Education


Sometimes the questions we ask of the learner are more important than the answers. I know this may seem counterintuitive at first, but please allow me to clarify. 

One of the expectations of all learners in Forsyth County is outlined in the FCS Learner Profile as being able to “Utilize Creative and Critical Thinking.” Both of these expectations include skills which are applicable for the learner in the classroom as well as in the workplace and beyond. 

We understand that the learner must be taught how to be a creative and critical thinker and a solution-oriented individual.
One of the ways to develop these skills is through asking questions that cause the learner to think beyond basic recall or rote responses (lower level responses). Instead the learners should be asked questions that require depth of thought and knowledge (higher level responses). A resource you can use is the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy

As you ask your child questions about what he/she is learning, intentionally include questions from the “Analyze, Evaluate and Create” categories. Over time, your child will become more comfortable with these types of questions and should be able to explain his/her thinking about the topic. 

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We realize that we are truly fortunate to live in a community whose primary goal is the same as ours: to create a learning environment that provides atypical experiences for every Colt. 

This is only possible through open and consistent dialogue between home and school.
As we continue to explore ways to partner with home as a support around reading, we wanted to share some easily understood and readily implemented ways you can increase your child’s level of understanding.

You have asked about how to find age appropriate and level appropriate books for your child to read. The following lists provides some ways to access them. Additionally the Public Library System in Forsyth is well aware of the leveling systems like Fountas & Pinnell (F&P) that we use as well as information about the Lexile Levels. So, they would be glad to assist as well. 

This certainly is not an exhaustive list, in fact, one of the best ways to select a book for your child to read is to have your child talk about what interests him/her and provide multiple ways for your child to have access to readings about the topic of interest. (i.e.- magazines, newspaper articles, fiction and non- fictional books, etc.) there are children’s version of some of the more popular magazines such as: Time For Kids, Sports Illustrated For Kids, Weekly Reader, National Geographic For Kids, etc.

You can help your child by reading out loud with them so that they hear:

  • How the reader stops at punctuation, uses voice inflections, 
  • Reads fluently, 
  • You can also have your child tell you three things they learned about what they just read 
  • Ask them to create three questions that can be answered after someone reads the passage, chapter,
    etc. 
  • Have them draw a picture of what they read. (This strategy can also provide insight as to what
    your child actually got from the reading. Lots of specifics shown in their drawing indicate a
    higher likelihood of student understanding, while the reverse might be true. 
  • Let your kids see you reading while they are reading, 
  • Point out careers that require some type of reading to be done that requires strong reading skills,
  • Have your child talk a lot as they are reading so they can hear and often clarify any misread words,
  • Ask your child if what they read makes sense,
  • Have they read or heard anything that matches what they read/learned?
    Notice that the suggestions listed do not include questions like “Who’s the main character? Where did the story take place? What’s the problem in the story?” These are basic questions that give an insight to your reader and knowing these pieces are important, but we must be intentional about asking questions of more
    depth and require the learner to provide answers of more than one word responses,
  • Why did the author write this book?
  • How would you have changed the ending?
  • If you were the character in the story how would you change the setting, and would have the
    problem be the same?
  • How would the solution have changed if you were the main character? If the setting had changed.? The goal is to begin getting readers to make connections and problem solve in a variety of ways.
     

As you can readily see, there are many ways to support your child in reading without requiring that you have read their selections or have a deep level of understanding on your part as to specific reading skills.

As I think about my childhood, I well remember many interactions with my parents that ended with the same response from them…”Not yet.” I usually heard that when I asked things like, “May I have a snack? May I have a pet? May I go to my friend’s house? May I have ice cream? May I have some money?”  Well, you get the point. (Disclaimer- I really did have a great childhood). 

These were all met with the same response from my parents, “Not yet.”  In my young mind I heard this to mean “Not Ever” because the gratification of getting the desired outcome was not immediate; therefore, I treated the delay of “not yet” as if it was a “not ever.” 

As I have become an adult and have had various experiences in my personal and professional life, I have come to appreciate the upside of “not yet.” In retrospect, it is often the best answer I could have gotten. Does it mean it’s what I want to hear? No!!

I have realized that getting the “Not Yet” is often in my best interest so that I can be positioned for the highest levels of success when the answer becomes a “yes, now.” The difficult part of hearing “not yet” is in feeling like I did as a child and misunderstood “not yet” to mean “not ever.” 

As an adult, “not yet” gives me time to continue to grow and develop my knowledge, skills and mindset so than when I hear a “yes, now,” I am able to succeed at a more effective level. 

So, even when it is not what you want to hear, look for the upside of “Not Yet” it doesn’t mean “not ever.”

