Vol.#100: Read Theory Tutorial

My principal encourages us to be able to explain the great work we do at our school in a “five floor elevator speech”. I like the vivid case for brevity when delivering powerful information. Therefore, in honor of the one hundredth volume, I have created the first installment of what I hope will be a recurring series here on TSV: “Tech Tool Tutorials for Teachers in Two Minutes”.

There are so many tools and teachers have so little time. They need to know what tools are worth their time exploring further. Plus, as a language arts teacher, I’m a sucker for alliteration.🙂

Have a tech tool you’d like to see me cover in two minutes? Make sure to leave it in the comments!

Vol.#99: Missing Work Memes

As a teacher, one of the most difficult things to do is get students to complete and turn in missing work.  I feel I am constantly chasing down students who have not yet submitted an assignment. I have too many students missing work to speak to every student individually. I have tried emailing parents, but this has not been very effective. Also, parents become dependent on an email and instead of being appreciative, they are angry when I do not email about every single missing assignment.

I’d tried a colleague’s method of writing all the names of students who are missing work on the board, but that was very time-consuming. I then moved to printing the missing assignment report the computer gradebook program can create. I would post this by my door. This was simple and worked well initially, but students eventually stopped checking. They did not seem to notice when the list was changed and new names or assignments had appeared. The novelty had worn off.

I decided I needed a way to indicate that a new list was posted. My students love memes, so I decided I would change my meme when I changed the list. This would catch their attention and let them know the list was updated.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 10.23.25 AMDuring a nine week quarter, I would post a meme and an updated missing work list twice before interims and twice after interims but before report cards. For example, it might look something like this:

  • Week 1 = begin quarter
  • Week 2 = collecting grades
  • Week 3 = post missing work list
  • Week 4 = post missing work list
  • Week 5 = Interims
  • Week 6 = collecting grades
  • Week 7 = post missing work list
  • Week 8 = post missing work list
  • Week 9 = Report Cards

Since I post the lists by my door, it has facilitated some great conversations with my students during class changes. As I stand by the door during transitions, I can glance at the reports and talk to students as they come and go.

Here is where you can get my 16 memes or of course you can make your own!

What are some strategies you use to facilitate getting your students’ missing work? Please share tricks of the trade in the comments!

Vol. #98: 2015 in Review

My unintentional hiatus from TSV had two distinct stages. At first, I was buried in an unusually busy second quarter. School Improvement Plan Co-Chair on a re-write year, Department Co-Chair, a student teacher starting in my class, the usual day-to-day chaos teachers deal with, all in addition to being a mom of two very active boys…all overcame my weekly writing aspirations.

However, then my year-round calendar afforded me some time, and I entered a second stage. I was at a loss as to how to re-enter orbit. I couldn’t think of a topic that would acknowledge and/or make up for the absence. I wanted to set the right tone, or at least find a way to transition onto future posts.

Then, my digital PLC came to my rescue, as they often do. I read this post by the faithful blogger Bill Ferriter, and I had my answer! A top-five list of posts from 2015? Perfect.

My top-viewed page by far was the “Home Page/Archives” which is the main blog page when someone is viewing a current post. I took that out of the equation. number-698604_1280

So, without further ado, here are the five archived posts with the highest number of page views during the 2015 calendar year:

5.Vol. #46: The Teachers’ Time Off Myth“A math teacher’s email resulted in my infographic and accompanying post. Second only to “Vol. #34: Thank God for North Carolina” for inciting encouraging spirited arguments discussions, this post always raises strong opinions mostly from two camps: teachers and non-teachers.

4.Vol. 59: Four Things I Wish Parents Knew About Grades Online”  My list of advice for parents in a digital world of immediate grade reporting, born out of four specific frustrations, got some revisiting and re-sharing this year. It would seem they speak to other teachers and are still relevant.

3.Vol. #82: Read Theory” I’m thrilled the post about this specific tech tool was passed around in 2015. I still use Read Theory in my classroom, now even more than when I wrote this post. What a great free tool.

2.Vol. #25: FREE iPad Apps for the English Language Arts Classroom” This list of 26 tech tools in alphabetical order with descriptions is almost three years old, yet had the second-most views in 2015. Clearly, it’s time for a re-visit and update. Hmm…

1. Excluding the Home Page and Archives, the most viewed post in 2015 was “Vol. #84: Is This A Grade?”. Frustrated and annoyed from hearing this question, I set out to never answer it again. And I haven’t. Objective achieved.

So there you have it, the top 5 posts with the most views in 2015. I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings. Requests, suggestions, or observations for posts in the new year? Please leave them in the comments!

