Saturday, August 19, 2017

The First Week Hangover

Screenshot of my Saturday
morning Facebook status
Well, the school year has begun.  Yeah?

My district made the wonderful (🤔😒😕) decision to start school about three weeks earlier than it normally would.  It also made the decision to start with a completely full week of school.  I really like getting eased back in with a half week.  When does your school year start?  Full week? Half week?

The week before, when I was planning out the first week, I was really grateful for my blog (someone has to be right?).  It was great to go back to this post and see what I had done and how it had worked the year before.

We had shorter class periods all week this week for Week of Welcome (WOW).  We had our now elusive seminar at the beginning of each day this week.  I'm having a hard time connecting with this group of kids.  I don't know if it's the "chemical" makeup of this particular group, the fact that I barely know them (I could maybe remember 3 of their names outside of the students that are also in my English classes - though I don't really know their name and faces yet either), or that I just had such a great relationship with my previous seminar that my gauge is off.

Anyways, since we had shorter class periods and an entire week, I broke things down a little differently this year.

On Monday, I passed out all the important first-day documents, and I read through portions of the syllabus with the kids, pointed out the late work policy, and that they needed to bring Chromebooks, but if they didn't I had them covered.  I then showed them the class set I accumulated in 2014.  I told them it would cost them a class participation point though if they used one of mine (by the end of the week, 2 of the classes all had theirs and in the remaining 3 only a few needed to borrow one).  Then, we did a Kahoot that was about me and the room.  It was the same one we did last year.  It worked really well and helped me begin crafting relationships with a few students who found that I liked to watch Game of Thrones because of it.

The day was interesting in the way that the energy between me and the students really had a drastic change between Periods 2 and 3 where I switch from CP to Honors.  The 10th-grade honors students just really gave back nearly the same amount of energy that I was giving to them.  Just really drove home that this group of kids is my niche.

The next day, I had them take a first-week survey.  There were some memorable responses to some of the questions.

For instance, I had a question that asked if there was another nameother than their name on the rollthey would like to be called.  One of the students said I could call him a stick of butter as long as I was consistent.  I'm going to like this kid.

This was an intriguing answer to what they liked most about the previous year.

Here is an unedited sampling of some of their favorite jokes they shared with me (you are welcome):

  • What did the buffalo tell his son when he left to college? Bison
  • I told my girlfriend she drew her eyebrows too high. She seemed surprised.
  • Why did the quadrilateral get late to school? Because it was on the Rhombus
  • Q: What did the DNA say to the other DNA? A: Do these genes make my butt look fat
  • why did the duck go to rehab? because he was quack addict!
  • what's forrest gump's password? 1Forrest1
  • Teacher: "Kids, what does the chicken give you?" Student: "Meat!" Teacher: "Very good! Now what does the pig give you?" Student: "Bacon!" Teacher: "Great! And what does the fat cow give you?" Student: "Homework!"

Wasn't sure how to take that last one, but thought I would share it anyway.

This transitioned them into the updated BreakoutEdu from last year.  There were, of course, those that didn't like it because it was a challenge but when surveyed, the students mostly seemed to like that they were challenged and had to think critically.  Here are the some of the survey results from that activity:

Wednesday and Thursday, I got kids signed up for NoRedInk, Verso, and Actively Learn.  Thanks to the Breakout, they were already signed up for Google Classroom.  I had practice activities for Verso and Actively Learn and a planning diagnostic for NoRedInk.  The purchase order for Actively Learn hasn't come through yet, so I'm back to a free plan.  I'm anxious to get back to the Team Plan, especially since I have a cluster of ELs in my two 11th-grade classes and would like to set up some differentiation for them.  A lot of students, including many of those ELs, didn't complete the Actively Learn assignment (answer 2 questions and make one annotation shared with the class), so I sent out a comment on Google Classroom encouraging them to finish it this weekend and I'll look at them again on Monday.

