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  • Push to Talk PD Push to Talk PD

    • From: Brad_Currie
    • Description:

      This past week #Satchat extended it's Twitter conversation to a mobile app called Voxer. It has been an amazing experience for participants who are now able to share their insight through voice messages. Once downloaded on your mobile device, Voxer enables users to hold individual or group chats in real time or at their own pace. In terms of professional growth, over 75 educators from around the world have shared their perspectives and insight on a plethora of topics. More specifically this week our group is discussing the trials and tribulations of being a new school leader. Educators from all walks of life including teachers, vice principals, principals, supervisors, superintendents, and other stakeholders have provided tremendous guidance.

      The great thing about this experience is that participants, including myself, can hear the emotion that others bring to the discussion. It's one thing to read a tweet and a whole other thing to listen to someone speak to a particular topic.. That's why Voxer is so unique. Users can listen and learn on the own time, whether it's in their car or during a lunch break. Need to have a more specific conversation based on something that was brought up in a particular group chat? No problem. Send a direct voice or text message to that person within the application. Pictures, links, and other resources can be shared during a conversation as well.

      Are you intrigued by this whole Voxer rage in the educational community? Send me a direct message on Twitter or via email with your Voxer handle and I will add you to the #Satchat group. Or better yet, try starting your own group. The options are many as it relates to the impact Voxer can have in the school setting. For example, it could be used as an assessment tool or during a time of crisis to communicate with staff. Currently I am apart of a Voxer book chat on digital leadership and participate in a administrator group that shares best practices. Over the past few weeks I have recommended Voxer to some of my PLN members from around the country. Although at first hesitant to see the true value of this web tool, their minds quickly changed after conversing with other like-minded educators.

      So what do say? Take that leap into the Voxer world and see your professional growth be stimulated in a way once thought unimaginable.

       

    • Blog post
    • 3 days ago
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  • So You Want to Be an Administr So You Want to Be an Administrator? 5 Tips for Aspiring Principals

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      aspiring principalYou’ve already spent years, maybe even decades, in the classroom as a teacher, you know how to lead and organize, and you certainly have the “in-the-trenches” perspective that every administrator worth his or her salt must have. Now what? What should you do to make the prospect of becoming a principal a reality? To help answer these questions, we’d like to share a few tips from Peter Hall’s book, The First-Year Principal.

      So You Want to Be an Administrator? 5 Tips for Aspiring Principals

      Skip the resume—for now
      Your first inclination may be to dust off your resume and start looking for open positions, but as Hall wryly notes, the “application” process begins long before resumes, long before you had the crazy idea that “13-hour days with no lunch sounded appealing,” and long before you even had the slightest inkling that you wanted to become a principal.

      Hall suggests that you start with “those people with whom you have worked, the contacts you have made, the folks from whom you have earned support and respect.” Do you need to “schmooze” these people? Not at all, but keep in mind that “relationships with credible professionals” are a form of currency—and that currency is priceless.

      Stay in the moment
      Regardless of their career aspirations, aspiring principals should always “stay in the moment.” For Hall, this means that you must continue to “focus on students in your care and your current school organization as a whole.” In addition to this, it means aligning your “work practice and decision-making with the established school goals.”

      For Hall, there is “no reason to focus on anything but excelling in your current position.” This means going where no teacher has gone before: Set and exceed new standards of excellence and watch as your name becomes associated with positive results.

      Involve yourself in projects beyond your current position
      So you’re continuing to perfect your craft and excel at what you do? Good. Now it’s time for you to do a little more. Start by participating in district activities, committees, panels, focus groups, and other school or district groups and organizations. Just don’t take on so much that you begin to shirk your current job responsibilities or your students; doing so will only undermine the benefits you are hoping to gain from joining these organizations.

      Be respectful to everyone you meet
      You’re an educator, so you already know that the job doesn’t end when the bell rings. This is especially applicable to teachers who live in small, rural towns, but even those of us who live in the city will run into students, parents, and colleagues at the mall, the grocery store, or in restaurants. We may not even see these people, but you better believe they see us and they take note of what we say, do, and how we behave when we’re out in the community. Eyes are always on us. Keep this in mind not only when you are in the classroom, but outside of it as well.

      Find an experienced mentor
      There are plenty of books offering advice for aspiring and first-year principals, but few are as wise as someone who has been doing what you hope to do for the last five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years. Seek out a mentor and learn from him or her. Hopefully, this relationship will not only reaffirm your passion for the position, but also help you become better prepared for the road ahead.

       

       

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    • Blog post
    • 4 days ago
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  • Literature Circles: A Student- Literature Circles: A Student-Centered Approach to Literacy

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      Why do our students come to school? Yes, yes, of course because they have to, but why else? Is it because of you? Is it because of the mind-bending lectures we give? If you asked Michael Kahn (see his article, “The Seminar”) these questions, he’d tell you that there’s nothing intrinsically special about us or the textbooks.

      No, what makes coming to school “worth it” for Kahn is the collaborative learning experience—or in his words, the “opportunity [for students] to engage in a fantastic dialogue, trialogue, multilogue with a fantastically varied assortment of consciousnesses.”

      There are countless ways we can get students working together, talking and learning from one another, but literature circles are certainly one of the most effective. Not only do they encourage open dialogue, creativity and critical thinking, they also push students to take ownership of their own learning experience.

      What are literature circles?
      When we use literature circles, small groups of student gather for an in-depth discussion of a literary work. To ensure that students have a clear sense of direction and remain focused, each group member is given a specific task. For example, one student may be the designated artist; s/he is responsible for using some form of art to explore a main idea, a theme, or significant scene from the text. Another group member, the wordsmith, might be responsible for documenting important, unusual, or difficult words from the reading. Regardless of each student’s role, each group must collaborate as they read, discuss and critically engage with texts.

      The circles meet regularly, and the discussion roles change at each meeting. When the circle finishes a book, the members decide on a way to showcase their literary work for the rest of the class.


      To give you a better sense of what literature circles are—and aren’t—take a look at the following chart from Bonnie Campbell Hill’s guide, Literature Circles and Response:

      literature_circles_2

      What is the teacher’s role in literature circles?
      As Harvey Daniels explains in his book Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups, “the teacher’s main job in literature circles is to not teach.” Instead, teachers use mini-lessons, debriefing sessions and Socratic questioning techniques as they circulate the room, moving from group to group to evaluate student progress. As a facilitator, the teacher is never center-stage. In literature circles, the teacher’s role is supportive, organizational and managerial.

      What is the role of each student?
      There are a number of approaches you can take, but Daniels believes in introducing literature circles by using predefined roles that students take turns fulfilling. Although the terminology used to name the roles may vary, the descriptions remain similar.


      Pam Chandler, a sixth-grade English, reading, and social studies teacher at Sequoia Middle School in Redding, California, defines the roles her students take on in literature circles in this way:

      • Artful artist uses some form of artwork to represent a significant scene or idea from the reading.
      • Literary luminary points out interesting or important passages within the reading.
      • Discussion director writes questions that will lead to discussion by the group.
      • Capable connector finds connections between the reading material and something outside the text, such as a personal experience, a topic studied in another class, or a different work of literature.
      • Word wizard discusses words in the text that are unusual, interesting, or difficult to understand.

      Teachers will want to begin by modeling the various roles within a small group in front of the whole class before sending students out on their own. However, you may be surprised to find out that once students are comfortable with the group-discussion format, you may be able to discontinue these roles altogether.

