Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Magnetic Student Empowerment

Magnets by Rick Morris
Magnets empower my students! I was first introduced to the power of magnets at a Rick Morris seminar. I've used them ever since! Magnets can be used in a multitude of ways: as a means to fairly call on students, to stop the "teacher, teacher" cry that drives all teachers crazy, magnets allow one to easily see who's completed an assignment, as an expert board, and a way for students to collaborate and discuss texts.

One of my students' favorite use is the "Got Questions?" board.  It is primarily used during math and the first hour of class when students are turning in homework, starting AM work, or just have something they want to share.  The method ensures that all students have easy and fair access to me as often as they need my help, advice, or concern.  Students simply go to the board and move their magnet into line.  After I help a student, they move their magnet down and call for the next student - Wow! students are empowered to lead.  Of course, I have taken the time to talk to them about using a kind tone when calling on their classmate.

Also, this magnet-method builds community. Students know that I'm available and often I will hear mini-stories about their weekends, their concern, or a cool video clip they saw. These mini-conversations are relatively brief, students know that others are waiting, but this magnet-system has created a space for them to share about their lives

During the independent practice time in math, the magnets ensure that all students get called on fairly.  This matters greatly to my early-finishers who know if they finish their practice early, they can start their homework.

The expert board empowers students to use their skills to help others.  The required "expert" changes daily, sometimes hourly, so all students have the opportunity to be an expert. I have seen first hand, shy students move their magnets up because they knew they had a skill or knowledge and wanted to help their classmates, even though it was outside of their comfort-zone, especially if there were very few "experts" on the list. Again, magnets empower students to lead.

Magnets provide a means to monitor progress while letting the teacher see at a quick glance who's completed various assignments. Students love to go to the list and move their magnet up once they have turned in an assignment.

In addition, I have used  magnets as a means to monitor writing progress (rough draft, peer-editing, final draft).

Last year, I began using magnets as a means for students to discuss texts and/or collaborate.The magnets allow students choice in who they want to be their discussion-partners = students are empowered to make smart choices.  

Two of the best side-benefits to using magnets is that students keep it all organized and it's front and center for all to see.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Inspiring Readers to Read Across the Genres

In order to encourage my students to read across the genres, I implemented 3 years ago a Read Across America Project - there are 50 different projects that are named after our 50 states - this was a fun way to tie our American History to our Reading projects - however, only one is directly related to a state (New York - read about the Empire State Building).

Student choice, exposing students to actually opening out atlases, cook books, almanacs, comic strips, graphic novels, poetry books, encyclopedias, science experiments, picture books, researching a future career, reading about scientists, biographies, as well as reading novels has opened up so many windows to my students.

Each week students are required to turn in one project.  These project include science experiments, making a paper puppet of a main character, book marks, illustrations, word-searches/puzzles, quizzes, reading poems aloud, writing paragraphs, cooking a recipe for their family, and the list really does go on.

It holds the students accountable in making reading a habit while allowing the students to choose what they want to read.  They are allowed to do 3 projects on one novel - I do want them to complete the novel!

If you are interested in this project, let me know.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pirate-Teaching in 7 Days

My teaching world is forever rocked
and everyone is benefiting: students and teacher!

BEFORE - desks

AFTER - Table groups + reading nook

From Day 1, students have been empowered to take control of their learning and their learning environment.  No one is hostage to their seat; students are constantly moving around the room to work on assignments, collaborate, peer-edit, ask for help. The guideline is Ask 3, then Me.  They are learning to be responsible for their learning, our learning environment, and our community.

On Day 2, a student felt empowered to move himself to a desk so he could focus. He moved himself back to his table group later in the day - didn't ask me - I LOVE this!

From Day 1, I modeled Give Me 5 and even asked a couple of students if they would repeat what I told them and most did.  Finally, on Day 7, a brave soul called out one after I posted a note on the whiteboard. Over the course of the day three or four more students utilized this empowering tool - all appropriately.  **Tomorrow, I'm planning on reviewing the many ways it can be employed - I reread that chapter today!
**UPDATE 9/21/15 - 6 students did it - I can see for some that they were really being brave, for others they "own" it, now! 8 days!!!!

Give Me 5
On Day 2, emphasizing all 4 C's which are listed in the 21 Century Skills section of Learn Like a Pirate which is linked to the Revised Blooms Taxonomy, I used Popsicle sticks and grouped the students in groups of 3. Using the data from the whole-class bar graph we created, students were charged with designing (=creativity) a pie graph with a title and legend.  LOTS of discussing (=communication & critical thinking) and collaboration commenced - I listened in and moved around the room, checking to see that everyone was in some way participating - very "present" the entire time.  After they completed their rough draft, I asked each group to come up with 3 different ways they could improve the presentation = improvement-focused.  Absolutely blown away by the thoughtful responses: different color choices, using a ruler for straight lines, moving or enlarging the legend. I know it's not rocket-science, but this was accomplished on Day 2 with some not working with their favorite partners!
Math Pie Graphs
Day 6 - students "boarded" a ship bound to America in 1850. I donned a shawl, dusted off my Irish accent, and using a baby doll, marbles, and a miniature of the Statue of Liberty - both 5th grade classes (36 students) crammed together in the middle of the classroom to hear a dramatic retelling of Peggy O'Flynn's (a relative of mine whose story has been greatly embellished!) journey to America as a result of the Irish Potato Famine.  This was part of our Immigration Celebration in which students celebrate the diversity of America by bringing bread to share from their ancestral home. Fun and full tummies were had by all! I put push pins on a world map of all the countries my students' ancestors/parents have immigrated from. Every year, I used this Active Learning strategy - it's nice to know that I've been on track in at least one area.
**Future Active Learning & Peer Collaboration Project- Native American tribe reports using Glogster.

Sharing Bread from Our Cultures

This week, I'll be starting Responsibility-Partners and using Paul Solarz's math lesson model.  I'm looking forward to making one-on-one homework check-in a reality.  In this way, every student is being reached while all students are working on a review lesson.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pass BIFF, Find JOY

I just created this card that is going to make this first JOY mission a reality. Beyond excited!!!!

One of my teacher goals this coming school year is to promote a positive school culture within our staff inspired by Angela Watson's book, Unshakeable.  One way I'm planning to do this is be creating JOY opportunities.  You can read my earlier post here.