Posts Tagged ‘update’

Conversations Update

Posted: November 28, 2011 in Uncategorized
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So, I’ve been thinking more about having more individual conversations with my students. And so I told them.

speechThis morning I was updating my class on a few things at the beginning of the day, typical stuff. I also explained, like I did in my last post, that I had so enjoyed talking with a 5th grader from another class and it made me think I would love to get a chance to talk with each of my own 5th graders. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much of a response one way or the other.

But, right away a few kids perked up.

  • Can we talk about white boards? I am really interested in them right now. (Ok, something else for me to brush up on.)
  • Does it have to be about school? (No.)
  • This is going to be so fun.

So, I kept going with some logistical options: lunch in the room, before classrooms are open in the morning (Now that it is colder, rather than outdoor play, students have to wait in the lunch room. Not as appealing as the playground.), recess if anyone is interested. I also have a few students who are not able to participate in PE at the moment for various reasons. So, I might grab them during that time.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to chatting with my students and am glad to know that at least some of them are also interested. Now, to think about how not to make it seem like an interview. I am sure with some students it will just become a real conversation. With others it will be harder. I think I’ll start with some of the easy chatters first to warm up.

I can’t wait to hear what they have to say.

(Photo by Timothy Morgan used under creative commons license.)


Blogging in the Hallway, Update

Posted: October 10, 2011 in Uncategorized
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So, I’ve been thinking about our paper blogging. We are starting with this format to develop some good habits before we head out into the blogosphere. At the moment the students’ blogs are hanging in the hallway outside our classroom. We have a desk out there with supplies for commenting (post-its and pens) and a poster with guidelines.

On Thursday we had an event in the morning that meant parents were in the classroom. It also gave the students a chance to show off their blogs. Some of them got questions about proof reading and spell checking. I have not been correcting every error, which I have told the students. But, it’s always more effective to have someone else mention the same thing. It was also a motivator for writing because at that point, not everyone had finished a post.

On Friday, we were going to do some work on Island of the Blue Dolphins. However, there was serious lobbying for blogging, so we did some blogging. Everyone has now posted at least once. Some have posted several times.

I had sent out 2 emails to the lower school faculty to come by either alone or with their students to read and comment. Then Friday afternoon one of the 4th grade sections came with their teacher to read and comment. I came back from lunch to see an entire class of kids reading and commenting on post-its. They were silent, and 4th graders are not generally known for their quietness. As I walked by several kids turned and said things like, these are so good, and these are so creative. Big smiles, wide eyes.

Victory! When  students got back they were super excited to have comments from people other than their direct classmates. I am betting some of the kids will write posts over the weekend, even though I did not assign anything. My plan is to alter this blogging license made by Katy Gartside to fit our situation a little better. I would guess that a few students will be up and running before Halloween.

I’m looking forward to the next posts.

So, I’m just getting to making some sense of the evaluations of our “Who Owns History?” conference.

The first thing I did was just average (or rather tell the spread sheet to average for me) the rating for the day (1-5 scale). The average was 4.4. I’d say that’s a pretty good start. So, the kids liked it.

Next, did they learn anything?

Here are some answers to the question “what is one thing you learned in the session” (answered 3 times per survey, 1x for each session):

