Tag Archives: best practices

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.#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. #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.

Vol. #83: Continued Professional Evolution

concrete

Just some recent tweets and thoughts about the importance of continued learning and collaboration for educators.

Essential Questions:

  • How do we fight the urge to become complacent?
  • How do we encourage reluctant colleagues?
  • How do we get funding for professional development reinstated?

Vol.#81: Nuggets of Wisdom from #NCTIES

Two days of networking, presenting, and learning. I’ve tried to capture a few #NCTIES nuggets wisdom into this one location.

The session resource page: has resources, presentation slides, and more.

I felt there were the following central recurring ideas around the  “Make IT Personal” theme:
personalize learning
technology personalizes instruction
make personal connections with students
 .
A few other gems I didn’t want you to miss when digging through the resource page…
  • Steven Anderson (@web20classroom) shares all session notes & his presentation slides here >
    • One of his cool quotes:  “Learning is very social. If no one had ever shared anything with anyone ever, no one would know anything now.”

Life of an Educator: 10 images to share at your next faculty meeting. via Justin Tarte

This video was shared in one session. Loved it…

Vol.#75: Mastery vs. Work Behaviors

I apologize for the absence of fresh posts lately. Any teacher knows how the time second quarter can just get away from you, so I won’t try to explain.

As the quarter closes this week and I enter numbers that turn into the less-specific feedback of letters representing a range of numbers on the report card, I think about what report cards really represent to students and parents.

The last days have been met with so many of the usual questions that teachers get at the end of the quarter:

“Can I have a packet for extra credit?”

  • No. Nor may you eat junk food for months and then eat a salad right before the doctor’s appointment and get the same results as the person eating healthily the entire time.

“What can I do to get an ‘A’?”

  • Um . . . know more and do more to show that you know it?

“If I do XYZ (turn in this missing assignment, retake the low test grade, etc.) is it possible to get an average of blah-blah?”

  • Look, even if you had all the exact numbers in your mythical scenario to give me, I am afraid I could not plug it in with your grades – which I don’t know of the top of my head – and compute the weighted average to give you an answer. So…stop.

What’s frustrating is that the focus in all these questions is how to get the (usually lowest number in the arbitrary range of the) letter grade. Not the learning. Nor the work that should have gone into mastery. Nor the opportunities already missed. 

If it’s not on the report card, it does not have meaning or value for parents or students.

Teachers know that work behaviors and effort are very important, probably even more important to a child’s future success than if s/he can diagram a sentence, or solve for x, or find the capital of Belize on a map.  Therefore, teachers usually have typically included them in a grade to give them meaning and value. Those behaviors might count for 25% of a class’s grade, or 10%, or “folded in” to each assignment and result in some unknown number.

I’ve done the same. Valuing effort is important.

The problem? A grade as a method of communication to students, parents, universities, and other stake holders in that information is compromised: What does that “B-” mean? A hard worker who doesn’t fully get math – or – a lazy but brilliant math student? It could be either – and it often is.

Here’s my proposed solution: We need to report both content mastery and work behaviors.  Equally.

content work

Each class each reporting term should have a content mastery grade AND a work behaviors grade.  A student earning an “A/D” knows the material set forth in the standards, but does little in the way of these important behaviors, which he will also need in life. (ie: the lazy AIG child, who does almost nothing but gets an “A” in mastery anyway)  However a “C/A” student may struggle with the content, but she works REALLY hard to get that “C” in mastery.

Parents would know an “F/F” on the report card means there’s a reason the child isn’t learning any of the material. An “F/B” however  represents a student mostly trying and still failing to grasp concepts. That’s a very different problem. We already know the difference as teachers: parents should know this about their children too. It should be reported to them. It should be reflected on the report card. It should matter.

Work behaviors need a separate grade on a report card so that they are deemed important but the content mastery is still clear.

Thoughts? Rebuttal? Hit me up in the comments!

Vol.#72: Data Happens (And What To Do Next)

I have  data about literacy – my students’ and own children’s – coming at me on a regular intervals; tidalwaves on the beach of what is otherwise a peaceful school experience.

For my own son, he camScreen Shot 2014-09-21 at 5.08.52 PMe home with an mClass report with all little running men at the top of their little green bars – save one – and a lexile level that corresponds with a 3.6 grade level early in his third grade year.  However, another letter says he’s been flagged as a “failing reader” based on the preliminary standardized test given in the beginning of third grade. This would have perplexed me if I didn’t already know how ludicrous it is to assess literacy of children with these frustrating bubble tests.

For my sixth-grade students, I have access to their standardized test data from the end of fifth grade – the ones with passages that are way too long assessing way too many standards and simply expecting way too much of the poor ten-year-old test takers.

We also give our middle schoolers quarterly timed tests on basic skills in reading and math. Based on these results, students are sorted into green, yellow, and red, with intervention plans written for those in the “danger zones”. Also, there are standardized benchmark tests at the end of each quarter to see if they are on track to attain a passing achievement level for the standardized state test at the end of the year.

demaNdingIf anyone counted, that’s seven tests during the year for students, including the “real” test. But not including any tests given by the teacher. (And that’s just for reading, don’t forget to then add in math. And science. And social studies… But I digress.)

I am not naive enough to think I am going to change the path we are going down right now, but I feel strongly that if we are going to make students do all this, I’d better find a way to make all the resulting data helpful to my instruction.

