I believe that literacy is the culture of a classroom, not simply subject matter I teach. It's not simply reading and writing. Love for reading and writing should be intrinsic, and it is my job to convey my passion for reading to my students. I have over 800 books in my personal classroom library, and I get to know my students so I can help them choose books they can emotionally connect with. I teach intentionally using complex text so that students can use text evidence to prove their inferences. I also include non-fiction reading to increase content knowledge. I have a passion for reading and get excited when kids come to a part in a book where they can't contain their enthusiasm. Many days, I have kids come to me at recess and tell me they NEED to talk to me about their book. WOW!!!!! That is true reading! It gives me a sense of pride knowing that books can open a world to kids that they may never see for themselves. My hope is that I'm giving my kids opportunities through reading where they connect in such a way that they feel powerful to be a changing force in their world.
I believe effective math instruction begins with a conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts and how they work together. Kids need to be able to apply mathematical practices in order to monitor their own learning. It is my job to help them visualize and make meaning by drawing models, using manipulatives, and teaching them to ask, "Does this make sense?" I need to help students build knowledge by focusing deeper within concepts, link multiple skills so that mathematical learning is coherent, and increase rigor so that students are practicing fluency, gaining problem solving strategies, and applying their learning to their life. Math can be a source of frustration for many. My intent is to scaffold my instruction so that there is productive struggle without frustration so that my kids experience success. Success gives students purpose. They begin to love math. When students enjoy their learning, it becomes permanent.
I am meeting with two students to target specific skills I identified based on formative assessments. I meet with small groups each Friday to clarify misconceptions and intentionally focus on specific strategies that may not have been mastered during core instruction. There are times when meeting with students one-on-one is necessary. Meeting individual needs is a key component to my instruction to ensure that all kids are successful.
ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT: Communication
I believe communication is key to building and retaining knowledge and engagement in learning. Most activities can be done alone, on a worksheet, or with students answering questions I create. By teaching, modeling, and supporting students taking risks, they ask their own questions and control their learning. Modeling appropriate communication with and among students builds rapport and respect in my classroom. Learning needs to be purposeful and intentional. It is important to me that my kids know what they are learning and why it is important to them. By explaining our learning, listening to the kids, and allowing them to have control in the classroom, I am able to build relationships that are essential. I communicate with them so that they can communicate with each other to increase rigor and promote an environment of excitement about knowledge and learning. When they know I love them and they trust me, they take more risks which increases their learning.
ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT: Strategies for Critical Thinking
USING VISUAL CHUNKING TO INCREASE ENGAGEMENT AND CONCEPT MASTERY
I believe active engagement is not only everyone being physically involved in an activity and communicating. The communication must involve thinking. Kids typically feel like they need to always have the "right" answer. They don't realize that one of the most important elements of learning is the active thinking. It is important to me that my kids know that making mistakes and taking risks is more than okay, it is essential to learning. I want them to verbalize their thinking so I can help them focus it to make connections. I scaffold their thinking and help them organize it in a visual way. I use t-charts and 3 column charts daily. These pictures show how I have used 3-column charts or a modification of them to help students think deeper about concepts. Students interact with anchor charts posting their thinking on sticky notes. Students are always at the center of learning....they should do the heavy lifting in class. They are the most important ones in the room!
Marzano says that we need to break concepts down into smaller chunks to make it easier for students to process. He also says that teachers need to help students organize key concepts visually so the brain will remember and make connections more effectively. As a teacher, I am always researching the best ways I can teach students. I look to other teachers as well for ideas that work for them and collaborate with my ideas to make them more effective with my kids.
I believe that a major teaching focus should be on the strategy as much as the content. When teaching students to read, I focus on word attack skills and comprehension strategies. When teaching mathematical concepts, I focus on strategies to solve problems and persevere. When teaching science and social studies concepts, I don't just teach the content for memorization. There is intentional focus on strategies to take notes, to chunk concepts into meaningful parts, and to find ways to make connections. Students must be independent thinkers who can chunk information on their own without me telling them how and when to do it. Every instructional decision is intentional with the focus on how to help students learn and master concepts.
PROFESSIONAL LEADERSHIP & COLLABORATION
I was fortunate to be selected to work with 32 amazing teachers from across the country in Seattle, Washington with the Gates Foundation for Education. We worked for two days brainstorming how to improve teacher professional learning.
One of my favorite parts of teaching is professional collaboration. Working with teachers from other content areas, other schools, and other grade-levels is essential for growth in the teaching craft. I improve my teaching by asking them questions and seeing what works for them in their classrooms. I take their ideas and use them in ways that help my students learn more than they would have before. I love sharing what works for me so others can impact the learning of their students. I have found that I have learned so much from others and working in a professional collaborative environment is very rewarding. I need to be challenged by other teachers, administrators, and by my students.
I took my learning from the design collaborative process I participated with in Seattle and worked with my school's leadership team to design literacy conversations as we began a journey into standards based unit design. This video is the first K-2 conversation we had after an initial vertical standards alignment professional learning experience which I collaborated to develop and lead. Each Friday from January-May 2015, I planned with primary teachers one-on-one and in small groups for half a day while another teacher taught my 5th grade students. I learned as much from them as they did from me. It was truly a collaborative experience that benefited the kids.
As part of my literacy leadership in 2015, I collaborated with primary teachers and taught modeled lessons in their classrooms. Our main goal was to improve our implementation of the 3 ELA shifts and stay congruent to the standards, skills, and strategies targeted. We also had conversations about the importance of reading and writing being taught together as a coherent element of daily literacy instruction using complex text and teaching students to find text evidence and apply to writing. By being a classroom teacher, teachers trusted me because I was teaching along with them implementing the same strategies they were implementing and trying out strategies they shared with me that worked for them. This video is a kindergarten classroom. This teacher expressed interest in improving her purposeful and intentional writing conferring so she could plan more focused writing instruction to meet individual needs.