Friday, August 7, 2015

PLCs and Teaching Strategies

So, today was day two of the PLC trainings.  We went over some data.  Not the best test score in the district, which means we have a lot to work on, but it also means that we can only really improve from here.  We talked about strong instructional strategies and strategies that move from what our admin called the "old" model (which we are used to, but which aren't exactly broken) to the "new" model. (the current buzzwords in educational theory that make the classroom better.)
 This is that slide.  It may be a bit blurry.  I was trying to get the pictures for it pretty quickly, as my admin has lightening fast fingers on the spacebar once they're done with a slide.
Most of these "old" method still work.  I'm still reading new books on Classroom management and the Marzano model is still relevant in today's society.  The new methods are really good methods too though, and things that we need to see across the entire curriculum, in every single classroom.  My ambition is never ever to be an administrator, but if I was to walk into my colleagues classrooms, especially in a core class, these are what I would expect to see.  Teacher's engaging their students on a level that they can work at.
Admin then asked us to work on a list of strategies that we use in our own classroom and then round robin them around the table and share what we found as our favorite strategies in the classroom.  This is the list that the English group came up with.  Excuse my horrible handwriting.  That's why I type a blog, and don't handwrite it.  (My hubby got me this boogie board sync.. it's digitalized scratch paper.  I can't save it to my computer, but it beats doodling or writing down some quick information that I'm not really going to keep with me.  And, if I do want it, I can always take a picture!)
Translated, these read:

  • Academic silence- make sure that all student are giving each other the opportunity to learn in an academic setting when they need to concentrate.
  • Stand, Share, Sit- After a pair share or group discussion, all students stand.  They may only sit down once they have shared something with the class.
  • 3D Reading with Student-Student pairings.  Not sure what this is, but I'm definitely going to look in to it.
  • Kid-Taught lessons- Make students responsible for teaching the mini-lessons in your class like for grammar have students learn about and teach to the class the different verb types and forms.
  • Socratic Seminar- use this to get students to listen to each other and discuss topics that are connected to the class, but also connected to them.  Also goes well with Philosophical Chairs.
  • Technology!! - Always a favorite! 
  • Our drama teacher uses different lines said with a different mood or tone to discuss how tone works in a Shakespearean play.
  • Word of the day and Grammar Mini Lessons
  • Talk to the Text- Annotating the text with your own thoughts and ideas, getting down what you think of it so you can discuss it and use the notes.
  • GAFE and keeping all presentations online and available to students so that they know what is coming or can review when they need to
  • Ticket out the Door- helps facilitate conversation for the next class!
  • Cross Pollinate across the curriculum- Get to know teachers in other disciplines and find out how to connect the curriculum in your class to theirs.
  • Teach how Textbooks are written and different textbook parts.
  • Change group dynamics so that students get to know many people and are comfortable with each other but also hear many different opinions.
Phew! That was a lot! Tomorrow, I'll write about what I did in my breakout session (my first experience with teaching a District PD!) and objectives!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Starting with PLCs- TWEETS

Today was our first day back at school for professional development, and our focus for this year, across the entire district, is learning how to implement and continue to use PLCs, or Professional Learning Communities. So, our school, as did many of our feeder schools in our region, on our campus got together. As a member of our PLC team that was sent to Las Vegas, I had the wonderful opportunity in early June to go watch the DuFours and the rest of the team from Solution Tree present about what PLCs can do in schools.  Today, I got an opportunity to help that process continue at my school.

One of our activities was to create a poster about our journey through PLCs so far.  Each school was responsible for creating their own poster.  As we are a large comprehensive high school, doing this sort of activity with 70+ teachers is akin to throwing a handful of paint at a canvas and trying to make it the Mona Lisa.  We divided into groups based on department, completed the posters and displayed them to vote on.

Our English department won this one with this, which I think is pretty good. (I may have to make a graphic.)

T- Together
E- Educate
T- Teen
S - Scholar

I thought that was pretty good!

The rest of the meeting was pretty rote, but we watched a few really amazing videos, including this amazing TED talk, which I think everybody should watch.  It's an educator called Rita Pierson, talking about how Every Student Needs a Champion.

Monday, July 21, 2014

My GAFE summit: Day Two

It's 4:30 and I should still be in bed, but my head is swimming with so many worlds of awesome that I am excited to write about them.

I did not get to GAFE summit early, but at a normal time.  Breakfast from Panera again. Man, those guys are awesome.

