Saturday, March 15, 2014

Activate for better learning or Fishing for Learners

Q: What is the difference between a fish and a piano? A: You can't tuna fish.   

I recently had the opportunity to participate in sessions led by some of the the Instructional Leadership Team  in our district including     .  I initially agreed to participate because I was promised coverage and time to work with my teaching partner on a project of our choosing. Every session followed the same format and began with something the team called an Activate.

Initially I was frustrated with the process. Why am I being blindfolded and asked to put a puzzle together? I thought I was here to collaborate with my partner. It quickly became apparent to me that the team was trying to model good lesson design.

I remember being told when I was a student teacher that every lesson should have a hook. I also remember being told by experienced teachers that no teacher has the time to put a wig on every time they start a new lesson. In all the craziness of my first years of teaching hooks became something I did at the beginning of units. They were something I added to socials and science lessons. I never really thought about hooks when I was planning math and reading ones.

After those first few sessions of blindfolds and 6 word stories I started to wonder what this would look like in my classroom. It ends up that adding lesson activates to your teaching does improve student learning  and engagement. The research says so and so did my students.  Additionally, for me it improved teacher interest too! Also, I realized that I was already using a lot of activating activities in my class but wasn't calling them that.

 Why is that there?
A Ghost appears in the class when we start talking about silent letters
A Canada display goes up just before our unit starts.


Lets read this great picture book I have! 
I wonder what we are learning about in Science next?

We get to play on the Ipads!   
Drawing pictures on the ipads for a writing activity.

Why are you wearing that?

    A little drawing to get us thinking.
Drawing 3 picture stories before we learn First, then, finally.

Some other ones I (re)learned over the last few months and have tried with my kids include....

What's in the box? 
I brought a box with something inside and my students had to guess what was in the box based on the clues I gave them. We used it to start a discussion about the importance of using descriptive language in our writing.

Picture clues
We showed students this Smartboard presentation to start our family unit and asked them what we would be learning about next.

Before we began talking about  jobs in our community, we gave students a copy of pictures in this notebook file and asked them to try and figure out what was going on in the picture.

Listen to this!
I've done this a few times now with sounds or music. I put it on and ask students to think about what they see, what they feel and what they think.
Finally a reason to use the 300 sound effects album I bought a while back!
or this app

What did I learn at school today?  I need to make a conscious effort to put some bait on the line and hook my kids before jumping into a lesson. There are lots of ways to do this and many really don't take that long for me to plan or execute. Those activate activities make school more fun for both my students and myself.

What about you? Have you given up on activates and hooks or are you a fishing wizard? What are you favorite activation activities?

Looking for some ideas?  Check these links out:

Teach Like a Pirate:
Lesson Hooks:
Activating Stategies

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

NCIS, The Rules and Classroom Culture

I was watching NCIS last week and heard a line about Gibb's famous rules   It got me thinking about my "rules" in my classroom.  I'm not talking about the "Raise your hand"  or "Speak French" types of rules but
more about the rules that define the culture of a class. The values I expect my kids to live by.

So I started thinking about what my students would tell you were "Mme's Rules".  What are the things that I am always telling them, hoping it will guide them in their learning. Here is a few I think/hope I would hear:

Mme Hawtree's Rules

Rule 1:  Work hard

Learning to read and write is HARD WORK. Learning to do it in French is even harder. My kids know that it is just part of the deal.

Rule 2:  Do YOUR best.

The rule is do YOUR best. Not do the best. Not be the best. Do the best you can do in any situation.

Rule 3:  Do MORE.

I always give kids a line but I always encourage them to do a little more... to push themselves a little further. For example.... Your goal today is to read for 5 minute or MORE.... do you think we can do that?

Rule 3:  We are all teachers.

My kids know that they are going to learn as much from each other as they are from me. I want them to share what they know with each other and treat each other with respect. We are also ALL responsible for helping each other out. If you know how to do something I don't then you can teach me how.

Rule 4:  We are all students.

I always learn something new from my kids and I make sure I tell them that often. I let them know I am still learning, that I make mistakes and that there is always more to know. They always know when Mme is going to "Teacher school" (ProD) to become a better teacher.

Rule 6:  Listen with your brain.

This one is tricky to teach but so important for all of us to learn. My kids know that I expect them to be THINKING about what they are hearing. Asking themselves questions about what they are hearing, making connections with it.... thinking about what is being said.

Rule 7:  Tell the truth.

The students in my class all know that they will get in way more trouble for telling me a lie then they would ever get for taking responsibility for their own actions.

Rule 8:  You are responsible for you.

This one applies to a lot of things. You are responsible for your things. You are responsible for your learning. You are responsible for asking questions when you need answers.  Most importantly you are responsible for your actions. No matter what is happening around us we have some choice about how we act and react.

 What did I learn at school today?  We all have unwritten rules or expectations for our students. These are a few of mine. It also got me thinking about what kinds of rules are missing? Are there things I say I value but I am not teaching my kids?  What other rules should I have?

 What about you?  What are your "Rules"?   What is important to you? What are the values you expect your students to live by when they are with you?