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About Inspired Classrooms
Frequently Asked Questions
Setting Up a Room
Teaching and Learning
Blogging in Inspired Classrooms
Share Your Lessons
Ideas for Grouping Students
Teaching and Learning
Teacher Workflow in an Inspired Classroom.
Inspired Classrooms lead the teacher away from linear, sequential, lecture-based presentations of information. With the availability of information and resources on the internet, the teacher no longer has to be the one-stop shop for information and learning. In an Inspired Classroom, the teacher fills the role of the facilitator that sets up a series of activities that leads the students as they learn on their own.
Differentiated and Asynchronus Learning
Students don't all have to be doing the same thing at the same time. We all realize this, but many teachers are still running their classroom activities this way. The fact is, that it was a relatively easy way to manage a classroom. Teachers could pass out papers to everyone at the same time, give instructions to everyone at the same time, collect papers and grade assignments all at the same time, and then move on to the next subject. Teachers are finding out that the old way just isn't working anymore, but are at a loss at how to change the workflow in their classrooms without completely overloading themselves.
Many kindergarten and 1st grade teachers have this figured out. Most mornings, you will find their students working away in any number of centers while the teacher is working with the reading groups. In order to give herself time and space to devote to the reading groups, she has set up these centers that students, working in small teams, can work together and learn. At any given time, there may be five or six different things going on in the classroom. The teacher is directing one of those things, while the others are set up to be self guided. This principle is what Inspired Classrooms is modeled after. Students working cooperatively in small groups, driving their own learning, guided by the activities that the teacher set up for them ahead of time. The key is the activities that the teacher sets up. The master teacher will be able to provide her students meaningful, relevant and open-ended activities that will both challenge higher level thinking, and encourage group members to work together as a team.
Planning your centers and activities
Since the reason for setting up this model is putting students to work within their groups, quality centers/activities need to be planned. By using technology, specifically classroom blogs, you can direct learning that will take place without you having to be present with each group. You want to provide meaningful prompts that initiate thought, discussion and problem solving. Since the workflow of the classroom blog would be teacher-prompt and student(s)-response, you want to keep in mind that the students will be writing back to you using text only. This doesn’t mean that students can’t work with manipulatives, etc. when working on your prompt, just that they will write back to you what their findings/conclusions were using an open text box.
Working With Student Groups
A major aspect of the Inspired Classroom is the students working in small groups. These groups, or learning teams, work on many different tasks together throughout the day. Students learn how to share in the responsibility of learning and collaborate as they complete assignments together. By teaming the students, teachers can expect the groups to work more independently and work at a higher level than if they were working alone.
Once the room is set up, the teacher needs to decide how to group the students. In the case of a twenty student classroom, the ideal situation would be to create five groups of four students each, that you know will be able to work independently and without conflict. If you have already established and are already working with reading groups, etc., it would make sense to continue with this. It makes a lot of sense to group by ability, so that you can assign differentiated lessons/activities by group.
Leveraging Groups to Work for You
Teachers function with a finite amount of time, resources and attention to work with students each day. Most teachers compare this to performing a day-long juggling act. The more demands that are placed upon the teacher, the less time she will have with each student…causing the juggling act to be more complex and faster moving than ever before. This happens when all classroom instruction and follow-up has to come and go though the teacher. When the teacher is the holder of all knowledge and the only outlet for information delivery, the teacher becomes the bottleneck in the flow of instruction and support. Hey, we are all human; and one person can only do so much.
By setting up groups and allowing students to work together, information and support systems are gradually decentralized, freeing up these tasks from teacher's juggling act. When students are allowed and encouraged to help each other; that builds "margin" for the teacher. When the students start monitoring their own and each others' learning, that builds margin. When students work together online to find daily lessons and teaching resources, that builds margin. This "margin" adds up to more time and attention for the teacher to do those things that require her immediate, personal attention. So, by setting up student groups and encouraging them to self-monitor and self-guide their own learning, the teacher is sharing the task of juggling with all in the classroom. She is taking care of those items that cannot be outsourced while sharing other tasks and decentralizing the learning process.
What Kind of Activities Work Best With Groups?
Think about most of the worksheets that will be passed out in classrooms at your campus this week. Most can be completed with a single, "correct" answer choice for each item. These types of knowledge/comprehension questions require an on-and-off system of student thinking. The students turn on thinking just long enough to fill in the answer and then turn off. This usually results in the typical "Mrs. Smith, I'm finished, now what do I do?" responses from students. These types of questions also do not do well in group settings, because team members know that if they all contribute to the answer, someone will get it “right” and everyone else won’t.
By providing activities that cannot be answered by one correct answer, teachers will encourage students to work together to survey what they collectively know and evaluate their answering options. Any time that students are working this way, they learn how to: justify why they think a certain way, back up their statements with supporting evidence, and combine existing pieces of information to create new knowledge.
Emphasis on Communication Skills
Many typical classroom assignments are data entry tasks. The students are choosing the correct answer, filling in blanks, or making calculations to find an answer. In an Inspired Classroom, students have to go one step beyond that, and must be able to COMMUNICATE their responses appropriately. In addition, the ongoing collaboration with team members forces students to communicate in the process of finding these answers and making calculations.
Take the Work Home
Not you…your students. The same students who will probably NOT take books, folders, worksheets back and forth from home, WILL boot up their computers as soon as they get home. Research numbers are showing that many students are now spending more time in front of a computer that they are watching TV. The TV is just not engaging and interactive enough. The things that students are wanting to do are becoming increasingly complex and interactive. We're not talkng about Pac Man and Space invaders anymore.
Computers are the students' tools of choice and even "work" on the computer is play to them. If you can provide challenging and engaging activities, especially open-ended ones like blogging, students will start engaging with your work from outside the classroom. Yes, students have always "done" homework, but how often have they been truly engaged with it from home?
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