Category Archives: Uncategorized

Infographics for Research Curation

Student using Piktochart to design an Infographic

Writing is a process. Ask most published writers and they will tell your about their methods to writing and revising. I have yet to meet a writer who sits down at their computer and is able to write an entire book, poem, article, screenplay – whatever, in one shot. Writing requires planning, research, writing, revising, rereading, and then writing some more. Staring at a blank page for many can be daunting, especially students. The challenge to take one’s notes and turn them into a written piece that expresses their ideas. Some might go immediately into generating their story and thinking. Outlines are useful writing tools in the prewriting stage.  

Infographics are another tool that can help students brainstorm or represent the information they have gathered. An infographic is a visual image that is used to represent data or information. When students create an infographic they have to synthesize the information they curated and make meaning for others in a visually appealing way. Using tech tools like Canva, Piktochart, or even Google Drawing, students design an infographic that visually communicates the main idea their research. Whereas Google Drawing, students are starting with a blank page, Canva and Piktochart have templates students can choose from to add data and graphs to personalize with their research and information.  Having students visually represent their data in an infographic requires students to choose words and images purposefully in order to communicate an idea, prove their thinking, and possibly persuade their viewers.

Like an outline, an infographic strips down content to the main idea and supporting details. Creating infographics, students are required to evaluate, analyze and synthesize their research and present their information is a way that stands out and is easy to read. Looking at different examples of infographics and the ways that information is presented, color, format, structure, and  the balance between image and text are elements for students to keep in mind when creating their own infographic.

Students are tapping into the Common Core Standards when creating their own infographic because they are “Translating quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.7). Additionally, students are “Making strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations” (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 ).

Before students create their own infographic, it is helpful to look at examples of data visualization to determine the best way to present their own data and research. Similar to different writing formats, students might be consider whether they will present and write about a compare and contrast, cause and effect, to inform or persuade. In addition to Knowledge Constructors, students are also Empowered Learners (ISTE Standards for Students 1C), when creating infographics because they are  using technology to demonstrate their learning.

 

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Guest Blog Post: Differentiated Instruction by Livia Bran

Students (like all people actually) have this paradoxical characteristic: they’re all the same; except when they’re not.

They function the same from a physical point of view, they dress annoyingly the same (even when — or especially when — there’s no compulsory school uniform) they all have to learn almost the same things in school and they all use their brains to do that. But when you take a closer look, you notice how different they are. No two students are actually the same.

Students come to school from different cultures, they may speak different languages, they have different academic backgrounds and have been shaped by different learning experiences. They come with different learning needs, learning preferences, and different expectations of what learning at school should be like. All these aspects, and even more, make up the individuality in each of them.

While it’s definitely easier to treat students the same in the classroom — after all, there is but one teacher to 30 students (more or less) — the best teachers are those who understand that students are not the same. And act accordingly, by differentiating instruction to better meet their learning needs.

The concept of differentiated instruction is nothing new. Great teachers have been doing it since teaching has been a profession. The problem with it is that it doesn’t fit perfectly in the standardized one-size-fits all education system we’re all too familiar with. Differentiated instruction is anything but one-size-fits-all.

Differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Whether teachers differentiate content, process, products or the learning environment, the use of ongoing assessment and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to instruction.

— Carol Ann Tomlinson

Carol Ann Tomlinson is a leader in the area of differentiated learning and Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, Foundations, and Policy at University of Virginia. Her research on the effectiveness of differentiation shows this method benefits a wide range of students, from those who are considered to be struggling to those who are considered high ability.

4 Classroom aspects to differentiate

The above definition of differentiated instruction offers enough clues on how to actually do it. There are four main aspects of a classroom that can be differentiated so that students receive a more personalized learning experience. Let’s explore them a little:

