Each step along the way during this presidential election has been painful. Unless he does something crazy (crazier) before Inauguration Day, he’ll be inaugurated president in a little over a week. The summer of 2015, I began watching open-mouthed as he sucked up all the attention of the press because of his asinine actions and comments. Then he ousted his competitors, and went after Hillary with a no-holds-barred campaign from hell, complete with help from the Russians.
I knew if he won we would not be the country we thought we were.
Yes, I’m sorry for all my friends and fellow citizens. I’m sorry to those around the world who look to us to be role models of democracy. I’m sorry they have to be disappointed in us, and we can never take it back because we really did elect him.
One Word for 2016
My word for last year was FIT. It was a good word, but ended up not the right word for 2016. Things didn’t fit so well last year. The word might have fit better had I not spent scores of hours watching and listening open-mouthed as our country went crazy. I spent too long watching him make an ass of himself, and later when he was nominated and elected, an ass out of our country.
This year my word is serenity because I have to find peace in the insanity. Everything doesn’t fit, but in the midst of the chaos we can have peace.
One Word for 21017
God is in control, and God has much to teach us in the U.S. We have painful lessons we need to learn. Lessons that we’ve been trying to learn for centuries. Lessons on systemic racism, fear, greed, ignorance, partisanship, the Constitution, lack of critical thinking, and oh so much more.
While we learn, God save us. I believe you can give us peace instead of fear as you teach us the lessons we need. Amen.
Isaiah 41:10 says, “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
Almost a decade ago, when Twitter and Facebook were still toddlers, most of us shared stories not by posting links, but by sending a link, story or image in an email. Many of us remember those days. The subject line would read FWD:FWD:FWD: YOU GOT TO READ THIS!!!!! or some such title.
One day I wrote a letter to the editor of our local newspaper because sometimes one just has to do something when it is impossible to stomach reading another bogus email. The text is written below (and in the image above):
It would not be a compliment to be called critical. Who wants to be a critic? I like being nice, and I like being around nice people. However, today, I would like to take my turn and ask everyone to be more critical…critical in reading, I mean.
I admit, I read some forwarded e-mails, oftentimes with my mouth hanging open in disbelief. I’ve decided most are originated for one of two purposes: To mislead and falsely present one’s ideological agenda, or to cruelly experiment on society.
I imagine someone sitting, pondering, “Can I compose the perfectly misleading e-mail…? Something outrageous but credible enough so people will forward it?”
If we believed all the e-mails over the years, we’d be waiting for $10,000 from Bill Gates, printing $50 gift certificates from Applebee’s, and watching for other unexpected windfalls. Don’t you just want to shout, “C’mon, read critically before you forward those emails!”?
Twice as many? I was curious, so I clicked the link citing a Congressional Research Service document. There it was—the supposed “source” of the e-mail—but rather than respecting each brave soldier who died for our country, the casualty numbers for each were blatantly altered, manipulating them to mislead.
We have been at war in Iraq for five years, so not surprisingly there are more military deaths in this president’s term than the previous. Clearly someone lied to fake some political point, trusting that at least some gullible person would not read the source critically.
If my students did research like this, they would fail.
How about those touching stories we read and pass on?
I believe we need to read these critically, as well.
An old, but still-circulating, story tells of an Olympic diver, practicing in the dark because the full moon shining through the glass ceiling afforded him enough light to do that.
In taking his stance on the high dive, his eye caught the moonlit shadow his arms made on the wall. It looked like Jesus on the cross. He knelt and, after years of atheism, gave his life to Christ. Just then an attendant came in and turned on the lights, and the diver saw that he had been preparing to dive into an empty pool.
Is it true? I need only to read it critically to answer, “No.” What kind of Olympic diver would dive into a darkened pool? And how could that diver overlook the fact that the moonlight reflection was missing on the water below?
Is there truth in the story? Perhaps, but I fear the real truth that “Jesus saves in miraculous ways” is lost when we use manufactured stories in an attempt to convey that truth.
As a teacher, my constant prayer is that I help my students read critically, so I need to model critical reading.