  • you can think an artifact is so much different from what it really is
  • I learned about observation and inference
  • things are not always what they seem
  • That when you look at something that is not in your generation, you will most likely misinterpret it
  • misinterpretations can happen at anytime.
  • I learned that listening to stories can make archeology fun!
  • It can be hard for archaeologists to identify artifacts.
  • I learned that the artifacts that we find now are what people in the future will think of our everyday things that we couldn’t imagine life without.  Also people in the future might misinterpret what it is and make something else of it.
  • Never judge something by the way it looks without doing some research first.
  • I learned that King Tut was found by Howard Carter they gave King Tut to people to clean him. Now they want King Tut back.
  • I learned that hills form when different cities and structures collapse and the more layers that fall the bigger the hill gets. Also when you dig something up you will see those layers, and the bottom layer is the oldest.
  • That you can use everyday household objects to tell a story
  • You can tell your history with plants and buildings. Not just writing on paper
  • Lots of different things can tell stories
  • That there are many stories out there, you just have to look closely.
  • I learned that you can’t bring artifacts from one country to another.
  • that you can tell stores with out writing
  • it’s hard to find out what things are
  • that the Egyptians should have their ancient artifacts
  • That some people didn’t like that the US took Egyptians discoveries
  • small mistakes can lead to big discoveries
  • Some museums didn’t have very good security
  • It can be hard for archaeologists to identify artifacts.
  • That there were criminals even that long ago!
  • That the people in Egypt wanted their artifacts in Egypt but everyone else wanted it for them to take care of because they thought they would keep it more safe.
  • that in archaeology it is very difficult to find out who owns the artifacts, and that every one thinks differently about who gets it.
  • All about how different people in Egypt, USA and Europe feel about where Egyptian artifacts belong
  • we have artifacts of our own
So, I’d say they learned some things.
What next? Well, we asked them that too. Here’s what they said about future conferences.
First, the answers to the question how to make it better fell into these basic categories:
  • longer
  • longer
  • all day
  • more time

The answers to what should another conference, if you think we should have one, be about were more varied:

  • the ocean
  • the economy or current events
  • healthy food choices
  • debates about silly things
  • Ancient Greece or Rome
  • Math or a book club like thing
  • War
  • Reading or writing
  • more artsy things
  • the rain forest
  • mostly the same topics except the topics in session 3 were not all that interesting to me.
  • Greek or Egyptian gods
  •  I think we should have another conference that is all day and covers a lot of different topics. I don’t know what would be a good topic, but we should definitely have another one.
  • mummies
  • all about Egypt
So, the kids liked it; they learned something; they want more.
Who am I to say no to that?

So, I’ve been thinking about room arrangement all year. I started with a new format at the beginning of the year, changed it up a little based on some student input; then had the students plan and vote on a new arrangement. All that didn’t quite push the boundaries as much as I wanted. So, the last day of school before spring break after I dismissed everyone, I set to work. I dragged my husband in and we spent a couple of hours moving everything, and I mean everything, around.

First up, the student desks. They are a pain because there are enough of them that they can’t be rearranged quickly enough to be considered truly flexible. So they had to go. Well, ok they couldn’t entirely leave the room, but I did the next best thing. I lined then up facing the 2 long walls (window out and hallway). They are storage and independent work options, but not much else. Once we did that, I could really see some possibilities. I have a couple of low bookshelves that I dragged into the middle of the room. They now form a low wall bisecting the long rectangle space into 2 almost squares. Then I put my 2 nicer chairs in a good reading spot, found a semi-permanent place for the single biggest, and most significantly, heaviest table, and sprinkled my light easy to move IKEA tables liberally around the room. Voila!

Here is the basic arrangement, without the IKEA tables sprinkled around

Now we can have the IKEA tables pushed together for a big group discussion, in a U shape, in rows near the board if I need to show something there, or broken apart for pairs or groups of 4. I swear the room seems like it grew.

Arranged for whole class discussion

Discussion with the board available

Direct Instruction at the board

Group work-4 groups

In some ways it looks more like a primary or preschool room now with the bookshelves dividing the space (although they only come up to the kids’ thighs at best). It has freed us up to work in groups without being on top of each other, and I feel like I finally really have the flexible learning space I have been craving all year.

I could go show about a million more variations to the room. Sometimes there are 2 main things going on, 1 in front, 1 in back. Sometimes people are all over: desks, tables, floor, cubby area. I thought I would just give an idea of some of the arrangement options. (I have to say I am better at furniture placement than photo placement on the blog here. But, I have spent enough time on this particular problem and need to move on-something we discuss a lot in 5th grade.)

So, I’m not sure why it took me six years to get here, I’m just glad I finally arrived.

(Pictures created with Doodle Buddy app)

So, I’ve been thinking and writing about seating arrangement a lot this year. Just on the off-chance that you didn’t catch those earlier posts, I’ll summarize quickly. I did some reading over the summer about seating and then bought tables from IKEA that were not only inexpensive, but easily move around the room. Then, even though I thought the new arrangement was great, my students surprised me by saying that there were some things about sitting in rows that they liked. So I went back to the drawing board and made a new plan.