      How do I evaluate students?
      Literature circles are not intended to “cover material”— they are designed to empower students to take control of their learning experiences, to get them excited about literature, and to help them find creative ways to delve into books. Keeping that in mind, teachers who use literature circles do not use traditional methods of evaluation.

      Because teachers are not at the center of attention, they are better able to engage in “authentic,” real-time assessment. This can include keeping narrative observational logs, performance assessment, checklists, student conferences, group interviews, one-on-one conferences, and the like.

      Keep in mind that evaluation in literature circles is not just the job of the teacher. Just as we require students to take responsibility for their own book selections, topic choices, and reading assignments, we also want them involved in the record-keeping and evaluation activities of literature circles.

      For a more comprehensive discussion of literature circles, check out both Bonnie Campbell Hill’s guide Literature Circles and Response, and Harvey Daniels’s book, Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups.


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    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
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  • Cultivating a Trusting Environ Cultivating a Trusting Environment

    • From: Mindy_Keller-Kyriakides
    • Description:

      I’m sure we’d all agree that a trusting classroom environment is crucial for students. We know that they naturally thrive in an environment where they can reach out to be heard and possibly take creative risks. The sense of community in a trust-based classroom is stronger, and students feel more like they belong to something, which, in turn, positively impacts their learning.  All that's a given. But while teachers tend to start the school year relatively well in this area, somewhere along the line, things start to unravel. So, how do we go about actively creating this environment and, perhaps more importantly, maintaining it in the classroom? 

       

      One way to tangibly cultivate a sense of trust in the classroom is to ensure that the physical environment reflects trust.  For example, the seating arrangement of a class sends an immediate message of trust or distrust. Sitting in rows (all facing the teacher at the front) or a U-shaped arrangement (everyone facing inward) each says something different about how much the teacher trusts the students. One approach says, “I have to have you all looking at me at all times,” and the other says, “Let’s learn together.” Compare these two:

      layoutgood.jpg

       

      Granted, the types of desks in the left image are designed to be more flexible. Nonetheless, any desk type can be reorganized in a shape that is more inviting than rows. Further, we’re talking about first impressions, here, as the needs for the class will shift throughout the year. (Rows might be necessary at some point, but they aren't immediately necessary.)

       

      standard rows.jpg

      Of the two classrooms, though, which one would evoke more trust from the student perspective? Taking the time to mindfully choose a classroom layout that sends a message of trust is a step we can take before students even arrive in the classroom.

       

       

       

       

      Once school has begun, a teacher’s choice of words, whether spoken or written, can also serve to cultivate trust or distrust. Are we actively creating a sense of trust in how we refer to the class and students? Take a look at these two classroom posters: 

       

      Notice2.jpg

       STUDENT NOTICE.jpg

       

       

      (For a clearer look at these images, click here.)

      The use of “we” and “our” makes a huge difference in establishing the foundation for trust, here, particularly the vast difference in tone between “This is MY classroom” and “This is OUR classroom.” Further, the negative expectation of failure (snarkily cushioned with "if" statements”) versus the positive expectation of “will” sends out completely different messages of trust. It’s as though one teacher  expects to have all sorts of problems, which automatically sends out an “I don’t trust you” message. The teacher on the right expresses a sense of confidence in the students (and himself/herself) that is designed to cultivate trust.   

      Imagine coming into a classroom on the first day and seeing one of these posters. Which classroom would you really want to be a part of? In which classroom would you feel more likely to express your thoughts and take creative risks? (On a side note, the poster on the left is offered as a “Motivational Poster” on eBay for $8.95.  The other image is my revision of it.) Actively seeking to establish a sense of collaboration and community, once students are in the class, is another crucial step we can take.  

      Maintaining the trust throughout the year is probably the most difficult part, and having a strategy in mind to maintain patience will aid in keeping that trust alive. Well-intentioned teachers may start out the school year just fine. They’ve set up the classroom and diligently used language designed to inspire collaboration, but somewhere in October, things can fizzle. Kids start to fray our nerves; we lose patience and react without thinking. Unfortunately, losing that patience also means that any trust we’ve established will begin to dissolve.

      Acclaimed educator Rafe Esquith (2007) notes, “It is deeds that will help the children see that I not only talk the talk but walk the walk.” Walking the walk entails not only our initial actions, but also our reactions. For example, if you’ve told students that you will use a particular procedure for getting their attention (such as raising your hand or counting to five), and instead, you lose it and start yelling at them (“Alright! Everybody QUIET!”), they will no longer trust you. You are not walking the path you said you’d walk. Once you’ve lost your cool, you’ve evaporated the trust, and you’ll have to work to build it up again.

      Having a strategy for maintaining patience, even in the midst of chaotic mutiny, really helped me out with high school freshmen. My strategy was a little silly, I guess. I would visualize the calmest person I could think of: Mahatma Gandhi.

       

       

      gandhi.jpg

       

       

      Then, I would repeat a mantra: Be what I want to see (a quick version of his famous quote “As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him” (Gandhi, 1958).

      This sort of “channeling of Gandhi” strategy compelled me to pause before reacting—not unlike counting to ten, but a tad more inspirational. Who pops into your head as the epitome of patience and calm strength?

       

      Another means of maintaining trust is to cultivate a mindset that is passionate for understanding. In this mindset, no matter what, you do whatever it takes to ensure your students “get” what you want them to get. Esquith (2007) offers this straightforward strategy in developing the mindset—answer all student questions:

       

      I answer all questions. It does not matter if I have been asked them before. It does not matter if I am tired. The kids must see that I passionately want them to understand, and it never bothersme when they don’t. During an interview, a student named Alan once told a reporter, “Last year, I tried to ask my teacher a question. She became angry and said, ‘We’ve been over this. You weren’t listening!’ But I was listening! I just didn’t get it! Rafe will go over something fivehundred times until I understand.”

       

      What the student described is pure trust. This approach sounds easier than it is because having one student ask you something and then having the very next question be the same question can be exhausting and annoying. However, a kid who knows that you’ll answer his questions, no matter what, trusts you. In that “knowing” is the trust. 

      This kind of trusting classroom environment is attainable if we take some time to reflect on how we present the physical environment, what messages we convey, and actively seek to maintain it. What do you want your kids to “know” about you?


      • Create a physical environment cultivates trust
      • Use language that cultivates trust
      • Find strategies that will help you maintain patience and trust
      • Cultivate a mindset that is passionate for understanding

       

      Mirror site: Joyful Collapse

       

      References

      Esquith, R. (2007).  Teach like your hair’s on fire (Reprint). Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=11644

      Gandhi, M.K. (1958). The collected works of Mahatma Gandhi (Vol.19, p. 233). Delhi, India: Government of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Publications Division.

      

      

      

       

      

      

       

       

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
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  • 2014 Tweet For Success Scholar 2014 Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest

    • From: Timothy_Smith1
    • Description:
      DialMyCalls.com launched the annual "Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest" last year and received over 11,000 submissions from college students. In the first annual contest, college students were asked to, in 140 characters or less, explain how advances in technology have helped the education system - four winners won $500 a piece to put towards their education.

       

      After the success last year, DialMyCalls is excited to announce that the scholarship contest has returned and is now live. This year the contest will task college students to, in 140 characters or less, explain the pros and cons of e-books versus traditional textbooks. Do you think you have what it takes to come up with a Twitter-inspired submission?
      College students will have until September 18, 2014 to come up with a clever submission for a chance at one of the four $500 scholarships - winners will be announced within 7 days after the contest ends.

