Summer Book Study Blog

Summer Book Study Blog

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate - Ch. 4 - Improvement Focus vs. Grade Focus

This chapter has rocked my "pirate ship"! I truly believe in the "improvement focus vs. the grade focus," but grades are part of district, school, and parental expectations. I have highlighted so much in this chapter to think about in the next 6 weeks before a new school year begins. 

"Assessment and feedback, rather than a focus on grades, pushes students toward constant growth." 
This quote validated how I use feedback in my classroom. Just this year, I started using the Google Classroom. I can grade and send feedback that students DID read and then revised and resubmitted. My students are using the "share" feature in google docs, slides, etc. and commenting back and forth with me and each other. Students are actually asking for feedback on their work. 

"Why are we so focused on finality that we have to assign a summative grade to everything?"
This past year there were numerous project/presentations where there was less emphasis on a grade and more on the learning. Class discussions: "What did you learn from your project and each other's projects?" Science and social studies were the areas that I used project-based and group learning the most. Grade level discussions around giving students report card grades that were Satisfactory, Improving, or Needs improvement were vetoed to continue with traditional letter grades in science and social studies. Disappointed.

"My feedback comes with no strings attached. I've earned my students' respect by demonstrating that I genuinely care about them and their progress, so they listen when I share insights and offer instruction."
I noted that there was no iPad or clipboard as he gave feedback. My wonder, does Paul keep notes on students that would help him remember areas of weakness that might need addressed in small groups? Not sure I would always remember anecdotal observations with all 50 students that I see for lang arts. These notes are so helpful when I talk with parents. Perhaps I'm looking at this in a different way than Paul is suggesting. I do so believe in what the quote is suggesting. "Students won't care about what we know until they know how much we care," or something like that is a quote that I remember when working with students. Relationship is key. 


"Speaking in the past tense makes students feel as if there's no way to fix their mistake or failure. (What's done is done.) In contast, speaking in the present or future tense demonstrates that learning is a process." 
I love the examples of Say this: "Next time, I'd like you to do it this way because..." or, "Can you try this way instead?" Or, "Are you displaying good leadership skills right now, or could you do better?" This is constructive feedback that builds a students not negative feedback that breaks down a student. This is perhaps my favorite "walk away" from this chapter. I need to work on this one.

Improving Classroom Behavior
Set the expectation with the "Six Pillars of Character" by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Character Counts!
  1. Respect
  2. Responsibility
  3. Trustworthiness
  4. Fairness
  5. Caring
  6. Citizenship
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw
Identify the Consequences
Behavior Management System:
  1. A warning
  2. A behavior point
  3. A work-it-out
We have a current Positive-Based Behavior system that is similar already in place. What Paul has to say about how he uses this in his classroom gave me some clarification in improving how I manage this with my students. 

Boosters - Peer Feedback
  • Quality Booster
  • Compliments (Love the Quality Booster and Compliment Sandwich for peer feedback!) 
  • Write your suggestion as a question rather than a statement. "You don't seem superior to them if you're just wondering something!"
Student views on feedback were illuminating at the end of the chapter. 

This was a great chapter with lots of pauses to really think about what I believe and what I practice in my classroom. 

Sail on, mateys!
D :)



Thursday, June 18, 2015

Learn Like a PIRATE: Peer Collaboration - Chpt. 3

Have to admit I was more than a little excited to read the title of Chpt. 3 - Peer Collaboration! LOVE seeing students interacting and learning from and with each other. Makes my heart smile and sing (maybe a sea chantey)!

"Two brains are smarter than one!...Collaboration allows us to know more than we are capable of knowing by ourselves." I love the way Paul starts this chapter and leads into "WE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER." I plan to make this a banner across the top of my whiteboard, "We're not just a class; we're a crew! We're in this together! We are a company of workers and a family." 

"Give me five!" is something I say often in my classroom to get attention. I can't imagine a student saying this, and yet, I can't imagine one of them hasn't. This is definitely something that I want to hear and am excited to read on to see how Paul sets this up to work with students stopping and listening to the "give me five" person. "The power to interrupt the class is one of the most important aspects of a student-led classroom." Model, encourage, give feedback. The examples he gives are happening in my classroom (except moving desks around in 1 minute 8 seconds (Impressive!), just not encouraged. I can do this. They will catch on! 

"Students lead when they believe the teacher would appreciate their help, not when the teacher is completely in charge." This reminds me of "Be the guide on the side not the sage on the stage." I have to smile as I think about the times of the day when they take care of me by remembering what I am forgetting. I do appreciate when they help with the running of the classroom. This past year I let them do more than I have in the past and it did free me up some extra time to work with groups or one-on-one, but now I'm thinking of all the things they could do on their own from the beginning of the day through the end. I just hope there isn't a job chart. I am horrible with those. If so, I'll pass it on to the students to do. :)

Today I was at a district retreat dealing with school culture. There were several questions that we discussed about empowering students to have ownership of their learning, creating students that are problem-solvers and thinkers, and students with 21st Century skills. My mind kept coming back to LLAP! It was all I could do to keep from saying "AARRRG!" I am also in an online study group for School Culture Rewired, our anchor text for the retreat, also speaks to much of LLAP with its student-led classroom. The whole afternoon was peer collaboration among the adults. I think I did a "give me 5" at one point. What we did, I've seen my students do. Collaborate, then share out. Easy, Peasy! 

