Monday, September 29, 2008

Parent Collaboration - Reflection # 5

Collaborating with parents is so important. I often wonder how can we do a better job. I first came upon Parents as Partners website that covers the topic from head to toe. In addition to the website, they have a regular webcast with Ed Tech Talk. It broadcasts on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month and shares best practices in engaging parents and teachers in conversations about families and schools. Check in Monday 9:00 pm EST. The hosts for the show are Lorna Costantini, Matt Montagne and Rhoda Cipparone.

Then I read Jeff Utecht's blog post on Parent Conmmunication: From Print to Digital. As teachers move from paper newsletters to online communication, he offers 5 great suggestions on how to communicate in a digital format.

One of our principal's goal this year is to reduce the amount of copies made in the school. I think this is a great first step!

photo citation: .p a n e.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Does Learning Stop After You Leave the Schoolyard - Reflection # 4

Does learning stop when the bell rings and your students leave the four walls of your classroom?

We were on Second Beach in Middletown, RI this summer when we discovered a sand dollar. We thought this was an odd find on such a northern beach. The kids started to wonder if sand dollars where indigenous to this area. Wikipedia and google were not available. Luckily a teenager had her cell phone and I had the place to get the answer, even on the beach...ChaCha.

Mobile Answers. Just call. Just text. Just ask. We did. Within a few minutes, we received a text message explaining that they could be found in shallow coastal waters anywhere in the world, as far north as Alaska. This prompted more questions. What animal lived inside? In a few minutes a text came back explaining they were Echinoids, spiny skinned creatures. Their relations included the sea lily, the sea cucumber, the star fish and the sea urchin. Several more questions were asked and answered. I marveled that learning could take place anywhere. Yes, sitting on a beach in Rhode Island, sparked by a curious find of a sand dollar.

The cell phone is a handy tool. Imagine being on a field trip to pick apples and someone wonders how many types of apples there are in North America. I have the answer...I just asked ChaCha. Now you try. It's free (standard text message fees apply).

Text 242242
Call 1.800.2CHACHA

Nature Lovers - Reflection #3

Summertime is a time to connect with nature. If you happen to be close to the water, you have daily reminders of this. I always know when sunrise and sunset is, as well as high and low tide. This creates a rhythm to the day that effects all that I do.

In the summer edition of Tufts Magazine, there was an article titled What’s lost when kids lose touch with nature? In it, W. George Scarlett talks about the disconnect with the natural world. No longer are kids let loose to play in the woods or to roam the outside. Instead, they are indoors connected to TV and video games or outdoors in organized sports. This alienation from nature is a new focus of research. Is there a connection to obesity and attention deficit disorder in children? Not so long ago, many classrooms had a room pet. This taught the students care taking and promoted wonder. I haven't seen one in years.

Howard Gardner has added naturalist intelligence to his list of multiple intelligences. Do you have a student who is "nature smart"? Take time to gaze at a spider web and observe critters outside the school yard. Write nature journals and embed nature in math problems. How can you connect nature to your classroom?

How Much Movement Do You Need? (Reflection # 2)

I realize that summer agrees with me. I get to be outdoors, in the light, for many hours. I get to move in many different ways: swim, bike, run and kayak. All in all, it makes for a happy, productive day.

How much movement does each individual student need? It will vary just as it does for adults. Granted, some are satisfied with what they get in the typical day: walking to specials, moving around the room to get materials and running around at recess. But we all know there are students who are natural movers. They demand a great amount of movement just to reach their threshold and stay on task. How are we providing this input for them beyond what is naturally available in the school day?

At Hosmer, we have power stations in the hallways to give a quick boost to students as they transition. In the classroom, students stand to work or sit on Movin' Sit cushions. Some children require motor breaks in which they are given 5 minutes to move on a scooter board, ride a roller racer, jump on a trampoline or run up and down the stairs.

What ideas do you have? How can we better accommodate these movers and make them more productive during the school day?

Experieincing Life as a Student (Reflection #1)

During the Building Learning Communities Conference this July, I kept my eyes and ears open to how it felt to participants attending a day long learning event. I noticed several things. As adults, we could choose our learning. We had a wealth of workshops available to pick from. People got up to leave if the workshop wasn't what they expected. Comments about the difficulty of sitting all day were heard throughout. Drinks and food were allowed into the sessions. And, people even chewed gum! At the end of the day, people were cooked.

Fast forward to our students. They sit at their desks a good portion of the day, everyday. Imagine if they could get up and walk out if the lesson wasn't meaningful to them. Do they have the opportunity to go to the bathroom or grab a drink? Are they able to "back channel" when the lesson is going on to extend their learning?

Besides the great learning that took place over several days at the BLC08 conference, I think many of us realized how hard it is to be a student!

photo citation torres21

Summer Reflections

There was a lot swimming around in my head this summer that never made it down to the page. I thought I would write five short blog posts about what I was thinking about.