Saturday, February 28, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites ~ Chapters 1 & 2 ~ This Post Will Make You THINK!

I'm all geared up for this book study.  If you don't have a blog, but you'd like to participate in this awesome professional development opportunity, join in the linky by visiting the various blogs that are participating. Chime in with your thoughts via the comment section.  If you don't have the book you  will be able to share your thoughts just based on what the bloggers have shared - but you could also pick it up through iBooks if you have an iPad, iPhone, etc.  That's where I got mine.

I'm joining Kickin' It In Kindergarten today to talk about chapters 1 & 2

Just as soon as I heard about the book study I shared it with my staff.  While I love all types of professional development - because there are benefits to each and every type {whether it be in a lab classroom format, webinar, Instagram, in-school book studies, blogger book studies, etc.} this is one of my favorites.

Life around these parts can be hectic - basketball, baseball, house cleaning, etc. it can be hard to be held hard and fast to a specific time/place/event for professional development.  Read when I can? Sounds great.  Share my thoughts with THOUSANDS of others?  Oh yeah!  Mull over the thoughts shared by many?  Sign me up!  Professional development at its finest! {In my opinion}

With that, it's time to link up with Kickin' it in Kindergarten for chapters 1 & 2 in Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia Tate.

You know you have found a book that is right up your alley enough for you to relate and enough for you to learn from when you start highlighting like a mad woman...


...and talking to yourself "Oh yeah!" "Amen!" "Sing it sister!"

Introduction

"...{we} are not only teachers but also gardeners, better known as dendrite growers because every time students learn something new in their classrooms, they grow a new brain cell, called a dendrite"

I just like that because it's such a hefty thing to think about.  Nothing bothers me more than feeling somebody in my class is there tuned out, and for lack of a better way to say it "rotting".  We are gardeners and we must cultivate those dendrites.  It can be daunting - but we have to remember the various ways students learn and how we can best reach them.  I have recently adopted the workshop/guided {fill in the blank} approach in most subjects.  It's just the only way I can see meeting individual needs in a way that targets their readiness and skill level the best.  Differentiation isn't just a catch phrase, it's not just a part of our teacher-jargon - it's what's right for students.

"When you examine the list of 20 {strategies}, you will find that they are used most frequently in the lower elementary grades. When the strategies begin to disappear from the repertoire of teachers is about the same time students' academic achievement, confidence, and love for school also diminish"

My colleagues and I have talked about this time and time again.  It seems that we work our behinds off trying to help all students reach their fullest potential and we do a darn good job!  Years pass and we hear mutterings of these same students struggling either in middle school or high school.  We just couldn't figure out what was happening.  Don't get me wrong - I'm not AT ALL disparaging middle school or high school teachers - my husband is one and a darn good one at that.  Things do change somewhere between first grade and 12th grade and I wish they didn't.  Sometimes I think we focus our "reform efforts" in the wrong places...not to toot our horns - but elementary teachers have such a strong understanding of human beings and their needs and I think your upper grade teachers have a very strong understanding of their content....it's just that some need to find a way to mesh the two.

                                         
Strategy 1:
Brainstorming and Discussion

"They can't talk in class. They can't talk in the hall. They can't talk in the cafeteria. They can't talk at all!"

This one hit me "right there".  I see people asking for ways to make their transitions quieter, I hear of schools that require students to sit and eat without talking.  I'll never forget a quote a professor shared with my class when I was in college.  I wish I could find the person who first said it.  If you know, please let me know!

I know it's important to have control of your class and to manage behaviors but there is a way to do this and allow your students to be human beings.  Can you sit in a workshop for 6 hours without chit chatting with your teacher-neighbor?  I know I sure can't!  So why expect that of your students?  I swear, it's during these conversations, that our students learn most!  Next time your class transitions, pay close attention to what they are talking about - I can guarantee that in some way, what they are talking about, is helping them grow...whether it be socially, behaviorally or academically - they are growing!

Some strategies the book mentions to allow for constructive conversations:

*Ask questions based on Bloom's Taxonomy

"Stick Pick" - I've mentioned this app before - it's great for picking students to answer questions - and has the Bloom's question stems built right in!

*Think, pair, share {and oldie but a goody} - I do this in my classroom, but not often enough that my students feel comfortable with one another to take risks.  I create "learning partners" for each trimester where students sit by the same student every day for every group discussion {for every subject} - I just get so caught up in my own mini-lessons, I forget to have them TALK with one another {and keep my mouth SHUT}.  Must fix this!

My big takeaway?  Allow more time for students to talk and challenge one another's thinking.  Model this with your own questions during whole group conversations.


