Today is World Fibonacci Day!
Here is an great introduction to this super amazing sequence of numbers found everywhere you look in the natural world.
Today is World Fibonacci Day!
Here is an great introduction to this super amazing sequence of numbers found everywhere you look in the natural world.
Managing all those pieces of work students didn’t complete, didn’t hand in, or that got lost in my classroom was one of my biggest stressors as a new teacher. With more than 30 students in my class, seven subjects, and five days of work a week, there is inevitably a lot of “stuff” to manage – both for teachers and for students. Over the years I developed a few easy systems that helped reduce stress for me, and my students. Here are my top five strategies for managing unfinished work.
Are your instructions and expectations clear. Do students understand the assignment and have clear deadlines? Provide your students with an age-appropriate written copy of the assignment and how you will assess their work. Go over it verbally, and check in personally with students you know will need extra help.
Reconsider the overall workload. Are there assignments you could be shortening, or removing all together? Are you giving students enough time both in class and at home to complete work? I always tried to make sure that students had both weeknight and weekend time to complete assignments. That way families can decide for themselves what works best for them.
Remember, you don’t need to collect or grade everything students do in your class! At the heart of differentiation is the idea that not all students need to do exactly the same assignments. An easy way to do this is to work with individual students to help them prioritize what work, and how much work, they need to complete in order to meet their learning needs.
How are you supporting individual students that struggle?
I tried my best to include strategies for differentiation in all my lesson plans – thinking about content, process, and product. One strategy I used was to have regular lessons about different kinds of graphic organizers, and explicitly teach how to choose the best one for a task and how to use them. Graphic organizers are great for everyone, not just students that are struggling! For students who struggled I would often focus on assessing content knowledge by only assessing the ideas in the graphic organizer.
A Three Part Agenda of Today, Work To Be Finished and Due Dates helps students see the big picture. I dedicated a large white board to the Three Part Agenda (I think I just dated myself there!), and students also had a copy they would update as they completed tasks. We would start every day by reviewing each part, and I would do an informal check-in to see how things were going and if I needed to adapt due dates.
As they year progressed I would introduce different systems for keeping track of assignments, including things like using a paper agenda, digital programs like google calendar, and homework apps. I encouraged students to try out different systems to see what worked for them, and then to share back with the class any new strategies they found worked for them.
A Planning Guide is great for any sort of longer assignment. At the start of the year I would provide a complete Planning Guide, and students just needed to check off as they finished the task, but as the year progressed I would give students more responsibility for making their own plans for how to break up a large assignment and setting their own goals (while making sure I supported those students who still needed it).
TBF is short for To Be Finished. We started each morning with half an hour of TBF time to work on things we had already started, and also had other periods dedicated to TBF. Students had the choice of what they wanted to work on, and usually had free choice of where to work as well – including quietly in the hallway. I would use this time to check-in with students, and read Asking For Help Tickets, and meet with students as requested (more on that later).
Asking for Help Tickets serve multiple purposes. I primarily used them as a way to encourage students to feel comfortable and take responsibility for asking for help with anything from requesting a new place to sit in the classroom, understanding a science concept, or needing time to clean their desk. It was also an important tool for me to make sure I didn’t miss things. And finally, asking students to list what they have already tried was a positive encouragement for students to be independent.
I also used a Turn In Spot (a washing bin) with Student Numbers so students knew where to hand things in – and I would know where to look! Students could volunteer to help me sort through the Turn In Spot during TBF time by sorting different subjects into piles, and then putting each pile in numerical order, so I could easily see what was missing. Then they could quietly go to each student and ask them if they had assignment X to hand in.
This is a more complicated strategy. One of the things I did when we reviewed the Agenda was think out loud about my own planning. So sometimes I would say things like “I just realized that I have the Learning Letters due on Tuesday, but I am out Tuesday night so won’t be able to finish correcting them. Why don’t we make them due on Wednesday instead”. Or, and this is the important part, I would say “I’ve fallen behind on my planning so I think we will do a double period of science tomorrow to give me time to plan the next steps in our Inquiry, is that ok with everyone, or do you have another idea?”
As the year progressed students would often have ideas about what we could do instead. And they would start to use this kind of thinking in their own planning. For example, a student might hand in an Asking for Help ticket that said “I had hockey three nights this week, so I didn’t get my Learning Letter done, but I did finish my Math. I’ll work on the Learning Letter on the weekend and have it done by Tuesday.” And my answer would be “cool! Thanks for letting me know”.
