Monthly Archives: June 2014

Collaborative Supports for Students

2014-02-24 13.21.35Summer is filled with anxiously awaited personal hobbies, trips and fun; however, amongst every teacher’s planning of those sweet summer days includes some thought, reading or internet surfing as they start to prepare for a fresh new year. I have marveled at the plethora of great information that is skipping across my computer–great articles on personalized learning, project based learning, 21st Century classrooms and much, much more. Today, I was inspired to expand on a tenet of Project Based Learning that resonated in the Edutopia article, Five Keys to Rigorous Project Based Learning. One of the “keys” is an affirmation in regard to working with students, especially primary ones. It is the explicit need to teach, coach and support STRUCTURED collaboration. Still, so many label innovative and novel classrooms as unstructured, with kids completely doing magical inquiry with no guidelines, just being amazing (or not….) because the environment or teacher is one of the “innovative ones.”

Well —- I can attest to the fact that rigorous and purposeful collaboration does not magically happen in second grade. Most students do not have the skills to work together, and socially and developmentally they are unable to understand the give and take of working with others. These skills need to be modeled, guided and revisited, ad nauseum.

This hits upon the same tune that I sing throughout this blog, which is that notion of primary teachers living in the journey part of student growth. In other words, we mingle in the messy, sometimes chaotic world of students trying new things for the first time, trying again and again, getting better and better.

Our “house or common place” is not necessarily the shiny destination of complete mastery. We are the road.

I am posing the question: Is is best for students to experience assigned collaborative roles as they become collaborators? Do young students gain confidence in the “structure” of a modeled and understood role for their first collaborative attempts? The Teaching Channel details structured collaboration in this video:

Chef of Joy: A Recipe



This week, I have been enjoying Create Something Great: ideate, initiate, implement as teachers have gathered together to talk innovation fueled by design theory. The symposium began last night with a panel of folks from across the nation, addressing where we are in regard to education, paradigm shifting and more. As I have been digesting all of this brain food, it is clear that I, as a teacher, learning facilitator and coach of young students, continue to listen to a resonating tune. It is the song of joy. That is what we as primary educators need to be cooking up. It is not the latest and greatest computer, the fanciest room, or the latest project based lesson idea—-it is COMMUNITY–a place that embraces each child and a place that the child wants to be in. Then, the child will learn.  Briefly, I will mention some tidbits of inspiration that I gleaned from the speakers last night:

Doug Daniels, Google: Doug’s theme statement was, “don’t settle for the 10%, go for 10x.”  This is a Google mantra and he suggested that teachers think on this one. He too connected success with a healthy classroom culture. I appreciated his Rules for Revolutionaries: 1) Data not opinions 2) Users not competition 3) Innovation not perfection 4) Enrich you environments 5) Live in a modern workplace 5)Ideas come from everyone 6) Enable your information workers 7) Work and hire the best.

Meenoo Rami,English teacher at the Science Leadership Academy:  Meenoo was a proponent of inquiry and project based learning which is modeled and focused on questions. She emphasized the need for staffs who all hold a clear vision and excitement about kids. Kids first—–then standards. She also talked about how tech is only a tool to evaluate work not a babysitting service. “If kids are having fun in a classroom, go in a figure out why and do it yourself!”

Adrian Bazemore, Proctor & Gamble: Adrian’s theme was the need for critical thinking in the workplace. He begged teachers to teach this explicitly and give students opportunities to practice it. He talked about the influx of information that kids are privy to and the need for them to be able to read it and turn it into their OWN thinking. He questioned students’ ability to multitask and process and expressed a concern in regard to information and screen overload. Just like Meenoo, he proclaimed that tech does not do the most important job of a teacher: “helping create within the student a desire to learn, curiosity and a drive to inquire.”

Elliott Asp, Assistant to the Commissioner at CDE: Once again, an experienced educator reminds us that tech is ONLY A TOOL. Elliott also spoke of the importance of getting to know students individually and delving into their interest areas. Interestingly, he also asserted that it is only an assumption that all parents want a traditional classroom for their kids. Parents want their children to be excited by learning and exploring!

Jon Wuerth, Co-Found of School in the Woods: Jon drove home community like nobody’s business. The students at his school start the day with a 30 minute classroom meeting and end the day with a 30 minute meeting!  Wow! I love that! Parent volunteers are encouraged and valued. Jon emphasized the importance of identifying children as naturalists and could not preach loud enough about outdoor opps for kids.

Vic Ahmed, Innovation Pavilion, Visionary: Vic founded the Innovation Pavilion in Centennial and is a visionary in regard to entrepreneurs and start up companies. His no bones about it approach highlighted discussions in regard to student debt and even the question of college being for everyone. “The high school can become the business incubator.” His three suggestions to educators: 1) Experiential Learning 2) Life and Leadership Skills 3) Problem/Project Based Learning.

So, as you see, my head is full, and after spending a couple days with folks who are thinking about the future of education and how we can make things great for kids, I am still waving that little shiny PRIMARY flag. How do we prepare the youngest learners for their amazing learning path into the future? Well, after all of this, my conclusion is this: create a classroom community of trust and joy. Simple as that, with a cherry on top!