Bright Future Campaign – Week 33 – Closing the Attitude Gap – Chapter 6

Closing the Attitude Gap – Chapter 6
This week we are going to dive into the final chapter of “Closing the Attitude Gap”  titled, Relevance in Instruction, Do I Realize Who My Students Are?
Before beginning Chapter 6, look into a mirror and ask yourself the following questions about your students:

Do I realize who my students are?
Do my students realize who they are?
Do I think it’s important for my students to learn “their story”?
Do my students think it’s important to learn “their story”?
Do I have responsibility to teach my students “their story”?
Do my students have a responsibility to learn “their story”?
Do my lessons take “their story” into consideration?
Do my students identify with and relate to what I teach them?
Will knowing “their story” affect the way my students see themselves?
Will knowing “their story” affect the way I see my students?
One of the many things I have learned from listening to and speaking with Principal Kafele is that I am personally disconnected from the history many of our students have been raised in. Specifically, he shares experiences travelling from city to city and stopping at historical sites such as the Edmund PettusBridge in Selma, Alabama and Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Do you know what historical events happened at each location?
In learning about both of these events, you are developing a deeper understanding of some of our students’ story. With these two specific examples, and sharing other examples relevant to our students, they begin to view themselves differently and see themselves as a descendant of greatness, which compels them to see themselves in a positive light.
Many of our students, majority or minority do not know themselves fully because they do not know their history. Couple this with the fact that a large percentage of educators do not know their students’ history (myself included) and you have a recipe for disaster in the classroom (Howard, 2006).
Regardless of the number of professional development hours a teacher accumulates, students will not begin to truly soar until they can answer the question, “Who Am I?” Principal Kafele shares his belief that, “the academic problems associated with minority students have little to do with their ability to read, write or do math. It is my contention that these children are brilliant and most highly capable, just like anyone else. I am convinced that when give the opportunity to learn in learning environments that are conducive to them having the will to strive for excellence, they will do just that.”
In Principal Kafele’s book, Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School and in Life, in 2009 he focuses on black males and their struggle to answer the question “Who Am I?”  relative to their history and culture. Knowing who they are in history increases the probability that students will develop a deeper sense of purpose for their lives; it gives their existence in the world greater meaning whey they know about those who struggled so that they could have the opportunities that they have now.
It’s difficult for students to answer the question “Who Am I?” if his teacher is not in a position to answer the related question “Do I realize who my students are?” Tens of thousands of educators across the country  do not realize who black and Latino children are historically , because we, just like the students were not adequately educated about their history. (Singleton & Linton 2006)
Realizing Who Your Students Are
Every student at Sigler has a story. Do you know the stories that exist in your classroom? Their stories define who they are as individuals. By learning their story you are learning about them. Their stories are those life experiences that have shaped them into who they are today.
In addition to their unique story, they are part of a bigger story. Each of them belongs to a racial or ethnic group, the history of which also serves to define each student. It is imperative that we familiarize ourselves with who our students are historically. It is a must that you learn their collective stories, which can clarify the reasons for the life challenges that so many of our students face on a daily basis at Sigler. When students are disconnected from who they are historically, they risk gravitating to anyone who looks like them, regardless of how destructive their behaviors may be, simply because they are offered no alternative role models who share their race or ethnicity. In order to alleviate this challenge, you must learn your students’ stories and teach the stories to them.
With that said, this week’s Twitter Task, for those who choose to participate is, “Tweet one thing that can be used to teach our students about their history”. Do not forget to include the hashtag #siglerlearns.