Finally, and I can’t stress this one enough. Be generous. Both to yourself, and your students. Our world is busy and stressful. We often know very little about what is happening in our students’ home lives – maybe they are over scheduled, there is family illness, or there is no quiet place for them to work. Too many children live with food insecurity and family violence. Thinking about homework needs to be low on their priority list for these children. There are so many important reasons why students don’t complete work.
Once I decided to always take a generous approach in my own heart, it made all those pieces of missing work so much less stressful for me, and for my students. And usually we managed to work something out so that students did the work they needed to do to learn what they needed to learn, and I got what I needed to be able assess for learning and of learning.
I hope these strategies help you deal with missing work with your own students. If you decide to use any of them I’d appreciate it if you’d post it on social media and tag me at @kitesintheclassroom on Instagram and @classroomkites on Twitter.
This week’s #54U brings five resources educators can use to plan Remembrance Day Activities with their students K to 12. It includes reading, watching a video, an arts activity, a lesson on the aftermath of war, and a guide to planning a commemorative service.
Remembrance Day was first observed in 1919 throughout the British Commonwealth. It was originally called “Armistice Day” to commemorate armistice agreement that ended the First World War on Monday, November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m.—on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
Every year on November 11, Canadians pause in a moment of silence to honour and remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve Canada during times of war, conflict and peace. We remember the more than 2,300,000 Canadians who have served throughout our nation’s history and the more than 118,000 who made the ultimate sacrifice.
A general caution about any of these activities – it is likely that you will have students in your class who have personally lived, or come from families that have lived, in places experiencing war or the aftermath of war. Think carefully as you chose activities and be sensitive to their responses.
Beautiful, whimsical artwork is combined with reflective questions about peace: Is peace strong? Is peace gentle? Is it innocent? Is it wise? This engaging picture book provides a perfect foundation to discuss peace with children, exploring what it means to them, what it looks like in their everyday life, and what it means to those around the world.
This true story is more than one family’s testament to a brave soldier. It is a gentle introduction to war, to Remembrance Day, and to the honor of those who have served their countries. Lawrence carried his daughter’s bear with him through his time overseas. When he was killed at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917, soldiers retrieving the body found the bear and returned it to his family.
Teddy now lives in the Canadian War Museum, where he is a touching reminder of the cost of war.
In this activity from Historica Canada, students create a persona for the Unknown Soldier, based on the poem “In Flanders Field” and a Heritage Minutes video about the author John McCrae. Then they write a letter home from the point of view of the Unknown Soldier, describing McCrae.
Working in groups of 3 to 6 students they then develop a performance that includes two art forms (music, poetry, dance, art, drama), and the poem in some way.
Find the whole lesson plan and resources here.
A photojournalistic exploration of how individuals and communities reckon with mass violence, its legacies and the challenges of rebuilding communities after conflict.
…I went to Bosnia to cover the aftermath of war – to try to capture the images that are the all too often forgotten companions of the vivid pictures of war itself. I came with the conviction that war is only half the story. I believed, and still believe, that what happens in the aftermath of war is as newsworthy, if not more so, than the destruction and horror of war. I went to Bosnia with a desire to document that incredibly difficult period when humans move out of war’s desperate struggle to survive, and begin another equally mighty struggle – that of learning to live again. In the four years I spent making the images that would ultimately become this book, I became convinced that we need post-conflict images to remind us of our humanity – to testify that war is not the final word on who we are as human beings, nor the final image of our spirit.Sara Terry, Founder The Aftermath Project
The Aftermath Project has many powerful lessons to choose from. In Bosnia’s Long Road to Peace, about the aftermath of the Bosnian War, students follow a viewing structure of describe, analyze, and interpret, as they closely examine and discuss five images of life in post-war Bosnia. The questions that come with the image guide are thought provoking, and can lead to many important discussions and further research.
I think this activity in particular calls for sensitivity towards students who have experienced war and it’s aftermath.
This comprehensive Guide to planning a commemorative ceremony for Remembrance Day prepared by Veterans Affairs can be easily adapted for K to 12 children, in schools, afterschool programs and youth organizations.
I would like to express my profound gratitude to the women and men who have served their countries around the world to uphold values of freedom and peace.
How do you mark Remembrance Day with your students? Share in the comments.
October has always been a time to start talking to my students about what kind of classroom celebration we want to have. Classroom celebrations have so many positive benefits for you and your students, but let’s just start with five.
