Well, I did it. I created the new blog, and it's up and ready for anyone interested in checking out my classroom Minecraft project. You can have a little looksy by going to www.theminecraftedclassroom.blgospot.com. I've got the first post up, and I've shared a little project overview to give you an idea of how the project is going to play out.
I'm pretty happy with the name I picked. Simple, yet creative. And, it came to me when I was got in to bed on Monday night. I had to make a note before I went to sleep, so that I wouldn't end up forgetting about it.
If you're friends with me on Facebook, then you have probably already seen that I've linked that blog to my Facebook account also. So, if you're interested, you'll be able to keep up with it in my Facebook feed. If you're not friends with me on Facebook, then you can click on the link. And, being that I now have my very own blog for the project, this will probably be the last time I talk about it on this blog. But, I wanted to share it with anyone who's interested.
Getting the word out, you know?
Yesterday, I spent the day at a Common Core math training. It was good. A lot of great resources and ideas for implementing different math learning strategies in to the classroom. We spent a good portion of the day checking out websites and trying out some of the activities to take back to the classroom.
I both love and hate training days like yesterday.
I love them because they give me a TON of new ideas to use in the classroom and websites to check out and resources to look in to to buying for my classroom. I hate them because they give me a TON of new ideas to use in the classroom and websites to check out and resources to look in to buying for my classroom.
It requires some extensive time wading through all the resources and ideas to get an idea of what I can and can't use. Most require some creative planning. Others require preparing and gathering materials such as manipulatives, printable templates, etc. And some require purchase, which costs money, that I'm sure the district would pay for but that also takes quite a bit of time.
Not that I'm not willing to do all of that, but it can be pretty overwhelming. I walk out of the training confident and ready to try out all these fancy new ideas, and then get stuck in the rut of trying to find the time to get everything ready or find that one lesson I so wanted to try.
But, even if I don't get to do much with the stuff I learned this year, I plan on spending some quality time wading through all the materials over the next few weeks and sorting it so it's easy to find to try out a few things this year and ready for really diving in to it next year.
One thing I've already decided is that next year I'm going to completely redesign myself and my teaching.
Well, that's not true. What I mean is, I'm going to completely bring MY teaching style and personality out. I've already started the transition, but trying out new ideas such as the Minecraft project and the way I've been teaching reading. But, I really want to take on the task of completely overhauling my current ways of doing things, and create specific units of study that spread completely across the subject areas.
One of the biggest misconceptions with Common Core is that it's a new style of teaching. That's not true. It's a new set of learning standards. Standards that are focused more on streamlining the education process so that kids all over the country are pretty much on the same page with what they are learning and what they are expected to know by the time they graduate college.
The standards are written to connect each grade level to the next by deepening the learning. Linking a chain, if you will. A student in kindergarten that's learning the kindergarten standards will continue to see the same standards year after year, but on a much deeper level.
The best analogy is a stair case. They start out on the bottom step, and just keep climbing up a stair at a time until they reach 12th grade. Everything connects to the year prior, somehow in some way.
What common core is NOT is a set of rules on how teachers have to teach. Just like teachers have been using state standards to teach up until now, the common core will be the same thing. Just different guidelines or skills that the students have to know.
Instead of knowing how to add two numbers together, the students have to understand the PROCESS and MEANING of adding two numbers together in the sense of connection to place value, and that repeated addition becomes multiplication. They have to apply that understanding to real world concepts and practices so that they are able to identify the purpose of addition.
I know that there are many people out there who just think Common Core is a waste of time. They think that it's pointless or too hard or creating steps that aren't really needed. But it's not about the steps, more about the depth of knowledge. Trying to eliminate the "don't use it you lose it" mentality so that the students continue to use and build on skills they already know so that they can use them and apply them to their adult lives. Either career or college readiness.
Critical thinking, problem solving, independent understanding, and application.
And moving back to what I said about redesigning my way of teaching, I mean bringing in more opportunities for self discovery, real world application, and spreading my "one size DOES NOT fit all" mentality completely across everything that I do.
Right now, I'm barely skimming the surface on how I'd like to see my classroom run. I spend a lot of time teaching in front of the classroom, reading directions to the students, showing them how to do everything step by step. We switch from math to reading to science to social studies.
But, in my dream classroom, that wouldn't happen.
Sure, I'd spend SOME time teaching. I'd spend SOME time modeling. But, there would be no need from transitioning from one subject area on to the next and on to the next. My math, reading, science and social studies would all fit in together. Applied learning that incorporates all subject areas and focuses on a specific unit of study.
My senior year of school, I had to create a unit of study for my senior project. I was, at the time, working with 2nd grade students. I was given the topic of Force & Motion. Not an easy topic to spread across all content areas, especially for 2nd graders, but I did it.
The objective for the entire unit was that, by the end, the students could all explain the laws of motion.
Our math was focused on measurement. Measuring how far an object traveled when force was applied. Discussing the different forms of measurement to get the best results. Our science worked with our math to perform experiments to test the effects of force, friction, and gravity. The students worked through the scientific method, making hypothesis, performing the experiments, and documenting their results. Our reading and social studies focused on reading about Sir Isaac Newton. Students learned about who he was and what he was famous for. They applied creative writing when they had to write their own stories about having a super power of taking away gravity or no friction. They wrote friendly letters to Sir Isaac Newton about a benefit that his discovery had given them. Spelling and grammar came included with the writing process and vocabulary terms that we used.
And at the end of the unit, each student shared their learning experiences through a presentation of their choice. Some students created a football documentary, showing how a football is thrown and how the laws applied to the ball. Some students created a talk-show, with Friction and Gravity being the guests and discussing their impact on the world. Some students created a little puppet show. The results were remarkable.
THAT'S what I want to do.
It will take some work to get there, but I think I can do it. And I think the Minecraft project will be the kickpoint I was hoping for. It will at least give me a pilot run, this year, while I'm still doing everything else that I need to do.
Lots to think about, that's for sure.
But, right now, I have to get ready for work...