Environment As the Third Teacher

DoctorIsIn

Dear Dr. P.,

I am excited about my new classroom, but I’m feeling completely overwhelmed looking at the bare walls and thinking about how I’m going to make the classroom come to life and be organized for the students. Any suggestions?

Thank you, Classroom Setup Crunch


Dear Crunch,

Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of Reggio Emilia preschools, would be enthusiastic about your question. He believed that environment is such an important part of making learning meaningful that he coined the term “environment as the third teacher” (Gandini, 2011).

The Reggio Emilia approach provokes educators to think differently about the aesthetics of a classroom. Instead of purchased “decorations,” students are the creators of the aesthetic through learning. For example, instead of buying an alphabet chart to put at the front of the room, young learners can create one themselves out of sticks found on the playground or materials recycled from another unit. The students not only use the finished chart, but they also engage in an in-depth way by constructing it to make meaning for themselves. Older students can use similar techniques to create a periodic table or an anchor chart.

Student-made alphabet chart adorns the hallway at the IPS/Butler Lab School.

Consider what supplies you can keep out on a regular basis instead of just pulling them out for a short time. You’ll notice this inspires a creative work process. Imagine if you encourage students to use the set of magnifying glasses at recess and beyond! In Reggio Emilia-inspired classrooms, you’ll often see glass jars or recycled storage containers (like baskets) filled with materials for learners’ easy access.

Ms. Marielle Keller’s kindergarten classroom at the IPS/Butler Lab School.

Think about how students move around your class to collaborate. Where are they able to work in small groups? What is the easiest access to supplies without disrupting classmates? At the beginning of the year, have students role-play the appropriate and inappropriate ways to move about the room. This “interactive modeling” also can help you assess what does and does not work. After you’ve built a strong class community, why not give students a chance to redesign the room and think about the ways the classroom can morph and change to support their growing needs?

Lastly, calming spots, relaxation stations, and “amygdala reset areas” are important for students who might need a break for behavior or academic reasons. These areas are usually a soft space away from the busyness of the classroom. They don’t have to be large, just safe spots for kids to take a break in a proactive way.

Lastly, and I know this goes against the grain, but I highly encourage you to not feel pressure to spend money on your classroom environment (although we’ve all done it). From an administrative and community perspective, it gives a false sense of budget needs. Many new teachers have had tremendous success with Donorschoose.org for supplies like pillows and lamps for calming spots. Businesses also have allotted money for school donations and, in many cases, all you must do is fill out a simple form. PTAs and parent groups are also eager to support environment when possible.

Enjoy establishing your new community and your new environment!

Dr. P.

Image result for catherine hagerman panganDr. Pangan, a former elementary teacher and current Professor at Butler University (Indianapolis), loves to help build and support strong, healthy schools. Please send your question for Dr. P. to cpangan@butler.edu.

Reference

Gandini, L. (2011). Play and the hundred languages of children: An interview with Lella Gandini. American Journal of Play, 4(1), 1–18.

Technically Speaking: Ed Tech for the Danielson Domains

Hello, friends! In this issue, I am sharing educational technology tools across the Danielson domains.

TechDanielson

The Danielson domains refer to four domains of teacher responsibility as defined within the Framework for Teaching (www.danielsongroup.org/framework). This is a curated list from preservice teachers at Grove City College, who were tasked with identifying a tech tool for each domain.

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

Domain 1 focuses on knowing your students beyond the student interest survey, understanding the content area and how to best teach it with evidencebased practices, assessing students’ learning, and ensuring that your content is coherent in sequence and scope.

  • Share My Lesson
  • Teachers Pay Teachers – Find a library of resources created by teachers, for teachers! Edit the lessons for your students’ needs.
  • Planboard – Organize lessons, share documents, track standards, and collaborate with other educators in your district. Record attendance, grades, and observations within this easy-to-use tech tool!

Domain 2: Classroom Environment

Domain 2 is about creating a classroom of respect and rapport among students, and between students and teachers. It is a space where students feel safe to think creatively, solve problems, and collaborate.

  • Classtools – Classtools is an EdTech treasure trove with a QR code creator, random name picker, Fakebook, fake Twitter, and more.
  • Adobe Spark
  • Canva – Don’t buy a motivational poster—make your own! Or better yet, have your students make them and display their work.

Domain 3: Instruction

Domain 3 is the heart of the framework, focusing on engaging students in learning and instruction. It pulls in features of teaching such as assessment, communication, and being a flexible educator.

