January 5, 2018
In 2015, I started out with a great group of third grade students. I knew many of the students as siblings of former students, children of colleagues, and a grandchild of a retired teacher. We gelled quickly, and I knew this was a unique group with the kind way they related to one another. They were also very helpful and protective of a special needs student in our class.
Toward the end of the year, an opportunity arose for me to “loop” with this class and teach fourth grade. Parents were given the option for their children to continue with me or move into a different fourth grade class. I had overwhelming support, and except for two students who wanted their older siblings’ former fourth grade teacher and a few new incoming students, we were able to keep our core group!
We began our year with a bang! I had given the students a Google Form survey the previous spring about what to keep, and what to change. Some things I was able to honor; other requests were not feasible (no testing, library, spelling, etc.). Because the students had quite a few computer skills, I was able to expand into using more Google Apps for writing, researching, and presenting information. For a few students, this was very motivating and they were producing demonstrations of their knowledge in unique ways. However, when given a text book, or a paper/pencil task, there were two boys that would continually balk and pout and ask, “Why do we have to do this? Isn’t there something we can do on the Chromebooks instead?”
For many months I battled with their complaints. How could I have them take a math quiz or complete their spelling workbook lesson on a computer? Despite my best efforts, the attitudes continued.
Our local newspaper gives students in our community the opportunity to write Letters to the Editor, and publishes a few from each grade level. Our fourth grade uses this opportunity to assess a Common Core standard on persuasive writing. So, wouldn’t you know it: those boys decided to write on the topic of using computers to complete all assignments! One of them was so compelling that the newspaper chose to publish it! I wish I had access to the article now; it discussed saving paper, money on textbooks and other unique points. It also enticed me to think, “Why fight it?”, and give it a try!
I gave the entire class the option and guidelines. If they were using a computer for a written assignment, they had to use Google Docs and “share” it with me. My class had been required to do this often, so it wasn’t a big deterrent. Another requirement was that the questions or problems had to be typed out on the document since I probably wouldn’t have the original sitting right there for me to look back and forth. This changed a few minds, but not the dynamic duo to whom I have referred.
The next morning, we started our morning work. A few grammar corrections, some math review… Many students went to the cabinet and completed the assignment as I had instructed previously. No problem. We continued with our day, and with each activity, a few less students were accessing the computers. Finally, it was time for our weekly spelling unit. Students have an hour of class time to receive help and work together if they choose. In addition, they have four days to complete the unit should they need more time and additional help. I should point out that each unit is six pages and includes grammar, editing, vocabulary, analogies and more. Now it became interesting! It did not take long for several students to give up and get out a pencil. My persistent pair kept at it! However, by the due date, neither of the boys were near finished! The end of the unit test not only assesses the memorization of spelling words, but also the other concepts described earlier.
As you may imagine, the boys were frustrated completing the unit, and were not able to demonstrate the knowledge that was presented to the extent they usually did. Once in awhile, it pays to go with the “Why fight it?”, despite your reservations! For the rest of the year, there were no arguments about the good, old-fashioned, paper and pencil tasks!
This guest post was written by Teacher Jen Waldo after completing a Heritage Institute online continuing education course for teachers.
I am Jen Waldo. I grew up in Spokane, Washington and moved to Missoula, Montana in 1990. I graduated from the University of Montana in 1994 and started teaching in Corvallis, Montana (yes, Montana) in the fall of 1994. I currently teach fourth grade, but have taught all grades, first through fourth, during my career. I have two wonderful sons, ages 27 and 22. I enjoy camping, fishing, riding horses, reading and spending time with family. Continuing education is important to me to keep up-to-date, and keep me excited and motivated in this era of teaching children.