Building an Instructional Field of Dreams

Posted in 21st Century Classroom, Quality Instruction | 25 Comments »

What is the first thing you think about when you see this cover photo (besides how good looking Kevin Costner is)?  My mind goes right to the whisper he hears: “Build it and they will come”.  That is exactly what Kevin’s character Ray did.  Imagine the stress he must have felt while doing so, but what a reward he experienced in the end.

Aren’t we doing the same thing in our classrooms?  We are making conscious decisions about our lessons through our task analysis.  We are creating opportunities to engage kids by providing more think time and developing their critical thinking skills, therefore digger deeper.  We are incorporating ideas from our 21st Century principles, thinking about what type of questions we are asking, and taking time to assess  whether or not our kids are grasping the concepts. All of this will lead us toward “building” solid instruction so that our field of dreams become achievements for our students.

Take a moment and think about the concept or strategy you are currently trying to “build” or strengthen that relates to student achievement.  Share what it is and why you think it will increase student achievment.

As always, be joyful in your thoughts.


25 Responses to “Building an Instructional Field of Dreams”

  1. Tim says:

    Right now my students are struggling with a few things. For some reason these students this year have a terrible tendency to blame their past teachers for not learning math and things in reading. I have to explain to them that this is unacceptable. Do not make excuse for your learning. I’m having to strengthen their self esteem. Another thing is that I’m having a tough year so far so we are working on this together. “Build it and they will come”, this can go with how I’m teaching this year with my kiddos. I’ve altered my reading instructions a lot. So building up my teaching skill in reading make them scores get better and instruction more solid.

    • Jill Mukiibi says:

      As I reflect on what Brenda and Tim have said, I was working on my lesson plans and realized I need to make more changes to what I’m doing this year. I had all but 2 students first hour meet the first benchmark. Last year I had to focus soooo much on fluency and this year I have to continue to raise the bar beyond fluency, right from the beginning.
      Second, my field of dreams has kids who SEE THEMSELVES as students. I am often saying, a kid is on the playground, in the grocery store, and at home. You are in a classroom now, and I am a teacher of students!

  2. The skill that I am trying to build within my students is their own questioning. Common core is all linked to teachers building higher level thinking questions to get their students to point back to the text, but how much critical thinking is going on for the kids when I come up with the questions? I want my students to be able to ask questions, build their own understanding by looking at a text, answering why and trying to figure out the answers by collaborating and discussing with one another. I truly think this will help their achievement because they will actually own the objectives for that week, not just know them but own them!

    • Jen Mewhorter says:

      I agree on getting these kids to collaborate and discuss, in small group its all about conversation. I’m finding I need to model how to communicate with a partner, how to turn to your partner and give your thoughts, and even reading with a partner on fluency probes. They are also so shy, I get the blank stares when they are asked to talk to one another on academics. Collaboration is a good skill to build on.

    • Linda Seese says:

      Bethany – I think that you are correct in your last statement – There is a difference in just being able to blurt out answers and memorized information…the difference is when the students have made it their own by thinking about it and having valid discussions and opportunities to explore and defend their answers! Like you said – they need to own it – that will increase retention – right?

    • Joan says:

      This is exactly where I am at with my students. I don’t want them to just regurgitate the reading material. I want them to dig deeper…I want them to ask the questions instead of producing an answer from the text.

  3. jdelrosa says:

    This year, I am really trying to help my students develop their critical thinking skills. With common core focusing on digger deeper, I decided to start adding in some higher level questions into my lesson plans as a starting point. I don’t want my students to just read their story every week and answer the questions at the end of the story that barely scratch the surface. I am hoping to lead them into deeper discussions which will allow them to begin to develop their own critical thinking skills.

  4. Jen Mewhorter says:

    We sort of really did “build” a classroom, at least a nice place to work and learn.
    Of course our focus is getting are kids to read…but they have a little way to go. With second grade, were starting out with making sound and letter identification concrete through chant. We are also looking at breaking words down into manageable parts.
    I’m finding 3rd has some good reading skills in place, but I’ll be focusing on reading strategies, and breaking words down and getting the kids to recognize word parts and blends so that they can really decode unknown words. They need to build the confidence to figure it out themselves. I’ll will also be focusing on comprehension, really expanding the retell from and few words to a meaningful chunk. As well as, stopping to think about what we are reading, to better understand.

  5. Kathleen Griffin says:

    The skill that I am trying to build is thinking deeper. For the last three stories, I have learned to imbed wallwisher, linoit, and google forms into my blog page where students respond to the stories. Some students are still apprehensive about typing shared responses, but we are learning together. The students are to find answers within the text, and site their sources. It is a process, which gets better with each story. Discussing responses is one of the ways we learn from each other. In math, students were responding to the question “How do you read a number. The initial response was use word form. AS a center, I had students make a list of everything they knew about a given number to the hundered thousands. They had to write ten or more (collaborating with a partner). We are taking it to the next level and explaining how to read a number using period names, place within the period, etc.