Photo by Vincent Brassinne used under Creative Commons license

My idea of a new plan was not really that new. I asked for input from my class and then it fell off the to-do list. But, it’s back on the list–and at the top. Today I set up the room in yet another arrangement for our morning work. It was temporary, but made me start to think that the real problem was with my lack of imagination about the whole thing. For the rest of the day I got flashes of crazy ways to arrange the room. Whenever my students were out of the room I was tempted to start moving desks, chairs, and anything else that wasn’t nailed down.

But then I thought that I should really put this back in the hands of my students, as I had originally planned. Having put it off, if only for a few weeks, I am more ready to push them and myself to think WAY outside the box.

Here’s my plan: tomorrow morning I will ask for volunteers to be involved in a remodeling plan. Anyone who is interested is welcome to join. In groups of 3ish students will have a chance to make a proposal for our new plan–however outlandish it may be. Then we’ll vote or combine plans or something.

Wish me luck!

So, I’ve been thinking about seating arrangementt this year. I’ve written about my ideas and my new IKEA tables and how well I think the new plan is going.

Then, I had to rearrange, briefly, for ERB testing. I hated it. The desks were in rows; the students were all facing me when we were trying to have a discussion. A student up front was replying to what someone behind her had said, but was then forced to decide to look at me or her peer. Uggh.

However, when I mentioned this to the students, they said they liked being in rows. They thought it made the room seem bigger and they had more room around them. I was stunned. This had never occurred to me. But then I thought about it a little more and realized there was something to some of what they were saying:

  • When we were in a circle, everyone was next to someone, right next to them.
  • Binders and books were spilling onto neighbors.
  • It was sometimes hard to get from the outside ring of desks to the inside table.
  • It was hard to move around parts of  the room.

I still wanted:

  • Students to be facing each other
  • A lot of the space open for other work options
  • No one to be “way at the back”
  • Options

So, I found a reasonable new layout that I thought suited everyone. It’s kind-of a square with parts missing: 4X4 but with gaps every 2 desks. Here’s why I think it is a good arrangement:

  • Students are facing each other.
  • Everyone has some space on 1 side of his or her desk.
  • It is easier to move in and out of the square.
  • No one is right up next to the wall or bookshelves.
  • We still have the front open and available for sitting near the board when necessary.
  • We still have room to move around our tables.
  • It’s easier to maintain.

But, then I went and asked the students what they thought. I just couldn’t help myself. I was expecting all this positive response. Instead I got all sorts of ways we could face the board!? I kept having to say, “that is no my goal.” Since I did not predict that the conversation would head in this direction, I did not have the time to have a complete discussion.

So, we are in the modified square for now.

But, I think it’s time to have a real group discussion, that does not have a time limit, about what we want our seating arrangement to foster. I believe that my students and I can have this conversation. I know that it will be messy. I recognize that I am giving up a lot of control because this is not going to be a “pretend” exercise.

So here’s my plan:

  • We will all read a few articles about seating in advance and come to this with some background knowledge.
  • We make a list of things we would like our space to be able to do.
  • We prioritize the list.
  • We suggest designs and evaluate them against our priorities.
  • We pick a design for our space and live with it for a while.
  • Repeat, if necessary.

I have to say I’m a little nervous about it and totally excited. I’ll keep you posted.

So, I’m still thinking about iPads and my 1-1 iPad experiment. Here’s how I might summarize it in as few words as possible:

  1. Are the iPads everything I could ever want? NO
  2. Is being a 1-1 (of some sort of technology) classroom what I want? YES
  3. Would I like laptops sometimes? YES
  4. Has anyone offered to get me laptops? NO
  5. Do I want to keep those iPads? Absolutely YES

There you have it. I still head to the computer lab or the Mac-based music lab with my class sometimes; we are not totally self-sufficient. But, I can’t imagine going back to just 2 computers in the room. I know a good thing when I have one.