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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Extraordinary Deep Learning Summer Study Opportunity

Colleagues, Sean Thompson and Wes Przybylski, from my PLN are hosting a wonderful, summer conference. Take a look at their introduction below, and register if interested. I plan to be there.



How Do we Improve PD for Teachers?


I mean, we’re teachers! Right?  


If there is anything we are supposed to know about it’s well, teaching and learning. So then why are so many conferences and workshops less than completely satisfying? And how can we change this?


Let’s do something obvious. Let’s approach a PD from the perspective of a class. Which it is.


Let’s look at:


  1. Engaging student interest through differentiation
  2. Using backwards planning (or beginning with the end in mind)
  3. Starting with a provocation & allowing for ownership through choice
  4. Incorporating both formative and summative tasks
  5. Offer support throughout the learning process
We know it works for student so let’s put it to work for us. DISCLAIMER: From this point onwards I will be describing a DEEP Learning conference style. Still very pertinent to you but I DO hope you will look at the website.


1. Engaging Student Interest Through Differentiation
From the outset we focus on making learning relevant. Different people have different needs. The framework for the Mathematics & Technology in the Digital-age Conference is the two-pronged approach. Our strands:


3-Act Maths as pioneered by Dan Meyer and delivered by Kyle Pearce
Technology Integrated into all Classrooms
A Full-day GAPPLE pre-conference focusing on Apple and Google in the Classroom
You can start thinking about what you might like to attend from the workshops on offer before you arrive. You can even start devising your own personal program through Whova, the online app we use to help you organise your personal program online and/or through your phone.


2. Using Backwards Planning (or beginning with the end in mind)
We want everyone to have a meaningful experience. What better way to ensure this than by setting up a takeaway project? This should be something that you create and can bring back to your school community, teachers, classes, and/or students. Your assigned group leader will be able to check for understanding and essentially “assess” that learning was complete through the development, to some stage, of a usable product. You can also think of it as just another way we are working to help you stay focused as well.


3. Starting with a Provocation & Allowing for Ownership Through Choice
The next level of personalisation comes from the ability to further fine tune your experience based on the morning discovery sessions. During these short introductory sessions workshop leaders introduce, demonstrate, and share their topics. These involve examples, demonstrations, direct classroom connections and challenges that allow participants to make informed decisions about which workshops to attend in the afternoon.


The afternoon DEEP sessions (50 minutes each)
If we consider our morning introduction as “discovery” then the afternoon workshops are the chance to engage, experience and participate in an inquiry-based challenge. Workshop leaders act as a facilitators for the participant-led challenges. Depending on the type of workshop you should expect a maximum of 10 minutes direct instruction as a group before embarking on your challenge.


These DEEP sessions are fuelled by “Challenges” to accomplish. The challenges are introduced and facilitated by the presenters. The challenges could turn into the creation of your takeaway project.


4. Incorporating both Formative and Summative tasks
The focus on challenges (formative tasks) serves two main purposes. It keeps participants actively engaged and putting skills to work in every session they attend and these can be incorporated into the takeaway project (summative task) as they see fit.


5. Offer Support Throughout the Learning Process
Workshop leaders check-in throughout sessions. Group leaders follow up at appointed times. You have a short exit interview before receiving your certificate at the end to share your progress.


Sound familiar? If it sounds like your classroom it should. Good PD should be about modeling and following good teaching practice.

See deeplearners.com/regis2015 for more information or sign-up here.

Bring it In

After a day of BIG Ideas (edcamp Boston), I have to bring it in so that I do my work well.

Hence, yet again, I focus the teaching/learning path.

Students
The path is set, plans are made, and now it's time to sensitively support the children in the days ahead. That means wearing my play clothes, having lots of energy, quieting the room so there's time for caring support, listening to their needs, and responding.

Institutes
I've signed on to present at a number of institutes in the coming weeks so I've got some prep work to do in that regard.

