Do Teachers Have to Be Readers?

Warning: This post is going to be about reading, and it is going to encourage you to read. You may need to go grab your spectacles. 

While mindlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed, I recently saw this infographic by @grantdraws:

It not only had a great Quentin Blake-like look and style (compare it to the amazing “The Rights of the Reader” poster below), but it made me think about the important role that we have as teachers in fostering a reading culture in our classrooms and developing in our young ones a lifelong love of reading.

b6ac65977ab617ce01e977a0dc75aabe

This is so good. . .

Most reading programs I’ve worked with are in agreement with the principle that kids have to love reading to want to do it often – although I did take a class in my teaching program that preached otherwise. The more kids read, the better they tend to achieve. The below infographic, which I found shared on usd343.net, is quite convincing for teachers, parents, and students alike:

 

image8108966346613792902

As I am an elementary school classroom teacher that prescribes to a transdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning, I am charged with delivering instruction in all of the disciplines. The PYP model itself gives me the responsibility of teaching language, math, science, and social studies at a minimum, and it is very clear that all teachers in a PYP school are considered language teachers.

Back to the “Stages of the Reader” . . .

I personally have gone through all of the stages of this infographic, but I have stopped hoarding books due to the transient nature of international teaching. It comes down to the simple but sad fact that the more books I bring along, the more my shipping costs will be to schlep them all to my next country. Otherwise, I see myself and my reading journey in most of the other 8 stages, and I feel like I have a strong identity as a reader. I really hope that my love of reading and writing rubs off on my students – and if it doesn’t for some, usually offering the chance for them to build a reading fort if they read enough does the trick! 😜

Do teachers have to be readers? 

Who am I to say who should be a teacher and who shouldn’t, but it might not be so controversial to say that you might not be made for teaching – especially if you are a reading teacher – if you don’t have a strong identity as a reader. This crosses over into the other disciplines as well. Should one be responsible for the future of our young mathematicians if one abhors math? Is it appropriate for a teacher to dive into a writer’s workshop with kids if he/she has never felt the urge to put pen to paper?

3742069

your vs. you’re

This post doesn’t mean to be provocative, but I would like your feedback. If a teacher is not a reader, can they truly succeed as a reading teacher by just faking it? Are there certain age levels that can “survive” a non-reading teacher, or certain disciplines where a strong reader’s identity is not necessary?

Let us know in the comments below, and keep on coming back to educationrickshaw.com for posts about teaching and education today, including a recent series called Why would anyone want to become a teacher? 

And remember, it is never too late to start at Stage 1 of @grantdraws’s “Stages of the Reader”!

Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 1.37.17 PM

Why Would Anyone Want to Become a Teacher – My Interview with a Student Teacher

Lilly Hasenkopf is a student teacher of elementary education at the University of Alabama. We recently sat down and talked about her thoughts and feelings about the profession as part of the series Why Would Anyone Want to Become a Teacher? here on educationrickshaw.com 
FullSizeRender 3

Lilly Hasenkopf, 21

Hi Lilly! Thanks for letting me interview you. Let’s start by talking about how your experience in education been so far. Tell me all about your program, and what you’ve been doing.

I’m going into my senior year of college at Alabama. My junior year last year, we entered block one and block two, which is our first introduction to teaching. In block one, which is in the fall, I was in a preschool classroom twice a week. I had two case study students that I would work with and monitor their physical and cognitive growth, and just how they grew over the course of one semester. This was the preschool class, but I also did a reading class, where I would go to a different school and work one-on-one with a student. We gave them a pre-test and then we created our own activities. We tested the results of the activity with a post-test.
cda2f8d3d3570d3a14cce8b6e849ec08
I also took a music class, which was interesting. It started out with us just teaching music, but at the end we were teaching an academic subject through music. It helped us see how we can use physical activities like art and music to make the content more engaging for students. In Spring semester, that is when I really got to experience the classroom. We were assigned a class, and I was assigned a kindergarten classroom. Instead of just focusing on two students, we were focused on observing an entire class. We weren’t teaching it, but we were watching another teacher teach. Sometimes the teacher would exit for a bit, and I would have the kids for an hour, or I would take them to music, art, and PE. These little things were a nice experience, and helped me to learn how to teach the correct behaviors.

