Monday, July 24, 2017

New Year - New Possibilities

It’s the end of July, which means school is right around the corner. Like most teachers, I spend some time over the summer reviewing my previous school year and deciding what I want to do differently this year. It’s this time of year that I have a tendency to go a bit overboard.

I look over my ever-growing list of what I want to try next and I think, “I can do this! Let’s do ALL the new things!” Apparently, a few weeks off in the summer leads me to having some pretty big aspirations for myself!

While I wish I could do it all, it just isn’t reasonable to think I can incorporate so many new ideas and do them well. With this in mind, I’m remembering my personal philosophy about making changes and improvements in my teaching: choose one or two main changes per year and set goals for each grading period. I learned this lesson by year three of my teaching career.

Narrowing my focus helps me to remain intentional and actually accomplish my goals. When choosing my goals for the year, I want to get the most bang for my buck, so I try to choose initiatives that will be long-lasting, flexible to meet the changing needs of my students, and are based around solid teaching practices.

Past Goals

Here are a few of my areas of focus during my past nine years of teaching:
  • Guided Reading Groups- I spent my first year organizing various structures for students during guided reading. I’ve updated those structures many times over the years.
  • Co-Teaching- I wouldn’t trade my co-teacher for anything. ANYTHING. We spent about 2 years really focusing on various co-teaching structures in different subject areas, and now it’s second nature for us.
  • Differentiated Math Lessons- My co-teacher and I created a system for differentiating math instruction to meet the needs of our very diverse class.
  • Book Club Literature Circles- About three years ago I wanted to address the problem of the dreaded reading log. In my experience, I’ve found them ineffective in encouraging students to read nightly. Student literature circles Friday mornings helped to increase student motivation and accountability.  
  • One to One Devices- When my students received individual Chromebooks two years ago, I made quarterly goals to incorporate their devices at least once a day. We started taking our spelling tests on SpellingCity, I shared google docs and had students turn in work in Google Classroom, students used Google Read and Write to access texts and improve their reading, and I offered online practice resources for parents.
  • Writer’s Workshop Model- Last year I switched to a writer’s workshop model to increase student conferencing.

New Goals

Here are my main goals for this year. I’ll share more details about each as the year gets started.
  • Math Workshop and Blended Learning- Last year my co-teacher and I had continual conversations about needing a solution for our math block. With a class size hovering around 27, our students were disengaged during whole group instruction and extremely diverse in need. This year we are planning to use a workshop model while incorporating blended learning.
  • Student Tech Projects- I have created a handful of projects during my grad school course work that I’d like to incorporate with my current units. My plan is to do one new project per grading period. The first project we will try is creating video booktalks as a performance assessment.

Join Me!

One of the most important realizations I’ve had in the past year is that this is a great time for teachers to start incorporating technology with the purpose of enriching student learning experiences and furthering curriculum goals. There is such a wide variety of technology tools available for teachers and, in my experience, there is a great way to deliver instruction digitally through our learning management system. I know it can be a bit daunting when considering all the options, but technology integration is nothing more than a journey. Maybe teachers are under the impression that they have to jump in fully and make flawless lessons, but that’s not the case at all. I want to encourage you to set a small goal for this year to take the next step in your tech integration journey. Contact me if you want someone to brainstorm with- I love this stuff!