Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Student-Led Conferences

We believe that Student-Led Conferences are the single most important day in our students' school lives. However, they're useless if the students are not in control or if they lose control to their parents during the conference. How many times do we see an unprepared kid lose control of their conference because their parents have started picking holes in their work, finding errors or demanding to see things? It's all about empowering students so that they can be the boss. It's all about giving them strategies that they can use in order to put them in control.

Here's a checklist that we're using this year to get our students ready for their Student-Led Conferences. Some of it is very specific to our curriculum and to our students, but it may help you get ideas as you plan for yours. And... if your school doesn't run Student-Led Conferences, it's time they did!!!

What are your experiences of Student-Led Conferences? What resources do you use to prepare the kids for them?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Getting it right

Another question that arose from our conversation is what happens when students place themselves lower on a continuum than what their knowledge and understanding 'really' is? It is a good idea to have a standard for your particular age level. That standard should reflect an average expected outcome.Use this benchmark for students to measure against it. They will quickly realize where they truly are on a continuum. The most important thing to be aware of and be as accurate as possible is the student's initial 'place' on a continuum. If this truly reflects their ability then the student and teacher can work from this point. However, if the student has made an error in judgment then the student could be receiving too much or too little support for them to move along the continuum in a way that does not allow conceptual understanding. These new acquired strategies and skills are necessary to move forward as learners as these build and establish how to learn and not what to learn. The teacher and student need to have conversations about the choices students make when using a continuum. Model, share and find a balance between being sensitive about being honest with themselves and also being constructive to ensure growth and improvement will occur.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sarcasm in the Classroom

We were sitting at the Five Sails Restaurant eating breakfast yesterday when So Hang came up for a chat with us. She had attended our workshop and had some interesting questions for us. One of them was about the use of sarcasm in teaching and whether or not it was OK to do it. Someone else had brought up the subject of sarcasm in a conversation the day before and we had talked about what an interesting topic it would be for a workshop!

So Hang, Chad and I all agreed that learning to understand sarcasm and to use sarcasm was an important part of learning language. We felt that teachers who use sarcasm have a responsibility to ensure that our students are aware that we are being light-hearted and that there is no malice intended. Sarcasm is a subtle linguistic element that can be horribly misunderstood unless students are educated about its nuances. Perhaps a workshop would be a good idea... anyone want to run it?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

EARCOS Workshop 26/03/09

"Thanks. It was a motivating session. We're doing some good 'learning community' things, but I gained some new, exciting ideas to try. Cheers." Warren Bowers

"Start by meeting with my immediate team to explore our definition of what it means to be a community of learners." Jeff Crawford

"Thanks for inspiration and the affirmation. It is great to see the process you take your students through in order to empower them." Melissa Cooper

"Thank you for a great workshop. I like the fact that you are more focused on the students' learning than anything else. I will definitely set up teacher-student conferences at the beginning of the year. " Afaf Finan

"Get out of the classroom. Take inquiry outdoors." Sharon

"I am gonna introduce the community building concept to my friends and colleagues at Stenden University in Bangkok. I hope we can use pieces of it." Christian

"Engage the kids more in learning areas by giving them more choices about what they what to learn that day." Unknown

"I was getting a little bored of my job as I've been teaching the same things for 8 years. I am inspired to make some changes. Thanks." Unknown

"Connect people through common interest. In and out of the classroom." Jess

"I think involving the parents right from the start is essential. I really like the idea of bringing them into the classroom at the beginning, middle and end of a unit." Rosanna Ellis

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blue hat thinking - what now?

What steps could you take to move along the continuum?

"Get to know my students and parents more at the beginning of the year for tapping into later in the year." unknown

"Learn more about 'cyberspace' and how I can use it in my teaching." unknown

"Bring democracy into the classroom." Tracey

"Parent power, find out their strengths and interests early in the year." unknown

"Get out into the community more." unknown

"Involve parents - passive to active." Kerry

"Invite parents in more and use them as a resource." unknown

"Introduce student question/quotes/thought board in the classroom to track student thinking." Andy R.

"Teacher and student conferences to get to know each other." unknown

"Learn more about online networking tools." Chad and Sam

"I need to look beyond the school's walls and ensure more experiences and engagement." Eleanor

"More 'real world' interactions." unknown

"Give more freedom for decisions-making to the student." unknown

"Would be nice to learn more about differentiation in class." unknown

"More parent involvement, more excursions, involving students in their learning more." unknown

"Connecting via cyberspace, epenpals and skype." Teresa

"Rather than always teaching the students as a whole group, it is also important for a teacher to spend some individual time with each student." unknown

"Empower students more, involve them more in the decision-making process." Jo

"Inspire students to think in class rather than giving them stuff to read and write." unknown

"Work with my colleagues more productively." unknown

"Peers!" unknown

"Connect with students early in the year." Steve M.

"Make thinking visible." Steve M.

"Invite parents and others." Steve M.

"Move learning outside of the physical classroom more." unknown

"Include parents, more networking online." unknown

"Actually 'taking the steps' is what I would do. Not allowing 'time/people constraints' to affect me/the program." unknown

"Spend more time establishing essential agreements and involving parents." unknown

"Collaboration." unknown

"I want to do more what the children like to do." unknown

"Try to use talents within the school community." unknown

"Allow children to work on the floor more often." unknown

Responses from the workshop on Wednesday 19 March

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Ideas Flowchart

So much of what we do needs more thought. How often do we do things that we did last year, just because we did them last year? How often do we do things that seem like they might be educationally powerful when in fact they're not? Too often.

Using the flowchart just as a thought-process, can help you iron out all of those ideas and traditions that are really not giving the kids anything of substance.

Don't forget though, it is OK to just have fun sometimes!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Community Ripples

Photograph by Aussiegall

Think of your community of learners as the ripples made by throwing a rock into a pond. You and your students are able to reach out and harness the power of a wealth of human resources, skills, knowledge, talents and experiences. Not only are you able to enrich the learning experiences you provide to your students, you may also be able to affect the lives of others.

Be aware of the potential reach of your community of learners.

The 4 Core Elements & Learning Communities

Look through the lenses of the 4 Core Elements and consider why and how to maximize the potential of your community of learners. Identifying and becoming aware of the potential learning opportunities that your community of learners can support will inevitably spark the 4 Core Elements into action. And, vice-versa, staying mindful of the 4 Core Elements will inevitably help you create a powerful community of learners. The two feed each other.

Through the Lenses of the Core Elements

Look at your teaching practices and ideas through these lenses. Are those 4 Core Elements there? Where do you see them most? Where do you see them least? What could you do more? What could you do less? What learning opportunities will stay with the students for the rest of their lives? What learning opportunities will stay with them for the rest of the day? What learning opportunities will stay with them until the end of the lesson?

Creating a Community of Learners

"Creating a Community of Learners", Sam Sherratt & Chad Walsh
EARCOS 2009, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Looking at communities of learners through the lenses of engagement, empowerment, experience and evidence. The importance of awareness of self, others and situation. The power of making thinking visible. Timing for impact and effect. The foundations of systems and democracy.