Saturday, October 29, 2016

Synchronized Teaching- The Loss of Uniqueness!

There used to be a time when a teacher would find his/her groove teaching, a style of teaching that produced results. Of course,as the years went by, that style, hopefully, would be refined, adjusted, tap here, tap there, and all is good.
But "individual teaching styles" seem to have gone by the wayside. Teaching has lost its spontaneity and  I am baffled. If this teacher, and that teacher, and the other teacher, are moving in step, why not hire a robot?
A friend of mine shared that if someone walked in to observe the classes on his grade level, each of them should be teaching the exact same thing at the same time. I started cracking up.
He said somberly, "There is a binder." Chills.
PLC's, formative assessments, pacing guides, and scripted curriculum have made synchronized teaching a thing.
Unfortunately, as so often is done in education, we have taken concepts that are meant for good, and turned them into, ok, if I say evil, am I going too far?
PLC's should be teachers sharing ideas, strategies, and yes data, but certainly not forced data.
Formative assessments shouldn't be group planned. "Hold your teammates accountable if their data is not ready when it should be."Well, what if my kids are not ready, and the other teacher is?
Pacing guides should be just what they say they are, guides. Guides that allow for flexibility, depending on who is sitting in your classroom.
Scripted curriculum should not be followed blindly. That's just some lazy, or mandatory, teaching.
I know of a few teachers who did not get stellar observations because they strayed from the script.They were not teaching with "fidelity."
If teachers on a grade level, or even throughout the school, are all doing the same thing, where does spontaneity come in? Can you get off track? Can you engage in conversations that weren't planned? Are you able to give your class the chance to 'do what other classes aren't?
There is just so much wrong with "synchronized teaching!"
We are not synchronized, we each move to the beat of the kids in our classroom.
Our kids learn differently.
Teachers teach differently.
Synchronized teaching.
Stepford teachers anyone?

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Flocabulary" Vocabulary, "Week in Rap Jr." AND a Giveaway!

I've always been a fan of Flocabulary, ever since I played the "Five Elements of a Story" video for my class for the first time. They have evolved so much since then. They offer songs and videos in every subject,and so much more.

For those who are not familiar with Flocabulary, it is a web-based learning program for all grades and subjects that uses educational hip-hop music to engage students and increase achievement. There are so many resources and features available, I decided to choose 2 of my favorites. However, enter the giveaway below, so that you can check out all the features yourself!

Vocabulary is an integral part of the lessons in my classroom. However, providing my students with  a list of words, telling them to look up the definitions, and giving a quiz on Friday was not how I taught them. Creating lessons for vocabulary took a lot of time. Finding the appropriate words took time.

Flocabulary offers a way for me to introduce new words to my class in a format that is engaging,uses standards-aligned skills and content, while helping my students develop academic vocabulary. 

Their lists are made up of grade appropriate vocabulary and go from K-8, up to 9-12 SAT words. The great part is that I am able to differentiate instruction without added stress. Each group has a video which uses the words in a song, printable lyrics, and then printable activities. The printable activities are amazing, not your run of the mill worksheets.The students love the videos and the songs, and have a clearer understanding of the words after completing the exercises. The new Pause and Play feature pauses the video and asks students questions about what they are viewing.This feature is applicable to all their videos, not just vocabulary.So much better than looking up words and writing their definitions!

Current Events
Week in Rap, Week in Rap Jr., and Week in Rap Extra
What a fun, engaging, way to discuss Current Events, and it's perfect for elementary students. This is a weekly staple in our classroom, and my students remind me if I forget to share it. 

We watch the video which contains events which have taken place during the week. The educational hip-hop videos are not long, but they give enough content that leads to meaningful discussions. Perfect!
Teaching summarizing? Assign one of the videos and have students summarize the content.

Looking to implement Flocabulary in your school?
Explore these resources for information and ideas on how to use Flocabulary!

    • It includes a self-guided training presentation as well as a short tutorial video about getting started with Flocab.
  • Explore our Lesson Resources page for implementation ideas per subject.
  • Please also find our lesson plans on Pinterest (we have one board for elementary and one board for middle and high school)!

Flocabulary Giveaway
Here'e your chance to find out what the fuss is all about! Good Luck!

    • You will need to enter each field in the form to be eligible (it should only take them a minute!)
    • Everyone that enters the giveaway will receive an email for an extended 45-day school-wide trial of Flocabulary. Yes, schoolwide!
    • Winners will be drawn at random.
    • You must enter by October 16th at 11:59ET.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"My Name is Idiot."

My heart broke when I read the story of this  4 year old abused girl. When the officers asked her what her name was, she responded, "Idiot." The other child living in the house said that she was called that in place of her name.

Soon after reading this story, I came across a tweet of this video, "Every Opportunity". It was produced by the Atlanta Speech School and it shows the negative effect our language has on students through the eyes of a student. If you have not seen it, please watch it.I don't consider myself a "bad" teacher, but it spurred an immediate evaluation of the language I use in my classroom.

