Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Got Your PD Right Here!

I am receiving the best professional development I have ever experienced at school. I am "team teaching" a math class.

Math is definitely not my strength. I got through by following patterns. I am very good at identifying them. I am not good at being able to understand the "why" of math. Does it make you wonder why I was placed in a math class to team teach?

So, I find myself sitting in a class that I do not feel comfortable in. Not only am I unfamiliar with the objectives (even after reading/studying them over the summer) but with the vocabulary used. Students are expecting me to be able to help them identify why they don't "get" something.  How can this be great professional development for me if I am not comfortable?

I have become a student again. I am learning the math concepts and definitions with the students. I ask more clarifying questions than they do. I am remembering my student roots, learning in a classroom.

The first full week I taught the math lessons. I wanted to pull my own weight and show that I could do the job. After teaching a lesson my teaching partner broke the lesson down for me and we talked about what I could have done to make it better. For some veteran teachers this would be a problem, but not for me. I know I am in over my head and I am grateful to have an experienced teacher help me out.

Although the team teaching has been difficult and we have not yet found our comfort zone with the shared responsibilities I would still say this has been successful for me. I am learning math and how to be a better teacher.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Work in Progress?

My goal this year was to use my lab to extend learning from the core curriculum. The eighth grade students have an assignment they are working on where they create a presentation about the European explorers from the 15th and 16th centuries. Here is a link to the actual assignment information. (Please note I did not type the assignment;)

Is this an incredible, transformative assignment? No, it relies too much on factual information which my students are getting online (not that there is anything wrong with using the net to gather info). If you looked at this assignment at face value it probably would be considered inadequate, but is it? What non-assessed things will my students be doing through this process?

They will have to analyse the information they gather for accuracy. One of my students found an explorer's birth date on Wikipedia to be in the 1800's! She brought this information to my attention and started a good conversation about reliability of all information.

They are working on their presentation design. Will their choices work with the assignment? Will they create their own Death by PowerPoint? How will the other students react to their choices?

They will have to present their PowerPoints. Will they read the information off of the slides? Will they speak with a loud, clear voice? Will they show sings of nervousness or even refuse to stand up in front of the class?

We often discuss the importance of grades, here is an example of where the most important parts of the assignment are not graded. This is a work in progress, but it is much farther along than it first seems.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Classroom Hack: Creating Postcards Using Student Work

Here is a quick way to let your students show off their artwork and get in a quick lesson on writing postcards. The picture above is a postcard I made in class from picture a student drew to go along with a media history assignment. I took the pictures and printed them onto card stock and cut them out. Then I had them write a postcard explaining the assignment and had them mailed. Soon the parents will get a surprise in the mail!

You can do the same thing with pictures of the students as well. Why not take a picture of the science experiment they are doing, the activity they are doing in their PE class, or them working on a computer? There is something special about receiving handwritten mail and it is even more special when it is from someone you love!

Please note: If you are using a laser printer you need it to heat up before running card stock in it. I print 25-30 blank pages first before I run the card stock through so it heats up enough that the toner sticks to the paper.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Universal Design Tool:

While I have had the VozMe code on my blog for several years, it has just been brought to my attention that VozMe can be used in two other wonderful ways.

VozMe allows text to be read aloud. One way to do this is for the publisher of a site to add html to the site that allows a button to be placed on the site. You simply highlight the text you want read aloud and then hit the button. The text is then read to you.You can also download the audio as an mp3. This is great for accessibility when the site owner has the technical skill to add the code. 

Another way to use VozMe is to copy the text you want to have read to you and go to the VozMe website. Paste the code into the box and hit the Create MP3 button. You can even choose between a male or female voice. Very simple to do and the audio can also be downloaded this way.

The third way, and in my opinion the best, is to add VozMe as a favorite or bookmark to your browser. You will need to find the instructions for your preferred browser on this page. Once you have the bookmark, all you have to do is highlight the text and click on the bookmark. It will open a new page and read the text too you. You can again choose from a male or female voice and download the mp3. How cool is that?!

Special thanks goes to Ira Socol for pointing these functions out to me. If you are interested in Universal Design (and you better be!) read Ira's amazing blog SpeEdChange