Bright Future Campaign – Week 31 – Closing the Attitude Gap – Chapter 5

We will close out Chapter 5 this week focusing on motivational quotes, historical images that reflect our students, posting names and pictures of colleges and universities and posting names and descriptions of careers.
Chapter 5 – Environment for Learning – Do I Provide My Students with an Environment of Excellence?
Before we begin, take a look in your mirror and ask yourself the following questions about your students:
Do I have motivational quotes and affirmations posted?
Do I have historical images that reflect my students posted?
Do I have the names and pictures if colleges and universities posted?
Do I have the names of careers and their descriptions posted?
Posting Motivational Quotes and Affirmations
Principal Kafele wrote a book titled, “Motivating Black Males to Acheive in School and in Life” in 2009 and included a list of 50 affirmations that could be posted in classrooms around the country. 
In this text he highlighted 5 of the 50.
I believe in myself and in my ability to achieve academic excellence. 
I have a definite purpose for receiving an education. 
I understand my obligation to excel. 
I am determined to achieve academic excellence. 
I have a vision for achieving academic excellence. 
At the end of the day it’s about creating a positive environment to develop positive students. Students must internalize these messages and see them and speak about them on a regular basis. Let’s get them posted in our rooms, halls and common areas! 
Posting Historical Images That Reflect Your Students
As educators we need to focus our attention on the models, examples and images of success our young people have before them. Far too many young students gravitate towards negative role models – we are in a position to provide them with alternatives. 
It’s a new millennium and the media continue to bombard us with black and Latino imagery that is negative. Through the lessons we teach, we counter what our students see in the media by broadening their exposure, which may require we broaden our own as well. 
Have you posted positive images in your classroom that reflect the ethnic composition of your students? 
What type of images do you have posted? 
What relevance do they have for your students? 
Take these questions into consideration as you continue to develop a classroom learning environment conducive to closing the attitude gap in your classroom. 
Posting Names and Pictures of Colleges and Universities 
It’s never too early to start talking with students about college. In fact, I believe we have grown in this area over the last several years and will continue to share the benefits and ideas of post secondary readiness. To enhance these conversations it’s a good idea to hang posters on the wall that feature the names and pictures of colleges and universities. Many students come from households without college graduates, so it’s up to us as teachers to make the prospect of higher education real. It’s also a good idea to invite college graduates to your classroom to speak and well as take your students on field trips to college campuses. 
Posting the Names and Descriptions of Careers 
So many students remain unaware of the endless possibilities that await them. How can we expect our students to have diverse aspirations of the have not been exposed to diverse opportunities that are our there for them? Students can aspire regardless of their background but without access to information about it, they cannot even conceptualize the possibilities. 
Principal Kafele recommends you identify a space in your classroom to post a list of careers and their descriptions. Discuss these with your students, but also give them opportunities to read them on their own. The keys here are exposure and awareness. As these increase, students’ attitudes about themselves and their prospects change for the better. 

That concludes chapter 5 and there is just one chapter remaining. There is some great stuff here folks and I look forward to seeing how these simple suggestions can enhance our attitudes and the attitudes of our students. 

Bright Future Campaign – #NoOfficeDay

Bright Future Campaign – #NoOfficeDay

If you work in an elementary school in the state of Texas, you endured the first round of STAAR testing. Students in 4th and 5th grade were assessed, but every student and teacher feels the impact of the test in some form or fashion, because their typical scheduled routine is “off” for a couple of days. With the absence of the “typical” routine for a couple of days this past week, it was time for another #NoOfficeDay. This past Friday I was able to rotate through our building and see first hand the creativity that exists when teachers must think outside of the box to reach students and allow for them to be successful!

For returning readers, you will notice a few more pictures during this #NoOfficeDay than in the past, and I hope to continue and maybe even one day, eliminate my narration of the day and just let the pictures speak for themselves. For now, you get a little bit of both.

5th Grade Reading was my first stop and as I mentioned above, after two days of testing this week for students and teachers, by Friday it was a must to have high interest activities and an engaging way for students to interact and @SOC54 did not disappoint. What a better way to engage students that through a good ol’ read aloud.

Mr. Richards (@SOC54) was kind enough to let me read a little of chapter 6 with the students and as you can see, the students were very engaged throughout the time they spent listening. (On a side note, I really enjoyed reading out loud to the students and if any other teacher in the building wanted to invite me to do so, I would have a hard time saying no.) Students were listening to, “Schooled” by, Gordon Korman. 
As students listened, they were pondering some questions that were written up on the board to help them monitor their comprehension. Taking it a step further, their responses were even generated in the form of a sentence frame. The students had the template and had to input their own thoughts and justification for why they were thinking so. Look at their minds at work! 

