The Literacy Corner

For the LOVE of learning!

Two coffee cups

September2

 IMG_2962

           Each morning, this week, I have made two cups of coffee to take to work. The first is in a paper cup, one I can just throw away once I’m done. The other is a thermos that requires and annoying and arduous amount of time to clean. The first cup needs to be consumed almost immediately before it becomes cold and unpalatable. The second cup, however, can sit on my desk through all of first period and still be quite enjoyable when I’m ready to drink it. The first must be carried and drank cautiously because it is made of flimsy disposable paper and coffee will splash up out of the mouth with the slightest misstep (of a teacher carrying way too many things into the building from her car). The second one was designed specifically to be dropped, rolled, knocked over and even placed inside a bag without any spills. It is because of all its moving parts and sophisticated seals that it is so hard to clean.

 

I need both. I continue to buy both.

 

There is a place in my life for the cheap and somewhat impractical but convenient just as there is a place for quality, dependability and high maintenance. As I look as these two very different yet very necessary cups on my desk I think about their qualities and the need for balance in my life. I need moments when I am allowed to be impractical and lazy and I need moments when discipline and deliberate design are the only option.
As a teacher I love the mental strain and reward of sitting down and drilling out a unit plan in its entirety. I love my discipline and I love the quality of work I am capable of. On the other hand I thrive in those moments when I am unprepared and panicked. Those organic moments created out of necessity or desperation have sometimes lead to the most brilliant and inspired projects, ideas, and activities I’ve created.

 

There needs to be quality, planning, hard work and structure. But there also needs to be funky, fun, and even disposable. I also might need to get more sleep and drink a little less coffee.

 

Building a Community to Collaborate #flipclass #flashblog

September1

I think building a classroom community where students feel safe to collaborate is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Students are painfully self-conscious and therefore are hesitant to share their genuine ideas for fear of  ridiculed by their classmates and even more fearful of failure. I do not tolerate bullying and encourage students to take chances, but I have yet to see a student just let loose and run with their best idea, and I feel like I can see it in their eyes that that awesome idea is in there, but they won’t let it out because they’re just not sure it’s good enough.

This year instead of giving “free time” when students finish ahead of a due date, students will have #20time to work on a self-guided, self-selected project. Students can work in teams, partners, or individually. I am encouraging students to choose a topic that they are truly interested in and build on that: can be completely “non-academic”. I am starting to see a light come on in my students when they realize that “I’m for real”…they can do ANYTHING for #20time. My hope is that if students have this freedom, this choice that they will not fear failure, but be so excited that they are sharing ideas and working together without realizing it. I have already seen students doing this in the “Bad Idea Factory” (a shared google doc to help generate ideas for #20time projects).

I often create assignments that ask students to discuss their opinions on topics and responses to questions about texts we are reading, and either my questions are just not that great, or because it’s an assignment, the conversations are DULL. However, as I’m sitting here thinking my own teamwork/collaboration skills, the BEST collaboration has come out of working on projects that I chose to be a part of, not out of being forced to be on a committee; I am hoping that this will ring true with students as well with the #20time projects.

I work every day to build a community of learners and growers. This year I am emphasizing to kids that I don’t care where you start here today, just as long as you are not still here on the last day of school. Hoping the growth mindset will encourage students to be confident and will ultimately foster collaboration.

Transitions

August18

It’s the first day of school, and everything is different.  For the first time in my career, I did not start the day with a room full of students and dreams of perfect lesson plans.  It’s hard for me to say, but today I’m not a  classroom teacher.  I’m an Instructional Coach.  Essentially, I teach teachers.  Truly, I’m excited about the work I’ve done and the work to come, but today is a transition.  I’m not at just one new school, but two, and there are no anxious faces looking to me, sizing me up, to decide if they’ll enjoy my class for the year.

Frankly, I’m not sure what to do with myself.  There will be lots of work , but for today I’m learning to accept the transitions:  new schools, new career, new school year.  Even my own children share in transition.  One child has started high school and decided to begin that journey at a brand new project based learning charter school outside of our county.  He’s feeling the uncertainty of transition too.  He misses the comfort of lifelong friends and surroundings.

It’s a struggle for us both, as we are both feeling the endings of what we’ve always known, while cautiously hoping for amazing adventures in the near future.  My words to him are to give it time, make new friends, choose happiness, and to never give up.  Easier said than digested!