  • Screencast-O-Matic – Record a lesson or presentation that is easy to share and embed in your class website or LMS.
  • Padlet – Add comments, links, pictures, and videos to this virtual sticky note board.
  • EdPuzzle – Do you want to make sure that students watched the video before class? Try this tool to embed questions into videos.
  • Kahoot
  • Gimkit
  • Socrative – These tools offer fun ways to conduct formative assessments.

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

Domain 4 relates to the power of reflection. You don’t want to be that teacher who uses the same lessons each year. Shake it up. Ask yourself, what is best for my students? This domain also relates to professional development (PD) and growing as an educator of excellence.

How can you implement educational technology based on the domains? Share your ideas!

Image result for sam fecich grove city collegeDr. Fecich is a former special education teacher and now is Assistant Professor and Instructional Technologist at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. She enjoys connecting with other educators about teacher prep, STEM, augmented reality, and mobile learning. Please send your educational technology questions to Sfecich@gmail.com.

Looking Deeper: Visual Thinking Strategies

VisualThinking

Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the story of every piece of artwork is in the imagination of the viewer. Teachers practicing Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) can use selected works to get a better understanding of what their students are thinking while simultaneously building students’ critical thinking and observational skills. VTS is a method of inquiry that asks students to observe and comment on a work of art. VTS is an offshoot of Abigail Housen’s (1999) work on aesthetic development. Although her original research was done in anticipation of outcomes for the art world, VTS can be used in a wide range of school subjects with favorable results.

How can you use VTS in your classroom?

VTS can be used for a variety of outcomes and across grade levels and class subjects.

  • Hook students with an interesting image that relates to the class subject and get them talking about it.
  • Assess what students already know through their comments during an informal conversation about the artwork.
  • Build language skills by reframing student comments with correct grammar and more sophisticated wording.
  • Spur critical thinking by asking students to support their opinion with evidence.

How does VTS work?

Ask the students what they see in the work of art, which puts the student in the role of “expert.” Instead of asking the student to come up with the correct answer, you are asking them to share what they know. As students listen to one another, they begin to see that more than one correct answer, with multiple perspectives, is possible. When you ask the students to look for more clues in the picture, you are encouraging their observational skills. These skills have been shown to transfer across subject areas after students become familiar with the process (Huh, 2016).

How can you implement VTS?

  1. Select a work of art that is accessible to the class and has something going on in it.
  2. Invite students to silently observe the work for a minute or so, giving them time to form ideas about it.
  3. Start the conversation by asking “What’s going on in this picture?” As a student makes their observation, point out what is being addressed in the work so that everyone can follow along.
  4. Paraphrase the students’ observation, correcting any grammatical errors and using appropriate vocabulary. This ensures that students understand what the speaker is saying, and it gives the speaker feedback.
  5. Ask the speaker, “What do you see that makes you say that?” Encourage the student to give supporting evidence for their claim.
  6. When the conversation has ended, ask, “What more do you see?” to the class, and move on to the next observation.
  7. Throughout the conversation, keep an even tone, neither praising nor condemning anyone’s ideas.
  8. Thank students for participating at the end of the session.

How do you choose a piece of art to view?

When selecting a piece of art for students to view, consider the audience: What subject matter might especially appeal to the age group or acknowledge their cultural background? Choose a piece that has a narrative; abstract art will not work for beginning viewers. Be sensitive to topics that might cause emotional upset to your particular population.

What should you expect from VTS?

Using this practice requires getting comfortable with silence. When you first start using this technique, students won’t know what to expect. Most students are used to being asked for the “correct” answer, so a new approach might take a little getting used to. VTS also will require you to share your status of “expert in the room.” The rewards of which could be a better understanding of the students in your class and a more genuine learning environment.

Finally, while VTS can be a great way to begin a lesson, you have no guarantee that the conversation will go in the direction you anticipate. You must be prepared to alter your lesson based on where students take the conversation. The tradeoff is that you will be teaching a lesson in which students are truly engaged and interested.

Image result for christina connors family and consumer scienceMs. Connors has been teaching Family and Consumer Science at Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School for 13 years. She attended the Visual Thinking Strategies Practicum at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2014. Ms. Connors aspires to create students who are as curious and excited to learn new things as she is.

Additional Resources

Visual Thinking Strategies (https://vtshome.org)

  • Trainings in VTS offered nationwide.
  • Subscription includes printable classroom materials, student assessments, facilitator reflection, and image curriculum for Grades PreK–8.

