Take a look at these pictures — I swear, they’re not staged. Thinking about my goal of Captivate, I think these photos tell a great story. We had a 2-day science lab looking at different materials and how we could use them to clean up an oil spill. I love how excited my students got about the activity and how engaged they were — not only in the actual experiment, but in documenting their observations. Very cool!
My goal has been Captivate, because I would like to do a more intentional job of incorporating Making Thinking Visible routines into my lessons and activities, which I’m hoping will spark creative thinking in my students.
After the survey results came in, I feel comfortable keeping that goal as is, even though it’s not my lowest area (that happened to be Consolidate). I knew going into this that Consolidate wouldn’t be my strongest area, but I don’t necessarily feel the need to change my goal at this time. I know it’s something that I will need to attend to at some point, but for right now, Captivate feels like the best area to focus in on.
Inspired by the G5 overnight field trip, we talked as a team about using data from the place we stayed, Thaiwoo, as a jumping off point for some problem solving in math. We’re currently looking at place value and decimals, so several of us teachers came up with problems that we then shared amongst the team. These were really engaging and provided lots of good math discussion, and the students were really enthusiastic about solving a Thaiwoo-related problem.
I think it really hits the idea of Captivate because they were multi-step, complicated problems, and the students were very engaged in solving them. For the most part they worked together, and walking around the room I heard lots of productive and excited math chatter.
We later shared our answers and our strategies as a whole class, which also helped students solidify the math concepts.
I have chosen Captivate as my professional goal so far, prior to administering the first survey. The descriptors say: Captivate: (Spark and maintain student interest in learning, Design stimulating lessons, Facilitate active participation)
As a participant of the Project Zero Institute this past summer, I would like to form an inquiry group focusing on the Making Thinking Visible routines. My aim is to work with other interested teachers to learn about new routines, try them out together and then try them out in the classroom, and then continue to regularly meet and share what worked and didn’t work.
I chose Captivate to focus on specifically for this goal, so that I can be intentional in choosing routines that spark creativity and critical thinking, and showcase the student thinking that is taking place during the day.
The results of my spring survey came in, and because I need to see it side-by-side to make sense of the data, I had to take the fall and spring data and put it into a spreadsheet, and then turned it into a graph. Initially I was disappointed, but after taking a look at the data bit by bit and comparing with the fall results, I can see that it turned out better than anticipated. I definitely have areas where, according to the survey, I’m not reaching every student in the classroom. But I’m guessing that my definition of “My teacher cares about me” is different than an 11-year-old’s definition. My definition of caring about my students involves having high expectations of their behavior and holding kids accountable for their words and actions, and sometimes kids don’t want to have adults do that — which may seem in the moment like the teacher doesn’t care, when actually it’s the opposite. So, it’s hard not to take the results too personally, but I know that ultimately me caring about them sometimes looks like me asking them to work to their best ability and not giving up on them, even though they’re pushing and pushing and asking for attention in very unhelpful ways. But even as I’m saying this, I’m talking about the outliers, not the class as a whole, and I need to remember this when I look at the results holistically.
It does give me a lot to think about as we’re winding down for the year. I am in a different place than I was at the start of the school year being new here, and I have lots of thoughts about how to start next year off on a different note. This school is very different than my last school, and the start of this school year was rough — I’m not going to sugar-coat it. I can see now reflecting back that I wasn’t prepared for all of the student-related challenges that I would face this year. But going into next year I’ll have a better idea of so many things, so I anticipate a much smoother entry to the school year, which I hope will ultimately mean a smoother year overall.
I have definitely focused a lot since attending the SIOP/C6 training in February on consolidation and clarify: I write the content objectives on my board every day, and usually work them into my lesson at some point during the lesson. These were survey areas I didn’t specifically note as focusing on earlier on, but I felt that once I had attended the training with José Medina, the how and why of content and language objectives became more clear, and it was something I felt like I had the tools to actually improve on. It’s become a habit to think the objectives through and to write them down in a dedicated place on my board; now my next real step will be to intentionally state them aloud each day. Sometimes I will have a student read them at the beginning of the lesson, but I know an actionable step will be to have the students check in at the end of the lesson to see if we achieved those objectives.
The survey area that I have been intentionally focusing on is classroom management, because I felt like working on that area would help in other ways as well. This has been a challenge. I have tried lots and lots of different things relating to classroom management this year, some with better results than others, and am curious to see what the students think about how things are going thus far.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the language I use in the classroom, and how that can help or hinder classroom management. I came across this blog post and there were several really useful points about what well-chosen words can do, and how what we say in response to off-task behavior can either put kids on the defensive, or help to empower them to make a better and more reflective choice.
It was an interesting article, particularly as I’m in the midst of the SIOP/C6 training at ISB. One of the things I’ve been working on being more intentional about is writing my content objective for each area (literacy, math, inquiry), and then taking a moment to debrief at the end of a lesson and ask: did we achieve this objective? It goes back to the choice of language, and being intentional. Thinking through and being explicit about what and how and why we’re learning something, is similar to being intentional about what and how and why when we’re talking to students, particularly when they’re off-task or disruptive.
I particularly liked this part of the article:
Instead of saying: “Some groups did very well today, but I was very disappointed by what I saw in other groups. Tomorrow I need to see a big improvement.”
Try this: “What problems did you come across today?”
And then: “How did you solve them?”
And then: “What will you do differently tomorrow?”
The first option prioritizes the teacher’s feelings over the learning process, and it communicates the belief that working as a group should be easy: Any problems that occurred were simply due to bad behavior. By contrast, the second option (Johnston, p. 32) sends the message that problems are a normal part of learning, especially in groups, and that students are capable of solving those problems. By inviting students to consider ways they can troubleshoot, the teacher not only gives them the time and space to find creative solutions, but also increases their sense of agency over their own challenges.
Holiday break has historically been a time that I do some reflecting on what’s been working in the classroom, what’s not working, and then do some research to implement some changes in the new year. It’s a perfect time to reset; I know the kids and their needs, but we still have a lot of the school year to go, so even small changes can make a big difference. I also like having the time to really think and work through an idea, and the fast pace during the school year doesn’t always allow for that time to really sit with a big idea and craft it out.
During this break I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to restructure my literacy times, particularly through the lens of classroom management. Right now I have two very separate Writing and Reading blocks, and I’d like to see about how to best adjust those to be Literacy blocks. I may still do a writing mini lesson or a reading focus group during those specific blocks, but I would like to move toward more choice and autonomy for the students for the remaining time in the blocks.
One education blog that I follow is by a teacher named Michael Friermood (blog name: The Thinker Builder). I’ve been reading his work for some time, and I always come away with practical and simple tools for improving my teaching. Today I found this article: What to do with the rest of the class during reading workshop or rotations. In this article, he details out some of the management practices he’s put in place for students to make choices with how to spend their time, but also make sure they’re accountable for certain “must-do” tasks. This is something I’d like to get started with in my classroom, and I think it’ll also allow for better opportunity for my EAL co-teacher and I to target student literacy needs, whether they are writing or reading specific.
After receiving the results of the student survey, I’ve had some time to think through the goal for the year, and to make some decisions about what, if anything, to adjust. Classroom Management was an area that I was scored relatively fine on, but I think for me, it’s the best spot to continue to focus on. Other areas that were relatively lower for me, such as Consolidate, would only really be effective to focus on if I am able to build the time into the lesson consistently. In order to do that, I need to continue firming up our transition times and reduce “wasted” time. When a lesson is going smoothly and transitions are going well, there is time for consolidating at the end. When we’re rushing to finish something, or something takes too long to get started, I realize that consolidating at the end is definitely the piece that gets lost.
For my Professional Growth goal this year, prior to seeing the results of my student survey, I would like to look at the Classroom Management aspect of the 7Cs. I’m getting used to the differences between ISB and previous schools I have taught at, and this is an area for focus that I think would really benefit me, and subsequently my students.
One area specifically that I want to focus on is transitions. Due to the nature of my schedule this year, we have a lot of transitions in our day. Most often, these are not just moving from one activity to the next within the homeroom classroom, but moving from one part of the building to another. We come and go a lot, and there is a lot more wasted time than I would like; time that it takes to walk from one class back to the homeroom classroom, and time that it takes to get settled and ready to work. I’d like to tighten up transitions to cut out unnecessary wasted time.
A few resources I’ve started to compile for this are: