Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Word Clouds

Word Clouds are a beautiful way to engage students with vocabulary or themes within content.  Many people are already familiar with Wordle but I was frustrated that the site didn't allow me to manipulate the image into a relevant shape.  

Enter Tagul and Tagxedo.  Tagul even talks to Google so that is nice if you're a Chromebook user.

The I created this Word Cloud in a few minutes using our FHS logo on the website Tagxedo.

Here is one that uses President Obama's inauguration speech to create his campaign image.  

To see some other examples of Word Clouds - check out their gallery.

This gave me the idea of how to use word clouds in the classroom and the corresponding Common Core Standards.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  1. After reading an informational text, create a GIST summary of the text (this site explains GIST if you have never used it before).  Use the 20-word GIST to create the word cloud. 
  2. Review direct and indirect characterization with students.  Use a mnemonic like STEAL  to ask students to review the text for examples of indirect characterization.  Use their findings to create word clouds for characters in a novel or historical figure.  
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  1. Use the Frayer Model to identify essential characteristics OR examples of a vocabulary term to create a word cloud.  This could be used in any subject area with almost any key term.
  2. Use the theme or main idea of a story as the figure image.  This would be a .jpg or .png file of a word.  The word cloud would be made up of phrases that piece together the text's meaning/tone.  Here is one I created for To Kill a Mockingbird.  

Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person's life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
  1. Use the CIA World Factbook to highlight specific features of a specific country.  Compare the word cloud to an informational text.
  2. Compare two sides of an argument to see which side uses specific words more frequently.  
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
  1. Any application works!
Any other suggestions?  Add them below!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

If You Give Reminders, Your "Teammates" Will Play Better

One of my fellow Bison sent this video to me after we were discussing maintaining expectations for behavior in a classroom.  He is also a basketball coach which is how he came across the video.  We both agreed that while the video is very much about basketball specifically - the information can be directly applied to a classroom (or board room). At 3 minutes - it's the right time frame for busy professionals - Go ahead and watch it.  My connections to education are below:

The video says:  Give a reminder before it's needed - feedback after the event is not leading - it's"complaining about something after the fact".  We have to "recognize the situation before it happens and give a reminder then."

These quotes reminded me of the formative feedback we provide students during a lesson.  When a student asks a question in class about the concept, we know that we need to remind them of the correct way to address the topic.  The advantage of teaching a class multiple times is that you can begin to predict what will be the areas of confusion.  By giving the students reminders of what these misconceptions will be for a unit will help them avoid the mistake altogether or at least predict that the next section might be challenging for them.

Also, knowing a subject does not mean that we can always predict the background knowledge of each student.  Just because for the past few years, the students always understand A but not B does not mean that we can assume that all of our students are going to understand A.  This is when differentiated feedback becomes very important.  It is not enough to tell a student that they got the problem wrong (the student could have used the key to grade the problem themselves) but also to provide the information to take action to prevent it from happening again (Fisher & Frey, 2009).  This is most helpful in a formative lesson. 

As a classroom teacher, I would spend hours pouring over student short answers and provide detailed feedback about what they got wrong.  This is similar to the point guard that gave the reminder after the other team scored - complaining after the fact.  My students usually would glance at the grade they got on top, be satisfied or upset about their score and move on.  I would get so upset but what purpose did my feedback serve in their lives?  It wouldn't help them earn a higher grade and it did not tell them how it could be used in the future.  In other words, it wasn't relevant . . .

The video says:  Great leaders "constantly give reminders that is relevant" 

Regular reminders help students monitor their progress.  After repeated reminders given from the teacher, the student will start to hear the reminders in their own minds.  When a person is learning to drive, the instructor gives them a steady stream of reminders to make sure their safety and the safety of others is ensured.  Text-dependent citations are not a life-or-death situation but giving students the a process reminder will still yield strong results.  

