Monthly Archives: July 2013

….thinking to ponder…..methods to try and reflect upon.

teacherGreat Teachers do not Teach

Inquire about the Primary Innovation Studio this year!  What is going on?  What is working?  What is not working?  How can I become involved?  How do today’s students need to learn?  I am no longer the “sage on the stage”.  I will accompany my students along their individual paths.   Paths will look different, and some paths may have need traditional components.  Join us!

The Arts in the Primary Innovation Studio

The Arts in the Primary Innovation Studio

The date on this fabulous graphic is 1977!  Now, more than 30 years later, it is clear that 21st Century Education must include the arts. I love Pablo Picasso’s quote, “All children are artists, the problem is, how to remain an artist.” In this space, it will be a mission to include artistic expression into curricular decision making and assessment. For example, after becoming acquainted with a 3 week civics unit during the first weeks of school, students will collaboratively create commercials to impress upon others their learning.

This graphic resonated with me as I contemplate ways to incorporate the four art forms shown: theater, music, dance and visual art. Here is another great quote from Steve Jobs, “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”

Teachers hear the “skinny” about what is said on the suburban sidewalk about their reputation and practice.  (BTW many times these musings are just that—amusing), anyway, I heard that some parents were calling me “the teacher of song and dance”.  At first, this was a bit daunting; however, after contemplating it for a while, I decided to like that.

I was an artist before I was a teacher, and I have always loved blending expression into my teaching craft. The arts are a secret in regard to student engagement and excitement. That Pied Piper was onto something.

RAFT Colorado

Today, I went to RAFT for the first time.

Creative WAREHOUSE shopping for teachers at its BEST. I filled a cart, and could have filled 10! Most items will be available to kids in the Maker’s Space.

What Is RAFT?
To learn 21st century skills — critical thinking, creative problem solving, and collaboration — kids need to be actively engaged in solving meaningful problems. RAFT is where teachers go to get inspired and find interactive, hands-on resources to help their students acquire those 21st century skills.

RAFT supports thousands of teachers by providing them a professional, collaborative space. At RAFT Colorado, teachers find creative teaching ideas and workshops supporting Colorado’s new education standards, as well as a large, well-equipped teacher workspace and opportunities for informal professional development.

RAFT supports teachers by being green. RAFT gathers unwanted items from local businesses and upcycles them into interesting and unique learning activities. Last year, we diverted approximately 17,500 cubic feet of waste from landfills in Colorado.

RAFT supports teachers by turning their dimes into dollars. Teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money every year on classroom materials; at RAFT, most of our abundant, unique items are available at 80-90% off retail prices every day.

RAFT supports teachers by being a hub of creative, fun, and engaging educational ideas and activities. With special expertise in science and math, RAFT offers a variety of ideas, activity kits, and workshops that are tied to the Colorado content standards.

Backward Design

Thursday I had the honor of working with my friend and colleague Linda Conway and amazing educator Darlene Burkhart as we backward designed a civics unit for second graders.  It was an interesting journey, as the four hour event forced me to study my intention for students.  Traditionally, beginning of the year routines have been worksheet booklets about friendship, classroom rituals and behavioral norms.  However, now I know the destination that we (the students and I) are aiming for.  With an enduring understanding of Interactions Impact Community, students will be challenged to think about:

  • What is community?
  • How do my actions affect our community?
  • How do I model good citizenship?

This will be accomplished (hopefully) through cross curricular and  collaborative activities such as describing areas of the classroom, measurement, mapping, developing and defending behavioral norms for these spaces.  The performance assessment will be a commercial of sorts developed by students, advertising their “space”.  Image

Meeting with Friends

Meeting with Friends

It is clear that teachers need collegial relationships 24/7. Meeting with friends who will be at my school, in other districts, and other schools within my district, rejuvenated the fact that collaborating and supporting one another is KEY in education these days. The world is full of possibilities. Teacher friends help us filter, they help us with advice, they help form our thinking, they help us when we are feeling unable to achieve what were hoping for. Teacher friends are part of the never ending journey of learning. Keep them near as this is not a solo job, that is FOR sure.

Color?  Primary? Red, Yellow, Blue?  Theme?  Lakeshore? Really Good Stuff?  Hobby Lobby? Michaels?

Photo Jul 23, 2 00 07 PMAh, decisions abounding; however, made.  What do kids like?  What resonates with 7 and 8 year olds? For years I have loved Julys, planning the theme of my upcoming classroom, with the bows, black and white polka dots, butcher paper sculptures, among a myriad of handmade touches.  My grandmother’s baking cabinet has graced my classroom ever since I fell in love with Debbie Miller’s book, Reading for Meaning decades ago.  My friend calls the classroom the Second Teacher, and I agree with her.   But I am asking myself….what am I trying to teach with my environment?   I have been reflecting upon my personal decorative passions, I am asking myself as I reflect on my history, “who have I been decorating for?”  The antique cabinet that I mentioned became more of a dust collector than a place for kids, paper sculptures drooped and took up valuable wall space, handmade bows were untied and tied again with really no purpose. My collection of antique readers were only a display, not an active part of my students’  Photo Jul 23, 1 59 55 PM Photo Jul 23, 2 00 00 PM (1)

learning.  However comments such as “Oh, your classroom is so inviting!”  “Wow, what a cute room!” and/or  “What a great environment…”  kept me going from year to year.

All of this is part of my conscious shifting.   I have tried to envision a place that is joyful and colorful, yet completely flexible for a moments change in the room.  Kids’ work will continue to grace the space; however, there will virtual pictures of work streaming from the monitors throughout the room.  The color scheme is a bit more muted than I have used in the past, concentrating on lighter green, browns and splashes of bright orange—actually this is a fairly trendy palette of late.  So far, I like it!  Do all teachers have the luxury of painting the walls in their room and having fancy computer wall monitors?  Most likely not—-YET.  But, hopefully I can use this pilot to try some new things, helping all of us move into a more purposeful and resourceful use of space.  Here goes!

Learning Management Systems

Learning Management Systems

Get it organized Blevins (I mean Harper….the new name thing is going to be challenging!).  The IPADS are here, the cases, waiting for the charging cart…..and guess what?  It’s my turn now to find educational features, applications and routines that will engage my second graders….I am NOT looking to redefine that worksheet that I have used for 12 years; I am hoping to find items that will take my kids to that next level, creating new learning tasks that could not be done without the technology!  (once again SMAR model)…the fun begins, sort of!

Good things are going to happen

Good things are going to happen

After contemplating the inspiring YES poem (Andrea Gibson) which my friend shared and continuing to envision the Primary Innovation Studio, it is clear that GOOD THINGS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN. We all have the power to say yes and put our best FEET forward, certainly when our receivers are students who are depending on us to present our most brilliant light! Today is my Reggio day, as I am hoping to study and put into the “plans” into place.  Reggio Emilia  is an educational approach imported from Italy.