Debunking Myths: Letting them Lead

We stand at a unique time in education, depending on your viewpoint. We are at a turning point of heading up or heading down. After a point in the pandemic, the educational views of many took a turn going from traditional pedagogy to pointing toward more modern pedagogy, and now as things in life are starting to head back to a new normal, we are going back to those traditional ways, but it doesn’t have to be like that. We can start to dethrone those long-time myths all teachers hear, why go back to the ways you knew, let’s try something new.

So let’s debunk one of those myths right now: to teach, you need to be in the spotlight, center stage. How many times have we seen a teacher in a TV show, movie, ad posting, or social media meme standing in the front of the classroom teaching? How many times have we found ourselves falling into the same routine, sometimes without even thinking of it. I know I’ve been out of the classroom for quite some time, but having the blessing of being able to see other teachers in their natural habitat. The best teaching times, don’t always come when the teacher is standing in the front of the room or the one commanding attention. I know my favorite times teaching students come from when my classroom was noisiest and the students were the most engaged. How were they engaged? They were given a piece of their learning to be in charge of. When held responsible for the outcome, it increases their attention and focus and motivates students to engage in higher-level critical thinking. (https://teaching.washington.edu/topics/engaging-students-in-learning/)

So how do we give students that bit of freedom without it turning into complete chaos? Well I can tell you, you can’t just say “go.” It takes building up the skills within the students before allowing to set them free to do their work. You want to be, for lack of a better term “the guide on the side.” The skills we start with are those surrounding leadership, through time management, working collaboratively, problem solving, and more. You set students up to be able to work more independently and motivate themselves to continue to learn about what interests them.

So here are a few suggestions for activities to get you started.

  • Oops Masterpiece – One of my favorite activities I just discovered. This stems around the art of learning how to fail with grace and not being afraid to stand up and try again. Get your favorite music creation app, or some lined paper and a pencil. Give your students an initial 5 minutes to create a short piece, this could be a pattern of loops to create an accompainment, a melodic pattern, or a rhythmic pattern. Set the amount of measures you want the students to initially create, and have them only use notes and rests they have learned so far. The trick is, once they put down a note or rest, they can’t erase it or delete it. That’s right, you heard me. Students can’t fix their work the first go around. This encourages students to just get started and go. Once the first 5 minutes is up, have students switch with a partner and do it again, this time the partner gets to add another part to the first, but they can’t listen or read the first and also can’t erase or delete any notes and rests they put down. That’s right, we’re creating chaos here! You can have students switch pieces as much as you would like until they are done. After, have them get their original work back. Then the original composers can listen or play the whole piece to hear how it all sounds together. Doesn’t sound too good on the first go around? Oh well. That’s the beauty of it. You have a good laugh, then they get into small groups or partners to talk about how they would edit their work. Put 10 minutes on the clock, and let them edit and play or sing one more time to hear how the edits sound. We are getting over the fear of messing up before even starting. That is huge for a leader and a big hurddle for most to get over!
  • Projects – Projects work on a lot of skills, time management, goal setting, collaboration, listening, the list goes on. Some of my favorite projects stem from a simple guidance such as “Make me a rhythm” to ones that are immersive and collaborative across the whole school. I find starting small, using 10 minutes of class and giving directions and expectations before letting students start is a great stepping stone and does not take up a lot of your classtime with everyone. Projects do not have to be big, they just have to be organized with a great end result.
  • One Word Goal – Another new favorite activity, if you are reading this right now I want you do something for me. Think of a goal that you want to accomplish between now and the end of the year. Now think of one word to describe that goal, just one word. Now write down that word and put it away where you can find it at the end of the year. Go back and read that word later whenever you need to to help remind yourself of that goal. Imagine doing that with students at the beginning of the year, or maybe when they need some direction or guidance. How much impact can one word have on their life to remind themselves of where they want to go?

Let’s debunk some more myths, what other taboo things have you heard about teaching and education?

