Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ten Lessons I've Learned as a Veteran Teacher

As I begin my 32nd year in the education profession, I have taken time over the summer to reflect what I have learned over the years. Even with all my years in education, most days I don't feel like a veteran teacher. Yes, as the beginning of the school year gets closer, I always find it hard to sleep at night as my mind is racing with anticipation and excitement for the upcoming year.  These are a few of the important lessons my students and colleagues have taught over the years.

As I reflect back when I first started teaching, we made our own games, bulletin boards, and Pinterest did not exist.  We created our own schedules, learning experiences, and lessons plans. Creativity was alive and well. We were a close knit community that counted on support and encouragement from our colleagues. With that aside, what are the most important lessons I wish I knew as a new teacher?
It's all about the Relationships
The first few weeks of school set the tone for the entire year.  Spend those moments getting to know each student personally.  Building a positive relationship with students and their families will make all the difference in the world. This is truly the most valuable lesson I've learned throughout my teaching career. 
Back to School in a Digital World - Building a Community of Learners


No Need for a Specific Behavior Plan
You don't need a classroom behavior plan for an amazing school year. Many times they cause more stress not only for our students, but us too.  In 2015, I did one of the scariest and best things I could have ever done for my students and myself. Yes, I abandoned my classroom behavior plan. It has truly been one of the best things I could have possible done.


Truly Listen to your Students - Be in the Present
This is something I still struggle with each day. Something I can't say I really did when I first started teaching. I was so worried about "me" and what I was doing, that I really didn't take the time. What most people don't realize is that teachers have to put what is happening in their personal lives on the back burner.  We have to try and be our best for students on a daily basis.  At times, this becomes a challenging task. Some of our students struggle with personal issues on a daily, and sometimes we are all they have to support them. Since I felt like this was an area I struggled with, I made a few changes in my classroom. Last year, I created two areas in the room for students to share their Daily Updates and Weekend Highlights with the class.  Now I can easily find time throughout the day and week to read and talk with individual students and make personal connections.



Laugh Daily with Students
Laugh and have fun!! With all the testing and curriculum expectations it is very easy to lose sight of the importance of this. I think my students laugh the hardest when I say or do something silly that was unplanned. Over the past several years, my students have enjoyed sharing jokes and riddles as we line up at the end of each school day. All the laughs is a wonderful way to end each day. Even students who had a difficult day  leave with a smile.


Charlie Chaplin


Give Students a Choice 
Give you students a choice to show their understanding and learning. 
Why do we all have to show what we learn in the same way?  
“It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
 – J. K Rowling

When Students are given a Choice...Learning Becomes Relevant

Eme S. - Former Fourth Grade Student

Keep High Expectations
Never lover your expectations. Model and verbalize your expectations. Your students need to know you won't take less than their very best.
Former Fourth Grade Student


Model Mistakes and Failures
Wow, as teachers we make mistakes each day. When I first started thinking, I felt everything had to go perfectly for my students to learn and succeed. It is truly the complete opposite on how our students learn and succeed. 


Author Unknown


Share Student Learning - Student Discovery
Don't provide students with answers, let them discover and research on their own. Yes, this takes time but is so valuable to student-led learning. Make time for students to share and show their learning. Students taking ownership makes the magic of learning happen at its best!! Giving our students an audience outside the classroom makes learning relevant and meaningful. 

Kenzie D - Former Fourth Grade Student



Never Stop Learning as a Teacher
Most importantly as a teacher, never stop learning.  Let your students know you are learning with them and from them as well as others. Today, I just finished the training to become a Seesaw Ambassador, and I have to admit I was very excited about all the new things I learned.  Twitter and Google+ communities are  great ways to connect and learn with other educators who share your passion outside of your school district.


Author Unknown

Our Students are More than a Test Score
This is something that is a constant struggle for me.  With all the testing demands and curriculum implementation, it is easy to get bogged down with all the data expectations. Since test scores are shared, compared, and we are evaluated on how well our students perform, it is easy to lose sight of the true importance of our job as educators.  But at the end of the day, we truly know our students better than any score on a test or assignment. Our job is to help each student become all he/she can be and help develop a love and passion for life and  learning. 

I am Not a Test Score - Peter Reynolds

There are so many lessons that I have learned throughout the years, and I am still learning. It was difficult to select the ten I feel are most valuable for a successful school year, so I had to add an eleventh! 

Our Most Valuable Resource as Educators - Each Other
As +Ann Feldmann always says - "We are Better Together"  @annfeldmann1
This perhaps is truly the most important as we embark upon a new school year! We need others to share and collaborate with. As educators, we need a caring smile and a listening ear. 

Rita Pierson sums it up Perfectly


Every Child Deserves a Champion
I would love to hear what other teachers have learned over the years.

Here's wishing everyone a wonderful school year! 



Friday, February 17, 2017

Student-Led Conferences - Students Take the Lead

Parent conferences always seem to sneak upon us before we know it. By this time of year, parents should have a clear understanding of how their child is doing academically, as well as socially. Students need the opportunity to take the leadership role and show their parents what they are learning. Since my students are the experts,  they were proud and excited to share their accomplishments and goals. When students take the lead role they become empowered and take ownership of their learning.

Another important aspect was to have student presentations tie in with district curriculum and objectives.  My fourth graders prepared, organized and led the conference with their parents.

Students created iPads out of construction paper. They included their favorite apps, as well as the QR codes for the sites they would share with their parents.  The QR codes were easy and quick to create. I used QR Code Generator

There were four to five families attending conferences each hour. The showcase of learning took place in the hallway and classroom. Once the student-led conferences started, I took the backseat, and it was wonderful watching my students take the lead. Maria Montessori's quote sums it up perfectly!


Conference Agenda










Goal Setting Presentations
Conferences started out with goal setting presentations. Students shared their successes and specific goals they set. They decided to create their presentations in either Keynote or Google Slides.  Rich conversations took place between students and parents. The link below is an example of one of my student's goal setting presentations.













Writing Station
Personal Narratives
Students wrote personal narratives for a recent reading benchmark test. At this station, each child and his/her parent used the state rubric to score the narrative he/she wrote. 
















Math Station
Seesaw
One of our favorite apps to show our learning in math is Seesaw. It is a digital portfolio that we use in all curricular areas.  Fourth graders selected a math problem to solve. They showed their parents how they use Seesaw to record their thinking/learning of math concepts being taught. What I loved watching is parents helping his/her child solve the math problem selected. After the recording, parents who weren't currently enrolled in their child's Seesaw portfolio were able to do so on the spot with their Smartphones. Parents then had the opportunity to comment on his/her child's year-long digital portfolio.


Biographies
Posters and ChatterPix
One of our recent genres in reading was biographies.  Each student selected someone they admired and created a biography poster. Each student shared his/her poster and wrote a brief summary. To add a techie twist, students created a ChatterPix of the person they researched and recorded the summary. Parents were amazed after scanning the QR code watching a video of the person with their child's voice on the recording. 
Nebraska football star and NFL Bengal's player, 
Rex Burkhead, reshared Andrew's poster and ChatterPix on Twitter.
Team Jack





Words their Way - Spelling
Stick Around
One of our favorite apps to use with Words Their Way is Stick AroundStudents create puzzles for their word patterns each week.  Students created and selected a puzzle for their parents to solve.  It was amazing watching my students explain to their parents what they needed to do. I loved seeing my students high five and congratulate their parents when they finally completed and solved the puzzle.








Reading - Fountas and Pinnell Level
Our district uses Fountas and Pinnell to track students' reading levels.  I love Literably and parents were very impressed with the information provided about their child's reading fluency and comprehension.  Students scanned a QR code which took them directly to their child's individualized reading site on Literably. Parents listened to their child read and were able to hear their child's fluency and view the comprehension data.

Overview of How Students are Performing














Writing
After scanning the QR Code parents commented on one of their child's writing posts. The link has been shared with parents each week, but it was great watching parents see what their child has actually published.












Greek and Latin Roots and Math Journals
Greek and Latin Roots are a large part of our curriculum. My fourth graders have been creating a year-long book of all the Greek and Latin Roots they are learning.  They are also creating year-long interactive math journals that they can refer back to throughout the year. Students had the opportunity to share the books with their parents during conferences. Book Creator is one of our favorite apps to use in all curricular areas.
















