Time to Reflect
I'm pretty sure that I have written that title in a past blog post, but I'm going to spare myself the trouble of searching for it. It's relevant this week, and every week that I teach. As a teacher I am always checking in with myself. Before I teach a lesson, I ask: "What's my big goal here? What are some littler goals? Is this about the process or about a product? What might be challenging for kids? How can I adapt this for different learners and different ages? How will I assess what was learned?" As I am teaching, the questions continue: "Are they understanding this? How's my pacing - should I slow down? Do we need to stop for a stretch break? That didn't quite work - how can I tweak it?" After I'm done, I look back on a lesson and let myself reflect: "Did we meet that goal? Who was really shining? Who was struggling? What worked well, and how do I need to change this for the future?" I don't always ask myself every one of those questions, and sometimes I am drawing on a few decades of teaching experience to pull me through. But I believe deeply in reflection, and I try to make space for kids to reflect too.
Last Friday we had our Science Symposium. We had been working hard on our science projects all month, learning about the scientific method as each child actively applied it to their question. We got to help each other with our experiments, and then we took all of our information and created a poster. I'll admit that sometimes in past years we didn't get the timing quite right, so the last few days before the science fair were all science all the time until everyone was done. This year felt surprisingly manageable. Everyone in my class was done with their posters on Wednesday. We spent Thursday practicing our presentations. As we practiced, it became clear that the online Zoom Science Symposium was causing a whole lot of nerves. When I explained that it was just going to be the normal mix of family and friends who come to our in-person science fair, I was told that didn't really matter. It was different in person. We spent a little time processing all of that, and then I reminded them that they had this and I wanted them to be brave. They rallied on Friday despite the nerves. Almost to a student, when it was done, I heard, "That wasn't bad!" We sat around and reflected that they were proud of what they had done, and it was really kind of fun. I was pleased, and I hope that they'll be able to draw on those same skills in some future presentation.
Our PK-2nd cohort have been wandering deep through their imaginations these past weeks, and it's been a nice balance to our scientific thinking. After making interesting characters and developing some of the details of our setting, everyone came up with some ideas for problems their characters might encounter. After all this pre-work, when they got to actually writing a story, it really flowed for many of them. In fact, many of them wanted to write more than one story in this new land of fiction. Our first and second graders are almost done with some pretty impressive books that include a clear beginning, middle, and end. They have worked with peers, family members, and their teacher to edit and refine their work. Our kindergarten and PK kids just keep cranking out more and more books. For them it's not about the editing process yet, but I'm glad they get a sense of where they're headed when they look at what the big kids are doing.
Theresa's 3rd - 6th Grade Reflections
The ocean construction continues - some of the big work was temporarily put on pause as everyone focused on pulling their science projects together. It's fun to see how much more polished their posters have become. There were graphs, charts, and diagrams. They paid attention to spacing, color, and size. Zoom didn't fully do them justice, but they seemed proud of what they had created.
The ocean research projects are getting one more read this week before they are officially called done. Publishing parties look a little different this year, but we're still making an effort to celebrate each time we come to the end of a writing project. Next up, it's time to start some fiction writing.
We'll keep finding a little space to reflect on what we're doing, to find our inspiration, and to make plans for the future.