Our ability to think and work creatively is heavily influenced by our workplace….the size of the container. District size doesn’t matter. What matters is group norms and culture. We can’t always control that in our work environments, but we can expand our container by connecting with expansive thinkers.
Intentionally choosing expansive thinkers as thought partners has been the defining element in my professional life. One way I’ve expanded my container is through work with a global team of educators. We only know what we know, and if we limit ourselves to our own district, we are often just reaffirming what we already think. Our global team was asked to keynote at the recent Global Education Conference.
How big is your container? Mine is as big as the world.
Music is good for the soul. Share the love. Donating the cost of one lesson that we may pay for our own kids goes along way for these kids.
The Chicago Metamorphosis Orchestra Project (ChiMOP) is a community youth orchestra program dedicated to affecting positive social change in young students with limited access to the arts by providing a safe and fun environment for them to make music in pursuit of artistic excellence together with peers and role models.
Currently, ChiMOP has two programs. The Summer Orchestra Camp, launched in May 2013, and a school partnership program with Mary Lyon Elementary School, launched September 2013, that provides daily group lessons, string orchestra, wind ensemble, symphony orchestra, bucket band, and choir as well as opportunities to perform and attend concerts around the city throughout the year for more than 100 young students in the Belmont Cragin community. All program costs are completely free to all students.
To see the whole post: Click HERE for more information.
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.
- 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?
- Brave souls saying ‘yes’ to 10-11 year olds, despite their own fears.
- Seeing so many busy people choosing to be with us for those 20 minutes.
- Watching the struggle many go through to uncover their super hero power, and then claiming it.
- Knowing that those ‘super heroes’ will forever hold that power differently after their visit.
- 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.
- The gift I’m receiving to be able to witness humanity is such a beautiful way.
- 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!
Posted in Blogging, Classroom stories, Hero in the Mirror
Tagged 5th graders, education, Hero, Hero in the Mirror, Joan Steffend, Leadership, super hero power, super heroes, Superhero
Sunday morning…8:00 am in Illinois, 9:00 am in New York and Massachusetts, 2:00 pm in Ireland, 9:00 pm in Taiwan and Malaysia…
Teachers meeting around the world, on one of the few times and days of the week that work for everyone because no one is teaching or sleeping at the time: Sundays. We meet to share ideas, projects and stories. We meet in our homes or in our classrooms. We compare curriculum and obstacles. We share resources and support.
The world we live in is amazing.
I came across a secret note in my classroom desk from a student. She must have hidden it there at some point. It was the typical style note you see in 5th grade, folded, stapled shut and written in red pen. On the front it said:
Do Not Open Until May 2018!
Well, I did what any self-respecting adult would do; I opened it immediately. It had one simple line: Dear Mrs. Roman. Thank you. You have truly changed my life. This got me thinking. Don’t we all change the lives of everyone we encounter? I can look back at seemingly insignificant interactions with people who totally changed the course of my life, sometimes in just a few words. “You’ll never go back to college. Once someone quits, they don’t go back,” from someone I only saw once when I was 19 years old in a group of us eating pizza at Joe’s Italian Foods in South Pasadena. I had quit school at St. Thomas University in St. Paul and moved to Los Angeles, every parent’s nightmare. Another time I recall was in a train station leaving on a trip with my then three-year-old daughter. I was gripping her tiny hand and we were scurrying along in my usual hurried way when an older, gray-haired woman came up to me and kindly said, “That is an awfully quick pace for those little legs,” as she looked down and smiled at my daughter. As I sat on the 8-hour train ride, my anger at her rudeness in a matter that was none of her business melted away as I sat looking out the window at the blur of passing phone poles.
Scanning through interactions with people in my life that I can recall, some positive, some negative, most neutral, and surely millions gone from memory forever, I get the feeling that each one of those exchanges had the potential to impact my life or someone else’s in some way. Is it really important that we recognize each interaction that affects us or each time we have affected people we encounter? There are thousands of times this kind of thing happens in our weaving in and out of each other’s lives. Was it crucial that the guy in Joe’s know that he angered me enough to propel me back into college? And was it important that the woman in the train station realize that her comment pushed me to shift my way of being in the world in such a way that the quality of not only my life, but also the lives of my children, was significantly improved?
It would be nice to know those things, but in most cases we wont. That thought sure makes me see the every day in a different light.
Reposted from a year ago.
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
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.
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
Here’s a great article about the State of Blogging:
There are more resources linked here.
Posted in Blogging, Collaboration, Education Technology, Global Education, Project Based Learning, Teaching resources
Tagged Blog, blogging, Digital Literacy, education, Educators, K through 12, Lesson plan, Literacy
PBL for the 21st Century Success: Teaching Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity, looks like another wonderful edition to the Project-based Learning books published through the non-profit Buck Institute for Education (BIE). Suzy Boss, lead author, and John Larmer, Editor-in-Chief of BIE, summarized the book in their June 5th webinar. Although it was written for middle and high school, as 5th grade teacher, I think it would work for upper elementary as well. I’ll give a few highlights here, but it is really worth a closer look.
- Focuses on integrating and explicitly teaching the 21st century competencies, the 4Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication
- There are chapters that focus on each of the 4Cs that provide:
- Example projects
- Classroom ‘Look fors’ that we should be seeing over time to demonstrate learning
- Infographics that deliberately explain how the Cs can be integrated in every aspect of the project
- Rubrics to assess the Cs at all of the four stages of the project
In addition, you will find:
- Research highlights throughout
- Non-fiction emphasis
- Alignment with the Common Core and explanations
- Reflection prompts
- Tech tips to help support the development of the 4Cs
You will find the webinar archived here.
The book, as well as their introductory PBL books, can be purchased here.
You can find all of their webinars:
Posted in Collaboration, Common Core, Education, PBL, Project Based Learning, Teaching resources
Tagged BIE, Collaboration, Common Core, Communication, Creativity, Critical thinking, education, Project Based Learning
Before my 5th graders move on to middle school, they’ve shared some of their expertise in their Advice Columns. Here are some tips for teachers.
- What I want in a good teacher is one that is nice, but isn’t totally lame and just lets you do whatever so you don’t learn anything.
- I want a teacher that will still teach you so much and have a good time while doing it.
- You need to be funny.
- Make sure everyone is in a group and no one is left out.
- Try to collaborate with another class/school on a project.
- If there is a natural disaster, don’t freak out. Instead try to help out and start a fundraiser with your students.
- Be the kindest you can be.
- Don’t assume what a kid might say and ask, but listen to them.
- Try to help the world.
- Get kids involved. Try to do as many projects as you can.
- Get attached to your students. Make them feel welcome and happy to be in your class.
- Try KidBlog. It is a safe and easy way to blog with other kids on a kid safe website where you can track your kids’ writing.
- Don’t always be so serious.
- Trust me, I learned all this the hard way. I started the year by asking my teacher everything, instead of just doing what I need to do. She sure changed that. If you still can’t take charge of your own life by middle school the only thing I have to tell you is: good luck.
- I want a teacher that can take charge when they need to. But not a teacher that yells at you all the time just because she wants to.
- Make sure that you wear cute outfits all of the time. It not only makes you look better, but I think helps.
- Be a good combo of stern, nice, taking control, and teaching. I think that is the best kind of teacher to be like.
- When you have a sub, assign (within reason) fun things to do! DO not assign a boring thing just because a sub is there. It is like when I babysit. If I am boring or if their mom tells me to do boring stuff, then you have a big job to make it fun, but you will pull it off!
- It is not right to think that you know what is right for your students. The kids probably know what is good for them. I think you should know that the students know what is in their mind.
- Encouragement is one thing and Toughness is something else. I think that you should encourage the kids to think.
- Let us figure out things on our own so we get more responsible.
- Have a little fun with us.
- Do a lot of global projects.
- Think outside of the box when you are teaching.
- Look for a fun way to teach things.
- If you are a nice teacher who reprimands when needed and has fun with teaching and is fun to kids when you teach, then you are golden.
My 5th grade class and I completed our first Genius Hour today!
The projects they came up with were as varied as the kids. They actually made quite a bit of progress.
Projects were: learning computer coding, making a mini biosphere, learning about MRI machines, designing websites, creating computer games, designing and creating a dog collar, writing/filming/editing a short movie, learning about Figi by planning an imaginary trip, understanding the parts inside a computer, creating a robot, writing music, designing and building a better violin case, and designing a house.
There was a lot of tech, and then some plain old paper, pencil and tangible materials involved.
They hated to stop when the hour was over. The kids were thrilled to have the principal, George Petmezas, stop by so they could show him what they were doing. The excitement was palpable. When you feel that in the air, it’s easy to see how true learning happens.