Let’s Make The School Year More Like Summer

 

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Happy summer!  When I see parents, teachers, and kids over the summer they have a certain happy glow about them.  The weather is warmer, the days are longer, the summer is about having fun and enjoying some rest and relaxation.  Why can’t we maintain that positive attitude all year?  There is no need to sink into a depression at the end of August! Here are some ways to keep the school year feeling more like summer, even when the weather changes.

 

1. Summer is fun, school can be fun too!

Don’t smile until Christmas is so old school and doesn’t actually work. Teachers can make learning fun and exciting for kids by taking some tips from our favorite summer activities. Keep things active, don’t be afraid to be silly, don’t be afraid to get messy.  As an adult learner, I know that my favorite professional development activities have been ones where I’m laughing and feeling good about my practice. Take a tip from Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like A Pirate. His book is full of “hooks” and other activities to mix it up and make sure to always keep the kids on their toes.

2. Summer is about exploration and wonder.  Hmmmmm.

In the summer kids get to choose, follow as they wonder, and explore things that actually interest them.  When I talk to my own kids about their day at camp, they talk about the new things they tried that they have never done before. They aren’t afraid to take risks when they are out of the classroom. They are more likely to go for it without worrying about how it will look to others. As teachers, we should be working hard to create that kind of attitude in our classrooms. Let’s celebrate when kids put themselves out there, regardless of the outcome, because those experiences lead to the kind of learning that will last.

3. Parents are not on their kids’ case in the summer.

That’s not really fair.  They aren’t on their kids’ case because there is no tedious homework to do. We can change that by making sure homework is actually meaningful and has value. Not just a never ending stream worksheets for “practice”.  With all of the technology that we have at our disposal, it’s easy for teachers to flip lessons and offer blended learning opportunities. Instead of lecturing to our students, how about having them get that information by watching a video for homework? Then, they can apply, connect, and check for understanding through active learning opportunities in the classroom.

4. Don’t stress and De-stress.

There’s plenty of activity going on over the summer. Some of the activities the kids participate in are even dangerous (bike riding, skate boarding, climbing, boating, etc.) and yet the kids are not stressed.  Let’s make our classrooms areas of high risk activity (learning), without the stress. The kids will take their cues from the adults around them. I am definitely guilty of this. “Summer mom” is definitely more laid back than “School year mom”! This fall I’m going to try to let my students and my own children know that it’s important to keep our stress in check. Stretching, yoga, and breathing exercises are good for everyone and it can be a wonderful habit to begin with your students. Love the sound of the waves? Why not listen to wave sounds all year round? Sometimes we just need to laugh, get creative, run around, or get some fresh air to let off some steam.

5. Eat outside.

Ok, I live near Chicago so that’s not really going to work.  The point is, change your venue once in a while.  When my family eats outside in the summer it is such a wonderful treat. Find ways to get out of your classroom and let’s get the kids learning in many different environments.  If you are fortunate enough to have nice weather for many months, take advantage of the outdoor spaces that you have.  If the weather makes it challenging to be outside, find other areas of the building where you can have your students creating and collaborating. The connections in their brains will thank you.
photo credit: Escape via photopin (license)

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Are You Flipping Kidding Me? Why Would I Flip?

Are You Flippin’ Kidding Me?

Why Would I Flip?

@joe_edtech & @LisaBerghoff

This article is co-written and cross posted by Joe & Lisa. You can also find it on Joe’s Blog: WarriorEdTech

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It isn’t about using technology because it is flashy, and it definitely isn’t about more industrial age efficiency. Integrating instructional technology is about being able to do something that you’ve never been able to do before. It is about re-imagining the classroom, and everything else about school.

 Last Saturday, we had an opportunity to host a Google Education On Air Hangout on the “Flipped Classroom” during which we provided our participants with a description and history of the Flipped Classroom teaching model, clear reasons why each of us tried it with our students, and some evidence of it’s effectiveness. If you are interested in reading more about that as well as accessing some tools to help you get started, you are welcome to visit the “Flipped Classroom Resources” webpage we created.

 However, we don’t want to take up our blog space and inundate our loyal readers (a.k.a. – Joe’s Mom) with a lot of information about what and how. We think it is really important to start with why. Why would you take the time to flip your class? Probably the best way to explain it is through the eyes of a few students. First, we want you to see class through the eyes of Lisa’s Special Ed US History students.

 

@LisaBerghoff:

 My US History students all have IEPs.  Reading and writing is challenging for them and US History is dense with written information. Our textbook, while adapted for reluctant readers, is very long and intimidating. I wanted my students to be able to access the information but then do something with that information. I wanted them to apply their learning, make connections and predictions for the future based on what they are learning about the past. I wanted them to participate in activities that require them to think critically, make a claim, and support it with evidence. However, most of our class time was being used to read the material, talk about the content, and reach for a basic level of understanding. I was assigning homework activities that required them to extend their learning but I quickly became frustrated because many of my students were not completing the homework. The students who were completing it often missed the mark and the quality was nowhere near what I thought they could do.

