RAFT Activity Kit: Static Merry-go-Round

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Student Coaching Works

By Elisha Burns, RAFT Fellow

Older students helping the younger ones garden


To increase student engagement, I say let the students take the lead.  I have found that my students do their best work when they are put into a position of leadership.  My students that are normally reluctant learners suddenly are engaged and willing to teach the skills that I’ve taught to them to younger students. I do not know exactly what comes over them, because normally my students can find a million reasons why they should not have to complete an assignment.  However, when I tell them that I need them to complete an assignment so we can help the younger students learn a skill all the complaints go out the window. 

 
Finished product!


It is almost magical how my students will collaborate and think of the best way to instruct the younger students. I do not know if they realize it, but these opportunities to teach younger students are my opportunity to assess their level of understanding. If they really have a strong understanding of a concept then they will be able to identify challenges and plan for them.  Giving my students a rubric outlining what I expect them to accomplish and a time schedule, also helps them manage the work. They are able to translate the high level academic terms into phases that make sense to younger students. Having the ability to code switch like this really helps deepen my students' connection to the content. Making connections and developing deeper understanding of the content is an essential component in the educational shift.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Introducing Parents to STEAM



Rita Mercado, First Grade Teacher, Serendipity School



The idea of having parents come into the classroom can be overwhelming at times, but it is an important step in having them gain an understanding of the learning that happens throughout the day that isn’t able to be sent home in the form of checked work or a neat looking project.

As I began to incorporate more STEM and STEAM projects into my curriculum, I started thinking about how I could paint a clear picture for the parents about just what it was that we were doing. Of course the idea was introduced at Back to School Night and written about in newsletters, but what else could I do. I invited the parents in for a STEAM Night.



After giving a brief introduction on the acronyms and examples of what this looks like in the classroom, the parents were able to move around the room and participate in activities designed for exploration. Once they had a few minutes to play, I posed some questions and challenges.

Shake Tables: Can you build a stable structure that won’t shake off the table?

Giant Geometry: What is the most stable 3-dimensional shape you can build?

Scrap Mural: What patterns can you create?

The parents were engaged, had fun, and asked terrific questions. I hope the experience taught them that the process is the most important part of learning.

If having the parents into your classroom for a nighttime event isn’t an option, invite them in for a few minutes before school or to help out with an activity. It’s worth it!