Have you enjoyed your experience so far with the students?

I have! I really enjoyed getting to know the students. My program has emphasized forming bonds and relationships with each individual student, and at first that really made me nervous. But by the end of the semester, I really knew the kids in my class, how they need to be redirected, where they struggled and where they’re strong. I learned that the behaviors that you have in your classroom, they need to be taught. Since this wasn’t my classroom, I had a bit of a different idea of how to do this. My cooperating teacher didn’t really have them do group work, so for one of my assignments I had the students work together in groups to put together one picture. It would get loud and a few kids got pretty upset, so halfway through we paused and broke down what was happening. We talked about how you can work together and communicate, and it doesn’t have to be your way all the time. I thought this was very important. You have to be able to work with others in the future, and since it was a new activity for them, it was harder and a bit louder, but I think it did teach them something new. If I had been able to start doing lessons like that back in August, they would know how to do these things by May.

What challenges have you faced so far?

625ad2370d3d86aed1ecb5c50f0294d45157d8a94faa1daf572d3f52319f3c56

quickmeme.com

Well, with kindergarteners I learned that teaching has to be fast paced and very engaging to keep them paying attention. I’ve seen that some teachers have wanted the students to sit a lot and pay attention. I think moving shouldn’t always require a punishment; they’re still young and need to move! When I have my own classroom I will make it so that the students are sitting still for shorter increments for certain activities.

Was there a particular moment that you’d like to share where you felt successful?

We did a case study where we had to see the growth of a student over the course of a semester. I liked that because I picked a student who is new to this classroom, and seemed to be getting into a lot of trouble. When I would work with him, he would do really well, and I realized he just likes to talk about himself. He would always get so excited about getting together with me to doing our planned activities, and I think that helped him. I made it so that he experienced something different during the days that he was with me.

Finally, I want to ask you the question that inspired this series. Why did you want to become a teacher?

4189646

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher since I was little. I would play school in my room for hours. I think part of the reason that it stayed with me is because of my teachers. Some of my teachers had a huge impact on my life. Helping me grow and become who I am. I want to do that for students. Students come to school for 7 hours a day just with one person. and that is a huge part of their life. A lot of kids don’t have the role model that I had from my parents and teachers. Just not to be the teacher that just gives out assignments, but a person that you can come to build their character and to be successful in the future. Even if you have that at home, it helps to have someone in elsewhere in your life that helps you to share your ideas and respects you and tells you that you can do what you think you can do. You can be successful.
Another reason is that I love helping people. When something finally clicks in someone’s brain, and seeing them get excited about it. When they get excited, I get excited, and it’s just fun. My mom is a teacher, and when I was in middle school and high school, I would go to work with her some days just to help around the classroom. I really liked that. I would rather go to work with her some days then go to school myself. It was more when I didn’t really like my teacher, I would go to work with her more. I didn’t just skip! But I really liked going down there to help her out.
When I tell people I am going to be a teacher, a lot of people are like “why would you do that?”

haha, I’ve heard that one before.

Some say it because of the low pay, or some say it because it’s just challenging with the kids. But I like challenges, and I feel like teaching is a rewarding challenge, not a punishment challenge where you’re being forced to do something and there is no positivity in it. But there’s a ton of positivity in teaching, through the kids. Really, honestly, I want to be a teacher for the kids.

Thank you for visiting educationrickshaw.com, and feel free to comment below on the titular question. Why did you become a teacher? What have your experiences been like so far? We love to hear your thoughts, and will always try to respond to your comments. 

Part of the series, Why Would Anyone Want to Become a Teacher?

A Plea for Education: A Response to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Something that’s been getting some buzz on Twitter has been Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s request for ideas for where he should put his money. On behalf of educationrickshaw.com, I wrote him a letter that includes discussion about the teacher turnover crisis and the importance of the maintaining a strong teaching profession. Enjoy!


Dear Mr. Bezos,

I see that I am already late to the party that you’ve started on Twitter, the one where you ask for “philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now – short term – at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.” If you allow me to be so bold, I would like to use your money towards a kind of charitable work for which many of the solutions have already been identified. It also may be the most important issue of our time, as well as the most expensive. I’m talking of course about education.

