Saturday, August 13, 2011

Brave New Year: 5 Ideas to Venture Forth

It's been awhile since I have written, partially due to taking on a writing job in July that took WAY more time than I anticipated, and partly because I sometimes don't know if the topic in my head is right for this blog or another forum. Although all of my posts somehow relate to bringing out the potential in kids so that they flourish, some of my writing is more specific to the classroom.

Today I am thinking of ways that I plan to venture out with my students, try new things, and model being a learner. Here are some ways I hope to enliven my new class:

1) Leaving some design decisions to the students: I am a little bit conflicted between allowing students the opportunity to "own their learning space" and my personal desire to have things completely organized and ready to go at the beginning of the school year. This year, I will give students more responsibility and ownership. They will determine the class jobs we need, help with some room layout decisions, and be active decision makers. I am excited to see how this change impacts their enthusiasm for school.

2) Diigo for educators:  After going to Vicki Davis' workshop, led by Suzie Nesticos at ISTE11, I decided that I should really work with my students to collaborate better on group research. Diigo for educators allows me to create a class group and is an amazing tool for sharing, and a safe way to allow my students to share highlights of resources, annotations, and suggest and bookmark items of value for the entire class. This could be a bit of a risk, since this tool may be new to parents and even to colleagues. I will let you know how it goes!

3) Kidblogs for individual student blogs: Last year my students blogged on a class blog, but I did not see the enthusiasm and ownership in them that I had hoped to see. I can pinpoint several reasons for this: having to write about events from the class and not items completely of their own choice, students not getting to decide the name and appearance of the blog, blogging was a class job for 3 students per week, and more. I think that having a Kidblogs class account where each student will have his/her own page, opening up my blog to comments from the world using #comments for kids, and allowing students to write about their passions will give them a more engaging blogging experience.

4) Connecting globally via Skype: I do believe that Skyping must have an intentional place and not just be an "add-on" cool thing to do. My first experience last December, Skyping with my friend Greta and her class in Argentina was memorable and one I will never forget.  I have some ideas to incorporate Skype into my social studies curriculum as well as my language arts curriculum. I am excited about this project, the Skype mystery state project :

5) Trusting my own judgement: Last year I was a bit nervous because I was new to both 4th grade and to my school. There were times that students reached out to me on google chat when I was checking email, and I wasn't sure if I should respond. What I know, now, a year later, is that those students who reached out to me still want to say hi and consider me a trusted adult to talk to. Many times, students wanted to ask a quick question about homework or invite me to look at their work on a google doc. Since relationships in teaching are SO important, I will be glad for the chance to connect with students via the web.

I am sure that as soon as I hit "publish post" I will think of many other ways I plan to do things differently this year.  What do you plan to do to engage and excite your students for a wonderful school year?


Anonymous said...

Wow, that was an incredible post. Coincidentally, I will be implementing those same 5 items with my students this year. I'm always excited to see ways that different teachers all over the world are pushing themselves to make their guidance of student learning their top priority. I hope that your year goes well.

Rebecca said...

It makes a big difference when students own the learning space. I tell my students the first or second day that we will need jobs but that each year the jobs are different based on the unique class community. I put a blank chart on the wall with JOBS across the top and tell them to write down any ideas for jobs that come up in the next week or so. This simple act sends students the message that this classroom is their space, not mine. After a week or so, we narrow down the list, discuss what each job looks like, and start our jobs.

Teach Children Well said...

So glad you posted. Your title alone inspires a positive direction of thought for all of us educators beginning to plan for the year ahead: Finding Ways for All Kids to Flourish. Like you, I plan to give students voice, utilize blogs and social media and both foster and partake in collaboration. Thanks, I will share with colleagues.

Joan Young (aka Mancini) said...

Thanks so much for the comments! It's been such a busy time that I forgot to respond.sorry! Chris, I am excited to follow your journey this year as you implement the same tools!
Rebecca, I love the idea of allowing students to post ideas for jobs throughout the course of a week.
Maureen, thanks for the kind words. I do believe that our goal should not just be for kids to learn but for them to flourish and become their very best selves!