Posted in NCPTS - Standard 4, NCPTS - Standard 5

Ideas for End of the Year Review

It’s spring break this week and I am trying to relax a little, catch up on some blogging, and do some lesson plans. On the topic of lesson plans, it’s that time of the year where it seems everything stops and lesson plans become dominated by EOG review. I was actually able to get a jump on this before the break and started doing some activities in my class that led me to the ideas for this post. In the past, I’ve always thought about what I can do to help the students review, but this year I decided to put it more of it on the students.  

I am letting them create posters, activities, word walls, and anything thing else they can think of to help review standards before the tests in May. I am also having them work on projects over the next few weeks in order to differentiate the review and add some variety to the lessons.

Bulletin Boards

Decorating classroom and hallway bulletin boards has always been a source of frustration for me. I don’t feel very creative in this way, so it is always a struggle to put something together that looks good. It’s gotten even harder for me to get motivated about bulletin boards since so we do so much more work with Google and other apps, and students display their work with eProtfolios.

About two weeks before spring break, I was looking around the room thinking about how I was going to post various topics for review in reading, math, and science. I realized that I had several students that loved to draw and decorate. It occurred to me that they should be the ones decorating the classroom with relevant topics for review.

I decided to set up a discussion post with a few ideas and ask them to make posters displaying concepts or vocabulary. I started with science and math and posted a few ideas of the main standards and topics we covered throughout the year. By the end of our AM work time, the students responded and were already starting their posters. I never imagined they would react this enthusiastically.  Some chose weather, others worked on Newton’s Laws of Motion, and others were busy drawing food chains and food webs. The day before spring break they started asking me when they were going to put them up around the room. Some already had ideas about how to divide the room up into sections for each subject. This is where we will pick up when we get back.

In all my years preparing for EOG review, I always felt like it was all on me. By turning some of this responsibility and decision making over to the students, it  gave them a say in the process. It also gave me an idea of what they really knew about the topic. We studied weather back in September and October and as I looked over some of their posters I realized some things were forgotten, or maybe never fully understood. I noticed immediately some gaps in their understanding when it come to things like warm/cold fronts and and high/low pressure. I realize that analyzing data from assessments is important, but it was so much easier to see their misconceptions this way than from an assessment.

As for the bulletin board in the hallway, I set this up myself and will let the students finish it and maintain it. The idea behind the hallway bulletin board is to make it a daily weather map where the students can track the weather on a calendar, as well as, a map of the United States. I cut the blue border into triangles to represent a cold front and the red border could be used as a warm front. I also plan on having the students create a word wall around the bulletin board with essential vocabulary from the weather unit.

Here is an image of the board so far:

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Project-Based Learning

Another issue that comes up with EOG review is how to differentiate the students and the content that needs to be reviewed. Each student requires different degrees of review depending on the subject.  By using Project-Based Learning, I think I will be able to keep all of the students engaged whether they are working on review concepts or working on a project.

This was something I started about three weeks before spring break. Atomic Learning has two great modules for Project-Based Learning (Project-Based Learning Lesson Framework: Endangered Species and Project-Based Learning Framework: Million Dollar Classroom). I highly recommend checking these two out if you have access to Atomic Learning. We are about halfway through the endangered species PBL in my class and the students are really enjoying it. I have a separate page on this site with my reflections on the endangered species PBL.

One thing I discovered as they are working on this project is that they were so engaged I was able to pull some students into small groups and start reviewing. I plan on starting the Million Dollar Classroom PBL during math class after the break. The other important point about these projects is that they are interdisciplinary, so I can have students working on them in any of the three major subjects for review (math, reading, and science). 

It is my hope that these activities and projects will provide some variety to what can be a stressful time for some of my students.  I hope it also gives them a better sense of ownership over the work they have done this year. 

 

 

Posted in NCPTS - Standard 5, Professional Development

Teacher Talks – CMS Foundation

Adobe Spark.jpg

I attended a Teacher Talks series at the McGlohon Theater in Uptown Charlotte on Wednesday, March 15. It was an evening of inspirational talks by six teachers in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School district. The background for each teacher varied both in their teaching position and in their life/teaching experience. They ranged from elementary to high school teachers and from Science to Physical Education teachers. Some were teachers straight out of college and others worked in the corporate world for a while before moving into the education field.

For me, these various backgrounds were what made these talks so interesting. I loved hearing about what these teachers did, or were doing, in the classroom, but I am equally as fascinated with how they arrived in the position they are today.

The quote at the top of the page is from the last speaker, however, I am not sure it is entirely hers. I think she said it might have come from her principal. She went on to explain how the heart work is why she teaches. I hope I am not misquoting, but it was a great line that stuck with me throughout her speech.

Adobe Spark.jpg

Katie Weed shared her personal story and her topic of Grit: Passion and Perseverance. The line above was something she said towards the end. She proposed the idea of bringing our passion into our planning meetings and not just the test data we have on our students. She urged us to follow our passion or find our passion.  It gave me a lot to think about what I bring to the classroom and to each of my lessons.

