Thursday, December 5, 2013

Spreading Christmas Cheer with Kindness

I've written before about 1,000 gifts and learning to be thankful for the little things. I truly believe that little things become the big things over time. If you work in any sort of business capacity, you should read The Little Big Things.  Practice them, and I promise your employees will be happier and more dedicated to their work. I tried it with my counselors this summer, and our camp was a much happier place. 

Anyway... I want to tell y'all about one of the little things from today.... In the passing of my boss and mentor this fall, there was one science class left without a teacher.  Our principal has been unable to fill the postion, and one of our assistant coaches has stepped in to teach that class. I didn't realize it, but this man has been really struggling to find ways to teach the kids, and to figure out what they most need to learn. We talked about some things earlier this week, and yesterday, he came and observed my class for a period to see what I was doing and if he could duplicate it.  

I did something really simple after school- I went through my extra copies of labs, student notes, and other assorted science things we have covered in my class recently. I found some appropriate leveled activities that are high interest and made sure he had copies for the number of students, left instructions, and put them on his desk after school. It really only took me about 15 minutes. 

This morning, the coach stopped me in the hallway and thanked me in front of my kiddos, then told me he owed me a favor. Of course, the copy machine ran all of my copies for today as blanks.... So I immediately cashed in the favor and asked him to run a new set on the other copier becuase I needed to take my students to class. The copies came back with a cold diet coke (my favorite!) and some pepper mints.  100% worth it. 

What are you doing to help out others this season?  Feel free to link up your "little big things."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Productive Classroom Dialogue- Bounce Cards

I have a noisy classroom.  We often do group work, we discuss all the time, we do demonstrations that get the kids excited and talking, we play review games, have competitions, etc. 

We learn new strategies every month or so, implement them in our classrooms, and subsequently gather data. Our most recent strategy has been bounce cards. They are designed to facilitate the growth and development of productive dialogue in our classrooms. In other words, we know that kids are often talking about the topic, but we want to help their conversations be more than just "ooh- that's really cool." We want them to learn and question from their peers (and from us)!

This is what they look like.  They're from a book titled Total Participation Techniques: Making Every student an active learner.   

They are so cool. The first time I modeled and introduced the topic, we only used the "bounce" portion of the card. This allowed us to focus on staying on topic. We practiced it that way for a week, then introduced the "sum it up" portion. Finally, we have moved into the "inquire" segment. We have categorized our data into types of responses (from both whole group wand small group conversations).

It's really easy to work this strategy into review time, and great for opinions and justifying them with textual evidence. I can use it whole class or in small groups, though you're more aware of their gains when you know that they're all hearing the same conversation. On the flip side, they get a more  individualized and personal interest when they are in small groups and have more control over the path the conversation will take. 

Has anybody used these or other similar strategies? How do you use them? Whar kind of results do you typically get?

Give Thanks!

I have lots to give thanks for this year, as do many of my coworkers and students. 

I've been saving my thanks for one big reminder of all the reasons I have to give thanks and praise on a day that I needed it-- that day is today. 

1. Halloween with these sweet kiddos

2. The opportunity to be a science Olympiad coach and learn new material as well as learn from my team. 

3. An extra hour of sleep. 

4. Guest speakers who share their expertise in my classes and make it fun!

5. Coworkers who calm me when I am frenzied planning for multiple days of substitutes

6. The opportunity to travel to a national conference and learn how to be better at my job

7. Learning new things in my curriculum

8. Beautiful skylines

9. Early birthday celebrations with my love (and country music concerts)

10. A sweet small group at church

11. The ability to take a sick day when I really, really need it. 

12. Getting to teach pull-out classes of gifted and talented kids

13. Our academic team that I am lucky enough to help coach and take to competitions (photo at Oglethorpe)

14. Cluster meetings to teach me new strategies- like bounce cards- to facilitate productive dialogue in my classroom

15. My first rodeo

16. Birthday parties for friends

17. Coming from a musical background and having the chance to watch friends and family perform their theses

18. Strong female friends

19. This guy's birthday week

20. Supportive parents that come to conferences when needed

21. Diet coke and peanut butter m&ms

22. Birthday celebrations with my boyfriend

23. Celebrating my best Friend's engagement to her perfect guy

24. My boyfriend loving science and coming with me to experience new things- like the world's biggest aquarium and an exhibit about the human body. 

25. Short weeks at school

26. Loving all of my students and having a chance to let them know in individual notes why I am thankful for each of them before Thanksgiving break. 

27. Diary of a Quilter's blog- she is a lifesaver with her tutorials 

28. Thanksgiving and extended family

29. Fun times with my parents

30. Rivalry football and a romantic boyfriend who makes date nights memorable