Yesterday evening, I presented “Technology Tools for the New Teacher” at Texas State University. I was so nervous that I lost several nights of sleep. Present were a mix of undergraduate and graduate pre-service teachers. One professor brought her class. I spoke from the premise of not being an expert, but rather an active learner similar to the way children learn – find something of interest and interact with the material. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, yet I jumped at the opportunity for the experience. Within the presentation, I tried to incorporate sites for professional development, organization, collaboration, web tools, classroom management, teacher lesson resources, classroom resources, and games. I hate to go to a conference, then hear, “If you learn one thing from each presentation, then it is worth it.” I believe time in life is more valuable than that so I inundated my presentation with sources though I was a little concerned it would water the information down. Everyone comes to technology with different strengths so my objective was to share multiple areas of interest for engagement. It seemed to go well; the professor, a principal in another district, asked me to present to her staff. However, I goofed with some of the links and I’m not sure how. I logged into all sites which required a password, which should have allowed for the links to work, but they didn’t. At these points, I continued speaking as I manually pulled up the web page. It was clunky; I’m not going to lie. Lesson learned (well, as soon as I realize how to solve the issue). I learned about new tools in the process of building my Power Point. One I particularly like is thinglink.com. You upload an image, then add text, media, and/or images. Imagine using this for a writing assignment!
I have a very firm vision of how I’d like to arrange my room for student activities throughout the day and personal organization. A rocking chair was a part of my original plan because it calls to mind a cozy environment for sharing the love of a good read. However, working in the classrooms, it feels that it takes up space that could be used for the children. Because of this, I’ve decided to use a few stools at various heights. It’s an experiment – I understand much of what I think now will change with experience; that’s part of the excitement. Because it is so hard to wait for August to arrive with a classroom of students, then I spend some of my free time creating items for the future. This is said somewhat tongue in cheek. I bought 6 chairs on Craigslist almost a year ago and I finally painted my first classroom stool. My favorite colors are black and red. Red is a little strong to have much of it in the room so I’ll just have a few blips of it. Growing up in Louisiana inspired the fleur-de-lis. This represents my heritage. It’s a little funny because I dislike seeing stars all over homes in Texas or fleurs-de-lis in every decoration when visiting home – just a personal taste issue. However, it’s a beautiful symbol with interesting history behind it. It’s a fancy lily indicative of France. My hometown is Baton Rouge, but walking through New Orleans, the image of the fleurs-de-lis within the architecture is beautiful. Here is my first stool:
I learned something about painting furniture – there are a LOT of steps. Sanding, priming, multiple paint coats, then multiple top coats. Most importantly, beware, it’s contagious. Two daughters are now about to begin similar adventures.
I have to admit to not typically being a fan of foldables. However, I recently came across a blog through Pinterest titled Get into the Fold. This blog offered page after page of ideas, using thoughtful lessons including foldables as a means to implement the lesson. I wanted to save each idea onto my Evernote site, but I realized it would be too much. I chose to follow the blog.
What reeled me in? The first lesson was a Reader’s Response to character development using a template from Dinah Zilke’s Notebooking Central Literature Response book. To top it off, they were using one of my absolute favorite children’s books,
. The foldable led the student to understanding the character through explicit words in the text, words spoken by the character in question, words used by other characters, thoughts/feelings of the character, and actions of the character. It was a fantastic use of a foldable to inspire higher level thinking.
Of course, I have added two of Dinah Zilke’s Notebooking Central books to my wish list now. The one listed above and another one on literary elements.
As I enter into my final weeks, I think about what I’ve learned. There’s a balance between supporting those who need to revisit concepts, while moving forward for those who are ready. Daily 5 and math stations work well for this. These periods allow small group visits to enhance or reteach. I am in an inclusion class so differentiation often looks like open ended activity with heterogeneous grouping. Specific accommodations are used as well such as scaffolding with visuals. Pairs and groups continuously change, even with choice by the students. A challenge is moving into the next unit when I’d like to dig deeper so I add challenge through comparison/contrast, using deeper questions (how, why), and open assignments. In the next unit, the students will compare fables, then create a unique fable to share a valuable lesson with the first graders.
