Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Extrovert Ideal

Education is a constantly swinging pendulum. Phonics vs whole language, traditional multiplication algorithm vs lattice multiplication, recall of facts vs problem solving, independent work vs group work, and the list goes on and on.

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One of the current pendulum swings is an emphasis on group work and team problem solving. Gone are the days of students in rows facing the front of the room with the teacher talking at them all day. Now students’ desks are in groups and they’re encouraged to learn together with the teacher facilitating, not lecturing. In an extreme example, my classroom has no desks as all. I went deskless for a myriad of reasons, one of which was to allow for more space for students to move around the room and work together in groups, which they do often.

This swing of the pendulum is proof of the extrovert ideal that our society currently holds. Even though one third of the American population is introverted, we seem to collectively think that extroverts are better, so if you’re introverted you had better start pretending not to be.  I wonder if/when the pendulum will swing back…

I’m currently reading a fantastic book: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. 

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The book defines introverts as people who re-energize by being alone. Likewise, it defines extroverts as people who re-energize by being around other people. The book discusses many studies done about introverts and how they survive in today’s culture of the extrovert ideal. It give lots of statistics and examples about famous introverts throughout history.

It isn’t a book about teaching, but as I was reading I couldn’t help but think of my third graders.

I am an introvert and it has taken me most of my life to figure that out. It has taken just as long to then figure out how being an introvert changes the choices I make and how I feel every day in every situation.

It’s best teaching practice to consider our students’ differences: how they learn, their interests, their individual struggles. So why had I never before considered if they were introverted or extroverted?

I had always thought that working in groups was good for my students, teaching them social skills and conflict resolution that many adolescents lack nowadays. And to an extent, it is good for them. But it had never occurred to me that I was often forcing students to work together in a manner that I, as an introvert, always hated.

Cain has an excellent quote in her book: “At school you might have been prodded to come ‘out of your shell’- that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same.”

There has to be a balance between “push students outside their comfort zone, it’s good for them to learn to work together” and “let them do whatever they want in a way that’s comfortable for them.”

Here are a few tips for teachers that I’ve gathered from various places:

  1. Balance your teaching methods to serve all the kids in your class. This is just best practice, but now you will hopefully remember to include introvert and extrovert into this consideration. Extroverts tend to like movement, stimulation, and collaborative work. introverts prefer lectures, down time, and independent projects. Mix it up!
  2. Give students choices. They do need to be pushed outside their comfort zones, but sometimes it’s perfectly fine for them to choose to work alone instead of in a group. Maybe they can choose to sit at an island desk off by itself, or in a corner on the floor. Allow choice in topics too! Let them to gravitate to what inspires them so that they can do their best work.
  3. Try some technology. Giving students an online place to post thoughts or questions is a great way for introverts to participate. And using technology is a great 21st Century skill that students will need later in their life. Today’s Meet, Edmodo, and Google Classroom are all great places to start.
  4. Encourage students to honor who they are. We are all different and we all learn in different ways, none better than the other. We need to specifically teach students how to respect those differences.

Here is some more information about Introverts and Extroverts: I love infographics! 😉

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While bearing all this in mind is an excellent start, I’m also planning on talking to my third graders about it. Even having them reflect on which they might be, introvert or extrovert. I will definitely emphasize that there is no right or wrong way to be. This year in my class we are really focusing on how we are all different with different strengths and weaknesses, (see my lesson on the Marble Theory for more info.) I couldn’t find a really good questionaire for kids determining Introvert or Extrovert, so I adapted the one from Cain’s book Quiet and also using information from the Quiet Revolution website. You can download it here: introvert vs extrovert quiz for school

Ferdinand the Bull is an excellent short video to show them about being introverted.

I may also include some self reflection about learning styles. Here is an inventory I found: LearningStyleInventory

 

More resources for further reading: 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

The Education Pendulum

Ten Things Educators Should Know About Introverted Students

5 Classroom Strategies That Help Introverts and Extroverts Do Their Best Work

The Quiet Revolution: for Introverts in our Extrovert Ideal Society 

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Wonder

IMG_6290My kiddos and I just finished reading Wonder by RJ Palacio. It’s a book about a ten year old boy named Auggie who was born with a rare medical facial deformity. He had been homeschooled all his life, but now he is going to school for the first time. As you might expect, he struggled quite a bit to find friends and fit in. Because of this, my students and I were able to have some awesome discussions about life, friendship, and good character.

There are so many activities we could do and discussions we could have because of this great story. I got most of these activities from various teachers’ blogs, so I definitely can’t claim all the credit! (credit, credit, credit.)  Here are a few of the lessons I did:

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In the book Auggie has a teacher, Mr. Brown, who gives the students precepts, or as I call them with my third graders, words to live by. He gives the students a new precept every month. They discuss what the precept is all about and the students have to write an essay about what the precept means to them. Then, after school is out, Mr. Brown encourages the students to send him a postcard from their summer travels with a precept they came across or they made up themselves. I love this concept and adapted it to use in my classroom. Character education is one of our school’s mission statements, so we have a different character trait to focus on every month. I came up with a list of different Words to Live by for every week that tied into our character trait. Then, once a month, my third graders get to choose one of our words to live bys to write a paragraph about what it means to them. January’s character trait is Courage, so here are our words to live by for that month:

  1. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Wayne Gretsky
  2. If you change nothing, nothing will change.
  3. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. Christopher Robin
  4. It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up. (Fall seven times, get up eight.)  

