Thursday, October 10, 2013

Articulation, Documentation, Reflection

Since my last post to this blog (months ago - yikes!), I have spent a good deal of time considering how I approach the creation and cultivation of my own classroom culture.  While some classrooms are plumping up their "academic" approach and priding themselves in their reputations for rigor, I am looking to "take back" kindergarten.  In other words, what makes sense in my kindergarten classroom culture right now?

I asked myself:
 What types of activities, projects, and assignments will really make the difference in the educational experiences of my students?

I started with:

  • I still think that documentation in the classroom is important and that the iPad is the most accessible and efficient way to do that.

And then:
This past summer I decided that it was time to re-evaluate how we use many of our classroom materials and how students use those materials to be partners in their own learning.  I considered how I might shepherd the kindergarteners as they go from being partners to being owners of their learning - in kindergarten-age appropriate ways.  (for me, that changes how students approach learning - are they engaged? are they self motivated? will they be able to continue even if and when I am not there?)

What I Read:

I am always moved by the resources shared by Ron Ritchhart and his Culture of Thinking as well as his work on Making Thinking Visible.  I used the Essential Questions by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins to help shape my own practice and reflections.  I also keep in mind a quote from Dr. Seuss, "It is better to know how to learn than to know."

Using these resources as jumping off points, I have refined the use of iPads in my classroom as threefold:

Articulation, Documentation, Reflection
One of my goals as a teacher of 5 and 6 year olds is to encourage them to practice articulating their thinking.  We want varied ways for our varied learners. We want them to feel safe enough and to feel bold enough to find some way to share their ideas, connections, predictions, and opinions.

I might ask: "What apps can you use to help tell the story of your learning on this?"


Even the youngest students can get involved in the collection and curation of their thinking. We aren't looking for photos of beautiful finished work, but the mess and mistakes and challenges that happened along the way.

I often ask: "Can you find a way to share with me the goofs that helped you figure it out?"

We reflect daily on our work in order to practice challenging ourselves and to use what we notice to help us grow.  The students look at their finished work (and their thinking) together and then look for ways to improve upon an idea or for ways to approach a problem from a different angle.  We also practice listening to a friend's thinking and then try to use those ideas to see something from a new perspective.

I love to ask:  "How has your approach to this idea changed / grown / evolved?"

In all of this, there is a long list of apps that I might recommend... but it really doesn't matter as long as you have a handful of open-ended apps that allow students to share their thinking in a variety of ways. They should be apps that you are comfortable with and that make sense for your own classroom culture.

Of course, much of this is messy and the classroom can get wonderfully noisy with the sounds of articulation, documentation, and reflection.  The students are happier, more independent, and are becoming bigger risk takers.

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