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Saturday, August 16, 2014

And the school year has begun

There is just so much to say this week that I didn't know if I could say it. It's exhausting to have thoughts racing toward the page as fast as your fingers can possibly type them. This week we dove in to a school wide project right away by asking students to decide on, define, rules for our school.
Students are volunteering rules
after writing a long list, we decided that a lot of what we were writing
would be summed up with the word Respect.
After a lot more discussion we decided that some rules are about Safety. Staying safe. Making sure everyone else stays safe. And eventually (though this one was more difficult to arrive at), we realized that responsibility would describe the rest of them. So we arrived at Respect, Safety, Responsibility. The next part of the project was putting students into groups and each group needed to create a skit, with a script, that summed up all three rules.

some groups had to really think things through

some groups worked hard on props right away
Teams performed their skits on the second day of school. The question we asked our selves was "How did that go?" And my partner, the one with the PBL experience (I am still very green at this), mentioned that other projects have possibly been more successful. But as we talked more, we realized it was really a great learning day(s). First of all, only about half of our students are familiar with the learning projects and working like this.  So many were getting the exposure and experience they needed to become great learners. Secondly, we as teachers learned so much. I learned a lot about pairing students and who can/should be grouped together and who shouldn't be together. I learned about the process. We learned that we'll need to put more time limits on work times, as in, take more breaks. Those kinders were needing to get out and get a little exercise and let their brains focus on something else at times.

Do you do this as a teacher? Are you incredibly hard on yourself? Does your lesson analysis take into account the change of status of students, the "crowd" (so to speak) you are catering to, the fact that it is all a learning experience, whether or not it went as deep or as smoothly as you first thought it would/could/should? I hesitated to write about this, but it's a valuable part of the teacher evaluation of the success of the project. I know that the 5th-8th grade class will take this lesson deeper and talk about what worked, what it means to have rules, they will probably write about the process, and they will likely talk about ideas of what to do differently in the future. I also know that once we truly dig in, a project will not be considered to be complete until we get there, we take the time to analyze, adjust, edit, re-think, re-work, etcetera. We will have a final product that all are happy with. That is one of the basic principles of our school. Sometimes we have to remember that it is so different on the first few days of school and things will continue to progress and change. 

If the students learned half as much as we did, they are off to a good start. 

Once in our own room, we worked on classroom procedures, classroom rules, and management. We practiced a little Whole Brain Teaching. I said "class," they said "yes." We also practiced the "please freeze" idea. 

Notice the cups? This is a signal system that we are planning to try.
There is a red cup beneath the green cup. When they need help from the teacher,
they put the red cup on top, when they understand directions and are working,
the green cup is on top. 

These are the classroom rules that we arrived at with discussion
and guidance. (if you know me, you know these are already my five rules, I guided students
to get to where I wanted them. I may have to change the word "talk" to "speak." I don't
know if I can re-train my brain quickly and efficiently! 
 We did a "mixer" activity on Friday so they could get to know more people's names (and faces).  It really seemed to work well.

 I came home exhausted and energized both. I have lesson plans to write for next week, but I can't wait. I am so excited to see what this year holds. 

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