How do you use reminders in your world?  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hot Keys

HotKeys are keyboard shortcuts that help navigate a website or file without the use of a mouse.  For example, “Ctrl+K” will allow you to insert a hyperlink to your highlighted text.  I created a “cheat sheet” that includes the most frequently used Hot Keys that you can tape to your laptop's palm rest.  Check it out HERE.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

If You're Nervous - It Means You Want To Do Your Best

That's a quote from my field experience professor at Roosevelt University.  She told us on her first day of teaching a new class, that she still gets nervous.  I remember thinking, "if she still gets nervous after being a teacher for two decades, then I can allow myself the same."

Now I am the veteran teacher helping other teachers, some with years or a decade more experience than me, through a new evaluation model.  What have I learned?

You're never too good or experienced to not be nervous.

In the past two weeks I have had meetings with five different teachers about their Individual Growth Plans and 10 different professionals getting ready for observations.  No matter what level they are - they all came to me because they want to do their best.  Fortunately, we were able to talk about their strengths and areas for growth with openness and honest dialogue.

Despite all of these enriching conversations however, when it came time to schedule my observation -

I started at the Pre-Observation Form and really started to evaluate myself against the Framework for Instructional Coaches and began wondering where do I really fit in?  What will happen if I get a Needs Improvement?  OR WORSE??  There are definitely areas I know that I have strengths in (4f and 4g I got!) - but in so many ways - I am like a first or second year teacher:  learning the culture and habits of my audience and developing my process and strategies to engage them.

I am just going to have to keep reminding myself that it's okay to be nervous - that it's only because I want to do well.  And I always want to do well.  Getting messages like this -

from a 20+ year veteran help me think that I'm doing a few things a-okay.

Update!  September 30, 2014
Today was my observation!  It went well - I think.  I allowing for some time to pass before I review the evidence.  I was observed during my StamPD monthly meeting.  Surprisingly when I got here today - I wasn't nervous at all (I think skipping caffeine this morning was a good idea).  It also helps that my Department Chair and observer happens to be one of my biggest champions.  Next week is our Post-Observation so stay tuned for the final verdict!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Practice What You Teach

I am constantly talking to all teachers about the importance of establishing good classroom routines.  It's not just because it's 2c in the Danielson Framework - but without those routines - good learning becomes impossible.  Students who want to learn get frustrated by the teacher allowing the students who are not behaving according to expectations.

But expectations are not what you say - it's what you allow to happen.

Meet Mr. Hester - you can start the video at 0:44 but watch what happens at 1:16.  

Giovanni wasn't meeting expectations - Mr. Hester quickly and efficiently re-taught the expectation and was able to return to the rest of his class.

So I know all of this and I talk about it all the time but what happens when it's my own class?

This year FHS is rolling out Bison Time - an academic resource period built into the school day.  I have been assigned 25 seniors.  On the first two days, I started with my CHAMPS slideshow clearly stating my expectations and telling them what they needed to know about me.  I thought I was like Mr. Hester.

Despite this great start - somehow by the end of Bison Time yesterday, 15 days after the first day of school, I found myself having said, "stop talking" no less than 15 times to the students.  I even had to hold back three students to talk about their lack of respect toward their fellow classmates.

How embarrassing!  How did this happen?

My Bison Time is made up of some great kids - but I forget that even seniors need to have a little direction and focus.  I said that I expected them to be quiet and to work but I allowed them to chatter and socialize.

But every setback is an opportunity for growth, right?

I need to re-teach but because my expectations were not reinforced by my actions.  Now my re-teaching cannot be as subtle as Mr. Hester's because I have let things go on so long.  Tomorrow the students will walk into this slideshow. I'll keep you posted how it goes.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Professional Development in 1 Minute

Teachers are so busy - trying to fit Professional Development can be a challenge.  I am trying a new venture to keep it under a minute and to the point.  Here is my first video that talks about using 1:1 technology in the classroom.  

Help me grow! Please leave me comments here, on YouTube or email me.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Week 1 a.k.a. The Longest Week of School

Fenton High School started the school year on Monday, August 18, 2014.  I was in and out of the building all summer long because of various workshops.  I had strangely become accustomed to the quiet of the hallways; the occasional greeting when passing by colleagues as they worked in their classrooms.  When I walked into the North hallway on Monday the sound felt like a physical force.  There is nothing like the energy of the first day of school.

