Monday, July 25, 2016

What's new in September?

I feel like there is a revolution happening in Education and I'm dying to be part of it!!! I'm talking about less and less teacher-led lessons and more and more innovative, creative, relevant, and engaging student-led projects. 

There is a fantastic TedxTalk by Brian Aspinall that talks about the importance of preparing our students for jobs that don't exist yet, since majority of our students will be working in jobs that aren't even created yet today! That really resonated with me - take a look at his video and you'll see what I mean! The following post is inspired by his talk. So here's what I'm going to be adding on in September so that I can try and better prepare our kids for the future. 

I have to admit though, sometimes my heads spin from these constant changes and trying to keep up with them all. I've had to learn to just pick a couple of things I want to read about and look further into or I'll drown in the abundance of info out there!

So here's some basic info and resources on each topic/idea I plan on adding. I hope you like it! Feel free to leave comments with additional ideas or resources!

I feel like I'm missing out on something - all I hear about is coding!!! I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I have done very little in my classroom with coding. I allow students to do coding during their "initiative period" (a period where they chose a project of their choice and work away at it!). Does that count? :)
I recently tuned into a #PubPD on Twitter where they talked about coding in the classroom. Click here for the link to the "storify" of the conversations had. 
When asked "why code" Scott McKenzie replied "Anyone can play a game, how much cooler and educational is it to design, develop and create your own game through code". (Click here to follow him on Twitter - he's got lots of neat ideas on coding in the classroom).

So, to keep it simple, here are a couple of websites kids (and teachers!) can play around with to learn about coding (for more details on coding, what it is, and how to get started visit my "Coding" page to the left!):

  • & Hour of Code (great for beginners, especially students who can already read and teacher who want to learn more)
  • Scratch (a great "next step"; requires basic knowledge of coding, good for students who have had some exposure)
  • Coding in the Elementary Grades (a Google Site created by TDSB)
  • Watch YouTube videos!
  • **NEW**: "Beyond the Hour of Code" - Listen to this outstanding podcast by Sam Patterson to "learn how to use the newest tech tools to support learning in your classroom though programming" (description from podcast)

"Get children familiar to the idea of coding as a way of learning, not just as a video game" - said by Matthew Bernstein. I completely agree!

I've dedicated a separate page (here) just to talk about Makerspace, since, just like coding, it's an incredibly broad idea/topic.
What caught my eye about Makerspace is this idea about giving students a physical space to build! When students have an opportunity to do hands-on learning AND create something that was their own idea, you create permanent learning. Not just learning that they memorize for a test. You are providing students an opportunity to be entrepreneurs - how cool is that! Like coding, the idea of Makerspace is immense and you can do as little or as much as you like with it. You can dedicate a period a day, a week, or a month to it. 
Check out my Makerspace page for more ideas (there's a link to a free e-book there)! 
As for myself, I plan on using one of Sam Patterson's examples that I learned from his amazing podcast (see above). He talks about having students create puppets! So I thought, what a great idea for #BackToSchool! How fun would it be to have students create puppets of themselves then write about how they created them, show them videos perhaps of other students who have made puppets (as model texts/videos), and finally they could also create a video about their puppet and how they made it and publish it for the world to see! That's how I'm going to kick start this idea of a Makerspace in my class! 

Spiraling the Curriculum
Inspired by another great TedxTalk, this time by Kristin Phillips. She talks about how teaching in blocks, or these once/year units, doesn't create "sticky" learning. For instance, teaching fractions for 2 weeks a year isn't going to create permanent learning. The students may do great on a test right after the "block" of learning, but months later, would do they do just as well? And then what if for some reason the following year it isn't taught?
She suggests "returning to key concepts many times over the course of a year, not just in one yearly unit" (a quote from her Tedx Talk). As soon as I heard this, I thought... OF COURSE! DUH!!!! It sounds like common sense when you hear it out loud doesn't it?!?!?! 
So again, I'm not sure what that's going to look like in my classroom, but I'm hoping that the projects that the students will work on in class over the year will be diverse and layered enough that each time they will have to use various Math concepts to create and/or solve their projects. 

Brain Gym / Health & Wellness
Every year I introduce some type of "Brain Gym" to my class. Whether it's practicing sitting still for a minute or two after the bell, doing some gentle stretches or yoga, or doing actual Brain Gym. The feedback that the students have given me is extremely positive about this. In fact, if I forget it one day, they remind me, they ask for it! 
I highly recommend googling some of these exercises (you can get posters that go along with it). Each exercise serves a different purpose. Some are for concentration, others for connecting your left and right brain, others to wake you up, etc. So what I do is at the beginning of the year I teach them all the exercises and then each week we have two new Brain Gym leaders that lead the class in these activities after each break.
I have seen notable difference in children who had great difficulty with fine motor skills and whose writing therefore was very hard to read. Within weeks these students' writing improved significantly! How neat!!!
This year I'd like to incorporate more meditation and journaling of some sort in the class to provide students with some sort of outlet for their emotions. Even providing more class meetings might help as well. What do you do in your class to promote the well being of the kids? Would love to hear! 

By far my biggest professional goal for September is to revamp my Math program. I will be taking Jo Boaler's Math course (click here to see more info about it), which I've heard will completely change the way I think about Math, and therefore how the students think about Math, which I'm SOO excited about!
Please check out her Ted Talk here to take a peak at where I'm heading. 
I will also be blogging about what I learn in her course, so stay tuned! 

To finish off, I want to leave you with a quote I once saw on Twitter, and I apologize, I can't find who wrote it anymore. But this summarizes how I feel and how I see this revolution in Education unfolding:

"If you are teaching your kids content that Siri can answer, they won't ever move of their parents' house."

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