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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Tweetable Technology!

To say that I love technology would be a huge understatement.  I am pretty sure I don’t know how to operate my classroom without it.  I love the endless possibilities, teachable moments, and 21st century applications that technology provides.  Social media alone has allowed collaboration and the sharing of ideas to go beyond the 4 walls of my classroom.  I am most thankful for a district and administrator that supports and allows the use of technology because as I said before, I don’t know how to operate my classroom without it. Would I make it work? Absolutely. But would I be granting my students digital citizenship and 21st century learning opportunities? Not so much.

That being said I feel there are 6 tech tools that all educators MUST have or go and get immediately:

  • Twitter: Hands down the best PD and resource out there. Who doesn’t like the to hear the words:  free, 24 hours a day, millions of people, never leaving your house, and wearing PJs all while growing professionally?!  Can it be daunting at first, yes but anything new is.  To be honest, I use to think Twitter was ridiculous.  Why do I need to tell people what I’m eating for dinner and what do you mean I only get 140 characters?  Then I happened upon an article entitled 60 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom and I thought….why not? I started with a classroom account and used it as a way to communicate with parents the happenings of second grade.  Then my own account was born where I used it to reflect and summarize educator books I was reading.  It was thanks to the book Teach Like a Pirate and #tlap that I discovered hashtags and chats.  I feel Twitter almost needs its very own post at this point.  However, I have loved how my classroom has been able to share out their learning, summarize their thoughts, organize topics using hashtags and publish writing pieces on a global level.  Sign up and you will find yourself wondering what took you so long!
  • Edublogs (or any type of blog): Blogging has done wonders for strengthening the home school connection. My first 7 years as an educator, I distributed a paper newsletter.  My first 4 years this was done in Microsoft Word and was written in narrative form.  Then thanks to grad school, I came to the realization that no one was reading that.  So I started using Microsoft Publisher and turning each section into something that was easier to read.  Then I started working with Kelsie and she inspired me to start a classroom blog.  That was 3 years ago and I haven’t looked back.  It has become the main communication hub for my classroom.  Everything is posted there!  Now instead of printing a newsletter every week, I just have it be a post.  I also try to post the happenings of second grade, share published student work, assignments and important documents.  It has also given me the opportunity to create flipped learning opportunities for families.  I love the ability to type of posts from the comfort of my living room, connect with families at home, and comment back to students who are sharing their learning!  I highly encourage you to start a blog for you classroom.  I personally love Edublogs but there are several platforms you can choose from.  Just choose the one that you are most comfortable with and can maintain.  Please feel free to visit us:  https://sososeussey.edublogs.org/
  • Remind: This used to be called Remind101 but it is a must have tool in terms of communication with parents. Parents can sign up to receive text message and or email alerts and no numbers are shared.  I used to communicate homework, field trips, special event reminders, and dress up days.  This year I started adding talking points they can ask their child.  These will hopefully spark conversations about the learning taking place at school and will encourage families to continue the learning at home.  At back to school night, it is a slide and I have every parent pull out their phone and sign up right then and there.
  • Educreations: This is a perfect app for your iPad that is a vital piece in the journey through the wonderful world that is flipping your classroom. I love the simplicity of the app and how user friendly it is.  You can insert pictures and or draw items while recording your voice at the same time.  My teaching partner and I primarily started using it as a way to flip our cursive.  Students have a week to watch the video with the letters of the week and then at school we can focus more on practicing and actually writing more.  We had such great success and feedback from our cursive videos that it gave us the momentum to flip math lessons too.  We have found this to be a much needed part of our math instruction especially with common core. Creating these videos has not only has been helpful for our students, but for our families.  The family gets to hear the language and the explanation which then in turn gives them what they need to help their child be successful.
  • SeeSaw:  http://web.seesaw.me/ This is an amazing online digital portfolio. It is an app for iPad, Android, and a website.  This app allows you to upload student work in the form of a photo, drawing, note, video, and or a link.  There is an even an option for students to do a voice over to explain their thinking.  I discovered this app while on a mission to figure out a better way to manage student data binders.  A kindergarten teacher in our district shared this simple and easy management tool.  I heard the words technology and paperless and was hooked.  This portfolio was the missing piece to student led conferences.  During the conference, students shared their portfolio along with glows and grows.  After the conference, parents then were granted access and can now check on their child’s progress whenever they want.  SeeSaw sends them alerts whenever a new item is posted and they can leave comments.  Students can also log in and upload their own work.  To ensure proper rules are being followed, teachers can select to approve each item.  I love how easy this has made managing all of my student’s work.  Instead of making multiple copies, hole punching them, and helping students get them into a binder, I simply take a picture and upload it to that student’s account.  I no longer have to cart as many papers home now.  I just upload the pictures from my phone right into SeeSaw.  I love how this company sends emails with tips and suggestions as well as provides excellent ideas on Twitter.  I can’t wait to continue expanding on ways to showcase my student’s work.
  • YouTube: Thanks to Learn Like a Pirate by: Paul Solarz, my eyes were opened to using YouTube in the classroom. I created a classroom page at first to have one main place to store videos we made.  I wanted a bigger venue then Vimeo and something that gave me more options.  After learning the ropes on my own page, I learned you can create playlists.  This has been a game changer in terms of time management and smooth transitions in the classroom.  Normally when I wanted to pull up a video, I would either go to my longs list of favorites or search.  Then I would have to find the right one that was the right length and by then I had lost the momentum of the lesson.  Now I created a playlist that saves the videos I want all in one place.  For example, I love using videos/songs to teach Grammar.  I created a Grammar playlist that now houses all the grammar videos I have used.  These are videos I know will play all the way through and have the best quality.  If I have a substitute, instead of them trying to navigate my lists and direction to find brain breaks they just pull up the playlist and hit play.  When one video is completed it will automatically go to the next video in your playlist.  I also love this for parents to who are looking for ways to encourage learning at home.  They can access my playlists too.  I no longer have to search and loose precious instructional time to find a video I need!  Feel free to visit us: Seussville’s YouTube Channel

