Yesterday as I stood in my driveway waiting for AAA to jump start my husband’s car, I watched as the neighbor boy (5 years old) played on his scooter in his driveway. The street leading into our cul-de-sac is a hill and his driveway is also sloped. Our driveways have a little bump so rain water goes down the storm drains instead of flooding our driveways. He went to the top of his driveway and realized he only needed to push once to make it to his garage. Next he went to the bottom of that bump and got frustrated with the number of pushes he needed to make it over the bump before he could coast to the garage. He went a little ways into the cul-de-sac and pushed off. He had to push again to make it over the bump in the driveway and then coast to the garage. He went farther into the cul-de-sac and pushed off. He made it to the peak of the driveway bump but didn’t make it over it. He went to the top of the cul-de-sac as his sister yelled for him to come back inside. This time he made it all the way down to the driveway, up and over the bump, and all the way into his garage. I could tell by the look on his face as he rode faster and faster down the hill that he was so proud of his accomplishment. He knew before he reached the garage that he was successful.
The whole time I watched as he problem solved, tried multiple strategies, failed, made adjustments, but never gave up until he succeeded my teacher brain was going wild!
- Wow! I can use this story to teach forces and motion in science to my firsties!
- Woah! This kid has some serious growth mindset and was so determined to race to his garage with only one push. He never once gave up or thought he was a terrible scooter rider.
- If kids can use these skills when they play why not for academics? Why aren’t academics at school approached through play?
- How can I use this kid’s perseverance and apply it to myself?
Yes, I plan to tell this story to my firsties and see if they can apply it to our science unit as well as pull out the character strengths he used while working to solve this problem.
I believe in play based learning as best practice for littles. Kids learn so much from their play. We as teachers need to pull our curriculum objectives out of children’s natural play. We need to guide and inspire play where children can apply curriculum knowledge to their games. Play allows children to feel safe in order to take risks. Risks allow children to learn and grow in deeper ways.
His perseverance inspires me. I am a goal setter but I often don’t make clear plans to take the necessary steps to meet my goals. I need to be more mindful about making plans and following through on the steps I need to take to meet my goals. I also need to take time to reflect on my progress and make adjustments to my plan in order to meet my goal. I need to go farther up the hill to get over the bumps in the path toward my goals.
What does this story make you think about?
Feedback is the most influential, powerful practice teachers can implement in their classrooms. Research (Hattie) shows that no single other practice in a classroom has a greater impact on student learning than feedback. However, how often does feedback come in the form of negatives.
- “You need to start your sentence with a capital.”
- “Did that sound right? Try a different strategy.”
- “Check your counting. You made a silly mistake. “
I’m guilty of this type of feedback myself. I think I’m helping my students. But what message are they actually hearing? I worry that it could be:
- “I’m a terrible writer.”
- “I can’t read.”
- “I’m not good enough.”
I have to be mindful daily to focus on my students strengths. It’s a decision I have to make every 5 seconds: tell them what they did great or what they need to fix.
I find that I get my fristies’ attention and interest when I start with something they did great. They love to hear how amazing they are. I try to make a point of telling each of my firsties something I love about them every day. They need this positive affirmation.
Today on flipgrid, one of my firsties was WAY off in her response but I didn’t even address it right away. I started by telling her how amazing she is at selfies (and she’s better than I am!) She lit up and hung on my every word after that! We hit her grow area after she was able to glow!
I try to pick 2-3 areas I want to improve on each school year. This summer I was introduced to the #ObserveMe challenge. Teachers post a sign outside their door, share on social media to invite others into their rooms to observe them and provide feedback.
This year my focus areas are:
- Student collaboration
- Evidence of inquiry based learning
- Positive student relationships
My action steps include:
- Regular opportunities for students to collaborate combined with direct instruction on how to collaborate effectively.
- Professional Development and book study on inquiry based learning, and Project Based Learning. My goal here is to teach all my science units as PBLs and my challenge is to try at least one PBL in another subject area.
- Read the Morning Meeting book and practice and improve upon morning meeting daily! My goal is to never rush morning meeting because that time together is so powerful for relationship building.
I chose to participate in #ObserveMe in the hope that I could collect feedback from peers, parents, and administrators frequently. Then have the time to reflect on that feedback and act on it. I’m struggling with actually getting people to come into my room. I would love to hear your ideas for getting people in my room!
Below is my #ObserveMe sign! I challenge YOU!
I teach little kids. Modeling EVERYTHING is important. I model reading strategies, writing conventions, counting methods, steps in a process. Every. Single. Day. Multiple. Times. A. Day. Modeling my learning is just as important. I preach growth mindset, the power of yet, and the miracle of mistakes all the time. I try to see into the future and predict the mistakes my littles will make then plan ahead to make those mistakes as I’m teaching my mini-lessons. These moments can be powerful for them. But I’ll tell you what, those kids are smart! They can see right though me! They know I made that mistake on purpose and they know I know better!
It is far more powerful to make natural mistakes in front of students. I don’t play those off as if I meant to. I model the process of how I realized there was a mistake and what I’m going to do to fix it and learn from it! My kids help me realize my mistakes and they cheer me on as they observe my process to improve.
My littles know I’m on twitter, they know I blog, they know I read books about education, they know I go to teacher conferences and workshops both to teach other teachers and to learn from other teachers. My kids know
that teaching that their learning is my passion. During our morning meeting time we share what we’re learning, mistakes we made, and our curiosities. It’s important for me to be open and honest with them. I don’t tell them kid friendly things. I share the real things in my life that I’m learning, my actual mistakes, and what I’m actually wondering about. My kids know I just bought a house and I’m struggling to work my front garden to make it look nice and keep the weeds out (they even offered to come help).
When kids see the adults near them learning, making mistakes, and improving they will realize that’s what life is all about. My goal is for my students to learn to enjoy the struggle and lean into it. Our favorite quote is from Thomas Edison, “I failed my way to success.” It’s our mantra.
What are you learning right now?
I’m a risk taker. I love to learn new things from twitter, podcasts, books, friends, and even billboards! I enjoy trying new things with my students and helping them find enjoyment in learning. I truly believe that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life! I see it as my mission to help children find a love of learning that will last them their lifetime. My purpose is to help them find their passion and explore it. I teach first grade and I constantly think about my students as adults. What I design for them in first grade will help them in their future.
I #innovate4littles in my classroom because they CAN ! The first time I tried Genius Hour, I did it because I just knew it couldn’t be done with littles and boy was I wrong! At the time I taught kindergarten and they ran with it. Littles are natural risk takers because no one has told them they can’t yet and so they believe they can! That year, my littles inspired me to be a risk taker through their hard work, learning, and application of standards and content though self guided experiences in Genius Hour.
I am a risk taker for my littles because they take risks everyday. I empathize with them because it must be so scary! So, I join in and model taking risks, failing, trying again, and hopefully succeeding. I hope that my risk taking inspires them to love learning for the rest of their lives and become innovators of whatever they choose to have a passion for. I hope that my littles never work a day in their lives!
# was an amazing opportunity provided to me and other teacher leaders by our district. They were looking for teacher leaders to embark on a self/team guided professional development journey. We were given the agency to choose from Instructional Design, 4Cs, and Project Based Learning (PBL). My group of amazing educators ( WakeTLCKara Damico, Betsy Archer, Rachel Gates, Gloria Butler, Ashlee Wackerly, and Kim Collins) decided to focus on PBL. We entered this journey from all different experiences and background knowledge about PBL. We ranged from not even really understanding what PBL is to others who had dabbled a bit in PBL. Together we dove in to the world of PBL and made a pact to each try one in our classroom before putting together the “deliverable” the district asked us to create.
Because sometimes the universe aligns perfectly, Hacking Project Based Learning was published near the beginning of our work together and it gave us just the jump start we needed to reach a common understanding of PBL and begin planning. After reading the book I was inspired to design a flow chart based on chapter 3. At one of our #wakeTLC sessions we used my flowchart to design a self-guided, differentiated, interactive digital resource for teachers to begin the PBL planning process. Please check it out and leave feedback!
For those of you who know me personally, you know my husband and I recently started house hunting and it has been quite frustrating for us and there have been a few things in life that have taken a back seat. (read: the lull in my blogging is because house hunting is a full-time job). I’m writing today because of an inspiring day at #EdCampWake yesterday. This was my first time and if you haven’t been to one, you should. #EdCampBeach is coming in April! Here’s what an EdCamp is:
I went to sessions on Genius Hour, Equity, PBL, Blogging, and #BookSnaps. Something inspiring happened at every session EVEN the lunch break (mentioned below)! So here I am back in the saddle! I can’t promise that I will get back to posting regularly like before because house hunting is NO FUN! But I have some ideas ready to write about and I will get those ideas and reflections out there! Today I’m looking at standard 6 to finish off the NC Teacher Evaluation Standards.
Standard 6: Teachers contribute to the academic success of students: the work reflects in acceptable, measurable progress for students based on established performance expectations using appropriate data to demonstrate growth.
Woah! This is a big one. I think Bethany Gullion had it right yesterday at #EdCampWake. Teachers don’t like or agree with standardized testing and we don’t have to. The tests are not going away and we need to find a way to use them to our advantage and help kids feel successful on them. My #oneword for assessments and the achievement gap #believe and #honesty. Ok that’s 2 but I think they are both important.
My class this year is competitive. First year I’ve had a group of kindergarteners so competitive. They love sports, speed tests, and scores. At recess they have races and “time” each other. (Note to self: get them a stopwatch. Counting is not standard measure of time). They are obsessed with winning and improving. I work daily to turn this passion of theirs into a growth mindset. I want them to look at progress over perfection, getting better over winning, and personal bests. We celebrate in my room when I collect data. Kinders love to celebrate even if they don’t know why they’re celebrating. If you’re excited, They’re excited. I try to be upfront with some of my struggling kinders too. Here’s a story:
One of my students struggles but does fine if I give him support. He is in the red (*gasp*) in all areas of mClass. I progress monitor him on PSF (Phonemic Segmentation Fluency – can he say all the sounds in a word). His middle of the year benchmark was 5 the benchmark goal is 20. Our first progress monitor was a 7. Frist we celebrated his 2 point growth. Then, I told this sweet friend that we practice this every day during Letterland (phonics and phonemic awareness program) and asked him what he does during Letterland. His response, “I play with my friend beside me. I think about recess.” I love his honesty! I told him that if he wants to grow his score he needs to focus during Letterland, pay attention, and do and say all the things I ask during Letterland. He said, “Ok I will!” 10 days later I progress monitored again and his score was a 44. 44! All I did with him was be honest and use his data WITH him.