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 I decided to take a risk and assign a video for homework. The students would watch the video to get the information and then we could use our class time to work in small groups to apply what they learned. I was amazed when all of my students watched the 5 minute video. I gave them a short survey and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  Watching a video for homework was a low-stakes activity.  Everyone could access the video and it was much easier for them to get the information in this manner.  I was so encouraged I tried several other approaches.  For one assignment, I read the lesson from the text and recorded myself while highlighting the important information.  I then took it one step further and created a Zaption “tour” with this video by embedding questions. I could check the analytics to see who had watched the video and their answers were recorded and even graded for me! I could see how long the students spent on the videos.  One student clearly forwarded the video and just answered the questions.  Another student watched it more than once. This was exactly the kind of differentiation I was looking for.  The students had some control, everyone was able to get what they needed, and our class time was spent doing the kinds of activities that push their thinking and maintain the high standards that I have for my students.

 @joe_edtech:

That’s the success story. On the flip side – pun intended – my daughter spends hours and hours struggling with her math homework. It is no fun, and I fear that the constant frustration will lead her to dislike math, or worse, school. When she is in class, the teacher explains the concepts and the skills, and it all makes perfect sense. But by the time she gets home, she has forgotten much of the teacher’s instruction. It is just one of many classes and activities she participates in every day. More than once Katherine has said, “Ugh, I just wish I could see her work this problem again.” And that kind of thinking shouldn’t surprise us. She is used to looking up instruction on YouTube. When she wants to learn how to fix her hair a certain way, or create something new with her Rainbow Loom, or generate ideas for building in Mine Craft, she turns FIRST to YouTube and other digital resources available to her. Imagine how empowered she would be if she could review her math, or science, or music lessons in the same way.

 From a Technology Director’s perspective, I love the Flipped Classroom idea because it can act as a “Gateway Drug” to the integration of much more instructional technology, and can help facilitate the shift from teaching-centered classrooms to learning-centered classrooms. And as Lisa mentioned before, you don’t have to invest hundreds of hours to try it. All you have to do is “Flip” one lesson, one time.

You can still be a part of the conversation. Our Google Hangout Webinar “Flipped & Blended Learning for the Chromebook Classroom” is embedded below. If you have any questions, please contact us via Twitter or leave a comment in the box below.

 

 

Appreciation, Celebration, and Gratitude

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week here in the US and for educators it is often a time  to reflect on those who helped us become the teachers we are today.

 

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I know so many teachers who say that they knew when they were very young that they wanted to become teachers.  How many first graders are going home and playing school?  You have to figure that at least a few of them will actually continue on to become educators.  So many of my educator friends  can pinpoint a specific teacher who so inspired them that they wanted to grow up be just like them.

That was not me.  I wanted to own a restaurant, or be involved in owning some sort of business.  Even after graduating from college, I did not really have teaching on my radar.  I liked school just fine but it was not my passion.  I came to teaching in a more roundabout way but now I could not imagine doing anything else.

When I think about the teachers that I had, there is one teacher who does come to mind as someone who played an instrumental role in shaping who I am today in the classroom.  Mr. Sprague taught social studies at my high school.  I took one of his classes as a freshman.  It was called “Man In His Changing Society”, can you imagine??  I liked Mr. Sprague. I did not love social studies and I did not have a burning interest at that time for learning about cultures.  What I liked about him was that he was so engaging.  So many of my teachers stayed behind the safety of their lectern at the front of the classroom. Mr. Sprague was all over the place.  He would get so close to you, and ask you questions. He would put you on the spot but in a friendly, non-threatening way.  I took another one of his classes as a senior.  A political science class.  Again, not my passion, but I enjoyed being in Mr. Sprague’s class.  He once spent an entire class period talking to us about the importance of driving safely in the winter conditions.   He shared a story about dropping his glove in his car and realizing that in order to reach it he would have to take his eyes off the road.  He let us know that he let his glove sit on the floor of his car until he got to school.  He cared about us that much.  Even today, teachers often fret about not having enough time to get through all of their curriculum.  That certainly was true back when I was in school and it is still true to this day but Mr. Sprague thought that it would be best use of our time on that day to talk to us about being safe.  He cared.  For that I am grateful to Mr. Sprague.  It reminds me to keep things in perspective.  Remember, we are teaching students and not subjects.

I’m also reflecting this week on the great fortune that I have  to work with  incredibly talented and unselfish colleagues.  There has been a trending hashtag on Twitter called #CelebrateMonday and I am so happy to say that I enjoy walking into school every Monday.  I happen to work with people who can make me laugh until tears roll down my face.  That is certainly something to celebrate.  Monday is always full of possibilities.  I haven’t had the chance to completely mess up the week (yet) and I’m ready to try all of the new things that I came up with over the weekend.  I work with a collaborative group of professionals who give me valuable feedback and keep me on my toes.

I am also so appreciative for my online P2LN (personal/professional learning network). Since I have been working to become a more connected educator I have grown exponentially.  I am gaining amazing resources, engaging in powerful conversations, and using what I am learning in my own classroom.

I’m hoping that you will join me in appreciation, celebration and gratitude.  Happy Teacher Appreciation/#CelebrateMonday everyone!

 

 

&nbspBy asenat29 [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons