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The first day of school is still a ways off, but many teachers—especially those of us who just received our fall assignments—are already beginning to think about it. The day usually begins the same way: Our new students trickle in and find a desk where they can carefully guard their tongues for the next week. We feel for our students not only because we’ve been there before, but also because we always have some nervous energy ourselves. To ease the first-day jitters, we started using icebreakers. Below you will find five of our favorites.
Preparing for Opening Day: 5 of the best icebreakers for teachers
The only thing you’ll need for this activity is a big ball of string. Here’s how it works: The teacher stands at the door with two handfuls of string ends. As you welcome your new students give each student an end. Alternate hands as you pass them out: The first student gets a string-end from your right hand; the second from your left; the third from your right and so on.
Once everyone has arrived and has a string-end, they must start to follow the course of the string they hold (you got to class early and created a trail for each piece of string). Some pieces wrap around chairs, run through the coat closet, under and over desks and around your podium, or become tangled with other pieces of string. Your students will have to follow this trail—wherever it may lead them.
Eventually your students will be startled to discover that they are face-to-face with another student who is holding the other end of the same piece of string! Once each student has found his or her partner, it’s time for them to make their introductions.
Put on a new jacket
The covers of our most-popular books often become torn and dirty. Direct your students to the classroom library and have them select books with damaged jackets or book covers. If you don’t have enough damaged books, allow them to choose a book with their favorite cover they’d like to protect.
Offer a variety of craft materials (paint, pens, random ephemera and fabric) so that students can create their own covers and book jackets. If you’d like instruction books or kits for slipcases, stop by Hollanders.
This idea comes courtesy of Bonnie Kunzel’s and Constance Hardesty’s book, The Teen-Centered Book Club: Readers into Leaders.
Start a time capsule
Type up a handout that includes questions like:
Feel free to get as crazy and creative as you like with these questions. Once your students are finished, collect the handouts and put them in a secure place.
When I was in third grade, my teacher received permission from the principal to dig a hole and bury our class time capsule (which also included an item belonging to each student) in the playground! At the end of the year, we dug up our time capsule and discussed how much our interest, tastes and height had changed over the course of a year.
Know your orange
We got this idea from Christopher Willard’s book, Child’s Mind: Mindfulness Practices to Help Our Children Be More Focused, Calm and Relaxed.
If you’d like to take this activity a few steps further, you might have your students journal about mindful tasting. Try giving them the following prompts:
Spill the Skittles, not the beans
Pass out five or ten Skittles (M&Ms work too) to each student and explain that for each piece of candy the student has, s/he must tell the class something about him/herself. Here’s the tricky part: each color corresponds to a category. An orange Skittle represents a scary memory; green ones represent a favorite outdoor place; blue ones represent their favorite place to swim and so on. This is an easy way to get students talking—and when was the last time kids turned down free sweets?
There are a number of variations on this activity. For a slightly different spin, check out Katie’s idea on her blog, live.craft.eat
As the school year comes to an end at New Milford High School, I can’t help but begin to think about sustaining the many changes that have taken place over the past few years as well as identifying other areas where change is needed. My school is a shell of what it once was when one looks at how far we have come in terms of effectively integrating technology, re-envisioning learning spaces, and providing a foundation for a more relevant and meaningful learning experience for all of our students.
Below is just a quick list of some of the many changes that have been successfully initiated and sustained over the past three years:
Together we have the power to improve all of our schools and mold them in ways to maximize the potential of our students, teachers, and administrators. It is time to realize that social media, technology, and the change process are not the enemy. Once you get past this, you will quickly discover your own niche as a change agent and it is here that you can receive support and guidance to make any initiative successful. When moving to initiate sustainable change that will cultivate innovation acquire necessary resources, provide support (training, feedback, advice), empower educators through a certain level of autonomy, communicate effectively, and implement a shared decision-making practice.
In collaboration with my staff and the support of District leadership, my efforts have laid the foundation for an innovative teaching and learning culture that focuses on preparing all students for success. We have learned to give up control, view failure as not always a bad thing as long as we learn from our mistakes, to be flexible, provide adequate support, and take calculated risks if we are to truly innovate. To this end, teachers and students are now routinely utilizing social media and other various Web 2.0 tools on a routine basis to enhance and promote essential skill sets such as communication, collaboration, media literacy, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, global awareness, and technological proficiency. It is not uncommon now for classes to be Skyping with students in other countries, using Twitter as a learning tool, constructing QR codes for artwork, blogging, or creating multimedia projects using a variety of interactive web tools that are blocked in many schools across the country.
One of our most successful initiatives has been the establishment of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program mentioned briefly above where we are harnessing the power of student-owned devices to increase engagement. Instead of viewing student-owned technology as a hindrance, it is now wholeheartedly embraced as a mobile learning tool. Teachers have the students text in their answers on their cell phones using web programs such as Poll Everywhere, conduct research on the Internet, take notes using Evernote, or organize their assignments. Students can also opt to bring their personal computing devices (laptops, tablets, iPod Touches) to use in school and class.