One way I do this is by discontinuing the haphazard spread of illegitimate e-mails.
When I receive an e-mail that I suspect spreads untruth, I read it critically, having found the website Snopes.com to be a helpful resource. If the real facts differ from those purported, I share this with the person who forwarded the e-mail. If the e-mail turns out to be true and helpful, on occasion, I forward it on to people who would benefit, using with a link to Snopes and a personal note.
I just wanted to challenge us all to be more critical…in the best sense of the word.
Now, I still believe everything I wrote almost a decade ago, but things have gotten more complicated, haven’t they? Social media has amplified the crazy “share” mentality a thousandfold. (Snopes is still an awesome source, and they are busier than ever!)
I teach fifth graders now, and we work hard on reading comprehension strategies including questioning and clarifying. Why, when it comes to social media, do some seemingly-educated people lose their way?
Hmmm…Interesting. Do we need Facebook, Google and others to determine what’s fake and not fake? Are we willing to admit defeat when it comes to critical thinking and let a corporation do it all for us? Or should we not take responsibility for reading news with a grain of salt?
Stephen Colbert shares some of the outrageous stories that were shared on and around election day.
Today, it seems there is another motive for creating crazy fake news–people are getting rich. Do we need to have Google and Facebook stop them?
For those readers who make the stories go viral, those people who share without reading critically, why do they do it? Eight years ago I thought there were two possibilities for originating fake stories: To mislead and falsely present one’s ideological agenda or to cruelly experiment on society. I guess the same is true for those “share”-happy clickers who fail to check the sources.
Critical thinking, critical reading, critical viewing, critical listening, critical voting. America, we need critics more than ever. Now, please.
If we’re not willing to think critically, maybe we deserve what we’re getting.
What do you think? Do we need social media outlets to police fake news? What responsibility do social media readers have?
At our school we ended our annual professional development time with a Genius Hour-style PD project. Each teacher worked alone or with a small group to learn, explore and then put into practice something that we needed in our teaching lives.
Dillian, grade 1 English, and I worked together to answer the question, “What new tools can we learn to help students articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral English and to demonstrate the ability to work effectively and respectfully in a variety of small group situations? (Check out Accountable Talk and others)”
We created that question on 17 April 2016. Then we got to work learning about Accountable Talk, something I had heard about (just in passing) at the Google Apps for Education Summit the weekend before.
Accountable Talk is one of nine Principles of Learning. Pam Goldman describes these principles in podcasts 6, 7, and 8. Accountable Talk is specifically related to learning and teaching in the first seven Principles of Learning.
Dillian and I also signed up for a course entitled, “Creating Engaging Environments for English Language Classrooms,” from the University of Oregon. It’s been a great course, and I’m learning a lot, but Module 2 was particularly applicable. It was about small groups. In an article by Anne Hammond Byrd*, we learned strategies for engaging children in meaningful conversation and collaboration in small groups.
Make students aware of the purpose and benefits of learning cooperatively. And don’t make grades one of the reasons!
Practice cooperation skills with nonacademic games.
Change the culture of your classroom. “Consider providing students with opportunities to practice communication within a group by allowing whole class conversations to occur freely without constant teacher direction. By creating an atmosphere that encourages social interaction within a group, teachers allow students to become more comfortable with the structure of the cooperative learning lesson design. Allow students the freedom to discuss ideas in class discussions openly without raising their hands for permission to speak.” ~Anne Hammond Byrd
Establish ground rules for all cooperative learning activities.
Balance student status. That is, sometimes strong personalities will have most of the influence in a group. Groups should be changed up to balance the interactions. In fact, a good idea is to put several very quiet students together, where new leaders will emerge.
Assign roles. Especially as they first learn what to do in their groups.
Provide demanding tasks. This is a good one for me to take to heart. Sometimes I don’t have high expectations for partner and group work. I usually use partners to have students discuss something or practice the skills at hand. Sometimes small groups complete a practice game or task, but I need to remember that “together we are smarter.” They can do so much more, and I can expect that of a small group. I like the idea of having small groups practice for a presentation, and then vote on the one student who gets the privilege of sharing in front of the whole class. (Definitely related to #3 and 5 above.)
