We made it through the first quarter! The first quarter is usually a break-in period where the kids get used to the format of the class. They learn how to manage their time and responsibilities. It's new for them to have so much freedom as well as responsibility.
In the second quarter, I take things to the next level. We should have a good handle on what to do, so now we focus on mastering time management. We will learn a lot of new material, while we become experts at handling due dates.
Through our Social Studies and Science units, we're working on reading and writing, as well as how to find and discern important infortmation. In our Writing lessons, we'll work on honing our narrative writing skills. Reading continues to be where we practice the skills to make us better readers through group book studies. Math has us finishing up division before moving into fractions. Good times!
I'm enjoying the year and getting to know the kids! I look forward to this next quarter to see what they can do!
A New School Year!
A new year! A new outlook!
What a short summer! Can't believe it's over already. I love summer. For many reasons, summer is a favorite. First, I'm not working. At least, I'm not at a school working. I become a full-time dad - the taxi driver, entertainer, cook, maid, more cooking, more maiding, yard man, etc. I actually work harder during the summer, but it's less pressure. Secondly, I like summer because it means some beach time somewhere. I love the water. Something about it relaxes me. The mountains are great too and I'd love to be there, but the beach outranks it a little.
Thirdly, and most important to me, I get more time with my family. Not sure I can overstate how great this is. It's the best perk of being a teacher. The window is closing for having this time because as the kids get older, I don't think they'll enjoy the time with us quite as much. I hope their memories of summer with us stay with them for ever. I hope they stay with me forever.
As the new school year begins, there are a few things you should know. (I'm guessing you're reading this because your child is in my class.) This class is different from most. I don't like to do a lot of lecturing, I think it's counter-productive to learning. I prefer to introduce topics and have discussions. The class is set up as a discovery class. Resources are provided and I will guide the students through the discovery of information. We will make connections when we discuss and discern how topics relate. In Social Studies, we will make connections to how we're impacted today. In Science, we'll discuss how the topic is seen in our world around us.
The kids will work through projects to find information. I will give them choices on how they will present their discoveries. They will have control over their grades - they make the decisions on what they want to accomplish. I'll give rubrics and expextations so they understand what they need to do to accomplish the goals they set.
As you may notice, a lot of emphasis is placed on responsibility. I believe in teaching the kids independence and responsibility by giving them opportunities throughout the year to build upon those areas. I don't expect perfection, only that I get their best efforts in all they do.
I will level as much work as I can for them. There will be opportunities to test out of some activities (I'll give opportunities for advanced projects and learning activities), and work will be given on their level in order to advance them without enlarging gaps in education.
The class can be very fun and engaging, but it's based on the effort and behavior of the class. I don't believe in "hand-holding" students and I don't believe in "giving" grades. The kids earn what they get and I find it very exciting to see them grow academically. My goal is to make the class entertaining, challenging, and enlightening.
I want every student challenged. I want them to hit a ceiling, so we can teach them how to overcome the obstacles. If they're never challenged, they'll never learn how to cope with it. Some kids need to learn how to learn and we should do that now, in 5th grade, before it gets more difficult.
I look forward to a great year where your child will be pushed academically, but will enjoy the learning environment while they grow in their levels of responsibility and independence!
A new year! A new outlook!
It shocks me when I think about how similar schools are now to those when we were young. Even more shocking, Little House on the Prairie episodes showing their little wooden schoolhouse seems very familiar to schools today. Should it?
I'm the first to admit I like a very quiet, orderly atmosphere in the classroom. I love quiet. However, my idea of how a school should be set up is somewhat different.
My ideal set up would have the kids come in and check their mailbox. In there, they would find any materials/information they need for the day along with the expectations for what should be accomplished.
It may seem like an office environement and that's really what I'm after. I want an advertising firm type feel. I want it bustling with ingenuity, I want it quiet for those who need quiet in their space, I want it energetic, I want it fun, I want doughnuts! Bottomline - I want a place that kids get energized to come to, to create, to push themselves, to learn. That's a perfect world for me.
