Wednesday, August 16, 2017

“It is like my favorite.”

      My family, LSU, purple, Schluter, Northwest, chocolate, reading, Fall, September, college football, Google, pumpkins...I could go on and on; these are some of my favorite things. I sit here and think about what I am most excited about as we return to school this month and honestly, I can’t narrow it down to one thing or even two! I LOVE coming back to school. Yes- it is stressful, Yes- it is a lot of work, Yes- I feel it won’t get done, but once the teachers walk in the door… the magic starts to happen.
      This year has been different than any other year in my teaching experience; the teachers at Schluter Elementary have taken a small idea of decorating our halls (doors, bulletin boards, entry way, etc) and have blown it up! The time, effort, and attention to detail that the teachers have taken in decorating the halls has done nothing less than inspires me. They have spent the time to get their rooms ready (nothing new) and taken their own time to make our halls come alive. I cannot wait to see the students eyes when they walk into school on the first day.
   The beginning of the school is a special time of year; the possibilities are limitless. Just as every sports team feels that it is there year when they first start the season, every teacher feels they will reach every student and help them make growth, and every student comes back to school with a fresh start. John Hattie says not putting a label on students has a huge effect on how students will perform during the year; he isn’t referring to labels like Special Education, Dyslexia, or GT- he is talking about the label, we as educators, put on the students when we look at our class list. The judgement we might place on names that we have "heard" about. This year let us look at our student list and get excited about the difference we are going to make in these kids lives this year, the difference these kids are going to make in our lives, and the growth the students are going to make because they are in YOUR class. Let’s make sure we allow each student to have a clean slate; it is amazing to see students rise to levels they previously had not been expected of them.
     Take a moment to think about how this is going to be your favorite year ever. Enjoy your back to school time!



Monday, April 10, 2017

Class Discussion

It is April, we are coming to the end of yet another school year. This is a time of year that generates lots of emotion: excitement of summer, fear of lots of indoor recess, and stress because you only have a little time left with your kids. Whatever this time of year makes you feel, it is important to make the most of the time we have with our classes. What are we doing with our students this last Six Weeks to make an impact on them: as students and as people. What opportunities are we giving them?

We know students start getting antsy this time of year, so what are we doing to help them learn? We love to talk, they love to talk, let us make sure we are giving students the opportunity to have conversations. If we intentionally plan to give them the time to talk about what they are thinking, we will have given them the opportunity to own their learning and we have met their social need to talk at the same time. Now, I am not advocating letting them sit and be social as much as they want. I am, however, advocating for them to have structured discussion time. I was in two classrooms today where the students were working in groups.  The students’ conversation were great! I heard academic vocabulary, in-depth discussion over what the picture was showing and why, as well as students sharing the data they found while researching. Did the students have to be reminded to lower their voices? Yes. Did the teacher take away the time? Nope. There is a balancing act between allowing conversations and disrupting the others around them. It was great learning and the students were very excited to share their ideas.

Class Discussion can help kids move 2 years! ( .82 According to Hattie)  Using talk moves and purposeful talk strategies is a great way to give students the tools to hold conversations that have substance. Our goal is to teach students to be lifelong learners, to have the drive to want to learn on their own. Having conversations with peers that give them confidence, is a great way to start that journey.  In the next few weeks, look at your lesson plans to ensure you are planning times for your students to discuss with their peers their ideas and thinking about what they are learning.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Biggest Bang for your Buck!

The Biggest Bang for your Buck!

In education, we talk a lot about there not being enough time. No matter what we do, there will never be enough time. The question we need to focus on is, “What are we doing with that time?” Are we utilizing every second we have? Have we intentionally planned to maximize the time we do have? The facts are this; the teachers I work with are working as hard as they can; they cannot work any harder. The answer is not working hard; the answer is working smarter. We need to use teaching practices that give us, what John Hattie calls, the highest effect size in Impact: Visible Learning for Literacy. Hattie defines the “effect size” as “the magnitude of the impact that a given approach has.”  (Douglas Fisher, 2016) By looking at our practices and refining what we do, we will make large impacts on the gains our students make. By looking at the “best practices” and the effect size it has on students, we can look at what we need to be doing as teachers to get the biggest bang for our buck. There is no one-size-fits-all or magic answer, but there is a way to make informed decisions on the instruction in our classrooms that will make giant impacts on our students learning.

Collective Teacher Efficacy

The belief that the teacher matters and the belief that the teachers are affecting student learning in a positive way. To have collective teacher efficacy, teachers on the team fully adhere in the idea that your students are learning more than they would in another class at another school because of what is happening in their classrooms. According to Hattie, teacher self- efficacy can give you 3 yrs. growth in just one year (Douglas Fisher, 2016). For this to be possible, it all starts with a team. A group of teachers that set out to do what is best for kids; they set aside distractions, they plan with intentionality, they base all planning on data, and are willing to try new ideas to better meet the needs of all their students. There is student ownership by the collective team and not by any one or two teachers.   We need to build trust in our teams; we need to be able to rely on each other to help all our kids. This is where we need to be to help each of our students make gains and be successful!