Thursday, February 27, 2014

Project #13

For this project, we created a Lesson Plan titled DIY (Do It Yourself) Ending. This lesson plan addresses the Alabama State Standards for third grade English and Language Arts. It refers to learning about key ideas and details in which the students should be able to determine the main idea of a text, recount the key details, and explain how the details support the main idea. This project covers a period of two weeks in which the students will be actively engaged. The students will read a book titled, 2030: A Day In the Life of Tomorrow’s Kids. This is a great, age-appropriate book for the kids in today’s society. Technology and our environment is constantly changing, so it’s fun for kids to think about what the world will be like in 20 years from now. Here’s the catch: the students will only read half of the book and at the beginning of the second week, they will come up with their own ending (before they know the real ending). The students will work on this project collaboratively in groups of 4. They will work together to discuss the main idea of the story and come up with a few key details. They will also do some individual work in writing a blog at the end of each week. The main part of the project is that they will be creating/writing their own ending to the story and presenting them by using either a Google Site, a Prezi presentation, a poster, or iMovie. We think that the students will really enjoy this project. After all, there is always that one book that we wish we could go back and rewrite the ending to. Here’s the chance.

Check out the few resources below:

Project Calendar

Project Overview

Project Checklist

Project Rubric

Book Cover for 2030: A Day In the Life of Tomorrow's Kids

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Blog Post #7

For those of you that haven't seen The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams by Randy Pausch, I encourage you to stop reading this blog post right now and go watch. When I saw that we had to write a blog post about this, I was so excited. I had never watched the video before of The Last Lecture, but I have read the book. One of my friend's parents gave me the book after my high school graduation. I've read the book twice now and each time I've learned something new. Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and prior to giving his Last Lecture, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was given only about 3 to 6 months of good health, and although I didn't know Mr. Pausch personally, I can tell you that he made the very best of his last few months.

The Last Lecture was given at Carnegie Mellon in which Randy talked about his childhood dreams and how he achieved them, how to help others achieve their dreams, and what lessons can be learned in helping you achieve your dreams. As a future educator, there is so much that I learned from Randy's Last Lecture. One of the things that I loved that Randy said was, "Enabling the dreams of others is even more fun." We all have our own dreams and aspirations in life that we hope will one day come true, but there is something about helping others reach their goals that is so much more rewarding. It's like you took part in their life and made an impact by helping them accomplish something. I think that is what being a teacher is all about. It's about enabling the dreams of others. Teachers don't have a lot of time to think about themselves, it's all about the students and quite frankly, I believe that's how it should be. Being a teacher requires a whole lot of selflessness.

Another thing that I noticed after watching the video was that Randy did a TON of project based learning in his classrooms. Actually, that was pretty much all he did. There was no book learning. It was all about technology and the students loved that. Now keep in mind that this was 7 years ago, so think about how far we have come with technology. There are so many endless possibilities out there with technology to use in order to actively engage your students. If it worked almost a decade ago, I can guarantee you that project based learning will work now. Also, Randy talked a little bit about peer editing. He had his students do it, and it was a great tool. In the video Randy says, "The best gift an educator can give is teaching students to be self-reflective." In addition, Randy was never afraid to reach out to others for help. In the same way, teachers should never be afraid to reach out and ask questions to other educators. This reminded me a lot of how we have started working on our PLN's. We are extending our circle of educators to help guide us.

Although I could sit here and go on and on about this lecture, the last thing that I loved that Randy mentioned is how important it is to have fun. He asks the question, "Are you a Tigger or an Eeyore?" I think that this is of tremendous amount of importance when it comes to being a teacher. You absolutely have to know how to have fun and be creative. The teachers set the tone for the students and if you're excited about a project or an assignment, then it will make them excited too. I promise you that your students will appreciate your joy and happiness. I hope to one day create a fun, exciting environment for my students in my classroom. It will make them so much more eager to learn! So to answer the question as to whether or not I'm a Tigger or an Eeyore? Tigger.

Randy Pausch died of pancreatic cancer on July 27, 2008, at the young age of 47. We can learn a lot from Randy about education, teaching, and learning, but we can also learn a lot about life. In the words of Randy Pausch, "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." Make sure you play your hand in being a future educator exceptionally well.

