At a conference nine years ago, I attended a session on choice-based art education and was challenged with the question, "What can you start saying ‘yes' to instead of ‘no?'" This question, in reference to my teaching philosophy, did not challenge me to ignore the standards or classroom expectations. Instead, it challenged me to think about the choices my students could make to take control of their own learning in order to increase differentiation, autonomy, and engagement. From that point, I committed to letting go and allowing more choice in my classroom, finding ways to say ‘yes' instead of ‘no.'
Choice in the classroom forces a teacher to let go of some control and take a big risk. It has to be a slow process. I began this journey nine years ago and still, at the beginning of each school year, I start very small and simple by breaking down what I am going to teach into three areas:
First, I look at the standard and ask myself, "What do my students need to learn?" and I create my objective based on that. I then post it in our classroom so I always have something to reference when a student comes to me with a question that typically starts with, "I was thinking...Could I…What if I...?" When my students come to me with these questions, it is the first sign that they are feeling confident enough to take charge of their own learning.
To keep things simple, I begin by offering students only a couple of centers and then I add to their choices throughout the year. I always know ahead of time which choices will be offered (e.g. what art media is available, art exemplars, and books to reference), but keep an open mind for ideas beyond my own that the students may come up with as they work with the objective. Finally, when presenting the choices, I provide explicit instruction on how to make good choices, how to use the centers (many visuals and examples) and how the choices can apply to their learning.
As the students work, the teacher's role is to guide, push, monitor and document. Here is where it typically feels like control is lost because students are working at different paces. A great analogy of this moment comes from one of my favorite books, Engaging Learners Through Artmaking by Douglas and Jaquith.
A good friend once compared a choice-based classroom to the large and busy South Station in Boston. People are constantly in motion, people are getting information from various sources, people are coming from a variety of places and heading in a great many directions. When one looks across the room it may seem a bit confusing, but each rail commuter has a destination and knows where to get the required information and ticket. (Douglas & Haquith, 2018, p. 24)
The key part of this excerpt is the last sentence: "...each commuter has a destination and knows where to get the required information." For a choice based classroom to work, the students have to be aware of their destination or objective and know where and how to get the resources they need to be successful. The teacher circulates the classroom guiding the learners back to the objective, asks questions to push their thinking, makes sure the students are on track, and monitors and documents where all students are at with their learning/work.
My biggest priority and the thing I will not let go of is creating a safe and welcoming classroom community. A choice-based classroom requires a community where the students feel safe in taking the risk to make their own choices. This type of classroom builds confidence in the learners but only if they feel their ideas will be valued and respected. Students feel competent when they believe they know what to do to be successful and feel capable of mastering the challenges ahead of them. The choices provided need to offer different levels of competence which allow the students to find their comfort level. A common fear about offering choice is that the students will just choose the easiest option but that's not the case. Students make a choice where they feel comfortable to begin their work and build on their prior knowledge.
This approach supports multiple modes of learning to help support the diverse needs of our students, which is why it can be utilized in any classroom. Students choose something they feel confident in, whether working on math skills, reading, or writing. The teacher then pushes and scaffolds new concepts that are attached to what that student already knows. As long as a safe classroom community is established, the students typically welcome this push and if they aren't ready for it, they will let you know and you can try again in other ways.
Choice in the classroom is not something to just jump into because if the teacher doesn't feel competent and comfortable with this new philosophy, the students' learning will get lost as the teacher learns. But the old adage of "go slow to go fast" will keep everyone on track to the new way of differentiating and creating a learning environment for all to feel engaged and successful.
This post brought to you by Tiffany Erie, Elementary Art Teacher
Lately, I have been thinking about my own education and how I, as a student, have changed over time. In my K-12 education, I was a successful student who was “good at school.” I did what the teachers and adults asked, I followed their examples of how to solve problems (I could follow any procedure in math when I knew the formula and worked through a few with the teacher), I followed their rules (no running, no swearing, etc.), and was always considered a “good kid.” Once I went to college to get my undergrad and later my master’s degree, I realized I wasn’t as "good at school" as I had once thought.
