The first day of school, the impression that one gets, is so critical to everyone involved in learning. This year? You may need to rearrange your classroom and your way of thinking. The question to educators at the beginning of this school year should be: how are you going to teach social justice and make students feel empowered at the same time? Teaching tolerance, social justice, and diversity promote further discussion on the topics. Educators need to begin that discussion. But! In order to have an authentic learning experience about such concepts through discussions and student-centered lessons, the classroom must be a safe haven first, as I have mentioned in my Mission Statement. Once the students and the teacher feel safe, begin the discussion; discuss student fear, sadness, and doubt. And ask yourself, ask students, what role can we play to help prevent bigotry and stop the violence in our community and in the United States?
Perhaps you first need to examine your own teaching practices; be aware of anything you think you could change to make the learning setting an anti-racist atmosphere any more than it is. Children and teachers both must have a voice that explores anti-racism together. As Educators, we are obligated to create a positive sharing environment. As I said before, children’s voices are the loudest and most profound. Listen, really listen, to what students say and what they share. They have much to say and would love to be heard. It is difficult sometimes, or rather challenging, to keep bias 100% out of your learning environment. If we are not careful, we may influence a child to make a different choice because of something we instilled in them. Educators are human. We make mistakes in the learning environment. We do sometimes fail, yet we also succeed. If we can manage to keep bias out of the classroom? We will achieve success in promoting equality for all. What is happening across the US affects everyone living here. That includes students; it needs to be addressed.
The beginning of this school year will be different for a number of reasons, but particularly because of recent events, the air will be heavy with questions, and there must be school responsiveness. There is a cultural upheaval going on, not just events in North Carolina, but across the US and around the world. We also must include Hurricane Irma and Harvey in Houston and all other current events. How do you resolve to teach lessons at the beginning of this school year that is factual and does not involve opinions or bias? As adults, we may feel anxiety, sadness, fear, and anger because of these events. Imagine how an eleventh-grade student may feel on the first day of school. Now, imagine how a second-grade student may feel on that first day. We must be factual, compassionate, understanding, and empathetic when the questions are bound to begin.
Working as a team in the classroom is a significant accomplishment. I really could not figure out what picture to use. I finally selected the photograph above because it is a symbol of what can be accomplished if we work together. As with just about everything, relationships are interdependent. In this photo I am in the middle of a pyramid, working together with my friends to make it work. It took a bit of trial and error, yet we managed to take two pictures. We worked together to get the perfect pyramid, and to us, it was. Just as with my pyramid, relationships in any learning environment should also be symbiotic. Student relationships with their peers, teacher to student relationships, and the learning environment – as a whole – create a classroom dynamic. Working together, students and teacher, in these educational roles, putting forth an honest effort, is crucial to the success of the students. If we didn’t work together to create our imperfect pyramid? It would never have worked. Teamwork is critical.
The teacher and students will then create a safe learning environment. I believe this is important to emphasize beginning on day one. Bring on the team building and icebreaker activities! Show students through lessons and activities that we can depend on one another and trust are needed to create a safe and honest educational setting. Educators must prepare a curriculum that answers the questions that are bound to be asked.
We have to ask ourselves and our students, under the circumstances of our country today, what role does each of us play? We know that racism exists in our communities. To begin, write a letter to the class. Read it to the class on the first day. What you want to do is engage students in discussions about diversity that might not take place otherwise. Define community as it applies to your students. Then, discuss the classroom community using a higher level of thought. Ask open-ended questions. Discuss what is acceptable within our classroom community. This is the perfect time for students to create a classroom constitution that contains rights, privileges, and responsibilities. Wants vs needs and rights vs privileges. The students work together to positively frame sentences that are optimistic and work towards equality in the classroom. You could frame it and hang it on the wall for the entire year, for all to see, upon completion. Refer back to it throughout the entire school year. Help students understand the differences between all three. Record this lesson to show parents, use in student conferences, and take pictures to use for a bulletin board displaying how you worked together as a team to create your classroom constitution.
