Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New #NerdyCast with @Web20Classroom #EdChat

Another #NerdyCast for your viewing pleasure! I chat with Steven Anderson at the request of some listeners who want to hear more about doing presentation and speaking to large groups. Also, Steven gives us his pick for NASCAR racing. He is so versatile.

Listen here


Download from iTunes.

Monday, September 28, 2015

National Day on Writing Event by @WeAreTeachers

Looking for a fun way to engage your students when it comes to writing? National Day on Writing is going to be on October 20, 2015. 

WeAreTeachers is going to host a Google Hangout with New York Times Notable Author Kate Messner with a focus on grades 3-5. During Messner’s virtual visit, students will learn that published authors go through the same process as student writers when creating a book, including brainstorming, researching, planning, drafting and editing. Messner will also share how authors, editors, copyeditors and illustrators work as a team to publish a book. Students will have an opportunity to ask the author live questions.

This is a wonderful opportunity for young readers and writers to talk to an author and hear about the writing process from a perspective outside of the classroom. It is always a great thing to bring an outside guest into the classroom and share their experience and this is a fantastic way to do that for free. 

When teachers sign up, they will be able to download free pre and post event activities to keep the conversation going after the event has ended. Follow this link to sign up and get more info. 

About the Author

Kate Messner is an award-winning author whose books for kids have been New York Times Notable, Junior Library Guild, Indie Bound, and Bank Street College of Education Best Books selections. The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. was the winner of the 2010 E.B. White Read Aloud Award for Older Readers. Kate also spent 15 years teaching middle school and earned National Board certification in 2006. She lives on Lake Champlain with her family and loves spending time outside. To learn more about Kate and her books, please visit her website, http://www.katemessner.com/.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Things that make me feel like a winner

There is an awards show that is kicking of shortly and I've been nominated. Awards are funny and I never know how to take them. It's an honor when people nominate you for things and it is humbling. I'm not sure if there will ever be an awards system that is without flaws, but no matter how tonight, or any other night, ends, there are some things that make me feel like a winner.

- When a student comes by my room early in the morning to talk because they feel comfortable.

- A colleague compliments me on a lesson they observed.

- Being asked by students to write them letters of recommendation because they feel "I get them". 

- Watching students pursue their passion during 20 Time.

- Having a student come out to me because they felt like I was the only one who could support them.

- Watching a student "get it" after hours of hard work before and after school.

- Every time a student says thank you.

- A kind tweet from someone that saw me present.

- Each and every high five I receive from students.

- The emails and notes of appreciation I've saved from students and parents over the years.

- My son's face whenever I teach him something new.

- Fighting for my students and what is best for them and I actually institute change. 

- My PLN. You make me feel like a winner every day. I can never thank you enough for that.

I hope everyone has a great night. I'm hanging with my son tonight exploring the sky with our new telescope. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Opinions are like... #EdChat

...smiles. Everyone has one.


Wait, is that it?

Anyway, I wanted to share a thought on student voice today. This past week, I started to dive into class discussion with my students and one of the things I tell my classes is that I want them to have a loud voice in class. I want them to discuss, engage, push back, and argue with me when they believe in something. The looks on their faces was very interesting. I could tell that some of them had never considered arguing with a teacher in class.

When it comes to my classroom, I encourage students to share their thoughts and help guide them on how to do it in a respectful manner. Even if you disagree with someone, it is key to listen and then share your opinion. It doesn't mean you have to convince them, it just nice to allow others to share their thoughts. We need to make sure that we express this to our students and remind them throughout the year. Student opinions matter and we need to make sure they understand that their views are valuable and an important part of class and the overall learning experience for everyone in the classroom.

As you go deeper into the school year, please remind your students that their opinions matter in class and that your room is safe place to share those opinions. If we want to create a society that values different opinions, we need to start in the classroom.

Have a great day!


Friday, September 11, 2015

Something Tangible #20Time #EdChat

As teachers, we can sometimes spend a whole year working with students and see growth in their reading, writing, or other skills. We can see that they wrote a better paper or that they were able to solve more difficult math problems. At the end of the day though, those papers are thrown out or tucked away somewhere and forgotten. The teacher is not always left with something tangible after the students leave their classroom.

Last school year, a student, Jacob, chose to build a boat for his 20 Time project. He was going to work with his grandfather and built a boat in his basement. I told him I would take a ride in that boat when he was ready to launch. As the year moved forward, I was able to see updates on his boat building and read about all of the things he learned from his grandfather during this time. When it came time to share what he learned during 20 Time, he did not talk much about boat making. He talked about the value of spending time with his grandfather and all of the things he learned in their time together. He encouraged others to spend more time with their older relatives because they have so much to offer. It was a beautiful speech and I really felt like Jacob walked away with something he would never forget.

Fast forward to the start of September and I received an email from Jacob telling me he was finally ready to launch the boat and he wanted to know if I was still on board with taking it for a test spin. I was so happy that he remembered that I offered to take a ride when he was done and gleefully arranged a launch date with him. I showed up at the park and walked toward the beach and this was what I saw.