What might separate us from other schools where change has not taken hold is that we, as a school community, have decided to forge ahead no matter what mandates are thrown at us at the state and federal levels. We needed to take a hard look at, and seize upon numerous areas of opportunity, to create a better school for our students that focused on the whole child using their interests and passions as catalysts for learning. The change process never sleeps. During the summer months my administrative team and I will continue to work with all stakeholders to forge ahead by doing what we have done for the last three years and looking for solutions to problems instead of excuses. This might be the single most important element of a successful change initiative. That and being digitally resilient.
What do you plan to change this next year and why?
In our last blog post, we suggested 10 things every teacher should do this summer. Looking back on it, we noticed that we forgot something: travel. Even if money is tight during the summer, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out that many of the travel and professional-development opportunities you’ll find below are actually funded by the U.S. Government. While you may have missed the deadlines for this summer, you now have the time to prepare your applications for 2014.
5 ways to see the world: summer professional development for teachers
Stop by the American Councils for International Education (ACIE) and you’ll find a list of State funded seminars and exchange programs for teachers and administrators. Here are two such examples:
Because most educators have commitments for most of the year, the exchanges are short term, taking place during the summer. While you won’t be able to take advantage of these opportunities this summer, make sure that you check the site often; the summer 2014 application deadlines will start to pop up in the early fall.
If nothing on the ACIE piques your interest, browse the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Programs. As with ACIE, the exchange programs offered on this site are state funded. Applications are accepted year round and programs are anywhere from two weeks to a year.
Discovery Student Adventures
For those interested in seeing the world with your students, Discovery offers a range of FREE travel experiences for teachers: The Arctic, China, Australia, Costa Rica.
Leave the meals, hotel booking and planning to Discovery. With an experienced guide at your side, you can do what you do best: teach and inspire.
More than 100 Bed & Breakfast discounts for teachers
Follow the link above and you’ll find a list of bed and breakfasts participating in the Travel for Teachers program. Some B&Bs offer free nights while others offer teacher appreciation packages that include discounted rates (25% off), free massages, wine and other amenities.
Educators Travel Network
How do we begin to explain ETN? It’s sort of like a time-share, but for teachers. Membership (a mere $36 a year) grants you use of thousands of homestays throughout the country. Depending on the location and availability, you’ll either be hosted ($40/night) by another member or stay in the member’s home while s/he is away ($50/night).
Click on the Destinations tab to view the ETN’s complete membership directory. This page introduces you to current ETN members, tells you a little bit about them and describes their accommodations.
Educators may be interested in a unique, FREE classroom resource: https://edworldexchange.com/?q=product/about-my-world-metaphors-similes-and-description/767989169
This is a good “get to know you” activity for the start of the year, a review of the major forms of figurative language, or even a way to teach students how to elaborate without just listing. The students get a chance to express themselves.
This lesson can be used with a reading or writing assignment to emphasize how figurative language can change tone or meaning. The resource addresses Common Core Standards ELA - Reading Informational text 4-5 and Writing 4-5.
About My World: Metaphors, Similes and Description, and may more resources like it, are available on the EdWorld Exchange, an innovative online marketplace where educators buy and sell classroom materials.
Discover a dynamic marketplace filled with amazing resources, all of them developed by active classroom educators. Our experts can even identify the Common Core or state standards that your resources meet.
Whether you're interested in buying, or maybe even uploading some resources to sell to other teachers, visit https://edworldexchange.com/ today!
Why do America’s children write so poorly? Writing instruction has seen a lot of innovation since I was a kid. Like many of my peers, I struggled with writing under the old system of the 3 A’s – assign, assume, and assess. My teachers assigned a topic, assumed we could write about it, and assessed our finished pieces.
Today's kids have it better. Yet there’s still a disconnect. Despite the advances in instruction since I was a child, most teachers still don’t teach writing well. On the last national writing assessment (the NAEP), less than a third of 12th graders, and less than a quarter of elementary students, could write proficiently.
How do we reconcile promising changes in writing pedagogy with this reality? That calls for a quick history lesson in writing instruction.
New approaches for young writers emerged in the 1980’s when process writing made its way into American classrooms. The whole language movement had made its impact on reading, and now Donald Graves and Donald Murray brought a similar holistic approach to writing.
Rather than simply correcting errors and assigning grades, they focused on meaning. They encouraged children to write about what they knew. They celebrated their ideas. In a radical departure, process writing teachers accepted mistakes in handwriting, spelling, and grammar. Frequent writing would provide the experience kids needed to develop these now-secondary skills.
Process writing also introduced the pre-writing, writing, and rewriting approach. Further, the teacher now functioned as a guide, rather than judge. Instead of just grading students’ final product, teachers now modeled their own writing process and checked in regularly as kids composed their own pieces.
Writer’s workshop, which many educators today associate with Lucy Calkins, is an example of the process writing approach. The National Writing Project has also popularized process writing in summer institutes for teachers.