This is a question that we are constantly trying to answer. It seems that we are currently in a time frame in education when things appear to be off-balance. Balance doesn’t mean that all things are equal all the time. It is defined as “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” How much technology integration should there be? How much writing should there be? Does this assessment reflect the learning that has occurred? Did I teach this standard? The list goes on and on with a common underlying element of balance. How do we determine these ‘correct proportions’?

Have we found it? My answer is, not entirely, but that doesn’t mean we will give up on trying to get there. How are you achieving balance?

It is hard to believe that another school year has ended. All of the thousands of ideas, hopes, possibilities, and dreams for what can happen for learners – children and adult- have come to a close…for this year. But, that’s the great thing about being an educator when, in a few weeks, there’s another opportunity awaiting when we can begin again with new ideas, hopes, possibilities, and dreams.

So, enjoy the “lazy days” of summer to reinvent and envision what can happen for your learners – children and adult.

In the words of a poem I recently read…

DREAM BIG

If there were ever a time to dare,
to make a difference,
to embark on something worth doing,
it is now.
Not for any grand cause, necessarily —
but for something that tugs at your heart
something that’s your dream.

You owe it to yourself
to make your days here count.
Have fun.
Dig deep.
Stretch.

Dream big.

Know, though, that things worth doing
seldom come easy.
There will be good days.
And there will be bad days.
There will be days when you want to turn around,
pack it up,
and call it quits.
Those times tell you
that you are pushing yourself,
that you are not afraid to learn by trying.

Persist.

Because with an idea,
determination,
and the right tools,
you can do great things.
Let your instincts,
your intellect,
and your heart
guide you.

Trust.

Believe in the incredible power of the human mind.
Of doing something that makes a difference.
Of working hard.
Of laughing and hoping.
Of lazy afternoons.
Of lasting friends.
Of all the things that will cross your path this year.

The start of something new
brings the hope of something great.
Anything is possible.
There is only you.
And you will only pass this way once.
Do it right.

(Author unknown)

We say it every year, and we mean it every year. Time flies! I haven’t yet decided if it’s a result of getting older or just a condition of the human existence that days seem to go by at an alarming rate. We have so much to do! No less is the case with this school year. It is hard to believe that another school year is coming to a close, but it is. Each school year begins with lots of hopes and ideas of doing things differently…teaching that lesson that we did not get to the year before…adding that project that just seemed to be on the ‘I’ll do it later” list.

Whatever the idea, let’s not forget one thing…it’s the DO-ing that is important. Having the great ideas is the first step to DO-ing differently, and is often a step that many educators find rejuvenating and exciting, but time flies and we often fail to DO. As this year comes to an end, let’s not only think about what we could do differently but resolve ourselves to actually DO things differently.

The world of education is in constant evolution as we strive to improve the quality of the learning experience for all students. We have our own lingo, and it does not take you long to realize that within the educational world there are lots of ways to say things. We spend lots of our own money on resources aimed at creating a challenging learning environment. We speak of differentiating, increasing the rigor, developing critical thinking skills and using higher-order questions as means to deepening the academic experience for our learners.   We spend countless hours in professional development sessions learning new strategies. In fact, just look at the session agenda of any educational conference where you will find lots of sessions on “How You Can Have a Challenging and Differentiated, Rigorous Classroom Where Critical Thinking Skills are Developed Through Asking Higher Order Questions.” 

Just google the word differentiation and you get no less than 16 millions hits. Wow! With all of this emphasis on what these types of learning environments should be, we often neglect to talk about how things are in getting to these types of classrooms.

Let’s face it. It’s awkward. What do I mean by that? In our best intentions and desires to have a challenging classroom, we do not mention that it creates a time of awkwardness on the part of the teacher and learner. This awkwardness, or sense of being uncomfortable, is created when the learner struggles to achieve at higher levels. This can be seen in the form of students struggling before they answer, being unsure about what to do, students who typically respond with confidence getting things ‘wrong,’ et cetera. In reality, it is this awkwardness that you WANT within your classroom as you are designing an academically challenging class or school. If the instructional level presented by the teacher does not create a sense of dissonance (uncomfortable), then is the instruction at the appropriate level? Instead of this awkwardness causing the teacher and learner to give up, it should be seen as a sign of success and a step toward getting the type of learning environment that matches the learner’s needs.

If struggle indicates strength — an ability to face down the challenges that inevitably occur when you are trying to learn something — you’re more willing to accept it. (MindShift)

So, embrace this uncomfortable feeling as you are intentional about raising the level of instruction in your classroom. It’s a good thing!

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