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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Professional Development

As you've probably noticed from my posts so far, I'm a big fan of providing authentic experiences to my students in the classroom.  But, as an aspiring administrator, I also understand the importance of providing authentic learning opportunities to the teachers and staff as well.  This past Friday, my principal did just that.

You see, we are having a much lower than expected turnout for kindergarten registration this year.  Furthermore, we have identified a pre-K program that would do wonders for our kids preparedness when they eventually come to us.  This pre-K program is also having lower than expected registrations.  My principal, understanding that our community has a lot on their plates in terms of...well...life...asked us teachers to head out to the various neighborhoods, go door to door, and hand out fliers Friday afternoon (it was a half-day for our students- the afternoon was set aside for PD).  Needless to say, some staff members were horrified by the idea, some a little hesitant, and some with the unflappable determination to do whatever it takes to keep this machine running.  I'm pretty sure nobody jumped up and down in excitement upon hearing the plan.

I was grouped with a few amazing teachers at the school and together we set out, albeit somewhat reluctantly, to canvass the neighborhood in search of Kindergarten children.  Ok, I realize how that sounds but hopefully you've been reading this post up to this point and understand what I mean.  If you haven't, please go up to the top of this page and build some context around the statement I made about Kindergarten children.  Not too crazy about the idea of going door to door, we were determined to do what needed to be done.  What ended up happening turned out to be the best Professional Development experience of my 7 year career.

If you are a teacher and you haven't been out and about in your student's neighborhood(s), especially if you are at a Title-1 school, you need to do so ASAP.  Man, what an eye opening experience.  We spoke with grandmothers, ran into alums who went to my school 40 years ago, freaked students out ("Ummm Mr. Braden, what are YOU doing here?"), and had the opportunity to reach out and show our community that we really do care.

What started out as a directive from a superior turned out to be a valuable learning experience that is only bound to help me connect with my students on a more personal level.  I know where you are from.  Maybe I have a better idea of what you go through on a daily basis.  Your neighbors saw us and hopefully realize now that we are ok- schools are not the bad guy.  Now, perhaps the next step is to invite my students into my neighborhood.  Ehh, I don't think so.  

Student News Daily

Here's an amazing resource I just discovered the other day.  It's one of those rare resources that come up that you know if you would have just stumbled upon it earlier, it could have had a massive positive effect on my students.

Anyways, check out Student News Daily.  This website provides a daily article that covers world news, comprehension questions for said article and a plethora of other resources you can use to provide authentic reading experiences for your students.

Word of caution:  The younger your students are, the more you are going to have to filter what articles they read.  Some of the content is meant for a more mature audience than the 5th graders that I serve.

How I do it:  If you are curious as to how to implement this in your classroom, this is how I do it.  In no way do I think this is the best way and I think how I implement it will evolve over the coming month and next school year.

  • My classroom is set up in a collaborative way.  In other words, my students sit in groups of 4-5.  Each morning I give each group a copy of the article.  They can take turns reading the article, read it all together, however they wish to do it.  
  • I have the questions on the digital projector projecting from my computer.  
  • They read, they answer questions, they ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS which is exactly what I want them to do.  They think.  
I hope, through the implementation of this resource in my classroom, I can A) provide authentic reading experiences for my students, B) broaden my student's worldview and C) keep them up to date with current events.  

So, as our friend LeVar Burton from Reading Rainbow  says...

Go check it out for yourself!