Kappa Delta Pi Convocation
Recently, I attended a Kappa Delta Pi Convocation. My greatest inspiration came from Dr. Jeff Goldstein, an astrophysicist.
He is passionate about self generated inquiry and education. We have similar values, yet he expresses his thoughts so beautifully. Some of my favorite quotes from him are:
“We are born curious and we are born universe based learners.”
“It is the students’ classroom and the teacher lights the way.”
“A core goal should be joyful learning which leads to joyful employment, but make data driven decisions.”
“A core goal should be critical thinking on demand.”
Incredible, right? A lot of it, I’ve mentioned in my philosophy, past reflections, and class papers. However, it’s always great to see our views validated, with a fresh outlook to reinvigorate our purpose.
A friend of mine just became a second grade teacher. This is exciting for multiple reasons – one simply the fulfillment of a dream and two – I discovered I am student teaching in second grade. We’re thrilled to have this common ground because it’s one way we can feel connected since she is no longer a classmate. Anyway, this morning we discussed class rules briefly (through texting). She’s required to have 4 for the classroom. This is interesting because my supervisor just recommended this week that we keep rules short and somewhat broad. This allows for teacher discretion to consider each behavior miscue in context. Did Johnny’s parents just divorce? We want to take this situation into account. There’s still accountability, but fair does not always mean the exact same. Different children have different needs. Okay, so back to the rules. Here are my thoughts:
Be respectful and kind to yourself, others, and property.
Try your best.
It’s not anything new. I plan to have students at the beginning of the year discuss what rules should be in the room, guiding them toward the ones listed. Sneaky, right? Expectations, how it looks, how it sounds, and why this is desirable will be discussed throughout the year. In line with this, I just bought over 175 pages of a reward system that has fewer material rewards off of TeachersPayTeachers from a seller, Mel D. It’s a dangerous, yet resourceful site – many items are free.
Back in January, I attended the first two days of a Kagan Structure workshop. I couldn’t wait to complete the week. Last week I finished the final 3 days of cooperative learning, thanks to my physics professor allowing an early exit with the help of a friendly email from another professor. The bonus? I was in a hotel room for 3 nights all alone – better than a spa anyday.
Our presenter’s name was Angela. I love to listen to a great presenter and she was exceptional. I don’t recall hearing one “um” or pause – she just flowed. Okay, now for the content. I can’t help, but support the use of Kagan structures. It’s a way to let the children move and get students involved in learning without an easy path to mentally check out of the classroom or pass the buck to a more eager participant. One structure called “One stray” allows for adding a little change into the classroom without it being overwhelming. One student from each group moves to another group, either for one activity to report back to the original group or as a means of changing teams. Strays can be increased to 2-3 changes if needed/desired. “Spend a buck” has a fun, yet easy method of providing voter choice. Each student within a group receives 10 “bucks” for the use of voting. Everyone puts 1 dollar on each team member choice, then the remaining 6 bucks can be distributed in any way. Everyone receives at least 2 votes using this method. I imagine group projects, literature circles, and classroom celebration as areas where “Spend a buck” can be used. Another favorite is Inside Outside Circle where students switch partners when one circle moves. This provides 50% engagement at all times, movement, and multiple perspectives. Chairs can be used for younger grades. Now with a full week of Kagan training, in addition to training by several professors, I’m ready to roll.
My Take Away
Because structures are simply methods of increasing participation and not content based, It is my hope to use the many structures I’ve learned in every classroom. A strength is that differentiation is built into the program or easily incorporated. I strongly recommend this workshop to any who have opportunity. Check out the Kagan website. At this last event, there were educators from preschool through high school. I couldn’t help buying software to visually organize several structures I plan to use; I can’t wait to try them out.
Side note – I used the word structures 6 times and the word buck/s 4 times. I hate repeating myself, but they were the proper terms.
