I learned something new a couple of weeks ago regarding student rights in Seoul. Issues regarding student discipline in our school brought to my attention a document called the Seoul Metropolitan Government Student Human Rights Ordinance. This document, put into law in 2012, guarantees certain student rights as being inviolable.
The document itself is available online only in Korean, but I had it translated so that we could ensure that the rights its promises are ensured in our program-wide discipline plan. The rights that it protects, in summary, are:
Apparently, the document has caused a lot of discussion and heartache among teachers in Seoul. Many teachers feel that it limits the ability of teachers to manage behavior in their classroom and makes it more difficult for them to make sure that students are completing their work and staying on task.
While I understand the frustration that some teachers feel in having certain disciplinary practices and options removed from the table, I also understand why others would find it important to protect student rights in schools. Gone are the days of corporal punishment and writing lines endlessly as punishment for in-class misdeeds, and rightfully so. Perhaps, given newer research in brain-based learning that indicates that students need breaks from learning and physical activity (really easy to find, but here, here, here, here, here, here, and here to start), educational legislators are coming to realize that punitive detentions and loss of breaks and privileges does more harm than good when it comes to student achievement and motivation.
Our school has been working to put into practice a new program-wide discipline plan based on Restorative Discipline and Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, and learning about the existence of documents like the Seoul Student Human Rights Ordinance makes me feel even more like we are making the right choice. Despite concerns about limiting teachers’ powers in the classroom, I feel that, as educators who put students first, it’s hard to disagree with the need to protect students’ rights.
Restorative Discipline and PBIS seek to support positive behaviors in the classroom while keeping in mind that students are vulnerable people undergoing growth who need relationships of trust and support with adults to support their development. Though it may be hard to get used to for some of us, I believe that moving towards a more caring and inclusive approach to discipline is the right thing to do to put our students first.
I’m really excited to be starting a new novel study class about “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. It’s a book I’ve read many times for pleasure, both as a teenager and as an adult, and this will be the first chance I’ve had to teach it.
This semester, I’m experimenting a little bit in my novel study class with technology and student autonomy. Here’s the course syllabus I’ve posted on our Classting safe social media platform for my students:
I’m providing homework resources to my students for self-study as they pre-read chapters before class, but am not enforcing their completion for homework. Students will have choice in how they wish to use the worksheets as a study guide. In fact, I’m posting the answers online for my students a few days before we meet in class so that they can check their learning.
Another way I’m supporting student autonomy is by allowing students to select their own way to reflect on the reading they do each week. They can post an audio or video response online, share their thoughts as a reflective blog post, or share an image of a sketch quote on something they read in the chapter that interests them. Here are some sketch quotes from this week’s class:
In addition to our Classting class social media feed, we’re using todaysmeet.com to run a backchannel discussion during Socratic circle question and answer periods each week. While one group of students debates and discusses questions orally in class, students in other groups can participate in the discussion by commenting on screen using their smartphone or tablet. Throughout the discussion students are given the chance to participate verbally as well. Here’s a screenshot of our most recent backchannel conversation:
After two classes together, the technology seems to be integrating well into the classes and the students are quite engaged for the hour-and-a-half we are together. I’ll update this post with more student work as we go through the novel.
Here is a free download of my vocabulary and comprehension questions and quizzes for every chapter of The Giver. Feel free to use my work in your class and share it with other teachers in your school if it is useful in your classes. The PDF file is 140 pages and includes answer keys for all of the worksheets and quizzes.
This year my students are working independently on a "Passion Project" that they will share with the class at the end of the year. This is a Google Form I created to simplify the grading process as I watch their presentations.
In a previous post, I blogged about how I intend to use the new 2016 ISTE Standards for Students to inform my implementation of a makerspace in my 5th grade classroom.
My students are seated in learning teams of four students per group. My intention is to give groups a chance to reserve our classroom makerspace in order innovate solutions to problems that they encounter. Ideally, our makerspace would be open and available to all of the class, all of the time, but space and resource limitations will make it necessary to take turns.
Participation in makerspace activities will be extracurricular and voluntary. Students who choose to complete makerspace projects will be rewarded in experience points in Classcraft, our classroom gamification platform, for their efforts. Students will be encouraged to record and document their planning and design process digitally, and rewarded for doing so. Projects will culminate in a presentation for their classmates to take place during homeroom period in the morning. All projects will be shared on Classting, our class social media platform, for feedback and comments from peers and parents.
Here are links to the rubric and proposal worksheets and a brief exemplar presentation. I'll let you know in a future post how it all works out in class!
Matthew Boomhower is a mid-career educator with 15 years of classroom teaching and educational leadership experience. He is Head of Innovation & Learning at an international school in Malaysia and is a proud husband and father.