Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: It's Not All Flowers and Sausages: My Adventures in Second Grade

It's Not All Flowers and Sausages: My Adventures in Second GradeIt's Not All Flowers and Sausages: My Adventures in Second Grade by Jennifer Scoggin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mrs. Mimi is hilarious - and inspires all teachers to be Super Colleagues for their "little friends" and fellow teacher types. In this book, she shares the best of her blog including why she loves her students, sharpies, sales at staples, and fab shoes. If you're a teacher, especially of the elementary school variety, you are going to love this book and might catch a glimpse of your fabulous self in a story or two.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

"Novelty Excites the Brain"

Wormeli, 2007, p. 107

I am currently reading Rick Wormeli's Differentiation: From Planning to Practice Grades 6-12.  Under his chapter about tips to differentiate, he mentions that we can all use a break from our routines and changing things up can help gain students' attention.  Don't get me wrong, routines in the classroom are a good thing - they help students know what to expect, speed up classroom tasks and help things run more efficiently leaving more time for learning.  That being said, Rick's point is that we all like to have a fresh perspective every now and then and as I was reading this section, I realized that I have probably allowed more of my own classroom routine turn into a rut at times.  Each summer always brings time for reflection and renewal and I do bring in new tools, new strategies and new perspectives about the work I do with my students, all the same, perhaps my routine should build in some more novelty. 

Suggestions from Rick's list include things like asking students to teach a lesson with you, or asking students to think divergently.  In my classroom, these things have become pretty commonplace.  It's time for me to try a few new options.  I don't think I am interested in velcroing props to my person and using them in a lesson (yes, that's on the list).  Since most of what I do in working with my gifted students in process and skill oriented rather than content based, I do think I could incorporate more simulations, field trips (the kind where you get out of your classroom - doesn't have to be a big old bus trip) and possibly music as a part of what we do.

Gee argues that even the most "reluctant" learner is often spending his or her out of school time plugged into technology and specifically, gaming.  What's the connection?  While I don't think we need to turn school into an arcade, I do think the fact that students are interacting with complex environments requiring a wide variety of skills should mean that learning in school could maybe capitalize on this idea.  Part of Gee's premise is that video games have a wide following because they are complex, but offer scaffolding to help players get on board quickly, they give A LOT of just-in-time feedback to help learning happen even faster and to let gamers know they are moving in the right or wrong direction, and the learning happens in the context of the game.  Kids aren't reading the manuals until they've already learned the basics and then if they need details, a manual might be referenced, though it's usually online.

One of the ways I'd like to explore novelty in my own classroom is to consider how gaming is put together and then replicate a similar experience in the classroom - sometimes, this might be a direct use of a game in class. I'm considering using the free online version of SimCity to teach my 7th graders about urban planning before we start to build our own cities of the future.  In other situations, it might just be about anytime access to resources, more models for expectations, better feedback, social interaction built in as a part of the learning, and more student choice in products or learning tasks.

How about you?  What are you going to do next school year to incorporate a little more novelty?  I know someone out there is already attaching velcro to their math manipulatives or rock collection...