  6. Linda Seese says:

    I have recently incorporated two strategies. The first is to involve the students almost exclusively in reading directions, explaining the steps/directions, and/or showing the rest of the class how to solve/work through a question or problem using the Smartboard or our projector/doc camera.
    Also, I really like to ask the students to show or explain their thinking-again, with the above mentioned technology,and then having other students add their thoughts or examples, or comment on/question the answers/solutions. of clas

  7. Shannon Miller says:

    In my class, I am doing a lot of focusing on the question, “How?” “How do know that?” “How did you find that?” Like Bethany said, owning their learning. Some students can find the answer but are unable to explain “HOW” they found it. It has been exciting watching these students step up and try their hardest to expalain.

  8. Jenna Iovino says:

    As a first year teacher, I constantly have so many thoughts running through my mind. I have a GIANT big picture and sometimes feel uneasy if the students are going to reach what I want them to accomplish. I am starting to realize that yes It is a necessity to have a standard goal, but to also realize the importance of breaking it down. I do know what I want my students to learn at the end of the tunnel, but now I am focusing more on our progress of getting there and the journey along the way. I am tying in many different factors one at a time. As my students grow, comprehend, practice, and become more fluent, then I feel comfortable to adding more steps. By keeping this mindset of “Build it and they will come” I can remember that I indeed am helping build the field by adding a step at a time. Taking it slow and eventually together as a class and a community we will build it and create the “Big Picture” together. 🙂

  9. Mrs. Hamman says:

    I have been trying to teach the skill of perseverance in my classroom this year. I want students to believe in their own thinking skills and ability to solve problems, even when something is challenging. Every day I try to give them opportunities to figure things out, either independently or collaboratively. We decided in our classroom that no one is allowed to say “I don’t get it”—they have to say “I don’t get it yet “, then come up with a plan for how they are going to get it!

  10. Miss Moran says:

    What I am working on with my students is responsibility in all actions. They often say my mom forgot or dad forgot which I am working on having them reword because “mom and dad aren’t in school so who’s homework is it?” So I am working with them to make sure they know what’s expected (being consistent) and allowing them the opportunity to make those “good choices” without telling them. In turn they are becoming more independent so that they can build up their own bag of tricks to be successful without someone constantly reminding them.

  11. Martha says:

    In PK we are working on vocabulary. Language development is essential to every child’s success in school. Miss Carmen and I are using a variety of methods to help reinforce our thematic vocabulary. This week we are working on friends, I read the story “Oh Bother, Someone is Jealous”. No one really knew what “jealous” meant. We read the story and discussed it. Later in the day we were doing another activity and one of the girls said “Oh, they must be jealous”. Hmmm…do you think it might be sinking in?

  12. phayward says:

    I am really working on extending critical thinking and allowing the students to have an opportunity to provide their own explanation to their work. They are working on assignments and projects that require them to present and share which gives them the chance to verbalize their steps, thoughts and procedures.

  13. Mrs. Geffre says:

    I also am working on the skill of perseverance. I have a few students with the attitude of, “I can’t do it, it’s too hard…” and truth is many times they have tried academically and they have failed. I don’t rescue them when they say it is too hard but rather I tell them that they are smart and that they can do hard things, all the while making sure that they have the right amount of scaffolding and support so that when they do try they have success.

  14. Cynthia says:

    We are working on supporting each other by fostering excellence by being an example of how to follow directions in the classroom, in the lunch room and on the playground.

  15. Cody Shipley says:

    As of right now, I am struggling getting my students to understand that there is an appropriate time to talk. I give them time to work in groups or with a partner but they seem to only want to talk when I am instructing. If I can get them to understand when they are suppose to talk it will be beneficial. They will be able to hear and understand what I have to say and they will be able to discuss and share ideas with classmates.

  16. Nyssa says:

    I am currently working on letter recognition and sound recognition with my kinder students. I am achieving this through using sound tubs, matching letters in their names to letters on an alphabet strip, respelling their names using mag. letters and then telling me the sound and name of letter, etc. I am also starting an alphabet book with them that they can take home; this also enables them to know how to properly spell the letters as well. With my 1st grade students I am really trying to teach them to not only be able to read, but telling them they need to really understand what they are reading. I think it’s also really critical for them to have reading strategies as well so if they get stuck on a word, they can use these skills to figure it out with as little help as possible.

  17. Pat McGuckin says:

    The article Every Child, Every Day made sense to me. The six elements of effective reading instruction don’t require much time or money, but make a big difference in student achievement. I’ve made a conscious decision to put them in place for every child, every day in my instruction this year.

  18. Krystina says:

    I have been trying to make sure my students can identify why they are learning something. The ideas are beginning to broaden from “to get smarter” or “to learn” into “so we know how to count the things we have” or “so I will know how to add numbers or how much money I have.” If they understand the reasoning or purpose behind it they will begin to see the benefits.

  19. SAM says:

    Love reading all the ideas! Thanks.

  20. Rhonda says:

    Second graders in my class are working on explaining “how” and “why” they chose a particular answer. This takes time but it is well worth it in the end. This strategy also provides time for students to not only listen to other classmates explain things, but also gives me a quick snapshot into their thinking skills. They have an opportunity to become the “Teacher”! This is a real motivator to want to participate.

  21. Joan says:

    I want my students to ASK the questions instead of regurgitating answers found in the text. I want them to dig deeper into the text and question “why”, “where”, ect. If they build their educational foundation on questions instead of answers they will be in that category of “higher order of thinkers”.

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