It’s early January. Everyone has made their resolutions and is ready for a better 2017 than 2016. Kids are back to school and the Twitterverse is full of excited teachers and students trying innovative ideas. Being at a year round school and on track 4 I’m still on break until the end of January. While I enjoy my time off, I feel a little jealous that I’m missing all the excitement and eagerness to begin a fresh new year.
My #oneword2017 is motivation. I started this blog a month ago and am very proud that I have kept the momentum thought the holidays. I plan to continue to motivate myself to reflect in this platform and in order to do that I need motivation. My motivation is always my students. I do whatever it takes to make school better for them and inspire learning. However this blog feels different, a little more selfish. Reflecting here helps me become better in my craft, better at what I do. Granted, I do it for them…. I still feel this is for me.
I’ve been working my way through the NC Teacher Evaluation Standards and today I’ll be exploring…..
Teachers facilitate learning for their students. – know the ways learning takes place and appropriate levels of intellectual, physical, social, and emotional development. Plan appropriate instruction. Use a variety of instructional methods. Integrate and use technology in instruction. Help students develop critical thinking and problem solving. Help students work in teams and develop leadership qualities. Communicate effectively. Use a variety of methods to assess what students have learned.
I know my students and I work hard to have relationships with each student. It’s important to me to take their individual interests into consideration when planning for their learning. I’m a big proponent for developmentally appropriate practices and doing right by kids. Knowing their developmental levels is important to consider while planning for learning. While considering developmental appropriateness, one must always think of the whole child. As an early childhood educator, I plan lessons around the whole child and take into consideration what 5-6 year olds need physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually. I change the order from how the substandard is written because I think the intellectual part of a child is the obvious place to begin when planning instruction. You may have noticed that I have been using the term “planning for learning” in this post. This is a conscious decision- an important one. I plan for student learning not instruction. Planning for student learning takes the whole child into consideration and naturally differentiates for individual student needs and interests. Planning for instruction is for the teacher and what the teacher will do. Learning is about the student. And, let’s be honest, who is education for anyway? STUDENTS!! So, I plan for my students, what they need, and what they’re interested in. For example, as stated in my last post, we’re exploring geometry in math. Here’s how I plan for each of those areas:
physically – we get up and move around a lot in my class. To some, my room probably looks chaotic. When introducing 2D shapes, I had my students walk in the shape.
Socially – we talk a lot in my class. It’s quite noisy on a regular basis. Yes, it’s a struggle to keep kids on topic. But, I’ve learned that the more opportunities they have to talk, the more they do what they are supposed to. When introducing shapes, I show an example and tell the name. Then, they turn and talk about what they notice. This also gives me good information as a preassessment.
Emotionally – this can be tricky to include in regular lessons. Kindergarteners have a lot of feelings and emotions and they don’t always understand them. #allthefeels For me it’s important to acknowledge these feelings and help them label and communicate those feelings. During the above mentioned turn and talk, I noticed a friend sulking. This little friend was sad because they don’t know shapes. I sat beside her after introducing the next shape and pointed out things she can notice about the shape’s sides and vertices. She gained come confidence and was able to talk to a buddy about the next shape.
Intellectually- um… All of the above? Everything I do is rooted in my standards and what my students need to know to be successful. This one is big though. It’s important that I figure out what my students already know and differentiate from there. My friend from my story above, she needed some scaffolding so she knew what she needed to notice. Other friends new these things but needed new math terminology- vertices instead of corners, rhombus instead of diamond. Different kids need different things from me and I plan for each of them to learn.
Yikes! All of that and I only really talked about part of that standard. There’s so much involved in it. And I’ll get to e rest. You can see an example of my integration of technology in my last blog post: My knowledge of content knowledge.
Here’s a tweet my principal shared of a lesson I did for an observation. Students built a scene from a favorite book with Legos and asked and answered questions about their brick build.
How do you plan for learning?
Here I sit on an airplane on my way home for the holidays and all I can do is reflect on my teaching. It’s the end of December the universal time for reflection. It’s hard not to end the year and prepare for the next and not reflect on life in general. My professional resolution this year is momentum. I want to continue the momentum from #wonderwake and all that I learned and challenged myself to begin. I’m ending 2016 with a blog post and I’ll begin 2017 with another.
This post was meant to be me reflecting on Standard 3 of the NC teacher evaluation standards. But, as I started to type it turned into my talking about a math lesson I taught in the hallway the last day before winter break and a track out. However I think this lesson I ramble about is a great example of how I meet this teaching standard.
I started out on my plan to dissect standards :
Standard 3 -Teachers know the content they teach – align to standard course of study, content appropriate to teaching specialty, recognize interconnectedness of content areas, make instruction relevant
My curriculum is based on the North Carolina Standard accursed of Study based on the Common Core State Standards. I am tasked with teaching 5 year olds to read and write, to understand how numbers work, basic science concepts (animals, weather, and properties), basic social studies concepts (citizenship, economics, cultural similarities and differences, and maps). I love that the standards I teach were written vertically. You can choose any strand and follow it all the way up through high school. I think this is so important for the students. It gives a purpose for every small piece I teach. Everything builds on the grades before and challenges students to learn more and think deeper.
Here’s what I’ve learned about my curriculum- basic is not basic at all! Teaching a child to read and write in 9 short months is nothing short of a miracle! There are times I’m not even sure how it happened! Students in kindergarten come in with the widest range of background knowledge than any other grade level! (Here’s where the ramble begins) For example- my current unit in math is geometry. Yes geometry in kindergarten! We learn 2 D shapes, 3D shapes, Positional words, comparing and building shapes. I have students who have not had any experience with any shapes and others who know basic shapes (circle, square, triangle…), and others who know it all already! Here are 2 of my students explaining. How they are exploring shapes. My friend in green took the lead. My friend in red is a little embarrassed to be on camera! 😄
My job is to take what they know and teach them what they need to know. If they already know it I need to teach them a deeper understanding and how to use their knowledge to teach others. Tasking students with tutoring a peer who struggles is a great way to deepen their understanding. Teaching another student requires a child to think about it in a different way.
This lesson took place in the main hall at my school. We are a year round school and on our track out days I end up with out a physical classroom and need to be creative and flexible about where and how I teach. This was a shape hunting lesson- look for shapes in your world around you. How do they make up real things? (eh hem – engineering) pretty things? (errr – art) etc. My challenge is to not only have students who don’t know shapes to find and identify them but for students who do know shapes to describe, compare, and teach them.
In the video above Green was peer tutoring Red in shapes. He learned so much from her in 10 minutes that would have taken me at least 2 small group sessions to teach him. As they hunted for shapes they took videos using Chatter Pix Kids and SeeSaw (2 of my favorite apps to smash – if you don’t know them you need to explore!) Here’s Red’s post on SeeSaw after Green helped him hunt for shapes.
What do you think? Was my lesson here relevant? Connected? Appropriate? Aligned to standards?