responses

Getting ready for the start of a new school year – new students, new curriculum, and new tools – means teachers have a lot of preparation ahead of them. Whether new to Kidblog or a veteran classroom blogger, these tips will help you get the most out of your class blog this year.

1) There is no better way to start the year than by way of introductions. Blogging can be a great way to get your students comfortable with you as their new teacher, as well as, their new classmates. In my classroom, I also use this time to cover expectations in the classroom. This is all done in a “Welcome back to school” blog post. Choose a fun theme for the class, add some links and include helpful information. Share information about you, including some fun facts, and encourage students to then respond to your post. You can begin to develop those vital relationships for your classroom.

2) Get parents connected. Make the decision to use blogs as a way to keep parents informed about what is going on in the classroom. Set a goal to write a blog post with a weekly update and share what is going on in the classroom, give highlights of upcoming events and activities the students will be participating in. Also, use the blog as a way to share student work with parents, which will really connect the home and the classroom, and involve all members of the learning community.

3) Involve students in planning for blog posts. Encourage students to come up with their own ideas or to work with peers to brainstorm some writing prompts to use throughout the year. Gather their ideas and then draw from their prompts. Involving students in the decision making process in the classroom helps to provide more authentic and meaningful learning experiences. It promotes student voice and choice in the classroom and helps students feel more valued and empowered. By actively engaging them in classroom decisions, students will feel more connected to the content and their peers.

4) Create a bridge between content areas by doing some cross-curricular blog posts. Find time to talk with and encourage other teachers who may not be using blogs, to work with you to create some cross-curricular opportunities. The blog can be a way for students to complete some writing assignments or projects for communicating their ideas and showing their learning. Students create their own personal space to share ideas and really have an opportunity to practice their skills for multiple content areas in a comfortable manner.

5) Try adding some other tech tools to app smash with Kidblog or use Kidblog as the means to share student work! Implementing other tools will help students develop their technology skills and digital literacy. For example, have students create a Buncee and write about what they’ve created, or, they may share it with a peer to create a story. These apps can be easily embed into Kidblog for their classmates to comment.

6) Have a routine for sharing student blog posts and set aside time in class for the students to work together to share their blogs, offer feedback and learn to reflect on their work. Making time for students to work with peers will build those positive classroom relationships and help students to become more confident in their learning. Their confidence will increase through the writing process and also by communicating and collaborating in the classroom.

7) Be sure to have resources available for students so they understand how to use the blog, how to write a post and to properly cite any images or other information they add to their posts. A great way to do this is by screen-casting a tutorial available to students, as well as, creating a “guide post” that gives students pointers on how to publish a post, the required format, and other information related to your expectations. By providing all the information in a place which is accessible, the process will be much easier for students throughout the year to have the support they need when they need it.

Kidblog

Reading the words of John Dewey: “We do not learn from experience…We learn from reflecting on experience.”, I give myself constant reminders to be reflective in my practice. Reflecting led me to really evaluate some things in my classroom.

A few weeks ago, I had a challenging week. Probably the most challenging week as far as behaviors, in several years. It came in the form of disrespectful behaviors, classroom disruptions whether it was students talking out loudly, exchanging words, or other similar interruptions.  I really tried to work through these, with the students, patiently and with every possibly method I could think of. I wanted to push forward and in another post, I explain what happened, but for now, these are the lessons that I have learned. And this is how I reflected and did what I needed to do, to restore balance in my classroom.

I am not one to yell in class, in fact, over the 21 years teaching in my current school, maybe there have been 7 or 8 times that I have really yelled. Whether that is good or bad, not going to decide, but I can say these were not the best reactions  in my years of teaching. However they have led me to take time to really reflect and remember a couple of things.

1) I am the adult and my role is to provide a supportive, engaging place for students to learn, to feel welcome and to thrive.

2) I don’t always know what’s going on in the lives of the students beyond my classroom and so their behaviors may be a result of something happening throughout the day or in their home or social life.

3) I cannot know everything but if I don’t take the time to get to know something about them, that is doing them a disservice.

 

So I did yell. It felt awful.  I myself further disrupted the learning environment, and for this, I also apologized. I shared this experience with some friends and was asked several times, “why” and “to whom?”


I apologized to my class and to each of the students to whom I yelled, because I did not handle it well. I myself further disrupted the learning and had an effect or impact on not just that student, but on everyone in the classroom. So it was a trying week because I had to really take a hard look at myself and my responses to some situations that I could have handled differently. I could have handled them better. I should have. But I am very open about the fact that I am a work in progress, that I make mistakes and I will own my mistakes and grow from them.

It took a few days for me to really shake off that negative energy and that is an awful feeling. But I did that myself, it was my choice to act, how to handle it and I definitely could have handled it better. I should have handled it better. A lesson learned, a new focus and a new reminder to think before acting and speaking.

