Do You Want to Join Our Group? #12MonthsBlogging

Much has been written about the efficacy of teachers reflecting on their practice through blogging.  

As teachers, we often ask students to reflect on their learning; since we are the lead learners in our classrooms, shouldn’t we be reflecting too?  Some people keep a journal. My daughter creates journal entries a couple times a week, and she tells me that she talks about what happened at school or with her friends (no, I haven’t read it – there hasn’t been a need).  Other people (like me) don’t want to write something that no one will ever read.  That’s when a real, authentic audience cinches the deal and makes blogging a win-win situation for me. If someone else is actually going to read what I write, then I’ll take the time to edit and make sure I’m writing exactly what I want to say.

 

The problem with blogging comes down to actually writing. Is it writer’s’ block? Is it fear that people will label my choice of topics as cliche? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s because writing inevitably ends up at the bottom of my to-do list.  Perhaps there’s fear that my readers will find my topics boring or boorish.  But you know what?  It doesn’t really matter.  A reflective blog is about MY learning, and if others somehow receive drive-by benefits, then it’s a bonus for both of us.  

Writing and editing a post doesn’t really take that long, so what I need is a support group to keep me on task – you know THOSE people who nag you until you finish (start?) your workout or call your mom? I need a group of fellow educators intent on improving their craft to join with me as I work through my teaching.  Is doesn’t matter what your job title is.  You could be a superintendent or a custodian.  We are all in the business of ‘doing what’s best for kids’ and in our collective effort of furthering that cause, we can learn from each other.

Enter #12monthsblogging.

For each month, there will be an overarching topic with specific writing prompts.  You can write your own post about the topic, or if you need more focus, use one of the prompts.  OR (in an effort to be totally student-driven) disregard the prompt all together and write something of your own choosing.  It doesn’t really matter what you write about – just make sure you have a message to communicate.  Fully flesh out your idea, and post it on your blog.  Advertise it on Twitter using the hashtag #12monthsblogging.

#12monthsblogging monthly topics

Finally, while you’re on Twitter, check out #12monthsblogging yourself, read some posts by fellow bloggers, and leave a comment or two.  

In the end, I’m hoping that regular posting to my blog will help me solidify some of my opinions on education.  That way, when people ask my opinion on a topic, I will have already examined my own biases, explored the evidence, and come up with a reasoned take on the subject.

I’m hoping you’ll join us – there’s no need to sign up, just post and tag on Twitter!

Great Example of Kindergarten Math

 

 

 

 

In Kindergarten math today during #noworksheetweek, the kids had to solve a problem.  It seems that the farmyard cat made the animals mad.  They chased him, and, in the process, ruined all their pens!

FarmyardMath1

 

Students estimated how much building material would be needed to make new pens.

FarmyardMath2

 

The kids then charted their estimations, and then checked them by building new pens.

FarmyardMath3

 

Then they reviewed, charted, and discussed their findings, and fixed the farmyard!

FarmyardMath4

…and the teacher was told that her students never want to see their math workbook ever again!

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Brilliant!

 

Autopsy of a Worksheet

This post was originally titled, “Anatomy of a Worksheet,” but such a title  implies something worth learning about and carrying forward.  I think it’s more apropos to learn about was, why it died, and how we can prevent it from happening again.

The first question people ask is, “What is a worksheet? I’ve been handing them out for years!”

WS_example

Fill-in-the-blank worksheet: No understanding required.

My definition of a worksheet has three parts:

1.  Worksheets are mass-printed, either by the teacher at the copier, or by a publisher in a workbook.

2.  Worksheets are given to every student in the classroom.

3.  Worksheets contain questions with black & white, right or wrong answers.  For example, they may be fill-in-the-blank, true/false, multiple choice, or math computational problems.

Why is a worksheet not the best instructional model?

1.  Worksheets do not promote depth of learning.  In his keynote at #METC14 in February, @Kevinhoneycutt told the story about how he was tired of being the ‘dumb kid in the back of the class,’ so he asked to be moved to the front where all the action between the teachers and the students took place, and what did he learn?  All the right answers to the questions were in bold, right in the text!  He didn’t even have to understand what the words meant to start answering questions correctly.

