One of my fifth grade bloggers recently posted about an enrichment camp she attended over fall break. I have been giving a lot of thought lately to ways to bump up their reflections. Generally students of this age will say they had fun, were bored, liked it or didn’t, or similar responses. They have not been asked to do a lot beyond that. I am working on helping the fifth grade students improve their reflective writing posts and asked these questions of one of the students:
What did you learn?
How do you know you learned it?
What got in the way of your learning?
What helped your learning?
How did you feel?
Any suggestions of other ways to ask questions to help them think a little deeper about their learning????
Flickr photo credit: Reflections in bubbles from Lance and Erin’s photostream
I have been traveling about on the many and diverse blogs of the participants of this course. Cristina wrote a thoughtful post about The role of people’s enthusiasm in learning. She wonders, “Where does the motivation come from? Where do we get our inspiration from? Why do some of us get “high on” learning? why doesn’t everyone react the same way?… I’ve wondered the same things. Then she shared her thoughts on an online meeting with Carla Arena’s new class on the use of blogs. The consensus seemed to be that the community and the networks you are able to cultivate around a class are what makes blogging special. All of this is near and dear to my heart. I have been blogging with students since 2002, mostly elementary kids. I once wrote my rationale for educational blogging and thought I’d share. Also, some lessons learned.
Elementary students are extremely motivated to blog. They feel empowered – they get to have choices, their voices develop, and a community of learning develops that gets to go outside the classroom and connect with and learn from others. That outside connecting audience makes a difference. It is exciting. It is motivating. My first year of blogging brought this reflection from Dane, one of my students. When asked
“If an outsider visited your site, what would you hope he or she would think about it?
I would hope they would think of children as being capable of more than they had first anticipated.
That did it for me. I’ve been blogging with elementary students ever since. I think their voices need to be heard and we adults need to learn how to listen to those voices.
I really love the banner on Cristina’s blog. The young girl skipping down the path really depicts the joy of a learning journey. I feel like I am on board!
“Reflective Voices” is the name of the class blog I am using this year with the elementary bloggers. The classroom teacher’s blog is “5th Grade Reflections”. This is a great group of kids. I can tell it’s going to be a good experience. Drop by and welcome the students to the world of blogging!
I will be working with the class each Tuesday. We’re really focusing on “bumping up” the reflective skills of the students. Mrs. Emmert talks more about that here. I have been reading every thing I can get my hands on in that area. We’ll learn a lot from these students this year! Join us on the adventure!
Photo Credit: Through a child’s eye from Downtown Pictures’ Photostream
On The Daily, Stephen pointed us here. This post by Andreas Formiconi resonates with me. I think I am strolling though through those woods but oh the stops here and there have me thinking and exploring many side trips. I haven’t been able to complete a thing but I think that is OK for now and I am just enjoying the journey. I am working at trying to see if I can change some of the “old” thoughts of learning that I still carry around with me. Thoughts like completing all assignments, feeling that I have to “have something to say”, having a clear overall picture when I start, etc. I’m still trying to sift through and figure out how to make this work for me as a participant and a contributor. While I work at a university at heart I am an elementary teacher and as I learn I am always wondering how I can apply what I learn to be a better teacher and help students discover possibilities, too! I want the concepts of “connectivism” or whatever anyone chooses to name it to work in some way for younger students.
Here’s how I’ve proceeded so far….
First I read many of the introductions and thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of our group. It’s mind boggling. I plan to get through more of them. Then I had to take take a look at participants blogs….very interesting and helped me get a feel for the group. I’ve wandered through the Moodle forums. Then I have tried to read the materials and had to end up just scanning and noting where I wanted to return. The list grows. I was unable to get to the Elluminate sessions but did listen to the first one later. The Daily is most helpful and that led to some more side trips of learning.
It took awhile for me to download the CMap tools. I’ve only had time to take a brief look at it and plan to get back to it, hopefully soon.
Next, I’m going to try to carve out some time to comment on some blogs and other places.
