My focus this school year is on executive functioning tools – how to integrate them in a semi-seamless way into my content; how to teach students how to find and use tools that help them; how to model using them in my own life and teaching. As I think and plan and create different tools and areas within my classroom to utilize this – I worry I may be doing too much. I try hard to give options for students while scaffolding choices in the beginning – then pulling the scaffolding away as needed through the year until students can choose pretty freely. While offering choices and options – I find that oftentimes areas become too cluttered or are visually overwhelming.
I’m going to share what I’ve done in the past and how I’m trying to improve this year.
Past: Multiple calendars in the room up – one that has current art events, one for each course with due dates, one for the school year, two that are fun with nothing inside of them, unit calendars for each course up, weekly agenda, daily agenda. I also didn’t do a great job of labelling or showing students what each calendar was specifically or how to utilize them in a successful way.
This year’s plan: One large calendar on an “executive function” board – this will have all the due dates for all the courses (I believe I’m only teaching 2 courses/5 classes, so this can be easily color coded with a key), this will also have vacations, etc on it. I will also put up the 2 syllabi which are basically yearlong overview of units and workshops. On the large front of the room board, there will be a daily agenda up and the unit calendar. I also have created a timeline for the year (which I stole from my colleague Liz Byron) that shows where we are in the year – both unit wise and progress report/report card time. My thoughts in these seemingly tiny improvements are that having a macro view in one area will allow for students to see the big picture – which they often lose, but the big board has the daily/current unit view (micro) so they know what they need to “do now”.
(This is the timeline – the blue area on the top is for my Foundations of Art course, the bottom is for my AP Studio Art course. )
Past: In the past, I’ve done a few different activities asking students to set goals or find out what they are hoping to learn and know at the end of the course. We’ve done it through writing letters; circles; value activities; and just basic writing on a post it what you want. I have done a pretty awful job at revisiting these goals so I basically have nothing to say about the revisiting….
This year’s plan: In their notebook, there will be a goal setting area/sheet. It will be something we talk about and work on at the beginning of the year AND THEN REVISIT and revise our goals and expectations of ourselves each 5 weeks. It will be something embedded in our weekly “do nows” for a Feedback Friday. As we learn how to write goals and revise our goals – we will improve on that assessment of ourselves. I keep saying ourselves because my plan is to work on this as well with them.
Past: In the past, students have used sketchbooks to organize their handouts and ideations. There wasn’t a great way of doing it or organizing within their sketchbooks except chronologically and gluing items in.
This year’s plan: I am planning on having students have a 3-ring binder with sections. I know I know, it doesn’t sound very flexible, and it’s not completely flexible. I really want students to experience an organizational technique that is set up and then by the middle of the year, see how they would tweak it for themselves. The sections will be: Collaboration; Do Nows; Assignments/Projects [which would include the project overviews and feedback]; Process [which would include research and sketches]; Growth/Reworking [which would include the goal setting sheets and proposals for reworking/redoing an assignment] – these are the categories within their grades so it will also help them understand that at a better level as well.
Past: I’ve never done anything specific or as a whole group in regards to mindfulness. I have used breathing techniques, visualization and calming breaths with specific kids or in small groups depending on needs.
This year’s plan: I am going to incorporate a mindful moment within each class – just a small moment to take a deep breath and be still. I am thinking as a transition from the Do Now into the lesson or activity or making of the day. I am going to explicitly explain what I am doing and why I am doing it – the change in the brain, the need to calm down and how it helps me every day. I will probably utilize some of the Headspace videos to show and maybe even use the meditations from there some of the time.
Is it all too much?
Am I doing too much? Am I trying to stuff too much in? Maybe. AND. I think by being really transparent about what I’m trying to do and how I’m trying to do it with kids and with teachers – will only help all of us grow. I am new to some of this, new to it in this way and I am sure it will need some significant changes. I want students to be able to transfer as much of what they learn in my room into their lives – content and otherwise. And Alexis Reid (find her on twitter, trust me on this) said it best “Not supporting and scaffolding executive functions is like taking someone’s glasses away.” So although a lot of this sounds like a lot – I think much of it I’ve been doing but in a really vague, not streamlined way – and I certainly haven’t shared with students how to use it or make it their own, which isn’t fair. So not only is my goal to focus on executive functions – but to show students how to use and strengthen their own.