As process writing was incubating on the East Coast, new ideas were also percolating out West. In 1983, a committee in Beaverton, Oregon developed a new assessment rubric – The Six Traits – to improve assessment, a perennial challenge in writing instruction. The traits included: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.
Though the Six Traits were conceived as elements for a new assessment rubric, they proved a valuable teaching tool. Teacher Rhonda Woodruff discovered this with her fourth graders in 1986. It turned out that playing the role of evaluator helped students strengthen their writing process, and soon, Oregon teachers were sharing this new instructional approach in national workshops. In 1990, The Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory acquired a version of the original rubric and began selling traits-based instructional aids.
More good leadership emerged in the 1990’s. Teacher Marcia Freeman and later, Ralph Fletcher, built on the foundation of process writing with their ideas for teaching targeted skills such as writing leads and creating transitions.
Individual research studies have documented the advantages of these most of these approaches to teaching writing. Why then, has achievement remained flat for 30 years? Besides the fact that writing has not been given enough instructional time – which I hope the Common Core will cure – I think the biggest reason is that we’re dealing with a case of the blind men and the elephant.
In the old story, six blind men visit an elephant, but each one seems to meet an entirely different creature based on the part he has touched. Thus, one describes the elephant as being "like a spear" (tusk), another claims it’s "like a tree" (leg), and so on. The story tells us a person can have a piece of the truth even if he's still missing a big part of it.
Writing pedagogy is like this. Each instructional method offers teachers one piece of the puzzle, but none gives teachers everything they need. This is why two-thirds of our graduates can’t write. Few elementary teachers learn to teach writing as part of their training, and they simply don’t have time to pull all the pieces together once they’ve entered the classroom. They still have to teach reading, math, social studies, and science, too. Usually, their districts try to support them by offering either:
I chose my profession to become the teacher I never had. And perhaps because I made a D- on my first writing assignment in college (yes, it’s true), I set myself to become intimately acquainted with that elephant as a teacher. With the support of my principal, I studied every hair and wrinkle on the beast.
What I developed was pretty simple. I gave my students the best of the best. I fused best practices into a comprehensive approach, their success got attention, and I was asked to help my peers. Thus began my journey as writing coach and crusader.
What I hope to contribute to teaching in general, and to the pool of Common Core resources in particular, is akin to giving glasses to blind men. I don’t want any teacher, anywhere, tobe limited by an incomplete view of the animal. This is what Common Core writing demands. We can shorten the learning curve for teachers and help them befriend the elephant. I’ve seen what can happen when teachers and students grasp its totality. It is nothing short of magnificent.
For additional blogs visit http://WriteStepsWriting.com
Have you ever been asked to create curriculum when you felt like you went to school to teach?
In an effort to save money, we have heard some districts are having teachers work collaboratively to design daily lessons for the Common Core. This poses a problem. When are teachers going to find time to create top notch Common Core lessons when they are in classrooms every day?
There are two ways districts think they are saving money. One is they are trying to find free Common Core material for their teachers to use. The other is they are asking their teachers to be curriculum creators. Now don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Districts might save one penny now, but waste pounds of pennies later on when they realize their plan to save money backfired. Read on to hear my opinions on why I believe districts should make curriculum decisions with their eyes wide open.
Take out the “R” in FREE and you get FEE
Upon further investigation into why a prestigious Michigan district did not choose WriteSteps, we uncovered the truth that the district went with a “free” resource. Denise Dusseau, WriteSteps’ Curriculum Creator, looked into the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA) CCSS Units they went with. MAISA CCSS Units is an example of a consortium of school districts currently working to create writing units adhered to the Common Core Standards.
Denise discovered that like with many things, when you take out the “R” in FREE, you get FEE. The supposedly “free” writing units offered to schools actually require teachers to have the full version of Lucy Calkins in order to teach the complete MAISA lesson plans. Therefore, if teachers do not have Lucy Calkins, they will have to take the time to create the lessons themselves. It’s like when your kids open their Christmas presents and are so excited to use them, only to discover you forgot to buy the AAA batteries!
Plus she discovered the Common Cores are not even addressed in the pacing guides! I understand school districts are trying these free units in an effort to save money, but as the age old saying goes, “You get what you pay for!”
Experiences and Observations from Creating Curriculum While in the Trenches
I ran into numerous challenges when creating lesson plans collaboratively with my co-workers. Here is what I discovered:
Not all Teachers are Skilled at Creating Lesson Plans
Let’s be honest. Some teachers love creating lesson plans and can whip up great lessons in no time! But what about the teacher that finds the process difficult and time consuming? Compiling and creating lesson plans takes a lot of work. I know because it took me years of research and planning to create all of the lesson plans that were included in the original WriteSteps. The time went by in a snap because of my passion for teaching writing. However, not all teachers want to spend countless hours outside of the classroom perfecting lessons on a subject they may not particularly be passionate about. Many teachers originally decided on their career paths because they are passionate about TEACHING, not creating lesson plans.
