The Brown Crew: Learning Together

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Reflections…and looking ahead

Inspired by this great blog:Reflections of an Intentional Teacher, I decided to share my own reflections from last year and what I plan to work on this year.

What worked well/what I am working on:

*Classroom economy-along with my teacher BFF, we started an economy system to our room. It was a mix of many types we found online. Basically the students got paid for being at school (on time), doing jobs, getting good grades on tests, behaving, turning in homework.  This year, I plan to tweak a bit as I don’t think I will be giving much homework. Also, I don’t want to emphasize grades as much, rather more of the process. I might give money instead for completing a project/assignment successfully (rather than getting a 100%).  We didn’t use paper money, but used an online piggy bank, Smart Piggy Bank. I trained bankers to enter in the amount earned. Students kept papers like this to keep track of earnings each. We spent the last 10 minutes on Fridays updating. I need to make sure I do it EVERY Friday. Sometimes, we would run out of time and have to do 3 weeks worth in one day. I don’t think that works well for students, as they need more immediate feedback.

*Classroom Talk-I have always embraced classroom discussions. I love to have my students “take off” and discuss, without raising hands, without me leading the discussion. I taught them ways to disagree politely and how to add on to someone’s thoughts. This year my principal happened to be observing me when a discussion started. She remarked my students seemed like little adults and felt comfortable stating opinions. I was pleased to hear this!  This year, of course, I am continuing this, but I think I will start the year with an anchor chart of Rules for Conversations. Peter Johnston’s fabulous book Opening Minds is a good resource if you want to bump up your classroom discussions. I happened to read it this year for a class and was thrilled to see many of things I embrace in my classroom described here. He suggests making the Rules chart after a good classroom discussion–what worked well, what didn’t work, as well as sharing sentence frames to help them piggyback, disagree with one another, and continue the conversation.

*Reader’s Workshop-my favorite part of the day in my classroom. I love reading, and I know my passion for books spills over to my students. Every year, I know many students leave my room calling themselves a reader for the first time. Well, almost every one of them. This year, I had a few good readers who read dutifully, but never seemed enthused. I need to keep adding to my library to reach every student. Yes, Amazon loves me! Donalyn Miller’s terrific book The Book Whisperer is the book to read, if you haven’t. Order it now. One thing I stepped up this year were book talks. My students loved them! They eagerly signed up to share books and waiting lists sprouted on the bulletin board for those books. I loved hearing them say to one another, “You need to read this next!” or “Can I have that when you are done, please?”  Another thing my teacher BFF and I started were optional lunch time book clubs. We chose a book, students purchased it or checked it out of the library or shared with one another, and then we met at lunch to discuss and have a snack linked to the book. They were so successful that we are continuing them this summer. Between our two classes, we had 14 students come to our first summer meeting. Not too bad. Parents from other classes heard about it, too, and asked if their students could join us. Our next meeting promises to be bigger. We spent a solid hour discussing Savvy by Ingrid Law at the park. What a great conversation we had!

I could go on and on, but this post is starting to be a lot longer than I thought. I will share other things that worked well in my classroom (and what didn’t) in future posts. Off to start planning while I have these thoughts in my head!


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