       

      In order to qualify for the DialMyCalls.com Tweet For Success Scholarship 2014, students must meet the following requirements:
      • Must Be A High School Graduate Or GED Equivalent
      • Must Be Enrolled In An Accredited 2 Or 4 Year College For Fall 2014
      • Must Be A Legal Resident Of The United States Of America
      • Must Not Be Currently Incarcerated
      • Most Recent GPA Must Be 2.0 Or Higher
      For more information regarding DialMyCalls' scholarship contest and to submit an entry, please visit www.DialMyCalls.com and follow @DialMyCalls on Twitter to view all of the submissions.
    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
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  • Word to the Wise: 10 Tips for Word to the Wise: 10 Tips for First-Year Principals

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      first year principal

      By the time they step into the position, most principals have already spent years—even decades—in the classroom as teachers. This experience certainly comes in handy, but rarely is it enough to keep first-year principals from being broadsided by new challenges. While experience is often the best teacher, we’d like to help new principals avoid common first-year blunders by sharing 10 tips from real principals. These tips have been adapted from Tena Green’s book, Your First Year as Principal: Everything You Need to Know That They Don't Teach You in School.

      Word to the Wise: 10 Tips for First-Year Principals

      • Principals are forced to make decisions on a daily basis. Some of these decisions are run-of-the-mill, but others are high-stakes and have far-reaching consequences. When it comes to decisions, Veteran principal James Gasparino suggests that first year principals do two things: First, resist the urge to react impulsively. Second, learn to “differentiate what needs to be settled right away and what…require[s] reflection and input from others. First-year principals may want to do everything right away, and by themselves. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get buy-in from others if they did not have a voice in the decision-making process.”


      • First-year principals often fall into the trap of trying to do everything for everyone. According to veteran principal John Fielding, it is imperative that new administrators realize (and realize quickly) that they cannot—either physically, mentally, or emotionally—“be everything to everybody.” Keep in mind that “If you are too tired to move, you are no good to anybody else. You do not really have to know and do everything yourself. That said, you do need to know these things that require your attention and those you can let others handle.”


      • Echoing Fielding’s advice is principal Jory Westberry, who urges first-year principals to “Avoid thinking you should have all the answers” or that you “have to make all decisions quickly.”


      • Despite the fact that most principals have spent years in the classroom as teachers, many of them forget—or at least appear to forget—what it’s like to teach. Principal Barry Pichard reminds us that we must never forget what life is like in the classroom and remember that teaching is “one of the toughest jobs around.”


      • A first-year principal may have only the best intentions when s/he replaces that tattered and creaky sofa in the lounge or when s/he boxes up a wall of dusty trophies to make room for a student exhibit…but faculty and staff may see these seemingly innocent changes as a direct assault on the school culture. Principal Roy Miller suggests that first-year principals proceed with caution and “learn both the culture and the ‘hidden culture’ of the building” before making any changes.


      • What’s one of the biggest mistakes a first-year principal can make? According to principal Michael Miller, it is “coming on too strong and feel[ing] you have to show [faculty and staff] who is boss. If you have to ever remind them who the boss is, you have a problem.”


      • Since we’re talking about faculty and staff, we thought Oliver Phipps’s tip would go nicely here: “Make staffing a priority. More specifically, though, make sure your staff is complete with people who share your vision.”


      • When discussing the burdensome responsibilities of principals, Tammy Brown suggests handling them “one at a time. I try to do the paperwork and office tasks early in the morning or after dismissal so that I can be in classrooms, halls, and in the cafeteria interacting with teachers and students as much as possible. Something often comes up that must be dealt with immediately, but most often, things can be prioritized.”


      • John Redd reminds first-year principals that it “is better to take your time before reacting to a situation. It will give you a different perspective if you take the time to get all the facts before making a hasty decision.”


      • Here’s another solid piece of advice from principal John Fielding: “Pick your battles. I always use the measuring stick of ‘is this decision good for the kids?’ If it isn’t, it may not be worth fighting for. There will always be one more silly thing that somebody thinks is important, but does it really help kids in a significant way?”

      Photo credit: Farid Fleifel / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

       

       

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    • 1 week ago
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  • Exercise and the Brain Exercise and the Brain

    • From: Jonathan_Jefferson
    • Description:

      Exercise and the Brain

      By Jonathan Jefferson


      “SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey, MD is the one book that all educators must read to fully understand the inseparable connection between exercise and the brain’s ability to acquire knowledge.  Long before this well structured, research-based book was released in 2008, I had admonished my colleagues that it was a misnomer to equate academic learning and exercise as two separate spheres if for no other reason than that the brain can only receive nourishment through movement.  Movement increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain priming it for the development of new neuron-passage ways.  Recent studies have also shown that coordinated movement (e.g. dance, martial arts, & yoga) are the most effective “steroids” for the brain.


      Why is this topic important?  Far too often we find well-intentioned educators unwittingly act on assumptions which are too detached from prevailing research to be anything but ineffectual.  Having students engage in physical activity before classes and exams is much more beneficial than having them sit quietly and read.  However, the “control freaks” contingency of educators are disinclined to relinquish their illusion of control, which ultimately contributes to the detriment of student performance.  Let us truly put kids first and embrace the maxim of doing what is best for them; not what is most convenient for the adults.


      Dr. Ratey thoroughly shared the success of Naperville Illinois’ school district in his book.  This district is lead by their physical education and wellness program.  On the 1999 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Naperville’s eighth graders placed sixth in the world in math and first in science.  He also reported that in Naperville students are deliberately scheduled for their most difficult classes following physical education class.  This is done to take advantage of their brain’s readiness to learn at that time.  Imagine that; a striving school district actually applying proven research to a successful end.


      I am not surprised that “SPARK” is a best seller.  The research shared explains the benefits of exercise on stress, anxiety, depression, attention deficit, addiction, hormonal changes, aging, and learning.  There is something for everyone, and acting on the research shared can improve the quality of life for many.

       

      In addition to this fine work, another great read specific to movement and the brain is Math and Movement by Suzy Koontz.

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
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  • Drumming Up Excitement for Boo Drumming Up Excitement for Books: 10 Tips for Reading Teachers

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      reading_teacher
      Why don’t our students love to read? Well, use your imagination and pretend you’re a student. You’ve only been reading for seven to twelve years—and most of what you’ve read has been assigned and tested. In addition to this, you’ve been asked to “discuss” and “close read” texts, create book reports, and answer comprehension questions based upon what you read. Sounds like a blast, huh?

      These are only a few reasons why our students dislike reading, but rather than fixate on all the reasons our reluctant readers are reluctant, we’d like to suggest 10 simple ways reading teachers can drum up excitement for books!

      Drumming Up Excitement for Books: 10 Tips for Reading Teachers

      • Niche book clubs are popular amongst adults, but why not start one (or two, or three) for students? How about a club that only reads scary and disgusting books? Or one that reads only sci-fi books with leading female characters? If each group only meets monthly (or bi-monthly), reading teachers should have plenty of time to keep up.


      • Instead of talking about good books, reading teachers might have more luck if they showed students good books. Stop by Scholastic’s site where you’ll find a nice collection of book trailers for K-8 students.


      • If you are reading a work of historical fiction, contact local re-enactor groups at historical sites in your area and invite them to visit your classroom.


      • The Internet may list every book that was ever written, but how do reading teachers help students sort through the clutter and find books they love? Answer: They teach them how to use book recommendation websites.


      • At our school, students can sign up for a half hour research consultation with a librarian. This is a one-on-one session in which students collaborate with librarians to flesh out their topics and find useful books and articles that relate to their topics.

        Students and teachers both found this service to be beneficial—which got us thinking: What if we took the “research consultation” model and used it to create a “good book” consultation service where students pair up with a librarian to find books they’ll enjoy? Many students take advantage of this service and continue to be enthusiastic about it.

