Tag Archives: education

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. #90: Why I Turned Independent Reading into Interactive Blogging

blog-684748_1280I started Teaching Speaks Volumes in June 3 years ago. Each year in June, I’ve updated the look of the blog and reflected upon its impact as a powerful catalyst for growth and change.

Blogging – writing with a real-world audience – has become an important staple in my reflective practice as an educator, but also in my instruction.  Besides authoring this professional blog about teaching, my students blog about the books they choose to read independently. Reading and writing for real purpose with an open reflection and engagement of ideas with an audience of peers is as powerful for students as it is for professionals.

My students write reviews of books they chose to read on the class Reading Blog. I’d tried many different approaches to independent reading over the years, from traditional book reports and presentations, to book talks and reading logs.  These are very typical of any English Language Arts (ELA) classroom, though I’d always designed my own reading logs, project menus and rubrics. However, for the last several school years my students’ blogging has had a powerful impact for my classroom independent reading.

Publishing independent reading reviews has made my students’ analysis of their reading interactive and authentic in several ways. First, when written on paper as a reading log or project and submitted only to me, spelling and punctuation sometimes seemed an afterthought. However, when published in front of their peers and the world, most students make a genuine and concerted effort to apply conventional spelling and grammatical rules, showing their best work. This has changed the dynamic of my students as viewing themselves as “published writers”.

The “search” option allows visitors to the Blog to search titles, authors, topics, and even friends’ names to see what they are reading. (Students often post comments to each other about the reviews, although this is optional.) Because middle schoolers are social by nature, the ability to see what their friends are reading and reviewing is a powerful motivating force to read.


Several authors have contacted my students about the reviews about their novels by posting a comment directly to the students on the blog. For example, the 2014 Newbery Award winner Kate DiCamillo responded this past November to one of my very own students!  No doubt googling their own book title, authors arrived at my students’ reviews and felt compelled to reach out to the young adults who reviewed their works. For all these reasons, this Independent Reading Blog is the very definition of interactive and authentic work by a middle schooler.Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 11.43.01 AM

To reap these benefits and make the switch to paperless book reviews shared to the world, I used the free and open source blogging tool “Wordpress” and I created a blog for my students. The structure of the submission form creates the post. Drop-down menu choices become where each review appears in the blog’s menu. (image) Anyone visiting the site can search all “fantasy” reviews or all “five star” reviews written by my students. The same book may appear in the five star reviews for one student, but another student’s review of the same book might appear with the three-star reviews, if that is how each child rated the book.Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 1.17.42 PM

Students can easily research what their peers are reading, and even use that information as a point of inspiration for what to read next. All of the reasons stated make reading interactive with their peers and this social aspect is very important to young adolescents. By designing this blog for my students “from the ground up”, creating a product similar to Shelfari or Goodreads but with my students’ specific needs in mind, it has revolutionized my instruction.

My ever-techie colleague Paul Cancellieri (@mrscienceteach) who blogs over at Scripted Spontaneity was instrumental in my setting up this interactive blog. He has created a how-to step-by-step guide on his blog.

Vol.#85: Toil & Trouble

As testing season soon approaches, visions of #edreform dance like sugar plums in teachers’ heads…

Bubble Bubble

Just one of those that’s been dancing in mine.

Carry on.

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.#71: #TeachingInNC, A Snapshot

Sure. My humble submission follows.

To be read in the slam poetry style of Marshall Davis Jones’s Touchscreen.

#TeachingInNC

Not enough copies
Not enough books
Teachers spending their own thin dime
It’s a crime.
Not enough time
Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 12.45.26 PMNot enough technology
There is simply not enough me…
to go around
to these 42 students in this one class
Because class size limits…are gone.
Education is a pawn
in their reelection game.
But the more they talk of change,
the more things stay the same.

Instead of the blame, they should find the funding instead.
But their friends get deep tax cuts so it puts our schools in the red.

They vilify those that they should empower.
But those making the choices refuse to hear the experienced voices.

