Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ann's Thing 6

Mrs. Kubler’s 4th Grade Reading Wiki showcased a well organized, attractive wiki which provided all students the opportunity to collaborate integrating technology tools and learning tools for reading. I particularly liked the upper tabs which provided quick access to a list of discussion topics with links to each. My students and I have struggled with the format of our classroom wiki especially with discussion questions. I would very much like to organize a wiki similar to Mrs. Kubler’s for the express purpose of reading groups. Any tips are welcome. Mr. Lindsay’s wiki on pbworks is similar to my classroom wiki, though larger and better organized. Useful, accessible, but lacks the attractive features of Kubler’s. I like the fact that his seemed to be a continual work in progress, a thing growing; whereas Mrs. Kubler’s appears to be created for the express purpose of studying Tuck Everlasting. Barnett’s wiki, FHS Wolves Den, appears to be a link to a conglomerate of teaching tools and information which is available for other teachers to use. I see a need a need for all three. If you did not check out the story timeline, this is a must! I have classroom wikis and this year they have been very useful for providing students access to curriculum and lesson plans when absent. No excuses. Besides integrating technology into the classroom, wikis are also a very proficient storage tool. They do, however, require time to play, to learn how to integrate all their useful gadgets, if you and your students are going to reap the benefits.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thing 5: Teen News

While encouraging my students to read, reflect, and blog, I continually search for teen news articles which might grab their attention. Topix fits the bill quite well. Students scan an updated list of short informative attention getters, enabling them to quickly choose a topic, read, then reflect on their blogs.

Thing 4: Introducing Blogging in the Classroom

Jeff Utecht on The Thinking Stick shares some very useful ideas for introducing students to blogging without restricting what they can or cannot put on their own blog site. Providing access to a fifth grade classroom teacher's blog,Room 227, with additional access to student blogs, examples are available to share with students who often need models to get started. Jeff uniquely addresses the overwhelming use of widgets that students find cute for a time, and asks them to consider their own favorite websites and what exactly they find on these websites that attracts their attention and brings them back. As Jeff advocates allowing students to discover what does and does not work on their own, students retain ownership and pride in their own blogs.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Seeing the World from Each Student's Perspective

Dan Brown states all teachers need to see Where the Wild Things Are to remind us of our student’s view of the world. Can we possibly see the world from each student’s viewpoint? As a resource language arts teacher I teach only small groups and often fail to realize how things come across to all of my students. How can a regular classroom teacher possibly accomplish this feat? Recently my students began reading Cut by Patricia McCormick which I had already read and truly believed had a positive message for my students. What did I not see? I, unlike my students, knew how the book would end. One of my students did not wait until the end. He saw Callie’s action “cutting” as a means of getting attention and attempted it himself. Was he simply seeking attention? Yes. However, I am the one who failed to see Callie’s story from this student’s point of view. I should have anticipated this possible view just by knowing my students. Some intervention was obviously needed early in the story for this student. We did not stop reading. All parties involved believed it was important that he realize, just as Callie soon realizes, that he is important and we do care. Yes, I will go see Where the Wild Things Are, and I will keep my students’ viewpoint in mind when I choose my next topic.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Arkansas' Report Card

Have you looked at the state by state report card on innovation and technology? It seems Arkansas ranks high in data. I can believe that. I guess we just need to do a better job WITH that data. We seem to be doing a fairly good job working with colleges on dual classes, however, not so well preparing students for the workplace. IT is time Arkansas school leaders understand not every student goes to college. While speaking with a parent today, I indicated a need to prepare his son for transitioning into a vocational school. This parent's reply, "The only vocational schools left in Arkansas are in the prisons." What happens to the students that need vocational training? How can high schools prepare students for something that doesn't exist? As educators we cannot forget this group of students that also need a place in the workforce and the 21st century.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thing 4: An Innate Need to Talk

In Jay William’s blog he reflects on Klosterman’s surmise that humans have an innate need to talk which is why they answer questions. I am depending on this very innate need to talk to reach my less motivated seniors. If Klosterman is correct, just maybe their desire to create their own blog or website will provide them an initiative to read and write for their own personal reasons. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a long journey that will lead to improved reading and writing skills. Of course, like us, it may also be a short lived journey cast aside as other life obstacles move up their priority list. I enjoy reading comments from peers and staying aware of new developments, however, I struggle to make blogging a daily routine. I do believe, however, that blogging may well be my best opportunity to reach these otherwise unreachable seniors, as blogging will provide each student the chance to read and respond to information of personal interest and not limit them to the imparting facts of the classroom. Who knows, maybe we can build a habit together.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Possibilities & Authenticity

Reading Katie Hanifin’s article in Edweek, suggest our job as educators is to open our students’ eyes to possibilities. As I reflect on our discussion tonight during Classroom Redesign concerning authentic learning, I believe the two ideas must coincide. The authenticity for each student may not be the same, just as opening their eyes to possibilities will be different for each. 21st Century teaching appears to be way outside the box. As we encourage students to think more for themselves and become more involved in their own learning, we, as teachers, must provide enough freedom, enabling them to look for their own possibilities and create their own authentic learning.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thing 4: Cursive Writing - A Lost Art?

