The Educator's PLN

The personal learning network for educators

Give Students Choices and Watch Them Shine!

Giving students choices promote feelings of control, purpose, and competence and are more motivating than choices that do not. The students are interested in learning the knowledge and skills that are being offered. Student have power, freedom, and fun. Choices allow students to develop and find success in the real world, as they have practice how to make intelligent decisions.  Students need teachers to value them as individuals who are capable this will make them more likely to complete work and work harder on assignments because they build a respect when given choices.  Active learning takes place most often in a cooperative learning setting where students are given more control over their learning activities.  Providing students the opportunity to make choice will help them to set personal goals-goals they will more likely be motivated to reach.  Also, when students are given choices that are student-centered and student-focused, they are more apt to become active learners. In my fifth grade classroom, I give my students choices by assigning a work plan every Monday for their reading centers.  This plan contains more than they can possibly finish, yet the beauty is that they have choices.  They are responsible to complete at least two workbook pages for grading, respond in their journals, do research, and a fresh read daily.  Yet they can chose how and when they complete the assignments, and because it is more than any student can finish, they are constantly working.  Did I mention they get to work alongside one another as well allowing for students from differing levels of learning to work together?  I have used this for the past two years and the kids love it.  I often find that they are learning for the sake of learning.  I simply love it and will continue to use it.  Hopefully, I will have the time to implement it into our new math curriculum next year as well.

 

The characteristics of teachers in a choice-rich environment are teachers should be filters, pedagogical customizers, see technology as enabling, be coaches, be actively engaged, be human, and have personality.  As teachers, we should provide effective content instruction and know how to make it real-world, relevant, and personalized to each student and student needs.  This allows students the opportunity to develop their own understanding of content knowledge. As educators, we should view technology and technological advances as a way to improve and support student learning while providing them college and career ready skills.  Technology does not replace teachers, it make them better and faster at what they do, teach.  Teachers should always be the guide on the side and not the sage on the stage.  It is not about the teacher being the center of attention, it is about guiding and motivating student to the point that they want to learn for the sake of learning and they become active in the process.  We need to facilitate activities and projects for student learning activities and them provide help and support to reach their goals and outcomes. In being actively engaged, teachers should listen, answer questions, provide supports and let the children be creative and have opportunities for expressing their learning.  Teachers are very much human and children tend to forget that sometimes (and so do some parents).  In teaching my students, I try to think about raising my own children and how I interacted and responded to them. I find myself asking how I would want my children to be treated in this situation, and I use that as my guide when dealing with student.  As a parent, I have had to apologize to my children for mistakes. It was important for them to see me not as weak but a person who when they make a mistake must correct it quickly and appropriately.  As a teacher, I have apologized to my students.  This is a most fascinating thing.  Last year, I told my students that I was human and I had made a mistake in grading their papers. You could have heard a pin drop and you definitely saw their mouths dropped open and puzzled looks.  I asked them, have you never had an adult apologize for a mistake they had made-a unanimous but low spoken no came from the children.  They were totally shocked. A valuable lesson that adults are not all knowing and perfect.  A life lesson that they should correct their mistake and admit them. They see me as human, someone they can relate to as I am not all knowing or perfect.  I believe the trust and respect me because of this.  I can teach children when they trust and respect me but not if they do not.  I sing a lot in my classroom.  Something I have done in past is travel and sing with a group and as a solo artist.  I have been on the radio for my fifteen, oh sorry, three and one half minutes of fame.  They love it when I relate something to some old song they are unfamiliar with. I use quite a bit of music and video to teach skills. For example, songs from School House Rock for The Preamble, Conjunctions-YouTube music video for division rap, prime and composite numbers, and much, much more.  I love cats and fishing and old movies so I try to relate things to these. For instance, we will be studying about the Titanic in Reading this week- so I use the Titanicat book. This book has two things I love in it-the Titanic and a cat with kittens.  Awesome.  Because I am excited the kids get excited.  It’s infectious. So definitely, we should let our personality shine through and let the children’s as well. Not only can we add to teaching by personalizing it, but by choosing things that we are good at.  Now I am not very good at putting together really eye catching or interesting PowerPoint presentations for content being taught, but my grade level teacher is so she makes our PPTs for our classes.  I am very good at creating our lesson plans so that is the part I play in our grade level. Now that I have been learning some technology, I have been sharing and the other teachers are very excited about using some of it in our classrooms.  My hope is that we can share with our students and learn from them as well.  I have IPads in my room and my students have already taught me loads about how to use them.  By teaching me, they learn.  Teaching others how to do something that you do not perfectly understand always helps you to learn more.  The students at this point know lots more than I do and I am more than willing to learn new things from them. 

 

Secret spaces are over looked in our school. There is not a personal space for students to send text messages to another person.  Although, we do have a space in our classroom for group work, it is not a “fireside setting”.  Mainly, three or four can gather at a table in a quiet corner of our room to complete work or do collaborative writing.  There are no publishing space in our school where students can use blogs or put up photos.  We also do not have performing spaces located in our school, although the gym does have a stage it would  be almost impossible for students to transform it into some sort of space where they can immerse themselves into an imaginary environment. We also do not data spaces, participation spaces, or watching spaces within our school. Perhaps as we grow to realize the importance of these spaces in the learning environment then we will develop these spaces. 

 

Administrators can make or break effective technological integration in the classroom and schools.  Great administrators are visionaries who educate themselves in the best researched practices in educations and make decision based on data and research. 

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