Sunday, July 19, 2015

Forming and Reforming...

It's supposed to be official tomorrow.  Yes, the three coats of wax on my classroom floor have dried, AND (I think), the hallway is also shiny and passable.  I am itching to get into my classroom and start mapping out my year.

Why can't I do this at home?  Primarily because I don't have enough blank wall space.  Certainly, computers aid in the planning, but there is something pretty liberating about creating lessons and curriculum on giant whiteboards, with the ability to take a big step back to get a broader view of the big picture.  Armed with my ipad or cellphone camera, I can sketch, plan, snap a picture, erase, shift, and all that good stuff, as the planning comes together.  

Different people plan differently, I suppose.  There are some very lateral thinkers among my colleagues -- many of whom have the benefit of a structured curriculum with a textbook containing logically sequential units.  My moderate use of technology in planning makes me old-school, I suppose, although there are tons of resources available to teachers online.  Edutopia recently listed some of their favorite resources in an article for "new" teachers.  This will be year 17 for me, and I was furiously copying and pasting web addresses for future use from this list.  (So teachers, check them out!) 

Almost a year ago, one of my favorite Mind/shift bloggers, Katrina Schwartz, wrote an article entitled "How Looking at Student Work Keeps Teachers and Kids on Track."   I've always been a proponent of an audience for all student work -- at least one that is more significant than an audience of one teacher -- and Katrina demonstrates significant impacts that can be generated by ongoing formative assessments of students while working on projects -- particularly by classmates.  One student commented:

“Every time that I look at someone else’s work, I learn about their way of thinking,” Iza said. She admits that at first she was offended when her peers pointed out flaws in her work, but she has come to see the process as a helpful way to improve. “I think that I also learn a lot about how it’s OK for people to help you out on your work,” Iza said.
Hmm.  Students mapping their progress, and serving as motivators and critics for others; it sounds so perfect.
“Looking at student work, especially during the process, can help move a classroom culture toward the direction that school is for learning,” Romero said. “We want to be making mistakes and we’re working together towards better work all the time.” And when students make mistakes it often illuminates big misperceptions, that when resolved, can help a learner make the huge conceptual leaps that feel like breakthroughs.
I'm sure I'll be making mistakes these next few weeks, as I go through the process of drafting, photographing, and erasing the giant whiteboard.  I also know that there will be modifications in the process as the school year progresses as schedules change, or students become more engaged in a topic or activity than I had originally anticipated.  Fluidity, flexibility, and constant readjustments.  It happens during planning AND learning!