Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Time Saver: Have you tried using labels?

Like all teachers, we are constantly looking for ways to save time in our classrooms, last year through twitter I read some tweets about using peel off labels for a time saver. One of my biggest problems last year, in fifth grade, was the amount of time it would take my students to cut out and glue in the problem of the day in math.  I would even trim them down (which took my time because I would copy, then trim) and still searching for glue sticks--I am sure you know the routine. 

This process in math worked wonderfully.  I would type out the problem of the day print on labels, cut them into 4 groups of 6 and place them on their desks. Works like a charm.  Below is an example that I will use the first week of school.

So this summer, I have been thinking about how to save time in other areas. I love starting my literacy workshops with quotes. I share with my students why I like them and how they influence me as a reader or writer. I share a picture book for a mini lesson read aloud and then I ask my students to reflect on the quote. Finally we share how the quote touches them or connects with the picture books that I have read. Perfect workshop for the first week of school.  However, I wanted to jazz my literacy labels up so this morning I found this idea. I am so excited to share these with my students.  Here is the link on how I made them:  Avery Labels.

I found this quote in Aimee Buckner's book:  Notebook Know How: Strategies for the Writer's Notebook which is an excellent book if you haven't read it because of all the examples she uses from her classroom.  I will share this book with my class and the forward that Ralph Fletcher wrote for the book.  I love making the connections for my students.  At the start of the school year, I spent several days reading and discussing Ralph Fletcher's books including" Marshfield Dreams (favorite chapters as mini lessons), Twilight Comes Twice, and last year I read aloud: Flying Solo.  I am excited to introduce this author study using these labels to connect the reading and writing.

I am still on the hunt for a Walt Disney graphic for one of my favorite quotes: 
"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island."


Saturday, July 27, 2013

OLW: Gratitude for Time to Write

There are times in my life when I know that my next steps are going to be difficult.  Not because I was in danger or a loved one is hurting, but because those steps are going to lead me down a path that I am not comfortable walking.

A journey begins with a first step. My first step started three years ago when I pushed the word “publish” on my blog.  My path meandered along with blogging, and I was thrilled to have a place to share my thoughts. Choosing to take some bigger steps along with much encouragement and even more pushing from friends, I accepted a gracious offer to begin writing for Choice Literacy early last year.

My journey in writing continued as I attended Choice Literacy’s Writing retreat in Hocking Hills. My first steps felt like a young child learning to walk as I entered the lodge to start our day. I wasn’t sure of expectations, and the only thing I knew was that I was going to be given a gift---wrapped in time. Several hours a day to write, reflect, and confer with an amazing group of writers.

I often wonder why I don’t always embrace opportunities like this. I always tend to lean on the frightened side. The side that almost makes me say no but then I realize that I will be in a community of writers with all similar goals.  I will be in an environment that will not only nurture but also help me to understand that I am a writer.  I had the chance to stop time and think about my life as a writer. That was the biggest gift of all for me in the retreat. Time to hit the pause button on life and envision myself as a writer. Brenda, Choice Literacy editor, reminded us about the importance of time as she read from The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen

       “ …I can’t tell you exactly how you can make time for writing, but I assure you that you can.  I can also tell you that your relationship with time is more subjective that you might imagine.  The best way to get a handle on how much authority you actually have over your time is to start becoming aware of how you are spending it.”

I was reminded of so many lessons that I had lost somewhere in my busy life. Lessons that involve finally saying out loud “I am a writer.” Learning that I am in control of my time and when I choose one thing I lose something else. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “waste time well.”  For me as I continue down a winding path that has opened to so many different avenues I have gratitude for the experiences and most of all I am thankful because I had the courage to take that next little step.

This is my cue card that I chose to place next to my
computer to help me remember the lessons learned.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

July OLW: Gratitude

My summer always begins with the same three goals:  read, learn, and explore. Some how June turned into a crazy mixed up ball of yarn that I had to untangle to help me get back on track for July. 

