Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why I will wear a Garbage Bag to School Tomorrow

It's true.  My students sometimes write garbage.  Nondescript sentences that lack clarity, meaning, and tone.  Most often it's because their writing is riddled with what we call at my school "Garbage Words."  Stuff. Guy. Thing. Very. Gonna. Alot. Yes, alot.  Student sentence:  One thing about a guy is that he's gonna do alot of stuff. Sigh. Somedays, I seriously want to scream, but instead, I've decided to wear a garbage bag.

I've always loved adding some costuming to my teaching; I have bins and bins of costumes and have worn everything from a Roman gladiator's costume during our study of Julius Caesar, and an Angry Bird costume (we studied "angry verbs"), to a deer costume to emphasize that the plural of deer is, in fact, deer.  My most vivid memory of my own eighth grade career was when my Social Studies teacher dressed in full Civil War costume and fired off a musket over the playground. It was 1984.  When I read Dave Burgess's Teach Like a Pirate, I rediscovered the need and impact of costumes in the classroom. Dave, who appears at presentations dressed as a pirate, addresses the idea of using costuming and props to hook students and engage them in the lesson, and I agree with him wholeheartedly.  There's something about stepping out of the expected role that elevates student interest.

So tomorrow I will wear a garbage bag with all of the Garbage Words glued on it.  What am I hoping the impact will be?  Maybe they'll remember that crazy teacher in eighth grade, and maybe, just maybe, they'll remember to avoid Garbage Words in their writing.  Pictures coming soon.

Here's a picture...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Swivl to the Rescue for School-Home Communication

Swivl to the Rescue for School-Home Communication

I've been working on increasing and improving my school-home communication this year and am determined to leverage technology to make the communication channels truly flow.  I'm blessed to be in a district that has strong family support and our annual Curriculum Night is generally well attended.  But, what about those parents who can't make this one night to see their child's teacher face to face or get an overview of the curriculum and class expectations?

Swivl to the rescue!

This year I recorded my Curriculum Night presentation using my Swivl Robot and the online software, Swivl Cloud, that embeds the video side by side with my Google Slides presentation.  This video is linked on my school website so that any parents who could not attend Curriculum Night could still get an overview and understand what my classroom expectations are.  I had only played around a little bit with the robot and the digital tool prior to Curriculum Night, and I found the whole process easy-peasy!

Uploading the video to the Swivl Cloud took just moments.  I then downloaded my slides (they had to be converted to big deal), and a few moments later (drop and drag), I ended up with a professional looking presentation and video that could be embedded or shared.

Thank you, Swivl, for creating the video tools to make this process quick, easy, and professional looking.  I'm looking forward to using Swivl Robot in conjunction with the Swivl Cloud video tools to record PD sessions I will be leading next week.  I'll share the video and presentation out to those who can't attend.  I'm dreaming up other uses for this tool; a perfected lecture, a student presentation, professional evaluation, students who were absent all could be serviced with the Swivl Robot and Swivl Cloud tools.

Swivl Robot in conjunction with Swivl Cloud...I'm a fan!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Let's - Navigating the Teacher Dashboard

February 2017
Let's Recap has recently added some updates to their teacher dashboard, and as a result, I've created a video that demonstrates some of the updates.  A few updates that I'm especially excited about are the ability to set a specific deadline for an assignment and the ability to choose which students' videos to include in the daily review reel.  I hope you find this video informative and helpful.  I continue to love using @RecapThat in my classroom, and my students love it, too.

Summer 2016:
I've been busy this summer doing a few workshops focusing on the importance of feedback in the classroom, and in each of the workshops, I've highlighted one of my favorite classroom tools for feedback Let's Recap  @RecapThat .  I've found teachers are eager to learn how to use this tool, but sometimes navigating a teacher dashboard can be intimidating at first glance.

Where do I start?  How do I input students?  Where do I access the data I need?  These are all common questions when looking at a new tool.  Many of the online tools designed for classroom integration include a teacher dashboard that serves as a control room for using the tool, and is no different.  To help teachers get started using this tool, I've created a short video tutorial on navigating the teacher dashboard.  I've found that with a little exploration, using teacher dashboard is fairly intuitive.

Let's Recap allows students to create a short (15 sec.-2 min.) video response to a question or series of questions.  It's simple to differentiate and personalize the question and response cycle, and in my experience, it's been a successful tool for exit tickets, reflections, and summaries.  Actually hearing and seeing my students respond via video adds a layer of understanding for me that I don't often feel when reading a brief written response.  I like to hear their tone of voice and pauses, see their expressions, and I often get a more personalized connection from a brief video response than I would in a written response.  More importantly, I see students re-recording themselves and re-thinking their video responses; I believe that the self-evaluation process that comes naturally when video is introduced can be a powerful influence in improving communication skills.  I want to be clear; I don't believe video responses replace written responses.  However, I do feel that this tool in particular makes it easy to give and gather effective feedback quickly and efficiently, and I've found it to be highly successful at taking the pulse of a classroom's overall understanding.

Have you tried video to give or gather feedback in the classroom?  What has your experience been?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Can I become a Book Whisperer? A Book Reflection of The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

I kick started my summer professional development reading off with The Book Whipserer-Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller. I had skimmed through this a few years back, but at the time, I was teaching a general English class and the focus on reading was one of many skills.  Now I'm teaching the Language Arts portion of 8th grade curriculum, and my focus is centralized on developing life-long readers and increasing reading skills and fluency.  

