Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Embracing the Socratic Temperament

Embracing the
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Socratic Temperament

Socratic Seminars are powerful opportunities for students to be fully engaged in their learning.  Today, I am not focusing on what, how, or why.  

I am focusing on who – the Socratic Teacher.

In this way, I hope to lift your practice to new levels.

Socrates believed that a continuous journey of self-improvement was vital for every person.  As educators, we are on our own journey, but also guiding the journeys of our students. Socratic Seminars can create opportunities for students to be more receptive to new learning and more effective in gaining knowledge and increasing understanding.

To be successful at designing and facilitating Socratic Seminars, the Socratic Teacher must be able to live and model positive attitudes about inquiry and self-reflection.  In my experience, teachers who do not embrace a Socratic Temperament, will have a difficult time bringing a Socratic Seminar to life in their classrooms.

Characteristics of the Socratic Temperament:

The Socratic Teacher loves to discover her own errors.
The Socratic Teacher embraces the discovery of error as a joyful moment.  The teacher cherishes this moment of realization because a step towards knowledge and understanding is taken with every misunderstanding we uncover.  The capacity to examine our own cherished ideas and beliefs without the fear is an essential part of the Socratic Temperament and the Socratic Seminar.  Students learn this best by watching their teachers live it.

The Socratic Teacher is in touch with her own ignorance.
Socrates said that the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing.  The Socratic Teacher sees her students as teachers and embraces learning from them.  She knows that it is possible for the students to be wise in unexpected ways.  This realization makes it easy for the Socratic Teacher to treat all students as sources of understanding, who have the power to teach the teacher. 

The Socratic Teacher models the joy of hard work in the quest for knowledge.
The Socratic Teacher sees knowledge as a great treasure.  She experiences true satisfaction in working hard to gain knowledge.  Thus, the Socratic Teacher takes opportunities to demonstrate and communicate the value of hard work to her students and the joy that can be found in the work of learning.

The Socratic Teacher experiences deep curiosity and the desire for self-improvement.
It is impossible to value knowledge so greatly yet remain indifferent.  The Socratic Teacher is deeply curious and always desires to improve her understanding. The development of understanding is seen as essential to self-improvement.  The Socratic Teacher creates opportunities to model a deep curiosity and passionate desire for self-improvement for her students.

Knowing this, I try to make small shifts every day to empower students as learners.  Designing, facilitating, and coaching Socratic Seminars is when I feel most connected to my Socratic Temperament.  As I live the teaching life with a Socratic Temperament, I know that when the students engage in Socratic Seminars I can step back and observe, assess, and reflect on their powerful learning.  The results are amazing for my students and for myself.  I encourage you to embrace your own Socratic Temperament!

Q1. How can (or how do) Socratic Seminars support high levels of student learning and engagement?
Q2. What can Socratic Seminars do for your classroom culture?
Q3. How can Socratic Seminars shift the power of learning to our students?
Q4. How does the Socratic Temperament align with your learning or teaching style?
Q5. In what other ways can the Socratic Temperament influence student learning?

Join the Twitter chat - Tuesday, March 7th at 8:30 p.m.
Chris Job
Instructional Coach at Murphy Elementary


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

BPS German

A.  Bismarck Public Schools German Club students were out in the community working with senior citizens in Bismarck, helping make theirs a happier 
Valentine´s Day!  

(Click on above link for video)

Mary Ann Crow, BPS German Club Advisor

Former student Brendan returned from an overseas tour in Iraq to join us!

 Brendan visits about his exploits in Iraq with a fellow veteran.

German Club Members Chandler and Seth (standing on the left), serve rootbeer floats to the senior citizens at their table.

 B.  German I students were tasked with writing a weather report to present to their classmates using vocabulary learned for our Weather Unit.  LHS students Owen and Keaton utilized weVideo to create a great presentation for their class. Maybe they'll be future newscasters? 
Wetter Report

C.    Facebook 
German Consulate General of Chicago to feature Bismarck High School German Club Facebook page and Bismarck Public Schools German classes!

