Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First 30 Days of School

Thank you Bosland's Learning Plus for hosting the "First 30 Days of School" Workshop with Donna Whyte.  In July, a group of colleagues and I attended this workshop and were introduced to a number of great ideas.  Donna Whyte, at The Smartie Zone, shared some of the best practices she uses in teaching.  Below I've listed a few of the highlights from the workshop that I plan on implementing in my school day this year.

Are you doing the right thing?
Donna Whyte expressed a need for clear and consistent vocabulary within a school.  She brought up the point of classroom expectations.  Donna shared her experiences of success with students using one cue, "Are you doing the right thing?"  At the start of the school year she spent ample time sharing with students what that looks like, feels like, and even sounds like.  This allowed students to take ownership of their actions to "Do the right thing" each and every day.  I agree that consistent expectations in a school provide clarity and pave greater avenues for student's to take stock in not only their learning, but their attitude and behavior.

Partner Sticks
I LOVE THIS IDEA!  I often find myself looking for ways to stay organized in order to keep a positive and nurturing learning environment.  Last year, one of my goals during Read Alouds was to give students ample time to "Turn and Talk" about what they were noticing in a text.  I loved listening to the little one's chatter about what they thought and felt during a read aloud.  However, I found a pattern of those who were consistently more engaged than others.  I resorted to giving students spots on the carpet as to have more control over who was partner talking.  This allowed me to partner model students with those who needed the modeling.  What it didn't allow was student choice, further eliminating student ownership of the activity.
This year I plan on using "Partner Sticks".  Donna Whyte explains them as an easy way to let students choose their partner with guidance in making the best choice.  She explained that students would come into her room and partner up their stick with a friend they wanted to "Turn and Talk" with that day. Donna would monitor this choice and step in as needed.  This way of partner choice allowed student buy-in and teacher discretion.
Stay tuned for a picture of the "Partner Stick Station" in my classroom.

I could go on for days about the great ideas Donna Whyte shared.  These were just two of my favorites.  I encourage you to visit her site to get more ideas for your classroom!

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