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Professional Learning

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Why You Should Give Students Choices

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

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Work Through the Design Process

Here’s a quick lesson you can do with your students to learn how to use your Makerspace while teaching students to enjoy the process.

Give your students a selection of pieces. These can be any material you have available. We used bottle caps, straws, tape, index cards and string. We also had scissors available. You can use these materials or use what you have in your Makerspace. The items should be flexible enough to let students explore. Continue Reading

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What Goes in a Makerspace?

You’ve decided to have a Makerspace. What should you put in it? Any thing you want. Start small. We put out origami paper and a book during the first week just to see what would happen. (Turns out the answer to that question is lots of paper frogs.) But seriously, we made a list of potential items for your Makerspace. Continue Reading

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Why Makerspaces?

Makerspaces: They seem to be all the buzz, but the concept that drives them isn’t new. For many years, we’ve been focused on directing every moment of our students’ lives. As parents, the lives of children are scheduled to the point they never have a moment to decide for themselves what to do. So when did we decide as adults that play is a bad thing?

Exploration is key to problem solving, critical thinking and self-regulation. Children learn by role-playing real-life situations, rearranging toys, touching materials or using items in unconventional ways. So why not include Makerspaces in our school environments? Continue Reading

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Creating a Culture of Community in Your Multi-Grade Classroom

Create Classroom CultureHow 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?

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Creating a Sense of Agency

Creating a Sense of Agency Imagine a classroom where the students monitored themselves-and not in that “hall pass police officer” type of way. Imagine a classroom where students encouraged each other to keep the room tidy, put things way and treat each other with respect.

It’s possible, because each year we turn out a classroom full of polite and respectful students, but it takes work. Creating a sense of agency is just as important as all the math and reading skills.

What is a sense of agency? It is a student-centered approach to classroom management.

Here are some ways we create a sense of agency.

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The Learning Pit

The Learning PitTeaching 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