Monday, June 30, 2014

Currently July

It's that time again…time to link up with Farley of Oh' Boy 4th Grade for the monthly Currently series.

Last week we were at the beach celebrating our nephew's wedding.  It was beautiful and everything a wedding should be.  We spent the week canoeing, visiting Isle of Palms, and relaxing.  4 days were wet and rainy so we took full of advantage of a good summer storm and nothing to do - lots of nap taking and reading commenced.  Just what I needed.

Listening:  Both hubs and I are sitting in the living room and the television is on a car restoration show. Not sure who is watching.

Loving: A restful summer is rare for me.  Normally, I am teaching workshops or attending multiple trainings.  This is the first summer in SIX years that I have had no obligations!  My school in Tennessee let out on May 22 and I don't return to the classroom until August 19.  Summer is all about rest and recharging this year.

Thinking:  With a summer like mine, I've been thinking about school a lot.  I'm returning to the classroom after a year in a different position.  I gave all of my classroom stuff away and I'm having to recreate a bunch of stuff.  I've drawn out plans, made lists, spent countless time on Teachers Pay Teachers trying to prepare.

Needing: We moved in May into my hubs' grandmother's house.  It wasn't empty.  That's all that can be said.  So, we've spent the majority of our time cleaning out her belongings.  5 trips to the dump, 3 to Good Will and we have only cleaned out one room. 60 years of stuff to go through. Yikes!

4th Plans:  We are headed to the lake nearby to chill.  The state park opens early that morning and we are bringing our tubes with us.  Staying until lunch to come back home and enjoy the rest of the day with our pup.

Link up with Farley or head over to see what everyone is "Currently" doing.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thursday Tip: How to Create a Safe Environment

One of the biggest compliments that my students have ever given me was that they felt safe in my classroom.  In addition to educating students, I strongly believe that a student will not learn anything if they do not feel safe.  Knowing that my students feel safe is a goal that I make for myself every year.  Each year, that looks different because my students are different.

I've spent some time reflecting on the things that I do that help to create an environment where my students feel comfortable telling me their fears, taking risks, and failing.

1.  Keep Calm - Over the last year, the rage in t-shirts has be the "Keep Calm And…" craze.  This is my motto in my classroom.  No matter what a student does, I am the one who chooses my reaction.  If I choose to freak out and go ballistic on a student, that safe environment will crumble in a second. This doesn't come natural to some people.  So my suggestion is to count to 10 before you react.

2. Monitor Your Tone - I'm not a yeller by nature, but I've been in classrooms as a student myself where the teacher was, and I sat at my desk with a knot in my stomach every second, terrified that I would do something to set my teacher off and I would become the target of the yell. Over the years, I've taught with yellers and I've witnessed the fear and intimidation that comes with it.  Even sarcasm creates an unsafe environment.  When I participated in Love and Logic training several years ago, one suggestion that was provided was to whisper.  This action takes the sarcasm and anger out of what you have to say.

3.  Give Students A Voice - Students want to be heard during the day.  They crave being a part of the instruction.  Even as teachers in professional development times, we want to talk, take part.  Provide an opportunity for students to do so as well.  In my class, I provide reflection time for my students not only to reflect on their learning, but also to reflect on my teaching.  This doesn't happen in every single lesson or every single day, but often it is in the form of the following 3 questions:

  • What was the best part of the lesson?
  • How could I make this lesson better?
  • On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best lesson ever, how did I rate?
I've used the feedback to influence the upcoming lessons for the week and to thoughtfully reflect on my practice.

4. Include Students in Decisions - At the beginning of the year I spend a TON of time building community with my students.  Like many of you, we create class rules together.  I do this by using a Placemat Consensus with my students. After groups create their list of important rules, we discuss as a class and then create a class list.  Another thing that we do the first day of school is create job descriptions for students and for teachers.  These are then posted in our classroom and referred to daily. I let my students make decisions in little areas as well - which playground to play on, reading or writing first, the way we line up, etc.  When students feel like they are making decisions, when you have to say today we have to do it this way, no one bucks the system because they usually have decision making power. *My students do not make ALL of the decisions in my classroom - only the ones I can live with.

5. Give Students Your Time - TIME spells LOVE for kids, and different kids need different things.
Each day, I schedule a group of students to eat lunch with in the cafeteria.  We call it the Lunch Bunch.  I only have about 5 kids in each group.  During lunch we talk about their lives - books they are reading, swim meets, families, sports, anything they want.  Sometimes this turns into a tutoring session.  Students ask questions about the lesson, work on skills they want to improve, etc.  I bring my iPad with me so we can look up information if they are curious about a topic.  We use Wonderopolis to peak our curiosity as well.  It's my favorite time of the day.  I'm not teacher at this point, but someone who is interested in them as an individual.  

These are my top 5 ideas for creating that safe environment, but I'm really interested in hearing yours.  Add them to the comments below. What do you do or what do you plan to do to create a safe environment for your students?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Technology Tuesday: Haiku Deck

I remember when I first started using technology in the classroom, Power Point was all the rage.  Students sat in computer labs and created presentations using the old standby - ABC books about their state, Biography presentations about presidents or other historical figures, slideshows of their favorite places.  But, recently, Power Point has gone the way of dinosaurs.  Presentations were conducted and students stood before classrooms and read EVERY word that was written on each slide.  With the onset of bring your own device initiatives and iPads in the classroom, there are presentation tools that are much more effective at building presentation skills.

Last year my students had great success with Haiku Deck.  Haiku Deck is a great app that can be utilized on iPhones, iPads, iPad minis, and now, can also be utilized in a web-based application. The app is a free app, but does have the option of add-ons such as additional sharing options, templates, and such.

Here is an example of a deck that were created by me and my students. I was unable to use others because last names were present.  Students created ABC books about the American Revolution, similar to the way it was done in Power Point, but we focused on the verbal presentation of the decks as an assessment.  Some students created decks to tell the story of the entire war, while others focused on a single event.

Abc Book By.Brandon - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

My favorite things about Haiku Deck:

1.  It limits the amount of text on the screen!  No longer do you have to sit through a presentation that is read from the slides.  Students can only put a few words on each screen.  Presentations now have to be planned and performed with personality.  Students must know their content.

2.  Focus on images!  We live in a visually stimulating culture.  Haiku Deck puts the emphasis of the presentation on the images.

3.  Creative Commons - You can search for images within the app itself and they are pulled from Creative Commons images.  You also have the option to add images from your camera roll. **As with all image searches, err with caution.  A work around that I used was to save a folder of images in my Evernote notebook and share it with my students.  Students could then save the images to their iPad and use them in their deck**

4.  Sharing Capability - You can share decks by embedding html code, on Facebook, twitter, etc. The walls of your classroom will come down for your students.

5. Export as a Power Point - If you are still attached to Power Point, you can export the slides and view in Power Point.

How would you use Haiku Deck in your classroom this year?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Twitter Tips

Since the beginning of my blog, I've focused mainly on how technology can be utilized for students within the classroom.  However, there are so many great tools out there for teachers that help build our professional knowledge, keep us organized, help achieve paperless status, and a slew of other things.

Over the past 5 years Professional Learning Communities (PLC) have been the buzzword in districts and systems nationwide.  Individual schools have PLCs, districts have PLCs, etc.  Personal Learning Networks (PLN) have also come alongside PLCs.  We all have PLNs within in our own circles.  PLNs consist of the people you bounce ideas off of, learn from each other, sharpen each other's craft.  These may be colleagues within your building or within your district, but they could also be people you have never met face to face.  With social media, many PLNs have a strong presence online.  I know that is true for me personally.  I use Twitter to connect with my PLN on a daily basis.  My PLN contains people from around the globe.  Just last night, I was chatting with someone from New Zealand about the technology conference I just attended.

For the last 2 years, Twitter has been the source of my PLN.  I've been able to connect with worldwide educators and the walls of my PLN have been blown apart.  I no longer think of learning just from people I see face to face.  I join Twitter chats at least twice a week and connect to some amazing people.

Twitter is a simple social media site that is used to post "micro-blogs."  Where Facebook doesn't limit your status updates, Twitter limits your update to 140 characters or keystrokes (includes spaces).  If you include someone's Twitter handle (username), that also counts in your character count, as well as hashtags.

Just a few tips as you start out on Twitter:

1. No one follows an egg - George Champlin
One of my PLN members held a great Twitter session at the Upstate Technology Conference last week and he said this.  Educators want to follow someone with a face. Change your profile image so everyone knows you are a real person with real ideas.

2.  Limit Hashtags
Unlike Instagram where hashtags are all the rage, in Twitter, hashtags are actually used to connect you to locate tweets about a particular topic.  So, when you include a hashtag of #myfirsttimetotweet, if you search for tweets with the same hashtag, you will probably find few.  However, if you use purposeful hashtags like #edtech, #5thchat, etc.  you will find lots of tweets with the same tag and pick up some great ideas

3.  Lurk and Learn - Kitty Tripp
My friend, Kitty used this term in a Twitter class this week and I thought it was great!  This is one social media site where "stalking" is highly encouraged.  You can connect through chats using hashtags at certain times each evening, but even just hanging out and reading tweets is beneficial.