  1. Content — Or what is to be learned. Teachers should work within grade-level standards to provide students with different levels of complexity of a certain subject or lesson that match their different levels of readiness to learn it. For example, if you’re a Maths teacher and have to teach fractions, compile a series of fraction related problems for students to solve, from the most basic ones to the most advanced. Your goal is to move the students through to the advanced ones, but the grade-level standards should be met somewhere in the middle. That way, struggling students will have time to reach the medium-difficulty problems (thus checking the standard) while the more gifted students will not get bored during class as they continue to solve the more advanced ones.
  2. Process — Or how students acquire information. Teachers should adjust the strategies used to deliver the information students have to learn. Considering that every piece of information students might need is just a click or a tap away, holding lectures is not enough. Opt instead for a repertoire of teaching strategies; besides direct instruction, try inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning, flipping the classroom or information processing models. The point is to give students options in how they access information, how they learn it and respect their choices.
  3. Products — Or how students demonstrate learning. In a differentiated instruction setting student choice and student agency are a given. Based on their learning preferences and interests they should be able to choose how to prove their learning advancements. Some will thrive at creating a presentation on the subject, others will present it with flair, others will make a model, others will prefer to work alone and write a paper. As long as they meet the predefined success criteria, it shouldn’t matter in what way they choose to demonstrate learning.
  4. Learning environment — Or where and with whom students learn. The traditional classroom setting is starting to lose ground. An increasing number of schools seek and get funding to design flexible learning environments. Being able to arrange student desks in rows for a lecture but also to group them in two, four, five or more so students can work on collaborative projects, is the first step towards an active flexible classroom. Also, there needs to be smaller and quieter zones for those engaged in individual work. The classroom can and must provide a flexible learning environment that accommodates the needs of all students.

Yes, differentiated instruction means more work from the part of teachers, which we all know already have their plates full.

No, differentiated instruction is not a fad, a whim, or just another thing to be done. It affects student learning and student academic outcomes in a positive way. Take Carol Ann Tomlinson’s word for it.

Practical steps to differentiated instruction

Just as with any theoretical concept, the theory seems nice, but putting it into practice is a horse of a totally different color. So here are some practical steps on how to do it. They may come numbered but their order is not fixed.

Step 0: Understand the theoretical part. Read all you can about how the human brain learns, learning styles and multiple intelligences, and also about all types of assessment. If you are to differentiate instruction, you must first know how your students learn and how to best assess their learning.

Step 1: Assess your students. Assess them formally and keep in mind the grade-level standards. You also need to assess them so you can determine their ability level, learning preferences and their interests. Assessment is the basis of differentiated instruction.

Step 2: Develop a plan. Consider everything you know about your students and think about all the ways you can differentiate content, processes, products and the learning environment. Don’t forget to be realistic in your plan; if you can’t replace fixed desks with mobile ones, there’s only so much you can do in terms of differentiating the learning environment for example.

Step 3: Define the success criteria for learning in your differentiated instruction. Corroborate with state standards and seek support from fellow teachers. Involve your students in this process as well to establish a common goal and make it clear what they have to do to pass the class.

Step 4: Differentiate and monitor. Give a try to tired activities (remember the fraction problems?), learning contracts (find here an example) or choice boards.

Step 5: Assess your students again. A variety of assessment techniques can include digital portfolios, rubrics, performance-based assessment, knowledge mapping, and so on. Pick and choose the most appropriate way to do it for each student. And don’t ignore their feedback.

Step 6: Adjust the instruction. You’ll surely identify things that are not perfect and your students will do too. The same will happen to those that work. So keep what works and change what doesn’t.

Step 7 to 100: Rinse and repeat. You can replace 100 with absolutely any other number you want really. Either you start again from Step 4 or you go all the way back to Step 0, but keep differentiating your instruction. As you probably say to your students, practice makes perfect.

 

Differentiated instruction has no single formula for success. Each classroom is different and each teacher has a lot of choices. Differentiated instruction means that you have to meet the standards while providing students with personalized learning experiences and embrace change and flexibility while knowing when to stop or just turn. The ultimate goal of differentiated instruction is to create and nurture a learning environment that meets the learning needs of students and puts each of them on their own paths to success.

 
Livia Bran is Content Manager at CYPHER LEARNING, a company that specializes in learning management systems. Check out her other posts about EdTech for K-12 and Higher Ed on the NEO Blog or follow her on Twitter.

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Non Fiction Book Bingo: A Sidequest

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Last week I shared the Citizen Journalism Quest my students are working on this fall. One of the requirements during this adventure quest is for students to choose a nonfiction book to read independently. Students will refer to their independent reading books for content knowledge as well as craft structure presented throughout the text. I have added a Reading Bingo for a Sidequest as part of the entire adventure quest.

In video games Sidequests come in a variety of forms, and completing sidequests generally brings reward to the player such as additional equipment or abilities, areas to explore, supplemental plot related details, or fun unlockables. Gamasutra breaks down some dos and don’t of designing side quests on their blog.

For the Non Fiction sidequest I created Bingo. Students have a choice to complete one row or column for 125 XP (Experience Points) or students might choose to complete the entire board for a total of 500 XP. This is the second sidequest offered throughout the Citizen Journalism adventure quest. The bingo tasks are short and require students to use technology and critical and creative thinking to complete. Some are simple and fun like take a selfie with your reading book or design a ten question quiz on Kahoot. Others tasks include creating a book trailer and writing a review on a class Padlet. In thinking about Universal Design for Learning, this sidequest offers flexibility in the ways students access material, engage with it and show what they know.

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Superhero Weapons, Narrative NonFiction, & Citizen Journalism Adventure Quest

I have turned an investigative journalism reading and writing unit with my eighth grade students into a unique citizen journalism adventure quest. Below are the elements of the quest broken down into ten journeys. Each journey/activity is based off a superhero weapon for students to build a toolbox of needed superpowers in deciphering truth and fiction.

Breaking News – In an age where the truth has been attacked, news is unreliable, and journalists are considered deceptive, WE NEED YOUR HELP. We are living in a “POST TRUTH” apocalypse and you must navigate the landscape to overcome the threat of fake news and apathy of knowledge. We must bring information to the forefront and STOP the desemination of disinformation. This map will guide you towards a truth, but you will choose the path that will get us back to a reliable and trustworthy free press and free society.  Here are some tools, lent by many Superheros to help you on this mission.

1 – Thor’s Mjoinir – Providing you with a tool to seek truth, what are the elements of Nonfiction that we must pay attention to? This lesson will provide you with background information to help you on your journey where landmines of information and disinformation look too much alike.  At basecamp we will spend today working together in basic training.

2 – Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth – How do you know if what you read online is true? At basecamp for basic training, we will concentrate on Good Thinking. Learn three modes of persuasion that date back to ancient times – Ethos, Pathos, Logos. Like Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth, these three rhetorical devices are your greatest weapons in our Post Truth Apocalypse to investigate truth.

3 – Green Lantern’s Power Ring – The Green Lantern’s ring isn’t just a snazzy accessory; it’s a weapon that can create more weapons! You will choose your own Narrative Nonfiction independent reading book to serve as a communication device and a force field of protection. Consider it a gift that keeps on giving, this will be a wealth of information as well as bring attention to the craft moves and modes of persuasion that our predecessors have embodied.

NonFiction Mentor Text: Booksnaps

You must send me artifacts of your thinking, observations and learning. It is not just what you read but how you critically consume the information. The information and craft moves in this book will guide you. Send me your weekly Booknaps of the Notice and Note Signposts and other key findings weekly so I can see your perspective.

OR

NonFiction Mentor Text: Thought Journal

You must send me artifacts of your thinking, observations and learning. It is not just what you read but how you critically consume the information. The information and craft moves in this book will guide you. Prepare a Thought Journal highlighting the Notice and Note Signposts and other key findings in your text weekly so I can see your perspective.

4 – Silver Surfer’s Board – The Silver Surfer’s board is one of the most unassuming weapons in the universe. It’s nearly indestructible, it can absorb energy or people (if needed), it can travel through time faster than the speed of light, and it’s mentally linked to the Surfer. Similarly, research is an unassuming weapon for your research, writing, and understanding of “truth.” As you embark on this part of the Journey – Metroid’s Open World – you will need gather Ethos, Pathos, and Logos for your nonfiction narrative topic. Then, choose which is the best path for you to display your knowledge and skill: Annotated Bibliography OR Infographic.

5 – The Helm of Nabu – On the surface, this helmet may look silly, but it’s much more. The helm embodied the spirit and powers of Nabu, a sorcerer and Lord of Order who had some serious control issues. With the helmet, the wearer gains enhanced intelligence, awareness, flight, dimensional manipulation, teleportation, telekinesis, the ability to see the past and future. Before we go any further, we must stop back at base camp to try out the Helm of Nabu to understand Nonfiction Text Structures and consider how one might structure their own Narrative NonFiction Essay.

6 – The Mother Box – This mystical supercomputer can transfer the energy of a being, work as a telepathic device, open boom tubes (teleportation portals), and sustain life.

You will write your own narrative nonfiction essay on a topic that is of interest to you. Include ethos, pathos, and logos to help bring to the forefront a truth that others have yet to see about your specific topic. Use your WitchBlade, Board, and Eye of Agamotto to make yourself and others more informed.