Friday was spent getting student's blogs set up and showing them how to make a post.  I had planned on doing a reflection on Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome, but I think I'll have to find time to fit that in next week.  I might push back the narrative essay a day and have students do it Monday.

I've also realized, after a week of doing the exact same thing in all my classes, that I wouldn't want to teach the same prep all day.  I did it once about 6 years ago, but I need the change of pace more now I think.

How did your first week go?  I hope it was a good one.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I've Done Bad, but Google Classroom Has Done Good

Well, I haven't done much better in being a more consistent blogger, have I?

My excuses are kind of piss poor too, or maybe not really.  June was crazy, as the last weeks of school usually are.  Then I was off to ISTE in San Antonio (Had a nice trip, but wasn't that crazy about ISTE this year.  Maybe more on that later) before I came home and got a call for a surgery I didn't think was going to happen, and then I had said surgery and was recovering from it.  Surgery wasn't that serious (deviated septum), but it did take a big chunk of energy from me.  Now, I'm getting prepared to go back to school.
We have a really short summer in our district this year.  Preparing for and recovering from my surgery took the majority of my July and now school starts in less than two weeks.

I have a lot of Feedly posts to read through, so I should definitely have some Read Reports coming out.  Maybe I'll space them out some.

But I'm super duper, mega excited for the new Google Classroom updates released this week.

I'll admit, the animation in the Google for Ed blog post about the updates got me really good thinking that there was a way to toggle between a Teacher View and Student View, but since that doesn't seem to be a possibility, it was...

But let's talk about some of the updates that actually DID happen:

Single View of Student Work: If you go to your Student tab, you can now click on a student and see all the assignments for that student.  You can also filter that page for work that has been turned in, graded, or is missing.  For someone who deals with a lot of late work from apathetic 11th graders, this is my favorite update.  I think this is the one had me like...

Reorder Classes:  This is the one that most people have been waiting for.  You can now click and drag your classes around on the homepage to put them in any order you want.  This also changes the order in which they appear on the drop down menu.  This is great for those of us that want to put like classes together even if they aren't next to each other during our day.  For instance, last year, I could have had my 1st and 4th period 11th-grade classes right next to each other.

Decimal grading:  Pretty sure this one is self-explanatory (If it's not, there is a link above you can use).  This was only an issue for me on occasion, but sometimes you just don't want to give that full point for something, so now you don't have to.

There were 5 other Google Classroom-specific updates, but I'm kind of apathetic to them, so I don't have much to say on them (Hey look! I'm acting like an 11th-grader).

Overall, this update had me feeling verklempt.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Shakespearean Insult Wall Meets the Internets.

I know it's been awhile (and I was doing so well).  But, my excuse is that the month of April and most of May have been really crazy.  This is especially true because I'm also the department chair and we had official federal visits, the school-wide administration of the ACT to the juniors, and now we're into SBAC testing.

I wanted to do a quick post on an experiment of sorts I just did.  For the past couple of years, when doing any Shakespeare, I do a Shakespearean Insult Wall.  I used to do it the "old-fashioned" way, with poster paper and sticky notes.

A post shared by Miss Barron (@missbarronsfhs) on

A post shared by Miss Barron (@missbarronsfhs) on

I had been contemplating on switching it over to Padlet the last year or two.  This year I finally did it.  It worked out really well.  I had the students create accounts so I could tell who was saying what, and I made it so I had to moderate comments, so that only ones done following the directions and complete would appear.

I think I'll do it again next year.

Side note:  I'm really liking Padlet this year with the changes they've made/things they have added (COMMENTS!).

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Kid President Blog 3

It's actually #6 for my students, but I'm behind so I checked and the last one I did I labeled #2, so this is the 3rd one where I've decided to participate and model for them as they write their own blog posts.

I had them read #68, "Be Kind".  I think it's especially important to try and be kind to people right now, so that is why I chose it.
The helpful prompts to help the students out for this reflection were:

    1. What do you think about kindness?
    2. Do you find it hard or easy to be kind most of the time?
    3. When is it easiest for you to be kind?
    4. When is it hardest for you to be kind?
    5. Was there something KP said that really stood out to you?

