Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Connected Learning Instead of Homework

MaryLee and Franki are hosting a literacy event this Thursday in honor of Share a Story Shape a Future 2011 Event : Unwrapping the Gift of Literacy.
I'm sharing my thoughts about how to connect learning from school to home (doesn't connected learning sound better than homework).

What is homework? I think when we stop to really think about the words separately: home work or mixed around: work at home, the terms feel, well a little uninviting. Who wants to do work at home? When I get home, I want to relax (though I don't most the time ), laugh with my family, unwind and talk about my day with them. I want my student students to do the same and (because they are primary kiddos) share a book they have been loving in the classroom. I also know the realities of after school activities, sports, music lessons, etc.. These take up time for kids (and parents). So as a parent and a teacher I am often thinking about (1)what is realistic for kids to do at home, (2)what will they be motivated to do do at home after a long day at school, (3) how can I help them discover or further discover what they love and (4) how can I help connect their learning at school with what they explore at home. I came up with some short story examples of what I am noticing to be effective ways to provide connected learning (my new word for homework) for my own kids at home and classroom.

As a parent I find the best way I can support connected learning begins after I have conversations with my kids: Just last week, I was chatting with my 5th grader about his day and the next thing I knew he was on you tube exploring the visiting musician, Baba Jubal who had inspired him that day. He couldn't stop talking about the rhythms he was learning with other 5th graders for a school program where he would play a drum he created in art class. He wanted to know more about Baba Jubal and googled him finding another school's performance and music created by him. This was fascinating to me that from this brief, "What did you do today?" exploded into the 5th grader teaching me everything he was excited to be learning about with Baba Jubal.

What did you read today? led to a great conversation with my 4th grader about how much he enjoys the newest issues of Sports Illustrated for Kids. He explained to me how the magazine has changed since our subscription at home ended. He asked me what happened to our subscription (it ran out and I just renewed) because he had been missing getting his favorite reading at home. Fortunately, he has not missed out in the classroom as many of the other kids bring in their magazines in for all to enjoy. This was an opportunity for me to think about how I could keep him satisfied at home with these same resources he is enjoying in the classroom. My 5th grader joined in and began talking about how he reads SI for kids online every so often during reading workshop. So we hopped online and found the SI Kids Blog and other new options for reading that matched his interests.

What are you writing about? led my youngest son taking me to his class blog where I had an opportunity to see the piece he has been working on about a toy boat. His told about the boat he made of legos that he was inspired to create after reading Randall de Seve and Loren Long's Toy Boat. He writes to his readers:

My toy boat is awesome because it is made out of legos. I tied a rope around my toy boat. when I got the rope. I got the rope on the day befor chrisrtmas eve. I pulled it around the house.I got the idea from the book, Toy Boat by Randall de Seve. My rope is 5 feet long and my toy boat is one and a hafe feet long.

After reading this with him, I realized that his is inspired by books. He loves creating things at home after being inspired, and then has opportunities to write about his ideas and share them with others (including me).

As a teacher I want to find ways to connect students (and parents) with our learning at school:
Connecting Readers:
Reading Bags:I often tell parents who ask about homework that the best "homework" they can do with their kids is to read and talk with them about learning. To support reading at home, students bring home a book of their choice each night. Kids often take books out of my hands after I read them aloud and place them in their reading bag for the evening. I'll be honest and tell you that I don't use a formal reading log with such young readers. Instead I just want them concentrating on sharing and loving the book in their bag.
Reading Online: Many of the books I share and read in class, I am beginning to find online in one way shape or form. So as I introduce the kids to a book trailer or youtube video of a story, I link it to our class web page (which I have modeled and used in class throughout the year) so kids can access learning at home. Many of my students share how much they get online and read these at home. They are now in the habit of making sure anything I show up on the projector is linked to our web page because they know they can go home and think about it again.
Connecting Writers:
Blogs : Our class blog works as a way encourage students to continue their ideas for writing at home because their posts are accessible online with their username and password. One way I support kids independence with learning is to share posts by other kids who are finding ideas and writing at home. I think we have to show and share with our kids at school about how learning is a ongoing and lifelong. One student started to post at home about the books he checked out of the library, another student shared what she loved about her sister, both inspiring new ideas for writers to think about at home and school.

Connecting Visuals of Our Own Class Learning:

Kids love to see pictures and video of all the creations, celebrations and happenings in the classroom. This
this year, I have been using posterous host all of our small group play performances, pictures of kids
enjoying activities in math and content areas and communicating to parents about what is happening at
school. This has been yet another place for kids to read, watch and talk with their parents about the
learning in our classroom. It doesn't feel like a traditional place for homework but rather a fun place to
connect conversation about our classroom to home.
Ultimately, I want my own children and students to begin to understand how to seek out what they love. My
wish is that they begin find books they want to read and they write about topics that interest them. I hope I
can provide conversations and connections that help kids become lifelong learners.