I’ve nixed the trader card idea – tried it today, but didn’t like it for this project. I’ve decided to use a Readbox idea from Pinterest for the wall, along with library cards in the classroom library file box. Both will utilize QR codes to access the book trailer video (see yesterday’s post). Here’s a picture from lessonswithlaughter.com where the students made the book trailers. At some point, I’d like to use this as a student activity, but I think it can also be useful through the year to encourage interest in reading.
Using PowerPoint, I’ve created two separate cards for each book on one page to be cut apart once laminated). One card has a picture of the book cover with a QR code superimposed onto the image. This card will go onto the Readbox display. The corresponding card has a title, author, and QR code minus the image of the book. This card will go into a library file accessed by students during scheduled or earned periods during language arts. The Readbox display will rotate, but the library file will grow over the year. Here is a scan of two of my cards (ignore title because it will not be used).
This past semester I came across the idea of using Animoto in the classroom for student created book trailers. The blog where I discovered this lesson belongs to Holly Mueller. I set aside the idea of playing with this project for the summer when more time would be available. This morning I decided to explore the Animoto website. I could not stop until I finished my trailer because it was so much fun! Because Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin hits the middle of elementary reading levels, plus is a personal favorite, it was my first book of choice to create a video. Using Flickr creative commons, Wikimedia commons, and the advanced search of Google images, I found pictures which I could repost without copyright infringement. When my video reached 30 seconds, but was incomplete, I bought the yearly subscription. I couldn’t help myself. My next project will be to utilize a website I found this past week to create a trading card with a QR code in order to access the book trailer. Learning is like giving Numeroff’s mouse a cookie: it expands, grows, and evolves. Exciting, right? Here’s my video:
After trying Prezi late last year, I discovered I prefer PowerPoint. It feels as if PP has better variety with more options. The way Prezi moves from one screen to another feels disjointed to me. However, Prezi is useful for the choice it provides students in form of presentation. I always prefer giving choices when possible. Below is my prezi from a literature study of one chapter of The Skin That We Speak by Lisa Delpit. The book conveys first account experiences about the impact of language in the classroom.
Yesterday I subbed in an excellent school with third graders. I brought several of my usual bag of tricks for experimentation. Kagan structures for collaborative work (or breaks) and the music wand to gain attention continue to be hits with the students. I used a brain break during an hour long session of math worksheets. As I ran around a tiny table in front of table groups, a hit in itself, the students stood up to perform “the wave”. When first being introduced to brain breaks, I wondered if the interruption would serve as a hindrance to getting back into the groove of working. To date, this has not been my experience. Students love the change in routine, then continue working with a wonderful attitude. It deepens the teacher/student relationship which is interesting.
Many in this group had not heard of twitter, yet this didn’t stop the enjoyment of tweeting about personal events. If the students worked hard, they could tweet on a large post-it anything of interest. Here’s my header post-it:
Best result of using this method was learning more about each student. I visualize book responses, predictions, and inferring author’s intent in a very informal style which can still stimulate higher level thinking. A winner idea courtesy of Pinterest.
Another experiment was the use of Class Dojo. Assuming I would not be using a computer in the classroom, I printed out a Class Dojo page with student roster numbers, table numbers, and one slot for “Whole Class”. Each slot has its own avatar in the appearance of a monster. I wish there were more monsters so each student could have an original image, but I believe I can create additional avatars if I choose. I’ll check into this later. I informed the students how I receive the best classes everytime I sub, but wanted a better way to brag to their teacher at the end of the day. Because of this, I printed out the avatar sheet. During the day, I would catch students performing three model behaviors: following directions, respecting people and property, and staying on task. There were no rewards from me, but I would leave the paper for the teacher so she could see how wonderfully her students behaved. Points, once earned, could not be taken away. This form of positive reinforcement was received very well for an initial trial. It will be interesting to see the effects over a longer term. I really have to thank my prior mentor during my internship for modelling true positive reinforcement. It was quite an experience to observe how effectively she managed the classroom without calling attention to any negative behavior.
At the end of the day, I would conclude all management experiments as successful. Three teachers asked for my name and number because the students responded well. This was a bonus since this is a school where I would love to be a part of the team – very positive, friendly, down to earth dynamics.