By the first week of May, we were teaching children some short sentences in an attempt to empower them to use English in conversations.
My students mostly speak in Arabic when they are working in small groups. If they need to communicate with me, that’s the only time they really have to use English. I never scold them for not using English, because they need to make connections, they don’t have the vocabulary or comfort level needed to speak English, and I’m sure there are other reasons. I do, however, want to encourage them to try more English. My goal is that they will become bilingual, and if they don’t practice in English class, many of them do not practice at all.
My few experiences with teaching the sentences above resulted in some powerful conversations. We practiced asking each other how to say certain words in English and Arabic.
Our conversations reminded me of when I was taking Spanish classes in high school. One of the key phrases that empowered me was, “¿Cómo se dice _____ in español?” (or, How do you say _____ in Spanish?) It was nice to be able to speak in Spanish while at the same time receiving help from my peers.
I saw the same enthusiasm in the children as they practiced saying, “How do you say___ in English?” or “How do you say _____ in Arabic?”
A Sweet Success Story
Just this week, one of the students spontaneously used the question, “Will you tell me more?” It was in response to a child, during show and tell, who had invited up several students for an impromptu skit of sorts. She was asking them questions, and they responded good-naturedly. It was all very fun and engaging. At one point, though, she asked an incomprehensible question. Without missing a beat, he said, “Will you tell me more?” He looked up at me, with an enormous smile, and pointed to the sentence strip questions.
Now, we have finished with the school year, and next year I will move up to Grade 5. I will definitely bring what I have learned about empowering students with language to help them communicate better in English. We will do cooperative groups with engaging, yet demanding, tasks. I will recognize from the start that the students don’t speak and understand English as much as their English teachers have assumed they do. Finally, I will work hard to build a culture of trust, understanding, acceptance, vulnerability, and safety for all the students.
Here are some of the helpful resources I’ve been using:
It was great to hear this webinar with Danielle Capretti. “Hey, Kids! Let’s Put on a Show!” Theater in the English Language Classroom. She’s an expert on using drama and dance in EFL classes in countries around the world.
Moderator Katie took over during some technical difficulty on Danielle’s end and actually started the presentation. After a few minutes we were able to get started again. Danielle went through a lot of resources for young, secondary and adult classrooms. I’ve shared them below.
She covered the topics of
choosing a text or script–student-written, teacher-written, free online, purchased. Others?
casting for the parts–teacher chooses, volunteers, auditions. How else?
preparation–table work (understanding the words and content) and blocking (moving through the play so the audience gets the most out of it.
performance–do you have them memorize or do readers’ theater? Have them do warm-ups like breathing, exercise and tongue twisters. She had a lovely dramatic voice herself, and inspired me to practice enunciating, “The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue.” Finally, you can have them do a last minute speed run through–no blocking. Just the spoken lines, fast. If they can do this they should be ready.
Thanks to Danielle, Moderator Katie and Moderator Amy!
So, I’ll be checking out the resources and finding what drama I can do in my classroom very soon.
A couple days late, but I had to share what I learned at the Google Apps for Education Summit, Day 2. I loved this conference with so many people from so many schools and places!
I was looking forward to the second day, even though my thoughts were with the Accreditation Steering Committee team from my school, which also met today. I had to miss it, but I was not disappointed to be at the Google Summit!
Ben Friesen‘s keynote was as captivating as yesterday’s by Mark! It was so inspiring. It just made me want to keep on creating, annotating and sharing.
The first breakout session, however, was a disappointment. Really, I should learn to just not take a chance on vendor sessions. I was sitting in the front row, excited to learn how to use the reading and writing app I had downloaded the night before. However, then I learned that we have to buy a license to use it. I guess the version on my computer is a 30-day trial. I wasn’t enamored enough with the demo to even want to buy it.
The next two sessions I attended were by our keynote speaker–Ben Friesen. One session was using Google Drawings and the other My Maps.
