In the hit musical Bye Bye Birdie, written in 1963, the adult members of the cast express their exasperation with the teenagers by singing, “Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today.” The opening lyrics portray the youngsters as being inarticulate, disobedient, disorganized, and lazy. As the lyrics develop, the annoyed adults begin to question their thinking, and the final stanza declares, “There’s nothing wrong with kids today.” Does this sound familiar?
In their book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, authors Kristin Souers and Pete Hall examine the “kids today” philosophy that can sometimes be present within schools. Souers and Hall (p. 158) ask the following questions: Have children really changed? Are our kids actually less respectful or more troublesome than we were? What metrics are we using to measure those characteristics?
After much reflection, Souers and Hall (pp.158-159) conclude that students are generally as they have always been, but the world in which they live has changed. Students now frequently face challenges at home that negatively impact their ability to function, and they bring those challenges into the classroom in ways that disrupt the educational environment. We cannot control the environments in which students live and the challenges they represent; however, we can strive diligently to create schools and classrooms that are safe and stable places children need. Let that be your goal as you plan for next week. Your students will benefit greatly!
Larissa Pahomov, author of the book Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry, provides the following guidelines for helping ensure that reflection is meaningful and leads to successful outcomes (114-123):
- Put reflection first. Reflection first involves thinking about the content and establishing goals for the activity or project to be undertaken. This enables students to individualize their learning, even if that learning takes place in a collaborative setting.
- De-emphasize grades. Help students focus on the learning they are undertaking. Provide students with qualitative feedback that focuses on progress toward standards. Give students the opportunity to think about their performance without asking them to grade themselves.
- Integrate student and teacher reflection. Model the reflective process for students. Reflect with students. Give students the opportunity to view their reflections side-by-side with teacher reflections. These types of activities will desegregate the reflection process and yield tremendous growth in both the student and teacher.
- Let reflection accumulate. Incorporate portfolio or journal processes into projects. Encourage students to archive reflective artifacts.
Within a culture of reflection, students have the opportunity to better understand themselves and the content they study. Try to incorporate opportunities for reflection within your classroom projects. You will find that the students engage content in meaningful ways and learn much.
A classroom environment that allows for collaborative grouping produces significant learning gains. Larissa Pahomov, author of the book Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry, identifies the following three qualities of successful student collaboration (pp. 64-68). Successful collaborations are:
- Documented: Successful collaborations require that the contributions of each member be documented. Far too often great ideas come from collaboration and are lost because they were not documented. Assigning a student the role of scribe will help provide a record of the work being done.
- Asynchronous: Successful collaborations require times of group work and times of individual work. Both are critical to the collaborative process.
- Classroom-based: Successful collaborations require face-to-face interaction. As much as we rely on technology to make our lives more efficient, it is not an effective replacement for person-to-person time that leads to creativity and problem solving.
Collaboration requires considerable planning if it is to produce significant results. When you plan for collaborative time in your classroom, keep in mind that students need face-to-face time, time away from each other in the process, and documentation of the contributions made by group members. Your students will benefit from your work and will learn and grown together.