Education is a complex beast, and one that I am relatively new to. I started teaching in a Bureau of Indian Affairs school in Washington State, before moving to teach in international schools in Vietnam and Sudan. Despite my enthusiasm for the work I’ve achieved in my classroom, I’ve begun to become disillusioned with certain aspects of this profession. You may very well have better data available to you than I have, but I feel that the teaching profession, specifically in the United States, is in a state of crisis. Sadly, due to a variety of reasons including the an American teacher’s inadequate pay, the steady loss of teacher autonomy, and a culture of teacher bashing, many of us American international educators – those talented teachers that could very well be teaching stateside – have chosen to move for greener pastures overseas.

Since I left American education nearly 5 years ago, so has much of my cohort for my teaching certificate. The difference is, however, that many of them are not remaining in education related fields. They are bankers, businessmen and women, and stay at home moms and dads. As has been reported with increasing frequency, teacher turnover is costing us billions of dollars.

Unfortunately, the real cost of this crisis is more difficult to measure. According to years of John Hattie research, the ability of a teacher to teach with effective strategies is far and above the most important factor that we can control. Just look at this following chart of effect sizes (minus the 6 Super Factors) and you’ll see that teaching skills and strategies (i.e. teacher clarity, teacher credibility, etc) hold the top of the list in regards to effect size:

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 1.02.27 PM

Additionally, one of the identified “Super Factors” in Hattie’s research, and the factor with the highest effect size that can be manipulated is collective teacher efficacy:

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 1.04.23 PM

It is clear, Mr. Bezos, that it is the teacher that is at the center of what makes students achieve. A teacher’s skill, competence, and attitude towards the profession is what improves educational outcomes. A sound policy to improve education would be to keep those teachers that have the most talent, and attract a new generation of talented undergraduates into the field. However, recent reports of teacher shortages suggest that we are doing neither.

What can you do?  

Some, including myself would say that it is the low salary that dissuades young undergrads from choosing teaching as a career. I remember an important moment in one of my lecture hall classes of 500+ students (it was Sociology 101, I believe) where the professor asked students to raise their hands if they would consider entering teaching if money were not a factor. Nearly the entire hall was filled with raised hands. Then the professor asked who student to raise their hands if they were seriously considering becoming a teacher. Only a handful of students raised their hands with me. Smart people don’t enter into professions where they aren’t adequately rewarded for their services.

Other findings point to the lack of control and teacher autonomy that is experienced by most in the profession. Maybe your money is best served there, as raising all of the salaries in the teaching workforce is an expensive proposition. Either way, if your philanthropy could focus short-term on re-professionalizing the teaching profession so that teachers are rewarded both intrinsically and extrinsically for the wondrously challenging day-to-day task of educating our children, it will pay off in dividends in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Bezos, for your time and your interest in philanthropy. If you’re needing an education czar for your new philanthropic organization, you know where to contact me.

Sincerely,

Zach Groshell


What do you think? Did I focus on what matters most in education for you? Did I leave anything out? Please comment below and follow me on Twitter, @MrZachG. 

Photo credit of Jeff Bezos: CNBC.com

3 Old School Elementary Events That Still Have Value (but Need to Change)

In a never-ending quest to innovate in the classroom, it can be easy to shun the traditional elements of Western education in favor of those that feel more trendy. Try posting a photo of a Science Fair on Twitter and you’ll get far fewer likes than if you post about students coding video games for a cardboard arcade (👈🏻 as I did). While I totally agree that there are some practices that are as dusty as an old chalkboard, this article is about three old school elementary events that may not be fashionable, but should still be a part of the curriculum.

#1 Science Fair

One of the downsides to putting on a traditional science fair is that it largely can come down to a competition between parents, rather than a good learning experience for the kids. In order to avoid this common problem, I had students bring in materials from home, but complete the experiments and boards in class. It may have taken more class time, but it gave me plenty of information to use to develop lessons that catered to the unique needs of this particular group.

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.02.58 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.03.54 PM

Another common problem with traditional science fairs is that the whole shebang is kicked off with little to no instructions or parameters, i.e. Prepare a science experiment, make a board and show it. 

