Thursday, September 27, 2007

the big 5

"The five, key 21st century skills, says Brenda Musilli, president of the Intel Foundation, are: problem solving, collaboration, communications, digital literacy and creative thinking. "

This quote came in an article written today about Intel's Teacher training program and the One Lap Top program.

This is an amazing statement. If this is what our children will need in the future, why are we not teaching to this? Why are we still teaching a set of skills that will be irrelevant in ten years?

By teaching our (mostly poor students) the basics and avoiding these skills we are continuing the cycle of poverty and ignorance. If however, we push for these skills, our students will be ready for the jobs they will need to fill in the future.

I'm not saying that the core subjects will not facilitate these skills or are not necessary. I'm simply saying that those skills will get covered by making these skills a priority.

We should be more concerned with how well our children will fare in the careers of tomorrow over how they will fare on the next round of government mandated tests...

but all teachers know this....I wish those with the power really understood what they were creating. By pushing so hard for the core subjects that are tested, schools are forced to put aside what is seen as the peripherals. Thereby repeating the cycle; students are not competing with other students around the world and are not prepared for jobs...the cycle is perpetuated by what is seen as the cure: mandated tests.

A blog comment by a fellow global learner said something to the effect of "if these kids are digital natives, why is it so hard to get them to participate."

Every second I'm not monitoring them they are using proxies to access myspace or looking at Youtube. But, having them set up a google doc document or comment on our bog is excruciating.

Part of my theory, when beginning this program, was that by using technology we would meet kids where they are to create a learning environment that is accessible and meaningful to them.

But they don't seem to get it. (Are we for once ahead of them?)

How long does it take for students to warm-up to blogs or other Web 2.0 things that we are offering them?
How long will it take for them to see it as useful...not a gimmick?
What is the ideal class size for teaching blogging and web 2.0 literacy?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

new literacy

I just read a really great post on REMOTE ACCESS on blogging and how that could change how we teach....maybe we should teach students how to read and use blogs as a resource.

I'm thinking that by doing this and teaching them to do this through an aggregator...we can teach them to think.

They would have to look at a subject from multiple blogs or perspectives and create their own ideas and thoughts...

Teach them to navigate blogs and we teach them to synthesize and make connections to what they read....

In essence we teach them to read and write for a variety of purposes....

This should be the new literacy...and I think by teaching literacy this way, we could enhance the "old" literacy of textbooks and novels

(please don't misunderstand me. I love textbooks and novels....but imagine how they could be enhanced by reading and navigating blogs about the same topics....)

Classroom Management = Student Engagement

I believe that student engagement begins with a well planned lesson. Lessons and activities should be meaningful to students and keep them engaged.

I've heard teachers talk about teachers at other schools who get to have professional conversations about content and instruction rather than behavior.

But what if we began having that content and instruction conversation first....would that cure most of the behavior issues?

I'm proud to say that my colleagues, spurred by an amazing AP, have begun to have such conversations. I am even prouder to say that when we listed the things we want discuss and change this year...we never mentioned behavior...not until our facilitator brought it up.

I think that if the focused switched from behavior issues to meaningful exposures to content, then, students would be fully engaged and have less behavior problem.

It won't cure all student issues...but it will go a long way to helping!

Dr. Lange told me last year that his wife was assigned a "tough" 6th grade class for the upcoming year. Luckily, he said, she had taken her dog to training the summer before. She learned a valuable lesson: control their environment.

The first step in successful classroom management (besides an engaging lesson) is controlling the environment. Don't give them opportunities to get themselves in trouble! My students are opportunists....but hopefully with the right control and nurturing, they will use this skill in a positive way....and not an annoying one!

This week I experienced a few 100% days: 100% engagement from 100% of my students 100% of the time....It wasn't because I threatened or had them all facing front...they were up, discussing, moving around: they couldn't help but be engaged. I controlled their environment. Hopefully, as I hone my teaching skills and polish my teaching art, I will experience more and more of these days....

These are days when its great to be a teacher.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

getting dressed

I haven't had a real post in a while...I'm getting a little sick of my whining about how hard it is to teach my classes, so I'm going to stop! Usually when I hear teachers whining I think to myself: "duh." So I'm giving myself a silent "duh" and moving away from behavior issues (we all have them.) And while I'd like to spend some time discussing content and how to present it and how students accesses and prove they understand the content...I'm going to move into a rant.

