Learn Like a Pirate {Chapter 3}

4. Improvement Focus vs. Grade Focus

I’m back for Chapter 4 of Learn Like a Pirate with The Primary Gal!

I’ll just say again how much I’m loving this book and finding meaningful ideas to take back to my classroom for the new-year!

Chapter 4 focuses on the Improvement Focus vs. Grade Focus. My district uses a standards based grade card for grades K-2, so we don’t have letter grades to worry about. I get to focus on how well my students are progressing toward meeting the standards of the Common Core, rather than giving grades for individual assignments.

Paul Solarz sets up the expectation for growth in his classroom using the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and the Six Pillars of Character. These traits are designed to build life-long character and work ethic for his students, while also serving as a set of classroom rules. I love how he mentions that he will point out if he has not acted in accordance with his expectations, too. What a great way to build trust and respect in the classroom. We all have those days where we are less than perfect and it’s helpful for students to see that teachers make mistakes, too!

Learn Like a Pirate Quote

Promoting growth rather than perfection in the classroom is helping to teach our students the value of hard work. I don’t want it to be ok for them to coast by doing exactly as they are asked but never taking any risk. I know how good I feel when I complete a task and feel like I have done my best, and I want my students to feel that way, too.

By far, my favorite part of this chapter was the discussion about “Quality Boosters!” Doesn’t that just sound fabulous? I’m picturing a rocket ship of some kind…taking work to the next level.

The theory is fairly simple: The more productive feedback the better students’ work will be.

Paul describes how he promotes student feedback and talks about the difference between criticism and critique. He reminds students how they feel in the situation and then gives clear expectations for the type of comments he expects his students to make, including suggested wordings (I’m wondering…) to make the feedback as constructive as possible. I love the student feedback he quotes because several of the students pointed out that not only did their peer’s feedback help improve their project, buy they also found value in leaving feedback for others.

I’ve tried this with my first grades before…and it was a failure.

And it was my fault.

We made a checklist to improve oral reading fluency and I wasn’t very clear in my examples and it just turned into a bunch of information that didn’t actual mean anything or help anyone.

BUT, I’m going to try again. I’m thinking about actually showing the kids some of the feedback on my TpT product that suggests changes or new ideas and talking to them about how I have improved some of those things (and also left some alone to meet my needs). In the beginning, most of the feedback will have to be face to face. I know this presents the difficulty of having to hear feedback face to face, but I think I can structure it so that it is done in a friendly way. The problem with written feedback to and from first graders is that the writing of it is so much work for them…and then the other student might not be able to read the message, so it wouldn’t be helpful at all. I’m also toying with the idea of letting the kids leave feedback video messages they record on the iPod touches in our classroom. These iPods are not well used and this might give them more purpose than just being listening centers. Kids could record messages, then email them to each other (this would take some work, but I think it’s do-able).

The other thing I loved in this chapter was the idea of ePortfolios. I’m going to have more technology than ever before and I want to use it well. I’m thinking about starting the year with a class blog (while my kiddos learn to compose messages) and then possibly giving them their own blogs to use. Paul mentions encouraging “silent collaboration” byhaving students view each other’s blogs. This can certainly improve the quality of student’s thinking by giving them new ideas…and isn’t that what we do all the time as teachers? I love looking at what’s going on in other teacher’s classrooms and we have so little opportunity for this during the school day. I image that my students would enjoy it, too. Plus, as a parent, I would love to see more about what my child is doing at school – win, win, win!

This chapter gave me some good things to think about as I read more!

Be sure to check out the other fabulous teachers also reading Learn Like a Pirate!

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