This type of setup inevitably leads to very little understanding of the scientific method, or of basic scientific skills and concepts. Typically students end up creating cool projects like a potato clock or a volcano, but understand nothing about the science behind it. In my class’s science fair, we focused entirely on our UOI’s central idea, which was on the three states of matter. This way, students shared and built knowledge on the same topics. Students were only allowed to choose experiments that contributed to their collective understanding of the central idea, and we spent a lot of time reading texts, watching videos, and compiling information into online resources (Check out how to use Moodle in an elementary classroom).

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.03.43 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.04.19 PM

Finally, this science fair was not a competition trying to pit parents and students against their community members. It was a Year 5-only event that brought parents and students together to talk about the understandings that we had gained over the course of a six week unit. Did some students succeed more than others? Yes. Did anyone lose? Of course not!

#2 Spelling Bee

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.04.03 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-29 at 2.03.31 PM

Now that I just knocked turning elementary science fairs into competitions, let’s talk about the most notorious of all of the elementary academic competitions: The Spelling Bee. Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with competitions that promote learning. I have a problem with competitions that only exist for competition’s sake (aka for the benefit of parents and teachers). When teachers set up a spelling bee in a way that promotes the learning of year-level spelling patterns, commonly misspelled year-level words, and develops a love of language, I am all for it.

My class’s spelling bee was a culmination of all of the work that we had put into spelling that year, and only included words that students had been tested on in weeks prior. There was home study time built into their homework schedules, but I structured it so that students would not exceed the required 15 minutes that they’d had all year anyway. I made sure to communicate my concerns to parents about turning this friendly competition into something that stressed students out to the point of disliking spelling, and they seemed to be on board. In the end, we were all proud of what the students had achieved, and they consequently did very well on the spelling portion of our end-of-year standardized assessments.

#3 End of Year Awards

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 1.17.39 PM

Much debate has surrounded how awarding students for every little achievement is turning the next generation (my generation?) into one that is thanklessly entitled and overprivileged. And if we’re giving students awards for something that they don’t earn, I guess I have to agree. At my school, we reward students for achievement in a variety of ways, but only those that deserve an award get one at the end of the year Prize Giving ceremony. We show a particular emphasis on progress, growth and development so that those students that deserve recognition for effort are recognized alongside students that are academically inclined. It may be old school, but it it an indispensable part of setting goals and achieving them in an academic setting.


 

What do you think? Would you scrap all of these in favor for alternative events? Am I wrong, and all of these need to go the way of the dinosaur? Comment below and keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com and check out our Teachers Pay Teachers.

 

 

5 KeyBoard Shortcuts Every Teacher Needs

The connected teacher of the 21st century has a need for speed. The following are 5 MacBook keyboard shortcuts that I find that I use everyday to get the job done for my class.

#1 Emoji Keyboard

mac-keyboard

Command + Control, Space Bar

The emoji keyboard shortcut not only allows teachers to communicate with students in fun ways as they learn to use social media, but it also serves a number of purposes throughout  my lessons – from arrows, checkmarks, to any symbol, really.

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 8.14.49 PM

I even use the emoji shortcut to make the play buttons on my videos (WordPress doesn’t let me embed videos unless I pay mo’).

#2 Link

Link

Command + K

If you’re like me, you’re always wanting to give kids great links to great content, fast. I am constantly sending e-mails to students, commenting on forums and social media, and creating web pages on our LMS that require quick links. The link shortcut may be the most used keyboard shortcut in my teaching repertoire.

#3 Screen Shot

Screen Shot

Command + Control + Shift + 4

While you may have known that Command + Shift + 4 saves custom sized screenshots to your desktop (useful for many sites), did you know that you can save your screenshot to your clipboard with just the addition of one more key stroke?

I use this shortcut whenever I want to quickly paste a moment from a website onto almost any web page, textbox, or e-mail. I also quite often end up using the markup tool or Preview to make a few annotations before sharing my screenshots with my students.

#4 Switch Between Applications

Change applications

Command + Tab or ~

As teachers are constantly changing between applications and programs during lessons, this is one of those shortcuts that can make transitions easier and increase student attention and engagement. Press Q while holding the command key and you will quit whatever application you’re currently highlighting.

SwitchingAppsOSX.Small_

This shortcut is also one of the most natural feeling of the macbook shortcuts, and one that I definitely miss when switching to other devices. As we are a 1:1 iPad school, the students can do the same thing with a double-click to their home button, but I’m not how many mac users regularly switch between applications in this convenient way.

