Teachers in the Early Education Department have changed some things up to provide more small group instructional opportunities. With the inclusion of Words Their Way in the elementary, there was no time like the present to get the younger students introduced to instructional language they would eventually hear in Kindergarten. Sorting is one strategy the teachers have decided to use in their instruction on concepts. As the rest of the year goes along, students will be sorting to share their learning with their teacher and other students, plus it will help them explain why things fit into the categories they put them into.
In Pre-K, Mrs. Krivanek is working with her students on sorting pictures and objects that need to fit a particular category.
Here, students are sorting according to color.
Mrs. Krivanek shares with students how she sorts things that are related to Christmas and NOT related to Christmas. She offered reasons why she put them into categories and had the students help her come up with reasons too.
In Preschool, Mrs. Sitzmann gave students their own sorting bags to try and sort things that were Christmas related and NOT Christmas related.
Throughout the week, the students get the chance to rotate to different stations that involve the "sort" idea they are learning about.
Mrs. Knepper's 5th grade music classes visited Winding Creek just before the holiday break to showcase songs they prepared for the school Christmas program.
Teaching sign language to 4th graders
Over the last couple of months Mr. Gillespie’s World Perspective classes have been working on Genius Hour projects. Every student gets to choose what they want to work on every Friday for about 10 weeks. The students started by coming up with topics that they were passionate about and then narrowed it down to one idea. They took that idea into a Shark Tank setting to refine and receive advice from their classmates before diving into their research and development. Topics that the students are working on include: teaching sign language to 4th graders, learning to speak German, developing a website to answer questions for people diagnosed with lyme disease, and restoring antique tractors just to name a few. Throughout the process the students answered weekly reflection questions and will present a final TED talk about their project after the winter break.
Although we have come a long way from the wallpaper covered books that I used to make in elementary (my teacher's husband worked for a store that sold wallpaper), picture books that elementary students write and publish themselves are still as meaningful and memorable as ever. Mrs. Kloberdanz & her fourth grade students just finished their first published books using the website Storybird!
Storybird is a free website that allows students to choose artwork that sparks their writing and creativity. Students can search for images in a particular topic of their choice or based on an artist that they like. From there, they may choose to write a poem, picture book, or longer text.
Mrs. K's students chose various topics to write about, explored the pictures, and took several days to get their thoughts written into the creative stories they became. From there, students worked with an adult to revise & edit their stories. Lastly, we published them and Mrs. K had a copy printed for each child to take home with them. The parents were wowed and the students were ale to share their stories with their classmates and answer questions about the process. There is a small fee to download the books, or you can have them printed and bound.
If you are interested in learning more about Storybird, please feel free to look through the Google Slides I put together for Mrs. K's class or ask either myself or Mrs. K! Below are the cover pages for each book and one of their awesome pages of writing!
Mrs. Dierks class recently visited Ms. Glasner's 8th grade Tech class to learn about the different devices the 8th graders have been studying. The Tech students demonstrated the devices and gave the 2nd graders the opportunity to gain some hands on experience with each device. It allowed the 8th grade students to work on their presentation skills and show off what they had learned, while also exposing the younger students to technology they may not of known was out there for them to use. If any teacher would like to expose their class to robots, coding, or other types of devices please contanct Ms. Glasner about setting up an opportunity.
Mrs. Kitch's Character & Leadership class recently visited four elementary classrooms: Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Youngblut, Mrs. Conrad, & Mrs. Fuelling. While they visited, they read stories about respect and modeled kindness to every class they encountered.
Students enjoyed being able to get out of their usual environment and experience something different. They enjoyed reading to the kids and that the KIDS enjoyed reading to the high school students as well! They loved visiting with the students and how happy they were. Allowing students (at both age levels) to gain these types of experiences can open their hearts and minds to new ideas and atmospheres! If you're interested in trying something like this, list it on the Padlet or talk to a connector to see how they can help you make it happen!