The moral of this story is look before you leap! “Free” will most likely always equal fee in the end, whether it be a fee of money or a fee of time. If you try a free program, chances are you’re going to waste a year and discover that “free” really isn’t free, and you will be hunting for a different solution. Likewise, asking teachers to develop lesson plans to meet the Common Core Standards hurts their effectiveness to do what they do best, teach!
With WriteSteps, teachers do not need to wonder if they are using the correct curriculum; it’s all there for them in the daily lesson plans that are provided. Teachers won’t have to struggle or stress about time when it comes to creating writing lessons mapped to meet the Common Core. We aren’t free, but you will get more than what you paid for-confident writing teachers and strong student writers.
North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mike Forest stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest. In this video, Forest vilifies the Common Core State Standards, which his state is now reconsidering.
I first learned of this from an intelligent blogger and educator, Steven Weber, who takes Forest to task in his post here. Then, fellow ASCD author, Mike Fisher, took the reins in his own response to Forest.
As much as I value the insights of both Weber and Fisher, inspiring and articulate educators, I must respectfully disagree with both and, as much as it pains me to side with a politician, I agree with most of what Forest says in his YouTube attack on the CCSS.
Readers of my book, Role Reversal, know I'm staunchly agains standardization of any kind. While many of my esteemed colleagues at ASCDEDge blog about the merits of the Common Core, I am more than willing to be the stentorian voice against it. While it's easy to join the masses, who fall in line with the district administrators and state bureaucrats who praise the Common Core as the answer to failing American education, I simply can't join this fraternity.
My issues are simple enough.
1. Standardization of education is just wrong.This is exactly why parents take their children out of public schools. They want something different, inspiring and unique for their children.
2. I already collaborate with teachers nationwide. The notion that the Common Core makes it easier for teachers to collaborate is ludicrous and insulting. Some of my best ideas for instruction have come from attending conferences and chats on Twitter and other social networks with smart, experienced educators.
3. Politically-driven education initiatives put private companies in charge. Not to be too cynical, but it's difficult for me to see the Common Core as much more than opportunity for education publishers and consulting firms to make more money. For years, workbooks poured in to our classrooms, all designed to help our students pass "The Test." Now, they must be discarded. Ah, not to worry though. There are plenty of new "Master-the-Common Core" books on the way and many consultants showing veteran teachers how to teach with new standards. (That last sentence makes me nauseous.)
4. The old way wasn't broken. What money-hungry bureaucrats don't want people focusing on is the fact that prior to NCLB and CCSS, education was just fine. Teachers used to focus on helping students become thinkers and problem-solvers. They collaborated, graduated, went to college and flourished. Now, we teach students how to pass a test, yet scores continue to decline. I'm not sure how the Common Core will change this. Some say with depth and rigor; I've seen the standards, and I just don't see this.
5. The problem in education is poverty. As noted researcher Stephen Krashen has alluded to for decades, the problem in education is that poverty-stricken children don't value school, so they don't regularly attend. Remove the impoverished from test scores, and America leaps to the top in the world, at least using this misleading barometer. Sadly, instead of trying to end poverty, we continue to give billions of dollars to organizations like Pearson, so it can churn out more workbooks.
So, with due respect to my colleagues, brilliant people with good intentions, I am against the Common Core and all that it stands for.
Follow me on Twitter, where we can continue the conversation.
Mark's new book, Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom is available in the ASCD bookstore here.
I found this checklist offered as the next "best strategy" on Pinterest the other day. And while I do love easy to use, clear checklists, I pondered what the teacher was actually assessing.
Out of all of the items on this checklist for a "thoughtful" log entry, only one (no. 8) actually entails any assessment of thinking. Everything else is...mechanics.
Of course, you might say that mechanics was the goal of the assignment. However, the title "Thoughtful Log" seems to belie that possibility. While we're wringing our hands at kids not being able to think critically, we need to stop and make sure that the assessments and evaluations we have designed actually promote that thinking.
From a student's perspective, as long as I have complied with most every item, I will feel satisfied that I have done a good job. And you can bet I'm going to do the easy stuff, first.
For example, the ability to integrate evidence from the text with context is certainly a skill that students need. However, checking off that they've "got" the evidence doesn't push their thinking. Rather, the item should offer something along the lines of:
I've integrated evidence from the text (avoided a "dropped quote").
I've clearly and purposefully contextualized that evidence.
These two quick revisions ask more of the student. They can still use Yes/No on the list, but they carry far more of a punch, cognitively speaking.
Not to be outdone, I also came across this gem:
To be fair, this chart is identified as an elementary anchor chart for standard one in K-8 classrooms. Further, the use of the overarching question "How do [I] know?" is relevant and helpful.
Nonetheless, I have to wonder if it is absolutely necessary to have students use "said/says" when referring to text. Why can't we teach them a little bit earlier that text doesn't "talk"? Further, how difficult would it be to avoid having them write in past tense? Especially since the moment they hit high school, they have to use literary present?Consider the student who uses phrasing such as:
1. On page ___, the author writes..
2. The author argues/asserts/states/discusses...
3. The graphic shows/reflects/conveys...
4. An example of ___is...
5. I know that ____because...
One thing that's going to happen is the student will most likely be compelled to write more in-depth; literary present does that. Further, the student will be much more aware of the author's role, which is crucial in helping them make the step "up" in analysis.