4.  Add to your network
Follow people and thank them when they follow you.  One thing to keep in mind, if you follow someone on Twitter, you can see what they tweet out, but they cannot see what you tweet out.  In order for both people to see each other, you both have to follow one another.  On the same line, in order to send a direct message, you must be following the person you are messaging.

If you are brand new to Twitter, my dear friend Kitty has a great post using screen shots about what the screens mean in Twitter.  You can find her at EdChat with KAT.

If you want to connect with me, I'm @ShastaLooper.  Would love to see you there!

I found this great infographic that lays out all of the Twitter vocabulary that you will encounter on your Twitter journey.
Created by @UKEdChat

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fueling Your Passion with UTC and PLNs!

Greenville, SC…I'm HOME!  After a short stint in Tennessee, I'm back home in Greenville.  I'm looking forward to another year working with an amazing system and fabulous colleagues!

One of the perks of living in the Greenville area again is the opportunity to attend an amazing technology conference, Upstate Technology Conference.  I've been attending since the very first year and EVERY time I walk away with something I can use immediately in my classroom or in my professional life.  This conference helps to reignite my excitement over technology that may have become lost through the day to day life of teaching. This year was no exception.

In April, registration opened.  I set my alarm clock for a 5:30 AM call so I could be ready for the 6 AM open.  This conference fills up fast and I wanted to make sure I had a spot, even if I wasn't able to attend.  I could always cancel.  At 6:00 AM, there were already 300 spots taken.  This year, I didn't present because I was unsure of my attendance, so it was a little different sitting back and having nothing to prepare.

I attended sessions Wednesday on Evernote, Nearpod in the Classroom, and Google the first day.  All 3 of these sessions were presented by members of my PLN.  Thursday brought with it new sessions on Edmodo, Smores, Thinglink, Kahoot, and iPad University.  My hope is to blog about each new tool this summer for my usual Tech Tuesday series.

The thing I enjoy most about the conference though is not necessarily the sessions, I can learn about those things on my own, but it is truly the meeting new like-minded friends to add to my network and reconnecting with others who I haven't seen in quite some time.

Two summers ago, I taught a workshop on iPads and met @cbeyerle and @TalesFrmTeacher.  We connected over technology and have kept in touch through Twitter and Facebook consistently.  It was great to see them again and to support their sessions.

This year I added to my PLN (Personal Learning Network) and was actually able to meet them face to face at UTC.  @Kitty_Tripp, @GChamplinAP, and I had our first face to face encounter this year even though we have followed each other on Twitter for quite some time.  The best thing about seeing all of these "friends" is that we were able to connect immediately!  As a matter of fact, I attended a session that Kitty taught in Greenwood today based on our interaction.

Source: Tales from a 4th/5th Grade Teacher

This group of educators from across SC help me to sharpen my saw on a daily basis.  Having a group of people that I can bounce ideas off of, through a tweet out for feedback, and seek support when I'm stuck is the most valuable resource I have in my classroom.  They help me keep my eyes on what is important and consistently help ignite my passion for technology in the classroom.  Thank you guys!

If I had a piece of advice for anyone in the education field, it would be to surround yourself with amazing people that you can learn from on a regular basis.  My PLN is truly the secret to my success!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Monday Meet Up…On A Tuesday

One of my goals this summer is to become more active on my blog AND in my TPT store.  Life has slowed down a bit for me, so I now have time to work on those lofty goals.  So to kick off the summer blogging season, I'm linking up with The Teaching Tribune for the Monday Meet Up and other fun links this summer.

So, without further adieu, I'd like to take a minute and introduce myself…

So pull up a chair and a cup of coffee and get to know your fellow bloggers.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

End of the Year Advice

This week I had the opportunity to spend time at a 5th grade awards day for my former students, my last class of kiddos whom I taught last year.  To say that it was emotional is an understatement.  From the time I walked into the building, I had tears in my eyes most of the time.  I had so much pride for the kids as they walked across the stage and accepted awards for leadership, technology, honor roll, and character.  

One of the traditions that I loved most about our awards day was the TERRIFIC kid awards sponsored by the Kiwanis Club.  Each 9 weeks, teachers picked two students who embodied certain traits.  At this awards' day, the traits focused on were Inquisitive and Capable.  Teachers then write letters to the students receiving the awards and read them aloud during the ceremony.  It is such an opportunity to speak life over kids and I would always get emotional and cry…especially when reading the letters for capable at the end of the year.  Sitting in the audience on this day was no different. As I heard the letters being read for former students, I teared up, as did the mommas next to me.  