I work in a high school...and unfortunately that means that teachers think that they can come to work in flip-flops and hoodies. No wonder people don't take us seriously as professionals. I think that how I present myself is a very important part of my day. I don't want my students to see me as a peer or friend (we both have all the friends we need.) I want my students to see me as a role-model, mentor, content guidance-counselor. If I allow them to see me as a peer, my credibility is shot, especially when I'm in front off the room and want them to end their conversations.

Granted, some teachers have earned their right to Hawaiian shirts and khakis....they are a symbol at the high school...they have been here more than 5 members have taken their courses....their prestige comes from their experience... (still none of them wear flip-flops).

my favorite are the science teachers who wear science t-shirts, or the english teacher who dressed up like a ship-wrecked youth when her classes read lord of the flies.

These teachers use themselves as teaching tools. I respect them and I thank them for making our profession professional.

I look like I'm 17. I am young....I don't want my students to think we can be friends.

However, there are a few teachers who think that a hoodie and flip-flops will do. 'Cmon we may not get payed much, but we get back from our students the attitudes that we put out there...and I think that starts somewhere around 6 am when we are getting dressed.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

reflecting on having students reflect

Having my students blog could be an awesome way for me progress-monitor all 34 of them!

  • How can I do this so I'm not overwhelmed and my students feel confident in their endeavors?
  • How can I make this type of reflection meaningful to my students?
  • How can I scaffold this instructional practice so my students feel successful
  • Does research support the use of reflections as an insructional tool?
    • What practices does research support?
  • Do different types of learners need to reflect in different forms?
      • What is supported by research?

I'm grading and checking on student progress and despite an entire day devoted to having students post a blog, I have very few posts. My classes are huge with a wide range of needs. I'm struggling with how to make it meaningful to them so that its not like pulling teeth.

I think its so important to have them blogging, because I don't have the time to get to a deep check-in with each student during the day. I have maybe 3 or 4 quick "how ya' doin" stops...

Having my student reflect like this would help me with summative assessment and could guide instruction...but how to make 34 students blog in a day? Maybe thats just too ambitious. I was going for the "week in review thing" but perhaps, I need to focus on getting one table of 8 students to blog at a time....I do have 8 desk top computers.....hmmm....this could be good.

In an ideal world, each of my students would complete their work on a laptop everyday and blog at the end of class...instead of handing in a exit-slip. But, I only have 11 laptops shared with my team and 3 laptop carts that I have to share with the school. 84 teachers....3 lap top do the math. I don't want to be greedy either....but until someone says something I think I'll reserve every-other-day with the laptop carts. .

So, I'll have each table create a blog post once a week....for a minimum grade. Students will have to comment later in the week for an "A".

I think this sounds do-able.

Also, I started making them do reflections at the end of class last week. But, as the week went on I forgot. I think this is so important, but I forget to watch the time...I need to set a timer.

Last night I had my Adult ESL students set up email addresses and email me what they had learned in their was very positive....maybe I'll set up a blog for them....I mentioned that and i got blank-confused steps!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Presentation for Grad school research class

Night and Day

Today I ability grouped my students into different tables and gave them assignment that depended on that group. It was great. I Had them all read and as the class was reading I circulated giving instructions to each group.

Of course in the middle of my restructuring day I was observed....oh well...I feel great and can see some behavior and academic progress with my students!

Now to tackle do I ability group this? Some of my students are very dependent on me I'm not sure how to differentiate this (ironically one of my core beliefs is that technology is the great differentiator!)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I'm 24 and have grey hair...ummm?

I am so frustrated....I thought about not blogging and just going to sleep! the behavior in one of my classes is making it impossible for me to do anything BUT worksheets.
This class of 32 had 75% ELL 25% native speakers. most of the Native speakers have taken and failed this class. I have one student who has passed a total of 4 classes in his entire two years (six semesters). He can't not talk. Which is fine...but I need to give comprehensible instructions to my students who barely understand English.....

