Creating Collaborative Culture is the key to a successful, productive year! Defining culture is more global than you might think. What I'm proposing is creating 3 critical cultures: collaborative classroom culture, collaborative parent culture, and collaborative collegial culture!
Welcome Letter Ice Cream Social
Collaborative classroom culture starts with the students! Even before the first day of school arrives, relationships begin to form early when a plethora of opportunities are presented. Some of the initial contact begins with supportive school events and the other imperative piece is teacher/team contact. Our school hosts many transition opportunities as students ready themselves for a new school year which include tours led by student body leaders, and even an Ice Cream Social which allows students and parents to meet the teachers! Team teacher's mail out welcome letters telling students what is needed for their classes as they begin their annual school shopping! When students arrive on day 1, in my room, they are greeted at the door and they quickly realize school is going to be fun today! Soon they are chanting, "Happy New Year," and are excited for a great school year!
The first week of school is filled with get to know you activities that required students to interact, communicate, collaborate, and problem solve with a partner, in a table group, as a classroom, and as a team! The room is welcoming and active! Students are engaged and hooked immediately. They are challenged with an ambitious project in science class. Students are communicating with me outside of school too through Edmodo seeking feedback as they work on their project during self-directed efforts. All of what I am sharing with you was done in a mere 8 days which sums up the first 2 weeks of school. The students feel connected and cannot wait for the next school day-this is the power of culture I refer to!
Classroom pets arrive and a scientific study begins. The Great Grow Along-Nutrition study! Students love the 2 sister albino rats and are immediately loving and taking care of them. Students vote on names for the rats. They record mass and tail length measurements daily as they observe the growth impact from Rat 1 receiving sugar water and Rat 2 receiving whole milk. Handling procedures are modeled and utilized. Feeding and cleaning is done weekly. And of course, play and exercise time is a student favorite as you can see below.
Students are immersed in a screencast science project called, "Science Is All Around Our Town!" This appsmashing adventure requires an enormous amount of peer interaction to learn the apps being used. Students are using netbooks as well as their own devices should they choose to. In large group, problem solving happens each step of the way. Teacher helping students, students helping teacher, students helping students...to move the group forward creating accounts, using apps, and combining the individual project parts together to make a presentation demonstrating learning about science around our town, the "Sweetest place on Earth" the community of Hershey, PA!
Apps & URLs used by students include a science picture taken with digital device, QRstuff.com, Edmodo, Google Docs, Chirp, I-Nigma, Google Earth & Maps, and Educreations. Later screencast links will be layARed into our town map for the world to learn from my students about Science All Around Town!
Collaborative parent culture is essential to provide students with the greatest amount of support. When parents and teachers work together, students are sure to have success. To facilitate communication immediately, A week before the first day of school, I sent out a Google Survey requesting contact information, shared an invitation to my class science Facebook page, and asked parents to tell me something they would like me to know about their child. Parents are encouraged to get teacher text messages using Remind 101 to improve communication. These tools have made my teaching transparent and allow parents to see what is happening from the daily Facebook posts and pictures. Parents have been very open to using these resources as well as email and have shared openly about who their child is and what their child needs. This feedback has helped me to get to know individual students more quickly and is helpful for me to better provide what each student needs. Transparent communication grows the culture with parents efficiently from day one.
Collaborative collegial culture begins prior to even the first inservice day. Our district is supportive of professional learning communities and provide time for the meeting of two groups: Team (core teachers, support teachers, & guidance) meet to discuss team students which is comprised of approximately 100 students. Instructional needs are discussed. When data is available it is used to drive strategic planning. This is also a time for parent meetings as necessary. PLC (grade level department teachers ie: 3 6th grade science teachers) meet to examine teaching styles, analyze assessment data and student learning, as well as critique facilitation of concepts. My PLC even videotape ourselves. We collaboratively view our teaching and seek critical feedback. The collaborative collegial culture puts students first and is all about student learning. Our staff is part of a larger school community that we model paying it forward and empathy from the top down. We do many school wide projects with our students. On the first inservice day our staff prepared 10,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now! We have a Turkey Trot at Thanksgiving where we run/walk 2 miles to promote healthy living, includes a food drive for our local food bank and culminates with a pep rally. We also hold a MiniTHON 4 Diamonds Cancer Dance-A-thon in conjunction with our high school. We value community and it is part of our COCOA principle: Community, Opportunity, Citizenship, Ownership & Academics! (http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/04/derry_township_school_district_34.html)!
Stop Hunger Now!
Annual Turkey Trot & Hershey Food Bank Can Drive
Hershey Middle School MiniThon 4 Diamonds event