As schools muster students to be prepared for the future, some parents and educators fear cursive writing may become a thing of the past. Is this a loss we need to be concerned about? Both MSNBC and EdWeek carried an article from a Charleston, West Virginia parent who contacted her daughter’s school after realizing her 8th grade daughter could not legibly sign her own name. Apparently handwriting is only taught in 3rd grade at her school. The article continues to address the fact that students see little need to spend hours learning cursive writing when the only real life need for the task is to write notes to self or the power crashes. As educators we strive to address students’ realistic educational needs, and it is true, cursive writing may be on the way out like the typewriter. I have yet to ask my granddaughter who, by the way, is attending 4th grade in West Virginia, if she is practicing handwriting this year. I know they do not have computers in their classroom, so I suggest schools not get the cart before the horse. Should we be concerned about this lost art? Maybe it could be taught in art class? What do you think? Comments welcome.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Organizational Tools for Learning

Reflecting on this article from Lake Cormorant Middle School on integrating Think Maps to organize information, I can’t help but think that the idea might benefit our students needing remediation, and all of our struggling students for that matter. As I read tests to our resource students and one after another obviously has not read the chapter, or taken any notes, I realize our students do not know how to study. Those that do take notes, I find the notes disorganized and virtually useless. This subpopulation of students, as well as others I’m sure, would greatly benefit from learning to use Think Maps to organize information. By beginning the school year with this concept in every classroom, Lake Cormorant students rapidly mastered the process without other learning being affected. For teachers searching for a way to differentiate instruction in their classroom, this is a possible avenue that could benefit all students.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Willingness to Change

Edgar Allan Poe introduced himself into my classroom Monday morning through an interactive activity with The Black Cat. Pre-assessment discussion informed me that only one of my students had ever read any of his work. Since this activity provided audio of the short story and response through click and drag of visual images, differentiation was in place. Poe took care of the rest with his horrid imagery which lends itself easily to reflection. Students worked in pairs discussing the story and reflecting on our class wiki. Not a single piece of paper exchanged hands. Students perched and lounged with their mini laptops wherever they chose, even the porch bench. Every student stayed on task. Not one student exclaimed “how boring”! Now, compare this to me reading aloud The Black Cat to the students, walking the room to keep them awake, and asking questions at the end to see if they were truly listening. How can any teacher not see the need for change?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Time and A Season for Poe

After Mrs. Gillmore planted the idea of a Unit on Edgar Allan Poe, I spent my weekend reading and researching the possibilities. Once an avid reader of his works, I’m afraid I no longer welcome the uneasiness I developed this weekend at unusual sounds in the dark or unwelcome dreams in the night. However, this is definitely an element welcome to most teens. Stephen King’s Duma Key and Matthew Pearl’s The Dante Club are just two recent examples of authors influenced by Poe. On a Raven’s Wing: New Tales in Honor of Edgar Allan Poe by Mary Higgins Clark and nineteen other authors commemorates Poe’s 200th birthday. As Mrs. Gillmore indicated, Poe’s writing also provides insightful examples of the elements of writing to sneak in on the students. The web also offered numerous possibilities for integrating technology into the unit. Looking for short stories to introduce literature circles into my classroom this fall, the season truly is perfect for Poe. Thank you Mrs. Gillmore for sharing your idea.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What Inspires Students?

I witnessed a totally unexpected, but welcome, spark in my classroom this morning. Last night I resumed working on my blog even after attending our 21clc meeting and working afterwards in my room until late. Yes, this is addictive, even though many newbies may not think so at this time. I had the same feelings. Until now. As it was getting late, I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? This is cosmetic. Not really important.” My answer, “It is cool, and I like it.” It was a simple task, really. I was linking a list of new book arrivals on my classroom blog to the author’s website. What I did not realize, was this would be the link to motivating my lethargic seniors to participate in reading, writing, and creating. As I demonstrated a student’s blog post of a recent book she read and linked to her author, I casually clicked over on the class list of new arrivals and arrived at Laurie H. Anderson’s website, www.thewriterlady.com “That IS cool. I want a dot com! I do too. Why can’t we create our own dot com? She has got it goin on! Yeah, my girlfriend is reading Wintergirls.” I saw sparks from this group I did not know could exist. What could I say? Look guys, I am willing to do this, however, we will be learning together. Are the little things we do as we learn and create with Web 2.0 important? Obviously, the time I spent last night paid off. Anderson’s link within Web 2.0 inspired students in my small literacy classroom in Batesville, Arkansas. This endeavor is way outside the box, and I need assistance. Any recommendations anyone out there might have, are extremely welcome.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blogging: It's About Connecting People and Ideas