In the first session, we worked on a collaborative drawing of the 1980’s with Ben. It was fun, and, if you click, you can see the messiness of large group collaboration. Then he demonstrated some of the features we can use. A few new features I learned:
There is a red snap-to grid to mark the center of the canvas. That is handy.
You can connect box lines to group the boxes in a graphic organizer. That way if you need to move the box, the line comes along with it.
You can customize the size of the canvas to fit the project you need. Go to File–Page setup. For instance, if the limit of the header size is 800 x 200 pixels, you make your canvas that size and create it just the right size. No need to crop or fit in later when it’s uploaded.
Finally we worked on our own header for a Google Classroom, which I won’t be using for a while until our students get their own GAFE email addresses assigned. Next on my wish list.
I majored in geography in college, largely because of my love for maps. In this session, it was exciting to see the great transformation over the past few years in what Google has done with their map programs. I hadn’t been paying attention!
I used to make maps showing where the participants were from in the Global Read Aloud and other experiences. I still used Maps and Forms, but it was more difficult importing my data with third party applications that most of the time I didn’t understand. Nowadays, My Maps skips the middleman! Excellent. We each easily used the same data to work on our map of places we wanted to take a virtual field trip, manipulating the data during this session. In my map you can see different colors for all the teachers who shared their Twitter handle. Ben’s was a far better and more productive presentation than one I made several years ago when mapping our connections. (If you visit that link, I’m sorry to say you’ll find that some of the links to my maps have been lost into some unknown digital graveyard.) Ben also shared two warm-up mapping games for kids and adults–GeoGuessr and Smarty Pins. Very fun!
During the last session, I had fun using the virtual reality glasses and apps with Shina in the Google Cardboard session. Amazing! Shina is a geeky technology coach in Saudi Arabia. (And my new friend. She is the first person I met Friday morning at breakfast.) She is also the journalism teacher for her district. Her students make the yearbook for the school, and she helps them use new technologies to make a physical book more interactive. Last year’s book had tons of examples of augmented and virtual reality for readers to access in order to enhance the book. One example was a 360-degree photo sphere of the old campus they vacated last year, so it will always be available as a memory to students.
Speaking of photo spheres (Not thatphotosphere, Astronomers!), I took my first 360 degree photo in our meeting room at St. Christopher’s School while we waited for the last keynote to start. (Again, I was reminded of all the wide world of learning, creating, and producing we can do with just an Android device! So many things we don’t even know about, YET.) I’ll be ordering some Google Cardboard glasses ASAP!
Today, we did Genius Hour at school. There were no children here. It was a teacher’s professional development day. Teachers did Genius Hour.
Our principal, Mr. Josh Perkins, introduced Genius Hour, a concept that was new to most people. He said it was “a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school.” Definition from Geniushour.com
He then went on to immediately explain that the Genius Hour we would do for PD would be defined like this: “Genius hour allows teachers to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides teachers a choice in what they learn and develop during a set period of time during the professional development time.” It was about here that we all decided we like the name Genius Time better.
I thought the plan was perfect. He asked for professionalism in carrying out this short plan:
Question – What do you want to learn?
Explore – Learn about it!
Master – Become better at it!
Present – Help the rest of us learn!
We will “turn in” our inquiry question at the beginning and the presentation at the end. We will plan, explore, and learn on our own. He will post all our learnings on our school web page to share with the world.
Now, our school happens to have an atypical communication barrier. We are about half Arabic speakers and half English speakers. (And other languages too, which we don’t even take into consideration!) The Genius Hour overview was presented tag-team style in both English and Arabic. Throughout the day, we noticed not only was some of the introduction lost in translation, but also these ideas are huge when heard for the first time and need extra time to absorb.
That’s all good. It’s part of my philosophy as the chief learner in my classroom. We all have questions that need to be answered along the journey. (And the journey is the best part, I believe.)
Because of those big ideas we were trying to explain, there were bound to be misunderstandings. Some people seemed to hear that Genius Hour was something for the children, and they ran with that forgetting about their own PD. As we answered questions, I began to think maybe we shouldn’t have called it Genius Hour or Genius Time, after all!
