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Teacher Feature: Heather Anderson

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Beyond the Classroom…. 

South Africa, a nation ripwm.mailanyone.netped apart by apartheid, is making a slow but deliberate recovery. One very special teacher is helping to heal this nation with a few school supplies, some very eager students and a whole lot of love. Meet Mrs. Heather Anderson, a pastor’s wife (Mama Mfundisi in isiXhosa), a teacher and founder of Keep the Dream, (a project to solicit community support), who humbly considers herself just a “dabbler in many things.”

“Many things” is truly an understatement. In Port 1gay31Elizabeth, South Africa, Mrs. Anderson’s classroom consists of an entire community. Like any educator, she teaches young children to read and write, creates activities to help develop their motor skills and integrates the arts to keep them engaged. However, her teaching job extends beyond the walls of the classroom. She also teaches her students’ parents a variety of life skills, (including reading), and helps find them employment.

She teaches, “Whatever needs to be taught” to members of her community, looking to learn.

 Faith…

“Whether this is teaching faith or reading, someone has to go (to Africa). I read about what is happening in South Sudan and I am grieved more than I can say… students clamoring to learn but no facilities or teachers to teach them. It is a privilege to be an educator- no greater calling and I believe it really is a calling because there are no tangible rewards in many cases.”

Recently, Mrs. Anderson arranged for her students and their parents to visit the local library. Some of the adults had never been in a library before and were shocked and amazed to see the sheer number of books available for borrowing. They watched in delight as the librarian read books to their children, orchestrated art activities and emphasized the importance of reading. 1gavv5The librarian explained how reading will elevate their children out of poverty.  For the first time, parents used library cards to check out books for their children. As much as this simple activity has helped the parents, it is the children who will reap the greatest benefits.

  Soon, Mrs. Anderson plans on taking young women on their first hike up a mountain. She will teach them how to prepare, what to bring, how to follow the trail and how to face unexpected challenges. Her goal is not just keeping her students engaged with real-world, hands-on learning activities, but to teach them to depend on themselves, to depend on each other and to know that each one of them, “has worth and can achieve success just like any other person.”

With support from members of the community, Mrs. Anderson can continue to provide experiences that teach her students self-reliance, but, most importantly to have faith in each other. Faith that inspires, motivates and provides reassurance to the impoverished.

 Hope…

The education system in South Africa is broken. Students are desperate to learn but there are no facilities, very little supplies and even less teachers. The South African people have put pressure on the government to provide free education but that usually yields less-than-qualified graduates. Any funding from the government gets lost in bureaucratic red tape and leaves desperate communities floundering for resources. Sometimes their only hope is a teacher with a calling to serve.1gawcd

Mrs. Anderson has grieved over what seems hopeless, yet keeps hope alive through her work. She finds time to teach anything her students want to learn, from fun topics like crochet and cake decorating to life-saving lessons in nutrition and hygiene. She finds creative ways to integrate the arts and culture into her lessons to encourage a sense of pride in her students. In addition to her job-placement courses, she teaches a Little Lambs pre-school class to prepare young learners for placement in a private school, and a reading course to prepare 45 young readers for first grade. In a hopeless educational community, Mrs. Anderson is seeing results. She has had great success in placing her older students into higher-paying jobs and her Little Lambs in the private school of their choosing. She is determined to have all 45 students reading before they enter first grade. Like most teachers, her rewards are not tangible, but they are powerful and responsible for keeping hope alive.

 Love…

“The smile on a child’s or an adult’s face when they “get it” still is the greatest thing about being a teacher. That one “fireworks moment” when learning takes place and you know that you were a part of something great.”  

Mrs. Anderson is absolutely part of something great. Years ago, when she and her husband opened their church in the township of Gugulethu, the people were on the brink of starvation. She put programs in place designed not only to teach, but also to weave love and compassion through her work.

The economic situation in the township began to improve. In less than 10 years, the community was self-“THE ONE LANGUAGE THAT SURPASSES THEM ALL IS LOVE.” | made w/ Imgflip meme makersufficient. She is too humble to take much credit for the change. Her faith gives her strength, guidance and fills her heart with enough love for a whole township.