When I look back at why this shift occurred, I realize it was because as a K-12 student I wasn’t as interested in the learning and understanding of what I did, as I was with getting good grades (I was a passive learner), having teachers and classmates like me (the 'relator' in me) and being labeled as a "good student" and friend. Now, don’t get me wrong: I did learn a lot during my K-12 years of education and I had a lot of great teachers, I just didn’t always strive to know or better understand the “why” behind what I was learning. I simply wasn’t motivated to do so.
| 1 |
A colleague introduced me to the book Drive by Daniel Pink. The first two chapters really hit me: they highlighted what we are doing in education now, noted what we can change, and identified why it is important that we do. Both chapters hit directly upon motivation. The chapters “The Rise and Fall of Motivation 2.0” and “Seven Reasons Carrots and Sticks (Often) Don’t Work. . .” tie into what we see in our classrooms every day, even though his book is spun more for the business-world. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend you do!
| 2 |
The Impact Homework (Doesn't) Have
Looking at ways to motivate students in the classroom and comparing it to what has been done in education for years, John Hattie explores the effect size of these different actions, noting if they have a positive, negative, or neutral effect on our students. As secondary teachers who we all likely taught in a system that was incentive driven, we need to start taking a closer look at what we are doing to motivate our students and to help them be active, life-long learners.
| 3 |
Three Key Motivational Elements: Autonomy, Mastery, & Purpose
What is visual literacy?
“Graphics of all sorts scaffold striving readers since images offer a more accessible entry point into information than text on its own. We can’t exclude kids from information simply because they are below grade level in reading, so offering an array of visual entry points allows striving readers to continue to wonder and learn regardless of their reading level.” (Harvey and Ward Striving to Thriving How to Grow Confident, Capable Learners, 2017, p.81)
Why are graphic novels great?
- They are explosively popular with people of all ages.
- They contain sophisticated themes and complex storylines.
- They make complex content accessible and concrete.
- They are gateways to other reading experiences.
- In recent years graphic novel adaptations of classics and series have come out: Babysitter’s Club, A Wrinkle in Time, Wings of Fire and more!
What constitutes a graphic novel?
What skills can students develop while reading graphic novels?
Feel free to connect with Nicole via email or phone
The Truth about Graphic Novels
How Graphic Novels Help Students Develop Critical Skills
Reluctant Reader or Visual Reader? Making the Case for Visual Literacy
From Striving to Thriving How to Grow Confident, Capable Readers By, Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward
Resiliency can be defined as a set of attributes that provides people with the strength and fortitude to confront the overwhelming obstacles they are bound to face in life. (ASDC-Richard Sagor)
Essentially the question becomes; what is it that students need to be able to build this trait? Author Richard Sagor uses the acronym CBUPO (the feelings of Competence, Belonging, Usefulness, Potency, and Optimism. To really help students to construct these feelings, we need to look beyond occasional feel-good assemblies and smiley faced stickers on a well-done paper. As educators, we need to provide well planned educational experiences throughout our daily routines and content areas that enable all students to experience these feelings. Let’s take a closer look at each of these feelings.
- Competency is the ability to effectively accomplish goals. As educators, we can help students develop this trait by clearly identifying expectations and having students take ownership in learning by monitoring their own progress toward those goals. When students are invested in and feel in control of their own educational experience, we can expect greater levels of motivation, engagement, and success.
- Belonging occurs when students feel safe, welcome and wanted. Students gain a sense of belonging when educators make an effort to build relationships and engage in instruction that is learning style appropriate. Much of the Dr. Hollie work we in the Rochester Public Schools are engaging in to develop culturally responsive classrooms is in direct correlation with helping all students to feel they belong. All students need to feel that they are a valued member of the community.
- Usefulness is the feeling that occurs when one has had the opportunity to make a real contribution to the well-being of others, whether it be at home or school, or within the local or global community. We really help ourselves most when we are helping others as it can give one a sense of pride and fulfillment. Participating in service learning projects is one way to instill a sense of usefulness.
- Potency is really a sense of empowerment. Click on the button below to see 50 different ideas for empowering your students.
“Empowerment is a process through which people increase their participation in decisions that matter to them. ... When students are empowered to have a say and take action about issues affecting them they experience better mental health outcomes, develop strong self-concepts and positively engage with learning" -beyou.edu.au
- Optimism is a hopefulness and confidence about the future. My favorite optimistic quote is from the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; “It will all be alright in the end. And if it is not alright, it is not the end.”
“There are many obstacles. Having goals is not enough. One has to keep getting closer to those goals, amidst all the inevitable twists and turns of life. Hope allows people to approach problems with a mindset and strategy-set suitable for success, thereby increasing the chances they will actually accomplish their goals. ”-S. Kaufman, Psychology Today
In this post, I wanted to take some time to address one of the most common questions I am asked in regards to Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching: “What’s the deal with these call and response protocols?”
I have good news friends…you aren’t the only ones asking that question! There is so much wonderful literature out there that addresses the call and response conundrum.
Why does everything come back to call and response?
Why is it so important?
Culture plays its role, too. Many of our marginalized and underserved students come from indigenous cultures based in deeply rooted oral traditions. Storytelling, songs, rhymes, and poems were how information was passed on through generations. Furthermore, when we consider the historical context in which populations of marginalized people were denied access to the written word, we can recognize that oral expressiveness was imperative for survival.
For more on the neurological science behind call and response, here are some awesome resources.
How do I get past my discomfort using call and response?
I feel corny and inauthentic!
Another thing to consider is that call and response is just one type of attention signal. Culturally Responsive attention signals, such as call and response, use rhythm or have some sort of cultural relevance. Students have an opportunity to respond and have buy in. The most important thing that makes an attention signal culturally responsive, is when it is used with intentionality. If you are just doing a call and response for the heck of it, without a reason or a purpose, then it isn’t really culturally responsive. The other way an attention signal is culturally responsive is when the teacher uses all kinds of signals-traditional and responsive-to help students practice situational appropriateness. In other words-students need to know how to respond to traditional signals to be successful in school culture. But, when a teacher is only using traditional signals, he or she isn’t being responsive to the cultural behaviors a student brings to the classroom. Similarly, if the teacher is only ever using responsive signals, he or she isn’t being culturally responsive because they aren’t helping students learn to respond in traditional or situationally appropriate ways.
According to Dr. Hollie, there are three reasons why we use attention signals.
- To clarify directions already given or to give further direct instruction.
- To transition during the lesson.
- To bring the activity or lesson to a close.
Using a call and response or any attention signal when students aren’t talking is not useful and will most certainly feel awkward. I’ve found that thinking of these three reasons has allowed me to feel less pressure when planning for call and response. If I don’t need to pull a group who is talking back to attention to clarify, transition, or close, I just don’t use it!
Finally, if you still feel goofy, have the students make them up! And let them lead them! Use this as an opportunity to give your students some more voice and choice during the lesson.
I feel like call and response conflicts with my ENVoY training.
For example, I was raised Catholic, so when I hear a chime, my brain is wired to respond in a certain way. I was conditioned to pay close attention to people’s facial expressions because my parents are very quiet people, so it was easy for me, as a student, to recognize the classic, non-verbal, “teacher face”. Both examples are rooted in various rings of culture.
We just need to remember that not all of our students’ experiences are the same as our own, so we can’t assume they will know what our different attention signals mean. We need to remember to take the time to intentionally teach our verbal and non-verbal attention signals. We also need to remember that we should be using a variety of attention signals-traditional and culturally responsive-so our students can be comfortable with situational appropriateness.
Can I still be culturally responsive and not use call and response?
Mr. Knipshield, Nipper as we called him, showed us movies, told us stories and had us read articles about driving. Along the way, he would give us quizzes to ensure that we were ready to pass our permit test so that we could graduate from the parking lot driving to the open road. My guess is that he would adjust his lessons based on what we still needed to know.For this portion of our learning, the permit test was the summative assessment. If we did not pass, we would be stuck in the parking lot.
As we were driving back and forth or in an oval in the parking lot, Nipper was talking to us over the radio in our cars. “Slow down, speed up, car #6-leave more space between you and the car in front of you.”
On the road, he was continually giving feedback and was even equipped with a brake in case of an emergency. We had to do our part, but we knew exactly what we needed to work on at all times.
So, what does this reminiscing have to do with classroom teaching? Everything. When we think of the power of formative assessment, it is incredible. Many educators argue that this is the most integral part of effective teaching. With regular formative assessments, both the student and the teacher know the next steps for teaching and learning. The student knows what they know and don’t know, and the teacher knows what to do next. By gathering this information, classrooms become less of a “string of activities” and more of a direction on a clear path.
As an assessment expert, Paul Black put it, “When the cook tastes the soup, that’s the formative assessment. When the customer tastes the soup, that’s a summative assessment.” One definition of formative assessment can be found here.
As I think back to Mr. Knipshield and his many classes of 15-year-old adolescents, I am thankful that he gave us all the feedback that we needed along the way. We needed to learn and practice in many different ways in order to become road-worthy. I am also aware that my learning is ever present. I am now the one that is formally assessing my driving. After 37 years of driving, I still need to check myself to ensure that my practice is up to par. This is the highest level that we can hope for our students to attain; to internalize the process and using it through life. Check out this blog for a peek at how formative assessment and self-assessment go hand in hand. This topic just may appear in a future blog!
During my years as a primary teacher in the classroom, I had always taken my students down the hall one day out of every six-day cycle to get their 40 minutes of art instruction from their certified art teacher. Then I happily went back to my classroom, so glad it was an art day because prep-time was ten minutes longer on art days than any of the other specials’ classes. (Just as a side note, I have learned from talking to my art teacher friends not to say to the art teacher, “Yeah, its art day!” Because they know it’s not that you are excited about art, or that you are happy to see them, it is really about the extra prep minutes.) They are understanding, but it’s better to say, “It’s so great to see you today.” Many of our art teachers travel between buildings and a friendly greeting at the different sites goes a long way in making them feel valued and appreciated. (It is still ok to be happy about extra prep time though.)
In my own classroom, there was a little of what I thought was art taking place. Now I would categorize it seasonal stuff to decorate the walls in and outside the classroom. While at the time, I thought these Pinterest variety snowmen, penguins, pumpkin vines and floral faces were adorable, looking back I realize they all kind of looked alike and did not allow for much individualization or creativity. As I am now coming to better understand, it is allowing the space for individuality and creativity, not the ability to follow step-by-step directions that has an enormous impact on our students in a multitude of ways. By watching the video below, you will see what I mean.
Sylvia Duckworth, author of Sketchnotes for Educators, created the followingsketchnote listing 12 benefits of creativity. Sir Ken Robinson, in his TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?,” added his thoughts on the subjects.
1. Collaborate with your art teachers.
Take some time to collaborate with your art teachers. Talk with them about your upcoming units of study. They have a wealth of information and can offer great ideas for ways that students can express their learning artistically. If they have the time and flexibility they may even partner with you on an integrated project.
2. Allow students to explain their thoughts, ideas, and feelings through different artistic mediums.
Art can be so powerful when it allows students to communicate their learning if writing is challenging for them. Especially beneficial for those learning English and students with special needs, but also valuable for all students. Students will be able to develop vocabulary, grammar, and writing based on their art. Visuals also help students better understand written words by providing more context, thus helping them connect meaningful input to a particular topic or text. The work provides evidence of learning in a more fun and engaging way.
3. Create time and space in your classroom for free creative expression.Time and space are always at a premium in educational classrooms, but allowing even a small amount of both to provide students with the opportunity to design, engineer, follow their own imaginations and create what they think is beautiful will have large returns. Creating a classroom or school-wide Makerspaces is one way to provide students with space and materials to experiment in what interests them. Curious about Classroom Makerspaces? Here’s how to get started as taught by Angela Watson.
4. Be purposeful in teaching how art relates to other subjects.When teaching other content areas to be explicit in pointing out how art is interconnected. Examples include: math (geometry, shapes, measuring), life science (the changing colors, shapes, patterns, designs in the living organisms around us) social studies (history and cultures explored through paintings, photographs and artifacts) English Language Arts (read and write about famous artists, works of art, and history of art, study the meaning in illustrations as well as text)
5. Take a risk in allowing your own creativity and artistic expression to shine through. In his article Taking Beautiful Risks in Education Ronald A. Geghetto says, “The greatest barrier to fostering creativity in the classroom is often ourselves.” Don’t be afraid to explore new territories, take risks, and make mistakes. The possibilities for you and your students are only limited to your own imagination. When we model creativity, innovation, and vulnerability our students are more willing to take risks as well.
Reflecting on where my art journey has taken me, I now know it is so important to see art as more than just a forty-minute class students go to on art day, but rather a way teachers can empower students to be innovators, risk takers, and global citizens every day. I would like to thank all the artistic educators who have known this all along and are helping others along this path.
- Engaging Learners through Artmaking: Choice-based Art Education in the Classroom 2nd Edition (Teachers College Press, 2108) Katherine M. Douglas & Diane B Jaquith 2018
- Arts with the Brain in Mind (ASCD, 2001) Eric Jenson
- The Book of Mistakes (Dial Books, 2017) Corinna Luyken
- Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016) Javaka Steptoe
- Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking. (Image Continuum Press, 2001) David Bayles
- Reinvesting in Arts Education [Presidents’ Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, 2011]
Educational Leadership December 2018/January 2019 Vol. 76 No 4 www.ascd.org
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Robert Longley writes that, “The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution summarizes the Founding Fathers’ intention to create a federal government dedicated to ensuring that 'We the People' always live in a safe, peaceful, healthy, well-defended–and most of all–free nation.” It is important for us to know that the Preamble does not hold, grant, or limit any legal power. That being said, it serves a very significant and powerful purpose: to explain why we have and need the Constitution.
Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, in their book The Purposeful Classroom: How to Structure Lessons with Learning Goals in Mind talk at length about the importance of establishing a purpose for yourself as the teacher and for your students, and that instruction and learning should be focused on learning targets rather than tasks. Memorizing the Preamble, to me, seems like a task; whereas, understanding what the Preamble represents and means to us as Americans seems more like a learning target.
My fear, for my son, is that the task of memorizing the Preamble will lead only to a surface-level understanding and it runs the risk of disengaging kids like my son who thrives on learning through understanding. Yana Weinstein, in her blog entry “Memorizing versus Understanding” points out, “using a deep [learning] approach, a student has the intention to understand. Information may be remembered, but this is viewed as an almost unintentional by-product.” This is the type of learning I wish for both of my children: learning through understanding, rather than by memory.
If you would like specific ideas for how to increase student understanding, replacing memorization-focused activities with those that increase students' learning-by-understanding, please reach out to your instructional coach or one of us here at C&I.
Three components of student achievement in the Rochester Public Schools Graduate Profile are critical thinkers, skilled communicators, and effective collaborators. In teacher driven lessons, these components can be hard to come by. So how can we adapt our lessons to be a lot more of them, and lot less of us? Here are some ways to bring more student voice into the classroom.
Ask More Questions
1. Ask Authentic questions - Are we asking questions that simply “test” whether our students can produce an answer we already have in mind? Or are we asking questions meant to gain access to our students’ thinking or perspective? Ask students “authentic” questions where you as the teacher are truly curious how the student will respond. Typically these types of questions open-ended, and empower students to join their classmates in a line of inquiry in which the answer is not already known or owned by the teacher.