Classroom celebrations – from semi formal celebrations that include food and drink, music, and even special guests – to impromptu opportunities to play outside – help build connections, target skills development, grow relationships, develop social etiquette, and (I put this one last on purpose) improve academic performance. How does this work?
Classroom celebrations can both create and reflect student’s connections to each other, while downplaying differences that might otherwise seem more important (Farr). In a previous post, I talked about how I start the year by celebrating Dot Day – a simple way to celebrate what each member of the community brings to the group. But Dot Day does come at you pretty fast in the school year so you may not have the chance to participate in that particular activity. A classroom celebration mid-October or later can be a great way to highlight to parents and guardians all the things you have been doing to create a safe and caring classroom for your students.
Students should always be included in every part of planning a classroom celebration. The simple act of planning together – regardless of the age – can provide a positive context for students to develop prosocial skills like conflict resolution, cooperation and compromise, as students make decisions about decorations and music, sign up for jobs, and see how well things work when everyone does (or doesn’t) contribute to the clean up at the end.
Classroom celebrations of student learning offers important opportunities to develop positive relationships between the school, students and their families. After all, schools and families are partners who both want the best for children. Keep in mind the importance of demonstrating culturally responsive practices. This means bilingual invitations, offering interpreters, and planning events at times when marginalized families will be able to participate. Classroom celebrations are a way of starting down the path towards strong student-family-community partnerships.
More formal celebrations will offer many students opportunities to develop skills like greeting a guest, shaking hands, making introductions, and ways to show consideration for each other that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to learn and practice. And children are never too young to start learning these skills. Just remember, it is important to be culturally respectful and don’t set standards that not all students will be able to meet (for example requiring certain formal clothes). I don’t agree with everything on this list, but it’s a good place to start thinking about skills you want to develop.
According to Alison Smith, celebrating student success significantly impacts their memory, learning, motivation, and other cognitive functions. When students receive positive feedback for something that they have done, it is essentially a signal to their brain (from the brain chemical dopamine) saying ‘do it again’.
What kind of celebrations do you like to have with your students. Share in the comments.
Farr, V. (2003). The role of celebration in building classroom learning communities. East Tennessee State University, School of Graduate Studies.
Smith, A. (2021, August 28). 9 Creative Ways to Celebrate Student Success. Retrieved from https://www.teachstarter.com/us/blog/11-ways-to-celebrate-student-success-2/
As many students end their sojourn in “learning from home” and return to “in person learning” for the first time in months, adults around the world are breathing a sigh of relief, but perhaps not so many children as we might think.
For some children, learning from home was a positive experience, and as educators, parents and community leaders, we must ask ourselves why this might be, why we didn’t help the kids who needed help to be successful for in person learning before the pandemic, and what we are going to do for them now.
As we know the pandemic
was hard on disastrous for everyone – students, teachers, school support workers and other professionals. We know too that students learning from home was an immense pressure on parents. And let’s be honest – it was mostly women. The statistics about how many women have left the workforce, and can’t make plans to return because of the continued instability resulting from the pandemic, are mind boggling.
Although teachers did the impossible and heroic, it is clear that this pandemic, and the switch to at home learning, was disastrous for many young people around the world. Many of us have heard of, or personally known, students who spent the last year food insecure because they didn’t have access to school meals, students who suffered emotionally, and even physically from social isolation, kids who just couldn’t make learning on line work for them.
When I talk to parents (thanks to my large network of scientifically accurate survey on Facebook) many of them share that for their children, at home learning was a positive change. Many families found they preferred to skip the chaos of getting ready in the morning, and the long commute to school and work.
Online classes gave a different sense of independence, offered opportunities to accelerate studies, and for some students extended the choice of classes available. The switch created new opportunities for families to spend time together, and grow closer as a unit. Ultimately, for some students and their families many of the positives at least balanced the negatives of this major change in learning.
Learning from home reduced or removed struggles around social anxiety, ability to concentrate, and agonizing requirements to sit still. It seems many students who may have been floundering before the pandemic were able to find success with learning from home.
When I was teaching, I agonized over my inability to do much to give these children the support they needed. Many children changed schools, and some families even made the difficult decision to take their children out of school entirely. I remember feeling so deeply pained for these impossible decisions.
Now we have seen how learning from home, with the right supports for the educator, can be successful for many students. This is an important moment for educators, parents and community leaders to ask ourselves why we were willing to live with so many children suffering at school before the pandemic, rather than take
radical any actions to help them.
