Saturday, August 20, 2011

Targeting Efforts for the School Year Ahead

Elementary school educators teach a broad array of subjects and skills, hence it's important to target efforts otherwise focus will splinter into too many directions to facilitate mastery, student success and a sense of accomplishment.  As I prep for the school year and receive updates from colleagues, administrators, parents and others, I am reminded of all the focus areas, efforts and initiatives in place--each one seeking my attention and time.  Therefore, I've created a short-list, a menu of focus areas, that I'll commit to this year in an effort to develop my craft and classroom program.
  • RTI (Response to Intervention):  This is a system-wide initiative. As a staff, we studied the approach last year and tried it out.  This summer we met for a couple of days to learn more about RTI.  Then smaller groups of teachers and administrators met to pave the way for this initiative by creating optimal schedules and processes.  I want to be a collaborative participant in this initiative as I believe it will develop our ability to better meet student needs in ELA (English language arts) and other academic areas.  I will employ the daily 5 in conjunction with this effort.
  • Mid-Year Update: Our RTI efforts have been terrific.  There's been a lot of learning and collaboration.  I continue to learn more and more about the effect of optimal collaboration and the positive impact it can have on students.  This has been a terrific initiative in our school system. I also started the year with The Daily Five which continues to play a role in our reading workshop efforts.  Keene's Literacy Studio and other approaches related to our PLC work and research also continue to play a role as my colleagues and I create responsive reading/writing workshop times throughout the week.
  • Project Based Learning and Multimedia Composition.  I did a lot of work in this area last year. I'd like to continue the work this year by employing last year's successful projects: self-portrait poetry anthologiesendangered species reports, the immigration museum, the class social network, and the Fraction Project.  I'd also like to add Google Writing Book Sites, a Writing Craft blog, Regular Video Newsletters (similar to the Department of Education updates), and a Zoo-School partnership project to strengthen the experiential side of our grade-level signature project, Endangered Species Reports.  In addition, I will integrate our school's new community identity initiative into existing fourth grade projects.
  • Mid-Year Update: We worked together to build our grade-level collaboration with the Immigration/Family History Museum project.  Similarly some of us employed the Self Portrait Poetry unit.  My class added the ePortfolio dimension to this project.  Google sites informed our work with ePortfolio creation, book group/interactive read aloud work, math and rotations.  The class employed a writer's craft blog.  We plan to develop the endangered species unit to include common core standards and continued tech integration and school identity initiative work. Unfortunately, the zoo-school partnership was not funded, and support for this project has been challenging.  I'd like to pursue it next year, but I'm not sure that the financial, tech and other necessary support to pursue this project will be there.  I will research this over the summer.
  • Student-Centered Classroom:  Through the use of guided social media , classroom meetings, an organized inviting environment, the Google Action tabletweet sheets, project based learning, formative assessments and lots of listening and feedback, I hope to create a vibrant, student centered learning environment which fosters self-knowledge, confidence, pride and social, emotional, physical and academic comfort and growth.
  • Mid Year Update: Guided social media, an inviting, organized environment and the Google action table have been employed and modified to meet students' interests and needs.  We have had several lessons and discussions about brain-friendly, student centered learning and efforts which have been beneficial.  We did not use the tweet sheets much as we haven't had a lot of listening lessons.  Our main learning venue has been active learning.  I hope to continue these efforts as the year progresses.
  • Professional Development in Tech-Ed Skills, Knowledge and Processes:  I am invested in the potential technology holds for student success and positive world change.  Hence, I'll make this area the focus of my professional development.  I will attend and present at MassCUE's fall conference.  I also plan to attend Edscape in October and Educon in January.  Committing to those events now will ensure that I make the time to continue this professional quest.
  • Mid Year Update: This area continues to be a passion.  I learned a lot and blogged about the essential elements related to the conferences above  I also participated and presented in a fall online global conference and plan to attend edcampMaine and edcampbos. The class has utilized many new technology tools in the year, and the addition of 50% one-to-one with Macbooks has been an awesome advantage to our collective learning. I also continue to blog regularly and participate in Twitter chats related to education.  I share the links and learning I gain with others regularly. Further, I plan to present at (ePortfolios) and attend The Wayland Literacy Institute and the MTA Teacher Conference this summer.
  • Math Talk: I revised my math teaching goal since I was unable to find a consultant to lead us through an action-based research project, and I don't have the extra time to do that research.  Hence, I decided to place my math focus on researching, implementing and developing the Math Talk or discussion part of my math teaching.  That's a realistic, beneficial goal.
  • More than Math Talk, the inclusion of a Math website has been a good addition to the math program.  The program has taken on a true blended learning approach with fluid in-school, at-home work. The biggest challenge is time--we simply run out of time to teach all the standards.
  • Additional 2011-2012 Work and Goals:  The addition of the a student teacher during the first part of 2012 has been a positive learning experience for the students and me.  As the year progresses, students will tackle MCAS tests, the endangered species project, a fiction unit, portfolio work and continued math and reading workshop.
These are my main objectives this year.  I'm sure there will be revision and addition as the year moves forward. I'll add those changes to the comment section.  I'll consult this list next spring when I assess my work and efforts, and create goals for the following year.

Thanks for sharing in my thought process related to creating focus for one year of fourth grade teaching. What are your focal points for the year ahead? I look forward to your comments and ideas.