2. Play a little volleyball - Are you responding to every student comment, or are students responding to and interacting with their peers’ contributions to the conversation? Students are used to seeing their teachers as the experts in the room and are in the habit of trying to guess what the teacher wants in a response. Instead of responding yourself to student questions, volley the questions back and encourage them to evaluate, respond to, and extend their classmates’ contributions. Offering a range of sentence starters (“I heard my classmate say…”, “I agree because…”) on a poster or cheat-sheet can help students build this habit.
3. Try not to ask rhetorical questions – The same can be said for “yes/no” and “agree/disagree” questions. Students are often unmotivated to answer such questions for a couple of reasons; a) they know that we know the answers to the questions we ask so there is no reason to tell us what we already know, and b) they realize that we are in search of the one and only one correct response so there is a high probability that they may give the “wrong” answer.
4. Pose either/or questions - “Should we use additional or multiplication to solve this problem?” “Is a square or a rectangle a better base to support a structure?” “Would it be better to be a farmer in Minnesota or Wisconsin?” By posing questions that have no right or wrong answer but instead can be decided based on knowledge of the question, students are engaged in sharing what they know about a particular topic but may also have their thinking challenged by what another student knows and shares.
Turn Over the Learning
1. Don’t Steal the Struggle - It can be uncomfortable to watch kids struggle, but they need time and silence to work through it. Resist the urge to talk students through every step of a problem and instead just observe. Letting kids think instead of rushing in to narrate or question builds anticipation around what’s going to be said next and increases participation as more kids are prepared to move into the conversation.
2. Move from the Front of the Classroom - Try occasionally sitting on the side of the classroom or in an absent student’s desk and say, “I need someone to go up and demonstrate ___ for us.” Because students are used to the person at the front facilitating the lesson, they are likely to talk for much longer than if you stay at the front and they’re in their seats answering you. You can even remain sitting among the class once the student is done demonstrating and ask follow up questions from other students instead of commenting on the students’ demo yourself.
3. Get Student Input – Take notice of moments when you summarize or review for students and instead practice making those moments a chance for kids to share: What’s the rule about this? Who can sum this section up for us? Who remembers the way to determine ___? Some teachers even turn these moments into interactive activities, where the whole class does a hand motion, body movement, sound, or chant to indicate that they’re summarizing an idea or reviewing directions before getting started.
Differ Your Discussion Formats
1. Idea interchange – Designate “idea interchange” locations around the room that kids will be able to break into groups of three to five students each. In each location, post a different question or discussion topic related to the lesson. Assign students to groups, and have the groups move around the room together to discuss each question, jotting down notes individually or as a group as they rotate. Set a time limit for each idea interchange location depending on the age of the students and the topic. Students can move through all the locations on the same day or over multiple days.
2. Revolving discussion - Students form two circles, with one inside the other—the students in the inner circle face a partner in the outer circle. Then, pose a question that is open-ended and requires critical thinking. Students spend one to three minutes (depending on topic and age) discussing the question with their partner. When you call time, students rotate so that they are facing a new partner, and they discuss the same question. At this point, depending on the complexity of the question and the age of the students, students can rotate to another partner and continue discussing the same question or be given a new question to discuss.
Whole class discussion is a great way to get everyone involved in one topic at one time. There are numerous different ways to conduct these kinds of interactions. Here are three to get you started.
1. Seminar - This discussion is designed to allow students the freedom to share ideas and questions with each other by discussing without raising their hands. In practice, when students are learning the strategy it is helpful to begin by having them raise their hands and transition over time to free discussion.
2. Summit - This discussion is designed to encourage collaboration and problem solving as students generate ideas and come to a consensus. Students are given an open-ended question or problem to solve. They share out ideas and, through critical discussion in a seminar format, decide together which ideas are best supported by evidence and agreed upon by the majority of their classmates. They then come to a consensus to present to the teacher. This strategy works best after students have some experience participating in the seminar format. If more scaffolding is needed, students can practice in smaller groups before working as an entire class.
