Sunday, September 29, 2013

Student Blogging

Getting students to write can be a very difficult task. Getting students to want to write can be equally as difficult. I've seen many writing programs come and go through the years. Most seem to rely on writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing.

The problem I see with all these programs is that  it forces the students to write about something they may or may not have an interest in and publish for an audience they don't really care about (the grade book). I believe that students will produce more authentic writing if they can write about topics that interest them. Getting authentic and meaningful feedback (aka a real conversation) makes the publishing part of the writing process more desirable.

This is where student generated blogs come in. Blog writing is informal, which takes the pressure off of writing and gives your students a voice in a safe environment.

Blog is short for web log. It's like an online diary or journal, except that it's not private. Instead it's intended for an audience. Blogs can be written about almost any topic. Other students or readers can leave comments which can lead to great discussions.

There are many reasons why your students can benefit from blogging. You can read some of these reasons here and here.

In our school district Edublogs and Kidblogs are two blogging platforms that are allowed. Both have free versions as well as more advanced features for a fee.

Here are some helpful resources for getting your students started with blogging.

I would love to help you try blogging with your students. Reach out and lets inspire your students together!
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Family of Readers

I've been writing this post in my mind for several days now. As I finally sit down tonight to actually write it, my 9 year-old son is laying in his bed reading a book. It's after his bed time and he's supposed to have the light off and be falling asleep. But it's a specific book that he asked me to check out from the library because he likes the author, and he can't put it down. A book that he has been picking up to read during every spare moment of the day. A book that I haven't had to nag him about reading.

Earlier tonight my 13 year-old daughter started reading Twilight. On her own. Without me forcing her to. She complained to me that the house was too noisy and she couldn't concentrate on her book. This is the same daughter that got me interested in at least 3 different series of books last school year. She read them for school and loved them so much I had to read them for myself.

My 6 year-old has to memorize a small part for a church program. Her part is typed out on a piece of paper. Tonight I was going to help her memorize it, but she insisted on reading all of the words by herself. There's a few unfamiliar words there, but she asked me what they were and is reading the part over and over to practice. I don't know how she does it, but she always picks the most fun books from the school library. She introduced me to Pinkalicious and Fancy Nancy-two of the best book characters for a first grade girl!

My oldest daughter (now 21) was and is a voracious reader. She would stay up almost to midnight most nights reading books. Quite often I would have to take her books away and make her turn off her light and go to sleep. This during her high school years. I'll never forget her reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. She was at the dramatic ending and it was dinner time. She was in the living room trying to finish the last few chapters. I forced her to stop reading and come to the table. After reading the book myself several days later I realized what a mistake that was!

My now 19 year old son wasn't as earnest about reading growing up. Recently he went on a trip with some friends and during their conversations they talked about several favorite books. As soon as he came home he got copies of all those books and that was all he did for the next several days.

When my two oldest children were young I wanted them to experience Caldecott books. So I checked them out from the library two or three at a time. We read them at bed time and talked about the pictures and why they are so awesome. It was such a wonderful tradition that she insisted I read them with my younger children as well. I started doing that, but because I'd already read them I was kind of bored.

I decided I would read chapter books instead. I picked The BFG because I had never read it before. I am currently reading it with my 4, 6, and 9 year old children. As I read it I will occasionally stop and ask questions or get predictions. And guess who can always tell me what's going on? My four year old! She's becoming a reader too!

I'm so proud of my family of readers! I love it when they ask me to sit down with them and read. Not me read to them, but with them. We all sit on the couch and they read their chosen book and I read my chosen book, and we just enjoy the peace and quiet and the thrill of a good book!
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Why I'm a Connected Educator

The U. S. Department of Education has declared October to be Connected Educator Month. Being a connected educator has changed me so much that I have decided to share my enthusiasm and encourage my co-workers to become connected as well. Through this post I hope to describe why I am a connected educator.

