Friday, March 31, 2017

Building a Community of Reflective Learners

I do not remember the time I got over my fear of speaking in public, but I know it happened. Every fall I speak to roughly 2000 people at the MassCUE conference without batting an eye, yet I have friends who are uncomfortable speaking to a small group. Everyone feels differently about speaking in public, and I believe it is important to teach our youngest students how to get up in front of their peers and share knowledge.

Every month students go on a Discovery Quest, teaching the class about a topic of their choice. We begin our journey learning about components to public speaking, known as PVLEGS. Students learn how to use poise, voice, life, eye contact, gestures, and speed to entertain their audience. They have transitioned from being the teacher to facilitator, seeking interactive ways to engage their audience.

If I really want students to know and understand how to improve their public speaking skills I had to create a way for them to reflect on their work as a public speaker.Using my phone I filmed each student for 20-30 seconds while he or she presented.

  1. I uploaded each video to a folder in my Google Drive.
  2. I created a Google Form for students to reflect on their PVLEGS using a sliding scale (1-5) for each indicator and self-reflection of strengths and weakness using paragraph text responses.
  3. I made a Flip Grid board for our class.
  4. Then I created 2 Google classroom assignments.
    1. I shared the video folder. Students were asked to watch their own video and reflect on their public speaking performance.
    2. Then they filled out the Google form.
  5. Students were then asked to share their thinking about their Discovery Quest and/or public speaking growth via a Flip Grid video.

Once all classmates complete their video we will spend some time to viewing the video clips. Students are then going to identify common themes of our class’ public speaking reflections in a Google Sheet.

Hearing a 5th grader’s thinking about his or her growth on his or her presentation skills is a wonderful way to for us all to celebrate confidence building and PVLEGS development. We are truly a community of reflective learners! I hope someday to see my current students presenting to a crowd of 2000! We are creating a foundation of skills that will last a lifetime.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Depth of the Great Debate

When I started a great debate in our classroom for students to earn something back, I did not realize the depth of the life long lessons that would occur for all of us. When I did a modified version of this while teaching third graders it took no time at all for all students to come to a compromise and get something they lost back.

Lesson 1: 5th graders have a harder time letting go of what they believe is right.

Students participated in several debates, asking questions and rebutting (yet they had no idea of the debate process so it evolved organically). They successfully narrowed four choices down to two to argue for. Then we hit a wall, and no one was willing to budge.  My father suggested teaching students about filibustering and the US Senate 60 vote rule. Initially I was not sure this would be helpful, but I decided to try it and see what happens.

Lesson 2: Always listen to your father no matter how old you are.

Over the weekend I created a whole class hyperdoc for the Great Debate. We discovered what happens when the Senate tried to block a bill from passing. We learned about a filibuster, democracy, and debating. Our work was connected to current news stories with the choice for a new judge on the Supreme Court. I was able to bring in first hand resources for students to begin to understand how the Senate works. We explored the Senate’s history of voting and listened to a Senator discuss why the 60 vote rule should apply to everything.  Students had time to think and reflect on how best to solve a problem. Should it be 60 votes? What about the simple majority of 51?

Lesson 3: A hyperdoc is a wonderful way to package information in the content areas.

Students shared their thinking about the Great Debate, reflecting on things they learned, found interesting, and questions they still had. We were faced with the choice to debate again, and I made the executive decision to invoke the 3/5 rule (or 60 votes). We figured out what 60% of 23 students was (13.8) and rounded it to 14. Since 19 students were for the desks moving back into groups that was what we did.

Lesson 4: You do not always get what you want.

The Great Debate taught students more than how to state your claim and provide evidence. They felt the struggle of making a choice. They had to learn to listen well to other’s comments. Students had to understand what consensus and compromise were. Sometimes the teachable moments turn into life long lessons. I hope the students carry this experience with them.

Lesson 5: Expect the Unexpected

Student Discoveries
§  What a filibuster is
§  The Debate steps
§  The Romans had a Democracy
§  A filibuster is a prolonged speech
§  To win you must have 51 votes
§  During a filibuster you do not get a lot of breaks
§  I know what nuclear option is
§  I know what a rebuttal is
§  I know types of debates
§  I discovered that democracy is a Greek word tat means ruled by the people
§  Democracy means ruled by the people
§  Nuclear option is 51 votes
§  Sometimes a filibuster can last 24 hours
§  You don’t even have to talk about the subject to filibuster
§  It is hard to get what you want
§  People argue for a lot of things
§  Rule 22 has changed multiple times

Student’s Interesting Facts
§  The nuclear option
§  60 votes vs. 51 votes
§  One can go on for 24 hours
§  Senate decides and make the filibusters.
§  The nuclear option was interesting
§  It’s interesting that there are different kinds of debates
§  Senators adopted a rule number 22
§  Prolonged means very long
§  Henry Clay thought the majority should end the debate
§  60 senators have to say yes to a bill to make it work
§  A unanimous consent is when both parties avoid a filibuster because they agree to bring a bill to the floor
§  There are 2 Senators from each state
§  I found it cool that our had a filibuster in the classroom
§  You do not have to be famous to have a filibuster
§  There are 4 different types of debates
§  Filibuster means pirate
§  This all started in 1851
§  We have the right to do what we want

Questions Students Have
Who else has a democracy?
What are some types of bills?
Why is it called a nuclear option?
When do they take breaks during a filibuster?
Why do filibusters take so long?
Why is there 100 Senators?
What is a day like for a Senator?
What is a Democrat? A Republican?
Why has filibustering more popular now?
Is there a certain amount of filibusters that can talk?
Why do filibusters take so long?
Who gets to decide what the limit is?
Do you have to go when there is a filibuster?
Why doesn’t the President choose?
Has the Senate ever compromised?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Power of Compromise

Learning how to compromise can be challenging. This morning students had to agree to a decision they were all okay with regarding something they wanted to earn back. 

They were given 20 minutes to take a stance and convince classmates of coming to their side. We definitely have some future lawyers and judges in here! 

At first most of the class wanted seats back in groups. One student wanted the reading corner and hallway seating area back. A handful of agents chose the Chromebooks and non-assigned spots in line. Students went around giving valid points for why they should earn their chosen side back first. They were able to narrow it down to two: The extra Chromebooks and the groups of desks. 

However they could not come to an agreement. I talked to them about learning how to compromise. Students discussed their personal meaning of the word, offering insightful comments.

We then looked up the word. According to Google it means “an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.” Students will need to make some concessions. When making compromise students might not love the choice but have to be okay with it. They are spending time thinking this through and working with their classmates to reach an agreement.

We debated a second time this afternoon, and again students could not come to a compromise. However, their arguments are getting stronger. 

The Chromebook kids argued that some parents donated money for the Chromebooks and they want to honor that. They also want to go back to everyone having their own computer versus having to share or wait. They respected the opinions of the other group, who felt sitting in groups was a life skill to learn. They are also frustrated by the difficulty of talking to neighbors. It is not as easy as it used to be. I heard a lot of I agree with your idea but . . . I understand your thinking . . . however . . . I can see your point but think about . . . These students are learning valuable skills through this experience.  I suggested they go home this evening and talk to a parent or sibling or friend about how best to convince someone of your idea.