In my role, I attend many professional development activities and conferences. Lately I've been noticing the use of various thinking routines everywhere! I love the concept of visible thinking. I love how we are building routines into instruction to encourage deeper thinking, while also making reflection and learning more visible. Visual Thinking Strategies have always been a common practice amongst Visual Arts Teachers. However, even Visual Arts teachers could stretch themselves and integrate a better variety of routines into their practice. There are always new and different ways to tweak instruction. We will always constantly be changing our practice. However, what will always remain a constant is the push to help students grow into critical thinkers, reflectors and problem-solvers. All of this can happen through inquiry, and by diving deeper.
This blog will present a series of thinking routines that teachers could try in the classroom (if you aren't already). One thing I know about myself is that I am a visual learner. So when someone says, "Hey, try this strategy in your classroom!" I need to see it laid out in an organized and visual way. We all have probably seen Ron Ritchhart's matrix for thinking routines, but if you're anything like me, your first thought is, "Huh?!" Again, I'm a visual learner- and I would say that most of the Millennials are as well.
If the thought of 'adding one more thing' is stressful, here's a suggestion... Start Slow. Identify one thing you would have students normally do independently and make it something collaborative. Something that they can work on together. This gives students the opportunity to collaborate and communicate with their peers in order to expand their knowledge, ask questions, and/or find connections. The routines help to set the tone for learning - making it active and fun.
THINKING ROUTINE: CHALK TALK
What is it?
What is it? Open-ended discussion on paper that ensures all voices are heard and provides thinking time.
What does it look like?
It may look like several poster sheets around the classroom with a category, question, or statement. Students can rotate to each zone and write their thoughts in a group or individually. This a great way to give students a voice and also have a visual representation for discussion points and/or reflection.
What is it?
A variation of the See Think Wonder activity, involving only using portion of an image.
What does it look like?
A piece of an image is revealed to the class/students. Students go through multiple questions in order to come to an understanding. They ask questions, create a hypothesis, or interpretations. The teacher reveals more of the image and they continue going through the inquiry cycle until the whole image is revealed.
Teachers could do this with works of art, equations, or statistics to look at data... A teacher could have students work in groups to come up with hypothesis together, they could individually do them on post-its and post them on a Hypothesis #1 sheet, then on a Hypothesis #2 sheet, and so on. There are many ways to manipulate this activity. The great thing about this is that students continually ask questions, form hypothesis/interpretations, and then question all over again as more information is revealed to them. This activity provides an effective model for changing your perspective once you have more information. You could have students reflect on a time they thought one way and then changed their opinion once more information was revealed. This helps students connect learning to their lives in a meaningful way.
Now, how do you think you could use these in your classroom? : ]
I started off on the wrong foot this morning. Or I woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Either way, it wasn't an awesome start. I was dragging to get out of the door. Panicked that I wouldn't make the MiGoogle Conference on time. I got dressed super quick. Had a couple sips of coffee (definitely not enough to fuel my soul for the day) and ran out of the house. The drive to Lake Fenton High School was long. A 55 minute drive in perfect traffic, which was not perfect. I noticed I was running low on gas but thought, "What the heck, I'll just get it closer to the conference." Not intending to live dangerously, I drove about 35 miles from the time my light came on and pulled off to get gas. I got out. I opened the cap. I went to grab my card and... I then realized... I had no money. I had no license and was still about 25 miles from the conference spot in the middle of nowhere. Fannnnnnnntastic! So, I did what any normal person would do. I said some choice words, text messaged my friends my sad story, got in my car and drove to the conference with the hope I would make it.
In the car, I decided to get some perspective. After thinking... 'I have no money, I'm hungry, I may not make it to my destination, no one is awake to come get me, I am about to be very late! and wishing I would have charged my phone last night...' I turned on a TED Talk by Shawn Achor called The Happy Secret to Better Work. I guess if you listened to this TED Talk only from only the viewpoint of work, you would be missing out on the core meaning. First, Shawn is hilarious. The first time I saw this was at TEDxDetroit. It was just a nice reminder about things we as people and as teachers forget on the day-to-day.