My life as a connected educator is relatively short. I first started following blogs last spring. Over the summer I took the plunge and created a Twitter account. In that short time frame, my whole outlook on education and my path as an educator has completely changed! I feel more empowered, more enthusiastic about what I can do. I feel like I'm a part of something much bigger. I feel connected!

I am the least creative or inventive educator. I can take an idea and tweak it to make it mine, but I cannot come up with the original thought. When I come up with an idea of something I want to do, I always reach out to find out if someone is already doing it. More often than not, they are doing it in a much better way than I could ever think of!

My journey to become a Connected Educator and developing a Personal Learning Network began when I started at a new school and was tasked with getting their new set of iPads into classrooms and in the hands of teachers and students. I hadn't used iPads in the classroom before so I had no idea where to begin to help teachers integrate them. So I did what I always do - I Googled it! 

I discovered many blogs by very creative teachers. They blogged about all the wonderful activities their students (even kindergarteners!) were doing with iPads and other educational technology. As I followed those blogs I realized I was missing out on the rest of the conversation. Those same educators were communicating with each other via Twitter as well.

I never had a favorable opinion of Twitter, viewing it as a waste of time. But I bit the bullet, created an account, and joined in the conversation. I've heard Twitter described as a firehose of information. I think that's an understatement! All the tweeting and retweeting has really provided me with a ton of practical information. Through blogs and Twitter, my PLN has changed my outlook on pretty much every aspect of my career.

So in the spirit of being connected and sharing, here is a list of why I'm glad to be a Connected Educator:

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

My Goals for the New School Year

Our district is rolling out a new evaluation system for teachers this year. This new system requires principals and teachers to sit down at a one-on-one meeting to discuss professional goals for the teachers, including action steps to achieve those goals. Throughout the year the principal and teacher will meet periodically to discuss progress towards those goals. My one-on-one meeting is this week.

Prior to the meeting I am supposed to self-reflect and come up with a few goals. Since I am not in the classroom, I'm sure my goals will  look different than a general ed teacher's. While their's will be focused more towards improving their ability to increase student test scores, mine are geared towards helping teachers integrate technology more in their classrooms.

As I did the self-reflection of past years and thought about this year, I came up with these goals.

  • PLN - This past summer I discovered how powerful a PLN can be. Blogs and Twitter are my new best friend! My goal is to utilize and expand my PLN, but I also want to share my excitement with the staff in my school and inspire them to create their own PLN.
  • Global Connections - Through my PLN I discovered some great projects that I would like to do with classes this year. The Global Read Aloud, Mystery Skypes, Mock Caldecott, and student blogging are a few. I would like to help teachers make global connections through these projects or any others we come across.
  • NETS-S and CCSS - The NETS-S are the national technology standards for students and the CCSS has technology embedded into them. Since I am a technology cheerleader I need to use those standards as the justification for whatever projects I encourage teachers to do.
I think these goals are very doable for me. I hope my principal sees my vision for myself and the technology at my school and supports me in achieving these goals. I will be checking back on this blog to report my progress and see if I'm successful!
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Student generated morning broadcasts

One of the exciting projects I'm looking forward to this year is our morning broadcasts run by our 4th and 5th grade students. Rather than just do announcements over the school intercom, I've setup our own little TV studio and we stream the announcements live each morning. Our production is called Triggs Broadcasting Network or TBN.

The studio is ready for the new year, I just need to get a crew of students together. Since it was new last year not many students applied to be on the crew. This year, however, students were familiar with the opportunities to be live on air and the response was overwhelming - over 40 students applied to be anchors and run the equipment!

The TBN studio setup - just add students!

After a little bit of training from me the entire production is run by students. They are the anchors, weather person, and interviewer. They run all of the equipment and create most of the content. We air live every morning with the daily school announcements and a few extra learning segments. The students absolutely love it!

I'm always amazed at how well they do. Every morning I just stand back and watch as the professionally run the whole show. It is a sight to behold! You can check out some of last year's broadcasts to see what I mean. The broadcasts are archived at the CCSDTV website.
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