powerful moments in education
A few years back, someone asked me what I thought was the most important piece of knowledge teachers gain with experience. Without hesitation I responded, “Modeling.” And though experienced teachers know this, sometimes things fall apart. Yet every time something seems to be unraveling in my classroom the reason is always the same. I did not model something enough (ie: procedure, expectations) or I forgot to make sure students had the opportunity to practice the models enough before the behavior was handed off to them in the gradual release of responsibility. Each time this is recognized, you have to start at the beginning in order to get on the right track.
In these finals days leading up to the start of school, I read and think and reflect on modeling. Yes, Jaclyn, you need to model and practice use of materials, no matter how seemingly obvious it may be. Yes, you need to model and practice the language we use as classmates, learners, inquirers, and citizens. Yes, you need to model the habits that children will need to be focused and industrious. They are relying on me to do this, even if they don’t know it.
1. Responsive Classroom– The First Six Weeks of School, The Morning Meeting Book, Teaching Children to Care, 88 Energizers… (all book and author information can be found here)
Whether you are lucky enough to receive the full training or you immerse yourself in reading and collaborating to understand the heart of this practice, the Responsive Classroom will create a classroom that is safe, fun, and positive. In this practice, the social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum. These books will provide you with the language, the examples, and the interactive songs and games to create the classroom environment you always dreamed was possible. Overwhelmed? I was! Start small. Start by understanding the language and establishing the Morning Meeting. From there, you will begin to want more.
2. Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor
If you read this blog frequently, you might be thinking THIS book again? Yes. This book again. If I had to burn all of my education books and was permitted to only save one, this would be it. Why does this get to be on the list for modeling?
The beauty of this book is that it truly engrains common language in children to discuss their learning. It creates a classroom where everyone can give concrete examples of tricky concepts like schema, inferring, and synthesizing- and then apply these to learning in all subjects. The arts-based experiences presented in this book give learners of all ages the language needed to manage their thinking, to know what is going smoothly and what is causing a blockage. The book is directed at literacy strategies, yet you will see this language begin to appear in all subjects as students realize that there are more types of literacy than skills needed to read a page of text.
3. The Daily Five by Gaily Boushey and Joan Moser
The concept of the Daily 5 is so simple it’s brilliant: Model the expected behaviors for 5 different areas of literacy practice and classroom management during literacy times will be seamless. For years, I thought to be a successful reading teacher I had to spend hours preparing centers. In 9 years I somewhat successfully achieved center creation ONCE – and as the weeks progressed, found that there was no way to possible differentiate appropriately and foster independence with this method. I used to run to my friend Amy’s 1st and 2nd grade classroom once a year- “Help me wrap my brain around these centers!” In time we (both) realized that we were working harder than the students.
Once my students received the models, practice and reinforcement of expected behaviors with posted anchor charts, the wheels of Read-to-Self, Read-to-Someone, Work on Writing, Work with Words, and Listen to Reading turned without a squeak. And I was actually able to work with students. Dig in to explicit teaching with groups. Focus intently on individuals. Even for more than an hour. Finally.
4. Edmodo– a web based, secure, social learning network for schools
My love for Edmodo is no secret. I recently devoted myself to training all staff at my school in how to utilize this tool for ourselves as a staff first, with the hopes that many will want to learn how to model its use for students. I believe in it so much as a tool to break down the walls for teachers to de-isolate ourselves and for students to extend the classroom and worlds.
Edmodo makes this list because it models the practice of digital citizenship and creating a positive footprint. It helps learners to manage and share their thinking and allows students and teachers to model the language of learning for each other. It extends the classroom to the home setting (provided there is internet at home) and gives students a home base to converse about questions, about their learning, and to rewind and review lessons if the teacher has posted resources, screencasts, or videos. It provides an asynchronous environment for the student that needs time to process and a place for motivated students to share resources with each other regarding new learning endeavors.
I believe these resources are key for teaching ANY age, ANY subject because they possess practice and theory that spans all ages and all curriculum. These books are fixtures in my bag (or on my computer screen) from August-October minimum, and are for many fabulous other teachers I know very well. Once the wheels are in motion for a classroom that has common language and the expectation of fun and safety, the rest will shine through with ease. The magic that causes us to say, “THIS is why I am a teacher” now has the space to appear.
*Cover photo licensed by Creative Commons
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