Empathy e1b0f__937

The book is written from many different characters’ points of view. I love that because it shows us what is going on in everyone’s heads throughout the book. It would have been a very different story had it only been from Auggie’s perspective. I ask my students, “Have you ever had a friend come to school one day and get upset with you over something silly, and you don’t know what you did to make them mad? Well maybe they aren’t actually mad at you, maybe they got in a fight with their brother on the way to school and they are accidently taking it out on you.” We are never able to know what battles are going on in everyone’s lives, so it’s important to always be kind. So when reading the extra Julian chapter, we see that Julian isn’t just an evil emotionless bully. He is a real person with hard stuff in his life. It doesn’t excuse what he does to Auggie, but it helps us to understand him better.

Conflict Resolution 

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Mr. Browne’s September precept is, “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” Choose Kind has become a well used phrase in my classroom. Children, especially at this age of  eight and nine, have a very strong desire for justice and fairness. I moderate many, many arguments over small things. So teaching them to just choose kind and let their friend win when they are arguing over which game to play is kind of earth shattering. This is a sign we made for above our whiteboard as a reminder to always choose kind.

Culminating Activities 

I asked the kids to describe Wonder in one word, then I used Tagxedo.com to make a word cloud of their responses.

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How We View Ourselves 
We never get to hear specifically or see what Auggie’s face actually looks like, so his face, as well as the other characters’ faces, are depicted artistically with few features. So we each created our own Wonder face and chose a precept that resonated with us.

IMG_6289 Here is mine.

Here are some of my students’.

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Describing Characters 

Lastly, we took the silhouettes of the characters’ faces and wrote inside words that we felt described them. We completed these before we read the Julian chapter, so I plan to have my students do another Julian picture after we finish his point of view to see if our understanding of him changes, which I hope it will.

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Ancient Rome Day

I really dislike Halloween at school. It’s a candy crazed day where the kids are in costumes and not paying attention to anything. I’m really glad that at our school we don’t celebrate Halloween. But we do still have a learning celebration, and around this time of year we are learning about Ancient Rome. So instead of dressing up for Halloween, we dress up as ancient Romans (3rd grade toga party!) So it’s not Halloween, but it still is usually a chaotic day. That is, it was chaotic until we decided to embrace the chaos and teach like pirates and go all in!

We have a new teacher on our third grade team this year, Jason. He has a history background so we gave him this unit and this day and he ran with it! We planned activities all day long.

First thing in the morning we did our normal social studies lesson about Pompeii. We read textbook pages, took notes, and watched a few short videos. This one is really cool.

After that we built our own city of Pompeii.

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Then the kids created comic strips of what happened when Mount Vesuvius erupted. While they were doing that I pulled kids and did interviews pretending as though they had escaped from Pompeii in time.

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Then we erupted a paper mache volcano and filmed it from multiple angles.

Then the highlight of the day; running for our lives! We got all hundred third graders together on the playground, we had them run and scream as though Mount Vesuvius was exploding right behind them. It was so much fun!

The rest of the afternoon was the tradition holiday “party” part. We had apple juice, grapes, cheese and crackers. I took pictures of this as our “before Vesuvius erupted.” And we also made paper mosaic art.

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Because we were doing different fun activities all day, the kids were not that crazy at all! I think it was my best ever Halloween as a teacher! 🙂

Finally, Jason put all of our pictures and videos into one epic third grade adventure video. It’s amazing!

Enjoy!

Weakness

I think it’s human nature to hide our weaknesses. We all want to appear the best, that we know what we are doing, that we have it all together. (This goes for teaching but also for life in general.) But reality check: we are all human, we all make mistakes, we are not perfect, nor will we ever be. We physically cannot be good at everything. And attempting to be perfect leads to a major struggle trying to maintain that image. I’m starting to wonder if we would all be better off if we displayed our weaknesses as well as our strengths. Having them out in the open allows us to work on them and get help from others whose strength is the same as our weakness. Something I’m trying to teach my third graders this year is that we learn from our mistakes! So let’s start learning!

MakinMistakes

Well, enough beating around the bush: Language Arts is my teaching weakness.  Third grade is a crucial reading year where we transition from learning to read, to reading to learn. We only have an hour a day for reading and 30 minutes, four times a week for writing.

JPG-Teaching-reading-is-rocket-science-Louisa-MoatsLanguage Arts at our school also has the most curricular programs of any subject: Core Knowledge for sayings and stories, Reading Street for comprehension strategies, Words Their Way for spelling, Daily Language Instruction for grammar, Lucy Calkins for writing, and use a Daily 5 Structure.  

Every week we are expected to teach reading comprehension, writing, and grammar, meet with guided reading groups, meet with literature circles, meet with spelling groups, fluency read with kids one-on-one, writing conference with kids one-on-one, and provide tier two interventions for all our below grade level kids.

Then for reading testing we do spelling, reading, and DLI tests weekly. At the beginning, middle, and end of the year we give iReady online reading testing, CARS comprehension tests, DRA2 for students below grade level in reading, and Words Their Way assessments. And that doesn’t include PARCC testing, ACT Aspire Testing, and CogAT Testing that we also give.

It makes my head spin just trying to wrap my brain around all of it. I create schedule after schedule trying to fit it all in and there just never seems to be enough time!

And now I have a confession to make: this is not a post where I explain how I solved my language arts weakness and now I’m an amazing language arts teacher! It’s still a subject that I struggle with. But I’m working on it. My team and I have set our student achievement goal on writing, so we’re working together to become better teachers. And I keep researching and reworking my reading schedule trying to find what is best for my students. It’s a work in progress, and I admit that.

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What’s your teaching weakness?