In our district, the focus is on Project-Based Learning – we use the vocabulary that we are learning for a topic, students write their own skits with assistance from teacher when they need it, they work in pairs or small groups. 
 Nurse Bri (left) checks vitals on Patient Bre.

Health Unit Doctor/Patient Skit
Here are two German II students at work using the vocabulary for their Health Unit.  They write their own skit using their own ideas, but rather than translate, they write exclusively in German.  The vocabulary is brought to them through video story and through Quizlet.com.  We play games with the words, view and hear flashcards and then brainstorm ideas.  Any words not on our 100 word list were found on www.leo.org to supplement.  Simple sentence writing is encouraged and knowledge of the vocabulary is expected because the goal is to be able to speak and be understood by classmates.  Grammar is discussed while writing occurs.  Students use the teacher for guidance only.    Students enjoy being allowed to be creative and therefore choose to do great work. Students listening to the skit remain actively involved because they are listening for comprehension and are allowed to make notes while listening so they can answer questions raised after the skit is performed. Google Translator is a non-issue because only if students comprehend the skit (with studied vocabulary) do the performers receive a passing grade. Discussion ensues in German as much as possible.  Students are allowed to speak with grammatical errors in their speech, which improves over time.  There is a ‘no fear of mistakes’ policy.  The language comes alive in the classroom in this way.   It is learning by doing, just as they learned English as small children.

Twenty-four German Club students from across the district held an Oktoberfest at Marillac Manor in Bismarck, North Dakota in October 2016.  The people in our area settled here from Germany and many are “Germans from Russia”.  A large percentage of senior citizens in our area grew up speaking only German at home and absolutely love to speak German with today’s

German Club Art Director Kevin dances with a senior citizen at Marillac Manor.

young people.  The dialect is different, but many of my students were raised hearing their parents and grandparents speak it, so there is a real community of German speakers with shared culture in our locale.  Some senior citizens forget their English and one of my students, who studied four years of high school German at Bismarck High School, now works as a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home in Bismarck, is sometimes called in to help soothe dementia patients with stories, songs and jokes in their language. 

Activites Director Kelly (center, in pink top) invites Dakota (to her right) to get cookies and decorating supplies for the senior citizens sitting at his table.

Our German Club returned Sunday, Feb. 9th to Marillac Manor to spend more time with senior citizens; decorating Valentine’s Day cookies with German sayings like “Ich liebe dich” and the like, creating Valentine’s Day cards with sayings such as “Du bist der Zucker in meinem Kaffee”  (You are the sugar in my coffee), etc. and playing trivia with them.  It was a fun-filled afternoon for all of us.

German Students from Bismarck Public Schools at the "Waldsee" 

Several times in the past, German Club has attended Concordia Language Villages near Bemidji, MN.  An entire weekend is spent entirely surrounded by the German language, culture, food, activities, music, movies, etc.  The camp counselors are German-speaking students who attend Concordia College.  Summer courses are available for high school credit. Concordia Language Villages

Germany, June 2015

Outside of school during the summer, overseas travel can make the world a learning environment.  Here is a picture I snapped near the Rhine River in June 2015.  

Our next tour takes place June 7-20, 2017!

Mary Ann Crow, BPS German Club Advisor and BHS/LHS German Teacher
Claudia Schoellkopf, CHS/WMS German Teacher
Pamela Froelich, HMS Intro to German Teacher

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Love Your Library Media Specialist

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Dear Library Crush,

I’ve been trying to draw your attention for a while now.  I want to spend time with you, share experiences with you, and answer the question, “Dewey” belong together?

When I started teaching, more years ago than I care to admit in writing, I had little to no contact with my school’s library media specialist.  I’d smile and nod when I dropped off my students and sometimes make friendly conversation.  Occasionally, she’d ask if she could do anything to help me.  I had no idea what “help” meant (did I have that “I’m drowning” look on my face?) I’d politely say, “not right now, thanks for asking.”  I had no idea what was happening in the library, why it was important, and I didn’t have a clear understanding of the role of the library media specialist in the school.  Fast forward a “few” years, and my professional journey has lead me into the world of library media.  As I look back, I kick myself for not utilizing such an amazing resource, and knowing what I know now, how this partnership could have drastically improved my instruction.  So, I’d like to share with you some tips, so you don’t make the same mistakes:
  • Your library media specialist is eager to connect library/media standards to content standards.  You are not bothering them or inconveniencing them.  Although they may not show it, I get excited emails like, “guess what? The FACS teachers wants to do a project with me!”
  • LMSs can enhance/strengthen any lesson/unit by adding a tech twist.  You may want to try a new technology tool or know that you can do something different, but not sure how.  Your library media specialist can explore options with you, and can be an extra set of hands to help implement new technology.
  • Librarian does not equal books.  Yes, librarians can help pull materials and find sites to support research.  However, in this day and age, finding information is not the biggest obstacle for students. Information comes in many forms from social media, websites, print, and digital. Our world is saturated with information.  It is more valuable to teach students how to evaluate and find reliable sources.
  • Librarians can help plan deep units where students are engaged in critical thinking and creativity.  We can help students develop communication and practice collaboration. Planning is key, and it is important to get your LMS involved early in the project to be most effective.
  • The role of the librarian has changed!  The image of a librarian is traditionally a little old lady with a bun and a cardigan is outdated.  Our work has evolved and roles have changed!
A library media’s role cannot be accomplished alone.  Partnerships with the technology department, administrators, instructional coaches, students and teachers are key.  We are collaborative, and we want partner with you!

In closing, please don’t forget about your library media specialists, like I did in my early teaching days.  We are a wealth of knowledge, pillars of support, and key to improving instruction.


Your Secret LMS Admirer

Friday, February 03, 2017

Inspiring Our Students

How do we engage students?  How do we integrate subjects make to learning contextual and relevant for kids? How can we create positive and flexible learning environments? The answers may seem simple, but the implementation is much more difficult and takes time! A few areas that can make a significant difference when considering a highly effective and innovative team PLC include structures created to help the PLC be successful, the classroom environment, and the learning experiences designed by teachers.

Structures: The structures put in place can make a huge difference in the way the team PLC is able to meet the needs of all students with effective instructional practices.  Blocking core classes together allows more flexibility to implement effective PBLs. Moving through the day with no bells, creates an environment for students and teachers to use time creatively and more efficiently. Additionally, specialists pushing into the team area and the classroom allows for students to receive services without missing instructional time in the classroom with peers.

Now, let's hear from the students and teachers from team Inspire at HMS on what makes a highly effective and innovative team PLC!

When teachers were asked, "How do you create a positive learning environment for students?" They said the following:
- Care about the students personally.
- Build relationships with kids.
- Belief that we are all responsible for all kids - they are our kids.
- Provide effective interventions - all students get what they need (focus groups).
- Practice mindfulness.
- Offer students flexible seating options.

Students were then asked "How do your teachers created a positive learning environment? This is what they said: 
- The teachers have positive attitudes and are nice.
- They try to make it better if you do something wrong rather than us getting in trouble.
- Teachers make time for students.
- Teachers use humor.
- Flexible seating and choice of where to sit is important.
- Teachers let us do fun, hands-on stuff.
- Teachers creatively help students learn.
- Teachers create fun team activities and us give choices.

Teachers were also asked "how do you engage your students in learning experiences?" This is what they said:
hands-on activities
- Use humor.
- Provide lots of movement.
- Give kids leadership and collaboration opportunities.
- Offer students voice and choice in activities and PBLs.
- Work to connect the standards and topics in different subjects and create authentic PBLs.
- Engage in professional learning - book study on differentiation, learning around flexibly seating,        assessment academy, etc.
- Make intentional connections between the subjects.

Students were asked, "What has engaged you in your learning this year?" These are some of the responses:
- Hands-on activities.
- Videos to help me learn visually.
- Opportunities to choose to work individually or with a group.
- Flexible seating options given by all the teachers.
- Teachers help us learn creatively and connect subjects.

There you have it!  The teachers and students agree on what makes a highly effective and innovative team PLC. For those wanting to move in this direction, just try something and have a growth mindset!!

Tabby Rabenberg