I think kindness is an extremely important trait to have and to show to other people.  I think grace goes hand-in-hand with kindness because you don't know what other people are going through and often need to forgive and show grace to others who don't show kindness to you.  "Killing" people with kindness is often quite an effective weapon, and when others are shown grace when they feel they don't deserve it, it can have quite a transformative effect on them.

Most of the time (I think), I find it easy to be kind most of the time.  I actually think I find it more difficult to be mean to people, but that's not necessarily the same thing.  The absence of kindness is not cruelty, and sometimes I think it's worse to be apathetic than it is to be in the negative about something instead of the positive.   As the saying goes, "there is a thin line between love and hate", but apathy is often a blurred line and it's hard to figure out how to cross it.

I think it's easiest to be kind when others are kind to you, so - obviously - it's hard to be kind when someone is being mean to you.  I do think there are people out there that make it impossible to be kind to them.  But, you need to at least try.  And, if your kindness doesn't have an affect on them, then don't be mean to them, that's when apathy is acceptable. 

Kid President's advice to pause and remember that that when someone is making it difficult to be kind to them, or are being mean to you, to remember that they are a person too.  I watched something once where a man explained what his wife did when people were just not being their best selves.  She always assumed that they did it for a very important reason.  For example, if someone cut them off in the car, she would say something about how they must be trying to get to the hospital, etc. I think that's really good advice that I especially need to heed when I'm driving.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Reflections on CATE

So last month, I attended the California Association of Teachers of English (CATE) Conference with a few colleagues.

First, and ironically, it was last, Kwame Alexander - poet and Newberry Award winner for The Crossover - spoke at the last keynote.  He started with a reading of his poem, "In My Closet, On the Top Shelf, Is a Silver Box", which left me gutted emotionally.  I then went and bought all his non children's books and read that poem to my classes.  They felt it too.  I highly suggest looking into his poetry, especially with National Poetry Month occurring next month.  I will be reading a poem a day to my students.  Any suggestions?

Looking back through my notes, these are a few things that stood out to me.

A session about independent reading by Amy Matt.  That is something that my department holds sacred as 5% of a student's overall grade, but something we especially struggle with.  I'm definitely using some of her materials to incorporate them into my Book Review blogs.  I'm also going to try out the speed dating idea at some point (probably next year to be honest).  I think I'm also going to take time, once, maybe twice, a week to have students read in class.  I may start this with my 11th graders after next week.  I'm also going to set individual reading goals for my students instead of a one size fits all.  This is easy to do in the Accelerated Reader program we use.

I had a couple of dud sessions.  Particularly those that promised to help reduce the amount of work in grading.  I have a book I bought a few years ago that I've never read that I need to find.  Something about not working harder than your students are.

I found out about another Reading and Tracking tool, similar to Actively Learn and Owl Eyes, called  CommonLit.  If we don't end up expanding or renewing our Actively Learn account, I may check it out next year and give it a try.  I signed up just in case, and to maybe use some of their questions.  I'm always on the look out for good questions.

I found out about the app, Serial Reader, from Jennifer Naumann.  It breaks down classic lit into bite sized chunks.  The app will send them a 20 minute (or less) section of a book daily.

I went to a session by the Zen Teacher and every teacher should check out his site.  I bought the book, and he has inspired me to be better about taking care of myself.  I've mediated much more consistently (even if it's only for a few minutes) than I ever have.

The awesome Catlin Tucker was there for a keynote.  I really like her story time idea.  I need to go to the bookstore and look through the children's books for some good ones that could teach teenagers good lessons. I think I'll read one to them each month and then have them reflect on them in a blog.

I had a really good time in my last session about unlocking Shakespeare's rhetoric.  The presenters,
Kelly Boske and Melinda Malaspino, did a great job and I wish one of the colleges down here did a Globe Academy.  I might try a few of the techniques with my 10th grade honors class when we read A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Though, to tell the truth, after that session, I'm getting the hankering to teach Taming of the Shrew again.

