Friday, May 20, 2016

Personalized Learning Via TedxTalks...The Joy of Being a Facilitator!

My 4th graders are working on TEDxTalks.
Yep, they are creating TEDxTalks.
I posted this assignment in the "ALL DONE" folder on our Schoology page, and they all gravitated towards it like moths to a light.

I posted a few TEDx Talks by kids, asked them to watch at least one, choose a topic, and then create their own.

It has been amazing watching them work.
I have watched them create speeches.
Edit speeches.
Add images.
Add video.
Add speeches to the teleprompter.
Did I say collaborate?
Take this thing seriously, "working on it at home", seriously.
Come to me for a little help and apply what they take away from me.
Go back and work some more on topics like: "Why We Should Have Music Programs in School.", and "Youth Tackle Football is Dangerous."

"Mrs.Mims, can we work on our TEDxTalk during... ?" I willingly give whatever time they can squeeze in after testing.

At one point, I suggested to one group that they create a survey, using Google forms, so they could see how others feel about their topic
I showed them how to set it up and moved out the way.

They created the questions.
Used the "Go to this section"(with a little facilitating from me.)
Everyone has a survey now.:)
(Shout out to my colleagues and Twitter PLN!)

Can anyone say Common Core Standards? Oh yeah, they are being met!!

They will practice using the Swivl I won during Teacher Appreciation Week2016,(Shout out to Recap!)

I have to let them present on stage before school ends. Can't wait to see the finished product. The journey in itself has been great.

I am excited! They are excited! They are learning! And I? I am just the facilitator.:)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Just Because Our Students Are Living in Poverty...

Ban Ki-Moon

Many times we allow stereotypes to rule our perceptions of others, whether it's race, gender, or socioeconomic status. We allow these perceptions to cloud our judgment, and we make decisions based on these misconceptions. We believe if it is true of one, it is true of all. How unfair to the students who walk into our classrooms every day.

A child "living in poverty" seems to be a hot button issue right now, and rightly so. But how much do we let the fact that any of our students are living in poverty affect how we relate to them? How does the fact that our students are living in poverty, change the way we teach ALL of our students?

I'm just thinking out loud. We need to make sure that we put the "brush" away, and see our students as individuals, and not a statistic.

Just because they are living in poverty, it does not mean that:
  • we should not have high expectations of them, and only expect minimum effort.
  • their mother is an addict, Dad is absent, and no one has a job.
  • they can't read, write, or do math.
  • they can't make it to school most of the time.
  • they are not gifted.
  • there is not anyone at home who wants them to be successful.
  • they will behave poorly in class.
  • they should be provided with limited or non-equitable resources,
  • they can't compete with other students.
  • they are unable to participate in any extracurricular activities. (STEM, Mystery Skype,etc...)
  • they are only capable of test prep, higher-order thinking escapes them.
  • can not graduate from high school or college.
  • we are better than them, that we know better than them.
  • they don't want more, from their teachers, their community, their world.
  • they don't dream BIG.
Living in poverty comes with many struggles, but we should still provide our students with an education they could use to escape it.

Please take a moment to listen to this TED talk by Mia Birdsong," The Story We Tell About Poverty Isn't True."

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sharing and Caring: This Can't Be Found in a Textbook!

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in curriculum, pacing guides, and standardized tests,that we forget that there is so much more we can teach our students. Or better yet, allow our students to learn.

As I mentioned in my last post, when students contact me, none of them remember how much math I taught them, or what they scored on tests. That's not the lessons learned.

Every Monday, during Morning Meeting,I share a Kid President video with my 4th grade students.A quick 3-4 minute video that engages my students, and starts their week off with laughter and/or a message.

It was the end of October, and we watched the Kid President video about Socktober. My students decided they wanted to participate. Of course, I said yes, but on one condition. I would be the facilitator, I would not be in charge. This was their baby!

I could go through the standards and demonstrate how they met a variety of them with this activity, but I won't. Instead I'm going to share the hard work they put into making this happen.

They ....

  • chose a chairperson and created a committee
  • turned in a letter with what had to be done and when it needed to be done
  • wrote the letter to get permission form the principal.
  • wrote a script and created the video( so cute!) that was posted in Smore and emailed to the staff.
  • made "Socktober" posters and hung them all over the school.
  • wrote a message that was read over the loudspeaker during Morning announcements.
  • decorated paper boxes in order to create "Socktober" boxes that were placed in the front of the school.
  • picked up the socks from the front office every day
  • took photographs
  • hung up names in the front of the school thanking the people who donated
  • counted out the number of socks in each box
  • chose another chairperson to head up sorting the socks by men,women, and children.(It was funny watching and listening to them figure out which box they should go in.:)
  • wrote the final thank you message to the school and read it during Morning announcements
  • will  present the socks to the representatives from the homeless shelter

And Most of All... cared enough about their fellow human beings to do this!

I am proud to be their teacher.I am happy that I was open to giving them the opportunity to do something that can't be found in a textbook!

Monday, November 9, 2015

How Will Your Students Remember You?

I have taught for 30+ years, and over the years, I have connected with former students.

On the street, their jobs, emails, and visits. Last year, 3 siblings surprised me with a visit. I had each of them in my classroom. One had graduated from college and was working in D.C, one was in college, and one had just graduated from high school.They not only thanked me, but they talked to my students, gave them some of their wisdom and let them know how fortunate they were to have me.:) A student from one of my 3rd grade classes in the 80's, found me on Facebook, and remembered her experience in my classroom.

Hearing about the impact I have had on their lives makes me proud. Proud as in "I am so happy that I have made a difference", not "look what I've done."

Presently, I work with one of my former 5th grade students, she is a para in my classroom.She told my husband that I was good, because I was the only teacher she still remembered.

Here are some things I have done over the last thirty years that I believe has affected the relationship I had with my students.

I was not mean.
This does not mean I never raised my voice, or laid them out. It doesn't mean that I never let loose with sarcasm,(I have really become a lot better at controlling this!). It means what it says, I am not mean. I have never spent day after day, belittling students who have very little control over what happens in their lives. I have never made them feel like less.

I loved them.
And they knew it! It didn't matter if I was fussing, angry, impatient, they knew that I loved them. There were times I did not like their behavior, (to be honest there were some that were hard to like), but nonetheless,I loved them like they were mine. My expectations for them were high. I treated them the way I wanted teachers to treat my kids.

I engaged them.
Oh yes, pre-computers! Back in 19something or other, I used to take a huge cardbox and drag it into my room. I am not making this up. I would turn out the lights and we would time travel during Social Studies. The other kids would put their heads on the desk.The kids would "wake up" and we would be wherever I was teaching. No computer necessary! I used to write plays and have my students perform them.(Aaaah,. pre-standardized testing days).

Be human.
Dance. Sing. Smile. Laugh. Tell them about your kids. Your husband. Your life.

I was, (and still am), a life long learner.
It doesn't matter what your profession is. The minute you stop learning, you are done. If you are teaching from the lesson plan book you used in 2010...(and you brag about it???) Keep it fresh.

I adapt.
If you keep doing the same thing the same way you've always been doing it... I'm paraphrasing, but you get my drift. I always switched it up because a bored teacher means bored students. Should I refer back to the lesson plan book from 2010? This is why tech and I are besties right now, completely transformed the way I teach!

I was passionate about teaching!
Everyone who is teaching does not feel the same way that I do. To some, teaching is just a job, a means to a paycheck. Others, really enjoy it, but at the end of the day, they are done. Teaching has been my passion since I was a little girl in my friend's basement with an easel and some neighborhood kids. It's in my blood, as my girlfriend says, I am a "teacher's teacher." It's just something that I love!

Yesterday, via Facebook, I realized that one of my former students had become a teacher. She has been teaching for 9 years. I congratulated her, and she responded, " I always think about you and Ms.Turner and hope I'm doing half the job you did!" What a wonderful way to be remembered!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Google Voice Typing- YES! or BOO!?

When Google Voice Typing was announced all over the Blogosphere, I rejoiced!
And just like a teacher, I thought about how I could use this in my classroom, and I was happy.
I introduced it to my class the other day, and they were happy.

BUT, now I'm thinking... am I interfering with their ability to learn how to write?
Am I interfering with their ability to navigate a keyboard?
What about spelling? Will it help them become better/worse spellers?

I guess this is one of those Pros and Cons type of things...

I'e watched students struggle to write a single sentence. It wasn't because they didn't know what to write, it's because they couldn't write.

I think about all those assignments that take forever to turn in because the kids have to type them.
And I mean forever!

The other day, a student who is usually very, very, quiet surprised me. First, he said, "Mrs.M, don't forget to turn off the speaker, because otherwise it will type anything you say." Loved that he discovered it, love even more that he decided to share this, out loud. When he was finished "voice typing' his story, which by the way, he had already written in his notebook, he came up to my desk, HUGE smile, to tell me his story was published, and how happy he was with Google Voice typing!

