Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pirate Empowerment

Here it is. The final chapter of the book study for Learn like a Pirate. This topic is straight about Empowerment. Since the beginning of the school year is approaching, it’s great to get a plan ready for when you get back into the classroom. The main advice is to “Verbalize your intentions to your students.” It seems the biggest theme throughout the box lines up with our district’s them… there are no got ya’s in education. Let the kids know up front what is expected of them and that you will not lower the expectations for them.

The question on everyone’s mind is, how do you get students to take control? Basically you have to be willing to empower them and give them the courage to make their own decisions. You really have to have a safe learning environment for them.
Here are some ways Paul suggests to empower the kids:
·       Give Me Five
·       Encouraging students to teach mini-lessons
·       Teaching the importance of roles during activities
·       Letting them take charge of important class jobs

Passion Time


“Passion Time gives children the opportunity to spend some of the school day focusing on their personal interests and sharing those passions with others.”

Here’s how it worksit’s a dedicated time set aside each week for students to pursue their own interests by answering an essential question! (Hello mini-PBLs!!)
·       Essential Question: Students choose their own essential questions (PHAT- Pretty Hard and Tough questions). The teacher helps facilitate to make sure the questions are deep enough that a Google search can’t just answer it.
·       Planning: Then the students move to the planning stage. Students list the steps necessary to answer the question. Here is a site that is a part of this chapter, Trello Board. It allows the planning process to be seen on one screen. This helps students keep on track with their projects.
·       Discover and Blog it! Once a plan is created, students go to the blog. They create a post and continue it throughout the process. Feedback is given to them through the blog.
·       Wrap it up and Share: Before the deadline students share their learning and reflect on their process. In his class, he requires the final product to include a video, a written reflections, and a completed KWHLAQ (see image) chart.
·       Peer Feedback: I love the modified sharing process he described. Students listen to each other’s videos independently, reading reflections, and providing great feedback. 


Safe Environment:
Paul discussed a way to start your year off creating a safe environment. He suggests that students know that teachers have good and bad days too. He prepares his kiddos for when the teacher has a bad day is that they role play ways to respond back to the teacher without getting upset.

 I am very pumped. I am going to take this year in small steps. I want to work in technology more than ever before, but my students come from a background where the only time they are on the computers are to be playing games. I am going to begin with teaching them the basic skills of the computer and then widening their range of abilities. Maybe they can help me figure out that smart board and clicker system! If you have any ideas, let me know!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Geomtery in the Classroom (and a freebie)

I know that this was supposed to go out on Monday, however, this has been the BIGGEST week ever. I can’t even wait for the weekend because we are having a gigantic yard sale this weekend! Ughh! Well, anywayslet’s get on with the reason why you are here, shall we?? 

The next section of math that I wanted to discuss was geometry. Now, I’ve never been a fan of geometry. It was my least favorite class. You know that teacher that really made you not like learningwell I had that one freshman year in this area. So, I wasn’t thrilled when this section came up, but I thought I’d go in with an open mind!

The professor took a different approach with teaching geometry than most others would have. Granted there was still some really crazy theorems that I had no clue about being done on the board, but there was some things that I could do (with the help of my friend Latoya from Flying into First!).

We used origami. I really loved how he could incorporate geometric terms with the paper folding art. He even told how he could get something like 270 geometric terms into one origami piece! It was really more than, “Okay guys, fold it hot dog style. No, Johnny not hamburger style!” I thought to myself that it was a great way to get those artistic and kinesthetic learners interested and to keep them on task.
And friends, if you are not great at paper folding, no worries! There are so many tutorials and videos for it that you really just have to follow along or help the kids. When you do a diagonal fold, however, discuss that fractional or even the equivalent parts. Discuss symmetry or the new shapes that were created. Check out this site for some ideas.

Another thing that I really enjoyed and will be adapting into my classroom was the use of scavenger hunts. We had to go out onto the campus and find examples of quadrilaterals, polygons, hexagons, octagons, rectangular prisms, etc… It was great to see how I could check for understanding of concepts with this. Since I teach ELA and SS, I envision using this for grammar or writing styles. I could even use it to have students find examples of how history has impacted our society today! I’m very excited to try it out in my room. You can get your own copy of a Geometry Scavenger Hunt here!  

