When rock and roll music made its debut there was hysteria that it would corrupt youth. Television was first thought to rot the minds of its viewers. In 1981 when MTV hit the airwaves there was the same debate over a 24 hour video music channel. If we look throughout history of the inventions that pivot our civilization there has always been some hysteria and backlash. The same skepticism goes for social media apps today.
ChatGPT is no different. In fact, when I was scrolling through social media I stopped to see a post by a edu-influencer state that “ChatGPT is a threat to teachers and the notion of school.” But before we go down the road how this might be a detriment to education, let’s look at some positives and how educators and parents might use this assistive technology to become better writers and critical thinkers.
ChatGPT is AI (artificial intelligence) that allows its users to generate text based on any topic and voice or style requested. Whereas this might sound like an amazing invention (it is!), there are also some flaws in the program. For example, the information that ChatGPT produces might not be accurate and that is where users need to be critical of the information produced and check over the facts. Here are three ways students and educators might consider utilizing this assistive technology to be successful readers and writers.
For a student with dyslexia or other learning differences, ChatGPT can be used to assist its users with outlining a long writing assignment or essay. Then, once an outline is formed from the program the students can use their knowledge and research to expand their writing and complete the assignments using the ChatGPT as for sentence starters and essay organizer. The key here is building on and making better what was produced.
Teachers might create an essay in front of students using ChatGPT. Then, students can analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the writing produced. Is the piece accurate? Does the writing contain the elements of a great essay? What is missing? What can be added to improve the writing? How does the voice of the essay sound, artificial or human? Students might even give the essay a grade.
Need a study buddy before a big test or exam? Both teachers and students can use ChatGPT to create review questions. ChatGPT can even make a sample test if you ask it and it is a great way to practice and study to ace the test.
The possibilities are endless and consider ChatGPT to help assist its users in leveling up their written communication skills and savvy consumers of information.
I am always excited to talk and share about hyperdocs, playlists, and choice boards. These differentiated and personalized learning opportunities for students are utilized with each unit I teach in 8th grade English. I am sharing my slide deck for #FETC23 in New Orleans for my Mega Share presentation on Monday, January 23rd. Participants will learn about hyperdocs, playlists, and choice boards and the capabilities these blended learning teaching strategies have to offer.
Hyperdocs and playlists are Google docs/slides/drawings filled with hyperlinks to a variety of structured learning opportunities. HyperDocs and playlists can be a useful tool for in personal learning, distance learning, and even blended learning opportunities for unit of study and multi-day lessons. Hyperdocs and playlists promote a self-paced structure that enable students to take charge and choose different activities that align with the learning objective of the Hyperdoc or playlist.
Teachers can enhance their teaching toolbox to support the diverse learners in the classroom with hyperdocs, playlists, and choice boards. I will also share digital platforms and apps to support the diverse learners to create meaningful classroom experiences that promote reading, critical thinking and digital literacy. So, it is up to educators to provide students with a plethora of tools and strategies so they have the opportunity to choose which will best help them reach their learning goals.
Below is a list of different playlists, choice boards, and hyperdocs I have created for my middle school student and share in the slide deck above. Feel free to make a copy of these and adapt for your own classroom use. Please be sure to credit those whose materials you are using, adapting, and borrowing.
One of my favorite New York Times series is Anatomy of a Scene, “A video series where directors comment on the craft of movie-making.”
Julie Hodgson of the The Learning Network at The New York Times writes “In these short clips, film directors narrate a scene from one of their movies, walking viewers through the decisions they made and the effects they intended them to have. These videos demonstrate to students how to step outside of their personal reader-to-text experiences and examine literature from a wider lens — to see a story, memoir, essay or poem from the perspective of its creator.”
As my students finish reading graphic novels and I thought it would be awesome to have students create their own scene analysis video break down for readers. I first introduced students to the film series and we watched about four in one period – each episode is no more than three minutes. Then, we used a window notes template to record things we learned about the scene, details the director shared, and how this illuminated our understanding about characterization and theme.
As a class we brainstormed the process of making our own Anatomy of a Scene:
Choose a key scene in the text.
Complete the graphic organizer to analyze and deconstruct the scene.
Use the script template to help write our the key ideas to be presented.
Curate the images and types of shots to help visually understand the literary analysis.
I am currently reading Peter Liljedahl’s Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics: 14 Teaching Practices for Enhancing Learning (Corwin, 2021) after three recommendations. The book organizes “each chapter by exploreing one of the 14 optimal practices, beginning with a deep dive into what are the institutionally normative practices that permeate many classrooms around the world. It reveals how each of these practices is working against our efforts to get students to think, and then it offers a clear presentation of what the research revealed to be the optimal practice for each variable, unpacking it into macro- and micro- practices. These descriptions are punctuated by excerpts from the data, anecdotes from teachers, photographs from real K–12 classrooms, and responses to frequently asked questions (FAQ).” Each chapter provides micro and macro moves that I have been considering and implementing into my classroom. The first thing that I did was to decenter my classroom and randomize the seating daily. Every day, students sit with different classmates. Desks are arranged in pods of three. This has been the first game changer since there is no front of the classroom anymore and I am teaching from every direction. Secondly, I have no complaints about seating or collaboration.
The next pivot I made in my classroom was teaching vertically. Liljedahl states in the book, “One of the most enduring institutional norms that exists in mathematics classrooms is students sitting at their desks (or tables) and writing in their notebooks. This turned out to be the workspace least conducive to thinking. What emerged as optimal was to have the students standing and working on vertical non- permanent surfaces (VNPSs) such as whiteboards, blackboards, or windows. It did not matter what the surface was, as long as it was vertical and erasable (non-permanent). The fact that it was non-permanent promoted more risk taking, and the fact that it was vertical prevented students from disengaging. Taken together, having students work, in their random groups, on VNPSs had a massive impact on transforming previously passive learning spaces into active thinking spaces where students think, and keep thinking, for upwards of 60 minutes.” This means that the more time students are able to stand, think, and actively engage with the material the better.
How does this translate in the ELA classroom when students are reading, writing, thinking, speaking and listening versus completing math problems? Here are four different ways to shift learning vertical that I have been utilizing to optimize learning.
Gallery Walk – This discussion technique allows students to be actively engaged as they walk throughout the classroom. They work together in small groups to share ideas and respond to meaningful questions, documents, images, problem-solving situations or texts. Use a Gallery Walk at any point in the lesson to engage students in conversation, I tend to use them at the beginning of a lesson to showcase and examine mentor texts and model writing/reading passages. Teacher can also use gallery walks after reading a text to discuss ideas, themes, and characters. Gallery walks can be text based on visual texts.
Grafitti – Similar to a gallery walk, items are posted around the room: images, questions, ideas, concepts, or scenarios. Large sheets of paper or chart paper are placed on the walls of the classroom. Students write their responses, draw pictures and record their thoughts on the given topic on the graffiti wall. Students are encouraged to use colored markers to make the wall interesting and to identify each student’s work/response.
Use a Gallery Walk and the Graffiti format for students to get feedback on their work. Hang student products, such as drawings, visual representations, poster projects, and or one pagers. Students, individually or in groups, rotate around the room and provide feedback to the creator of the work. Students are required to record one thing they like about the work displayed, one thing they wonder about it, and one thing the creator could do next or improve.
Four Corners – Students are presented with a controversial statement or are asked a question. In each of the four corners of the classroom, an opinion or response is posted. Students express their opinion or response by standing in front of one of four statements, and then talking to others about why they have chosen their corner. Four Corners promotes listening, verbal communication, critical thinking, and decision-making.
Question Trails – My reading specialist and colleague introduced me to these on your feet activities last year and I am obsessed. A question trail is an engaging activity that allows students to move around the classroom and complete different tasks. Students follow the “trail” of multiple-choice questions that will show what they have learned from unit of study, a text, or reading. Question trails can be collaborative or individual. It is really up to you the teacher to make that choice. The basic premise of the question trail is for students to understand the material the teacher has provided. The students answer a series of multiple-choice questions. If the questions on the trail are answered correctly, students will be prompted to move to the next question. If students answer a question incorrectly, they will end up at a question they have already answered which means they will need to backtrack to see where they made an error. They will need to determine where they went wrong. To learn how to make your own question trail you can visit Creative ALS Teaching.
Tomorrow when my students walk into the classroom we will begin class with a gallery walk of questions about feedback for them to read and respond to on big chart paper. Then students will watch Austin’s Butterfly and take notes about what effective feedback is and is not. We will discuss as a whole class what good feedback look and sounds like before we meet with writing partners to get feedback on the writing we are working on. There are a few teaching moves that I am implementing from Thinking Classrooms to allow students to actively engage in the lesson and use their mind for thinking deeply.
The CASL CECA 2022 Conference is organized by the Boards of Directors of the Connecticut Educators’ Computer Association and the Connecticut Association of School Librarians. This year’s conference recognizes and celebrates the confluence of educational technology and the preparation of our students for the future with a focus on literacy, social emotional learning, and 21st Center Skills. CASL CECA gathers technology integration specialists, library/media professionals, educators from all walks of life, and IT support personnel who share their ideas, news, expertise, products and productions. The conference provides a wide variety of professional development and activities in the form of: presentations, hands-on workshops, round-table discussions, speakers, exhibitors, and our annual recognition awards.
Here are 5 key take aways from this rich conference:
Social Emotional Learning is front and center. Valerie DiLorenzo presented on “Libraries, Literature, and the Counseling Connection.” With her students, DiLorenzo created engaging, eye-catching posters to grab students’ attention and get them to want to read high interest books that tie in with neuro diverse, social/emotional, and/or mental health topics. She showed participants how to provide satellite “libraries” throughout your school community (physical and virtual) that connect students with potential life-saving and/or life-altering literature. Teq presented 3D printing with Tinkercad and lesson ideas for Social and EmotionalLearning (SEL) where students can create models that represent their emotions.
2. New Literacy is Essential. One of the biggest challenges facing our students today is how to navigate in a world of misinformation. Creation of a news media literacy curriculum in collaboration with Social Studies and English teachers is a way to enhance students digital citizenship and critical reading/thinking skills. Newslit.org and Checkology provide curriculum for educators to utilize with their students.
3. Passion Projects are Still Relevant. Personal Interest Projects PIPs are opportunities for students to explore something THEY are interested in and practice key skills like creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving. Students and teachers rave about these projects because they allow students to de-stress, utilize maker space and interact in the library. Using a scaffolded curriculum that supports students through the phases of designing, doing and sharing their projects Westport HS Librarians shared how these PIPs are opportunities for students to meet up, learn about different cultures, and ideas through their making and time together.
4. Go beyond Essays and PowerPoint’s for students to showcase their learning. Are you tired of students submitting GoogleSlideshows and Powerpoint presentations anytime you assign a project? Different options for student-guided projects such as BookCreator, NearPod, Google Earth, and more choices allow students voice and agency to take center stage in the classrooms. I presented about hyperdocs at the conference and shared multiple examples to help educators consider hyperdocs for more personalized teaching time and less lectures also providing multimodal learning opportunities and lots of choice.
5. Educators and Librarians working together is vital. Now that we have updated the library standards you will see how critical information literacy is for everyone. Explore the standards, familiarize yourself with the standards and you might already see how you are addressing these standards with your students because there is overlap between disciplines.
Writing is a skill that needs to be practiced often. Many students do not believe they are good writers, due to the constant grading of their work. Students can be very sensitive about their writing and grammar skills. Due to this, when teaching, I do not use terms such as, right or wrong. I aim to help students develop their writing skills and prepare them for their future since writing is used everywhere, not only in classrooms.
I observe my students writing over the course of several weeks and create mini-lessons to teach the aspects of writing they are struggling with. Editing and revising their work can show my students the mistakes they have made and can help them understand how they can refine their writing for clarity and preciseness. Students spend ample time working on rough drafts and editing before turning in a major writing assignment. Writing conferences assist students in producing better work.
