About a month ago my friends started to discuss hosting a book study to encourage each other and blog readers to dig a little deeper with our students... to cultivate higher-level thinking...to get our students more involved and engaged. Well, I'll be the first to admit that I was all, "I'm too busy to read a book." I was hesitant to start because I didn't want to over-commit myself. But the pressure got to me even though no one said a word about my non-involvement! I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to join some of my favorite friends AND grow my knowledge as a teacher. So after a few weeks, I ordered the book Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites and started to get my read on.
And, let me tell you... I'm so glad I did! There's just no way you can walk away from a visit at RCA and continue to be mediocre. You know that you need to make a change, but you need guidance. Well, this book (along with books I'm reading by Ron Clark) has helped give me the ideas of what to change in my classroom. The strategies they include are so helpful and add a lot to your teacher toolkit!
So, let's dig in and discuss!
Strategy One: Brainstorming and Discussion
Talking is a HUGE part in my classroom. Now, this has not always been the case in my classroom. If you would have visited my room in the first four years of teaching you would have seen kids working independently and me shushing them constantly. Of course we would have class discussions and reading groups where we talked to each other, but my students hardly ever completed tasks with someone else. Fast forward to my 5th year of teaching. I started teaching 2nd grade in the Dual Language program. It is a requirement for students to have a partner, to sit with that partner at all times, and to complete the majority of classroom tasks together. So, I was kinda forced to changed my teaching techniques and I'm so thankful for that!!! My classroom is NOT quiet by any means, but my students are constantly learning from each other. Do they argue? yes! Do they get off topic? absolutely! But, through lots of modeling and practicing they do know how to share the work, discuss before working/writing, and hold meaningful conversations with all students in the class.
Here's what I'm working on/trying out as a result of reading this chapter...
Letting my students be the teacher more often...now, I've always done this occasionally, but sometimes I get to talking and I don't shut up, ha! Here's what I did this week. I had my students turn and talk to their partner about every step of solving a problem. Since we had just learned how to subtract 3-digit numbers, it was crucial that they knew and understood the process. We had to get the steps down. As they were discussing, I was watching to see who worked the best together. I chose a partner group to explain what they did to the class.
You better bet that the next go round every single group was discussing, solving, and writing in sync with one another. They all looked like model students because they wanted to be the teacher! After the first round I could have easily picked any of my partner groups to be the teacher!!
You'll notice the change from the beginning of the year here. Below I just had one student go up at a time... which was great, but adding in that peer discussion component made a HUGE difference!
Another way I want to improve is discussing our reflections more. I was actually really on top of this at the beginning of the year, but I've slacked off a lot lately! It makes me sad because I would so enjoy our share time and would often send parents videos and pictures of their children sharing their writing. This is my goal for the rest of the year...incorporate more sharing when it comes to our writing (and we write across all subject areas) I also really enjoyed the sentence starters and ideas that the book included for students who are struggling with sharing/answering questions.
Strategy Two: Drawing and Artwork
Now, I love me a colorful classroom. I'll be the first to admit that I do a lot of "crafts" in my room... and it's never for "fluff." Heck, if I was going to fill up my classroom time with "fluff" then I would copy worksheets and not spend time prepping crafts, ha! Each and everything we do serves a purpose. However, I know that every craft we make isn't always the most meaningful thing. I know that I need to include more forms of art. Paint and glitter tend to make my skin crawl just a little, ha! I really need to get over myself and personal preferences and expose my students to different mediums and such.
I've been asked so many times "How do you get your students to draw and color?? My students just won't spend the time doing it!"
Well, let me just show you this little girl. Two years ago she had very little experience with writing and drawing. She had colored before, but she just didn't have the exposure. She loves, loves, loves to color in coloring books, but when it comes to free-hand drawing she gives up a lot because she wants it to be perfect. We've had several little mini-lessons at home with directed drawings, adding details to our pictures, and then writing about them. Why is that so important? Well, I think being detail-oriented is a good trait all around. I want her to pay attention to the details in text, pictures, and problems. It didn't take much time on my part because all I had to do was model, point out where she could do a little more, and encourage her to keep adding those details.
Here's how this looks in my classroom...
I love, love, love kid art! There's just nothing much sweeter! Here is an adjective activity we did... illustrate and describe yourself! They take such pride in projects like this!
We did these directed drawings to give as gifts to our parents at Christmas. Talk about being proud... you should have seen the glow on their little faces when I took the time to laminate THEIR artwork! They thought that was the coolest thing ever!
I also like to incorporate art in math (especially geometry!). Here we used wikki sticks to create a model of a quadrilateral. This helped build their vocabulary because they created a shape AND wrote about it. It was important that they could describe the characteristics of the quadrilateral that they chose to make.
I'm going to continue to find ways to incorporate art throughout every subject area. I need to do more activities like the one above in math across the different skills that I am teaching. We have fractions coming up, so I know I can incorporate it then! Head on over to Elizabeth's blog to read what she learned and check out the other blogs that linked up! So many amazing ideas out there! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Deanna's explanation of worksheets vs recording sheets. I also loved reading about the Family Groups on Kindergals!