Day 5 – Slice of Life – Time for Creativity

I am becoming sedentary. I can’t help it. I sit at this table for what our school is calling the Virtual Learning Initiative. The virtual learning is coming along, and still I sit. How can I walk and answer emails at the same time? Hmm…that reminds me! Maybe an aerobic exerciser hooked to my table will be my next household chore invention.

That was on Tuesday–the day for my second lesson; it was definitely better than the first. I’ve had lots of fun responses to our Flipgrid topic of making a household chore invention. The time it took children to complete this lesson was more realistic and has been leading to success for all.

This morning, I continued answering all my emails at least every 15 minutes. Often it takes me 15 minutes to give detailed feedback, activate the Flipgrids, and answer questions.  Then when I check back more have come in, so I have been working constantly for a few hours this morning.

Then I got distracted when I laid eyes on my #100DaysofNotebooking notebook. Oh, I forgot to post yesterday, I said to myself. I picked up my notebook. It was still yesterday in the U.S., so I posted a lesson idea I worked on yesterday. Then I thought about today’s entry, and I got a bit lost in creativity.

I keep a box of word cutouts on my table, inspired by fellow Slicer and #100DaysofNotebooking notebooker, Donnetta Norris. My box called out to me this morning, so I made up a quick challenge. Choose five random words and use them in a story.

My Five Random Words Challenge in notebook with my word box

OK, I thought. I can do this. Forty-five minutes later I came up for a breather, and (oops) to check my email again.

We all need that once in a while, even when we miss the 15-minute email challenge.

Here is the result of my Five Random Words Challenge (leading, develop, lives, animals, slam-dunk)…

“Try again,” said Dad. “You’re close. You can do it!”

The son tried one more time. His pencil arms, delicate and coursing with bad blood, swung like a pendulum and let go of the ball. The thud against the metal rim before it hit the earth was music to the ears of the father and son.

“You did it!” Dad jumped up and down, lifting the boy onto his shoulders, leading the two-person parade, celebrating the success of his little boy. It was the first time he had managed to get the regulation-sized ball all the way up to the rim.

Bad blood. There was no ill will or anger in the boy’s blood or relationships. Rather it was leukemia. Recently-diagnosed, the cancer had not deterred the boy from trying to develop his hoop skills. 

He is only five years old. Why do the gods toy with the lives of children? Animals! Dad would weep into his pillow, making demands during his nighttime wrestling.

But when morning came, he willed himself to be a new man, celebrating the successes of his boy. 

“You hit the rim! I’ll call you Rick Barry Boy now! You’ll be the next underhanded free thrower. Next time you’ll sink the shot, I’m sure. After that, who knows? Maybe a slam-dunk contest! For now, let’s go home and rest.”

Online Learning When Coronavirus Threatens

Larry Ferlazzo has created several posts with ideas for online learning when schools have to be closed because of the Coronavirus outbreak. Visit his latest post:  “ONLINE LEARNING TOOLS IF SCHOOLS ARE CLOSED BECAUSE OF THE CORONAVIRUS – PART FOUR” I’m working through the links today.

Our school is closed because of the Coronavirus scare, and I’m learning to teach online on the fly. Today I sent out my first lesson to grade 5 ELL students. I sent way too much and the instructions were too complicated! What was I thinking? I only get to send two lessons a week. Normally I have seven lessons with each group of scholars each week. I’m sure subconsciously I tried to pack three-and-a-half periods into one at-home lesson.

Basically we have been instructed to give something to read or view, and then have them produce something. That sounds wise and simple. Comprehensible input and comprehensible output–these make sense. They are what I’ve been working through with Nation’s books Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking and Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing.

I have been trying to do all four strands mentioned in these books in my weekly lessons:

  1. Meaning-focused Input
  2. Meaning-focused Output
  3. Language-focused Learning
  4. Building Fluency

I think today’s lesson was OK. They had a picture book to read with a simple message. It was an audiobook, which helped the ones who needed that support. There was language learning on pronunciation and usage of the new vocabulary. My favorite part was the real-life application where I asked students to go on a vocabulary hunt for these words around their homes–smidgen, glinting, scuttle, intricate, delicate, wilted, and clog.

I had a definite fail in the long and detailed list of instructions I sent. With a world made up of people who prefer to learn orally, I overloaded them on text. For a 98% ELL crowd, I failed to provide comprehensible directions for them. Yikes! Here’s what my email looked like:

I should have known. Now I have learned a lesson. When I send work online, I am not able to rely on the obvious and subtle cues of being in a room full of questioning children. I didn’t hear anyone say, “Huh?” or “What do you mean?” I couldn’t see the faces of those not with me. I hated being unavailable personally as they worked through those instructions. If I was there, I might have even needed to say, “OK, let’s not do this part. We’ll save that for tomorrow.”

