I'd sure like to see one!

I liked this image about what differentiation is and what it is not. I am going to paste this on my brain as I make my way to my Daily ILP project. 

Finally...I really don't understand  how we are told to differentiate our instruction techniques but we we are not told to give differentiating assessments. Don't we need do do that as well? Ah, to be continued!