Dare to Care

create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

10/Aug/2017
by Denise Krebs
2 Comments

Shift This Book Review

Thanks to Joy Kirr for a book that outlines her growth as a teacher over the last six years. I was privileged to meet her on Twitter in 2012. I have learned a lot about her shifts in education through her blog and on Twitter–with her more than 80,000 positive, affirming, and equipping tweets.

However, now there is something even better. She has invited me into both her classroom and her mind for the rich details. How does this look? How can I shift the classroom environment in my own situation? She wrote a book on it, called Shift This, published by Dave Burgess Consulting.

Currently reading and loving: #ShiftThis by @joykirr1 #cy365 #t365project #jjaproject

A post shared by Denise Krebs (@mrsdkrebs) on

For those who need more specifics on how to create a student-centered classroom environment, this is the easy-to-read, must-read book for you.

Joy begins the book with the beginnings of her journey and a challenging chapter about WHY and HOW questions to ask of your classroom practice. The book continues with chapters on these timely topics:

  • Classroom Environment
  • Classwork
  • Homework
  • Grading
  • Social Media
  • Student-Directed Learning

Finally, Joy ends the book with a chapter called “Resistance.” The opening story, a discussion with a parent asking about homework, is so compelling! It makes me know she has real-life experience with resistance.

Each chapter ends with a Reflection and Call to Action for the reader to write notes about their next steps. In addition, there is a further reading list provided for each chapter.

Joy is so personable and kind. She will always give teachers the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t want to give up your teacher desk, that’s fine, she’ll tell you. “You have to do what works for you…Furniture and walls really aren’t the key to a transformative culture in our classrooms. The key is how we treat students” (Shift This, page 42).

She will always be patient with and give respect to teachers, but when the students’ best interests are in jeopardy, she makes it clear to you. She will always come up on the side of the students. She will influence us, in her kind, personable manner to shift our practice to be more student-centered and student-empowering.

Like Joy, I’ve had more than 20 years teaching experience. I try to be like Joy in another way: Even with her many years of experience, Joy always has something new to learn. In Shift This, Joy consistently models her love for and need for her own personal learning. One thing that spoke to me poignantly was this quote I discovered on her classroom website, which she had linked to in the book. On this Scholars in Room 239 post, I love how she sought advice from parents:

Please help me grow as an educator. Although this is my 22nd year as a teacher, I know I can always do a better job, and I’ve already asked for your child’s feedback. I’d also love your honest feedback.

She’s left a link to an anonymous survey for all the parents of her students. Brava, Joy! You are inspiring us to all be more humble and thriving as educators!

Here are just a few things I’ve gleaned from Shift This for this new school year, which will start in a few weeks. I want to just list them here to help me remember and so I can hold myself accountable:

  1. Choices of material, length, level and more in independent reading. We’ll take a challenge of how many books to read, rather than the traditional one every two weeks. Students will share their “book reports” in informal book talks with peers and other ways to share books they loved.
  2. My teacher desk will become a modified student station, as it was last year. I’m trying to take it to another level, though. Still a work in progress.
  3. Organize my student web page so there are no questions about what we did in class and what is expected of students. Right now, there are still too many unanswered questions on our Grade 5 News page. My excuse: I was new in grade 5 last year. I can’t make that excuse any longer.
  4. Homework each day will be reading an English book for at least 20 minutes. This will be more intentional and monitored than last year. Last year I gave very little homework, and there was little to no resistance from parents and students. I think it is a good decision.
  5. Grading is developing in my school, too. Another work in progress that I will continue to push for and develop is standards-based grading, collecting evidence of mastery.
  6. I will choose a volunteer photographer for each week rather than trying to do it daily as in the past, which didn’t work so well.

Shift This is the kind of book you can read over and over. As you make shifts in your classroom this year, you will see the benefits. Then next summer you will read the book again and see ideas that last summer seemed out of reach. But next fall…you will be ready. (So be sure to date the entries on the Reflection and Call to Action sections. You’ll be back.) On this journey as the chief learner, each fall you will be able to make your classroom a more safe, student-centered, joy-filled, learning-owned-by-students environment.

You can bet, I will return to this book again. For the sake of my students.

08/Jul/2017
by Denise Krebs
2 Comments

Teachers Write is Here

Yay, I’ve been looking forward to this!

#TeachersWrite with Kate Messner, Jo Knowles, Gae Polisner, Jen Vincent, and other professional authors is coming right up. It officially starts on Monday, 10 July 2017. Gae started Friday Feedback yesterday, with guest author Nora Raleigh Baskin.

