Click the images below to access the presentation resources.
I have a confession to make…
Don’t tell anyone, but I’m NOT happy the school year is almost over.
I want to keep teaching, coaching and learning.
I still have things to do, teachers to coach,
I have new tech tools to try, and more classrooms to visit.
I LOVE my teaching job,
Especially my new role as an instructional coach and teacher leader.
After 27 years, I still feel so fortunate to be in the education profession.
I don’t HAVE to go to work, I GET to go to school.
I’m so grateful for this!
Google For Education is one of the fastest growing learning tools in the world. This past September, our school district enrolled in this suite of free tools for classroom productivity and collaboration. This amazing collection of applications is an excellent resource for educators of all grade levels in all subject and specialty areas. With GAFE, teachers can engage students anytime, anywhere on any device with the following free, device-agnostic, teacher-approved tools:
Click the image to view examples of student projects created with Google Apps for Education.
Blogging in the classroom gives students a true purpose for writing and offers them numerous opportunities to connect authentically with their peers in class and around the world. This ENHANCES learning! Students are actively creating content rather than passively consuming it. And, most importantly, they are engaging with their peers on a daily basis as they read and comment on each others’ posts.
20 years ago, my colleague Jim Svendsen and I presented a Literature Circles session to a standing room only crowd at ASCD’s annual conference in Baltimore. We were blown away by the enthusiastic response. Educators from all over the nation contacted us, and we spent the next few summers providing professional development to school districts up and down the east coast.
We had learned all we knew about Literature Circles from Harvey Daniels, the author of the seminal classic, Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in the Student-Centered Classroom. After reading it, we never approached student reading groups the same way again. I’ve been doing Literature Circles in my classroom for the last 20 years, and I wanted to share my latest incarnation of this amazing student-directed learning activity. With the advent of new instructional technology tools like Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education, my students’ literature circle experience has continued to evolve.
This year, students in my class were able to meet virtually and engage in book club discussions using applications like Twitter, Google Hangouts, TodaysMeet and Padlet. Although the preferred choice is always a 3D discussion, students who were absent could connect with their Literature Circle groups using their smartphones at home with these powerful tools. Additionally, book clubs continued meeting on weekends and during winter/spring breaks. The enthusiasm for participation in these student-centered discussions sky-rocketed as technology provided a bridge to 24/7 learning.
The wonders of Google Slides allowed group members to collaborate on Literature Circle presentations where key components of the experience were shared with classmates and peers inside and outside our school walls. Students were creating content as evidence of learning and sharing this content with an authentic audience. Next year, I will use some of their presentations to introduce Literature Circle/Books Clubs to my new groups of students.
Click the link below to view examples of these amazing collaborative presentations.
This post is part of a speech I gave for the Kappa Delta Pi Induction Ceremony at Molloy College on March 14, 2016.
I originally compiled this list of statements to offer new teachers advice as they entered their first year of teaching. However, many of the members in my PLN have reminded me that these suggestions have value for all teachers regardless of their years of experience in the classroom.
- Don’t accept the DEFAULT, seek out an option that will be BETTER for students:
- ALWAYS find a BETTER way!
- Make it your mission to fight “We’ve always done it this way” thinking.
- Be a disruptor and shake things up. Create an epic classroom!
- Classroom design EMPOWERS students. NO more ROWS of desks!
- Create the change you wish to see in your school.
2. Be so GOOD they can’t ignore you:
- Do MORE than the default – Arrive early and stay late.
- Create your OWN lesson content – Ditch the textbooks and worksheets.
- Be AVAILABLE during your lunch hour – Hold review sessions, play board games with students, treat them to lunch occasionally and allow them to work on projects.
- Volunteer for everything – Start a drama club, be a student government advisor, go to PTA meetings, and/or join the site-based management team.
- Read Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You for more inspiration.
3. Establish a strong PERSONAL CONNECTION with your students:
- My college professors told me, “Don’t smile until Christmas.” This is total bullshit! Laugh with your students, give them high-fives, jump on your desk to make a point, and above all show students that learning is FUN.
- Share family stories with your class – Include your spouse, your children, and your pets. Describe how things were in school when you were a kid.
- Share your writing folder – Read stories you wrote when you were their age. Show them your horrible handwriting.
- Get to know your students – Provide ample opportunities for them to share verbally and in writing – start a class blog. Go to your students’ soccer games, dance recitals and drama shows. They will never forget this!
4. Be FIRM, FAIR, FLEXIBLE and FUN:
- Establish clear and simple standards of behavior and stick to them. Students need to feel loved, and they all want limits (although they may not realize it).
- Flexibility is a key factor to success in your first year. Every student is not at the same instructional level and has different social and emotional needs. For example, I had a student in my first class who was a genius. He absorbed knowledge like a sponge, but his desk was a mess inside and out. Rather than scold him repeatedly about his disorganization, I allowed him to “take over” an empty desk next to him so that he would have more room to put his things.
- Be a KID!! Alicia, a student in my first class, made this card for me in 1989. She thanked me “for being a teacher and a kid at the same time.” I try to remember this when I get overwhelmed with state mandated assessments and curriculum.
