Monday, October 13, 2014

I've Been Thinking.... What is really needed for student SELF regulation?

For the past year or so this blog of mine has been a lot quieter than it has been since I started writing it.  As with anything there are reasons for my silence. One reason is over the past year  I was dealing with a very challenging classroom situation in a school system that continues to fund less of the very support my students need.  It's made me question a lot of things and to be honest it's taken a lot out of me.  It's pretty tough seeing broken arms being treated with bandaids (well, that hasn't happened but it's a good idea of how many issues are dealt with).  I've been on crisis management vs crisis prevention and I feel like more often than not I am fighting a loosing battle.  It's been discouraging to say the least.  I've also been thinking and reflecting a lot.  Here is one  thing that I've been thinking about lately, self regulation.

If we really want self regulating students are we able to let go of our teacher control to get our students there?

Through out my challenging year I continued to help my students learn the skills involved with self regulation. I taught them how to recognize their need for a break and how to use their words to ask for them when they were needed.  I taught them how to grab noise reduction ear phones as required, to select where to work, and to choose the way to work that was best for them.  I set up a "check in" system to help them verbalize how they were feelings, express what they needed, and how I could help them.  All this meant I gave my students a lot of control.  There were times when students couldn't handle that freedom and it would kill me to step in and make the decisions for them but I also realize as the adult and teacher in the room it was my job as their teacher to step in from time to time.

But I wonder, how many other teachers would be willing to give their students as much freedom as I have. How many are equally as willing to have a bit of chaos to help students see what was and what is possible?  When we provide our students with seating plans (all year long), or assigned carpet spots (all year long) what skills aren't we teaching our students?  Please don't get me wrong, I do understand that there is a time and place to teach children what proper behaviour looks like during work/discussion time but do we really need to control these environments all year long?

This year, like in the past, I started with no assigned seating at our carpet and our tables. But a week in it was clear that these are skills my students still need to be taught - how to choose a work space that will allow you to do your best work, and how to sit at the carpet in a spot that will help you do your best learning.  My students have now been assigned tables to sit at, and places on the carpet to sit. But for me I hope this will be a very temporary situation as my students better understand what classroom behaviour should look like in these two situations.  Yes, I may have a student or two that will required a specific spot for a little longer than his or her classmates, but the goal for all my students is to help teach them the skills so that they are capable of making their own decisions.  Which brings me back to the idea of teacher control.  If we are controlling where students sit, or how they must work are we missing the boat on teaching them how to self regulate? To me self regulation is a life long skills and one I hope my students are a lot better at when they leave my room.  This means, however, that I need to be willing to give up more and more teacher control . That things may get messier before they get calmer.  I need to trust my gut because like my heart, it knows my students best.

What is your solution for supporting the development of  self regulating students? How do you feel you are hindering your students development in this process and how are you supporting it? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Making Thinking Visible: The Power of Voice

This past summer I had the privilege of sharing a three minute showcase with my Global ADE colleagues on Making Thinking Visible: The Power of Voice.  Here is a copy of that presentation.

Making Thinking Visible: The Power of Voice from Karen Lirenman on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Addition Task Cards

I have been busy creating more task cards, this time for addition. Please feel free to download any or all that are of interest to you.  You can find them here

The Hand Math Symbolic Level Blackline Master

Friday, September 5, 2014

Number and Number Set Task Cards

For the upcoming school year I have created some number task cards.  Most are open ended and can be modified to meet my students' individual needs.  My students have choice as to which job to do as long as they are working on our overall class learning intention at the time.  Of course some jobs are limited by equipment and so we find ways to make that work too.  I am also open to their ideas, and I utilize opportunities for real world math as often as I can.  If you would like to download some or all of these task cards you can find them here.

I included this page as well. I find different students like to choose different apps to add their voice to their work.  In my classroom this is really important as it helps make their thinking visible.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Nine Pattern Math Task Cards

Now that I've gotten the hang of creating activity task cards (a huge thank you to my good friend Kristen Wideen),  I've been working on a few that I hope to use with my grade one students this year.  Many of these tasks are not new for me, but the use of these task cards are.  If you think these will be of benefit for you and your students please feel free to download them.   You can find them all here .

Also these task cards can also be modified up for slightly older students but turning them into growing (or shrinking) patterns instead of repeating ones.

Keep checking back. I have created more pattern math task cards since this post was published.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Animal Research Task Cards

I have created some animal research task cards as part of my iTunes U course entitled  Animal Research in a Primary Classroom.  If you are interested in using them with your students feel free to download them here. If you are curious about the course, which is not yet searchable in the iTunes store,  contact me directly for more information.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Struggles with "Bump It Up Walls" and "Rubric" Assessment.

I'm a big advocate for personalized learning.  Huge actually which is why I am constantly looking for ways to put students in control of their learning.  When I talk about personalized learning  I don't just mean in the way my students learn but also in the way I assess my students learning.   Yes, they have required "skills" or "content" that they are expect to learn in the year that I have them but how I assess each student is personalized too.  This leads to two common assessment tools that I struggle with "bump it up walls" and "rubric" assessment.

I've had many conversations about "bump it up walls".  To be clear to me a "bump it up" wall is a collection of work samples that show forward progression. Take for example with grade one writing - the first sample may be a simple drawing, the second a drawing with some initial consonant sounds, the third the addition of  more words to accompany the drawing, the next  some sentences, followed by  more detailed sentences, paragraphs etc.  You get the idea - writing samples along a continuum that help a child see where they can go next with their writing.  It's a great way for children to identify where they are writing and where they can head to next. I get that and I love that about "bump it up" walls. Where I struggle with these walls is that I often wonder if they limit  student progress to the way that the wall demonstrates.  As much as we'd all like learning how to write to be a sequential skill is it really?  Does this sequential "bump it up" wall hinder the child from adding more detail, or building stronger character development, or adding voice to his or her writing?  While these items can be part of a "bump it up wall" where would they fit in?  Most things we learn at school are not linear in nature but by creating a "bump it up wall" we are making the learning linear. As much as they help some students are "bump it up" walls hindering others?

The other thing I struggle with is "rubric" assessment.  In fact they drive me crazy!  Now to be clear, I highly value the various criteria that are within a rubric but I struggle with the box format of one. Far too often when I am looking at students work it falls into more than one box.  What I much prefer is a specific list of criteria and I highlight each criterion individually, outside of the box.  If I need a four point rating scale then I rate each separate criterion on its own and so each student sees exactly where they are successful and where they need a bit more help. Like with bump it up walls students gain skills a different rates and it drives me crazy when we assume they will gain specific skills in a specific order. To me that's what the neat  box format rubric tries to show.

What common assessment tools are you struggling with?