#5 Undo

Link

Command + Z

An oldie, but a goodie! I make mistakes, and I make them a lot while I’m teaching. I sometimes wonder if the pioneers of the shortcut knew this when they designated the last letter of the alphabet and the first letter of my name to be the undo shortcut. If you’re not comfortable teaching with technology, I hope that you take this small piece of advice: Don’t worry about screwing up. There is always a way to undo what’s been done. Don’t be more afraid of mistakes than your students. And don’t be afraid to play around with edtech at school or on your couch. If you mess up, just push Command + Z!

Keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com, and be sure to follow us on Twitter.

First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Teacher Gets Through Week of Fidget Spinners Alive

Last week, the writers here at educationrickshaw.com took our school’s swim team to Dubai to compete in a meet with over 800 participants. One of the highlights of the trip (for the kids) has been the visit to the Dubai mall, famous for the Burj Khalifa and its indoor aquarium. Many of the students that attended the meet were from my Year 5 class, and they had told me in the lead-up to the meet that they would all be purchasing fidget spinners, as these are not available yet in Sudan.

IMG_0664

Not only did my kids buy a fidget spinner each, but they made sure to buy a supply of fidget spinners and fidget cubes for the whole year level, and all of their siblings. The fidget phenomenon has officially reached Khartoum.

Now, I feel that I am a pretty patient and tolerant teacher when it comes to students bringing things to school. I hated it when my teachers took my Pokemon cards that I had saved up for and carefully guarded in plastic sleeve protectors. I never wanted to become the teacher that took away toys simply because they distracted ME. Then came these freaking fidget spinners. Really quickly, let me tell you how the first week went with these things.

Every few seconds they fly out of kids’ hands.

The addictive quality of these spinners is that they have the potential to deliver a satisfying spin between your index and forefingers. There is a bit of a risk though; they tend to fly out between a child’s clumsy grip just at the climax of a lesson sequence. Exactly when an “aha!” moment is about to occur, a pesky spinner will fly into the corner of the room, prompting the whole class to turn their heads towards the guilty butterfingers who did it.

They’re not great when you need kids to use their hands

Any time a student is using their iPad, writing with a pencil, or reading a book, these spinners get in the way. It is fun to watch a kid try to keep open a stiffly bound novel with one forearm and their chin as they try to spin a fidget spinner on their thumb, but only if you don’t care about that child’s reading goals. I’ve heard the crack of far too many spinners whacking against the screens of my students’ iPads as well, which goes to show that there may still be things out there more impressive to children than technology.

Even though they can be annoying, they are kind of cool. .

I’m not going to lie. . it is fun to spin a spinner on your fingers, or even on your nose. They fit perfectly in your pocket, and they really don’t do much more damage than a cup and a ball would in a classroom setting. The multitude of colors, styles and types of these fidget devices makes them fun to collect and pass around, and it really made mark on our Dubai trip.

I, myself, am a very fidgety fella, so I was initially curious if somehow these toys could cure my constant need to fuss and fidget. Needless to say, I think I’ll be sticking to flipping pens and markers until this fad dies down. .

Have fidget spinners reached your classroom? How have they impacted learning? Please comment below, and be sure to keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com!

The Couch Potato Approach to Educational Technology

Don’t wait for your school to develop your tech skills. Settle into your couch and educate yourself!

I’ve talked before about how teachers need to be given the opportunity to play around with edtech tools in order to be able to envision how they could be used in a classroom. The same goes with students. This could be called edtech sandboxing.

The problem is that not a lot of schools are willing to make time for this extremely important professional development. I’m talking about a faculty meeting entirely dedicated to edtech, and in which the only directions given are a list of apps to play around with. If you’re ever feeling like your school hasn’t developed you enough, I have a solution for you: The Couch Potato Approach to Educational Technology.

What is the Couch Potato Approach?

The Couch Potato Approach is a poorly guarded, super un-secret methodology dating back to the origins of computers. Before teachers were expected by their districts to integrate technology into their lessons, those few teachers that saw value in maximizing learning with technology simply had to other choice but to teach themselves. This involved digging around in handbooks and manuals for dummies, and consulting face-to-face with other like-minded tech teachers.

couch-potato-computer

As technology has changed from desktop to mobile, and answers to any query can be found in a simple Google search, teachers no longer have to go to tech conferences or resort to digging through outdated manuals. And because many schools nowadays provide their teachers with the same devices that they provide their students, passionate 21C teachers can now simply sit on their couches and create their own edtech sandbox opportunities as they watch T.V. and listen to music.

