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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Teaching Is Like Riding a Bicycle

Teaching is like riding a bicycle. Once you learn, you'll never forget. Writing a thorough lesson plan gets you up on that bike, rolling down the sidewalk.

New standards provide a framework for excellence in teaching, but in reality, it's just oh-so-easy to pick up that old textbook and teach it from cover to cover. Teacher evaluation programs give us much more specific criteria, but they only assess. What would happen if we coached teachers to create thorough lesson plans and then assessed those showcase lessons? Teaching and learning would improve.

Let's bring back the bicycle analogy. Teaching a child in a school setting is like teaching a child to ride a bicycle:

  1. Objective - We explain the point: "Today you will learn how to ride a bicycle."
  2. Direct Instruction and Modeling - We tell them how to do it and show by doing it ourselves.
  3. Guided Practice - We hold them up and run along beside them while they try it.
  4. Formative Assessment - We ask how it's going. We let go and and see what happens.
  5. Independent Practice - We ask them to do it themselves - - - over and over until they get good at it.
  6. Differentiation - We use strategies to address different rates or ways they learn.
  7. Collaboration - We let them try it with their friends.
  8. Higher Order Thinking Skills - We take them to a new level.
  9. Assessment - We test them out to see if they're ready to venture out on their own.
Using these time-tested strategies is essential to a high score on teacher evaluation rubrics. More importantly, they're essential to good teaching and learning. 


Monday, August 25, 2014

My First Year of Teaching

Flash back to 1983. I arrive, young and bright-eyed for my first day of teaching.

What age group and subject(s) were you teaching?  I taught a class of 18 fourth graders.

What was your first classroom like? I remember four light green glazed brick walls. The front wall had a blackboard flanked by two empty bulletin boards. The back wall was totally covered with three large bulletin boards. One side wall had a coat room, a teacher closet, and the door; the other held a big, noisy heater (no air conditioning) and rows of low shelves. Above the shelves were rows of windows with round stickers on their edges. The stickers marked the exact position each window shade had to be at the end of each day (or else you would be written up by the superintendent!) I vividly remember my reaction to that first room: What will I put on all of those empty shelves and bulletin boards???

Technology in my classroom amounted to the chalkboard. That's it. I could borrow a 16 mm film projector (with a big reel of film) or a film strip projector from the library. That fall we were fortunate to receive our first copy machine, and later in the year we got two Apple IIe computers (no software, no Internet...just two computers for which we had to write code.)

Were you given supplies and materials? When I entered the building a few days before school started, the principal handed me a key, a box of chalk, an American flag, and a ream of brown construction paper. He pointed me down the hall to my room, and that was it. Later, after I begged for more supplies, he gave me a pair of ancient scissors, a tape dispenser, and a used plan book. You may think I'm joking, but I'm not.

Fortunately, after a very short amount of time, I was able to order  a limited amount of supplies, such as tape, staples, glue, and more construction paper. The PTO supplied classroom games. I will say, however, that it took years for me to fill the small amount of storage space I had in that classroom. How ironic, when I now wish I had less stuff!

What was the hardest part of your first year of teaching? The hardest part of my first year of teaching was that I didn't really know how to teach or how to manage a classroom. At the time, I felt frustrated, but I really don't think I realized how little I knew.

What was the best part of your first year of teaching? Teaching and learning! Learning and teaching! It was magical!

What do you know now that you wish you knew that first year? Oh my. Nothing. As they say, ignorance is bliss. And education is a journey.

Times have changed. Teaching has changed. I have changed. But I wouldn't change a thing.

Many thanks to Laurah J. of the ESOL Odyssey for prompting this blog.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Six-Word Selfies

My class had a bit of back-to-school fun writing six-word selfies and publishing them Snapchat style. It was easy! I simply asked each child to write a six-word sentence that explained his/her hopes, dreams, goals, or aspirations for the school year. We passed around an iPad, and each student took a selfie. Later, I inserted each child's photo into a PowerPoint presentation, created a gray text box across the middle of the page, and typed in his/her six-word sentence. Here's mine:

These six-word selfies made a wonderful classroom display!


For more classroom activities, links, and freebies, visit my new blog, Enjoy Teaching.