Saturday, May 20, 2017

Research Paper Reflections Beyond Their Years

May 2017: There aren't words to capture my students' reflections in our recent research papers...


*If you want to skip and read their reflections, scroll to the bottom. :)

This Friday, thanks to parents, college students, fellow teachers, and teacher aides, we wrapped up our research paper writing. Writing a research paper at any age is a large undertaking. For fourth graders, it is a very large undertaking. Back in April, I met with my class to talk about the task we were going to accomplish. Now that they had done over 3 months of research, I wanted them to be able to take their research and talk about our central idea and lines of inquiry, what they had learned about them, and reflections they had about what the ultimate classroom look like. I also wanted them to learn about the importance of citing their sources.

We began our research writing with our class meeting. There we decided how many paragraphs we were going to write, what they were going to be about, and how we would design our graphic organizer. Ultimately, the students and I decided upon 6 paragraphs: an introduction, paragraph about each line of inquiry and how it related to collaboration (how kids learn best, types of learning technology, and organization of space), a reflection, and conclusion. The student set to work designing their organizer in Google Docs and using their research notes from books, online sources, and videos to complete their organizer. They drew connections between each line of inquiry and how it was related to collaboration in the ultimate classroom. Not an easy undertaking!

Within these last two weeks, we worked through the editing process. We began with printing off our papers and reading through them aloud to fix things that were obvious. From there, we had discussions about proofreading marks, parts of the paper, and transitions. In our final edit, each student worked with an adult to edit their paper, keeping their words, but having discussions about grammar, complete sentences, and making sense. As a teacher, I learned that I need to continue to explore ways to help my students understand transitions. I also want to build a more scaffolded approach to editing into my curriculum next year as well as bring in more peer editing.

These fourth graders took a very big step towards starting their journey into writing about their research. They learned how to explain their evidence and how to cite their sources within the text and in a works cited. There is still a lot of learn about writing, but as I read through their papers this evening, I couldn't be more proud... no wait... speechless of their reflections on what they had learned. Their understanding of learning spaces is raw, real, and well beyond their years. There was no better way to capture and share it, then to share with you their words. Below you can find at least 1 unaltered statement from each of my student's papers.

  • If you are in a group, you should get other students that might be out of the conversation to participate in your group. You should ask them, “What do you think?” and try to get them involved.
  • Teachers should be open-minded to all types of learners, should also have empathy in them,  take time to really think about the best ways that every type of learner, and should know that every kid has a different view of learning.
  • Kids should be able to get involved in organizing the classroom. Kids should be able to get involved because they know how they learn best.
  • I also believe that teachers should remake their classroom every year so the students can be involved.
  • One more thing Dallas Morning News stated is, “In one second-grade classroom, you won’t see the students in organized rows or in regular seats, you will see them in a variety of different seats; exercise balls, bendy chairs, on pillows at a low table, and the rest lying on bath mats.” (Dallas Morning News, 2017). If you are doing this in a classroom, you are obviously organizing space to help kids collaborate in the classroom.
  • If you want to be a good friend, get friends involved with learning.
  • Teachers should let the kids choose activities, ways to learn, and what to learn because it will make it more fun and interesting for the students… I have learned so much through this unit which makes me want to learn and research more about this topic.
  • With arrangeable and flexible seating... It helps kids collaborate because they can arrange their seats to be where they want for independent work and group meetings.
  • Teachers who are aware of traffic patterns in organizing spaces could make the students work together to find out where the best place to move furniture to, so it fits everyone’s needs.
  • The more natural light, the more calm kids are, and the better they will learn and collaborate. To collaborate people have to be calm.
  • I’m a student and I want to be the best version of me.
  • Kids can focus and get things done when they have things organized and have areas that they are not distracted.
  • Kids should be able to choose activities to learn, when kids can pick what they want to learn they learn more.
  • Let the kids think of where to put stuff and let the kids move around to where they are comfortable.
  • If students have a hard time learning a subject, teachers in the Ultimate Classroom have to relate the topic to something that the students likes.
  • We are lucky to be in school. We can work together to raise money for people that can’t go to school. 
  • One thing that people need to be aware of is that the furniture should link to everyone’s learning styles… students should be allowed to experiment with types of furniture to see what they like to learn in best.
  • Yes, you may think that your classroom has everything that is new and updated, but a classroom is never going to be perfect.
  • Technology helps kids collaborate.
  • My favorite way to learn is with a group, because I can get not only my own ideas, but others ideas and thoughts. So, whether it's in a special spot you like to be in, or using a piece of technology by yourself, you can learn in many different ways.
  • For every kid that comes in, they might need a different layout than the kids before them.  In the end, it all comes back to how kids learn best, what the right space is for kids, how kids work together, and how kids learn with technology.
  • Classrooms should be bigger because other students need to have their own space to do work without distraction.
  • The ultimate classroom should have the newest technology so that the kids can experience different types of learning. Technology can be very beneficial in helping kids problem solve,  interact and collaborate.
  • There should be no front of a classroom, and the Smart Board should not always be in the front of the room.
  • Using collaboration is an effective way to learn. Collaborating helps students problem solve.
  • Students should have more of a challenge to try new things.
  • Working together in a classroom can make people confident in themselves.
  • 3D printing can make problem solving easier for students and it can improve how things work.
  • I believe there should be no front of a room because a room should change depending on classroom use.
  • After all, that is why the ultimate classroom should have special teachers that can help kids that have special needs solve their problems.