Lastly, I have to say it is really strange to be feeling comfortable in a space that normally might be stressful for me. So either I am progressing or I’m totally out of it. Hmmmm.. maybe the lightbulb will come on later on that point but once again, I say thanks to George and Stephen for providing this opportunity.
Flickr Photo Credit: Mist Filled Morning from digitalART2’s photostream.
George Siemens and Stephen Downes have created a massive online course, Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, that now has 1700 participants! I can’t wait to see how this unfolds. George had a great introductory video to help us get started. He suggested that we accept a degree of unsettledness as we move through this course and he talked about how we simply can’t stay on top of all the information available to us. Unsettledness I can handle. I think I’ve been living with unsettledness for awhile, heck, it’s become my way of life. I’m taking him up on his good advice. I thank both George and Stephen for organizing this learning opportunity. I thought earlier that I must be crazy to take this course based on the fact that I already have more than I can do but as I read through all the materials I knew I would be crazy not to take it! Wow! I have literally dropped everything today and spent time reading the course outline, reading a lot of the pre-week materials, reading introductions, and browsing many of the participants’ blogs. George also told us in his video that they thought they would be able to provide us with a broad enough theoretical and conceptual works that we would be able to start to see how this type of approach to learning can be applied to individual classroom and even broader. It’s a 12 week course through the University of Manitoba. Learners all over the world are participating and it is an incredible opportunity. It is so well organized and full of activities. The Moodle forum is the central hub in the course.The conference tag is CCK08. I have a feeling this is going to be an exciting journey. I am really looking forward to this opportunity for learning!
I’ve had two more sessions with the J. H. House students. Briefly, session one consisted of discussing blogging as a process in which they will:
We discussed the “craft” of commenting on blogs. The students commented on my previous post. They loved reading Harley’s welcome and made comments back to him. All this is summarized on my previous post.
Then to the student’s amazement they heard from Karen in New Zealand who invited them to come visit. This led us to Room 7 Tamaki Primary School and Tamaki Primary School Writers Group. What great blogs! It looks like there is much more to explore on this site. Unfortunately, we could not see their intriguing movies but I will work to see if they are blocked or what the problem is. There was no time during class to do this so the students just promptly got to the business of commenting and they loved reading the blog and making replies. They are jumping in and learning how to comment, how to invite response, and share the joys of blogging. Wow! Making connections is so much fun. First, Harley, then New Zealand – we have a fantastic beginning. We can only imagine what will follow! We had to adapt our commenting to New Zealand in that you had to have a gmail or blogger account. Harley’s blogger account let us just type in first names and urls. That was much easier but I will contact Karen and see if it’s possible to change that. Learning all the ins and outs of blogging takes time in the beginning but these students are quick studies! I can just tell it’s going to be another incredible year. The plan this year is that Mrs. Emmert will have a class blog with the students and I will expand their horizons in other aspects. I have lots of ideas. I plan to introduce the students to possiblilities and get their feedback. Developing reflective voices is a high priority. We have to figure out what is blocked and what is not and figure ways to share their learning, both in and outside the classroom. Mrs. Emmerts sends me her lesson plans and I can see that one of the things that they have been heavy into is the 6 traits of writing. That’s a perfect place to start. Now I’m off to create a new blog for this project! I’ll direct you there as soon as we get this reflective blog, the classroom blog, and student blogs going.
Any blogging classrooms out there who would like to connect???? Any others interested? Leave a comment……
It feels so good to be back blogging with the J. H. House students in Mrs. Emmert’s fifth grade class! I wish you could have seen their faces as they read Harley’s great, big “woofing welcome”! This group peppered me with questions about Harley and his owner. They loved the creativity aspect of this type of blogging and they let their imaginations run wild. I asked them to think about things they were learning in class and what characters could make for interesting blogging. One clever student said he wanted to be a cell and inform others of all the good things he was doing for our bodies. Good thinking, huh? Lots of creative thoughts were flying around the room!
If any of you have student blogs already up for this year let me know and I’ll have my students comment on their blogs. Last week they commented on Harley’s blog. I did a quick intro on comment starters. The students are going to create some comment starters of their own so we can “bump up” the thinking when we comment.
