Friday 4ALL: Build Your Community Now

Teaching is a hard, hard job. After a teacher has completed paperwork, planned lessons, taken attendance, greeted parents dropping off their children, made phone calls, sent book orders, put up bulletin boards, updated websites, organized manipulatives… she still has many other responsibilities not specifically cited in her contract. This is why spending the extra time to build community is so important.

Building classroom community is as important as passing out text books and assigning seats, maybe even more important than those processes. A strong classroom community allows a teacher to be able to try cooperative learning structures, creates an atmosphere of success, and often helps in lowering the instances of misbehavior. More can be accomplished when the students have a good relationship with their teachers and each other.

Community building can be accomplished in several ways. First, there needs to be a concerted effort for students and teachers to get to know each other. We tend to work better with those we know as compared to strangers. Ways in which this can be accomplished is through get-to-know-you games and displays that introduce students to their community.

Collaboratively creating classroom norms and procedures is a second way to build your classroom community. Not only will students have a clear understanding of classroom expectations, they will also feel ownership in how the class operates. This can be done at the beginning of the year with the understanding that revisions can be made to fit every situation.

Team building is a close cousin to community building. Whenever we place learners in small groups, it’s best to do something to help them build rapport and teamwork. There are hundreds of team building games all over the internet. Use one every time you divide into teams as an ice-breaker.

Whatever you do this school year, remember that building a strong community will make your job easier in the long-run. It’s never too late to build community, but it gets harder as the year goes by. So, do something today to build your classroom community!

What do you do to insure a strong classroom community? What have you done today to build classroom community?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Friday 4ALL: What is Cognitive Coaching?

Over the past month the Networked Teaching & Learning blog has published a handful of posts referencing Cognitive CoachingSM. Some of you might be wondering what Cognitive CoachingSM is and why eMINTS is talking about it.

The Center for Cognitive CoachingSM defines Cognitive CoachingSM as a “research-based model that capitalizes upon and enhances teachers’ cognitive processes with a mission to produce self-directed individuals.” They further explain that self-directed individuals know how to self-monitor, self-modify, and self manage independently and as members of a community. They offer the metaphor of Cognitive CoachingSM is like a stagecoach not a baseball coach. Coaching is a way to get from here to there but not someone that knows what is best and tells you what to do. Coaching helps an individual go from where they are to where they want to be.  As a coach, you help your coachee plan, reflect, and problem resolve.  A coach supports thinking and empower’s a coachee.

So why is eMINTS interested in Cognitive CoachingSM…. What we believe is that coaching makes perfect sense as a tool for those affiliated with eMINTS to achieve what we have identified as outcomes for eMINTS classrooms. Cognitive CoachingSM is yet another tool that can serve as scaffolding for our staff, facilitators, teachers, and students in a hope to help them become self-directed, resourceful, and life-long learners. eMINTS and The Center for Cognitive CoachingSM both value supporting instructional change, purposeful lesson design, enhanced thinking, and building a community of learners.

The Cognitive Coaching Foundation Seminar®is an eight-day professional development opportunity for instructional coaches, administrators, teachers, mentors, professors, supervisors, eMINTS PD4ETS program participants, certified Educational Technology Specialists and anyone who wants to encourage self-directedness of others. Participants will learn strategies to increase others’ thinking potential and mediate thinking when working with someone who is planning, reflecting or struggling with a problem.

Check out the eMINTS website events page for information on attending if you are interested improving your skills as a coach and mediator of thinking and plan on attending the Cognitive CoachingSM Foundations Seminar hosted by The eMINTS National Center. The seminar consists of 8 days of high quality professional development focused on learning communication tools and conversation structures you can use as a coach to support others thinking. We will be starting the next round of trainings in early September. Get signed up now to reserve your seat.

Carmen Marty, Terri Brines, & Brooke Higgins are eMINTS Instructional Specialists and Cognitive Coaching/eMINTS Agency Trainers. For more information about Cognitive Coaching and upcoming related seminars visit the eMINTS National Center events page.

arbyreed (Photographer). (2007). Stagecoach Wheel. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/19779889@N00/2785101089/ - used with permission under the Creative Commons license.

Tuesday’s Tool: Classroom Architect

As the year winds down, many teachers are already thinking about next year and planning the space their new community will fill. They may be moving to a new classroom, getting an eMINTS classroom, or just looking into creating a new feel in their current classroom. Classroom Architect might be the tool to help create a new classroom environment.

The Classroom Architect tool from 4Teachers.org offers a simple interface to help teachers create an online floor plan of their classroom.  Before beginning, measure the room and take inventory of the items you would like to arrange. Then visit the Classroom Architect site, plug in the dimensions, and start dragging and dropping items on the grid. Additional items and labels can be added using the draw feature.  When it’s finished, print the diagram and start moving furniture.

Get students in on the planning and teach measurement, map scale, grids, along with 21st Century Skills in Learning and Innovation or Life and Career Skills areas, and technology standards such as having students use technology tools to use critical thinking skills to solve problems and make informed decisions.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog. A big “thank you” goes out to Diane McCormack, a PD4ETS Graduate and Instructional Technology Facilitator with the Affton Public Schools, for sharing this great resource.