Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Why Not Be Great?"

Godin challenges us on this New Year's Eve with the question, "Why not be great?"

Which challenges me to identify "great."  What is great?  What does it mean to my life as a wife, friend, family member, mother and educator?

This is a question I will be thinking about in the days to come, but to start with great for me means the following:

Great is unencumbered. In 2012 I want to reach towards as much simplicity as possible.  Less things, more time.  More time, greater opportunity to do what really matters.

Great is belief-driven action.  I want my actions in 2012 to exemplify my beliefs.

Great is continued growth.  I am one of many, a tiny dot in the universe of life, and with that recognition comes the knowledge that I know only a small fraction of what there is to know. Hence I will continue to develop and integrate my awareness, knowledge, understanding and insight into my life's work and activity.

Great is love.  Love is challenging.  It takes getting to know one another in deep and meaningful ways.  Love means serving each other for best result, experience and endeavor.  Love sometimes means sacrificing your own gain to effect another's accomplishment. With love, comes the most satisfactory human experience, the best of what life has to offer.

Great is joy.  Finding positive experiences in life that bring joy makes life worth living.  Whether it is a beautiful garden, a hike in the mountains, dancing, dinner parties, travel, writing, reading and so much more, it's essential to find what brings you joy and make it a regular part of your life.

To start, great is joy, love, growth, belief-driven action in an unencumbered schedule and environment.  In the days and weeks to come, I will think about the implications of great with respect to my many roles in life.

In the meantime, I'm curious, What does great mean to you?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Professional Inquiry: Learning Design

I heard Alan November speak at the 2011 Global Conference.  I was intrigued by his notion of learning design.  I realized that this is the area of teaching and learning I am most passionate about--the lesson/unit choreography.

I have always tackled teaching as a creative process with the goal of integrating goals/standards with  research and students' passions/interests to effect optimal outcome.  I am fascinated by this process and delighted to engage in this quest as an educator.

In 2012, I want to delve deeper into the "learning design" arena.  I will begin by reading as much as I can about learning design.  I will research the following questions:

What is learning design?
What are the optimal components of learning design?
How can classrooms and educators support effective learning design?

As I learn, I will revise outdated components and employ new strategies in the classroom program. I will also continue to develop my current template for effective lesson/unit planning.

Integrating science and art, I will keep the central focus on what's best for students as I embark on this journey.  I welcome your wisdom, links, titles, ideas and debate during this discovery.  At the heart of the endeavor is the goal of making schools an invigorating, responsive, motivating, positive and profitable experience for all students.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Creativity Days Conclusion

"I told you I could do it, Ms. Devlin!"

"I thought of that idea because Chinese New Year is coming."

"I really wanted to do this project because I like to research."

Creativity Days concluded today.  Twenty-one students presented their projects.  They also completed a Creativity Days assessment.  The assessment comments were very positive.  Students noted that they liked Creativity Days because it was fun, they got to make things, and they could choose what they wanted to study.  I listed a few of their amazing responses below:

"I think it is important to imagine in this world because I believe to succeed you must do two things, believe and imagine." - Gabriella

"I wanted to do a project like this for two years." - Marcos

"I think it is important to be creative whether it's based on facts or not. If nobody ever imagined and created, nobody would have electricity and we would still be like we were millions of years ago." - Yana

"Making a book is hard, but fun." - Aarushi

"I was motivated because I love doing what I want to do." - Aidan

Creativity Days was a success!  It was a wonderful way to build student skill and knowledge during a festive time of the year.  

Next time, I'll slow down a bit more and communicate the project parameters better to teachers that work in my classroom in order to enlist their ideas and support.  I'll review this year's blog posts and make revisions that are responsive to next year's class.  I will also keep my eyes open for future posts about Fedex Days, Innovation Days, Identity Days and other such student-centered creativity endeavors, and share those articles with teachers who showed interest in the project this year as it would be great to do this with a team of colleagues in the future.

Thanks for your online support for the project, and as always don't hesitate to comment or tweet further ideas and considerations.  

More Project Examples
Dylan's Dance Music-a Garageband composition
Hockey Rink: an original Garageband composition

Related Posts
Eric Sheninger's Blog Post: Creativity Fuels Innovation

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Creativity Days: Day Two

We finalized our Creativity Days projects today at two.  Tomorrow students will have the chance to reflect on their projects and process as well as share their projects with the class.  Students worked consistently from 9:30-10:30, 10:50-12:00, and again from 1-2:00.  Some even skipped recess to keep working.

