Moving Staff Meetings

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School is starting!  For some, this is the time they have been waiting for.  For others, what they have been dreading has finally become a reality.

August is prime time for teachers to get their classrooms ready and start to attend district required professional development trainings and staff meetings. These trainings and meetings contain valuable information and necessities to start the school year and keep progressing throughout the year as a staff, a content specialist, grade level expert, and so on.

While teachers may be generally excited to start a new year, the set-up of staff meeting can be dreadful. Long periods of sitting and watching slide after slide of a monotone lecture is an ironic set-up to how the school year should start in classrooms at every level. If students and teachers are to be energized, then they need to be given a chance to feel energized, or they need the opportunity to have their energy fed.

It is easy to spoon feed information via lecture.  It is also relatively risk-free as a presenter.  Most people are able to stand and read or speak.  It can take little effort, but the rewards are limited.  By investing in a few brain breaks, or movement activities involving collegial interactions, staff meetings and trainings can be viewed as more valuable. Plus the information shared has a higher chance of being retained and embraced.

As administrative teams, and teacher leaders, prepare for the back-to-school meetings, I challenge them to thinking of ways to add movement. Below are some simple ways to add a movement or more to a meeting.

  • Instead of sitting and discussing, have teacher find a colleague to share comments with via a standing discussion.
  • Break teachers up into groups in different areas of the room to have them move to a new location for a discussion. This discussion can be a standing or sitting discussion.
  • Rather than showing data via a power point, post the data around the room and have teachers analyze it, or react to it, via a gallery walk.
  • When reviewing information, or formulating an opinion base, teachers can participate in a stand-sit response.  All teachers stand.  As teachers share, they sit (see earlier posts to modify the student version).
  • To break up discussion groups, teacher can participate in a rotating conversation gathering multiple perspectives. See the video on the Teaching Channel (https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/conver-stations-strategy).
  • Take the discussion outside.  In many parts of the country, the weather is gorgeous during the summer months.  Teachers can walk and talk while being outdoors.

The options can be endless, and the rewards can be limitless. Plus, modeling ways to get teachers moving can provide teachers with the inspiration to add more movement to their classrooms.

image: http://missiontosave.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/start-line.jpg

 

 

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Moving with Conver-Stations

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Conver-Stations is a great activity to add movement to classroom discussions.  It works well at elementary, middle, and secondary levels.  Adding movement to classroom discussions adds novelty and gives restless students the chance to move around, control their physical movement needs, and maintain focus.  Establishing routines and expectations prior to moving discussions ensures success and efficiency. Click on the link below for a Teacher Channel description of the strategy.

Conver-Stations

Get Outside and Process

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The importance of processing information is critical if we want students to understand content.  Too frequently we rush through curriculum in order to meet the demands and complexity of the pacing required of stringent scope and sequence models. Rushing is detrimental to the overall development of information.  The more we cram and rush through material, the more students will not understand, and we will need to reteach.  So, it is actually a time-saver, to incorporate processing time.

I recently read a blog post by Bill Ferriter about the overwhelming desire for students to get outside:  http://www.teachingquality.org/content/blogs/bill-ferriter/our-dreams-are-simple-we-want-go-outside

Many teachers tend to be creatures of habit, but the ones that take a risk are often more successful.  Taking a risk can simply be moving beyond the confines of the classroom walls.  In an effort to add processing time to a lesson, a simple action that involves movement is to move students to an outdoor setting.  Posing a question, or a prompt, regarding content prior to moving allows students to process while they move to the new setting.  Adding the physical component of walking to the desired setting while thinking helps activate the neurons in the brain in multiple ways. Walking forces teachers to add processing time that extends beyond seconds. Complex material, intensity of information, and onslaught of ideas require more processing time.  Once students move outdoors, teachers can decide to discuss in pairs, groups, or as a whole group. Or, students can continue move and discuss while walking outdoors.

When the discussion is over, teachers could provide another question or prompt for the return walk to the classroom.  In both cases, students would need to walk without talking to give them the quiet time they need to process.  This would have to be a routine that is taught and expected.

image:http://firepedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/play_outside.jpg

PD Movement

Colleagues in conversation during their break

This past week, I had the opportunity to lead three PD sessions. One focused on reading and movement, so moving during the PD session seemed to be an expectation. The other two were based on differentiation, growth mindset, and educational equity. These sessions didn’t have a movement expectation. They could have easily been delivered as the typical presentation, dominating in lecture with a few moments of group talk. I have attending countless PD sessions that are highly informational that follow the same format. The format works, but when I think about what PD means to me as a presenter, I know that I have to utilize similar strategies that I would use in the classroom to activate the brain and keep people engaged.

This concept can and should be used with adults. Of course, the situation may dictate otherwise, but even small movements can help make connections in the brain. Each time I present a topic that is not a movement topic, and use movement, people in the audience are thankful. This past week, my co-presenter and I made a goal to model differentiation activities during our presentation. Since we were presenting for 6 hours, the level of planning it took to carefully align the information we were presenting with activities took time, but it paid off. Our feedback was positive as attendees appreciated being able to take back strategies they could immediately use in their classrooms (this is a goal I have with every presentation I give).

We used a variety of strategies, but we also planned movement at key moments in our presentation. Often times movement was used during transition periods and before/after intense moments of information. Like students, adults also need to get up and movement. Research looking at the effect of movement and learning ranges from preschool through senior citizens. Positive correlation have been found with every age group. In our presentation, we utilized our own version of the gallery walk (with tasks to complete), standing partner conversations, and group work requiring movement. Since we were talking about differentiation, it seemed fitting to use movement as the use of physical activity is a way to differentiate.

Multiple attendees thanked us for actually teaching what we were presenting rather than being teachers who were presenting. This is a thought that is lingering in my mind as I prepare for upcoming workshops at the AMLE Conference in Ohio and the KDP Convocation in Orlando. I think it is also something that presenters in general need to consider. It is relatively simple to present a bunch of slides, but it takes work to carefully consider how to model the information presented. If anything, it would help to add a little movement.

image:  http://cache2.asset-cache.net/gc/96781378-colleagues-in-conversation-during-their-break-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=PWAfWeY4xZhwLG42is3EeElK2yopIrKs4Ld2KLS2sgk%3D

Taking a Stroll to Discuss

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A simple activity to get students moving is to have them walk around their desks and talk.  This sounds overly simple, but it actually works well as long as you have practiced routines regarding how to move in the classroom  I have my desks arranged in groups of three.  I know that I probably send this in a previous post, but I always have my students sit in groups of three during a regular lesson.  Somewhere I read, or was told, that three was the magic number, and now that I have arranged them in this way for years, I tend to believe it so. Anyway, to do this activity, I pose a question to students they either have to think about or respond to in their writer’s notebooks.  After a few minutes of “power” thinking, I ask that students stand and push their chairs in.   Students are then told to decide who is 1, 2, and 3.  I pick a number and students will speak in that order.  For example, I could pick 2 and the order would be 2, 3, and then 1.  All student then walk clockwise around the desk grouping they are next to.  As they walk, they talk.  This basically takes a brief group discussion and makes it a group walking discussion.

Photo:  http://cardigansandcurriculum.blogspot.com/2011/09/classroom-changes.html

Sitting Still All Day…..Shouldn’t be the Norm

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I recently read through a number of facebook posts regarding parents who were upset because their elementary school-aged children were being asked to remain seated for a majority of their school day.  In addition, some of these parents were outraged because their children had limited recess opportunities.  I was a bit skeptical.  I’m not an elementary school teacher, and I don’t plan on entertaining that idea.  I have a great deal of respect for those that each elementary. With that said, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that students would be required to remain stationary for long periods of time.

On the other hand, I have heard students and parents say that in the upper elementary school grades, teachers are preparing students for what they perceive a middle school classroom looks like.  While it may be the norm to some classes and teachers, I can’t image staying seated all day, every day in the middle school classroom, so how can elementary school students be asked to do so?

Parents were not necessarily upset by having students sit all day, but they were upset when their children were getting in trouble for not sitting still.  This is where I have a problem with the situation.  People need to move.  Teachers who sit in an inservice all day will find it hard to sit through an hour of a presentation with engaging in some sort of movement, so young children, who have limited attention spans, should have several scheduled moments throughout the day where they get up and move.

The summer is great time for teachers, adults, and the greater community to realize the importance of getting children moving.  When looking at my own children, I understand that I can’t sit them down and tell them not to move for several minutes or hours.  How awful if I actually did so!  Throughout the day they are exploring, entertaining themselves and others through play, running, swimming, laughing, and learning!

If young children are full of vibrant squirrelliness and are getting punished for it, it may be that they simply need more time to get up and move.  If teachers approach behavior in this way, what was once a negative attribute may blossom into something positive.  I am not suggesting that this will be the cure to what needs to be disciplined, but it is worth a shot.

I love my elementary school teachers, and I know they are doing wonderful things in their classrooms.  I also love my friends who have elementary school children.  I know they also appreciate the amazing teachers their children have.  I also know pressure from state standards are mounting and educators are struggling to meet the demands; however, it is important to keep the whole child in mind.  This is especially true for the youngest ones as school should be a great opportunity filled with wonder, excitement, love, joy, and a lust for learning.

Even a little movement is better than no movement!