Teaching has a profound affect on her heart. As she develops lessons and provides learning opportunities for all people in Port Elizabeth, communication is not always easy.

“I want “my kids” to know that I love them and am committed to them. In their culture many are not raised by their mom or their dad but by some relative that can care for them. They are often shifted from one place to another and find people leaving them again and again. I am determined to be the one who stays… consistent, faithful, loving, and speaking positively about them and to them.”

Dream…

Mrs. Anderson is a graduate of Cornell College and received her secondary teaching degree from Southwest Texas University. She finds inspiration to continue her work through her father, a special high-school teacher, and her faith in God.

My husband is the pastor of a church called The Potter’s House Christian Church in Port Elizabeth South Africa.  Under that umbrella I have started a project called ‘Keep the Dream’.  I use this project as a means of communicating with the general community in obtaining various materials/support to use in teaching our typing, computer, pre-school, reading classes and general life skills classes.  I find that, for the most part, the community is very keen to assist the poor in obtaining skills and education to improve their lives. We open these classes up to the general public and trust that our testimony in presenting and participating in the classes will allow them to see Christ in us and encourage them to find Him as well.”

She, along wit1gaz4wh her husband, have moved The Potter’s House Church and the Keep the Dream project to Port Elizabeth where they are experiencing the joy of transforming another township.

With few resources and big challenges, Heather Anderson and her husband are doing their best to eliminate poverty and empower the people of South Africa.

Mama Mfundisi, thanks for dreaming big! You are an inspiration for all teachers!

The next Teacher Feature could be YOU!

For more inspirational stories on teachers that are making a difference in the community and the world, check out our other Teacher Feature blog posts. Do you know someone who is an excellent teacher that uses ingenuity, talent, and raw guts to face the unique challenges of teaching? If so, contact us. We love to honor great teachers! Keep up the good work, everyone! It’s almost mid-terms!!

The Teacher’s Academy provides affordable and convenient professional development courses for busy teachers. Check out our Course Catalog to get started on your professional development today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Culturally Sensitive Thankgsiving Resources

Many of us gRoasted Thanksgiving Turkeyrew up with school Thanksgiving celebrations that consisted of making head dresses, Pilgrim hats and turkeys out of construction paper. Some of the more progressive teachers may have asked us to write lists of things that we were thankful for or to imagine what it was like for the Pilgrims coming to America.

But, times have changed.  Our children are growing up in a world that is far more diverse and culturally aware than in any time in history.

As 21st century educators, we are well aware of the misrepresentation of the native people as well as an overwhelming amount of inaccurate information about the events that took place on that very first Thanksgiving Day.

We have sifted through the great wealth of online Thanksgiving curriculum resources to find the most thought-provoking, culturally sensitive lesson plans to use in your class room.

  •  You are the Historian is an award-winning lesson plan designed by Plimoth Plantation.  Students take an interactive journey through history and play historic detective in order to figure out what really happened at the first Thanksgiving Dinner. Along the way, they will learn about Wampanoag traditions of giving thanks and visit Pilgrim Mary Allerton’s home.

 

  • The Learning Network provides a list of helpful resources to engage your students in Kid on field with basket of vegetablesProject Based Learning activities dealing with the realities of hunger in America. This is especially important around Thanksgiving, a time when many of us are celebrating a bounty of food that is just not the reality for many Americans.

 

  • The American Indians Children’s Literature website put out a list of books to help children learn about Native Americans.  These can be read around Thanksgiving, but are even more effective when integrated into your curriculum year- round.

 

  • Story Corp does an incredible yearly project in which high school students are asked to record an interview with an elder during Thanksgiving weekend.  Your students Friends studyingcan participate or just listen to the rich oral history that has already been collected.

 

 

  • Scholastic: The First Thanksgiving provides students with letters written from the historical perspective of a Pilgrim girl and a Wampanoag boy living in the New World.  If you sign up by November 14, your classroom will receive all of the letters together on November 17.

 

  • Indian Education for All has created an in-depth lesson plan that provides students with a more accurate understanding of the events that led up to the celebration of the first Thanksgiving.  The lesson plan was written for grades 5-8, but can be adapted for both older and younger students.

 

  • Readwritethink.org provides a lesson plan in which students are presented with common myths about the first Thanksgiving and asked to do a thorough exploration into the truth behind each myth. The lesson is geared towards grades 6-8.

 

  • The Library of Congress has a collection of primary resources including the original Proclamation for the First Thanksgiving, a letter from George Washington, and paintings of historical events that occurred during that period in American history.

Handsome Young Man

  • Teaching Tolerance presents a collection of resources and activities to help students understand how, what can be a holiday for some Americans, is actually a day of mourning for others.  This can be an especially powerful lesson in teaching kids about perspective and empathy.

 

The Teacher’s Academy is proud to provide you with these and other educational resources for your classroom, along with an extensive catalog of online Professional Development courses. Check out our affordable course list and find a class that is right for you!

 

 

How to Make a Real Difference by Bringing Social Justice Issues into your Classroom

Why we Teach…

There are many reasons that people become educators. Perhaps they’ve always loved children, are natural teachers, or possess a deep love of learning. These are all excellent Ereasons for becoming an educator.  However, there is another underlying reason that many people decide to go into education, a reason that can often get pushed to the wayside under the strains of meeting standards and deadlines—To change the world.

Making a Difference…

The role of a teacher in students’ lives is invaluable.  Every lesson, every interaction, every conversation, is an opportunity to impact how the students look at the world, and, in turn, how they can change it.

As teachers, we have the ability to do so much more than relay facts to our students, we can teach them how to think, and, in turn, how to become thoughtful, contributing citizens.  One of the best ways we can do that is to bring issues of social justice into our classroom.  Dealing with problems of equality and fairness helps give students valuable experience in critical thinking, research, and respectful, meaningful conflict.

While bringing social justice issues into your classroom can potentially be of enormous benefit to students, it cannot be done without a lot of careful thought and planning.

10 Tips to engage students in conversations about social justice

1. Help guide students, don’t try to control.  One of the major goals of social justice education is to give students experience participating in, and even leading difficult Hands_Smallconversations.  Your role as an educator is to help lead students in the right direction when they get off-course, not to dominate the conversation.  If done correctly, you will find yourself spending most of the time listening to the students’ discussions, interjecting only if the conversations go off topic or become volatile.

2. Find relevant topics. Read social media.  Check the local news.  Talk to your students about what is going on in their neighborhoods. Is your town considering closing a skate park? Are there students in your school who are going without regular meals? Are students of color treated unfairly?  Students will be most motivated by issues that they have observed or have affected them.  The Anti-Defamation League’s website offers a wealth of topics and lesson plans that deal with social justice.

3. Be hopeful. Dealing with heavy topics can be oppressive to young people.  Try to help them find the light in even the darkest issues.  Help empower students to believe that all problems, even the most hopeless seeming, are solvable with cooperation and hard work. For example, if you are discussing the plight of local homeless people, show them examples of how other communities have created programs to feed and shelter the homeless. Giving them real-world examples of difficult problems that have been solved will empower them to look for viable solutions to issues of social justice.

4. Model and expect respect. Encourage debate, but find common ground.  When conversations become heated, divisiveness can occur. Often students become so entrenched in their own perspectives that they lost sight of the bigger picture.  Something as simple as helping students find common ground can make a big difference in the tone resizedimage241159-teacher-and-studentsand effectiveness of the conversations.

It is your job to ensure that students have a safe, respectful environment in which to voice their opinions.  Make it clear that bullying or name-calling will not be tolerated.  The Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution provides an extensive list of resources for dealing with conflict management.  For further assistance and professional development credits, check out our course on the causes and prevention of cyber-bullying.

