Wednesday, November 5, 2014

NaBloPoMo - Day 5 - The Tale of Two Classes

It was the best of times... it was the worst of times...  Seriously.

Some background information for today's story:
  • I love my membership to ASCD.  Their monthly magazine, Educational Leadership, is simply awesome.  If you are looking for quality professional reading, I highly recommend a subscription to ASCD!
  • I am the AVID Coordinator for my school.  Each Wednesday, I send out a WICOR Wednesday strategy to the staff with an instructions on how to implement a classroom best practice strategy.
  • My school is on a modified block schedule, where 3 days a week we have a typical 6 period 55 minute day, and the other 2 days are 100 minute block periods and a homeroom class.  Today was a block day.

How much do I love ASCD?  Let me count the ways...
A few nights ago, I realized that November was here and therefore a new Educational Leadership magazine was waiting for me on my iPad.  The theme of this month's issue "Talking and Listening" and I wasn't quite prepared for the goodness that was inside!

One of the first articles was called Speaking Volumes by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey and I was hooked.  My main goal this year is Student Engagement and for a few years, I've been trying to increase student-led discussion moments in my classroom. 

Some of my favorite quotes from the article:
... productive student talk can help a classroom move from good to great.
The person talking is probably thinking.
 It matters who's talking in class because the amount of talk that students do is correlated with their achievement. 
When students aren't asked to talk and think, well-meaning teachers fill the time with their own speaking.
Talking helps students clarify their understanding, and it helps teachers identify when to intervene.
When students have the opportunity to confront a problem with others, even when they initially fail at the task, they learn something from the experience...

How does that tie in with AVID?
I have been involved with our school's AVID program for years.  I served on the Site Team for a few years, then became an AVID elective teacher for a few years, and I'm currently in my 3rd year serving as our Site Coordinator.  One of my major passions is professional learning, which is part of the reason why I'm so active with #EduRead, doing book studies and other online PD opportunities.  When I became the Site Coordinator, I really wanted to reach out to our staff members and share easy to implement strategies that incorporate Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading (WICOR).  As a result, WICOR Wednesday was born.  Each Wednesday of the school year, I type up a strategy and send it to the staff.  Today's strategy was inspired by the article Talking to Learn, also from this month's issue of Educational Leadership.

Time to tie it all together...
So today started like any other Wednesday... I have my planning period during the 1st block and I spent the first part of my plan typing up and sending out today's WICOR Wednesday strategy.  I used the rest of my planning time to cross a few more things off my to-do list and I also spent a bit of time looking over my lesson plan for today, practicing it in my head, looking at the flow and pacing of the block period. 

It was the worst of times...
My first class of a Wednesday block also happens to be my largest class of 33 students.  I started into my lesson and the first 30 minutes or so were going great.  After that, it went downhill.  I totally ignored everything that I knew to be true from the articles I had *just* re-read earlier this morning and ended up stealing the learning opportunity from my students.  Instead of letting them have the productive struggle that I knew was necessary, I felt myself taking more control and talking more than I should have.  This lack of student thinking really showed its ugly head in the last 20 minutes of class during some independent practice.  Since the students hadn't grappled with the topics on their own, the independent practice turned into a "run around the classroom putting out fires" situation for me.  I was NOT a happy camper by the time class ended and I had no one to blame but myself.. :(

It was the best of times...
My next (and last class) of a Wednesday block happens to be my smallest class of 28 students.  I started my lesson the same as the previous class and again things started out great. This time, though, I gave the students time to grapple with the material, to have the discussions and thinking time needed to "prime the pump" before I started with a mini lecture to solidify the thinking and answer the lingering questions.  I love walking around while students are talking.. I learn so much!  I can find out where my instructions are unclear, I can get a better glimpse into the student's level of understanding, and I watch students gain confidence with the academic language of statistics.  This time, the last 20 minutes was vastly different.  Students jumped into the independent practice time with more confidence, asking good questions of their groupmates, and referring to the appropriate notes without additional prompting from me.

Today held a powerful lesson for me as a teacher and can be summed up in just three words... BE LESS HELPFUL! :)

Today I'm Thankful For:
Dollar Tree!  Anyone that knows me, knows that I love and adore Dollar Tree.  I had a student last year buy me a giftcard to Dollar Tree because she knew I bought a lot of classroom supplies there.  Tonight, I literally went to Dollar Tree to buy paperclips and fully expected to only spend $2, only to walk out with $20 of stuff. :)  I'm a paperclip snob - I like the coated kind and hate the metal ones that snag the paper and I figure that 250 coated paperclips for a dollar is quite worth it.  Of course, that also means I have to walk down the office supply aisle... and then I walked out with 6 new packs of pens... :)  In my defense, 4 of the packs were a set of pens that I have loved for a while, but they stopped selling them at Dollar Tree.  The other two packs were RSVP Fine Point in black ink.  For some reason, those have a tendency to walk off from my desk way too often :(

Thank you Dollar Tree for letting me indulge my pen fetish :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for mentioning the ASCD publication. It's always sitting on my desk every month, but I rarely open it. I try to read my Mathematics Teacher magazine first (which usually doesn't happen either), but this one will definitely go home with me so that I can enjoy it, too!