The next speaker was Mary Soliman and I do not have a quote from her. I hope this does not appear as a lack of interest on my part. All of the speakers were equally captivating, and at times I was more involved with listening, than trying to save a quote on my phone. She spoke about creating independent learners in the classroom, as opposed to spoon feeding them the information. She said that teachers should illuminate the way for students, like a candle.

Peter Panico was the next speaker and accompanied his talk with some great videos and images of the work he was doing in the classroom with his students. I was particularly impressed with the cardboard roller coasters he had the students create to teach force and motion. He also spoke about “finding your tribe” or a group of people that you relate to and relate to you. The establishment of strong, positive relationships is stressed by so many educators and I don’t think it can be stressed enough. If you are going to teach with passion and do the “heart work”, you can’t do it alone. You need that strong, positive support.

Doug Smith led the next talk and started off by getting us up and moving.  He had us stand and do some quick activities that got our bodies moving after sitting for about 30 minutes. This was the introduction to his talk about active and healthy schools. He stated that “sitting is the new smoking” in terms of how damaging it can be for our bodies and minds. How active are we? How much time do we spend sitting – at school, in the car to and from school, at home? How are we bringing movement into our classroom and giving our students a chance to be active and healthy in order to do their best work? He mentioned some pretty shocking statistics, but he also recommended some simple activities we can do throughout the day to help get kids moving and stay focused. He also mentioned two books in his talk:

Brain Rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school – by John Medina

Spark: the revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain – by John J. Ratey with Eric Hagerman

 

Adobe Spark.jpg

Melissa Ligh was the next speaker and used the term “screenagers” to describe the students of today. She brought a positive view to the use of technology in the classroom. I could relate to so much of what she was saying, although I don’t think I have the same level of interest for online shopping as she does. The quote above was another one that stood out to me and put into words the reason why I started a blog. Since starting this blog three weeks ago, I feel it has had a major impact on how I reflect on my experiences in the classroom.

Jordan Todd rounded out the evening. Her talk was filled with passion as she explained why she was a teacher and why she did the heart work. I decided to start off this post with her quote because it seems to describe all of the teachers who spoke. They all do the heart work and it was clear in the way they spoke that night and the work they were doing in the classroom.

The evening also featured an introduction by a student from Northwest School of the Arts and musical performances from West Charlotte High School and Myers Park High School.

I realize this post does not do justice to the inspiration and motivation that these speakers provided.  I think a video of this teacher talk will soon be available through the CMS Foundation.  If this is the case, I highly recommend taking the time to listen to what these six educators have to say. It will be time well spent.

 

Posted in NCPTS - Standard 4, NCPTS - Standard 5, Professional Development

Using # to keep a running record on Twitter

This was another NCTIES session with George Couros on March 3, 2017. I got so much out of the one the previous day, that I attended both sessions he had on March 3.

The title of this session is Creating a Blended Learning Environment. #nctiesgc #ncties17.

There was a lot of information in this presentation, but what I took away from it was how to use Twitter and #’s as a way to organize your posts, docs, and tweets.

Unique #’s for your tweets.

Using specific #’s in Twitter can help to keep your tweets organized and easy to find.   If you set a specific # for a class or a topic, then the students can just search that # to find information.  However, be sure to check if that # is already in use. Can also use # to tweet out to parents. An example of this for my school would be me using #nasifeBAC17. by doing this, parents or students can search this particular hashtag and see all the tweets I sent out, or they sent out with this tag.

One area of technology that I am always struggling with is the amount of emails I receive in a day.  With this idea of tags on tweets and docs it seems like a great way to eliminate some emails. Parents and students can just search the tag and see any information that might be posted.  By using 17, it is a way for me to distinguish the year this was used and make it an archive for that class. This way I can look back and see what was done in previous years and have a record.

Hashtags in Title for Google Apps

Hashtags in the title of docs, forms, sheets, etc. are important. This is a more cloud based way to organize instead of putting things in folders. Hashtags create a way to search easily in Google Drive.

Other Points from this Session

  1. Use bit.do as a better way to shorten links and customize them. It allows you to customize the title of the link.
  2. Instead of searching for videos for students, have them search for it.  Create a form for them to label it and place it and explain why they think it is important.  Teaches them to access information online. Can also do this as a way to check in with them and see how they are doing academically or socially.
  3. Don’t spoon feed others with the basics of technology.  They need to learn basics on their own, so we can collaborate on the big ideas and bigger themes of collaboration in the classroom. This was something that really impressed me.  This was a session about how to use Google Apps, Twitter, etc. effectively in your classroom. There was an assumption that the basics of these apps was already known.  It was not a session to learn how to create a doc or a form, how to title it, or how to share it.
    • There was also a discussion about how to pass this information along to other teachers and how to get them to buy into it. “Try to recreate the experience you want to see with your students when you try to get other teachers to do this.” – George Couros. This quote made a lot of sense to me and something I need to consider as I try to get others involved in this.
  4. Set the bar higher for students.  Don’t always tell them stuff they should NOT be doing on Twitter, instead tell them and show them the great things they can do with it.