There are some definite downsides to teaching from a distance. We are attempting it in K-12 too. It will be a challenge. I will have to work on the instructions–meaningful brevity–cut every unneeded word and phrase. And then cut the word count some more. That’s my goal for my second lesson.

However, there have been some rewarding and rich experiences even in just one day. I’ve given more feedback and individualized instruction today than I am able to do in the classroom when I have 25 students at a time. I was able to explain to individuals about the mistakes they made–in writing or with a voice message when needed.

Here is an example of a item from the vocab hunt. (Check out the hashtag #arsvocab to see more of their sweet vocabulary hunt.)

A delicate glass dish that is glinting in the light.

Thoughts About #RSCON3

Shelly Terrell (and her pug) kept us company, while Ian got the raffle ready.

Reform Symposium Conference just got over. Moments ago I “stepped” out of the last room, so I’m going to start there, reflecting backwards over the weekend.

While I was in the final room enjoying the afterglow of a lovely weekend, Ian @ianchia announced the first ten raffle winners. My name topped the list, and I won several iPad apps. Yippee! Now I just need to get an iPad! (Not to worry, our school just received funding to buy several for this year!)

Principal El, Lisa Nielsen, Alec and George Couros, and Steve Wheeler gave inspiring keynote addresses. These were the only ones I was able to hear, but there were many others too. What great quality speakers, such a long varied list!

The panel discussion with Tom Whitby, Steven Anderson, Joquetta Johnson and Naomi Harm was stimulating. I was making crepes in the kitchen while taking notes like crazy, which has spurred another drafted post. More about that later…

Some of the sessions I was able to attend were by Lynn Boyle on creating an online community of learners, Jo Hart on keeping a finger on the pulse of your PLN, Kimberley Rivett on literacy in the digital age and Janet Bianchini on using cartoons in language learning.

Slide from Steve Wheeler's Closing Address

Most of Saturday and all of Sunday, I was able to relax and participate as an attender. However, on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning I had some responsibilities. I was the moderator of Jo’s and Kimberley’s sessions, and I led a session about one way to map our global connections.

I am not at all a nervous person, but these minor responsibilities had me stressed out for several days! Yikes! But it was all worth it. We don’t grow unless we push ourselves, and I did grow in many ways.

Prior to RSCON3, I had not heard of Reform Symposium Conference. I saw the first RSCON3 tweet about the first of July. It looked interesting, so I added the hashtag to my TweetDeck and lurked about for two weeks or so. Somewhere during the month I became convinced, registered, and began tweeting about it. Then, shortly after that, Clive Elsmore, tweeted that he was looking for some back-up or reserve sessions.

I thought, “Hmmm, that sounds easier than a normal session. Maybe he needs someone at 3:00 a.m. or maybe he just needs me if someone gets sick or has technical difficulties.” I didn’t think very long before I said I would do it. I am not an experienced presenter, but I was willing because I know that teachers learn more than their students, and I am a devoted lifelong learner. I was curious to see what it was like to present at an online conference.

My laptop was in every room of the house for the RSCON3

I realized I was way out of my league when I went to the Elluminate training sessions. I attended one and watched the other two recordings of Jo Hart’s trainings. Then I went to another training with Shelly Terrell. Finally, I spent some time in the practice room, and thanks to some one-on-one tutoring by Chiew Pang, I was able to have some great rehearsal time using Elluminate. Jo Hart also spent time with me in her room helping me get ready for moderating her session. What a perfect way to start my responsibilities at RSCON3–moderating for a pro. Everyone was so very gracious!

Later that afternoon, I was able to help Kimberley during her session using some of the things I had learned in Jo’s session. It was nice to have help moderating from Sonya too.

Little learnings along the way…

  1. I learned headphones really are valuable when talking and leading online.
  2. I learned how to sign in as a moderator and then as a participant on Elluminate so I could make myself a moderator and then CLOSE the other moderator window. I finally figured out how to do that and how important it was. During Kimberley’s session I had two windows open, so I heard a painful echo!
  3. I learned that members of my PLN have voices. It was awesome to get to know the participants, moderators, and attenders as more complete people than just what they post online.
  4. I learned that it is possible to have an online community of learners. Community is the key word. I’ve taken online classes that were not in the least bit community. Presently, Iowa is working on initiatives to share teaching across the state in online classes. I have more hope for this method, as I learned some of the myriad resources that could allow real community to happen online.

I’m so thankful I moderated and presented early, and then had most of the weekend to relax and enjoy the other sessions.

Thanks to all the organizers and presenters for sharing their genius with the world and for challenging us to be more effective educators.