References

Housen, A. (1999). Eye of the beholder: Research, theory and practice. Retrieved from https://vtshome.org/research

Huh, K. (2016). Visual thinking strategies and creativity in English education. Indian Journal of Science and Technology, 9(S1).

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Dr. Yvonne Skipper

Today’s blogger is Yvonne Skipper, who co-authored with Eloise de Carvalho to write “’I Have Seen the Opportunities That Science Brings’: Encouraging Girls to Persist in Science,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

This time-honored question, which children across the globe are asked with regularity, can lead to surprising responses.

Beyond the whimsical “princess” and “unicorn” to the heart-warming “happy,” children often have strong ideas even before they reach school.

However, as children get older and learn more about the world, these ideas can change.

For example, we cannot all become a real princess like Megan Markle! Sometimes these views change, not because of how children see the world, but because of how the world sees them. Society may openly or subtly suggest that certain jobs are for men and others for women.

This view can impact the subjects and careers children choose, as illustrated in this brief video.

There is currently a huge demand for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates in the workforce. Those with a STEM background are valued not just in the science-based jobs, but also in other roles where the ability to think critically, analyze data, and evaluate evidence is prized.

However, often children are not interested in STEM subjects, seeing them as “too hard” or “boring,” and they are even less interested in scientific careers. When you look at those who do continue in science, typically you find more boys in STEM subjects, such as math and physics, and in pursuit of careers such as engineering. This difference is not seen because girls lack talent in these subjects. In fact, girls often perform better than boys, receiving higher proportions of the top grades. So why are these talented girls less likely to continue in STEM than boys?

It has been suggested that we choose our subjects and our careers based on whether we think we can succeed and our values.

Boys are more likely than girls to believe they can succeed in STEM, even though they are overall less likely to get the highest grades. Their belief might come from seeing so many famous male scientists, both in academia and in fiction. This can lead boys and girls to believe that men are more likely to succeed and also more likely to “belong” in science. Even the television show Big Bang Theory focuses more on male scientists; female scientists Amy and Bernadette do not appear until later seasons and are working in the more “female” fields of medicine and neurobiology. It is important that the media fully represent female scientists in their factual and fiction programming.

We also choose subjects and careers that we think we will enjoy and that we see as useful in our lives or in our communities.

Many girls choose careers where they can help others, such as teaching, midwifery, and social work. Girls often do not perceive STEM careers as “helpful.” This is interesting because, for example, designing a new wheelchair to manage rough terrain, creating inclusive educational technologies, and researching cures for diseases could have a positive impact and help people worldwide. Yet often girls do not make the connection between STEM subjects and the impact of associated careers, and may prefer a more interpersonal approach to helping.

Promoting how “helpful” science can be could potentially lead girls to develop an understanding about how science improves society.

In our Forum article, Eloise and I are not saying that girls should be pushed into science careers, but instead that women should not leave a subject or career path for the “wrong” reason, such as believing that they are less likely to succeed than others or that they will not belong. Instead it is important that we feel able to choose our subjects and career paths in line with our interests and goals for ourselves and our communities.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through June 30, 2019.

Communication Is the Key to Student Teaching

StudentTeaching

As a senior education major, you are thrilled to begin your student teaching experience.

You also may be concerned about the relationship with your cooperating teacher. Are you a guest in the classroom or a co-teacher? Did the teacher volunteer to work with you, or were you just assigned to him or her as another duty this year? How worried is the cooperating teacher about supervising you and raising the test scores of all students during the same semester?

It is critically important to start student teaching “on the right foot.”

You need to clarify answers to so many questions with clear communication before, and during, the student teaching semester.

What To Do Before the Student Teaching Experience

  1. Find out where you are to be, and when. Start dates are important. Are you to meet with the teacher before the first day of the student teaching assignment? Are you to coordinate that meeting with both the teacher and the college supervisor?
  2. What are the hours involved in student teaching? Does your college require the same hours of the teacher, or can you leave when the students leave on days that you need to be back on campus?
  3. How do you communicate with the cooperating teacher (sometimes called the mentor teacher)? Today’s teachers are overwhelmed and may not want to be available 24/7 for your text messages and emails. Make sure that you know how the teacher wishes to be contacted. If it’s only during the school day, plan ahead for your work.

What To Do the First Few Days

Some student teachers report that they don’t know what to do, or that their teacher has them sit off to the side. Here are starting points for the first few days:

  1. Make a copy of the bell schedule for yourself.
  2. Make a copy of all seating charts for yourself.
  3. Read the school’s management plan and faculty handbook.
  4. Discuss the management plan and discipline with your teacher.
  5. Find out where things are—the computers, copier, and supplies.
  6. Get to know the building—restrooms, emergency exits, cafeteria, and other teachers’ rooms.

