It's 2017... maybe it's time to rethink some of the things we have been doing for the past 40 years?
Looking back on 2016, it is fitting that "Cultivate" was my #OneWord last year. It has been a year of tremendous growth for me both personally and professionally.
It is amazing how something as simple as taking a few moments each day to focus on your breath can have such a profound impact on the learning environment in your classroom. Why aren't we all teaching mindfulness?
Being a teenager can be such a difficult time. As a person that observes teenagers both in my personal and professional life, I have seen them struggle with out of control emotions, changing bodies that can cause physical pain or discomfort, negative self-talk, and a general inability to focus on what is important. Why not give them the tool to help them deal with these changes: mindfulness.
Can you "Close Read" a Movie?
I am a member of a blogging community, #sunchatbloggers, that supports each other in a shared blogging adventure through ideas, encouragement, and comments. We decided to write about a central topic this month, a top five list of best practices. Because we all come from such varied teaching backgrounds the lists range from tech tools, increasing student talk, building rapport, etc. I don't often write about what goes on in my History class, and tend to focus on the language arts side of teaching when it comes to my blog posts, so I decided to dedicate my top five list to all of the History teachers out there. Not only am I sharing my ideas for making History awesome, but there are at least five lessons in this post that you can add to your drive to spice up your History curriculum.
Top 5 Strategies for Whipping up Engagement in History Class
1. Create Ambiance with a Field Trip and Some Mood Music
2. Mix in Some Modern Media
3. Add Pinch of Play
4. A Dash of Mystery
5. Blend with Costumes
Serve up some delicious lessons that make History stick to the roof of their mouths like wonder bread.
Has your school adopted a schedule that includes an advisory period? What do you do with this time?
This school year we implemented a schedule change that added a fifteen minute advisory period to the beginning of our school day. I was allowed to come up with a plan for how I would use this time. I say "allowed" because I know that in many schools, teachers are often given directives of what to do and are "allowed" to give very little input. I am fortunate that I don't work in that kind of school. I had complete freedom to create a curriculum for my advisory class and was excited about this amazing opportunity. Now what do I do with this time? I started out by making lists of things I thought would be good and things I did not think the time should or could be used for.
Building Community Through Loving Kindness
It's September, and in honor of attendance awareness month I'd like to share a story with you about being present.
When we trace back the meaning of attend through Old French (atendre) to its Latin root (attendere), we can see that when we attend, we are "stretching our mind toward" something. The attendance question gets students to pay attention through inviting them to stretch their minds toward a question which has no right answer.
It is early in the school year and I am talking to my class about sketchnotes when I see the light bulb go off over someone's head.
You mean we don't have to copy everything out of the textbook?
The realization actually made this student's face light up.
I try to introduce the concept of sketchnotes, or visual note taking, in snack size portions before asking the students to try out this style of note taking. I start with practice in the areas of three basic elements: text (heirarchy), image and structure. Vocabulary terms are a great opportunity for students to practice visual representations of concepts, and apparently more fun than copying definitions from the text book. But do they learn the words? Look at this student's example, I feel like this student has a better understanding of this concept than a student that copied words and definitions from a glossary.
How will you set the tone for what your classroom is about?
There is nothing kids look forward to more than sitting through six classes of syllabus lectures and rule speeches on the first day of school.
Starting off the school year with a list of what not to do, or a rules lecture creates a culture of compliance. I want out of the box thinking, risk taking, boundaries being pushed with innovative ideas. Which led me to write and share "Back to School 2.0". I hope you will find something useful and inspiring, that helps you to set the desired tone for your own classroom during that important first week of school. I would also recommend reading Don Wettrick's blog post "Create Culture First: Not Rules".
In this post you can explore ten free lessons/ideas for starting the year with creativity, inspiration, critical thinking, mystery, goal setting, collaboration, self reflection, and humor.
A word about Hyperdocs: when you see a button that says hyperdoc, what that means is you can click on it and see a teacher created lesson in Google slides or Google Docs. If you like what you see, just click on <file> <make a copy> to add it to your Google Drive. Once you have made your own copy, you will want to replace links to shared spaces like Padlet, Answer Garden, Google forms, and shared slide decks with your own links. If you don't do this, your students will be submitting their work to the teacher who created the lesson.
That might be an exaggeration, but I was going for maximum impact. I am keenly aware of the importance of building relationships with students, but I sometimes feel that the literature on this topic overlooks the capabilities of curriculum design as a pathway to connecting with students. Bringing student interests into the classroom not only increases their engagement, but it also helps students to see you as someone that they can connect with. I strive for a balance of exposing my students to new things to be interested in, while gaining their trust as someone who also values their interests, giving both equal time.
Pokemon GO has taken the gaming world by storm this summer. Like many educators, I had to ask, "How can I use this in my classroom?" I have come up with a list of ten ideas for "powering up" your lessons through Pokemon GO.
I am a lifelong learner and have had the privilege of also being called a teacher for sixteen years.
Like this blog? Are you a middle school English teacher? Check out my own 20% time project. Genius Hour isn't just for students, my passion project is called "The Book Somm". It's a seperate blog dedicated entirely to my love of literature. I read books and build a menu of paired texts and lessons around the YA novels that I love.