VOL. #97: NC Budget & Education Update

So, a budget finally passed.

The North Carolina General Assembly voted to pull funds away from the already bled-dry public schools. Charter schools got instructional per pupil funding, but now also get a portion of everything: A portion of transportation funding even if they don’t provide busing. A portion of child nutritional services funding even if they don’t have a cafeteria. How is this not a misappropriation of funds? HOW is this now LEGAL? My guess is more tax payers’ funds will be used to fight this in court.

Meanwhile, the Wallet Hub’s annual study of 13 key metrics for the best and worst states for teachers now ranks NC #50, up from #51 previously. Cue The Jefferson’s Theme here.

It’s worth noting that not all legislators agree with the approved budget. For her part, Rep. Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County said the funding for public education was barely adequate, calling the one-time $750 increase an “insult” to veteran educators [1 minute 51 seconds]:

In the midst of the budget release, DPI released a report to the legislature about the latest teacher attrition data.

I’ve included a few highlights here in an infographic:

Untitled Infographic

Vol. #96: NC Budget & Education

After three continuations, there were rumblings Friday evening of a budget deal finally being reached. However, leaders in both houses declined to give any specifics, so we don’t know if the $500 raise or even the $750 one-time bonus discussed for teachers made it in.

Since they haven’t offered to give any details, I thought I’d put a few details and specifics together in an infographic.

NC Budget

Vol.#95: New Rule

I’ve written many times about the importance of educational technology the tools that can differentiate for students, engage them, and provide data for teachers.

However, it’s not imperative that a teacher be an expert in #edtech. Like our students, there’s a range of abilities and circumstances. Also like our students, what makes the biggest difference is the approach, the attitude, the  willingness to learn

And I have to say, teachers are oftentimes the worst learners. It amazes me when teachers offer up excuses they would never allow a student to give them.

We are months away from 2016. Being a tech expert is not required, but ignoring educational technology is no longer an option. It’s in the standards. It’s part of your job.

Make. An. Effort.

So, borrowing the concept from Bill Maher’s segment of the same title: “New Rule”…

New Rule:

If you wouldn’t allow the excuse, don’t offer it as your own.

Tech Rules

/soapbox

I feel better.🙂

Vol.#94: Five Google Tools that Rule at School

It’s been a great start to the school year for me in my busy year-round world (which starts in July), but I am afraid I have ignored TSV nation in the hustle and bustle. This year, my county (finally) rolled out Google Accounts for the students. I thought I’d apologize for my absence by compiling and sharing the resources I’ve found helpful in making the most of Google in my Classroom.

First, if you aren’t already using Google Forms to create and then Flubaroo to grade your assessments, you owe it to your free time to do so. This second-grade teacher has created a pretty comprehensive video on using Google Forms. She’s creating a parent survey instead of a student assessment, but the principle is the same. I also like that she included instruction on how to use QR Stuff and the link shortener bitly to make sharing the Google Form with your students super simple. Once you know how to create forms and share them with your students for them to complete, your next step is Flubaroo:

I’ve had students complete homework questions on the bus on their phone by going to the Google Form link. I;ve had 17 different novels, and students scanned the correct QR code to get to the test for their novel, making handing out tests for that many different books simple. From assignments large to small, Google Forms + Flubaroo rules.

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Because of our student Google Accounts, I set up Google Classroom this year instead of continuing my use of Edmodo. Here’s a quick overview about its features:

I especially like the ability to create a frame for a written assignment and digitally “hand it out” to every student’s Google Drive. When reviewing, I like suggesting edits so they can see where to correct it, and commenting on text as well.

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I’ve started using Doctopus and Goobrics with Google Classroom. Doctopus pulls all your Google Classroom submitted assignments into one spreadsheet and Goobrics pulls in your rubric for easy assessment. I found this tutorial helpful:

The completed rubric pastes below the essay in the same google doc, so feedback is automatically and paperlessly “handed out”. I used roobrix.com to create a percentage for the gradebook.

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So…. here are the Five Google Tools at RULE at School. Did I mention they are all free?

  • Google Forms + Flubaroo
  • Google Classroom
  • Doctopus + Goobrics.

Have love for one of these tools or another to add?

Please share in the comments!

