Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Response to New Initiatives

There are a large number of new efforts and new initiatives in my midst. My initial response is to react with opinion about each one, however, I'm coaching myself away from that reaction in order to focus in on the areas that I've committed to for the year. When I see overlap, missed opportunity, or underrepresentation, my initial reaction is to speak up, yet now I want to save the speaking up for matters of great import so that I reserve energy for my primary areas of concern which include the grade five learning team, math education, science education, and community building at the grade level.

There's lots to do to keep the primary focus alive. Last night as I watched Downton Abby, this related quote sums up my thoughts today:

" We all have different parts to play, Matthew, and we should all be allowed to play them."

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Next days; teaching well

To free myself to enjoy the weekend and attend to personal matters over professional pursuits, I have to take a few minutes to reflect on where we are in school and where we are headed.

There's a good schedule of worthy events planned for the week ahead, and there are many  tweets, notes, and presentations from Friday's conference to review and summarize into a leading post next week too.

A few student-led conferences remain, but in general there appears to be ample planning and prep time next week to ready for upcoming student explorations and learning events. Now is time to focus on the personal side of life. Onward.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Interdisciplinary Project Based Learning Approach

What is your approach to interdisciplinary project based learning? How do you forward projects like this in your teaching environment?

Successful project based learning evolves guided by essential questions, positive partnerships, and conditions for excellence in a rich learning/teaching environment with teamwork amongst all members of the learning community.

Evolutionary Process
Good project based learning is much like gardening--it's a lifelong project continually evolves. Project based learning is not a static process, instead it is an ever changing approach to teaching that puts the students center stage in the learning process. Good projects develop and change over time and profits from rich professional learning, positive partnerships, reflection, assessment, and a primary focus on teaching children well. The best projects respond to expectations, interests, and needs in personal, engaging, and meaningful ways.

Essential Questions
Our project based learning approach at fifth grade begins with these essential questions:
  • Expectations: What are we expected to teach?
  • Students: Who are our students? What do our students need, want, and desire?
  • Depth and Breadth: How can we create the kind of learning environment, professional capacity, teamwork, integration of new research, and routines to foster successful project based learning that responds to who our students are and what they need and want?
These essential questions focus on expectations, students, and what's desired and possible.

Positive Partnerships
We know that to forward successful project based learning, we need support. That's why forming good partnerships and broadening the learning community to include families, colleagues, and community members is essential. We regularly reach out to students, families, and colleagues for support and collaboration, and we also reach out to multiple community organizations to support our work with their expertise, learning tools, resources, and environments, and financial support.

Setting the Stage for Project Based Learning: Conditions for Excellence
  • We identify the standards we will embed into the project.
  • We think about what will engage and motivate our students at their age and within our context of time and place. 
  • We think about what has relevance, what problems do we want students to solve.
  • We weave standards from multiple disciplines together.
  • Use a website as the project's virtual home and resource center. The website is a live document that changes as the project changes.
  • We seek professional learning that supports our project work.
  • We set up the inside/outside learning environment to support the project work. 
Develop Teamwork
We have found that one essential building block of successful project based learning is teamwork--teamwork amongst the educators and experts, and teamwork amongst the students too. This takes a deliberate, explicit approach to foster.

Exploring Best Practices

Today a colleague and I will attend Massachusetts Department of Education's Sharing for Success Dissemination Fair. We'll present our environmental interdisciplinary project based learning efforts, and we'll have the opportunity to hear educators from throughout the state describe their interdisciplinary project based learning, social emotional learning, and equity education efforts. I'm looking forward to this day of learning and share.

Some of the questions I'm bringing to the fair include the following:

  • How do other educators' approaches to project base learning differ from our efforts?
  • What new ideas will we learn that will help us to improve our efforts in this regard?
  • How to these schools support students who are less successful with teamwork and project based learning; how can we better design this work to better involve these students?
  • What are some ways that these educators embed standards into project based learning?
  • How do they make the learning from project based learning meaningful and memorable?
  • How do they create projects that are culturally relevant.
Interdisciplinary project based learning is a rich way to teach and learn if done well. Today's learning will help us to take a deeper look at the work we do with an eye on betterment. I look forward to learning opportunities like this one. Onward. 

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Thursday Musings

Tomorrow my colleague and I will attend a state conference to share the work we're doing with project-based learning and then it's the long weekend. The recent field trip and sweet s'mores solar oven project were great team builders. So I'm feeling very optimistic about the learning at this point.

Next week we'll dig deeper into the base ten place value system unit, read great books, learn lots of science and take a hike to a local conservation area. There's some papers to review and curriculum prep too. All in all we're at a good place on this first Thursday in November. Onward.