Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer Reading: Pure Genius

What I (and I know author Don Wettrick) love about the internet is it's ability to take collaboration to a whole new level.  Now, I haven't taken the Twitter plunge (Don raves about Twitter), but I do use social media to connect with other teachers. Bloggers have been a valuable source of amazing ideas and resources. Recently I had read of several teachers who were implementing a special time in their class devoted to individual student chosen projects calling this time Genius Hour or Passion Projects. I wanted to know more and so I chose Don's book Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level.

20% Time, if you hadn't heard of it, is a business model used at Google (and has caught on with other companies). Employees are given 20% of their contract time to work on their own projects. This time has led to the creation of new or improvement upon products and services! Teachers are using this model to give students time to formulate and design their own projects based on their own interests and ideas. I fell in love with this instantly. I regret not reading this last year because I know my kiddos from last year would have had some killer projects. I'm not going to let my 5th graders miss out this year! I've already purchased some resources to get us started!

I have a lot more anxiety about implementing this in my classroom than encouraging a student-led classroom because I know it will be a challenge to manage when students are all working on different things. Any ideas, resources, or anti-anxiety herbs, that you can offer are greatly appreciated!

Check back in a couple of days as I wrap up my summer reading posts!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Summer Reading: Learn Like a Pirate

Learn Like a Pirate is not a sequel to Teach Like a Pirate (which I had thought). Rather the two are companion books; both are books by outstanding teachers with innovative ideas for making our classrooms what they should be.

Of the four books I read this summer this was by far my favorite. Teachers are gifted with preparing students for the future, their future. Cookie cutter classrooms in which students sit in rows and listen to direct instruction are not preparing our students for the future workforce. Something has to change.

Most teachers that I know are burned out and exhausted by April testing. They live for the summer. Over the past few years I have found that I am quite the opposite. I love this part of the school year and it is so bittersweet. You may be thinking that I am crazy (and I am) but let me explain. I work hard at teaching my students the routines and procedures of our classroom so that they, in essence, could run it without me. By spring they have usually reached this goal. I can sit back and watch my kids learning, interacting, collaborating. It's truly rewarding. And then the end of May comes and I have to say good-bye to them - and get ready to train a whole new group all over again.

Paul takes this to a whole other level. His classroom in actually student-led. This. This is what I want for my students. I want them to be empowered, take risks, collaborate! Like many teachers I do have some controlling tendencies, but I believe that this model is what is best for our students, right now. In only a couple of weeks our short summer vacation is over and we return for the new school-year and I am so excited to follow is Paul's footsteps to begin to foster a student-led classroom. I'll be taking baby-steps, but I know that my main goal is allow students to interrupt the class. It's going to be scary, and I'm sure it will be a challenge for myself and my 5th graders, but I am excited to take it on!

If there is just one education book you read this summer/year, make it this one!

A huge inspiration for the student-led classroom is something that I learned about this past year: Google's 20% time. The obvious next book for me to read was more on this topic...Pure Genius by Don Wettrick. Post coming in a few days!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Summer Reading: Teach Like a Pirate

Reading "Teach Like a Pirate" by Dave Burgess was like meeting a kindred spirit...someone else out there who eloquently put my teaching philosophy into a book! Now, I am no where near as charismatic as Dave, but I found so much of how I approach teaching in this book. It was thoroughly refreshing!

If I were to choose just one quote that sums up my beliefs, and I think Dave's as well it would be:

Dave does an excellent job of detailing his PIRATE philosophy in a fun and engaging read. Much of his philosophy I already practice, but there was something that Dave spends a lot of time on his book that I think will really be a game changer for me. I am a creative person and I love to come up with different ways to approach lessons to make them more fun, engaging, hands on, and meaningful. Unfortunately, as a teacher, we've been handed a daunting task and our energies are quickly zapped. The consequence seems to be that my brain is fried by the time I get to the lesson planning. Dave threw me a life vest, or perhaps even offered me a dingy, because in the book he provides amazing questions to help guide lesson planning and get that hook to make a great lesson the best lesson. It took some time, but I typed each out, printed the several pages, and put them in my lesson plan book, all ready for next year!

