This topic has been a major priority for me this year as I institute what I believe is a 21st Century fifth grade classroom. This is the process I take my kids through:
I have my kids experience learning through my normal teaching and learning methods. Once I feel that the Big Idea or Enduring Understanding is learned, we reflect on it by creating a blog post about it. The first couple blog posts by the students are not all that strong because I just tell them to explain what was hard or easy, what new learning they made, etc. It is fairly general and they get to choose the best way to reflect.
Then, I teach them how to reflect. Here is the lesson on reflection that I created. Once we've learned how to reflect, the blog posts start to get stronger. It is around this time that I realized the importance of providing my students enough time to get these reflections completed. When they are not provided enough time, the reflections are short and shallow.
Just before report cards are sent home, students work in table groups to read through the list of 34 21st Century skills that we are focusing on this year. It is a very complicated list of skills that 5th grade students cannot understand any earlier than this time. Thankfully, my students put in a tremendous effort to read through these and understand them. They used iPads and computers to look up things they didn't understand. Here are pictures from that lesson.
After we understood each section of the 21st Century skills document, students assessed themselves and gave themselves a score from 1 to 10 (but I don't allow 9's or 10's during 1st trimester - they have to aspire to those later in the year). Here is the skills document and self-assessment that we use. This document has become a huge inspiration for us this year and last. Students try hard to improve their scores on it, and I use it to share progress with parents as well. Here is my blog post on 21st Century Assessment.
Next, students create five goals for themselves that they will work on over the next trimester. These goals can be to improve a 21st Century skill, print neater, remember capitals and periods, etc. They get to choose. I tell them that they can choose three of them if they'd like, and I will choose the other two, or they choose all five themselves. I will have to post this document at a later time (I think it's on a classroom hard drive).
Students are given a copy of their goal sheets and asked to tape it to the inside of their desk lids. This way, they will be gently reminded of their goals. In order to make improvement in your goals, I have to agree with your progress, otherwise these goals carry over as we create five new goals for the next trimester. Any goals that carry over come with strict routines or direct instruction lessons in order to help you achieve your goal.
In regards to reflection, I start to give my students more direction during the second trimester in order to improve their writing, their thinking, and their to make everything more visible. I give them specific questions to answer in their blog entries that cause them to reflect, synthesize, and show that they understand the big idea or enduring understanding. I also associate a badge with every blog entry that is done correctly. Every few weeks, I check to see if students have earned any new badges, I then issue them, and the students get to feel rewarded for their efforts. Students also get small perks for earning blog badges within our social studies simulations, adding external motivation for those who need it.
Here is our list of blog badges and the reflection questions and enduring understanding questions that I have written.
Here is the form where students submit their request to earn a blog badge.
Everything is practiced and improved! Goals are focused on, and badges are earned. We celebrate at the end of the year all of our progress and appreciate the process we undertook. :)
1st Trimester Blog Reflections:
(Click on them to make them bigger!)
2nd Trimester Blog Reflections:
Here are 24 brain-based strategies that I use in my classroom. Some might be recommended by the experts and some might not be! You decide!
Our Transformable Classroom:
I feel that motivation is a byproduct of design. Here is how I design my classroom:
Here are some simulations I've created. Simulations allows students to experience their learning, rather than just read about it:
The following are notes I took before and after a #21stedchat discussion:
To start, a great article with 21 ideas for increasing motivation in students: http://edudemic.com/2012/12/21-simple-ways-to-motivate-your-students/
A few inspirations from this evening's chat:
(1) In the coming months, I will be implementing a form of #GeniusHour combined with "Mini Inquiry Projects" combined with Google's "80/20 Principle":
(3) I will try to make more time for "Conferencing with students in order to differentiate."
(4) I will try to get my kids to work on their "Goal-Setting" that we started last trimester.
(5) I will try to include more Paideia or Socratic Seminar.
(6) I will try to include more PBL.
(7) I will try to learn about these Web 2.0 Tools: Bitstrips, Xtranormal, and PowToon.
(8) I will try to have the kids co-create rubrics with me for upcoming assignments.
Upon reflection, these are the ten most important skills/attributes I would want in a new hire today (Elementary School):
Unfortunately, I learned through this evening's chat that my class is not all that global! I worked hard during tonight's #21stedchat to make connections with other 5th grade classrooms around the world, though, so that is about to change!!!
A few of the ways we are currently a global classroom is:
Thanks to this discussion, I have now connected with three classrooms around North America. Hopefully, we can do some fun things with our students!
UPDATE - 1/20/13: I have now connected with over 700 teachers on Twitter, I have 8 Mystery Skypes scheduled and two already completed, and we are set to do a virtual book club with a classroom in another state! I'd say that we are on our way to becoming a global classroom!!!
One way that I differentiate instruction in my 21st Century Classroom is by having Stations or Centers - not a new concept, but re-imagined for the 21st Century 5th Grade Classroom!
(If any of the links below don't work, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will email these out to you. Also, names have been removed to protect student privacy. Also, students have been randomized so they are not in alphabetical order - cool, huh?)
I have developed a 21st Century Report Card that identifies 34 skills that students should develop over the course of the year in my 5th grade classroom. These 34 skills are then broken down into subsequent behaviors that are observable and assessable. (Download it here as a PDF.)
Paul Solarz is a National- Board Certified, 5th grade teacher working hard to be a high-quality 21st Century Educator.