I think I will still have my students, who are capable of writing, write their stories in their notebooks, and then "voice type" them. The ones who can't write, they can use "voice type" from the beginning. It's difficult for me to think that they should sit and struggle to write 3 sentences, when they could "write" 2 paragraphs in that time.

I'm going to have to give Google Voice Typing a YES! 
Your thoughts?????

Now let me go and work on my Great American Novel, it should be out next week! :)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

How Can We #Rethink Discipline?

On July 22, 2015 educators gathered at the White House to Rethink School Discipline.

"The conference sought to advance the national conversation about reducing the overuse of unnecessary out of school suspensions and expulsions and replacing these practices with positive alternatives that keep students in school and engaged in learning, but also ensure accountability."

As I participated in the Twitter conversation #rethinkdiscipline, I began to think about ways we could avoid reaching the point where we have to suspend students. Just as we find ways to prevent illness using preventive measures, there are preventive methods we can use to reduce suspensions and expulsions. These methods are not a cure-all, but it can help stem the tide.

Build a relationship with your students
I think Rita Pierson said it best in her TedEd talk, "Kids don't learn from people they don't like."  Teachers do not have to be a child's best friend. But we do have to show them that we care. Compassion and empathy are great tools to use in the classroom.
We are not going to like all of our students, but we don't have to let them know it. Can you imagine being a child, who comes to school every day, knowing that your teacher doesn't like you? Many of us have felt that way about some of our students, but we can't let them feel it. Rita also stated, "James Comer says that no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship." Take a little time to find out about their circumstances, that may bring some comprehension to why the child is behaving in a negative manner.

Give students ownership
It's time to let go of the traditional, "This is my classroom, and you will do as I say".. You do not have to relinquish your authority to the point where your classroom is in chaos, students appreciate structure. A teacher-friend of mine had trouble with a student all year. She stated, "We were in a constant power struggle, I was not going to let him win!" Think about the war that was going on in that classroom. But, imagine what would happen if our students were given control of what happens in their classroom? Start small, let them create the rules.  Read articles or use tools that help you manage a classroom, so that you are comfortable enough to loosen the reigns.

Be Fair
I have taught for 30 years, and I have seen this situation played out over and over. As much as we would like to deny it, race and gender are factors in how students are disciplined. When Johnny and Jamal exhibit the same type of behavior, Johnny is, "spoken to", or strategies are devised to help him work out his issues. Jamal is kicked out of the classroom, suspended, or expelled. It doesn't happen all the time, but it happens too many times. Our students are aware of the differences in the way they are treated, and it creates animosity in the classroom.

Fresh Start Every Day, Every Year
This is difficult. One year I watched the new teacher, sit next to the old teacher,class list in hand, and ask for information on each student. Depressing, isn't it? Any chance of that student starting fresh,gone.
When a student that has been disrespectful, taken a teacher to the brink of insanity, comes in the next day, the tendency is to hold a grudge.  Let go at the end of the day.  Speak to them before they leave. Let them know tomorrow is another day, a day to start fresh. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, but give them that chance.When they enter the classroom the next morning, begin again. 

Hire More Teachers of Color
There has been a push to hire more teachers of color.  Our students of color, deserve to have teachers that look like them. Our students deserve to be taught by teachers of color, who may share some aspects of their culture, that other teachers may not be privy to. They need to know that they can becoming an educator is an option. All students, deserve to see people of color in their schools in the role of an educator. Will the race of the teacher erase discipline problems? Of course not, but, it's a step in the right direction.

Give Second Chances
Zero tolerance was one of the worst policies created, it helped create the school to prison pipeline. How many times have adults been given, not only a second chance, but a third or fourth one as well? Instead of treating each situation differently, we give all infractions equal weight. What is wrong with giving a child a chance to redeem themselves? What might happen if we showed them that we believed that it was possible?

Engage them
I used the term, engage, and not entertain. If a student is bored, then he or she is more likely to become a behavior problem. Don’t be afraid to incorporate technology in your classroom. Try lessons that make students think, debate, talk to each other. Make connections with other classrooms, experts, and teachers. Standing in front of the classroom talking, or yelling, at students is not going to create a classroom of fewer discipline problems, but creating an environment where students feel engaged probably will.

They are children

They are someone's child; I always consider them mine. I always thought of my own children sitting in a teacher's room, and the way I wanted them to be treated.Think of strategies that might work. Take a deep breath. Work with their parent. And if there is no parental support, find a way to work without it. Find their passion. Make them a leader. Love them. Remember, "The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways" Russel Barkley. Let's #rethink discipline, there has to be a better way.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Voki, Speaking Avatars!/GiveaWay!

