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Students First

It is amazing to witness the variety of classrooms, students, and teaching styles happening around our building. Each classroom is unique due to the teachers and students that help it come alive on a daily basis. I've enjoyed visiting our Special Education department this week and am excited to share what I observed and learned from our awesome teachers.

Technology is not always the solution when it comes to motivating students to learn. As I met with math teacher, Ms. Teri Braband, and her co-teacher, Mr. Kevin Bullock, I learned that their students struggle to navigate through the various resources offered on the Chromebook. With this, they shared that they spent too much time in class getting the students set up and not enough time on the content. They've been brainstorming ways to alleviate this issue. One consideration is to start by utilizing the Chromebooks for short, reflective style assessments or assignments. Ask the students to reflect on how they are learning and doing so using tools like Google forms for a type of survey or FlipGrid for verbal/video feedback. At the Birkett Freshmen Center, math teacher, Ms. Samantha Hannon, and her co-teacher, Ms. Melissa Troc, vary their lesson plans in order to allow time for instruction, time for students to practice/complete their homework using MathXL on their Chromebooks, and then time for students to reflect/ask questions. It is extremely important for teachers to focus on what is best for the students, and it is obvious that all of these teachers put their students' needs first and continually brainstorm various options to differentiate instruction.

In another co-taught classroom at the BFC, Ms. Diane Meyer and Ms. Maria Pentaris, have been working together to utilize Google Classroom to distribute materials to students and collect assignments. Students were collaborating in their groups and utilizing the lesson resources provided on Classroom. Their lesson included teacher-led instruction and student-centered learning. Similar to Teri and Kevin's classes, some students needed help staying on task and navigating the information. Maria effectively modeled this engagement for her students and supported them in any way possible to make the activity effective and meaningful.

In addition to visiting co-taught classes and TEAM meetings, I had the awesome opportunity to visit Ms. Kristine Micheles and Ms. Nicole Sayer's instructional classrooms this week. I must say, these classroom visits have been the highlight of my week. When I walked into both classrooms, the students were extremely excited to have a visitor and made me feel like I was part of the class. The students' enthusiasm for learning was contagious, and I had a smile on my face when I walked out of their rooms.

In Ms. Sayer's Geography class, the students were using Nearpod on their Chromebooks in order to practice learning longitude and latitude. Nicole used it as a bingo challenge for her students, and as they guessed different states based on the degrees listed, they were excited for the chance to win the bingo game. Students had a visual in front of them - on their Chromebooks - and it was also posted on the projector. Students were able to stay focused and have multiple visuals in order to help them complete the task at hand.

In Ms. Micheles' reading class, students practiced reading fluency and each met with their teacher in order to demonstrate their reading level and weekly improvements. While Kristine met with each student, the other students in her class went to Google Classroom and were asked to find the link for Raz Kids, a reading program, under the About section. From there, they had to listen to the story, then read aloud and record their reading of the story, and then complete a reading quiz. Ms. Micheles walked the students through the process at first but then had to model the steps for the students, later in the period, in order to help them stay on task. Students were so proud of themselves that they remembered how to access the program and worked hard to complete the tasks assigned. As I stated in this post and in my post earlier this week, students do need several prompts and reminders about how to access materials. While this takes time, it can be worth it in the long run. This reading program provided time for Ms. Micheles to work with students individually while other students practiced their reading, making it an effective student-centered learning environment. If you get a chance, stop in one of these classrooms - the experience will make your day!

Our Special Education department works tirelessly - in every wing of our building - to help all students effectively learn and find success. In my observations and conversations with the SPED department, I've gained some new perspectives about student organization, management, and learning. Bottom line...they put ALL students' needs first. Now, that's #whatsup!