Project based learning can be a challenge because it moves the control from the teacher to the student. When we began our teaching journey, controlling every aspect of student work from beginning to end seemed like the right thing to do. As we’ve evolved as teachers, we learned that loosening the reigns has many benefits. Check out some of the best reasons we use project based learning in our classroom. Continue Reading
Teaching students to overcome challenges can be difficult when we live in a society that is all about getting things done quickly. We have technology, parents and constant distractions constantly telling students they can learn anything anytime with little or no effort. As a teacher, this is very challenging when students feel they’ve failed, get frustrated or give up right away.
This was what was happening in our classroom. Students that could manage challenges were more successful overall because they kept working until they got it. It felt like it was a lack of effort, but it was much more than that. So we started investigating and researching best practices to help us teach students to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Continue Reading
How do we create a classroom community where all students feel they are equal and belong? It turns out we’ve had more combined grade classes that straight grade classes since we began teaching, so we can’t imagine teaching any other way. First of all, we call it a combined class rather than a split class. It’s the first thing we do with parents because our combined classes are not like the old ‘split’ classes.
When students come into our classroom on the first day of school they immediately collect into two different groups-the lower grade and the upper grade. They don’t know each other well and like to sit with their friends. We don’t give students a seating plan right away (or sometimes at all) so we can see which relationships form or are already in place, but then we slowly start changing their mindset about the combined class.
So, what are our secrets?
Flexible seating-it’s all over social media right now. It’s strange to us that it’s so popular right now as we’ve been doing it in our classroom for over seven years, but there is definitely a trend that doesn’t mesh with our philosophy of flexible seating.
Flexible seating is a mindset-not an opportunity for shopping!
Read aloud novels are a huge part of our daily literacy routine. We built in fifteen minutes each day where one of us reads from a novel to our students. It is important (even at the higher grades) to model fluency, self-monitoring and questioning techniques when reading aloud to students and we include these minutes in our weekly Language Arts minutes.
Another bonus to having a novel always as the ready is to use it after transitions like recess or lunch to calm students or to fill those minutes between transitions when you’re waiting for another teacher or moving to another location.
Each year we select a theme for choosing our read aloud novels and this year’s theme was protagonists that face their fears. Our goal was to show students that like real people, characters are not perfect and can be challenged to become stronger. Continue Reading
Flexible seating is all the rage these days. Finding information on different seating arrangements and types of furniture is easy. But how do you keep students and their many belongings organized?
We’ve used flexible seating in upper elementary classes for the past six years. Our students are taught from the first day how to properly choose a seat, work where it suits them best and how to stay organized so their stuff isn’t all up in our stuff.
Sometimes students just get stuck. Even worse, parents sometimes insist their child learn how to do something the way they learned it.
Our Program of Studies requires students to develop a personal strategy to do long multiplication, which means if the traditional algorithm isn’t working for them, it’s up to teachers to help students find a way that works. Continue Reading
If you have not read our What is Universal Design for Learning? post, we recommend you start there.
For those of you that have learned a little about UDL, you are now ready to dive in and start the journey. By coming back for the second post in this series, it must mean you actually want to try this out. GREAT! We hope we can help make your journey simpler.
A key component of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is understanding who your students really are. That could include:
We thought we had heard all the possible excuses for people not giving Universal Design for Learning in their classrooms-until this week during a professional development session. Here are five things we heard and the reasons the people who said it are uninformed. Continue Reading
Getting students engaged can only happen when students have their brains and bodies relaxed and ready to learn. Being uncomfortable, anxious at agitated makes all learning stop. It’s like the fly in the staff meeting that keeps landing on your notebook. Who cares about test results and district policies when there’s a fly harassing you (although there is limited engagement at the best of times for those kind of staff meetings)? Continue Reading