To start at the beginning of this book study with me:
If you are interested in getting college credit from Concordia University for joining this book study, you can get all the details here. It costs $127 and you can join in just by following along and sharing your thoughts in the comments. At the end of the book study, you will have to complete a written assignment summarizing what you learned and how you will apply it.
Do not forget to make your Book Study Journal! This will come in handy when you go to write your culminating summary!
Chapters 1 & 2
In the introduction, Debbie gives us some insight into her life as she transitioned from a classroom teacher to a consultant. She talks about how her favorite part of the day was after school when she would turn down the lights, shut the doors (probably to ignore chatty co-workers!), and reflect on the day. That's my favorite part of the day, too! When my room is quiet and calm. I can think and make decisions. In the morning, my mind is still asleep. I have a hard time getting going in the morning. So after school is my time to plan, assess, clean, and just be. I can look around the room and reflect on the learning that took place that day. My classroom is my sanctuary.
"I'm convinced that success in the classroom depends less on which beliefs we hold and more on simply having a set of beliefs that guides us in our day-to-day work with children. Once we know who we are and what we believe in the classroom, we become intentional in our teaching, we do what we do on purpose, with good reason. Intentional teachers are thoughtful, reflective people who are conscious of the decisions they make and the actions they take, they live and teach by the principles and practices they believe in and value. " ~ Debbie Miller, page 4So why read this book? Why do this book study? I've been teaching for 10 years now and I have systems and routines that work for me. When I really thought about my classroom philosophy, I realized I wrote that paper in grad school and my interview response is riddled with buzzwords. I had not actually sat down and written down my current beliefs and values.
"We're professionals, we need to make full use of our professional autonomy." In other words, by studying what the research says and pin-pointing our values and forming opinions about what we believe as teachers, we can engage in academic conversations with colleagues and administration. Many times, we have to prove that we know what we are talking about in order to be taken seriously.
My state adopted a basal reading series program that all schools have to purchase and implement by school year 2015/2016. It's scripted. We all know that the best teaching does not come from the script. Teaching straight from the basal is certainly easier, but is it what all of our kids need? No. Some, yes. But all? Absolutely not. By explicitly exploring our beliefs and values as educators, we can show those in charge that we are professionals and we can be trusted to make good curricular decisions for our students.
On to the discussion questions. Make sure to download the printables above for your journal so you can take notes as you read. I'm going to answer the questions for myself and share my thinking from my journal. Please tell me your thoughts and responses in the comments!
My ideal classroom has soft lighting. There are coordinated colors on baskets, bulletin boards, and other decor. It is organized with minimal clutter. You can tell that the spaces in the room are set-up for the students to use and have access to materials. The library is large and open with a wide range of books in different genres and levels. There is evidence of learning in terms of student writing, artwork, anchor charts, and poetry posted around the room.
I am a huge fan of children sitting at tables in heterogeneous groups and collaborating together. I also like using workshop models where students are working independently so that the teacher can meet one-on-one and with small groups to work on skills. My ideal room would facilitate this kind of small group work.
I agree with all of Debbie's beliefs about education.
- Organized, purposeful, and authentic environment - check!
- Choose your words carefully as they affect the children - check!
- Create engaging lessons - check!
- Teach workshops with a model and foster independence - check!
- Use assessment to guide your instruction - check!
- Utilize student choice - check!
- The few I would add:
- Make decisions based on what is best for children, not what is easiest for adults.
- Every child deserves an exquisite education
- What I already do:
- Use a workshop model for Daily 5, Writing, and Math
- Have an organized classroom
- Plan engaging lessons
- Create small groups in reading and math based on assessment results
- Integrate student choice whenever possible
- What I can do better:
- Research math workshop models on Pinterest and fine-tune my routines. Search and read blogs who I know teach with a math workshop model, like Reagan Tunstall.
- Add more student work and less teacher-store posters. Or replace with student-made ones after we learn the concept.
- Choose my words carefully and practice patience.
- Integrate tech for more student engagement and motivation.
- Create a better system for recording formative assessment and teacher observations. Create a conferring notebook and actually use it.
Introduce with manipulatives, pictures, and/or technology. Read primary source and teacher-written articles. Have cooperative discussions (pair-share, teach-ok, group-share), practice with partners, and independent practice.
When I make decisions in my classroom, I always think, "Is this what's best for my kids?" I am a big proponent of decision-making based on what's best for kids, not what's easiest for adults. I feel that a lot of what's wrong in education is because the adults in charge do not always have the students' best interests in their forethought. We are in business to educate children. Our decisions should reflect that.
Class discussions, evidence of application of concepts in their assignments, interactive notebooks, and assessments.
Pull small groups for re-teaching, whole-class practices in math - keep those centers out a bit longer independent, re-read articles or reviews interactive notebooks, students teach each other through the teach / ok.