The Power of Images

I like things to be pretty. That doesn't mean they must be feminine. I appreciate it more when things have soothing or matching colors, items are organized well, and everything has a home (i.e. clutter free). I love creating routines and analyzing situations/things to find out what works and what doesn't work. Some say I have a touch of obsessiveness, but I haven't found it to be a bad thing yet. It's more like a motivating factor that helps me refine things. Except when things take me longer because I can't stop refining ;) 
This tendency has had a big impact in how I design lessons. When we went one-to-one in 6th grade last year it opened up a door for me to create lessons that have color, engaging fonts, and images. I know it's not true for everyone, but for me, I'd much rather do work when it looks nice and not on a plain, white and black worksheet. It comes to life more when there is depth, a variety of structure, and opportunities to engage in concepts…

Menu Takeaways

So, I missed the deadline for my blog post last week. Oops! But, I feel like I've made some progress towards putting students in the "driver's seat" while I assist in navigating and acting like a drivers-ed instructor. I'll attempt to explain what's been going on, but this might take a bit to get you up to speed.

This week my 6th grade science students are concluding an ecosystem unit that I taught through the lens of a mystery. This mystery began in September, when the students were introduced to a fictitious area, called the Gray Area, where the fish have been dying for the past 5 years. The unit is mostly based on a curriculum by LHS GEMS called Environmental Detectives. There is a certain cadence to the mystery, where we "discover" a new pollutant, hear from a suspect, then investigate files/clues and finally blame the person we think is most responsible for the particular pollutant. It is lots of fun to see students get engaged in trying to sol…

Choice is Best

In my last blog post I asked the question, "Who's driving in our classrooms?" The question is really about who is the one making the educational choices and learning decisions. In order to engage our students and give them the ownership they need to feel valued, it should be our students doing the driving, while the educators are helping navigate and coaching them along the way.

While I think this model of teaching and learning sounds great, I am having a hard time envisioning it in action in my classroom on a daily basis. The biggest obstacle I see right now is that I mostly teach 6th grade students. It's honestly frightening to try and trust them behind the wheel! They just don't have the experience yet. But I want to see them so engaged with the material and the learning journey that they get excited about science and see how valuable learning can be.

So, I'm continuing on my own learning journey, trying to implement student choice into my lessons and givi…

Who's Driving This Car?

Have you ever been a passenger in a car, headed to a new location, being driven there be a person who knows where they're going, but it's not anywhere that looks familiar to you? You have no idea where you are, turning at unknown streets, just going along for the ride. If you aren't particularly interested in the destination, perhaps your mind starts to wander, thinking about a challenging student you're trying to reach, lessons you need to design, or even what you'll be making for dinner. Maybe you're chatty and you carry on a conversation with the other people in the car, not thinking about where you're going or how you're getting there. As a passenger, you become passive, not really engaging with the world outside of the car, not concerned with the landscapes, the traffic, or what street you're on. You're in passenger mode, just along for the ride.

I wonder how many times our students treat learning as if they are in "passenger mode"…