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5 Principles of Learning for 2015

As the New Year approaches, there are two things that inevitably take place. The first thing that happens, you guessed it… resolutions. We make them, we hear about them. Sometimes they work, and again, you guessed it… Sometimes they don’t. The second thing that happens is a reflection of the year. Assuredly we hear or see the “best-of’s”… Tune into any radio show, TV morning show, or Sports Center episode, and you will see some type of reflection of the year. So every December 31st and January 1st we spend time doing things that make us better. We set goals for our future and we reflect on our past. This is great practice in teaching, learning, and in life… However, have you ever felt or been unsuccessful in keeping your New Year’s resolution? Our process of reflecting and setting goals is a great approach, so why do people have so much trouble keeping their New Year’s resolution? Can you think about a time or year in which you were successful keeping or maintaining your resolution? What helped you succeed? What did you do differently? Tony Robbins suggests that failure is a product of momentum. When we, or our students experience failure, we/they start to be comfortable with failure. Failure becomes natural and accepted. Equally, and fortunately, the same is true for success. “People who succeed have momentum. The more they succeed, the more they want to succeed, and the more they find a way to succeed.”

We have many successes to build on heading into 2015. I have seen tremendous growth and progress in the approach we are taking with our children. I am very proud of your efforts, desire to learn and grow as educators, and the path you have all created for our students. When I walk into classrooms, I see the focus on learning rather than teaching. Often, a focus on teaching can mislead us into thinking learning has been fulfilled. Think about how we plan our instruction, if we focus on the teaching, we expect the learning to simply happen; however, when we focus on learning, our planning shifts to teaching FOR learning opposed to teaching AND learning.

In 2015, I look forward to building upon the foundation we have built this fall, and focusing on the learning. Peter Hill, world renowned educational reformist suggests that there are five principles of learning. Focusing on the learning will inherently and continually improve our teaching.

Principle 1: Effort Produces Achievement

Research has shown that student effort contributes more to academic achievement than does inherited ability. We must create the conditions and support that allow our students to achieve at high levels. High levels of student academic achievement require high expectations for students and from each other. I don’t know of any collective group of educators who have put in more effort than all of you. Your efforts and high expectations are what make our school what it is. Our students are the beneficiaries. In 2015, let’s keep our standards high and our expectations ambitious.

Principle 2: Learning is about Making Connections

We learn by adding new knowledge to the knowledge we already have and integrating that information. Think about quality instruction. We want to introduce a new topic, concept, etc. We organize our instruction based on what students already know, and help them make sense of this new knowledge through explicit and proven strategies. We provide more scaffolding and support for the students who need it, and remove it for students who do not. We allow students a chance to make sense of the material through discovery and practice. Of course, we must then determine the level of student understanding (assess), and make accommodations and remediate when students are unable to grasp the concepts. Learning and making connections is an active process. In 2015, let’s continue to grow and learn together as a school. When we learn together, we will create an ever-growing and vast knowledge base built on shared experiences.

Principle 3: We Learn With and Through Others

Most learning takes place when others are present. When we collaborate, we learn from each other, teach one another, share ideas, reinforce concepts, and solve problems. We create a community of interconnectedness. In the classroom, student learning is greatly enhanced when students understand and accept the conventions that structure such social interactions. In order to create a “community of learners,” we must have the community. Students must value learning from each other and have common work habits, language, and respect. In 2015, let’s put our community of learning into practice by sharing in a collective responsibility to reach our goals.

Principle 4: Learning Takes Time

What is learned, how much is learned, how quickly it is learned, is all relative. Some students will grasp a given concept quickly and easily, while others will require a great deal of time. Why? Of course, levels of needs, intellect, attentiveness, and prior knowledge are all factors; however, whether or not a student learns a concept is mostly relative to what other things could be learned at that time. When we are teaching a particular subject area or skill to students, we aren’t just competing with preferred subjects. We are competing with video games, the football game at recess, and the cheerleading competition over the weekend. We must be effective and efficient with the time we have with our students. Time students spend engaged in the learning process is sacred and must be treated that way. In order to engage our students and provide them with adequate time to learn, we must challenge them appropriately. We must involve them in the planning process, the learning process, and the reflection process. In 2015, let’s continue to monitor how much our students are learning, ensure all students are meeting standards, and give our highest achieving students opportunities to do more.

Principle 5: Motivation Matters

Motivation has a direct and critical impact on learning. Students who see a connection between something they want for themselves and what they are being asked to learn will make more progress than those who do not. Students who believe in their ability to learn have a higher rate of learning. Students who feel good about themselves as learners make more academic gains than those who do not. Conversely, students who see no purpose in learning have much less of a chance to learn. Self-doubt about learning, anxiety about results, and fear of failure all inhibit the learning process.

In 2015, continue to place high value on effort and achievement, praise and give positive reinforcement often, and believe. Believe in yourselves. Believe in the students. Believe in our school. Believe that Sabold is the greatest school on Earth.

Cool Stuff Going on at Sabold

One of my resolutions this year will be to share more with all of you. Share helpful tips, educational readings, data findings, etc. I will take this opportunity to share some great things I have seen right in our school. I hope that these ideas will be useful to you. Check out this site Jaime is using with her students to help them master their math facts. It is free, and you can set up your own class in less than ten minutes. Sessions are less than ten minutes for students. This is a great addition to homework or the classroom. There is an iPad app as well. The kids seem to really like it!

Grammar Boxes- You have all heard me talk about the importance of making sure students are completing the math boxes in their math journals. With a program that spirals like Everyday Math, the math boxes are crucial for students so that they are continuing to review concepts, practice current skills, and build foundations for future learning. Ryne created grammar boxes for a center activity. We know how it goes... We teach predicates, subject-verb agreement, pronouns, etc. and students look at the examples at the top of the worksheet and then complete the worksheet with no problem; however, when we ask them what a preposition is a few weeks later, it is like it was never taught. Let's face it, it is difficult for students to make meaningful connections or be motivated to remember all of the tips you taught them about where and when to use quotation marks. The constant reminders and refreshers about grammar through Grammar Boxes is a great idea.

Self-Reflection through Video- Meg put a GoPro on her desk during a morning meeting. Later in the week during a workshop, she showed the video to one of her students as an opportunity to reflect on his actions, It was also a writing opportunity as the student watched the video, evaluated his actions, and completed written responses based on the video. The student had no idea just how off-task he was, but the video provided him the opportunity to reflect on his behaviors, and it also provided an opportunity for authentic discussion. At this point, maybe you are wondering how does this help you? You don't have a GoPro, and you don't teach Social Skills. Well, I am going to purchase a GoPro (we'll have plenty of use for it with all of our events) that you will all be more than welcome to use, and remember how we discussed how to evaluate the learning behaviors on the report cards? Wouldn't it be great to set up the GoPro during your centers, and reflect on the collaborative, on-task, and sustained effort your students are displaying? Or, use it to film yourself instructing, and reflect on it. You could ask a colleague to film their guided reading group so that we can learn from each other without having to leave the classroom!

There are great things going on at Sabold every day. I am looking forward to sharing more of them, and I hope that you will do the same in 2015.

Important Dates for January 2015

Back to School! 1/5

Home and School Meeting 1/7

Spirit Day- Spirit of Family 1/9

Winter Clubs Start 1/12

Staff Development #6 1/14

Dr. Martin Luther King Day 1/19

MAP Testing Winter Window: opens on 1/26

We Make A Life By What We Give

What does a homeless man do with $100 during the holiday season? Watch the video to find out.
How Does A Homeless Man Spend $100?