Monday, January 23, 2017

Tip of the Week: Feedback, Right Here, Right Now --> Grade as You Go

Hey all,

It's been forever since I have been on the blog, but I am going to try to get back in the swing of things.

So I am going to start with one of my educational passion areas: meaningful and timely feedback.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a horrible procrastinator. Much like kids don't look at feedback once something is "done and graded," I don't like to look at work that is "done and turned in." Now, let's face it, I cannot give up grading. It just won't happen. But why would I spend tons of time giving students feedback on something that is "done." They don't care at that point and to be honest, neither do I.

So here are a few ideas is one idea of what I do instead:

1. Grade as you go: I give points to students literally as they work. If they get the concept, the points go on the paper, right then and there. If they don't, I might underline an instruction, or have a conversation with the individual or the table group.

How do I make time for this? I do very little whole group instruction, I teach process skills (which are in their notes) and sometimes my conversation might be as simple as -- "What's the first step for reading a map?" and the answer can be found in their notes. By pre-teaching problem solving strategies, analysis strategies, and other process skills that can be used on a variety of assignments, I can have "meaningful conversations" that are brief, which lets me move to more and more kids. The first step of map reading? It's to look at the title. You wouldn't belief how often I get questions like "Where is Mexico on this map?" then they read the title and find out they should be looking at the whole map.  Also, it allows me to say, "did you need me for that?" which allows me to help them recognize that they have got this, without me! Now I am fostering some independence in my students and by repeating similar processes throughout the year allows kids to learn to break down tasks into steps and work through unique problems on their own.

Eventually, after I have done this for a while (potentially a whole quarter), I can start sending peers out with grading pens. Once they get their points for the task, they get their own pen and they can have conversations of their own. They get really good at directing classmates to their notes, at asking probing questions, or at helping peers realize what part of the directions they need to rethink (or just plain out missed). And this is where the race is on, because suddenly a feedback process that was pretty lengthy, becomes significantly shorter.

So what do kids do 1) while they wait for feedback, 2) when they are done, 3) if they choose not to grade others? That would be #3 of the "Am I on Task" self-check: "Am I actively engaged in a learning activity?" I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have a list of other learning tasks students can be working on. It usually includes a long-term task or project that they can continue working on but typically also includes some more passive learning activities. For example, since I teach social studies, my students can watch CNN student news (now called CNN 10) and glean a little info about what is going on in the world. Other students learn through games on Are these on point with our right then and there goals? Nope. But they are learning, and they are on  a content topic.

There are a whole slew of ways to make this happen and it doesn't just have to be with points. One teacher I know made a house on student papers (5 sides for 5 things she was looking at). She knew if students didn't get their "house" done, that they were priorities for the next day's instruction. Sometimes you just go back to an E or an S. E for extention, S for support, or E/S as in, you choose. Then you begin a reteach or clarify lesson and while other students do the extension and you have pre-informed students about where to go. Give the extension to all students, so they have it if they are inclined to try. This is particularly wise if you are working on a skill they need for independent work.

I was going to hit on some other strategies, but I think there is plenty to chew on here. The others will have to wait for another day. Let me know if you have questions.

Friday, June 26, 2015

10 Cool Tools for Engaging Your Students in Collaboration and Communication

So....I was asked to present on some neat tools that enhance collaboration and communication between students and teachers. I will admit, I leaned more toward communication than collaboration with this....check it out!

This is kind of a reflection on some things I learned during the Silver Linings Program.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

LMS: Edmodo vs Schoology

I am going to use this blog post to keep a running list of pros of both Edmodo and Schoology. Each statement acts as a point. More to come...and let's add Google Classroom to this

  • Class Courses with sections (to reflect the reality of what I teach)
  • Easily organized resource files
  • quiz format rocks

  • Global professional learning network
  • Kids find the format most encouraging for visiting and chatting outside of school hours

Google Classroom:
  • easily distributes student copies
  • can see what they were working on (as long as I sent it out as a copy), even if they don't turn it in
  • don't have to worry about PII (Personally Identifiable Information) because its within Google and parents have signed off on that

The Silver Lining....of Educational Technology

So it has been almost a year since my last blog post and I'll admit, I have not been the enthusiastic, try-new-things teacher that I have prided myself on being. But today I am starting fresh. So a quick summary of recent news and what's to come.

1. My district has gone coo-coo for....Google Apps (not Cocoa Puffs - okay by me; I do not tolerate chocolate in my cereal)
2. After buying chromebooks to help as implement the new online testing going on in Colorado, the district decided to have teachers write grant proposals to gain access to those devices during the off-season (when we aren't testing)
3. First grant applicants prove that having 1:1 devices is awesome for our students
4. District decides to buy many more devices ahead of schedule (mid-year instead of next year) and plans to move to being a full 1:1 district eventually
4. I apply (with two colleagues -they wanted collaborative teams) for a set
5. We succeed! .....along with many other teachers in the district (they were so impressed by the applications that they ordered 3 more sets than they planned on....which might be here late but will have bigger screens and more gigs....can you guess which lucky team of 3 will get these 3 late arriving chromebooks?)

