Our Passion Project Journey

Passion

It had been a goal of mine to bring student passion projects into our classroom, but I was having a struggle trying to figure out what was the best way to do it. So, I began to do my research. I am one of “those”. I like to find out what I can about new practices, ideas, etc. before attempting.

I watched a colleague, @meaganhparrish do a project with her students; she was a great sounding board as well as a resource. I spent the summer reading Empower & Launch by @spencerideas & @ajjuliani, Shift This by @JoyKirr, & watched an interview with @paulsolarz. The most reinforcing thing that I found from all of these resources & authors was that I could take “baby-steps” during this process.

How we started:

I chose to team up with one of our enhancement teachers, @tprince423. She was interested in joining this journey with me. We selected one day a week that would be protected, no matter what for our passion projects. Next, we found a time that worked with both teacher’s schedules. Passion Tuesdays emerged! We agreed to meet every Tuesday for 45-50 minutes. My class would travel to Mrs. Prince’s classroom to work on our projects. Her classroom is housed in the media center & she has access to some additional Chromebooks, so it just seemed logical.

Our next step was to sell passion projects to our students. We started by asking the class, “How would school be different if you could learn whatever you wanted to learn?” This was followed by small group discussions & whole class share-out. Then students created a brainstorm list of things they enjoy or that they are interested in. This list will assist in future passion project ideas. Each student has a notebook that is solely used for passion projects. (Due to the fact that we are working with third grade students, these beginning steps were modeled.)

After igniting interest in the children, I sent home a letter to our parents. This letter shared information about the passion projects & upcoming PBL projects. I also asked them to please complete a survey if they would like to be a part of this endeavor. The purpose for this is to keep communication lines open as to begin building a network of an expert pool for students. The survey is a google form which is embedded on our class webpage.

Developing Essential Questions

To be quite honest, I have found this to be one of the most challenging things to be doing with the children. I googled and I googled, but I could not really find anything that assisted in showing or explaining essential questions to my students. Maybe my take on passion projects is different that others, but I believe that there must be an essential question to drive the project. Otherwise, it is nothing more than a plain old research project. If a student can google the answer to his question, then it needs to be revised.

Our class drafted some essential question starters to assist in the development of their questions. We put these starters on a wall in our classroom, that way we are able to utilize them for other projects as well.

–I wonder…                                            —Why…
–What if….                                              —How…
–Should….

Students record all ideas in their passion notebooks. They have a page for their first selected project. Their essential question is recorded here. I have a vast range of interests as well as talents in my class.

Some of questions are quite intriguing for 3rd grade students:

–How has the gymnastics vault table changed?

–How do rainbows work?

–I wonder if different liquids affect plant growth?

Project Proposals

Students used their essential question to complete their project proposal. Here, students determined materials needed, supports required from Mrs. Prince & myself, ending product and how they planned to share what was learned. Proposals were to be submitted prior to beginning projects. We wanted the children to have a goal or plan in mind.

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Students working on projects

Actual Projects

We spent several weeks supporting students while they researched and created, developed, or constructed their projects. A date was set for them to begin presenting. Some upperclassmen had agreed to be our audience. Excitement filled the air the day we began our presentations. It took us three days to finish because we presented about 30 minutes each day.

Reflection & Feedback

Immediately after each presentation we share two things students do well and something to try differently next time. Students who presented a passion project as well as those who were an audience member gave feedback or reflected using @Flipgrid.

The children love Passion Tuesday! They are always thinking of a new project. Learning and a passion for learning is alive and well! I am so glad that we began this journey, baby-steps and all.

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“Shifting” Into The School Year

Wow! I really can’t believe that we have been in school whole semester already. It truly has been a whirlwind. Now, I know that I can’t be the only teacher who feels this way.

New grade level

new curriculum

school life in general

Google coming to visit

new “shifts”

Where did the time go? I have been busy trying new things with my students. Some things have worked well and some could use continued “tweaking”.

I’ll share the shifts that I have been implementing in upcoming posts. The first one that I would like to announce is that I have been brave enough to do aBreakout EDU with my students. I had been wanting to do one with my class, but I was apprehensive. Placing the clues as well as setting the locks correctly was a bit frightening. I found a teammate who was ready to step out and embark on the Breakout EDU adventure as well, so we worked together to arrange our breakout room. Another teacher, Meagan Parrish who is experienced with the breakout boxes was more than willing to assist us with the locks as well as answering any questions that we had.

Our first Breakout was for Dot Day on September 15, 2017. Our students loved the experience! I discovered that I needed to set some perimeters for teams. This was their first experience, they were excited. Hence, team member could be a little over eager and take over another team’s area when they were analyzing a clue. The next time we do this we will need to wait waiting until  another teams was done in the area before move in.  We also need to continue team building skills.

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Our second Breakout EDU was done to kickoff out Global Read Aloud novel The Wild Robot on September 29, 2017. This one went more smoothly than the first. Students gave teams more space at clues, but their eagersness to get to figure them out got the best of a few children.

We are looking forward to our next Breakout EDU adventure. My students continue to grow each time we work through one together.

 

 

 

 

Be the Helper in the Light

Our school year is starting in two weeks.  Turn on the television, open social media, pick up the newspaper and we are reminded that our world is in unrest.  Neighbor is lashing out at neighbor,  others are ridiculing our iniquities and differences with malice and hatred instead of celebrating or embracing them with with love and compassion. Children turn to the adults in their lives to help them make sense of this world.  As an educators in today’s society, we definitely have our hands full.

A childhood influence of mine, in addition to my teachers, was Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  He reminds us that in the dark times, there will always be light. We need to look for the helpers.  

220276-fred-rogers-quote-look-for-helpers

Well my fellow colleagues, we are the helpers. We are the ones on the sidelines.  Like it or not, teachers ARE involved. We do it by doing what we do best.  Educating, guiding, advocating, and most of all  loving our students.  Our students know that we are going to be there each and everyday. We are that constant in their lives.  We are that loving adult in their lives.  We are the ones who stand up for those who do not have a voice of their own.

Our students know that we will try our best to answer what questions they may have. We will create the safest environment that we possibly can for them.  We will care for them as if they are our very own children.

School needs to be the place where bias and racism are nonexistent. In order for that to occur there will need to be some awareness lessons in personal biases, compassion & empathy training, and community & team building.

Celebrate Differences

There are a multitude of ways that we, the helpers, the chosen ones who are with the “future of our nation” can be the necessary “beacon of light.”  A light that shines dimly or brightly through the hate that seems to be casting an encompassing shadow upon our society at this time.

Teachers have been actively working to build strong communities in their classrooms. Many classrooms in my district use morning meetings. These meeting help start each day with a positive message as well as to build a connected structural format where students can share socially and academically. Children’s picture books are a fabulous avenue to address any and almost all social issues.  They can be used independently, in small group or as a whole class read aloud. Students tend to openly discuss opinions more easily when they are are talking about a character in a story as compared to someone who resides next door.  Once rapport, comfort level and trust is built, students have been known to feel less intimidated when discussing real-life issues or current events.

Accept learn diference

It takes more than just talking, discussing and sharing.  Students need to build trusting relationships with one another.  They need to become a unified team. Team Building exercises, games and activities allow opportunities to spotlight various strengths in members. The planning of these activities can be worked into students’ pre-existing curriculum or teachers can be innovative and set aside a small block of time weekly to continue strengthening the classes’ community.

In the mass chaos, civil unrest and foreboding shadow of hate that is being shown, our children are preparing to come to school.  Some will be eager and ready to learn; others will be wishing for more vacation time. Regardless, educators are the endless beams of light flickering in the darkness. Our students look to us for guidance as we direct them towards a path of hope filled with acceptance, compassion, and love.

Resources:
Morning Meeting:  https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/what-is-morning-meeting

Picture Book Ideas:
https://pernillesripp.com/2017/08/12/great-picture-books-to-create-hope-in-the-world/
https://www.weareteachers.com/15-great-childrens-books-that-celebrate-diversity/
http://www.courtneywestlake.com/10-great-childrens-books-that-celebrate/
https://www.romper.com/p/13-childrens-books-that-break-racial-stereotypes-13088

Older Students Book Ideas:
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/22/books/23racebooks.html
https://www.bustle.com/p/11-diverse-young-adult-books-that-are-tackling-serious-issues-in-2017-36033

Team Building Activities:
http://www.ventureteambuilding.co.uk/team-building-activities/
http://www.buzzle.com/articles/listening-games-for-adults.html
http://www.teampedia.net/wiki/index.php?title=Category:Icebreakers/Warmups

The Value of Awareness

Build relationships.
Relationships are essential.
Establish rapport.
Home connections are key.

Open up Twitter, Facebook, and almost any educational text and you will read something regarding the importance of building and maintaining relationships; relationships with students, colleagues, parents, community members etc.  Relationships are the lifeline to a school. Please don’t get me wrong, but I think there are many times where we as the adults take charge. We, myself included, may need to step back and re-educate ourselves on the communities with which we are working.  Then we may be able to build even stronger and more productive relationships- ones where the children will benefit much more than they do today.

Let me explain.

Last week I visited my hometown in western Pennsylvania. While I was there, I read JD Vance’s, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. This novel hit home for several reasons.  I grew up and then later taught in areas similar to ones the author depicted in his memoir.  He was sharing the story of my classmates and students.  It was eye opening. He shared what he knew because he lived it.  Then at the same time….I knew these children, oh my gosh.  JD Vance was completely describing them to a”T”. Individuals who have never experienced this area, these conditions, or have limited understanding of  the accepted “norms” would be appalled.

How is this important? What does this mean to me as an educator?

Teachers need to be aware of the “norms” of socio-economic classes. It is estimated that approximately 43% of our children in the USA live in low income homes. This will enable us to be able to emphasize and in turn, truly build bonds with the families with whom we work. I believe that we really do a nice job of being conscientious of ethnic, racial and religious differences.  We celebrate these in our classrooms.  We bring lessons of diversity, compassion and empathy regarding these cultural differences into our classes. Teachers have a knowledge of what is deemed appropriate and not appropriate in regards to interaction with the various groups they come in contact.  Yet, when it comes to working with families that are of a different socio-economic class educators may not be aware of the cultural norms accepted by that group.

Blog 2

When we think of our students who may come from the lower end of the socio-economic scale, we immediately begin gathering physical resources & supplies.  Unfortunately, we seem to miss the real connection with them as a group- what their values are, what they really need, what is truly wanted.  Misunderstandings, miscommunications, misconceptions, and lack of trust can be created.  As an educator, I know this is not, nor is it ever our intention. Which is why I strongly feel that we all should be aware of the differences in the socio-economic culture. Yes, there are differences.  Many of these values are just understood.  As a teacher, I need to continually step back and remind myself to look at others’ perspective.  

There are several who have written articles, books and offer workshops to share information about poverty. I have been fortunate enough to have had workshops offered through the districts in which I have worked, such as Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty. I know everyone has not had that opportunity.  I do urge you to build your awareness of the socio-economic difference.  I do believe it will make an impact, a positive one on your future relationships within your schools and communities

Resources:                                

Poverty Resources

http://www.nccp.org/topics/childpoverty.html

 

Dare to Try New

Sometimes stepping out and taking that first leap can be the scariest, riskiest and yet most exciting thing we can do for ourselves and for the students we serve.

G.Couros Quote

Every school year I try to incorporate new projects and activities into my classroom for my students. Lately it just doesn’t feel as though I am doing enough to give my students the opportunities that I feel they need to continue to move forward both successfully and productively.

I know. I can be my own worst critic, but I needed fresh eyes. I desired a new perspective in which to approach instruction so that my students would have optimal opportunities to shine in the classroom and take control of their own learning.

This exploration of mine began with me researching and then beginning to read some of the latest educational publications.  I started with Kids Deserve It. Then I moved on to Teach Like a Pirate. Talk about being inspired! These educators and authors knew exactly how I was feeling and they were doing what I wanted to do.

My next step was becoming more involved and connected on social media.  Oh yes, Twitter opened so many more doors.  I began engaging in Twitter chats. My first chat was #kidsdeserveit. Oh yeah, I was hooked!

More of my horizons were being broadened.  Next, I read Learn Like a Pirate.  My comfort level was now being challenged by some new and innovative ideas.  I began participating in more Twitter chats: #LearnLAP and #5thchat.  Here, I was able to connect with teachers who are trying new creative, engaging, practices with their own students.

How exciting it was to meet with them each week to discuss the new or upcoming topic! Then to take back some of the ideas or suggestions and begin to implement them in class with the children.

My adventures in learning and bringing the best to class for my students continues.  This summer, I have continued to read new educational literature and participate in book studies with some of the best teachers.  It is amazing when an author will engage in the chats or the book studies with you! I have read The Book Whisperer, Shift This, The Morning Meeting, Empower, The Energy Bus and I plan to start Disrupting Thinking.

This blog is a part of my journey as I strive to grow as an educator. I hope to continue exploring new horizons as I continue moving forward with my students. I pray that others who read my thoughts share their views as well. I look forward to receiving feedback from others as this adventure progresses.

Books Read on my Journey
Kids Deserve It
Teach Like A Pirate
Learn Like A Pirate
Innovator’s Mindset
The Book Whisperer
Shift This
The Morning Meeting
Empower
The Energy Bus
Disrupting Thinking

Authors for follow on Twitter
@welcome
@TechNinjaTodd
@burgessdave
@PaulSolarz
@donalynbooks
@JoyKirr
@spencerideas
@ajjuliani
@JonGordon11
@KyleneBeers
@BobProbst

Twitter Chats
#KidsDeserveIt
#LearnLAP
#5thChat
#ShiftThis