Planning Your Work

Your cooperating teacher may not know the expectations of the college’s student teaching program. At your initial meeting, share copies of specific assignments that you must complete, and communicate the hours you need to teach.

  1. Get a calendar and look at your assignments side by side with the schedule of the cooperating teacher. Make sure you both write the specific due dates.
  2. Share the guidelines with the cooperating teacher about how he or she will approve your teaching hours.
  3. Be the go-between person to coordinate the required observations from your college supervisor.
  4. Show your cooperating teacher a copy of the evaluation that he or she will complete about your work. Discuss how you can demonstrate some of the requirements of the evaluation, such as use of technology or differentiation of instruction.
  5. If your college or state requires EdTPA, (the Teacher Performance Assessment) or other video assessment, get the necessary permissions for use of video early in the semester.

What Your Cooperating Teacher Expects

While many cooperating teachers are delighted to share their knowledge and consider working with a student teacher to be a recognition of their expertise, others are very worried when they are assigned a student teacher. To assuage their fears, be the best co-teacher you can be.

  1. Always be on time. Communicating that you will be late is not an excuse, so don’t text and say you are running behind that day. Your teacher/mentor expects you to be there on time.
  2. Your teacher expects you to be there all the time you are assigned to the room. Teachers rely on student teachers for help with everything from attendance to teaching lessons. Don’t let them down.
  3. Be prepared. With 28 third graders sitting in front of you, you can’t just “wing it.”
  4. Look professional. You can’t dress the way you would for a class on campus. Look like the teacher! No casual clothes, and you must get up early enough to have a good hair day.
  5. The teacher wants help. He or she appreciates help to provide more small-group remediation and to provide more individualized attention to students. Having a second adult in the room can be a real asset. Being a remarkable helper ensures that you will learn more at the same time.
  6. Your teacher expects you to be immersed in the classroom experience—no texting or reading Facebook during class time. Be 100% present.

The Magic Words

Student teachers continue to evaluate their field experiences as the best part of their teacher education programs. A good student teaching experience prepares you well for your first year of teaching—and beyond.

Remember the magic words, “How can I help you today?” These words are the best communication tool for a productive learning experience in student teaching.

mary clement berry collegeDr. Clement is a Professor of Teacher Education at Berry College in north Georgia, where she continues to supervise student teachers annually. She earned her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is the author of 13 books in her research area: the hiring and induction of new teachers.

Additional Online Resources

4 Steps To Engage Students In The Close Reading Process

CloseReading

You know that close reading is important and necessary due to Common Core mandates, but do you feel uncomfortable when it is time to teach close reading and implement close reading strategies with your students?

Does your current mode of instruction leave your students disengaged and uninterested in reading?

What can you do to change the current atmosphere in your classroom regarding close reading and close reading strategies?

With the adoption of the Common Core Standards, teachers were pushed to incorporate close reading into their curriculum (Dollins, 2016). It sent teachers into a frenzy to find ways of promoting close reading within their classrooms. Close reading is defined as uncovering layers of meaning that lead to deep comprehension of complex text (Boyles, 2014). But how does one effectively do this? One way is by using close reading strategies—concepts that help students actively think about close reading in a formulaic manner.

Figuring out which strategies are the most effective in engaging students while allowing them to deeply comprehend the selected course reading is a daunting task for a newer teacher. However, you can do four things to ensure that your students get the most out of the close reading process.

1. Choose interesting and culturally relevant text.

Choose text and passages that are interesting to your students. When students find no interest or relevance in the text, they will be disengaged and uninterested. Choose texts that are age appropriate, intellectually stimulating, and culturally relevant. When books contain characters or situations that are representative of students, children are more likely to remain engaged and show curiosity (May, Bingham, & Pendergast, 2014).

2. Use graphic organizers.

Graphic organizers encourage your students to engage with complex text by organizing key ideas from the reading (Flynt & Cooter, 2005; Singleton & Filce, 2015). Foldable graphic organizers are interactive and will keep kinesthetic learners engaged as they fill in important information from the text.

3. Read the text in different methods.

Students should not sit and read independently as the only form of reading. Chunk the text into smaller, shorter passages, depending on the length of the text. Then, allow students to read with a partner, read with a whole group, read independently, or listen to audiobooks. You can even read aloud to your students. Use all methods in a balanced manner, being sure that students do not become fatigued from reading and shut down.

