October 13

Uncomfortable

A message from this blog post called out to me.  The author said learning experiences are valuable when we “get comfortable being uncomfortable.”  I think the entire first quarter of this year has been about me learning to get comfortable with being uncomfortable!  After a couple of days off as a result of our district’s fall break, I think I can return to my post as an instructional technology coach with the attitude that education is a process of being comfortable being uncomfortable.

There is a stronger sense of growth when there is a struggle in the accomplishment.  Each day we are growing and moving toward and away from something.  We set high expectations for your students and they have high expectations of us.  These high expectations provide opportunities for growth academically as well as personally.  Yesterday I shared ideas about how Messy is an Opportunity.  As teachers, we are laying the foundation for student performance and success that will last a lifetime.  Our hope is that our students will apply what they learn in our classrooms to their life’s work and practices.  So, as I begin to lay a foundation for the folks I will be working with during this new quarter, I am looking at reliable resources and ideas to guide me and I think my uncomfortable self will be relying upon the concepts in 5 Ways to Lay the Foundation for Innovation as a means to encourage the strengths I will be finding in the group of teachers I encounter.  The theme for my husband’s favorite football team was ‘brick-by-brick’ and I think we will adopt that same theme to finish out 2016.  I hope you will be uncomfortable and lay a few bricks, too.

October 12

Messy Provides Opportunities for Revision

Yesterday I shared a Fresh Perspective.  I was inspired by a blog post and decided to share.

One of the concepts mentioned was a quote from George Couros, “Learning is messy and we have to be comfortable with risk, failure, growth, and revision.”  As a teacher of writing and a life-long writer, the word revision stood out to me.  So, I went back and read the quote again.  I chuckled a bit to myself because when I was in the classroom, things were often messy.  You see, I was learning (and still am) to be an educator and my students were learning to be…well, to be grown-up human-beings.  I hope they were learning reading and writin8-things-to-look-for-in-todays-classroomg skills.  I hope they were learning to love literature and the written word.  I hope they were learning to be life-long learners.

The chart included in the blog post is one that we need to keep in front of us as teachers to remind us when we are planning learning opportunities for our students.  It would be hard to see each of these eight things in a classroom every single day.  Over time, however, these things definitely should be a part of our classrooms.  Each of them contributes to the classroom being messy but they all contribute to good practices.  As I begin a new quarter with a fresh perspective, I plan to keep this chart where it is easily accessible and use it as a reminder to guide my work with teachers.  I hope you use it to guide you and your lesson-planning as well!

 

 

October 11

A Fresh Perspective

I read a blog post while I was on my fall break that really resonated with me and I decided to share some of the ideas here with you.  The author quotes Kara Welty, “we need to look for strengths in others, go in with an open mind, be patient and compassionate, compliment people based on their strengths, and be the fountain not the drain.”

Wow!

Just wow!

Isn’t that a powerful statement?  I learned this a long time ago when I was in the classroom working with students.  I found that looking for student strengths so that we could build upon those made them more ready to take risks and learn something new.

The author mentions ideas about hand written notes and I know from experience how powerful that can be.  In my first year as a classroom teacher I bought a box of simple white note cards and printed on something representing me – my initials or something – and I wrote a note to at least a couple of my students on a note card each week and mailed it to their home.  I learned a few things from this exercise.  First, students don’t get much mail.  Second, some of them really treasure the individual attention.  Third, it can make a difference in how they cooperate and behave in class if it is a short, simple, positive note.  Chances are the parents are going to notice the note and will be more supportive and cooperative as well.  One of my students (or his mother) invited me to his high school graduation even after I had moved to another district and not seen him for at least four years and in the invitation was a note from his mother telling me that he had framed the note I sent him and it still hung on his bedroom wall.  Little forty-some-cent gesture, huge outcome.

As I face a new quarter and embrace a new list of teachers to work with for the next nine weeks, I revisit this idea of looking for strengths in others, going in with an open mind, adopting patience and compassion, compliment people based on their strengths.  I am making a conscious effort to be the fountain and not the drain.  I hope you will too!

October 3

Reflection and Feedback – Quick Exit Ticket Tools

A vital part of any lesson is reflection.  Reflection helps students realize what they have learned and what skills they have been sharpening.  Teachers can benefit from student reflections, too.  A simple question asking students to raise their hands in response to a “did you get it?” can be enough sometimes.  But at other times, a wee bit of data helps to inform the next steps.  Here are a few tools that can be used for collecting data via exit tickets:

Google Forms

This is a fast and easy way to gather student feedback.  So, even if you simply reuse questions asking  students to respond to “what did you learn today?” and “what questions do you have for next class?” the feedback can be essential in helping to plan next steps.  Of course, with all the options available in the newly updated Google Forms, why not go for something more – include pictures, links, and more to get more specific and detailed feedback along with open-ended questions to get broad, general information.

Socrative

Socrative has been one of my favorite tools for formative assessment for several years.  It allows for prepared activities such as quizzes to check for understanding or mastery.  It also provides opportunities for asking open-ended questions where students can answer that simple “did you get it?” question or a question where more-in-depth or critical thinking can be encouraged.  Socrative says that you can quickly assess students with on-the-fly questions to get immediate insight into student understanding.  I’m a firm believer in careful planning but this does allow for asking a verbal question to which students can respond.  It is quick and easy and students could log in to the teacher’s classroom as the teacher is posing the question and inviting students in less than a minute which preserves instructional and learning time.

Padlet

I’ve been a fan of Padlet for a long, long time.  I used it even before it became Padlet!  The real beauty of Padlet is that it allows for the sharing of text, hyperlinks, and more.  When researching, students could share a hyperlink that relates to the over-arching topic and other students have quick access to the same links.  When creating products, students can use a variety of creativity tools and simply share a link to theirs on a Padlet and their peers have access to their product.

Kahoot!

Who doesn’t like playing a game?  End class with a Kahoot! and make providing feedback fun.  This requires for a little bit of front loading by the teacher to create meaningful questions to students for responding but the questions can be specific and the results could even count as a formative assessment score in the gradebook.

Nearpod

This is one of my newest go-to-tools.  I like that Nearpod allows for import of a slide presentation that teachers might already have created.  Then, simply add an interactive activity to check for understanding.  Open-ended questions can also be added to allow for that broad, “what did you learn today?” type question as well.  The import makes it easy for teachers to use what they already have and ease into integrating interactive, online tools into their repertoire.

We know that reflection is important to clarify and draw attention by making student learning mindful.  Why not also let it provide feedback for you to direct your next steps in lesson planning?