Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I have shifted my technological communication to Twitter lately. While I have enjoyed blogging and maintaining a professional website, the brevity of Twitter has me hooked. I can take a picture on my iPhone, pull up my Twitter account, Tweet, and send it out immediately.

I believe that Twitter is a great way to connect, share, and swap professional development opportunities. I like the quick reads and links that I can access if I would like to. Otherwise, it is like reading the headlines and figuring out what I want to read or watch.

Check us out on Twitter at @dholzend or @nsecrickets.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Take the Time...

After re-reading the first part of chapter one in the book Leaders of Their Own Learning, I was able to summarize the chapter in the following way:

1. Take the time to write quality learning targets for each lesson based on your standards.
2. Take the time to discuss the learning targets with your students so that they have an understanding of where they are going.
3. Take the time to refer to the learning target throughout the lesson to check for understanding.
4. Take the time to connect the learning target to a bigger more meaningful task such as a project, presentation, performance, etc...
5. Take the time to allow your students to assess their own progress throughout and at the end of the lesson.

I use the phrase, "Take the time," because the one practice or behavior that I have adopted as a result of best practices in teaching the Common Core standards or any standards for that matter is that we need to slow down and dig deeper into understanding. In the past, we have been in such a hurry to make sure that we cover all of the standards required for our grade level. Unfortunately, that's all we did was cover the standards. We will get much better results by slowing down, digging deeper, and involving the students in their learning.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lesson Planning

There has been some discussion about the purpose of lesson planning. I am one of those people who does not mind analyzing why we have always done what we do and considering other ways to accomplish the same goal. Therefore, I have done some searching on what are the essential components of a lesson plan. Winthrop University provides this as the components of a basic lesson plan. The bottom line is that weekly lesson plans and units of study are primarily for the teacher to follow. Secondarily, they are for classroom visitors to follow to know what is being taught and transparency.

For me, it is about the process. As a classroom teacher, what do you think about when planning a lesson? What questions will you ask? How do you know that your students understand and can apply what they have learned? What materials do you need to accomplish these goals? What procedures do your students need to follow? What do you need to do and say as the facilitator of learning?

In addition, as a teacher I would want to make sure that my administrative team knows what I have planned in the case that a question or concern comes up about the success of my students. Anyone visiting my class should know our academic focus by observing the students, analyzing student work, listening to conversations, etc...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rube Goldberg?

I am thrilled with the bravery, confidence, and innovation that Mrs. Dawson's STEMS class has shown as they accomplish their first project for the school year. I am a little nervous that at one point and time I was being considered as the victim of their ALS Rube Goldberg machine that included a "bowling ball." With many drafts and collaborative efforts, the bowling ball has been scaled down to a medicine ball that releases a bucket that tips another bucket to pour the ice water. I feel much better now! Thank you to our Watch DOGS Coordinator, Jim Seeger, for his help with the construction of this project. Great job!

This is still a work in progress with multiple drawings, models, and drafts. The ultimate goal is to be able to use a Rube Goldberg machine to accomplish the ALS challenge. The students in Mrs. Dawson's class have worked relentlessly to accomplish this goal. There are so many skills, standards, concepts, and learning experiences related to this project. It makes me want to be the one under the final bucket receiving the cold and watery results. Stay tuned for the FINAL product!

Monday, September 1, 2014

We built four picnic tables for our school
In nursery school, math is called cooking, building or drawing. Science is called gardening, exploring or playing on the yard (finding bugs and figuring out what they do is a specialty). What happened between nursery school and first grade that made us forget this? Why is it so critical for a first grader to learn "math" as a stand-alone subject? What happened to building?

I love this quote from Shira Loewenstein's blog post entitled Does Spelling Count? Mrs. Germann, one of our assistant principal's, shared this article with the faculty and staff recently. 

Dr. H and fourth grade students
The above quote caught my eye, because it is a known fact that as students progress through their educational careers, they become less creative and less playful with their learning. It is critical to the future of our students that they see the meaning and purpose for their learning. That does not mean that the purpose is so that I can do math when I grow up or get a job, but because I need math, science, social studies, spelling, etc... to create this really neat project that is going to help improve my school, community, class, etc...

Loewenstein goes on to say, "What if we were to eliminate subjects? What if we said there was no more 'spelling" or "writing" or "math," and we just had "school'?"

I have wondered this myself. How much more fun would school be if students came to school to write, calculate, investigate, research, read, discuss, present, and debate concepts and ideas that were beneficial to them and their community. We have plenty of problems that need to be solved, jobs that need to be done, projects that need to be completed at our school that our boys and girls should stay busy with these days. The role of the teacher is to facilitate these activities so that the boys and girls are exposed to and learn concepts and skills that will help them meet the standards set for them at each grade level.