I am extremely happy with my reading goal and plan on continuing to build my list:
The False Prince
The Real Boy (thanks Mary Lee)
The Center of Everything
The Water Castle (did not finish not my favorite)
The Matchbook Diary
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
Beholding Bee

I combined learn and explore this summer to think more about technology.  I already posted about how I had slowed down my learning curve last school year and as I reflected on that in June I was disappointed, but I knew I could turn it around this summer. In June, I went overboard with my learning. I was set on focusing on exploring new apps along with new websites, and I tossed myself into a tailspin.  I was overwhelmed and realized I wasn’t transferring any of the learning and just collecting way too much information.  At that point, we went on family vacation, and I took a week off from technology-a great choice for me as well as my family.

Finally July crept in, and I started reading Who Owns the Learning for #CyberPD. I am thankful for the conversations but as important was my focus on one book with a set purpose of exploring ideas within the chapters.  I took away two focused areas:  breaking down my classroom walls and continuing to allow my students to have their voice (not mine) in our class digital footprint. 

Enter in my OLW: gratitude.  As I reflect on July and realize that school is a month away, I am thankful for my rolled up ball of yarn from June. I encountered the same experiences that my students must feel when I present too many ideas all at one time.  In June, I didn’t take time to process, to have conversations, and connect my learning, 
In July, I slowed down my learning, I focused on one book that allowed for connections for the upcoming school year, conversations with several people through twitter and face to face, and finally a plan for last stretch of summer.  I will be taking next week off from technology and am thankful for the time to focus on my writing along with the opportunity to continue to have conversations with super smart colleagues at the Choice Literacy writing retreat. Bring on August because I am ready to tackle my final goals of the summer. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Who Owns the Learning? Ch. 5-6 #CyberPD

As I read Chapter 5 and 6, I felt more comfortable as an educator. There were not any views that were shaking me up and I was excited to reinforce so many ideas that I have been thinking about this summer.  On pg. 68 “..the world from one particular viewpoint.” Solidified my decision that I will be starting a class blog for Room 228 this year.  As I reflect on the chapters and the bigger picture of the book, I realize that I need to “break down the walls” to begin to help my students explore empathy. We have explored empathy through conversation mainly around our read aloud and other picture books, but I had not considered exploration through the Internet. In the introduction as Alan interviewed top executives, he found this trait to be one of the most important ones that they are looking for in hiring their employees. I believe it is never too early to begin to open the walls and explore different locations through skype, blog about our class activities, which allow for global comments and continue to grow professionally by continuing to grow through PLN including twitter and #5thchat.

Throughout the book, Alan suggests "that teachers have a hard time giving up control and not bringing all the answers to the table" p. 69.  I personally don’t feel that way about the integration of technology. My struggle is with integrating it so that it is part of the learning and not an add on like whip cream and cherries on a sundae.  I am shifting in my thinking primarily because of a conversation at our district’s tech house last week. Like I mentioned in earlier posts, I was focusing on being restricted by the number of digital tools in my class along with getting hung up on the best app.  After the conversations which went something like “don’t focus on the tool or the app, focus on the learning outcome and if it is Internet based any device will be able to access it.” Those words shifted my entire summer thinking on July 11 along with reading this book, I am positive that I will have more to write about this topic because I only have about a month to make some huge decisions. But one has already been made Room 228 will be blogging next year and breaking down the walls. Thanks to conversations with Mary Lee, Karen and Cathy.

Thanks to Laura for hosting this week on her blog: Ruminate and Invigorate along with Cathy (Reflect and Refine)  and Jill (My Primary Passion). Together the three of you really encouraged me to stretch my thinking and connecting with other colleagues is amazing. I am looking forward to the twitter chat #CyberPD.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Who Owns the Learning? Ch. 3-4 #CyberPD

Chapter 3 stopped me in my tracks. I paused and reflected when I read "...they're motivated to do better. But when you blow the walls off (the classroom), then learning happens anytime, anywhere."  I realized on page 43 that I have been coasting this past school year on my own digital knowledge and not allowing my students to become the learners as referenced in Chapter 1. The role of students include: problem solvers, creators, and collaborators as part of our digital classroom. But I can change.