- “I’ll never forget the FUN I had in 5th grade. My teacher, Mrs. Weiner, made each learning task a joyful experience. We played game shows like Password to review material, created our own videos and filmstrips (cutting-edge technology in the 1970’s), wrote extensively and read voraciously. We participated in a Gong Show talent contest, dressed up as our favorite book character and played kickball in her class. Content was being created on a daily basis and it made for an unforgettable experience. I credit Mrs. Weiner as a primary influence on my desire to become a teacher. And I’ve made sure to incorporate fun activities like these into my lessons every year regardless of grade level. My students come back to tell me how they will always remember the Ancient History News programs they created and filmed live in front of the class.
- Take the ‘EW’ out of REVIEW with Game-Based Learning applications like Kahoot! and Quizlet Live.
5. Make a daily effort to be a “GUIDE ON THE RIDE” rather than a “Sage on the Stage.”
- Move from a teacher-centered to a LEARNER-DRIVEN classroom.
- Plan group work activities into every lesson – Play Breakout EDU!
- Allow students to explore curiously and innovate. – Do passion-based, student-directed Genius Hour projects.
- Incorporate student CHOICE into most learning tasks – Think-Tac-Toe.
- Assess prior knowledge as soon as the lesson begins with Socrative, Nearpod, Padlet, Poll Everywhere, Google Forms or plain old pencil and paper.
- Then group students accordingly for that lesson (Flexible Skills Grouping).
- Offer multiple project options for students to create evidence of learning. Be sure to include choices that reflect various learning styles. Refrain from assigning “cookie-cutter” projects where every student creates the same exact thing.
7. Get students MOVING in the classroom.
- Take your class on “Learning Walks” inside AND outside the school building.
- Switch up the seats and your classroom configuration often.
- Use GoNoodle, a fun, interactive way to get kids moving.
- Don’t spend more than 30 minutes at a time engaging in seat work.
8. Don’t overwhelm students with too much homework:
- HW takes the joy out of learning for many kids.
- “There is no evidence that any amount of HW improves the academic performance of elementary students.” Harris Cooper of Duke University
- Families across America battle over HW nightly. Parents nag, cajole and often end up doing assignments for their children.
9. Establish a POSITIVE and PROFESSIONAL digital presence for yourself and your class:
- Understand that your digital tattoo is permanent and you have total control over the content you put out there. So keep it positive!
- Provide multiple pathways for students and parents to remotely access learning materials outside the classroom.
- Create a class website/digital flyer with a web-based app like SMORE.
- Model and demonstrate that “Learning Doesn’t Stop at 3 O’Clock.”
10. Don’t try to keep up with EVERYTHING in education technology:
- You can’t, nobody can.
- Curate your resources for quick and easy access using tools like: Padlet, Pearltrees, Pintrest, Smore or Symbaloo.
- Ask your students what’s new in technology and social media.
- Test-drive a new tech tool this year.
11. Foster a GROWTH MINDSET in your students:
- Teach students that failure is an important part of learning.
- Promote the power of positive self-talk. Change your words; Change your mindset.
- Give examples of famous people who failed multiple times before achieving success. For example, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, and Michael Jordan all overcame many obstacles before becoming famous.
12. Don’t EVER stop learning:
- Embark on self-directed, passion-based professional development.
- Curate and share content with colleagues.
- Listen to podcasts, view webinars, and READ whatever you can get your hands on.
- Become and expert in your field at your own blistering speed. “The standard pace is for chumps.” Kimo Williams
13. GET connected:
- Discover the VIBRANT community of AMAZING educators on Twitter. Follow #edchat hashtags! This has been a true GAME-CHANGER for me! I’ve learned more on Twitter in a few months than in years of traditional PD.
- Grow your PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network).
- Go to Edcamps, conferences and workshops (the topic matters less than the people you connect with).
14. SHARE your WORK:
- Brag about your lessons, your students and your school on social media.
- Use apps like Remind to send home positive messages and pictures of students in action.
- Create a class blog, a digital newsletter or a YouTube channel to spread the word.
- Don’t hold back because you worry that it’s not good enough or original enough. “To be original, you don’t have to be FIRST, you just have to be DIFFERENT and BETTER.” ~Adam Grant
- As a teacher in the new millennium, you are your own personal brand. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to promote yourself.
- Read Austin Kleon’s book, Show Your Work for more inspiration.
15. Save EVERYTHING:
- Keep a teaching journal and or blog about your successes and failures in the classroom.
- Take pictures, make “Best of” slide shows, and share your work.
- Keep a digital portfolio of everything you do with your students.
- Digitize your resume using an app like Smore and continually update it.
I’d like to emphasize that teaching is a difficult job, but it’s the MOST REWARDING profession there is. I had a friend who owned his own business and he asked, “Isn’t it boring teaching the same grade/subject each and every year?” and my immediate response was, “No, it NEVER gets boring because each year you are challenged with a new and vastly different group of students.”
EMBRACE CHANGE and you will rarely be disappointed!
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
Model and demonstrate how a POSITIVE digital presence makes an IMPACT.
Show students AND teachers how to actively create digital tattoos instead of passively leaving digital footprints.
We MUST teach our children to POST WITH PRIDE!
Passionate educators pushing the envelope
Lifelong learners honing their craft
Changing the world one tweet at a time
Expanding, enhancing, growing.
Riding the hashtags of
#conferences, and #workshops.
Meeting like-minded teachers from all over the globe
Expanding their PLNs
“The best I’ve ever had!”
committed to their students
Finding new ways to teach
sharing what works and what doesn’t.
tweeting about their students, their colleagues, their schools
creating good content
Bragging about their work!
CONNECTING their students with
and their peers across the world.
from teachers, admins and ed leaders
Learning in its purest form.