A great way to explore diversity in the classroom is through anti-racism role playing. You want to have an authentic experience, but will they be their authentic selves? Get to know your students during this time. Listen to them. Make the lesson student centered. Ask the essential questions to get a response that is thoughtful and analytical. Students are typically very expressive. Role playing is a way to be entirely dramatic to get a point across. Students are allowed to express themselves with creativity. Set the scene, and let the students run with it. Guide them if they get off track. Make sure everyone is equally involved. You want the students to understand, given certain circumstances, that anti-racism is the goal. They need to understand what it feels like to be in another’s shoes and be given another’s perspective. How would they want to be treated in these particular situations?
Once your students understand empathy, introduce a book based on true events. The Only Road is a book I recommend. It is intended for ages 8-12 and grades 3-7. I disagree with that. I find the book to be intended for upper elementary at the earliest! Fifth grade through young adult readers is what I recommend. Third grade is too young. It is shocking. I recommend an introduction to the author first, Alexandra Diaz. She is an amazing woman who lives in New Mexico. One more thing that makes the book stand out is her third person narration. It is a must read. There are also many Spanish words in this book; readers will find a Glossary in the back. I love that! In this way and many others, The Only Road, is challenging. This book is incredible. The story involves young teens in Guatemala entrenched in a horrific story to get to the US. There are also suggestions for further reading from picture books to young adult books. Additionally, there are online resources for more information.
Author, Alexandra Diaz, includes a separate section of further reading for teachers that may not be proper for children. Okay, that being said, this is an intense book. I am not saying that flippantly, I mean it. It deals with struggles of death, of violence, and it also happens to be inspired by true events. Read the entire book, of course, before sharing it in class. I suggest it as a read-aloud, in class only, together. Use stopping points, allow for wait time, discuss student answers, answer questions, pre-select your critical questions, and allow time for processing. As I said, this is an intense book and it is shocking; to be used in an older, large group setting
There is a need now, to discuss concepts, to teach concepts, that I have mentioned here: empathy, tolerance, bias, social justice, diversity, bigotry, anti-racism, perspective, rights, privileges, and responsibility. As a teacher, I believe it is my responsibility to do so. Teaching for social justice and anti-racism is some of the most important work we can do as teachers. The whole purpose of working as a team is to understand we will come to an understanding of equality for all, together. When you do? Then the students will be empowered.
Lights! Camera! Student Action! Wihoo! Get ready to take a page from my Retro-Tech Handbook.
When I was teaching first grade, I found out that the Director of this particular school had scheduled a Polaroid in-service for all teachers. To be honest with you, it was the first time I truly looked forward to an in-service. Correction! I was always all for, ‘Rah-Rah-Sis Boom-Bah’! Otherwise known as morale boosters or team building workshops. But personally, I would rather have learned about something relevant to me; something that would engage students, get students moving, and make them think. And, boy! That’s exactly what I got.
Instant picture devices are entirely beneficial due to the fact that results are almost immediate. I can tell you this: when I took the new camera I had gained from the workshop back to my first-grade classroom, the ideas just magically fell into place. Lessons were coming alive! And the first time I used the instant camera in a lesson, my first graders were so into it that we almost missed lunch – because enthusiastic and authentic learning was taking place, with the help of a Polaroid camera.
In ELA, we were studying diphthongs and digraphs, and variations of morphemes, when the Polaroid camera entered the student lesson. I gave simple instructions to my first graders; grabbing quickly onto those instructions, taking off with them like a model rocket! Everything from brainstorming, working collaboratively, voting on choices, assigning tasks, and finally, who was going to do what in what order.
I had fifteen first grade students in this classroom. The lesson was led by students, organized by students, performed by students; it was an ideal student-centered lesson. My simple instructions were, “Choose ten letter sets out of our morphemes that we have been learning in class. Take pictures representing all ten on the back playground. Everyone, minus the picture taker, will be in the photo. SHOW me your diphthongs and digraphs!” And so they did. They actually took pictures of all diphthongs and digraphs we were learning. They just didn’t want to stop at ten. I saw pictures of frowns, shadows, tricks, singers, and much more morphemes! It is so exciting that I can remember it just as it happened. The playground air was electric with learning, more collaborating, and plenty of picture-taking!
