We started the year with two days of writing training. Among other strategies, we looked at Step Up To Writing. This method utilizes a color coding system and a traffic light analogy to guide children through the process of writing a topic sentence and expanding on that idea with enough detail and information to engage their audience. It is also a way of helping organize thoughts orally when used to guide students as they share their ideas. Once a main idea has been shared, having that student elaborate is a great way for them to continue to think and share their ideas with the class. As a school, we have agreed to implement this strategy pre-K through 5th. I am looking forward to seeing how this works – and how my students do at self-initiating this thinking process as the year progresses.
This morning, I was on Pinterest and my friend and fellow teacher, Kim, had pinned an interesting post from a first grade teacher’s blog about differentiation. Her story goes that on the first day or during the first week of school, the teacher asks her students to pretend they have a “boo-boo”. She asks each one in turn to describe where they are hurt (cut my finger, scraped my knee, stubbed my toe etc). Regardless of what the child says, the teacher places a band aid on their upper arm. Despite cries of “But I don’t need it there!” everyone gets a band aid on their upper arm. She explains she is treating all her students fairly by giving everyone the same thing. At least one child will exclaim that they don’t all need the band-aid there – they all need it in different spots – at which point she shares the moral of her story: that fair does not mean equal.
I love this analogy – especially as I head into a new year with new students who each have unique needs. Some kids I may spend time with taking dictation from what they say while others write out their own ideas. Equal? No. Fair? Absolutely.
Earlier this week, I came across an online Digital Passport curriculum for Grades 3-5. Created by CommonSense Media, the passport program can be customized for your students to guide them through responsible use of the internet. A brief overview of the curriculum offered includes the topics of communication, privacy, cyberbullying, searching and giving credit where it is due. This is a solid, basic foundation of skills regarding appropriate digital use. I can see the need to add to and customize as the year progresses or if a particular issue arises but for a pre-packaged, FREE program, this looks pretty impressive. Students can pace themselves through the activities, work independently or collaboratively and the responses to the questions can be completed online in game form and offline via discussions, drawings, writing and even role-playing.
If you are looking for a dynamic solution to kick off your connected year, I think this looks like a pretty good place to start.