There's a whole lot of learning going on in our classroom! We have been designing and carrying out scientific investigations, working with place value into the millions, engaging in "Number Talks" to share our mathematical thinking, developing close reading strategies, engaging in quick writes to build writing fluency and stamina, and the list goes on!
We are also learning about learning.
We discuss how to be an effective learner, and how to take responsibility for our learning. We realize that in order to "Grow Our Brains," we have to take risks and persevere through challenges. We recently "Close Read" two videos that led to deep thinking and eye-opening discussions about our role as learners. Our discoveries impact our thinking and learning everyday in our classroom.
The Broken Escalator
The "Broken Escalator" video reminds us to look at a problem carefully and recognize when we have the ability to solve on our own. We ask, "How can we get ourselves off the broken escalator?" We take pride in our abilities as we "find our way" independently.
~What does it feel like to work hard?
~What does it take to produce quality work?
~How can we feel proud of the work we do?
We watched "Austin's Butterfly" then brainstormed a list of strategies to help us work hard and produce quality work.
We use the "Butterfly Scale" to make decisions about the level of effort needed whenever we begin a new task. We ask, "Where do we want this work to fall on the butterfly scale?" Why? What do we need to do to get there? We stop to monitor along the way and make adjustments when needed.
Feeling proud of our accomplishments is well worth the time and effort!
There are many different kinds of "smarts." We need social smarts in order to make friends, connect with others, and feel like we belong. Our words and actions affect those around us. Showing interest in others and thinking about how others feel doesn't always come easy. When we act in "unexpected" ways, the people around us have "uncomfortable" thoughts. In David Goes to School by David Shannon, David spends the day wreaking havoc in his classroom. His exasperated teacher utters the phrase, "No, David!” over and over again. David is seemingly unaware of the effects of his behavior on his unfortunate classmates.
With a picture of David and a classmate projected on to our whiteboard, we add thought bubbles and brainstorm David's classmate's uncomfortable thoughts. We decide David needs clearly defined expectations and reminders to use his social smarts, so that he can be successful and his classmates can feel comfortable around him.
After reading David Goes to School, we agree that every classroom needs a set of clear and reasonable expectations. Promises we can make to one another to ensure that all members of the community feel safe, comfortable, and successful.
We ponder this important question:
To begin the process we consider the following:
1. What kinds of student behaviors will make our classroom an uncomfortable place to be?
2. What kinds of student behaviors are important for making our classroom a safe, happy, and fun place?
3. What kinds of teacher behaviors will make our classroom an uncomfortable place to be?
4. What kind of teacher behaviors are important for making our classroom a safe, happy, and fun place?
5. What kind of behaviors drive you completely crazy in a classroom?
6. What promises can we make to one anther in order to make this the best year ever?
In small groups, we rotate around the classrooms jotting down our responses to these questions on large sheets of paper. Each person has a different color marker, so we can be sure everyone's thinking is represented. Next we read our classmates' ideas and comment back. We can agree, disagree, give an example, or ask a question.
Now it's time to "close read" our responses. We look for patterns and similarities, and we record our noticings and realizations. We write down the big ideas on sentence strips and work in small groups to combine these ideas into paragraphs. Finally, the teachers take all the drafts and combine them into one draft. We look over this draft together and make a few revisions before printing out our final draft. Here's what we came up with:
It was important that the class work together to establish these expectations, so that everyone felt valued, invested, and represented. The promises we made will have an impact on our classroom community every day throughout the school year!
*To learn more about social thinking visit Michelle Garcia Winner's website at socialthinking.com
**Thanks to Bill Ferriter for sharing this process!
Peach dangles on a tree limb above the pond. She is ripe, juicy, and ready for picking; her days are coming to an end. Below, a blue-bellied toad is startled by the tear drops that fall like rain from the tree above. How will these two unlikeliest of friends help one another see the world in a whole new way?
This beautiful picture book written by Sarah Kilborne and illustrated by Steve Johnson leads to a thoughtful and insightful discussion about strengths and challenges. Blue uses his ability to problem solve to help Peach down from the tree, build her a floating nest of leaves, and help her see a world she has never seen before. Peach, in turn, uses her gift with words and her ability to appreciate true beauty to help Blue "see" his world in a new light. We have to "think outside of the box" to understand how Blue becomes Peach's "legs" and Peach becomes Blue's "eyes." Each character uses their strengths to help the other with their challenges.
