I really enjoyed working with the gifted teachers at RSES this week! They are already off to a great start for the year and our workshop will just enhance that. We talked about rigor and how to develop questions for lessons in the classroom. After reviewing different models for questioning, we found that there is a common progression in the levels of thinking that we can develop with our students. The basic levels involve facts and recall, and then working to understand them. This is the foundation of thinking and questioning, necessary facts and skills needed to think at a higher level. Once the lower levels are mastered, our students can move on to higher order thinking, through appropriate questioning, like analysis, evaluation, and creation. All students should be exposed to every level of thinking and questioning, but their current ability level will dictate the support and repetition needed to help them work through it. Our workshop focused on developing complexity in questioning to help our students' thinking. Complexity involves how many steps (and skills and levels) are needed to answer the question. While all of this takes time and planning, the payoff will be amazing!
Ever want to find a cause but not sure how? Overwhelmed by all the needs and issues in our world, and not sure where to start or who to help? Here are a few tips to aid in your search. Once you've got it down, make sure you model it for your students and personal kids. They will need to know how to do this as well, especially those in tune with global issues.
So you are ready to help someone, but who?
1) Focus on one area of your life that means a lot to you. Do you love working with children or adults? Do you have a weakness for cooking or landscaping? Are you the ultimate organizer? Choose one area or field you are passionate about, make it your cause, and stick to it.
2) Determine if you would rather work on your own or join a group effort. If you love working with others or would like to join an established group, look for an organization (official or not) that relates to your chosen cause. Attend a meeting, talk to members, try out an event, and see how you might fit into the group's goals. If you work better on your own or in small groups, brainstorm with like-minded others and search for ideas to get started on your cause by yourself.
3) Decide what you are ready to commit. If you are limited on time, consider your capacity to donate financially or with gifts. Available in person? Donate your time at events, fundraising, planning, or missions. Maybe you have skills or services to share. Connect and network with others working on your cause through friends, colleagues, social media, or the internet. Ask what needs to be done and how your skill set can help the process.
4) Figure out if you are in for the long haul or a short term donation. Are you ready and available to take this cause and run with it? Will you be able to maintain it? A long term commitment will take more time, energy, and work, but will probably be more satisfying and develop your passion for your cause. A short term commitment may be more practical depending on what you are already working on or dealing with in your life. Whichever you choose, know ahead of time how much commitment you can give so you can find the right niche within your cause.
5) Remember, you can not help everyone every day. It is humanly impossible. You can, however, make an impact on someone, and encourage others to do the same. As your passion for a cause cultivates, others will want to know more about it and get involved too.
So here’s my example:
I hope these tips help you take those first steps to find a cause you are passionate about. It can be confusing to choose who to help and where to begin. Just start small and build up to where you want to be.
Try modeling this process in your classroom as well. Show your students how to explore and find a cause they can be passionate about in relation to the standards you are teaching, even if it only theoretical. Help them connect to the world and other people by seeing problems and figuring out how they can assist. What a great way for our children to learn that while we don’t have a perfect world, they can make a difference to make it better!
So excited to get to present "Developing STEM Critical Thinking and Creativity through Team Building in the Classroom" yesterday at the 2016 West Georgia RESA STEM Conference in Peachtree City!
http://tinyurl.com/2016STEM #wgaresastem #2016stemsuperhero See pictures below!
Today I will present again at the Georgia Scholarship of STEM Teaching & Learning Conference in Statesboro!
Just sharing a couple interesting articles:
7 Ways to Support Your Gifted Learner
All AP? Not For Me! Why Gifted Students Shouldn't Take the Highest Level Classes
Many teachers start their school year with a couple of ice breakers / team building activities. Then, academics take over and team building gets left behind. Yet, most teachers will tell you that building a classroom community is important. While team building is not the only way to build community, it can easily be an integral (and fun) part of it. Would it help to know that team building can also build critical thinking and creativity in the classroom? There are a myriad of benefits to team building from practicing soft skills (interpersonal, communication, etc) to developing critical thinking (analysis and evaluation) and creativity (generation of unique ideas).
STEM, PBL, 21st Century Skills, Common Core - all of these initiatives practice and promote:
Idea and Solution Generation
For maximum benefits and development, team building should be ongoing throughout the year. What? No time? Can you squeeze something in as a morning waker-upper? What about at recess, or in that 10 minutes extra you have to fill before lunch? Or can you incorporate some content and skill standards and just make a lesson out of it?
Here are a few examples of how you can incorporate team building activities to develop thinking in your classroom:
1) Human Knot: get 10ish people into a tight circle. Each person should grab 2 different group members' hands at random around
the circle, not next to each other and not 2 hands of the same person. They must untangle the resulting "human knot" without
letting go of anyone else's hand until they are holding hands in a complete circle. Generally, they should not change hand
position, but you can make judgment calls if someone is really twisted.
Content/Skills addressed: Soft skills, communication, visual-spatial, idea generation, experimenting, refining
2) Draw Back to Back: have partners sit back to back. One should have pattern or picture and must describe to their partner how to
draw it. Variation: have one make a LEGO creation and then describe it to be made by the partner.
Content/Skills addressed: Soft skills, communication, visual-spatial, attributes, shapes, structures
3) Build the Tallest Tower (or Strongest Castle, Fastest Roller Coaster, etc): Provide limited materials such as paper, tape, and
scissors for teams to build the best structure in a certain amount of time. Extend with the use of technology for planning.
Content/Skills addressed: Soft skills, scientific method, measuring, foundations, structures, planning, use of technology
(digital and non-digital)
4) Minefield: Provide a defined space with obstacles (balls, beanbags, stuffed animals, blocks). Have students guide a blindfolded partner through the minefield speaking only in (math, literature, scientific) code.