One of my goals this year is to help them with their reflections and start that process of learning from each other. I need to rethink and add to this previous post, “Bumping up reflections”. I can’t wait to get these conversations started. Join in with us!
Harley barked to us ever so softly,
“I hope when I read your blogs and comment and ask you good questions,
then you’ll come here to read mine and comment to me. We can learn so
much from each other when we collaborate and make connections!”
So Harley gave us such a warm and “woofy” welcome!
Let those connections begin!
Flickr photo, “Atlas, it’s time for your bath”
by woodleywonderworks’ photostream
in her comment to my “I can’t wait until tomorrow” post:
Today Ms. Davis taught me you can express yourself in blogging. It sounds really amazing. I am ready. Let’s go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Kentashia I am right with you! I am ready too! Hmmmm, much to do! A class blog to create, possiblilities to pursue, ideas to develop, literature to read and much more. I am so looking forward to the learning with this wonderful group of elementary students!
Flickr photo confetti from ADoseofshipBoy’s photostream
Tomorrow it’s back to J. H. House Elementary School for another project! I’ll be at the school each Tuesday to further the learning and explore new possibilities. I have lots of ideas mulling around in my head. It’s very open ended at this point. I loved the sign Mrs. Emmert had on her wall…
That will be a good topic for blogging! Tomorrow I’ll be introducing this class to blogging through this webquest. It’s good to get started again!
The May/June issue of the Journal of Teacher Education kicks off with an editorial from Hilda Borko (Stanford University) and Jennie Whitcomb and Dan Liston (University of Colorado) inviting individuals whose work centers on teaching and teacher education to write letters to the 44th president of the United States offering their advice to ensure quality teaching and teacher education. Two themes cut across the eight letters published in the issue: improving the conditions of children’s lives and lending dignity to the teaching profession.
Christine Sleeter from California State University Monterey invites the presidential candidates to strengthen teaching and teacher education for diverse students. She provides snapshots of strong teachers of diverse students. One of the teachers, Juanita, had her second graders writing books using computers. This teacher realized that so much of the standard skills-based instruction proagram was boring and it was all about paper and pencil. She realized she could empower her students as writers and creators of knowledge.This teacher used the grade-level standards as a guide but she expected and taught more than they require. Another teacher, Christi, used narrative writing to teach culturally diverse students to empathize and communicate with each other. This is a good example of telling a story to get a point across.
I am just beginning to pour over these letters but a quick scan lets me know that I need to spend time carefully reading all 8 letters. Here’s a few highlights the editors noted in the letters :
- Most professional development is disconnected from teachers’ immediate questions and challenges.
- A call was made for opportunities for teachers to learn from one another both inside and outside school.
- Teachers need to be engaged in thinking about what they need to know.
- Opportunities need to be promoted for teachers to “open the doors” to their practice, both literally and virtually.
- The next president was encouraged to nurture creativity and innovation in teacher preparation, professional development, and research in teaching.
- Our nation needs the pay scales and social rituals to honor all its teachers.
Hear! Hear! There is much more. I love the way this journal is devoting the entire issue to bring education to the forefront to our presidential candidates. Education has been pretty much ignored so far. This journal is doing its part.
Listen to this excerpt from one of the letters…..
Lee Shulman asks the next president to serve as a paragon of an education person. He says:
I want you to suppport the work of teachers at all levels by serving as a persistent, relentless, and self-conscious model of an educated person.
He goes on to say much, much more but ends up with this powerful close:
I implore you to define your roles as the principal learner taking every opportunity to make your own intellectual and moral development visible and transparent to your fellow citizens.
This has made me rethink what I need to do and that is to do my part in continuing to let the presidential candidates be reminded frequently that education needs to be a priority.
Sometimes I don’t get to things I need to because I think I have to write that “perfect piece” that is just so. One easy thing we could all do is to search through all our posts and forward our thoughts and concerns to the candidates. Many of our posts might just need simple rewrites to get it up to date. I am going to do this. I hope you will consider doing the same. Take that time and just tell them that you want them to know our concerns. Let’s just keep on pushing! They need to hear the voices of many, many educators.