2.  Worksheets do not promote creativity.  When students know there is only one right answer, they work to respond with what they think is expected.  Check out this video by Sir Ken Robinson from the #ASCD14 in Los Angeles this winter:

3.  Common Core does not support Worksheets.  Common Core is about teaching kids the HOW and WHY of things –  explaining, creating, analyzing, evaluating, and understanding.  A worksheet shows a teacher their students understand two things:  the WHAT of things, and that they are adept at filling in blanks.

I hope you will join our #noworksheetweek challenge the week of April 7 – 11, 2014.  Join our No Worksheet Google+ Community, and check out these other educators who are in on the Challenge:  Rae Fearing (CA), Dan Gibson (IN), and Kristie Burk (PA).

What do you do instead of worksheets to promote student creativity in your class?  What lesson are you the most proud of?

5 Quick Lessons on Character Analysis and Predicting using iPads

 

 

whattheteacherwants.blogspot.com

whattheteacherwants.blogspot.com

Since this month’s focus is ‘Teaching Reading with iPads,’ our weekly ‘Techie Lunch’ iPad/tech training session concentrated on Character Analysis and Predictions.  We have already covered Active Reading for Main Idea and Sequencing.  The educators in attendance during their lunch period were 2nd and third grade teachers, so we had a conversation geared toward this level of students.

After some discussion about Bloom’s Taxonomy, and the importance of students being able to show understanding by accessing the higher levels, we came up with some ideas for lessons on Character Analyis:

1.  (Character’s Description) – Whiteboard, Doodle Buddy or Jot!  – Students draw a picture of the main character using a whiteboard app.

2.  (Character’s Language/Dialogue) – PaperDesk, NoteMaster, ScreenChomp, Skitch or Notability – Students take a picture from their printed story, and then highlight something that the character said that illustrates one of their character traits.

3.  (Other Characters’ Reactions to Character in Question) – ToonTastic or PuppetPals –  Have students assign characters from their story to figures in the apps.  Have them re-enact scenes from memory from their story.

For Predicting, students have to understand all the elements of the story AND have a good grasp on human nature in order to predict what will happen next in a story, which is why active readers should always be pausing to try and figure out what will happen next, just as we try to solve the case in less time than it takes Bones and Booth.

1.  (Predicting Character Actions)  – ToonTastic or PuppetPals – Similar to #3, above, but give them a situation NOT in the story, and have them show you how the characters in the story might react to the new situation, or if you are only part way through the text, what they think the characters might do next in the story.

2.  (Predicting Plot) –  iBrainstorm, Popplet or Corkulous – Plot out main parts (even as simple as beginning, middle, end), of the plot on either poppies or sticky notes, and put them in the right order.  Change the color of the notes or popples and have them continue on with the story sequence.  They could even then change the colors all back to the original color, exchange iPads, and have their neighbor put them all back in order, changing the color of the predicted ones once they get there (so you know they know which parts haven’t really happened yet).  If the students understand cause/effect the plot so far, and any characters involved, they should be able to put them all back together.

What other lessons have you found to be successful?

 

Creating Monster Aliens

20130305-203936.jpgWhat happens when you work in an open-space building where your computer lab is surrounded by 4th and 5th graders taking their annual NCLB-mandated standardized test?  You get booted, of course!  I took the opportunity to wheel my cart into the 2nd graders’ classrooms and try out some collaborative work.  For the last 25 (or so) minutes of class, I split them up into 2 or 3 groups (depending on class size and layout), I told them their job was to make a robot/alien/creature using a particular whiteboard app (“Whiteboard” by Green Gar Studios – the one with the smiley face).

20130305-204016.jpg

That’s it.  They had never used this app before, but since I don’t ever explain how to use apps, I didn’t worry about that (adults seem to be the only ones that need me to explain apps to them).  It was interesting to sit back and watch them work.  Some groups started out with organization, others did not.  In the end, they all laid out their iPad into the desired shape, assigned roles, and then drew on them, sometimes several people drawing on the same iPad at once.  They thought it was extra cool when I turned out the lights and went around photographing the final products.