Stay tuned for a Kid President blog, I'm having my students do one for the first time in a while today.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Read Report Enters 2017

I need to do a post on my experience at CATE, but I'm determined to get caught up on these articles.

It was interesting how so many articles I had saved just didn't seem to interest me anymore the way they did when I first read them.  I eliminated a lot as I browsed through them and ended up done with 2016, so all I  have left is 2017, so I'm only a month (or two) behind now.

source: wikimedia
Through a guest post on Cult of Pedagogy, Krista Taylor talked about Voluntary Piloting instead of PD.  It reads much more like graduate studies work than a blog post but was an interesting concept.  I don't think anyone likes mandatory PD, especially when it ends up being something you already know/do, or not really something that you could implement right away.  I don't think my principal would even have the authority to okay some of the stuff that she talked about in the post (giving continuing ed credit), but I liked the idea of a group of teachers piloting something and sort of creating a structured support group.  I feel that would have been beneficial for those of us piloting Actively Learn on our campus.

I've been working and figuring out ways to incorporate blogging in my classroom since last year, so a post by Jacqui over at Ask a Tech Teacher about Why and How Students Can Blog caught my attention.  She talked about how students can collaborate by commenting (something my students have to do) and co-writing (not something my students do).  Designing a profile was also discussed.  This one I'm not sure I'm on board with.  I don't even let me students use their full names on their blogs and ask them to make sure they are unlisted. Privacy and protection and all that.  That segues right into their digital footprint.  Having them reach out beyond their own classmates and trusted others scares me a little.  Maybe next year, and maybe with parent permission slips.  She talked about many other things, but the last one I want to touch on is reflection.  It's one of the reasons I blog, and it's one of the main reasons I have the student's blog.  Writing down your thoughts, regardless of if you have a prompt to answer or not, is really helpful in a multitude of ways.  I know that blogging about the things I do in class, help me analyze what does and does not work.  I have the students do the same with their Passion Project portion of their blogs.

Again, back to Cult of Pedagogy and a post by Jennifer Gonzalez on 6 Ed Tech Tools to try this year.  The 6 tools are Nearpod, Planboard, Slack, Peergrade, Newsela, and Sketchboard.  I've used Slack before (though not with my students) and am thinking of maybe using it next year to sort of create a community help board for my classes.  I signed up for Peergrade, but in the crazy that this past month has been completely forgot to try it out with my students and their Chinese Culture Research Projects.  I like to try most things out with my more dependable and easier to manage 10th grade honors students, so maybe I'll give it a try with the next essay.  I have a Newsela account but never use it.  I might use it to print up lower Lexile articles for my EL students the next time I need an Article of the Week.

source: wikimedia

I tried the Passion Project out for the first time last year with BOTH of my preps.  This year my version of the 20% Time/Genius Hour is only with my 10th-grade honors.  A post over at A Meaningful Mess about 5 Ways to Find a Student's Passion definitely caught my eye.  I agree with Andi McNair that having a conversation with students is an excellent way to help them figure out what they are passionate about.  How to turn that passion into a project with a learning something else entirely.  Observation was the next way, and that is something that I can do in class more than out of it because I don't see them too often outside of my classroom (there is no recess in high school). She then talked about something that I want to remember to try next year, which is Thrively. Apparently, there is a strength assessment that students can take to help them find what they want to learn about.  The penultimate way was  It will help students learn by doing.  The last one was outside experts.  This is one that so many 20Timers talk about, but not one that I think I could really pull off with equity.  Our district is a Title 1 district with lots of areas of crime and violence.  My school would have a leg up because it's in a better part of town, but it would still be difficult to connect these students with mentors.