Strategy 2:
Drawing and Artwork

This chapter was EXTREMELY encouraging and validating for me.  I've had this conversation more than a few times, over the years, since moving toward a more "rigorous" and "data-driven" age of teaching - "How is artwork aligned with the common core?" It was hard for me to find words aside from "Seriously, you can't see how it's important?"  No, there isn't a CCSS that specifically addresses doing craftivities or the like; but you HAVE to trust your teacher instincts people!  You know what is good and right for your students.  

But now you have this book, written by an amazingly respected educator, and can you really disagree with more than 70 years of research? {Allen, 2008; Dewey, 1934} "Researchers have written about the positive relationship between thinking in art and thinking across the curriculum." Adding to that affirmation, "When children play - draw, dance and sing - they engage every sense and help wire the neurons for learning successfully." {Sousa, 2006}

So, when somebody skeptically gives you the hairy eyeball while secretly admiring looking at the artwork you have hanging in the hallway or your classroom remember Marcia Tate and her collection of research that supports why you do what you do.  

I try to repeat this mantra in my mind  - because even I, after enough hairy eyeballs, lose sight of the fact that I'm giving my students something that will serve them well in the real world.  

"As long as I can support why I do what I do, and what I do is purposeful, I'll do it - even if I may encounter some friction" {Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade, 2015}

I would absolutely LOVE for you to comment below, with your thoughts and ideas - we can learn even more through thoughtful and reflective dialogue with one another!

30 comments:

  1. Hi Holly!
    I also cringed when I worked at schools where hallways had to be quiet, lunchroom had to be quiet, and pretty much any transition had to be quiet. Kids need to talk! I loved the poem you quoted from the book. It's so true! I think this is the best PD there is... discussing a great book with other teachers!
    Joya :)

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    1. While I do absolutely feel students should respect the learning going on around them by walking quietly in the halls, I definitely feel that conversations anyplace else, as long as constructive, polite and at a productive volume should be encouraged!!!!! I love that poem too!!!!!

      Thanks for chiming in!

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  2. Ok Holly you got me hooked - but how do I join the linky?

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    1. Hi Carolyn!
      If you go to Kickin' it in Kindergarten's blog and scroll down to the end - you'll see a blue button that says "click to view and add your links". If you click on that button you will see other bloggers who have given their thoughts about the book. If you want to join in on the conversations just add your thoughts to their comment section. We would LOVE to hear from you!

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  3. I love love love this post! You must be an amazing teacher because you totally get this! I am right there with you about the talking. I have felt myself relaxing more with the talking during transition time. the quote you shared is totally true. Kids have to talk and engage with one another and when you look at it like a learning experience for them, it makes you let go of some of your previous "rules'. Thank you for sharing and being so true with your words...loved it!

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    1. Thanks lady! A dream of mine has always been to visit RCA. I'm not sure when/if that will ever happen - but at least I can live vicariously through those who have had that opportunity. I feel so encouraged and inspired by you and so many other bloggers. I'm loving this book study!

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  4. I too get caught up in my own talking, especially in literacy! I need to give them more time to talk it out with their peers. And what's the name of that app? It looks awesome! And I agree with sometimes going with your teacher instinct! Great post :)

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    1. Thanks for jumping in, Ms. McGaha!

      I just have to remember that in order for the "think, pair, share" moments to be constructive I have to constantly, model, celebrate, and instruct them on what constructive pair/shares look/sound like! I think, too, I have so much content that I feel I have to "get through" that I put off having them converse as much as they should!

      The app is called "Stick Pick"...

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  5. Holly,
    What a well thought out reflection on the reading, so insightful!!! I could not agree with you more, about classrooms that are quiet...I am pinning the quote(apple). Unfortunately, there are many teachers out there that think a quiet room equals learning... far from the truth! Your comment about what students are talking about is so true... I need to be more patient with transition times. Your students are so lucky to have you as their teacher...first grade is so important! Melissa

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    1. Thanks so much, Melissa! I think there is a time and a place for a quiet-er classroom - like, writer's workshop, Daily 5...but 100 percent quiet? Rarely!

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  6. Great post! I love the quote you shared "A quiet classroom is a funeral for learning"! I know that when I discuss or explain something - I understand it so much better! We need to give our students the same opportunities to deepen their thinking.
    Also, thanks for sharing the app - just the sort of thing I've been looking for.

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    1. Isn't that the truth? It's when you can explain something to somebody else that you know you've REALLY got it!

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  7. I Love your post and the way your thinking puts the kids first. I am that nerdy teacher in my school that when she opens her mouth to speak for the kids, the other teachers roll their eyes and then I get the silent treatment in the hall for a few days. I always seem to feel that the easy way isn't always the best way. I love the "hairy eyeball" phrase!! It is so true. When people walk by our TK room it is so "cute" that all we do all day is "do" arts and crafts. It's "OK" for early childhood classroom to "do" art. Then they walk by the room of an awesome 1st grade teacher in our school and she gets the "hairy eyeball" look because her wall has the creative research project the kids did depicting force and motion. It's crazy, a little busy, but the kids did it and talk about it every chance they get. I see the students, from more than one class, out there talking about what they see, how did the student do it, and why. It's a whole extra lesson, with the students teaching each other. I wish for schools, the students, and teachers that this is encouraged rather than discouraged. It is heartening to see so many teachers in this link up that are doing what is right for the kids and not taking the easy, worksheet way out.