So, if you’re out there and in transition, as inevitably all teachers are, especially in the beginning of the school year, I say to you and I say to myself: “Give it time, make new friends, choose happiness, and never give up!”

Happy School Year 2015!!!!

Angela

Educator

Instructional Coach

Lifelong Learner

Conferences #Flipclass #flashblog

March25

Teaching is difficult, so it is important to do things that keep you motivated and energized; one way that I keep my energy and motivation is by going to conferences! Conferences are perfect for learning, sharing, and connecting.

This year has been a difficult year for our program, so 2 of my colleagues/very good friends and I decided to go to the SC International Reading Conference held in Myrtle Beach. What is better than going to the beach with your friends to learn more about our profession from other talented professionals? Not much. We all really needed the conference to revitalize us, get us back in the game.

First of all, I love keynote speakers; and,if done correctly, the keynote speaker gets me pumped for the entire conference. I was really inspired after leaving the first keynote session, and with that, I headed to my first session which was all about PBL. I am very into learning more about PBL and incorporating it into my #flipclass! I learned a few new things, but mostly I felt that the speaker already said a lot of things I already knew about.

That night my friends and I reflected on our sessions and realized that we were choosing sessions that we already knew a good bit about, but it’s because we are really interested in those topics and really want to grow in those areas. So, I decided maybe I shouldn’t always go to sessions about things I know some about if I don’t want to be completely bored.

SCIRA is a fairly small conference, so there wasn’t much to choose from on the last day except for 2 flipclass sessions, and from the previous night’s reflection, I didn’t really want to go to another session that I thought would be giving me a lot of information that I had heard many times before, but I went to those sessions anyways. BUT, I am so glad that I did for 2 reasons: 1. I learned a lot about new websites/techniques to use in my classroom regarding stations, flipclass videos, and new websites. 2. I met Carla Jefferson, a fellow flipclass chatter; she was the presenter. I am still so stoked that we were able to connect at the conference.

I went right back to school and implemented some of the things from Carla’s session and have had a lot of success with my students, and this rough year has turned itself around.

B. Goza

The Six Word Memoir

March23

This may be the shortest post in history, but there are times when greater impact comes in saying less.  Today students were challenged to write journals.  Among those journals they could choose for one of them to merely contain six words.  Those six words had to sum up their lives.  As a model, I gave them my six word memoir:  “My beginnings, my endings make me.”  Feel free to send us your six words – no more, no less – for the love of learning.

A. Weisner

 

I HATE testing!

March18

Today my English I students are taking the TE-21 (for the 2nd time this year), a practice test for the end of course test that will be given in May. It is a very long, boring test. Because this practice test does not directly affect them, students instantly check out.

In my 3 classes today, 6 students immediately laid their heads down after the test booklet was given to them, 1 student signed out (I am sure that he texted someone to come get him), 1 student handed in his test booklet without the constructed responses because “it was too long”, and many other students are staring off into space. By the minute, students are dropping like flies.

There is no way that I can use the results of this test to truly gauge my students’ learning or abilities. So, now we have put learning on hold to do something that benefits no one: not me, not the students, not the district, and certainly not the state. And, this is just the first of many tests that students will take between now and the end of school.

I am so sad and so bored for my students. As much as I would like for them to take the test seriously, so I can really see what they are lacking, I really do understand and empathize with them. I have found myself apologizing to my students for giving them this sort of assessment, and I am truly, deeply sorry that they are having to do this.

No wonder kids dread school. Who wants to come and read random passages and answer multiple choice questions? No one. School should be for learning and creating, not regurgitating.

B. Goza

Mental Health & Choice #flipclass #flashblog

March17

When our program started, we, the teachers, decided that the best thing for our students would be to assign little to no homework throughout the year. The reason that we decided to do this is because often at-risk students lead lives that are not conducive to doing homework, and we should not set them up to fail by assigning massive amounts of homework in each class that we already know they are not going to do or cannot do. I do assign one chapter per week to be read or listened to at home, and students are able to choose how they show what they have read/learned.

I think that giving students choices also helps alleviate stress in the classroom. When students are able to make choices in terms of text and assessment, they take control over their learning. Clearly students cannot make choices in all aspects of what has to be done in the classroom, but I try to give them as much choice as possible. For example, I often use text sets instead of giving one article/passage to read, or I let them choose how they want to represent their learning whether it be through Cornell Notes, a comic strip, a photo story, a Prezi, a piece of artwork, or any other way they choose.

