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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Creating a Culture of Thinking

Ryan's teacher sent me this pic!
My three year old son is currently attending an amazing Mother's Day Out program. I love that he comes home from school asking so many questions. The whys, the what ifs, the I wonders... his little school is helping him become a better questioner, a thinker. 

This week his school held their annual Rodeo Day. Ryan was SO excited. As we chatted about rodeo day that evening, he proudly showed off his stick horse and went on and on about the animals he learned about during school. He asked to read rodeo books before bed and since our home library was a bit limited in rodeo books (here I come Amazon!), I pulled up some pictures and videos of the animals he was curious about online. He had what felt like a million questions about horses. Everything from what they eat to how someone might learn to ride a horse. The exciting, playful activities from his day at school prompted him to be inquisitive and eager to learn. Why is it that our youngest students seem so full of wonder, so creative, while our older students sometimes seem to lose this?

I've been reading the book Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, & Karin Morrison. The focus of the book is on creating environments where learning is viewed not in test scores or grades but in the development of individuals who can question, think, plan, create, and engage as learners. The book outlines several research-based thinking routines teachers can put in place in their classrooms to create a culture of thinking as opposed to a classroom focused on grades, memorization and recall of information. 

When I was a student going through school, I was really good at playing the "game of school"... I wasn't necessarily focused on the learning and thinking. I didn't have the wonder and curiosity my son demonstrates. I wanted that "A" and I was going to do whatever it took to get it. I'm not sure if it was a message from my teachers, my need to please (compliance), or my competitive nature but when I think back on it, it's a shame my focus was on grades and not on my own thinking/learning. There's no step-by-step program for creating a culture of thinking, but I do know a focus on grades/standardized tests can definitely kill the love the learning and in turn limit deep thinking.

What can we do to create a culture of thinking... an environment in which our student's collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted? I think it starts with looking closely at what we are doing as professionals. How do we as teachers value thinking? Do we value the thinking & learning process over grades/recall of information? How are we communicating that belief to students? Change has to start with us. In order for our students to become deep thinkers, we must first view ourselves as life-long learners with a growth mindset. When this is modeled, students will follow suit. One of the main ways my thinking is pushed forward is by collaborating with others (even if it's via Twitter with someone I've never met in person!). Having the opportunity to work closely with so many amazing educators whom I admire has truly helped me to become a more reflective and creative thinker. This quote from educator Robert John Meehan really resonates with me, "The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives." I believe this collaboration is key- if we harness the power of the collective group and create a culture of thinking as professionals we can better see how to develop this culture of thinking within the classroom. 


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Empowered Learners

Last week I was working with Leanne Boddie's awesome 3rd grade class at Leon Springs Elementary. We were recording the students' sharing all about themselves for a parent night activity. I was so impressed with these kiddos! As we were brainstorming in small groups, I noticed them saying they were "Gamers" and how they love to watch Youtubers. In talking with the students more, I found out they watch YouTubers to figure out how to become better gamers. They get tips and tricks on how to create amazing Minecraft worlds. They naturally use YouTube as the awesome learning tool it is! When they have a question about something they are passionate about, they use YouTube to find the answer. They are empowered learners.
Here are some pictures of these amazing students on that day (they loved the headsets!):
In our district we will soon deploy ipads for every teacher! As an Academic Technology Coach, it will be my responsibility to provide 'iTeach" professional development to the teachers at the six campuses I serve this Fall. While I am super excited about this initiative and can't wait to begin working with my teachers, I have to admit that I've been a little anxious about not being able to provide the kind of follow-up coaching that I usually do. With 6 campuses to train, my time between training will be limited. Then it dawned on me... our students are naturally empowered to seek out their own learning on YouTube, from each other, or wherever else they can find it. I know our teachers can do the same! 

