Thursday, March 29, 2012

Shoulder Buddies - WOW!

Okay, so I may be officially addicted to blogging now. It is no secret to those who know me that I enjoy writing, but really...this is my first evening home this week and I choose to blog. :-) Here's why...

Monday was our first day back from Spring Break and I decided to try something new with my kiddos. You see, we are very blessed to have a Kagan trainer in our building and last year (my first year teaching) she began doing some district wide training for us. I will admit that I was a bit hesitant to try the Kagan structures--especially last year. I was so afraid of losing control of my classroom. I think I have mentioned before I am a bit of a control freak. Shhh...

Anyway, I managed to try some structures last year and over the summer I prepared some Kagan materials (i.e. Quiz, Quiz, Trade cards, Showdown cards, etc.) that I could pull out and use quickly and easily this year. I also created "teams" and "shoulder buddies" so that I could very easily get students into groups for various structures (Numbered Heads Together, etc.). You may be wondering about this because a total Kagan classroom would already have these groups sitting together - not me, I confess I love my rows! We move desks to sit with teams or shoulder buddies from day to day depending on what activities I have planned, but we always get back to rows at some point. I do all my direct instruction at the front of the classroom with students sitting on the rug in assigned spots. Well, I had not figured out how to make that work with my shoulder buddies...

Let me pause here and say that Kristi has the same style - or maybe I should say I have the same style as her since she is my mentor teacher. :-) We'll come back to that later...

Anyway, just before Spring Break I had my evaluation conference with my wonderful principal (heehee - blessed again to have a principal who was my friend long before she became my boss). She made a comment about using the shoulder buddy system to help some of my firsties who struggle to stay over the break I started thinking about how to make it work for me. I also realized there was no better time to experiment and try to become comfortable with a new routine. This class is wonderful and knows my expectations. I knew they could handle it - and would be patient with me as I figured out what we were doing. LOL!

I came back Monday and assigned new shoulder buddies (I do this each 9 weeks anyway) and - SHOCK - new assigned seats on the carpet so they were sitting by their buddies. I have had an awesome week watching the system work. I ask questions as normal - only now I remember to have them talk it over with their buddies before pulling a stick to answer. It has been going great and I am tweaking as I go...

One funny learning experience so far:

Mrs. Ratcliff: Pulls stick of student with a history of struggling to listen and asks, "What did you and your buddy decide?"

Student: Scratches head and looks at ceiling. Long pause.

Mrs. Ratcliff: "Were you listening to your buddy?"

Student: Shakes head. "No. My ears were turned off."

Mrs. Ratcliff: "I am sorry to hear that. We do not have the option to turn our ears off at school. You will need to move your helmet for not listening."

That is my behavior plan - break a rule, move your helmet. See below (picture was taken before school started - now the clips have helmets on them with each student's name).

Like I said - learning experience! I then labeled each student either Partner A or Partner B so I can alternate who talks first to ensure all are participating. I can also then ask the listening partner to repeat back what the other partner said if needed.

Back to Kristi - she worked up the nerve and started shoulder buddies on the carpet on Wednesday. She's loving it too. :-)

I'm also excited about a bulletin board idea we are doing tomorrow! We'll blog with pics when it is finished, but here's a pic...and  the link to where we found it.

Have a good night!


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