Continuing with another post by Andi McNair, she posted: Don't Assume, Ask!  This is critical I think not only of teachers to students but students to teachers.  But, as the adult, the ownership lies with us.  I need to get better and have been working on it, about just assuming that my students (especially those 11th-graders) are just lazy and ask them why they didn't do their work.  She also talks about not assuming things about administrators and their decisions either.  That one is a little trickier for me, but I do tend to be the one that will step forward and address an issue (elephants don't belong in the room).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Read Report Lives: the trilogy

Shall we make this journey to get caught up on all my saved Feedly posts a trilogy?  It will probably be more.

We reach the "summer" months with a post by Jacqui over at Ask A Tech Teacher.  Jacqui writes about the 7 Must-have Tools for Ed Conferences.  Now, I love Ed Conferences.  I'm at one right now (CATE).

  • Her first suggestion is a navigation app on your phone.  She suggests WAZE, and I agree, but I would also have a backup like Google Maps.  Depending on the conference, you may need to travel around the city to find your sessions, let alone if you are driving to the conference itself.
  • Her second is to download the conference app if they have one.  I've been to a few conferences that don't have a Sched, and it drives me crazy trying to decide and keep track of possible sessions to attend.  Here is a little personal tip when going to conferences and dealing with the schedule:  Choose multiple options for each session so that if one turns out to be a dud or full, you can go right to another choice instead of searching through the schedule to find something else.
  • Next?  Don't paper and pencil it.  Bring tech that is easily transportable.  My first year at CUE, I brought my laptop for use in the hotel room and my iPad for the sessions.  I no longer bring my iPad and instead bring my Chromebook and only my Chromebook.  If I charge it overnight, I don't (usually) need to charge it during the day.  It's light-weight, and taking notes on a keyboard is easier for me than trying to do it on my iPad.  I have my phone for anything that needs a QR code, but now I won't even need that thanks to different Chrome extensions.
  • Note taking.  Jacqui talks about Evernote and Notability, but I tend to create a shared notes document with my Technology Committee or anyone else that is attending the conference, so we can all add to our resources (and sometimes divide and conquer the sessions).  Nothing works better than Google Docs for that.  In the past, I would create a table of contents, but now I just use the heading functions and the outline tool.
  • Messaging App.  You're basically going to need Twitter.  Most conferences have hashtags that you can use to share and converse about what is happening.  I use Tweet Deck so I can have multiple columns of hashtags open.
  • QR Reader.  Numerous apps you can download for this.
  • Digital Scanner.  She talks about using it for business cards.  I've never used it for that, but I have used it for making copies of receipts for reimbursement.  I use the app Tiny Scanner, on my iPhone.

Heading backward into March, Alice Chen wrote about how sharing on social media helped her become a better educator.  I'm nowhere near as a prolific tweeter and she certainly has more blog cred than I do, but I do agree with her.  Blogging, however sporadic I may be with it, forces me to reflect on what is going on in my teaching.  While I know that some people do read these blog posts, they don't seem to spark conversations (yet?).  As I've gotten more active on Twitter, I find myself building a more robust PLN and creating conversations.  The trick with Twitter is finding the right hashtags so people see what you have to say.

Jumping back to May, and another post by Jacqui, we have a post about using the SAMR Model to direct your technology integration.  I definitely agree with much of what she wrote about.  Her suggestions remind me a little of Catlin Tucker's suggestion about (and I paraphrase) learning to use one tool really well before adding other tools to your box (and then use the ones that you like the best/most in your tool belt).  We have Federal Program Monitoring this year and in our mock assessment, one of the evaluators mentioned how there was a lot of substitution going on by teachers.  Well, of course, there is.  We've only had 1:1 for one grade level for a year.  It is going to take time for many of the more veteran teachers to integrate tech in the classroom beyond what they do on the whiteboard.