Take Aways:  Leading students toward autonomy with literature must be the focus of my reading instruction and embedding specific reading skills through students' independent reading rather than whole class instruction is the most effective way to ensure that the instruction is authentic.  

  • Share your passion of reading by actively reading.
  • Readers lead richer lives. 
  • Whole group or forced instructional reading does not serve the end goal of developing lifelong readers.
  • Student choice, student choice, student choice is key; combined with a community of informed, engaged, passionate readers, student choice will create a life long reader with much more success than whole group instruction.  
  • Know your readers through a use of reader's journals:  Developing, Dormant, Underground
  • Conditions for learning: immersion, demonstration, expectation, responsibility, employment, approximations, response, engagement (trustworthy/risk free).  
  • Make time for reading in class.  Reading must become ubiquitous.

  • Ideas for Journals:  tally, genre, read/attempted, minutes/pages, reflections, questions, reviews images.
  • Miller's genre requirement:  40 books- 5 poetry, 5 traditional, 5 realistic fiction, 2 historical fiction, 4 fantasy, 2 science fiction, 2 mystery, 2 informative, 2 biography, autobiography, memoir, 9 chapter choice 
  • Do book reviews and book commercials, not book reports.  The Book Trailer fits nicely into this requirement. 
  • Prizes devalue the reward of reading as pleasurable.
  • Reading logs create family homework and develop resentment.

Currently, I require students to log their reading for a minimum of 200 minutes per 2 weeks.  The logs are signed by parents as acknowledgment that the students are reading.  Miller argues that this creates family homework (work for the parents), develops resentment, and students cheat.  I agree to some extent; however, I included these logs as an experiment in gamification of my classroom and students could obtain public recognition and participate in friendly competition with the other classes.  My observations were that my students were actively engaged in reading more than ever before.  Again and again, like Miller, I had students share with me that they had never before read this much and would never go back to being a non-reader.  Was there some cheating and some mild resentment at turning in the logs? Yes; however, I feel that that the majority of my students developed a routine of writing in their minutes, including a one word reflection as a way of proving that they were participating in the SSR (sustained silent reading) program.   In my mind, the end outweighs the means in keeping a reading log.  Other teachers shared that they didn't see the reading log  as effective, but they were not using it as part of the collaborative gamification/competition aspect that I was.  Perhaps, I am naive, but I think the reading log helped to develop my developing and dormant readers into more active and engaged readers, and it helped parents build awareness of their child's reading habits.  That is a win-win in my book, even if a few kids fudged on their reading minutes.  Collectively, the logged minutes for my students this year totaled over 350,000 minutes.  By setting and reaching our goal, students felt motivated and engaged in reading.  I agree with Miller that a reading log can create resentment, but I believe when it's built into a collaborative competition between classes, the benefits outweigh the costs and the end results is that everyone is reading.  

What will I do differently?  I will consider creating a reading log similar to Miller's to help create a communication flow and get to know my readers more personally.  I will consider creating open ended genre requirement though I fear more resentment will result from a genre requirement than a reading log requirement, but I see the value in expanding the genre choices.  I will develop more opportunities for students to share their opinions and reflections in both formal and informal settings.  Most importantly, I will make it a priority to read YA books so that I can guide and coach my readers to books they might enjoy.  I may put some of my PD books to the side for a time this summer and really dig into the most read YA books that my students recommended to me.  I owe them that.  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Third Teacher-A Reflection Video

If You Give a Teacher an EdCamp

If you've been anywhere near a child since 1985, you are probably familiar with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff.  The book has been replicated and spoofed, and it shares the consequences of one decision and the subsequent actions that take place.  Well, after returning from my first EdCamp, EdCampIllinois on May 14th at South Middle School in Arlington Heights, IL, I now understand a little bit more about that mouse.  EdCamps are "unconferences" or conferences wherein the sessions and agendas are created on the go and inspired by the motivation and willingness to share and brainstorm for the betterment of education. 

Visit help you find the next EdCamp in your part of the world.

If You Give a Teacher an EdCamp by Shannon Schroeder

If you give a teacher an EdCamp, she will probably share an idea with a fellow teacher, and that fellow teacher will share an idea with her.  If you give a teacher an idea, that teacher will ask for another idea and then make a connection on Twitter, building her PLC.  In all likelihood, the teacher will go to another EdCamp session, and share another idea with another fellow teacher, and that teacher will share an idea with her.  Then that teacher will ask for the resources for that idea.  If you give a teacher resources for that idea, she will bookmark them, order the book from Amazon, and share her resources with her colleagues on Monday, and then, she will ask to go to another session.  If you give a teacher another session with like minded, motivated teachers who have given up their Saturdays to earn the elusive CPDUs, she will likely Tweet about an idea she learned and share it to her PLC.  Then, she will ask for more ideas.  If you give a teacher more ideas, she will get inspired and start asking questions.  She will feel as though she is not alone in the murky waters of education. She will ask for answers to her questions.  If you give a teacher answers to her questions, she might feel excited and engaged, and she will ask more questions and want more ideas.  If you give a teacher more answers and more ideas and more inspiration, she will ask, "When's the next EdCamp?" and she will wonder why all PD isn't like this.  So, please, give a teacher an EdCamp.