However, later I realized I was wrong. It was an unexpected, but awesome misunderstanding. We had scores of teachers today talking about Genius Hour. We weren’t just talking about something wordy: “self-directed professional development time.” Many of the teachers were even talking about how they were going to make Genius Hour work in their classrooms.
“How will it work with all the students doing Genius Hour in different subjects?”
“Can we do it for 15 minutes each period?” (No, please don’t.)
“Should we call it Genius Hour or something else because our class periods aren’t one hour?”
Wait a minute. I began to realize they thought they MUST do Genius Hour with their students in their classrooms.
We aren’t doing Genius Hour with your students, I said during an impromptu meeting. That can come later, I continued. (And hopefully it will!) Today, for the next few weeks this is about you! About you improving your craft–becoming more adept at content knowledge, pedagogy, and technology to bring about learning for your students. We need to focus on 21st century learning skills. (Yeah, since by the time half of our students graduate from high school this “new” century will be a quarter over.)
We introduced a unique-to-every-single-person professional development opportunity. Instead of doing one-size-fits-all PD for the next two months, we each get to make our own learning adventure! (Or with a partner or two–it’s limited to 3 in a group.)
Imagine around 50 different PD programs going on in just the next nine Tuesday professional development hours!
What are the chances of that happening? It can happen, but only if all the teachers own their own learning.
Here are just a few of the thoughts some teachers had for their own unique PD sessions, with possible inquiry questions:
How do you engage very young children to want to know English? And can I get them to practice by communicating their own knowledge to others?
How can I teach flexibility and adaptability by providing students with many ways to solve math problems, starting with the abacus?
How can I inspire students to be self-directed learners, going beyond the vocabulary in our lessons to searching out the multiple meanings?
Can I build students’ collaboration and communication skills by learning about and teaching Accountable Talk for small group discussions?
How can I help students to be responsible and discerning digital citizens; who can justify their use of technology for educational purposes?
How can I present information in a way that is more engaging to the students, and promotes independent and analytical thinking?
I loved hearing people talk about Genius Hour today. The discussions were amazing. Some of us met for four hours today, instead of the originally scheduled two hours. It won’t be easy, but our school has heart, and we will figure it out together. (I’m particularly excited to see the Arab teachers’ share their Genius Hour learning in the Arabic language. They will be Genius Hour innovators for the Arab world.)
Al Raja School can have hope in a bright Genius Hour-y future for students and staff alike. I look forward to it!
I had so much fun at the GAFE Summit today! I love learning new things, and there was much to learn. It had been a long time since I was at a tech conference, and my first ever Google Summit. This one is meeting at St. Christopher’s School in Saar, Bahrain. There are people from at least a dozen countries around the region and beyond.
Here are just a few brief takeaways from my first day.
Mark Garrison had a great keynote address. I was inspired to be better, to give up some of the things in my practice that aren’t working. I will START some new things, STOP some old things, and continue to SHARE my learning. It is in making my learning visible that I learn the most. I truly am the chief among learners, and I delight in it. You can share what you are learning these days at the Start, Stop and Share Challenge that Mark shared with us. I will do that after the Summit is finished.
I also went to two other sessions with Mark. One on the 4C’s – communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. These 4C’s are in the tagline on this blog and on my classroom blog (actually 5 C’s on my class blog). I aspire to teach these always, and I loved Mark’s challenge to make these part of our lesson plans. Plan how and when we will let students practice each skill! The second session was a round table discussion about Start, Stop and Share. I heard from passionate educators from all over the region. They are here to make the world a better place, starting at their schools.
Lissa Layman had a great session, which was an overview of Google Sites, Documents, Slides, Forms, Calendar, and more. I immediately thought of something I will STOP, and that is sending home a paper form gathering email addresses and other beginning of the year information. I will have them complete a Google form so the info can come in digitally with much fewer errors than the paper versions produce. (Why didn’t I think of this before? I use Google forms!)
