Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Class Dojo - GROUPS!

I am so excited that ClassDojo has just launched one of the most anticipated updates...groups! So many Dojo teachers have begged for this feature and it's out...now...today! And perfect timing for me because we just started school yesterday (it was a great first day, thanks for asking).

I haven't introduced ClassDojo to my new class yet, although some had it a bit with their fourth grade teachers. The group feature is definitely a game changer and it's so easy to use.  There are now two buttons at the top: students and groups. Just click the group button and add your groups in. You can use group names or numbers - whatever you use in class. Then you just add the student to the groups they are in and wah-lah - you're read to award group points.

I especially love the group view because it has all the little monsters that belong in each group!

When you award a group all group members will pop up as you award them. You don't need to click on the students in the group, they are automatically selected. 

Award away! Give some positive feedback to your amazing group!

Now each person in the group has a point and it will show up in their individual total. Easy peasy Dojo squeezy. Thank you ClassDojo! I already love the new feature!

And of course you can use groups in the slick app too!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bright Ideas: Use plastic dividers to display student work

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook then you have seen several of my back-to-school posts. You heard me correctly...back...to...school. This week was back to work for teachers and on Monday I get to meet my new class (well, the few that didn't make it to Meet the Teacher). I'm so excited for this school year!

I wanted to share a little Bright Idea. This is something I totally stole from another teacher my first year of teaching, I've used it ever since (and this will be year 12 for me!). I'm so not the type of teacher that is in to making super cute bulletin boards and changing them out during the year. I am low maintenance - I typically leave most of my same bulletin boards up for several years at a time before I feel the need to change them.

This is my current student work bulletin board...

These pocket dividers are colorful yet transparent and make a super easy way to display student work. As an added bonus, it is sooooo easy to change it up throughout the school year without doing a major overhaul (you should of seen me just trying to put up a piece of butcher paper on the wall...hilarious!). They are also super cheap and very durable. Most of the ones I have are from my first year of teaching (well, not these, because I wanted different colors this year).

Just cut off the divider tabs and attach them to the wall (I just staple the top). Throughout the year students can slip in their amazing work. I mostly use them for student writing, and I have them leave their work in them all year so at the end of the year - BAM - writing portfolio!

The nametags are simply laminated and hot glued on (they peel off super easy when you want to change them). I use a Vis-a-Vis marker so that I can easily change the names for the following year.

For those of you that use GoNoodle, you'll notice a theme here. All of the tags are free from GoNoodle! My previous theme was popcorn. You can get an idea of what it looked like before...

I hope you found my Bright Idea useful and that you have an WONDERFUL back-to-school, whenever it may be for you. For more bright ideas from other bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Putting Together a Read and Respond Notebok

I have been using a form of Read and Respond since I started teaching. Every year it evolves and improves. It's still not perfect, but I'm happy with its evolution. Read and Respond is a great way to encourage and hold students accountable for daily reading. I want my 5th graders to spend the bulk
of their homework time engrossed in books, so the response part I try to make as quick and painless as possible, while still being meaningful. This summer I updated the entire thing just in time for a new school year! I thought I'd put together a little video showing how easy it is to set up.

If you've already purchased my Read and Respond product I've included the updated version for download. The older version is still available if you prefer that one. 

I'd love to giveaway my Read and Respond to three people! Enter the Rafflecopter through Monday, July 13. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 10, 2015

Teachers NOT in Vegas: A Sweet Staycation

Exactly one year ago I had the privilege to attend the first TeachersPayTeachers conference in Las Vegas with my buddies Angie from Fall into First and Laura from Daisy's Book Bag. We had a great time. Unfortunately, Vegas was not in the cards (harhar) this year. Instead, Laura and I took advantage of a local deal for teachers and have a lovely little staycation - and we booked it for the same time as the TpT conference so we wouldn't feel too left out. We spent a night at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, got free drinks, and even a free Lakeshore Learning gift card!

It was so nice to take a short drive out of town, spend tons of time by the pool (which was nearly empty!), and we even managed to squeeze in a little "work" (I'm finishing up a project I hope to share soon!). I could have easily stayed a few more days. I'm soooooooo relaxed! It was a fabulous way to end summer vacation 2015 - because guess who gets to go back to work on Tuesday...

I'm wishing all my teacher friends an enjoyable rest of the summer and I hope you do at least one thing to relax and pamper yourself - you deserve it!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer Reading: Ditch that Textbok

Several years ago I decided to go back to school and get my Master's in Educational Technology. The program was all online, and I have to tell you, that it had a profound impact on me as a teacher. What I learned was far beyond the teacher preparation I received as an undergrad.

There was a lot of technology use in my class during my time in the program, and shortly following it. I am ashamed to say that I've used less and less technology in the past couple of years. It's not because I don't want to use technology, I just feel that it has become more difficult. Our district (which I love) lacks in technology resources and a lot of sites have been blocked. I understand the reasoning, it just makes it even more difficult to use technology in ways that really make learning really effective.

This was the book I needed to get me out of that funk. The title is a bit misleading because what Matt encourages teachers to do is to replace textbooks with the incredible technology tools we have today. While I won't be able to go completely paperless I was reinvigorated with the possibilities technology offers and how I can be creative and resourceful with what I've got. Namely the majority of my 5th graders owning a smartphone or other device (I've already got our district's Bring Your Own Technology form ready for Meet the Teacher Night!). Over the years I've gotten several useful technology tools in my classroom from the amazing Donors Choose and so I figured it had been while since I set up a project and have one already started to get a couple of tablets. Just taking a few steps is setting me back on the path to revolutionize my class!

Matt also goes into depth about how teachers need to change their mindset on what our roles are. We are no longer the receptacles of knowledge. Most of the questions my students ask me I don't know the answer to, and I am so lucky that we don't have to sift through volumes of encyclopedias (although I do remember enjoying them as a kid, I know, I was a weird kid). Today we need to teach kids how to make their own discoveries using the incredible tools we have. The hope is that we can foster their curiosity and creativity and encourage students to be the innovators that we need!

Well, that's the end of my summer reading posts. I enjoyed relaxing and filling my teacher brain with new ideas. I've got only a few more days of my summer vacation left before I get to take what I've learned from Dave, Paul, Don, and Matt to make this year the best one yet!

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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!

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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 this...to 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!

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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!

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