As the teacher it's been interesting to watch students complete their projects.  Some worked at an even keel completing their projects by the end of the day.  Others are bringing home work tonight as they want to continue their study, and yes, there are some that finished ahead of time.

A few students were disappointed with their projects.  Even though we used planning sheets and had meetings, their vision for what they hoped to achieve didn't match their final project.  I empathized and told students that projects don't always work out the first time, that's part of the creative process.

I'll create an assessment tonight and give students the chance to reflect tomorrow.  That will help me to assess my work and the project parameters.  Their reflections will help me plan and implement future projects for inspired learning.

If you've been keeping track of the project, please don't hesitate to lend your thoughts and ideas.  I know it's a project aimed in the right direction, and I also know it's one that I'll revise and revisit in the future.

Seeing the Individual

Classroom teachers are in charge of large groups of students.  Often the focus is on the group--what's working best for the group.

Today, I want to see beyond the group.  I want to look into the eyes of each individual.  I want to converse with each child about his or her creativity project.

I want to encourage, notice and guide.  My goal today is 22 personal conversations related to students' innovation.  I'll share that goal with students during our project meeting so they can help me make the space for each conversation.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Creativity Days: Day One

Creativity Days Dragon Creation
We embarked on Creativity Days today.  Students were very excited, so excited that it was difficult getting everyone to sit still for the project introduction.

We started with a discussion about "Learning to Learn Skills."  I asked students to list the skills they needed to learn.  Immediately they listed essential skills such as reading, writing, math, keyboarding and subject knowledge.  Then I prompted them to think more deeply about other types of skills and ways of thinking they would need to learn well.  One student started that thought thread when she answered that it was important for students to be interested in the topic.  I added "passions and interest" to the list.  Then that list grew with the addition of imagination, stamina, pacing, a "don't give up" attitude, confidence, dreams, patience, listening, believing in yourself and understanding what you're trying to learn.

That discussion set the stage well.  I passed out the planning lists and students started the process.  Several students bypassed the planning stage only to find themselves stuck with too-big projects or projects they didn't like.  We met again and I emphasized the planning process and project behaviors: stay on task, be polite, follow directions, listen, do your best, be patient and work quietly so that everyone else can work.  Children got to work after that as I held meetings and responded to students' questions and obstacles.

The class project choices represent a wide range of topics including animal life spans, fabric art, sled design, protection of marine animals, clarinet music, paper airplanes, football rules, music videos and more.

As the teacher in charge I find myself vacillating between awe and angst as I guide these young innovators.  At the end of the day, I asked students if the project was worth it--the overwhelming majority voted yes.  The few that voted no expressed specific project concerns that I will be able to remedy tomorrow.

Hence, Creativity Days continues.  Stay tuned for more reflection and news.  Also, don't hesitate to lend your ideas and wisdom.

Creativity Days Begin Today!

Creativity Days begin today. The way these days are introduced to the class will impact the success of the endeavor.  It's a new project with far fewer parameters than our typical lessons.  So, how will I delicately and pointedly introduce the project?

I'll start with background information.  I will remind students that they are the leaders of their education.  Essentially, they are in the driver's seat when it comes to the decisions, work and outcome of their overall learning endeavors.  With that in mind, I'll also remind them that it's just as important to develop your "learning to learn" skills as it is to develop the essential skills of reading, writing and math.

I'll ask, What do you think "learning to learn" skills include?  I imagine students will offer answers such as asking questions, observation, taking notes, discussing ideas, writing reports, research, presentation, knowing thyself as a learner, reflection, effort and tenacity--all topics we've discussed this year.  Then, I will tell them that Creativity Days is their chance to practice their "learning to learn" skills and to learn about and share a topic that they are really interested in or passionate about.  I'll discuss the fact that our passions and interests fuel our learning, direction and choices, and that we all have different passions and interests. That's what makes the world move forward with innovation, new ideas and happiness.

After that I'll introduce the Creativity Days planning sheet.  We'll quickly review it.  Then, I'll give students the time to think and explore the many books and topics available in our library.  I will let children start their individual research, discovery and creativity once they have completed the planning document and reviewed it with me.  When reviewing students' planning documents, I'll be looking for areas where I can help students with the process and scope of their projects.  I imagine some will want to complete projects that are much too big for the time allotted (about five hours), and I'll help those students break their projects down into steps with a first step as a reasonable project for this time period and later steps for later learning.