I'll stop there.  For today at least.  If you have any blogs that you follow, let me know.  I would love to add them to my Feedly.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Read Report Lives (Part 2)

Continuing on in trying to catch up and be a better blogger, here are a few more articles from my Feedly and my thoughts on them.
Screenshot from Google Classroom

Back in April 2016, Google's Education Blog talked about 4 Ways to Use Polling in Google Classroom.  If you use the Question function on Google Classroom (GC), and choose multiple choice instead of short answer, you can create a way to poll your students without creating a Google Form.  I had forgotten about this since I don't tend to use the question function and instead use Verso for online discussions.  But, I've already set one up for next week to help my 11th graders, who are doing a very big research paper, self-monitor their progress.  The blog also mentioned it's a good way to get student feedback, for exit tickets, and to guide student discussions.

At the end of the same mother, Sylvia Duckworth from EdTechTeam, talked about taking her knowledge of (what was then) GAFE for granted and what she did to make sure to pass the Google Level 2 exam.  She offered 3 Tips to Rock the Google Level 2 EDU Certification.  I'm sure I kept this because it was my plan over the summer to get my Level 2 Certification, but that didn't pan out.  Then my district offered Level 1 Certification courses, but I already had mine and so I asked if Level 2 would be offered.  They said it would be, and it was, but the class in December got cancelled.  It is now in May.  I've gone and checked out some of the training modules, but I haven't had the time to really look at them or the resources our Program Specialist put together.  Maybe I can get some of that done during Spring Break in April (Ha. Then I would have come full circle).  One thing I have done when looking at the modules is I go straight to the Review Quizzes and see what I don't actually know and then study that instead of reading over information that I've already figure out on my own in my usage of the G Suite products.

In May, Jennifer Gonzlez at the Cult of Pedagogy posted (and podcasted) about ways to make better use of Twitter.  She talks about finding your tribe, having conversations, sharing, participating in Twitter chats (mine is #caedchat - though I need to get more involved with it), do research, and communicate with students and parents.  Now, I have my personal twitter, which I use for the first 5 things Jennifer mentions, but I created a school twitter for my students/parents.  I don't get much traction out of the latter, but then again, most of the kids seemed to have moved to SnapChat.

In that same month, Valencia Clay over at Edutopia posted about Intrinsic Motivation vs. Standardized Tests. I think, at the time, I was interested because I had been working on my action research project with my two partners, and a large part of it involved extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.  She'd used a lot from the work of Daniel Pink and his book, Drive (which you should read), but one thing in her article really caught my attention.  One of the questions she says we should have students explore is "How will achieving well on this exam impact me a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now? Now, I'm admittedly biased against any high-stakes standardized testing and think there is too much of it.  I also think there is too much no-little-stakes standardized testing (my 10th graders take 5-6 a year). But, some of these standardized tests can impact a student.  Our 11th-grade students take the SBAC and have the EAP questions attached to it.  That can impact them because - depending on how well they do on the mixture of questions (SBAC and EAP) - it determines whether or not they need to take ERWC or any remedial English or Math courses in college (it essentially replaces placement tests).

I think that's a good plethora for now.  Next time, we'll cover the month of June and maybe more.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Read Report Lives

Since the new semester has begun and both my preps are working on research papers, I have a little more time to be a better blogger.  It will, of course, catch back up to me when these papers are due.

I haven't done a Read Report in a really long time (about a year), but I have been checking up on my Feedly and saving posts.

This will be a nice way to refresh my memory about things.

Going all the way back to October of 2015, Jennifer Gonzales, gave her Big List of Class Discussion Strategies.  She breaks them down by high-prep, low-prep, and ongoing strategies.  Of the high-prep strategies mentioned, my favorite and the one that has basically replaced my attempts at Socratic Seminars is Philosophical Chairs.  I haven't done one in a while, but I plan to do so soon with the anticipation guide for The Joy Luck Club.  I find that anticipation guides are good ways to incorporate Philosophical Chairs.  I usually give them a "worksheet" where they can mark where they stand on a big idea or theme from the novel.  I also usually have them write down why they agree/disagree.  Then, usually the next day, we move about the room and defend our positions, seeing if we can persuade others with our analysis to move on over to our side.