Social Studies
For social studies, Nebraska history is part of our curriculum. Students created a ThingLink about Nebraska sharing important landmarks, the history, and interesting facts. Using ThingLink is a creative way for students to share their learning. They loved the fact that they can app smash to the links they shared about Nebraska. Click on the link below to view Rebecca, Drew, Bayer, and Alex's project.
                            Happy 150th Birthday Nebraska



You Matter
One thing my fourth grade team works on all year is spreading kindness. My students know that everyone has special talents and abilities. Students worked in groups and created You Matter Movie Trailers. +Angela Maiers is an inspirational educator to all, and she has a Choose2Matter websiteMs. Maier's message is a theme throughout my fourth graders' Movie Trailers. To plan for the trailers my students used +Tony Vincent's Movie Trailer Planners. Many shared their video creations at conferences. What an important concept for all, and my fourth graders shine! They truly know how to make a positive difference. 

Beckett and Dallin

Andrew, JD, and Gavin

Daytona, Leah, Macie, and Riley

Schoology 
Learning Management System
Our district uses Schoology, which is a learning management system to share content and resources with students. My fourth graders had the opportunity to show their parents how we use Schoology in content areas. They also shared how we start our day with downloading the Daily Math Spiral, Problem of the Day, and Daily Oral Language to Notability. 


Science Center
The last task on the agenda was to create a circuit board for their parents. This was one of their favorite science activities so far this year.
Scientists at Work

Celebrating student learning is what teaching is all about! I would love to hear how others are using student-led conferences to showcase their students' learning. 



Saturday, January 28, 2017

Digital Storytelling with Toontastic 3D

What is better than our students watching videos in class? Of course, creating them and sharing their learning with others. This is what my fourth graders quickly discovered as they began creating videos focusing on a mystery they recently wrote.  What's better yet, Toontastic 3D is free! Let the FUN and LEARNING begin! 

Toontastic 3D was a huge hit just days after my fourth graders started creating stories. Excitement filled the air as they drew, animated, and narrated their own three-dimensional adventures. Toontastic 3D is an easy for students to use in any curricular area. From school reports to science experiments, the possibilities are limitless. 

Toontastic 3D Movie Trailer
 

Getting Started
Students have a choice of creating a short story, classic story, or science report. Since our writing genre was mysteries, students selected the classic story. An 'idea lab' of sample animations are also provided to help get you started. There is a video lesson on storytelling by animator Austin Madison. As a story artist, he worked on several Pixar movies including Wall-E and Buzz Lightyear.












Setup
Setting
Students first select a setting or have the ability to draw their own. Amazement filled the air as they selected a three-dimensional background for their mystery. They had the choice of being in the City, Space, Atlantis, Explorers, Pirates, in a Spooky Camp, a Spy, or Airpunks. 














Characters
After the background is ready to go, you select or create your own characters. You have a wide variety of characters to choose from. Characters can also be created through the 3D drawing feature or you can be one of the characters by taking a photo. Seven characters can be added to each scene. You are then ready to record your first scene. Each character is animated and three-dimensional as you move them around to create your scenes. Students simply tap the start button at the top of the screen and start recording. Characters and props can be moved around as students are narrating. Each scene can be recorded for up to 60 seconds. 















Mood-Music
After recording, students can add music to the background depending on the mood and tone of each scene. The emotions can be scaled up or down for intensity.












Conflict, Challenge, and Climax
For the conflict, challenge, and climax in your story, you pick a setting, characters, and mood just like in the initial setup. Another great feature is the interactive background. Simply tap the background to activate it.












Resolution
When finished, you add the title and director to your movie creation. When finished you have the option of gong back to edit or simply export to your photo library. There students have a wide variety of options on where to send their movie creations. I had my fourth graders send it to their digital portfolio in SeeSaw. They can also send it to iMovie to further edit and create longer movies, or they can directly send it to YouTube. Sending movies to  Kidblog posts is also an option. 











Short Story
When creating short stories, you create a beginning, middle, and ending to your story. Students again select a setting, characters, and a mood.

Science Report
I am looking forward to using the 'Science Report" with my students. It is set up like the scientific method. 



Students wrote mysteries for one of our writing genres in the curriculum.  They created movies from the mystery they wrote. 

The Case of the Missing Dog - by Lilly

The Mystery of the Leaf - by Ryan


Graphic organizers are important and a great way for students to organize their thoughts and stories prior to video creation.

There are so many possibilities for using Toontastic 3D in the classroom that can tie in with district curriculum and essential objectives. Student can create scenes for vocabulary in any content area. Science and social studies objectives can animated. I would love to hear from other educators as they use Toontastic 3D in the classroom.