The first one is simply that the education system has a great deal of inertia, and is very difficult to change. We can see that now, as even after a year of hundreds of articles about how the pandemic represents an opportunity to radically re-think education practices, we are simply pivoting back to exactly what we did before. We are comforted that all those kids who did not do well with at-home learning are finally getting what they need. Unfortunately, this means we are continuing to turn a blind eye to the children for whom in-person learning was little more than a lesson in suffering and endurance.
The second element at play is that the hegemony that in-person is best for all students is very strong. It makes us incapable of asking difficult questions, and confronting even more difficult answers, about how schooling is experienced by the children we work with.Tweet
We shrug and tell ourselves school can be hard, children can be cruel, what can we do. Ultimately, as educators, as parents, and as a society, we accept that certain children will suffer, that’s just the nature of the game. And we don’t even consider, well not seriously at least, what kind of radical actions we should be taking to ensure no children suffer – at home or at school.
I believe we must make a collective commitment to do better for those kids we made invisible. And so, as we send our kids off with the mantra “in-person is best”, I’d invite all of us to ask ourselves, who’s voices are we silencing? I do believe that ultimately in-person is better for most children, and our society as a whole.
This Week #54U offers Five Ways you can take control of your Professional Learning so that it engages you, meets your needs, and helps make you a better educator for the learners you work with.
Taking the time to reflect on your own practice is one of the most powerful professional development tools we have at our disposal. Barbara Bassot’s little book “The reflective journal” was transformational for me and my practice. I will be talking about her work a lot in future posts, so keep an eye out.
As educators we can and should be lifelong learners, and demonstrate the skills and perseverance it takes to find the learning we need, when we need it. I’d love to hear about your Professional Development experiences, and what you have done to take back control of your learning. Please share in the comments below.
Schwartz, S. (2020, November 23). What do teachers really want from professional development? respect. Education Week. Retrieved October 4, 2021, from https://www.edweek.org/leadership/what-do-teachers-really-want-from-professional-development-respect/2019/05.
Children naturally love to learn. And yet, as many teachers see in their own classroom, and studies reveal, student motivation to learn tend to decline over time. So what can educators do to help the children in our care succeed? As we all know, a great teacher can make learning fun and inspire students to reach their full potential. Here are five easy ways you can start motivating in your classroom.
Get to know your students and let them know you. With the increasingly loaded curriculum, pressure from testing, and a sense of “lost time” from last year, it may seem like spending time getting you know your students is keeping you from getting to the “real work”, but, as every
Allow children a say in what their classroom or space looks like, where they choose to learn and play, and what the classroom routines will be. When I was teaching we took the time to reorganize our classroom on a regular basis. When I trusted them, students thought carefully about what kind of space we needed to support the kind of learning we were doing at that moment, who they wanted to work with, or if they preferred to work alone. And they trusted me to listen to them.
Another important part of building a space where everyone feels safe, is making the effort to make sure everyone understands and has a role to play in your community. This is a powerful way of cultivating a sense of competency and cooperation between students, and helps set the stage for powerful peer learning.
Be yourself – someone who has strengths and areas to grow. Make mistakes a regular part of learning, and help your students understand how to move on from a mistake. Provide space for students’ strengths to shine and be recognized by the community. I had students be my artist whenever I needed something drawn on the whiteboard, one was assigned to discretely let me know when I had marker on my face (a common occurrence), and another remembered my keys for me.
We always started the year by reading the book “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds. After reading it we would make a list of strengths, talents and personal attributes we had in the classroom – everyone was recognized for something that made a difference in our community. We would hang this on the wall, and add to it when new strengths and abilities became visible. This is a great resource similar to what I did. There is even an International Dot Day to help you plan!
They will tell you what they want to learn – even if it is only by telling you what they don’t want to learn. Offer choices in what to learn, how to learn and how to demonstrate their learning. Better yet, develop the choices with your students. #GeniusHour and #PassionBasedLearning are two ways you can do this, but there are many approaches. These practices develop a sense of competency and give students a sense of control in their learning, which is sure to be motivating.
Don’t buy into the notion of a separation between playing and learning!
Older students can benefit from play in the classroom, too. “Play is a strategy for learning at any age… while older students and their teachers might have more curricular demands than younger students, playful learning still has an important role to play — it might just look different.Mara Krechvesky and Ben Mardell
Try to plan activities that inspire a sense of ownership, curiosity, and enjoyment in your students.
Understand the difference between Assessment for Learning and Assessment of Learning, and use them appropriately. Use grades sparingly, and never as a carrot and hammer. John Hattie reminds us that “Feedback provides information about how and why students understand, and what the students need to do next to succeed”. Learn more about how to use assessment effectively in student-centered, project-based learning settings (look for a future post on this!) Rubrics, conferencing, and Reflection will likely be your friend! Always ask yourself if the feedback you are about to give will motivate the student to try again, or make them feel defeated and incapable.
Teresa and Christ Hulleman suggest “instead of imposing reasons for valuing learning on students, educators can help them make their own connections between their lives and what they are learning”. Building in time for reflection is an important part of this. They have created a resource called “Build Connections” to help students learn how to reflect on the links between what they find of interest and importance in their lives, and what they are learning.
Self-reflection in learning means examining the way an individual learns. It implies that without thinking deeply about how we learn, we can never gain the insight necessary to correct poor habits and affirm good ones. This cognitive process of self-reflection therefore not only helps students improve learning outcomes, but fosters self-regulated learning, a cyclical process that involves planning to complete an academic task; using strategies to monitor progress; evaluating the outcome; and using that knowledge to guide future tasks.Janet Mizrahi
Reflection should not only be part of your student’s daily learning, but also your own practice. I believe reflection is one of the most powerful learning tools we can use, and will be talking more about how to use Reflective Writing for both students and your own practice in future posts, so stay tuned.
As a start, think about the following questions regarding strategies you use to address student motivation:
Hattie, J & Clarke S. (2019). Visible Learning Feedback. London. Routledge: Taylor & Francis.
Gärdenfors, P. (2011, October 11). How to Motivate Students? . Retrieved from https://youtu.be/blWcbY5qA58
Hulleman, C. & Hulleman T. (2018, January 10). An important piece of the student motivation puzzle. FutureEd. Retrieved September 13, 2021 from https://www.future-ed.org/reversing-the-decline-in-student-motivation/
Mizrahi, J. (2020, May 14). The importance of self-reflection in learning . Today’s Learner. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://todayslearner.cengage.com/the-importance-of-self-reflection-in-learning/.
Reynolds, P.H. (2014). The Dot. Somerville: Candlewick Press.
Tatter, G. (2019, March 11). Playing to learn. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/19/03/playing-learn.
Yarborough, C. B., & Fedesco, H. N. (2020). Motivating students. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved [September 12, 2021] from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu//cft/guides-sub-pages/motivating-students/.
I’ve recently joined Instagram, and my feed is filled with Inspirational Quotes about teaching, like the ones above. And I am trying to decide how I feel about them…
They remind me of so many professional development sessions I attended as a teacher, where we were asked to choose a quote, or an image, and then explain how and why it speaks to us about being a teacher. I think it was meant to be motivating, but I’m not sure it worked that way for me most of the time.
I’m feeling a bit out of sorts these days, so I think I’d like to try to interrupt the Game of Inspirational Quotes a bit. If you are willing to play along with me, chose one of the quotes I’ve put up here, or maybe you have one in your own classroom already. Take a minute to think about what the quote says to you about what good teachers do, or good teaching looks like.
Think about these questions (you might even want to write your answers down in a Reflective Journal of some sort, but I’m not fussy):
Great, that’s it for today. One of the goals of this blog is to critically examine my own understanding of the question what do good teachers do, so I am going to be coming back to these questions a lot. I’d be happy if you joined me. Please feel free to leave a reply.
International Peace Day is celebrated each year on September 21. First established by the UN in 1981 it is a special occasion to educate on issues of concern, and to celebrate and reinforce the achievements of humanity. There are so many ways to mark this special day. I’ve chosen Five unique ideas for you to do wherever you are, along with links with even more ideas for you to consider.
Five things to do to celebrate International Peace Day
3. Write “One positive change for the world I would make… “ on paper hearts.
4. Leave a gift of gratitude to people who help you every day: teachers, bus drivers, recess supervisors, or a delivery driver.
5. Learn about how to make a difference in the world at Roots & Shoots.
#worldpeace #peace #internationaldayofpeace #kindness #hope #September #abowlfullofoeace #rootsandshoots #kitesintheclassroom #whatwillyoudo @carenstelson @janegoodallinst @kidsforpeace @letsliveandlearn