Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Empowering Students Through Meaningful Jobs

Alan November's "Digital Learning Farm" was the inspiration for my classroom jobs. The idea couldn't be more simple: people are empowered through meaningful work. Children used to be, in the times of farming, useful and necessary contributors to their families' farms and other livelihoods. Once children's work became going to school full-time, that feeling of usefulness and importance faded. Most teachers understand the importance of giving kids jobs to do, and many traditional classrooms do designate roles such as "line leader" and "pencil sharpener"to fulfill these needs. Digital tools offer the possibility of exciting upgrades to these jobs, allowing students to learn through doing while making authentic contributions to their communities.

I am experimenting with how to best structure this so that it becomes a deep learning experience for students. I introduced the jobs to 5th grade a few weeks ago, then introduced and started with 4th grade. I decided that students would need to apply for the job and, once "hired" would have a tenure of about one month.

Classroom Jobs from Andrea Hernandez on Vimeo.

Available Positions:
Global Connectors : Tweet, look for and organize possible learning connections, manage maps
Researchers: Research information in response to questions that arise
Official Scribes : Take notes, write weekly summary post on classroom blog
Documentarians : Photo and video documentation of the week’s activities
Kindness Ambassadors: Make sure that all community members are included at lunch and recess, remind community members of habit of the month, model and recognize kindness, give appreciations and remind others to do so
Librarians: Keep classroom and virtual library shelves in order. Add books to class GoodReads shelves, keep GoodRead-Alouds wall updated, set appointments with Mrs. Hallett
Graphic Artist/Designer: Design things for the classroom and class blog- graphics, bulletin boards, displays, etc.
Job Requirements:
Previous experience is helpful but not required. You will be able to learn on the job. Most important qualities:  proactive, self-motivated, desire to learn.
All classroom work must be up to date in order to be considered for a job. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Read, Respond, Relate: How Authentic Literacy Builds Relationships

As teachers, we have an overwhelming number of tasks that are part of our work.  Because time is a limited resource, we have to sometimes pick and choose, to the extent that we have choice, which tasks are most vital.
Being responsible, in large part, for a child's developing literacy is no small thing.
The foundation of teaching is relationship. Teaching is, in itself, an ongoing conversation between teachers and students.

In the old days (not the "good old days") I was an advocate of the interactive journal. Students wrote. I read and responded. It took so much time. Every Friday I carried home a heavy box filled with spiral notebooks. I spent a good portion of my weekend learning about my students, understanding what they understood, learning about their hopes, their families, their pets.
At one point, in an attempt to lessen my workload, I offered that turning in journals for my response would be optional. I had not one student opt out. And, even though my workload remained hard, I was happy. I knew it was the right use of my time.

Blogs are, at least physically, a lighter load. No longer do I have to lug a box of notebooks home and back. Although the medium has changed, the task itself and the benefits it conveys, is basically the same. It is important to me to carve out regular time to visit each student's blog, to read and to respond.
It is hard to quantify the value in terms of building relationships, modeling quality writing and ongoing assessment of students' thinking and writing. (This is not a post about grades, but this is another reason that I find grades stifling. How does one grade an ongoing conversation? )

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Seedlings- What's Going Well?

I got this idea from a new-to-me blog I'm really enjoying, Read, Write and Reflect.  From the post "Seeds:"
It amazes me how little time I feel that I have at the beginning of the school year. I feel that I’m constantly racing to get things done only to stop at the end of the day and see everything I didn’t do. This year I’m making a conscious effort to look for the seeds that show what is going well and marvel over them. 
This is me and not just at the beginning of the year.  I have a habit of focusing on how far there is to go. It is what compels me to strive, work hard, and push forward. However, I rarely take time to notice all that I have accomplished.
What's going well?
That is the question. And I've decided to answer it using artifacts.

Jagger wrote a really great blog post in response to the book,  Out of My Mind, which we are reading for the Global Read Aloud. Here is part of his post:
In Melody’s class there is a girl named Maria who has Down syndrome. She is always happy. This connects to me because my sister, Sydney, has Down syndrome and she is always happy. I really feel offended by knowing that people treat people with disabilities very poorly because even though they might be disabled or act differently doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings; they do and they care. Every time my sister gets a piece of candy or something it’s “Jagger too, get one for Jagger too” so they do care, they can learn. They are more like us than different. I want you to really think of that next time you see someone who appears to be “different.” Comment in the section below telling me if you have met someone different. Also, if you really want to make a difference go to a place like Hope-Haven and help out or donate to organizations that help kids with disabilities like DSAJ (Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville).Wait don’t leave I have one more thing to say I haven’t been meaning to say different whenever talking about kids (or anyone really) with disabilities because like I said before, we are more alike than different.
I've started to introduce classroom jobs to 5th grade.  There are three students sharing the job of global connector. They are doing a great job tweeting from the class Twitter account.

Emily is one of the class documentarians. She is doing an amazing job taking photos without being distracting or disruptive. I have already seen a big improvement in her photos and the way she is using them to tell a story and document learning. Here are some photos and a Pic Collage she emailed me this week.  

I love how she showed the different jobs with this collage.

In 4th grade, we discussed the importance of taking time and effort to do quality work.

Students learned how to edit their own videos using the iMovie app, and they each filmed and edited a book talk.