Or maybe I'm just grumpy, today. What do you think?
Mirror Site: Joyful Collapse
Students aren’t the only ones in countdown mode—but once we’ve finally said our goodbyes, submitted grades and packed up the last of our personal belongings, we’re usually left with mixed emotions. Sure, we’ve been pining for a break, but there’s also a faint, lingering feeling of “Now what?” To help teachers decompress and find their footing after a long and successful year of teaching, we’re offering a list of 10 things every teacher should do at the end of the school year.
10 Things Every Teacher Should Do at the End of the School Year
1. Thinking about getting a head start on the fall curriculum? Not so fast. Take off your teacher cap for at least two weeks. Walking away often brings clarity, enthusiasm and a renewed sense of passion once you return.
2. We spend a lot of time at the dollar store during the year because it’s loaded with cheap stuff we can use in the classroom. The next time you’re there (or at any store for that matter) don’t drop a penny on anything for your classroom—don’t even look! Go about your business and stop thinking about your students!
3. Once you have some physical and emotional distance from the school year, take time to reflect on it. Ask yourself,
4. Set up a blog and tell your students (both past and future) about it. They’ll enjoy reading about your summer and seeing that you have a life outside of the classroom. If you’re looking for a free blogging platform, we recently started using Weebly: Not only is it free, but it’s one of the most user-friendly blogging platforms we’ve used yet.
5. Redefine professional development by taking a class that interests you. Maybe you teach math, but have a secret passion for ceramics. We see no conflict between art and science: Artists, like mathematicians, are problem solvers; they know how to improvise with raw materials, and look at their environment and their world in new and innovative ways. Both must be able to communicate, collaborate, think critically and approach their palate from perspectives other than their own. Go ahead and take that ceramics class and find a way to bring your new skillset into the classroom.
6. Take “guilty” out of guilty-pleasure reading. We know you’ve got a stack of books you should read this summer, but let them gather dust a while longer. Don’t let anyone judge you for reading Dean Koontz or gossip magazines. You earned it.
7. Join a community group with people that share your interests. If you don’t know where to start, stop by Meetup where you’ll find the world's largest network of local groups. There’s a group for just about any interest you could possibly conceive of.
8. Get coffee with a colleague you’d like to get to know better—or one you don’t get along with very well.
9. When you finally get your hands on the class list for the fall, give each student a call and introduce yourself—and don’t forget to tell them about your new blog!
10. Learn at least five new pieces of technology that you can bring into the classroom in the fall. We can help you get started with two of our free guides: Surfing for Substance I and Surfing for Substance II.
For students, there are essentially two opening days every year: The first day of school and the first day of summer. In an earlier era, principals and students may have shared similar schedules, but according to a 2008 study by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, more than 70 percent of its members now have an 11 or 12-month contract. Those of you who are currently principals may find yourself envious of your predecessors: A half-century earlier, only 12 percent of principals worked year-round!
We know that a principal’s summer is a bustle of activity that includes anything from planning workshops, scheduling and recruiting to meeting new students and preparing for opening day in the fall. Before you dive into a new, but equally busy summer schedule, we want to offer a few tips to help you wind down the school year.
Winding-Down the Academic Year: 5 Tips for Principals
Send Your Senior Ambassadors on a Mission
Recall the day you crossed the border from middle school into high school. Even if you were one of the lucky ones who adjusted quickly, there was still a learning curve. Since many of your seniors end the academic year earlier than the rest of the school, most of them will be available to meet with future students who are finishing up their final days of middle school. Recruit your senior ambassadors and send them to a partnering middle school where they can speak with the same students who will be walking your hallways in the fall.
Don’t become complacent
When we were kids, often the last week of school was spent watching film strips and hanging out. We loved every minute of it, too. Looking back, of course, it’s easy to see that this was not a productive use of time. There may only be a few days left in the school year, but it’s important to maintain high expectations. Every day is an opportunity to learn. Expect teachers and students to use each day wisely.
Put that data to good use
You’ve spent the year collecting data about academic success, student attendance, college admittance, disciplinary actions, and student/faculty awards for excellence. You may not have reached all of your goals, but certainly your school has succeeded in noteworthy ways. Even if test scores aren’t in, take time to highlight other successes. Thank teachers for their effort and let them know that it paid off—you have the data to prove it.
Give yourself time to reflect
We can’t move forward without looking back. Take time for introspection: What did you learn about yourself this year? Where did you succeed? How have you changed? How have you grown? Reflect on these questions and write down your thoughts.
Introduce new faculty
If you’ve already hired new teachers or staff members, chances are they’ll be around the school throughout the summer, but most students won’t be. Instead of waiting until September, use the last week of school as an opportunity to welcome new teachers and introduce them to your school.