Randy Pausch with is wife and kids

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

C4K #1

Over the past few weeks, Dr. Strange has assigned us each a student from a kid blog in which we were to comment on one of their posts. This is known as C4K, Comments for Kids. I have found so much joy in reading these students' blogs and commenting on them. It's interesting to see what different teachers assign for blog posts, what students actually complete the assignments, and if the students are even writing on their blog in their own spare time. I think it's great that teachers are having their students start blogging at a young age.

For my first C4K assignment, I commented on Conor's blog in Ms. Toal's Class Blog. In one of his posts, Conor wrote about what he had for breakfast. It was only a few words long, but I loved it because I love breakfast food. Conor wrote about how he had pancakes for breakfast. In my comment, I asked a few questions such as if he made them from scratch, did he have any help in making them, and I was curious as to what he liked to put on top of his pancakes. After a few days of anxiously awaiting to hear more about Conor's pancake breakfast, I got a reply! Conor said, "Hi Ashley my mam and I make them from scratch. I enjoy chocolate spread or butter my mam likes jam and cream on hers." I personally like to go the traditional route with my pancakes and only put butter and syrup on top, but I really enjoyed hearing what Conor had to say. I'm glad I was able to ask questions and get more detail out of him. Detail can be so important.

For my second C4K assignment, I was assigned Joey's blog in Mrs. Caddy's Class Blog. We were asked to respond to the quick survey that the student we were assigned to had created and posted on his/her blog. Joey asked several questions in his survey; a total of 10 to be exact. The questions ranged from "what is your favorite color" to ""what is your favorite thing to do on a hot summer day?" One of the questions that Joey asked in his survey was, "If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?" I loved answering this question because I love to travel. People always tell me that I've got wanderlust. For this question, I answered that if I could travel anywhere in the world, I would go to Greece. My grandfather is Greek and I would love to go learn about my heritage. Greece is such a beautiful place. I would want to go to Mykonos, Athens, and Santorini. I really enjoyed completing his survey. Joey asked a lot of great questions.

A little girl at her computer wondering what to blog about

For my third C4K assignment, I commented on Darnell's blog in Ms. Ruiz's Class Blog. For one particular blog post assignment, Darnell and his classmates were asked by their to teacher to blog about their own dreams. Not just the "I want a billion dollars" dreams, but about the ones that could really come true. I think this is great blog post assignment. It gets the students really thinking and the teachers are able to learn a little bit more about their aspirations. Darnell's dream is to go to the University of Texas where we he wants to major in business. He actually wants to open his own shoe store that sells all kinds of shoes such as Nikes and Jordans. Darnell also said that he wants to meet a beautiful, smart women and ask her to marry him in the most romantic way possible. After that, he wants to have kids at age 25 because that's his favorite number. Darnell believes that dreams are made of setting goals for yourself, and I agree completely. On his post, I commented that I loved how he was dreaming big with wanting to open his own shoe store. I also reminded Darnell to use correct punctuation such as periods and commas when needed. I hope that all of Darnell's dreams come true. Never be afraid to set high goals for yourself and have the courage to pursue them.

Lastly, for my fourth C4K assignment, I commented on Breton's blog in Mrs. Long's Class Blog. Breton's post that I commented on was very interesting because he wrote about one of his findings in his grandpa's house. He was looking around and he found his Uncle's old guitar. After asking, his Uncle let him have it. Breton said that the guitar is a late 90's model of a Peavey Predator. Those guitars run for about $200, but hey, he got it for free. Breton mentioned how we shouldn't bother looking up the guitar because all we would be able to find is newer models, but I just had to. I commented how I thought those guitars were very nice and how he made a priceless find. I also commented how with a little exploration, we never know what we might find at our grandparent's house. Then I ended with asking Breton if he knew how to play the guitar and if so, how long had he been playing. I'm sure Breton is enjoying his new guitar as we speak.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Blog Post #6

According to a blog post I found, PLN: You're Personal Learning Network Made Easy, a PLN is defined as, "the entire collection of people with whom you engage and exchange information, usually online." I'm sure that we all have numerous people that we communicate with daily via technology and by creating your own PLN, it gives you the opportunity to communicate, connect, and collaborate with those people. Whenever I first enrolled in college, I was given the option to join a learning community. A learning community is a basically a group of people that are taking a common set of courses and get together to help one another and share ideas. In Steve Anderson's Building Your PLN- A Primer for Anyone, I learned that a PLN is an extension of a learning community. It's taking that same concept and making it global by making connections all around the world. PLN's give teachers the freedom to do their own research and actively discuss things with other teachers.

