Day 26 – #AprilBlogADay – Fighting Spring Fever

Engagement/lessons/tips/tricks/ideas for spring fever – age specific.

Funny, just last week, I found three ways to keep K-2 students engaged at the end of the year. Those are three things that I’m doing with my kindergarten students now. I wrote about them here.

Engagement for All Ages!

Those were for K-2, but today I’ll consider one way to engage all ages in true learning, even at the end of the year.

First of all, for all grade levels, they will be motivated if you let them have autonomy, let them have time to master, and let them choose the purpose of their learning.

From Dan Pink’s web page, the “Cocktail Party” summary of his book Drive:

When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

I believe his connections to the business operating system can be equally applied to much of the educational operating system. People, including students, are truly motivated intrinsically, not by dangling good grades, stickers, candy, or small trinkets in front of them. That doesn’t work and often does harm. Children in school need the “new approach” to motivation, as well.

At the end of the year, when motivation is not usually at a high point, it is a perfect time to allow those things that will motivate. Give more choices, ask students what they want to learn, and then get out of their way. Here are a couple ideas to get started.

1. Ask them what they learned or did this year that they would have liked to learn or do more. Perhaps it was when they had a measurement lab in science, and they got to measure all kinds of liquid and solid ingredients. Let a small group measure some more.

Maybe some others are interested in the Civil War, but you didn’t have time enough to spend on it to satisfy their appetite. Let them pursue more about the Civil War.

Maybe you have some writers. Maybe they even wrote a novel in November, but they haven’t had enough time to devote to finishing it, revising it, or starting another one. Let a small group dive into writing.

2. For those who can’t think of anything that they would like more time with, ask them what they did not learn or do this year that they wish they would have. Perhaps some of them will come up with topics of interest to them that weren’t in your curriculum. If they have chosen it, they have some purpose in learning it. If you really meant it when you asked them, let them have autonomy to make a learning decision.

If you happen to be in classroom with access to enough computers, you can let them choose something from Gary Stager’s list of things to do on a laptop.

3. Finally, as soon as everyone has something they are interested in learning, step aside and let them learn it. The teacher becomes facilitator, resource finder, cheerleader and sometimes gofer. Some of us call this kind of learning Genius Hour.  If you want to learn more, follow the hashtag #geniushour and see all kinds of amazing students all over the world learning with motivation, especially this time of year.

4. Have everyone choose a way to share their learning with the class.   They can write a blog post. They can make a presentation, demonstration, or model for the class. They can make a movie or photo essay of their learning.

Enjoy! Your students will love you for it! The year will be over soon, so if you haven’t tried Genius Hour before now, this is a perfect time to do a beta version of Genius Hour. Save all your notes for next year to make it even better.

Do you have any other advice for engagement / lessons / tips / tricks / ideas for spring fever?

#AprilBlogADay to Continue

#EdBlogADayThis month I’ve enjoyed writing one blog post a day. I didn’t really think I’d be able to keep it up, but I have so far! Only five days to go.

We had a Twitter chat today and decided to keep this community of the #AprilBlogADay challenge going next month. We will continue it in May with another added option.

You can write a blog post a day, as we did in April.  Or, you can read and comment on someone else’s blog post each day. I will take the latter challenge.  It will be called the #EdBlogADay challenge.

You can join the Google+ Community.  
You can sign up on this Google Form.
Follow the hashtag #edblogaday in May. #AprilBlogADay in April

Day 24 – #AprilBlogADay #ILoveMySchoolBecause

I have a once-in-a-lifetime experience of teaching school around the world from where I came from and where I’ve always taught.

This past week I was a co-leader of a committee for Earth Day celebrations, which would kickoff our K-12 anti-littering and recycling campaign. It was my first time leading a committee here at my new school, and it was also the largest event that my partner and I had ever pulled off on our own or together.

Partners in Goodness

I love my school because we are Muslim, Christian, Hindu or other, but we respect each other and learn from each other. It is a special joy to be able to wish others an Eid Mubarak, and to have others wish me a Happy Easter, for instance.

I love my school because, though we speak many languages–Arabic and/or English in school–we manage to communicate. That was our experience as we planned for Earth Day. Teachers and parents were on our committee. Sometimes parts got lost without translation, but everyone managed to pull off a very large event with each doing their part, plus some. Actually, the whole staff was involved in one way or another.

Our School, Our Earth
Grades 6-8 put their handprints as a promise to save the earth.
We enjoyed a most elaborate and healthy “green” buffet.

The Earth is My Home, I Promise to Keep It Healthy and Beautiful.
Middle School Art Students Decorated

Day 23 – #AprilBlogADay – Transparency

How transparent should our profession be?

This question is good. I’ll just take a stab at it, but…Disclaimer: I really don’t know.

Anyone of you reading this blog, knows lots of teachers who are transparent. They blog and tell the world about their hopes and dreams, successes and failures. I feel I’ve been quite transparent, but there are always a few things I hold back.

I know of some schools that are fairly transparent. They share hopes, dreams, and successes. They tend to skip the failures, though. They are constantly considering stakeholders. Perhaps they can’t be completely transparent or the parents and community may lose trust.

On the other hand, if those schools aren’t trustworthy, maybe the stakeholders should know. That is a reason for full disclosure and transparency.

Education–at a state and federal level–is not so transparent. Too many politicians involved, and I don’t believe they allow themselves to be transparent.

This lack of transparency reminds me of a story. When I was a new reading specialist, I attended some professional development and Title I meetings that were also new for me. I’ll never forget the meeting, in that spring of 2002 when a district leader was explaining the new education law, “No Child Left Behind.” There was chart after chart showing trajectory lines for each grade level. The line went from 2001, where our children scored in their last Stanford Achievement Tests, to 2014, when they would all score at the 100th percentile.

What? That’s what I thought. It’s a tiny bit like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, “where all the children are above average.” But this wasn’t that the children would all become above average, but they would all be in the 99th percentile.

I wanted to be transparent, and stand up and say, “The emperor is naked!” Yet, we all sat there and pretended he was wearing a lovely suit of clothes.

Well, over the years the scores did go up. We soon adopted a new test instead of the norm-referenced Stanford Achievement Test. We now had a criterion-referenced test, and theoretically all the children could get 100%, but, for various reasons, they didn’t.

Now, the laws have changed, but we still have high stakes testing, just with different names like SmarterBalanced, which I guess is neither, and PARCC. Maybe we should have been more transparent about high stakes testing when we first got the hint that they don’t assess anything worth assessing. Then we could have stopped paying testing companies to make more of them.

After this post, I still don’t know how transparent our profession should be. I would suggest that we trust the educators more than the politicians, because educators seem to have more clarity on that issue.

What do you think?

The Skill of Listening, Happy Earth Day, and Day 22 #AprilBlogADay

Listening, speaking, reading and writing = language and literacy.

I have been teaching English language learners for a little over a year now. It was a big change from teaching older native speakers English and social studies.

I teach lots of speaking, reading and writing, but I have been neglecting to teach listening as a skill. Usually, students practice listening to each other during show and tell, and to me when I’m talking or reading stories. They listen to and sing along with songs, but really I have not helped them to practice and have success in listening.

Thanks to the British Council and the U.S. State Department, we have excellent resources for learning to teach English! Face-to-face classes and workshops, webinars, online classes. I’m learning so much. (See at the end of this post just a few of the resources I got today.)

Today, however, I attended one of the best webinars. It was on teaching listening. I will be a better teacher tomorrow because of it. I just wanted to share the resources for other ELL teachers and anyone who wants to teach listening skills.  The webinar is led by Kevin McCaughey, a Regional English Language Officer in Kyiv, Ukraine. It was a great presentation with a wealth of practical activities, and beautifully designed for the Earth Day audience enjoying it today.

Here is the PDF article, “Practical Tips for Increasing Listening Practice Time,” if you’d rather read the content (but don’t miss Kevin’s warm delivery, and with singing too.)

Do you teach listening? How? To whom?

More Resources – Free ELT audio from Kevin McCaughey – Free, fun, natural and meaningful listening lessons from Todd Beuckens. Elllo on Twitter.
American English – “A Website for Teachers and Learners of English as a Foreign Language Abroad” by the US State Department

Day 20 #AprilBlogADay – Now

What are you working on NOW? What are you trying to get better at?

True confessions! This is a bad time to ask this question because I’m mostly working on the basics, like trying to help students listen to each other and me. Spring fever has hit us hard. We still have seven weeks of school, yet I feel like teachers and students are tired and unruly, ready to be finished. I feel students were doing more learning and higher level listening, speaking, writing and reading in January than now.

So, I am working harder than ever, just trying to stay above water.

In fact, here’s a picture of me swimming.

Blue Blotch by Pixabay artist geralt

Topics for #AprilBlogADay.

Day 18 – #AprilBlogADay – Elevating

What small steps are you willing to take to elevate the profession?

I guess the major small step I can–and do–take is to be a role model to those around me. I try to model what I believe a passionate, hard-working teacher is. That’s easy really. We are what we are, and so people will look at how we act and speak about the profession. In my actions and conversations, I show my pride and joy in being a teacher.

Another way I can elevate the profession is by learning more and encouraging others to, as well. I love to learn, and I challenge myself to learn. Presently, I have two new teaching language learners courses I’ve signed up for. (Actually, I knew about them, and I was planning to sign up, so I just took a break from this blog post and signed up officially.) One of the classes starts tomorrow, and it’s free. Not too late to join if you’re interested. It’s Understanding Language by University of Southampton.

Day 16 – #AprilBlogADay PLN and PLC

Why are PLCs and PLNs important? Different? Contribute to school success?

My day starts early and is ending as some of you in North America are just getting started. I usually wait until evening to write my #AprilBlogADay post because I need to wait for the topic to come out. No excuses, it’s just that I don’t have very long for the idea to simmer!

Anyway, here is a quick PLN post before I sleep!

First of all, one of my dear friends, Sheri Edwards, has done a lovely post on PLN. For me, I think of them as synonymous, but Sheri and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach know more about it. I’ve also heard of Community of Practice (CofP) and Personal Learning Colllaborative (PLC) from them. It’s in Sheryl and Lani’s book, The Connected Educator. I think Sheri wrote a post about it, but I couldn’t find it.

Anyway, that was a lot of words so far without saying much. I think I wrote this same post yesterday when I wrote about social media. My Personal (or Professional) Learning Network consists of people face-to-face and far away, those I’ve personally met and those I only know through social media. My personal learning network definitely contributes to school success, again I wrote yesterday about the many benefits for my classroom. This is a result of the connections I’ve made with educators far and near.

OK, that’s about it today. Chalk this one up for trying to stay the course in my #AprilBlogADay Challenge.

True both in schools and on Twitter