IEP, PEP, ADHD, EBD, AIG
OMG

This student’s a “two”, this one’s a “four”
No. A child something more
than a score.

integrity, creativity, ingenuity, responsibility,
curiosity, humility, reliability, empathy…

These are not on their test
So teaching them is not part of my “effectiveness index”.

They tell us to individualize our instruction
But they standardize the tests.
It’s impossible. It’s a mess.
But NC kids are the state’s future…so as we wait for November we’ll  keep trying our best.

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.#64: Performing the Mirage

Before I begin this week’s post, my sincerest gratitude to you. Yes, you reading this right now. “Teaching Speaks Volumes” has made Teach.com‘s ranking of education blogs. This is because of you, the reader. (And some other additional factors in their mysterious formula.) Anyway, thanks so much for reading!

So…tomorrow is the first day of school.  After twelve years, I am teaching a new grade level (6th grade) at a school across town. I am very eager for the new experiences and perspectives that accompany change.

collageI left my new classroom today ready to greet my new students at 7 am tomorrow morning. I have been out of school for six weeks now – an almost unheard of rarity in the year-round school schedule created by my switch from track 1 to track 4. I’m not accustomed to being off on break for more than three or maybe four weeks, and for me that’s plenty. I’ve written before about my love of year round schools, and I did not consider a move to a school with a “traditional calendar”.

With all the time off and the impending huge changes, the setting up of my new classroom became a huge focal point. I recently read “What You See in Today’s Public School Classroom Is A Mirage” by Carla Friesen a few weeks ago, and it really resonated with me.  In her article, she shows the “before” and “after” of public school classrooms: what is given to the teacher vs. what teachers added to create the final learning spaces.

Using the Time Shutter App, I captured the transformation of my new  classroom.  I took the first picture of the room as it was – the teacher’s before me moving out before I moved in – but in the second frame you can see my mountain of materials that appear. The rest of the gif is it slowly finding its new homes…

Exported TimeShutter GIF

Exported TimeShutter GIF (1)

 

How do you perform and transform your classroom into the “mirage”?

Vol.#54: The Pupil Paradox

A search on the web shows a teacher has for many reasons to teach despite it all.

mantraI have always tried to operate under this theory: The harder a child is on you as the teacher, the more s/he needs you to be good at your job.

Like little Julie*? Who you could throw the textbook into the room and leave, and 180 days later, she’d have completed all the work? Yeah. She doesn’t need you. I mean, you love her in spite of this fact. After all, she’s wonderful! And hopefully, she will learn more with your guidance that she would have without it. But, still… You are not a crucial adult in the journey to success in her life.

dandelion-16656_640
Image Credit: Pixabay User beeki

That one (ten? thirty?) who drives you crazy? Who doesn’t know social cues? Who doesn’t appropriately respond to authority figures? Who won’t pick up a pencil, let alone complete assignments, without your constant prodding?

He needs you.  In fact, he has little chance without you.

And there lies an interesting paradox: The harder they make your job, the more important your job is for them. The more crucial you are as the teacher.

The harder a child is to teach, the more he or she needs you.

I sometimes chant this little mantra when I am so frustrated with those most difficult students.

What core beliefs to you remind yourself of as you teach that help you?

 
 
 
 
*Julie is used here as the name of that sweet little (usually female) student whom teaching is an effortless joy. This is not based on any specific, actual Julie.

Vol.#45: Why Doesn’t George Clooney Have to Deal With This Crap?

It was September 2000. My first year teaching. Greenville County, South Carolina.

A math teacher on my hall, whose name escapes me now, left on maternity leave. The woman they got to sub for her was a parent of one of the seventh-graders at the school. She had been a fairly prominent and successful businesswoman, running a major division of IBM up until she’d had her son. After staying home with him for the first 12 years of his life, she thought substitute teaching would be a great slow start back into the workforce.

Exactly. I hear you all laughing right now and I share in your chuckle.

What I remember so clearly about this woman was her way of explaining how overwhelmingly demanding teaching is as compared to a job in the business world:

When I worked for IBM, my job was to make phone calls, process paperwork, make contacts, and have meetings. Now as a teacher, I still have to do all of these things. I need to plan lessons. I need to call parents. I need to process paperwork. I need to grade stacks of papers. I need to meet with other teachers, with parents, and with administrators. However, very little time during my day is available for me to actually do any of the that large part of my job. Teachers have a 9-to-5 job’s worth of work to do, and they can’t get any of it done from 7:30 to 3:00.

Coming from the business world, this seemed to really shock her. If you’re a teacher reading this, you’re nodding and smiling (or rolling your eyes) as you already know what she was just learning: Teachers are almost always “on” for their audience. They rarely sit at a desk and work. They are constantly meeting students’ needs: moving and teaching and coaching and intervening and quite often forgoing sitting for lunch or taking restroom breaks. Their own tasks and goals must wait.

However, this concept of a teacher’s time during the day seems to elude the public at large, with common comments like: “It must be so nice to be done by 3 o’clock.” and “I emailed you this morning, but I haven’t gotten a response from you yet.”

I can’t help but wonder: Why doesn’t George Clooney have to deal with this crap? Is anyone under the impression that he spent the exact 116 minutes it takes to view Ocean’s Eleven to actually make it? No. The American public understands that a movie takes months or even years to make those two hours. However, they fail to understand that the teacher – who’s paid dirt compared to Hollywood – is also working under a misleading ratio of time-in and quality product-out.

Teachers are not compensated for most if not all of the time they put in preparing innovative lessons. Sure, a teacher could just “phone it in” and not spend as much extra time on lesson planning. A teacher that just gives textbook work and worksheets? That’s what that looks like. Few educators, however, want to be a C-list or D-list teacher. Many educators strive to be A-list, putting their hearts into a quality product well after the school bell has rung.

And while I am sure teachers put in time outside the scheduled day the world over, the United States compensates its teachers particularly poorly for our time demands compared to other countries:

Source: http://master-degree-online.com/files/2011/04/a-teachers-worth-around-the-world1-e1303099013770.jpg
Source: http://master-degree-online.com/files/2011/04/a-teachers-worth-around-the-world1-e1303099013770.jpg

So our society either needs to:

  • recognize innovation, collaboration, and all things that make professional education great by valuing how much time and effort outside the classroom is required,

– or –

  • acknowledge that we have set up a system that is okay with exhausting teachers to the point of mediocrity.

With the current climate, I may be asking too much just with verbs like ‘recognize’ and ‘acknowledge’, but I intend to aim high…

Volume #44: Literacy Data, Part Deux

In my last post, I argued against the use of the current practices for gathering data for measuring growth and proficiency in literacy.

I suggested that for math, formative standardized test data is a biopsy. For literacy, it’s more like an autopsy.

And while the data indicates strong versus sickly readers, this information is usually no surprise to the professional educator, and more importantly it offers no treatment plan: advice on which medicine to administer.

With the release of my state’s scores re-renormed to the Common Core, there’s lots of focus on all the new data. What it all means. Why the scores are lower. How it will be improved.

And while the politics rage on, I have to explain to parents that their child simply went from twelve centimeters to five inches, and yes the number may actually be smaller, but I believe it to show growth in his/her reading ability.

And I need to take this new information and figure out how it should inform my instruction. I need the data to indicate a treatment plan for the literacy health of my students.

During my participation in VoiceThread titled “Formative Assessment and Grading” in October 2011, Dylan Wiliam said something that has always really stuck with me:

“One of the problems we have with formative assessment is a paradigm that is often called, “data-driven decision making”. This leads to a focus on the data, rather than on the decisions. So, people collect data, hoping it might come in useful, and then figure out sometime later what kinds of decisions they might use the data to inform.  I’m thinking that we ought to perhaps reverse the ideas in data-driven decision-making and instead focus on decision-driven data collection. Let’s first figure out the decisions we need to make, and then figure out the data that would help us make that decision in a smarter way.”

~Dylan Wiliam   “Formative Assessment and Grading”,  Slide 5   [My emphasis]

I’ve pondered this at great length. If my goal is decision-driven data collection, what would I want out of a standardized literacy assessment? What do I want the data to tell me?

What else? What other information (as a teacher or as a parent) do you believe the data should provide about students’ literacy abilities?