What do you do when you want to challenge students, but you also want them to learn? We give them critical thinking challenges. Critical thing requires many skills-problem solving, collaboration, design thinking, and perseverance. When a critical thinking question is carefully crafted, you can get students to explore learning outcomes while having fun and being engaged in their learning at the same time. Continue Reading
Flexible seating is all the rage, but we’ve been using the philosophy in our classroom for years. While it would be nice to have a variety of seating options, we know it’s not always possible, but you can still have seating options without spending a dime.
Have you ever tried asking your students to find a place to sit and work? Try it! You’ll be surprised by all the places they’ll find to do their work. Continue Reading
How would you feel if you knew you were a wonderful writer but the only way you could express yourself was through modern dance? What would you do if you have to recite your report card comments by memory to each and every parent? How would you feel if you were given the choice to write your report cards any way YOU want? (Ours would be invisible!)
Wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t that make you want to write the best report cards the world has ever seen?
So why are we so determined as teachers that there’s only one way to assess our students? Why can’t they have choices too? 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?
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
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
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!
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.