Connecting, reading, and sharing in 21clc. As Mr. Meyer shared his feelings of disgrace about not assigning homework, I so connected to this feeling as recently as today! In my effort to instill responsible behavior in my high school students, I actually alienated them from my class. What is more important, getting potential drop-outs to enjoy attending class or assigning them homework I know they are not going to return? One might remind me of the value of responsibility, however, I know one of these young men works full time at a local factory and realizes the importance of attendance, timeliness, and arriving with appropriate attire. The difference he says, “Money”! As students are always asking why do something, adults ask the same question. Reading this blog gave me a reason to respond and a place to substantiate my feelings about the subject.
Creating Life Long Learners was very informative; however, I noticed a lack of substantiation because there were no comments. I realized that the comments of others helped verify information we bravely put out on the World Wide Web. There were helpful links available on this blog which is more easily accessible on the web than in print.
Patrick’s Update presents very realistic stories of encouragement connecting one young boy to the world. He is no longer alone. Web 2.0 helps each of us connect regardless of age on a very personal basis as well as professionally.
Will Richardson, a well know professional, affords a look into his more personal life by sharing his concerns about his children beginning a new school. Blogging enables individuals to share real life stories, linking to others who have similar experiences.
Pair a Dime blogger indicates even our early learners realize the value of copy and paste of busy work and the lack of importance of rote memorization. Web 2.0 enables us to share examples, graphics, and knowledge. Blogging and sharing enables us to share information, think together, and open our minds. Our children realize the world is at their fingertips.
Blog reading and writing facilitates many different opinions and freedom to express them. Ideas grow out of comments, opinions changed; those unsure make decisions and the reading continues. Reading printed material provides less access and access is not as timely. The same is true of writing, comments may occur, but not as timely, enabling instant gratification, questions, and further growth. The writing is factual, realistic, and reflective. Blog reading allows more skimming for information and relevant ideas. It is easier to move on and search for information relevant to you. Just like with the homework, once I had a feel for the comments, I was able to skim through for the more positive comments, leaving the negative except for those with constructive comments or ideas. Blog reading and writing provides a limitless source and audience.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lit Lab Model

Knowledge, a valuable tool within itself, becomes quite useless when buried unused beneath layers and layers of more knowledge. Ken Stamatis modeled Literacy Lab within one of our own 10th grade English classrooms on Thursday, driving home this very point. As he opened the class with a ten to fifteen minute brainstorm of the derivative, spect, within that same time period, all students were engaged and exposed to a whiteboard covered with vocabulary words and a discussion of their meaning. He also managed to shut down the only possible behavior problem, drawing in this same young man by asking him for assistance in handing out papers. Next, sharing a read aloud, Stamatis modeled the use of retrospect and exposed the students to a young adult novel. There were multi-purposes for all of his activities. Each involved reading and writing, exposing the students to writing strategies and young adult novels. With a quick four word assessment he instantly knew who understood what he was modeling and who did not, using small group tier 2 to address the later while others read their individual books. None of the above is new to those of us who attended Ken Stamatis’ classes or Lit Lab at Harding University, however, knowledge becomes like an encyclopedia if not used, something to look up and read about. Every now and then we need refreshers to revive the knowledge buried within, enabling us to put to practice what obviously works for the students. Thank you Ken Stamatis and our 21C team leaders for making this happen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Out of Lurking!

If you find yourself drowning in Web 2.0 I highly recommend a visit to Steve Hargadon's website. After reading "Web 2.0 Is the Future of Education, I was elated to discover there was hope for me in Web 2.0. I actually visualized myself in his seven step plan. Immersed with colleagues this summer in Web 2.0 who were already quite proficient with blogs and wikis, I realized I have been lurking, ( not procrastinating like I thought), and lurking fit into his plan. Strangely enough, his article gave me the confidence I needed to now "get my feet wet' by taking the next step, participate. "Be brave," he says. However, this is not the motivating step that really gave me the initiative to begin. His third step, "Digest This Thought: The Answer to Information Overload Is to Produce More Information" encompassed every feeling I have had all summer and well into fall. Only by jumping in can I learn to swim. As my students and I delve into our 21st Century learning, I see a gleam in their eyes as they realize, they are not the only learners in the room; we are learning together, and that matters.

Web 2.0

Classroom mini computers, projector, document camera, and large display screens have already changed my professional practice and student participation this fall. With less need for the copy machine, I find more need for jump drives, classroom websites, and student knowledge for sending attachments. Students who once attempted to sleep in class are now actively engaged until the bell rings for the next class. Having just scrapped the tip of Web 2.0 tools, I can only imagine student enthusiasm as we integrate podcasts, blogs, wikis, etc. into our classroom learning environment.
Many of my students come from low socio-economic backgrounds and have learning disabilities which have adversely affected their school lives for years. Having little access to technology on a personal level, bringing Web 2.0 to my classroom provides them with a leveling device for success as a human being in this 21st Century. Suddenly they can participate, create, and collaborate. As my students become more engaged in their own learning, many for the first time in their lives, I hope they can leave high school with as much knowledge of the Web 2.0 tools as we can gain together, an on-line resume for a future job or school, and the confidence to face their digital future. Why would I want to do anything less?