As children embark on this journey, I'll give them plenty of room for redirection, revision and rethinking.  I'll be available to help breakdown obstacles and roadblocks.  Today's starting discussion will impact the project's success greatly, and since this is a new project for me too, I'll leave room for Creativity Days revision and redirection too.

The launch begins today at 9:45 a.m.  If you have any wisdom or suggestions to share, please do. I'll document this process in my blog as a means of reflection and direction for later class projects and learning.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Best Laid Plans. . .

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
And lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promised joy!
- Robert Burns, To a Mouse, 1786

I remember my mom paraphrasing this poem when plans failed. She'd say, "The best laid plans often go awry."  Teachers know that experience well.  We meticulously plan our days to best meet the needs of students.  We plan to meet goals in the social, intellectual and motivational realms of learning daily.  But, as the poem suggests, sometimes our plans go awry.

What is the best response when this happens?

First, it is important to stop, even if it's midstream.  Stop and question aloud with students, "Let's take a look at what is happening now.  Our goal is _____, and what's happening is ________.  What can we do about it?  Enlisting students' awareness, voice and ideas brings the class together and moves the lesson forward.

Next, make a decision. Sometimes, the best decision is to discontinue the event and move to something peaceful giving all a chance to reflect.  Sometimes, it's better to move forward with renewed pace, focus, process and/or attitude.

At the end of the day, it's essential for an educator to reflect and determine what the plans gone awry have to say about the class, plans and goals.  Usually plans gone awry offer insight and renewed direction for the days to come.

It's part of life that the "best laid plans go awry" and it's part of education that students recognize that.  It's also part of education, that student's and teachers know what to do when that happens so that classrooms continue to be vital, responsive, student-centered learning arenas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Year's Classroom Focus

There's only a few days left until the holiday break.  I'm looking forward to a family focused vacation so before I start the festivities, I want to lay the groundwork for the next leg of the school year.  With goals and standards outnumbering hours in a day, it takes careful planning to meet the requirements in a student-friendly, motivating way.  Here's the plan:

Assessments: Despite one's feelings about assessments, they're a reality for public school teachers.  Hence, I'll set aside days for assessment prep and test taking.

Reading Response: A priority goal for fourth graders in Massachusetts is the ability to respond to text questions with well written, lengthy paragraphs using specific evidence from the text as well as the student's own synthesis.  We'll work a lot on this skill using a variety of genres, short text and books.

Reading Comprehension, Fluency and Enjoyment:  We'll begin the year with a class book, Letters From Rifka, related to our immigration unit.  Each day we'll read a few pages in school and a few pages at home.  Students will respond to the book mostly on our class NING social network.

Personal Narratives: Students will edit and write a final copy of their first personal narrative, then they'll embark on their second personal narrative: a family history/immigration "small moment" story. We'll continue to focus on writer's craft as we write.

Math: Students will continue to practice and develop computation skill using That Quiz for typical practice and enrichment.  Videos will be posted to support enrichment.  Our class project will focus on immigration data and statistics.  Students will learn to survey, graph, organize and analyze data.  Students will also learn and practice the partial quotient division algorithm and apply that learning to word problems.

Immigration/Family History Museum Project: Students will create their museum project exhibits.  Reading response, geography skills and personal narrative work will be integrated into this project.

Science Rotations: Students will rotate from class to class to participate in science rotations topics: animal adaptation, weather/water cycle, magnetism, and land forms.

Just Like Me: Students will continue participating in our third/fourth grade Just Like Me program that introduces students to many challenges individuals face including mental limitations and physical and learning challenges.

Routines: We'll also continue our helpful and familiar routines of epal correspondence, NING posts, Friday catch-up, music, art, physical education, library, tech lab, and instrumental lessons.

Wow!  It's going to be a busy six-week period from the start of January to our next break in mid February.  All the more reason to take a few weeks off at the holidays to enjoy family, friends and nonschool activities.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Change Agent?

I like moving forward.  I hate wasting time.

Hence, when an activity is redundant and stagnant, I advocate for change.

I seek vitality, vigor and dynamic 21st century environments of creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking skills.