      • Show foreign films or watch movies with closed-captioning turned on. As many of us know, finding creative ways to focus reluctant readers on books, the very thing that evokes feelings of frustration, inadequacy and failure, is challenging. But films can capture students’ interest and stimulate their imagination in ways that books can’t.


      • One of our favorite things about visiting book stores is stopping by the “recommended reading” station. Every month, the bookstore employees select their favorite books and write up a short paragraph explaining why they made their selections. Try doing this with your students.


      • Invite the librarian to visit the classroom every month to talk about new arrivals and seasonal favorites.


      • Use Skype in the Classroom to connect with a real published author for free! Currently, you can Skype with Nancy Krulik, author of George Brown; Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay and Where She Went; Jane Kohuth, author of Duck Sock Hop!; C. Alexander London, author of An Accidental Adventure!; and many, many more published authors.


      • Subscribe to Children’s Books, a podcast series featured on The Guardian’s website.Every month features a new leading children's book author.


      Photo credit: Vladimir Morozov / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


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    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 5702
  • Through a Two-Dimensional Cube Through a Two-Dimensional Cube: A Philosophy of Education in Action

    • From: Mindy_Keller-Kyriakides
    • Description:

      I find myself returning to a particular moment in one of my classes as an illustration of my philosophy of education. It wasn’t one of those inspirational lessons or fantastic units, either. It was a required, school-wide, test-prep math lesson.

      I’m an English teacher. Let's just say, math isn't my thing.

      In this school-wide initiative, we all did the same reading passage or math problem every day. These were sometimes not available until five minutes before the class and rushed out to teachers.

      On this day, we had this math problem that dealt with the volume of a cube ( or something like that), and we had to figure that out to resolve the larger problem. But the image provided was two-dimensional. It was a letter T, a box that was completely laid flat.

      2D cube.jpgWith a very clear, personal awareness of my non-math aptitude, I was actually a better model for learners that day. First, I had to offer myself some motivation for doing the problem other than the fact that it was required because doing something that way isn’t a motivation. I had to be curious about how to solve the problem.

      Teachers were given the answers, of course. But what good is an answer without wanting to understand where it comes from?

      I thought aloud about how to approach the problem as a learner for a bit and then opened it up for class collaboration, to see what we could do or not do with it. I modeled my thinking, which was probably something along the lines of "Seriously?! There has got to be a way…"


      rebuild cube.jpg
       

      My mind just wasn't getting it, though.  It didn't bother anyone, least of all me, that I didn't have the answer because we often held discussions where I didn't have the answer. That was okay in my class.

      So, we piddled and pondered together, and after a few minutes, a student figured it out (math whiz that he was!) jumped up excitedly and tried to tell us how he'd arrived at the (correct) answer. I didn't follow, so he ran up to the front, grabbed some scissors, cut the paper,

      cut cube.jpg

       

       

       

      and made the cube by folding it over.

      3D cube.jpg

       

       

       

       

      The whole problem rested on this spatial understanding.

      This learning moment exemplifies my philosophy of education.

      Now, I know a lot of people talk about strategies and methods when they discuss their philosophy of education, but I have to wonder what it is that induces those principles--what's behind the decision-making process that compels one to choose a particular strategy or method? Doesn’t our mindset come first?

      Because there was no method or strategy that I used in our cube story. But we learned.

      There were however, several mindsets at work, and I think my philosophy of education seems boils down to mindsets. If the mindset is appropriate, the method or strategy will emerge more naturally. They are (in no particular order): mindfulness, curiosity, creativity, and humility.

      Mindfulness has to do with a state of being in response to or approach to things as a teacher (or a learner).  Whether that is a stellar discussion post from an adult learner or a snarky comment from a teenager face-to-face, I steer away from knee-jerk reactions. Rather, I prefer to take a moment and consider what is actually happening or will happen. I allow the moment to happen--it's being fully present.

      In the cube story, I allowed the moment to happen. Without that mindfulness, I probably would have just glossed over to the answer.  If I attach mindfulness to an action, I would call it allowing. I enjoyed allowing the moment of not knowing, thinking, collaborating, and listening. 

      Curiosity as a mindset played a large role, here--the ability to be curious about things that we might not be interested in or that we might already know a lot about is a game-changer for education. It is a mindset that has helped me in so many ways with students.  For example, I taught Frankenstein every year in AP Lang. While I can certainly say I knew the story and characters inside and out, every year, I would approach the novel with new curiosity. I created a question for myself to answer, generally along the lines of "How is this ages-old novel STILL relevant today?"  And every year, without fail, I'd come up with an answer.

      Curiosity seems to attach to the action of searching. Students need to see us searching.

      Creativity has recently gotten a lot of press, but I'm careful when I say that this mindset is one of the driving forces of my philosophy. I'm not a creative genius or anything, but I know it when I feel it, and I notice when it's not there.

      I don't see it as a "what," though. It's a how. It's a process. It's a blend of willingness and flexibility and exciting discomfort. I want that in learners because that's where they can make some strides as far as autonomy (which they'll need) and in problem-solving.

      The art of brainstorming, collaboration, and sharing all fall under this category, and it seems to be one of the areas where my former students excelled. Though our cube story focused on one person as a catalyst, it was still a collaborative moment. Perhaps creativity can be connected to the action of trusting. Without trusting each other, could we have had this moment?

      The last mindset in my philosophy, humility, was really evident, here, and it certainly played a role in moving the students forward in comprehension. They saw me struggle and succeed. They struggled and succeeded, and we had a positive learning moment. Humility, as an action, could be seen as acknowledging one’s self. I am more open and flexible in my awareness of what I don’t know.

      Side note: I had to laugh, recently, because one of the comments I received on a course evaluation (I facilitate professional development courses for educators) was: "I know more on some topics than the facilitator does."


      I thought--"Damn right, you do! I learned from you! I want to learn from you! That's what it's all about!" Though I'm sure she meant it as a negative, it was actually a sort of positive for me, if only because she saw me as fellow-learner, which was my goal anyway.   

      After the student had shown the class what the heck was going on with cube, you could hear the collective, "AHHHHHH..." followed by the scribbling of the problem resolution.

      We applauded him and ourselves that day. We shared in that moment of curious searching, mindful allowing, creative trusting, and humble acknowledging of ourselves and each other as a community of learners. 

       

      Mirror Site: http://joyfulcollapse.blogspot.com/2014/07/through-two-dimensional-cube-philosophy.html

       

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • The First Letter: A Simple and The First Letter: A Simple and Effective Parent Engagement Strategy

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      parent_engagementImagine being a parent and opening your mailbox sometime in early August and finding a letter from your son or daughter’s new teacher. In the letter, the teacher tells you all about herself, who she is, what she likes to do, how long she has been teaching, what she wants for your child and how you can contact her if you have any questions. You’d feel pretty good about this new teacher, wouldn’t you?

      Parents want to believe that their child is being left in capable and compassionate hands. Students want to believe that their teachers care about them and are happy to have them in class. A brief (and thoroughly unexpected) letter to each student is one of the easiest ways to welcome and reassure parents and students. Below you’ll find a quick guide to help you draft your own letter to parents and students:

      Format for the first letter to parents and students before school starts
      Greeting

      • Personalize the greeting
        Mention the student’s name within the body of the letter

      Content

      • Introduce yourself as the student’s grade level teacher
      • Share a little about your background and education
      • Include the essence of your philosophy of teaching
      • Ask parents to complete an attached questionnaire about their child

      Contact information

      • School email address
      • School phone and extension
      • Best times to contact you
      • If you have a classroom blog or Twitter account, share this with parents
      • Invite parents to visit you in the classroom before school starts

      Letter closing

      • Sign the letter with first and last name


      Example of a before-school-starts letter to parents

      August 1, 2014
      Acme Elementary School
      2220 Yellow Brick Road
      Detroit, MI 48221

      Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith:

      As Jerry’s teacher for the upcoming school year, I am looking forward to getting to know you and working with you.