For the major project due in English I this 9 weeks, students are able to choose between creating a photo documentary on a social issue or writing a dystopian short story. This way students can tap into their strengths; some students feel more comfortable doing research, so they chose to create a photo documentary; whereas, some students are stronger writers and chose to write a short story.

In English II, students were given 4 choices for research, and then complete choice over how to show what they know. Here is the link to our Julius Caesar choice project:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JzGGHHAS9WL110MNtaAg-ua6cHmGdW6h6irrjpeb1_k/edit

I think stress levels are low in my class due to students having choices. I also give students choice in pacing and in order of project/assignment completion. At the beginning of the week, students get a list of tasks that need to be completed by the end of the week, and students get to choose in what order they do the tasks.

For my students, this is a little frustrating, but I have a no zero policy; therefore, there is essentially no deadline for projects and assignments (well, until grades are due at the end of the 9 weeks). I keep pushing students to complete work, to show me what they know. For a very long time, my students have gotten away with doing nothing for one reason or another, but not now. They know that it is (almost) never too late to get something done. For some students, this relieves the pressure, but of course there are students who take advantage of this, but it’s worth it for the students that it benefits.

B. Goza

 

Student Created Content #flipclass flash blog

March10

 

I wish that I could say that I have had students create content for my classroom because I know that that it gives them more motivation and ownership when they are creating for a real audience rather than just the teacher, but I cannot say that I have done that much, if at all this year.

Last year, students created public service announcements to teach about character traits, and we held a film festival to showcase the PSAs, and it was incredibly successful! I attribute the success of the project to the fact that students knew a real audience would be viewing their creation.

I am horribly inconsistent with teaching vocabulary, but after attending a flip class session by Carla Jefferson, I want to try having my kids make videos to teach vocabulary words, and next year, I can use the videos to teach my new students!

This is our first visual vocabulary lesson made by students!

B. Goza

Off the Wall #flashblog #flipclass

March3

What is your strangest/most-off-the-wall lesson ever? Where did the idea come from? How did it work?

I can’t think of anything off the top of my head for this topic, but I do want to write about how well my stations are going!

After going to the SCIRA conference last week, I was inspired to do stations in a new way: have an extra station that is empty at the beginning of the station rotation.

In my English I class, we are about to start a research project, so I have 5 stations:

Station 1: How to start your research video

Station 2: How to make a claim video

Station 3: noredink.com pre-test

Station 4: Listen & follow along with chapter 11 in Catching Fire

Station 5: Vocabulary

Station 2 is empty to start because students need to know how to do research and come up with a research question before they can make a claim.

Station Key

Station Key

 

Students move from station to station at their own pace, but before they switch stations, they have to have their checklist signed by me, and they initial on the polyboard that they have completed each station. The last time I did stations students seemed to be moving and working, but as it turns out, students are good at appearing to be doing their work and in reality, they are not doing anything at all, which is why I added in the 2 layers of accountability.

 

Station Checklist

Station Checklist

Poly board accountability checklist

Poly board accountability checklist

 

Once students finish their stations, they will begin their project research proposals and launch themselves into their research.

B. Goza

Deep Learning Flash blog #flipclass

February24

This is my 4th year teaching, and I think that I am just now starting to tap into some deep learning in my classroom. Flipping my class has helped me to realize that deep learning does not happen when I am in front of the room giving direct instruction, but rather it happens when I hand the reigns over to the students and let them be in control of their learning. My role is to get beside the students, 1 on 1, and help them ask their own questions and dig deeper into the content.

Today, my colleague and I introduced a Julius Caesar theme project where students will choose a research question from a set of 4 questions and then  decide how they would like to show their research. Several options are given for students to choose from: interpretive dance, art work, song, poem, skit, prezi, other, etc. With this project, there are several requirements for what students should know/show at the end of the project, but no direct guidelines for project creation. The initial reaction from most students was, “how do you want me to do this”, and they were not happy when my response was “do it however you want as long as you show all of the required information in some way”. They want a specific format, but I know that giving them this freedom will lead to deeper learning. I am so excited to see what the students create. To view our project, click on the link below:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1JzGGHHAS9WL110MNtaAg-ua6cHmGdW6h6irrjpeb1_k/edit?usp=sharing

Stay tuned for student creations!

B. Goza

 

« Older Entries

Skip to toolbar