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Professional Development for Innovative Schools

Posts tagged Dr. Sulla

#LATICInsights: Teach Consensus-Building!

In the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, students have many opportunities to make decisions that affect groups, including when to meet, the roles different group members will take, which solution is best for a problem, how to present the solution, and so forth. It’s a perfect opportunity to teach young people how to build consensus rather than relying on the easier, but more dangerous, majority-rule voting.

The problem with majority-rule voting is best summarized in a quote generally attributed to Ben Franklin, “two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” In classrooms, and society, the losing side is often angry and subsequently focuses time on how to get others to take sides.

The alternative is to work toward consensus and ensuring that all group members can, in the least, “live with” the decision. The ability to reach consensus will help children during their school years and well beyond throughout their lives. You can use a variety of classroom tools to teach consensus. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “Love it, hate it, live with it” – As students make group decisions, rather than voting, they state one by one if they love the decision, hate it, or can live with it. If even one person hates it, the discussion continues to find a decision for which everyone can say they love it or can live with it.
  • DeBono’s PMI (Plus, Minus, Interesting ideas or questions) – As students ponder a decision, they stop and take 3-6 minutes to independently jot down two aspects they like about it, two they don’t like about it, and two questions or ideas related to it. They then discuss their entries for each of the three columns. Often, the final decision lies in the third column.

  • Placemat Activity – Students sit around the “placemat” and enter their decision and supporting ideas in an outer area of the paper. They then discuss and, when they arrive at consensus, they put the decision in the middle of the paper. All students then initial it to confirm that they agree with the decision.

  • De Bono’s Six Hats – This is a great tool for looking a decision from a variety of angles. When a group is stuck, they individually jot down ideas for all six hats.

The time spent helping students learn consensus building will pay off through a more productive classroom climate and have lasting effects for society at large. Change the world!

 

Meditation is to Teaching . . .

Happy New Year! The January return to school is always accompanied by resolutions and energized educators looking to continue to make that difference in the lives of their students. It’s also a time when people are determined to take time to take care of themselves: going to the gym, daily meditation, reading more novels, etc.

My last blog post of 2016 focused on the quest for innovation. For my first of 2017, I thought I’d use meditation as a metaphor for teaching. The purpose of meditation is to achieve deeper levels of consciousness, positioning one for greater success and happiness. The purpose of teaching is to achieve deeper levels of learning and understanding, positioning one’s students for greater success and happiness.

When meditating, you sit up very straight, elongating your spine, which takes deliberate effort. However, you then begin to relax most of your muscles, from your head down to your toes. The infrastructure of your spine supports you; the part of your body that expends energy to work and move relaxes into a calm state. I like to think this describes a well-run Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom.

The “spine” of the classroom is the infrastructure you put in place: the problem-based tasks, rubrics to guide students, activity lists, how-to sheets and videos, resource area, help board, peer expert board, and more. Setting up your infrastructure takes deliberate effort. However, the “muscles” that you have used to ensure everyone is working, gather students, give directives, handle behavioral issues, hand out papers, etc. can now relax, knowing that the students’ actions are supported by the infrastructure. That leaves you to now relax into the classroom environment and use your mind to help move students to deeper levels of understanding through your facilitation.

You can observe students in action; ask clarifying questions to assess their level of understanding; ask higher-order, probing questions to push their thinking; offer suggestions for their work plans; offer instruction when they’re stuck; and more. If the spine is strong, the muscles can relax. So to enjoy the mental stimulation and conversations between teacher and student in the classroom, take steps to strengthen your infrastructure.


Wishing you all the best for 2017!

#LATICinsights: Social Learning Environments Accelerate Literacy Development

fotolia_kids-collab_xs_croppedIf you want to build literacy skills, leverage the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom as a social learning environment. Consider that students engage in problem-solving as part of a learning community in which they engage with teachers, outside experts, and one another. They spend their day speaking, listening, reading, and writing! It’s a veritable literacy playground, if you set it up well.

Problems and Solutions word on wooden table

Through the solution-finding process, students discuss what they know, what they need to learn, how they will learn, what they’ve found out, possible solutions, and how they will present the solution to others. In addition, the structures of the classroom provide myriad opportunities for teachers to build literacy skills outside of deliberate literacy instruction.

When I ask students what they like about the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, they invariably mention the ability to choose what they do when. That freedom is enhanced through literacy. Given students are motivated to control their own time and learning activities, teachers can use that motivation to deliberately build literacy skills. post-it-tenacity

  • Use your notes in the two-pocket folder to build vocabulary by using a word and then defining it.
  • Model strong language use on your activity list. Instead of saying, “Read article on water cycle and draw your own,” say, “Peruse (read thoughtfully) the article on the water cycle and illustrate a depiction of your own.” Instead of “Write down your ideas from reading the story and meet with a group member to share ideas and agree on one main take-away,” say, “Generate and capture in writing your insights upon reading the story; meet with a colleague to collaborate on determining one, key insight to glean from the story.” If you want students to build language skills, you need to model them. Create a culture of literacy!
  • Have students use a design process to work through a problem, keeping a design notebook in which they write their findings and ideas. (The problem itself will promote reading.)
  • When you facilitate, ask students to tell you about what they’re doing and why. Engage in conversation! Introduce vocabulary words there as well.

Below is a grid on just some of the structures of the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom through which teachers can build literacy skills.

latic-literacy-grid

Deliberate and purposeful use of language in the classroom paired with maximizing opportunities for students to speak, listen, read, and write are foundational to building a culture of literacy. Add to that direct instruction in literacy through learning activities; small-group, mini-lessons; and concept-based benchmark lessons, and you have the formula for accelerating literacy development. And with strong literacy skills, you can … change the world!