Professional Learning Communities – Worth the Effort

Professional learning communities are revolutionizing teaching. We are learning at my school how powerful it can be when teachers work together. Unfortunately, it does require a lot of patience and work to make happen.

IMG_0045-1024x768Professional learning communities are revolutionizing education. We are learning at my school how powerful it can be when teachers work together. Unfortunately, it does require a lot of patience and work to make happen.

In teaching, as with any professional job, there are times when you have to make professional conversations happen. This might be be over an issue of student motivation or just plain getting along issues. They can be awful to do and they make your stomach churn but they are hugely important and have to be done whether comfortable or not. It would be nice if we could just stay in our classrooms until dismissal and not bother anyone and not be bothered by anyone but that is a fantasy land. To keep kids “moving” up from one level to another or staying at the top level, it requires teachers engaging in professional conversations on a regular basis. It’s not about who’s cool or not or who likes who or not. It is simply a commitment to moving kids upward by all means available. When teachers agree to work this way … everybody benefits and at the end of the year, great progress is inevitable.

The dynamite teacher ensures and fosters professional learning communities.

My One Minute Mystery and Teaching Genre

Most kids learn by seeing and they seem to be crying out “show me” when it comes to the abstract concepts. Today I wrote a quick mystery for my kids.

phone2Teaching elementary students the writing and reading genres can be a real challenge especially when the genre is abstract like “mysteries.” It’s difficult to explain exactly what a mystery is and a good, short example of one can help immeasurably. Most kids learn by seeing and they seem to be crying out “show me” when it comes to the abstract concepts. Today I wrote a quick mystery for my kids. about writing on the bathroom wall. It was by no means intriguing or excellent. The students banded together to figure it out and in the end they reasoned it was a student to blame.

I then showed them the “twist” that it was really a bad substitute teacher who was the culprit. We had a lot of fun playing with the story. I asked tons of questions and in the end they knew what a mystery was. This genre is a California standard. You might see what you can come up with as a 1 minute mystery. Remember that kids of this generation see things on tv more than they read so a visual type of story you can tell them will be worth a lot more than a lecture.

Kids are Like Sponges: Use Stories to Teach Them

A great lesson plan should have at least one engaging story that teaches. It’s very helpful when introducing a new topic to tell them stories about your life as it relates to that new concept.

Using stories to teach kids is one of the best teaching tips I can suggest. Anything you give kids by way of your life’s anecdotes they will happily absorb.  It’s been said, “kids are like sponges.” It’s very helpful when introducing a new topic to tell them stories about your life as it relates to that new concept.  Until a kid can visualize something and compare it to something concrete, he/she will never have a chance at comprehending it.  It is vital to getting students to understand your message. In teacher jargon this is known as “comprehensible input.” One example for young kids might be when I took a cookie out of the cookie jar. For older kids say in adolescence if I am teaching respect for authority figures, such as police officers, I can tell a story of when someone was disrespectful to a police officer and what happened. If you can’t think of a story, there is so much free online education that includes some. Definitely go searching. For example, if you are studying a story like Akiak, you can type that in and find all sorts of related stories. The teaching materials of our day are largely free and available with minimal search effort.
A “Dynamite Lesson Plan” should have at least one engaging story that teaches.  This can often make the need for a discipline plan obsolete. The reason this is true is because the learner is engaged. Your own kids, as well as your students, in many ways worship the ground you walk on.  To them, you are an image of the real world they desire so desperately to enter.  Telling them stories from your life full of comprehensible input can bridge the chasm for them.

They have nowhere to go.  They are all ears! Make storytelling a part of every lesson you do to improve student engagement in education.

And if you think you have no interesting stories to tell, remember this: Everything you’ve done has value to kids. It’s all in how you tell it to them.  Make it fun and tie it in to age-appropriate input be it SpongeBob or Twilight.  You’ll teach them your objective without them even knowing it.

Do you have any life adventures you could tell your kids?

Why not add a few to your schedule tomorrow and see how your kids respond?

My Solution to the Copy Machine Conundrum

If you are like me you have been frustrated many times by a traffic jam at the copy machine. You got your materials together and went to the copy room only to find two or three teachers ahead of you with what looks like reams of copies to make. You sort of get deflated at that point. If you’ve been reading my blog for a couple years, you might recall my article on “paperless teaching.” This was a cool concept and one of those that is excellent “in theory.” Unfortunately, the energy required to come up with solutions for paper really wears you down. As a result, it defeats the whole purpose for trying paperless teaching in the first place. I know I am a better teacher because I have some tested alternatives to the copy machine. At the same time, I now know it is unavoidable in our profession. That leads me to my solution.

One excellent solution to the copy machine conundrum is to pick one day of the week to do all your copying. It is definitely a paradigm shift because you can’t be successful “on the fly.” You must get a rhythm and a system to select your papers to copy so each week you have them sorted and ready to hit the copy machine. Of course you will still collide with other teachers but only one out of 5 days right? If you are mentally prepared to wait, it will cause you less stress as well. I have been doing this all year so far and it is going great! What do you think of my solution to the copy machine conundrum?