4. Discuss.

What’s the point in reading literature if there’s no discussion? Give students the opportunity to share their learning, discuss opinions, make predictions, and share alternate endings for the text. After engaging in the close reading of a text, the best way to encourage engagement and interest is to allow students to share their ideas about a text.

Today’s classroom teachers don’t have the luxury of simply assigning text and allowing students to self-monitor for comprehension.

When expecting students to closely read a text, teachers must be hands-on throughout the close reading process, especially to ensure engagement with, foster interest in, and allow students to derive meaning from the text. There’s no need for the frenzy of trying to figure out how to promote close reading in the classroom. Implement these simple close reading strategies for stress-free, engaged, and interesting close reading throughout your class.

Image result for sharonica nelson university of alabama birmingham Dr. Nelson is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English/ Language Arts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her research interests include urban education, writing instruction, and close reading.

References

Boyles, N. (2014). Close reading without tears. Educational Leadership, 72(1), 32–37.

Dollins, C. A. (2016). Crafting creative nonfiction: From close reading to close writing. The Reading Teacher, 70(1), 49–58. https://doi.org/10.1002/trtr.1465

Flynt, E. S., & Cooter Jr., R. B. (2005). Improving middle-grades reading in urban schools: The Memphis Comprehension Framework. Reading Teacher, 58(8), 774–780.

May, L. A., Bingham, G. E., & Pendergast, M. L. (2014). Culturally and linguistically relevant readalouds. Multicultural Perspectives, 16(4), 210–218. https://doi.org/10.1080/15210960.2014.952299

Singleton, S. M., & Filce, H. G. (2015). Graphic organizers for secondary students with learning disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 48(2), 110–117. https://doi.org/10.1177/0040059915605799

Closing the Year With ‘Class’

Closing the school year is rewarding and challenging, but you can increase the potential of a rewarding close to school with purposeful planning of year-end activities. Good planning, as well as the flexibility to seize teachable moments, sets the stage for meaningful closure and celebration.

Plan deliberately.

Prioritize and schedule your tasks and remaining lessons for students. Allow time for year-end necessities such as cleaning out files, washing down tables and chairs, and sorting materials. Recruit students to help. Keep a tablet handy during the final weeks to jot down your wish list of To Do’s. Expect end-of-the-year excitement and rising outdoor temperatures to elicit restlessness among your students. Capitalize on their extra energy by continuing relevant learning and creating new challenges. Let students teach part of a lesson, perform applied research in a content area, or design assessments for a study unit. Maintain order by reminding students of routines and their personal responsibility to the learning environment. Keeping them accountable academically and behaviorally is crucial for maximum enjoyment of the school year’s end.

Teach flexibly.

Inherently, the end of the school year brings extra tasks. To enjoy the process of teaching and learning until the last day, proactively maintain professional balance through cooperation with students and colleagues, organization, prioritized goals, and flexibility. In addition, remind yourself to view each student as an individual—a special person who benefits from eye contact and a smile, belief in his or her abilities, and seeing your enjoyment in learning.

Reward the class.

Celebrate accomplishments as students learn. Students may create a document, laminated poster, or bound booklet that showcases their work and identifies future goals. Draw a timeline of growth in knowledge and skills. Play a special game. Throw a party! Bring in balloons and popcorn. Have each student write his or her name as an acrostic, and ask the other students to write encouraging words or phrases for each letter describing the student or his or her contributions to the class. Commend your students for their yearlong efforts and achievements.

Reflect to renew.

During the last few weeks of school, reflect on your teaching and set goals for the future. Describe your practice, analyze it, and launch new objectives. Capture your reflective process to show evidence of improved teaching competencies—via entries in a spiral notebook, scribbles by lesson plans, or adjustments to a behavior log. Structure your self-assessment with an evaluation tool or a teaching-standards document. When evaluating, don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments!

Set specific goals.

Choose one or more professional-development goals to accomplish during the break. You might take a class, research an aspect of teaching, plan a new unit, or upgrade current documents. Select personal goals as well! Making time to walk in the park, read a book for pleasure, or finish a home project also is important. Enjoyable “life moments” renew your energy and restore your focus personally and professionally.

Try these ideas to keep your classroom a place for achievement and success until the final bell. When that bell rings, you’ll be the teacher who ended the year with “class”!

Self-Assessment

In a simple three-column table, document the following: Teaching Competency, Evidence in Practice, Future Goals. When completed, add this professional artifact to your portfolio.

 

 

Author: Sharon A. Kortman