Real world says we have to have testing, so we have to find a place for that. Reality also is that some kids can't form the boundary between learning fun and just fun. Some kids don't want to push themselves. Some adults too, I guess. I believe that if we created a place that didn't look like school on the inside and felt like a hip learning factory, we'd see our kids start becoming more creative and more in charge of their learning.
How do we create this? Better question, how do we create that and still appease the teachers, administrators, and parents who believe school has to look like old-school school?
Food for thought....enjoy your day and stay warm!
First Quarter in the Books!
Well, it's been a while since I've updated a blog post. Since this is the beginning of the second quarter, I figure it's a nice segue to the next post.
This is my eleventh year teaching. All in 5th grade. I've taught approximately 286 kids in my classes. Not to mention, those that I've tutored outside the classroom, or worked with while coaching. That's a decent amount of kids.
One thing I've noticed in working with kids is that some will do anything to keep from thinking. They will expend so much energy avoiding deep thinking that it seems it would be easier just to invest that time and energy into thinking through the issue.
Why is this? Is it that this generation is so connected? Is it that there is always something vying for their attention? Is it that there is near constant stimulus?
I think we must consider that if our kids are constantly being entertained, it becomes more difficult for them to entertain themselves. In order to master anything, it must be practiced. If they never practice using their imagination, that skill will diminish. Same with critical-thinking and independence.
This issue comes up at my own home. My young kids are always watching movies, playing video games, or playing apps on the iPad. I don't see them engaging in "make believe" play too often. It worries me, but then I see them creating things on Minecraft way beyond the Lego creations I developed as a kid. I see them make movies on the iPad that are creative, so I think that there is still some creativity in there.
The issue that I see as being the most harmful is the constant connection to each other. The Instagram, Facebook, texting, all keeping the kids almost too involved with each other. I don't know if there is any "down" time from these activities.
Video games also have the same problem. If they're constantly playing games on a console, handheld, or phone, when do they think? I'm a gamer myself and I can argue that video games help to develop problem-solving skills. However, I am also the first to tell you that not all games facilitate this skill development.
What's a parent to do? I struggle with this on a daily basis. I don't want my kids constantly zombie-like. The entertainment factor is great, but it should be in moderation. I need to do a better job on enforcing that moderation. I like the playing of Minecraft because they are creating, or making fun movies, or even playing the Kinect games where they're actively jumping and moving. I don't like it being all day. To think I have a role in pushing my kids to a braindead existance bothers me. I need to foster a culture of independent thought in my home through creativity, hard work, conversation, and entertainment.
In my classroom, critical-thinking is a must. My assignments are desgined for it, yet kids constantly give me work that clearly shows they're not thinking. How do I fix this? Good question.
I don't know if I have an answer. At least not a viable one yet. I try to foster the environment I want in my home. I give them activities bent towards the creative side, I encourage and push for hard work, we engage in conversation, and I entertain them with thought provoking lessons. Yet, I still have those that won't think.
I think it boils down to this: it's their move. They have to want to. They have to come to the understanding that life is better when you think. I'm not sure how to lead them to this understanding, but I hope I figure it out soon. I, myself, have been thinking and thinking and thinking on this issue for quite a while.
I'm open to suggestions....
How do we get our kids to think?
Open House gives you a chance to meet me and get any questions you have about my class answered.
My class is much different than traditional classrooms. I run a project-based, technology-infused classroom. Why? Engagement. Kids are surrounded by technology throughout their lives outside of school. I feel it's time they're surrounded by it inside school too. They're more engaged when working with technology, which translates into more work completion and better learning.
Why the project-based? Research shows that kids who "buy-in" with their learning retain more and have better understanding. With projects, we give kids choice of order and they have choice over how they research. I guide them through the process and help lead them through the steps of discerning what's important. It works and we're working on building their self-confidence, along with critical thinking skills and independence level. In that regard, all projects are completed at school only. Not at home. If a child is working on a project at home, something is wrong. Please let me know.
Is homework a waste of time? At least in elementary school, it may be. Research says it does little, if anything, to help kids learn. Through personal research, it is shown to frustrate and exhaust kids and parents. However, some parents want the homework given. I'm establishing activities that children can complete to enhance their studies. The activities are optional.