The only drawback of instant picture devices is that the film is expensive.
Videos in the learning environment also work well. The first time I used a video recording in the classroom, I was actually taping myself and using it as an evaluation. It was a poetry lesson in a mixed classroom, grades 4 and 5 participated; they were engaged, I was happy to see. But, I couldn’t help thinking that the students could have really taken off with this specific activity. But, instead I ‘taught curriculum’. It should and could have been student-centered. I stifled their creativity with my ‘curriculum’. Use your recording device to self-evaluate and grow professionally.
I learned a great deal from watching that video lesson. Keep in mind, the video was from 20 years ago. I do wish I could share it with you. But, now in modern Education? So long ago, I was the example of what not to do – today. That is the progression of Education, and personally, my journey of learning how to teach the best way I can. Thankfully, I evolved. My lessons have always included project-based learning, which was emphasized throughout my entire elementary education courses at Oakland University. But, in this lesson? I was the ‘Teacher’ and they were the ‘Students’. You know what I mean? True and eager learning did not take place. I examined that tape over and over until I really saw my mistakes (I do not encourage this!). But as with any evaluating tool, a focus on the positive is necessary, not just for students, but for you.
I used this tool for learning, which is great for self-reflection, and learned more than I could if it was just in my memory. In your own recording, in your self-reflection, make sure to ask yourself questions such as: Did the students think critically? Was their work correctly documented through pictures, videos, writing with illustrations, journal notes, or audio? Was the lesson student-centered? Were the students engaged using a higher level of thought? Did you use strategic questioning? Did it include movement? Were you available for the students at critical times, like transitioning? Were there choices for the student? Did you give concise and clear instructions so that the students could see with clarity the expectations of them?
Imagine how to use video recording for your students. Creating shorts, students documenting actual learning as it progresses, handling the task of learning how to edit, you recording your students for parents to see – particularly for parent conferences, and more. Excellent for students! Helpful for you – bonus! What you need to decide on is the best method of video recording for your students. Today we have the capability of video recording even with our phones. Imagine your students handling the video recording device. Depending upon their development, grade, and age, choose the method that works best for your students. Or better yet, give them a choice. Take such things into consideration before making a purchase or using the school’s equipment. Incorporating recordings into your classroom will only bring you greater success with students. Think about purchasing a device so that you may always have it on hand.
The big drawback of integrating recordings into your classroom is that the devices are relatively expensive. If you think about it as an investment in your students for many years to come, it will be easier!
Audio recordings are also quite useful. I had a mini-cassette recorder in all of my classrooms, as well as a tape player that recorded with a microphone and regular cassette tapes. You may think cassette tapes are obsolete today. Yet, in the classroom, they are entirely practical and effective. Just think of all you could do with an audio-taping device! Read-alouds, audio theatre, reading conferences, echo reading, read-alongs, chants, singing, and so much more. I used the tape player as an option when a student had completed work and had some time; I would ask them to record a book for the classroom. Not only did it build my audio library – bonus! Many students enjoy audio books. And recording each audio book with inflection is a cool challenge. The students cannot get enough of it.
The only drawback of audio recordings in any learning environment is that the tapes as I have described here, are not durable – as some of us remember from sticking our fingers in the cassette holes to fix in our younger days! Use a method for audio recording in your learning environment that will be best for your students.
Digital cameras are quite handy in all learning environments. You are able to see the picture in the camera or on a computer screen almost immediately. Editing photos should be in the children’s hands while clear directions are given. [NOTE: When I say things like this last sentence? I ALWAYS mean that you can adjust for any K -12 learning environment, with tweaks here and there]. You want children as young as a kindergartener to experience each lesson as well. You may need to hold the camera, you may need to have students dictate their thoughts to you as you write them, and you may need to edit and even improvise the activity yourself on the spot. And of course, being able to improvise a lesson entirely on the spot comes with time.
Digital cameras are fun not only because students can use a flash drive and take them home, but they can edit their photos in any way they want. For example, creating a slide show, using visual effects, editing itself – like cropping and rotating, adding text, and more.