Recently, the 5th grade art and high school band students joined forces to work collaboratively on rhythm and beat. Students built instruments in art and then were taught by the high school students how to effectively use them, follow a rhythm, and make music! This kind of cross-curricular teaching can be extremely beneficial and allows for a change-of-pace in classrooms, but it requires two teachers who are willing to be open and honest with goals and expectations for the experience. Luckily, Ms. Emerson & Ms. Ott were two perfect people for me to experience it with. Here are some of our biggest takeaways!
Start with the End in Mind
Think about what you want the students to gain from this experience! What should they learn? Yes...standards are always important. It's necessary for both teachers to be honest about what they'd like to accomplish and what they think their students would benefit from (and can handle). As Ms. Emerson & Ms. Ott said in our final reflection, "find something you're both passionate about and that can enhance what you're already working towards."
Compromise & Bring Your Own Expertise to the Table
Every teacher has their own unique set of skills and an expertise they can bring to the table to enhance a classroom. What's great about collaborative teaching is knowing you have TWO sets to work with. One thing they enjoyed was the ability to facilitate different parts of the activity and not "reinvent the wheel" as we sometimes do in teaching. Setting expectations ahead of time for what parts of activities each person will facilitate and how the other person will play a role in these activities is extremely important to getting things to run smoothly. When planning, it's important to compromise & find ways to support each other in the process to best serve your students!
Thinking about Trying It? Just Do It!
No, it's not a Nike ad! When I asked Ms. Emerson what advice she would give to people who are thinking about trying it, she said "Do It!" Here are just a few of the benefits we saw from our experience:
-Allowed students to engage with their current curriculum in a different way, making new meaning, and understanding things in different ways.
-Exposed students to a new environment which forced them to step outside of their comfort zone!
-Creatively tied together two curricular areas and helped students to see connections between classes. Always something we are looking to try and do!
-Exposed students to band (middle school level) and exposed students to teaching (high school level).
-Able to cultivate a mentor/mentee type relationship even though it was a short amount of time.
-Students saw two teachers working together to achieve a common goal, trying something different, and expanding their own thinking! Real-world skills that we hope they absorbed and take away!
If you are thinking about trying something or want to know more, feel free to pick the brains of Ms. Ott, Ms. Emerson, or Mrs. Thornton. We'd love to find other ways to collaborate with teachers throughout the district!
Check out the Padlet for others who may be looking for that next partnership!
Check out this great resource for various cross-curricular approaches.
Mrs. Rigdon’s Science 1 students became consultants for a recent classroom project dealing with flooding on the Mississippi. The students were given a scenario of a company looking to build on a Mississippi floodplain and had to decide whether or not to build on the given site. Small groups of students researched historical flooding in the area, flood prevention techniques, and the cost effectiveness of prevention techniques. After completing their research the students presented their recommendations to build or not to a panel of adults. While role playing their consultant positions the students answered questions from the panel and explained their reasoning behind the recommendation to build or find a different location.
Yes, I'm serious...engaging students in writing! It can be done!
Middle school students may not love writing. They may not even like writing a little, but that doesn't mean we can't try to get them interested and change their opinions, right?! Mrs. Schultz & I tried several strategies with her 7th grade Language Arts students this past month to motivate and engage students to become better informative writers! Here are some of our favorite strategies:
Create Real-World Scenarios
Informative writing is a broad standard to teach in writing. Finding a way to make it interesting and relevant for the students is absolutely key to getting them started. After collecting a sample of their informative writing and identifying areas of need, Ms. Schultz came up with a great first step in our informational writing journey, a tutorial. Not only is it a real-world example of writing they see regularly, but something students who may not enjoy writing in paragraphs could sink their teeth into at the beginning of the year. We started with a simple task...write us a tutorial on how to make breakfast (of any kind - their choice). Our intention - use these to teach the importance of details, finding the right topic, and the writing process.
In their final writing task, we asked them to compose a tutorial on a process of their choosing, something they could be an expert on. We had a wide-variety of topics from creating the perfect smoothie to being competitive. Choice and real-world scenarios got the students interested from the start.
Use THEIR Writing to Teach
At two points in this experience, Mrs. Schultz & I incorporated the use of student examples to help further discussion, model revision techniques, and find common areas of success or room for improvement.
When deciding which examples to use, we first considered:
The first time we used their writing in a lesson, we changed the wording, but allowed for the same structures to exist. Some students were able to identify if it was their writing, but we didn't tell the students. Some thought it was their writing, and it wasn't (which was actually okay considering they took feedback away that they could ultimately use as well). Using the student examples, students worked in groups to identify areas for improvement, areas that distinguished "informative" writing, & pinpointed one successful area that they enjoyed in each piece.
We thought the students gained so much from this process that we did it again to communicate the need for "elaboration and details" in our tutorial rough drafts! When asked to make breakfast, we filmed ourselves executing two of their tutorials. We also did two other ones live for the class. Needless to say, the students were really able to take away a lot of areas for improvement - and I think they thought we were clueless in the kitchen!
Teach Like a Pirate: Have Fun with It!
If you read the paragraph above, you'll understand how we were able to have fun with this! We wanted the students to learn from this experience and REMEMBER it. How do you do that? Make it memorable!
If you have read Dave Burgess' Teach Like a Pirate, you know all about his use of hooks in the classroom to keep students engaged. Props, chef, reality TV (we channeled our inner Martha Stewart's)...these were just a couple we really hit during this part!
Check out our video for Fruit Salad and How to Make Breakfast
Streamline the Process
Getting students to understand the writing process and use it effectively is one of the biggest undertakings of any middle school writing teacher. Thus, it's important to move students along at the right pace, offer feedback often, and see the revision/editing process at work.
Mrs. Schultz thought of a great way to streamline our process for revision using Google Docs. This format allowed students to create their rough draft, receive feedback, and make changes all in one document. Perfect...there isn't such a thing, but it was a great way to see how revision/editing impacted their final pieces.
Informative Writing - Tutorial Example
What the Data Says!
Overall, we saw a huge growth from their first writing sample to their final assessment. Specifically, 40% of students fell in the 1-2 range (Standards-Based Grading) on their first sample and only 5% of students on the final assessment (which was a 2 and not a 1!). On the first sample, 55% students were at a 3 and 5% were at a 3.5. On the final, 76% were at a 3 and 19% were at a 3.5! What a great feeling to know that so many students walked away with a better understanding for this type of writing! Thanks to Mrs. Schultz & her class for inviting me in and making such great strides to conquer this unit! You all rock!
Year two of teacher leadership is underway! Last year we focused our first days with teachers explaining what the teacher leadership program would be: relationship building and working with teacher leaders in various ways. This year, our focus will be on our WHY!
According to researcher Simon Sinek, most organizations frequently discuss what will be done and how it will be done, but rarely, if ever, do they talk about WHY they do something. This is what sets successful employees, students, companies, CEOs (you name it…) apart from others.
For teacher leadership, our WHY revolves around student achievement: academic, social, emotional, and an overall passion for learning. We plan to impact student achievement at Jesup CSD through collaboration, modeling, co-planning, and co-teaching. This year, we’re striving for deeper reflections, data-driven instructional planning and implementation, and a continued collaborative environment.
This year connector teachers will be completing a coaching cycle with each teacher throughout the 2017-2018 school year. This goal was initially put forth in 3rd quarter of last year and will be completed this year.
Specialist teachers will facilitate focus groups in the areas such as: classroom management/culture, assessment, technology, & differentiation. These groups will provide another resource for teachers to expand their professional learning. Mentor teachers will use an updated, flexible calendar to provide support for mentees.
We’re looking forward to supporting everyone’s WHY this year to maximize the impact on student achievement! Do you know your why?
Overarching Goals for 2017-2018 to Kick-Off the Year: