I have long been skeptical of the “One Word” promises made at the turn of the new year.
On one hand, I totally get it; it’s an efficient way to stay focused on personal improvement. And like any goal setting, focus is essential to success; we often try to do too much with our goals — personally and professionally. In that respect, I see the value. However, the scope of one word seems, in some ways, too focused. I’ve struggled to see how a one-word focus would truly help me become a better me, a better teacher. But with this said, I also had no suggestion for a different approach.
So, as 2017 faded into the cold and dreary new year backdrop of 2018, I sat down to do my usual new year reflection and goal setting, resigning myself to this seemingly too-narrow approach for lack of a more effective strategy. It was while I scribbled in my writer’s notebook, jotting down key words and phrases that captured elements of my personal and professional growth that I hope to see improve in 2018, when the music in the background, which is always playing when I write, shuffled to a different song, grabbing my attention in a way it never had before. Having heard this song well over 100 times already, I couldn’t believe the way it was now inspiring my goal setting.
For many experienced educators, January can feel like an exciting time to reboot. For new teachers, January can bring back feelings of disillusionment that may have started around November (be sure to read this post on staying energized if you’re in the latter category).
Whether you’re feeling dismayed or excited for the rest of the year, taking just a few minutes to reflect and plan can often make you feel a little bit better.
At the beginning of the school year, Teaching Channel launched our Back to School Starter Packs, a set of checklists and resources organized by grade band to help you start the year off on the right track. Now that we’ve reached the midyear point, we’re offering you a simple review sheet to see how well you’ve done with all of your plans.
TchLaureate Geneviève Debose Akinnagbe teaches ELA at Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists (BSSWA) in New York City, a secondary school where teachers refer to their students as “Scholar-Activists.” She’s developed a unit on Scholar Activism for her middle school students so they have a better idea of what that title means and the honor it carries.
In last week’s vlog, we learned about the term “scholar-activist,” and why it’s important to teach our students about scholar activism in the classroom.
Now that we have the why of scholar activism all worked out, let’s get to the how!
How do we co-create a scholar-activist experience with our students and our colleagues?
As teachers, we know we have to plan. Listen to Geneviève describe what it takes to create and plan a scholar-activist experience:
I love lesson planning. There is something magical about taking rigorous curriculum and making it accessible to all students. It’s an art and a science to blend your knowledge of subject matter, child development, and your students, and create a lesson for them. Regardless of how you plan now, I want you to know that Universal Design Learning (UDL) can help you do it better.
Universal Design for Learning is a framework that allows teachers to meet the needs of all learners in the classroom. With increasingly diverse populations of students, it’s never been more important to provide differentiated learning experiences in the same setting. Sometimes this variability may seem overwhelming when sitting down to plan lessons, but it doesn’t have to be. Regardless of how you plan now, I want you to know that UDL can help you do it better. Understanding UDL will help you to blend your knowledge of subject matter, child development, and your students, and create a lesson specifically for all of them.
How do I start?
The first thing you’ll want to do is examine the UDL Guidelines, a list of teaching strategies to consider before, during, and after planning. Checkpoint 8.1 reminds educators to “Heighten salience of goals and objectives” for students, but this is important for you as well. Knowing your goals and objectives before you plan is critical, so in addition to the Guidelines, have your Common Core or state standards handy. Choose your standard first, and then you’re ready to plan. That’s what standards-based design is all about.
Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful and relaxing holiday break. With the New Year comes a chance to set intentions and make changes. But before we decide on New Year’s resolutions, it can be helpful to take a moment to reflect. What exactly would be the most helpful thing to work on in 2013?
There may be many changes you’d like to make: maybe you’d like to start using a new math curriculum, send home a weekly newsletter, revamp your reading program, send home differentiated homework packets, rearrange the tables in your classroom… your wish list probably goes on and on. But you can’t do everything, at least not all at once.
In addition to my work with Tch, I spend time coaching beginning teachers. A couple weeks ago I observed a hardworking new teacher teach a lesson that was both engaging and exhausting.
In his 2nd grade Spanish lesson, the teacher took his students through a warm-up song about days of the week, a game about numbers, an art project about colors, and a closing activity about emotions.
All of the components of this lesson were fun—kids were enthusiastically participating and enjoying themselves. But by the end of this whirlwind lesson I was exhausted, and I’m sure the teacher was too!