Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Challenge to Myself to Start the School Year

The greatest outcomes that I achieve in my room are realized through challenging myself in an oftentimes extreme way.  Past challenges include...

1.  Never lecturing
2.  Stop using paper
3.  Move your desk to the back/middle of the room

What these have all done is forced me to think in a different way.  They are a risk, and while most educators are risk averse, I will take every risk that I feel can benefit my students, my classroom, or my teaching style.

So I'm beginning this year with a challenge that hopefully improves a cooperative learning environment that I have maintained for the past 5 years.  I want to turn up the volume on generating a small-scale crowdsourcing classroom. 

I'm going to challenge myself to allow my students to sit wherever they wish...every day.  I'm doing this because I want to create more opportunities where I facilitate creation of different student groups many times within one classroom. 

Ideally I will accomplish this by having my students walk in, sit wherever you like, in 5 minutes you'll be grouping with people that are learning what you are learning.  When that activity is done, you'll be in another group/partnership with a student you've NEVER worked with before.  Let's hope this model creates an environment where every student is comfortable having a conversation and learning with every other student in the class. 

Classroom management enthusiasts(is there such a thing?) are cringing now telling me that I won't be able to maintain order in my classroom.  Good, I don't like order.  Neither do high school students.  I guess students  will need to be working on some pretty engaging activities that keep their interest in order to keep those management enthusiasts at bay.

Yours in organizing chaos for the sake of cooperative learning.

P.S. I've already thought of another challenge I want to embark on...not referring to students in my classroom as "my students". 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

First Day of School Lesson Plan

So here's my contribution to the slew of first day of school posts in the edu-blogging world.

I want to start my year by creating a climate of collaboration, friendliness, INFORMALITY(in school? you're crazy!).  From day one, I want my students to begin to take ownership of the class.  There is more than one person to learn from in the room, in fact, there's 30...and millions of others easily reached online, but that's for another day.

Something I will definitely do differently this year is not go over the grading policy immediately.  My main reason for this is that I want to set a tone of a collaborative environment, not that of a teacher saying, "This is the way it's going to be, there's the door if you don't like it."  Why would we want to start a year believing a class is difficult, instead of developing that conclusion on our own?

So, yes, you will have homework an assignment given the first day of class.  It's not going to be Read pgs 1-100 and do ALL odd exercises once you've completed your outline.  Your homework assignment will be to read my grading policy (Standards-Based all the way!) and be prepared to discuss it with your group members and with me.  If you're not going to read it or formulate ideas, how (more importantly, why) should we allow you to contribute to the class discussion?

So, what will we do the first day?  Probably get to know each other.  Once we're all comfortable with a learning community instead of a classroom, then we'll start with the content.  AP exam in May you say?  If you're not worried than I'm not.