Another thing that we got to rediscover was Disney’s Donald in Mathmagic Land! I remember watching this in elementary school. What a great way to introduce students to geometry in the world around them and the history behind it! I would suggest breaking the movie up into small pieces to show to your class. It’s about 26 minutes long, however, some of the movie needs to be broken down a bit and some background knowledge might need to be built up. Otherwise, it’s a great video to get students thinking about the world around them. You can get your own copy on Amazon right here!

*This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Study: 21st Century Skills

So, I know that I am a little late on my post about my take away from the next chapter of Learn like a Pirate, but I’ve been in workshops for two weeks straight! Do you ever feel like your summer just leaves you without you knowing where it went?! That’s where I am right now. 

This chapter really spoke to why Paul decided to get his kids ready for the technological society we are moving into! His reasons kind of line up to mine I think. I really want my students to be ready for life after elementary school. With our school’s changing to middle school after the fourth grade, students seem to be shoved into middle school before their maturity level is ready for what it entails. 

Our state is moving to having all of our end of year tests being online, our communities are using and needing technology more every day. A lot of parents might not know how to use the technology well enough to teach students how to gather the facts from the internet and use their research to solve problems (hmm…sounds like PBL!).
One takeaway from this chapter is how he incorporated these into all of his lessons, then offers a progress report for the students to really know how they are doing.

I never really thought about letting kids really dig into their report cards. This could be great for our kids who really don’t have the parental support at home. We could easily make SMARTer goals based on our reports and use our progress reports to help be a checkpoint.

There are so many things that I cannot wait to implement this year. Goal setting and precise, academic feedback, however, has been the biggest pieces that I want to implement. I believe that it will be an uplifting piece for students in our area! Think about how great it feels when you achieve a goal! I know that I feel WONDERFUL!! : )

I would LOVE to hear how you incorporate 21st Century Skills in your classroom. Comment below with your suggestions! 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Book Study: Active Learning

This post continues the series of Learn like a Pirate Book Study. 

This chapter really got me thinking about how my lessons could be better.  I am so pumped up for revamping my PBLs this year. We are one of Nashville’s premier STEM/PBL schools, so we already have some pretty neat lessons, but the Social Studies standards seem to sometimes fall to the wayside.

My partner teacher and I have already begun to create units, but when I read this chapter I just knew I needed to incorporate some more active learning. In our school we have kits that drive the exploration in STEM. 
Some great things I got out of this was that you have to be willing to make learning fun and exciting so that your kids are excited. I don’t know too many teachers that will dress up for their kiddos anymore. We should totally do that more! Get kids interested. I mean why does Ms. Frizzle intrigue our students today? She’s willing to go the distance to give the kids hands on, problem solving work!

My kids last year worked hard on our virtual field trip as we followed John Smith or as we explored the Jamestown Colonies. They remembered it for the test too! I didn’t do a single worksheet on it! The students remembered Sequoyah from the first nine weeks after we had used the Tennessee Traveling Trunks from the State Museum. (If you aren’t in Nashville, but are in TN, then go to your local State Park to inquire about them!) The traveling trunks include hands on activities and manipulatives to engage little learners. We use kidblog and journals for grades and to show off learning. 

My kids really understood taxation without representation when the principal came up and told them they’d have to pay to go to specials and recess! The concept CLICKED instantly!

The year before, students did historical reports, but they dressed up as their person. They were recorded in front of their peers. People asked them all day who they were dressed like. The students loved the attention. They loved retelling their stories. What the best part, they remembered the people they became!

I had just learned about Thinglink from a workshop earlier this summer, and I am really excited about learning to use that this year. Students can really take a photo and create points to click on that will enhance their project.

One thing I want to implement this year is Passion Project or Genius Hour. Last year, only the kids who went to Encore got to do this, but I really wanted my other kids to yearn to get to do it. Then I heard what breaks your heart… “Only the smart kids get to do cool stuff like that!” It broke me. Why not allow all students time to explore a topic they find interesting. Maybe every nine weeks the kids could present their projects so that others can see what they’ve been working on!

My mind is reeling with ideas. Now, the question for me is how can I get all of this for my two classes, RTII, Guided Reading, and whatever else I need to do with my 2 hours of time with the kids? I’m ready to accept this challenge. 

What about you?!
What do you think is an obstacle? 
What do you want to try?

Since this chapter discussed ways to enhance Social Studies learning, I thought that this product might be interesting to some. I completed my Early Native Americans Center Stations. Until July 12th you can get it, along with some of my other social studies products, for 20% off! 

Weekly Social Studies Center: Early Native Americans