Category Archives: Blogging

So, What DO they Remember After All of That?

 

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Nearing the end of the fast paced, often crazed, multi-layers of multitasking…planning and grading, teaching and re-teaching…what is it that kids remember of their school year with you? What do they find meaningful and lasting from your time together?

It’s worth stopping to see, because it’s the glue that holds all the rest together.

I had that opportunity when Mrs. Patterson, a retired teacher, took over my 5th grade class when I went to a meeting. She had my students write me a thank you/memory letter. And just what is it that really made an impact after our nine months together? The hours spent putting together that cool project? Those math lessons taught three different ways until they all got it? No…my black boots with the blue zippers!

Here is one comment pulled from each letter.

  • I like when you freak out when something good happens.
  • You are not grumpy, like if someone says a word to you, you won’t shout “GET BACK TO YOUR SEAT!!!”
  • I still remember the bunch of times you said, “I can’t follow you around your whole life.”
  • You played a huge role in teaching us how to be good human beings and the ways that we can do that.
  • I truly didn’t even know what a web 2.0 tool was before this year.
  • You aren’t so quiet and boring. You are kind of loud actually.
  • I think that you are funny, and I love that about you.
  • I let my brain run free and have a say!
  • You know how to keep people going, and you don’t give up on yourself. I never gave up because of you.
  • You always make it seem like we are a team
  • I loved watching Carl on CNN Student News.
  • You always like to swing at recess.
  • I love being able to do stuff that my sister, brother, dad, and mom can’t do on the computer!
  • You are very funny, but in a good way. Thanks for making us laugh.
  • Our classroom feels like home to me.
  • I love blogging, can we still do it over the summer too?
  • You have great taste of style! I love your black boots with the blue zippers.
  • I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of some of the places in the world that we worked with or skyped.
  • Even though you won’t be there personally, you will always be with me.
  • Well, I only have a minute to gather my life and get to the bus so…THANK YOU!
  • Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

Does knowing this help me with all of the work ahead for next year? No…but it sure puts things in perspective. You may want to give it a try before they’re gone for the year.

A re-post from last year.

Classroom 2.0 LIVE!

What an honor to be chosen as the Featured Teacher for Classroom 2.0 LIVE! If you are interested in Project-based Learning or 21st Century Learning, here is the recording.  Here’s the Livebinder link to all of the projects and resources mentioned in the presentation.

Make sure you visit the Classroom 2.0 LIVE site and check the calendar for upcoming events and archives. They are always a great resource for cutting edge education ideas and resources.

What’s YOUR Super Hero Power?

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Every once in a while I find myself in the middle of something magical. It starts out like any other thing, but somehow all of the pieces click…and it’s a convergence that could never have been expected. I’m in the middle of one of those now.

Hero in the Mirror started as a research and writing project. My 5th graders were going to choose a hero, investigate her/his life and accomplishments and then write an informational piece. Of course that was too stale and inauthentic for me, so I added a twist…and a few hand-springs, and a cart-wheel.

Starting with the premise: Every person has Super Hero Power potential.

Then…

  • I invite ‘every day heroes’ into our classroom to talk about their work and life.
  • Have 5th graders interview, film, organize the visits.
  • To end the visit, interviewers ask each guest, “What is your super hero power?”
  • Kids reflect on that and connect how the guest uses that power In their work and in their life.
  • They put their reflections in writing and post them on their blogs.

The project is still evolving as I follow the kids in their discoveries, but in the end…I will be asking each 5th grader to find their own ‘Hero in the Mirror’ and claim their super hero power.

So what’s so magical you ask?

  1. Brave souls saying ‘yes’ to 10-11 year olds, despite their own fears.
  2. Seeing so many busy people choosing to be with us for those 20 minutes.
  3. Watching the struggle many go through to uncover their super hero power, and then claiming it.
  4. Knowing that those ‘super heroes’ will forever hold that power differently after their visit.
  5. Watching my class hold each guest and each super hero power in equal esteem…coming from a college student, a parent, a famous director, a fast food worker…they hold them in equal light.
  6. The gift I’m receiving to be able to witness humanity is such a beautiful way.
  7. Knowing that the 5th graders involved will see the world, and themselves…and their place in our world forever differently….just as I will.

Please check out our website. We are still in the middle of things, so check back!

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Off and Running in a Technology Infused, Project-based Learning Classroom!

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Month one: hold on, here we go!

Camp! We returned from our three-day Outdoor Education trip in Wisconsin on Friday, so of course we started talking, writing and then blogging about Camp Timber-lee. Such enthusiasm and detail! Wow…sure pays to find something kids want to write about rather than forcing contrived prompts they don’t connect with.

We started our first Project-based Learning unit with Mrs. Parisi’s class in Long Island, The Denton DynamosUS Government: integrating reading, writing, history, and current events by studying some significant US laws. Students will trace laws back through time by reading and comparing electronic and paper sources. They are in teams of eight, four from the Dynamos and four from our class.  So far we’ve had two joint Skype lessons, and we begin collaborative research in Google Docs on Monday.

Today we meet the Wilderness Classroom team on Google Hangout before they head out on their journey. We will follow Amy Freeman and a team of geologists from UC Berkeley and MIT as they camp, canoe, hike, bike, and dogsled around the world to provide interactive classroom lessons. Here’s their itinerary.

  • Understand how the Slate Islands were formed.
    (September 2013) 
  • Explore the Boreal Forest by dogsled this winter and study a variety of topics including; weather, geology and erosion, watersheds, predator-prey relationships, wolves, the night sky, the physics of dogsledding, Ojibwa culture, Expedition ABC’s, and much more. (January – March 2014)
  • Explore the Amazon Rainforest. Join us as we follow in the footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt!
    (April – June 2014)

Then there is iEARN, (International Education and Resource Network )…where their motto is “Learning with the world, not just about it.” We will be joining a Learning Circle with classrooms around the world to engage and collaborate in the My Hero Project.

The 100 World Challenge! I’ve written about it before, so click the link for more information. The kids love this weekly challenge, and it really helps develop word choice.

Lastly math. Our district is currently in the process of adapting our math instruction to meet the Common Core Standards. The infusion of MangahighLearnZillion, and Khanacademy  have really helped with re-teaching while allowing me to get quick snapshots of who is getting it and who needs more support. This instant feedback is critical to my teaching as I reflect and adapt to meet the kids where they are. We’re taking our time to make sure the train isn’t going with no one on!

As I add tech tools to my students’ repertoire, I add them to our  Symbaloo page. They have access to this wherever they are. This site will grow and change as we go.

All in all, a great start to the year!

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I almost forgot! Our class song:)

Blogging for Writing Instruction is Nothing short of Amazing!

Having read the dreaded “I am going to tell you about” 5-paragraph essay until my eyes glaze over and I fall into a comatose state, I have spent years scouring the earth for engaging approaches to writing. My quest has taken me to the promising lands of writing clubs, writer’s notebooks, and writer’s workshops, Four-square, and Six Traits, mystery bags, photo prompts, guided imagery, peer review, passed around team writing, speed writing, personal journals, and Morning Pages. Some were more engaging than others, but nothing too impressive…until….blogging.

So, why is blogging so cool? Here we go!

  • An authentic audience.
  • Revising! Without begging…and sometimes even student initiated.
  • Reading of each other’s writing…ON THEIR OWN! And making positive comments!
  • Full control over what gets published…without tons of paper piles.
  • Interactions between my students and 5 other schools around the world in Australia, Ireland, Taiwan, Canada, New York, Iowa, and The Netherlands
  • Writing…more writing than I could imagine….in every curricular area….long and short, formal and scientific, researched and  opinion, argument, informational, narrative…every single day…WITHOUT COMPLAINTS!
  • Creativity to make it more fun by adding visual appeal with pictures, drawings and designs.
  • Collaboration in all kinds of ways, and in all kinds of projects.
  • Interactions and questions and investigation, not only on their own work, but on other students’ work.
  • Possibilities of meaningful homework (although I haven’t used that much)
  • Even a student initiated, organized, and implemented disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

And I saved the best for last. There is a student that is so quiet…so inside of himself…that I didn’t hear his voice for almost a week after school started. He says almost nothing to anyone all day. When I read his writing the first time, I cried. Even now, months later, to see how perceptive, intelligent, and introspective he is…and to see how the other kids respond to him in writing, and to see how caring he is to other students….well, it is absolutely amazing. This was an opportunity for all us to see him in a different light. His classmates treat him differently now. They actually see him. They include him and invite him…and in response, he has opened up more to them.

That miracle was worth the whole ride itself, but to see the overall transformation of a process that I used to dread and now look forward to with great anticipation….that is amazing.

I use kidblog.org. Here are some step-by-step directions to set up student blogs, as well as some projects to start you out. Blogging in the Classroom

Teaching Word Choice? Nothing better than 100 Word Challenge!

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Tired of reading dull, repetitive prose? Cringe at stunted paragraphs void of  luster and vibrance? Your students need the 100 Word Challenge

“We ask children to write in school but often there is no apparent purpose that they can see other than pleasing their teacher! This can prompt some very reluctant writers in our classrooms. The 100 Word Challenge seeks to address this problem.”

The 100 Word Challenge is a weekly creative prompt for kids under 16 years old. 100 words seemed like a lot to my students today…but after they got started they said things like, “I can’t do it in 100!”, “I have 109 and I can’t take any out!” All I could say was….look for good word choice. Take out the words that don’t add meaning. And they listened! Once they are posted, students all over the world read and comment on them. They may not care that much what I have to say, but they sure love to hear from their peers. Nothing beats an authentic audience.

Let’s see how you do…here’s this week’s prompt:…suddenly I heard a crack… Remember, only 100!

‘The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.’     Ursula K. Le Guin

Starting Your Year with Student Blogging

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If you haven’t considered blogging with your students, now’s the time!

I’ve taught fifth grade for the past 14 years, I have never found a more powerful approach to teaching writing than blogging. It creates an authentic audience, and kids actually want to write. I have an easy step by step guide to starting off on a good foot.

 

 

Click the title below for a more detailed explanation with resources.

Overview of Lessons to Begin Blogging

1. Make paper blogs to teach blogging. Here’s the lesson plan:
Paper Blogs: McTeach lesson

2.  7 Random Facts About Me To teach what information can be on a public space, and what can not.

3. Establish Blogging Guidelines.

4. Quality Comments

5. Start with small assignments

6. International Dot Day: How will you make a difference in the world?

7. Include parents

8. Connect with a couple of classrooms

9.Let them explore with color and style to personalize their blog site

10.Don’t grade! At least not at first.

11.Blog at least weekly                                                                                                         

12.Be Patient

Here’s a great article about the State of Blogging:

The State of Educational Blogging 2013

There are more resources linked here.