Give us a CHOICE and We’ll GROW!

Ok, I know that the majority of classrooms today run this way:

*educator teaches a lesson then assigns the entire class the same assignment they must work on individually

Can I ask you something? If an assignment isn’t a test, why are students working alone? Before you think of the reply, let me say this….. SOME STUDENTS DO LIKE TO WORK ALONE! Therefore, let’s leave those students out of this.

What about the other students then?

Being in classrooms since kindergarten, I know that when a teacher assigns an assignment for individual work, myself and other students sigh! Educators, I know you hear our sighs! Students always end up asking, “Well, can we just work on it together?”

I find the educators that say NO to that question to be very interesting. In my mind, I always question the educators that say no. From a junior high/high school viewpoint, we teenagers hate to sit down and be quiet for long periods of time. There is a huge focus on student voice right now, so get us talking!!!

I know, even as a student, that your admins are talking to you guys about less quiet and more group work in your classroom. Trust me, us students don’t have any problem with either of those things. I love this quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Isn’t that powerful? That quote shows us how involvement can be beneficial. EDUs, if you get us students involved – that is when we learn!!!! Students are not learning as WELL as they should from you telling them information from a powerpoint! Instead of a powerpoint lesson every day, what could be a choice? Instead of silent independent work every day, what could be a choice?

Before an assignment is given is a perfect time to ask us about choices.

I hope this post has inspired you. Here are some alternative choices (that you CAN give to your students!!!) for your students that I have found to be helpful:

  1. Group students together; letting them try and master the material before you teach it to them; track their knowledge by having groups do small presentations in front of the class
  2. Get those whiteboards out! Getting a whiteboard and expo marker out is like legendary for us students!
    1. have students race; give candy out to the first one, two, or three students to hold up their board and answer the question correctly
  3. Pair students up (Pairs of two); have one of the students present information to the other (basically teach them); at the end of class, walk around and see what both of your students have learned
  4. Allow students to separate things like guided readings or study guides upon their peer groups!
  5. Let your kids teach the class one day while you observe!

I could go on…. BUT – please take this out of this post….. giving your students choices will motivate them to work harder and WANT to come to school every day!!!!! Be authentic! Be the best! Be different! As an educator, BE YOU! Through these choices, you and your students GROW together!

Please share your student choice doings with me on Twitter @isterlingn

Before I go,

SOME STUDENTS CAN WORK IN A GROUP, AND SOME CAN WORK ON THEIR OWN! YES, AT THE SAME TIME! AS LONG AS THE WORK IS GETTING DONE AND KIDS ARE LEARNING, RIGHT?

Advertisements

Students Should be Involved in Professional Development (PD)

I’ve always thought this as an active student leader, “How can educators and/or administrators have professional development meetings frequently without getting input or learning from a student voice?” The answer is this: There is no possible way they can do this. I know this from personal experience at my high school, Cape Central. It’s time to speak out on this…it has been way too long.

Students have always been referred to as the heart of education. Just as the heart of the human body pumps blood to and through the veins, students (the heart of education) have to pump blood to and through the educators and/or administrators (veins). If educators and/or administrators are not using the heart of education (students) to pump blood to and through THEM, we lose everything as a entire system – just as the human body would lose everything if the heart wasn’t pumping blood. Blood represents feedback, voice, comments, concerns, questions, ideas, etc. in today’s education systems. 

This is where student voice and professional development meet. If educators/admins (veins) aren’t using the students (heart of education) in their professional development meetings, how can we improve anything or get to the next milestone as schools? Educators cannot expect to plan and develop professionally without getting a student view. Educators today feel as if meeting with other educators on a set time and date will help them significantly. The only aspect of teaching this could help with is the sharing of new ideas to try that you HOPE your students will love and learn effectively from. But, how can you TRULY know they’ll love your “new” ideas that you came up with by sharing ideas with a group of educators like yourself? I can answer that for you: you CANT! You’d only know what your students would love if you’ve asked them before or they were present in your PD meetings. I have a feeling that neither of those options are happening for many educators today. Students are not getting asked these important questions in the classroom…some EDUs say it’s due to time restrains or even a thought of “Oh, I know what my kids like…I don’t even have to ask them.” from educators. How do we fix this? It’s fairly simple….Invite a diverse group of students to your PD meetings! Listen to them! Take from what they have to say! AND YES, the students invited should NOT all be student “leaders” in order to have a better appeal to ALL voices.   

Here are four ideas I’ve thought of to help get students involved in your next PD meetings:

If you have students that use social media at your school, get them to speak at the next PD meeting about how educators/admins could be using social media to better appeal to students and even their parents. Invest in the students voice and ideas! Ask them questions if you have them! If some educators/admins aren’t using social media… a student could even teach how to use a specific platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).