Team
My grade level team and I have work to do to prepare for move-up day, report card completion, transition events, and field trips.

Those are the big three before summer starts, and there's lots more time for BIG Ideas!

The Balance of Differentiation and Collaboration

When everyone tries to do all things, it dilutes the potential of doing things well.

Yet, on the other hand, if we differentiate too much we will never make the important connections and employ the interdisciplinary study that supports successful living and learning.

So, it is the right amount of both differentiation and collaboration that will lead to successful learning and teaching paths.

How does your model reflect a good balance of these two essential elements of teaching well. In what ways do you differentiate your roles so that you can dive in and teach with depth, and in what ways do you collaborate so that you can benefit from each other's perspectives, strengths, and experiences?

That is the key to good teaching and learning.

Bridging the Achievement Gap

Yesterday at edcamp Boston, I had the chance to discuss the achievement gap with a few educators. Since then, I've been thinking about ideas that may make a difference.

First, I'm wondering what are the specific experiences that distinguish those that succeed in school and those that don't. I know that there are volumes of research out there related to this topic, but from my own experience, I notice the following.
  • Emotional Support. In busy households when there's less money, support, access to basic needs: shelter, food, clothing, health care, and education, there is greater worry, angst, conflict, and less time to support children. To support children well, there needs to be an adequate level of basic needs met.
  • Academic Support. If families are working around the clock to support the children, there may be less time to support children's academic skills with activities such as reading books, playing math games, watching informational films, visiting the library/museums, and exploring nature. 
  • Language Barriers. Parents who speak another language may be unable to access school information, events, or forms.
  • Myths and Discomfort. Adults who had difficult school experiences may be uncomfortable in the school setting. Also myths such as "some can't learn math" may continue thus creating less support for student effort and confidence.
  • Technology Savvy and Access. Today many of our most successful students have ready access to technology at home. They play games and engage in tech activities that provide tremendous academic practice and flexible cognitive readiness for learning. Students without that access or savvy will not have that same foundation.
  • Play. Play at the early ages sets students up for successful learning. Manipulating toys, exploring in nature, imagining with family members prepares students well for learning. In busy households that are working to stay afloat, there may not be the time or toys for early play. Note that many make-shift toys are as good as store bought toys for imagination play, but standards like blocks, Legos, dolls/characters, and art materials are important early toys for learning.
  • Health. If a child is unhealthy, it may be more difficult to learn. Regular routines of healthy foods and activities can situate a child well for academic success.
  • Vision and Dreams. Sharing dreams and hopes for the future also provides children with a goal that makes academic work and perseverance worth it. Reading stories and watching films of successful people, visiting beautiful places, walking around a college campus, or reading the newspaper together can help to instill dreams for the future.
  • Values. Making the time to share and discuss your family values also provides students with reason for an academic path. 
  • It Takes a Village. Making the time to seek out programs and mentors in your community to help you raise your children also helps. There are many individuals and programs that can support your child's academic achievement, and a quick search of the Internet will bring you to notable organizations such as the Y, Boys and Girls Clubs, local theater groups, afterschool programs, museum programs, summer camps and more.
  • Special Needs. Children come to school with all kinds of learning profiles. Today with Universal Design and Assistive Technology, there is not reason why we can't find successful paths for each learner. Yes, it may take more time for some to master specific concepts and skills, but what's most important is that we find ways to teach that support students' confidence, sense of self, and lifelong desire to learn and succeed.  
As a community, how can we fill in the missing pieces for children who are performing far below their peers. What can we do to promote achievement for all and get rid of the gap. I think there's lots that the broader community can do including the following ideas.
  • Child-Friendly Communities. I'd like the government to begin to promote and label "Child-Friendly Communities," and I'd like those communities to benefit from some kind of tax break or financial incentive. As part of this initiative, I'd like there to be a list of attributes that "Child-Friendly Communities" achieve such as this list:
    • One-mile violence free zone around every school. 
    • A substantial, green playground for every school including a school garden, trees, playground equipment, and athletic fields.
    • Wide, safe bike paths throughout the community.
    • Recycling centers and signage.
    • Grocery stores with healthy, affordable foods.
    • Opportunities for internships and jobs for children 14 and up.
    • High quality schools. 
    • Low cost or free options for healthy, educational, family activities.
  • Libraries as Family Learning Centers. Using the current successful library systems and following the trend to broaden those libraries to local family learning centers. Also coordinating these local centers with community schools is advantageous.
  • Health Centers at Schools. Use health care money to fund health centers at schools. Students would use their health cards to receive health care services at their school in a building close to or adjoined to the school.
  • More Time for Wellness at School. The school schedule, equipment, and structure supports greater wellness routines and access. For example students may be better served with an extra one hour of physical fitness and healthy cafeteria food than sitting in their seats and learning that extra hour. Even better is to do both: adequate time for learning and adequate time for wellness.
  • Early Play Assessments. Assessing students access to play early may help us to bridge the achievement gap. If students enter preschool or school without adequate play experience, it may be that they start school with a year or two of play and their parents receive "play" support. That year or two of play would include reading stories, playing math games, lots of imagination play, and lots of confidence building with regard to creativity, communication, critical thinking skills, and collaboration.
  • A Focus on Family. Communities could foster a focus on family using a broad definition of family as those you live with (or near) and love. Communities could assess family needs and look for ways to support and nurture families with strength. 
  • Adequate Transportation. Some cannot access good supports due to transportation issues.
  • Access to High Quality Technology. Making sure that students have the chance to use the best tech games and programs available. For example my students who play Minecraft and SCRATCH tend to be better mathematicians, and students who don't have access to those games, have a more difficult time with math. 
The achievement gap is much bigger than a single pedagogical approach or standardized score. The achievement gap has multiple reasons for its existence. One way, however, to combat this gap is to create communities in school and outside of school that better support children from birth. Organizational and family collaboration, outreach, and advocacy can help to narrow this gap. Also looking carefully at the way we spend our time and our dollars in this respect is important as we want to do what matters.