I got to experience BreakoutEDU! Such fun! We solved the game and “broke out.” I had heard of it before, but it didn’t make sense until I experienced it. (So true of so much of life, right?) I am looking forward to bringing a box back from the US this summer and participating with my Imagination Chapter.
I could go on and on about all of the Demo Slam segments. Three minutes each, showing a sweet app or hack or some digital nicety that makes the crowd go, WOW! Some of my favorites were My Map. (More on that later, as I tried it and failed miserably.) Another favorite was that Keep converts image text to editable text! What? I never knew. I came home and showed my husband, and he loved it so. It was an early birthday present for him!
The hour is late, and I’ll be up again to do another day tomorrow, so more tomorrow. In the meantime, there are more photos here, and my notes from today are here.
by Denise Krebs Comments Off on In Support of the Word Wall
I moved to second grade this year to a room chock-full of English language learners.
I’ve had a word wall for many years–in grades Kindergarten through 8. This is the first year, however, that I’ve received such positive feedback about the word wall. For instance, here are two things that happened within a week.
I received this valentine from one thankful student who takes pride in spelling high frequency words correctly.
Then this morning before school, I had to rearrange a few words because of maintenance work done over the weekend.
Word Wall: Friend of English Language Learners Photo by Fatima Hu.
A different boy came in and saw me with words in my hand and proclaimed, “What? Are you taking the words down? I need them to spell ‘because’ when I write it.”
I was happy to be able to tell him that, indeed, I was not taking the words down.
His enthusiastic question has motivated me to find even more ways to use it effectively.
I have always known that children learn with confidence if they are given as much scaffolding as needed. The word wall is perfect for writing with children of all abilities.
Many children still need to look at the word wall to spell are instead of ar. Eventually these children will learn or at least tire of me pointing to are and reminding them to spell it correctly. They will become independent spellers.
Other children need the word wall very rarely. They have already put many words to memory, or the words are decodable and they have the key to unlock many English words.
Eventually my friend from this morning will know how to spell because independently–not because it was a word on his spelling list once upon a time. He’ll learn it because the expectations are high and the environment supports his learning. The best part, though, he’ll learn because he wants to!
A couple favorite activities we do to learn the words are chanting the spelling and the mind reader game. My favorite use of the word wall, though, is for authentic writing, as my two boys and their testimonials show.
How do you use a word wall?
Photo by our photographer of the day, Eman.
by Denise Krebs Comments Off on Question from @EduQuinn
Donald Trump says quite often that he is Presbyterian. Presbyterians, for centuries, have been followers of Jesus Christ. Here are just a handful of quotes from Jesus and Trump. I can’t help but notice the difference.
God blesses those who are humble. Matthew 5:5
We don’t win anymore. We are going to win again. We are winners, not losers. We’re going to win so much, you’re going to beg me. You’re going to say, Mr. President, we’re so tired of winning, we can’t take it anymore. Please don’t win anymore…The American dream is dead, but we’re going to make it bigger and better and stronger than ever before. Donald Trump speech in Pensacola, Florida, January 13, 2016
Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure,it’s not your fault. Tweet by Donald Trump
But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Luke 6:27
When someone crosses you, my advice is ‘Get Even!’ That is not typical advice, but it is real life advice. If you do not get even, you are just a schmuck! When people wrong you, go after those people because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it. I love getting even. Think Big: Make It Happen in Business and Life, by Donald J. Trump (2008)
Do not be anxious about tomorrow. Matthew 5:34
For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul? Mark 8:36
I mean, part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich. Brainy Quotes
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. Matthew 5:38-39
Donald – On trying to name his favorite Bible verse:
Well, I think many…You know when we get into the Bible I think many, so many. And “an eye for an eye,” you can almost say that. It’s not a particularly nice thing, but you know when you look at what’s happening to our country, I mean, you see what’s going on with our country how people are taking advantage of us and how they scoff at us and laugh at us and laugh in our face and they’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our money, they’re taking our — you know, they’re taking the health of our country. And we have to be very firm and we have to be very strong and we can learn a lot from the Bible, that I can tell you. NewsRadio WHAM 1180 interview, April 14, 2016
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Jesus, Luke 6:45