Where to go to find my answers (while sitting on my couch)?

1. Google and Youtube

https-blueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.comuploadscardimage14233238e8ff52a9204fb7b554bb215eb4f36c

21st Century DIY Professional Development

Most any tech-related question can be found by making a simple Google or Youtube Search. 9 times out of 10 I end up clicking on the first thing that pops up at the top of my search, and it ends up leading me to the right answer. The step-by-step instructional videos that exist out there on Youtube for various edtech questions are particularly useful when you are trying to set up something complex. I usually split-screen the video and my sandbox area (or have the video running on my MacBook while messing around on my iPad) and follow the instructions until I get the desired results.

While I have always found Google and Youtube searches to be the best way to go, I understand that there can be skepticism over this method if you haven’t tried it out yourself. Before you submit another HelpDesk request to your school’s IT department, try Googling your question exactly how it appears in your head. If you remove your fear of clicking into various forums and instructional resources, you’ll very soon find what you’re looking for with a simple Google Search.

2. Twitter and Facebook

Screen Shot 2017-04-22 at 11.40.07 AM

If you’re a teacher and you’re not on Twitter, you really should be. I get probably more than half of my ideas from my Twitter Professional Learning Community (#PLN), and it makes me feel like I am constantly connected to the most current ideas. I treat my Twitter as an education-only center for communicating ideas and networking. It is where I post all of these educationrickshaw.com articles, and where I get into a ton of education-related arguments.

While personally, I treat my Facebook as a personal repository of pictures and comments about life, there are a lot of great Facebook pages out there that I do follow (check out and join Shamelessly Self-promoting Educators). Both Twitter and Facebook are critical for helping me figure out edtech issues and to keep up with the most current uses that teachers have found for various technologies.

3. The Edtech Company’s HelpDesk

Screen Shot 2017-04-22 at 11.46.00 AM

Simply asking a question directly to the creator of the software is surprisingly helpful

If you’re having trouble with a certain tool, just ask the company themselves for help. I’ve found the folks at elink.io and seesaw.me to be particularly helpful. They respond back to any dumb little question I have, and will usually humor me when I suggest a new feature for a future update of their product.

4. Online Forums

Screen Shot 2017-04-22 at 11.53.23 AM

Pretty old-school, I know, but I have found many of my answers to very specific questions about teaching elementary school students with Moodle on the Moodle.org page. If I can’t find what I’m looking for by using, again, Google, I simply start a new discussion and typically I get my question answered within 48 hours or so. And because of the (sometimes) dynamic nature of discussion forums, I end up asking other unrelated questions and getting those answered as well!

5. The App Profile on Your Device

Onlive_1684_610x407

Notice the couch.

Many schools nowadays provide teachers with a device loaded full of great learning apps and software. Take some time on your couch to familiarize yourself with everything on there. You wouldn’t neglect to bone up on your subject’s required reading, so why would you skip learning about all of the apps that your school is arming you with? While on your couch, be creative. Be fearless. Click into apps that you’ve never checked out before. Add apps based on recommendations from Twitter and Facebook and try those out. Test them out in class and share the results on social media, and in your next faculty meeting. You’ll be an expert in no time!

I hope you enjoyed this and other articles on educationrickshaw.com. Once you’ve gotten your own Twitter (see #2 on this list), be sure to follow me, and check out Stephanie’s Teachers Pay Teachers.

First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth - TeachersPayTeachers.com

5 Easy Ways to Share Learning Experiences with Students

Student Centered

We’ve talked before about how to give your class back to your students. Today, I want to look at a similar idea of how we can create a shared learning environment where the teacher and students are partners in learning.

What the Research Says

We know that students are more successful when they aren’t just asked to absorb information from the teacher, but are a part of the learning process. I recently read an article written about 10 years ago that explained this idea really well. Andrew Metcalfe and Ann Game write in The Teacher’s Enthusiasm that

“A good teacher is not one who provides all the energy that a class needs; good teachers are those who allow the production of an energy that is not the teachers and not the students, but shared between them.” See article here.

In my own experience, I’ve found this to be true. When are my students most engaged? When do I see their eyes light up with excitement? It’s not when I’m just giving them the information, but during those times when they are actively sharing new information and creating new meaning by doing things themselves.

To promote this, here are 5 easy practices that you could implement to make learning a shared experience.

1. Read Alouds with Discussions

Students of every age love read alouds. How can we make students active participants in them? Pause in your reading to make time for think-pair-share discussions. First, give students a moment to think, have them share with a partner, and then have a few of the pairs share with everyone. This way, even though you don’t have time for everyone to share with the entire class, everyone still gets an opportunity to think through their ideas and to share with a partner (with the added pressure of not knowing if they’ll be called on or not after). I have two favorite ways of getting my students to really think.

  • Close your eyes and visualize! After reading a particularly funny or thought provoking scene, I have my students visualize what it might have looked like or they would do if they were the character, before sharing with a partner and then the class (this gets lots of laughs).
  • Cover your mouth with your hand and whisper the answer. For answers that require more vocabulary, I often have my students whisper the answer in their hand before sharing. This way, they get practice explaining their thinking twice. For ELL students, it gives them extra time to think of the vocabulary they’d like to use.

2. Let the Students Help Write Math Story Problems

When writing problems on the white board or even when typing up math problems, I love to ask my students for help. They generally make the story problems about themselves or their friends and relish in the idea of doing amazing or silly things. How many cookies did Talya bake in all if she made 7 per day for a week? suddenly makes them giggle and shake their heads as they solve and ask Talya for some cookies at the same time.

3. Let Students be the Teacher

There are so many fun ways to make your students the teacher. This is doubly effective, because they don’t realize how much work they’re doing to set up questions or learning experiences for their peers.

One way I’ve recently done this is on our school’s Moodle page. I set up a forum and had students post a question and then answer someone else’s. Once they saw that someone had answered their original question, they got to go back and see if it was right.

4. Jigsaw Activity

Jigsaw activities are very simple in design. Divide up whatever reading you want your students to learn into parts and give each of those parts to a different group. Then, like a jigsaw puzzle comes together, each group shares what they read to everyone else who was in a different group. The key here for young students is to provide support for them to make quality presentations.

Recently, my students did a jigsaw activity where each group read about a different step archaeologists take to do research. They then made posters and shared their findings and new vocabulary with the class.

5. Impromptu sharing

Not all sharing needs to be planned out. When I see a student do something great, I try like to give them an opportunity to share it – giving them confidence and their peers some great tips/knowledge. Sometimes this sharing is by simply writing a new word they learned on the word wall, or sometimes I have everyone stop what they’re doing and freeze so the student can share right then and there.

 

How do you create opportunities for students to be leaders their learning? Please comment and share below.

By @SGroshell

How Teachers Can Prioritize Building Confidence and Risk-Taking

kids-raising-hands-in-class

Growing up, I was painfully shy. If I ever dared to raise my hand (or got called on without doing so) all of the other students would immediately ask me, “Why is your face so red?” This created a vicious cycle of not wanting to raise my hand because I didn’t want my face to turn red, to loosing confidence because I didn’t have practice speaking up, to turning even more red when I was called on, and so on and so forth.

All of my conferences from elementary through high school were pretty much the same. “Stephanie is always listening, always does her work carefully and on time, but she needs to participate.” Or “I know Stephanie has great ideas in her head, why won’t she share them?”

And (no surprise) although I was slightly better in university, I still rarely shared my thoughts when I wasn’t forced to. As an adult, I am much less withdrawn, but still wonder at my seven-year-old students’ confidence in trying out new ideas, failing, and putting themselves right back out there.

How is it that my school builds confidence so well?

I was chatting with a parent earlier this week who was like me as a student. She is both shocked and incredibly pleased to see her son initiating projects and answering questions in assemblies in front of the entire school. The confidence that our students have is not only going to help them in the future, but makes it so that their self-esteem is through the roof.

Here are the things our school does really well that I think all schools should do (when possible).

1. Have small class sizes

Our school caps classes at 20 students. This not only allows teachers to get more time with each student, but it gives students more opportunities to speak, share, and lead their class members. Allowing students to have so many opportunities to put themselves out there makes it so that what would have petrified me as a child becomes completely normal.