The biggest drawback for me? If you have to print the photos, you use a lot of ink. And if you have to take them to an autoprocessing store, it is an entire pain because all teachers already have enough on their to do lists!
You may think some of the things I have listed here as obsolete, but it does not have to be that way. Sure, we want to prove our digital citizenship; use your computers and tablets for many lessons. Yet, every learning environment, K-12, can find a use for ‘retro tech’ implementation. The information I have provided here is meant to help you utilize supplemental activities into your learning environment. Particularly in today’s advanced computer world. What I have listed here are meant as options in that learning environment. This post is meant to help you develop as a teacher and help your students to enjoy retro tech. Encourage young individuals to problem-solve their way through a lesson, and to be so engaged that authentic learning may take place. Project-based learning.
I want to bring attention to recording in any learning environment. Make sure parents and the powers that be are okay with it, possibly including parents signing any necessary waivers. Recording in any of the ways that I have mentioned is truly authentic learning. Get your students moving. And particularly, make them think their way through education.
[NOTE: If ever YOU need clarity on how to adjust one of my ideas to meet your grade level expectations, please ask me!]
Spelling plays an important role to students in the capacity of English Language Arts. On one level, it makes writing easier for a student. When children feel confident and successful in their reading and writing abilities, they feel empowered. As educators and parents, we want to help foster a love for English Language Arts, in order to empower our children.
Spelling knowledge can beneficially effect the quality of students’ reading experiences and the quality of their writing experiences as well. There are two reasons for this. First, spelling knowledge facilitates perceptions of specific words. As spelling becomes more automatic, perception of spelling patterns develop more generally across a growing sight word vocabulary, which ensures reading comprehension. Second, spelling knowledge reinforces word analysis strategies because it reflects structural information and vocabulary information about words.
We know that spelling involves more than just rote memorization. Although memory is certainly critical, it must be used efficiently. We must be sensitive to where our students are along their development of word-knowledge, and their conceptualization of word structure. Otherwise we may wind up presenting them with spelling tasks at which they will surely fail, because they will rely strictly upon memorization. This is somewhat similar to an attempt to memorize ten to fifteen new phone numbers each week and to remember them all school year long. A phenomenal task!
Students’ understanding of spelling structure appears to follow a developmental sequence of stages. As their word knowledge becomes more advanced, children reorganize the ways in which they conceptualize and exercise the spelling of words. Once children are writing exclusively with recognizable letters, they are more into the semi-phonemic and letter-name stages. These stages are characterized by the representation of some but not all sounds within syllables: for example, a student may write “BD” for “bird”. Few, if any, vowels are written. As children are exposed to more words in print and are read to, the concept of word develops and their spelling becomes primarily alphabetic. They begin to attend to most sounds and represent them with the corresponding letter: for example, “FETHR” for “feather”. Children will begin to spell some words correctly as they build upon their sight word vocabulary.
The next phase is within-word pattern stage, which involves an understanding of the patterns to which letters and sounds correspond within single syllable words. Sight words provide the foundation for this understanding. Children begin to learn and sort out vowel patterns. They may, for example, write “MAEK” for “make”. As students read and examine within-word vowel and consonant relationships, and as they exercise various spelling patterns, they gradually come to sort them out and use them correctly.
Once students understand most of the basic within-word single syllable patterns, they are conceptually ready for words of more than one syllable. They are ready for the syllable juncture stage. Children will examine what happens when syllables come together, for example, “sit” becomes “sitting”. In this phase, children begin to master the conventions that govern the joining of syllables.
The final stage, derivational patterns stage, occurs when spelling and vocabulary are intertwined through the spelling-meaning connection, in that students recognize that words related in meaning share similar spellings.
As educators and parents we want to help foster a creative spark in our children’s writing. Spelling is an important part of the developmental picture of English Language Arts. We need not hinder that creative spark by insisting upon dictionary spelling, but appreciate the learning process our children are going through as a whole. We need to walk them through a specific spelling pattern and then engage them in active exploration of the pattern. This way students will be much more likely to apply the knowledge they acquire in their spelling lessons to their everyday writing.
