Sunday, September 1, 2013

Week of August 26th-30th


I "shadowed" my first student on Friday, August 30th. It was a great experience. I was able to be a seventh grade student for almost an entire day. I began the day in her World History class. During the time I was in the class, I had to take notes, share my notes with my partner, add to my notes, share my notes with my group, and write a paragraph on the key points from my notes. The students brought me into their routines very naturally. It was clear that the students had been using these types of engagement and interactive techniques on a regular basis. My shadow student told me she likes these activities, because she likes to share her ideas with others. As soon as the bell rang my students was off. I'm not exaggerating, she moved with purpose to get to her next class. It was kind of funny to me, because she was talking to me as I trailed behind her, but she was not stopping to "hangout." As I passed rows and rows of students walking to their next class, I overheard many students saying, ":Look, Mrs. Witt is a student today." It brought a smile to my face.

We were the first ones in line for second period. As we waited in line my "shadow" student shared with me her experiences with sports. She told me that her dad has made her play in every sport imaginable. I asked her if she liked any of the sports she was engaged in, her favorite is softball. Several students began to line up behind us and beside us. This particular class had two lines for the students to wait for the teacher. This experience second period was not nearly as engaging as it was first period. I must state however; that this class had a substitute. The students were extremely well behaved and did what she asked them. Bu,t I began to get very bored and my mind drifted often. We were asked to read a section from the textbook and then answer questions in the workbook that corresponded to the text. I got the textbook out and started reading, page one was fine, but once I was on page three I found myself thinking about other things and having to reread it over and over. I wasn't holding on to the material. I looked around the room and the students appeared to be reading and some were working in the workbook. But, I couldn't help but wonder how many were daydreaming like I was. A student asked a question about the material and was merely redirected back to the textbook. That was an opportunity for modeling and an explanation for the student that was not in the textbook. Opportunity missed. :( 

When class ended and the bell rang, again we were off with purpose. My shadow student moved so fast down the stairs I couldn't help myself but tell her to slow down or she might fall. She said to me, "That's just what we do," then she smiled and kept walking towards her third period class. We arrived at third period and got in line to wait. This time we were not first, we were about tenth in line. My student was very excited to share with her friends that I was shadowing her in her classes. The teacher came to the door and greeted each of us as we entered. This was a very nice feeling to have her say hi to each of us. We sat down and were told to get started on the quick write that was on the board. This appeared to be a very typical request, most students were already taking out their notebooks and beginning to write their response. We were given only a few minutes to complete the task. I finished with only about 10 seconds to spare. We were then told to share with our partner what we had written. Before we shared my partner pointed out to me the rules/expectations for partner sharing that was posted on the wall. (That was very cool. She wanted to make sure I knew how to do it correctly.) My partner shared first and I shared second. Throughout the lesson, the teacher encouraged student responses to be shared. After one question and no hands raised, she quickly had us pair/share to get ideas. The result, when she asked the question again, about 90% of the students raised their hands. 

Fourth period began similarly to third with us lining up on the wall outside the classroom and the teacher greeting each of us as we entered. She smiled at us in a very welcoming way. As we sat down, our attention was brought to the front of the classroom and the teacher as she did a series of claps that we were to replicate, we did. She then explained to the class what we would be doing for the day and we jumped right into the short video to watch. She was able to connect the video to things they had been working on that week in class. She reinforced what they had already been working on and students were giving affirmations. (I had to leave this class early to go out for lunch supervision).

Fifth period had been in session for about five minutes when I came in. I was unable to sit at my shadow student's table so I found an empty chair at another table. The teacher had already handed out the art paper and was modeling on her Ipad what she wanted us to do. I asked the student next to me where the paper was and she told me up front. I walked up and asked the teacher if I could have a piece and she happily handed me a piece of paper. Upon returning to the table I picked up one of the remaining pencils from the tray. I looked at it and realized it was not sharpened. The student next to me, without saying anything, handed me her pencil sharpener. Problem solved. After the teacher modeled for us, she directed us to begin our independent work. She made sure to tell us to use our gradation, shading, etc. that we had been working on over the week. Here I was now in a bit of a predicament. I had not been here for the shading and gradation work, so I observed the student next to me and asked her some questions. She did an amazing job explaining to me how to use the charcoal, how to use my finger to blend, etc. At one point she even pulled off part of the special eraser and gave me a piece and demonstrated for me how to use it. I was enjoying shading my one corner of page, when the teacher announced that we had only a few minutes left. I knew there was no way I would be done, and I assumed the rest of the class would be in the same spot as me. I was wrong. The other students were done, they clearly knew the pace of the assignments and had completed in the time allotted. This class provided freedom for the students but with limitations and very explicit parameters. We were creating abstract art, but there were rules that had to be followed. It was a very nice balance of expression and yet structured for the students to learn the artistic rules to follow. 

I am looking forward to shadowing the other seven students that have signed up. My takeaway for Friday, is that when the students are given choice, ability to verbalize, and when they are asked to use all of their learning modalities, that is when the learning takes place. Learning is very limited when it is just reading from a book and answering questions. I am a perfect example of a very bored and off task student if you just want me to read and answer questions. I do believe that many of our students are like me in the context of the classroom. 

Word of the week: BIAS: Bias is an opinion about whether a person, group, or idea is good or bad which influences how you deal with it. 

Staff Meeting: Tuesday, September 3rd at 3:20. We will hold our meeting this month in F204. Please bring your Ipads and mobile devices with you. 

Back to School Night: Wednesday, September 4th from 5:00-6:30. Please have an engaging and informative presentation prepared for each of your class periods. Parents want to know the expectations for the year, what their child will be learning, how their child will be graded, and most importantly how they can be in communication with you. Have those items ready for the parents. 

Professional Development Opportunity: Geoff Belleau will be back to present Workshop #2 of the year. The focus will be on Digital Citizenship and 21st Century Learning. Please join us for this workshop on Thursday, September 5th in the library. 3:45-5:30.

Target and $$$$ for our schoolThis year, Target will give money to schools all over the country for one simple act: a vote. Our school needs just 25 votes to earn a $25 donation from Target. But that's only the beginning. For each additional vote, our school will get $1 more. So please remember that, although the gesture is small, the rewards are potentially huge. Go to to vote for Crystal Middle School once a week through September 21st or until Target has given away all $5 million. And please forward this email to your friends. Vote and see rules at

We have completed two and a half weeks of school. In walking the classrooms on a daily basis, I am seeing evidence of much more rigorous objectives and expectations from classroom to classroom. As I walked through classrooms this week, I took a few snapshots of trends. I am seeing a lot of collaborative group work and partner work. It is nice to see that the typical think/pair/share has moved to think/pair-share/write. It is clear that MANY of your are incorporating "Writing to Learn" into your daily lessons. 

Group work in Ms. Merrick's English class. Here this group of three works together with one student reading outloud as the the other two take notes on what was read. Ms. Merrick made sure to model first to the students on how to take notes as they are listening to their partner. 
Daily Objective in Mr. Dunsworth's World History class

Daily Objective in Ms. Merrick's English class

Group work in Dunswoth's class. He has a limited # of computers in his room, so he assigns groups of 4-5 to work together to gather research.

Ms. Merrick checking in on a partner group. Here students were taking notes on the information that their partner was reading out loud to them. Ms. Merrick is introducing the students to a variety of note taking techniques.

No comments:

Post a Comment