Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How's It Going?

We are six weeks into the school year and I thought it might be time to take a look at the goals I set this summer to see how things are going.

Goal 1: Create a Dialogic Classroom.

I am still in the beginning stages with this goal. I do have a routine set up now that allows students to quickly turn and talk to a partner. We have had a few whole group discussions on bigger topics but I am still leading these. I have some more work to do before we can have whole group conversations that don't have to go through me. We are inching towards this though so I am optimistic that we will be there soon.

Goal 2: Increase student reflection and build a sense of agency.

I am much farther along with this goal. Last year I used questions like "How do you know?" and "How did you figure that out?" often during math. This year I am throwing out these questions all day long. The students are now comfortable answering them (for the most part) and know that my asking this question does not indicate a correct or incorrect response. They know that I will ask it at any time. They are beginning to get better at answering these types of questions. At first they wanted to say things like, "I just know." or "My brain just knows." Now they are beginning to think about what actually happened in their "brain" and trying to explain it.  We still have more work to do here but I am happy with how far we have come so far.

Goal 3: Allow more time for exploration/experimentation/play.

Of course, we could always use more time for these things but this year I have allotted at least some time to them. I have set up a Wonder and Explore center with things like seeds, pine cones, leaves, rocks, shells, coins from around the world, magnets and more. The students are enjoying exploring these things and using magnifying lenses to look at the items.

I have also added a Build and Create center and rotate various building toys and items through this center. We have blocks, gears, buttons, marble towers, art supplies and more. The crew is loving this, of course.

Other Smaller Goals

I had a short, more specific list of goals that were embedded in these larger goals. They were:

  • add Explore and Wonder Center
  • add Build and Create Center
  • don't add more tech tools - use the ones I am currently using in better ways
  • okay, learn to use Skitch, Evernote and Shelfari - think of how these can connect to other goals
  • expand use of ShowMe to include deeper thinking
  • connect more with other classes
  • learn to have conversations
  • have students reflect more
I have done the first two goals and I am working on the others. I do have Shelfari set up on the sidebar of my classroom blog and have added books as we have read them this year. I still need to train the kids to add the books but that will come. I have learned how to use Skitch and have notebooks set up in Evernote but I haven't used them yet. We will begin using ShowMe tomorrow.

The last little goal that I wanted to meet this year was to have students do a thinking activity that I read about in Opening Minds this summer. It is the game where you come up with other uses for random items. You can read more about this here.

So while I have lots more work to do, lots of progress has been made. The best part is that these are goals that I am very excited about so working on them is very engaging to me.