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Sunday, November 01, 2015

Shared Teaching Model Update: Post Parent Conference Reflections

If you read my blog you know I move from big think to details back and forth and in and out. That's the way I keep perspective and stay on task.

This sometimes laundry list of a blog is not particularly inviting, I imagine, to many, but the focus of my blogging is to tell one real story of what it's like to teach today. I want people to understand the details including the highs and lows, challenges and smooth spots, joy and frustration, and all the details with regard to teaching children well.

As I think about the year ahead, I realize now that the first parent conferences are about completed, and we're at another turning point in the year. The new model's shape has been created and now as we work within that structure, we collaboratively revise and refine the structure as we coach our wonderful TeamFive students forward. The revision and refinement lies in all of our structures with regard to the structures I've noted below.

The Schedule
We have a terrific weekly routine. The schedules are posted in classrooms and on doorways, and the students fluidly move from one class to the next. This works with little issue or need for revision. For the future, there are a few places to shore up including tech schedules since it's difficult to get a whole hour in the lab. Providing a third set of laptops so that each class has a laptop cart would really help us out in this regard. If this can't happen, then more careful attention to the lab schedules by all would help. It was difficult to see this need before the year started. The other scheduling change that would help is that at times we have short five minute transition times. If you work with fifth graders you know that five minutes is too long for most transitions since a lot of mischief can happen in five minutes so it would be good to close up those gaps next year too.

Specialist schedules are set and the inclusion model is working well. The challenge now is plan so that the lessons change depending on how much support is there in order to maximize the time-on-task with teachers available to students.

Team Theme Days
Students really enjoy these days and from reading their reflections, they learn a lot during these days too. The challenge here is to well craft and design these days so that they are vigorous, community, hands-on learning events. We have two more of these days coming up in November and December and I look forward to the team planning we'll do to promote depth and breadth with regard to learning.

Interdisciplinary Study
Now that each subject area is well rooted, we have time to think more about how we will foster interdisciplinary study. Our first project that will maximize this is the ET project. We'll work on this during the week ahead. Hopefully this first big project will serve as a model for later interdisciplinary units.

Our ELA and Math RTI groups have started. The children happily move from group to group as we work to teach them well. There are a lot of details that we can continue to work on in this regard to strengthen the model. Personally I need some time to clean up, organize, and restructure the classroom to make it more inviting and useful for RTI study. I'll start by getting more cozy chairs for reading.

Tech Integration
Specialists are helping us integrate tech with greater strength and targets. Our reading specialist reviewed with us to One Minute Reader as a tool for ELA RTI. She's also going to introduce us to Google Fluency tutor next week. The Tech Specialist introduced us to Google Classroom and she'll support us with that tool. She will also support us with Hour of Code activities. I hope to couple the Hour of Code with the creation of animated math models--important work when it comes to math depth. The librarian introduced the students and teachers to Biblionasium which students will use to share book titles and reviews. For math we have many tech tools including Symphony Math, TenMarks, Khan Academy, Xtra Math, and more games to support the curriculum program. Hence, there's lots of tech available, more tech than time, yet the challenge here is to use tech in ways that engage and empower students to deepen the learning and teaching.

Professional Learning
Our school system supports dynamic professional learning. Our team is taking advantage of that in many ways and will implement what we learn into our program. We'll also share the learning with each other as one way to develop what we can do for and with children with regard to their academic goals and efforts.

Our grade-level team collaboration has been terrific due, in part, to the many hours we've spent crafting the model and supporting each others' goals. Due to time constraints, in part, some of our extended collaboration has been a bit more challenged. Also not everyone in the system was supportive of our new model so we've had an added role of providing evidence to prove that the model is working. Recent student/family/colleague surveys demonstrated overwhelming support for the model. We'll continue to collect data related to this as the year moves forward. We also have the advantage of a weekly PLC and shared planning times which help us to collaborate. We've instituted a number of communication vehicles to support collaboration too including a Google calendar, Teamfive website, Teamfive data file, weekly planning charts, and online schedules to support our collective work, effort, and share.

Student Care and Focus
We regularly discuss how we can best support students and work together to that end. Room parents are ready and willing to help us in this regard. Just this week we collected school supplies for a couple of students who are moving to a new school. We regularly invite students to have lunch in the classroom and we work together to positively resolve playground and other typical student issues and conflicts. Also our school guidance counselor is helping us implement our newly strengthened social competency curriculum. The counselor is helping to bring insight and consistency to students in this regard.

We're off to a great start, and we're delighted to continue on the path in order to develop a strong, dynamic shared teaching model. Onward.