Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Looking for a reason to have a PLN? Sleep! What better reason could there be...

Since attending ISTE 2016 this summer, I have been grappling with the idea of implementing badges in World Geography to support skills acquisition and to provide opportunities for students to start building an ability resume.  However, I have run into many roadblocks; figuring out how to distribute them seamlessly, where will recipients post them, LMS limitations, time investment vs. return, etc. etc.  This literally kept me awake last night!

Meanwhile, last week I was afforded several opportunities to overtly praise student behavior and use the word “community” to describe the standard for our work together in each class period.  These kiddos are on my wavelength this year :)   Then, yesterday, Brittany Carr, ELA II and One Goal teacher, sent me this text.

This morning Brittany told me about the valuable sharing and authentic community building that resulted from the community circle she facilitated.  Today, during 1st period, I noticed her WOAH! wall.  She is going to display exemplary student work on it.  Then it hit me!

Community Badges!!!!  I can feel it already...I will SLEEP tonight!  So, rather than distributing individual badges for each student which is just not realistic right now (at least, until I can figure out the technical logistics).  I am going to implement community badges for each class period.  Each class period will have a wall set up similar to the one in the picture above and each 6 weeks each learning community, i.e. class period, will have the opportunity to acquire 2-3 badges.  I am still working out the specifics, but, in general, community badging is intended to create a space in which students experience credential building and being a contributor to a learning community while gaining varying levels of proficiency at soft skills that can be applied to across a variety of settings. Ideally, this will foster and aid in maintaining a sense of community within the classroom as we shift to more differentiated paths in the coming weeks.

I am very grateful to be on Brittany’s team and to be a co-teacher in her first period. Her willingness to share and collaborate openly is creating students wins in both our classrooms.

So, I’ve got a plan.  I am feeling good about this!

Do you hear laughter???  Me neither.  Good sign.  Turning up the music now.  And... maybe a bit louder... just in case my plan is amusing Him again ; )

Saturday, August 27, 2016

#1st5days as an #SBVanguard Educator






We make plans and God laughs.

“We make plans and God laughs” has been the theme in my professional life lately.  However, I to be more precise, I think God is actually rolling on the celestial ground laughing so hard he is crying the moment I think, “okay, I’ve got a plan. I’m feeling good about this!”.  

Getting bogged down in the negative of the obstacles in our paths isn’t going to be the road the NHS Vanguard team takes on this journey.  We have decided to be steadfast and constant in who we are and always choose to move forward the best way we can.  No matter what comes our way this year we are going to...

Be committed.

Be adaptive.
Be learners.
Be present.
Be flexible.
Be ethical.
Be brave.
Be nice.

Just one week in and I can already sense that I will need a clone and a few divine miracles to get it all done.  Theodore’s mantras and prayer are the go-to(s) that will aid me in striving to do right by my little learners and colleagues (aka, big learners) this year and beyond. Dare greatly Vanguard Cohort 1...dare greatly!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

SAY CHEESE... putting the iPad cameras to good use!

After attending ISTE, I was overwhelmed with ideas.  Where to start and what to focus on?  I loved the idea of using the camera on the iPads to allow students to produce their learning in new ways that engage and inspire.  What 6 year old doesn't love taking pictures, and seeing themselves in pictures?  With 8 devices and 24 kids, I had to give a lot of though to routines and fairness (you know when you are 6 it all about "my turn").  Yesterday, yes the 3rd day of school, we got ourselves organized in groups and went to work.  I built groups of 3, and gave them each a job.  The iPad captain will rotate each time, while the other 2 members in the group served as "hunters".  We set out to find where numbers were in the real world (ie school grounds).  After taking lots of pictures, the kids came back in and shared their learning.  All students completed a writing assignment and were full of good schema!  The next step will be to use Popplit to sort their findings.  I hope to use the first 9 weeks of school to give the kids access to the new apps and practice to create.  I think the possibilities are endless!  I can't see what will happen next.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Individualized While Still Engaging and Collaborative....

 This year I'm trying to have individualized learning for students while still keeping the class engaging and collaborative. I've done self-paced flipped, where students moved relatively at their own pace and tested on the same date. I've also done self-paced flipped mastery, where students truly moved at their own pace and couldn't move forward unless they scored an 80 on the assessment on the unit. One problem in both of these is it lowers collaboration between students. Students aren't necessarily on the same topic within the unit so it's much harder for them to work together or for me to go to the board and help them with questions the entire class is going to have. Another problem with both of the self-paced methods is I don't feel it's fun. I know Chemistry doesn't have to be fun, but I miss the interactions that I get to have with the entire class when we are all on the same topic. In the self-paced world, students are engaged but I feel they are engaged like little robots. They come in, they do what they need to do, and they leave. If everyone is together, I can do a thought provoking demo to get them thinking scientifically and make it interesting. If everyone is together, we have scientific conversations about the topic we are on to make it relevant. 

