Wednesday, October 21, 2015

D is for...Diversity

D is for...Diversity

-Diversity is the art of thinking independently together.
Malcom Forbes

The students in our classrooms are like the handful of colored pencils above; full of variety and with their different shade representing their unique abilities and talents. Think about that happy yellow pencil, or the one with a calming blue or energetic orange shade and I am sure that some of your students come to mind. When a bunch of individual colored pencils get grouped together, they form a vivid palette that works together to fill in a beautiful picture together. 

Our task as teachers is to take our students and find ways to not only celebrate their uniqueness, but to design ways to have them work together to create those beautiful and meaningful "pictures" or moments together. Classroom activities that have students working together on a goal but that also ask individual members to add in their own points of view and attitudes encourage collaboration and celebrate everyone's diverse backgrounds and experiences. Our goal as teachers is to develop respect for students' opinions and thoughts, but also to encourage teamwork and community building.

Your classroom is a blank canvas every day and your students are that brand new box of colored pencils. How do you highlight the diversity that exists? How do you plan for activities for students to work together but yet be independent thinkers?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

C if for....Change

This is part of the Slo-Blog Event that is being held at #reflectiveteacher and supported by +TeachThought . Come join us and explore your teaching throughout the year at your own pace!

C is for...Change.

Right now there is lots of change occurring in nature. It is my favorite time of the year. Football season is in full swing, Chicagoland is entering the post-season playoffs with the Chicago Cubs (which is amazing!) and nature herself is starting to erupt in a colorful show before she bids us goodbye and goes to sleep for the winter.

Reflective teachers love change as well. They believe in change, they embrace change, and if things are going well in their classes, they take a moment to wonder how things could be better. Then, they make changes and improve upon what already exists. Here are some change within the classroom worth considering:

Changes in the physical environment. Students are learning differently so why does the furniture and desks look the same? Make some changes to your furniture set-up. Group students together to encourage collaboration. Move your desk to the back of the room or get rid of it altogether! Re-purpose a corner of the room so that students can gather informally to discuss and plan ideas. Think that cozy nook of your local coffee shop.

Changes in your teaching approach. Ever think about teaching your students using a completely different method or trying something new to reach even more of your learners? There are lots of great ideas out there, and I embrace any design that asks students to be more in change of their learning and that gives teachers more opportunities during the classtime for individual help and guidance. My current fav is the flipped classroom approach. It gives me lots of time in class to facilitate/remediate with my students as they learn new structure in Spanish.

Changes in delivery of course materials. Technology has helped push the envelope so much here. How can you use the computer and online tools to help everyone work more efficiently? Is there an option to have an e-textbook for your course which would allow students access from anywhere and continue their learning? Have you considered using an app or extension or the GAFE suite to push announcements/assignments to students? Goodbye copying and overflowing bookbag of papers! Also, think about placing lesson plans online for students. I have my lesson plans on Evernote and make a public link of the week that I share out with students. It not only helps my absent students stay on track but allows every student to see where they have come from and where they are going in their learning.

The "tiny changes" category. 
Kudos Note Pad Set (set of 10 ORANGE)Don't ever doubt the effectiveness of those small changes. They can lead to big gains in your classroom environment and student learning. Here are some that are always worth mentioning and never go out of style!   
  • Involve your students- Give them jobs to help out in the class. They like that. Make them team leaders.They like being involved and feeling valued.
  • Give some shout outs to your students, for whatever reason you choose. I bought these Kudos this year. They are perfect! What kid doesn't love a piece of paper that tells him or her that they are did something amazing that day?! 
Your teaching and student learning does not get better by chance, they get better by change. Think about how you can make some changes today for better learning tomorrow :)