How are you working to close the achievement gap in your community and/or school. What can you do tomorrow to help in this regard? I want to think more about this in the days ahead. 

The Advantage of Collaborative Teaching Models

At yesterday's edcamp Boston, I listened for trends and I also listened for information related to collaborative teaching models.

There was definitely support for teachers working together to present deep learning and pedagogy. At session after session, the need for collaboration, working together, and maximizing time and effort were discussed. There was little support or discussion about returning to the one-teacher one-classroom model of teaching all subjects since that model doesn't allow the depth possible as the curriculum becomes more detailed and defined.

The fact that there is so much knowledge available to all of us, and that to relay knowledge with depth, understanding, and enthusiasm takes time and matters points to the need for all of us to think deeply about how and when we collaborate with colleagues to provide students with the best possible targeted teaching/learning programs.

At the first session, I listened to Jenny Leung talk about her deep work with poetry and literature. To unearth, memorize, and analyze the poems she chooses and the activities she promotes with her middle school students takes time and care. If she were teaching multiple subjects, she would not be able to reach that kind of depth.

Similarly, I sat with a group of experienced STEAM teachers. As they relayed the way they create their STEAM Labs (Fab Labs, Engineering Studios, Creation Rooms . . .), I realized how important it was for them to have time and focus in order to attend related workshops, construct STEAM organization systems and protocols, and employ wonderful projects.

In the same regard, I listened to a group of math educators relay their work with flipping the classroom. They shared numerous ways to engage and empower students during math learning--methods that require educators to know the tools, resources, and content with great depth and to work with colleagues and students to enrich and deepen that work.

Later at a session about professional learning, one teacher after another discussed the advantages of collaboration. I shared the strength of our own grade-level PLCs and how that construct is moving us forward with strength.