Okay, imagine this. Your students are completing biographies on famous people. You could go the traditional route and have them write a report. OR, you could use Voki.

How much more interesting to hear the report from an avatar that represents a biographical figure, a character in a book, even the student themselves!

The great thing is, Voki can be shared with a link, email, or using the embed code!

I have used Voki in my classroom for years.The students are engaged as they customize their avatars and bring their words to life! Voki definitely has a place in my classroom, which is why I was willing to be a Voki ambassador! Now you have a chance to try it out as well!

Check out the Youtube video below to learn how you can use Voki in your classroom, and don't forget to enter the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 3, 2015

Everybody Get Up! Using Brain Breaks in the Classroom!

If you are still teaching in the traditional, "sit down, be quiet, don't move", method it is time to let it go!

Research has proven that, just like adults, our kids need to move, young or old. The fact that we, as adults, don't want to sit in one place for hours on end, should give us a clue that we shouldn't do that to our students.

This year, I used part of the money from my iEducateDE Honoree money,(Thanks @RodelDE), to purchase a standing desk. (Those things are expensive!) But, I believe it will be worth it!

So you think, "What to do? What to do?" "Stand up and stretch", can get pretty boring. Try GoNoodle! Once you use it, you will be hooked for life, or, at least, as long as you teach.:)

Check out the 5 minute presentation below to see how you can bring GoNoodle into your classroom this year. You won't regret it! Pop Se Ko, Pop Pop Se Ko!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

What I Learned at My First NEA RA Assembly!-July 2015

NEA stands for the National Education Association.

RA stands for Representative Assembly.

I attended my 1st NEA Representative Assembly as a delegate. What an amazing experience!

My observations:

  • One of the delegates spoke about using the words of the oppressor. How many times do we, as educators, use the words, "the union", as if it is not "our union?" WE are the union. WE are what makes up the union. When we address the union as " the union", we are giving others the message that we are not part of it, that it is a separate entity. What does Chris Christie say every time he opens his mouth about educators? "The union..."

  • If you don't like what your union is doing, you have the opportunity to make your voice heard. I sat in a convention hall with about 10,000 educators who were doing just that, raising their voices. We supported an item, or we didn't. Delegates, including one of my own state, wrote items that they felt were important to us all. Some were supported, and some weren't. Instead of standing in a hallway, or sitting in the Teacher's Lounge, denouncing the union, (I know, I've done it), ask how you can become a delegate.Move up from delegate and sit on your executive committee, or even the National committee.

  • People of color and women need to be involved in our union. Shout-out to Eric Brown and Shelly Moore who were elected to the Executive Committee! There were more people of color present this year than any other year! If we want our issues that are hurting people of color heard, then we have to be there creating items against social injustice, pushing an agenda that includes hiring more teachers of color, and combating institutional racism. The wonderful part is it was not just people of color pushing, or supporting, these items!

  • Social media works! What happens when thousands of educators gather, and they are using Facebook, Twitter, and emails to contact their government officials? What happens when these messages are shared over and over by people outside of the convention, and they contact our officials? Change happens!

  • It is not a vacation. I was thinking, "Yes, I'm going to Orlando!: I woke up at 5:45 a.m and saw the inside of the hotel and convention hall until late in the evening. By the time, we left, I was exhausted. (No complaints, we were getting things done!)

  • @Lily-NEA rocks!  This was also her first RA as President, and I think  she did a wonderful job! As a matter of fact, those women in positions of leadership, rocked!:)

  • We are a powerful union. That's why the Scott Walkers, Koch brothers, and Chris Christies despise us. A delegate questioned why Papa Johns, who is not a friend of unions because of the way they treat their employees, was allowed to be a vendor at the conference. Many delegates responded by not spending their money there. Item supported, don't hire vendors with horrible labor practices to an union event!

  • Educators are being besieged all over the country. We connected while waiting. Waiting to catch the bus to the hotel, waiting to get food, waiting for the registration line to open. Wherever we waited, wherever we stopped, we connected, and talked about what was happening in our states. Educators, we are under attack!

  • I read a Facebook comment reacting to one of the many evils that are being done to educators. It said, "Teachers are sheep." We don't have to be.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

"Techfully Yours" Youtube Series- Sharing My Passion for Tech One Tool at a Time!

