A major way my teaching practice has shifted* is in the way I attend and respond to my students’ thinking. I am more focused on a “Responsive Approach” in my classroom which is guided by my students’ interests and needs both academically and socially.
Students learn best through social interaction. However, they need to be explicitly taught social and emotional skills. Modeling how to play games in a group is just as important as learning the academic skill practiced in the game.
I’ve learned to step back and observe when students have disagreements to help them develop and practice problem solving skills. Then, in class meetings, we discuss solutions to problems that we’ve observed.
Giving my students more opportunities to practice these skills has helped foster a more inclusive environment. I’ve implemented several different social experiences such as “play buddy” partner games, “listen and tell” story time, and the “let’s talk it out” friendship bench.
Integrating family participation in our classroom is another way I have focused on becoming responsive to my students’ learning. One of my English Language Learner student’s parent comes in weekly to read a familiar book in Spanish to our class.
Inviting parents in to share a story, help with our monthly cooking days, teach a song, or assist with a hands-on lesson are just some ways I am focusing on building a bridge from home to school in my students’ lives. It is important to find ways to partner and involve my students’ families in our learning. These partnerships help strengthen our classroom community and enrich our school culture.
From across the classroom one day, I observed some of my students taking “selfies”. Granted these were with old “wind and advance” cameras, but it reminds me of the need to be responsive to my students’ inquiries and multimodal literacies.
Responsive teaching aligns with the idea of scientific practice. Letting my students experience cause and effect and figure out how something happens in their own investigations is another way I have shifted my planning.
I am now realizing that I do not necessarily have to incorporate fancy technology tools to engage my students in multimodal activities. I am providing various materials and asking questions to engage my students regularly in multimodal literacies. Moreover, I am more knowledgeable in digital literacies and connected with external networks to get inspiration and to continue learning.
Being responsive to my students’ questions, ideas, and observations has led to more excitement and confidence in our classroom. My role has shifted from being the giver of knowledge to supporting, watching, and listening to student’s thinking to guide my lessons.
Like when my students showed great excitement over using a trail map on our field trip. I followed this spontaneous opportunity to reshape our curriculum. Although I had planned a different unit, I forced myself out of my comfort zone to try some new lessons to keep my classroom a community that is shaped not by my agenda, but by my students’ interests.
I continued to take the lead from my students’ questions about maps as we learned and practiced position words, drew maps of our classroom and routines, and went on a bear hunt in the dark!
Furthermore, after discovering my students’ obsession with superheroes, I used this theme to frame a positive self-concept unit. We all can be super and have different powers that make us each unique.
Recording my lessons, receiving feedback, and reflecting on my students’ learning resulted in more intentional modeling. Demonstrating my own participation in literacy through modeling is supporting my students’ development of these skills.
Modeling and giving students examples of why we use text and relating their own experiences to help them make connections is another way I have shifted my practice. I find myself asking, “How can I show them this concept through their eyes?” to make it meaningful.
My focus is to encourage all attempts at reading, writing, and speaking by involving all my students varying abilities in literacy practices.
Labeling pictures and events with marks or letter sounds or words is one way to accommodate all my students’ levels.
Finally, I have changed my focus from product to the importance of process. My students are more involved in sharing their story ideas, talking about their observations, and learning through each other. Being more in-tune and responsive to my students’ thinking is providing a more positive learning environment in my classroom.