A constant theme in my classroom has been “challenge yourself and take risks so you can move your learning forward and open the doors to the unlimited possibilities for you in the world.” As a lifelong learner myself, I thought I was modeling that sentiment for my students. I didn’t realize until the spring of 2013, when I really pushed myself out of the comfort zone to develop a thinking products framework for my science students, that I hadn’t really been living by that code; I wasn’t really taking risks to change the classroom experience for my students. In my first blog entry “The Game Changer”, I describe the experience that has changed my trajectory. I didn’t have a map or a clear path, just classrooms full of eager and amazing students who trusted me and partners who were committed to our vision of scaffolding thinking skills to enable students to be successful in life as critical consumers and problem solvers, not encyclopedias of facts. We gathered data to show our new approaches were working to satisfy those “standardized test score focused folks” and we made student feedback and products our primary focus. Since that experience, my students, my partners, and I have explored many avenues to extend our learning beyond the four walls of our classroom and communicate with authentic audiences, gathering class data and performing action research. My PLN on Twitter has exposed me to a world I never knew existed and with their patience, kindness and support, gave me the confidence to try things REALLY outside of my comfort zone.
My students, partners and I have used our journey down the path to thinking products to enable us to communicate effectively and confidently with the world. By creating a culture of trust, a safe classroom environment to take risks, and and an atmosphere where student voice is truly valued, we have had many successes and are well on our way to “figuring out how our classroom can impact others”. This idea can be summed up in an end of semester quote by a student: “ I can’t believe how much I learned in this class and how much fun I had. I knew so much about anatomy that I was able to have a conversation with a real scientist and he thought I was smart.”
In this blog, I am asking for the help and feedback from my PLN and other educators. My students and I certainly know we don’t have all the answers, but are excited about the journey. In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, I am going to commit to blogging about our class story here once a week. In our blog entries, my hope is to share our ideas about how we are extending our learning beyond the four walls of our classroom, scaffolding thinking skills, and developing creativity, collaboration and communication skills to make us successful in the 21st century. As part of the District team leading the implementation of the NGSS, our story will also chronicle how I am making instructional decisions around the science and engineering practices and how those decisions support our thinking products framework. We are also going to chronicle our story through twitter at @BCHSstory starting in January.
Here are some samples of our upcoming blog topics:
How we use Twitter in the classroom to communicate thinking and extend our learning.
How our class is organized to support success for introverts and extroverts.
How we use multiple ways in the classroom to communicate thinking and express a developing understanding of science.
How we use video and screen casting to establish, extend and refine knowledge.
How we get students talking in class discussions.
How we incorporate the 8 NGSS Science and Engineering Practices into instruction without sacrificing knowledge acquisition, but instead enhancing it
Pushing myself beyond the comfort zone has increased my passion for transforming education, increased my creativity for finding ways to connect with students, engage them, and meet them where they are, and made me more fulfilled as an educator then I have ever been. I hope that by sharing our story, we can continue to learn from you and your story. Please consider commenting to us or tweeting to us. Let us know how we can enhance your classroom experience.
Tricia Shelton @tdishelton
Our Class Story @BCHSstory