3. Debate - This discussion is designed to have students use facts to support their opinions and engage in civil discourse with their peers. Before a debate, students are assigned a side to argue for, and they research both sides and gather facts to support their ideas. A debate can be structured so that students freely share their arguments and counterarguments and then ask questions, or it can be structured as a round robin, in which each member of the class is given two minutes to talk. Alternate between the two sides until everyone in the class has spoken. During their turn, students can choose to bring up their own point or provide a counterargument to the person who went before them.
First, worksheets do not teach. You may decide to give students a short formative assessment to check their understanding but remember that a worksheet is not the teaching, it is the practice. Second, many of our students are hands-on learners and although they also need practice there are many other ways for students to show us what they know without filling out a worksheet. We know that many students show us what they know better through collaboration, discussion, and sharing. Thirdly, worksheets most of the time do not push our students to higher levels of thinking because most of them tend to lack the creativity and openness that requires our students to think outside of the box. And last but not least, over time the use of too many worksheets causes many of our students to lose interest and disengage.
So why do we give our students worksheets? One reason is that we need our students to have that independent practice. It could also be that we simply need our students to be doing something to fill the time while we are meeting in small groups or one on one. It can be a challenge for us to find meaningful work for our students during small group times of the day. So what do we do? Let’s start to think more about the purpose of the work and incorporate some simple ideas in classrooms to make this work time and practice time more meaningful for our students.
- Does this allow my students the opportunity to effectively practice the learning target?
- Is this directly linked to a learning target or is it “busy-work”?
- Have I considered the various learning styles of my students and does this platform allow each student to effectively share their learning?
There are times when a worksheet or practice sheet might be appropriate but students are not engaged. Consider breaking the worksheet apart among a group of students. It might look something like this: Take the worksheet or problems ahead of time and cut each problem into a separate slip of paper. Allow students to either self-select groups of five or place students into groups of five. Students would then take turns on each role below as each problem is solved.
Person 1: read the question or problem
Person 2: Rephrases the question or problem
Person 3: Responds with the answer or solution and explains their thought process
Person 4: Responds to person 3 by agreeing or disagreeing and explaining why
Person 5: Place the problems into an “agree” or “disagree” pile and pull the next problem to solve. This person becomes person 1 for the next problem.
Continue to shift the roles until the questions have been fully answered. The final step is to take all of the “disagree” problems/questions and to decide as a team how to best find the answer and/or come to a consensus on the correct answer.
This is a strategy that many of us have used in our own professional development. Why not use it with our students? Try covering your table with large butcher paper of any color and put markers on the middle of the table. Project the math problem or literacy topic up on the board in your classroom and have students complete the problems on butcher paper graffiti style. Encourage students to share their thinking and discuss the multiple ways that they have arrived at a solution. This allows students to write large if they need to and allows you to be able to check the students work easily by moving around the room. Just think about how changing out a worksheet for an activity like this will increase your students’ engagement.
Lines of Communication
Think speed-dating! Have your students stand/sit in two rows facing each other. Choose a question or problem from a worksheet and read it aloud or display it to the class. Giver your students time to answer and discuss their responses and reasoning with the person across from them. When their time is up, signal them to move one position to the right. Continue playing until students have discussed all the questions.
If you need your students to practice a specific skill or to show you what they have learned, try using technology to allow those students who would rather blog or vlog to explain and share their learning in different ways. Many of our classroom teachers have started using SeeSaw. If you are looking for other ways to incorporate technology into your lessons consider checking out these other platforms!
Remember, not all worksheets are created equal! If you are finding that your students are disengaged during their independent practice or during small group time, consider implementing a strategy above or perhaps you have some other great resources that weren’t listed above.
Enjoy our Blog!
Members of the Elementary C&I team post useful tools, tips, and tricks on a weekly basis to help you help students.
Analysis & Inquiry
Instructional Learning Formats
Quality Of Feedback
Regard For S's Perspective