I decided to start a Youtube series. I've always wanted to do this, but didn't have a clue how to. Also, I was in the midst of work, now it's summer, and I have some time.

I learned about Snagit right before school ended, trying to make up those snow hours. But, it was PD I wish we had more often, something productive that I can use!

Take a peek, or two. Share with friends. Use it. Watch for new episodes. Episode 1 is about the fake tweet generator by


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How Many "Karen Fitzgibbons" Are Still Teaching Our Kids?

Karen Fitzgibbons, a teacher at Bennett Elementary in Wolforth, Texas, wrote that she was, in all-caps, "ANGRY" over the officer's resignation, blaming "the blacks" for causing "racial tension," according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. 

"I guess that's what happens when you flunk out of school and have no education," she continued. "I'm sure their parents are just as guilty for not knowing what their kids were doing; or knew it and didn't care. 

"I'm almost to the point of wanting them all segregated on one side of town so they can hurt each other and leave the innocent people alone. Maybe the 50s and 60s were really on to something. Now, let the bashing of my true and honest opinion begin....GO! #imnotracist #imsickofthemcausingtrouble #itwasatagedcommunity" 

As an educator, when I read Ms.Fitzgibbon's quotes, all I could think, well after my initial thought of, "What an idiot!", was about the children of color who had the misfortune to be in her class.

Didn't anyone know how she was? How could she have hidden it so well? Maybe she didn't. Maybe she didn't have to. The teacher's Wall of Silence is just as pervasive as the police. You usually have to do, or say, something horrible, for another teacher to expose you. (If you see something, say something!)

After I did some research,  I realized she probably posted it because she thought she could. After all, Wolfforth, Texas is a red state, less than 2% of the school is African-American, and the population of the town is 2.5% black. Worrying about how others would respond probably wasn't a priority.

If Ms.Fitzgibbons had chosen to speak to her friends privately about her #imnoracist viewpoint, she would have been fine. She would have continued to go to work, views packed away on a "need to know" basis. But, I guess she was so ANGRY, she was going to let the world know how she felt,(By the way, if you #imnoracist, you probably are), damn the consequences.

 I don't believe she really thought there would be consequences.She could say what she felt about "the blacks", and everyone would cheer her on. Kudos to those who called her out, and kudos to her district for firing her!

Ms.Fitzgibbons, maybe you should have read your district policy before you posted your vitriol.

Here's the thing, Ms.Fitzgibbons is not alone. In a world where the majority of public school students are children of color, and their teachers are white, there are one or more in many schools around the country. The only difference is, most have enough sense not to post it on Facebook. They save it for the Teacher's Lounge, or vent in the privacy of their homes.

These "Karen FitzGibbons", destroy children of color, one day at a time. Put-downs, insults, and sarcasm are their weapons of choice.They label them Special Education at the drop of a hat, dole out multiple suspensions, advise parents, (although they have no medical degrees), to medicate their children,  keep them out of gifted programs and AP classes, and/or tell them they cannot go to college.

It's not difficult to get away with these attacks, because, for many reasons, parents of children of color, do not, or have no idea how to, advocate for their children.
So, it continues.

Reread Ms.Fitzgibbons' views, they are so full of hate. What type of influence did she have on her students' views toward people of another race? What chance would a student of color stand in her classroom? Do you think a teacher like Karen Fitzgibbons is a fluke?


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

End of Year Projects:Survival Guide for Incoming Students and a Memory Book!

I realize that many teachers are already on vacation, so this is for those of us who are still working our way to the end of the year. :) Or, you can always use it next year.

____th Grade Survival Guide
This idea comes from my teacher-friend, Angela J. She was eating lunch, laminating, and cutting these out , when I spotted it. Since I'm changing grades, I can't "steal" Angela's idea, but, next year... She was so kind to tell me she didn't mind if I shared her idea with my readers.:) It is a survival guide for the incoming students. She assigned one sheet to each student and asks them to write the Top 10 tips to survive the 5th grade. Of course, there are so many modifications to this to be thought of, video, booklets, use your imagination! Angela said she leaves the book out, so that the incoming students can read at their leisure, or she might read it out loud to them. Great idea! I usually have the students write a letter, but I think the incoming students would enjoy this more.

"Remember the Time When"...? Memory Book

I wrote an entire blog post on this one last year. I've included it again because I updated it a little.  Click on the link above to take a look at how we have done it differently this year. I gave each student their own page with their name at the top. I added my own page.The kids especially love the fact that we've added the first of the year pic and the end of the year pic at the bottom of the page.