So, I just spent my entire evening at a training on Google. I am very Google savvy but my teammates and I, always aware that there is more to learn, opted to take the class just in case there was new information and there was. We could have planned (and probably still will) a parent information night.

Knowing this was coming, we have also been taking a serious look at some LMS options. For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept of LMS, it stands for Learning Management System. Up until recently, we have used Edmodo but I have always found it to be cumbersome. When the district swtiched to Google Apps, I considered using Google Classroom but since it is so new, wanted something with a little more functionality. Recently, however, we were introduced to Schoology and I am now thoroughly in love, feeling that I have finally found an LMS which was well planned out vs something that grew organically (and somewhat disastrously) the way Edmodo has.

I see a post in the future about selecting the right LMS for you....but I spent all afternoon/evening at a class, so tonight is not that night.

Part of being in the Silver Linings program (yes that is the official name and yes they actually turned that into an educational acronym about technology integration) means that I have to engage in some reflection on the chromebooks effect on my I think blogging will be back in for me, as I work to gather my thoughts on how this is all going.

And as one of my parents emails always says this year - blame any typos on my Apple products.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Edmodo: A new way to build connections

As teachers, we often seek to build connections and we want to offer new and varied learning opportunities to our students.

One way I do this is through Edmodo. If I find a cool video, but I already taught the content, I might post it on Edmodo as a review. All the neat things I find, I link through Edmodo. And I find more neat things because other teachers post them on Edmodo.

If you're not familiar with Edmodo, it is like facebook for the classroom. You have a wall to which posts by any community you are a part of appear. You can filter by community; for example I can look at my science class. And you can write a post that goes out to one or multiple communities.

Edmodo also has the ability to create simple digital quizzes that autograde or you can have students turn in assignments online through the site.

It is not a perfect site and has a lot of things I would love to change or fix, but it is free and has increased communication amongst my students (they help each other with homework) and between myself and my students (they send me direct messages).

One of my favorite features is my library and the "backpack." My library is basically a folder where I can post all kinds of materials for my students. I can link certain folders in my library to different class groups where they always have the materials I have provided. I can even link my google drive folders to my library, so things I upload become available to my students and so I can directly post google drive materials to the group walls.

Additionally, students have a backpack which works in a similar way so that they can share work with me. Once they have linked their google drive to their backpack, anything they do in drive can be turned in through edmodo. Since we already used drive, this is an easy step for them to instantly get their work in one place for me to see (rather than the old way where I hunted through shared folders to find the materials).

Here's a great resource to get you started:

Monday, January 6, 2014

One day I realized...I had another educational blog

As I have re-increased my blogging, I was looking through old blogs and realized I had posted about teaching on this blog. There is actually some coolish stuff there, including:

1. An introduction to me
2. two different posts on prepping for back to school
3. The Flipped Classroom (I should do a new one, as I have a lot more ideas!)
4. Bookmarking with Symbaloo
5. One of the back to school entries also hits on some management concerns.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Balance - a necessary target for a successful teacher

I have not had my best teaching year this year. In fact, I have felt more burned out and unsuccessful than ever. Additionally, I have let my stress level and frustration escalate and I often feel emotionally out of control. A concerned coworker recommended I see a doctor - but I know myself well enough to consider some other changes first. As teachers, we all get stressed. If you're getting over-stressed, feel free to join me as I work through my issues and try to improve the quality of my life (and my teaching).

Additionally, if you're interested in the more complete version of my self-help journey: follow me here.

Tomorrow, I go back to work with kids and I want to be ready. To get there, I certainly need to check my plans and be ready to go in that way, but I also want to be emotionally ready for the week and day so I googled some blogs on creating a balanced life. The following one caught my attention and I have taking the nine steps and written my own thoughts.

How to Create a Balanced Life: 9 Tips to Feel Calm and Grounded

 by Jasmin Tenjeloff

 Jasmin's words of wisdom or my thoughts and reflections

1. Acknowledge.

This step is just about taking stock. The following areas are getting way too much negative attention:
  • My body/health
  • My perspective of my husband's body and health
  • Work - particularly my relationships with colleagues
  • Work - my feelings about the curriculum I am using and it's efficacy
  • Work -grading
  • Work - my student teacher (who is great and I shouldn't feel negative about....but apparently I am territorial)
  • Social Life - what on Earth did I do to all my close friendships...and do I have any hobbies anymore?
However, in order to not focus on the negative, here are some things I feel good about:
  • My relationship with my husband
  • My relationship with my students
  •  Science - I love the new integrated curriculum!
  • My dog - yes this is a weird thing to put on the list, but walking the dog and visiting the dog park on too fairly relaxing parts of my life at the moment
  • WCIRA (my local branch of the Colorado Council International Reading Association) - I am feeling good about my role in it and the literacy fair coming up (planned and orchestrated by yours truly)
  • Drama Club - I have an awesome group this year
  • Cross Country - it was great to be a full time coach for the first time ever; I had a much better relationship with the kids