I want students to understand writing is hard, but also very rewarding. Writing is an important skill that is used everywhere and needs to be practiced often. I support my students by having them write every day, providing them with choices for writing topics, finding engaging ways to learn grammar, not grading every writing assignment they do, and helping them feel comfortable when writing in my classroom.
This year in ELA I have stepped away from traditional grading to offer more valuable feedback to students and families without using letter grades. Students do not receive a grade on any single assignment. The grade book keeps track of whether or not a student is keeping up with their work and how they are doing toward the learning objectives for this course. I want to be able to show students and families in real time which standard they are meeting, exceeding, and working towards our online grade book. More importantly, I add narrative comments on written tasks and in the online grade book to include more specific information that impacts each student’s performance. It is my hope that taking away the emphasis on letter and number grades will allow students to take more risks and responsibility with the reading and writing completed in class without worrying that it will negatively affect their grade. The expectation remains that students will complete all of the major assignments.
After reading Sarah M. Zerwin’s Pointless: An English Teacher’s Guide to More Meaningful Grading (Heinemann, 2020) I have attempted to create more meaningful grading and feedback practices. In lieu of grades, clear and meaningful learning goals are established, feedback in multiple forms is utilized, and students are held accountable to their learning and growth. I have repurposed tools that I already have in place including PowerSchool, Conferences, Rubrics and Checklists, student reflections to better enhance student feedback for their growth and deep learning.
This year I wanted to set up my classroom with a Stranger Things theme. I found great items on Etsy, Amazon, and inspiration photos on Pinterest. Here is a tour of my classroom with links to the items purchased. Please note I am not being paid for any of these endorsements.
Let’s start with the blank wall where my co-teacher’s desk used to be. Since she has changed classrooms and I am sharing my classroom with my colleague who does not use a teacher desk like myself, we have a blank wall which I hung this photo backdrop purchased on Amazon. Add some fairy lights and it brings ambiance to the room. We are looking for a donated couch or inexpensive couch to place against the wall.
I found this awesome antique cabinet that is perfect as a cell phone dock and picked up a new school supplies organizer at HomeGoods. I have a file folder for catch up work for students when absent. I keep all these items on a table by the door so that students can access what they need. I already have some Halloween decorations set up and the notebook is for a bathroom sign out.
The entire length of my classroom are bookshelves underneath the windows and this year I decided to arrange the books by color. We had a grant for books and I was able to order a dozen new titles to include with the units of study. Many have a humanities theme to parallel with the social studies curriculum.
You are probably wondering where all the desks are and how they are arranged. I have the desks arranged in a horse shoe and in the back two round high top tables and one high top table near the front.
Passion driven learning is essential today. And it cannot just be the teacher’s passion. Students are at the heart of the classroom and in building a community in your classroom all member’s voices and interests must be taken into consideration. Passion driven learning includes student’s passion and interests. Genius Hour and passion projects are one introductory step in helping to cultivate a classroom where passion, curiosity, and creativity are at the front and center.
I was first introduced to Genius hour more than 8 years ago through the buzz that other teachers shared on social media and at edtech conferences. While offering genius hour and curiosity time for my students, I have seen my approach to active and student centered learning evolve in many ways. The end result has always been the same, for my students to know: “You matter, you have influence, you are a genius, you have a contribution to make” (Angela Maier, Classroom Habitudes)
If we look to the corporate world, Google recognized that workers were more intrinsically motivated and creative when they had more autonomy (freedom). Employees were allowed 20% of their work time to pursue “side-projects” that interested them but were not specifically part of their job description. So, if this works in the business world, why not try it in the classroom?
Would students be more intrinsically motivated to learn?
Would students be able to unleash their creativity and inherent drive to learn, solve problems, and create?
Genius hour and passion projects are all about igniting innovation in the classroom Genius hour allows students to take the reins of their own learning and explore the topics and subjects that are of interest to them. Teachers need to go beyond teaching a subject that they only know because of a test or just to pass the class. School shouldn’t only be about passing a test, but rather creating a culture of learning where students are engaged, making connections, and helping to solve problems that will make the world a better place.
