Archive for January, 2017

Bringing the Learning Together

This past Friday our second grade students participated in an Economics Fair. For the last couple of weeks the students earned money and learned about the elements of what economics meant. Students then created items to sell. They had to determine the cost of labor and materials. They marketed their products with advertisements in the hallways. When Friday came, they were ready with money in hand to purchase their classmate’s unique creations.

Students were given the opportunity to shop and purchase items. The experience was not just about buying up handmade bookmarks and crafts. They quickly began to see if their item was priced at the appropriate price point. They started to adjust as other items were being sold. Some students realized that their item was the hot commodity and sold out immediately. They wondered if they should have placed a higher price point.

These conversations were happening during this culminating activity. After all goods were sold, students were given the opportunity to reflect on their learning and what they would do differently.

Fifth graders have been studying the human body. They also have collected reusable items. The classrooms have started to fill with the most creative random items from students. Today was the culminating activity where students worked in groups to design the human body. They built entire body systems using the reusable materials. They had to work with their classmates. There was debate about what item should be used for what system and part of the system. The creativity and calculations combined.

In both of these stories, our students were given the opportunity to share their learning of units in unique settings. They express themselves through multiple communication avenues. They have to connect all the different days and lessons to create this final product of learning.

It is masterful to see the teachers drop in and out of conversations during these events. I watched as teachers carried their rubrics around and made notes of what they noticed. And I will share that this learning is what makes students connect learning and build the meaning for their own minds and growth.

Every day is amazing to see learning at Joyner. And when it is culminating assessment time, I am truly impressed by the creativity of the teachers and the growth of the students.

Our Special Specials

Four times a week our students visit their Specials class. These classes are PE, Music, Art & Media/Technology. These classes allow our students to explore their world through different instruction and experience.

Ms. Moore’s music class provides students a chance to learn and love music. I am amazed when I walk into the fourth grade class right now and see students strumming guitars or playing the keyboards. Every student is touching and holding these instruments and experiencing the joy of making music beyond their voices.

Mr. Fotta’s art class is currently up to their elbows in clay. The students learn different pottery techniques and experience holding the moist mud in their hands and see how the kiln fires. They learn about artists and different views on this thing called art.

Mr. Poyer’s PE classes currently are learning the finer points of bowling. Multiple sets of pins are placed turning our gym into fun bowling alley. Students share goals of sportsmanship. They cheer for each other and learn to work cooperatively to play the different games.

Ms. Hale and Ms. Bell take our students on a journey through the media center learning about books and seeing how technology is a tool to share with others learning  from the classroom. The incredible abilities that our students have to design and create content with a tech tool is fantastic.

I consider the specialist staff courageous to not take the simple route to providing learning experiences for our students at Joyner. The different approaches and willingness to try new things amaze me. The teachers look for new opportunities to engage our students. Thank you to our specialists who make these Specials truly special!

Let Them Talk

While visiting classrooms, I observe the learning of students. I am interested to hear the questions that teachers ask as well as the questions the students ask. Right before the winter break, I was in Ms. Davis’ first grade classroom. Her students had just experienced a book that was read to them. Students broke into groups and moved around the room to different posters. On the posters, there were questions about the text. Students worked together to discuss and scribe their own ideas. What I found amazing was the idea that first graders immediately began to discuss the book. They listened to each other, asked clarifying questions, disagreed and then came to consensus. Ms. Davis moved around the room, listening to conversation and inserting only clarifying questions.

I see this sort of student engagement all over Joyner. Students are asked to discuss and talk about their ideas and what they are learning. Kindergarteners explain their ideas on how to do math. Other kindergarteners ask the clarifying questions. Third graders are given opportunity to explore different ideas coming up with multiple answers and avenues towards solutions. Fifth graders begin to seek on their own further answers with the questions they raise.

I believe the nature of our school and the IB magnet program lends itself to engaging students in inquiry. But what I notice even more from staff this year is pushing this idea further. Student engagement is critical in helping them to truly process information and make the meaning for themselves. Teachers guide and nurture. They model wondering as well.

Our classrooms are a bit noisier with these discussions. I notice that our students generally are also more comfortable in talking about their learning with me as well. This learning is amazing to watch. It is exciting to watch our students also given more ownership in their learning. Grateful to our courageous teachers for this work.