This is the latest in a series of blog posts by partnering cohort members.
By Sharon Liston and Chante Adams
Sharon and Chante
We have been working together for eight years. We started out as co teachers in fourth grade. The following year Chante was hired as our 3rd grade teacher. At this time, she entered the mentor program. For the next four years we worked together as mentor and resident educator. Throughout these years, we became classroom neighbors. Working together always allowed us to discuss ways to make learning more engaging and meaningful. At times it was overwhelming because we felt like we were on an island and really wasn’t sure how to implement the changes we wanted to make. Now eight years later, we feel as though we are learning new ways to use technology in the classroom while giving students a voice. This is thanks to having the opportunity to be part of the Fluency Project.
I was grateful for the work time during our last Fluency meeting. As a teacher, getting extra work time is sometimes impossible. I was excited by the end of the meeting because I had two solid plans for using technology in the classroom. My first Idea came from me posing a question to my students. I had asked them “How do community workers make the world a better place.” The students had to do research to find out about community workers and how they make the world better. Since I teach first grade, I didn’t want to just give my students and IPad and have them go searching on their own. They wouldn’t have been able to read the material plus I don’t think it would be safe for them. Instead, I used QR codes. The QR codes took them to safe books that were read aloud to them or it took them to videos that were safe for them to watch. They had to take notes about their community worker. That little project led us creating community maps. The students were given questions that pertained to their map, such as how many steps would it take to get to the firehouse. They were also asked to find the longest and shortest steps to the park. Everything was calculated then tested with their Bee Bots. My second idea that came from that meeting is using SeeSaw to create a Mother’s Day activity. I have been using SeeSaw in my classroom but really haven’t had any luck with getting parents to review the students work. My idea is to do a Mother’s Day Interview with each student. I will record them and upload it to SeeSaw. I will then send home a cute tag, letting the parents know they have a special message waiting for them on SeeSaw. I’m hoping this will spark an interest with the parents and they will continue to check out their child’s work on SeeSaw.
It has been extremely enlightening taking part in the Fluency Project. One of the things that I am enjoying the most is experiencing this opportunity with so many likeminded people. I do not feel held back or restricted to share ideas. I feel encouraged and supported to try new things even though they might fail. One of the biggest goals that I set for myself this year is to encourage and foster student voice. As a third grade teacher, it can be very difficult to give up control with the amount of standards and expectations that are put on third grade students with the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. However, I am learning how to give my students a voice and integrate it in with their learning standards and expectations. Now we are nearly ¾ of the way through the school year and I am so proud of the progress and growth that my students continue to show. I have allowed my students to share what is important to them, what matters to them, and what makes them who they are. This has opened pathways that I have not had in the past with my students. I truly believe that my students are more invested in their learning than ever before. I attribute this growth to my students finding their voice.
One example of this happened a few days ago. My class and I were having a great discussion about immigrants coming to America. We discussed why these people would want to leave their countries to come to ours. This led to discussions about what America has to offer and what makes America special. The students were given time to turn and talk to one another and have meaningful discussions about their beliefs. As we were sharing, one of my students talked about how cool it would be to take what we were learning about America and teach Kindergarteners about what they learned. I immediately encouraged this idea and so many of my students became excited and in agreement. I am excited for this opportunity to be a student led authentic learning experience. I look forward to watching my students to use their creativity, their passion, and their teamwork skills to research and create special presentations. I have high hopes that this will be a stepping stone in fostering their voice for the future.
Sharon and Chante
As we sit and reflect on our 8 years teaching together, we find that the Fluency Project has become full circle for us. Four simple words have taken on such a deeper meaning. Equity, compassion, authenticity, and agency are guiding us to find the best in ourselves and our students. We feel excitement, courage, and promise for the future of our students and ourselves. We are thankful to take part in such an empowering opportunity and look forward to continuing to grow and evolve with the Fluency Project.