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Showing posts from December, 2016

Snow Day? Shovel Your Way Out

It is 5:30 AM on a weekday during the winter and the phone rings. That can only mean one thing, SNOW DAY! I have to admit, at that moment, I do not feel like the 15 year veteran, sixth grade teacher I am, but rather, I feel like one of my sixth grade students. I roll back over in bed and fall back asleep, only to get woken up by my wife as she gets up to get ready for work (seems like she is extra loud getting ready on snow days...nah, she wouldn't do that, would she?). I tell her to, "Keep it down. I'm trying to sleep. I've got a snow day." That goes over about as well as getting a snowball in the face. Living in Pennsylvania, snow days are part of the school year and one of the great perks about being a teacher, unless you end up having too many of them. Then you have to make them up in the summer. Then they quickly become an inconvenience. They can also become an inconvenience with what you had planned for class those days. Inspired by Matt Miller's Ditch…

What I Learned from the Elf on the Shelf

There I was at 7:00 AM, bleeding, blood all over my hands, kneeling over our family's beloved Elf on the Shelf, Oliver, in the dining room, and my six-year-old daughter waking up and coming down the steps. It was my worst case scenario. My little girl was going to come downstairs and see me covered in blood with our Elf on the Shelf laying on the floor and think that I did something terrible to Oliver.  Why was I covered in blood and bleeding at 7:00 AM in the dining room with Oliver laying on the floor next me? Because I was trying to make the Elf on the Shelf experience better for my daughters. The night before, I moved Oliver to a spot in our house that was just okay. I knew it was just okay at the time, but I thought it would do. The next morning I woke up, and decided I could do a better job with my placement of our elf. As I was moving him around in the dining room, so he would be hanging upside down like Batman, (much cooler than my first placement), I bumped a glass that …

Road Rules on the Blended Learning Highway

Remember when you were pestering your parents to teach or rather let you drive? You were sure you knew how to drive, as you had had extensive training starting from a very early age. Part of that training included sitting on your parent's lap while they were in the driver's seat and they "let you" drive the car into the garage, sitting on your parent's lap again as they again, "let you" drive the lawn tractor around the yard, then gradually building up to driving the lawn tractor around the yard by yourself, and of course driving the go-karts at the local go-kart track during the summer. With all that training, you were certain you could drive and drive fast. Then when your parents finally gave you the car, you realized the power and potential speed of that car, and that you really didn't know how to drive well, let alone safely.  Learning to drive takes time, and as much as we want to get in that car and go fast, we soon realize we need to hit the…

Turns Out Teachers Are Mind Readers (Thanks to Recap)

Imagine if you could hear every single student's thinking, thoughts, and ideas on a topic, and respond to each and every one of them without finding time to schedule individual student conferences. Imagine if your students could let you know how well they understood the topics covered during the week. Imagine how much insight you could get, and how you could adjust your teaching to meet the needs of individual students.   Well, a few weeks ago I came across Recap, a free student video response and reflection app, on my Twitter feed. It allows me to hear every single student's thinking, thoughts, and ideas, allows me to respond to each and every one of them. I checked out the site and immediately put it into action in my class calling the Recap assignments, #flashbackfridays. For 6th graders, not much is cooler than the hashtag.  My 6th grade students instantly took to it. Every one of my students are able to share their insights through a reflective process in a way that is r…

Survey Says...

Throughout all of my 15 years of teaching, there has been one word that has caused me, my students, and my students' families to shudder. If you are in education, and even if you are not, I am guessing you can figure out the word. The word is homework. Didn't take you long to shudder, did it? The word homework causes many to shudder much like the word shot does for my six-year-old daughter when she has to go to the doctor. Not even the promise of the lollipop at the doctor's office can get her to stop her fussing over going. She dreads going days before and, of course, tries to talk her way out of it all the way up until we get called back from the waiting room. She clams up immediately when the doctor comes in, and then the tears, crying, and wailing comes as soon as she sees the shot. What should take only seconds, ends up taking emotionally draining (for everyone) minutes and minutes to complete. Obviously shots are different than homework, but some of the emotions our…

So What's the Difference?

This is my 15th year of teaching, and this is by far and away my favorite year to date. It is not that I haven't enjoyed my other years, but this year is standing out already as a special year. I have been thinking a lot of what is making this year my favorite year, and what is making it different than my other years. So these are the ideas I believe are the difference makers for me this year. Communication This year I started using the Remind app to better connect with parents and students. It allows me to connect with parents in real-time using my smartphone or computer. In years past, I would send out emails or send home a daily report book or sorts. However, what I was failing to do those previous years is not only meet the parents where they are, but also where I am. Nearly everyone has a smartphone and nearly everyone never puts it down for more than five minutes at a time. So not only are parents getting notifications about assignments, but Remind also allows me to send pic…

Did You Send Out the Invites

Do you send out invites to your parties, or do you just hope people hear about them through word of mouth and just show up? Unless you still live at a college frat house, chances are you send out invites. The invitations are an important part to any successful party. Without them, people don't know when, where, or even if there is a party. And it could be the best party ever, but no one would know without the invitations.  Earlier this year,  few of my colleagues and I went to a Breakout EDU workshop. It was something we all had a strong interest in, and something that we were excited to try when we got back to school. But then, something terrible happened. We all went back to work the next day, closed our doors, and started teaching in our own self-induced, solitary confinement classrooms. What we were so excited and energized about doing (and something that required communication and collaboration), faded away as quickly as the next day came. A few weeks went by, and I kept loo…

Screencasts in Google Classroom

This year I have been creating my own screencasts using Screencastify, the free Chrome extension available on the Chrome Web Store. Unfortunately, my screencasts would not play for me or my students in Google Classroom, until today.  How to Have a Screencast Play in Google Classroom: 1. Record and name your screencast 2. Create a new Google Doc 3. Insert an image in your Google Doc 4. Locate your screencast in your Google Drive 5. Get a shareable link for your screencast (make sure link sharing is on) 6. Go back to the Google Doc you created that you inserted an image in 7. Click on image 8. Hit Control + K to create a hyperlink 9. Hit Control + V to paste your link 10. Insert your Google Doc into your Google Classroom Screencasts can be used to flip a lesson, become part of your blended learning classroom, have students share their thinking, or anything else you can think of. And now they can be viewed in Google Classroom. This year I have been creating my own screencasts using Screen…