Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Don't Worry...Take Deep Breaths..

I'm one of those people who is always making up new lyrics to songs. Sometimes zany, sometimes unrepeatable for a myriad of reasons, it's something that just comes naturally to me. You can imagine, then, the heaven I was in when I went to a session this summer on creating parodies for learning with Diane Main at ISTE12, a tech conference in San Diego. She showed us how to use Garageband to create new versions of popular songs.

I am in the process of writing songs for 4th grade as well as creating an app that will allow students and teachers to take original lyrics, line by line, and create new lyrics that match the rhythm and rhyme of the song.

If you're a Bob Marley fan like I am, you'll know this song, Three Little Birds.

 One night, as I thought about the importance of teaching kids to breathe deeply and learn some ideas of mindfulness, this song came to me. Of course, it's a work in progress and I will probably let my students help me out with the lyrics!

Three Little Breaths lyrics

Don't worry, take deep breaths
Cause every little breath's gonna turn out right
Singin': Don't worry, take deep breaths
'Cause every little breath's gonna turn out right!"

Woke up this morning
Started with mindfulness
3 big deep breaths
to start my day right
Calming my mind
Helping me to focus more
Sayin': This day is gonna be aw-awe-some.  

Don't worry, take deep breaths
Cause every little breath's gonna turn out right
Singin': Don't worry, take deep breaths
'Cause every little breath's gonna turn out right!"

When I record it, I will definitely share. Thanks, Diane Main, for the inspiration!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Wisdom of Students

Here we were on Friday, Day Two, of 4th grade, and the words: "Classroom Expectations" loomed on the schedule. Ugh... As a teacher, I feel like I am supposed to enjoy this topic, to ensure that "control" and appropriate behavior happens in my classroom and around the school campus. Although I do believe in the importance of clear expectations, I feel uncomfortable with the traditional notion of classroom management as a way to "control behavior." I want my students to make wise choices, learn when they make "less than wise" choices, and understand the connections between their actions and their learning. Not always an easy feat in 4th grade, yet their wisdom, once again, was about to blow me away.

As I asked my students what "classroom expectations" means, a student crinkled up her face and sheepishly answered, "The rules?" Perfect, I thought! They used the "r" word so I won't have to. I asked my students what happens inside of them when they hear the word, "rules," and although no one spoke, many frowned, squirmed, and let me know that it was not a positive connotation. I wrote the word on the board and wrapped a circle around it, and ended with a big red slash.  "Don't get me wrong," I said, jokingly, "This does not mean that we can run around school acting all crazy!"Laughs erupted along with a bit of craziness prompted by my silly statement.  I paused a moment for them to transform back to students. We decided that we would use, "expectations," and we would agree upon behaviors that would help us work together and learn best in the classroom.

Now, for the fun! Students met in small groups, working for ten minutes to positively phrase all of the expectations they could think of.  It can be tough for them to break the "Don't.. " and the, "No..." statements, but they used positive statements for the most part.  The photos speak for themselves: students are wise! They know exactly how to run a classroom.

I love the focus on kindness from this group!

I love that they said, "Listen to the person who is presenting" and not just, "to the teacher!"

Love it: be fairly quiet and use a nice way of talking!

Talking and listening are a big focus!

"Try" to pay attention. Hope it won't be too hard!

Respect your job..love this!
 Of course, the student groups then presented their ideas to the class. Because the presentations took a bit of time, and students needed a change of topic, we opted to do the final step on Tuesday, since Monday is a holiday!

So, tomorrow we will find the common themes and summarize them into one expectation for each big idea. Hopefully, we will have 5 or so guiding expectations for our fabulous year in 4th grade! Students will work together to decide who will write the sentences in "large neat handwriting" for the bulletin board, and who will illustrate each expectation as well.  Finally, students will add their own photos and signatures to the board, confirming their agreement and participation in developing a positive classroom culture.

This all might seem like a lot of time dedicated to setting expectations. What do you think? What process do you go through to develop and share your classroom expectations with students? Please share so that we can learn together!