National Student Volunteer Day is normally recognized in the United Kingdom. This year, it will be honored on February 20. I think it would be something easily adapted for use in the United States. I feel that volunteer work definitely leaves a mark on your heart. I can remember the first time I worked as a volunteer. That experience definitely changed my worldview. My mother had always provided me with a good Christmas. Both the experience and the presents. The year that I was fifteen, she signed me to be a volunteer at our regional children's services offices for their Christmas toy collection. I was not happy about being asked to rise early on my school holiday, so I reluctantly accompanied her there. I was amazed at the amount of toys, but I would sadly learn how quickly the pile dwindled. I was assigned to double check the list of toys requested with the packaging other volunteers completed and then, hand to the families waiting outside the door. It still brings me to tears how excited and appreciative the parents/guardians were to receive these packages. One family actually brought their children in and allowed them to receive some of the presents beforehand. I will not forget the young daughter crying since it had been years since she had received a present or anything for herself. I give thanks that I was able to share in that experience since I learned not to take anything for granted. It feels humbling to volunteer and expands your view of the world. How do we get our students involved? Some ways that I’ve thought of are:
Topics: Classroom Ideas
As any teacher is aware, there are many tiers of student groups in education. In most schools, students are separated by grade levels. In classrooms, they may be grouped by academic ability. In many special education classrooms, they are categorized by need. Special education teachers are familiar with the spectrum of needs for their students. One particular category is students with severe emotional behavior disorders. This type of disorder can manifest in many different forms. One student may be a loner and below typical academic ability. Another student may have multiple outbursts in a day, but be of average or above academic ability. The behaviors may be extreme. Behavior is not always indicative of ability though. Severe emotional behavior disorder can affect a student’s academic progress, interpersonal relationships, classroom behavior, and self-care. So, what happens when you are responsible for this type of student in your classroom? Ideally, you would want the support of guardians, administration, and co-workers. That does not always happen as we think it should. Here are some ways that you alone can make a difference in the student’s life.
How many individuals do you know that do not utilize the Internet in any form or fashion? I would say that you would be hard-pressed to name even one. The Internet has taken over our society. Although it has its pros, there are also cons. We’ve seen an increase in cyberbullying as well as the broadcast of material previously thought to be private. How do we prepare our students to utilize the Internet effectively and safely? One way is to acknowledge Safer Internet Day that is celebrated on February 7 this year. This day of recognition began in Europe over a year ago. It was designed to promote the safe and responsible use of the Internet and other digital technology to children and young adults. Safer Internet Day was officially recognized in the United States in 2012, but became a highlighted day of recognition beginning in 2013. This year’s theme is “Uniting for a Better Internet.” The idea is to recognize and feature good deeds and leadership of children and young adults. Some ways that you can get your students involved:
National Kid Inventors Day is celebrated on January 17 each year. It honors the original kid inventor, Benjamin Franklin, who designed the first swim flippers at only twelve years old! National Kid Inventors Day exists to encourage creativity in our youngest members of society. As anyone knows, kids can come up with the darndest things! Of course, some of it may be outlandish, but children have a unique perspective of not being burdened down with the details that adults can’t help but acknowledge. The best thing about National Kid Inventors Day is that it can be celebrated school-wide. Inventions occur every day. From new building materials to applications, even the sky is no limit! Here are some ways to encourage your students’ creativity:
Teaching students to enjoy literature is a great practice. It can foster a love of books or allow their imaginations to run wild. For everyday purposes though, students must learn to dissect a text. This ability will be something they will utilize in adulthood. Think about contracts, legal documents, and employment applications that students will someday encounter. In order to make informed decisions, students must be able to read these documents and understand what they are placing their signature on. This exact example is what I preach to my students. You may not like reading, but it is a critical skill to have in adulthood. I ask students how they would feel if they were to rent a house for an assumed amount, only to find out that the lease states XYZ charges will also be applicable. If they did not read it and clarify those statements, the burden will be theirs to carry.
Reading can evoke many different feelings in people. For some, it is a delight. For others, a horror. Teaching reading skills is a requirement in any education system. There is research available that will support most of the ways we teach these skills. How do we instill in students a passion for reading though? I believe it starts at a young age before students become disillusioned over standardized testing. Some of my fondest memories of school involve the school library and teachers that took the opportunity to engage us in reading for the simple joy of it. I know of some local schools that are taking the last fifteen minutes of school to “Drop Everything And Read (D.E.A.R.).” I support this fully. The students are only asked to maintain a reading log. No other expectations. I know some people would want to encourage formative or summative assessments to prove that students are truly engaged in the reading. I would ask that you envision fifteen minutes at your own job where you were only asked to read something of your choosing during that time. Would that not be a refresher? Here are some ideas on how to encourage students to be passionate about reading:
There are a variety of ways to teach literacy skills. You may have tried every one of them or stuck to a proven method. There is no certain way to teach literacy. Students benefit from our varied teaching styles since we are individuals just like them. For my classroom, I love using novels to teach literacy. I am a self-confessed bookworm, so being able to teach using a novel is a delightful addition to my teaching. There are so many ways that you can incorporate literacy and differentiation into teaching novels. You just have to use your imagination!
Part of a teacher’s responsibilities are assessing student learning. This can occur before instruction, during instruction, and as the finale to instruction. Formative assessment focuses on the DURING instruction part. Formative assessment allows you to determine a student’s understanding of content and adjust as needed. If their understanding is on point, you may continue with current plans or even give higher level critical thinking activities. If some students are struggling, this is an opportunity to determine their weak areas and address it NOW rather than having to reteach. For me, formative assessments focus on choice and learning style. Summative assessments (the finale!) tend to be similar to standardized testing. Some students will always experience test anxiety and it may not always be a correct reflection of their ability or knowledge. For this reason, formative assessments should vary. It should take into account a student’s strengths and interest. Examples of formative assessments are:
Differentiation is a one word description for a method to reach every student and provide them with access to the curriculum that fits their learning style and their interests. There are four areas that differentiation can occur: product, process, content, and environment.To me, environment is the most important. It is an essential part of effective classroom management and provides the foundation to every other area that can be differentiated. Plus, it can easily adapted to every classroom with no need for specialized technology or huge effort on your part. I have definitely embraced a differentiated environment in my own classroom by using the following guidelines:
Differentiation is a one word description for a method to reach every student and provide them with access to the curriculum that fits their learning style and their interests. There are four areas that differentiation can occur: product, process, content, and environment. Differentiating content does not mean veering from the state standards or laws required to teach by law. You stick to what you are required to teach, but your presentation of the material may vary. It is the “how” of your teaching. No two teachers will teach exactly the same and ideas on how to differentiate content can very well come from within your own building. Content differentiation can be any of the following: