Monday, September 28, 2009

UDL and the Start of School

School began one month ago. This was the start of my 25th year of school. And still I am surprised by the students. Really I am not so surprised by the students but by their behavior. You see, by fifth grade, my students have already learned how to play the game. Sit as quietly as possible, don't leave your seat unless you raise your hand and ask permission, do not call out in class, and never, never ask a classmate for answers.

So they come into our classroom and find things are a bit different. Can't sit still? Then stand up. But move to the back so you don't block anyone. Need to get a drink? Wash your hands? Go to the bathroom? Take a break? Then do so. But be sure you are not disrupting other classmates in the process. Have something important to add to the conversation? Go right ahead. But be respectful and don't talk over anyone else. Need help and your table mate seems to know what he is doing? Then ask for help. Check your answers with his. Ask him how he got his answers so you can do it yourself next time.

The two most important rules we teach in our class are to have respect for others and be an active learner, doing whatever you need to do to accomplish that task. This is unusual for children. Not so much the
respect part but respect takes on a whole new meaning when you are making so many decisions. You see, when the teacher says the rules are to sit quietly and respect him/her, then respect is easy. You sit quietly and don't speak unless asked to.

But when you are responsible for your own learning, then respect changes. Maybe you need to come closer to the front of the room during a presentation so you d
on't get distracted. You need to be sure you do so without blocking anyone else or without making a commotion moving chairs. Maybe you need a fidget toy so you can concentrate better while touching an object. Get up quietly and grab a Koosh ball. Just don't toss it up and down or the student next to you gets too distracted. Maybe you need to take notes. Don't wait for the teacher to tell you to do so. Grab paper or your Post-Its and start writing. Or grab a laptop and start typing. But don't be distracting in the process.

By Decem
ber, by November, by October even, our students have learned this. They move about freely, work well together, have conversations with each other, and are respectful - most of the time - of each other. But each September, I have to be reminded that they come to us from classrooms that don't run this way. Decisions are not made by students. Rules are not so easy to follow. And, as much as they love their teachers, their classes, their school, the learning is different here. It takes some getting used to. After all, it's hard to learn to be a learner. And that's what our classroom is all about.

'final exam'
'"It is our choices. . . that+show+what+we+are,++far+more+than+our+abilities."'


jepcke said...

What a wonderful environment for students to learn (and for teachers too!). Congrats on getting off to another great school year. Look forward to reading about what the rest of the year will bring.

Are you an anomaly in your school or are the other 5th grade teachers creating these kinds of learning environments too? How is your type of classroom accepted by the other staff?

Lisa Parisi said...

Thank you. In answer to your question, I can send you back to a blog I wrote in March.

It clearly demonstrates how our ideas are accepted by others in the school environment.

susanvg said...

Great post Lisa - wish all classes had these priorities.

Moturoa said...

A pet hate of mine is when students ask if they can go to the bathroom. I tell them that if they want to go then I would rather they go- do they have to ask when they are at home?

Why do teachers insist on having children ask for the most basic of needs?

Common sense must prevail- surely!

Deven Black said...

Hi Lisa,

Thank you for your blog. It’s good to see that people are still passionate about teaching. I’m glad I found you through Twitter.

Your blog has touched me for many reasons, mostly because what you do with your students is a model and inspiration to me. As a reward, I left you a present on my blog – I’ve nominated you for the Lemonade Stand Award. To accept, you must comply with the following conditions:
- Put the Lemonade logo on your blog or within your post. You can lift it off my blog .
- Nominate at least 10 blogs with great attitude or gratitude.
- Link the nominees within your post.
- Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
- Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

Please accept the award. I can’t wait to see and follow the people you give it to.

John said...

Hi Lisa,

I just came across your blog, and while the description of your classroom is intriguing to say the least, it was your first sentence that impressed me most. It is so refreshing to know that a veteran teacher has so willingly embraced 21st century tools like blogs and uses them to continue to reflect on an obviously successful career. Looking forward to reading more!

Essay Help said...

Fantastic post and wonderful blog, Thanks for yet another insightful post, as always!