5. Have age-appropriate expectations.  Kids as young as 5 or 6 can tackle issues of social justice.  However, the topics and level of conversation will be much different than those that take place on a middle school or high school level.  When working with young students, make sure to choose topics that are more concrete. Some ideas could be to discuss ways to make the playground more fun for everyone, ensure each child has a Phealthy lunch, and debate the fairness of “team picking” in gym class. Education World offers some social justice lessons designed specifically for younger students.

6. Teach students how to do good research. While discussing issues of social justice, it is important that students learn to back up their opinions.  One way that they can do that is by conducting research on the topics at hand. The internet offers a wealth of resources for information, of varying degrees of credibility. Help students understand how to tell the difference. Literacy Education Online provides some useful tips on assessing a source’s credibility.  Learning to discern between reliable and unreliable information is one of the greatest lessons you can teach your students.

7. Bring in speakers.  There is nothing like a first-hand account to help students become invested in an issue.  Have a military veteran come to your classroom and talk about the difficulties of re-adjusting to civilian society.  Invite a local wheel-chair bound woman to explain why she has trouble navigating your town’s sidewalks.  Ask a former high-school student to talk to your students about how bullying affected his education.  Do you know someone who has been naturalized? Ask her to speak about her immigration experience. Putting faces to the causes will give students a personal connection and ignite their enthusiasm.

8. Understand that students come from different backgrounds/perspectives.  It is our job as educators to put our personal biases aside when helping students confront issues of social justice.  Although you may be socially liberal, understand that some of your students may come from religious, conservative backgrounds.  And vice versa.

It is not your job to cPupils working together at desk in libraryhange the students’ views, only to help them understand and respect other people’s perspectives. Discrediting a students’ background or life experiences will only seek to alienate them.  Instead, work on finding commonalities and building bridges. With experience and maturity, you might find students with previously established beliefs opening their minds to other perspectives.  Dealing with issues of social justice is one of the most effective ways to help expedite this process.

9. Keep up-to-date on current events.  Social media and 24-hour news has given this generation access to more information than any other generation to date.  It is crucial that we, as teachers, also stay informed in order to retain our relevancy and credibility. Besides reading news that is of interest to you, try informing yourself on topics of interest to your students.  One easy way to do this is to instruct students to use sites such as CNN Student News and PBS News Hour Extra to bring in articles for classroom discussion. You may find that even issues of pop culture or celebrity news can inspire discussions of social justice.  The recent “taking a knee” stance of Colin Kaepernick is one current example.student and teacher looking smiling at the library

10. Take real-life action.  There are few things more powerful in education than showing students that they can, indeed, make a difference.  While not every issue of social justice is adaptable to a classroom project, many are. The basis of many project based learning lessons are issues of social justice.  The Bucks Institute for Education website is one of the best resources to teach you how to use PBL in your classroom.

The Teacher’s Academy is committed to providing teachers with the most relevant, affordable professional development courses.  Our classes meet Act 48 requirements and can be taken from the comfort of your own home.  Check out our course catalog to find the class that’s right for you.

 

 

Do you have a Rigorous Classroom?

Take this Teacher’s Academy quiz to find out if you teach with rigor.

Introduction

There’s a lot of buzz lately about integrating rigor into the classroom. There are workshops, webinars, articles and even blogs that define rigor for students and teachers. You’ve probably started to hear about rigor in your latest staff meetings, and if your state has adopted the hotly debated Common Core Standards, rigor is the new cornerstone of your lesson planning. But are you really infusing rigor into your curriculum? Are your students actually working rigorously? Take this quiz and see if you truly understand rigor in the classroom, and if your lessons and your students perform at a higher, more rigorous level!

1. Which of the following classes is an excellent example of a rigorous classroom?

a. An Honors Science class that requires a 20 page research report as their final exam.
b. An AP History class that coaches students to pass a college entrance exam.
c. An Algebra class that teaches students to use problem-solving strategies to analyze world hunger data they received in their social studies class.
d. A 4th grade class that assigns the most homework in the school.

“Rigor is the ability to solve complex problems and develop strategies to other content areas (Bogess 2007).” Since the adoption of No Child Left Behind in 2001, more attention is given to the way and the depth that teachers teach and students learn. It’s vital for us to compete in the global community, and according to test scores, the United States is falling behind. The quick fix for some teachers might be to assign more work. In the question Rigorous studentabove, all but one class focused on the amount of work the students had to endure. The correct answer is C. In the algebra class, students are using strategies taught and applying those strategies across the curriculum and to real world problems. Do you teach strategies that help students solve problems outside of your classroom? If so, you are teaching with rigor!

2. Which of the following teaching philosophies lends itself to incorporating rigor into the curriculum?

a. I believe all students can learn.
b. It is more important for students to respect than like their teacher.
c. I have high expectations for my students.
d. Fostering student effort is more important than high grades.
e. Both C and D.

High expectations are important and must include effort on the part of the learner (Wasley, Hampel and Clark , 1997). Most teachers believe all students can learn, and that’s a great teaching philosophy, but it doesn’t reflect the intent to teach with rigor. B is surprisingly a debatable topic to be discussed in another blog! The correct answer is E.students raising hands

Teaching with rigor requires the teachers to have high expectations of their students, and it requires effort on behalf of the student. It is up to the teacher to ignite that fire, so the student is compelled to work at a higher level, use more brain power, think harder and be ok with making a mistake. Do you have high expectations for your students? Do you celebrate effort over test scores? If so, you are teaching with rigor!

 3. Which of the following lessons is being taught with rigor?

a. After the science experiment, students will use primary sources to defend their findings.
b. Working collaboratively and utilizing the trends provided by NASDAQ, students will determine the best stock companies in which to invest for the next quarter.
c. After reading a passage from the classic Robinson Crusoe, students will refer to other literary texts and draw comparisons.
d. All of the above.

“Rigor would be used to say something about how an experience or activity is carried out and to what degree. Specifically, a ‘rigorous’ experience would be one that involves depth and care as, for example, in a scientific experiment or literary analysis that is done thoughtfully, deeply with sufficient depth and attention to accuracy and detail (Beane, 2001).” Memorizing facts is definitely an essential skill needed to get to deeper level thinking. Math facts, for example, must be drilled through a variety of practices until they become second nature. But this is not rigor. Once facts are established, what you and the students do with them sets the stage for rigor in the classroom. All of the lesson samples are examples of students using information that they comprehend and applying it to alternative situations. Do you give your students opportunities to deepen their understanding of basic concepts by analyzing data, comparing text or utilizing primary sources? If so, well done…that is a rigorous lesson!

 4. Which combination of classroom skills is considered “rigorous”?

a. memorize, explain, paraphrase
b. communicate, recall, comprehend
c. identify, paraphrase, solve
d. lead, collaborate, adapt

 “Rigor for the 21st century includes a focus on skills for life: critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and leadership, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination (Wagner 2008).” Perhaps options A, B and C look familiar to you. They were taken straight out of Bloom’s Taxonomy. As mentioned earlier, the foundational skills of learning are important, but too many students, teachers, and districts stop there. The correct answer is D. Students must be given opportunities to utilize the concepts they’ve learned and apply them to other situations. Do your students get to lead, collaborate, adapt, initiate and analyze to stimulate their curiosity? If so, you’re providing a rigorous environment.

5. Which of the following is true about rigor in the classroom?

a. Teaching rigor does not require supporting the students. At this level, students should be able to adapt to a rigorous lesson.
b. When students demonstrate understanding of rigorous material, they should all come to the same answer using the same methods.
c. The best way to assess rigor is through testing.
d. A student may have to sit with a problem longer than others to develop deeper understanding of applying the concepts.

In a rigorous classroom, the teacher is the support, the motivation and the key to success for students. Rigor is higher level thinking; teachers must support students and guide them through questioning and analyzing material. Therefore, the answer cannot be A. If students are being guided to come to their own conclusions, it’s highly likely that they come to their solution through different means. Rigor includes providing a variety of ways that the student can comprehend information. Therefore, the answer cannot be B. Rigor cannot be assessed through standardized tests, unless these tests offer a variety of stacked booksopportunities to demonstrate comprehension. Rigor is best assessed through creative projects, discussion, and application. Therefore, the answer cannot be C. Rigor can be taught at all levels. If a student’s mental capacity requires them to sit with a problem longer than their peer needs to, the student sitting and working through the problem is experiencing rigor. Do you support your students as they work through difficult problems? Do you teach and encourage a variety of methods that lead to the same findings? Do you vary your tests and assessment strategies to incorporate analysis? Do you encourage students to sit with a problem until they get it? If so, you’ve got a pretty rigorous classroom!

So, what have you learned about rigor and your own classroom? As a teacher and life-long student, I believe there are always areas to grow and learn. Taking a good hard look at our own teaching philosophy, curriculum, lessons and methods can only put us on the path to being a better teacher.

Do you need more ideas? Check out our professional development course Inspiring Ideas for the 21st Century Classroom.  Or check out how to integrate rigor in Teaching Math using Common Core Standards and Teaching Science using Common Core Standards.

At The Teacher’s Academy, we are always updating our courses to be the most relevant, affordable and convenient professional development option. Check out our entire course catalog and get started renewing your certificate right away.

Applying Common Core Standards in the Classroom

 

The National Common Core Standards provide a clear structured format of educational requirements to help prepare our students for college and careers. Developed by a variety of higher learning institutions including, colleges, special learners groups and corporations, the standards emphasize the application of higher-level thinking skills as well as making connections to acquire knowledge. The standards are clear and consistent and build on each other year after year, based on the evidence of the effectiveness of a spiraling curriculum. Parents and teachers now have a clear outline of expectations for their students and are given the freedom to deliver the standards in whichever way best suits the needs of their current student population. Right now, only math and language arts have been redefined in the Common Core Standards, but Common Core Standards for Science, World Languages and the Arts are in the works. The FAQs of Common Core Standards can be found at this website: http://www.corestandards.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions

The best practices already in place for Pennsylvania educators contributed to the development of the National Common Core Standards. Yes! Our fabulous education program already had high expectations for our students and benchmarks for measuring success. Even though we are great, that doesn’t mean we should stop striving to be better! The Common Core Standards will provide a nice guideline but real education (knowledge acquisition) occurs in the classrooms of effective teachers. The small teaching moments or the exciting, hands-on lesson plans will both be more effective when students (1) feel they are in a safe (making mistakes is ok) environment, (2) challenged and (3) motivated by the relevance of the information they are learning.

A classroom environment that does not accept mistakes will obstruct learning. Listening to how a student is answering a question – even if it is the wrong answer, can give you insight to how their brain is reasoning. From there, a teacher can provide guidance and direction so the student can positively manipulate the thought process. It does not need to take a lot of time ore energy or even thought. A simple acknowledgement of their effort and a quick redirection would work perfectly. An example response might be, “Wow, I really see how your brain is trying to work this out. Maybe if you tried this method…” Shutting down a student for a mistake does nothing to encourage taking risks, which leads to learning. Yet, this is still a common response in the classroom. With the introduction of the new Common Core Standards, should come a revival of best teaching practices. Here is the chance to begin a new era in effective teaching. Try new strategies, research different teaching methods that have been effective in other schools and practice! You may mess up once in a while, but hey, what better way to learn?