Quotes can be inspirational and motivational; they can also be used as a mini or a long lesson for students in any learning environment. Begin the day or end the day analyzing a nicely chosen, famous quote. It can put the students in a good mood to begin their day or end their school day on a thoughtful or positive note. This is the reason that quotes themselves must be chosen carefully by the teacher. For example, you can choose a quote containing information as it relates to the students you teach about their own learning environment and make it an authentic experience. Choices also include: oral mini-stories within a quote, satirical or funny quotes, quotes about society as seen through the eyes of the author during their lifetime, controversial quotes, quotes from the youngest of authors, and quotes using wit and sarcasm can be fun and exciting – once the realization that it is ‘sarcasm’, as defined by your students, the reaction is phenomenal. Using quotes in the classroom allows for critical thinking, analytical thought, and deep comprehension if you plan your lessons well.
I receive a quote each day through my email because I enjoy reading famous quotes on Goodreads (in the form of an email) which states the quote and gives a mini bio on the author. The quotes arrive each morning in my inbox, and I can immediately tell if it will make me think, but even more so, I have to decide if it will make students think. That’s when I decide if lessons can be created from the quote and if the quote requires students to use critical thinking skills.
I find my own daily quotes to be inspirational and motivational, and they help me to use my cognitive skills at a higher level of thought, first thing in the morning. Can I analyze it? Can I give evidence from the quote that will help me understand the author’s intention? Can I support my claims of the author’s intention by providing evidence from the text? Are the authors using wit or sarcasm? What year would students think it was written? So many critical, open-ended questions, and so many possible directions where discussions could lead. All the while, using critical thinking skills. The quotes sent to me daily from Goodreads are chosen as that day’s quote for a reason: because they make you think.
Look back to the Helen Keller quote at the beginning of my first blog post. Primarily, students first must decipher the intent, and then brainstorm possible meanings of the quote. It is always better to have someone to bounce ideas off in the classroom; students are expected to work collaboratively. With that in mind, students will casually break into small groups or at least partners and document their findings. Classroom management skills required: watch students by walking around all desks, listening to conversations. Are students on task? Take anecdotal notes. What questions can you ask in case you need to redirect students? Students will be moving. Students will be talking among partners or small groups at a proper to a slightly raised noise level. It is to be expected. Movement and an increased volume are actually important to the lesson.
Students will use prior knowledge, analyze evidence, cite evidence, and conclude what it means to the student individually. Document in a famous quotes notebook or journal. Finally, choose a student to direct the end of the lesson. Students can work together to graph all meanings. Directions: Any questions asked will be open-ended. Direct students to think about the person who wrote a particular quote and what conditions or environment the author were in. Incorporate technology and use a search engine to discover who the author is or was if they have passed. Document highlights through pictures or a video on a weekly basis to share. Put the quote on a timeline for history’s sake parallel to the author’s life span. What was going on around the world during that particular time period? How is this quote significant to us today in our everyday lives? And, how may we apply this message towards our future? Student-centered interaction in small and large groups is so exciting!
Most of us know who this is:
Dr. Seuss, throughout his lifetime – between 1904 and 1991 – was quoted many times because he was concise, entertaining, and he made you think. He happened to be speaking of the value of confidence in this particular quote. Do you see how this could be a quote for students to analyze? Remember to switch it up as much as possible, keeping in mind your how best to incorporate student’s critical thinking skills. Also, students like whimsical quotes, as well quotes which are almost a puzzle to figure out. Use quotes that have an intelligible message that is important for students to hear. Do keep a ‘Famous Quotes and Their Meanings’ journal or classroom notebook to document along the way – a whole year of inspiration!
