As an Exceptional Children’s teacher, I see students struggle a lot, and in multiple areas. The worst of which is writing. Sometimes it is the physical process in its entirety. It can be very difficult for them to comprehend the task, create an idea, and finally, form it on paper using correct handwriting control, inventive spelling, sentence structure and punctuation. It is a lot of steps for them to process and follow through. But my main concern is the motivation and emotions I have noticed are tied to our writing blocks.
I see 6-year-old, beginning writers who are already terrified to produce a product. They tell me that they are scared to spell something wrong. I even have some who are afraid that their ideas are wrong, and will not even offer up a verbal response to the read-aloud or writing topic.
This breaks my heart, because they already struggle in so many areas. And at such a young age, they are seeing their downfalls and weaknesses, rather than their growth and success.
That being said, I always try to heap praise on my students. We talk daily about the merit of making and learning from mistakes. I try to remind them of where they started this year, last year, etc., and compare it to where we are now. And I always, ALWAYS, reward good effort regardless of the outcome. I am hoping to build their confidence even more this year as we shake some things up.
I have decided to work on utilizing more technology in the classroom, and guiding my students away from past experiences. I continue to tell them that technology is not just for movies and gaming. And I (regrettably) have used it heavily for just guided practice in the past. I have always been worried about my students understanding intended purpose and safe use of the digital world. I am now challenging myself to think outside the box and to learn. I am nervous about the outcome, but determined to help my students become more digitally literate. It’s time to ‘disrupt MY norm.’
This year, I really want to use the website/app Seesaw. I have picked three students to pilot it with as I continue to get comfortable with the system. And so far, I have seen their interest spike.
For a student working on sentence structure and word choice, I have showed him how to display and read his pocket chart sentences using the app. This is not his favorite activity to complete, but he thoroughly enjoyed demonstrating his knowledge and having control “teacher style.”
I have a hearing impaired student who can fly through some types of repetitive text (namely vertically arranged pocket chart sentences). However, he struggles to track repetitive words in books and in his own writing. He was able to post one of the few pieces of his writing that actually has been completed. And I felt as though he had a light bulb moment regarding the value and success of his writing.
We are exploring another avenue for attributing value to our work. So far, the early stages have been a success and I could not be more pleased. As I learn to loosen the reins, hopefully my kiddos will step up. I want them to work through challenging tasks, and take responsibility for their work.
I hope to see them grow as learners, as I continue to grow and learn as a teacher.
For now, we will continue to ‘disrupt the norm’ and ride the wave where it takes us!