Practice patience, use kind words and show empathy.


Teaching is hard sometimes. We can have lesson plans ready, very detailed objectives on the board, every material and activity ready for the students for the day, but one slight ripple ,one small interruption, can completely change the course of even the most perfect plans.

Rita Pierson said “Every kid needs a champion” and even in her math class, when one of her students had missed 18 out of 20 questions on a test, she wrote a plus two. Why? She said because that looks better than a -18 and it tells the student “you got two right and are on your way”.  It sends a positive message. We need to be the positive for the students. We may be the only positive they have each day. 

CHAMPIONSYLVIA

So avoid the negative, focus on relationships, reflection and constant growth. It starts with us and we make an impact, and we may never know how large of an impact we make,  from the smallest interaction.

So make every moment matter, because the students matter, and we need to be their champion. Even when they push back, push back harder with kindness.

 

Thanks to Sylvia Duckworth for this amazing image.

 

 

SNAPAs part of my ongoing realization that there is a lot of value in social media, especially for education, I had to acknowledge that Snapchat has more to offer than what I originally thought. I will be honest, I never really understood how Snapchat worked and thought it was something that only teenagers used, offering little more than fast  disappearing messages with funny pictures. I did not try to find anything out about it at all. I did not have an account or want one (same story as all of those other accounts I now have), but a friend (Chris Stengel) encouraged me to create an account so that he could send me some snaps or whatever they’re called.

I tried to give it some effort and explore. Fortunately because I learned about Voxer, through Facebook (this is rough), I joined a Snapchat! team through Voxer  (thank you Christy Cate). The team was set up to help others learn about using Snapchat, but I was still having difficulty. I could figure out how to take pictures and how to add on to them but I struggled with how to add contacts, open messages and reply. I even asked some of my students to help me out earlier this year, and maybe it was something with my phone, it is an Android which causes people to gasp sometimes, but even the students at one point could not point me in the right direction.

 

It was not until I learned about “book snaps” that I could see what a fun tool this could be in the educational world. When it comes to homework or practice, finding ways for students to do something that is authentic, fun and engaging can be challenging. Even though social media tools can be considered a distraction, especially in the classroom, when we find unique ways to use them for educational purposes, it makes a tremendous difference. The most interesting way I found was to use #booksnaps a la Tara Martin. (@taramartinedu) When I learned of this use I thought it was really quite cool, what a fun way to have students share their takeaways, find a quote or share anything while reading and then add some kind of a note or text to it and then share it with the rest of the class. Each student adding their own personal touch and using something that can make their learning more meaningful because it is connecting a tool they are familiar with and giving them the opportunity to use it for education and to have fun learning. A great way for teachers to learn more about their students based on each students’ booksnaps. (I got some #booksnaps with #spanishsnaps Spanish Booksnaps )

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Another great resource is the book Social Leadia by Jennifer Casa Todd (@jcasatodd) in which she shares different ways to use Snapchat in the classroom. Having these tools available, following the #booksnaps on Twitter and reading the ideas shared by Jennifer about integrating social media into the classroom and how to do so, expands the ways for students and teachers to learn.

I enjoy trying these tools, especially when I realize that I was so wrong about the value of them. As for Snapchat, I was quite pleased with myself when I did my first book snap and shared it with Rodney Turner (@techyturner) who I met through social media (Facebook and Voxer), and connected through those accounts that I had no interest in creating but I’m so thankful that I have today. My friends Mandy Froehlich (@Froehlichm) and Tisha Richmond (@Tishrich) have been encouraging me to join in the Sing Off with our Snapchat group. However, I am not much of a singer, so I have enjoyed recording random videos and changing the sound of my voice. But I have enjoyed listening to Rodney, Mandy and Tisha sing great songs and maybe, I might try it soon since I have been pretty actively using Snapchat for 24 hours as of now. I would rather sing with friends, Jaime Donally (@JaimeDonally) and Claudio Zavala (@ClaudioZavalaJr) with the #singasong on Flipgrid to have their support like at ISTE, but I may try the Snapchat Sing Off soon.

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#singasong

 

So once again I was wrong about social media. Now I see some of the ways that these tools can be brought into the classroom to expand learning opportunities for students and teachers, and really open up authentic ways for students to show what they know and can do with the material they are learning.

If you want some ideas for using Snapchat, check out Twitter, yes I said Twitter, another social media platform and the hashtag #booksnaps to see some great ideas and have some fun. Why not start the year having students use Snapchat to introduce themselves? Or share a fun fact or summer experience using Snapchat! I still have a lot to learn!

And for the record, they got me to sing, inspiration from their singing and the help of Lady Gaga, Sugarland, Pearl Jam, oh goodness 🙂 Thankfully the videos disappear….right?

 

And finally Periscope – up next!