June 22nd, 2015
Today’s Blogstitute post comes from Mary Anne Buckley, author of Sharing the Blue Crayon: How to Integrate Social, Emotional, and Literacy Learning. Mary Anne wanted her students to take charge of their learning and not just accumulate knowledge that they then didn’t integrate into their lives. So instead of “I Can” charts, she came up with a different method for making sure that her students took responsibility for their progress and were able to see and show the results.
This year I had a fabulous group of second graders. They were kind and helpful, hard workers and eager to learn. They were also a tad . . . irresponsible in their learning. They were engaged and active participants during discussions and workshops, but they stumbled with using the daily lessons across the curriculum.
For example, math strategies for addition were not used when we started a unit on measuring. Our reading unit on character traits had the students using meaty adjectives, but when they wrote their persuasive essays the words great, cool, and awesome littered their papers. When I asked them why, they usually answered, “Oh yeah. I forgot about that.”
I don’t want school to be a place where kids think learning is segmented into blocks of time and informational bits, that all they need to do is fill in the blanks until June rolls around. Learning comes alive when students take ideas and expand them into their schema and when they use new information beyond a set of benchmarks or a standard assessment. I needed something to help my students see that they were accumulating knowledge and how to integrate that knowledge into all areas of their lives.
Holding my students accountable for their learning was not a new idea, but writing “I can” statements or the “Standard for the Day” on the board felt forced and unnatural. I wanted it to be more about the awareness of learning and being responsible for using that learning. I decided to create a more interactive and fluid form of accountability. I call it Learning Reflections and Frames.
I made a small poster with the phrase “By Friday I will . . .” at the top and seven blank boxes below. In each box was a label for our workshops: Writing Workshop, Math Workshop, Reading Workshop, Friendship Workshop, Science/Social Studies, Specials (art, music, PE), and one for home learning. I laminated the poster and every Monday, as a part of our Morning Meeting, we filled in the blanks with an erasable marker. An example might look like this:
Math Workshop—understand that fractions are equal parts
Writing Workshop—type up and illustrate at least four of my poems
Science Workshop—understand the life cycle of a caterpillar
I found that writing this poster together created a mutual understanding of what was coming up in the week; it also established that the students needed to be responsible for their learning. Throughout the week I would refer to the chart and confirm what we had written or revise it if circumstances called for a change in our schedule.
The writing activity that we did every Friday afternoon also helped to deepen the connection between what was being taught and what the students absorbed. It is called Learning Reflections and takes about fifteen minutes to complete. To prepare, we made reflection frames. I had the students write these phrases on two thin pieces of paper:
This week I was . . .
and I learned . . .
The students chose a colored 8 ½-by-11-inch piece of construction paper and glued these strips on the long sides, with “This week I was . . .” going up the left-hand side and “and I learned . . .” going down the right-hand side. The short sides were left blank. At the top of the frame we attached a clear pocket (made from leftover laminate) that would hold a 3-by-5-inch index card. At the bottom of the frame we pasted a photo of each student (see photo).
As a group, the students reviewed our weekly board and shared ideas about some specifics we had learned in each subject area. Then, on a 4-by-6-inch piece of paper, each student completed his or her frame’s sentence using words and illustrations. The final piece was to create a title for their learning and write that label on an index card to be placed at the top of the frame. The final frame might say, “This week I was a poet and I learned how to use line breaks to make my poems more interesting.”
These frames now hang outside our classroom, and each week the students simply slide a new index card in front of the previous one and tape their new learning on top. After each marking period, the students take the whole packet off of the frame and look back on all the things they have accomplished and discovered over the past months.
Occasionally I still get blank looks when I tell my students to check their spelling for unit words or to think back to an earlier unit before starting a project, but overall this has been a fun and engaging way to help my students take a more active role in their learning.
Entry Filed under: Blogstitute