"We have turned impatience and restless disengagement into normal sates of mind." (Spandel 4). Last week I was chatting online with a friend who wants to be a teacher. The conversation turned to love and different types and scales of it; a very exciting topic from my point of view and he seemed well engaged too. We changed the topic a couple of times and then I asked him if he liked Mariachi music and he wholeheartedly said yes. Moments later his chat went gray and he was no longer online. I emailed him. It was not until the next morning that he profusely apologized for his lack of social grace, he had been multi-tasking. He had been watching tv, chatting and falling asleep all at the same time. I told him that I was not sure multi-tasking always wins out, specially when you put sleep in the equation. This young teacher to be is the president of a dance troupe, is taking his prerequisite courses for the teacher credential program, is in a band, coaches soccer, tutors children and just got a new dog. He does not have much free time or quiet down time and he jumps from one activity to the next often seamlessly. When it is time for a one on one conversation though his eyes rarely focus. Is this a product of age, personality, socio-economic upbringing, the "schizophrenic technology", or a combination of many of these? In my 2nd grade classroom I am often taken aback by the children who find it very uncomfortable to have focused quiet time. Whether consciously or not they would break the silence in one way or another during test taking or silent reading time or thinking time. Some people just need to talk or some people need to be given the opportunity to experience quiet time? The friend above has a father who meditates and wanted him to try too. It did not work for him and he failed to quiet his mind. Maybe it takes some longer than others. In Chapter 1, Spandel gives us three ideas as to how to foster reflective and longer thinking. 1. Provide some quiet time [intrapersonal]2. Read aloud often and as long as possible [input]3. Slow down the pace of a classroom dialog [interpersonal] [output](Spandel 6). All of these are feasible though possible luxuries in our daily jumping around from one activity to the next making sure we keep up with our pacing guides. I appreciate how she touched upon several modalities to foster reflection and even made mention of classroom dialog. Sharing with a neighbor is often just the thing to clarify or expand, or deepen thinking, even if it is with someone whose eyes rarely focus.
I found the readings to be insightful and thought provoking and look forward to reflecting on the purposes of writing and how we teach writing to our students.
I really enjoyed reading the first chapter and contemplating the idea of reflection. How do we get students to be more reflective? Having just returned from a week in Big Sur, I wish we could take our students out in the wilderness and just walk next to a river, hike a mountain, or stand beneath a waterfall! In my district we have a professional development program that instructs teachers to break classes into chunks - direct instruction, guided practice, individual work, check for understanding frequently, etc.. I have been told that students can only handle activities for a duration of time equal to their age. Thus, my middle schoolers need to jump from activity to activity approximately every 15 minutes. I think this is an effective form of instruction in some cases, say note taking (what I would call an information gathering activity). When teaching a subject like history there is an immense amount of information that I have to give to my classes - through reading activities, notes, group work. But, I do not believe that these information gathering lessons lead to true education. I believe a student must have time to reflect on new information if that learning is to be truly comprehended and used in the future. The question is how do you get a 13 yr. old middle school student to reflect on medieval times or the social structure of the Mayans? I think the answer is through meaningful projects that challenge students to be creative and include some sort of relevance to student life.Once I was given a long justification for why projects must be scaled down to make way for a fast-paced curriculum that would greater prepare students for the CST. This explanation basically described the need for teachers to question their use of projects such as the California Missions project that many of us can remember from elementary school. I have always questioned this justification because if you were to ask many people about what they remember about the history they learned in elementary school they will say, "Oh...I remember when my dad (or mom) and I built that mission in the garage out of legos!" This is due to the fact that these people spent a great deal of time reflecting on the information they learned about mission by creating and building something - and, it is because of this creative reflection that they remember that knowledge for the rest of their lives. Several weeks ago I did a Chinese woodblock printing art project with my classes. It was messy and really fun. Teachers throughout the day came into my classroom and commented how it reminded them of kindergarten. The artwork that was produced is simply beautiful. Before this activity my students took notes, read, and used graphic organizers to gather knowledge on the standard being covered - Chinese inventions. But, it was this activity that allowed them to process and reflect on one piece of that standard which was woodblock printing. Yes, it looked a lot like kindergarten and we did have lots of fun. But, I would argue that this activity not only satisfied one possible question on the CST, it also led to a knowledge that will be kept for life. I feel strongly that all 165 of my middle school students will remember what a woodblock print is forever, because they made one - and that is true education. Giving time for students to reflect may look different in all of our classrooms, but I think it is essential to learning.
Test Run :)
“Real Writing...takes long thinking. It takes reflection, the courage to dive below the surface, the willingness to live with a topic for a long period of time, turn it over and over in your mind, and decide for yourself what questions to ask about it.” (Sandel)This idea from Sandel’s first chapter spoke to me on a personal note but also resonates with me about my students. First I struggle with giving time to a piece of writing. I am impatient and want the task done, so I do not always reflect, go below the surface, ponder my topic or ask questions. As I work with my sixth grade students I see they struggle with this same thing, so I should not expect from them what I, as an adult, struggle to achieve.A few weeks ago one of my classes needed to revisit a poem they had written back in November with my partner teacher. I reviewed the lesson they had done months ago and then asked them to look at their first attempt and decide if in these past months, they had learned anything that could help expand the original poem. As the students began to finish or retool their work, I walked around the class and had several discussions about how the poems could be reworked. One student said she had too many ideas in the first poem and thought she could create several poems from her initial ideas. Another student struggled with even getting started, because he had not been in the class back in November. By the end of the period he had create a focused poem that will still need to simmer, but he now had a focus.With a nation wide emphasis on standardized tests students rarely get an opportunity to reflect and rework pieces of writing in a classroom. As an educator who is required to bring up test scores I rarely take the time to allow my students to become accomplished writers who share their own voice. My experience with the November poem was inspiring, because students were able to realize what “real” writing involves. It is not getting an assignment done in a class period but rather writing with the idea that it may not be done and could need more thought to complete something that has deeper meaning.
From Holley~ Well my first write was on chapter 3, sorry. I guess on our road trip I got carried away. This time I will be commenting on Chapter 4. I would first like to thank Kim who is another kindergarten teacher. As a kindergarten teacher, we are the first ones who get to truly introduce classroom writing and reading to children. I am of course biased, but to me this is a magical year. Kinders come to school excited about everything and ready to learn. Kim mentioned that she wasn’t sure her students would be able to come up with a topic. I was pleased to readthat this was not a problem. I am completing my second year of using a variety of the “The Writing Projects” ways and continue to learn more about the Writing Project,. (Can’t wait for the summer) I have found that reading and studying good literature to the students, has supported my students with their own writing. Whether we as a class are working on mentor text, book making, interactive writing or other types of techniques, all has supported the development of the students writing. The author talks about routine and the structured part of writing. I have found this to be quite challenging. This year I have worked hard at being consistent with “their” writing time. This is the timewhen they get to create their own books without interruptions. At this time of the year 45 minutes to 1 hourflies by for most of the students. They manage their book making with aides such as their pocket seat covers along with box folders, and file folders. Often during choice time, about 1/3 of the students are writing, either making books, writing notes to each other and or drawing pictures. This is our classroom culture, one that is supported by each other, and their families.