Tuesday, July 29, 2014

4Cs: How to Teach Collaboration

A series on the 4 Cs.

Creativity. Critical Thinking. Communication. Collaboration.  What do these mean in your classroom?  I put them in the shape of a puzzle because it's hard to complete the 21st Century vision without one of these pieces.

For our school, the 4Cs are a part of our district vision.  It's a part of us making our vision come to life in classrooms.  So our next step was asking ourselves how we not only make sure we include the 4 Cs for 21st Century learning in our planning and instruction, but ultimately how we are going teach our students to use them and transfer these skills.  Thus begins my series on the 4Cs and how you can bring them alive in your classroom!  I do not personally have the answers, but I hope that I can summarize what I've learned in other places, from other people, and from professional development.

This Week's Focus:
So I will start with Collaboration, a piece I feel is critical for the start of the school year.  We often incorporate team building components at the start of the school, but we don't intentionally teach students how to collaborate and work together.  We just have them do activities with the hope that it will happen.

As our school dives into PBL and providing our students with more opportunities for critical thinking, a huge piece of this is collaboration.  We have realized that our students are much better prepared for working with their peers when they are taught specific pieces of collaboration and then given opportunities to put them in action.

The #1 Resource I have come across is by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frye (if you don't know Fisher and Frye, they are the Gradual Release Gurus!).  They write a tremendous article about mini lessons you can use to teach your students how to collaborate and cooperate in group settings.  They divide these lessons into 3 different categories of group work:
• Personal Responsibility
• Respectful Discourse
• Collaborative Problem Solving
 Do you not love these First 20 Days?  Seriously, Fisher and Frye nailed it again.  I strongly urge you to read the article (short and succinct, but rich with content!).  You will be so glad you did - especially before school starts!
This is another graphic they use in the article to get students to see what their contribution is during group work.  Again, just easy-to-use resources.  

 I'd love to hear what others do and use to teach collaboration within your classroom!

Gotta run!

*Credit to Krista Walden from Creative Clips for the puzzle graphic!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How to Get Started with PBL (Project Based Learning): A Great Dive to Take!

PBL, GBL, IBL, XBL, etc. etc. etc.

There are a ton of acronyms out there for different types of learning formats within the classroom.  Project Based Learning, Problem Based Learning, Game Based Learning, Inquiry Based Learning, and now some are just using XBL to be all encompassing.

At our school, we are coining all of them under the IBL umbrella because our true desire is for these to drive inquiry for students.  With that being said, a major avenue for us to push this inquiry is through Project Based Learning (PBL).  In classrooms where PBL has been utilized, students are challenged to inquire about a topic, teachers state the essential need to knows for the unit, and there is a LOT of voice and choice.

When I came on board, PBL was just starting and I really didn't know much about it.  I had done some engineering units that are very similar, but they were basically planned for me.  So I had to go on a learning journey with PBL.  I'll share that today!

1. PBL in the Elementary Grades: This is a great resource to start with and to continue to come back to.

2. Build your own PBL team.  Even if this isn't a building or district initiative, get one or two other people (your whole grade would be even better) to jump on board with you.  Teamwork is really at the heart of a terrific PBL from the planning process through execution and reflection.  

3. Take FREE classes at PBLU.org. These are simple, easy to use 1-week courses that will take maybe 2-3 hours of your time during that week, but they are extremely beneficial.  They are free through a grant and vary by topic.  I just finished one on How to Create a Driving Question.  Next week, I will begin one on how to group students effectively for the units. The image below shows you the different topics that have occurred over the past few weeks, and which one is available to sign up for. 

 4. BIE.org has great resources.  The Buck Institute has rubrics, planning templates, webinars, articles, and much more to help you along the way.  You WILL want to bookmark this website to go back to.

5. As Nike would say, JUST DO IT!  The best way to learn and reflect is to dive in and get started.

I will share some PBL posters with you at a later date that outline different grade level's projects and how they outlined their project.  

Gotta run!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wednesday Wonderful with ELs

Happy Hump Day! As some of you know I get the best of both worlds with my job.  I am a half time Assistant Principal and half time EL teacher.  What this means is that I get to keep teaching while being an administrator!  FYI...that's a dream for most administrators.  This summer I've been brushing up on some professional development and diving into a wonderful book of tools to help my ELs be more successful in the classroom. I thought I'd share what I've been learning.

250 and 1,950
Anyone know how these numbers are connected?  Well, it's the differential in time when an EL student is with an actual EL teacher versus how long they are with their classroom teacher.  Wow!  So what I have to say is:  Every teacher is a language teacher!  Or, we have to be a language teacher.  To think that some EL kiddos would only get language related services for 11% of their day seems crazy!

So, this is the reason why I want to share my learning.  We all need great strategies to use for our students in order to give them what they deserve each and every day.

This is a GREAT resource to get started.  It's a bit pricey (Maybe your school can order some with Title III funds?!), but definitely worth it!

There is an entire chapter dedicated to graphic organizers.  What I like about this chapter, though, is that it doesn't just list a bunch of graphic organizers, it categorizes them by need.  As I was thinking about this, I realized that I needed to be a bit more intentional about how I pick the graphic organizers I use for my EL kiddos. I ended up making this bookmark to put in my files and keep with my graphic organizer resources. 

QUESTION 1: What do you want your students to do with the content?
This is the SO IMPORTANT!
• These are the 6 different categories that Rojas uses to divide graphic organizers, and I just love them!  Sometimes I would go to my organizers and pick one that I knew my students already knew how to complete, was familiar, or quite frankly, would be easy and quick.  However, this doesn't help frame thinking for these students, organize their thoughts the best way, or build their content knowledge.  Looking at these 6 categories makes me think about what I really want students to know and understand.

QUESTION 2: Have you modeled this organizer before? 
• The students shouldn't be halted by not knowing how to fill out the organizer.  Make sure you have modeled the organizer before you send them off on their way.  This will ensure that students are talking about the content, not the organizer itself.

QUESTION 3: Will students do this independently, with a partner, or in small groups, and WHY?
• I think this is key to an organizer, and I think this decision comes down to what part of the learning process they are in.  If students are trying to learn new content or evaluate a text, partners or small groups might be best so they can learn from each other and bounce ideas off one another.  If you're using it for a prewriting activity or an assessment, it might be best if done individually.

QUESTION 4: Will all students be expected to use the same organizer or will you differentiate for some students?
• Graphic organizers are a great way to differentiate for students.  Maybe your SpEd or EL students will show their learning in a different - perhaps through a graphic organizer.  You'll want to keep the expected content the same, but maybe the way they show it is different.

QUESTION 5: How will you or the students use the information on the organizer?
• You'll want to clarify for students if this is for them to build understanding, show understanding, or assess understanding.

Sorry for all of the text today, but I just wanted to explain why I included these questions for consideration on this bookmark.  Pick up this Freebie in my TpT store, and share with your colleagues.  Remember, every teacher is a language teacher!

Also, a blogger friend is turning 30 and having a big Birthday Bash!  Head over TODAY for her last day to enter her giveaways.  You could win up to $80 in TpT products from different sellers or $100 from Whimsy Clips! She has a bunch of different giveaways from each day this week that end tonight! Head over to enter!

Gotta run, well walk!  (I can't wait until the babe's 4th month appt. to get the approval to run with him!)