Time To Call An Expert

In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn-Phil Collins

Under phylogenetic taxonomy, dinosaurs are usually defined as the group consisting of Triceratops, Neornithes [modern birds], their most recent common ancestor (MRCA), and all descendants.  It has also been suggested that Dinosauria be defined with respect to the MRCA of Megalosaurus and Iguanodon, because these were two of the three genera cited by Richard Owen when he recognized the Dinosauria.

IMG_0484Um…what?  I am no expert on dinosaurs. I know enough to get by, but I am completely unimpressive to Tre.  Tre is my in-class dino-phile.  He knows all, and I do mean all, about dinosaurs.  He has tried hard not to look at me condescendingly this week as we learn about these “terrible lizards”.  Tre has written about, talked about, read about, and drawn about dinosaurs this whole year.  You can imagine his bliss as we all focus on them this week.

IMG_0482While a lot of my students are knowledgeable about dinosaurs, there are a lot of misconceptions.  It is hard for them to comprehend that dinosaurs pre-existed humans. We are learning from our work and we are learning from each other.  As always, we have voice and choice in our learning.  Tre chose to write about dinosaurs (above) on paper.  Another student chose to make a Pic Collage (at right).  Others chose to make an Explain Everything.  (see bottom of page).

Dinosaurs are always a topic of great interest.  Using  surveys at the beginning of the school year is a good way to find out about your students’ areas of interest.  This makes them part of the curriculum planning process and part of the decision-making process in their learning.  In the learning community of this classroom, the students learn from me, I learn from them, and they learn from each other.  We all have expertise in something and by giving Tre the opportunity to shine this week, he is buoyed by the confidence of his classmates.  My students all know who to go to as the “Expert” of various things in our class.  This gives my students responsibility, buy-in, leadership and best of all…it forces them to work on solving their own problems rather than coming to me all the time.

I’ve said before that the Explain Everything app is awesome.  (Created by a fellow Apple Distinguished Educator). It really gives you a sense of what a child is thinking when they have to explain their thinking.  Here is Hope, explaining everything about dinosaurs. She is definitely one of my class experts on this app.

In what area(s) are you an expert?  Do your students know who the experts are in your classroom? Do student interests help drive your curriculum choices?  All of these are good questions to reflect on as many of us are ending the school year.

Today we will do exciting new things. Let’s get to it!

We “Arrr” Taking Charge Of Our Own Learning, Mateys!

I am not a teacher, but an awakener.-Robert Frost

Seriously, could the end of a school year be any busier?  Lists and lists of things to get done in the remaining 15 days.  As badly as I need to do those things, I still have the small matter (ahem) of teaching these kids who just keep showing up.  :)

pirateOne of the small joys of teaching little people is their seemingly endless curiosity.  We have extended our ocean unit into a week on Pirates.  They have tons of questions about them.  Living in a city rich with pirate history allows me to share some of the stories of Blackbeard and his time here in Charleston.

My students have loved looking at pictures of different Jolly Rogers and even creating their own.  One group worked on creating their own treasure map after researching different ones online.  They discussed the “necessary components” including the compass rose, the “X” that marks the spot, the need to put the treasure in a safe place and how to find their treasure by marking the “paces” on the map.  These mini mateys collaboratively researched and created their map.

We have a list of “must-do” activities each day and a list of “may-do” activities.  The children schedule their day with their planning sheets.  Part of their “may-do” was to create the treasure map.  There were no specific guidelines and it was their own decision to work together.

My role as facilitator has enabled me to watch them make their own pirate pic collagedecisions and problem solve both individually and together.  One student created a Pic Collage to demonstrate some pirate vocabulary words.  He drew the illustrations in Doodle Buddy and imported them into Pic Collage and then added his sentences.  During the time students are working on their individual plans for the day,  my assistant and I are able to work with small groups, have student conferences and assess if needed.

Watching my students planning their day, working together with others, solving problems and making decisions about their own learning, I know they are ready to sail to first grade.

Today we will do exciting new things. Let’s get to it!