What a difference a week makes

Today we started week 2 of UDS.  We were able to navigate through 8 learning blocks with only a couple of quick problem-solving meetings.  The teachers have developed “course offerings” that are announced at the beginning of daily planning time.  Students can sign up for those if they wish.

Today, I offered a review of “How to get all M’s on your report card.”  About 2/3 of the students signed up for one of the sessions.  After reviewing the criteria, one announced, “Wow, I have a lot to do.  I ‘m not going to make anymore non-academic choices.”  They were pretty impressed that by doing a science or social studies research project, they could accomplish reading goals, writing goals, and social studies or science goals all in one fell swoop.  When I pointed out to them that I had not been able to think of ANY topic that would not fit into one of those disciplines, they tried to come up with ideas that wouldn’t qualify.  They tried pencils.  I pointed out that they could investigate how pencils are made or how they have changed over time, and related that to  science.  One student pointed out that it could be considered history, if they looked at change over time.  They immediately began to suggest topics that they might choose:  the Cleveland CAVS (current events), chess (history or strategy), chemistry, video games, solar system, etc…  This is exactly what we are trying to achieve–to stimulate their own interest in learning!  Maybe that idea is beginning to take hold.

We also gave out the progress reports for last week.  Some students immediately tried to recount their learning blocks to show us that our tabulations were incorrect.  No one succeeded in that, but I think they were pretty shocked to see right there in black and white how their learning block choices had broken down between academic and non-academic.  The progress reports need to be taken home, shared with a parent, and returned signed.  It will be interesting to see if choices begin to change even more after those home conversations.

More students definitely chose to work on academics today.  One problem is brewing.  Students choose SSR (sustained silent reading) but then do more chatting than reading.  This is a violation of the rule that what you are doing has to match what you have chosen.  (If you really want to chat, just choose that!) This tells me that they really don’t want to read–but they think they should be choosing that.  Given that they can read anything they choose, this is curious.  It will be interesting to see if students begin to make choices based on what they think they ought to do, but not what they really want to do.  This will quickly backfire though because students who are not on task end up distracting others and that is a PROBLEM!

An interesting development during class meetings is the realization that making a suggestion and opening it for discussion is often more effective than jumping right away to making a motion. Some students now ask the motion-maker if they will amend their motion when they see that a subtle change could solve the problem more effectively.  Much more efficient and cooperative problem solving is happening!

Our aide teachers, who are only in the classroom a few times a week, are also noticing the difference.  I asked one how she thought things were going.  She said that last week she really wondered if we were crazy to be doing this, but she was pretty impressed with the improvement in just one week.  She felt students were organized, following procedures, and more engaged in their chosen activities and not bothering others.

Progress feels pretty good!


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