Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I took a chocolate tasting class a couple of months ago (planned and taught by Reference Librarian extraordinaire Bill Meltzer at Old Worthington Library). I decided then and there that I wanted my students' experience in our classroom to feel like, if not taste like, the chocolate tasting classroom that night.
Here's what I learned about my fourth grade classroom at the chocolate tasting class:
•WE WANTED TO BE THERE.
I understand that not every child loves school the way I did (and still do), but I hope to make my classroom so safe and inviting that my students look forward to our time together.
•WE GOT TO USE FUN MATERIALS.
Although we can't work with chocolate in our classroom every day, I will do my best to build hands-on activities into every day, if not every lesson. With a new SmartBoard, and Franki's brilliant thinking about learning to use it WITH the students, I think I've got a pretty good head start on this one.
•WE STARTED WITH WHAT WE KNEW AND THE TEACHER BUILT ON THAT.
Scaffolding. I want stay focused on scaffolding, not on rescuing. (see also Risk-taking below)
•WE DIDN'T GET IN TROUBLE IF WE DIDN'T FOLLOW DIRECTIONS EXACTLY.
I don't want to be the kind of teacher who must have absolute control over every moment of every day. First of all, I'd go crazy, and second of all, how would the children learn to control themselves? Since I won't have absolute control, I'll have to lighten up and not sweat it when the students...improvise, shall we call it.
•WE GOT TO WORK WITH OUR FRIENDS.
Learning is social. I will honor that. Nuff said.
•WE HAD FUN!
No matter how hard we work every day to learn and grow and achieve and improve and succeed...we also need to have FUN.
Every. Single. Day.
•THE TEACHER WAS VERY KNOWLEDGEABLE, BUT HE NEVER MADE US FEEL IGNORANT OR LACKING.
I will work hard to be a valuable resource to my students in their learning, and to make sure that they see me learning right alongside them.
•THE CLASS WAS WELL-PLANNED AND RAN SMOOTHLY.
I will remember the importance of detailed planning. I WILL remember the importance of detailed planning. Every Sunday night, I will REMEMBER the importance of detailed planning.
•THERE WERE BOOKS ABOUT CHOCOLATE ALL AROUND THE ROOM FOR US TO CHECK OUT AND TO EXTEND OUR LEARNING.
Some teaching is about instruction, but a goodly amount of it is simply about invitation. Rather than finishing units or even lessons, I'll do my best to point to the resources that students can us to continue their learning and exploring.
•THE TEACHER ENCOURAGED RISK-TAKING, BUT MADE IT FEEL SAFE.
We started by eating a half of a piece of Dove dark chocolate. Then we went on to taste chocolates of increasing amounts of cocoa. Each time we moved to the next level, we learned how to identify and name the new flavors and "notes" we were tasting. The next-to-last piece we tasted was 100% cocoa. I wouldn't care to sit down and eat a whole bar of it, but I had learned, step by step, to appreciate it for what it was. We ended by eating the other half of the Dove. It just tasted sweet. There were none of the nuances of flavor and texture that we had learned, in one short hour, to appreciate.
•I CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK FOR THE NEXT CLASS: CHEESE TASTING!!
And so we circle back to my first point -- I want my students to WANT to come to school because of the fun and fascinating learning we'll be doing. I want them to be willing to take risks. Cheese tasting is very risky for me, especially since I know how much Bill knows about cheese. I'm a little leery of tasting some of the cheeses he thinks are luscious...but I'll take the risk and try to learn what I need to know to enjoy them.
Here's to a delicious new school year!