How does one start or kick off genius hour? How does one sustain genius hour throughout the quarter or semester or even the entire school year? These are two questions that I hear often.
First, it is important to introduce survey your students about their own passions, interests, likes. Having students complete student questionnaires & interest surveys are great places to record preliminary project seed ideas. Additionally, I show videos to inspire students about young adult entrepreneurs and social activities. I also read aloud picture books that inspire creativity and growth mindset. Titles include:
Through the genius hour models and mentors and completing questionnaires and surveys students might begin to choose a project they want to dedicate some time to. Students then begin researching, creating, and collecting information and inspiration for their own curiosity project. On the Genius Hour menu posted above, you will notice that each project is 10 weeks long and students try a different passion project every quarter. Some students use the same topic in all four projects where as other students like these opportunities to switch things up every few weeks. After four-five weeks of researching and curating, students begin reflecting and thinking how they might share their learning with others. Sharing is an important part of the genius hour process.
Showcasing Passion Projects is an important part of the process, students are going to present their research and findings to a wider and authentic audience. I have had students create blogs about their process and complete an Elevator Pitch. Students have showcased their work in a gallery or expo to the larger school community. Students can create a TED Talk or Masterclass about their project.
After students go through the genius hour or passion project cycle, reflection is a major piece. Reflection can be in the form of a Google Form or Flipgrid video reflection. You might want to have students reflect weekly rather than wait to the very end of the project to divulge their process and final product.
Looking for even more resources, check out these links:
The poignant installation “Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Picture Books at the New York Historical Society explores the events, people, and themes of the civil rights movement through the children’s picture book.
Picture books are compelling forms of visual expression not just for young children. This exhibition showcases 80 artworks from picture book artists who interweave art and storytelling, history and now. Looking at the excerpts from many pictures books around the themes of the civil rights movement provides depth, diverse voices, and powerful meanings. The stories presented inspire young people and viewers to speak up and speak out as agents of transformation and social change. The exhibit tells important stories about the movement’s icons, including Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Congressman John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scenes are presented of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Ruby Bridges integrating her New Orleans elementary school, and the Black students who catalyzed the sit-in movement at the segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Some of the many highlighted illustrators and authors include Faith Ringgold, Brian Pinkney, Nadir Nelson, Jacqueline Woodson, and many more.
Picture the Dream is an open invitation to start important discussions with children, friends, and family about race, equity and social justice. Take a look at a list of all the books in the show and here is the family discussion guide created by High Museum of Art in Georgia. You can also find lesson plans and a powerpoint of 19 key images from the exhibit in this teacher resource kit.
Here are some ways I use picture books with my middle school students to present key themes and scaffold complex ideas.
Read Alouds – Don’t just leave read aloud to elementary school teachers, in secondary education reading aloud picture books help to create a classroom community and build multimodal comprehension skills. Images and words work side by side to communicate a message. Read aloud can be used to hook students into a lesson or even useful as a teaching point during a mini-lesson.
Gallery Walks – Images are powerful storytelling tools. Just like in a museum exhibit, hanging up the images from the picture books can allow students to read closely, infer the dialogue, and convey meaning from the visual text.
Small Group Work – I often during station work leave a collection of picture books at one station for students to read, evaluate, and analyze to pull out key details and draw connections. Scaffolding guiding questions help students look closer at the images and text and the story presented. I might ask students what do they see, what does it say, what do I think, and continue with sentence frames or specific questions to climb the ladder of critical thinking.
Jigsaws – Each student reads a different picture book along the same theme or topic and then shared the powerful elements of the story with the small group. Students put their heads together to make connections and draw conclusions about the bigger questions presented in the texts.
I’m presenting on Literacy Tools and Strategies to Support Social Emotional Learning at ISTE U’s Summer Learning Academy 2022. This professional learning opportunity allows educators to learn at their own pace about the topics we all care about, now through Oct. 14. For $64 you have can access to amazing professional development. More at iste.org/sla.
Check out the Padlet of curated resources related to my presentation on SEL with teaching tools, strategies and related research.