Phew!  These are my must have tech tools for educators.  They have allowed me to work smarter not harder and have opened up endless doors of possibilities.  Creating lifelong learners is a goal of any educator and these tools will have you well on your way to reaching that goal.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2015 in Technology

 

The Scheduling Box!

As far back as I can remember, schools have always had times set aside each day for certain subjects and activities.  You have your reading time, your math time, your writing time, your art time, your recess time…etc. During these “times” you usually teach/learn/explore about the particular subject or activity it is “time” for.  When I was in school you either looked forward to these times or you dreaded them.  As a teacher, I sometimes feel the same way but for slightly different reasons than when I was a kid.

This all has been on my brain recently because our district was looking at the instructional minutes taught by each grade level across the district.  This was set up to look for patterns and to see if time is an issue when making sure our students are learning.  It was an eye opening activity and even more eye opening to see the data complied altogether.

After that activity, I got to thinking about the instructional minutes I am providing my students with on a weekly basis.  I look at my own schedule and see that I have a set “time” for each subject, special, and activity, that I am required to teach along with “times” that I feel as an educator are necessary to ensure I am following best practices (read alouds, brain breaks, class meetings, & creative opportunities).  Making sure each subject is given that amount of time it needs in order to be effective has always be a huge priority of mine.  I take great pride in my schedule and everything must fit neatly within its “time”.

Then I look at today’s learner and the knowledge and skill set that they must acquire.  This leads me to wonder, should there only be a math “time” or a reading “time”? Or should there just be a learning “time”?  After all isn’t the goal of school to teach students how learning is everywhere at any point of the day?  Isn’t it the goal to prepare students for life by discovering that reading, math, science, writing, art, and technology are everywhere and all involve one another?  I found myself saying YES! THIS! Then followed my an immediate, but what would that look like? How would I manage it? How would I communicate with administrators, colleagues, and families what I am doing? Would minutes overlap? Is that ok?  If a lesson involves more than one subject, do all those minutes count toward their perspective subjects or can you only count them once?

I am currently in my 10th year of teaching 2nd grade.  I have noticed that throughout my years as an educator, the teaching of different subjects has started to flow seamlessly together.  I talk about reading all day and we read all day.  We write all day and we talk about our learning all day.  I realized I had only been talking about math during math and so I’ve been consciously trying to make an effort to correct that.