With technology, teachers can figure out how to do pretty much anything with their new iPads. This is exactly what we want our students to be able to do- to be empowered and to own their learning. When I have a question about something technology related I immediately turn to Twitter (thanks PLN!) or YouTube, if I want to see the play in the big game I missed I again turn to Twitter or YouTube. I'm excited to provide iPad training to my teachers but I'm even more excited about the opportunity to encourage them to take risks, jump into new things, and help them become more empowered as learners. I'm looking forward to jumping into some new learning myself this Fall with an #InnovatorsMindset online course (#IMMOOC). As it turns out, "You don't have to have it all figured out to move forward." Now off to YouTube... gotta figure out how to change the headlight on my truck!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Meet the Teacher! #Relationships


Meet the Teacher was always one of my favorite days of the year as a classroom teacher! Everyone is a mix of nerves and excitement. You want to learn everything about your students; what excites them, what makes them tick- it all begins on Meet the Teacher night! Your students also want to learn about YOU. A good friend of mine and 5th grade teacher, Melissa Spiekerman, created this AWESOME Thinglink to introduce herself to her students (and parents)! Such a cool way to get students excited about your class. 



Thinglink is an awesome storytelling tool. Every image contains a story and Thinglink can help you tell those stories. Use Thinglink for Education to create your own interactive image- for FREE! You can embed your Thinglink on your teacher website. As the school year begins, your students can even create their own Thinglink to introduce themselves to their classmates.

My amazing Teacher-Mom and my first Administrators taught/modeled for me the importance of relationships in education. I love this quote from Mark Rustan, "Profound learning occurs when you touch a student's mind and heart simultaneously" and this one from The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros, "Fifty years ago relationships were the most important thing in our schools, and fifty years from now, it will be no different." The beginning of the school year is such an exciting time to start making those connections! I hope you all have a wonderful Meet the Teacher night and first week of school!

Friday, April 1, 2016

2-5: Newsela- Relevant Expository Articles

Newsela is an amazing reading resource. The nonfiction articles on this site are relevant and current including real-world news from major news publications. Newsela makes it easy for an entire class to read the same content but at a level that is just right for each student! 

Newsela also works seamlessly with Google Classroom. When you first sign up for your account, you can import your Google Classroom roster as your class list and then assign articles/quizzes using the Newsela website.  

Check out this Newsela article about the safety of hover boards. You can see at the top of the article, underneath the title it shows the grade level as 2 with 244 words. Now try changing the lexile level (on the far right hand side) to 900L. The content is the same but now the article is a 5th grade reading level with 712 words.



Check out this Newsela Quick Start Guide to get started!
Blog post from Alice Keeler about Newsela/Google Classroom.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

I just loved reading Dr. Seuss books when I was little and now I get to share those same books with my son! Read Across America Day is held each year on Dr. Seuss' birthday, March 2nd (He would have been 112 years old this year). 

On this site you will find a little more about Read Across America Day, including some fun activities: NEA's Read Across America

This post from Shannon's Technology Rocks! Seriously blog- (And YES, it seriously does rock!!) has TONS of Dr. Seuss themed games, activities, & lessons.
Seussville offers some fun online games for students.
Seussville Story Maker helps students create Dr. Seuss like stories.
Scholastic has lesson ideas using Dr. Seuss books.

Can't celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday without a little Green Eggs and Ham!!
Green Eggs & Ham Interactive Read-Aloud Video
Dr. Seuss biography in Pebble Go (contact me or your librarian for username/password): 
Technology Coaches Michelle Fikac & Elizabeth Garvic created this amazing resource- The Tech in the Hat! All of the activities are centered on technology integration using the works of Dr. Seuss! 
This is an example of one of the activities:
Another exciting idea would be to connect your class with another class via Google Hangouts (kind of like a Skype session). You could read a Dr. Seuss book and then discuss with the other class.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

3rd: Festivals

Students can use this Symbaloo to research the Texas Festivals. They can also use the attached brochures. Last year my 3rd graders created iMovie Trailers to advertise for the festivals. Let me know if you would like any support with a project like this!  
Texas Festival Brochures
After researching the festivals, students could write a postcard home pretending they were enjoying a day at one of the festivals. This is a Google Drawing template to assign in Google Classroom. To change the image, students will click, Insert, Image.
Interactive Games:

Monday, February 1, 2016

100th Day of School Activities

The 100th day of school is Wednesday, February 3rd. Here are some links/activities your students might enjoy!

Technology Rocks! Seriously! 
Scholastic
Fall Into First

I especially love this Free "If I Were 100..." idea from Teachers Pay Teachers & Angie Neal. You could use the Aging Booth app for the picture. Just be careful...I tried the app on myself and YIKES! ;)
Click image to see blog post by Angie Neal- Fall Into First
Click the downward arrow to download!

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