7 – Witchblade – This is another example of an accessory that’s more than meets the eye. The Witchblade looks like a simple piece of women’s jewelry, but it’s deadly. If you’re deemed as unworthy to wear it, it will dismember you. Yes, it has an attitude. If chosen, it bonds to its owner, giving her state-of-the-art armor, swords, daggers, shields and chains. Plus it has healing powers and can reanimate the dead. The opening Lede of your essay needs attitude and should be powerful to engage and inform your reader with valid and reliable ethos, pathos, and logos.

8 – Dr. Strange’s Eye of AgamottoThis artifact has a built in B.S. filter, which releases a light that sees through all lies, disguises and illusions. It can weaken the physical state of any evil being mystical or human, it can open portals, and most importantly it can explore an opponent’s mind to see their deepest and darkest thoughts. To defeat the boss of disinformation you must use the Eye of Agamotto to spread truth and accuracy. Like your Lede, the closing of your essay is a call to action, leaving your readers with a dearth of knowledge and understanding. 

9 – Blade’s Double Edge Sword – Like a double edged sword, peers editing and revision can have multiple benefits when used correctly. Blade’s  sword’s edge is covered in acid, and the handle is rigged with a security device (multiple spikes), which can shatter the hand of anyone who tries to steal it. Only Blade himself and a choice few are aware of the hidden button that can prevent the gruesome reaction. Find a peer in class who will give you feedback to help you make your essay one that stands out and quickly gets you to the last level.

10 – Batarangs Additional Sidequest – Batman is a gadget and weapon master, and one item he never leaves home without is his batarang. It’s a bat-shaped combination of a boomerang and a shuriken that he uses to fight crime. There are also different types of batarangs, including sonic, electrical and explosive versions. As a SIDEQUEST you will record your Mother Box for a creative informative podcast. Check out sample podcasts to hear the elements of this interactive and audio based essay.
Congratulations, you are now part of S.H.E.I.L.D. – Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division within Marvel Universe. You obviously have superpowers, so what is going to be your superhero name and powers you will use to continue to protect the world? Your next adventure quest awaits.

 

For Further Resources:

New York Times Learning Network “Evaluating Sources in a Post Truth World

Descriptions of Superhero Weapons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Back to School Escape Room

180 Days and Counting . . . No, I am not counting but my students might be and I know I have many students who are NOT looking forward to coming back to school.

Why does the first day of school have to be typical with interest inventories and going over the class objectives and requirements? Bring some fun into the classroom with an escape room activity. Similar to a Breakout EDU, an immersive physical and digital game platform, an escape room contains both physical and digital puzzles for students to solve and “unlock.” An escape room requires teamwork, creative and critical thinking.

Using both physical locks and digital puzzles, students participate in an escape room the first day of class to showcase their knowledge of English Language Arts. I used quiz validation on a Google Form for students to curate their escape room clues and answers. Students work in teams to solve six different puzzles. First, the class is divided in three teams, each team will receive one of the puzzles that will lead to another puzzle or lock box. I am using both digital and physical locks for more options and engagement.

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  1. Using a pigpen cipher students decode different young adult book titles. I have placed these actual young adult books on display in my classroom. Inside one of these books a page is marked, the page number will unlock a small lock box that contain two additional puzzles.
  2. A blank plot pyramid is part of the next clue. Along with the blank pyramid, students will receive a bank with mixed up definitions of plot points: Conflict, Exposition, Falling Action, Resolution, and Rising Action. Students have to select the correct plot points in order to unlock this digital lock.
  3.  Using QR Codes, students view four different movie trailers and identify the types of conflict presented in each movie trailer.
  4. Comma or No Comma is a bank of sentences that students will have to decide which uses the commas correctly. Each box has a letter and the correct sentences spell a word that will unlock this digital lock.
  5. “The Mixed Up Files of Dr. Haiken” includes questions about the teacher for students to decode. From symbols (like the secret code below) to mixed up letters or numbers, students decode the answers. original-3078941-2
  6. Jigsaw Planet has free online puzzles for students to solve. On this site you can also create, play, share jigsaw puzzles and compete with other users. I have uploaded a picture for students to solve and answer a question about the image in the puzzle.