I was blown away by the work he put in over the course of a year. The pictures do not do this boat justice. It was beautiful. For some reason, it made me think of The Great Gatsby and the type of boats people would have used to move between West and East Egg. It was a stunning creation that would be worthy of any sailor.

The seats doubled as storage areas and he built an anchor mount so he could anchor offshore and fish or just relax. The paint job was spectacular and the interior and exterior was as smooth as can be. You could see the detail and the time it took to make this boat just right. It was clearly a labor of love. I couldn't wait to go for a quick ride around the shore.

It was a wonderfully smooth and dry ride around the beach area of the park. We talked about the project and the school year. It was very relaxing boat trip after a long day of school.

After returning to shore the parents thanked me for giving Jacob the opportunity to do the project and create something amazing. I told them I just got out of the way and let my kids create. This was all Jacob and his passion to do something different. I felt so honored to be one of the first people on the boat and to be able to share in this really cool experience. The boat is something tangible that Jacob will have for years to come that will remind him of the fact that anything is possible.

For me, the boat will be a symbol of why 20 Time is so important for our students. Jacob built a boat, strengthened his relationship with his grandfather, and learned about himself over the past year in a way that a Common Core aligned exam could never measure.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Balancing Act #EdChat #T2T

Sometimes it can be tough to be in the classroom. Working hard to keep every student engaged and looking for the right tools to do that. Sometimes the glamour of the tools can get in the way of what we are trying to do. We can forget that the tool is just a tool and engagement does not mean learning. Playing on an iPad or using a Chromebook is a step toward meaningful engagement, but there needs to be more. Beautifully crafted lessons need to give the tools a reason for being. Without the lesson, the engagement is superficial and the students are really only learning how to look busy.

We all want our students to feel loved and that they have an important voice in the classroom. We want them to know that they matter and they can come to us for anything. This needs to be part of their education, not the only thing. Trying to fit this into the classroom lessons and part of regular discussions is something I struggle to do smoothly after 15 years. It's been a learning experience over those years as I try and find the best places to work these important aspects into the classroom. 
Everything is about balance in the classroom. True master teachers find the right balance and try to maintain it over the course of the year. Sometimes the balance shifts from one side to the other, but the teacher always try's to bring it back. It's not easy, but that's the job. Balancing the fun, with the difficult, with the tests, with the compassion is an ongoing struggle that the best teachers have a hard time juggling, but that doesn't mean we do not try and we must not forget it.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

New #NerdyCast with @LynHilt

In this episode of #NerdyCast, Lyn stops by to chat about the movie Heathers and education today as well as what it is like to be a parent and educator. Lyn is an amazing educator that has been a friend for many years and always brings great insight to the conversation. You can follow her on Twitter at @LynHilt and check out her blog at LynHilt.com.

You an find all of my podcasts on Podomatic and iTunes.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Star Wars Matters In Edu #EdChat #T2T

I wonder how many people dismissed this post because of the fact that it had Star Wars in the title. If they did, they are missing the entire point of the article. I could have called this Doctor Who, Captain America, Superman, One Direction,  or other pop culture icons. The idea is that there are things out there that our students love and it should be our responsibility to know about the world around us so we can make connections to our students.

I was sitting at my desk and the trailer for the The Force Awakens showed up on the side panel of YouTube. I hit play because I had not seen it in a couple weeks. My son, who was playing with his toys, came rushing over and asked if this was Star Wars. He knew just on the opening notes. He asked if this was the second one. He has only seen Episode 4 and it will be a bit before he is old enough for Episode 5. He was excited when he saw Darth Vader's helmet and knew who Chewbacca was. His growing love for Star Wars will always be something that we can connect over and I would hate to see his excitement dismissed by a teacher.

Now, I'm not suggesting that every teacher become a superman of whatever kids are into at the moment, I'm just saying that we, as educators, need to be more accepting of what students are into and try to bring that into the class to engage them. 

When we talk about heroes and villains in stories, I will bring up Harry Potter or Star Wars or Disney films. The idea is make ideas easier for students to connect with in class. I happen to love all of the nerdy things that some kids do. These kids tend to be marginalized in school and are the ones that need an advocate more than others. I want them to know that it is ok to love those things. Making these connections and letting students know that I care about the things they care about makes a difference. 

The next time you roll your eyes when a teen talks about their love of One Direction, understand you are invalidating something important to them. They will not be engaged if you are dismissive of the things they love. Keep an open mind and ask students about those things they care about and show interest. It's the least you can do to create an accepting environment in the classroom.

*Updated October 20

I showed the new trailer to all of my classes today and we talked about plot, climax, protagonist, antagonist, and other literary terms based on the Star Wars movies. The students were excited for the new trailer and some normally reluctant learners were very much engaged in the analysis of these movies from a literary standpoint. You do not need the Force to engage students, but a little John Williams music backed trailer can go a long way. Let the countdown to Episode 7 begin!