It was odd being at an awards' day and not having a part in it for sure, so I wanted to take a moment and share what was on my heart for these students, as well as many others who ended school years.  There are things I wished teachers would have told me when I was leaving school that I would have shared with my students if I had the chance again.

1.  You will make mistakes!  And you will make many through life.  But what you do with those mistakes is the difference between failure and success.  Take each mistake or misstep that happens and learn from it.  There is always a lesson or a piece that you can use to improve your life or situation, your job is to find it even if it is difficult.

2.  People will be mean…but try to look beyond the outward display of meanness and find the heart.  For some people, that meanness is the result of mistreatment by others, wrong decisions and regret, hurt, or fear.  

3.  Be kind even when it is difficult.  People will always remember how you made them feel.  While it is easy to retaliate, especially when people are being mean to you, hold your head high and always treat people well.  

4.  Set goals and go after them.  It is easy to make a list of goals and then forget them.  But each day, make a step toward achieving them.  Even if it is a small step, it is movement in a forward direction.  

5. Dream BIG! The only dreams not achieved are those not realized….don't let anyone tell you your dreams are too big or unrealistic.  If you can dream it, chances are you can achieve it.

6.  Don't settle!  There will be setbacks along the way, but don't forget the dreams and goals that you have set for yourself.  Always strive to be better - a better person, a better student, a better employee.  

7.  Use your voice!  We have all been gifted with a voice to use to better our world. For some of us that is a vocal voice and we are comfortable standing up for someone in public, defending rights out loud.  But, for others, that voice may be through writing or praying.  Use it for good to change your world.

8.  Thank the people who have helped you along the way.  There are so many who have landed helping hands or worked behind the scenes throughout your school years, thank those who have.  They have all done it because they loved each of you.

9.  Make us proud.  Go out and be somebody or something and give it your all.  Make all of us proud who have cheered you on in classrooms, on sidelines, at awards' days.  

To all of my former students…I sincerely mean these words and I would tell them to you today if you were sitting here with me drinking a cup of coffee.  You have been gifted with tools and knowledge to change the lives of those around you and make your world a better place by being who you are!  We need you all to live out your life with your gifts and talents and personalities.  I look forward to hearing stories of students and the dreams that are achieved along the way.  Congratulations on another year completed!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

June 1st…Really?!

Today is my parents' 40th wedding anniversary.  In a society where you don't hear of that happening often, I stand and applaud them - loudly!  I've been married for 16 years and I know how challenging marriage is and how important it is to continually work to making it better daily.

Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade posted the Currently for June and I jumped on board.

We haven't had cable installed yet, so we've been renting Redbox movies each night.  Tonight's is Deniro vs. Stallone…you can tell I'm interested, right?  If you asked me anything at all about it, I'd have to plead the 5th.  Not my kind of movie.

I've been on summer vacation since May 19th.  Woo Hoo!  I've done a lot already - moved into a new house back into SC!  I've spent the last 2 weeks packing boxes and moving vans.  Ready for it to be over!

But it won't be anytime soon because we have 5,000 boxes to unpack.  We moved into grandma's house and it wasn't empty!  So needless to say, we have to empty and CLEAN a house that's been vacant for 2 years before we can do anything with out stuff.  So, I'm living out of suitcases and boxes.  I've lost my coffee pot and can't find it!  Things are about to get desperate.  I desperately WANT someone to come and organize it for me!  Today I worked on the kitchen and pulled 50 years worth of pans, casserole dishes, mason jars, etc. out of hiding.  I foresee LOTS of trips to the local dump.

With all of the moving and cleaning, we are redoing the house to modernize it.  That means new appliances, paint, floor - the works!  Need a decent budget to do that.  Would be great to walk into Lowes' and just point to something without looking at prices.

I'm ready to start checking things off of my bucket list.  We are headed to the beach in 20 days!  While there I plan to check 1 and 2 off for sure.  My birthday request is to Kayak Shem Creek and then I'll take care of the Stand Up paddle boarding here in town.  My plan is to sign up for a local outing at the outdoor store in town.  Completely out of my comfort zone, but I want to branch out in my hobbies a bit.  It's also time for me to get serious about my health.  This past year was not good to me due to stress and time and I've paid for it.  We've started off well - walking every night so far.  Plan to ramp that up to running soon.  Just have to be careful because of my knee.

Head over to Farley's to see everyone else's link up!