Saturday, November 02, 2019

Saturday Morning Musings

It was an incredibly busy week at school with 15 student-led family-student-educator conferences (I need a better name for this wonderful meetings), a deep dive into a hands-on STEAM project with students, a field study (perfectly planned for Halloween), and a professional learning event. The good news is that the events planned went well for almost all students, and the challenge is to shore up the weak spots so next week when we repeat much of the same, we make those events successful for more.

Science Teamwork
What made the learning successful for so many was that it was well-planned, interactive, and engaging. Most students were invested most of the time. What made it challenging for a few is that we didn't anticipate some of the challenges students would face with the many learning events. We'll better plan for those challenges. For example, working in small teams to carry-out a science activity can be difficult for some as they choose roles, divide up the tasks, take turns, build, make, investigate, and complete lab reports. This week we'll make a few minutes at our student planning meeting to discuss how we can better meet the needs of the few students who struggled with this activity and apply those changes to this week's solar oven exploration and making.

Student-Led Conferences
Overall the student-led conferences were terrific, but I can improve the process by making sure I add the following steps to each conference:

  • A reminder card that helps students follow all the steps including their family members to the teacher, sharing specific portfolio pages, then choosing a few more items to share. 
  • Starting with a positive story, comment, or example of the child's good work at school.
  • Using questioning to approach the tougher subjects with students and families, such as "I wonder why _____ happens at ________?" This allows the child to give their side of the story, and helps the child, teacher, and family members to discuss how to make the situation better.
Professional Learning
Updating my own professional learning demeanor and outlook is important too. I have noticed recently that the events I attend and the professional manner of presenters, educators, and administrators is much more serious, sympathetic, intelligent, and positive than in the past. We are moving from the oppressive top-down, do-as-I-say mantra so common in professional learning events of the past to a much more collaborative way of making programming better. This is positive and means I can let my guard down and temper my sarcasm and criticism more in order to open up to these positive learning events. This is a very positive change on the education front. Fortunately I was at this week's event with three amazing and very professional educators whose good example, depth, and commitment provided terrific mentoring for my learning and growth.

Math Reflection and Growth
Students were eager to receive their math tests and open minded to discussing what they knew well and what they still need to practice to learn. 

Field Study
Thanks to the help of many parent and colleague chaperones, dedicated museum staff, wonderful museum exhibits, and plenty of space to move around, the field study to Old Sturbridge Village was a success and laid a good foundation for the many field studies we've planned for the year. Prepping students well before hand helped students to enjoy the day. We noticed that many were very curious asking terrific questions and making good connections as they stepped back in time and toured the 1830's village. Also, partaking in the Museum's hands-on activities provided focus. And, going on a field trip does work to build a sense of community with the whole grade-level, and this is good too. 

Next Week's Focus

Next week will begin with our all-school assembly, and then I'll have the chance to pass back many corrected math assignments. Passing back these assignments leads to greater investment and questioning by the students. Most students saw a short film about the history of the digits with special attention to the story of zero--an amazing story last week. This week they'll begin to look deeply at the base-ten place value system components and how they work together to make all numbers infinitely less and more. For the groups that didn't see the film last week, they'll begin with the film this week and then the many specific teaching and practice exercises and events.

We'll revisit last week's water filter lab reports and what an exemplary job looks like and why that's important. Then students will have time to work with their teams to complete the reports. 

Students will also engage in two more STEAM explorations this week including solar ovens and plant packets. Both projects help to lay the stage for our upcoming conservation hike where we'll further look at the role of the sun in the natural world, interdependence in the ecosystem, the role of water, preserving clean water and lands, and the way the many, varied plants in the ecosystem support a healthy watershed.

We'll continue our RTI reading events. During this time I'll employ a new app our district is trying out to enrich student-teacher reading conferences. It is the Pocket Connie app. During reading class students will continue to work on inferential comprehension and their participation in the global read aloud with the book, Front Desk.

Writing and Social Studies
Students will engage in a number of writing exercises that involve science and social studies too.

Professional Planning and Learning
There's a good deal of prep to complete for this week's and next week's teaching. My colleague and I will also attend the MA Department of Education Sharing for Success Dissemination Fair where we'll share our environment education project and also have time to learn about many more successful strategies teachers are employing throughout the state. Learning and sharing like this generally results in positive development with regard to our own teaching and learning.

A good week past and a good week to come. Onward.