Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Keep the momentum going

Students have been studying how the the base ten numeral system works since September. This week and next marks the end of the first big push in that area. Then students will have an assessment to determine what they've mastered. Right now, the goal is to keep the momentum going since the last few days of this study is a bit messy with students at many different points and needing a variety of supports.

What will I do to keep the momentum going?

First, I'll keep a list of who has completed the study packet--a packet that includes a number of questions, models, and exercises related to the study focus. I'll share that list with the students, and give them time to finish on their own, with classmates, and with teacher support.

Next, I'll encourage students to work towards completion of the fifth grade online Symphony Math exercises. These exercises are a great match for the current learning.

And, students will have the chance to complete an online Google form content review on Friday and a Google form practice test next week.

There's a short, related homework assignment that they are tasked with completing too.

So, there are many study opportunities and lots of ways to complete those tasks both in school and at home. I'll continue the mantra that success is within their grasp if they do the following:
  • Stay on task during study times
  • Choose optimal work partners
  • Ask questions and seek support when they don't understand
  • Have confidence in their ability to learn if they follow these steps
  • Know that a strong foundation in math skill, process, and thinking leads to success in all areas of life--it's important to develop apt mathematical thinking skills and abilities
I'm very proud of the students' tenacity and success to date--they've made great progress. In these next few days, I'll work to keep that momentum going. And, following the assessment next week, we'll enter into an engaging, hands-on volume exploration that invites creativity, problem solving, and lots of choice which will be a nice complement to this mostly online and paper pencil study this week and next. Onward. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Time Investment

Where do you invest your time?

Recently I made an inquiry and got no response. I wasn't surprised since I received an inquiry that I didn't respond to either. Why didn't I respond? Simply put, I didn't respond because my time is spoken for--there are no more minutes in the day to do that work, and I suspect that is why no one responded to my inquiry as well--there's rarely a minute left in the day.

Is this different than in the past? Did we have more time in the past or I am imagining that. The job of teaching has always been busy, but perhaps with an experienced staff and ample materials, what we can do is amazing and we're spending our time doing that deep and good work, work that includes personalizing lessons, collaborative meetings, curriculum research, professional learning, student response, family meetings and more.

So, as I think of some of the less supported initiatives in my midst, I am fully aware that we can't do it all and it is a matter of choosing what is most important to do and for the most part, that is serving the children in front of you each and every day. Onward.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Things may be different than they seem

The teacher is sitting at the front of the room while children are working. It may seem like the teacher is taking a rest, but in truth, that teacher may be observing the room, watching closely to notice what's happening with regard to a particular student, group, or effort.

The child is alone in the hall. The teacher is not there. Why, you may wonder. Sometimes, a teacher may leave a child by themselves for a few minutes for good reasons. Of course the teacher has to believe that the situation is safe and justified, but again, things may not be as they seem.

A teacher may speak to a child with the kind of candor that seems abrupt, but unless you talk to the teacher to understand the roots of the discussion, it is difficult to judge the situation.

I guess what I'm saying is that none of us should be too quick to judge an educational observation without a conversation. Of course there are extremes, both good and not so good, that we can judge, but in general, it's not a good idea to judge a situation. Instead, ask questions such as what are your expectations or how can I help rather than assuming you understand what's going on. Lesson to self as well.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Next Week: Friday Musings

Before the weekend starts, I like to have the focus for the next school week set.

Climate Change Projects/Environmental Science
I'll do a deep review of this work on Sunday afternoon to prepare for a number of classroom and professional learning events next week.

Math Learning and Finesse
We're at the final weeks of a number of related math units. I'll spend a lot of time focusing in on individual learners to answer their questions, review their work, and help them to master the concepts we've studied. I'll also review students' work to date at the end of the week for a big pass-back on Monday, February 3.

Staff Celebration
I'll work with colleagues to prepare for a staff celebration.

I'll focus in on reading goals with individual students.

Field Trip Musings

I have grown to love field trips because of the way these explorations open children's eyes and introduce them to worlds they might not imagined before. That's what happened today when we visited the McAuliffe Challenger Center to take a virtual trip to Mars and learn about the universe in the center's planetarium.

Similar to the betterment we seek with all things we do, I want to continually create a best possible venue of field trip experiences. We have a wonderful list of places to visit--places that match our standards-based program, SEL, and culturally proficient teaching goals. We typically have terrific family support for these trips including lots of chaperones, and I am finding that the places we visit have become more and more alined to the standards and modern ways of teaching and learning. While we are continually developing our programs for betterment, the places that we visit are developing their programs and offerings as well.

So as I assess our collection of field studies, I want to start with what's working:
  • The field studies open eyes, broaden perspectives, spur curiosity, teach the standards, and develop a greater sense of a learning community.
  • The field studies not only teach the students, but the teachers learn as well which helps us to teach the curriculum even better.
  • The field studies develop our family-student-teacher team since family members, students, and teacher embark on the trips together.
How can we make these trips better?
  • Next year we're going to look more closely at scheduling since we don't want to miss some of the programming at school and we want to choose the best possible days for these trips. 
  • I also want to think about student behavior--while most students behave beautifully on these trips, a few have trouble with self regulation and good conduct. I want to think about ways that we can prep students well for behavioral expectations. This may mean working more closely with specialists to think about children who may have special challenges in this regard.
  • I would like our special educators and other specialists to attend some of these trips with us in order to best support student learning. I want to think about how we might make this happen more often.
  • I want to make sure we have sufficient parent chaperone support for every trip. We recently fixed one problem related to this, and I have some ideas about how we might attract more parents for trips that are less supported.
  • Visiting the places that we visit with the children prior to the trip can also help us to target the visit in the most meaningful ways.
  • Continuing to look for grant money to support the trips helps to defray the costs.
  • While safety and good behavior are important, I also want to work on having a bit more levity during the trips. I admit I am super vigilant about safety and behavior, but I think can continue to lead that while also bringing a bit lighter and more playful attitude on the trips. 
These field studies are an important part of our overall program because the trips invigorate the learning in ways that we can't replicate in the classroom, ways, that I believe have a positive impact on student learning well into the future. Onward.