Here's a presentation from Open House. It's lacking some details, feel free to ask so I can fill in the blanks if you miss the Open House meeting.
Webcams will be active soon. The link is on our class website. I'll send out the password soon so it's not displayed on the internet here.
Sign up for our class text reminder system. Here are the instructions (click for larger version):
Click here for information from our ASP.
Click here for information on the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl.
Click here for Rock Eagle trip informaion.
Please let me know if you have any concerns or questions.
Welcome to my class! If you're new to my class for the 2014-2015 school year, please complete the survey below before the first day of school. I'll have it avaulable at Meet and Greet if you're not able to complete it before.
Noooooooooo! I can't believe Summer is over. It flew by, but I thought it was a great summer. I'm already looking forward to the next one!
This is an exciting and stressful time of year for many. We're excited about the newness of the year, the possibilities that are out there. We're also stressed that it may not live up to our positive expectations. The good news is that much of it is in our own hands. We determine our outlook, our perception. If we're positive, chances are that we'll have positive outcomes.
Please check out the website if you're a new student or parent to my classroom. I like feedback. If there's something that's not obvious, ask. I want the site to be user-friendly, so please help me with the feedback.
My classroom is very different from traditional classrooms, please feel free to ask questions. I believe that communication can save us all a lot of worries.
I look forward to meeting you all at "Meet and Greet," then telling you all about our classroom at Open House.
This is it!
Can't believe the year is over. Maybe it was all the snow days, but the year seems to have flown by.
I remember how the kids were so overwhelmed back in August. They've grown quite a bit since. I hope you (parents) see the same growth in maturity and responsibility that I see. It should pay dividends next year. When you hear other parents talk about the struggles adjusting, hopefully you can smile knowing your student has adjusted well. They know how to manage their time and resources, or at least they should. :)
Thanks to all of the parents for a smooth year. I appreciate the buy-in to a new way of educating your children. I truly put all I can into making it a worthwhile year. It takes us all to make it successful and I feel as if it's a successful year.
In keeping with the technology theme of the year, I've put together a short video I made for the kids. I'm not sure what impression I leave with the kids. Is it techno-nerd, is it project-crazed teacher, is it the silence loving teacher, or the cartoon version? Whatever it is, my cartoon version takes a turn in my sendoff video.
Thanks again for the support. I ask one thing as we end the year. Please don't call me "Mr. Brazile" when you see me. I understand during the year, because that's how your child refers to me, but I'm much more informal. "Shane" is preferred. If you have another name in mind, I may avoid you. :) (Should I be worried that a grown man has two smiley faces in his email?)
I look forward to hearing great things about your kids.
Finally made it through the CRCT! The kids seem confident and I hope they all gave their best effort. We should have results by May 16.
Unfortunately for them, school is not over now. We’ll still keep working hard. We’ll still work on Reading and finish up our “group books” soon. Math, we’ll continue to work on our 5th grade skills and I’ll introduce some 6th grade skills also. We’ll only test on the 5th grade skills though. (Every Friday still.)
In Social Studies and Science, I’m having them make instructional videos for a standard from our year. I’ve given them hard copies of the instructions and should have them on our website tomorrow. After those, we’ll work on 6th grade preview work.
Spelling will continue as usual.
Today, Progress Reports go home. Hopefully, everyone is checking online periodically so there are no surprises. Some still have work missing. I’ll take the work still (with a point penalty unless it was a digital issue and not a laziness issue). I’ve been trying to round it up from them for a while and encourage responsibility. It may take a nudge from the parents now. I know they’re checking out more and more the closer we get to June, but we’re still at work. Please sign the progress report and send back in tomorrow.
Several kids said they lost the permission slips (or blamed you guys), so click: Bowling Permission Form.
And there was confusion about the Better World Books form that went home. Better World Books will have a presentation Friday. They are filming and taking pictures for later promotional material. Any child present needs a signed release form. If they need one, click: Better World Books Form.