 

Escape Rooms can be fun and exciting for students and intimidating for teachers to create. Looking online, there are many examples and samples to model your own escape room activities. Mix easy and challenging puzzles to keep all students engaged. Map out the order of the puzzles students will complete and go through a dress rehearsal before the students give it a try to work out any kinks. Then, let the students escape. To build interest and engagement think of a storyline and start with a trailer to build excitement. And don’t forget to include fun in all aspects of the escape.

 

 

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A Taste of Summer Reading: Literary Menu Assignment

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I recently visited Beginnings restaurant in Atlantic Beach, New York, a literary and culinary experience. The concept was created by husband and wife team Ben and Heather Freiser. Ben, a long time restaurateur and caterer, and Heather, an editor and television producer. On their website they boast,

“A good meal or a perfectly poured drink, like a good book, can nourish the soul. And it’s arguable that no profession loves a good libation more than the writer. As an ode to some of the greats (who may have polished off a bottle of liquor before a bottle of ink), we introduce Beginnings, a literary, culinary experience.”

Ben and Heather’s love of literature exudes from the space to the menu at this restaurant. The walls are book shelves decorated with the couple’s favorite works of literature (most taken from their home), to a shelf of iconic movie scripts, and there is even a kids’ corner dedicated to children’s literature. This attention to detail is also seen in the menu.The full menu, broken down with distinctions such as “Prologue,” “Melville’s Corner,” and “Editor’s Side Notes.”

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A bibliophile myself, I was drawn to the space and aesthetics of the restaurant. In addition to a good meal,  the venue hosts author signings and events, discussion series, story time for children, and themed tasting menus. Upcoming events include a taste of Game of Thrones that pays homage to the food and delights of HBO’s hit series.

So this all got me thinking . . .

What if students create their own themed tasting menu for their summer reading books? The first week of school should include a dinner party with menus inspired by the fictional books students read over the summer. Students can create an entire menu and they day of the dinner party, bring in one item for their classmates to savor and discuss the delights of the stories.

Some of our books already contain menu options.

In Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793, food is a source of comfort and symbol of home. When Matilda was working in the Coffee House, the Cook’s lunchtime meal was “cold chicken, crisp pickles, butter biscuits, and peach pie laid out on the table.”

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Who could forget the peanut butter pie in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club or the Korean dishes and specialty yogurt drinks in In All The Boys I loved Before by Jenny Han. Peter Benchley’s Jaws might be seafood inspired and after reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis you want to taste that “great and gorgeous sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot.”

When students create their menu inspired by literature, include the scene and direct quotes from the text that enchant our senses of sight and taste. I am sure it will be a delicious and inspiring book tasting.

Check out the assignment here.

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Lessons from the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin

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Aretha Franklin (image courtesy from npr.org)

LEGENDARY singer Aretha Franklin died today. The music icon, who influenced generations of singers with unforgettable hits such as Respect (1967), Natural Woman (1968) and I Say a Little Prayer (1968) has left an indelible mark on the History of Rock and Roll, Civil Rights, and Women’s Right’s Movements.

Franklin cemented her place in American music history with her powerful voice that stretched over four octaves. In her decades-long career, her hits spanned the genres, from soul to R&B, to gospel and pop. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and in 2010, Rolling Stone magazine put her at the top of its list of the 100 greatest singers of all time, male or female.

Of Franklin’s dozens of hits, none was more closely linked to her than the empowering 1967 anthem Respect with its inspiring “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” refrain.

Franklin had more than 10 Top 20 hits in 1967 and 1968 and was pictured on the cover of Time magazine. At a time of rebellion and division, her records were a musical union of the church and the secular, man and woman, black and white, North and South, East and West.

Growing up in the 1950s, Franklin was surrounded by civil-rights activists from a young age, and spent her trailblazing career supporting those who fought for equality—and setting an example herself as an American success.

Franklin was raised primarily by her father, C.L. Franklin, a Baptist minister and a civil-rights activist that organized the 1963 Detroit Walk to Freedom, which was the largest civil-rights demonstration in U.S. history until the March on Washington displaced it two months later. Martin Luther King Jr., a friend of C.L. Franklin’s, delivered an early version of his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Detroit march.

In 2016 interview with Franklin, Elle Magazine noted it was written into her contract in the 60s that she would never perform for a segregated audience. Franklin said she was glad that the song became linked to feminist and civil-rights movements. She added that the line “you know I’ve got it” has a direct feminist theme.