Jacqui Murray also wrote in October of 2015.  Her post was about Let[ting] Student Learn from Failure.  I think this one caught my eye way back when because I completely agree that it is necessary.  I tell my kids all the time that we learn best from our mistakes, but that doesn't seem to deter their fear of failure.  She suggests many things in the post, but the two that stood out to me were her comments on the "Mulligan Rule" and letting students see you fail.  Now, the former is something I offer, but probably not explicitly enough since no one ever takes me up on it.  So, I need to find a way to make it clear that students can resubmit essays or projects to make them better.  The latter is something my students see me do all the time.  It usually appears in the typos of the work I present to them, but it can run the gamut all the way up to a lesson that just totally bombs.

Again back in October 2015, my friend Crystal Kirch talked about the TeachMeet she did with her colleagues.  They "had three 2-minute sessions of teachers sharing something awesome they do in their classes with technology followed by 1-minute of reflection and debriefing with colleagues."  So, each session was probably around 5 minutes, for a total of 15.  I would love to do this with my staff.  I think I'm going to take it to my tech committee and see what they think before I go to the admin to ask for time.

Another Jacqui Murray post (still 2015, but I've moved on up to November at least), talk about what she thinks are the 5 Best Typing Tutors.  The ability to type on a normal keyboard, rather than one on a smart phone, is a skill that is severly lacking in many students.  I honestly feel that we need to bring back some technology course that many schools and districts have done away with.  These skills are especially pertinent with the onslaught of 1:1 programs.

We finally jettison into 206 (February) with a post from EdTechTeam about Google's Revision History.  I love this tool, not only for fixing my own mistakes, but to catch kids who I suspect of plaigarizing their work from another student.  If things go into a document in one fell swoop with minimal entries in the revision history, it stinks of copy and paste.

Going back a month with a post from Jennifer Scott about Living in the Learing Moment.  She talks about when to sit and give synchronous feedback to students and when we roam around the room.  This is something that I think I will always struggle with, but am better at than I was when I started my blended-learning endeavors.  I think if I can get my workload down, I could feel more able to roam around the room than I already am.  I use many different "formulas" to keep myself out on the floor with my students.  Somethings I do the half-and-half:  5 minutes at my desk and then 5 minutes on the floor.  Other times, especially if I'm grading, I do the quota:  After every X number of assignments, I'll get up and roam around the room.

I think I'll leave it there for now.  Maybe in a day or two I can work on getting all caught up.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

OCCUE Techfest 2017

Here is my slide deck for my first conference presentation.  I wanted to do something for those of us that already use Google Classroom.  We don't need to know the basics, but it would be awesome if we could learn some tips and tricks to maximize its usage, right?  This is a live document and I will be adding to it.

The room was pretty packed, so I think I hit on a need that some of this conferences often lack.

If you have any tips or tricks that you would like to share for Google Classroom, please leave a comment.  If you would like me to include it the next time I present on Google Classroom, let me know and I'll give you proper credit.

I also went to three other sessions besides my own.

The first one on an app for the tablets called Argubot Academy by GlassLabs.  It combines gameplay with teaching kids how to discover and identify the correct type of evidence to support their arguments.  Despite the fact it's geared towards middle schoolers, I think my students could find it fun and useful.  I won't really be looking into it any further until it's available on the Chromebook, which is something that they are apparently working on according the to presenter (Laura Compton).

The second was about the classroom management app ClassDojo.  I once signed up for a few years ago, but it seemed a little too elementary school for my students, and maybe it still is in regards to the aesthetic of the icons for the kids.  But, I might give it a try next year.  It had a lot to offer in keeping track of specific behaviors and assigning specific points for those behaviors.  It might do the kids and I well to have certain behaviors be worth more and subtract more for their participation grade.  I particularly liked the suggestion by the presenter, Tracy Edmisten, to use a zero point value to keep track of the number of times a student goes to the restroom.