I am eager to hear the latest research and evidence related to enhanced student learning.

I know relationship matters and seek to create an environment where my students are comfortable, confident leaders of their own learning.

The roadblocks frustrate me.  I don't know why there is reluctance related to communication, collaboration, critical analysis and creativity.  I wonder why, like a game of Wipeout (a TV show), the obstacles continue to be thrown into the mix, obstacles like last minute schedule changes, old fashion practices, emails unanswered, repetition of skills and knowledge understood, rather than the creation of fluid systems of innovation, reflection and change.

Yes, I'm impatient for better professional development and instructional systems in schools--the potential for learning today is incredible given the outstanding tools we have at our fingertips.  The knowledge, talents and vision of the educators that surround me are equally outstanding, and I am eager to learn from them in problem based, creative, educator-driven professional development activities.

What's the best ways for systems to work today?  How do we move from one-size-fits-all or one-size-fits-some mindsets and actions to responsive, needs-driven, individualized professional development and instruction? What about our impatient learners--do we tell them to sit still and be patient or do we inspire them with challenging, forward-thinking, growth producing tasks and activities?  And etiquette?  What's polite today?  Do the rules of the past still apply?

I don't have the answers to all of these questions, yet I'm eager for honest discussion, protocols and goal setting related to these topics.  What do you think?

Since I wrote this post in 2011, there's been considerable change in my teaching/learning circles including increased communication and critical analysis. There's been greater streamlining and increased time for collaboration. Professional learning events are improving too. It is good to witness and be apart of this positive change.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 Gratitude

I'm a critical thinker who is always looking for ways to improve my teaching with students as the central focus.  Sometimes that momentum causes others to ask, "Why change when we already have so much in place?"

I believe that it's important to look towards the future with an attitude of positive change, yet it's equally important to recognize what's currently working.

Hence, this is my 2011 gratitude list for all the programs, people, tools and initiatives that have benefitted so many students in 2011.
  1. Terrific Tech: Our school system continues to support a flexible, fast and reliable tech infrastructure. We also have incredible tech tools at our finger tips.  Students in my fourth grade have one-to-one accessibility at a minimum of 50% a day.  We have tremendous tech support as well.
  2. Enhanced PLC (professional learning community): This year our system embarked on an enhanced model of PLC that began with a wonderful summer professional development program, and continues with more time for PLC meetings and focused leadership and goals. This has resulted in enhanced student-centered learning.
  3. Innovation and Exploration of Professional Development Models: Our system continues to explore innovative professional development models such as summer institutes, teacher book groups and one-to-one tech days. This year we hosted three inspirational educators, Ellin Oliver Keene, Greg Tang and Austin Buffum, whose presentations served to inspire and improve our work with children.  The addition of of talented curriculum leaders and dedicated coaches is also serving to deepen and broaden our work for best effect. Also, our system regularly supports teachers' attendance at professional development conferences and workshops.
  4. Differentiation: An attitude pervades our system that neither students or teachers fit a "one-size-fits-all" agenda thus promoting recognition and acceptance of many styles, gifts, strengths and challenges.  While we promote common research-based goals for students and teachers, it is recognized that there is not one path to attaining those goals.
  5. Kindness Matters: The leadership in my school puts "kindness matters" first and students know it.  This has been an integral step to creating a kind and caring school community.
  6. Community Support: I work in a community that supports education with volunteer time, extra funding, fair teacher salaries and a positive attitude towards innovation and change.
  7. Wonderful Playgrounds: Our students have the chance to play in beautiful, grassy playgrounds each and every day.
  8. Dedicated Teachers: There is little teacher turnover in our district due to the fair working conditions, salaries and support.  Hence our system attracts teachers who are dedicated and committed to life long learning and growth.
  9. Innovative Community and After School Programs: The leadership has made a concerted effort to support innovative, enriching before and after school programming.
  10. The Arts: Our school system continues to celebrate and support the arts.  Students have the chance to participate in the visual arts, chorus, instrumental programs and theater.  The PTO supports regular cultural enrichment events that further students' understanding and enjoyment of the arts.  Students at all levels share their artistic talents with the community regularly through many public events.
  11. Facilities: Our system will open a new high school this year.  This is the result of countless hours of volunteer and professional time.  This is an exciting moment for our school system.  
I'm sure that I'll return to this list in the days to come to add more categories. I'm fortunate to work in an optimal school system, one in which I am free to use my voice to advocate for growth, question decisions and share ideas. I'm grateful that I have the tools at my fingertips to carry out an optimal student-centered, responsive 21st century program for learning and growth. It has taken the thoughtful leadership of students, teachers, administrators and community members now and in the past to make our school system what it is, and after 26 years in the same system, I remain grateful and proud to be a part of such a wonderful organization.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Google Docs Improve Reading Workshop

Illustrated by Haeun
A difficult part of running several book groups simultaneously is keeping track of all the books.  The use of Google docs has come to my rescue and enhanced classroom book groups.

I position myself with the computer on my lap in front of the white board.  I'm essentially the notetaker.  When students gather with me in a circle, we typically begin by reviewing the main events of the story and adding new events that have taken place in the pages students read since the last meeting.

Then we move to the focus of that book group meeting.  The focus changes from week to week.  At the start we usually talk a lot about the characters, setting and problem.  We question, make predictions and research vocabulary with online image and dictionary searches.  Comprehension strategies are targeted throughout our meetings.  All of our discussion notes are posted on the Google doc--a doc that is shared with all students in the book group. The format of the Google doc is a collection of ideas I've gathered over the years from colleagues and professional development resources.

It's a great tool and process that I hope to grow to best effect book group discussions, fluency and comprehension.  Take a look at our recent Stone Fox Book Notes.  What would you add?  What would you take away?  How would you manage the process?  I look forward to your feedback.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Giving Ideas Flight

What do you do when you have an idea? Do you give it flight?  Do you wait and nurture the idea, then implement it yourself?  Do you dismiss the idea?  If an idea is persistent and won't go away, I believe it's meant to be nurtured and/or shared.  What do you do with your ideas?

Weight Challenged: Targeted Intervention

I was a weight challenged child and still struggle with similar issues as an adult.  The patterns established in childhood are difficult to change in adulthood.  As an educator, I am sensitive to the prejudice and other obstacles weight challenged students face.  It's very difficult to be weight challenged from a physical standpoint, and it's even more difficult from a psychological perspective.

Healthy children are able to learn more.  They have the physical and psychological energy for learning, while weight challenged students are burdened by the prejudice and health issues related to their size.

What can we do for these students?

I suggest that daily physical education programs become a standard for all children, starting with those who are most affected by weight.  Typically children from homes that have adequate financial and care resources are involved in regular, healthy activity such as sports teams, dance, theater and nature clubs. Some children lack the the finances and/or care to support healthy after school activities, and that's where schools should focus their intervention first.

One idea is to implement a morning health class for students who struggle the most with this issue.  Students at the extreme end of the weight scale could participate in a daily healthy activity and nutrition course.  During that time these students could share their thoughts and feelings with counselors, exercise and eat a healthy breakfast.  The course could take place at a local gym or health facility.  Students would be dismissed from a class or two in order to attend this morning activity.

Children who feel good about themselves and enjoy optimal health will learn more.  A program to meet students' needs in this regard could possibly be a program that's integrated with other resources such as local physical fitness centers and health organizations.  As schools move towards responsive, targeted interventions for student success, student health should be included in the discussion.

Does your system currently employ a course like this?  If so, please share your descriptive links and articles.

Are You Part of the Team?

Teaching children takes a team: a team of teachers, family members, students and even community members.  For best effect, the team works together to challenge, nurture and inspire young children towards optimal growth and development.  When the team is working well there's communication, shared goals and effective, responsive effort.
  • How do you foster a team approach for your children and students?
  • What do you do to contribute to the team?
  • How often do you share your thoughts, questions and ideas?
  • Do you read related newsletters, correspondence and research?
  • Do you reply to emails and letters?
  • Do you plan targeted interventions with the team?
I want to increase my awareness, activity and contribution as a team member to better my teaching of young children.  The first step is recognizing that it takes a team; the next is gathering as much information as I can to inform this work.  Hence, I invite your links, suggestions and questions.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Creativity Days: Initial Plan

Many educators are exploring the use of Fedex Days in their classrooms and schools.  It's a wonderful idea that inspires the 21st Century and lifelong learning skills of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.  It's also a great way to celebrate and synthesize a period of learning while also inspiring new learning and academic independence.