2. Examine.

This step is supposed to be looking at internal (Mind, Heart- Relationships, Body) vs external (Work, Social, Family, Fun) and seeing if the two are balanced and also seeing if your struggle with individual categories. As mentioned, social, work, and body are pretty weak and relationships outside of my marriage are weak. Also, since I am obviously stressed out, I am not doing so good on my mind piece. Balancing mind is basically are you both challenging yourself intellectually and giving yourself time to relax. I am definitely not doing a good job at relaxing my mind, lately. So, knowing this are my issue areas, what next?

3. Set Goals.

  • Work: be ready for each week and accept that things aren't perfect, keep up on grading, take some time to connect with my colleagues both at and outside of work, use the messenger tool to keep in contact with my allies, aka parents (so hopefully my students don't overwhelm me with there awesome powers for incomplete and missing work)
  • Body: work out (not just walking) - maybe even do the half-marathon that Mary (coworker) asked me to join in on, only one cup of coffee (with less creamer), cut out the sweets
  • Invite friends over more often and more friends (whether I think we're close or not)
  • I don't know what category this is: keep the house tidy (use my cleaning list)
  • Fun: go hiking and biking more often (hiking at least once a month, biking at least once a week)
  • Mind: cut out the stupid puzzle games on the i-pad and read a book or meditate

4. Plan Tasks.

  • Work:
    • All grading for the week should be done by Tuesday of the next week --> grade more in class, the kids learn more from it anyways!
    • 3rd period = science plans
    • 7th and after school = social studies
    • *Schedule times to have official chats with Kelsey (student teacher); do not feel like I have to support her at every moment
    • Invite coworkers to FAC at my house at least twice this spring semester
    • Participate at least once a week in the work exercise group
  •  Other - this is an education blog, so I am going to drop that (but just remember to take care of all of you, it makes work less stressful, too)

5. Reflect.

What is the most important thing you’ve accomplished in the past? How did you stay focused toward this goal? How did you handle your fears, doubts, anxieties, worries, and negative self talk? How does it feel to know that you accomplished the goal in spite of these parts of yourself?
  • Just being the best teacher I can be every day is the most important thing I accomplished. I didn't focus on the fears, doubts, anxieties, worries, or negative self talk in the past. Instead, I focused on making changes and doing my best. I used to feel really annoyed with teachers who jumped into the tornado of negativity because I knew it was a mind-set you could accept or reject, so I guess I need to focus on the successes and the power I have to do better in the future and to constantly strive. I also need to remember that I was bored before I became a teacher and that other jobs didn't challenge, excite, or fulfill me as much as teaching does!
  • Always learning! Go to more conferences and learning opportunities. I have been decidedly neglectful of all the extra opportunities I could take to re-excite my teaching!

6. Prepare.

  • I don't feel like grading --> Grade at least one class a day for longer items (do not expect myself to take it home, home is for relaxing), grade it with the kids!, Mondays = grade all day if needed to get things in by Tuesday; sports need this info in a timely manner for eligibility
  • My plans aren't ready, oh well --> hold to my schedule, 3rd hour is always science, etc.
  • Spend one day a week with Jason (the other social studies teacher) and one with Daina (the other science teacher = better relationships with my colleagues and balancing that with enough time on my own
  • Kelsey is an excellent student teacher who is hell-bent on growing. Don't turn passive aggressive when frustrated, just talk to her.

7. Empower.

What do you need to remember in those times? What are things you can say to that self-sabotaging part of yourself? Be kind to yourself. Balance won’t feel good if you’re cruel to yourself in creating it!
  • "Remember the first and second year you - full of vim and vinegar!"
  • "You're happiest when grading is not looming over you!"
  • "Don't think like a 6th grader; the people around you are not out to get you and they don't dislike you."

8. Connect.

Is there a person or a tactic you can use to keep yourself supported, motivated, and focused in those hard times? I highly recommend connecting and sharing your inner process with someone. Find someone who can help you challenge your inner demons, and celebrate your little accomplishments.
  • I have a friend in mind - who tends to be uber-busy. If I can let her know I need her, maybe we can support each other (as we're both teachers and she is working on her masters degree right now).

9. Plan.

Just like accomplishing any goal in life, it takes time and effort to overcome your habitual patterns and create new ones. If you stay on track with this detailed and intentional process for three whole months, then there is a good chance you will create new habits to enjoy a more balanced life going forward!