An Amazing Opening Keynote by Dan Russel, talking about the potential of students and technology and how much the world has changed.  He mostly talked about the speed of knowledge and how we have all this new technology to create and dream.  He talked about how knowledge has evolved and how we are all learning to do things sooo much faster than we used to.. like how finding information has changed so much since the days of the card catalogue and how difficult it often was to try and use that research method because it would take SO MUCH TIME!  He talked about different languages, different learning styles, different modalities and it was all awesome.  I could go on and on, but.. I had a next session to get to... and I was falling asleep in the theater.  1000 warm bodies in a auditorium without air conditioning makes Tory sleepy and sort of comfy. I started head-nodding.

We did get a neat thing on the way out of the the auditorium.  Three apps, which I already have on my iPad, which you would have to pay for, but which are awesome for education. I highly HIGHLY recommend Explain Everything for creating videos. This is a great tool for a Flipped Classroom, and I think I will use it to practice lectures and such.  I will definitely have to do a later blog post.  Calling Can of Worms for now.

So.. Session 5 was pretty awesome.  I went in because I wanted to earn my #gettinggeeky badge, and it was amazing.  I also got to learn about the other side of campus!  Monica Martinez (@mimg1225 ) gave a great presentation about all of the tips and tricks that you can use in Gmail.  The session was so jam packed, she didn't even get into everything, but she did teach us about Undo sending with a 30 second send delay and Canned Responses, which are both amazing Google Labs. She also taught us that if you use the words "Attached is" or something similar and you forget to attach a something to that email, Gmail will remind you, which is great because I do stuff like that all the time. Then she taught us how to use to make a QR code that you can use to put on things like syllabi or back to school handouts and such that automatically sets up an email for parents so that they can email you. And if they do, and if you put in a specific code, there is a way to make it so that by reading a specific code in the subject line of the email, it will take one of your canned responses and automatically send it to whoever sent you that code and archive the email that you were sent so that you will never have to see that email ever, which will save you a ton of time.  There was just too much awesome to go around, so I highly suggest you visit Monica at her Google Site and check out all of the awesomeness that is there.

Session 6 was about Add-ons like Doctopus and gClassFolders and wow.. what an amazing way to use Google to set up a paperless classroom.  Melissa Hero (@mdhero) had great things that you could do with these to help you manage your Google Drive with your students so that it is that much easier to get to everything and find it on your Google Drive.  gClassFolder is definitely something I want to be using with my kiddos when we get back, as it will make things easier to use. It also sets up a folder where I can put stuff that I want my students to see but not edit. Then, using Doctopus, I can shoot every single student on my list an email that has a document attached, that also has their name already on it, which they can edit, which they send back, which I then can use Goobric to attach a rubric to an essay or handout or whatever, grade it online, send the student their grade with comments, and boom.. grading finished! Mind Blown!  I know I keep using words like amazing and awesome, but really... I was in awe at how simple it was.  So much to think about when school starts!

After a good, healthy lunch from Panera, I was full and I was warm, so Session 7 was a hard one for me to stay awake in. Fortunately, Monica Martinez had a lot of Apps that she showed us which will be helpful, so I managed to stay awake. In a blazing fast hour long session, she taught us about which lets you annotate a YouTube video and jump to the specific place in the video that that annotation is at.  Great for teaching students listening skills. She also showed us how to add videos to a Google Form so you can use that as an assignment and students can automatically put in responses which will be uploaded to a spreadsheet, making it easy to grade. And she showed us Screencastify which is a screen shot video creator so you can share with your students how to do something on a computer.  Great for a class YouTube! Then there is Google Drawings, which is accessed from your Google Drive. And TextHelp, which I gushed about yesterday, but is still awesome, and Google Docs Story Builder. On her website, she also gives an example on how media affects people.  It was amazing.  Again with the Awe...

My last session of the conference was one I had been anticipating for the whole conference, and that was Karl Lindgren-Streicher and Victoria Olson's presentation on Passion Based Learning, Innovation Day and Genius Hour.  Another can of worms that I think I will open up later, but it was amazing, and I can definitely see how it can be effective to let students choose what they will be learning about.  I was floored at how simple and amazing they made it seem.

I didn't go to the ending keynote, mostly because I was exhausted and my brain was too full from all of the awesome that I had already learned.  It still is!

Thank you to all the presenters, all the amazing awesome people from Stockton Unified District who went with me, and to all the coordinators of the GAFE summit.  It was just amazing!  I can't wait to use this in my classroom and start teaching other teachers how to use it!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Class is in Session with GAFE: Day 1

I will always always pronounce it with the short a, even if it technically is correct with the long A, but however you pronounce it, the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) summit first day was amazing.  I arrived incredibly early at around 6:15 and the people in charge, those darling pixies of Googly wonderfulness, were still setting everything up.  The camaraderie among those who were involved in the planning of the event was tangible. These people all smiled, laughed and were very very helpful.  It made me glad just to be there.

After a quick Panera catered breakfast, the sponsor pavilion was calling to me.  Of all of the sponsor tables, Read and Write for Google ( seemed like it would be the most useful in my classroom, so I will have to look into it a bit deeper. What it does is it helps students read the piece of writing in a Google Doc by reading it aloud to them if they are a struggling reader.  They can also color code information that they would highlight for a informational essay and then in one click of a button, the highlights are imported, in color order, into another document for them to see all together.  I could see this being a big help with the U.N. reports that my Sophomores will be doing this fall.

They Keynote Speaker, Claire Hughes Johnson, talked about the advancements in Google technology and the projects that Google X is working on.  While not a lot of them really had to do with education, they will be shaping my students' futures with what and how they develop the technology of the future.  The one everybody was the most excited to talk about was the Driverless Car, which would be really awesome because then my husband could get around town without much of a problem.

My first session was titled "Google and iOS: Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate" presented by Mike Guerena.  Some of the information was good for myself, as I love iOS and I love GAFE and seeing how they could be integrated together was amazing. However, the class was more geared towards a 1:1 implementation of iPads in the classroom. I would love to have a 1:1 iPad classroom.  The things he taught us about sharing documents, getting students to upload information using the iOS system and the usability of Google Docs with apps like Explain Everything and Notability (which is an awesome PDF annotating piece which I would definitely use in my classroom).  Towards the end of the session, we talked about classroom management, Google Drive organization, sharing student portfolios with parents, which got into a discussion about Google Classroom, which ended up being my next session.

Google Classroom could be an amazing tool.  Part  of it is a classroom social network like Edmodo, where a teacher can post an assignment, ask questions and link items relevant to the lesson at hand as well as remind students about when assignments are due. Part of it is a file organization system where you can track students who have turned in work, grade and comment on that work within the Google Drive and GAFE atmosphere, and grade that work.  With a few more features, it could be an amazing piece of a paperless classroom.  However, there are some flaws with the system. Our presenter, Angela Mecca, while very excited about the platform, couldn't answer some questions about it.  With no parent piece and sort of a clunky interface and only limited customization for each class, there may be a few bugs to work out. Students have to use a google school domain account to sign in or you can add them from your contacts list.  I got an early invite and have access to it, so I may try it out, but I'm torn between implementing Google Classroom or Edmodo. I know I have to choose just one, and I have two weeks to do it in. Yikes!

Lunch was again Panera and networking.

Session Three was the amazing Megan Rose Ellis, a local teacher who works in Palo Alto Unified School District.  Her session was called "Using High Tech Tools to Create a Culture of Literary Nerds".  I overheard a few in the Google Classroom talk about Ms. Ellis and how amazing a presenter she was, and I was not disappointed.  The fact that Ms. Ellis started off with a John Green video about being a Harry Potter nerd and how being a nerd is awesome (Yay Nerdfighteria!) which made me instantly fall in love with her presentation!  Because Nerds are awesome!  Well, she also talked about getting students involved in reading, and creating a passion in reading and how she has her 7th grade students read 800 (!!!) pages a quarter.  I struggled last year with getting my Juniors to read one book a month for a book report! So, her special blend of enthusiasm, book talks, GoodReads reviews and student book projects, like the book ladder and the "What food best represents your favorite book from this quarter" projects are amazing and something I would love to use in my classroom. (Darn those "no food in the classroom rules!)  My favorite idea was using Goodreads as a tool for book reviews, mostly because students will write differently when they do a review on a book that is for a public audience vs. just a classroom vs. just a teacher. Megan Rose Ellis (so far) is my crown jewel of the GAFE summit.

My fourth session was just really not that great, and it had been a long day and the chairs were incredibly uncomfortable (was was noted several times in the #gafesummit twitter feed), so I wasn't that enthusiastic about the Google Sites presentation.  While I am sure there were many good tips on starting a Google Site, I feel that the interface and the whole project is a big clunky. I will play around with it and figure out how to use it, but I left early mostly because the chairs were bothering me.

Which made me early for the demo slam!  Such amazing tools, and I know I can't remember them all.  Jim Sill's  "How Gmail Saved my Job" (using the undo sending option and canned responses) was one of my favorite, but the Get Kahoot presentation had to be my favorite for style.

Despite a few technological glitches, I think the summit has gone amazingly well.  I can't wait to see what today will bring.