And therein lies another layer of my molten lava white-hot fury. What has been sorely missing from the dialogue in all these data-sessions is the next steps. Ok, Sally Sue is “red”.  What does she need now?  Or, even more frustrating, she passed one test, but is “red” on the other. So…now what? What do I DO for her? (You know, that I wasn’t going to do anyway? Like…teach her?)

Perhaps this oversight is because those who pushed this agenda only wanted to sell us all the screening tests so they don’t actually know what to do next? Or, maybe their answer is they want us to buy their scripted program to “fix it”, but we are all out of money?

At any rate, here’s where I am with this new normal.  I need pragmatic (*ahem* free) ways to address all this conflicting data. What follows is a list of  strategies I have to that end:

  • Offer the same article in several different lexile levels using Newsela. Some articles have leveled questions as well. (Newsela has a free version and a “pro” version.)
  • ReadWorks “The Solution to Reading Comprehension” offers both nonfiction and literary passages, questions, and units for free. It includes lexile leveling information.
  • You can also check the reading level of any text or website at  read-able.com for free.
  • Offer clear instructions for how you want students to complete a close reading of a text. Here’s mine. Sorry for the shameless plug. 🙂
  • Mr. Nussbaum’s webpage has reading comprehension passages and Maze passages that score themselves for free! It only goes up through grade 6, so it would only help students up through about a 960 lexile.
  • ReadTheory is free, and allows you to create classes and track reading comprehension progress.
  • There are several reading leveler apps you can pay for and they are probably fancier, but I’ve found this one handy, both as a mom and as a teacher. For example, I used to have long conversations with my students who kept picking up books during DEAR time, not an occasional graphic novel, but always a graphic novel, cartoon books, picture book …you know the type? Anyway, scanning their bar code and simply telling them it has a 2.4 grade level has been more effective than the long conversation. 🙂
  • One on my horizon to try: curriculet.com  It’s free and I’ve heard good things!
  • I have also found the following conversion chart handy, because of course the data does not always come in the same format:

4879716These have helped me in more than one “What are you doing for my child?” conference and to complete the required intervention plans based on all the data. I don’t know if they have revolutionized me as a literacy teacher, but I suppose time scores will tell.

Have a strategy, tool, or resource for helping your students as readers? Please share in the comments!

Vol.#69: An Open Discussion on Race and Ethnicity in Teaching

A couple weeks ago, Bill Ferriter posted an interesting and heart-felt piece on race and teaching in America. It was poignant  due to its rarity as much as its honesty.  Considering this particular discussion’s prevalence in our nation’s dialogue on our culture at large, it should logically be occupy space in the landscape of our discussions about classroom culture.

And yet it doesn’t.

The #edchats on Tuesday nights at 7 pm cover many topics, but whenever race in the classroom was a choice in the weekly vote, it was never selected. That was, Tom Whitby says, until all five choices were on the topic and it forced the issue.

I discussed the resulting chat and topic with #edchat hostsTom Whitby and Nancy Blair further in the #edchat Radio episode:

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 9.43.31 AM

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 9.43.44 AM

 

 

 

We all came away with this question: How do we ensure we continue to have this important discussion, with both peers and students?

 

Vol.#68: Teachers Pay Teachers

At the beginning of the calendar year, I created a list of ten tech tools I planned to keep using, one I would not use again, and three I wanted to explore in 2014. One of those New Year’s goals was to open my own TeachersPayTeachers store. Both my PLT colleagues and some colleagues who are already TpT sellers have been continuously encouraging me to do so.

Also, as a buyer I am a huge fan. I have found that searching on TpT nine times out of ten yields more results for what I need for my classroom than googling. Many items are free, and any paid items have been worth much more than what I paid simply in the time that I saved.

So after much contemplation and effort, I have opened a small TeachersPayTeachers Store. I have a goal of adding an item weekly, and I have linked the store to my Teaching Speaks Volumes menu.

Revising your own materials for others’ use requires a level of reflection that is really different. I know what is useful to me…but how do I know it would be useful to someone else? Would other teachers be willing to pay their very hard-earned, very limited money for it? If so, how much?

Here are just a few of the items I posted thus far:

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 9.30.40 PM
“All About Me” poster for the Middle Grades
IMG_1240
Full Sized Spring Paisley Grade Scale
IMG_1205
Full-sized Bright Chevron Grade Scale
Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 5.43.26 PM
Literature Circle Jigsaw Unit
Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 5.43.48 PM
Literature Circle Jigsaw Unit

 

I am only in the first baby-steps of this endeavor of teacherpreneurship. I’d appreciate any feedback from visitors and insight into what types of additional teaching materials for which you see a need in the comments.

Vol.#67: Two Tech Tools To Start Your Year

Flickr User: St Boniface's Catholic College, Plymouth
Image Credit: Flickr User St Boniface’s Catholic College, Plymouth

As I start week four with my students, I am reminded that traditional calendar schools are beginning to start all over the country.  I have posted before about technology tools that simplify a teacher’s life. However, if I were to recommend just two from that video to check out as one starts a school year, they would be:

  • Class Charts: Digital Seating Charts, manage the behavioral data of my students, has a free Edmodo App
  • Common Curriculum:  Digital Lesson Plan Book, plan lessons, units and share that information with others; link material easily for students and parents

I have found them to be total game-changers.

What tools help you manage the learning in your classroom?