Monday, October 30, 2017

Looking Back and Planning Ahead

Quarter One Recap

Over the summer, I spent some time reflecting about the changes I wanted to make to my instructional practices this school year. I set two very large goals. First, I decided move to a math workshop model for daily math instruction. During our first quarter, we successfully settled into the daily expectations and flow of learning. My co-teacher and I have seen huge student benefits using this model including small group instruction, daily differentiation, and greater student motivation. With teaching about six or seven students at a time, we also have a much clearer understanding of each student’s progress toward mastery. At the end of quarter one, we started moving toward blended learning by incorporating technology into our workshop. We are excited to move forward with our workshop model next grading period.

My second large goal for this year is to incorporate at least one student project inspired by my graduate school learning each grading period. During the first quarter, my students used their Chromebooks to record video book talks and provide peer feedback as a performance assessment for our first language arts unit. My students learned important language concepts and technology skills while boosting their confidence when publishing work online.

Quarter Two Projects

There are two projects that I think my students are ready to take on this grading period that I’m pretty excited about!

Visual Literacy and Graphic Novels

I recently had a Donor’s Choose grant funded by some very generous donors to supply my class with sets of graphic novels. I learned all about the importance of visual literacy for our 21st century students this summer. I studied the benefits of graphic novels in teaching visual literacy, and now I plan to apply those concepts during small group instruction.

Some educators and parents are probably skeptical about using graphic novels and comics to teach reading skills and concepts. I used to agree with the stigma that comics and graphic novels aren’t “real reading” because I thought you need lots of text in order to engage in deep comprehension and improve reading skills. I’ve learned, though, that graphic novels are actually quite sophisticated. They require readers to practice abstract skills like making inferences, understanding symbolism and metaphors, and using point of view. What better way to engage reluctant readers to analyze text for deeper meaning?

Graphic novels also provide our students with practical and motivating ways to interpret information in different ways than traditional prose. More and more, student are acquiring information on the internet through videos, graphic depictions, models, and interactive learning modules. Learning to analyze and understand images through reading graphic novels is both relevant and beneficial for our digital learners.

If you’re interested in reading more about using graphic novels in your reading instruction, I recommend these two quick resources: NCTE’s Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom, and Scholastic's Comic Books.  

Student Blogging

There are so many potential learning benefits with student blogging. Not only can student create content for an authentic audience, they also have ownership and purpose for their writing. This quarter, I am having my students complete a weekly blog post to reflect on their learning for the week. They can post about anything they learn about as a way of processing their learning and setting goals for the following week. Classmates can comment and make connections to their peers, and parents can track their student’s weekly reflections and support their learning at home.

I have chosen to have student blogs center around reflection because I think it is a valuable learning task that is currently lacking in my classroom. Mindshift’s writing, What Meaningful Reflection On Student Work Can Do for Learning, says that in order for reflection to be meaningful, it must be metacognitive, applicable, and shared with others. I think it will take time to coach my students toward this type of reflection and away from simple summarization, but I think it will be incredibly beneficial for their learning.  

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