We strongly dislike the B-Word (boring!) and those of us with kids find it ringing in our ears during the summer. As anti-boredom fighters and educational advocates, we’d like to offer 10 summer activities for kids. Not only will they keep students entertained, they’ll also keep them from taking a ride down the summer slide. Please feel free to add any suggestions to our list!
10 Summer Activities for Kids Who Use the B-Word
You are invited to attend our newest Summer Institute being held at the fabulous Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas in July. Follow the link at the bottom of this message to see the beautiful Summer Institute Brochure we created using Weebly!
If you have decided to take your classroom, school or district into the 21st century, this is the institute for you! The 21st Century Schools Summer Institute has been carefully designed to provide you with the knowledge, tools and skills to create an environment and a curriculum which meets the needs of the today's students.
The Common Core State Standards require teachers to incorporate collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking into their lessons, and you will learn how to design curriculum and instruction that not only meets, but actually goes beyond, the CCSS, incorporating critical 21st century skills and literacies.
The four university accredited workshops which comprise the Summer Institute are:
1. Media Literacy - an in-depth Investigation
2. Greening the Classroom and the Curriculum
3. Designing the 21st Century Classroom
4. Innovation and Entrepreneurship for K-14
We hope you are able to attend all the workshops, but just in case you cannot, each workshop is designed as a stand-alone professional development.
In addition to the highest quality and truly 21st century professional development you will enjoy (and learn from) the spectacular San Antonio Riverwalk and the many historical, cultural and entertainment opportunities at hand.
We appreciate the work you do, and want to treat you as the special professionals you are, so at the workshop we will be providing complimentary:
* Continental Breakfast
* Mid-morning Snack Break
* Lunch, and
* Mid-afternoon Snack Breaks!
We understand that well-fed educators are Happy Learners!
If you are unable to attend, these professional development opportunities are available as online courses (also university accredited), or we can bring them to your school or district! We travel anywhere in the world!
Finally, we would appreciate your helping us to get the word out by forwarding this to all your friends, colleagues, groups and connections on LinkedIn! Thank you!
Anne Shaw, Director
21st Century Schools
Key Words: Project-Based Learning, Differentiated Instruction, Student-Centered, Media Literacy, Ecoliteracy, Financial Literacy, Problem-Solving, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Real World Curriculum, Global Collaborative Classrooms, Web 2.0 Tools, Design Thinking, Thinking Tools, Interdisciplinary, Student Motivation, Curriculum Design, Lesson Planning, Designing Down, Self-Directed Students, Physical Environment, Emotional Environment, Academic Environment, High Expectations, CCSS
Collaboration in education is not a new concept, but the idea of using social media for collaboration in education is relatively new considering the age of our education system. Technology has only recently provided the tools to make this possible on a large, even global, scale. In order to successfully engage in this most recent form of collaboration two things need to be understood; the use of technology, and its applications designed for collaboration, and the culture of collaboration among those using that technology. Our most effective education collaborators and thought leaders seem to have a thorough understanding of both.
Although sharing is the key element to collaboration there is more to it than just that. Feedback is important for additions and subtractions for improving ideas. If one is to be a successful collaborator then responding in some way to other educators becomes essential. Without responding, there is no collaboration.
Discussion of ideas is made possible on several applications; the most used source for professional exchanges is probably Twitter, followed by Facebook, LinkedIn, and then any number of Ning Communities for educators with their Blog and Discussion Pages. Commenting on Education Blogs is also another way to extend the collaboration, often in much more detail. Engaging in these practices will broaden the discussion of education among those who need the answers the most, the educators. Many education thought leaders are passionate about education and that passion is both needed and infectious. If educators just shared those passionate ideas with the people that they were connected with, we could have a movement. Never answer for the knowledge of another. You have no idea who knows what. Never assume everyone has heard about one subject, or another, or that they understand it in detail. Just pass along the information for them to decide.
What information is important? Certainly any specific information pertaining to your field of endeavor would be important especially to those who follow you from the same field. Additionally, you should share general information pertaining to Education, methodology, pedagogy, the brain, research and any innovative education ideas. These would come in the form of links to websites, articles, blog posts, videos, podcasts, graphs, and also any other tweets educators may be sharing. A most important contribution is the sharing of successes in the classroom. Your successes may spark enlightenment in a number of other educators. Your successful everyday practices may be innovative to others.
If we as educators made collaboration a common practice among all educators there might not be a need for a common core. Collectively we are all smarter than we are individually. Our common core would be developed by the connection and collaboration of educators. Educators could address their own concerns and professional development without interference by politicians and profiteers. It does require that we become involved in connecting with other educators in a supportive, respectful, collaborative way. Better education for students will be the direct result of better education for our educators.
Bullying incidents between students are well publicized. Less often though do we hear about the more discreet experience of professionals who suffer at the hands of a colleague. Statistics on the number of bullied teachers are hard to come by, but a 2010 study reveals that one in three teachers claim to have been bullied at school.
