Thursday, September 25, 2014

Teaching with Intention: Chapter Five

One of the things that Debbie discusses int his chapter is how to teach so out students can remember and understand what they've learned. How important! And as she says, how often do we read something and then are unable to recall what we've learned from it? This chapter apple not only to our teaching, but also our learning.

I LOVE this quote. And oh how true it is!! I was blessed as a child to grow up attending a Waldorf school, where the teachers were able to ignite our passion for learning. I loved school and remember far more from my elementary days that those from my public high school education. This is NOT to say that there are not teachers who are able to teach with enthusiasm and ignite passion in public schools. I taught in a public school and will eventually return to this job. I do however feel that it is an ever increasingly difficult task to do so. As this quote says, if we can engage our students and get them excited and passionate about what they are learning, they are far more to learn it for life than to simply memorize it for a test, something I became an expert at in order to survive high school.

Some of the ways to help students remember new information is to relate it to things they already know. To make those oh so important connections! Another way is to make the learning "visible." Make charts, draw pictures of what you are teaching; have them partner up and discuss what they have learned. Explaining it to another student, one who may have an entirely different view and understanding of the subject matter than a teacher, can be a powerful learning tool.

As challenging as it can be, it is so important to remember that at the end of the day we are not, or should not really be, teaching to the test. We are teaching these little people to be excited about learning, to look at the world as a fun and exciting place that is just waiting at their finger tips, not a place where everything is about a test. I strive to remember this when I am teaching, and will be the first to admit that it is extremely challenging, especially when your school is under pressure to preform well on state tests to raise their grade. All I can do is my best.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Teaching with Intention: Chapter Three

Today we will be talking about classroom environment. This is one of those things that may not rank up there as being super important, but it really, really is!! If your classroom isn't organized well then it will be difficult for you to teach and for your students to learn. 

One of the things that I really love about this book so far is that Debbie always gives us examples from real classrooms she visits. It is nice to know there are other teachers out there who struggle with some of the same things I do! In this chapter she is helping a new teacher who has come to a classroom with a lot of existing material. This can be a challenge for new and veteran teachers alike ~ what to do with it all?! Debbie's suggestion, which is one that I have employed both in my classroom and at home (we are actually currently doing this at home!!!) is to make three piles. One pile has things that you need, NEED, not WANT, this is the really hard part for me! The second pile has things that are still in good condition that you think another teacher could use or that you can donate to Goodwill, and the third is things to throw away. For the third, don't even make a pile, just THROW IT AWAY! Right in the trash, and don't look back! This can be very hard for a lot of us, especially teachers I think, but it will really help to clear the clutter out of your room. Now comes the really hard part ~ don't start collecting more stuff and make sure to put things back where they belong after you've taken them out! 

The next steps are to think about the layout of your room. This is such an important aspect of your classroom. The space needs to be inviting, functional and flow smoothly. This is the part I always dragged (he was actually always happy to help) my husband in to help me with. I was one of those teachers who showed up as soon as they would let me back into the building to start setting up my classroom (mind you I didn't have kids at the time! I am guessing this may be different when I go back!). Together we would very carefully (don't want to scuff those shiny new floors!) move furniture around the room until I had it "just right." Sometimes after the students arrived and we were all moving around the room I would decide to tweak something to help with the flow of so many tiny little bodies moving around the space. 

Think about the areas that you will need ~ do you need a common meeting area, small group area, library? Do you have tables or desks and what do the children need to be able to see when they are seated ~ the white board? Word Wall? Promethean or Smart Board? What will you need for yourself and your students during centers? I always kept supplies around the room so that whatever I needed was (almost!) always within reach. 

As important as the classroom environment is, it is important to remember:
In the end it is about how you teach and interact with your students, and about what you do have in your room to work with and how you use it, not what you don't have