Check with your school Principal or the powers that be, and seek answers from Goodreads. Perhaps your students may also ‘like’ quotes on Goodreads as a member with a profile or at least a classroom profile. Students are able to put books on their ‘shelves’ easily labeling them as Education, Want to Read, Read, Favorites, or whatever labels the students choose. They may choose their favorite books, follow authors, friend each other, and choose genres to explore. Very G rated. Students will have rules that you create together, closely monitoring in such a lesson. Whether in elementary school, middle school, or high school, students will thrive on their own success when accountability is necessary. They have freedom in choice of books. To own their own page? Which is, of course, their profile, they can offer tidbits of information about themselves, and be proud of what they created. They can also message friends about new books they have been introduced to, they can give recommendations as an assignment, and this also happens to be a good way for students to learn about famous authors or the people behind the quotes. Authors are not just a name on a book. Research famous authors that did influence the country in many ways, as before, Dr. Seuss. He had a purpose, he was not only entertaining to children, but to adults as well, with his giant vocabulary, a gift for making you laugh and think at the same time, and a creative mind that explored scientific and societal ideas well before their time (example – The Lorax).
So much to discover! It’s up to you to make this a morning routine wrapped up in ten minutes, or an end of the day lesson, or to begin one in morning to let students think about it throughout their day, and then finish it as the last lesson of their day. You choose how to merge famous quotes into your learning environment. There are many famous, inspirational, and motivational quotes available online used as resources for the Educator. You only need to enter into a search engine ‘famous quotes in the classroom’ and you will find many resources leading you to educational quotes. I am actually trying to figure out how to legally share URL’s or links to resources involving famous quotes here on my site. Like I said, I am still learning :). Even join Goodreads yourself to explore possibilities. For a personal effect, share quotes with meaning to your own education or life, and tell students why. This makes it more personable and meaningful for students.
However you decide you would like to use quotes in your learning environment? Make it interesting, make it meaningful, and make sure that the students are engaged utilizing critical thinking skills proper to their age and reading level. For younger students, dictate what students have to offer, applying it to Goodreads as a classroom page and profile. It is all up to you. Movement is good. Expressive voices are excellent. Keep that in mind when choosing a quote and how to use it in your schedule with students. If you choose morning routine, you will want your students to enjoy a positive experience as it is the morning activity; if their day did not start right at home, you can help to do so with a positive lesson. Additionally, accommodations can be made for a quotes lesson or activity to fit into each and every classroom, any time of the school day, with students of all ages. And remember, before Goodreads can be incorporated into a learning environment, check to make sure it is allowed and encouraged by the powers that be in your learning environment.
Hellen Keller was an icon. “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement” is a famous quote of hers; my favorite quote because it embodies the sentiment I feel about Education as a whole. I interpreted her quote through educational means for this post. By choosing optimism in life and in the classroom – you choose achievement and the movement towards success with your students. Optimism is contagious, invigorating, and inspirational. Teachers, educators, and parents alike must set their sights high and adhere to optimism for their students. We set the example. Make sure it is a positive one.
I choose Twitter to share ideas with other professional educators that I would not be able to otherwise; they are all over the globe. The most innovative and current ideas for student success are shared through tweets, re-tweets, and #hashtag discussions. Twitter for education is a success. I use Twitter to communicate information that will encourage other educators to be optimistic with students; looking towards the future with increased hope, more empowerment, more ideas, and greater enthusiasm. Educators are looking forward to progress in every student’s educational career. Twitter is one way to take part in empowering students. For example, #EdChats on Twitter involve educators from all over, learning and sharing valuable information, on just about every topic relevant to education. We have Twitter conversations about how to make the learning experiences of Pre-K through 12 students truly authentic, particularly mindful, engaging, and empowering. Twitter helps make it possible for me to communicate with top educators; to truly take part in educational chats; to help students to thrive for success; allow educators to gain a global connection that will affect students in a positive way. Maybe your students could experience Twitter as well?
Depending upon the policies in place for your learning environment, you may be able to merge Twitter into your week. The whole point of sharing information on a platform such as Twitter for educators is to learn from one another, to look at adverse situations teachers face daily or weekly or monthly, and collaboratively come up with solutions to make every teaching environment and teachable moment the best it can be. This is an option for students as well: sharing relevant knowledge of an idea on Twitter that can be applied to real-life, student-life, situations which can be an incredible feeling in and of itself. Knowing that your knowledge will help an educator or a student is empowering. One great way for students or teachers to share positive, educational experiences is to create a classroom Twitter account. So many possibilities!
