Monday, January 22, 2018

STEAM- Schluter's Journey

As educators, we know we are teaching students, training students to have jobs that currently do not exist. We accept the challenge to develop minds to be open to the unknown future. When we ask our students what they want to be when they grow up, we smile knowing good and well that we have no idea the opportunities they will have. We live in an age of ever changing technology, one that keeps information once memorized at our fingertips to be recalled at the push of a button. We live in a global society that with a connection that could not have been fathomed when we ourselves where in our students shoes.

Teaching is a cornerstone profession; it is a part of every profession out there. We are innovated enough to see that we have to teach our students- to solve problems, think for themselves, and to be risk takers. These are all very difficult skills to teach. It takes courage, confidences, and the ability to see that failure is not the end, but the beginning to real learning.  We are teaching our students to be future ready- whatever the future holds for them.

The importance of STEAM learning

We have been in the process of incorporating the idea of cross-curricular education within our school for 3 year now. We started small; with the Makerspace in the library during recess and have grown to have a full-on STEAM Lab. The process has not been an easy one, teachers are pulled in many directions and it is often hard to see the value of something new. Luckily for me, Schluter is a school full of innovative teachers that are willing to try new ideas and step out of their comfort zone to ensure our students are receiving the best education possible.

Our journey:

It all started with Christa telling me (because she did not ask!) that we needed a space for students to learn and explore what they are interested in. I agreed. She brought the idea of the Makerspace to Schluter. We worked to come up with challenges for the students to choose from; they signed up to come to the Markerspace during their recess time. There were also opportunities in the library for students to learn about what they were interested in as well. It was a great start! The students worked hard and came up with a variety of solutions for the problems posed. It was exciting to see the learning students where choosing to be a part of.

Then last year during our construction, we hit a snag… space. We did not have the space to grow our program or even to keep it going at the same level. Unfortunately, we were forced to scale back on what we were offering to our kids, BUT what this time did allow is for a team to start thinking about what our kids need. STEAM- we had a group that brainstormed what we were wanting for our kids, what it needed to look like, and what we needed to make it happen! Our team was made up of teachers here at Schluter as well as a representative from Chisholm Trail: they worked on grants, plans, and a vision. Our grant writing proved to be fruitless, but we did not allow this to slow us down. We had to look for down new avenues for our sponsorship.

Our STEAM Lab is filled with materials that were purchased by our PTA, our parents, as well as some of our teachers. We are incredibly blessed to be in a community that is so supportive of the innovation we bring to our students. This year, it has been exciting to see the students working in the lab, in the halls, and in your room. To have a student, who has maybe said five words to me all year, get excited about explaining how wind moves his transportation device- talk about powerful. Or to see a student that struggles social be the center of attention, because a lab was design around his love of a storybook character and disco- moving. The groups that have been in the lab or working on of the lab because it was full, have extremely engaged students who were making connections that otherwise might not have been seen. Has every lesson been a 100% perfect experience where each student mastered each portion of the lab? No, we are learning. We are learning about the process, our students, and the connections they are making when given the opportunity to demonstrate their learning a little different.  

The STEAM lessons that have been designed for our students have been incredible. I cannot wait to see what other lessons our teachers come up with next.



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.