      I started teaching at Acme Elementary in 2006 and have been here ever since! Prior to this, I studied at University of Michigan where I earned my degree in Elementary Education. After completing my B.A. in 2004, I moved to Tokyo, Japan where I taught English Language Learners, while at the same time pursing my Master in the Art of Teaching from Marygrove College’s online program. Living and working abroad was an invaluable experience—not only did it allow me to work with students and hone my craft, it also gave me the opportunity to travel, learn about different cultures, and pursue two of my biggest passions: Japanese art and English Language Learners.

      Just to give you a sense of what both you and Jerry can expect from me this year, I’d like to tell you a bit about our classroom and, very briefly, explain my philosophy of teaching.

      During the first few weeks of school, I plan on setting aside a significant amount of time so that I can get to know Jerry and his classmates better. Every student is unique and has different interests and learning styles. I want to ensure that I spend an adequate amount of time learning about all of my students and having them learn about me. My goal is for our classroom to be a community of learners based on mutual respect for all individual differences. I want both you and Jerry to know that our (not my) classroom is a safe environment where students are encouraged to share, learn from one another, and learn from me—just as I will learn from them.

      If you would, please share information with me about Jerry by completing the enclosed questionnaire so that I may begin to plan to meet his needs and expectations.

      I also want to let you know that you are both welcome to visit our classroom before school begins or at any time during the year. To arrange a meeting, all you have to do is contact me and we’ll set something up!

      Lastly, please subscribe to our classroom blog and Twitter feed. There you will find information about volunteer opportunities, and different ways you can support our classroom. Even if you do not wish to volunteer in the classroom, I would encourage you to follow our class online. I like to post photos and updates about students and all of our classroom activities!

      Enjoy the last few weeks of summer. If you have questions, please contact me in one of the following ways:

      Sincerely,

      Ryan Thomas

      Below you’ll find a series of questions to include in your student questionnaire:

      • What are your child’s interests?
      • What would you like me to know about your child?
      • What are your concerns, if any?
      • What is your child’s attitude towards school?
      • What has been helpful for your child in the past?
      • Think of your child’s favorite teacher. What distinguished him or her from some of your child’s other teachers?
      • How does your child learn best?
      • What additional help might your child need this year? How might I best offer this additional support?
      • What is your child passionate about?
      • What are some of his/her favorite things to do outside of school?
      • Would you like to schedule an informal conference to meet and/or discuss your child? If so, please indicate times that are best for you.

      Photo credit: gbaku / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
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  • The Best of the Week: Volume 1 The Best of the Week: Volume 12

  • 5 of the Best Interactive Map 5 of the Best Interactive Map Generators for Teachers

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      interactive_map_generator

      If you’re artistically challenged like I am, you’re probably getting tired of looking at hand-drawn maps that barely resemble their topographical subject. Perhaps it’s time to re-energize and refocus your students—and yourself—with these five interactive map generators.

      map generatorMy Histro gives users the ability to customize their interactive maps and timelines by adding text, pictures and video to them. Once you’re satisfied with your work, you can either embed it, convert it into a PDF file, or export it into Google Earth format for offline storage.





      map generatorTripline is a nice little web application designed to help users document their travel adventures or plan a trip itinerary. There are a few ways you can plot out your trip: One, you can use your smart phone to “check-in” at various locations; two, you can simply add markers by plotting them directly on the map; three, you can use Foursquare or Twitter to geo-target your location.




      map generatorU Mapper allows you to choose a map provider—Bing, Google, Yahoo, etc.—or upload your own customized image. Once you’ve selected your map, you can add images, audio, and choose from a variety of objects to tack onto your map.




      map generatorStatPlanet is an award-winning application that allows users to create interactive maps, graphs, charts and infographics. StatPlanet is intuitive to use and allows you to easily post your work on the web. To see some stunning, user-generated maps, click here.



      map generatorIf you’re a creative type, you should know that Mapfaire doesn’t give you a lot of options—but it is an ideal application for younger or less tech-savvy students. No registration is required to use the app, but you will need to have a Google account.


      A Teacher's Guide to Summer Travel

      

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
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  • 5 Ways to Help Students Motiva 5 Ways to Help Students Motivate Themselves

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      Student Motivation“I just wish my students cared more.” Most teachers—first-year and veterans alike—have said or at least felt like this at some point. We work hard to motivate our students, but how do we help them motivate themselves? We’ve been reading Larry Ferlazzo’s book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers to Classroom Challenges, and thought we’d share five tips to help your students develop their intrinsic motivation.

      Encourage students to take risks
      Most of us don’t particularly enjoy making mistakes—especially in a public setting. As a result, we often avoid taking on new challenges. So how do we encourage students to stretch themselves and take risks?

      According to Ferlazzo, we can start by skipping general praise. Statements like “Jane, you’re so smart” seem innocuous, even helpful, but in reality, they focus our students’ attention on maintaining their image, not on pushing new boundaries. In lieu of general praise, praise specific actions. Saying things like, “You worked really hard today” or “Your topic sentence communicates the main idea of your paragraph very nicely” can, as Ferlazzo suggests, “make students feel that they are more in control of their success, and that their doing well is less dependent on their ‘natural intelligence.’"

      Build Relationships
      Research continues to find a link between positive teacher-student relationships and academic success. There are many ways we can nurture more meaningful relationships with students, but perhaps the best place to start is with ourselves. Ferlazzo suggests that we take a step back and consider how we think about and speak to our students.

      Using negative language to describe challenging behavior often distorts the way we see it. If we label students who seem unmotivated or disengaged as “stubborn” or “lazy,” then our reaction to these students will be, more often than not, negative. However, if we view that same student as “determined” or “persistent,” we will be more likely to convey respect.

      Use Cooperative Learning
      Lectures are, by their very nature, passive activities. Sure, students may jot down notes or pose occasional questions, but lectures do very little to develop our students’ intrinsic motivation. While Ferlazzo is not suggesting that we ditch lectures altogether, he would encourage us to keep them to a minimum. Instead of delivering lectures, find ways to incorporate cooperative learning into lessons. These can be as basic as "think-pair-share" or as ambitious as problem and project-based learning.

      Set Specific Expectations
      Here's a tip from Robyn Jackson. Very often what looks like student resistance is actually confusion about our vague requests. Consider the difference between the following:

      • “Will you try harder to pay attention in class?”
      • “During class, I want you to keep your head off the desk, keep your eyes open and on me, and have all of your materials out on the desk.”

      You’ll notice how the former not only lacks specific instructions, but does not give the student a clear picture of what you expect from him or her. Always give your students concrete steps for making the investment.

      Creating Opportunities for Students to Help Make Decisions
      Most of us are motivated when we feel we have control over our environment. Inviting students to have a voice in classroom decisions—where they sit, what day a test takes place, in what order units are studied, or even where a plant should be placed in the classroom—can help them develop that greater sense of control.

                                                  A Teacher's Guide to Summer Travel

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
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  • What if we took Google's "Geni What if we took Google's "Genius Hour" into our classrooms?

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      genius_hour
      I’ve been aware of the phrase “genius hour” for a while now, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I finally took some initiative and Googled it.

