5 Big Shifts for My Classroom in 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 20156:02 PM

As I gear up for the new year, like most teachers, I'm reviewing my course information, updating lesson plans, and rethinking my classroom culture. I'm lucky to be teaching English 10, a course which I've taught, refined, and honed throughout my career. I can teach Elie Wiesel's Night backwards and forwards; I've surely read and taught it enough times. But, like most good teachers, I recognize the need for my practice to evolve.

Each year, I ask myself the same questions: What do I want learning in my classroom to look like? What products will students create? How would I want students to talk about my teaching, lessons, and curriculum? What do I want them to leave my classroom with? Skills? Content? More?

The past few years, my shifts have involved technology and its implementation. Now that I've developed my norms and have a few years under my belt in the 1:1 classroom, I'm looking for more. I want to make more meaningful shifts to help my students create, collaborate, and connect with each other and with the world.

I've seen a quote or meme going around lately, and am disappointed I couldn't find it now. If anyone has it, please let me know, and I'll correct it and eagerly provide credit. Would you want a doctor or lawyer who was not up to date on the best professional practices? Teachers are professionals, too, and experts in their field; we should act like professionals and be treated as such. I've written a lot this summer about the power of being a connected educator, personalizing professional development, and attending conferences. I think there's an unparalleled value in learning from peers, evolving, and moving forward. Technology, the world, and our students won't stop moving. Neither can we.

My 5 C's for 2015

Look how clever I am: 5 C phrases. Maybe I'm on to something here?

1. Centered on Students

Classroom learning should be student-centered from day one. I don't need to be talking at my students on the first day; I need to introduce them to the types of learning opportunities they will build for themselves throughout the school year. I need to facilitate and put my money where my mouth is. I like to think I have a pretty student centered classroom, but this year I want to jump into it on day one, like it's the most normal thing in the world. Students will be working with technology, at different paces, sometimes on different assignments, all towards standards and goals. I also want to introduce not only project-based but problem-based learning to make their growth more authentic and meaningful.

2. Connected Learning

It's not enough for my students to connect with each other; it's time to share our challenges, successes, and learning with the peers, teachers, the community, and world. I want my class to be built on connections and collaborations, incorporating backchannelling, Twitter, Google Hangouts, and other social media on a regular basis. One of my goals is to have students regularly Tweeting about our learning to a class hashtag to share with the world. Technology opens up so many doors and opportunities to connect and learn; I want to embrace them all.

3. Creation

Students must create. I've written about that idea plenty, most recently in a guest post at FreeTech4Teachers.com here. I want my students to always produce something that documents learning. This will often be writing but has ranged from essays to podcasts to videos or other presentations. I want to find more ways for students to demonstrate skill and knowledge, and then to share it. This year, I plan to have students blog more and construct electronic portfolios to show their growth and reflect on new learning. Hopefully these products will help students leave my class and high school with work they are not only proud of, but that documents essential 21st century skills and experiences for their futures. 

4. Community of Learners

We are a community of learners. Collaborating and interacting on Google Communities helps manage this camaraderie, but I want to place a new importance on the community. Students must be able to work together and live together. Jack from Lost said it, and it's a quote I come back to often: "If we can't live together, we're going to die alone." It's a bit dramatic, but I don't want my students to wait around for me to teach them, but to help foster their curiosity, creativity, and independence. "Every man for himself is not going to work," Jack says in the clip below. From asking each other before they ask me to creating a list of online classroom norms to a class hashtag, I want my students to actively collaborate as a community of learners to create the best learning experiences possible. 

5.  Communicate

I think I build strong relationships with my students. Now I want to do better with other stake holders: parents, guidance counselors, administration, etc. I want complete transparency and clear communication in my classroom. To that end, I am revamping my class webpage, english10.aschoenbart.com, to provide everyone with more information than ever before. I have plans in the works to use forms and add-ons to organize and automate communications based on data about student behavior and performance, so I am more actively involved in communication, more proactive in recognizing success and overcoming challenges, and using data to drive my instruction. Expect a blog post on this topic soon.

There's my 5 C's for 2015. I could list a dozen things I want to do better but I want to stay focused. Wish me luck. What shifts are you planning in your classroom or teaching? 

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