Developing Confident and Independent Learners – Using Digital Tools and More

I’ve been blessed to be part of a blogging group, the #SunChatBloggers, led by the motivating and talented @MsVenturino. We’ve given ourselves a challenge . . . write a blog post about your “Top 5”, with the topic left purposefully open-ended. While choosing my specific topic, I reflected on what’s important to me as a sixth grade teacher. My students are still in primary school, but next year they will move to junior high. My overarching goal for them is to become confident, independent learners. So what are my Top 5 go-tos for helping them get there?  Let’s see . . .

#GoogleClassroom
We are a GAFE school and I’ve used Google Classroom for two years now. It’s a hub of learning and communication all in one place. Students hone their independence skills as they read announcements, navigate task instructions, submit work, check grades, and communicate with myself and their peers. Students can access it in class, during after school tutoring, and even when they miss school. Confidence is gained as students create using docs, slides, and drawings. GC has been a game changer. I love Google Classroom! Take a look at our feed.

#HyperDocs
A perfect pairing with Google Classroom are hyperdocs. During the summer, I read The Hyperdoc Handbook and was hooked immediately. The concept of hyperdocs is presenting a lesson or unit in a digital package. Students interact with text, images, videos, and even collaboration tools via hyperlinks. The teacher designs digital and face to face interactions with peers and content. The outcome is amazing! Learning is in the hands of students creating both independent and confident learners. If you’re interested, the @EdTechTeam has classes that teach the mindset, creation, and implementation of hyperdocs. I’m currently in cohort 4. I love hyperdocs! Take a look at our PokemonGo and Unity Day hyperdocs.

#StationRotation
One of my #EduHeros is @Catlin_Tucker. She was a guest speaker at our local tech conference, #TechDeMayo. Her presentation and blended learning book helped me take the plunge into technology and creating a learning environment that engaged students both face to face and digitally. My class and I implement Station Rotation every Monday as a launch into our week. We have 4 stations. One is a “100 Word Challenge” created on a Google slide, another is reading a close reading passage for the first time, another is collaborative research, and the fourth is a discussion station with me. Both independence and confidence are gained as students work both independently and collaboratively. I love Station Rotation! Take a look at a schedule and planner.

#CelebrateMonday
Another #EduHero is @SMGaillard. His grassroots movement, #CelebrateMonday, spreads positivity throughout schools and Twitter worldwide. This year, our class has a #CelebrateMonday shoutout box. During the week, students write shoutouts to classmates and place them in the box. On Monday, a student reads the shoutouts to the class. We clap, congratulate, and celebrate each shoutout. The confidence that comes from this simple act of acknowledgement has been phenomenal. Personal relationships, growth mindset skills, and finding a voice are gaining momentum as the year is progressing. I love #CelebrateMonday! Take a look at our box.

#FlexibleSeating
Sixth grade is transition year for students. Personal relationships are becoming more important, content is getting more challenging, and self-identity is at the forefront of our student’s minds. Flexible seating has been an answer. In our classroom, students are free to choose where they sit and who they sit with, as long they can be successful. During the day, depending on the lesson, students may be working on stools, on the rug, at our wooden table either alone, or even outside with a friend, in a group, or with me. This flexibility leads to both confidence and independence as students make choices within the learning environment. I love flexible seating! Take a look at a blog I wrote.

The structures within our classrooms have a huge impact on our students and their learning. If we’re intentional, we can create classrooms that foster both independence and confidence. It is with joy and awe that I watch my sixth graders prepare for junior high. As educators and parents, we raise our children to go off into the world both independent and confident.

It’s an honor to play even a small part in the journey.

Mrs. McAlister . . .  

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