I have heard the term so much lately and as I read and think about my instructional practice I like to say that I am offering choice in how students read, what they read, the exact things they write about, where they sit and all those things but I am not entirely sure I do it all the time and I am not entirely sure I need to. I know the idea of having all students do the same assignment at the same time with the same due date does not serve all my students in a way that makes them successful, but I think it is a fine line. If I give them all year to hand things in or to let me provide feedback then they will never get what they need to grow. I must find a middle ground on evaluation of student work and keep asking the question, “How do my decisions impact EACH student?” Square Peg Round Hole…
This week we had a great presentation on cellphone/screen time. It was directed at the students but the message was very clear we have become a population so attached to their screens we are forgetting how to interact without them. I found myself numerous times going to check my twitter feed or facebook, because we all know that I could be getting very life changing news in the 40 minutes I was watching a video that was speaking directly to my addiction. Education moves closer and closer to more time on screens in classrooms. Chromebooks or ipads, Macbooks or tablets, for wahtever reason it seems education is starting to remove the paper and pencil for a newer shinier model (not sure better). I had students this week say, “Can I just write with a paper and pencil?” I was surprised but of course granted their request. Watching them sit and write and erase was interesting and almost peaceful compared to the tap tap tap of the keyboards in the room. If I required my students to all follow one way of doing their work I could be placing unintended limits on them. This is going to be an area I must grow further. My convenience in marking needs to not be the driving push in decision making, my students choice needs to be. Square Peg Round Hole…
Ok so this is the point of the blog I might lose some of my teacher friends but I was chatting with a very excellent educator and the topic of Pintrest and Teachers Pay Teachers came up. Now I will admit I have bought things on teachers pay teachers and use Pintrest. I like them both. But in the square peg-round hole thinking I find myself questioning the resources I have gathered from these sources. Now it is not like I have countless binders full of worksheets from TPT or this massive Pintrest fav library that are my go to things. I take what I can and see how I can make it work with my students. I am reflective and picky. I see these full units that people markets with Penguin math centers and research reports and and geography and science lessons that look at bouancy and I am in awe of this teachers work. Then I think, “What if a couple kids just hate penguins?” After my conversations this week I have also started to think what about the teachers who had no hand in creating these units and just bought it to save time and surprisingly also wanted to have a Penguin unit? In those situations not a moment of “What is best for my students individually?” comes to mind. We take away choice and interest in the sake of convenience. There seems to be a theme when it comes to why we limit student choice…it is not convenient. Square Peg Round Hole…
Literacy and my growing journey
Choice books, choice writing topics and styles, choice ways to reflect. The more I move towards it and talk with students the more I see why it is so important. The spark that is there when choice meets engagement should be reason enough to change our practice but sadly for many it is not. Years of “well my shark unit works well” or “this poetry book has always served me well in February” (guilty) clouds many teachers vision of what the end game should be (mine included at times). We choose what is easy and what is convenient because maybe it works for most, maybe it works for 95% but I think that 5% could be reached if we turn over the control, investigate ways to amplify choice and empower our students to take the lead and share their voice in their education. I have had to reach a bit of a compromise here with journalling. I give as much choice as I can with how they use them but they need to use them because I have yet to really figure out a better way beyond talking daily with each student or having tests on books (no thanks) to see what students think about their reading. So I load journals with choice and we go from there.
The danger of one size fits all
People talk about all they do to individualize instruction for their students but it usually boils down to getting them more assistance or providing more one on one time or sending them to intervention but the idea of a completely different assignment to fit that students needs and interests does not seem to be on our radar. I need to explore for myself why I have been so hesitant to take choice to the next level in my room and amplify my students voices. My students do journals but one loves to draw this week I told them if they would rather draw something that sticks out instead of write we could talk about their drawings and that was a powerful moment of realization for them and me. They get to take control and they provide amazing work. The expression square peg-round hole has been stuck in my head all day. As I was watching my students record their book commercials on flipgrid, or write them out to present live (don’t like to be on video) or just getting ready to share with me because they are too shy to talk in front of everyone I had my own Aha moment. When we try as teachers to fit our square peg students through a round hole teaching approach for all, we lose something. We lose what makes those students unique. We break away the parts that don’t fit what we want them to do until they fit. Education should not be something our students have to fit into it is something we should fit to them. I want to set more goals to build the classroom around choice even more than I have started. It is worth it.
On a final note it is Picture Book month and we have been reading some and reflecting. Here are a few pictures.
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