The Third Teacher: Mindful Classroom Design at the Rise School

First we shape our buildings. Thereafter they shape our lives.

-Winston Churchill

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In the Reggio Emilia approach to education classroom design is considered the Third Teacher (the first 2 are instructors and peers). Here at Teaching2gether we agree wholeheartedly. Teachers convey critical messages to their students by way of the prepared environment.

When we label materials with pictures and text we provide access for all our students: readers, non-readers, English Language Learners and any visitor to the classroom.  When we post a schedule on the board it calms our students with attention-based disabilities, provides modeling for children with executive functioning needs, gives the class a sense of where we’re headed in our day, and holds teachers accountable to stay on task. When we provide differentiated materials we allow students to make conscious decisions about what helps them learn.

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Strong Communities and Healthy Kids through EdTech: GoNoodle.com

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EdTech is a big theme at Teaching2Gether. We understand there are endless apps and online resources out there, and that while some fail to meet our expectations, aim to replace the teacher, or are cumbersome and clunky, some are so great and we can’t imagine teaching without them. Continue reading

Speech Therapy: The Roots of Self-Advocacy

Ms. Hughes uses a portable whiteboard to create on-the-spot visuals and to ensure  repeated, varied exposure to concepts.

Ms. Hughes uses portable whiteboards to create on-the-spot visuals and to ensure repeated, varied exposure to concepts in any setting.

At Teaching2Gether, we do a lot of thinking about the purpose and nature of inclusion and collaboration.  We know the two go hand in hand, but we also have started to think broadly about who the collaborators can be when it comes to creating an inclusive classroom. Continue reading

SXSWedu update coming soon but in the meantime..

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“Fair isn’t equal. It’s giving everyone what they need.”

We are coming off a whirlwind week of exploring new apps, meeting visionary teachers and “edupreneurs” and listening to fascinating speakers at the #edtech conference, SXSWedu. It was truly exhilarating to consider how technology will make our classrooms ever more inclusive. We can’t wait to share our new knowledge with you – just as soon as we look through all our notes and get our thoughts in order! You can read some of our real time revelations if you check out our twitter feed. In the meantime we wanted to share this great article on creating a good old fashioned classroom environment where everyone can learn together, from this excellent website and resource, Think Inclusive:

5 Strategies For Structuring An Inclusive Classroom Environment

Check it out and check back soon for more high-tech ways to get inclusive!

Going to SXSWedu? See you there!

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We are thrilled to be joining the many distinguished educators, entrepreneurs and visionaries at this year’s South by Southwest education and technology conference, SXSWedu, in our home town of Austin Texas, from March 2-6. If anyone is going to be there and wants to connect, let us know. It looks like it will be an amazing few days with speakers like Diane Ravitch and Wendy Davis, among many many others. We are looking forward to meeting fascinating people, exchanging new ideas, and sharing them with you!

All Hands on Deck

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These teachers from P.S. 124 in NYC use Stations daily in order to work with every child. They lead two stations while the other two groups are independent.

You joined the teaching profession to help kids, right? Not for the summers off, the “shorter” working hours (ha!), and definitely not for the pay. You want the very best for ALL your kids, just like the rest of us. However, it’s really really hard to meet all those needs in your classroom by yourself every day. Most teachers go home at the end of the day thinking “If I could have just done _______ for that one kid…”

The good news is you’re really not alone in that endeavor. Continue reading

Collaboration Toolbox

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You’ll find examples of little visuals like this to use in your classroom to build community and independence.
Visual created by Natalie Dean,
3rd grade teacher, Brookline, MA

When we begin to work closely with at least one other adult in the room, we have to communicate and agree on just about every little detail of our day.  All of a sudden we have to think about brand new questions like: Who is going to be in charge of which lessons?  What should transitions look like? Do we both have to take conference notes? Should we use Station Teaching? What IS Station Teaching?  Where did that kid go?  

As long-time co-teachers we have developed lots of theoretical ideas about working together to create successful inclusive classrooms, which you can read on our main page. But we also want to provide the much-needed nitty-gritty tips on how to make your classroom function effectively with two adults, service providers coming and going, and about a thousand different kids’ needs.

Our advice is spend time at the beginning (or now, right after winter break) to answer these questions by putting in place a few simple systems to foster teacher cooperation and student independence in your classroom. Enter, the newest section of our blog, the Collaboration Toolbox. Here we will provide real-world examples (Pictures! Printables!) of effective and efficient ways to make your classroom flow smoothly, including:

  • detailed explanations of several co-teaching models
  • samples of great visual supports from real classrooms
  • handy co-planning tools
  • tried-and-true adaptive materials
  • other goodies

The honest truth is that it takes more legwork and a bit more laminating to set up a successfully co-taught classroom, but in the end, we think it’s worth it.

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my own ship.”

-Louisa May Alcott

Make that a “we,” Louisa, and we’re on board.  You can start today by checking out the Collaboration Toolbox!

 

Using our Words

Preparing lessons based in strengths helps students (and teachers) feel successful.

Preparing lessons based in strengths helps students (and teachers) feel successful.  This is a laminated tool you can use over and over.

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” ― Maya AngelouI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

As modern teachers, we watch what we say all the time, at least in front of the kids.  At this point, most teachers are sure  to add a positive spin to their classroom management.  Our class rules are mostly written without the words “no” or “don’t”.  We diligently follow up our redirections with compliments, and we are careful to ask for “do overs” and “personal space” instead of the crass alternatives we have swimming in our heads.

However, what you say about the kids, and more importantly how you say it, can count just as much as what you say to the kids.

Listening to a teacher put a kid down when the classroom or office doors are closed can feel pretty bad on the receiving end.  Your co-teacher, grade level colleague, and maybe even your principal might commiserate, but the conversation usually ends there. Most of us are guilty of this at some point and will even admit that a good vent session can be necessary at times, but they don’t really ever change much of anything. The moment you begin to fault the kid, (“he doesn’t try hard enough, she is such a bad reader”) or worse, label the child (“he’s so ADHD, she can’t read because she’s Dyslexic”) you are only hurting yourself and your chances of helping that student meet your expectations. A simple shift in your language can make a huge difference in your classroom and your working relationships. Instead of complaints, try describing behaviors.  Instead of relying on labels, work from the child’s individual goals and services.  By making this change, you are opening yourself up to a more of a collaborative dialogue.  If I said, “He’s so ADHD,” there’s not a whole lot of sound advice you can give me.  But if I said, “He’s having a hard time initiating and completing work,” I’m sure you are already thinking of a handful of strategies I could try.  Not to mention, saying, “He’s so ADHD” might make for an awkward parent teacher conference.  But saying and asking,”He’s having a hard time getting to work.  Do you see the same thing a home?” will open up a constructive conversation.  In fact, you might even be able to loop the actual student in to the conversation, teaching him skills of reflection, goal setting, and problem solving and in the end, you end up building up confidence instead of shame. My two favorite parts about teaching in an inclusive, progressive classroom is that we can finally appreciate each child, and we can finally work together to build classroom and school cultures that honor individuality.  When we shift our ideas and language about kids, strengths can become foundations for success, and challenges become goals.

This was a lot of talk about talk.  We’d like to know, have you ever found power in words?