Content/Skills addressed: Soft skills, communication (general and subject-specific communication)
Each of these activities encourages critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. Academic content
can be added or already falls into place. After a team building activity, make sure to make time for debriefing. Have students discuss what they did, how it went, and what they might change next time. What did they learn about the content, their thinking, and themselves?
Team building is a great way to build community and collaboration as well as develop critical thinking skills. Add it into your toolbox and help your students grow. :)
My passion and concept for education is to utilize team building challenges in the classroom to develop critical thinking and creativity. There are so many benefits that result from this practice involving the "soft skills" of working with others, idea generation, and problem solving. These are also goals of Common Core, Problem-Based Learning, and STEM initiatives. The "4 C's of PBL" are Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. Common Core and STEM incorporate all four as well. Good thing, because these are the characteristics employers in the real world value and look for in their workers. I came across this blog with correlating quotes:
also includes STEM team building activities!
(note that the second link on the page has changed and is now: http://teaching.berkeley.edu/diversity-can-benefit-teamwork-stem)
So I posit that integrating team building activities and processes throughout the school year in the classroom develops critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity in our students. Very few of us are naturals at all of these processes, and most of us have had (and often still need) training and practice. We can't just tell our students we have a new way of doing things, go for it! They need knowledge, guidance, and practice, just like anything we learn in life. The more we work on something, the better we usually get. Critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity are essential learning and life skills that are valuable to employers and will help our students succeed in our world. Stay tuned for examples of how to incorporate these through team building!
As I work with teachers in the field, they often reflect that they need to work on "letting go" of control of activities in their classroom. They realize that learning should be more and more student-oriented and lead their learners to self-discovery. But many would say this is easier said than done!
A significant amount of educators seem to be Mastery learners and teachers. They stick with the facts, organization, and routine, and learning is usually teacher-centered and involves teaching then practice. Mastery learners prefer short, right vs wrong answers, and clear instructions for improvement. And considering our educational culture of constant testing, this is natural for most of us. To me, it follows that many teachers have trouble letting go of control in the classroom, not because they are control freaks, but because they are creating an organized world for quick and effective learning for their students. But...is it truly effective?
With the pressures of testing and the rush to "cover" every standard in a set time period, this approach is definitely quick. Teacher-centered learning, however, often does not produce deep critical thinking (and certainly not creativity), which limits long-term memory. So how do we let go?
Pearson & Gallagher (1983) coined the phrase “gradual release of responsibility” in reference to literacy learning based on Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development and scaffolding. Numerous others have developed, expanded, and adapted similar models. The Gradual Release model calls for teachers to shift the responsibility for tasks and learning from themselves to their students. Teachers begin with brief Focus Lessons that develop background knowledge and model thinking and skills. During Guided Instruction, teachers guide students to understanding through appropriate questioning and tasks. This may involve direct instruction to the whole group or small groups. As teachers begin shifting their responsibility to students in the Collaborative Learning stage, the students think, discuss, and problem solve with each other to solidify and expand their learning. During Independent Work students work to synthesize and apply their learning.
Letting go using Gradual Release is, of course, gradual and can take place over days, weeks, or months. You can go through the process within a lesson or a whole unit. You may start the school year mostly in Focus and work up to more Collaborative and Independent. You may have students going back and forth between stages depending on their abilities or the appropriateness for specific learning.
But still, how do we let go? Start with small things:
This is just a start. Letting go is not easy and takes time, but will reap benefits for both you and your students.
Depth of Knowledge / Bloom’s Taxonomy
Check out NAGC's Games and Toys List here:
The Emotional Cost of High Ability in Young Adults
By Mariana Ashley
I have been developing a couple of presentations and can't wait to share them! The first one is talking to parents about giftedness. Parents are often at a loss for how to help their gifted children grow. There are several resources out there but they may not be obvious. Teachers can guide parents to these resources as well as show their support. I love to share NAGC's toolbox "Resources for Parents" which has lots of useful information. Teachers, there's one for you too: "Resources for Educators".
I presented "Talking to Parents About Giftedness" earlier this month to our gifted endorsees (teachers learning to work with gifted students). It went well but needs a little more movement and/or interaction. Mostly it's a lot of information in a small amount of time.
My other presentation has been developed and will be given for the first time on Dec 8 for Griffin RESA. It's called "Developing Critical Thinking and Creativity through Team Building in the Classroom". I am super excited about this concept! You know how sometimes you do team building exercises with your group or staff? You are trying to build trust and support, and bring a team together for efficient work. Although it may feel a bit cheesy at times, this is actually quite valuable. Getting to know the people you work with and the strengths and weaknesses involved can help a lot. Plus the team develops critical thinking and creativity as they go through the process.
So why not build a team in the classroom? Students need to get to know each other and how to work collaboratively, just like adults. They should be learning critical thinking and creativity skills in class anyway, so why not in a fun way that builds a classroom community? Many teachers start the school year with a couple related activities, but it's important to incorporate team building (and critical thinking/creativity) all year. In my presentation I show the benefits of this and then some hands-on examples to take back to the classroom the next day (unless it will be the weekend ;)
I have put in proposals for both presentations to the Georgia Association for Gifted Children (GAGC) and for team building to develop STEM skills to West GA RESA conference. National Association for Gifted Children for both topics will be next. Lots to do!
By the way, if you are interested in having me work with your staff or group to build their team or to show them how to do this in the classroom, please let me know!
Kathy Marks is an educator, consultant, and gifted education advocate. She loves professional learning / staff development, and helping teachers learn, reflect, and take action in their classrooms.