A clutter of words that comprise a PLN such as twitter and Facebook

With that being said, I think that PLN's will be very beneficial to me as a future educator. It's great that I am already learning about them now, before I have a classroom of my own, to get me started. Contrary to popular belief, teachers don't know everything. Having your own PLN is a great tool for asking questions and obtaining more information. In order to form your PLN, it requires research. You will have to read blogs, use Twitter, watch videos on YouTube, click on important links that lead you to other places, consult with other people, use Facebook, use podcasts, etc. The list really does go on and on. It's important to keep up with these things because these tools are constantly changing. There is always something new to learn in the life of an educator.

One thing that I read that really got my attention was an article written by Vicki Davis called Personal Learning Networks Are Virtual Lockers for Schoolkids. Just the title says it all. If a PLN can be used as a students' virtual locker, it can be used as a teacher's virtual locker. In my "locker" I will have much information that I obtained by using Twitter and following various teachers and educators such as, Dr. Strange and Dr. Vitulli. I will also have YouTube which I will use to research videos on certain topics. In addition, I think that Pinterest is a great thing to add to your PLN. There are so many wonderful ideas and links to follow that can keep you up to date with the latest trends in education. Also, I plan to use all of my C4K (Comments for Kids) and C4T (Comments for Teachers) assignments in creating my Personal Learning Network. As you can see, I'm just now starting to "fill my locker" and create my PLN, but it's off to a great start. Establishing a solid PLN is really a never-ending process. In order to keep track of my PLN, I want to use Symbaloo. It's a great tool for organizing your PLN and it reminds me so much of how I have my iPhone set up, which will make it easier to navigate. I love the idea of a PLN and I think it will help me grow as an educator.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Blog Post #5

After listening to and watching the videos of Dr. Strange's conversations with Anthony Capps, I learned a great deal of information. The first two videos I watched were Project Based Learning Part 1: Experiences of a 3rd Grade Teacher and Project Based Learning Part 2. After doing some research last week, I did know a little bit about project based learning but these videos helped me gain greater knowledge. I would say that the most important thing I learned about project based learning is that it engages students. They aren't trapped in worksheets and lectures that they see only as "busy work." Project based learning is a means of getting the students to learn something through the process rather than just focusing on the product. There are so many teachers out there that are only concerned with the outcome, instead of making sure that the students get the most out of what they are creating and learning. If we only focus on the outcome, then how can we truly learn through the process? As future educators, we have to remember that teachers are learners as well. Another important aspect of project based learning is that it doesn't limit the students. Teachers should never limit their students, but instead give them opportunities to go above and beyond what you thought possible. By doing so, you allow a lot of room for the students to chose. When the students are given the opportunity to present their project that they created, they demonstrate so much ownership and pride in their work because they were actively engaged. I really enjoyed Anthony's three main goals of project based learning, which included the following: it has an authentic audience so that the kids are rewarded for what they do, it has the students' interest so you can do something relevant to their lives, it involves the community in order to relate it to real world experiences, and it is driven by content. Project based learning is constantly evolving, which means there are so many different things you can do with it. The possibilities are endless!

There were also two online tools that I learned about in Anthony's conversations on YouTube, iCurio and Discovery Education. I found iCurio to be the most interesting tool that I have come across yet! For those of you that aren't familiar with iCurio (just as I wasn't before watching this video), it is an online tool that allows students to safely search websites that have been pulled and filtered from other online sites by teachers or other responsible adults for educational uses. I think this is an awesome tool to use in the classroom, especially since we live in a world that is so corrupt. It is so easy for students to go online and Google or search for something that seems harmless, but yet they end up getting terrible results. iCurio also has some neat features that come in handy, such as a storage capacity that allows students to store content they find valuable and a directory feature for historical figures. It also has a read-aloud feature that is great for accessibility. Through iCurio, the students aren't limited to text and teachers can create search results that are grade friendly and age appropiate. The second online tool is known as Discovery Education. Discovery Education is a science and social studies related tool that allows students to view pictures and videos in order to learn a lot more. They can combine their text articles with visual pictures or watch videos that actually brings the experts into the classroom. Discovery education is great for students because it helps enrich their research experience, while teachers can help bring the text to life. Both of these online tools are great for creating a fun, technology-centered classroom!

