Teacher Rebecca Wildman and her principal Fred Sitkins are changing the face of education through their use of iTunes U for elementary students in Michigan and around the world. Watch as they explain the endless possibilities of this eduawesome platform.
iPad PD Rebecca and Fred’s website where they house their iTunes U courses and a whole lot more!
Scott and I interview Dr. Brian O’Connor, expert in Lesson Study, a professional development program that actually changes classroom practice. Scott shares his tip on using Buzz Mob to communicate with parents. I talk about Google Apps (Google Drive) as an easy and free way to do word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings. Enjoy!
I gave my 4th and 5th grade students the following math problem:
“Draw as many rectangles as you can that have the area of 18 square inches. You may use a calculator.”
15 minutes later all of my kids understood that there were three clear possible answers:
1 in X 18 in
2 in X 9 in
3 in X 6 in
But then something magical happened. I pushed them a bit harder and said that there were unlimited answers to this problem. “Can you find other answers besides these three? Don’t forget, you are allowed to use a calculator.”
Every student sat by her/himself and formulated an answer to the best of her/his ability. The students then met others in the back of the room to share their results and reach consensus (while the others continued to try to solve the problem near the board.) Eventually, all of the students realized that they could get answers like:
1.5 in X 12 in
4 in X 4.5 in
My students developed much better mathematical understanding and reasoning skills through this critical thinking lesson. You see, I didn’t spoon feed them the answers. I gave them a challenge and let them figure it out with the help of their peers. The problem was challenging enough for about half my kids to get some correct answers initially on their own, and the other half to at least take a stab at it. Then, by collaborating, the entire class was able to wrap their brains around the idea. This is the direction education is headed with Common Core.
Watch Alex’s engaging discussion with Tim and Scott on the latest episode of The Bedley Bros. EdChat. Alex, the 2009 California Teacher of the Year, shares ideas from his new book Teacher of the Year Handbook. Both of the Bedley Bros. also share a quick tip for teachers. Whether or not you are in the running for Teacher of the Year, educators will benefit from this lively interview with the Rappin’ Mathematician.
So what book are you reading these days? And what made you decide to grab that book and read it? Most likely, you heard about it from a trusted friend, relative, or colleague. Do kids recommend books to each other? From my experience, the answer is NO. They aren’t naturally talking about the books they love at recess, on their cells, or online. That’s where you and I come in. We need to provide class time and clear guidance for our students to learn how to recommend books to each other. I train my students at the beginning of the year to record, in their binder or on their iPad, a “Books to Read” list. This list should include the title along with how they can find the book. If it’s in the library, then the author’s last name is usually sufficient. If a friend will loan them the book, then write the friend’s name next to the book title. As students finish reading their current book, they look at their “Books to Read” list to choose a new one.
This is where the Book Party comes in. Students learn to roam around the classroom “party-style” and just informally chat with one another about the books they love. All students must be carrying their list. Students are allowed to gather in groups of 2 or more. The only “rules” for the Book Party is that all students must be either talking about a book they love, listening to someone else talking about a book, or writing down a book recommendation on their “Books to Read” list. One key to helping students to stay focused is for the teacher to constantly scan the room checking for students who appear to be off task. Book parties normally last about 5 minutes. Sometimes, at the end of the book party, I will ask students to hold up the number of fingers to correspond to how many books they added to their list. Here is a brief video peek at my students conducting a book party.
In episode 6 of the Bedley Bros, Tim describes how 2/3 of his students and their parents opted out of letter grades this year. He addresses the obstacles and shares the triumphs of de-grading his class.
As students work in groups, designate one or more students to silently observe the workers. Call them the Super Spies. The Super Spies silently take notes on positive behaviors and then report what they saw to the class. The teacher should be the first Super Spy to model the types of behaviors that should be reported. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it works wonders.
Watch as Super Spies report positive behaviors to class.
In this 2-minute video, I show how I am currently using Google Drive with my 4th/5th grade class to enhance my writing instruction. My learning environment is BYOD with iPads. I set up an account through Google Apps for Education. I gave each student an account (and one for me.) The students work in groups with a shared document. They also share the document with me. This allows me to monitor each group’s progress right from my iPad. We use the Google Drive App on our iPads.
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.