So this year I'm implementing the following:

    1) Group seating- to increase student collaboration

    2) Flipped classroom- I want students to stay on pace with each other but still have the differentiation of being able to take the notes at the pace they need. 

    3) Its Learning - using the learner management system, so students know what we are doing each day and where their HW is located. 
The biggest pitfall that I see is if students don't watch their video before class. When it's self-paced it doesn't really matter, they just watch the video, and continue down the list. In a traditional flip, if they don't watch the video, they are going to miss the activities we do in class. My plan to hopefully overcome this pitfall is three fold. 

    a) Since students are in groups of 3-4, they will check to see that all their group members completed their notes. If they didn't they will send that member to the back (or outside) to watch the video and fill in their notes. This will now burden the rest of the group as they will have less members. Hopefully instilling the idea that they are letting their team down will get more to comply and do their homework. 

   b) After 3 times of not watching their video before class, they will get a call home to see if we can work together to get the student to come to class prepared. 

   c) If they didn't watch their video, in addition to them having to watch it in class, they will need to stay after class in lunch detention to complete any work they missed while watching the video. This should work nicely in my Pre-AP chemistry class since I only have one section this year and it's right before lunch. They can stay with me for 30 min and then go to lunch the other 30 min. 

Currently this is what I have bitten off. During the year I'm sure we will have some tweaks and hopefully we can add some more to our plate. I'm looking at some flexible seating stools and making online lab portfolios in the future.  

I'm excited to start this year and be a learner with my students!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone"

After a crazy summer of job transition, wedding festivities, training, and more the summer is finally coming to a close and the new school year is beginning.  What a better way to start the year than to finish blended (better late than never) and step out of my comfort zone and blog?

My campus is bustling with excitement as everyone prepares for the new school year.  After a moving, personal, and inspirational convocation, people seem more motivated than ever.  I feel that convocation, with its diverse presentations, truly represented SBISD.  It also served as a much needed reminder of why I became an educator.

Since I will not have my own classroom this year, I have been collaborating with one of my coworkers to create a blended learning space in her 4th grade classroom.  We are currently focusing on building relationships, incorporating flexible seating, implementing a station rotation model, and analyzing student data so that instruction is focused and student-centered.  As we move forward, there are many things to consider, including:

1. What are the students' jobs to be done?  As blended expresses, "many students languish in school ... because education isn't a job that they are trying to do.  ... there are two core jobs that are the highest priority for most students.  First, they want to feel successful ... Second, they want to have fun with friends."  How do we create a learning environment that fulfills the job for students?  I feel like this ideal will continuously evolve as we learn in grow with our class this year.

2. How are we going to design the teacher role from the student perspective, while still maintaining teacher buy-in?  Students need teachers to move beyond lock-step instruction and to fill a mentoring gap.  Teachers need motivators and recognition for their efforts.

blended shows how blended classroom designs benefit both students and teachers by:
     a) introducing opportunities for students to make progress everyday and have fun and
     b) allowing for broad, new opportunities to access intrinsic motivators for teachers.

After reading blended I have realized that I have many things to consider as we incorporate a blended model into my coworkers classroom this year.  I have also realized that this year is going to be one of many trials, successes, and failures.

I cannot wait to learn and grow as an educator as I embark on this new adventure with the Vanguard team!  As we move forward remember:

"In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future.  The learned usually find themselves beautifully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists."  & "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."

Sunday, August 14, 2016

So excited to be a part of Cohort 1!

As we officially start back to school, I am reminded how lucky I am to be part of the SBISD team. I have to say that convocation was simply amazing! I don't know a single person that left there not feeling totally energized and pumped up for this school year. I am still so impressed with the amount of work and planning that went into this event.

I have a lot that I want to work on this year. I feel that this year will truly be transformational. In Prek this year, we will begin using I-Station. I am particularly excited about this because I have seen how effective this program has been in customizing student learning and, as a result, student achievement. In addition, I want to incorporate digital portfolios (Seesaw) into my classroom this school year as well. Parent orientation is coming up on August 22, where I will be giving my spiel to parents about the awesomeness of this program. By second semester, I hope to begin using Seesaw as a tool for global collaboration, where PreK classrooms from around the world can communicate and learn from one another.

Also this year, our campus will be focusing more on action based research. I really was very much inspired by convocation and I want to continue to keep my campus' teachers motivated, especially into the spring semester when we are all tired and just a little cranky. Therefore, (one of) my action based research project(s) will be centered around student success and teacher motivation. And of course, as a Vanguard teacher, it wouldn't be complete without integrating some technology in there. My results will be presented by creating my own version of a "Ted Talk" as well as a video that reminds teachers in February why it is that they do what they do and how their dedication affects their students' success.

We are off to a great start. I am excited to see where this year takes the wonderful teachers of Vanguard Cohort 1. :)