Enjoying this book so much! 

Ahoy, matey! Sail on!
D :)



Thursday, June 11, 2015

Chapter 2 - Learn Like a Pirate - Common Concerns about Student-Led Classrooms

All concerns that Paul addressed in chapter two were mine, plus there were several concerns I hadn't even thought of to be concerned about! Yikes! However, when I turned to the page of his "sub notes," I was amazed. If a sub can come in and not lose her mind or even have to "walk the plank" from an unruly, mutinous crew, then there must be something to all this. Paul states, "My most recent philosophical and pedagogical changes have reinvigorated me and made me a much better teacher than I was before." I want to start out the school year reinvigorated in spite of this summer's busyness. 

I want to model the tools of  a "self-starter" and I want my students to become one. "Taking responsibility for yourself is something that is learned," is quoted at the end of the chapter from Mary DeMaria. Equipping students with the skills and needs of the future is a noble pursuit. Curriculum standards and standardized "high-stakes" testing will always be with us. We also owe our students life skills that will prepare them for the future to come. When I think how education has changed over the years and the skills and adaptations that have come along with technology since the early 2000s, WOW! BUT, good teaching is still good teaching. A teacher is still the one to make the difference in the learning for students, but why not equip students to share the load? I have had multiple units that students shared the workload in preparing, presenting, assessing, and reteaching their peers. Students worked so hard and were so excited to share their learning. My students have created websites, blogs, shared google docs for collaboration, set up study groups, and much more. I think  KNOW I can do this. 

Ahoy, matey! I'm ready to set sail!
Pirate D :)

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate - What is a Student-Led Classroom?

I am starting the Learn Like a Pirate, book study a few days late sponsored by Primary Gal. I heard about it through my following of the blog, Runde's Room. I looked around to buy it, but because of having to wait more days, I decided to try the ebook through Amazon. It will be hard to read and not mark the margins of my book with my thoughts. I am a "pen in hand" reader of PD books. However, I did find the highlighting and notes features on my kindle app. Might like this a lot after all! Excited to collaborate with this new community of learners! 

I had to smile as I read that author, Paul Solarz, has taught for more than 15 years, as I have taught MUCH MUCH MORE than 15 years. I am definitely "an old pirate learning new tricks," a "world-changing" teacher. I'm rowing hard to catch the wind of this journey with this fleet of sailing pirates!

Opening quote grabbed me, "Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it." - Augustine of Hippo

I have read several books on "talking," collaborating classrooms where respect is a  #1 priority. Respect for each other and for all the adults working with them. I was excited to read that Paul is going to deal with conflict-management techniques that promote respect.

"A student-led classroom is one in which students make decisions and choices through the day without consulting the teacher." ARRRG! That is a scary one to imagine. A huge pause in trying to imagine, but I read on... "These decisions impact their own actions, the actions of others, and even the actions of the teacher." Decisions leading to impact. Intriguing thought that students learn that their actions carry impact in their learning. There is always lots of discussion on actions of behaviors affecting others and the consequences that these behaviors bring, but to bring this into the academics' arena with a positive implication for learning is exciting to imagine. I'm hooked (...Captain Hook)!

"The curricular objectives don't change - the method does." I have read, studied, and used Fisher and Frey's, GRE - Gradual Release of Responsibility in my classroom for several years and believe there will be some similarities. In GRE, the teacher models (mini-lesson), we (teacher and students) practice together (Guided Practice), students work together in groups (Collaborative Group Work), students work independently ( Independent Work). Paul's mini-lesson is followed by active learners guiding the learning set forth by the mini-lesson. Passive learners are not passionate learners. Learning becomes a chore. There's no joy.

"...lots of instruction and practice must take place." This is critical and one that I will have to slow down my enthusiasm to "set sail" without doing the front-loading of all the preparation needed before embarking on this exciting journey. "Every day, teachers need to provide learning opportunities for students to practice the necessary skills until they become habits."

Feedback on positive decisions and supportive feedback when negative decisions are made are important prerequisites to establishing routine and feelings of safety in the classroom to be a thinker and a doer. This shows students that you are there as their biggest supporter and not just a "Captain Hook" to reprimand and control their thinking . At my school, positive energy is part of our school goal. Quotes are everywhere about positive thinking and positive energy and how it affects us all. "I am the positive energy to my students' success." Students can spread this positive energy to each other. "I am the positive energy to my peers' success." What an important mindset that will affect family (present and future), school years ahead, future career, and life!

"When children feel happy and safe at school, they're willing to work hard for their teachers. And hard-working students are what it's going to take to create a successful student-led classroom!" I'm hooked! 

However, I do plan to continue brushing my teeth, as "pirates have green teeth" because they don't brush. (from How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long) :)