We are aware that there are teachers out there who call their students out their name. The words idiots, fools, stupid, animals, and other unmentionables flow freely every day, all day.

And although some might not actually say these words to their students, (even though I am sure there are those who do),their very actions belie how they feel about the children under their care.

Imagine walking into a classroom where the teacher believes you are no better than the dirt beneath his or her shoes. A classroom where the teacher dishes out a daily dose of humiliation and belittlement. And while he or she might not call the student stupid, idiot, or animal their actions translate into words the students feel.

We have to make sure our words do not strip our children of their humanity. We have to make sure that our words uplift our students, not put them down. We have to understand the impact our words, actions, and thoughts can have on the choices our students  make.

We have to make sure that our students know that their name is not "idiot."

Friday, August 19, 2016

Beginning of the School Year Activities!

It's that time.
I'm sad summer is over, but, I am excited at the start of a new year!:)

Besides some of the typical activities I use every year, (e.g"Getting to Know You" Bingo), here are some new activities I will be using.

Two of the ideas I got from Matt Bergman's blog, "Learn, Lead, Grow." He created a Google Slides of class expectations and had the class work in groups to complete them. Can you say "student ownership?" I added some of my own expectations that I want them to work on. When they are done, I will print the slides, put them on posterboard and hang up our rules. (I have to have rules posted in my classroom.)

The other idea is the game. I created a game similar to this in a Jeopardy format, it's mentioned in another blog post. All you need is a device and somewhere to project the quiz. The quiz was very easy to make and I know the kids are going to have a great time!

I am beginning the year with a project. Boo!!! No, wait, this will be fun. It is the Selfie Project. Students are given items that they have to take selfies with or of. It's a way for them to have fun and for me to get to know them a little better. I purchased a selfie stick for my class, and I didn't include too many "at home" items, not knowing the phone and home situations. Many of my students are looping, so I was able to let them choose how they want to present.

If you want to combine Math and a "Getting to Know You" activity, "Figure Me Out" is a great, fun, way to do this. This one was shared by my teacher friend. Not only is it fun and educational, you can also hang it in the hallway or complete a bulletin board with the finished product.

Of course, I always have my "Getting to Know" you surveys. I updated it by using questions that I found on a paper survey and inputting them into Google Forms. I like these questions better than the simple "Favorites" questions because I think it will help me understand my students better.(As soon as I recall where I found the questions, I will give them credit.)

Goosechase is a Scavenger Hunt, brand new for me. I created a "mission" for the students to complete as a team. Getting my team building in. I made it very simple and they get points for each part they complete. The students will need a device. They also have an education version but I can't afford the $119 a year. :(

And last , but not least, BreakoutEdu! I think of it as an "Escape the Room" in a box. The students have to follow clues, digital or physical, that will help them unlock the box. You do need a box and locks. You can purchase it from the company or put together your own box/locks.. (Amazon). They have breakouts created, or you can create your own. Since this is my first time using it, I will stick with a ready-made version.

If you would like any of the forms, go to Files, click "Make a Copy", and it's yours. I will not use these activities in a day, they will be spread out over the next 2 weeks, mixed in with the curriculum. Hopefully, you can use at least one of these ideas in your classroom. Have a great year!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

"Cheat Sheets" Saving My Voice and My Sanity!

One year I was being observed and the class I had was trying to sign into Schoology, again. I was frustrated because a. I was being observed and b. This was not the first time they had signed into Schoology. And to be honest if I wasn't being observed, I might not have been quite as frustrated. But that's another story...

So, during the post observation my administrator suggested that I create "cheat sheets." I  said, "I keep telling them how to do it, they should get it." And then, I went home and created the "cheat sheet", and I have been doing it ever since.

I make "cheat sheets" because, eventually, whether it's the 2nd time or the 20th time, the student is going to figure out how to get on, log in, post, or whatever it is you want them to do. And when they don't, they won't have to ask you, because they have something to turn to besides you or another student.( I do have "techsperts" in my class, but their purpose is not to help every single time a student has an issue, especially when they are trying to complete work themselves.)

Instead of having to walk over to the students's desk, I would say, "Didn't I give you a cheat sheet for that?" They would look at me, realize I wasn't coming over to take them step by step through the process for the umpteenth time, and find their cheat sheet, (which is should be glued in their notebooks), and do it themselves. If they lose it, they have to borrow one, I do not make more copies.

Eventually, they don't ask me. Eventually, most of them don't need the sheet.

Of course, you can always make a screencast, (video), that can accomplish the same thing, but I prefer paper in a notebook.

Tips for creating a cheat sheet:

  • make sure the directions are clear (I write the directions in steps)
  • add pictures. I used Snagit or Awesome Screenshot (Chrome Extension) to capture images
  • bold or highlight important parts
  • if possible, try to keep it to one page
  • walk through it after you have written it
  • Revise if necessary
"Cheat sheets" have saved my voice and my sanity!