Saturday, October 9, 2010

Watching cartoons and eating bacon...

Before I get started, I want to make it known that I am uncomfortable having cartoons from my childhood marketed as "Retro". That being said, I had some time last night and this morning to do some review and planning, so I have a few more thoughts and updates on the class.

Now that we are settling into a more comfortable routine and I have a good grasp on where each of them is "at", I think it will give us more freedom to try new things and really sink our teeth into the curriculum. I continue to be impressed by their enthusiasm, and I will never get tired of how endlessly interested they are in EVERYTHING. Any time I start feeling bored by something, I think about how much joy and incredulity I see in the kids when they learn something new.

One effort I would like to make beginning this week is to have the students take greater responsibility for their own organization. This ranges from making sure they "punch in" in the morning, to having them monitor their own progress academically. I have enough material now to put together a basic portfolio for each child, which I want to have them use as a tool to assess their own progress, needs and strengths. In this portfolio, I will have a weekly self-evaluation sheet that will ask them to rate things like how organized they thought they were, how much they enjoyed the activities, and what they think they could have done to improve these factors.

My main goal here is to move from the class-wide discussions we have been carrying out to a more introspective, intrinsic motivation model. Sharing and discussion will still be important, but I think that they are also very capable thinkers and would benefit from having to do so more often. At home, this can be reinforced by having them organize their own household tasks where possible, giving choices rather than yes/no decisions, and asking a lot of questions. I can see that this must already happen a lot of the time, as they are usually very well-prepared and aware of their own abilities and roles.

I also think that the model we are using for book reports can be expanded to accommodate learning in other disciplines as well. If you consult with the list of options I sent home for book reports, you will see models like "Create an Advertising Campaign", "Letter to the Author" or "Invent a Board Game". My intent is to allow students to push their understanding of what they are reading and viewing as far as they are comfortable with.

Beachy Cove Elementary is very supportive of teachers' use of Differentiated Instruction and other inclusionary teaching models, and I think this is a great way to use these concepts. I really think that if we can help the class embrace the idea that understanding can be represented and communicated in many ways, we are well on the way to building the higher-level skills that will serve them well in their future learning, work and social lives. I really think that directing their energy into self-improvement and increased self-confidence is more positive than creating a competitive, "whose project is better" model. I have noticed the latter happening more and more, especially when we are playing class games or carrying out "demand writing" activities in class, and would like to avoid that attitude as much as possible.

In saying that, I think that it is still important not to break the model entirely. Evaluation still has to happen, and all students have to feel comfortable that their efforts will be appreciated and relevant to the expected outcomes. For that reason I am creating a rubric for Tuesday that will encompass multi-disciplinary activities like book reports, learning centres and especially our upcoming Drama in Education program in Social Studies. As always, if you have any questions about what is happening in class (or why), don't hesitate to contact me. The class is also getting more and more comfortable with the idea that they should feel free to ask for explanation whenever they aren't sure, and that knowing why they are doing something is very important.

Having taken our time with the first unit in Math, I want to really jump into some fun problem solving now. We are moving into Addition/Subtraction next, then into Patterns. I have modelled these lessons to include as many other subject areas as possible, in an effort to make it more relatable. The class will also be maintaining a problem-solving journal starting in the next few weeks, which will ask them to use their new and existing skills and interests to solve a variety of problems. This addresses a particular need in our School Development strategy, as well as being a fun way to break down pervasive Math phobias.

I've gone on a bit long, but I wanted to share what I was thinking for the upcoming little while. I welcome any comments you may have, since not everything is written in stone. Have a great Thanksgiving weekend, and congratulations again to the class on their great Math Test success and on filling up the container of Good Behaviour tokens.

Movie Wednesday, anyone? (See survey on the top right corner of the blog)

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