Sunday, January 1, 2017

"One Word" for 2017: Purpose

My #OneWord For Teaching and My Classroom This Year 


Every activity we do should help kids focus on at least one of the 4 C's: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity.  We need to help prepare kids to be members of a global society.  Answering true/false, multiple choice, or matching questions doesn't do that.  Taking standardized tests doesn't do that.  Doing the same old worksheets doesn't do that.  We need to rethink how education works.  And it can start in each of our classrooms.

How do we move from compliance to purpose in the classroom?  
Two beginner steps:

1.  Choice
Telling kids what to do and how to do it, all day, every day, kills their spirit.  Embed choice throughout the day.  It can be as simple as allowing students to choose to write with a pen or a pencil.  choosing to work with a partner or by themselves, or choosing where in the classroom to work on an assignment (think: flexible seating).  

It can be more complex, like choice boards for projects, units, or for early finishers.  It can be allowing students to decide in what order they will complete their work (think: flexible scheduling).  The more students choose for themselves, the more they feel in control.  This leads to increased ownership in the classroom for them, and a smoother running classroom for you.  

2.  Voice   
Students get a LOT of feedback about their work: peer feedback, teacher comments, rubrics, grades. Let them give you some feedback.  Ask them: What do you like best about school?  What do you like least about school?  If you could change one thing about our classroom, what would it be?  If you could change one thing about our school, what would it be?  What worked well about this lesson?  What could we do differently next time?  

Kids need to know you care about what they think.  They have amazing insight and ideas to share ~ we just need to tap into it.

My #OneWord is Purpose

* I want to be purposeful about integrating the 4 C's: 
Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration.

* I want to be purposeful about helping my students 
develop as members of a global community.

* I want to be purposeful about integration 
of design thinking and STEAM activities.

* I want to be purposeful about my own 
professional development and that of colleagues.

* I want to be purposeful about helping students 
develop their individual interest areas.

* I want to be purposeful about 
effective technology integration.

What's your #oneword for teaching this year?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Reading Comprehension Strategies with Sticky Notes

The Superpowers of Sticky Notes!

Check out these fun bookmarks for your students to reference during reading.  They highlight the strategies of Asking Questions, Making Connections, Making Predictions, Making Inferences, Monitoring Comprehension, and Making Evaluations.  

Available as a FREE download at TpT or HMH.

Available in color or black line, they come three to a page.

Have your students grab a pencil, some sticky notes and a bookmark for reference and get started documenting their thinking.  Great for formative assessment!


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Schools of the Future

The ISTE experience has become one of the highlights of my personal professional development.  I enjoy meeting people from around the world, and visiting with them about effective classroom instructional practices.   I had the blessing of helping in the Digital Storytelling Network Playground, and presenting a poster session about Makerspaces.  In a time span of just thirty minutes, I could visit with educators from multiple countries and ten or more states.  My co-presenter had the blessing of meeting a teacher from New Zealand who Periscoped her class about the Bloxels kit we had on display during our poster session.

My top takeaways from ISTE 2016:

1.  It's time to change the culture of schools.  We have been working in a model that prepares students for the 1950s.  Jobs of the future require creativity, imagination, and experience.  Our education system needs to catch up, then prepare to lead the way.

2.  As educators, we need to take a bigger part in preparing students to work in STEM related fields, by providing students opportunities to create, iterate, problem solve, code, and think critically.  I visited with a COO of a tech company, and he indicated they had engineers that were high school dropouts and engineers that had their PhD from Yale.  It didn't matter how employees knew what they knew, as long as they knew it.  When their company interviewed potential applicants, they asked prospective employees to SHOW them what they knew, not tell them.  Applicants brought in projects they had been working on to demonstrate their expertise.

3.  Encourage your students to imagine future possibilities. Don't limit them to things that seem realistic.  Science Fiction movies and books?  Those technologies are being developed in the labs of today.

4.  Classrooms must become labs for social change.  We need to defy politics as usual, and teach students to develop the quality of their relationships.  Empathy is the core for solving problems.

5.  Inequality is engineered.  Think it's better for the present? Better for whom?  Carefully consider whose version of the good life is being promoted.  Who are we leaving out?  Look at it from as many perspectives as possible, and continue to reconsider your thinking as you encounter new information.

6.  "The battle over real power tomorrow begins with who gets to dream today."  ALL students need to be a part of innovation.  ALL voices need a role in creating our collective future.

7.  If we can hack tech, we can hack the underlying codes of social society.  Guide students in working together to change the operating structure of society.  Talk about the current social code, then get busy rewriting it.  Just because something has always been done a certain way, doesn't make it right.

8.  Have students tell you their questions, not just their answers.  Questions are more important than answers.  Q > A.

9.  Educators are cultural workers.  Do your instructional practices change the story or keep it the same for your students? Are you empowering them or stifling them?  Correct the micro-inequalities or instances of unconscious bias in your school. Treat everyone with respect.

10.  Tech can become the #plottwist that reaches a struggling student.  Each child deserves a better story.  Search for apps, extensions, websites, and tech tools that can help rewrite a child's story.

11.  Make it real - real tools, real problems, real science.  Use project based learning, STEM/STEAM challenges, flipped lessons, and flexible classrooms.  Connect with the community, mentors, and world.

12.  It's not a question of are you good or bad at it, but are you willing to learn?  It's how you respond to failure that defines who you are as a person, not the successes you have.

Work hard.
Create bravely.
Keep wonder alive.
Stay humble.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Elie Wiesel

Thankful for the life of Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate.  His book Night is one of my favorites to share with students when they are ready for an autobiographical account of the Holocaust.  The Nobel citation described him as a "messenger to mankind" with a message of "peace, atonement, and human dignity."  May we carry on his work, "Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices." -Elie Wiesel

Friday, July 1, 2016

Innovation Inspiration Finds

I'm starting to collect pictures of innovative ideas to share with my students for inspiration during Innovation Hour (also known as Genius Hour, 20% Time, or Independent Study).  My husband and I had walked to the beach in Evanston, Illinois, while waiting for our car to be repaired.  We saw this at an intersection without a pedestrian light.  A slight problem for us ~ the side of the road we were on did not have any red flags available to carry across the street.  They were all on the other side.

I think I would share this photograph with my students, and discuss several things: How does this method of crossing the street compare to pedestrian lights, crosswalk signs, pedestrian bridges, and intersections with no signs.  What types of intersections would be best for each method?  I would ask for potential problems with the method used in this photograph to see if they could image the problem I experienced.  I would then ask how the design could be changed to prevent my experience from happening to others.  Finally, I would ask for their original ideas to allow pedestrians to cross the street safely.  Students could consider these factors and implement them if they were designing a city as mentioned in yesterday's post.

Have you found some interesting signs in your travels?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

LEGO Makerspace Idea

While in Chicago, we stopped by the Chicago Architecture Foundation and discovered the Chicago Model and the LEGO Design Studio, where families can build a representation of a current architectural piece, or create an original design.  While my husband and daughter sat down to build, I started taking pictures, thinking this would be a great addition to my Makerspace.  While the exhibit featured white architectural LEGO pieces exclusively, I think it would be feasible to use whatever color of LEGO pieces you have available.    

The exhibit featured pictures of famous architectural buildings in Chicago that visitors could replicate.  In a Makerspace, you could display pictures of famous buildings from around the world for students to reproduce.

Santa Fe Building

Other visitors had created original designs to be left on display, including buildings, boats, dragons, and furniture.  As students build pieces in your Makerspace, you could display them as inspiration for other students.

Building with lots of windows
Boat and Buildings


Star Wars Pieces 

In one section of the Design Studio, visitors could add to the "growing city" by drawing a building on a long piece of paper that covered a section of the wall.  This would be another great thing to add to a Makerspace ~ either a paper version, a LEGO version, or a cardboard/recycled materials version.  Students could work collaboratively to build a replica of the city you reside in, a city you are studying, a city from an historical time, or an "ideal city" your students imagine.  The additional prompt of "What does every good city need?" can get your students thinking beyond buildings to parks, roads, transportation, and infrastructure.

I love to gather ideas from places I visit.  Chicago has provided a lot of inspiration for me this past week.  Where have you been inspired for your Makerspace?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Rain Barrels and Trash Cans

Last week my daughter attended a STEM camp at Loyola University in Chicago.  Each day we stopped in the lobby of the Institute of Environmental Sustainability building, where we saw these rain barrels:

While it would be neat to make and decorate a rain barrel as a class, it might not be financially feasible, depending on your classroom budget and access to materials.  Another environmental awareness option could be trash cans.  In Missouri, the Department of Conservation offers the "No More Trash" Contest to encourage students to fight litter.  Classes decorate a thematic trash can and enter it in the contest.  Check out the 2016 winning classes here.  

I think a school building could also have a trash can decorating contest to encourage students to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  It could be held at the beginning of the school year, or in conjunction with Earth Day in April.  It could certainly be a Makerspace-friendly project, where students could repurpose materials to creatively decorate the trash cans.

At an elementary building where I taught, one of the 7 Habits Leadership Groups collected paper recycling from each classroom once a week as part of their environment project. Classes who recycled correctly were awarded student-made badges for their recycling bins.  It was a win-win situation for the students, teachers, and custodial staff.

What ideas do you have to promote environmental awareness with students?