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.
Being an "early Adopter" is a "Risky Business"
I didn't drive a Porsche into a lake or anything, but I learned some pretty valuable lessons from my tech fails this year and I thought I might share them. Maybe you won't make these mistakes. Perhaps you will make other mistakes instead. I hope you will share them, so that we can all learn together. I hope that by sharing my fails you will be inspired to take some risks of your own. As Joel would say...
Sometimes you just have to say, "What the (heck)."
Here are my Top 5 EdTech FAILS of 2015-2016...enjoy.
Don't believe everything you see on the internet
While doing some research for a lesson on "selfies" I came across some interesting images related to how you can't believe everything on Instagram (see video below). The idea that kids can be consuming contrived images on social media and become depressed about how their own lives don't measure up to everyone else's hype got me thinking about Twitter.
Sharing a fail once in a while reminds us that we are all real teachers and human beings that are engaging in a struggle to be better today than we were yesterday; sometimes learning is messy.
Testing is over, grades are submitted...what do we do now?
With so much changing in education, and new tools being designed faster than I can learn about them, the existence of a sharing community for teachers is invaluable.
I am a lifelong learner and have had the privilege of also being called a teacher for eighteen years.
Like this blog? Are you a middle school English teacher? Check out my 20% time project. Genius Hour isn't just for students; my passion project is called "The Book Somm." It's a separate 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.