Have you read Teach Like a Pirate? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Stay tuned, I'll be posting my thoughts on Learn Like a Pirate in my next post!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Reading

I've always enjoyed reading about other master teachers and taking from them little nuggets of wisdom and ideas to put into my own classroom. One of the first teacher authors to give me that spark Rafe Esquith when I read his book "Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire". Rafe is certainly an enigma. Immediately after reading his book I started a classroom economy system in my class, and I haven't had a year without it. Every year it takes on a new form, I tweak and improve it.

When I read about these superhero teachers I remind myself to push aside the feelings of failure and inadequacy; I may be unable to done the cape and I certainly can't pull off the-underwear-on-the-outside of my clothes look, but I can start by adding some tools to my utility belt.

Lately there has been an influx of amazing teacher authors publishing books on their craft and making waves in education. So, I was determined to tackle the growing list of books I wanted to read. I had been putting off signing up for a free trial of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited just so I could spend my summer reading. This service normally costs about $10 a month and you can read as many of the books available through their service as you want. Perfect.

These are the four I devoured:

Since I failed at joining in any book studies on time I will make a few posts over the next few days giving a few of my thoughts on each.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bright Idea - Nearly Painless Filing and Returning Student Work

My blog reader is full of amazing teacher blogs and my favorite entries have always been the Bright Ideas posts. So, I am super excited to finally link up with all these creative bloggers and their awesome ideas.

When I started teaching (11 years ago!) I didn't have a system for returning student work. Ok, I did have a system, but it wasn't the best system. I would hold on to graded work until I had a few ready to hand out and then divide them up and have the kids pass them out to each other. While this might be a quick way to accomplish this task it left me with some concerns: 1. I was wasting valuable instruction time, 2. students could see the grades of their classmates, and 3. who knows if mom/dad would ever see it!

A couple years after that I changed schools and grade levels. My new team members would staple all graded work to the weekly newsletter which then had to be signed by parents and returned the following week. This ensured that (most) parents were now seeing weekly assignments and grades. Genius! So the next year or two I remember Thursday nights, sitting on my living room floor with a pile or papers. Step one was to alphabetize them and step two was to lay them all out and begin to grab from each pile. Madness! This was the part of the week that I absolutely loathed.

Finally, I realized two important things needed to happen. First, that my students needed numbers to help me organize their work more quickly. They are assigned a number at the beginning of the year and write it next to their name on all assignments. Next, I invested in a cheap crate and some hanging folders. I labeled each one with the student numbers. Another plus is that I can use these over and over again because it doesn't have student names on it!

The front purple folder isn't numbered. All work that has been graded goes straight in there to be filed later by a helper or myself. Note: The "W" after the number was when I taught 6th grade and our students went to multiple teachers. Students in my homeroom put a "W" after their number while students from my teammates homeroom put a "D" after their number. This is a great way to file for those that platoon/departmentalize!

Here are some spelling tests awaiting filing. When it is time to file them it is easy to locate the student number on the paper and quickly place it in that numbered folder! I've never timed myself, but I think I can file each assignment in about a minute or two.

Other important papers (book orders, flyers, permission slips) often go in as well. Ahhh...nice and organized!

Fridays run so smoothly now! I grab all that papers out of each folder, staple them to the newsletter, and they are ready to go home! No more bringing them home on a Thursday night!

If you have enjoyed this bright idea consider following me on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram! For more bright ideas from other bloggers, please browse through the link-up below. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

All I Want for Christmas is ... a TpT Gift Certificate! WINNER!

I had a lot of fun reading all of the comments and reviews during the giveaway. Like many, I too love me some clipart! Congrats to Melanie A. who is randomly chosen Rafflecopter winner; I know you will get some amazing goodies with your gift certificate! Thanks to everyone who entered!

Wishing you all a Happy Chirstmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

All I Want for Christmas is ... a TpT Gift Certificate!

I am so excited to be linking up with other teacher authors at Corkboard Connections for a fun little giveaway. Perfect for last minute gifts to teachers in your life (or maybe for a little gift to keep for yourself).

Teachers Pay Teachers gift cards are the perfect gift! I secretly wished that my students gave me those instead of Starbucks gift cards. Not that I don't enjoy going to Starbucks, but I REALLY enjoy shopping on TpT!

If you'd like to enter you can complete up to 4 entries through the Rafflecopter. You can visit the other teacher authors participating to try to win even more gift cards! The deadline to enter is when the clock strikes Christmas Eve (EST). Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: Comments are moderated, so if you hit "publish" then you have entered!