Friday, June 21, 2019

The Importance of Closure

The best part of summertime is having time to read!  The worst part of summertime is that I have to wait to put new ideas into action. :)

My first #EduRead of the summer was Hacking Questions by Connie Hamilton and I must say that it did not disappoint at all!  This book was extremely affordable on Kindle and it was worth every penny.  I had originally heard of the Hacking series a few summers back from a podcast, but this was the first one I had read.  Each of the "hacks" is presented in a clear manner, with easy-to-implement strategies, suggestions for overcoming challenges, and a classroom vignette to illustrate the hack in action.  While there were several "hacks" that I plan to revisit when August comes, the chapter that struck me the most was Hack #3 - Punctuate Your Learning Time

For most of us, time is the enemy - especially in the classroom.  There's never enough time to do it all.  From lesson prep to grading to the actual teaching, every single minute seems to be accounted for.  As a result, many of us (including me) see the minute hand inching toward bell time and have to make a decision of what to do - finish up this last little bit, trying to ekk out every possible second or wrap up and do a closure activity?  Way too many times, I have chosen the former option and neglected to properly close out our learning time.

But, after reading this Hack, I am committed to doing a better job this year.  The author shares this  analogy that really struck home for me on the importance of closure:
"Relate it to your own daily routine.  Don't you feel frazzled when you have to leave school quickly and do not have time to process the day and think about tomorrow?  We naturally build in closure to our day, even if we did not finish what we set out to accomplish."  
I honestly had never related closure in the classroom with my personal closure of the day, but it makes perfect sense!  When something happens and I'm rushing around after school to get to a meeting or whatever, I just feel "off".  What if my students feel the same way at the end of our lessons?  Have I given them the processing time they need to effectively summarize their learning and move the day out of working memory?  Have I created problems for myself and other teachers in the future by not giving students time to make necessary connections?

After reading this Hack, I am more committed to intentionally creating closure opportunities in my classroom to "pull the lesson together, assess the learning, and help to set it in the students' minds."  This may be through exit tickets at the end of class or other processing strategies throughout the lesson, but either way, I must make the choice to properly punctuate my learning time because according to the author:
" is crucial that we use the limited time to maximize learning.  Five more minutes of engaging in a task are not as likely to impact students as five minutes of reflection."
I don't know about you, but that's powerful...

For more information on this book and its author, includings a ton of free printables for the classroom, visit the Hacking Questions website!

What are your favorite closure strategies / prompts?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

What a Spring!!!

The years go by so much faster as I get older...  I knew it had been a while since I blogged, but I didn't realize that it had been 8 months!  Wowzers!

This school year was pretty good overall, at least until the end - and what an end it was!  Since Spring Break, we have had over 27" of rain, most of which came in May and caused wide-spread flooding.  At its highest, the dam upriver was letting out 280,000 cubic feet per second, which did lend itself to some great discussions in geometry regarding volume... 

But our last week of school was a crazy one.  For the first time ever, graduation was cancelled and rescheduled due to tornado warnings.  The following morning, as I was getting ready to leave my house, the sirens sounded again and we had the first ever late start due to a tornado warning.  The teachers were doing our best to conduct class as normal, until the next day when we got an email cancelling the rest of the week / school year due to concerns of our town flooding.  While my students were overjoyed at the thought of no finals, our lobby filled up with pallets of boxes because  of projections that our school would be under several feet of water and we needed to move everything to the second floor.  Thankfully the levees held and those projections did not come true! :)  

Prior to this craziness, my neighbor teacher had been incubating 24 eggs, hoping for them to hatch on finals day and provide some much needed stress relief for anxious students.  While her calculations on hatching day were spot on, there were no students on campus to enjoy them!  

Out of the 24 eggs, 10 hatched with 5 of them being "naked-necked" chickens.  I quickly fell in love with this little black and white cutie that I named Oreo. :)  My neighbor teacher was going out of town for the first part of summer, so thankfully one of my family friends was able to take in the 10 chicks and raise them.  Oreo is much bigger now, but still a cutie!

Memorial Day came and went and our last teacher workday was upon us.  I have *never* left my room in such disarray as you see here, but the threat of flooding was still there and we were asked to get everything out of the bottom cabinets and put them onto the desks.  I tried to keep it as organized as I could so that when we got the all-clear, I could easily put things back.  It actually took me about 2 hours to get everything back into place once the flooding threat was over and now my room looks like it has been properly shut down for the summer! :)

Now that school is officially over, I've stayed fairly busy.  I've gone to the zoo, done some math, read a couple of books, spent time with friends, and participated in our annual staff retreat.  

But speaking of math... I had forgotten how much I enjoyed just playing with math!  This year, for the first time in MANY years, I did not go to the AP Reading.  Instead, I spent some of the time at a Math Teachers' Circle Immersion Workshop where I did math just for fun.  One of my favorite sessions was working with Spirographs.  I hadn't played with them in probably 30+ years, so I was overjoyed to see that I did a much better job of controlling the gears than I remembered from childhood.  However, did you know that the big wheel and the gears all have numbers on them?  And from those numbers, you can figure out some facts about the generated image?  I had no idea and of course had never even noticed the numbers way back when! :)

Now that I've gotten the obligatory "where have I been" out of the way, I'm hopeful that I'll get back into the habit of blogging.   That's my goal at least!