Would 4th and 5th graders be able to hold their own student-driven, student-centered EdCamp? We gave it a shot this last Friday in room 32 at Wildomar Elementary School. Students signed up all week long to run the sessions. The “poster” was a shared Google Spreadsheet. We held four 15-minute sessions with a 20-minute break in the middle and at the end for reflection. The kids LOVED it as I’m sure you will be able to tell in this 4-minute highlight video of the event. Presentation topics included horses, One Direction band, Scratch game programming, dance, gymnastics, iPad settings, baseball, and Minecraft.
Assessment of the Day
It was a bit messy at times, but overall, the kids were thoroughly engaged and will never forget it. Areas to improve: greater guidance on “voting with your feet,” brainstorm topics before giving the kids access to the sign-up board, encourage deeper topics, and having more time for follow-up discussion and/or reflection journaling at the end. Victories: the presenters took it very seriously, one girl had a ton of research ready to go, one very shy girl totally blossomed and showed amazing communication and leadership skills, 29 of my 30 students present were engaged and learning, no one seemed to be too hurt by participants leaving their session, very little wasted time, took students to a new level of maturity and love of learning.
What about teaching the standards? None of the sessions were standards-based. I’m not sure if this is important, and if I did try to steer the event in that direction, if it would still be this engaging and successful in the eyes of the students. Students were definitely learning habits of mind, 21st century skills, and were totally engaged. Is there a way to run such an event that is standards-based without losing the magic? That remains to be seen. I plan to try it again in a month and include one or two other 4th/5th grade classes.
In this first episode of The Bedley Bros., Tim and Scott Bedley chat about the research communities in Scott’s 5th grade classroom in Irvine, California. Scott and Tim will be presenting on the topic at the 2013 CUE Conference in Palm Springs. Take a listen!
A paradigm shift needs to occur in our classrooms to get the students thinking critically. Teachers must reduce the amount of feedback they give and ask the students to critique each other’s answers. This sounds simple, but it’s not. I’ve spent considerable time watching others teach, and without exception, every teacher immediately responds to students during discussions with judgments of all student answers. When teachers are the first to give feedback, the students grow lax and learn that their opinions don’t really matter. I taught for 17 years before I figured this out. My classroom was revolutionized after making the shift. Students began sharing more, they had greater boldness and confidence, and they developed deeper thoughts which they were able to express with more clarity.
Teacher: What do you think is wrong with this sentence? (Calls on a raised hand.)
Student: It’s too long. It’s a run-on.
T: That’s almost it. Try again.
S: Oh, yeah. It’s a fragment. It’s not a whole sentence.
T: Yes! There you go. Good job.
Critical Thinking Classroom
T: What do you think is wrong with this sentence?
S: It’s too long. It’s a run-on.
T: Thanks Sarah. Who else has a thought?
S: I don’t think it’s a run-on. It just doesn’t really sound like a run-on.
T: Who else?
S: It seems to be missing something more than being a run-on.
T: Raise your hand if you think this sentence is a run-on. (Looks) Raise your hand if you do NOT think it’s a run-on.
The discussion would progress like this. Some teachers are not willing to spend the time to develop this sort of class discussion. It’s laborious for sure and takes a great deal of teacher self-control. But the kids will enjoy taking the driver’s seat, they will develop deeper critical thinking skills, and you will know more about the way your students think. Try it. You’ll like it.
Many of today’s students lack the life experience to truly comprehend what they read. Schema is the background knowledge a reader applies to understanding literature. In order to build schema, teachers and parents may want to use videos as the next-best-thing to a real-life experience.
I have organized a list of schema-building videos on my class website to accompany most of the stories from our basal reading book. With so much available on YouTube, a quick search can normally result in a plethora of options to help children build schema.