In my class, a math leader leads the rest of the students in correcting the problem of the day every morning. With my tiny class of 12 students, each one gets to be the teacher and call on their peers twice a month. At the beginning of the year, I had a few who were still quite shy, but now they all absolutely love taking the lead!

class

2. Give students leadership opportunities

In addition to opportunities for students to be the teacher, our school puts an emphasis on allowing students to take ownership of their learning through

  • group projects and presentations
  • sharing learning by inviting other classes/parents to come see a project they’ve done
  • having classes lead every assembly

img_0494

3. Praise students for confidence and risk-taking

One of my favorite parts of the PYP curriculum is the PYP Attitudes and the IB Learner Profile, which are presented to the students as important parts of what makes a good student. One of the PYP Attitudes is “confidence” and one of the IB Learner Profile traits is being a “risk-taker.”

Everyone in the school, then, uses these two words as positive goals to work toward. In fact, when a student shows hesitation to try something new, you’ll hear their friends say, “Just try it! Be a risk-taker.” Or “Be confident, you can do it!”

e7e0745aa0c4def5fbeb8666455a988a

Although obviously I have no way of knowing what kind of a student I would have been had I attended a school that prioritized confidence as much as the one I teach at today, I can see the amazing benefits of it in all of my students and hope to see more schools do exactly this.

How do you build confidence in your students? Please share below!

By @SGroshell

“The What” vs. “The How” of Education

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 1.54.08 PM

After reading the above tweet, I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea that we may very well spend too much time talking about what we should teach rather than how we should teach. And the more I think about it, the more I crave conversations that concern the how of educationLearning-focused conversation is learner and pedagogy focused – The how not the what. If I had the power to singlehandedly change the conversation in education, I’d ask that we make a shift in the following ways:

Stop Talking So Much About What Curriculum We Should Be Using, and Start Talking About How to Facilitate Learning in the 21st Century.

Since I began teaching only a short time ago, I have seen schools go from local standards, to national standards, to international standards. Never during these changes was I privy to training on how to implement these standards with the best 21C teaching practices. It was always more important to document what I was doing, than how I was doing it. Even the Common Core website seemed to foresee this implementation strategy:

“. . these standards establish what students need to learn but do not dictate how teachers should teach. Instead, schools and teachers will decide how best to help students reach the standards.”

now_its_your_turn

How different things might have been in terms of buy-in by teachers for Common Core if we had known the strategies to implement these standards in the most research-based and pedagogically sound ways?

Stop Talking So Much About What Learning Platform We Should Be Using, and Start Talking About How We Can Redefine the Learning Environment.

lms-smackdown

I’ve written before about different tech tools that I have found useful, such as Seesaw for portfolios, and Moodle as a learning platform for my elementary class. But I’ve found that most any tool can be tweaked and modified to fit any purpose; To use some SAMR-speak for a moment, teachers can Substitute with Edmodo just as they can Redefine with Edmodo. It is precisely for this reason that I get so tired of conversations over which learning platform is best. Rather than looking at How blended learning can take place, we are focused on the new-kid technology on the block. Changing from Schoology to Google Classroom will not solve any of a school’s problems, because the entire premise of the conversation is based around what is best rather than how is best.

Stop Talking So Much About What is the Best Device, and Start Talking About How We Can Best Integrate Technology.

It is true that there are downsides to tablets – no keyboard, low memory, etc – but the minute you want kids to take pictures and video you’ll find that there are also downsides to laptops. The same goes for IOS vs. Windows vs. Chrome, and mobile vs. desktop vs. wearables. Next year, it’s entirely possible that the coolest new gadget will come out and completely change the face of education as we know it.

ipad-vs-stone-550x366

Rather than focus on the barriers inherent in any one school-adopted device, I’d like to concentrate more on ways to maximize learning in my classroom. How can we change the relationship between the teacher, the student, and their devices? How do we improve outcomes while promoting 21C skills and attitudes? How can I get the most out of my students and the resources that my school has?

 ***

What do you think? The irony is not lost on me that I have just written an entire post which focuses largely on what we should be talking about as educators, and not as much on how we should be talking about it. . .

Keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com, and please leave a comment or question in the section below!