Again and again, the theme of collaboration arose as an important element when it comes to successfully meeting the needs of all of our students.

This year I had the chance to experience the strength of collaboration in our shared teaching model at fifth grade. I'm hoping a similar model is approved for next year, but for some reason, we have not received a response to our proposal. The lack of a response, of course, leads me to all kinds of conjecture, but instead of conjecture, I'll wait.

If the proposal is approved, I'll have the chance to collaborate with a number of wonderful educators to best meet the needs of our fifth grade team in specific subject areas, and if the proposal is not approved then I'll do my best to teach the fifth graders assigned to me all the subjects on my own with the exception of our 2.5 hours a week of ELA and Math RTI.

I'm not sure what the outcome will be, but I remain a fan of greater collaboration and more specific responsibility for individual educators as I believe that's a way that we can deepen the work we do with greater personalization and strength. I look forward to the discussions and decision ahead related to this.


Professional Learning Plans?

It has been a year filled with inspiring professional learning, and soon I will have the time to step back and let all the wonderful ideas I've learned take hold during the summer months.

In the meantime, there's a few more events to attend including The Wayland Literacy Institute, The Wayland STEAM Institute, SRSD Math Writing Workshop, and the Deep Learning Conference at Regis College. All of these educational events are open to interested teachers.

In many ways you have to push yourself to attend professional learning events after the busy school year. You're naturally tired particularly at this time due to so many new standards and initiatives, yet making the time for one or more professional events during the summer months serves you and your students well in the upcoming school year and beyond.

The key is to strike a good balance of service to children, professional learning, and personal time, and the summer months are a good time to determine that balanced path for the year ahead.

While I attended multiple events this year, next year I'd like to attend less professional learning events and focus more on deep learning related specifically to my classroom goals. I'll carry forth the learning from this year into next year's curriculum too. Focus areas such as the use of rich text, better writing, effective technology, and mathematical thinking will lead my learning during the learning events noted above and my work in the year ahead.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Edcamp Boston: Limitless Learning

I just got home from edcamp Boston. I skipped the after party because I was saturated with new ideas.

My immediate takeaways are the following:
  • Rich text empowers students, and teachers who take the time to teach all subjects with rich text, teach well.
  • There are many strategies to make math learning accessible to our diverse learners. Partial notes and recording tools are two options that provide good support. 
  • High quality, collaboartive educational games will be here soon and there's opportunities to pilot those games in your school system now. 
  • Many systems are employing more strategic, collaborative, and inclusive professional learning that models successful teaching/learning venues.
  • There's lots to learn about successful project base learning (PBL) and the best way to begin is to embed standards into PBL learning design/activity and develop your leadership/coaching in this regard as you experience and learn more about that venue.
  • Successful STEAM depends on organization, time, safety, and child-centered learning design and collaboration.
  • It's important to make time to connect with educators outside of your system regularly via informal structures of share such as edcamps, unconferences, and Twitter chats.
I'm sure that there will be more takeaways in the days ahead, but in the meantime, I want to thank the dynamic edcamp Boston team for their time and leadership. I've included a storify below that includes today's specific takeaways.

The Thirteen Days of Math


I'm about to begin an exploration of "The Thirteen Days of Math." I am going to combine the study of multiples/factors, math facts, math vocabulary, numerical expression, place value, the SMPs, and mathematical thinking into a 13-day curriculum that focuses on the numbers 0-12.

For each number we'll dig deep into that number's "identity" and what that number "can do." We'll use these "easy numbers" as a way to learn about math manipulatives, properties, tools (calculators, rulers, grid paper. . .), and process. I like the idea of this unit because by beginning the year with "easy numbers," you invite all students to the math table. In the same way you also invite both basic understanding and more sophisticated understanding that relate to each of these numbers. Further, this exploration will provide me, the teacher, with a good understanding of my young mathematicians' abilities with regard to the Standards of Mathematical Practice (SMPs).