I tried having my students to Excel maps with the hidden comments feature....3 students were so out of control that me leading my class through this was unbearable...
Every 20 seconds I'd have to say "excuse me, I need everyone's attention so that you don't have to ask me what's going going on.." my poor ELL need my attention, but the students who have given up have commanded it
I don't know what to of my students who has transfered from a Boulder S.D school, commented to me on the behavior as he was leaving class....
I feel like I have to have no groups...silent work...if anyone is to learn anything
I feel like I've lost my momentum that I had just yesterday....I feel like I have to put incorporating technology on the back burner because theses students are so immature they can't handle it...
If you can't tell...this is a class of juniors and seniors!!
what am i supposed to do? I feel like the worst teacher at my school...
How do I make sure the other 30 students get the education they deserve?
My theory was that technology would be so engaging they couldn't help but pay attention...only they weren't paying attention in the first behind and just started making my life miserable! My theories and beliefs are crumbling

Okay its out....a little cathartic...I'm going for a run and then hopefully can come up with some solutions for tomorrow...will repost later tonight

And I was runnin....and I have perspective and its just one student....and I can make a difference for all of my students....have new ideas and plan for tomorrow

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hello Students

I've invited you to my blog so that you can get a feel for what blogging is all about! On the Right I have a list of blogs that are currently on my reader. I'd like you to read through them.

As a learner, I find it easier to "learn" when I've reflected on what I've learned. This means I've attempted to sort everything out....what I know, what I don't know, things that remind me of things I've already learned, etc. When I've made these connections and have gotten everything out, its a lot easier for me "understand."

I'm not looking for you to be able to recall dates or facts, just to be able to think for yourself. This means we don't copy worksheets in here! In this class I want you to have a basic understanding of how we've gotten to this point in time. I want to you see yourselves a part of a greater picture.

You assignment:
1. Look at the posts on the "black board" on the right
2. Pick one that you want to comment about (come back to this page)
3. Find your class' blog on the right (log-in)
4. Post a response to that blog on your class blog
  • Your title should be your name and the title of the blog you're responding to
  • You need to link to the blog from your post
  • Check your spelling and professional.
    • The blogs you link to can come back and find you!
Good Luck! --- Learning is a process, a journey that is never truly finished!

Ms. Johnson

Saturday, September 8, 2007


The thing with teaching that can be both good and bad is the number of do-overs we all are allowed. Students get do-overs with new classes, teachers, semesters, years and even days....teachers get do-overs with about the same frequency.

The hard part is balancing these do-overs with consistency. As long as standards and expectations are high, they can be flexible with how they are measured and achieved. I can change my mind with how things are run to fit the situation, this happens as each second passes. --Sometimes I feel sorry with for my para-professional; I give her an outline of class but, everyday things have to change depending on the mood of my students, my mood, the content, and random events throughout the day!

The great thing with education is that I can change things until they work for me and my students....I don't know very many other "jobs" that this can be said for!

This week I start a new unit-- and have a few "do-overs"
My Social Studies class just finished their first unit and assessment. I am always amazed that students work on projects for about a week and then have nothing to turn in when the project is due? AMAZING!

They created a Newspaper using an edclass template describing the causes of the Civil War

My thoughts and reflection on what will change in the future and what worked:

Students changed their assigned groups
    • Students who stayed in their assigned groups had something (good) to turn in
    • Absences made the groupings hard
    • For the next few projects, students will work independently
Students changed and stole other students' work that we saved on the network
    • work for the next few assignments will be in google docs
    • use classroom money or mini-grant to purchase each student thumb-drive
Students copied and pasted from internet

    • Explicitly discuss what is appropriate to take and how to site it
    • discuss
For this unit I'm going to give them all of the objective rubrics in advance in a folder and have all of their work be done in google docs. The folders will stay in class and will be used in our weekly conferences.

I have been rethinking blogging as well, so maybe I can get it off the ground now!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Reflecting on Reflecting

M finally returned to class today! I found myself unusually kind to him. Considering the fact that he didn't have a notebook, nothing to turn in and was 45 minutes late.

I think my blogging about him really made a differnce!

Reflecting on how I was feeling about the situation, instead of having a bitch session with a colleague, was more rewarding.
can pretend to be "at peace" with a student, but unless I truly feel like I have some sort of plan, I'm really not!

