My mind has been wrestling with planning for quite some time now, since my return to kindergarten. The Common Core is creating opportunities to study standards and rethink our teaching. Part of my wrestle has been with how to become smarter when planning - combine, reduce, and integrate have just become my new favorite guiding words. My district has provided professional development over the years starting with Understanding by Design, followed by formative and summative assessment, incorporating I can statements to empower students and show them where their learning is headed. I've taught first, third grade and kindergarten during this time. I've enjoyed my learning, work, and the process over the years. I believe in all of this, if done right.
However, when I returned to kindergarten and sat through PD time after time with examples from upper elementary, middle, or high school I was frustrated. I was working in my kitchen last night thinking I want to revisit my planning, find excitement again, and see examples from a kindergarten classroom. Kindergarten has many dimensions making this grade level special and unique. Where could I go? Twitter and Grant Wiggins, I thought Yes, Grant Wiggins is actually on twitter and I could send him a message. I did and today as I was leaving school I saw a reply. A kind, helpful reply with just what I am looking for. I love the connections twitter can provide. I love the willingness of others to help and support people. This is just one example why I choose to spend time with twitter and felt happy coming home tonight.
However, the Alleluia portion of this post came from my twitter feed when I saw an answer I've been looking for from @grantwiggins. Today he wrote a post, Mandating the daily posting objectives and other dumb ideas. It's brilliant and answers so many questions and thoughts I've been having lately. I hope everyone will take the time to read this and process what it says. We have to work smarter, advocating for ourselves and our students.
I have been struggling with this for quite some time for many reasons.
1. Kindergarten students have strong verbal skills, they excel in using and understanding oral language.
2. Kindergarten students can understand our learning goals.
3. Kindergarten students can discuss and show the work they are doing as learners.
4. Kindergarten students can't read I can statements even in kid friendly language.
5. Standards are typically not taught in isolation so any activity could possibly have several I can statements or learning targets.
6. Day one of being exposed to a topic or concept doesn't mean I can do it that day. Learning takes time. Education is not a race.
7. Five and six year olds think fast and their minds bounce around. They should. All students should be working on inquiry and application.
8. I heard a group of students repeat an I can statement the other day and thought I was in church. Maybe the act of prayer will get them through this educational craziness.
9. Administrators can't possible walk in right at the moment you are reading or discussing a learning target to collect evidence for the walk through portion of my evaluation.
10. If we want students to discover and uncover learning we can't always tell them the I can ahead of the time. I believe it prohibits inquiry. What if we celebrated after the learning by naming the learning target?
Just this week, I was talking with Clare from Teachers for Teachers about all of this for a bit and my heart beat quickened. "Clare, Clare this didn't start like this." Before my district began working on these ideas my friend from the Ohio Department of Education, Ann Carlson came to our building and did some professional development with us. We learned about I can statements. We learned about creating a communication sheet and titling it, When Done Studying _______, I can ______________. This makes sense. This gives time. This informs students and parents. It gives guidance for learning and helps with planning. It empowers if done right.