      Funny enough, “genius hour” is actually an experiment that began with Google, which allows engineers to spend 20 percent of their time working on any sort of pet project that they want to. The theory behind “genius hour” was this: Allow people to pursue their passions and they will be more productive at work.

      The results of this little experiment speak for themselves: Google found that employees were not only more productive during the 80 percent of the time that they were not working on pet projects, 50% of Google’s innovations—things like Gmail and Google News—were created during this period of free time!  

      What if we took Google’s idea into our classrooms? What if we set aside one hour every week where students could work on anything they wanted?

      It turns out that teachers all over the country are doing this. In my Internet perusal, I came across a number of ways teachers are starting to use “genius hour” in their own classrooms:

      • Joy, a seventh grade teacher, for example, dedicates an entire 80 minute block of time every Monday to “genius hour.” Some students read. Some research. Then, at a designated time, each student presents his or her findings to the rest of the class. Some give oral presentations, others give book talks or post blogs online for their peers to read. Every week, each student creates a goal and then either fills out a self-evaluation or discusses his or her performance during a one-on-one conference with the teacher.
      • Another teacher, Gallit, started by giving his students one hour a week to pursue a project of their choice. After roughly three hours of individualized learning, students are expected to present what they learned to the class. This year, Gallit has tweaked his approach:


      Now, students work on their “genius hour” projects every Friday afternoon and present when they are ready. For some students that will be after one session and for some it will be after six—it all depends on what they are learning and how they want to present. To ensure that students stay on task, Gallit regularly meets with students and has them blog about their progress as well.

      If you’re interested in implementing a “genius hour” in your own classroom, check out this video by teacher and “genius-hour” advocate, Chris Kesler.

       

                                                  



                                              A Teacher's Guide to Summer Travel 

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
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  • On the Road to Recovery: Writi On the Road to Recovery: Writing Instruction at Chauncey Davis Elementary School

    • From: Suzanne_Klein1
    • Description:

      By Kresta Byington, Principal of Chauncey Davis Elementary School

      It’s a rainy, breezy day as I walk through the quiet halls of Chauncey Davis Elementary, nestled in a sleepy town along the Willapa River in Washington. I hear the sound of the rain pattering on the building, and the mossy trees are glistening outside, leaning heavily from the rain, as I begin my walkthroughs for the day. I step inside one of my fourth grade classrooms and witness an encouraging sight. The students are deep in concentration.  The only sound is the collective hum of their pencils scribbling and scratching as they write their words on the paper.

      Is this something you experience in your walkthroughs? Or, has writing been a struggle in your school? I know it used to be a real challenge in my building, where I’ve been the principal for the past ten years. Prior to being a building leader, I was a teacher in the district for nine years. As principal, I noticed less writing displayed in classrooms, and as a parent of two students in my school, I saw less writing coming home.  Last spring, my concerns were confirmed when only 40% of my fourth grade students met standard on the state writing test. This was unacceptable to me and something needed to change. We just weren’t getting the quality and quantity we knew we could from having an effective writing community.  I had to first discover the problems my teachers were facing when it came to writing instruction.

      Why do teachers struggle with teaching writing?

      When I asked my teachers what their greatest challenges were, they always told me time. Elementary teachers are generalists, not specialists. They are teaching all the subjects in a six hour day. When you take out recess, lunch, and any other specials students have, time was always an issue. I also learned in many instances, when they told me, “I don’t have time,” I believe it actually translated into, “I really don’t know how to teach writing.”

      The second issue was knowledge. I asked 18 of my teachers (two of them are recent college graduates) if they had a college class specifically devoted to the teaching of writing.  Not one out of the 18 reported having any college preparation to teach this core subject. When you don’t know how to do something, you tend to avoid it.

      The last reason my teachers weren’t teaching writing was due to a lack of quality writing materials available.  For several years at Chauncey Davis Elementary, writing instruction was tied in with the basal reading program.  Although it was a quality reading program, writing always came last in the lesson and a terrible pattern had begun; my teachers were running out of time. As a first grade teacher myself, I personally experienced this. I would run out of time in the morning and would set my writing lesson aside in hopes to get back to the writing in the afternoon. Writing lessons would pile up in the corner and a week would go by, and no writing had been taught.

      What I did to improve writing instruction at my school

      There’s a resource called Crunch the Numbers, which shows three different teachers’ lesson plans for the week.  Teachers calculate up how much time each teacher is spending teaching the different subject areas. Teachers then judge the lesson plans according to ASCD’s recommended minutes of instruction in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.

       It was a great start for my teachers who were apprehensive to look at their own use of instruction time. They were less defensive looking at someone else’s schedule and got an idea of how they could rearrange their own based on ASCD’s recommendations.

       If your teachers aren’t sure how to improve their writing instruction, I suggest using a document called Questions Teachers Have When Teaching Writing.This is a really powerful tool I used during a staff meeting and everyone raved about how helpful it was. Teachers loved learning from each other, and it’s a great professional development tool.

      Using Crunch the Numbers helped with time awareness, and Questions Teachers Have When Teaching Writing helped with knowledge awareness.  But, I knew I still needed to tackle the lack of materials. This led me to start looking into some writing programs that could assist my teachers with their writing instruction while teaching them the craft of writing. We piloted WriteSteps last year, and this year we are in full implementation.  With WriteSteps, teachers finally realize that writing deserves its own block of instructional time, not combined with reading instruction. I'm so proud to visit classrooms and observe effective writing instruction happening. Second, they love how everything they need is at their finger tips. With WriteSteps, they don't have to do any extra planning or resource gathering. As we wrap up our first year with WriteSteps, teachers are amazed at the progress their students have made and love sharing their stories with other staff. It's nice to see student writing on display again.

      Do you want to learn more about how you can support your teachers with their writing instruction? You can attend my session at the Quality Educator Convention on June 19 at 2:50 p.m. called Ready, Test, Score! Essential Tools for Common Core Writing Success from Chauncey Davis Elementary.  We will evaluate examples of how Common Core writing skills are used in cross-curriculum test questions and then discuss 17 critical elements to consider in your school’s writing curriculum. With the implementation of a solid Common Core writing plan, students will not only be prepared to achieve testing goals, they will also gain the skills they need for a lifetime of confident writing. I look forward to seeing you there!

      This article was first published on June 11, 2014 in the Update Bulletin.

       

      

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
    • Views: 204
  • 5 Simple and Effective Time-Sa 5 Simple and Effective Time-Savers for Teachers

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      time_savers_for_teachers

      Always start on time
      Some of us have a habit of starting late because we’re busy putting final touches on the lesson, writing on the board, or simply waiting around for the rest of the students to show up after the bell rings.

      Always start class on time and do not wait for tardy students. Those who show up on time shouldn’t have to wait for those that don’t. As an incentive to get your students to class on time, begin your lessons with something they won’t want to miss.

      Be more efficient about taking attendance
      There are a couple ways to streamline your attendance-taking procedures.

      One way is to have a sign-in sheet ready every day. Instead of taking attendance yourself, have students sign themselves in. Another idea: Stand outside the door and check off names as students trickle into the room. We like doing this not only because it saves us time, but also because it gives us the opportunity to greet each student as s/he enters the room.

      Use technology to get organized
      There are lots of useful apps for teachers out there, but Teacher Kit has, by far, saved us the most time. This app helps us create seating charts, take attendance, track student behavior, record grades, and import all of our data to our computer.