But now?  It's Thursday night and  I know that many of my colleagues feel the same way.  It's been a great week of connecting with people as we roll out many new changes.  Listed (in no particular order):

  1. 1:1 Chromebooks for all the students
  2. an Academic Resource built-in to the schedule called "Bison Time"
  3. the Danielson evaluation model for teachers
  4. a whole new schedule: switching to 45 minute periods-including a 45 minute lunch for teachers and students AND switching from PLN release time from Thursdays to Tuesdays
It's no wonder this week felt like one fire-drill after another - oh yea - we had one of those too.

But do bison run away?!  Well, maybe they do - but like these bison - FHS Bison take care of business even in the face of a challenge.

Day 2:  Students in Algebra I

One of the best things about this week was visiting the Algebra I classes as they rolled out using Khan Academy's Math Missions to differentiate instruction for their students.  If you're not familiar with Khan Academy, check out their mission here.  Our Algebra I teachers approached us in the Spring to talk about how they could use a blended learning model to teach the subject.  They felt full mastery was important because with mathematics, if you do not understand the foundations, the more difficult concepts become almost impossible.  Khan Academy allows the students to work at their own pace, building the skills that they need to work on along the way, earning badges for the content they have mastered.  This also allowed the teachers to trouble-shoot problem concepts with individualized attention that the students needed.  Right now the teachers are having the students work on Early Math (K-2) while the teachers, students, and infrastructure all habituate to the new medium of instructional delivery.  Stay tuned for updates!

I also had a follow-up conversation with a teacher I have been working with to implement the work on Randy Sprick's CHAMPS model into her classroom.  She is a veteran teacher of 10+ years but wanted to make her classroom a community of learners instead of top-down classroom management (Danielson Domain 2).

Over the summer, we talked a lot about the need to be clear with expectations for students - expectations are not what you say you want them to do but what you allow them to do.  We used our school's Be REAL Framework as our basis for her classroom expectations.  We also worked out a warning system ahead of time to help her be more consistent in redirecting behavior.

At the end of week 1, she has reported that it is going well.  The expectations are so simple and clear that it takes her very little instructional time to redirect student behavior.  In the next few weeks, I'll be going into to her classroom to take an behavioral ecology and addressing the major areas of concern for positive classroom behavior:  time on task, opportunities to respond, disruptions and ratio of positive to negative interactions.

Next week, my coaching collaborator, +Michael Berago, and I will be launching "Coffee with the Coaches".  This will be a time for our staff to commiserate but also address the professional development focus for this year:  assessment.  To jump start our discussion, we will be using a great article by Jay McTighe:  Seven Assessment Practices for Effective Learning.

We will also be working with our English I team to conduct an online articulation meeting with our two feeder districts.  This will be our first attempt at this kind of professional conversation and I am piqued to see how it goes.

Passionately Curious

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to attend the 2014 ISTE conference in Atlanta (thank you FHS!). One of the keynote speeches, delivered by Kevin Carroll, was about how important it is to follow our sense of curiosity to achieve our highest potential.  He displayed a quote by Einstein that said "I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious."  This quote describes how I look at my own learning.  Since I was young, I have always wanted to know how, when, and my parents' favorite - WHY?  My father will never forget the day he came home to see his Nikon SLR in pieces because 7-year-old Ranjana wanted to know how the pictures were made.

I don't think it's about being just curious anymore:  It's about being curious together.

The opportunity to connect and dialogue grows wider with each new Social Networking application.  I am a sharer (admittedly, sometimes an overshare-er); I love hear the thoughts of others to make my own understanding more clear.  I hope that through this blog, I can connect my questions and thoughts about the huge instructional shifts that are happening to my colleagues at Fenton and the larger educational community.  Some times I will share news articles that I find.  Other times, I will share the professional development and growth that's happening right here in our building.

I hope you enjoy the dialogue.  I know I am certain to!