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Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

“We spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve telling them to sit down and shut up.”

by Phyllis Diller

 

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Plato

 

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.”

Leo F. Buscaglia

Play.  When young children play, they run without aim. They dig in and get dirty. They aren’t afraid. They laugh at their mistakes and scream with delight at their successes. They sometimes cry, but that can be easily turned around with some reassurance. There aren’t boundaries. It’s all about discovery and adventure. It’s delightful to watch.

Not everyone gets to work with young children and see this.  Children, however, are still children – at any age.  My high schoolers love it when they get to follow commands posted around the school to find the prize at the end of the trail.  They love it when we get to read outside. They love it when we turn the tables into a fort/castle to have fairy tale story time. They love it when they get to read outside. They love it when we have verb conjugation races. They love Pictionary with new vocabulary. They love stickers, stamps, reward pencils and so much more. They look forward to class because it is not 90 minutes of sit-in-your-seat and take notes on a lecture time.  They are still children – some of them may be bigger than I am, but they are still children.

Play in our classroom community.  It’s one of my favorite things to do with these students. They can’t help but interact with the material if they are playing with it. It gets their blood flowing, oxygenates their brains, and keeps them really involved. There is play to just play – but there really is playing to learn.  Problem/project-based learning is a wonderful outlet for this.

I have the wonderful opportunity to work with a content area that lends itself well to these types of activities. While I will praise the idea of play in the classroom, I think it’s also important to share that there will be those who doubt or criticize the action.  I have heard a number of times from colleagues: “I wish I could teach a language, all you have to do is sing and play games.”  If you read my previous post, it is the reason both that I have feared inviting others in and the reason that I should.

 

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“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

by Peter F. Drucker

The next challenge in the 30 Goals Challenge is to reflect on my best and worst lesson of this week or last semester. I’m really having a hard time with choosing those and that’s not because I had continually average lessons, but because the last week and the last semester have been a bit unique.  A little background might be helpful here.

The last week has really only contained about 2½ days of instruction: we’ve had 2 “cold” days (days with temperatures and wind chills too cold for students to walk to school or the bus stop), 1 snow day, and I personally had 1 pullout day for District meetings.  The days around them were preparing for absences and re-grouping from unplanned days off.  Last semester I semester I started becoming ill and ended up having major surgery. I wasn’t myself for months due to circumstances out of my direct control.  I can say that I had good days and bad days then, but I was really relying on time and procedures and relationships banked. That’s what I would really like to share today.

Relationships.  The best and the worst of a lesson, unit, day, week, year, class are all affected by the relationships established between the teacher and the students.  With positive relationships established, the best and the worst all become just another learning point from which to go from.  If we want our students to learn from the process even when the result fails, we need to not fear modeling that in the classroom. We need to not fear taking a new direction if something isn’t working: formative assessments and reflections are just a couple of tools for this. Having positive relationships with our students allows us to use these moments and turn them into something positive, maybe even the best moments. The best moments, well those are the ones where we can capitalize on that relationship building process.

Relationship building. It takes time, not in length, but effort.  It takes listening and allowing the students to share their voice. It requires respect. This foundation is a necessary building block in order for the curriculum to take shape. This foundation can make the best days and the worst days all just learning days.

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“The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn. ”

by John Lubbock

Some quick thoughts about learning and online professional development:

  • Everyone can learn
  • Not everyone learns in the same way
  • Learning is a life-long process
  • I hope to inspire my students to want to learn
  • As a teacher, I should help my students learn how to learn
  • I need to model learning for my students
  • I need to show my students purpose
  • I can learn from my students, too
  • I hope to establish an environment of trust and safety in our classroom
  • Learning has changed with innovation. As educators we need to not only acknowledge this, but embrace it. Our students have!
  • Professional Development has also changed with innovation
  • Online professional development has allowed me to stretch beyond my own community and learn from so many other around the world
  • Online PD allows me to see many more perspectives than just those I see around me
  • Online PD has motivated me so much more than I thought possible!

