Thursday, August 30, 2012

Juan Teaches Division

In this video, one of my students teaches division. What I find interesting here is the way he asked questions. It is very easy to see the influence past teachers have had on the way he perceives he needs to teach math. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

We Are Having Trouble With Voice

I chose the "Voice" trait to emphasize at the beginning of the year. As you can imagine, it is a pretty difficult thing to introduce. The students are so used to writing like they write, not like they speak and that makes all of their writing sound alike.

I am considering having the students partner up to "tell" their story to (think scribe.) I believe they will be much more likely to be able to capture their voice better. 

One downside I can see is the speed the students can record the writing at. In a perfect world each student would have access to a recorder and take care of it that way, but it isn't feasible. Besides, I think there is some value in the immediate feedback they will receive from the scribe. 

So, what do you think? Am I missing something negative here? Are there extra benefits I am not thinking about?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Today I Lectured My Class

Jon Becker asked me to write down some of the things I talked to my students about today. The lecture was off the cuff so I don't have a real record of what I said, but I am hoping to write here a reflection of the spirit if not the actual words of what I said.

Class, we have talked about the behavior you have exhibited in the hallway already this week. I have explained to you why we have to follow the school expectations for the hallway. I don't require you to do anything that I don't think is important for learning. I have told you that several times.

When we are in the hallway we have three expectations: don't touch the walls, walk in a single file, and be quiet. Notice I didn't say 'don't talk'. I don't mind if you say something to the person in front of you as long as it is quiet.

Why are we supposed to be quiet in the hallway? We aren't learning anything there. We use the hallways to get from here to where we are going, not because it is a learning experience. We need to be quiet in the hallway because when we are loud we keep other students in the other classrooms from learning. When we are part of a community we have to choose to put our wants and desires behind the needs of the community. We aren't affecting our learning by being quiet in the hallway, we aren't there to learn. We do affect other's learning when we are noisy though. We need to put our wants behind their needs.

Touching the walls may not seem like a big deal, but if you knock something off the wall it will be a big deal. I have seen students do that many times and the teachers that put things up in the hall are not very nice to students that tear them up or knock them down. I don't want you to experience a mad teacher yelling at you in the hallway in front of other students and I hope you don't want that experience either.

Why do I expect you to walk in a single file line? There isn't always someone coming down the hallway that you are blocking. It isn't because the hallway isn't wide enough either. It is simply because when you walk side by side you want to talk. I want to take away that temptation. I don't want you to inhibit other students learning because you can't wait the few minutes it takes to get back to the classroom to talk.

Now let's talk about your behavior here. You have been given a lot of freedom that other students here do not have. When it is 'your time' you can move to where you want, sit by whom you want, and spend your time doing what you see fit. I even give you the freedom to not do the work if you choose, as long as you are not keeping others from learning too. You, in my opinion, have the right to not do the work. You have the right to be as dumb as you want to be, but you don't have the right to make others dumb too. You have a lot of freedom here.

The problem with freedom is you have to remember you are part of a community. You need to realize that what you do affects others. You need to be responsible. What happens when everybody decides they don't want to follow the expectations of the community? We get chaos. When everybody does whatever they want to things get out of control. Unfortunately, when we can't control ourselves others have to step in and do that. I don't want to be that person. I don't want to be your jailor. I want you to put the community in front of your wants.

I realize you have not had this much freedom before. Unfortunately, if you don't learn how control yourselves the freedom can and will go away. I know you are good kids. I know you don't want me to be the kind of teacher that makes you sit in rows and won't let you talk. I know you want to do what is right, so let's start doing it now.

I am actually pretty surprised at how easily it came back to me. I don't think this is everything I said to the class, but it is probably 85-90% all here. I also want to point out that I actually did use the words expectations and community with my students. I didn't dress up the pig, he is wearing his original clothes :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Room Deconstructed

This post is meant to explain some decisions I have made with the set up of our classroom. I won't know if it is successful for some time. When we (teachers) make this many choices for our community we are bound to make some mistakes. 

This first picture is what you see against the back wall, right when you walk into the room.
 This area is meant to be a place where students can relax, read a book, or catch some educational videos. I have a couple exercise balls that will be placed in the area later. I am not sure that this is the right space for them yet, I may be better served having them used by the students at their desks or tables.
 Above the relaxation area are two frames full of school memorabilia from when I attended this school and later attended our high school. The left frame shows a few examples of the grades I earned. I was not a great student at the elementary or junior high level. In retrospect I see how lazy and disinterested in school I was. There really was very little beyond the library that interested me. Also included is my high school graduation program and my acceptance into Missouri Southern's Honors Program. I plan to have conversations with my students about how I changed from being a poor student to a good one and the reward I earned from the hard work.

The frame on the right contains reminders of the extra-curricular activities I participated in as a student. There is a picture of myself in our 8th grade play, A Little Rascals Christmas. I have a newspaper picture of me making a tackle during a football game as a senior. (My form is pretty sweet too :) I also have some clippings from being on the golf team. I really think being active outside of class helped me to be a better student.
 This is our class library. It doesn't yet have a lot of books because I left my classroom library behind when I left 5th grade three years ago. The reason it is mobil is because I want to be able to move things around the room easily. I can create large areas of space very quickly this way.
This is my IWB. My plan is to use it mostly for small group work. I think its value lies literally in the hands of the students. 
 This the is the back, left corner of the room when you walk in. It consists of a record player, a sound board, amplifier, and a couple large speakers. I can hook up the electric guitar and my electric ukulele for the students to play with. They can also play with the conga drum. I am hoping to spend some time teaching the students how to read chords and play some rhythms. How great would it be if we formed a band?
 I pinned this shirt on the bulletin board because I love the pop art feel of it. The shirt is from Walt Disney World (my preferred vacation destination) and it depicts a cowboy holding a churro. I read an article where the artist said that the picture was inspired by Sergio Leone's westerns. I included this in my room because I want my students to be inspired by real art. I also have a couple Ork prints that I will be putting up later after I find the right frames. Hopefully we soon will have a lot of student art work on the walls as well.
 On the left wall I have a station with two computers that will be used by the students. I have enough computers for each of my small groups to have computer access.
 Underneath the computers is a shelf where I have hung grow lights. We will be growing plants soon. I wonder if our community will choose flowers or food? I am hoping for food ;)
 This is a 50 inch HD TV I bought for the classroom. I have hooked up a Blu-Ray player and an Apple TV. I can mirror my iPad or my iPhone onto the television screen and this gives us a lot of flexibility. Students will be able to manipulate the images using the iPad. We will be able to see our class videos without covering the windows and blocking the natural light. I really can't wait to see how we find different ways to use this.
 Here is our class aquarium. It is empty because the community is going to decide what we will put in it. Here is the lesson plan we will be using. I sure hope they make a wise decision. I don't want dead fish floating in it.
 This is my Photosmart printer which allows me to print wirelessly from my iPad, iPhone, or Nexus 7. This is going to be mainly used for printing pictures documenting our year together. Soon we will have pictures being placed around the room by the students which show what they are learning. Below is an example.

 Above my desk (more on that later) are my diplomas and a few certificates I have earned. I want my students to be aware of my accomplishments. This is important because I am a hometown boy and I want them to know that being from Noel does not mean having to work at the local chicken processing plant.
 Here is my desk. I tried very hard to do without a desk, but I just couldn't do it. I really need a place to call my own. Because I realize how important it is for me, I have integrated that thinking into my classroom. I have three tables in my room for students to sit at and eight desks. The desks are put together in a table arrangement but I have explained that if a student needs to take a desk and move it away from the crowd so they have their own 'space' they can. We need to be very cognizant of the students that need to feel ownership of something in the room to be comfortable.
 Finally, as you leave my room this is what you see above the door. This was a gift from my brother because I am a fan of Spongebob. I put this up because I want my students to see that I appreciate having fun. It is a both a insight into my personality and an opportunity for the students to see that enjoying something that may not seem 'cool' is okay in my classroom.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

LInks to my August Lesson Plans

Here are links to the GDocs for my August Lesson Plans:

Creating Community Norms A lesson in government.

Class Pet Project A lesson in ecosystems.

Who's Voice Is It? A lesson in writing with voice.

Peter Pan Deconstructed The First lesson will revolve around Peter and Wendy (1911)

These plans aren't finished and will I will continue to update them as well. I have turned on commenting and would love any feedback you are willing to provide.

For the first week and a half, the whole class will be together. Starting the full second week the students will be leveled for a 50 minute Reading class and a 50 minute Math class. This gives me seven days to spend doing whole day or half day projects. The plans I have created are reflecting that longer, unbroken time period. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Knowing Content Doesn't Guarantee a Great Lesson

Realizing your lesson is going bad is horrible, but it is really magnified in a room full of professional educators. I was in the second of back to back sessions at the Joplin Technology Summit last Friday when I looked up and realized I had lost my audience. It wasn't as though I was surprised, I knew I was foundering. My train of thought had left me at an unknown station and there was no way I was going to be able to catch up on my tired legs.

It isn't as though I didn't know what I was talking about. I am the expert in #Comments4Kids. I was there from its very beginning. I created the Comments4Kids blog. I have even shared (much more successfully) the same presentation at the Midwest Educational Technology Conference two years ago. I know this stuff. What I didn't do, is prepare the lesson as though I wasn't an expert (or more importantly that my audience weren't experts.)

I had just completed a very successful session on blogging using I built background by discussing blogging. I kept the particpants actively engaged by doing peer sharing and even at one point having them get up and change seats just to give their brains a quick break. It was exactly what I had planned it to be. I wish I had planned the second session the same way.

I jumped straight into commenting without building background on blogging. I realized my mistake almost immediately and tried to correct it, but I think it was too late. Because I made assumptions about who would attend the session, I my design was poor and I became as lost as the crowd.

As I reflect on it, I realize that I trusted too much on my knowledge of the content. I thought because I was an expert on commenting I didn't need to spend much time planning and it really showed. I'm glad I had the opportunity to reflect on it afterwards so that I can strive to not make the same mistake again.

Here is an article published on the Joplin Globe website about the Technology Summit. I am pleased that someone got something positive out of the session.