Have you employed a "Thirteen Days of Math" curriculum? If so, what materials have you used? I look forward to this exploration and your share.

Note:
As part of this study, we'll learn about the history of numbers.



Quiet Summer Study Focus


We'll have a quiet, summer study focus next week at school. During our Monday class meeting I'll talk about the way that quiet reading, writing, math, and exploration match the warm, often unstructured days of summer. Then I'll introduce the main focus of the week's learning: the biography project, STEAM stations, math study/review, and reading.

I'll ask students how I can help them reach the week's goals and what they need in order to be successful with the goals. I'll create a list of needs, and work with students one-by-one and in small groups to help them out.

After the past, very busy weeks of play rehearsal and outdoor exploration, it will be nice to give in to the warm weather and quiet tasks before us. This is a good overall focus for June school days and a nice bridge to summer study.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Commitment to Collaborate

I am so grateful that our school system has integrated and developed Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) into the fabric of the work we do. The PLC structure has moved us towards greater, targeted collaboration and that, in turn, has helped us all to develop our craft and service to children.

Next year I want to continue down the collaboration path with greater depth, skill, and commitment. I work with many dynamic educators, and I want to look for ways to listen and learn from each of them as well as share my own strengths. I definitely believe that together, we teach better.

Meeting Mrs. Roosevelt: Living History Presentation

This is a picture of Ms. Dodd portraying Eleanor Roosevelt.
Today, in preparation for students' upcoming biography project, we had a visit from Mrs. Roosevelt, as portrayed by Elena Dodd. Despite the fact that it was a Friday afternoon at end of May and the day after students' double play performance, the children were quite attentive and asked many wonderful questions.

Ms. Dodd, not only portrayed Eleanor, but she spoke a bit about what it's like to present a living history performance including costume preparation and the need to study, study, study. As Mrs. Roosevelt, she gave the students and teachers plenty to think about. I was most interested in the fact that she worked as part of a United Nations delegation to write The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that Ms. Dodd believes every child should read and study. I look forward to studying this document myself in the near future.

I think adding a living history performance to the biography project provides good modeling for the project, and I'm sure it will positive affect students' research and presentation. Thanks to the elementary schools' PTO for supporting this terrific event.

Note:
Here's a film clip of one of Ms. Dodd's performances.

Designing Learning: Details and the Big Ideas Matter

Both details and the big ideas are important when it comes to the work we do.

The big ideas matters because we want the intent and vision of our work to be well positioned in order to serve students well.

The details matter too because we want the work that we do to manifest itself in daily, high-quality, targeted service to children.

Neither the big ideas or the details can outshine the other--the two have to work in tandem to provide a substantial, successful teaching/learning program for children.

Also, neither the details or the big idea should refuse the other. For example, a great big idea should not be dismissed because of a few details. Also, a few details should not be dismissed because they don't exactly fit the big idea. When we assess programs we have to look at programs as organisms that take on life, and as organisms we know that programs will develop over time with change and revision to meet students' needs/interests, latest research, current events, and the invention/awareness of new tools/processes.

So, as we design and share learning, we have to be cognizant of both the big ideas and the details. Questions like these can help to foster a good assessment:
  • What is the big idea and why does it matter?
  • How do the details support the big idea?
  • Where is there room for revision and enrichment, and what research, experience, or facts support those changes?
  • What are our hopes for the big idea, and what are our fears?
  • How can we support the hopes?
  • How can we steer clear of the fears?
  • When and how will we determine success related to this learning design?  What check-in points will we create to do that analysis and who will be included?
Designing learning well is a big responsibility as the success of our students depends on it. We want to be thorough in our work, but we also don't want to fear risk and new ideas. If stay mired in old ways, we won't be able to grow and develop our programs for the changing world we live in.  Good programs depend on tried-and-true tradition as well as creativity and innovation. It's the process and application that matter when it comes to doing this work well. 



Curriculum Review: Planning for the Year Ahead

What is your process for planning for the year ahead?

To prepare, I first review the teaching and assessments for the current year. What worked and what did not? I typically host an ongoing list of most materials and scores on my Google account so it doesn't take much time to access and review those materials.

After that I create a plan for the year to come. The plan serves as a framework to guide material requests, ordering, parent communication, and summer study.

Though I still await the final decision about the teaching model for next year, I know that I will be teaching math and STEAM so I completed the process outlined above with regard to the math curriculum.  I'll review the draft with more detail over the summer and then during each month, I'll review, choose, assess, and revise as needed so that the document below remains a working document to lead student math/STEAM study during fifth grade.

As you read about this curriculum organization/planning process and review the chart below, would you say that your process for curriculum work is similar or dissimilar? What do you do that I don't do that would be helpful and advantageous? I look forward to discussing this chart with my grade-level teammates and adding columns for ELA, social studies, learning mindsets/routines, and special events as well. Please share helpful comments or ideas you may have.

2015-2016 Fifth Grade Curriculum: Math
Month
Topic
Math
STEAM
Focus
CCSS Math Standards, Standards of Mathematical Practice (SMPs), and System-wide Scope-and-Sequence

Systemwide Science Curriculum and State standards. (See Science Website)
MATERIALS

  • Homework Folder
  • 3-ring, one-inch view binder
  • grid paper notebook
  • colored pencils
  • fine line black sharpies
  • sharpened pencils
  • pencil sharpener
  • scotch tape/glue sticks
  • two rolls of duct tape
Typical Daily/Weekly Routine
Math
  • Review journal problem.
  • Learn/Practice online/offline resources.
  • ~bi-weekly assessment
  • Journal hmwk (10 min.)
  • computation hmwk (10 min.)

STEAM
  • wkly hands-on exploration of science standards
September/
October

-Routines/
Organization
-“Learning to Learn” skills/attitudes
Math Journals/Problem Solving
Introduction to Tech Resources:
  • Symphony Math
  • Xtra Math
  • TenMarks
  • Khan Academy
  • That Quiz
Number Study:
Computation
Assessment: GMADE, Symphony Benchmark, Facts Tests (That Quiz)

STEAM: Life Science, Measurement Activities
November/
December
Math
Computation/Decimals
Fractions
Integration/Review of Past Concepts, Knowledge, Skill

STEAM: Powers of Ten, Space
January/
February
Math
Fractions
Computation
GMADE concepts review
Assessment: Symphony Benchmark, GMADE
Integration/Review of Past Concepts, Knowledge, Skill

STEAM: Physical Science “Kitchen Chemistry-fractions”
March/April
Math
Fractions
Geometry
Volume and Area/Perimeter Rev.
Integration/Review of Past Concepts, Knowledge, Skill

STEAM: Cardboard Challenge/Simple Machines
May/June

Math
Measurement
Assessment: PARCC?, Symphony Benchmark
Integration/Review of Past Concepts, Knowledge, Skill


STEAM
Assessment: MCAS Science



Thursday, May 28, 2015

Voices of Children

Children's voices inspire.
Beautiful!

Teaching Forward

I have time and experience on my side as I think about the year to come.

My main objective will be to teach children well--to serve each child with care and attention and to meet the system and state standards as well as holistic standards for a high quality education.

During the summer months I'll shore up my strength with regard to time, energy, and preparation in order to meet the year's expectations.

In the meantime, I'll do my best to end this year with strength and care.

The children are happy. The year has been filled with wonderful events and terrific learning. I will miss these fifth graders--students I've taught for two years, so I want to make sure the final days are special and meaningful. Onward.

Wonderful Performance and Learning to Come

Once again our gifted music teacher and her band of tremendous artists, writers, actors, musicians, and support personnel produced a sensational musical.

