With an abundance of clever crafts, cute bulletin boards, and coordinated decor, Pinterest generates much that is adorable in classrooms. But the meatier stuff is out there, too–if you dig a little deeper. Below are 10 Pins to brainstorm better self-assessments for your students.
An authentic and global audience of peers and professionals–what could be more exciting when it comes to students pursuing meaningful collaboration? Yet in the name of safety, many schools still choose to keep student blogs private, viewable only to students and their families. And while safety is an essential priority, these schools must understand the importance of digital citizenship, and its role in enhancing students’ online safety.
Meanwhile, for those teaching under such restrictions, the good news is that there are a growing number of alternatives available to still foster global connections. Here are four we’re sure your students will love!
Meet the digital version of pen pals. This is a great compromise with an administration that is wary of public blogging–ask for permission to connect with just 3 other classes so they can learn about their peers in other places. Your class will become part of a Quad of four classes. You each take week-long turns as the focus class, meaning the other 3 classes visit and comment on your students’ blogs. The year I did this with my fifth graders, our quad included fifth grade classes from the U.S., the U.K., and China, and our students couldn’t get enough of seeing comments on their work from their quad friends across the globe.
The Wonderment is a new creativity-sharing platform that makes me want to be a kid again. It allows students to share and connect with kids around the world using their WonderBots. Students can share their work, participate in creative challenges, and participate in discussions with other kids–all while filling up a WonderMeter that opens up the Wonderment to new locations in the world. “When we create things together, good things happen.”
Twitter allows teachers to easily share snippets of student learning throughout the day in just 140 characters. A group just brainstormed phenomenal questions for a project? Just snap a photo and share on your classroom Twitter account with hashtags that will help their ideas reach beyond just the walls of your classroom (ie, #comments4kids, grade level chat like #5thchat, etc.). Invite parents to follow your class account to give them a window into your classroom, too! To see it this in action, check out Mrs. Cassidy’s first grade class account. (For more inspiration, check out “Unlocking Twitter’s Classroom Potential“).
Can your class guess the location of another over Skype? Not only does MysterySkype give your students an opportunity to connect with kids around the world, but it allows them to cultivate communication, problem solving, collaboration, and organization. Before you launch a session, be sure to check out how other teachers have set it up, like fifth grade teacher, Paul Solarz.
I didn’t think the teacher/parent table would turn on me that fast. After all, not only I had just paused my teaching career in June–I was only back for a few weeks in September to mentor a student teacher–my own kids weren’t even in school yet.
As I sat in the teacher’s lounge listening to all the usual back-to-school lunchtime chatter, I overheard some kindergarten teachers anticipating their new batch of 5 year-olds. One exclaimed how many students failed to identify lower-cased letters of the alphabet in the initial assessments.
I froze. Normally, I’d commiserate a bit, perhaps reciprocating with how many students I had on behavior contracts. But it hit me: MY 4-year old didn’t know her lower-cased letters. And she showed no signs of wanting to, either, despite the fact that she’d be starting kindergarten the following fall.
It was my first realization that in the school system, I was officially on the parent side of the table.
I finished mentoring and went back to my extended parental leave at home. Over the course of a month or so, the stress in preschool-ing my stubborn four-year old grew. Frustrations mounted each time she refused to sing her ABC’s or explore some carefully-crafted science station. Those fears finally came to light one evening when I realized that I had been subconsciously–yet intensely–internalizing the conversation from the teacher’s lounge all that time. I remember actually saying out loud,
“What if she becomes the subject of her kindergarten teacher’s complaining in the faculty lounge next year?”
Once spoken aloud, I realized how silly the words sounded. However, as I began to conduct research to make preschool a more positive process, I also realized that I was far from alone when it comes to fearful parents.
“Preparation” on Steroids?
Wanting to give their children the best advantages, some parents have taken to “redshirting” their kindergarteners. That is, they delay school a year in the hopes that their children will gain a “competitive learning edge.”
Other parents obsess over the school their child attends. One article describes how parents went so far as to move to new neighborhoods, create spreadsheets, and attend Kindergarten 101–a prep class for parents. But these preparations aren’t discussed as excessive, but as possibly helpful, citing a Harvard study that found that academic performance in kindergarten correlates to future earnings.
Kindergarten prep is indeed all the rage these days, especially for those who believe the Common Core standards mandate five year olds to read. But parents and teachers alike would do well to step away from the frenzy and examine what is truly developmentally appropriate for their children. Below are tips for both to help them regain calm and clarity in learning with their preschoolers and kindergartners.
Correlation does not equal causation. Remember that there are always a lot of possible causes for any given outcome. Studies that find correlations for later successes are likely just picking up on the simple benefits of involved, loving parents.
Consider the effects of rushing your child. The author of The Hurried Child, Dr. David Elkind, shares research that “students are more likely to have academic success if they are not hurried through their early childhood by parents who overestimate their competence and overexpose them to academic pressures.”
Step away from the workbooks. That’s not to say that if your child demonstrates genuine interest in more academic concepts, you should deny them. But it’s essential to understand that play is absolutely critical for developing the most basic skills for kindergarten readiness and beyond–including problem solving, passion, experimentation, and more. As Richard Lewis, founder and director of The Touchstone Center in New York City, explains:
See each new student. Don’t allow your initial benchmarks or any other number to define your opinions of any child. Instead, make it your priority to discover their interests, strengths, quirks, etc.
Step away from the workbooks. (see parent tip above).
Evaluate what the Common Core State Standards are really outlining.If you are among those stressing about the perceived advanced standards for early elementary, remember that the political agendas and loud voices of a few have skewed interpretations of the standards for some. In our most recent post on the Common Core, we shared J. Richard Gentry’s example of what easily misinterpreted standards really look like:
For example, one contested language arts standard reads, “Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.” Gentry explains that this refers to memory reading in which, “The emergent-reader text is first modeled by the teacher for the students, then joyfully read over and over with the students until eventually the easy book is independently read by the students with great joy and confidence.” (We highly recommend his article, “An Ode to Common Core Kindergarten Standards.”)
One of the best kindergarten readiness lists I’ve ever encountered was on a university’s laboratory preschool blog, prefaced by the following:
“Don’t be overly concerned with academics right now…You read to your children, you go on family outings, you model a love for learning, but most of all you are very involved in the lives of your children. This will make kindergarten a wonderful time for your child, and start him/her on the road to a good education.”
Flipped classrooms. Project-based learning. BYOD. Homework & standardized testing overhauls. These are some of the big-picture aspects that help define the 21st century education landscape. But when we approach it with only these kinds of large-scale changes in mind, the shift will be daunting and slow. Here are five minor 21st century habits to try out for major potential for change!
You’ve probably noticed that approaches to education and business tend to clash. After all, we spend about 13 years training students to memorize and then produce results in bubble sheets (which tends to untrain them from their natural tenacity, creativity, and passion), and then we suddenly hope they’ll be innovative and creative leaders once they join our workforce. One way to help beat this paradox: find applications for improved educational practices among the advice columns in the business world. Below are just a few examples.
Have you ever played with Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button? Well, you should–and so should your students who are looking for inspiration or a challenge (especially if they feel they are always “done”).
Martin Luther King Jr.: civil rights activist, nonviolence champion, Nobel Peace Prize awardee, assassinated martyr. Help students understand why the that holiday honors his life goes beyond having a day off school!