Tch Tips: Five Ways to Recharge with Summer Learning

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Your long-awaited summer break has arrived! While teachers are especially good at filling up their calendars with neglected to-dos and preparation for what’s next, be sure to pause and take your well-deserved break. You’ve earned it.

The world moves fast and, for a teacher, the summer moves even faster. You probably won’t conquer everything on that ever-growing list. But if you choose just a few things to work on this summer in your personalized professional learning plan, you’ll return to your classroom refreshed, recharged, and ready to take on the new school year.

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Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

Here are five ways you can recharge and level up on your own terms this summer.
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I Want to Get Better at… Differentiation

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Differentiation is one of those things that never seems like it can be 100% mastered. Once you have your differentiation strategies dialed in for a particular set of students… you get a new set of students! But with these new students comes a new opportunity to learn and refine your teaching approaches.

This summer, build up the differentiation strategies in your toolbox so you’ll be more equipped to meet the needs of your future students. Start with these ideas:

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3 Steps to Successful Student Collaboration

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Why We Hang In There

Deep sighs, rolled eyes, slumped shoulders, and hanging heads, met with eyes yearning for hope… No, it’s not a summons for jury duty, it’s the reaction I get from teachers when I say, “student collaboration.”

#realtalk for a moment: Getting students to work successfully in a group is REALLY hard!

And yet, despite the complete exhaustion it brings us, we hang in there. Why do we do it? Because we know our students need it. And not just because there are flashy frameworks and graphics that tell us collaboration is important in school. And not just for their future career, college, relationships, or global competition; but because it helps students develop into more empathetic and cooperative human beings. And regardless of what our future looks like, we’re going to need those!

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Why It’s Hard

If you’re responsible for any number of human beings, you know that it’s difficult to facilitate effective group work — whether you’re working with children or adults. It’s hard to work through our differences — actively listening, embodying selflessness, and orally communicating one’s thoughts is a challenging process to navigate. Not to mention that issues of status and equity rear their ugly heads during any sort of group discourse (see Horne, Boaler, and Cohen). That’s a lot to manage in a classroom where available minutes continue to shrink with competing initiatives and demands. But all hope is not lost. With some basic systems and structures in place, the conditions for effective classroom collaboration can be established — read on to find out how.
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Back to School Starter Pack End-of-Year Reflection: Your Final Checklist

End of Year Reflection

Congratulations! You made it to the end of the school year.

Are you excited for summer? Are you already thinking about the next school year? Here at Teaching Channel, we sure are!

At the beginning of the school year, we 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. If you missed these packs at the start of the year, don’t fret! We’ll be refreshing them for back to school this fall.

In the meantime, we’ve created an End of Year Reflection to help you think about your year and plan for the next. While it sometimes feels better to simply shut the door and forget, if you take a moment now to reflect and plan just a little, your future self will be happy you did!

Take 5 (or a little more) to Reflect

Head over to our Back to School Starter Pack page and download the End of Year Reflection (you must be logged in). Print it out, and use it to assess your year in the areas of Classroom Setup, Lesson and Unit Planning, Class Culture, and Self-Care. We’ve made it simple and quick to use — just a check-list and a few spots to take notes — so no excuses. You can do this now and save yourself time later!

After you’re finished, you may even want to take it a step further by joining the conversation in Tch Video Lounge. Our interactive video, Take 5: End of Year Reflections, asks you and other educators to take stock of your experiences this year. Share your thoughts and see what others are saying about their triumphs and struggles. You might just learn something new.

Speaking of learning… be on the lookout next week for our blog series, I Want to Get Better At… We’ll be sharing resources for learning about four key topics this summer: Differentiation, Collaboration, ELLs, and Assessment. And if you’re looking for a course on Differentiation or Assessment, we’ve got you covered. Check out our new course offerings for summer learning.

If you try our End of Year Reflection, let us know how it goes in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Gretchen Vierstra taught middle school for ten years in the San Francisco Bay Area. During her 15+ years in education, she’s also been a department chair, new teacher coach, curriculum developer, and policy analyst. She is Director of Educational Content at Teaching Channel.

Tch Tips: Four Ways to Gather Student Feedback

Tch tips

As another school year comes to a close, I’d bet that you and your students are looking forward to summer break. While these last days of school can be crazy, they’re often reflective as well.

You’ve probably asked students to self-assess their learning, and you’ve probably been busy assessing their learning in final projects, portfolios, and report cards. Of course, all of this assessment of student learning is important — but remember, you were the one who guided them on their learning journey!

As an educator, it’s just as important to take time to ask yourself about your year.

  • What went well?
  • What will you change next year?

And, while you still have your students in the classroom, why not ask them for a little feedback? Sure, this idea may seem scary at first, but with the right setup, you can truly learn a lot from your students.

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Starting from the Beginning at Year 20

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Have you ever taught a lesson and realized too few of your students learned what you taught? You’re not alone! We’ve experienced this numerous times in our years as classroom teachers and in our current roles. In this blog post, Gabe shares his experiences from teaching and his role as elementary school principal. Together, we share insights from our collaboration and shared experiences.

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Gabe:

After 20 years of working with elementary school children, I finally started to find answers to the pedagogical questions nagging me since my first days teaching mathematics. I also realized how powerful it is to expand my understanding of math concepts beyond the narrow scope I’d experienced — and taught — my entire life.

As a systems thinker, I’d constrained math instruction to a series of prescribed steps, completely disconnected from the mathematical concept. I streamlined tasks into a sequence that could be introduced and modeled — steps that students could rehearse as many times as necessary. Most lessons were a version of,

Here’s the lesson objective, relevant vocabulary, and the steps we need to follow. Now, we will practice these steps as many times as we can before lunch.”

Over the past two years, I began to emerge from my constrained view of math instruction. More than any other aspect of teaching, math instruction is the domain I would revise if I could revisit my years as a classroom teacher. Now, as the principal of an elementary school, my role is to be the lead learner. To me, this means I must first experience the steps it takes to learn new instructional strategies and implement them in classrooms at various grade levels. To do this, I schedule the time to co-teach math lessons in classrooms at the school where I work.

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One Size Does Not Fit All: Why Moving Grade Levels Can Be a Great Thing

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As educators, we often come into the field with the perfect grade level in mind. I thought it would be ideal to teach second grade. Not too young, where students are still gaining independence and learning basic skills. Not too old, where they’re bigger than me (an ongoing short joke for myself, as I’m only 5’3”).

When I actually began to teach second grade, I quickly realized that this was going to be tougher than I expected. My second grade students were great. I enjoyed my interactions with them. I enjoyed planning engaging lessons around stories such as Stone Soup, and teaching how to tell time. My students were independent enough to complete tasks given to them, but still wanted input and help with their work.

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Technology Integration to Support Language Development in the Primary Classroom

English Language Learners

One of the most challenging aspects for educators of English language learners (ELLs) is accurately assessing language development over time — oral language, in particular. Due to the conversational nature of language, it can be incredibly difficult to assess oral language while simultaneously engaging in conversation, not to mention recording the data as you go.

While the speaking and listening domains can be the hardest to objectively assess over time, reading and writing shouldn’t be overlooked. ELL educators are always looking through two lenses — content knowledge and English language development (ELD).

A few savvy strategies coupled with technology integration can enhance not only English language learning within the four domains (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) of ELD, but your assessment of language development over time as well.

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