It was a pleasure to watch one child shine after another with song, dance, speaking, acting, and playing musical instruments as they told the story of The Emperor's New Clothes.

Tomorrow when our young actors return to school after their double performance today, one in the morning and one at night, they'll be weary. Hopefully the temperatures will be less hot and humid. We'll have a quiet day of biography work, band/strings,  and a special living history performance.

Next week, we'll get organized for upcoming field trips, visit the Middle School to prepare students for the transition, introduce the human body systems unit to parents, work on the biography project, and find some time for math and science too.

With the play past, we'll have some time to get back on a bit of routine for the final three weeks of the school year. Onward.

Advocate with Care and Respect

The best you can do for positive change is to respectfully advocate for that change with words and action.

Making your advocacy public lets others know what you desire and why you desire that change.

When you publicly share your thoughts, you also invite critique, new ideas, revision, and enrichment.

To stay quiet when you see potential is to dismiss that potential.

To speak up gives the potential wings.

To give up stymies what can be.

To persevere makes what can be possible.

I started advocating at an early age to the happiness and sometimes frustration of my family members, educators, leaders, and bosses. I like to try new ideas and make things better if I can.

I especially like this forward movement when I work with complementary thinkers and teammates--people willing to speak honestly and work together toward similar goals, goals greater than ourselves. That's rich, rewarding endeavor.

Each time I advocate, I learn. It's never easy. The only regrets I have from past advocacy is regret related to some sensitivity, strong words, and impatience. Sensitivity, strong words, and impatience play a role, in part, in advocacy, but disrespect and indignity never play a positive role.

Advocacy takes patience, perseverance, passion, heart, and skill. As I think about this, I wonder how we prepare our students for the kinds of advocacy they'll promote to better their lives and their world.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Starting the Day with a Sing-a-Long


We'll start the day with a sing-a-long. We created a song book with the many wonderful songs students will sing during their fifth grade play.

Today, before rehearsal, we'll gather our 44 fifth graders and sing all the songs. Seeing the words before them will help students to learn a few challenging words and phrases that are a bit problematic as they perform. Also, hopefully the sing-a-long will energize the students for the morning practice. Further, I'm hoping that they can bring the song books home to use for future practice and singing enjoyment in the days to come.

The songs chosen for this play are lots of fun and also have terrific meaning for the lives we live. Memorizing and singing these songs is one more way for children to learn important lessons, lessons that will lead them forward in life.

Indoor or Outdoor Recess?

Yesterday a student spoke up as I strongly encouraged him to go out to recess. Little did he realize that it had been about three hours since I had a personal break and I needed to have the recess/lunch time to complete a couple of items. Instead he would have preferred to spend the time inside playing a card game or working on the computer.

Transitions have been a persistent struggle during the past few weeks, and I've been wishy-washy about this. While I need to have a break now and then as an adult and educator; I also value students desire to stay inside to continue beloved activities such as building, rubrik's cube contests, computer games, origami, and more.

I've supported a mostly inside-outside recess choice this year as my room borders the playground and I can stand at the door and watch students in both places. Also, for my students who like to build and create, I know they look forward to that inside time for creativity and friendship. Yet rather than coming up with an effective schedule of inside/outside recess, the schedule changes daily based on multiple factors outside of the classroom.

What's a teacher to do?

Yesterday's student comment is the catalyst for change. I need to make the inside/outside recess choices clearer. I have to be more explicit about when students can choose to stay inside and when everyone has to go out. Since children are not allowed to be in the room unsupervised, I have to determine the times when I can't supervise both indoor and outdoor recess--times when students all have to be outside or inside due to supervision issues.

I'll put this on the agenda for our next student-teacher class meeting so we can reach a resolve that meets my needs for a working break now and then as well as students' need for inside time to build, create, and play.

This is often how issues arise in school. Students' persistent behavior and comments demonstrate a need, and then together teachers and students work to meet that need in ways that matter.