Many of us rack our brains trying to figure out why bullies do what they do. Are they threatened by us? Jealous, maybe? Do they victimize us because they were once victims? Trying to figure out “why” is exhausting and more often than not, futile. What you can control is how you react and whether or not you inadvertently feed a bully’s motivations. Below you will find a few strategies to help you disarm bullies.
Make an abrupt exit
Bullies count on their victim’s politeness and exploit it. There are simple ways that you can still be courteous and assertive. You may need to tailor your response to the situation, but try a variation on one of the below responses. In the middle of the confronter’s sentence, calmly and without emotion say, \
If the confronter calms down and agrees to speak later, set up a specific time to speak. If he or she continues talking, calmly make your exit and say, “I’ll plan on speaking to you tomorrow at the agreed time.”
Why ask “Why?”
A more assertive approach is to repeatedly ask “Why?” You’ll want to vary the phrasing, but here are a few examples:
“What makes you say that?”
“I hear what you’re saying, but can you help me understand more?”
“When did you start feeling this way?”
“Can you be more specific about ________?”
“Can you define what you mean by ____________?”
Turn a one-sided confrontation into a conversation that you can continue to control with Socratic questions.
Use reflective listening techniques
Most psychologists use reflective listening techniques for a couple of reasons. First, because they let the client know that the psychologist is paying attention; second, they provoke clients into further developing their thoughts. All you have to do is paraphrase what the bully said and repeat it back to him or her.
“So what I’m hearing you say is that…”
“So you believe that I should be doing…”
“I want to make sure that I understand: You’re saying that…”
“So you feel that…”
Things not to do
Don’t act defensive: Acting defensive suggests that you did something wrong.
Don’t be timid: Timidity suggests that you are insecure and can be easily manipulated.
Don’t be fooled: Accepting what a bully says at face value will make you appear naïve.
Are you a summer reader? Looking for books that not only are educationally relevant but also interesting, thought-provoking, and easy to read? Looking for books that might change your way of thinking about schools and classrooms? Here are a few to put on your list to buy or get from the library:
Will Richardson, Why School?
This book is only available as an e-read for $1.99 (as my young nephew once said to my wife: “It’s a new world, my friend”). Provides an excellent discussion of what schooling should be about and how schools should be different in this new 21st century age we live in, with information abundance, new forms of communication, etc. Both an easy read and full of quotes and information that make the read insightful, thought-provoking, entertaining, and challenging.
Ken Robinson, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.
This book focuses on the how to create schools and educational experiences that nurture varied forms of talent, interests, intelligence and creativity that need to be developed within each of us. An excellent and easy read, with lots of examples and humor. A companion book is Finding Your Element: How To Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life.
Paul Tough, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character
Paul Tough believes that we don’t place enough emphasis in schools on developing “character traits”, such as perseverance, resilience, curiosity, optimism, self-control. He makes a very strong case that, in the long run, these traits are as significant as, and perhaps more significant than academic skills. His solutions are novel, including significant forms of early intervention in the lives of some children.
Alice E. Ginsberg, Embracing Risk in Urban Education
Alice Ginsberg argues that, instead of eliminating risk from schools by “regulating, standardizing, scripting, and quantifying” what we do in schools, we should try to develop schools that embrace risk by enabling students to “…experiment, disagree, … assert their individuality, test assumptions and question data”, essential qualities for a 21st century world and a democratic society (p. 3). The book provides case studies of four Philadelphia urban schools and teaching examples that, in her view, “make space for children to explore the unknown” (p. 4), teach children how to inquire and collaborate; teach them how to foster social justice; and help them build patience, sustained commitment, and cooperative, responsible leadership (p. 10).
Ron Berger, An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students
This relatively short, well written, powerful book, by an elementary teacher in New Hampshire and an educational presenter and speaker, shows us a way to think about excellence and educational practice that is very different from the test score mentality that exists in today’s educational world. His is a focus on, among other things, a framework that builds community, creates an ethic of excellence, focuses on excellence and craftsmanship in student work, and sees teaching as a calling. A very worthwhile book and a good read.
Dennis Littky, The Big Picture: Education is Everyone’s Business
This book not only influenced my way of thinking about education, but also has influenced the thinking of thousands of educators who are struggling to motivate students in a 21st century world. Starting with “the real goals of education”, Littky provides a very different way of viewing education, personalizing it, and getting students to be passionate about learning. A very powerful and different way to approach education that has been implemented in “Big Picture” schools across the country, and has proven to be successful with thousands of students.
Tony Wagner, The Global Achievement Gap
This wonderful and important book examines the world of the 21st century and its implications for the future of work, teaching and learning. Wagner’s “seven survival skills” are not even touched upon in most schools (a scary thought). The book also highlights a number of schools that are meeting the challenges of the post-industrial world with a different approach to education.
Summer is also a good time for exploration and browsing! You might also want to explore my website: www.era3learning.org. There you will find many articles and readings about 21st century educational practice, examples of instructional strategies, curriculum materials, and assessment approaches for this new era, links to many other websites, commentaries and blogs from many different sources, and much more.