      Set up a system for makeup work
      With increasing class sizes, chances are that one or two students will be absent every week. Unless you have some sort of system in place, you’re probably spending valuable class time explaining what these students missed once they return. There are a couple reasons you should stop doing this! First, it’s unfair to those students who came to class. Second, it keeps students from taking responsibility for their own learning experience.

      Instead of spending class time explaining what these students missed, have them email or call you on the day they are absent to receive updates. While you won’t be able to recreate the classroom experience over the phone or computer, you can ensure that they have all of the materials to successfully complete the work.

      Make the most of classroom interruptions
      Although we have yet to find a way to eliminate interruptions (special deliveries of forgotten lunches, notes from the office, or incoming calls on the classroom phone), we do make the most of them.

      Some interruptions take ten seconds, others may take ten minutes, but one thing is for sure: If you add those seconds and minutes up over the course of the week, you get a lot of wasted time.

      One way to take advantage of these interruptions is by teaching your students to get out their books as soon as an interruption occurs. Teach your students that a knock on the door or a ring from the classroom telephone isn’t a signal for them to chat; it’s a signal for them to reach into their desks, grab their book and start reading. If you start this procedure right away, your students will quickly internalize it.

      Photo credit: H is for Home / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

       

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    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
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  • Bullying Bullying

    • From: Jonathan_Jefferson
    • Description:

       

      Bullying


      Dr. Jonathan T. Jefferson


      “Never be bullied into silence.  Never allow yourself to be made a victim.  Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” – Harvey S. Firestone


      Chapter three of my book MUGAMORE begins with the above quote.  Bullying is one of the topics touched upon in that chapter, which is based on true personal accounts experienced during the 1976 – 77 school-year.  Believe it or not, as I keenly look back on my third-grade experiences, I believe the merciless physical and verbal abuse endured may have inadvertently led to beneficial outcomes in the trajectory of my life. 

       

      How, you might ask, could being bullied have possibly produced positive outcomes? 


      Well, let’s consider that I had just been transferred from my neighborhood school to a higher performing school ten miles away.  As a late-year baby (November), I began kindergarten at age four.  I was physically smaller than most of the other children; especially the boys, and now I was academically smaller as well.  Canadian hockey fans know the benefits of being born earlier in the year (author Malcolm Gladwell gives extensive attention to this topic in his book Outliers).  In my case, consistent fear for my physical well-being made focusing on third-grade academics difficult at best.  After a miserable school-year fraught with repeated absences, I was back in the third grade the following school-year (’77-’78).  However, the gift of retrospect maintains that this was the best thing that could have happened to me.  During my second third-grade stint I found the other children were more my size -- physically and academically.  Consequently, I quickly found my stride and soon after began to thrive above and beyond expectations.


      Clearly, I am not a proponent of bullying, nor am I promoting it as a path to some greater end-game.  It was just a coincidence that it contributed to a pivotal decision made for me by a concerned teacher.  The Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) that became a law in New York State on July 1, 2012 is a step in the right direction.  It “…seeks to provide the State’s students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.”  To make this law complete, employees of the school system should have been afforded the additional protections (no intimidation, no taunting, & no bullying), and statements against cyber bullying should have been included.


      To learn more about what you can do to contribute to a bully-free society, visit the following sites:www.bullying.orgwww.cyberbullying.ca, and www.bullyingawarenessweek.org. There are a growing number of resources available on this topic.  Hopefully, in the near future, no child will need to experience the perils I did my first year in third grade.

    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
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  • Some Websites Worth Perusing… Some Websites Worth Perusing…

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      In addition to continually looking at the ASCD Edge Blogs, if you have some time this summer (or during the year), you might want to examine the materials found on the following websites:

       

      http://www.edutopia.org

      Most educators are familiar with Edutopia, but if you are not, there are a wealth of articles, materials, and insights about teaching and learning to be gleaned from its numerous articles and blogs.

       

      http://smartblogs.com/education

      Smart blogs on education provide numerous, interesting articles and commentaries on educational programs and practice. You can sign up to have a Smartbrief (daily articles and commentaries about educational programs and practices) delivered right to your computer every day!

      Another more practical daily smartbrief blog is Accomplished Teacher:

      http://www2.smartbrief.com/servlet/encodeServlet?issueid=1FE14DDD-E0BC-4580-953F-1778813BF4C2&sid=ef076e82-df56-41b6-8b55-0fabf38d3b15

       

      http://www.era3learning.org

      My own website provides a wealth of ideas and practical information on the kind of education we need for children in a 21st century world and how to implement it.

       

      http://www.thommarkham.com

      Thom Markham is an independent consultant who does work on project- based learning. On his website, you can download several items that support

      project based learning, and also read his blogs about project based learning.

       

      http://www.bobpearlman.org/index.htm

      Bob Pearlman is a long time educator and consultant who uses his website to share information about 21st century educational programs, practices, schools, and opportunities. He provides a wealth of information worth exploring.

       

      http://zhaolearning.com/category/blog/

      Yong Zhao is a brilliant scholar and educator, on the school of education faculty at the University of Oregon. His focus is on creative thinking and 21st century educational practice. He is a critic of standardized tests and the use of PISA data, and does a lot of work on global education.  His latest book was published in 2012 – World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. This website is not for those interested in specific teaching techniques, but rather how to pursue new directions in education designed to help students do well in a 21st century world.

       

      http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_innovation/deeper-learning/?tagID=0&blogID=137&categoryID=2437

      These blogs, written by Tom Vander Ark and posted on the Education Week website, focus on how to promote deeper learning in schools.

       

      Finally, for fun, you might want to look at the ASCD Blog: “25 Signs You Might Be A 21st Century Teacher:

      http://edge.ascd.org/_25-Signs-You-Might-Be-A-21st-Century-Teacher/blog/6497431/127586.html

       

       

      Elliott Seif is a long time educator, teacher, college professor, curriculum director, author and Understanding by Design trainer. If you are interested in examining his other blogs, go to http://bit.ly/13sMlUZAdditional and related teaching and learning resources and ideas designed to help prepare students to live in a 21st century world can be found on his website:  www.era3learning.org

    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
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  • Change Requires Moving From a Change Requires Moving From a Fixed to a Growth Mindset

    • From: Eric_Sheninger
    • Description:

      For many years New Milford High School was just like virtually every other public school in this country defined solely by traditional indicators of success such as standardized test scores, graduation rates, and acceptances to four year colleges. These indicators have become so embedded in the minds of those judging our schools and work that we, like everyone else, worked hard to focus only on initiatives that would hopefully produce favorable outcomes in those areas. If we were doing well we continued down the same path allowing the status quo to reign supreme.  The mentality of if it isn't broke than why fix it resonated so profoundly with us that we would not have even considered changing our ways.  If results were not what our stakeholders wanted this would then trigger meetings leading to the development of action plans to get us back on course. 

       

      For so long schools have resembled a hamster running on a wheel doing the same things over and over to improve sets of numbers.  We were no different and had succumbed to a fixed mindset. Every excuse in the book was at our disposal not to change and continue down the same path year after year. Heck, our education system has become so good at maintaining the status quo and enforcing compliance throughout that we and many others have been brainwashed into thinking any other course of action would be foolish.  If education is good for one thing it is making excuses not to move forward. There is still an innate desire to sustain a school structure and function that has remained relatively unchanged for well over a hundred years. This is a problem. It was a huge problem for us. We were in a rut and didn't even know it. Luckily change came in the form of a little blue bird that gave me the kick in the butt that I desperately needed back in 2009.  Being blessed with an amazing staff, student body, administrative team, and community provided the necessary support needed to move us forward.