If you haven't seen this video, you should take 13 minutes and watch it. Watch it with an open mind. The points that Shawn made really grabbed me. When we start seeing things through a different lens (whether that be a positive lens, an MYP lens, a problem-solving lens, etc.), we grow. Take a few minutes each day to exercise and shift our mindset with positive thinking. Sounds cheesy? Yeah, I know... but it makes sense. If you can practice and condition your body, why can't you do the same with your mind? We teach children that stretching their minds is important. It's necessary. We want them to be active lifelong learners. When students stretch their mind, that's when learning happens. That's when growth happens. So why is it that when I heard of exercising my mind for positivity, I scoffed at it initially? I thought, "Psh. Ridiculous, you can't retrain your brain that way."
I would like to think I'm a thoughtful processor and an inner reflector. Those who know me understand that it takes me time to develop an idea, a direction, a system, a protocol. I don't think important decisions are made quickly. I think they are made thoughtfully. So with this in mind, I thought about Shawn's message after the initial viewing of the video. I thought about it and watched it again, thinking about it in terms of happiness aside from my role as a teacher. And you know what? I saw it differently. When you look through something with a different lens and a *buzz word alert* growth mindset... you... grow. Crazy how that works.
So cool coincidence, the keynote speaker Anthony Buza shared this same TED Talk at the end of his presentation. He talked about sharing our successes as teaches. His perspective was that we need to lift one another up. When we, as teachers, are more positive on the job, we have more fun. More fun equals better teaching. The mentality that those who play together, stay together.
I agree with Anthony that I don't think we celebrate one another enough. I don't know if that's a high school thing, a building thing, or just a culture thing. I think that's why I like social media (Twitter specifically). I, like many teachers, don't have tons of time to sift through tons of information. Twitter makes it easy to check out what is happening in someone else's classroom. It gives us the opportunity to peek into a classroom and see all of the cool things that teacher is doing, get ideas, and also 'like' something. Give them a digital pat on the back and say what we don't often hear in education enough... "Good job!" I know that we don't really need that as professionals, but it does feel good to know that your colleagues and administrators think that you are doing good things for students.
What I really took away from the TED Talk was that I need to be mindful of my perspective. Not just on the job, but in life. I need to take time out of my day and reflect on the good things that have happened, the moments I want to remember, the people, the times, what I said, how I could be better, what differences I made, what differences I could have made... Getting my mind set today in order to move forward and think more positively for tomorrow.
Watch the video. What is your perspective?
Shawn's recommended exercises for creating lasting positive change...
"Two heads are better than one!"
After going through the coaching series with Oakland School's Marty Chaffee, I now see the benefits of the instructional coaching model. The coaching model can look many different ways, but at the core it's supporting the teacher in their goals with a focus on student achievement. Teachers are continuously reflecting on their practice, setting goals and working towards those goals. However, everyone could use a little help and sometimes it's good to get some outside perspective. When I was in the classroom I would often talk with core teachers to get a different perspective on how I could teach something. A speaker at the AdvancED conference closed with giving one piece of advice to teachers and it was... "Don't be afraid to invite the right people to the table." We become better teachers because of it.
I have to say the process is quite fun. It's definitely a partnership based on trust. You plan together, come up with ideas and resources, co-teach, and model together. It's a good time. To me, the whole cycle is like the MYP Design Cycle. You start off with a goal and you plan and research. Coaching the teacher through the process. You learn together. Create together. Sometimes the model provides co-teaching and modeling. Sometimes it doesn't. It really depends on what the teacher needs and what their personal goals are. The one thing it needs to be is - sustainable. Sustainability is important and necessary as the teacher will need to feel comfortable with the process. Is it sustainable for them? I have to say that to me, the best part of the coaching model is the reflection piece. How did it go? What should be changed? Should anything be changed? Was it beneficial for students? Did we see student growth? Etc. Then the cycle begins all over again.
This is what makes teaching exciting. The constant change. We are more excited about teaching when students are excited about learning.