Unlike schools in the Northern Hemisphere, Australian schools are now halfway through the academic year. The learning curve in this first year of administration has been steep, especially in the area of decision-making. Here is what I've learned so far...
1. Decision-making is a delicate balance of having a heart for the needs of an individual and a knowledge of how the needs of the individual affect the entire system of educating children.
As a teacher, I could accommodate most every parent, student, and administrator request short of daily written reports. As an administrator, I'm becoming an expert on communicating messages that some are reluctant to hear.
A difficult message must follow a session of active listening. You may spend hours beginning sentences with What I hear you saying is... and allowing the person to clarify his or her point of view.
The decision must be delivered in a way that honours the point of view but doesn't waver in resolution. I appreciate the point of view. I understand you don't like the decision for [state the reasons]. The decision is final.
The closings are awkward. Individuals leave your office knowing that you can't/won't give them what they want. So what do you say when you shake hands?
2. Some good decisions feel crummy for awhile.
Leaders have to break through decision paralysis, a condition that may result from analysing a situation from a student, parent, teacher, community, philosophical, research, practical, policy, long-term, and systems perspective.
When you write down the possible decisions next to the probably outcomes, someone almost always suffers - at least in the short term. You can only hope that the decision will result in the most good possible and, long-term, result in at least some good for everyone.
3. When people don't like a decision, they say things they don't mean.
This truth threw me off at first. Whether the unhappy person threatens to pull children out of a school, go to the union, or take the issue to the boss or the board/council, you have to be able to calmly (and honestly) look at them and say, I'm sorry you feel that way.
I admit to having sleepless nights, considering how I will react to those who will probably not like a decision. While I understand that I can never make everyone happy, learning communities, by definition, are about relationships.
You must be able to put a negative encounter aside for the sake of the relationship so that you can continue to work together for the benefit of students.
4. Support is critical.
I'm super-fortunate to have a boss who backs me. More than a few conversations have gone something like this: When I said x, I was thinking... I considered saying y, but I suspected... only to have the boss reassure me that both x and y might well have been wrong in the ears of the listener.
Support goes both ways. you need to understand the decisions made by those more senior so that, when teachers, parents, or students ask questions, you can defend those decisions and the good intent with which the decisions were made.
Actually, support goes more than both ways. Teacher deserve your support. They work incredibly hard and make a huge difference in the lives of children. When you encounter parents who say My son/daughter says that the teacher..., you respond, I'm surprised by that. Having spent a great deal of time in the teacher's classroom, I wonder if there has been a misunderstanding. Have you spoken with the teacher? My late mother, an early childhood educator, told parents this at parent night: "Let's make a deal. I'll believe 50% of what your 5-year-old children tell me about home if you believe 50% of what they tell you about school. It's not that the children are dishonest, it's just that they interpret things differently and often don't explain situations accurately."
Appreciate support. Pay it forward. Pay it back.
5. It is important to clarify who will make a final decision.
Many decisions directly affect teachers. Even when teachers aren't able to make a final decision, it's helpful to fully consider their points of view. But you need to tell them beforehand whether they are being asked to make the decision or are being asked for input.
If a decision is completely top-down, teachers should understand the strategic intent behind the decisions as well as the steps for implementation. Teachers might have some input into whether the steps of implementation need to be further broken down. They can set personal learning goals aligned with the school strategic goals. In what other ways might they feel some control over decisions imposed upon them?
6. Decisions + resolve = exhaustion.
Each night, I go home mentally exhausted. I've told my husband that I don't have the energy to decide what I want for dinner. I don't have the mental capacity for anything beyond reality television or reruns of popular sitcoms. And, unfortunately, my brain is most often too muddled to coherently write a blog post.
But it will get easier. Every new job does.
What have you learned about decision-making?
This article was originally written for http://expateducator.com
Last week, I had a formatting issue in Microsoft Word. I toiled over it for an hour by Googling any phrase or keyword that I thought would lead to a solution. Finally, I threw up my hands and called my “tech guy”: My 12-year-old niece. “Oh, that?” she said. “That’s simple.” She issued instructions (rather pedantically, I felt) and waited for me to do as instructed. Three clicks later I was in business.
We may think we’re tech savvy, but we’ve got nothing on young people like our students. This brings me to a new concept I’ve been hearing about: “Speed Geeking.” Essentially, it’s a professional-development strategy that loosely mimics speed dating, but replaces the dating part with student-led technology sessions.
Students facilitate Speed Geeking by preparing a brief presentation around technology. Each student is given five or ten minutes to share their favorite piece of technology—iMovie, say, or Storybird, Twitter and Flocabulary—and explain to teachers and administrators how it enhances their learning.
I’m interested in this Speed Geeking thing for a few reasons:
First, it’s student-centered. Speed Geeking gives students the opportunity to design instructional practice and values them as contributing members of the school.
Second, it’s a way to breathe new life into our stodgy old faculty meetings and get our hands on new tech-tools that we know students respond to.
If you’d like to learn more about Speed Geeking, check out this article by Kim Cofino. Happy geeking.