Have class officers come to PD meetings and report feedback that they have gotten from peers inside their class ranks. Educators and admins aren’t getting much feedback from students these days that is concerned with how classrooms or even the school as a whole is operating for them. Someone has to be the voice for all sometimes…some students are afraid to step up to the plate and say what they really feel inside.

Educators could prepare questions for the students present at PD meetings. EDUs could start with questions like…”How do you learn and engage more and effectively?” Ask students what they think is missing in your school. Ask them important questions! Don’t think just because they are students they don’t know anything. I’m sure your students have been soaking up problems, comments, questions, and/or concerns over the years like a sponge. Open the door that enables them to speak out.

Students could even present ideas to educators at PD meetings that they have found beneficial or they think would work inside or even outside the classroom. Students could explain how these ideas work and educators may grow interest in a STUDENT given idea….If a student is giving an educator an idea that they think will work for them inside or outside the classroom.. you cant go wrong.

I truly believe that these four ideas to help you involve students in your upcoming PD meetings will help you grow and move up the staircase of success!

When the heart of education (students) is pumping blood (feedback, voice, comments, concerns, questions, ideas, etc.) to educators/admins (veins), you have a functioning system that is ready to run, improve something, and meet the next milestone. 

Now we all know there may be some blood clots…but we have to be the solution that breaks the clot when they come about. Student voice is a clot today. Who’s going to break the clot and restore the “blood” flow? 

How do some educators know if students are learning effectively and engaging if they never ask them?

I can’t remember the last time an educator asked me, “In which ways do you learn best?” or “What can I do to help you understand the lesson more?” Since there is an absence of these questions, student engagement has taken a turn for the worse (some places) in todays society. I asked some amazing educators from my area (Kelly and Jennifer) three questions that related to today’s topic. I wanted to chat with early-middle school educators because they prepare students for highschool, where I am now. Kelley (@mrsbranchk on Twitter) teaches 5th grade math and science and Jennifer (@teachergirl97 on Twitter) teaches 5th grade ELA and social studies. Here is what they had to say:

Question 1: Have you ever (as an educator) asked your students how they learn best…..or if they are effectively learning?

Kelley ‘s response: I have never specifically asked a student how they learn best. I do often let students decide how they are going to show me they know something. Do they need pencil and paper, would they rather make a google slide, can they teach me?… I feel that many times students gain a trust with me and tell me how I can help them. I want kids to say “I have no clue.” Then I can show them another way..

Jennifer ‘s response: I use a Learning Styles Survey at the beginning of the year to get an idea of what my students’ strengths are in the classroom. Often times, I find the students (in fifth grade) can’t really identify for themselves what type of learner they are.

Both of these responses were enlightening to me. Both Kelley and Jennifer are using some kind of method to track their students effective learning outcomes. Loved when Kelley mentioned….”I want kids to say “I have no clue.” Then I can show them another way..” Educators! If you aren’t connecting with your kids enough to where they cant even trust you to say they have no clue….there is a gap. As students, we want to feel comfortable telling our educators when we don’t know the answer. This can be very intimidating and even impossible if there is no educator to student connection. Jennifer stated…”I find the students (in fifth grade) can’t really identify for themselves what type of learner they are.” This is mind blowing. You know, peers of mine can’t even decide what type of learner they are in high school. As a student, I understand, you can’t meet every learning style need educators! But it doesn’t hurt to try everything you possibly can just like Jennifer is doing in her classroom! Trying different styles each day and having your kids vote after could be life changing regarding your student engagement and effective learning outcomes. 

Question 2: How could/can asking students if they are learning effectively help (in any way)?!?

Kelley ‘s response: If teachers know how students learn, they can design their lessons to meet the needs of their students. Also, by knowing how students learn, I can organize the day for students, not for me.

Jennifer ‘s response: I love feedback from my students. I think it’s one of the most important ways to gauge whether or not they’re learning. If they feel like what I’m doing is not helping them, I MUST adjust what I’m doing!

Take this from two experienced educators! Carry these responses with you! If you aren’t asking your students questions about their learning styles or how they are better engaged, use their responses as resources!

“I can organize the day for students, not for me.” Isn’t that powerful? I know that lots of planning goes into lessons and your schedule as educators, but….are you shedding enough focus on your students? More than likely they are the reason you went into education! Let them know that you have a passion and fire to help them learn effectively and be more engaged. Educators…really take this one in. “If they feel like what I’m doing is not helping them, I MUST adjust what I’m doing!” WOW! Are you adjusting in your classroom like that? If not, why? 

I ended with one last question…. “Why is it important to ask students these types of questions (are you learning best…or effectively)?” 

Kelley mentions student self evaluations…..”Students must be able to self-evaluate in order to set goals. When students set goals and monitor their own learning progress the effect size in (I think) 1.4. 0.5 is one years worth of growth. Research has determined that giving students a voice can put them on track to gain 3 years worth of growth in just one year!!”

Jennifer mentions connecting student life to the real world…”A huge part of our job is to connect their learning to the real world. The students have to know how they learn to be more successful in school as they get older. Tying learning styles to different types of jobs helps students understand the importance as well.”

I wanted to end on a student perspective note…other than one from myself. I asked one of my peers (in high school), at random, three questions as well. I began with… Have you been asked how you learn best and engage in highschool? Genesis (@genesissofiaa on Twitter) replied saying, ” In my two years of high school experience…. I have not been asked what teaching method is best for me. All my teachers teach in different styles. I tend to catch on to more visual lessons and barely a handful of my teachers teach in that way. I do admit that I struggle with some learning methods my teachers execute.”

I secondly asked her, “When educators ask you how you learn (teaching style) and engage best….how does it help you?” Genesis said, ” I think educators asking what teaching styles are more effective for me personally is the whole point of learning. I don’t learn like the student in their next class, across the room, or even next to me. This question will help me become more comfortable with my teacher and help me rely on their assistance if necessary. Educators are here to teach and if I can’t learn with their style, we are both getting nowhere.”

Finally, I ended with the question…..“Why dont some educators today ask their students about their preferable teaching styles and engagement tactics?” Genesis (@genesissofiaa on Twitter) really gave something powerful on this response. Please take from it educators.

She said:

“I believe educators don’t ask these questions because of obvious reasons… If an instance where one student is passing and another is failing, they’re automatically put under the stereotype of being lazy or unwilling. Some students excel at reading textbooks and they soak up every bit of information. Other students don’t have enough attention span or interest in reading extensively.”

Genesis says when some educators get a student who is passing their class with flying colors…the educator then falls back and tells themself, “I must be doing something right!” and depends solely on that ONE student outcome. This outcome often is incorrect and should not be followed because the student that succeeded is or could be prone to the educators teaching style. You cannot forget about the others. Some educators today are forgetting about the ones who arent passing with “flying colors”

I’ll leave you with this readers… It’s odd how in Kelley and Jennifer’s case….. they are succeeding in their efforts somewhat. When it comes to Genesis and her educators case, there is a gap….hmmm. Could this be a generational problem? Maybe… it looks like it’s just that all of the sudden, some educators have stopped asking us students the most important questions because they thing they have achieved success listening to that ONE student voice. We are seeing this more so NOW in our current setting, high school.

Follow Kelley (@mrsbranchk on Twitter)

Follow Jennifer (@teachergirl97 on Twitter)

Follow Genesis (@genesissofiaa on Twitter)

 

Why should student leaders be involved with back to school events?

When it comes to a back to school event, new students or even returning students can be nervous and scared! As leaders, how do we fix this problem? Most administration teams would say, “Put our teachers out on the front lines.” My question is…..why are we putting ONLY teachers out on the front lines in some places and not student leaders? If you have student leaders to use to your advantage, do it!

I’ve talked a little bit about student to student connections over student to teacher connection in previous posts. Here is a little refresher. Student to student connections are more appealing (other than a student to teacher connection) in a students point of view for the following reasons….

  • Students like to have (student leader) friends close to the same age as them that they can talk to any day, anytime, anyplace (they connect more)
  • Meeting student leaders is not as intimidating as meeting teachers is
  • Students look up to student leaders
  • Student leaders can share personal stories of what goes on in classrooms (educators don’t know everything about what goes on!)

This does not mean I don’t appreciate teachers being on the front lines as well. I think it’s also necessary for students to form connections with their teachers. This post is simply to just draw more attention to the needed use of student leaders at back to school events.

Student to student connections are essential for a healthy school life overall. Through school everyday, its nice to have other friends (students) to connect and talk and connect to. IF we as student leaders aren’t making connections with other students at back to school events early in the year, when will we?! School students tend to get cliquey. We need student leaders at back to school events that are ready and prepared to erase the clique lifestyle. Back to school events are the perfect opportunity to start or grow these connections!

At CHS, we would be nowhere without the help of our student leaders at back to school events. WE LOVE help from our teachers as well!

STUDENT LEADERS ARE READY FOR CHANGE !!! WE ARE EXCITED FOR THE 17/18 SCHOOL YEAR!

 

Why is Freshman Orientation  so important at a large high school or junior highschool? 

I’ve gotten lots of questions concerning why I am choosing to work freshman orientation this year at my high school. Most people say, “Come on Isaiah it’s not that important that you have to spend your whole day working it.” They’re wrong! Freshman orientation is essential for all incoming freshman…especially at a large high school. At CHS, freshman orientation is an all day event (8am-3pm). Students and parents are even fed a free lunch for coming out. Let me elaborate more on why freshman orientation is so important. We will focus mainly on the highschool (CHS) for this post. 

In our district we have several elementary schools, one middle school, one junior high, and one high school. From elementary-middle school….a HUGE orientation is not needed because students have something that relates to a home room in which their teachers walk them around depending on where they need to be and when. From junior high-high school that ends. Students are responsible for getting from class to class on their own passing time (5min). When students are coming from middle school into junior high, they are going to expirence a FULL 7 class day schedule everyday. With freshman orientation (at junior high level or highschool) being an all day event, students have the opportunity to walk to each class they have so they can remember where each of them are for the first day of school. They’d also have the opportunity to find out where their locker is. Trying the combination before the first day is a must!

Our high school (junior high and high school) formulates an all day agenda so students have something to do at all times within the orientation. This could be anything from taking ID pictures, school pictures, getting a school issued chromebook, meeting upperclassman that can help you, purchasing device insurance, or finalizing a schedule for the year. When students arrive to the orienation, they are separated into groups and taken on specificly timed walk through to make sure everything gets done in order and promptly. It works very well. Students get the chance to make connections with upperclassmen which makes them feel more comfortable and welcome. 

This is also a BIG change for the parents as well. Having an all day orientation event, parents have all the time they need to ask questions, get information, or meet some staff members. Counselors are also absolutely available to chat with parents during this time if there are any problems with schedules or anything else you’d need a school counselor for. 

Students also get their textbooks and have the chance to partner up with a student senate, beta club, or tiger ambassador (members of those clubs sign up to work orienation) to help them get what they need for the year. There is such a difference in getting with a student to find help. So many more connections can be made this way. I’d like to remind you that everything is in stations…your “tour” guide will lead you around to each one in an orderly fashion. The students working and the freshman LOVE this! 

We have a lot of transfer students at CHS, so we have to pay attention to them! We know that some kids have never been in CGPS (Cape Girardeau Public Schools), or even gotten a tour of the highschool or junior high. Since we know that information, we treat the day like a new beginning. Our “tour” guides are notified to ask their group if there is anyone that hasn’t had the official tour. If there are members in the group that haven’t had the official tour of the building, their tour guide will surely make sure that happens while they are on their way to stations. Parents are more than welcome to follow the tour guide and students around! We want everyone to feel at home and welcome. 

I think I mainly work freshman orientation because… I want students to have an amazing expirence, especially if this is their first time in the highschool or even hearing about it. My freshman orientation was not very inviting or welcoming at all. I want to be the mover of the next great change within freshman orientations.

 So YES… wonderers… freshman orientation is ESSENTIAL!! 

Dell Chromebook Hopes: 1:1 district moves forward from Asus Tablets (the student look)

At CHS only freshman currently have Dell Chromebooks. This is all about to change this year. I wanted to say something about it… voice my opinion. All classes  will be receiving chromebooks this year. Our district is starting to move forward in our 1:1 initiative finally with something more efficient. 

This is such an improvement!! We had to use tiny Asus transformer tablets previously. These were hard to type on, work on, and do anything on really. I’m so thrilled to move on from Asus. Sorry Asus, you weren’t very pleasing. This tablet is NOT for in school use although it seems like it. THE district listened to students and knew something had to change. We HATED those tablets! We thought Asus was everything as a district at first….. not the case at all. Let’s talk a little bit about my favorite technical specs between the Asus transformer and Dell chromebook. BTW- by no means am I a technical expert. Just hear me out. 

Asus transformer tablet 

The Asus transformer tablet has a screen size of about 10.1 inches. The Dell Chromebook screen size is about 11.6 inches. The size of the keyboards on both devices are not to be found anywhere….. but…. the keyboard is bigger on the Dell Chromebook. The processor is also better on the Dell Chromebook!! These are all pluses for us as juniors. The screen size will make getting work done more faster and efficient. Most of our textbooks are online… with the Asus tablet the screen was so small you could barely stand to do math homework off of it. Now having a Dell Chromebook we have a bigger display so we won’t have to worry about that. I’ve talked to freshman class peers about their Chromebooks and they having nothing negative to say about them. If they were to say anything… it would be about the fact that Dell Chromebook screens  don’t detach from the keyboard like the Asus transformer tablet does. We can get over that! We are all happy that the Dell Chromebook still carry’s the touch screen capability tho. Students are hoping for a more innovative and efficient approach to 1:1 use in the classroom. We hope Dell chromebooks will bring us just that. 

More on this later! Stay tuned!