Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites (Chapters 1 + 2)

I am really excited to read Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate with many of my blogging buddies. To me, this is what a true Professional Learning Community looks like--teachers coming together to "talk shop", learn, and grow. I love that we aren't bound by school districts or geography, thanks to the wonderful world-wide web!  For this session, I am linking up with Elizabeth from Kickin' it in Kindergarten for chapters 1 and 2. 

Wow! This book is so encouraging! I love having the research to back up things that I have felt were Best Practices since day one. I think this will help me move forward in confidence! 

I don't know about you, but there are many times that I feel self-conscious about the volume of my classroom when I am being observed by others. I often feel worried that the observer will think my kids are too loud or off-task... even when they AREN'T! Why do I struggle with this insecurity?  I think it's because our traditional view of classrooms had desks in rows with students sitting quietly, facing forward, and PASSIVELY RECEIVING of information. But this is not how the brain learns best... and this is not what my classroom looks or sounds like!  

I want my students to be ACTIVELY INVOLVED in the learning process. I want to challenge them to think, move, discuss, analyze, and USE the information they are encountering. I will never forget the day that I read the First Great Law of Whole Brain Teaching in Chris Biffle's book... 

The longer we talk, the more students we lose.

This hit me hard! This is exactly true! And yet, how many times do we allow our own words to dominate the entire learning experience? I know I am guilty! Sometimes, it's just easier to talk and lecture through a lesson... but it's definitely not the best way to have an impact on students and increase their comprehension of the skills they are learning. Here are a few of my favorite strategies for getting students to be actively involved in the learning process through brainstorming and discussion.  

Kagan's Cooperative Learning Structures are really helpful for getting all students actively talking in a productive way. LINE UPS (especially VALUE LINE UPS) are one of my favorite structures. You ask students a question or make a statement, then they move around the room based on how much or little they agree with the topic or statement. Students that are near each other in line can talk about why they feel that way. I also like to lead discussion between opposing views with the whole class. I used this a lot when I was a middle school intervention specialist. 

ALPHA BOXES are another one of my favorite ways to get students talking in a productive manner. Students select words from the story that are both interesting and/or important. They can meet as partners or small groups afterwards to compare and contrast the words they selected. It leads to some really great discussions about what words are most important to the text. You can read more about this strategy (and grab a FREE graphic organizer so you can try it!) here

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I am really passionate about incorporating art into my classroom practice. When I began teaching, I worked as a middle school intervention specialist with students that were labeled emotionally disturbed. So many of them struggled in school, but were gifted artists! I wanted to use art as an outlet for them to build their confidence. I love that the research backs this up! 

I have incorporated art into my classroom in so many ways over the years. Here are just a few of my favorites!

Our Black History Month 3D Portraits were a supplemental activity while students worked on their research projects.  You can read more about how we created them here

We have practiced building different types of landforms with Playdough. This drastically increased their test scores over landform vocabulary terms. 

We have also written and illustrated many of our own books, such as this non-fiction book about types of bridges. We wrote this after reading Pop's Bridge by Eve Bunting, researching different bridge structures, and creating our own out of popsicle sticks! 

Let's not forget how much fun art can be for teaching MATH concepts! For this assignment, students created Polygon Creatures and wrote a story about them. They had to include a detailed description of what they creature looked like using math terms. They also had to include specific details about their habitats. I was really impressed with how their stories turned out! 

Art is also a great way to introduce kids to mathematical terms before you teach them the content. We recreated The Scream by Edvard Munch as self-portraits in October... long before I started our unit on geometry in February! Yet, the kids remembered so many of the geometry vocabulary terms that we learned while recreating this drawing: parallel lines, intersecting lines, ray, line segment, horizontal, vertical, plane, points, and more. 

Don't worry, incorporating art into the classroom doesn't have to been overwhelming or complicated! The kids made these simple "contractions" flowers and "compound word" butterflies during centers.

I am looking forward to linking up on Tuesday for chapter 3! 

1 comment

  1. Yup - I need to do that too - talk less so that they can talk more. So easy to say and hard to do. I will make a concerted effort as well!

    Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade


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