The long-term challenge: In what ways will I ensure that my beliefs about how students learn are reflected in the classroom?

One step towards this goal is reflecting in my blog and another is participating in the online community for this challenge. The blog provides a place for me to reflect on my goals and review them as necessary. The online community provides a place for me to collaborate, share and reflect with others on the same journey.  While the connection to the classroom may not be blatant, it is still there. The connection is me.  The classroom, the blog, the community – I am a part of all of these things and all of these things are tools to be used to keep the focus when the educational demands become overwhelming.

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“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

by Albert Einstein

I think I could end my blog post there.  Einstein says a great deal about grading without ever knowing it would be taken as a discussion point for us.  Our challenge today in  30 Goals 2011 is “to assess one assignment or project … in a way that doesn’t add a numerical value but has the student seek value in the progress made, the learning achieved, or the work put into it.”  I watched the video (click on the link), read the challenge, and walked away from the computer for most of the rest of the day.

My thoughts and emotions are mixed regarding this challenge.  One side of me laughs at the challenge: how am I going to get my students to even try something if there is no grade to put in the grade book.  Therein lies the problem. Our society has placed such a high value on “the grade,”  the GPA, and the class rank, State testing, ACT, SAT, AP and so much more that learning for the sake of learning and the pride that comes from within is lost. The real loser is the student.

Back to my initial moment of laughter: how am I going to get my students to try something that doesn’t have a numerical value attached to it?  First, I’d like to train them in appreciating “the process” of learning. I want them to see that there is learning in each step of what we do.  My first step began today.  One group of students are finishing a project this week.  I’ve spent time with them setting up their foundational skills, presenting examples, modeling the information, making the theme authentic (in theme and product), presenting the project, and giving the project purpose. Their final leg of the assignment has 2 steps: they are to post their Glogs on edmodo with a comment/abstract plus respond to other posts (with guidelines provided), and complete a google docs evaluation.  The edmodo post allows them to boast about their product and provide positive feedback to others.  It’s an affirming experience.  The google docs evaluation is designed to illicit information about their experience all the way through.  It’s a self-evaluation about their successes, failures, needs, and wants from this project and for future ones.  In the end, my goal is to provide the students opportunities to show value in themselves and others; and, to be able to talk about their experience as something that is valued as much as the end product.

I tried to apply the challenge to something immediately, so it wouldn’t be just a topic to blog about, but one to put into action immediately. I want to find the value in the process just as much as I want my students to do.  I may not fully accomplish this goal for some time, but I’ll be working on it as the challenge continues.  The numbers aren’t going to go away for some time, but there’s still room for value in the process of learning.


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A friend was asking about my blog. As he was reading the title (or at least trying to correctly pronounce the German), it occurred to me that there may be others out there who also had no idea to what I am referring.  Sturm und Drang, as defined by Merriam-Webster is “a late 18th century German literary movement characterized by works containing rousing action and high emotionalism that often deal with the individual’s revolt against society.”

Most of the time I like to use this term to describe periods of my own personal life.  I find that personally a little amusing. Naming my blog this, to which I ascribe my reflections on teaching and learning, brings the title into a new light. While a part of me envies those who produce “rousing action” and can bring their “high emotionalism” to a productive result, I don’t find myself there at this point.  I am also not an individual known for “revolt[ing] against society.” There are those who might call me a “wannabe,” but I would dare to differ on that account.

I am a passionate individual. Teaching and Learning are two of my passions. I have spent years living and working within my own little ecosystem of the educational world.  I am only now searching and finding ways to expand out of that system and into/within others.  Revolting against society, the educational society, is not my plan: working from within to help myself and others grow is.

While I doubt anyone will find me marching with picket-signs, I do hope that I am becoming someone who fosters action and passion in the classroom, school, District, State, and among each other.

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