Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Role of Technology in the Classroom

This week's #Edslowchat question of the week is very timely: What should the role of technology be in school today and how can it be used effectively? I was very encouraged yesterday as many #cpsreds attended the Western Oklahoma Edcamp. It is always wonderful when educators take their time to learn and grow!

Technology is a tool in the educator's toolbox. Ask yourself, "Which of my already awesome lessons can I add tech to so that it enhances the learning experience?"  Technology allows the classroom to expand outside of the four walls as students become Global Citizens through connections around the world. It allows students to learn things they would not normally be able to, and in a timely manner. 

Technology should not replace curriculum, but should support it. There are many research based programs that have digital components that allow easy access to students so that they are able to use them in many locations. Teachers are also able to differentiate for students using these technology tools. When monitored correctly, there are apps and educational games that allow students to enhance their learning. 

Using technology to reflect (blog) allows the student (and teacher) to look at what worked, what they need to improve upon, what can they do differently, and where do they go from here? This is a fabulous way to make plans to improve, grow, and move forward. 

One thing has not changed, the teacher is the variable in the classroom,  meaning sets the tone for the learning. If the teacher has clear, thought out plans for integrating technology in the classroom, it is a win for the students and the school district. If students are not using technology effectively we are doing a disservice to them. If we (as educators) are allowing the opportunity in our classrooms for students to learn the correct way to use technology we are preparing our students for the future. 

So many little lives depend on us to make the best choice for their  educational path. Let's make it an exciting and innovative one! 

Mrs. Hime

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Activating Prior Knowledge

Activating prior knowledge is an essential strategy that should be used in all subjects, at all grade levels. This past week in PLCs was ELL Thursday Thoughts ,we discussed the importance of background knowledge for not only ELL students, but all students.

When we tap into a student's prior knowledge, and make connections to their life experiences, it enables them to deepen their understanding, which in turn creates independent readers. A large percentage of our students do not have the life experiences to relate to, so we must provide them with academically enriched experiences to enhance their background knowledge. Field trips and mentoring programs would be ideal ways to enrich background schema. However, with today's shrinking resources it is mainly left up to the individual classroom teachers. We can build background knowledge through videos, read alouds, sharing our own adventures, and research projects.

I shared a few ways to activate student's prior knowledge: 

  • Using an old favorite, the KWL chart but adding an H: KWHL. What do you KNOW , What do you WANT to know, HOW will you find out more, What did you LEARN
  • Surprise Book activity: Choose a book that relates to the topic you will be introducing, cover the front and back with paper so the students can not see anything on the covers. Give them little hints about what they will be studying, each time tearing a small piece of the paper off until someone guesses what the topic will be. 
  • Smartboard activity: Post a picture related to the new topic, cover it with your shade, uncover a small portion of the picture each time you give a clue until someone guesses the topic

Each PLC group shared wonderful ways to activate students background knowledge too: 

  • Before introducing the topic ask the students three questions relating to the topic to tap into their knowledge
  • Read aloud a realistic fiction to introduce the topic 
  • Conversation
  • Relate the topic to the teachers life experiences
  • Journey writing
  • Using Brainpop to introduce a new topic 
  • Brainstorm
Tapping into a student's background knowledge, or building a student's background knowledge,  is a key component in the reading process. What strategies are you using this week to set your student's up for success? 

Mrs. Hime 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

It's a Balancing Act: Curriculum vs. Personalized Learning

This week's #EdSlowChat question is currently a "hot" topic in education... How do you balance "covering Curriculum" with "personalized learning"? 

I am no longer in the classroom, but I still remember the struggle to meet each student where they were and take them where they didn't know they could go. Before school began each year I printed the state standards for my grade level. I examined them and placed them in a three brad folder. Then I laid out the curriculum that my district had purchased for me to teach.  I began to "map" my year, looking back to my standards to clarify what the state said I should be teaching. If a standard or skill wasn't in my folder to be taught, and it wasn't foundational for another lesson I would "paperclip" it for a later date. As the year began, and I introduced a standard/skill I went back to my folder and highlighted the standard/skill taught with the date. 

The  most sacred teaching time for me was at my "flex table". That is the time of the day that I personalized the learning for students. I had three or four groups of four to six students at my table for 20 minutes each day, these groups changed depending on the needs of the students. This was the time that I explicitly taught the standard/skill. The resources I used at the table were not always provided by the school. I sought resources that I felt would assist the students to gain the knowledge they needed.  

I believe teaching is a balancing act, making sure you reach each child on their level while teaching the curriculum  and being authentic to your teaching style. Everyday should be an exciting learning adventure for each student. It requires teachers to know what they they are teaching and to know who they are teaching. Plan, Plan, Plan...

Mrs. Hime

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Creating a Positive Atmosphere in Your Classroom

Fostering a positive atmosphere in the classroom is one of the most important things an educator can do. It not only leads to happy students, teachers, and parents but it also helps in building relationships. When you have a positive vibe, and strong relationships, the "Sky's the Limit". 

As a  classroom teacher I would arrive in the gym (where our students gather in the mornings) at least ten minutes before the welcome began. I loved greeting my students, discussing their night, gathering notes etc., it sat the tone for our day together. Now that my roll has changed I think it is  still important to greet the students each morning, but on a larger scale. So, I arrive in the gym at least 25 minutes before the welcome so that I can say hello to each class and stop by the students that I feel need a quick hello or hug to start their day. I love the fact that our principal does this too, I think it sets the tone for the entire campus. 

After the morning welcome I walked with my class to our classroom, held the door open for them, said another quick hello or reminders as to what to do when they entered the room. Each Monday morning they would find a personal note on their desk from me. It might be as simple as, "Last week was awesome, let's make this one amazing" or "Hope you have a week as fabulous as you are".  I don't have a "classroom" anymore so I try to have a pen and sticky notes with me at all times so that if I see work hanging in the hall I can write a quick note to the student and stick it to their work. During our Dot Day celebrations there were so many things on the hall walls that I decided to write one word on the notes, all synonyms for awesome! 

I have also found that communicating positives with parents helps with our classroom vibe too! Phone calls, notes, blogs, SeeSaw, twitter, Facebook class accounts are a few ways to have positive communication with school families and build relationships at the same time. 

During the day there are many opportunites to say an encouraging word and listen to the needs of our students. I have always tried to treat each student as if they were my own, this worked well for me. 
I can honestly say that I didn't have many discipline issues when  the atmosphere in the classroom was a positive, uplifting one. Everyone wanted to be there and couldn't wait to see what exciting learning adventure we would embark upon each day! 

Attitude is a choice, choose a positive one! 
Mrs. Hime