Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Calling All Cross Country Edu-Collaborators


Would you like to teach students how to collaborate in digital learning communities beyond your brick and mortar walls?

Do you have interest in your students working with other students across the country/countries?

Are you constantly on the look out for new, exciting and differentiated ways to teach curricular standards?

If so, here is the game plan:

1) Use your PLN to find another educator to collaborate with for the school year.  Then have a Google Hang Out or Skype to collaborate face to face and choose how you will share ideas such as Google Docs, Blog, LiveBinder...the ideas are endless!
  • My content is Spanish (levels one and two).  I am on the search for a Spanish teacher AND if possible other teachers of cross-curricular areas of interest such as:  history, culinary arts...really.. any teacher with a desire to join in the fun!

2) Decide which of your curricular standards you want to build your digital learning community around.
  • I'm thinking any or all of the 5 ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Standards:  Communities, Communication, Culture, Connections and/or Comparisons.

3) Agree on what as well as how many projects your students will collaborate on this year.
  • For my content standards we could start with one of the five standards and see how it takes life from there!

4) Differentiate for your students by offering multiple modes of digital communication and learning menus for student choice and ability levels.

5) Consider embedding Genius Hour and/or 20% time for this endeavor! 

Are you ready? 

Does just the thought of going BIG like this get your creative juices flowing?  

If so, then get out there! Dive into your PLN! Find an edu-collaborator and create greatness!

To be continued... 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

1:1 Journey: Post #1 Starting the School Year

This 2013-14 school year our high school goes 1:1.  Teachers have the 13.3" MacBook Air while students have the 11" MacBook Air.  Teachers had the opportunity to receive their laptops in July so that they had time to acclimate themselves to the new laptops.  Students will receive laptops the first week of September.  This means the first few weeks of school students do not have laptops.  Quite frankly, I'm happy with this roll out as it gives me time to set up my class on-line as well as time to wrap my mind around this new technology.

The skies the limit when it comes to teaching 1:1! That being said,  I realize I can not do it all in the first year. Instead I have picked 3 areas to focus on this year:
  1. reduce paper copies by transitioning to paperless docs
  2. use a blog to connect with students via posting lessons, Google Docs and online learning resources
  3. provide authentic online learning experiences...for my content (Spanish) this means enhancing the 4 language domains (vocabulary, vocabulary control, communication strategies, cultural awareness)...starting small with at least one online experience per unit
If I expect my students to blend their learning with online and face to face interactions then I must model those same expectations from day one of school.  Here is what I did:
  • Created our class blog "Spanish Flipped4u" using Blogger & Projected the blog daily to feature anticipatory sets, lessons at a glance, learning websites and docs in Google Drive 

These are my first steps in making 1:1 a meaningful learning experience for my students.  Stay tuned for more posts to see how I meet my three 1:1 goals throughout this school year.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Inside the Box of Rigor & Relevance

"Out of the box thinking" got me to thinking of the boxes within the Rigor & Relevance framework (seen below). 
If you look at the framework above you easily see each of the 4 individual boxes.  However, if you look more closely at the framework you will see the 4 boxes actually make up one big box.  Without boxes A and/or B there is no foundation to support the overall box.  With boxes A and B in place, the box is still incomplete without boxes C and D.

Lesson planning without regard to these boxes will likely lead students so far outside the box that it does not support the learning objectives.  We've seen this slippery slope all too often...a well intended "fun" web quest, poster project, or any number of 1:1 activities can easily stray from the intended learning outcomes. Therefore, it is imperative we teach within the box.

Here are just a few tips for...

Lesson Planning Inside the Box of Rigor/Relevance

1) Weed out the essential from non-essential learning objectives

2) Define and Scaffold levels of student understanding regarding each essential objective  Unwrap each essential objective using the Bloom's Taxonomy verb list.  Below are a two links you may find useful to have on hand:

2) Embed multiple levels (multiple boxes of the R&R framework) within each lesson (and all levels/boxes within a unit) in order to differentiate for levels of readiness.

  • Keep your fingers on the pulse of student understanding by frequently evaluating formative assessments (click here for implementing Reality Checks)

3) Opportunities for collaborative AND independent learning must occur within all levels/boxes.

  • Consider tracking types of student grouping that you embed within your lessons (Whole group, Pairs, Small Group, Individual) so to ensure you vary grouping for each level

For more ways to think inside the box check out the website for the International Center for Leadership in Education by clicking HERE as it provides great detail regarding the Rigor/Relevance framework.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Dub it a Sub Hub!

Students have yet to arrive and you are frantically getting your class ready, putting up posters, rearranging desks for the uptenth time, organizing your desk and hopefully even lesson planning!  In the midst of getting ready for students, do not forget your sub hub.

Here is what you will need:

  1. A Sub Hub OR Sub Stache to house it all in one location such as a basket, tub, portable filing box, stacking trays  or any other means you find suitable.  I use a portable filing container like the one here. I like this because not only can I hang folders in it but it is big enough to include resources such as DVDs or other bulky resources that do not fit in folders.  When I know I'm going to be gone I place the sub hub on the center of my desk.  There is no way a sub can miss it this way especially with it being clearly labeled SUB HUB or SUB STACHE! Want to print these templates? Simply click on the image and it will take you to the templates.


  3. A Classroom Brochure to feature procedures and best practices for your room.  I know there are some handy sub folders you can purchase out there, but here is why I create a brochure.  First of all a picture says a thousand words, I embed pictures in the brochure to show where to find things (such as hall passes, office passes and so on). Sure the sub can read about it, but I'd rather my sub spend more time reading my lesson plan than searching paragraphs on how to find something.  This leads me to the second reason I use a brochure format, is concise and to the point.  I make mine a tri-fold. Below is an image of the brochure in order, but you can click HERE to access my Connect to Subs tab for the free template to edit for your own use.
  4. A Lesson Plan in triplicate.
    • Leave one plan in your sub hub/stache, the other with a colleague and one with your department chair.  If you do not have a colleague "sub buddy" you need to get one (if not two).  All too often do lesson plans get lost in the shuffle of papers.  Even more likely a need for a full day sub only gets filled by a half day sub to then be tag teamed by a hall monitor or another sub and suddenly the lesson plans are gone.  If a colleague has an extra copy then student learning can continue.
  5. An Emergency Lesson Plan.
    • In the unfortunate event of an emergency the last thing you want to do is make a sub plan. Your sub hub/stache needs to house an emergency lesson plan that can be implemented without any further doing on your part.  I even suggest a couple days worth of emergency plans as some times when it rains it pours.  Knowing you already have a lesson plan in place during an emergency will free your mind of one less worry in a time of crisis.
Dub it what you like!  The names are fun, but most definitely not the point of this post. Students recognize when you take the time to care for them even in your absence.  A solid plan in place and informing a sub of student needs and procedures will help minimize student sub conflicts thus making you, your sub and most importantly your students feeling at ease until you return.

For a lesson on your first day of school click here to build student teacher relationships!