Guided Discovery Lesson Plan: Cubbies

This lesson introduces students to the their classroom cubbies. The lesson allows the class as a whole to determine what is the appropriate use of a cubby and how to best care for them.

What is a Guided Discovery?
It is a student-centered approach to introducing materials and routines in the classroom, developed by the folks at Responsive Classroom. According to Lynn Bechtel and Paula Denton,

The primary goal of Guided Discovery is to generate interest and excitement about classroom resources and help children explore their possible uses. Guided Discovery also provides opportunities to introduce vocabulary, assess children’s prior knowledge, and teach responsible use and care of materials.

I would add that Guided Discoveries also build community.  Students are asked to listen to each other, compliment one another, and really see and hear the work and ideas of their peers.  Using this strategy I have built compassionate, organized, and respectful classrooms.

Guided Discovery Lesson Plan: Freeze Signal

The Freeze Signal is used to communicate to students that they should suddenly stop what they are doing and pay attention to the teacher.  I consider it an important safety measure.  Personally, I use a singing bowl, but I have seen teachers use bells, wind chimes, and miniature xylophones.  Use what works for you.

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What is a Guided Discovery?
It is a student-centered approach to introducing materials and routines in the classroom, developed by the folks at Responsive Classroom. According to Lynn Bechtel and Paula Denton,

The primary goal of Guided Discovery is to generate interest and excitement about classroom resources and help children explore their possible uses. Guided Discovery also provides opportunities to introduce vocabulary, assess children’s prior knowledge, and teach responsible use and care of materials.

I would add that Guided Discoveries also build community.  Students are asked to listen to each other, compliment one another, and really see and hear the work and ideas of their peers.  Using this strategy I have built compassionate, organized, and respectful classrooms.

What is this Maker Movement?

I am a maker.  At least I think I am.  I sew. I blog. I cook. I bind books. I built a deck with my dad. Is that what people mean when they talk about ‘making?’

When I hear people talking about Making in schools, it sounds like hands-on learning.  It’s constructivism, right?  That’s essentially what Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager write in their book, Invent to Learn.

Learning by making, tinkering, and engineering is consistent with Piagetian theories.
– Martinez and Stager

Piaget said, basically, the best kind of learning is experiential, active, kinesthetic.

Ok, I can do that.

But, it’s more than just experiential learning.  Martinez and Stager introduced me to another educator, Seymour Papert, who is a tech guy.  He is all about using the computer as a tool to make stuff.  Papert was into coding, and his ideas will later lead to Scratch.

The idea is this: make stuff, and add the computer to your toolkit.

This is the beginning of an investigation. How does the Maker Movement fit with educational goals and best practices? How is making learning? How are schools increasing experiential learning? What tools and expertise do schools need to facilitate making? How are classroom teachers participating?

Let the Planning Begin – Tools for Success

Procrastination finally comes to an end.
Today I begin the work of plotting out the first few days (and weeks) of school.

While the students are out shopping for school supplies (which induce panic attacks in me), I pull out my copy of The First Six Weeks of School.  The summer is coming to an end.  How many teachers would agree with this quote recently posted by Erin Klein on Pinterest?

But, no worries – I have some handy tools to help me through the process.

1) Wunderlist – This is my current favorite to-do list.  It looks nice.  It syncs to all of my devices.  I can set reminders and due dates, and I appreciate that I can share lists with folks who can co-manage lists.

2) Springpad – This site is like a Pinterest or an Evernote, just slightly different.  I’ve been collecting school materials here for quite some time. Today I will turn to my notebook, The First Days of School.

3) Pinterest – so much fun information presented in a pretty, pretty way. I have several boards that are collections of school stuff, like this one: Classrooms

4) Coffitivity – Ambient background noise that makes it feel like you are in a cafe.  Supposedly it helps boost creativity and maintain productivity.  Don’t know if that’s true, but when I listen to it I feel … more at ease.  And this way I spend less money, and I don’t have to pack up my computer when I go to the bathroom.

5) Bento – I love this beautiful product made by Filemaker.  It’s a gorgeous way of creating your own databases using self-created forms.  This is my favorite way to plan.  I can even get the plans on my iPad and use them while teaching.

Story Starters

Story Starter Word Cubes

This is a first for me.  I have been contacted by SmileMakers to preview one of their products, of my own choosing.  As an avid writing teacher, and a writer myself, I chose to review their Story Starter Word Cubes.

It looks like the blue cubes are characters; the yellow ones are settings; and the reds are events or actions.  I imagine rolling the cubes and creating an outline for my story first, and then developing the story elements in rough drafts.

I look forward to reporting back on how the Story Starter Word Cubes help facilitate creative writing.

Teachers Love Tech

My love for tech begins at a personal level.  I plan my life (and my lessons) on iCalendar. I create invites, worksheets, game handouts and more with Word and/or Pages.  All of my music comes from the web (check out Songza). Wunderlist is my current favorite to-do list. I Skype with my parents overseas. My news comes from Flipboard.

But, as an educator, I love technology even more.  At the most basic level, technology in the classroom can be a resource and a motivator.  I often use videos, images and websites to demonstrate or introduce abstract concepts.  Games are an engaging way to get kids to practice their basic facts and word work.  The web is also an invaluable source of information during research projects.

At its best, integrated tech supports higher-level thinking.  Using social media, students are asked to analyze, comment, pass judgement and support their thinking on content.  My favorite is when students combine content in creative ways to produce new and innovative content.

Turns out, I’m not the only one who loves tech in the classroom (duh!).  Allison Morris at OnlineUniversities.com passed along this infographic revealing technologies growing role and value among educators.  Enjoy!

What do we Know Infographic

I Want PD. I Need Time and Choice

The best teachers are learners.  They consistently seek ways to improve.  For me, blogging and connecting with educators online has been an inspiring source of daily professional development – until it became too much. Where is the time?

I want professional development, but what I need is  the time to do it (and I don’t mean while I am on vacation).  I want regular, weekly time to learn and grow as an educator.

There is a lot of talk about implementing Google’s 20% rule in the classroom, allowing students to spend 1/5 of their time working on projects of their choice. Eric Sheninger, principal at New Milford High School, is experimenting with the 20% rule with teachers.  In his recent post, Autonomy Breeds Change, Sheninger reflected on the first two years of implementing his program.  I recommend taking a visit and checking out the inspiring list of projects his staff undertook.  What struck me the most was the diversity of topics and media that folks used.  You want to read books – read books.  You want to build a website – build a website.

What would you do if 1/5 of your time at school was dedicated to your own personal/professional growth?  I’m thinking I might build a game in Scratch to learn how to best integrate it into the classroom.

Scratch with 2nd Graders

While you are over at Sheninger’s blog, A Principal’s Reflections, I recommend checking out his collection of Open Courseware resources.  Who knows you might just find the course that fits you.