Next week, it begins! The CRCT has almost arrived. I'm freaking out and stressing out. Trying to put on a sane (for me) face in front of the kids, but I hate this time. We put so much emphasis on this one test. Doesn't make sense, but that's the way it is. They'll be judged on their results, I'll be judged on their results, and the school will be judged on everyone's scores. So much pressure....
Really, though, they're ready. They have the knowledge. We've covered everything and I'm confident in their ability. We need to make sure we do everything to set them up for success. Rest and energy are so important next week. Please, please, please, make sure they're well-rested for their tests next week. I've seen a kid fail solely because the kid was tired. Not the week for the kids to pull an all-nighter.
They'll need sharpened, number 2 pencils for the test which starts Wednesday. No devices at school during CRCT. During the Iowa Testing, we had devices making noises and we can't have that during the CRCT.
The kids will have Reading on Wednesday, followed by Language Arts on Thursday, and Math on Friday. Social Studies and Science will follow on the next Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
I have faith in them and if they need some pumping up, remind them of this: In the first three quarters of school, they've completed 48 tests, 131 projects, 98 classwork assignments, and read 6 novels (~205,000 words). That's substantial and they should be proud of the accomplishment.
I'm providing a link to some articles I was given. I found them interesting. One is long and a little boring, but interesting.
The Overprotected Kid
(The long article) Simply put, we've become so concerned with protecting our kids from everything, they're not learning how to take risks and cope with new situations. It's centered on a non-typical playground.
Don't Help Your Kids with Their Homework
This title is a little misleading. It hits on the fact that helping them with homework doesn't always help. Its main idea is looking at research showing how parents can truly help their kids to be more successful - talk to them, read to young kids, and discuss success.
Should I Stop Assigning Homework
This one is for educators mainly, but I thought all parents would find it interesting. Research shows homework helps very little before middle school, and then it's only slightly helpful. Bookmark this article for next year! I don't think they've read this at the middle school level...
I ask that you all encourage your child about the CRCT, making sure they know you have confidence in them. Remind them to use their time wisely and double-check their work. And remember - they need lots of rest next week!
Work as usual
Well, Spring Break has come and gone. I hope everyone was able to spend some time with family and relax. I remember my pre-teacher days when I was unable to have a Spring Break. I'm grateful for the extra time with my family.
I've had a vision for my classroom for many years and each new class, I try to bring my vision closer to reality. I saw a documentary once about schools in other countries and it highlighted the ones that were considered "the best." One stood out to me for how routine it was for the kids to be independent and achieve. I like that - excellence as routine. Of course, we can't always achieve excellence, but we can try. The key, I believe, is to make it routine for the kids to give their best effort.
In our classroom, I try to keep the kids in a rhythm and routine so they know their role each day. That part of my vision is just about realized. They know their role and even though there are still some that want to test the boundaries, they know what they're supposed to do.
We have started book clubs where the kids picked books to read. They'll discuss topics within their groups, as well as complete skill assessments.
In Math, we're working on problem solving skills. We'll focus on reviewing strategies we've learned in the past, so we can refine them. There will be days with homework assignments, but everyday, they should spend at least 10 minutes working on IXL. I've asked them to pick a new 5th grade skill to master. As always, we'll have our computation test and a problem solivng test each Friday.
Today, we completed our Classification Unit by taking our unit test. The class average is a 91, so they did very well. From this point forward, we'll start working on experiment process and previewing for 6th once CRCT is completed.
Social Studies has us working on the Government Unit. We'll have our unit test in about a week and 1/2. After the CRCT, we'll work on preview for 6th.
Today, lunch forms for Field Day went home. They're due in next week. If your child lost theirs, they can ask the P.E. teachers for a copy.
We welcomed Jordan into our class yesterday. Class continues to grow and change. As I said earlier, the routine helps. Kids seem to pick up on the routine and everyone knows what should be going on and they're eager to help.
I hope everyone is dealing well with the pollen and continually changing weather. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns (besides pollen and weather, of course).
The end of March is rapidly approaching.
If the end of March is coming, it can only mean something is coming soon - Spring Break (and that test).
Before that though, we have our third quarter report cards going home Wednesday, March 19th. Please sign the Signature Card sent with the report cards and return only the Signature Card. It's my way of showing my boss I gave out all the report cards. This would also be a great time to send in a self-addressed, stamped envelope (two would be best since sometimes the CRCT results do not come in on time). Feel free to use the envelope the report card was in (if it was in one). I'll send home the fourth quarter report card, along with CRCT scores in that envelope. If I don't have an envelope, we'll file them in the office and you can pick them up there.
With my sports teams, I always dread the third quarter because that's when many teams slack off and give the opponent an opportunity to beat them. Same with school. Some kids slack and it can come back to haunt them soon. With sports, the coaches try and keep the team focused on the goal and not let them get too overconfident. I find myself doing the same thing with the kids. We have to stay focused on learning.
Spring Break begins as school lets out on March 28th. We'll resume classes on April 7th. I'm looking forward to some vacation time with my family (Key West!), but I'll have the looming test in the back of my mind.
I always reflect on what we've done, but even more so as the test gets closer. I focused on their math deficiencies early in hopes that they would solidify their foundation in math. I believe in this strategy and it works, but only if the kids continue to stay focused on learning all they can. Some slacked on the morning work, which is a daily math review piece. That's when confusion on topics can creep in. I feel like we're getting a lot of those "creepers" worked out now.
In Reading, I've taken the approach of read alouds to model thinking along with reading skills. The kids have been great with this all year and I'm impressed with their insights. We've assessed many times this year and they've always been on track with their skills. For Reading Comprehension, we've worked many practice pages so they're used to the actual work of showing what they comprehend.
Our Social Studies and Science units are either great or notorious, depending on your perspective. I've seen incredible growth in the kids. Their subject knowledge is good, but their research and technology skills are amazing. Responsibility is a work in progress, but I think we can see the responsibility has grown in each student. Hopefully, if your child has not mastered it yet, we've identified the areas to strengthen before middle school.
We'll finish up the last of the new information for the kids and I'll continue the ongoing review of skills they've learned. We'll take the CRCT tests in about 3 weeks and hopefully master that. After the test, we'll start on skill preparation for sixth grade while continuing to strengthen the skills learned this year. We'll have a little room for the kids to be more creative with their projects after the test. Should be fun.
Please let me know if there's anything you're concerned about.
This time of year stresses me out.
We start looking at testing season. Unfortunately, it also coincides with several other seasons: Spring, vacation season, lacrosse season, soccer season, basketball season, so much...
Our Writing Assessment is Wednesday, March 5. The students will have one hour to brainstorm and write the rough draft. Then they'll break for about 5 minutes and jump back in editing and finalizing their copy.
The drafts will be shipped off and graded by people off of a rubric (the grades are off the rubric, the people are off the street). There's pressure on this, but I don't want you to think this is the ultimate in writing tests. I've seen great writers scored low and poor writers scored high. Take it with a grain of salt. It's a 2 hour glimpse into their writing skill. I do want their best effort on this, with details and great grabbers. It's their opportunity to shine.
We'll be extremely focused academically for the next few weeks. It will be quick and we'll cover quite a bit. We will be ready though for the inevitable and dreaded "test."
I'm always looking for improvement. The website needed a change and this is my attempt at improving it.
As I'm working on the new website, all new units will be posted here (or I'd be doing twice as much work). The old website is still up and will be for quite a while. If you can't find something, drop me a note and I'll point you in the right direction.
I found a great article in Scholastic magazine, "6 Essential Skills to Teach Now." Check it out if you're interested: http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/thinking-skills-learning-styles/6-life-skills-kids-need-future
As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
We are a Peanut Free classroom
Use Remind 101 for our class to receive text reminders and notices. Text @brazile to (224)515-1963.
Archived here (from August to present).
Open House is directly after PTA meeting at 6:30pm on Thursday, August 15th. PowerPoint (in pdf form) presentation below or click here.
Our counselors have updated their blog at the following link address: http://kempelementary.typepad.com/counselor/f-fifth-grade-classroom-guidance-lessons.html
I'll post my latest news in this space so please check back often.