Having the opportunity to blog about him and the situation made a real difference and I think he felt the that I was truly happy to see him, instead of just concentrating on his socks. By reflecting and "concentrating on his socks" I was able to make good of a situation that has been irritating me for over a year!

what release

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Reflection Day 5 --- Kill 'em with kindness

Old technology was my foe today! It took half of the period for my students to access their work on the network. For a split second I imagined how quiet my class would be if I just had them copying out of their textbooks! But, things finally were resolved and for fifteen minutes high schoolers worked in peace with a partner creating a newspaper that cited the causes of the American Civil War.

Poor kids I separated them....they had segregated themselves....language learners and native speakers. So, those language learners who could manage were paired with native speakers. I hope everyone learned a lot more than history!

I had a language learner breakthrough...I was catching myself saying small phrases or words in Spanish to give my students directions. I don't know if I was practicing my own Spanish, or if I wanted them to know I knew (somewhat) how to speak their language. However, I realized that these short conversations would help them in the long-run if I spoke to them in English. They are in mainstream classes the rest of the day, so they need to pick these small things up.

My literacy classes created captions for Civil Rights pictures based on what they were reading. I put the slide show together on and then had them work on the captions. I typed them in during class....very quickly, I just found mistakes....this allowed them to read, write, speak and listen... It was a short activity, but I think it was very meaningful. Then, I had them comment on it in their blog. their comments were short, but had a lot more heart than they have previously had.

I am totally frustrated with a student that I have in literacy. This is my second year with him-sort of. He has major attendance issues, so much so that if I am late with attendance an attendance liason is calling 20 minutes into class. The worst part is, he has missed so much school he really doesn't know how to do school. So, he comes in and just sits there. I ask him to go ahead and open a book and he doesn't really realize he's supposed to read it. He just sits there until another student lets him copy. when the para asks if he needs help he says: "no 'cause she'll think I'm copying." It makes me want to scream I'm like "'c'mon M prove to me you're not lazy and you can do it." Praise doesn't work, sarcasm doesn't work. AGHHH I want him to get it and be successful but I don't know how between the attendance liason calling me twice a day to check attendance and this kids swaggering in late I've had it....for a teacher I have a short-fuse and this kid's shenanigans have got me going! What to do??? On a positive note, this year he brings paper to pencil....but he has paper.

I read something somewhere that said, "you can't like every kid, so sometimes you just have to focus on the color of their socks! 'hey those are great socks!'" I guess that I'm gonna have to pull a Dottie on him and like him so much ..... he'll want to work....

**Dottie is my mom. She used to manage the DQ in Commerce City and now she decorates cakes at the King Soopers. People lover her caring disposition so much, they show up at King Soopers just to visit with her! When I meet people they say: "your mom is the dairy queen lady, she's amazing!" Its probably from putting up with alcoholic parents, and my work-aholic dad her whole life.....maybe one day I'll truly learn how to "kill 'em with kindness" as she puts it. But, for now I'm gonna have to pay really close attention to their socks.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

blogging to learn/ Reflection Day 4

I love it when I stumble across an answer to a question as I'm reading the blog-post of another educator. Today Dave Cormier posted about a blogging conference/seminar he presented and one of my favorite blog authors posted a response to his blog.

This week I have been struggling with the idea of "how" to blog with my students in a meaningful way. I am interested in how blogs can improve student achievement especially for language learners. Originally, I had expected all students to blog 4 times a week. However, I'm beginning to think that this is too much for them to do. I find that the blog posts become repetitive and thoughtless. I have some really great posts from my freshmen, some that will no doubt be useful to show growth. However, I don't think they have the concept of a blog down. Quite frankly, neither did I before I dove in head first and began reading, studying and writing my own.

Through grad school at Regis, I have found my experience to be rewarding and have seen growth in my thought and process because I can reflect and react on teachings and learnings with professors and colleagues. I believe that the foundation to truly understanding and learning is through the metacognative-reflective process. (I think that this topic was one of my first blog posts.) I want my students to experience this type of learning experience because it is s0 meaningful to me.