So how do I let go of the time?  Can I let go of the time?  In a sense I feel I have taken baby steps toward this.  In order to teach my students how to write opinion pieces, we use the inferential comprehension questions that go along with our reading story to write during reading time.  I use nonfiction texts that connect with our social studies and science standards during reading time. We practice character education while playing outside and visit our butterfly garden to see if there is anything new during recess time. I love integrating subjects together not only to maximize my time with my students but to show them that learning is everywhere.  Just because it isn’t writing time doesn’t mean a sentence doesn’t start with a capital letter.  However, in my experience students don’t make that connection on their own.  They have to see that for themselves and be given opportunities to practice and apply that skill.

Maybe then the goal is to have times set aside for certain areas of academics and within that time show kids the learning connection.  Maybe I need to highlight that more so students can move toward learning time instead of a math time.  I feel the goal for the rest of the year then is to look for ways to connect and integrate in a way that is natural for everyone.  I say I integrate but am I really integrating in a way that is most beneficial for the 21st century learner and is it presented in a way where they can easily see I’m integrating?  Perhaps in looking at this with a more critical eye, I can move more into a learning time.  I also need to remind myself to be more flexible and think outside the scheduling box!

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2015 in Schedule

 

#LetsDoThis

#LetsDoThis

My teaching partner, Kelsie Zarko, always inspires me.  I am taking a page out of her book by creating my own personal blog.  I must admit, the whole process is rather nerve racking.  I tend to have a hard time keeping things simple, so of course I tried to find the right platform, the right theme, the right widgets to highlight who I am, and then don’t even get me started on my tag line.  I still am going back and forth on a few design elements, however, the main point of having this blog is to reflect.  I needed a space in which to share, reflect, and grow not just as an educator but as a person. So…let’s do this!

Starting this post, instantly reminded of my college days when LiveJournal was the latest craze.  I remember setting up my account and typing up posts like a diary.  I remember at the time very few people understood why on earth I would want to share life with the world.  I feel blogging has come a long way since then and while my breakups, meltdowns, and dinner preparations might not have been the best subject matter, I was reflecting on life.  I was sharing my thoughts and becoming a better person because of it.  Now that I am older, and hopefully wiser, I am looking forward to using this blog as a way to become…better!

Writing brings me clarity especially when I share it with others. There is something so refreshing about writing especially when you get to choose the topic.  I also have found in my last 10 years of teaching, that writing doesn’t always have to be a long drawn out activity. I know some feel that social media like Twitter is destroying the art and craft of writing.  I, however, have to disagree.  Writing your thoughts in 140 characters or less does have value.  I know that it has helped me to be more concise and learn to summarize my thoughts. I think as educators it is our job to help students learn that we write for different purposes.  How I write on Twitter vs. how I write an email to a parent, are two very different purposes and require a different writing format.  As a writer, I need to have experiences with both so I know how to write for my audience and purpose in the most effective way possible. I have noticed lately that I have been doing only a lot of Twitter writing.  Balance in writing is just as important and I feel this blog will be the answer. Reflecting AND writing growth = Winning!

I have loved having a classroom blog!  If you don’t have one, I highly recommend it.  It has been an incredible way to strengthen the home school connection.  However, I have often felt there are some posts I would LOVE to write but they wouldn’t match the audience of the classroom blog.  It is my hope that this will be the blog for those types of posts and be the opportunity I need to reflect on best practices.

When I start anything, I always want it to be successful.  I have learned throughout the years that having goals always helps to make sure I do what I set out to do.  I bring you my blogging goals:

My Blogging Goals:

  • To reflect on lessons, subjects, teaching practices, and the everyday that occurs within the 4 walls of my classroom.
  • To share with other educators my successes, failures, resources and the fun elements of teaching.
  • To create a space that I can easily manage and maintain my reflections.
  • To grow as a learner through reflection, sharing, and creating.
  • To write at least 500 words in each blog post. Inspired by My 500 Words: http://goinswriter.com/my500words/
  • To tell others I have a blog and expand my PLN.

I am looking forward to this journey and continuing my travels as a lifelong learner…in a Seuss hat!

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2015 in First Post