The PA Common Core Standards wants our students to acquire higher level thinking skills. The evidence they have provided shows students attaining higher level thinking skills through challenging activities and motivation to learn. There are lots of different ways to challenge and motivate students and effective teachers are always looking for new ways to reach students that do not seem to be motivated by anything. Other states are trying new ways to reach kids and the results are encouraging. Here are a few examples of some programs, which may help your students attain those higher level-thinking skills:

Jump Math ™” started out as a tutoring program developed by a math teacher in Canada. The purpose was to get struggling students up to grade level. The program had such amazing results so quickly, that it quickly became a sought after teaching method in many cities, where students are struggling. The founder of this program believed that all students, regardless of ability level, are capable of excelling in math

So, for all students to excel in math, they must master each small concept before they move on to more complex concepts. Mastering a concept means to commit the information to long-term memory. According to cognitive research, committing information to long-term takes time to practice the process or concept being taught along with making connections and finally reflection. Students move to the next concept with confidence! Even though Jump Math ™ has only been slightly introduced in the United States, it is important to know about programs that could possibly have a positive effect on our students. You can learn more about the Jump Math ™ program by going to the website: http://jumpmath.org/cms/

A math teacher in New York, recently won the $10,000 award for a math lesson he developed that incorporated the Modeling Math concept. Modeling Math is not a new concept but the way he was able to engage his students in a meaningful learning experience, is new and effective. His students used mathematic equations to create hats out of paper materials then displayed them in a fashion show. Other modeling lessons included a study of our country’s electoral college, housing markets after Katrina, the Iraq War casualties, etc. This program brings real life situations to the classrooms so students can relate to the concept and understand the relevance math has in our world. You can find more information about these specific lessons by going to the Gotham Schools website: http://gothamschools.org/

You can find more information on the common core requirements of incorporating modeling math by going to the website:http://thinkmath.edc.org/index.php/Model_with_mathematics

Most teachers would love to help all students “master” math problems and create lots of engaging, relevant modeling math lessons, but frankly time is an issue. Workshops are a great way to structure the math classroom. To set up a math workshop takes a lot of preparation and they need to be dynamic according to the changing abilities of the students. As students reach goals and master concepts, they can be pushed to the next project or workstation, specific to their increased ability level and without losing time. Workshops also allow time for teachers to spend extra time with struggling students. Students who are considered “average” can be pushed to achieve higher levels and the highest achievers can be challenged even further. Properly setting up the workshops ensures students’ math time is effective. Workshops can take on many forms from computer stations to hands-on building projects to small groups working through complex problems. Progress monitoring can be set up prior to the school year as well. Monitoring the students through each project ensures the teacher can intervene as soon as the student begins to struggle. Workshops have been around for quite sometime, but again, the content and activities can be updated to be more meaningful for students. There are countless books and resources on the web on how to set up effective workshops, here is one of several informative sites: http://investigations.terc.edu/overview.cfm

The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts also requires students to obtain higher-level thinking skills through a “staircase” growth process, where students learn the first step so they can build on that knowledge and advance to the next step. The increase in complexity or “staircase” structure provides teachers with clear expectations of what students should be able to do by the end of each grade level. The trick for teachers is to make the content challenging and meaningful to their students. English Language Arts programs vary from state to state, district to district, classroom to classroom. The skill level of the students will determine how best to structure the time. Some classes have “blocked” scheduling which allows 30-minute time intervals to focus on specific skills. Others classes are set up with a workshop atmosphere and some are traditional teacher-led small groups.

Managing an effective reading and writing program takes lots of preparation but once the structure is in place, teachers and students will benefit from the actual time spent learning. The new Common Core Standards requires the development of meaningful, challenging activities for students to achieve high-level thinking skills. No matter how teachers structure the classroom the activities created must not only be interesting to students but also meet their individual reading and writing goals.

There are so many language arts programs already developed and many teachers have implemented programs to fit the time restraints and needs of their students. Having an established, effective language arts program already in place is going to make the transition to the new common core goals, easier.

Here are a few resources that may help establish an effective language arts blocks for the new Common Core classroom:

  •  Language Arts Workshop: Purposeful Reading and Writing Instruction by Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher.
  • Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide by Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi
  • The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser

The purpose of sharing this information is to introduce the latest trends and to encourage new as well as experienced teachers to continually look for different methods of teaching. It is easy to get excited about the coming year when you are challenged and motivated to learn yourself!

*Act 48 Academy prides itself on researching the latest effective teaching methods and creating courses around them so teachers can acquire new information.