There's no data on this (sorry). No one will pat you on the back and you can't submit this in any domain area (though I'm sure you could try). This is kind of the best kept secret. One conversation, a few smiles, asking how a student's day is, showing that you care about them genuinely... will always make the difference. It could save a life.
I left the session thankful that I went. It was one of the most engaging PDs I have ever attended. I walked out with these reminders...You set the tone. Be up. Be visible. Build the relationships because that will ALWAYS make the difference. And remember to be in the moment. Take risks and have fun. This is what it's all about.
For me, one of the most moving presentations was by the 4th Wall Kids company. They provide theatre and dance to students with special needs. Their philosophy is that students can develop social and communication skills through the arts. However the most important piece is having them be part of a community who lifts them up, gives them voice, and raises their self-esteem. Then they had some of their students who had down syndrome come out and sign a beautiful song. I thought it was really amazing. I wanted to take a video, but I really wanted to be a 100% present in that moment so I didn't. I'm sure you can see a recording of the TEDxDetroit event if you Google it. It's worth it.
Also, I have to mention how magnificent the Fox Theatre is. Here are some shots (above and below) so you can get an idea of the space if you've never been. We were lucky enough to get on stage and see what the presenters saw all day. A little bit scary, but I can see how exhilarating it could be to perform in front of thousands of people.
At the end of the day, I was so happy I went and was able to experience this with four amazingly awesome students. I say this quite a bit, but I do feel very lucky to work with such talented individuals every day. When I was driving home it dawned on me that it's possibly experiences like these that students will remember the rest of their lives. It won't be the lectures they listened to or the tests they took. The papers they wrote. The chapters they read or the slide shows they watched. It will be the learning experiences that teachers have created for them. It will be the projects they did. The hands-on interactive activities. It will be the teachers they had and the challenging, fun, learning experiences that were provided for them at Royal Oak High School. This is what they will remember.
"It's not about working harder. It's about working smarter"
Let's work together and create innovative learning experiences for students! Great day to be a raven... every day. : )
Kurt and Randy (GCA) finished taking down the bookcases on the wall and the rest of the empty cases. It's now more open and ready for some flexible furniture! They are finishing up the carpet squares next week. Tuesday, they will be working in the collaboration station area so they will not be able to be used. I've already blocked the time out on the checkout document.
There has been significant progress in regards to the space and the collection. What I'm most excited about is seeing the space being used by students and staff! Keep coming down! : ] #proudraven #ravenpride
In February I submitted an application for the Steelcase Active Learning Center Grant. This is a grant that Steelcase does every year. Essentially, they outfit a learning environment with approximately 63,000 dollars worth of Steelcase education furniture with the agreement that this area be a flexible, collaborative, innovative, project/product oriented space. It's a little more involved than that. They want the space to be utilized and pair with their overall mission of innovative furniture solutions. If you've never heard of Steelcase don't feel bad. I haven't heard of them either until I came into this position. I have seen a lot of their furniture, but didn't know who the company was. This is a quick summary of who they are taken from wikipedia (I know...not the best resource).
Steelcase is a United States-based furniture company founded in 1912 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The company produces office furniture, architectural and technology products for office environments and the education, health care and retail industries. It is the largest office furniture manufacturer in the world. It has facilities, offices, and factories in the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Australia. - Wikipedia
Pretty cool huh? I'm sure thousands of people are applying for this grant, so it's a long shot, but worth giving it a go! Steelcase would come in and help renovate an area. Their philosophy is help create functional, innovative, collaborative, flexible spaces for a working environment. There were four different options. Each option had a different purpose. Part of what we are trying to accomplish at ROHS is the blended learning model. This means that students have both in class F2F (face to face) time and also are able to have the freedom to do work outside of the classroom digitally. The premise of F2F and distance learning would be purposeful, rigorous, and engaging. In short, it's the same engaging instruction they are getting in the classroom, but it looks a little different online. One has to now think outside of the box and problem solve how to facilitate these learning experiences in a digital environment where students have 24/7 access. Here are some of the flexible arrangements below. Keep in mind that they are meant to reconfigure for what purpose a teacher may be using them for.
