The first month of school has really been about trying new things in my classroom. For the last several years I would have good intentions to try new approaches in my classroom or teach new texts. I found that if I waited to implement these things later in the year, comfort and routine would take over and nothing would change.
I also am not a fad person. Not only are my clothing and accessories generally two years behind trend, I generally detest educational bandwagons that divisions hop on and prefer to use the tried and true methods of teaching. These changes are more subtle and support the practices that are the mainstays of my curriculum. This year I decided to put Beowulf on the backburner and start my year off with several changes. I am sure these changes may seem miniscule to some, but they have helped set the tone for my year with my students.
Here are four simple changes I embraced at the start of the year.
Clint Smith’s Counting Descent–I have never taught a full collection of poetry before this work. I am seeing the true benefits of my students learning about and from one poet for an extended amount of time. With the support of the hashtag #TeachLivingPoets, I plan to teach more living, breathing, writing poets this year than ever before. Other benefits of teaching a living author are Skype sessions and Twitter. My classes are scheduled to chat with Clint Smith next week, and some of my students who are very active on Twitter follow his every post. I think it is a victory when a teenager is obsessed with a Harvard PhD candidate instead of a reality star. #winning
FlipGrid–I finally joined the #flipgridfever, signed-up for a FlipGridOne account, created my own assignment, and uploaded my own video. FlipGrid is a formative assessment tool where students record themselves responding in a 90 second or less format (in the free version) to a teacher directed assignment. My students used Chromebooks to complete their videos commenting on one of Clint Smith’s poems they were assigned for that day. Other than the fact that my students were divas about the poor lighting inside the school, the results and insights were impressive. Check out an example from Lauren Jackson here.
Punctuation Cards–This idea is about as low-tech and low-prep as they come. All you need is cardstock and a hand drawn and labeled stack of punctuation marks four to a page. I used comma, semicolon, colon, apostrophe, period, quotation mark, exclamation, point, and question mark to start.
Students received individual stacks of cards and used them to raise the correct mark of punctuation during whole-class review as sentences were read aloud. I made long exaggerated pauses at the wrong spots in order to try to stump them, but they quickly caught on. Talk about an easy and informative formative assessment tool. A tip would be to be sure to mix up the colors of each mark of punctuation so students do not start looking for which color another student is holding.
Daily Journaling–Thanks to Talks with Teachers and The Daily Teacher journal, I am beginning each day with goal setting and ending each day with reflection. Well, most days. Remembering to do this is still hard, but straightening my desk and leaving the journal squarely in the middle of my desk helps me to remember 80% of the time. Words are power. And when we write down our aims and goals, they are more likely to come to fruition. Reflection has been a necessary part of my educational practice (hence this blog).
I am also in the beginning stages of student blogging on Edublogs and implementing Google Classroom. I anticipate trying more new things to come this year, including teaching Slaughterhouse Five for the first time.
But what I really want to know is what changes are you embracing (or planning to embrace) this year. And then I will promptly steal your ideas.
Read more posts about embracing changes of various types: