Sunday, August 19, 2012

School Days, School Days...

School days, school days,
Dear old golden rule days
Meetings, and messes, and lack of sleep,
So much to do it'll make you weep!

And so it begins. The pictures above are the horror I created as I tried to clean/set up my classroom between many meetings. As I was putting them together for the blog, I noticed my daughter - teeny, tiny in the background. I had to laugh. Like many of you I'm sure, I bring my children with me to work and throughout the day they get buried in the mess. Looks like she found a good spot to bury herself! She would never get away with that much computer time at home. She's a crafty one.

Well while the youngest daughter was locked in the computer corner, my oldest daughter decided to organize my BIG BLACK CABINET. It is the cabinet that houses everything that has no home, that is out of place, and that needs to belong. I wish I had a before picture of the cabinet and one of my daughter's face as she pulled Cheerios (for counting activities), scraps of paper (you never know), pretzels (hello...log cabins!), macaroni (I had to keep those; dried macaroni is so useful), goldfish (oceans, I don't need to explain), and other sundries from its depths. In the end, I thought she did a nice job. She works for Sonic Blasts if anyone is interested!

The rest of the room came together as well...eventually. It was a hard pull at the end. I was done around 8:00pm the night before school started. I heaved a sigh of relief as I snapped these pictures on the way out the door.

My AR board - compliments of The Teachers Cauldron
Sailing Through A.R. Pirate Theme
Part of my A.R. Library. There is a shelf like this on either side of my Promethean Board with  a display shelf in the middle for the books we are studying right now. I'm fairly proud of the shelves. They were ancient throw aways that I put contact paper and polka dot ribbon on to dress up. Turned out rather nice and saved me a bundle!

My computer center. You can see the Birthday Board back there. That is from the  Pirate-Themed  Classroom and Decor Organizational Pack from Rachel Parlett. I used it to deck out my room in pirates.

My Math Focus/Calendar wall. Again compliments go to  Pirate-Themed  Classroom and Decor Organizational Pack from Rachel Parlett.
My Morning Routine, Clip Chart, Daily Voyage, and Listening Anchors. I can't tell you how many times I have said...Listen like a Pirate. At the beginning of the week it was the happy "Arggh, we listening like pirates?" By the middle the week..."We need to listen like Pirates, please." At the end of the week..."Class, are we listening like pirates? Ears, feet, hands, and eyes, thank you. (In my head I'm thinking, "For crying out loud, sit still and listen! Whose idea was it to start school when it's still summer outside!!")
My room from the door. Not huge, but it works. I love the big window out to the courtyard. It us fun to watch the seasons unfold outside.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Diving Deeper into Questioning

I have spent my day in Teacher Evaluation training for Common Core. I attended two sessions and presented as well. The first session I attended was great! It talked about thinking and strategies to encourage higher order thinking in students. It tied in very well with the presentation I helped with about questioning.

One of the determiners on the teacher evaluation rubric for Tennessee Educators is  questioning. According to the rubric

  1. Questions should be varied and high quality, providing a balanced mix of question types. 
  2. Questions are consistently purposeful and coherent. 
  3. A high frequency of questions is asked. 
  4. Questions are consistently sequenced with attention to the instructional goals.
  5. Questions regularly require active responses. 
  6. Wait time (3-5 seconds) is consistently provided. 
  7. The teacher calls on volunteers and nonvolunteers, and a balance of students based on ability and sex. 
  8. Students generate questions that lead to further inquiry and self-directed learning.

Whew! That is a mouthful! Most teachers are fine with numbers 2 through 7. It's numbers 1 and 8 (the bookends!) that get you. One deals with our friend Blooms and 8 puts questioning into the hands of students. Most teachers solve #8 through coaching, modeling questioning, and providing students with flipcards with question stems as scaffolding. I want to focus on #1 because thinking of those questions can be difficult.

I'm analogy person, so here I am thinking layers and questioning trying to create an analogy. Hmmm, onions have layers, but I don't get excited when I get to the bottom of an Some say that ogres have layers...
Definitely no. Then it hit me. Oceans! Of course, oceans have layers and as you dive deeper they become more interesting. I can relate this to Blooms and higher order questioning.

Imagine the ocean. You start at the top swimming happily in the surface waters of Knowledge and Comprehension. You are having fun. You are challenged, but not too much, just enough to keep things interesting. Maybe you are snorkeling or swimming or just floating.

Then your friend comes by and wants to dive a bit deeper. You will need some support for that, so you grab your scuba gear (scaffolding, modeling, guidance, yeah, you know). Now you're diving into the Application and Analysis layer. The challenge increases but so does the interest level.
You and your friend (because you can only get this deep with help of course...ha, ha) decide you must dive even deeper. Scuba gear won't be enough, so you grab your submarine. (Doesn't everyone have one of those lying around??) Now you are immersed in Synthesis and Evaluation. You look around in awe. It is amazing the perspective you get when you are covered by a ton of water. There was a challenge in going this deep, but the rewards are the inspiration of the beauty and wonder surrounding you.

When your students are encouraged to think deeply through higher level questioning, it makes their learning more tangible and it can inspire them to want to learn more about the topics they are studying. Our job as teachers is not just to provide knowledge but to inspire learning. Questioning is one tool that accomplishes that goal.
One tip is to plan your questions as you plan your lesson. To pull upon a little Backward Design, start with your end in mind. What big idea do you want your students to understand at the end of the lesson or unit. Then build your questions diving deeper each time as you reach for the big idea.

Click on the picture above to grab a small freebie about questioning. It includes definitions of the different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy, question stems, key words, and a guide for planning questions. You or your students can use it to practice making higher order questions. Enjoy!