Through discussion and an invigorating movement activity, we realize that we all have strengths and challenges. We raise our right hands and promise to use our strengths to help others with their challenges and allow others to do the same for us.
Strengths and challenges come in many different forms not just the traditional "school
smarts." While some of us struggle with reading, writing, or math, others find it difficult to make friends, take risks, or see someone else's point of view. The list of strengths and challenges goes on and on. By appreciating our own strengths and recognizing our own challenges, we can begin to connect and empathize with others. We can also begin the important work of setting individual goals and making explicit plans for improvement.
Let the learning begin!
The buses pull up to the curb. Doors slide open, and children with fresh haircuts and brand new sneakers climb off. Weighed down by backpacks stuffed full of school supplies, they find their places in line.
As teachers, we know our new students come to us with apprehension. Will I know anyone in my class? Will I make new friends? Will my teachers be nice? Will I feel comfortable? Our students need to feel a sense of belonging. They need to feel comfortable and safe in order to take the risks necessary for learning. They need to feel valued for their strengths and their uniqueness and feel supported when it comes to their challenges. Taking the time to develop a sense of community within the classroom is the most important thing we can do to start off the school year. The time invested now pays off every single day throughout the year.
Getting to Know you
The first thing we do on the first day of school is get to work! Some students create sculptures, others make posters or fill out questionnaires. It is important to offer choice, so all students can find a "Just Right" way to express themselves.
Over the next several days we use our creations as a springboard for "Dynamic Discussions" during our concentric circle share. First, the teachers role-play a less than dynamic discussion; students are quick to make suggestions for improvement. Next, we brainstorm a "Recipe for Dynamic Discussions."
Now we are ready to begin! We form two circles, one inside the other. Each person on the inner circle turns to face someone on the outer circle. Partners take a few minutes getting to know one another before rotating to the next partner. We stop frequently to assess our discussion skills. We add to our "Recipe" and revise where needed. Somewhere along the way we realize it feels really good when someone listens carefully to what we have to say and shows interest by asking questions. We realize certain kinds of questions lead to more interesting discussions. We brainstorm a list of these "Deep Thinking Questions" for reference. We will continue to add to this list as the year progresses.
It takes several Morning Meetings, but by the time we finish, each one of us has had the opportunity to get to know everyone of our classmates!
We are off to a great start and well on our way to becoming a caring community of learners!
We can't wait to get to know you! Please click on the button below to take our "All About Me" survey:
I hope you are enjoying a summer full of fun in the sun and adventure, I know I am! I have been swimming in the icy cold ocean, hunting for hidden treasures on long sandy beaches, hiking rugged wooded trails, exploring new and exciting places, and unraveling real-life mysteries! Summer is so much fun!
As much as I love summer, I can’t wait to begin our fourth grade adventure together! This year we will wonder, explore, discover, and create. We will become scientists and researchers exploring our interests and passions, mathematicians making amazing mathematical discoveries, adventurers uncovering history and discovering the world, engineers solving problems and creating technology, and writers sharing what matters most.
Get ready to read this year! We will read books that excite us. Books that take us to magical places, books that transport us back in time or far into the future. Books about characters we love or real-life people who inspire us. Books that make us laugh out loud or move us to tears. We will chat about books, recommend books, and share books. Just wait until you see our classroom library; you won’t believe how many books we have to choose from! What books will you choose to read this year?
This year you will have two teachers. Ms. Marcus and I have been working around the clock to get our classroom ready, but no matter how much we decorate, organize, and plan, it will not be complete until you are here. On the first day of school, we will begin the very important work of building our classroom community together. How do you want our classroom to look and feel? What would you like us to know and understand about you? What are your interests? What are you curious about? What do you want to explore? What is most important to you?
Ms. Marcus and I can't wait to meet you! We will be waiting outside for you when you arrive on the 31st. Please bring a healthy snack and a favorite book to share. I am so excited to begin our adventure together!
Who we are:
What we are Working On:
~Close Reading Strategies:
-Noticing and Thinking
~Identifying "Big Ideas"
~Supporting thinking with text evidence
~Building writing fluency and stamina
~Generating Topic Ideas
~Planning Strategies: "Sketch it out with Details"
~Place Value and Number Sense
~Ten times rule
-Finding "Friendly 10s"
-addition with an open numberline
~ Life Cycles, Adaptations, Environmental Factors
~Identifying and using Map features