Vol.#93: Grade Scale Changes

NC has decided to roll out the ten-point grading scale one grade level at a time in high schools. As I understand it, the new grade scale will start with this year’s freshman and move up with that class over the next four years. There was an unsuccessful petition to apply this to all high schoolers at once, and many made great points in the comments. For example, I’m also not sure how our gradebook software will handle an elective class with freshmen and a juniors in it.

horizontal-477492_1280Thankfully, at least in my county, middle schools are all adopting the ten-point scale all grades at once this 2015-16 school year. It is not proving to be a simple software switch for us, either. Also, it will take some retraining of the brain for myself. My schools used to the 10-point scale until 4th grade, when we moved from the northeast to the south. Therefore, I have used the 7-point scale as a student and then teacher for almost 30 years. (That seems impossible, but I did the math twice.)

I am excited for the more simplistic scale. I also feel it’s more fair to our NC high schoolers applying to colleges, especially schools out of state.

In order to help fellow-teachers set up their classrooms this year, I am throwing a “GRADE SCALE SALE”  in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store this week from July 21, 2015 to July 24, 2015. All of my 4 FOOT GRADE SCALE POSTERS are on sale these days.

Links for those interested are below.

**10 Point** 4 FOOT Grade Scale POSTERS in My Store:
Warm Stripes & Cool Patterned Letters
Teal Grunge Coordinated Stripes & Smudged Dots
Teal Grunge Coordinated Diamonds & Smudged Dots
Psychedelic Swirls
Mint Retro Splash
Mint Retro & Cherry Swirl
Delicious Dots Motif
Fire & Cool Flair

 **7 Point** 4 FOOT Grade Scale POSTERS in My Store:
Jewel-Toned Chevron
Spring Paisley

Thank you for looking!

If you have a theme in your classroom that needs a different look, contact me.  :)

Vol.#92: ISTE 2015 Presentation Screencast [CROSSPOST]

ISTEMy last two posts on Teaching Speaks Volumes have been about the steps to convert student-completed Google Forms to WordPress blog posts and why I use it in my classroom for Independent Reading.

This technology process was developed with my colleague and friend Paul Cancellieri (@mrscienceteach and scriptedspontaneity.com).

We were fortunate enough to present at #ISTE2015 in a Snapshot format on Tuesday afternoon and a Poster Presentation on Wednesday morning about it.

We had lots of positive feedback, and screencasted our ISTE 2015 Presentation to be able to share it with our wonderful, extensive digital PLNs.

 

Check it out here:

 

Related Posts:

Vol. #91: *How* I Turned Independent Reading into Interactive Blogging [Crosspost]

For the discussion on *WHY* I Turned Independent Reading into Interactive Blogging, read that post here.

The first step for me in creating a custom technology tool that met my needs was to know Paul Cancellieri. Luckily, if you don’t, he has explained the process in detail on his blog Scripted Spontaneity and I am crossposting it here for my readers. The process we have developed is the basis for our two presentations this week at ISTE.



1. Create a blog: The video below illustrates the simplest method (in my opinion) using the free WordPress.com service.  Edublogs is a hosted version of WordPress that is specifically designed for classrooms, but you need their “Pro” level paid service to activate the “post by email” feature that makes this process much simpler.  So, I recommend going to WordPress.com as a free alternative.  After creating the blog, you can customize the site to include a school or district logo, or just tweak the colors to make it more appealing.  Note: Any blogging platform that supports the “post by email” feature will work for this purpose.


2. Create a form: The video below demonstrates how to use Google Docs to create a form that collects the information that you find important.  Keep in mind that some of the collected information will be used to generate the blog post, but other information (e.g., student identifying details) can be kept off the blog and only viewable by the teacher for the purposes of assessment.  Feel free to start with my template, but be sure to go to the File menu and Save a Copy before editing it.


3. Use a plugin to convert the submitted form into an email message: Here I explain how I used formMule to perform this function, including the important step of matching the format that WordPress.com accepts in their Post by Email feature.


4. Create a submission page on the blog: The final step is to embed the Google Form on a page of the WordPress.com site that is password protected so that only your students can submit blog entries.  You can moderate all entries so that no unauthorized submissions get published as blog posts.


Tips and Troubleshooting

  • If the blog posts are not showing up on your blog, start by checking that the form is saving information.  Do this by looking at your Responses spreadsheet in Google Docs.  If entries are found there that are not posted on the blog, move on to the next bullet.
  • Next, go to the Dashboard for your WordPress.com blog and go to the All Posts area.  Check to see if the posts are sitting in Draft form or otherwise waiting to be published.  You may need to tweak the language in the formMule template to get the blog posts to be published automatically.
  • Be aware that the author of the post will be you.  The blog post author’s name will match the name of the WordPress.com account that activated Post by Email.  You may want to adjust the official name on that account to look more like “Student Blogger” or something similar.

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