On Fridays, Gae and her guest authors, share one excerpt of their writing and elicit feedback from the Teachers Write participants. It not only gives them feedback, but it helps us learn to give feedback–What works? What doesn’t work? Do you want to keep reading?–they start with what works to honor the risk the author takes in sharing their work. This Friday, they were so timely. In 24 hours they have read and responded to scores of comments on their post, even though they are also participating in the Nerdy Book Club’s nErDCamp in Michigan. Here is a link to my comment, and you can scroll down to see their fabulous feedback on yesterday’s post.

This summer, I will try to act like an author and be disciplined to write for this significant writing teachers’ summer camp. I’ll post my attempts here at my student portfolio sample blog at this link: http://testblogscs.edublogs.org (NOTE ABOUT THAT NAME: This was the very first blog I ever made, almost 8 years ago–thus the name, it was a test blog for my school at the time, SCS. And that is why I hang in there with it–sentimental value to me, but it also reminds me to choose names carefully.)

Did you know this great writer’s camp is all free to participate? The authors only ask that, if possible, you add four books to your library this summer–one each from Kate, Gae, Jo, and one of their guests. We are buying books anyway, so why not? Read more about this, and to see the many books they have written here or here.

Here is a quote from Gae Polisner about MAKING time to do what you want and need to do.  (Read more inspiration at her 2015 Feedback post here.)

Have you heard of Teachers Write? Have you participated?
Are you planning to? Will you make time? It’s not too late to join.

09/Jun/2016
by Denise Krebs
Comments Off on My Own Genius Hour

My Own Genius Hour

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.

We discovered the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh has published many free resources about Accountable Talk, as well as some resources you can purchase.

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.

  1. Accountable Talk
  2. Socializing Intelligence
  3. Self-Management of Learning
  4. Academic Rigor in a Thinking Curriculum
  5. Clear Expectations
  6. Organizing for Effort
  7. Learning as Apprenticeship
  8. Fair and Credible Evaluations
  9. Recognition of Accomplishment

Here are my notes on the Accountable Talk podcasts. You can read some of the transcripts and more about each of the principles.

Dillian and I also signed up for a course entitled, “Creating Engaging Environments for English Language Classrooms,” from the University of Oregon. Class Completion BadgeIt’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.

  1. Make students aware of the purpose and benefits of learning cooperatively. And don’t make grades one of the reasons!
  2. Practice cooperation skills with nonacademic games.
  3. 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
  4. Establish ground rules for all cooperative learning activities.
  5. 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.
  6. Assign roles. Especially as they first learn what to do in their groups.
  7. 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.

What I Learned

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.

Next Year

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:

04/May/2016
by Denise Krebs
Comments Off on “Hey, Kids Let’s Put on a Show” Webinar

“Hey, Kids Let’s Put on a Show” Webinar

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.

Resources

  1. American English website
  2. American Rhythms – music, lyrics and classroom activities
  3. The Best Resources on Using Drama in the Classroom by Larry Ferlazzo
  4. Royalty-Free One-Act Plays
  5. ESL Ideas: Using Abstract Drama Scripts in the drama, language and ESL Classroom
  6. Dr. Chase Young: Readers’ Theater Scripts
  7. Free Stage Play Scripts by D.M. Larson
  8. Aaron Shepard’s webpage
  9. Aaron’s Reader’s Theater Edition
  10. All Eugene O’Neill one-act plays are public domain.

18/Apr/2016
by Denise Krebs
Comments Off on Google Apps for Education Summit, Bahrain, Day 2

Google Apps for Education Summit, Bahrain, Day 2

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 learnBen Collage 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:

  1. There is a red snap-to grid to mark the center of the canvas. That is handy.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The session I looked most forward to was using My Maps. I love maps and, I really wanted to see how Ben so cleverly compared the true size of Greenland (2.17 sq km) with Saudi Arabia (2.15 sq km) in the Demo Slam on Friday. You would never know these two countries were so similar in size if you use the all too-popular Mercator projection.

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 that photosphere, 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!

Finally, Chrystal Hoe did a nice job wrapping up with the session with another keynote address. I loved the video she showed about Erno Rubrik about the importance of asking questions to make amazing things happen!

Check out the schedule to see what other sessions there were.

I’d like to make a challenge to my new friend, Asma, who I enjoyed tweeting with and meeting at the Google Summit. I hope to read on your new blog what you learned last weekend!

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