Monthly Archives: October 2015

Applying What They Learn

Some days I really think that what I say to my students goes in one ear and out the other, but some days they surprise me.

A little background info: we have just finished our first writing project about the 50 states. Each student had a state to research and write about (and we learned how to sing 50 Nifty, the state song of course.) Then we just started a new project about astronomy where the students get to pick any astronomy topic that they want to research and create something to teach the class about it. Super cool sounding projects, I think. Anyway…

Before school today one of my students came up to me and told me that she saw on the news that astronauts on the ISS were doing a space walk today, so she went on NASA TV and watched for a little bit before school. She had picked the ISS for her astronomy project topic.

Then in science I was teaching about the sun. One of my boys that usually has the hardest time focusing was super into my lesson. He kept spouting facts that he had learned in his research about black holes that applied to our sun lesson. Some of them I didn’t even know before.

Also in this sun lesson we were talking about iron and one of my girls raised her hand and told us that she learned in her state report that Ohio is the leading producer of iron for the United States.

Three separate events in one day that encouraged me, showing me that my students are listening and are taking what they learn and applying it elsewhere. It’s just the boost I needed to get through this crazy full moon and Halloween week.

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Student Lead Conferences

We teach our kids that it is wrong to talk about people behind their backs…. So why do the parents and teachers do that to the students during conferences?parent-teacher-cartoon

Having a conversation about their child’s education without their child just doesn’t make sense! The kids need to be involved in the conversations in order to be able to take accountability for their own learning. Or that’s what we realized this year when we decided to do Fall Student Led Conferences.

Now there were a lot of ways we could do student led conferences. Some of us have had past experience where the teacher isn’t really involved and the parents think, “why did I just waste my time?” We could have put together portfolios of student work, but that’s very time consuming and we don’t really see the benefits outweigh that. We could have skipped conferences all together and just had all the parents talk to their kids at home! (Not really, but some student led conferences feel like that.)

So we decided to focus our Student Led Conferences on goal setting and growth mindset.

We had students fill out a goal setting form in class that our new teammate Jason came up with (kudos, Jason!) You can see those forms by clicking here: Student Led Conference Forms. It focuses on what the students like about each of their subjects, what they think they’re good at, and what goals they set for themselves. I was super impressed with my students at how reflective and honest they were with what they needed to work on. For the majority of them I agreed with the goals they set.

Then I also had the students present one of their recent tests to their parents. I gave them the tests back the day before conferences to look at what they missed and make corrections. When they showed it to their parents the focus was on what they learned from their mistakes (growth mindset.)

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Overall conferences went really well! I think we will definitely want to do student led again. 🙂

What is your favorite and least favorite part of parent teacher conferences? 

Feng Shui

Back when I had 25 desks in my classroom, I would re-arrange all the furniture often. I might keep the way the desks were set up, but mix up where the students sat, or I might do a different desk arrangement, or I might move everything in my classroom around! I literally had to move something about every two weeks, which sounds insane, I know.

Feng Shui is a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment. I guess I never really felt good about the arrangement of my classroom. (Probably too many desks and not enough space.) I was always looking for ways to move things around to make it feel homier, more spacious, and to give the students more floor space to work on… or maybe I just get bored when things stay the same for too long… Anyway…

I don’t have desks anymore, and the arrangement of my classroom had stayed the same for 2 whole months, which is definitely a record for me. But I started to get that itch to move things around. So here’s what I did:

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I put the legs back on my whiteboard table and made it my desk. Now kids can sit at my desk and I can work with them there. I can’t pull a whole group, but when I do groups I usually just sit on the floor with them.

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I pulled the couch away from the wall and put my tall skinny table behind it for standing. (Although the kids have to stand at this spot, because if they sit they kind of disappear.) I also have three desks without legs in front to replace the whiteboard table that used to sit there.

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I also have two brown tables for the kids to sit/stand at. I really like how the library turned out. You can’t see it very well here, but it’s all organized and in the nook to the left of the couch.

How often do you rearrange your classroom?