I am officially on spring break. This means that in between working on my report cards and taking care of my family, I finally have time to sit down and do some blogging! I am going to take advantage of this time to finally fill you in on something I did last fall.
Here, in the province of Quebec, we are fortunate to choose our professional development. We are also fortunate to have a budget allocated specifically for that purpose. This year, in addition to going to workshops and conferences, I have decided to use some professional development money to be released from my classroom and visit other teachers and role models in action, in their own classrooms.
The first teacher I visited is Sandy Malone, a fourth grade teacher in an elementary school from my school board. Sandy and I met at the LCEEQ conference about teaching math last summer, which I blogged about here. At this conference, things just clicked between Sandy and I. We got each other’s sense of humor and I realized that I could learn a lot from this experienced teacher, who is not only friendly and open, but whom also shares my values and my teaching philosophies. I set up a classroom visit and had the opportunity to go learn from Sandy last November.
While I was there, the first thing I noticed was how caring Sandy is. The students in her classroom are comfortable and at ease. Sandy and her students laugh and enjoy each other’s company. The students all seem happy to be in the classroom and learning with her. Sandy doesn’t tell the students how to complete math problems or how to write, she guides them. She facilitates their learning. A factor that I believe contributes to the comfortable atmosphere is that students varying needs are being met.
Sandy is open to differentiated seating arrangements. She has a student who is on the autism spectrum who has a pedaling machine under his desk, allowing him to discretely release nervous energy. She has various graphics and visual reminders on students’ desks to help them sequence, to help them remember letter sounds and the direction of letters. The students do not seem to blink at the differences from one desk to another. Sandy has created an atmosphere of understanding and patience, rather than one of questioning, jealousy and judgement.
Lastly, what stood out to me was how Sandy has a daily Discovery Quest presenter. She has scheduled short presentations by students on a monthly topic. Students are expected to prepare what they will say and to present their thoughts in a sequential and logical way, in a manner that will catch and keep their audience’s attention. Students in Sandy’s class are building confidence in their ability to speak publicly.
After seeing Sandy’s students present their DQs, I then learned about a teacher in another school who was also assigning Discovery Quest presentations to his students. Since learning about Discovery Quests, I have begun implementing the lessons and activities in my own classroom. I spent the winter break working on organizing myself and making the process of assigning and evaluation Discovery Quests as simple and painless as possible.
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Below, you will see a short video of one of my fifth grade students, Alexia, doing her second DQ. (Shared with her mother’s permission).
Keep learning from each other and if you are fortunate to have the same school calendar as I do, have a great spring break!