Monday, April 30, 2012

Be, Reflect, Connect

Dear Friends,
     This past fall, I was fortunate to attend the Project Zero Conference sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  There David Perkins, Ph.D., one of Project Zero's Principal Investigators, spoke about "Digital Ethics."  He talked about the need to speak with our students about communicating in an increasingly complex digital age.  He summed up the current state of affairs for our students by saying, "As our collective world gets smaller, our personal world gets larger and more complex."  
     He said that it was important to help our students navigate through this complicated digital world.  The challenge for them, and for us too, is learning how to communicate in a compassionate and competent way, all the while, knowing that everything we say reaches the whole world, in an instant, forever.  This seems to bring reading, writing, speaking and social emotional learning to a new level of standards we never had to deal with.
     To address these issues in a simple way, I came up with a three word phrase that might help.  These words symbolize three steps that can help us communicate in a more compassionate and competent way.  I suggest, "Be, Reflect, and Connect."  
  • Be - The first step is to help students slow down in their communicating whether it be on paper, in an e-mail, or through the phone.  It is important to stop, take a breath, notice the place you are in and how you are feeling before impulsively responding.
  • Reflect - The second step is to reflect.  Take time to think about what you are writing, the message you are trying to send, the voice and intonation.  It is important to reflect on the message, reread it, and imagine how the receiver will feel in receiving it.
  • Connect - The third step is to connect.  Here, we are ready to hit "send" knowing that we are not responding from an emotional, impulsive place and the message we are sending will be embraced by the receiver in the way that we had hoped.
     Dr. Perkins is right.  As we communicate with the world, our collective world gets smaller, and our personal world and the communication abilities required of that world become more complex.  With increasingly complex communications, audiences, speeds, and messages, it is even more important that we teach students to slow down their communication so that it is thoughtful, caring, and competent.  
     Wishing you and your students the chance to "Be, Reflect and Connect"

Monday, April 16, 2012

Simple Ideas to Make Writing Easier

Dear Friends,
     Students often love to write in a journal, especially if they are writing about an experience they had recently or are able to write about something that is important to them.  Sometimes students have wonderful ideas, but their ability to write prohibits them from being able to write all that they want to say.
     Students who struggle with writing can benefit from some simple hand and body exercises that will strengthen their grip and develop muscle memory to enhance their writing ability.  Below are some simple exercises to make writing more fun.
Happy Writing,
  • Playing with Play-Doh - Students can strengthen their hand muscles by using Play-Doh.  When they create with clay or Play-Doh they strengthen muscles in their hands.  Students can also combine large body movements with small hand movements to strengthen their core.  An example might be squeezing Play-Doh in each hand, while bending knees and trying to stay balanced.
  • Creating Large Letters in the Air - When students create large letters in the air by "writing" with their whole arm, they create muscle memory where the whole body understands the shape and movement of the letters.  Students can do large writing in the air and then slowly decrease the letter size until they can just use one finger to make the letter as it might be on the paper.
  • Gripping - Sometimes students find that using a pencil grip is helpful for holding the pencil in a relaxed way.  There are a variety of grips to try - and it can be fun for them to see which one works for them.
  • Pinching  - When students can use tweezers or can pinch their fingers together, they are strengthening their ability to hold a pencil.  Having students pick up cotton balls or pom-poms is a fun way to develop more hand strength.
  • Talking - It can be helpful for students to talk about how they feel about writing.  This helps them become more objective about themselves as a writer and learner.  When they can talk about their successes and frustrations, they have a better sense of what they need to help them.  Sometimes with students I also have them talk about their ideas first, while I jot them down, or I have them draw their ideas out.  Once students feel that they can get their ideas out, they can relax and focus more on the actual writing.  

    Monday, April 9, 2012

    Academic Habits

    Dear Friends,

    Amy Tierney shared this resource with me. I thought that the author, Jim Burke did a phenomenal job of pinpointing academic habits that are important for a student’s success in school. I felt that these habits were so crucial that I organized them in a question format in kid-friendly terms. Students can now really think if they are following through on each one.


    If a student is not being successful, they need to answer the following questions. It is important for them to self-reflect on their academic responsibilities as a student.

    · Do I ask for help when I do not understand a concept, skill or idea?

    · Do I bring all the necessary supplies to class each day?

    · Do I check my work to make sure all the requirements are included?

    · Do I come to class on time?

    · Do I complete and hand in all my homework?

    · Do I have a particular place where I do my homework that is free from distractions?

    · Do I have my cell phone, computer, etc disturbing my study time?

    · Do I actively listen to what the teacher and other students are saying?

    · Do I keep my notes and materials organized for each class?

    · Do I participate in class discussions?

    · Do I carefully read all the directions before I begin to work?

    · Do I review my tests and assignments in order to learn about my mistakes and how to fix them/.

    · Do I study a little bit each night leading up to the test date?

    · Do I take notes during class?

    · Do I take notes on what I have read?

    · Do I have a system to keep track of homework / tests?

    · Do I write down specific information to help recall what the assignment is?

    · Do I use active strategies while I am studying?

    Information based on The Teacher’s Daybook by Jim Burke (Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH) 2011

    Have a great day,

    Kim Turse