My technology journey started three years ago with a class grant of iPods which are now obsolete because they can not be updated, and I used them as an excuse this past school year.  My students still used them but weren't able to complete the digital projects that I had planned. Enter in my complacency, I continued to learn about "blowing the walls" open through twitter and extensively through #5thchat. Yes we did skype with Kate Messner and completed a few skypes with other classrooms, but not to the level that I could have done. I am working on grants to obtain some iPads and right now I have two for sure and hopefully two more if next week's presentation goes well.  On a side note, I am living the life of a teacher who wishes she had more iPads, but after reading this chapter 3 I need to jump in with what I have and start busting the walls open in Room 228.

I was skeptical as I started to read; however, I was intrigued with the idea of students as scribes by the end of the chapter. I was hesitant to have one student (scribe) notes for the entire class and then post them on a class blog.  Two things happened as I thought about this: first the pressure to have excellent notes at the end of class would be a great challenge as well as motivator and posting them knocks down the walls for a larger audience than 23 people.  I like that idea especially since I live in a world of pull outs as well as students who might be sick/vacations etc. I can see the benefits from all angles.  

Positive benefits include:
*student scribes use their own voice-not a teacher voice
*builds community because all students will have a chance to scribe
*if the scribe is confused, then that is where teaching can begin NOT at the beginning of the lesson (LOVE this for saving time)
*class blogs allow for global conversations LOVE "a star and a wish" in comment section
*goal is lifelong learners: enables students to expand the learning experience. 
E cubed to bad I don't know the shortcut for that. Something else to learn.

Finally I will be thinking about this chapter long after this posts because I know with any change in technology to start small. I have not had an ongoing class blog, so that will be a huge change and perhaps we will start with scribes in only one subject area.

As always #cyberPD would not exist without our amazing hosts including Cathy, Jill for hosting this week at her blog: My Primary Passion and Laura will host next week at her blog: Ruminate and Invigorate

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Who Owns The Learning?

I have been intrigued by all the posts about digital notebooks, writer's notebooks, writing with pen or pencil and the combo of everything. I even wrote about it before vacation. When I started to read Who Owns the Learning? I was torn again, so I chose to write in the book and use notes to pull my thinking together.  It is really intriguing to me how notes allows me to manipulate text so easily.

Here are my notes along with (thinking) of Who Owns the Learning? 

Students should not use computers to the work that could be done on paper (guilty of this)
Student role:  Problem solvers, creativity, collaboration
Teacher role:  mentor, advisor and facilitator. Teachers gain more control over time and  can devote more attention to personalized instruction.

Technology permeates every aspect of our culture today. Students demonstrate huge interest in creating and sharing content (how are my students sharing beyond me?)

Redefine the role of learner as a contributor within my classroom (I have been slowly shifting my student's roles allowing student choice last year I was working towards choice on homework especially in math-students loved this)

Students want ownership and their work to have purpose (total ownership on research projects last year:  poetry book,  science experiment or literary non-fiction) 

Strong lessons include
-student motivation
-role of educator (to guide the lesson along with students)
-potential for student-directed learning
*need immediate feedback
*students want to feel responsible for their learning along with quality of it (over all theme for me throughout the first section)

Empower students to learn  how to learn (LOVE this idea and I wonder why I  didn't think of It? Groups of students encouraged to learn different apps then they teach other students)
Power and purpose and meaningful contribution has been missing from classrooms
Critical problem-solving skills is crucial
Encouraging students to ask the most interesting question (think I will do this with sticky notes allowing students to ask questions but them choose the higher level one) 

As I reread my notes, I have so many ideas to ponder I think I will go take another walk on the beach.  Thanks to @cathymere at Reflect & Refine, @laurakomos at Camp Read A Lot and @jillfisch at My Primary Passion for organizing #CyberPD.

PS: posting on my iPad has been a whole new learning experience for me.