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    1. Hi Michelle,
      Yup, we sure do have to advocate for our learners, don't we? It sounds like you are doing wonderful things - stay strong!!!!

      Holly :)

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  8. The talking part really stuck out to me too. It is so true. We often want them quiet during all these times but they have no time to get it all out. Maybe more talking would lead to less disruptions and behavior problems?! And you are so right about us as adults - I don't want to sit in PD without being able to talk to my teaching bestie....and when we weren't allowed we would pass notes. And she was the first person I talked to when we walked out in the hall - yet I didn't want my kids to be doing it. Why?? Makes no sense!! Definitely eye opener!

    Sara
    Sara J Creations

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    1. Hi Sara!

      Exactly! One question I ask myself often is "How can I emulate real life?" That's sort of a "rule" I live by in my classroom. You're encouraging life long learning when you create a classroom that prepares them for the real world.

      Aren't teachers the WORST listeners? HA! My teacher-friends and I are constantly whispering, passing notes, etc. - but I swear, we're totally ON TASK talking about what we're learning! Pinky swear!

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  9. Totally agree with you that kids need to talk!! I love having my students do group or partner work and I enjoy listening to the discussions they are having with their peers. Something else that makes me think of kids talking is inside recess. One of the reasons I enjoy inside recess is because I can hear conversations my students are having with one another and often learn so much about my students. And I love that app that you shared! I use equity sticks with my students, but that app looks great! Thanks for a great post and hope you have a wonderful weekend!

    recipeforteaching

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    1. Hi Heather,
      Isn't it fun when you get a chance to listen in to their conversations? They can be so insightful - these little ones. That's why I am hanging on tight to a 10 minute snack time. Each year, I re-think that, and in an effort to "get it all in" I sometimes consider doing a working snack - then I quickly remind myself that school is as much about helping our little ones navigate this world socially as it is academically. Thanks for your thoughts!

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  10. Oh, my word!!! I love that quote,The Quiet Classrooms is a Funeral for Learning! I'm totally stealing that. Kids need opportunities to talk and talk and talk about what their learning. LOVE your post. Thanks so much for participating in the book study. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

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    1. Hi Deanna,
      Totally NOT my words - but I do love that quote too - clearly, since it was shared with me more years ago than I care to admit! HA! I'm really enjoying this book study and can't wait to keep reading!!!!

      Holly :)

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  11. Hi Holly,

    I love the idea of having "learning partners". Really cuts out the transition time so the kiddos can quickly turn and talk with their buddy. I'm going to try this next week!

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    1. Hi There!

      Well, I have to admit, my dear friend and teaching goddess, gave me the idea. It really works well because they just know this is who they share their ideas with and a certain comfort level occurs and as the weeks go on, their conversations grow more and more insightful. I try to switch their partners each trimester {as well as their table spots}. I'm happy you were able to find something in this post that you want to try!

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  12. "The quiet classroom is a funeral for learning" LOVE that!!! It's soooo true!

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    1. Wow what a detailed and insightful post! I couldn't agree more with what you write! I love the idea of listening to what the kids are talking about during transitions and down time. I need to work on being more in tune with them and not just hurrying along to the next activity to cross of my list! I can't get over the "stick pick," app!! I've never heard of it before and need to look into it. One of my biggest take aways from chapter 1 was the need to use blooms taxonomy more often when designing questions for my students. This is such a helpful tool! Thank you! I can't wait to see what more this book has to offer us!

      Jayme

      Teach Talk Inspire

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    2. Hi Jayme!
      Thanks a bunch for sharing your thoughts! I'm right there with you - I am sometimes so rushed I have to remind myself to breathe...no joke! That's why I liked this book so much - it made me stop and think about my teaching. When I reflect like that, it reminds me of what I KNOW in my heart-of-hearts is good teaching.....

      Hope you like that app - I think you will!

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  13. I'm working to add more higher level questions with my kindergartners. I think the stick pick app will be a helpful push for me. Any tips? How do you use it without appearing like you are staring at your phone or ipad?

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    1. It was awkward at first and I definitely found my favorites and probably overused those - I need to get back on the wagon!!!!

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  14. I love that saying! "A quiet classroom is a funeral for learning" That just hits the nail on the head right there! So great! I also love that stick pick app. I am going to have to check that out. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks a bunch! I wish I knew who originally said it....

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