The last session I went to was about using Hamilton in the classroom.  The biggest takeaway I got from that was finding out about the site Genius.  It's a site where people can read up on annotations about lines in a song, or even add some themselves.  The annotations seem to be really thorough.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

And the Semesters Turn, Turn, Turn

First, I'm nervous/anxious/excited to try my hat as a presenter at the OCCUE Techfest 2017.  I'll share my slide deck with you all after Saturday.  

I am so bad at this blogging thing.  I'm sorry it's been so long, but like any of you teachers know, things get busy.  But with my last final done for the semester and all my grades (pretty much) in, I have a moment to breath and try and reflect on this past semester.

My last post, back in November (shame *clang, clang* shame *clang, clang*), talked about add-ons, including JoeZoo.  Well, since then, JoeZoo has made some changes.  They now have the add-on called JoeZoo Express and they have the web app.  It's still a really useful add-on to use, but you'll have to jump through some hoops (like getting your district to install it to get all the features) to get the full array of features.  I used to use it mostly for its MonkeyChecker, but I find I really like the rubric function a lot.  If you set it up right you can get it to do all the adding to get the score for each essay.  I may move to JoeZoo for the big 11th-grade research project coming up instead of Goobric.

Each year, I feel like I have less and less time than I did the year before.  For next year, I really need to decide what is most important for the students to know (I know, we all say this every year), and take more time.  I need to decide what is and isn't important, and this includes for common assessments.  If I don't think my students really need to know X, then maybe I'll adjust my own copies of assessments and not test for X (or convince my PLC we don't need to include it).
Looking back at my workload this past semester, I need to move forward with assigning deeper, more meaningful assignments.  Again, many of us say this all the time, but it's hard to get myself to do it because I feel so much of a work of literature is meaningful and I want to share all my knowledge with the kids about it.

I also think that when I try and add meaningful assignments (like the Passion Project for my 10th graders and Kid President Blogs for both 10th and 11th), I feel like I'm falling behind the other classes because I have to take time out of the week to do these things that other teachers are not.  That puts some pressure on me to try and catch up.  It kind of makes you feel like a bad teacher if you aren't able to go the same pace as everyone else.  You aren't one, but you sometimes feel like it.

Next year's Poe unit for my 10th graders will include less poetry I think.  I can easily cut out "Ulalume", but I really don't want to give up "Dream Within a Dream".  And, I certainly don't want to cut out "Eldorado", "The Bells" (perfect for talking about sound devices) and "Annabel Lee".  I can't cut out "The Raven" (you can't talk about Poe without reading "The Raven".

If I cut out one of the three short stories, it will probably be "The Black Cat".  Despite its difficulty, I want to continue to do "Murders in the Rue Morgue" because it's a departure from what Poe is known for and the birth of the detective story.  In case you were wondering, the last story is "The Masque of the Red Death", and that is NEVER coming out (ah, symbolism).  I think I might also switch it back to starting with the stories and ending with the poetry.

I'm nearly paperless in my 10th-grade class so just about everything is due through Google Classroom.  I think one of the problems with time that I am having is because the technology has made the students...lazier (for lack of a better term).  If I were to assign a "worksheet" on symbolism in "The Masque of the Red Death" on paper and it was due the next day, students would typically go home and finish whatever they didn't in class and bring it back done the next day.  That is overwhelmingly not so with these kids when an assignment is online.  The majority of students still haven't' finished it the next day in class.  We've had this discussion multiple times and I just have to get better about putting a time on the due date and giving homework cards to those students who don't have it in on time (I will admit that going to blended-learning has negatively affected how I handle homework cards consistently).

My 11th graders, by in large, have the same problem regardless of if it's an online assignment or a paper one (I'm less paperless in this class), but many of them try and use the online aspect of an assignment as an excuse for poor motivation and achievement.

My goals for this semester:

Ease up on my workload.  I don't need to grade every assignment.  
  • Get better with electronic assignments and homework cards.
  • Throw it back to how I used to be as a teacher and come up with more project-based assessments with choice (still have to do the common assessments with 11th grade though).
  • Get more helpful screencast videos done for the students.