This week I finally started to sprinkle our day with "real" curriculum. We started math rotations which take a ton of practice and explaining. However, I never mind investing heavily upfront because the return on that investment accrues at a practically exponential rate as the year goes on. To be honest, I think everyone was happy to have work to do. I put a list on the board of what I wanted them to do which included journal pages, math boxes, some reading in their online Student Reference Book, and some nine lines multiplication practice that I delivered in pdf format. It amazes me how annotating a pdf is so much different in their mind than the very same thing on paper. I predict in a few days I will be able to have math run itself while I call small groups for instruction.
Our Evernote Reading Response Journals are in full swing. I must say that this idea has turned out to be brilliant. The marriage between the reading journal and Evernote is a perfect one. The kids have been writing writing writing about their reading. Not only has this been highly diagnostic for a number of purposes, it has everyone excited about reading.
I still am trying to figure out the homework component. I have had a number of students come up and show me what they have been working on at home. "Mr Lofgren look at the work I did at home on..." or evidence of them getting on Evernote to write in their reading journals, or some discussions on Edmodo, or blog entries on their websites. It would be ideal to just build that idea up. I want them to go home and be excited to elaborate on the work they did all day in class. I want them to get off the bus and be excited to show their parents what they did that day. I have still not met a kid who is excited to show their parents a worksheet or a spelling list.
One of the coolest things that we have started doing this week is Scratch. Scratch uses a graphical interface to arrange programming blocks which teach programming methodology. There is no code syntax involved so the entry point is very low. Essentially if you can read and follow directions, which is still a challenge for some :) you can get up and running, and create your first program.
This afternoon all we did was Scratch program. Again it is the biggest joy you can imagine to watch a room full of kids explore and share and create. There are few if any "behavior issues" or management tasks that I have to do when the room is running like this. That is what I get out of Scratch. I do plan to introduce some writing and math elements into this technology but not yet. We are still just having fun and getting to know each other and settling in.
We have not used a single sheet of paper yet this year, nor have I taken a grade or given a homework assignment. I do sincerely believe though that these children have learned more in these two weeks compared to any other two school weeks in their life. I don't say that to brag. I say that because the natural state of children to be in is a state of wonder, and if you let them exist in that natural state amazing things start happening.
Try it out.