The furniture is generally mobile with a combination of intended uses. There is soft seating, areas for research, areas for lecture, and areas for project building. The option I choose was a multi-purpose area. It seemed like the best choice for the direction the Learning Commons is moving towards - an area where many different types of learning experiences can happen.
The grant comes with some strings attached. Each school will be committing to utilizing the space to facilitate the type of flexible, collaborative, project-oriented work the furniture is intended for. The teachers who participate will be volunteering to be a study participant. They will also be dedicating themselves to changing up their instruction (with innovation in mind) and constant reflective feedback.
Lindsey V. from Acorn interviewed me recently and the question was, "What do these changes mean for the students?" I think this is equally as meaningful for the teachers in the building as well.
"The changes will allow student areas where they can have different learning experiences. The idea is to give them/you a flexible, comfortable learning environment with up-to-date resources. We realize that learning happens in different forms and we want to accommodate for the different types of learning to happen. So for example, think of your house. There’s a kitchen with hard counter space, hard floors, an area that can be easily cleaned. There’s a living room with comfortable furniture, a television for entertainment, sometimes you have guests hang out in there. There’s a garage. In this space you have concrete floors, it’s a bit messy, you store lawn care equipment, cars, etc. It’s generally a place that is dirtier than the inside of the house. All of these different spaces have a different function/purpose. Now, you could cook your dinner in your living room or your garage, but is that optimal for what the task is? No, you ideally want to cook your dinner in a kitchen because you have the necessary equipment and the area is designed for that purpose. It’s the same idea for The Learning Commons (and learning spaces in general). We are trying to develop these different spaces for learning: collaborative spaces, classroom spaces, project/maker spaces, independent work areas for students to read or study. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say I am pretty excited to see the transformation. It’s slow, but it’s happening."
We will know if ROHS was selected as a grant recipient by the end of the month. Whichever way it works out, it was a good experience to articulate the reasons as to why a space like this is needed and necessary for ROHS. I'm looking forward to seeing the changes. With or without this grant we will still be moving forward working toward the vision and purpose.
Collaboration Stations? Huh?
I have to say... I'm pretty excited that we finally have the collaboration stations up and running! Such a cool new addition to the Learning Commons. Some people are excited. Some people are skeptical. Others are afraid. So let's just jump right in and take a look at what these guys are.
First, just think about the collaboration stations as an extension of the laptop/chromebook monitor. It's a way for a group of people to research, create presentations, view items, watch videos, write, comment, review, edit, etc. all together! As teaching professionals, we are constantly collaborating and often use our projectors to share work or resources with our colleagues. Now students and staff can come to the collaboration stations, share and work together! This is an area for small student (and staff) groups to collaborate. Some teachers may want all their students working in this area, while others may want to reserve the area and have students cycle in and out of the collaboration stations when they are ready. Whatever the use is, they are here and super easy to use!
How Do We Use These Things?
1. Turn on the television. In the back left side of the screen there is a black button. Push it once.
2. Sign out a chromebook. Note where the HDMI connection will go. You will need it in a minute.
I'm Done. Now What?
When you are done with the area please make sure the following has happened:
I know it doesn't look like much, but the biographies/memoirs got a little bit of a facelift! We want the biographies and memoir section to act as a wall to help separate the areas, but the wall seemed a bit overwhelming. It isolated the front space from the back.. So, I decided to break it up to give a bit of visual relief, but also still provide a separator. With the help of Ms. Kaza and some mighty muscle, shelves were taken apart and books were moved.
Now the biographies and memoirs are in two, three bookcase sections. They fill the front and back of the cases. There are new shelves installed to highlight interesting reads. They have been spread throughout the whole LC to get student's attention. Once GCA completes the carpet and disassembles the rest of the bookcases it's going to look prrrrretty good! : ]
I love Googling information. If I don't know something, I find out! The Internet is super cool that way. I don't claim to know all things tech, but I love problem solving and trying to find answers.