I can't believe that this much time has gone by already! We have a great class this year and the school and classroom are slowly settling into a routine. We have had so many activities already that I will just have to pick one and begin.
You may wonder why I place so much emphasis on our Daily Physical Activity time at the beginning of the day. Especially with the glorious weather we have been having, it has been the time for students to stretch their legs and settle their minds before beginning school work, time to connect with us and their friends (lots of walking and talking going on) and there is actually quite a bit of running happening as well. Take a look at September's graph and be prepared to be impressed. Three of our students have joined the cross country team and are eager to hit the trail on Wednesday October 10th over at Sunshine Hills Elementary.
The annual Terry Fox run was held on Sept 25th. All of our students took part. It was a time for every one to reflect on the courage that Terry showed and to join with the entire school to support a cause.
Mrs. Bradley (our school counsellor) taught us about how powerful our thoughts are. She showed us how negative (red) thoughts can be pushed away by positive (green thoughts). We have been practising every since and it really works! Notice our new chairs? Every student has the choice of a regular chair, exercise ball or squishy cushion. The balls help to keep students in "The Zone."
Draw Squad is an online drawing program which was started by Mark Kistler many years ago and is still an all time favourite. We began the program last year and this our class has picked it up very quickly. Student's learn many art terms such as foreshortening, how to shade, and perspective and are able to work at their own pace this year by using individual computers. We end with a "walkabout" where students admire others drawings.
The backbone of our program is the use of Direct Instruction (DI) programs. Direct Instruction programs explicitly teach skills using lecture, demonstration and question answer sessions rather than requiring students to "figure out" what you want them to know. We use SRA Direct Instruction materials to teach spelling, reading decoding and comprehension, novel studies and math skills. Using placement tests, students are placed into groups at their learning level. Groups have no more than four students and many have less. Instruction is fast paced and students learn to stay tuned in to the teacher. Check out the Curriculum Page for more information.
IXL.com math is the latest addition to our classroom tools. It is a web-based program which corresponds to the BC math learning outcomes for each grade. Students each have their own log-in and individually work on a variety of problems for each math strand. This week we worked on place value and writing and naming numbers. I was amazed at the level of focus and commitment students displayed. Look at this week's report. Ask your student to show you the program at home!
Direct Instruction Raises the Bar: Learn more in less time
Imagine a great learning environment. Children are taught at exactly the right level for their abilities. They have a chance to respond to the teacher's questions not once, not twice, not even ten times during a lesson. In fact, they answer ten questions per minute! Their teacher immediately corrects a wrong answer and gives them a chance to try again. Hard work, paying attention and correct answers earn recognition, praise and Palmeropoly spins.
This is the world of Direct Instruction. Learners of all abilities become confident, capable
students through explicit, intensive skill instruction. Students are placed with peers at similar levels with frequent assessment and regrouping so that no one is held back or unnecessarily struggling. Basic skills are emphasized at the beginning. Small steps and review quickly lead to mastery of the material. "When you give students a stronger foundation in learning skills and comprehension, you prepare them for a future without boundaries." (SRA, 2008)
DI presentation techniques for deliverying instruction means active student participation. This equals 100% of the students engaged in learning 100% of the time. There is no 50% pass rate in
Direct Instruction. Mastery for our students is 85% or higher.
Evidence Based Learning
Study after study has shown that Direct Instruction is a highly effective way to teach academic
skills to children. In fact, Project Follow Through, the largest educational research project ever done showed that Direct Instruction was THE BEST METHOD (see DI page).
Learning the Easy Way
Every Direct Instruction program provides students with support, practice and success. The tested teaching method of "I do, we do, you do" is followed. Curriculum, presentation and responding is consistent from math to spelling to reading. This means that students can focus on learning rather than trying to guess what is coming next. Language is clear and concise. The teacher models skills and steps to ensure understanding and guided practice firms the learning.
Quality teaching is ensured through scripted presentations. Examples are presented quickly with standardized wording. Corrections are efficient and consistent. Learning time is maximized through teacher preparation and quick pacing which increases the content covered and decreases
behaviour problems. Teacher signals are used to coordinate group responses and provide visual or auditory cues to prepare students. Students with the greatest needs are taught in the smallest groups.
No Guess Work Involved
Groups are formed after a placement test is administered. Unlike Goldilocks, we don't have to keep trying to find a "just right" group. We know from the start. Groups are not static either because students learn at different speeds.
Students don't have to guess whether they have answered correctly. When they are right, they hear "Well done!", "Right on!", "You've got it!". Motivation is kept high and corrections are made without judgement.
More Than One "Teacher"
Our Educational Assistants are skilled practitioners and equal partners in the teaching process. Actually, the students are excellent leaders as well and the best reward for a job well done is to be put in charge of an exercise. They love the responsibility and we enjoy the opportunity to become students. It's really hard work. In fact on Friday, Alexia and Jordan independently finished an entire lesson in Spelling after I was called away. They took turns being teacher and student, cooperated with each other and were completely successful.
Visit the Direct Instruction page to review the programs we are using and links to research and more information. Even better, stop by the class sometime to see us in action!
Here's a small taste. Nick and Nicholas really wanted to demonstrate their abilities for the class. They were so proud of mastering a very difficult concept (identifying verbs in sentence formation). Their concentration is apparent!