I don't know how to help them see it as a learning tool. I think that for now, blogging once a day is not working, at all. In the future, I will have them reflect (the old fashioned way) daily, and then have one person post a "week in review" at the end of the week. Then, I will have the other students comment on the "week in review" on Monday. My students are not great self-starters and are not that great at starting something new. So, I think for this first half of the semester I will help them out by scaffolding the process a little better: show them blogs, have them reflect or comment on blogs. My hope is that they create a sense of creativity and ownership of their own thoughts and see themselves as an "expert," as Darren K. put it. I will continue to post class notes daily or every other day, as is necessary, and help my students get into the habit of looking at their class blog and using it as a resource.

Possible rubric (4pt scale)

4 in addition to 3 shows in-depth details, suggestions or resources

3 Completely summarizes the weeks learning experiences AND reflects on personal growth, knowledge, confusion, learning and connections

2 Completely summarizes the learning experiences may show some reflection

1 attempts to summarize or summarizes inaccurately does not show complete thought

I'm thinking of also adding a rubric on audience(professionalism) and grammar...perhaps I'll borrow from the district short response rubric

on a side note
I had a little technical fiasco today that turned my face red....I know, my mom's Irish, its not hard to turn my face red!

First, while I was gone on Friday I had 2 laptops from our dept. set stolen Huge bummer, not because of the equipment but because I think my teacher-student relationship with these students is shot! Also, I have this panging feeling in my gut that I should be taking better care of my stuff and this incident prompted me to get organized fast!

Second, I checked out a lap-top cart from the library for my blocks 3-4. Another teacher (who checked it out for 5-6) came in with 25 minutes to go in block 4 (this is my split block and these kids just came back from lunch) and demanded the cart. I was planning on cleaning up in a few minutes and having my student assistant get the cart to her before class was over, but I think the system is flawed...with out much hope for a solution. In an effort to let everyone possible use the technology, you can sign up for them for blocks and not simply the entire day. The technology, if you're not used to it can be intimidating and hard to set up, but who has priority: The students currently using the computers or the teacher waiting to set it up for her students? Maybe the library can get a student assistant in charge of rounding-up equipment and setting it up for teacher.....what ever happened to the AV CLUB? (ie:Freaks and Geeks)

Sorry, this post was so long, thanks for hanging in there!! Long Day

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Constructing learning experiences that push students into new levels of learning

I have a couple of things that I have been thinking about off and on for the past week that I wanted to get out, reflect on and maybe get some feedback

I am a constructivist...duh...I don't think it would be possible to expect students to use technology on all levels and stagesof learning and not be a constructivist! I believe learning is a process. I love my students to do projects as a learning tool and I like those to be meaningful to them. The problem I am running into is that student have forgotten how to be creative by the time I get them. So, I ask them to do a project and leave it pretty open and they just sit there....and complain that they want to know what it will look like. So I kept a few student examples of projects that my students did last year to show these students but, I threw them away!

In my experience working as a "camp counselor" at the Rec. Center I have found that when we did crafts the teens would look at my example and copy it! I don't see anything fun in that. Yeah they had fun doing it, but they lacked the spark and excitement of coming up with something that was truly theirs. So, I began only giving them general instructions and materials. The end results were way better than any example I could have given them. I've transfered this idea into my class projects and they don't like it! They want to know what the time line or poster or powepoint should look like. I always tell them "what ever works for you, what will help you learn this better?"

They hate it! But I believe that real learning comes from creating something that is important and meaningful to the matter what shape the teacher likes a time line to be.
However in the future I plan to do the following to make the transition into creativity easier for my students:

1. Be very clear about the learning result I expect at the end
2. Be very clear about the time they have available to them
3. Spend a day at the beginning of the semester making sure all students are aware of their learning and personality style so they can fit these projects closer to them

This article
from The Journal discuss the inherent need for education to move to constructivism with the advent and prevalent use of technology EVERYWHERE. It discusses the use of technology in language learning classroom. I find it easier to learn a language when I converse in it, not just working in a workbook and writing phrases that are outdated an no one will see? What about having our students write for real purposes, in real language---then would we increase their proficiency? I guess I'll see at the end of this year after my students have spent the semester blogging about their learning experiences. They are pretty rough now, but they are taking them seriously.