Holidays often spark a spirit of innovation--there's joy in the air, and people are thinking about ways to creatively celebrate with friends and family members.  Hence, I decided to couple our classroom creativity days with days prior to the holiday break.

Here's the initial plan.
  1. Discuss the research and concept of Fedex Days with students (brief discussion).
  2. Outline the process.
  3. Visit the library and reintroduce students to all the topics and concepts possible. Students will have time to browse through books in the many sections of the library (this is a better first step for fourth graders as it's so tactile, later on technology will be available for research, exploration and creation.)
  4. Brainstorm questions and share ideas.
  5. Share and revise a project planning template with students (Young students see grand possibilities, but have difficulty breaking it down into steps so a broad planning template is essential).
  6. Students receive a colorful poster board which they can use for their project if they'd like.
  7. Students complete planning sheets, embark on their investigation and complete projects within two days time in class and at home.
  8. Creativity Days Celebration: Each child shares their learning and receives specific compliments about their creativity and learning from both teachers and classmates.
  9. Project images, videos and written explanations are posted on our classroom NING so that all Team 15 teachers, family members and friends are able to view and comment.
I imagine that our creativity days will result in projects ranging from the arts to service projects to informational posters to creative holiday gift creation.  My only expectation is that every student complete a project individually or in collaboration with other students.

The fall has been a full schedule of meeting standards in multiple ways.  It will be nice to end this semester by giving students the freedom to use all the tools they've learned, concepts shared and creativity inspired to lead their own learning.  

Please add links, suggestions and ideas related to this in the comment section.  I know that many educators in my PLN have already embarked on creative days like this, and I welcome your inspiration and advice.  Thanks.

Related Links:

Creativity Days Planning Sheet

Passion Based Learning


Dinosaur Dig

Quotes to Support Initiative:
If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it. Toni Morrison

I'm not one to be moved by "rock stars" in any field, but I did receive a response from Daniel Pink and I'm so honored:   Daniel Pink 

 -- Thanks for the letting me know. Creativity days are inspired and inspiring.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Why I Continue to Blog?

I've written about this before, and will probably write about it again.  Blogging is a journey that takes many twists and turns along the way.  As I blog, I stop to reflect time and again as to the focus and intent of this activity.

I blog to question.
I blog to reflect.
I blog to reason.
I blog to solve problems.
I blog to share information.
I blog to elicit feedback and debate.
I blog to better my work with the primary focus on student engagement and learning.
I blog to publicly commit myself to challenging, professional tasks and endeavors.

Blogging leads me forward.  Blogging deepens and broadens my understanding and work.  It's a positive endeavor, and an optimal way to share information.  It's there for the taking or leaving.

That's why I blog at this juncture in the road.  What's your blogging rationale?

Classroom Microsphere: Targeted Time on Task with Children

If you read my blog, you know I'm reflecting on the microsphere of my teaching--the day-to-day nuts and bolts of what I do.  The big pieces are in place, the vision is there, the tools are working, and now it's time for finesse.

The most challenging work in schools is delivering responsive lessons in child-friendly, effective ways to guide student engagement, empowerment and growth.  It's work that requires thought, attention and reflection. The kind of work that should make up a large fraction of most educators' days.

Where does that take me?

It's leading me in three directions at this moment: Creativity Days (our Fedex Days endeavor), Math Enrichment Program, and the 100 Pennies Project.

My class is ready for a project-based, student-driven creativity days project, and we will participate in that during the three days prior to the holiday vacation.  I'm excited for that project because my students have learned to use countless tools. They've also encountered numerous learning questions and substantial material, and this will give them a chance to synthesize all the fall learning into one meaningful project.

Next, on our last Friday formative assessment, I asked students to write me a letter about the math program.  A number of children asked for greater challenge.  Hence, I'm putting in place another challenge thread in my math program for these students.  I will work with them to make this blended learning thread responsive, challenging and growth producing.

Finally, I am embarking on the 100 Pennies project with one student.  I have been reading about developmental math and thinking about those students who come to fourth grade without a strong foundation of math concept knowledge and skill.  I've also been thinking about one delightful, conscientious student in my class who wants to understand math better.  That student and I will develop math concepts using 100 Pennies.  We will write a book together.

Hence, three new projects for the microsphere in an attempt to target the curriculum for greater student learning.  If you've got any links or ideas for me related to these projects or the microsphere of teaching in general, please share.  I appreciate your support as I journey in this direction.