Since we've been doing so much talk about technology, it's important for teachers to remember to actually USE IT. In the video, Don't Teach Tech- Use It, Dr. Strange talks with Anthony Capps about actually using technology versus teaching it. We live in the 21st century, so it's no surprise that using technology is natural for kids or that that they enjoy it. Technology is clean, it's sharable, and it allows the students to create. Instead of just throwing the kids into a technologically savvy project, teachers should have them take it by steps so that they are learning by using. It's important for teachers to not expect perfection. Being able to make mistakes is the beauty of learning in the classroom. It gives the students the opportunity to ask valuable questions, then you can reflect on what they students did wrong and go from there on improving.

Just like teachers shouldn't throw their students into a new project, they also shouldn't throw themselves into teaching a new lesson without having a plan. In the video, Additional Thoughts About Lessons, Mr. Capps gives us 4 Components to Making a Lesson:

1. Think about each lesson in terms of a year: Cover all the content according to the ACCRS.

2. Think about each lesson in terms of unit size: Devise projects in a meaningful way that is stretched out over time to meet a goal.

3. Think about each lesson in terms of a week: Be able to complete everything that needs to be done each day.

4. Think about each lesson in terms of each day: Deliver the lesson to the students in a way that gets them involved and ready to learn.

I think that teaching is most effective when there is a plan, even if it is annoying to create a million lesson plans. These are 4 very helpful things to to think about when creating lessons.

Now we all know that creating lesson plans, using technology, developing projects, and just being a teacher isn't always easy, but don't panic because there are ways to prepare according to Dr. Strange and Anthony in their video, The Anthony-Stange List of Tips for Teachers Part 1. Although there was a list, there were three ways to prepare that stuck out in my mind as the most important. First, teachers should be interested in learning themselves. Teachers should always be open to learn new things, even if they are learning from their students. Learning new things to do and improve on each year is what makes each school year unique and exciting. Second, work shouldn't be separate from play. Being a teacher goes beyond the 8 hours a day that they spend in the classroom. It truly never ends, but being a teacher is so rewarding. Make it a fun experience! Lastly, teachers need to be prepared to be flexible and creative. There will always be surprises in the classroom, whether it is a fire-drill or simply a technical difficulty. Teachers have to be able to be creative in order to come up with alternative lesson plans and flexible since everything doesn't always go as planned. Some people say that teachers have the hardest job in the world, but even if it's difficult, I know it will be worth every minute.

An apple with the words Number One Teacher written on it

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Blog Post #4

The important, pressing question is, "What do we need to know about asking questions to be an effective teacher?" I really enjoy one of our mottos in EDM 310 that states, "Questions are more important than the answers." How true this is! Growing up, I was never one to ask a lot of questions in the classroom. I don't know if it was because I just knew it all or if I was just afraid, but if I had to guess, it was probably the latter. As I have gotten older, I realize the importance of asking questions. Without questions, there would be no answers. I think it's important for teachers to realize that it should never just be the students asking the questions. Teachers need to do some of the asking as well! Besides, teachers don't know everything.

I read a blog post by Ben Johnson titled The Right Way to Ask Questions in the Classroom. In his post, he talks about how teachers are always asking the simple question of, "Does everybody understand?", after a lesson is taught. What is wrong with this question? In my opinion, it's a quick way out for the teachers. Mr. Johnson explains in his article that by asking this question, we are really telling the students that this is their last chance to speak up and if they don't, then we are moving on. Maybe the students think that they understand but they really don't. Maybe the students are afraid to speak up because they don't want to "slow down" everybody else. There are a number of things wrong with this question, including the fact that it is a close-ended question. I think it's important for teachers to ask questions that spark discussion and make the students explain how they understand. Ask specific questions that require more thought and more detail.

Students raising their hands in the classroom

So yes, there is a right way to ask questions, but there is also a right way to respond to questions. In an article by the Washington University in St. Louis titled, Asking Questions to Improve Learning, it gives questioning strategies as well as tips on how to respond effectively. There were two tips that really stuck out to me with the first one being that teachers should wait for the students to think and give their responses. I think that a lot of times teachers are so concerned with fitting everything into one day and getting everything done, rather than focusing on making sure that each student understands the lessons so that they can apply what they learned. If teachers give the students time to think, then maybe more students will be eager to answer. The second tip that I think could be useful is for teachers to show that they are interested in the students' answer, whether it is right or wrong. If student's are at least trying then it's a good thing. There has to be plenty of room for mistakes in the classroom.

Take a moment to look at this video that I found called, What Questions Did You Ask Today?, and always remember to ask great questions everyday. Questions are at the heart of learning!

Project #3 Presentation

C4T #1

For my first C4T (Comments for Teachers) blog I was assigned to was Jabiz Raisdana's blog called Intrepid Teacher. Mr. Jabiz is a teacher at the United World College of South East Asia, which is an international IB school located in Singapore. It's pretty cool that I was able to read and comment on a teachers blog from halfway around the world. The two posts that I read by Mr. Jabiz were centered on the discussion of nature and how nature can be better incorporated in schools. One of the posts I read and commented on was titled, "Ubiquitous Exposure." I didn't even know what ubiquitous meant until I read this blog and had to go google it. Just in case you don't know either, ubiquitous basically means omnipresent. Mr. Jabiz wants to create schools that give kids ubiquitous exposure to nature. I have never really thought about how nature is everywhere, all the time. In his post, he talked about how he was getting ready to take his mentor group to Thailand for five days of camping, rafting, caving, and trekking. He said that he was excited to "disconnect" from daily life and connect with his students. He was giving them the opportunity to explore nature without all the pressures of cell phones, computers, and social media, as well as the pressures of the classroom. I commented on his post about how as I was reading, I found myself daydreaming of what it must be like to take students on a trip to Thailand. The beauty of nature is often over-looked, and I think it's wonderful that he is giving the students the chance to step away from the daily "worldly" things. One thing that Mr. Jabiz talked about was "1-1 Programs" and how technology is used without even thinking about it these days. I mentioned to Mr. Jabiz in my comment that I had no idea what a 1-1 Program was. He proceeded to discuss the idea of a "Nature 1-1 Program", in which outdoor trips would be an extension of what is done in the school. After reading that, I had to go research it. I found that 1-1 Programs are used to maximize the learning potential of students. It's neat that he wants to create a Nature 1-1 Program that would have goals aimed towards learning about and in nature. At UWCSEA they have five elements of their learners profile and one of those elements is outdoor education. I love this. I commented that learning should never be just restricted to the classroom. Mr. Jabiz wants students to be influenced by nature everyday. He gave numerous ideas, but one that stuck out to me was the idea of an outdoor classroom. I let him know how much I loved this idea and how I thought that it could be tremendously effective. Even if kids don't like the idea of nature at first, the beauty and simplicity of it all will grow on them, I'm sure.

The other post that I read and commented on was called, "Nice To Just Be Outdoors." This post was written after Mr. Jabiz had returned from his trip to Thailand. I commented about how I was waiting to hear all about his trip! More importantly, this post was about how he took his 7th grade "Be the Change" class outdoors to show the kids how they are surrounded by wonder (aka, nature). I commented that so many times we tend to miss out on the awe and wonder of nature and creation simply because we don't take the time to truly notice it. Mr. Jabiz took his students outside to sit on a small patch of grass under the shade trees and the clouds. In my comment, I talked about how taking the kids outside to marvel in the sunlight may not seem like much, but it gives them the opportunity to be observant and appreciate the outdoors. Today's society is all about technology, so a lot of times it's a breath of fresh air to step away from the classroom and feel the cool breeze on your face. Mr. Jabiz posted an exert written by one of his students about that day. Just by reading it, you can tell that the trip outdoors had an impact on the children. I ended my comment by asking him if he had done anything like this again with his students and if so, did the children have different reactions than before to the outdoors? I also suggested that he have the kids write down some things that they see outside that they don't normally notice on a daily basis. By doing something like this, it allows the kids to realize that nature can be more than what meets the eye. I left my twitter address and the link to my class blog, as well as my email address. I really enjoyed reading!

Little kids walking through tall grass