Thursday, April 27, 2017

My Teaching "Top 5"

I was tagged by a friend of mine on Twitter to post my "Teaching Top 5". No further directions. Just my top five. This could have been my top five best/worst experiences, funniest moments, activities, technology, strategies, you name it.

I decided to tweet my top five educational needs. For this blog post however, I want to talk about some of my other top fives as well.

My Top 5 Educational Needs

  1. Passion: I need my students and my colleagues to have passion in what they're doing. I want to be able to provide my students with the time they need to spend on projects that they are passionate about. I want them to leave my classroom with a passion and drive for learning.
  2. Relationships: My entire career thrives on building relationships. The best memories I have were possible because I had cultivated fabulous relationships with my students. Building relationships with students is not just "getting to know them." It's getting to know them on a deep, personal level; really learning about their passions, their insecurities, and their life goals and then using that information to help them be successful in life.
  3. Flexibility: Not only do I need to be flexible, but I need those around me to be flexible. Everyone needs to have that understanding that sometimes (a lot of times) what we plan may not work out and we (all of us) need to be flexible in making adjustments. I don't know how many times this year I told my students, "Alright, this isn't working. How can we start over?" Flexibility is also a great trait for a leader (young or old).
  4. Reflection: We spend a lot of time reflecting. My students reflect on their work, their progress, their goals, everything. As an educator, I constantly reflect on the same things, and maybe more. Reflection is an integral part of my career that is necessary for future success.
  5. Trust: Without trust, my classroom would not survive. Academic success is directly correlated to the relationships students build with those around them. I am not capable of building those relationships if my students and I don't have mutual trust. I need to be encouraging and model trusting behavior in order for my students to even begin to gain my trust.

My Top 5 Technology Needs

  1. Student Devices: Honestly, I don't know how I did it my first year of teaching when we didn't have any devices. I was using the TV on a cart at that point and I was lucky if my Smartboard even worked. I remember the struggle of my third year of teaching when I only had 5 iPads in a classroom of 21. Now, I'm not complaining. I know that even then I had it good; however, now, I couldn't imagine my life without student devices. They are a fabulous resource and tool for just about anything I want to do in the classroom.
  2. Google: I mentioned in my last blog post that I am working on my Google Educator level 2 certification. Google Apps can be used for so much more than writing an essay, organizing data, or making a presentation. For example, Google Forms can be used to create a "Choose Your Own Adventure".  Google Sites can be used for a classroom website, parent communication, or student work showcase. The possibilities are endless! (more to come in another post).
  3. Educational Websites: Just this year alone, I have discovered new and exciting educational websites.

    • ReadWorks Digital has been a lifesaver with my reading curriculum. You can choose articles/stories based on fiction/nonfiction, grade/Lexile, subject, and skills/strategies.

    • Actively Learn allows more student interaction with stories. Questions/prompts can be built into the paragraphs, students can highlight, take notes, and ask questions. There are many well-known books/stories on there! The downside, it's only meant for use in upper elementary and on.

    • Thrively gives students the chance to create strength profiles and follow pathways that focus on their values and skills. Students can learn more about themselves as learners and humans.

    • A few other resources to check out: Flippity, Digital BreakoutEDU, GoFormative, Canva
  4. Structure/Implementation: I need structure in my classroom when it comes to technology. Not military-like structure, but parameters that students can work within. When we implemented 1:1 this year, we went in full-force and didn't spend enough time showing students how to use their Chromebooks as tools. I've been fighting a losing battle all year with the Chromebooks. My students see them as toys; as mechanisms to watch Youtube and play games. If asked to do something with pencil/paper, my students treat them as if they're something they've never seen before. I want my students to learn not only how to take care of their devices, but how to really use them for educational purposes.
  5. Time: I need time to attend professional development and learn new things. I need time to come back and play with the new resources I find. My students need time to properly learn how to use the resources I show them. Time. We all need time.

My Top 5 Education Strategies

  1. Cooperative Learning: Cooperative learning structures are great for team building, class building, partner/group pairing, etc. I love using CL structures in my classroom because they get my students up and moving and they provide my students with the opportunities to partner up with someone they wouldn't usually match up with.
  2. Inquiry-Based Instruction: Students should be asked three questions: (1) What do you want to learn? (2) How will you learn it? and (3) How will you show me what you learned? We are beyond traditional instruction in the classroom where students sit in rows, take notes while listening to lectures, and take a test when they're finished. Students learn best through inquiry and play and should be given the opportunities to learn what they want to learn in a way that best fits their learning style.
  3. Graphic Organizers: Scaffold. Scaffold. Scaffold! I use graphic organizers to scaffold information for my students and to provide them with a place to organize their thoughts and
    ideas. MindMup is a wonderful Google App for students to use to create bubble maps. I'm also using a graphic organizer I adapted from Kevin McLaughlin for students to use to personalize their learning. 
  4. Formative Assessments: Typically I see the word "assessment" and I cringe. Check-ins should be done with students often in order to gauge where they are currently, and where they should be going next. Kagan has some great cooperative learning structures to be used as formative assessments. Four Corners and Think Pair Share are just two are my favorites. This slide also has 56 other different ideas on ways teachers can gather evidence on their students' learning.
  5. Collaboration: This is such a necessary element in any successful classroom. Fortunately, with Google Apps, collaboration among students can also be done outside of the classroom. Google Hangouts and Google Docs are great resources for students to use for discussion. Although there are many great technology resources for collaboration, they do not replace face-to-face contact. Students need to be shown and taught good communication skills so they can effectively speak to others. This year, I modeled coaching sessions with small groups of students. These sessions were in place to discuss projects the students were working on, as well as their flash, short-term, and long-term goals. Next year I would like for my students to lead their own coaching sessions with their peers.

    I'd love to hear what your Top 5 are! 
    Blog about it, tweet it out, just be sure you share it with me!


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