Teaching the joy of reading and the magic of learning is, I feel, our greatest gift as educators. As a parent, I have been witness to incredible moments of disbelief and awe when it comes to my own 2 sons, Liam and Bryce. They are, indeed, sponges as the saying goes, and my wife and I have tried to instill in them a love of reading that will build a foundation of learning success.
On the weekend, we took a trip to the Barrie Public Library - one of their favourite things to do. My wife came across a storybook called "Bony Legs" and remembered it from her own childhood. She put it into the bag of goodies to be signed out and we were homeward bound. She read the story to our youngest son, Bryce, twice in the next few days.
He proudly carries out this adventure and is so delighted with himself, when he has us as a captivated audience. What a terrific thing to be a part of.
So, how can we make sure that we are "raising readers" in a positive and supportive manner? Here's what I think...
1. Celebrate everything in the stages of reading as worthy of your attention and feedback. "Wow, that's such an interesting ending." "What do you think will happen next?" "How do you feel when you read to mommy and daddy?" "I really like how you used the pictures to figure out what's happening!"
2. Recognize the process of reading. It doesn't happen overnight, and therefore, should be constantly done and discussed in order to progress. Our future readers are "reading" their world far before they sound out words and vocalize sentence structures.
3. Reading is life. This is a skill and talent that will carry your son, daughter, or student throughout their lives. They will dramatically improve given attention, support, feedback and questions. Frame each response and comment you make as an opportunity for them to dazzle you. Don't be satisfied with one word answers, dig deeper and find out what they think just as much as you expect to hear what they know.
In the end, this is one of the greatest journeys they will ever make...and you will hold their hand through it all and guide them into their potential for learning - and life.
How do you "raise" readers - whether your own children or students you teach?
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Ever feel like you've been living in a dream world?
Our greatest goal is to educate students in a way that equips them with the tools for success, and that cultivates a culture of life-long learning. Our charge is to find a way to deliver this on a daily basis. We are providing the future with an opportunity to a better life.
Here are questions that cross my mind, from time-to-time...
How many individual students do I reach day in and day out?
How effective is the tone I set during instruction?
Do I find ways to connect and personalize the learning environment for each of the students in my room? Why don't I give students an exit ticket like a comment card at the end of a restaurant meal?
What is it that worries me about walking into a classroom and discovering that my method of teaching may not be as effective for the needs of the learners?
Do I matter?
Does this system of teaching - and learning - need an overhaul?
I think the teachers, indeed, have one of the greatest professions, the most profound, the scariest in magnitude, and ultimately, the most responsible in terms of future society and generations.
I know that's why I got into this job in the first place. I wanted to affect change. It's like that scene in "The Matrix" when Laurence Fishburne's character says something to Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) like, "you knew that there was something wrong, that something just wasn't quite right, but you weren't sure what it is," and he explains to him what The Matrix is and how he has been living in a fantasy world. Sometimes I feel like this might parallel our education system, and while it sounds critical, and it sounds like I'm in that dark place - perhaps being a naysayer or a pessimist - there is nothing further from the truth.
I want our schools to matter. I want my son - now in our public education system - to be excited about learning. I want to do the best job possible with the tools I am equipped with. And I am willing to take risks to do so.
I know many educators that feel the same way that I do. Our schools are the places where we live and breathe and work. When something doesn't quite feel right you know that change is needed. Whether it's engagement in the intermediate classroom, escalating behaviors, or a general difficulty in communicating with parents and school community - we are facing difficult times in terms of leading learning.
If we are to be successful in educating our students today with today's goals in mind for future successes and opportunities - we must be willing ourselves to try new things today. Things that we don't know off by heart. Things that we can't recite from our own school experiences, and perhaps, ask new questions that weren't even questions as little as five years ago.
This might seem like ramblings. Like some moral epiphany ala the Jerry Maguire. But this is actually how I feel. This is what I think - and I know I am not alone.
Schools have changed. Students had changed. Have teachers changed? A big question with a lot of ammunition waiting quietly behind it to ask more targeted questions. But I'm not afraid to ask it - are you?
I would love to hear what you think about our schools; about the way that we teach our students; about how you think things are done, and why, or if, things need to be closely examined?
Share your thoughts. Offer your ideas. Be a part of the change conversation.
I'll end with the ending words from the Matrix:
I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid. You're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries; a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.
What do you think? Are you part of "us' or part of "them?"
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
|Give them collaborative "play time"|
- Divide your class into groups of 4-5 students. “Tiered” Groups that include students who are proficient, struggle and anywhere in between, are a great way to scaffold the learning for students of all abilities. This is also a great way to provide leadership opportunities for some of your stronger math students.
- Fractions are a great starting point for your students to explore math stations and improve their conceptual understanding of the big ideas – they lend themselves very well to the use of many different manipulatives.
- Create 4-5 math stations that each have a different manipulative (e.g., pattern blocks, tangrams, fraction circles, relational rods).
*TECHNOLOGY CONNECTION* If you have access to some computers, try creating a math station that uses online math games as the activity. Just do an online search for “fraction games” and choose 3-4 that have a range of difficulty levels. This is also a great way to support your struggling students with a “break” from conventional math questions.
- Create a schedule that outlines when each student group will be at each station. Use 15-20 minutes as a guide for time. These stations could represent a week’s worth of math to cycle all groups through 4-5 stations.
- When students arrive at their assigned station to begin, provide 5 minutes (timed) as a chance to build and “play” with the manipulates there. Challenge your students to build their most creative structure as a group collaboration. Tell them you will photograph and display the most interesting ones.
- Each group should have activities to be completed using the manipulatives provided. Check out the MATHGAINS website for terrific open questions with a variety of manipulatives to build confidence and risk-taking. Marian Small’s website and books are another great resource for these types of questions.
- Emphasize the importance of students talking about the questions, planning how to solve them and supporting each other when they get stuck.
- Each math station lesson should end with a 15 minute consolidation time. Invite a student from each group to the front to explain the process of HOW their group solved one of the questions from their math station.
A document camera is a great way to visually show the class the question and work done to solve a problem. It also provides the student who is communicating their learning with a prompt to structure their sharing.
Have you used math stations before in your intermediate classroom? How did it go? What surprised you about the student learning?