Monday, October 18, 2010

The Magic "Thank You" Theory

They won't quiet down. It's picture day, or it's storming outside, or it's a full moon, whatever it is, the classroom is electrified. I have to direct this current to good use, but first I need to get them to focus.

I try shushing and shoosing. I try stern looks and head shakes. I try hands on hips and a hanging head.
All attempts fail.

Then I look at those who are quietly sitting looking at me, patiently waiting for the rest of follow suit. 

Then it hits me.

"Thank you Taylor."
"Thank you Daniel."
"Thank you Josh."
"Thank you Samantha."

The crowd goes silent.

I'm not sure why it works. I just know it's been working for seven years.

Try this polite and simple way to quickly quiet a raucous classroom tomorrow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Simple Books

I was also very fortunate to spend the day with Robin Fogarty and Brian M. Pete. The entire day was fabulous, but it is always a great feeling when the presenters talk about something you've been doing for a long time. We were trying out different ways take notes or share information with others, and Brian Pete started to show how to make a simple book out of one piece of paper. YES! Something I've done for awhile!

I use these simple books in my classroom for note taking, author studies, forms of poetry, as a test prep study guide, nature sketching, cartooning, drawing and anything else the kids can think up. When they are first learning how to make a book you are also sneaking in a lesson on following directions, and some fine motor skills practice (It's similar to the ravioli that is on the market now with one serving of vegetables hidden inside!).

The books can be made with any size paper and are very simple to make. Watch the video and see how easy it is. One hint: Focus on the creases.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Quick Classroom Tech Tips: Wikispaces

Wiki wiki means quickly.

If you are looking for a great way to provide a web-based location of learning resources for your students, or a place for your student's parents to get information and ideas to help their child at home, and you want it easy to use: the award winning web tool Wikispaces could be your answer.

Wikis were initially created as a web-based collaborative tool where different users could edit a project from wherever they had an Internet connection (click here and see below for more information on wikis). Wikis have been adopted by educators as an alternative to a read only website. Students can edit a wiki site by adding images, documents, and more. There are plenty of web widgets that you can embed to make your wiki a unique place for you and your students.

Check This Out
  • Wikispaces provides teachers a "plus package" for free. One good thing about the plus package is you will have no advertisements on the side of your wiki; which is good because the ads may not be what you want on an educational wiki site.
  • The editing feature is newly revamped and easier to use. It feels a lot more like a word processing editor. Which means you can add documents, images, and embed video quickly and easily into your wiki.
  • Each Wikispaces page you create on your wiki site includes a "Discussion" tab. If you want your students to respond to a question you post, or to a fellow classmate's post, you can do it easily with the discussion feature.
  •  Wikispaces provides amazing support. The support techs folks at Wikispaces are quick to respond to your emails, and they aren't satisfied until they help you with your problem.
  • You can create student accounts with out needing an email address. 
  • You have control to customize accessibility to the wiki (e.g. email capability, page editing rights, private or public viewing etc.)
  • It will not take you long to create your wiki. You can have a functional wikispace in minutes.
Here are some examples of classroom wikispaces that might inspire you.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Always Carry Around a Plan B

I'm honored that Jason has asked me to contribute to this great teaching blog. What a great collaborative effort for all the right reasons...teaching and learning!

A little about me, I'm a reading consultant by day and a Mom of 2 boys by night. I love learning, growing and am a champion for literacy. I am excited to share teaching ideas. As an adult learner, I find myself reflecting a lot on my work too. So...some of my entries may be teaching ideas and I may throw some reflection out there too. We'll see how it goes!

This one's a teaching idea...I was recently attending some professional development where I was introduced to a writing activity called Six Word Memoirs. Ernest Hemingway was once asked, "Can you describe you life in six words?" His response: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Powerful stuff...

Sitting among fellow teachers, we were asked the same question. "Can you describe your life in six words?" As I sat and worked on mine, it dawned on me that this would be a great activity for our kids! We have all had those kids in class that struggle with writing (sometimes with how much too)...maybe the ideas aren't flowing...maybe the writing process isn't as developed...maybe English isn't the first language... Whatever the reason, it isn't happening. Posing the question to them takes the pressure off "how much" and promotes great thinking and reflecting. Plus, it's a quick and easy idea to throw out!

So, I gave it a shot. Here are a few of my six word memoirs I was able to write:
Always Carry Around a Plan B.
Mom of boys...fueled by coffee.
Growing, learning all of the time.
Wanted: A beach house in Florida

How about it...can you describe your life in six words???