20130305-204028.jpg

Over lunch, I took the pictures off my iPad and forwarded them to their parents, teachers, and administration so that they could be a part of the kids’ coolness.  And now you are part of it too!

What other ideas do you have to creatively collaborate with kids and iPads?

Writing with iPads Pt1: Brainstorming & Organizing

StoryStarters

Using iPads for writing instruction can be
intimidating.  Just remember that you don’t have to do all of
it at once.  Choose one app or one step in the writing process
with which to begin your infusion of technology.  Of the apps
I experimented with, these are the ones I found to be the
best:


Story
Dice
is a simple app that can be used to come up
with topics for all ages, even the youngest kids who can’t read
yet, since it’s all in pictures.  Simply select the number of
die you would like to have showing, shake, and roll.  Kids
could each make a story using the same die rolls, and then could
vote on which had the best character, plot, overall story, etc.

Shake-a-phrase has three
parts:  Shake It!, Story Starter, and Quiz Me!  Shake It!
generates silly, random sentences where you can tap words for
definitions.  Story Starter gives a ‘what if…’, ‘Imagine
if…’, ‘What would happen if…’ sentence that would get students
writing.  Quiz Me! gives a silly sentence and asks the
students to tap a certain part of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives,
prepositions, or conjunctions).  You can choose from all or
just one to differentiate.
Idea Sketch allows you to
mind map your writing with curved lines and Idea Sketch allows you
to mind map your writing with curved lines and different colors.
It allows you to rearrange them, too.  You can only
share by sending to email, FB, or to your camera roll (which would
allow you to save it for later projection or viewing on the same
iPad). photo copy 8 Popplet
Lite
is another version of graphic organizer
that allows mindmapping.  Export features include emailing as
a .pdf or .jpeg, or it can be saved as a jped on the iPad.
photo copy 4
iBrainstorm looks like
post-it notes on a Masonite board.  You can change the color
of the Post-it squares and you can draw on the board with different
colored markers.  Exporting options are sending in an email
and saving to photos. iBrainstorm Corkulous
is similar to iBrainstorm.  You cannot write on the
board, but there are a lot of different shapes that can be
attached, and you can change the color of the post-it notes.
Just use the file drawer at the bottom of the page. Corkulous In Part 2, I’ll go over apps which are good for
making the ‘Sloppy Copy’ and for editing.  In the meantime,
try one or two of these this week.  No one expects you to
adopt all of these at once (although you are more than welcome
to!), but the only way you will become comfortable and familiar
with them is to play with them on your own and use them with the
kids.

Our Future in Their Hands

I wrote this post as a short article to be included in our school’s monthly PTO Newsletter:

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21st Century Learners

Today’s kindergarteners will retire in 2071.  Most likely they will have several careers in their lifetime, most of which haven’t even been imagined yet.  What our students do have in common, however, is that they are 21st century learners.  While there may be some controversy as to exactly what this phrase means, most of us in the educational field understand it to mean that in order to succeed in school, career, and life, students must take the 3 R’s of the 20th century and be able to apply them using the 3 C’s: creatively, collaboratively, and with excellent communication.  Gone are the days when students will learn a little about a lot.  It’s imperative that they now delve deeper into subjects, learning how to evaluate information, synthesize it into something unique, and communicate their findings to peers and colleagues.   Education is shifting to emphasize skill over content, with teachers and parents moving from the role of disseminator of knowledge to facilitator of learning.  With so much information so readily available, it is our responsibility to teach our kids how to find what they need, ensure that it’s reliable, and most importantly, to stay curious.  The world is only going to keep moving faster.  In order to keep up and to develop into productive citizens of the 21st century, our kids must become lifelong learners, able to handle large amounts of information in a responsible manner.

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Further Reading/Watching:

Education Week article

YouTube Video

Are you ready?  We’re going – with or without you!