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Showing posts from June, 2016

Students Plan for a Day of Learning

This is the third in a series of blog posts about strategies I use to help my students take ownership of their learning. The first post was about class meetingsThe second post was about giving kids opportunities todetermine their own writing and reading plansevery Friday afternoon. (Coming soon is the fourth post in this series about using student surveys to provide feedback about the classroom.)

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"Yesterday I felt more independent than ever because I had to tell myself what to do." - 5th grade boy
It did not come as a surprise that my students embraced the idea of planning their learning for an entire day. That is what being autonomous and self-directed is all about and what we all desire to be in our day-to-day experiences. Allowing students to create their own schedules for learning, albeit conditioned by specific parameters (reading, writing, math, sc…

Sitting in My Usual Spot

I am sitting in my usual spot.
At least it has been my usual spot for about a week now.
It has become my work space.
It's where I sit to participate in online summer PD activities.
It's where I read.
It's where I write.

My usual spot is in a corner of the couch.
The arm rest is unusually wide.
I can pile my books, notebooks and even my laptop there.
And, I do.

I used to have a more conventional work space,
but then my husband, who works from home,
and was struggling to stick to his side of the desk,
finally spread out,
invading my work space.

One day, after many attempts at getting organized,
and not succeeding,
he told me that he was going to add an extension to our house,
so I could have my own work space.
I told him it was cheaper to tidy up.
That was months ago.

Before claiming my usual spot,
I set up a temporary, wobbly table against a wall in my bedroom
for a work space.
I used that for a few months.
Not ideal, but better than nothing.

I've reclaimed my conventio…

Student Engagement in Writing and Reading Workshop

This is the second in a series of blog posts about different strategies I use to help my students take ownership of their learning. The first post was about class meetingsToday's post is about giving kids opportunities todetermine their own writing and reading plans every Friday afternoon. (Coming soon is the third post in this series about allowing kids to extend an afternoon of planning into an entire day!)

This year our school implemented the Lucy Calkins' units of writing. Next year we will be doing the reading units. Although I have been doing reading and writing workshop for a long time, this is the first year where I felt my students had less choice, rather than more choice, in their writing. And, choice is one of the untouchables of a workshop approach to teaching anything, as well as an important element towards getting kids to take ownership of their learning. 

Of course, it's not that my students had no choice at all, but their choices were certainly much more l…

Class Meetings

This is the first in a series of blog posts about different strategies I use to help my students take ownership of their learning. Today's post is about class meetings.

Recently there was an online debate about what comes first, ownership of learning or engagement? Although I don't think we came to a consensus on this, we did agree that both are important and need to be cultivated with equal force. As for me, some days I think engagement must come first and other days I am convinced that giving kids control over their learning is what will get them engaged. Therefore, I try to strike a balance between the two because I think some kids may not ready to take control of their learning. They have been too coddled or never given the opportunity to make even simple decisions in the classroom. Therefore, they become entirely dependent on the teacher to make all decisions for them. It takes a long time to break that dependency, but it's well worth it for the children and the healt…

End Of the Year Rumination

The end of the school year is typically a stressful time. Report cards need to be written, assessments need to be completed and final projects need to be turned in, and not necessarily in that order. Nevertheless, I have always had time to enjoy my students before we say goodbye on the last day of school.

This year feels different.

I feel rushed and more stressed than usual. Part of it is that I am just recovering from a very bad cold that kept me bed ridden for four days, the longest number of consecutive days I've ever missed school in 30 years of teaching. Another part of it is that the amount of things that need to be completed is greater this year than in previous years. Being in a school environment that is actively implementing new projects is exciting, but it can also be exhausting.

As I finish assessments and the kids turn in final assignments, I am looking forward to our last week of school where we can slow things down just a bit and have some fun before we say goodbye …