Saturday, September 24, 2011

3 Reflections for This School Year

Every year, I seem to grow more reflective in my practice, which is both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps you can't see why it would be a curse, as we are encouraged as educators to reflect on what we do.  Accomplishing tasks like curriculum mapping and lesson planning, however, take more time and brain power now because I  require so much brainstorming/processing time before I even get to the part where I can write anything. Hopefully, as I gain more experience as a 4th grade teacher, this process will take less time!

In any case, I have been working on these "big ideas" for myself as a teacher, and as always, I find great benefit in sharing with my wonderful network of educators around the globe.

  • Students need to reflect!  If we value an assignment so much that we allow an extended period of time for its completion, then we need to take the time afterward for students to reflect. Perhaps you already do this with student rubrics or some other method of reflection, but I recently found it very helpful after students read my comments on their work for them to respond with their opinions. Questions I asked included, "Do you think that this piece reflected your best effort?" "What were some of the challenges for you?" "What will you do similarly or differently next time?"  I received feedback from both parents and students indicating that they found this process helpful, especially for identifying issues of time management and developing plans for future success.
  • When integrating technology, it's critical to ask: "Am I just adding more 'stuff' to my curriculum or using technology as a way to let students process and showcase what they are learning?" I am working to synthesize the curriculum that I have with apps like "Showme" where students can use a screencast to demonstrate their process and understanding. Viewing their Showme's later has given me such an incredible window into student process! Isn't this the epitome of formative assessment?  So far, in math this has worked out extremely well, and I plan to use it this week for lessons with writing mechanics, beginning with comma use.  My plan is to then email the link to the Showme to the student, attach a few comments, and engage in a dialogue about their process. I see great opportunities for metacognition. 
  • When we offer students extra support, we must be careful to send the right messages. I am sure that I have, at times, ( more often than I care to admit!) impacted student efficacy negatively by jumping in too fast to alleviate confusion. Perhaps I have even given the impression that I believed that they "needed my support" to succeed.  We must be patient in the messy learning process, pause, and give students the opportunity for the "aha" experience. Of course, this is so tricky when so many other kids are clamoring for our attention, right? We must somehow be present, available, and open for them to discover their own benefit in seeking help and make it part of everyone's learning to need help.  I really want students to know that it is a sign of strength to make mistakes, as well as solicit feedback and clarification! 
I am thinking of many other topics, of course, but hope to write again soon on those. Intrinsic motivation, behavior management systems, and parental involvement are at the top of the list!
    What are some thoughts, reflections, questions on your mind as you get into the school year? Please share!