I mentioned the engagement factor needed to be high and Mr. Richard’s used @Socrative as his engagement tool to capture students responses and provide some authentic feedback for other students to see. Want to learn how you can use this engagement tool in your classroom?
(As an extension activity, Mr. Richard’s shared students are able to correct their sentences and other students’ sentences for some authentic editing. Love that idea!)
I transitioned to the next group the students and Mrs. Himes were ready for me and I even had my own seat and name tag. 
After a warm welcome I received a very good lesson (from students) about synonyms. (not to be confused with cinnamons) 
We worked hard together searching for words that meant the same thing as the word provided from the teacher. We all got a good laugh when we got to the word “hugged”. One of the young ladies in the group was working ahead of the other and came up with the word “cuddled”. Through each of the previous words we have been acting out the various synonyms such as “saw” and “looked” seen above, but when “cuddled” came up, we had to find another word. (to act out any way). We worked together and landed on the word “squeezed”. The Mrs. Himes and I got a laugh and the girls realized that Mr. Arend could “hug” and “squeeze” (side hugs, of course), but Mr. Arend would not be cuddling! After a final laugh it was time to rotate to my next group. 
I mentioned it was Friday and this next group of students loved being led through their spelling test with principal. In fact, they are so focused on their test, you can hardly see them. 
After a successful spelling/dictation test the boys and girls could not wait to show off just how much their fluency skills had developed. Each of them had a “personal best” recorded in their folder and worked hard to improve upon their last effort. One young lady in the group was new to Sigler, so I was able to guide her through the activity while the others blew me away with just how much their fluency had developed from earlier in the year. Hats off to Ms. Fugate for instilling a love reading in these kiddos! 
It was time for some math after increasing my own fluency a little bit and this next block of time was one of the highlights of my day. Mrs. Himes had prepared a little math game that I was the center of. Students were reminded of what a Nickel, Dime and Quarter were worth and what they looked like and then used a dice to add the amounts together to make Mr. Arend a $1.00. 
It was terribly exciting for the students to add their coins together roll after roll until they had made enough money to give me $1.00. Once I had received my $1.00 we had to go to the other side of the room for me to see what I could spend my $1.00 on. I had no idea what I was getting myself into as I hopped up to the other side of the room sharing in the excitement with the others in the room. They had a video waiting for me to watch to see what I could spend my $1.00 on. 
Check it out: 

My next stop was to visit Mrs. Burwell and her students in our room that has come to be known as “B104”. You will notice I do not have any pictures of my time with Mrs. Burwell and her students. My inability to take pictures (which I didn’t realize until I got home Friday night) was a vivid reminder, just how busy Mrs. Burwell and her students were working while I was in there and how quickly we were all moving back and forth from one task to another. I mentioned earlier that engagement must remain high and that is the case on a daily basis in B104. Engagement must remain so high that every 15 minutes, students rotate to a new activity. So while I was in there, students completed close to 6 different activities. We read stories about caterpillars and butterflies, we worked on some addition, we practiced spelling with specific word patters and even found a little time to take breaks with some reinforcers that where of high interest to the students in the room. (Did I mention all of this took place, while two maintenance men were in the room installing a door) Mrs. Burwell has created an amazing atmosphere for students to learn and the children she is working with are shining! My hat is off to you Mrs. Burwell! Your battery remains charged at all times and the students are reaping the positives each day!

I headed back to 5th grade for what I thought was going to be math. It certainly was math, but today, student’s were taking their math knowledge to the next level and were certainly owning their own learning.

Have you seen this video:

This video served as the inspiration for the students in Mr. Richard’s math class. Students were in the midst of making cardboard arcade games that focused on math. Students were incorporating, numbers, fractions, multiplication and division to create games that they wanted to play. The games were undergoing repairs and in one case an “out of order” sign visible. I am excited to return to the arcade when the games were up and running and cashing in my tickets for some prizes the students had collected on their own. Here is a picture of the arcade as students were working on their games.

My last stop for the day included some time with Ms. Fugate and some of our 4th grade students. Keep in mind, these kiddos had, had a long week with STAAR testing packed in the middle and the challenge for the teachers was to find something of high interest that was engaging for all. Ms. Fugate did just that by finding a story the students were interested in. While reading can be fun for all, today students were able to watch their story through a series of video clips. The students were learning about myths and watching “Jason and the Argonauts”. 

I was blown away by the level of engagement our students had and the insight they were able to provide through watching this myth play out right before their eyes. Students were able to make connections to the story, infer meaning into things by seeing it come to life and even share myths they were aware of. 
When the day was done, one central theme came to mind; engagement! Each of the teachers I was able to spend time with had come up with outside of the box, creative ways to engage their students because they knew what their students needed. Each of the teachers incorporated technology as a way to engage their students and the result for each of them was students who were being successful! 
All staff at Sigler strives create an environment for students to be successful and on this day our special education teachers hit it out of the park! 
Great job everyone! Thank you for allowing me to spend time with you, hang with your students and be reminded just how hard you work each day! 
I am looking forward to my next #NoOfficeDay already!