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Transitioning Back Using Virtual Tools

For some, going back to school is an exciting time, one full of hope for a little bit of normal that had not been seen since the beginning of the pandemic. For others, it is an anxious time knowing about the battles that are ahead and the uncertainty about how long the little piece of normal we have will last before chaos will strike once again..or did chaos ever actually leave? Let’s face it, the world has turned upside down since 2020 and now we are sitting in the dark ages again looking at small glimpses of a new period of renaissance with hope that out of all the darkness, there will be a brighter future.

Education itself has gone through huge changes to deal with the current events going on in the world. Everything shut down and teachers and staff were forced to find creative ways to reach students. Districts who had never had a huge amount of technology resources were forced to start curating a library of subscriptions and hastily pulling together a 1:1 device loaner program. Teachers who were use to teaching in person were forced to learn online methods of instruction and recreate years of analog resources into a digital format while trying to figure out how to connect with their students who were not physically with them.

Now schools are heading back in some way shape or form, what happens to all the hard work everyone put in? Will we continue to need it going forward? With everything going on. The honest answer should be yes. Education has changed and the models we have learned and the resources we have created should help push forward standard traditional practices that have needed evolution in order to meet the current digital native audience of students. It is always good to have a plan too just incase you need a substitute, still have hybrid students, or if digital becomes a necessity again.

So how can you move forward with what you have created?

Content and Course Delivery Platforms – Spaces like Google Classroom and SeeSaw are great ways to continue to deliver content to your students. You can still use these platforms to deliver assignments you have already created, or create new assignments to send to students so they can work on projects and smaller activities from their individual devices. You can also use platforms like this as a way to differentiate learning for your students who might be a little ahead or a little behind so they can continue to get high quality instruction from you anywhere. Take what you already have created, do some editing, and continue to use it as a new resource.

Interactive Presentations – If you’re in person, you have a projection system…what are you waiting for? Just because you used them during distance teaching doesn’t mean you have to get rid of them and go back. Integrate them as fun visuals during your instruction to help those visual learners. Have students take turns interacting with the resources, or assign them the presentation and have them on their individual devices as you have yours on the board so you can all do it together. They will have just as much fun together as they would doing it apart.

Videos – SOOOO many teachers started to create videos and post them online for students. Even my Mom did it! From full lessons, short and fun activities, how-tos, and more. Videos were a great way for any educator ok with being in front of the camera to connect with students and provide instruction. What’s stopping you from continuing to share them? Try a flipped classroom model with your students assigning them the videos to watch for homework and then come in to discuss and practice with you, provide some extra content to students who might need some extra attention, or just continue to share your creative videos with students by projecting them on the board for all to see as a way to break up your instruction into smaller chunks. There are so many possibilities.

External sites – You’ve already built up a library of all kinds of tools and resources. Continue to integrate the ones that really stuck with your students. Find ones that they are engaged with and are learning and demonstrating learned skills and knowledge with. Find that balance to reach all the students in your classroom.

If you are in need of some more virtual resources to assist with virtual or distance teaching, here are some articles with great suggestions!

Common Sense Learning Best Tools for Virtual and Distance Teaching

We are Teachers 350+ Online Learning Resources for Teachers and Parents

Digital Promise Online Resources

Edutopia Online Learning

How are you using your resources as you head back into school?

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Don’t be a chicken..DANCE

Think you have no time to learn a new dance? Do you have the time but just are too afraid to teach your students for fear of doing it wrong? Well fear no more. JUST MAKE IT UP!

Of course there are many traditional dances out there that require many ornate and exact steps but you do not have to teach a traditional dance to your students. Pick a song according to the culture you are teaching and create the movements yourself. I love to just make up movements myself because I can cater the difficulty of the dance to each class!  I do stay within the style of dance though, Celtic jigs and step are very hard and fast movements, African dance varies from song to song with either slow and connected movement or faster and very grounded. Latin dance is very simple and grounded as well, or you could go as far as Asian with very connected and meaningful story-like motions.  What ever you chose, feel free to just experiment and have fun with it. No one is going to correct you in a classroom (unless you of course have an expert there).

Dance gets students up and moving, which many of them do need during the school day! The more they move around, the more into the lesson they are!