My village, or my ‘PLN’, includes #EdChat participants that focus on different aspects of the teaching field. For example, ADHD in the classroom; Math strategies for all students, Reading and Writing documentation, inspiring morning routines that help celebrate each day, technology in the classroom, developing digital citizens for the future, and so much more. The educators that I interact with are positive, ready to meet all student needs, and are proactive in choosing optimism. I choose optimism because I see it as a path to achievement and success, for students and for educators.
Quotes, such as Helen Keller’s, on the classroom board first thing in the morning can set the mood for the day. I wanted to share this quote with you because I hope that it resonates with you as it did with me. Helen Keller epitomized the act of being optimistic; in life, under adverse conditions, and in achieving success in spite of it. Educators truly are working in difficult conditions in today’s world of teaching. Teachers face scrutiny on a daily basis. Standardized testing and changing public policies can have an arduous cause and effect relationship on the path to student learning. Yet, I still feel it is true: educators that choose to be optimistic? They take the road to achievement for students in their classroom. Positive energy begets positive energy.
What are other ways to interject optimism into the journey of achievement and success in your learning environment? And how do you carry that out in your daily life? What are your ideas? What are your strategies? What are parts of your routine that are implemented so that optimism is always on the classroom menu?
Here are a 3 creative, optimistic, and elaborated ideas that I would like to share with you:
- A great way to engage students is through pictures and video created in the classroom. Taking pictures of one another is fun; selfie shots are too! Pictures of completed tasks, before shots and after shots, and seeing the entire project through the process of learning in a lesson is exciting! Pictures displaying final results can be used as a presentation board. What is most important is that you see the progress in the learning process throughout the pictures or video. Students and teachers become so engaged in the project that the idea of learning is secondary and authenticity is number one. More on this in another blog post.
- Why not enjoy and analyze an inspirational quote? A quote meant to generate discussion, first among peers, and then with the teacher. Use quotes from all genres, including varied people, through different time periods, to keep the momentum going for critical thinkers in your learning environment. You may delve into a topic that may even be necessary for the classroom using critical thinking skills. On certain days, celebrate the message of the quote. Personally, I love to ‘like’ quotes on Goodreads. Your students could actually do the same, creating their own Goodreads account, if the powers that be allow it. The quote I picked at the beginning of this blog post was to generate deeper discussion and to use and apply critical thinking skills. I have explained how I do apply the quote to my everyday life. Just one more quote! The following is another of my favorites for students: ” Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself ‘…”— C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves). Positive learning experiences with quotes can help students see life from another’s perspective, interpret the quote in their own way, all of which could lead to a group discussion on a deeper level. Collaborative discussions on quotes in any learning environment will also be examined in another blog post.
- Shared writing is an excellent source for authentic learning experiences, regardless of age or grade level. Writers need to both see knowledgeable writers at work (a peer or educator modeling experienced writing) and to take part in writing situations as often as possible in authentic and well-documented ways with as much support as possible. Buddy writing, transferring a student-recorded story onto paper, writing mentors within the student’s themselves, writing conferences among peers, the game Concentration in a large group setting and interpreted through writing, pictures of a shared writing experience, think-alouds, and questioning the author… these are all great ideas. According to NCTE and Sharan A Gibson, Ph.D.: “Shared writing lessons will allow you to both model and actively engage students in the writing processes that they most need to improve their writing.” Every age needs shared writing. Just imagine a story eleventh-grade students could put together collaboratively! This is an optimistic choice. This is how faith leads to achievement and success. The (success) story is the achievement! More about documenting writing ideas in future posts.
My hope is that Helen Keller’s quote inspired you as much as it did me. Students deserve our optimism, generated from parents and educators alike. Helen Keller’s quote generated discussion here with just me. Think about how you could use quotes as a part of your routine. How do you ‘choose’ optimism in life in these challenging times? What positive and creative ideas do you have to offer from your student-learning experiences? Please, share your ideas. I certainly would love to hear from you!