       

      As another school year comes to a close I can't but help reflect on the many successful initiatives that have been implemented this past year.  It is even more gratifying to see numerous other initiatives that were implemented over the past couple of years flourish.  Moving from a fixed to a growth mindset and feeding of the daily inspiration that connected learning provides gave me with the fuel to create a shared vision that eventually became a reality as a result of action. For change to be successful it must be sustained. As leaders we must not only be willing to see the process through, but we must also create conditions that promote a change mentality. It really is about moving from a fixed to a growth mindset, something that many educators and schools are either unwilling or afraid to do. The essential elements that work as catalysts for the change process include the following:

      • Empowerment
      • Autonomy
      • Ownership
      • Removing the fear of failure
      •  Risk-taking
      •  Support
      • Modeling
      • Flexibility
      • Collaboration
      • Communication

      What I have learned is that if someone understands why change is needed and the elements above become an embedded component of school culture he/she or the system ultimately experience the value for themselves.  The change process then gets a boost from an intrinsic motivational force that not only jump starts the initiative, but allows for the embracement of change as opposed to looking for buy-in.  We should never have to "sell" people on better ways to do our noble work nor rely on mandates and directives. These traditional pathways used to drive change typically result in resentment, undermining, and failure.

       

      This gets me back to the main point of my post and that is reflecting on the many changes that have been implemented and sustained at NMHS.  Even in the face of adversity in the form of education reform mandates, Common Core alignment, impending PARCC exams, new educator evaluation systems, loss of funding, and an aging infrastructure we have not only persevered, but proven that positive change can happen with the right mindset.  If we can overcome these challenges and experience success others can as well. Throughout the past couple of years we have also seen improvements in the "traditional" indicators of success by mainly focusing on creating a school that works better for our students as opposed to one that has always worked well for us.  Here is a short list of some of the changes that have been implemented and sustained:

       

      ·        Social media use as a communications, public relations, branding, professional growth, and student learning tool implemented in 2009. So many of my teachers are making the choice to integrate social media as a learning tool that I just can't list all of the examples:

      • Online courses through the Virtual High School implemented in 2010. Students now have access to over 250 unique courses that cater to their interests. 
      • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) implemented in 2011.  The success of this initiative has hinged on our ability to ensure equity, give up control, trust our students, and provide educator support in the form of professional growth opportunities. Charging stations for the students were purchased this year and placed in all common areas.  The three guiding tenets of our BYOD initiative are to enhance learning, increase productivity, and conduct better research. See what CBS New York had to say.
      • The Academies @ NMHS implemented in 2011 as part of my superintendent's vision. These are a means to allow students to follow their passions in a cohort model of learning based on constructivist theory. The Academies are open to any and all students regardless of GPA who what to pursue more rigorous and authentic coursework and learning opportunities. This initiative compelled us to add over 20 new courses to our offerings to better meet the learning needs and interests of our students.
      • Independent OpenCourseware Study (IOCS) implemented in 2012. Students elect to take OpenCourseware and receive honors credit once they demonstrate what they have learned through a non-traditional presentation.
      • Google Apps For Education (GAFE) implemented in 2012 empowering students and staff to learn collaboratively in the cloud.
      • Flipped classroom and instructional model implemented in 2012. A variety of teachers have moved to this model consistently to take advantage of instructional time. The best part is that NMHS teachers themselves are creating the interactive content as opposed to relying on Khan Academy. See what CBS New York had to say.
      • Grading reform implemented in 2012.  A committee was formed to improve our grading practices that resulted in a failure floor and seven steps that had to be met before student can receive a failing grade. All student failures are now reviewed by me to ensure that the seven steps have been met. This was probably the most difficult change initiative I have ever been a part of. If you want a copy of this just add your email in the comments section at the bottom of this post. 
      • The Professional Growth Period (PGP) implemented in 2013.  By cutting all non-instructional duties teachers now have two or three 48 minute periods during the week to follow their learning passions based on the Google 80/20 model.  The rise in many innovative practices have resulted by creating this job embedded model for growth.  I love reviewing the learning portfolios my teachers develop each year to showcase how this time was used to improve professional practice.
      • Makerspace added to the library in 2013. I have written extensively about this space, which has transformed learning thanks to the leadership of Laura Fleming. See what CBS New York had to say.
      • Creation of a digital badge platform to acknowledge the informal learning of teachers implemented in 2013 by Laura Fleming.
      • 3D virtual learning implemented in 2013 using Protosphere. See what CBS New York had to say.
      • McREL Teacher Evaluation Tool implemented in 2013.  This required a huge shift from how we have observed and evaluated teachers for a very long time.  Google Forms were utilized to solicit anonymous feedback from staff members about the rollout, process, and value of the new tool.  This feedback was then used by the administrative team to improve the use of the tool.   

      I need to stop here, but I think you get the point.  We have transformed the teaching and learning culture at NMHS that begins and ends with a growth mindset.  The time for excuses, talk, opinions, and fear needs to end if our goal is really about improving teaching, learning, and leadership outcomes. Leadership is about action, not position or ideas that just get pushed around. We continue to push ourselves to create a better school.  So what's stopping you?

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    • 1 month ago
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  • 4 of My Favorite Read-Aloud Ac 4 of My Favorite Read-Aloud Activities for the Last Day of School

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      Our students love when we read aloud to them and while we do this often, we always like to save a few of our favorite books for the last day of school. Before you part with your students for the summer, send them off with one of these read-aloud activities.

      read aloud activitiesMiss Rumphius is the story of Alice Rumphius, who vowed as a young child to do three things in her life: travel to faraway lands, live by the sea, and make the world a more beautiful place. To fulfill her third vow, Alice scatters lupine seeds wherever she goes so that everyone can enjoy the beauty of these flowers long after she is gone.

      Miss Rumphius is one of our favorite end-of-the-year read alouds. The illustrations are beautiful and the message challenges students to consider what they can do to make the world a better place. To remind students of this challenge, we like sending them off with a packet of lupine seeds.

      read_aloud_activitiesCity Dog, Country Frog is the story of an unlikely friendship between City Dog and Country Frog. In the spring, City Dog roams the countryside for the first time in his life and discovers Country Frog, a strange creature perched on a rock. It’s an unlikely match, but from here we follow the progression of a rich, but unlikely friendship that spans each season.

      After reading this book, we like to play memory games with our students to reflect on the friends we’ve made, the special times we had, and key moments we shared during the school year.

       

       

      read aloud activitiesDuring the school year, we read dozens of books to our students. On the last day of school, we like to take all of these books, spread them out on the tray of our whiteboard, and play the “connection game.”

      The teacher begins the game by grabbing any two books and making some sort of connection between them. Next, a student picks a book and makes another connection to one of these two books. Repeat these steps until you’ve successfully connected all of the books together in some way. This is a fun way to revisit favorite books, but it’s also a useful way to reinforce text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections.


      Photo credit: sweetjessie / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

      read aloud activitiesThe Important Book is, as one critic has suggested, is a “deceptively simple exercise” in taking familiar objects (a spoon, a daisy, or rain) and forcing us to look at them in unfamiliar ways. It may be true that daisies are yellow in the middle and that they have long white petals—but why does the author suggest that the “most important” thing about daisies is that they are white? Students often disagree with the author’s conclusions, but that is precisely what makes The Important Book such a great read!

      As an accompanying activity, have each student take out a piece of paper and write “The Important Thing About (student’s name goes here).

      Now, have students go around the room and write down something important about each person. You can set any ground rules you like, but we ask students to be as specific as possible and avoid saying things about other students’ appearances.







                             End of the Year Advice Book

      

    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
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