“As women, we do have it,” she says. “We have the power. We are very resourceful. Women absolutely deserve respect. I think women and children and older people are the three least-respected groups in our society.”

Aretha Franklin’s lyrics and life story are teaching tools for our students. Whether reading a biography about the Queen of Soul or analyzing her song lyrics, Franklin offers many lessons throughout her music that touch on topics of activism, relationships, and power.

Listening to Franklin’s lyrics one could analyze:

  • What is this song about?  What message is the singer trying to convey?
  • Do the lyrics remind you of anything you have learned about concerning the civil right’s movement and or women’s movement in the 1960s?
  • What craft moves and music elements influences in this song? — Possible answers include call-and-response, complex rhythms between different instruments, and/or a Gospel performance style.
  • What elements of music have popular artists today borrowed, modeled, and mentored from Franklin’s music?

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Teachers are Busy Bees: #HiveSummit

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#HiveSummit is a free, 14 day virtual educational conference that started on August 1st. Organized by author and Gamification guru, Michael Matera @mrmatera,  the Hive Summit brings some of the best and the brightest minds together to do what bees do best… work hard for something sweet! The objective of this virtual conference is to help teachers jumpstart the school year with successful practices and positive energy. All the Presenter Bees” talk about ways to design learning experiences that promote engagement and student learning.

The nine presenters and their key ideas are posted below. If you are reading this before 8/14/18, register for The Hive Summit to view the videos and learn more.

Rabbi Michael Cohen @TheTechRabbi – Designer Educator, Creativity Instigator, and Director of Innovation

Rabbi Michael Cohen, a keynote presenter at #ISTE18, speaks passionately about design thinking and the need for creativity in the classroom. He was keen to say that creativity needs to be cultivated in the classroom; creativity is not something you have or get. In our world today students need to have the time and space to tinker, make, and create in order to figure things out, explore, and experiment. The Tech Rabbi shared one activity to ignite creative thinking and problem solving in the classroom: 30 Circle Challenge. For the 30 Circle Challenge give students 3 minutes to turn as many circles into recognizable objects as you can. This isn’t about: your artistic ability or filling 30 circles. This activity is about fostering meaningful conversation and a discussion about our awareness of creativity. This is a concrete way to model thinking outside the box.

Carrie Baughcum @HeckAwesome – Doodler, Teacher, YouTuber

Carrie is awesome and I am not only saying that because she was a contributor in in my book Gamify Literacy. Carrie is a special education teacher and sketch note advocate. In her talk she shares the learning experiences that sketch noting promotes for ALL student learners. Below is a video from Carrie’s youtube channel that introduces sketch noting as a learning tool.

 

Rick Wormeli @rickwormeli2 – Teacher, Author, Education Consultant

“A teacher’s job is to ensure students learn,” so begins Rick Wormeli’s presentation. And there is no where in research or life where someone has said that grading motivates learning. Rick talks about standards based grading and having teachers look closely at their own grading practices. We need to teach what we need students to learn and
create tasks that answer the critical question: “Do you have evidence you’ve mastered the stuff?” Standards based grading is more effective than percentages and extra credit. The key questions to ask are: Have students hit the learning targets or not yet? “How do I get students to learn this…” and Does every student need to demonstrate mastery at the same time? 

Tara Martin @TaraMartinEDU – Curriculum Coordinator, Lead Instructional Coach, Author

This week I finished reading Tara’s new book Be Real: Teaching From the Heart which was honest and insightful about teaching. The reality is that technology can never truly replace teachers because it is a teacher’s compassion, energy, and passions who make them memorable. Tara believes in being REAL:

 

  • R Be Relatable
  • E Expose Vulnerability
  • A Always be approachable
  • L Constantly Learn through real-life experiences

When you bring your realness to the table (and it’s enough), you make the world a better

 place. Tara is all about becoming the best version of yourself. No one else has exactly your talents and your experiences that you draw from. You’re the only “expert” at being you. Everyone has a purpose.

 

Matt Miller @jmattmiller – Teacher, Author, Speaker

It is important to be a maverick teacher– take risks. If you model taking risks (and potentially failing) for your students, you empower them to have a voice and choice. Don’t focus on technology, rather focus more on how it can be used to effectively reshape instruction. How can we leverage technology to make the most out of every class moment? Assemble a toolbox of a wide variety of tools and ask, “What tools do I need to do…” Technology is an opportunity, not a thousand dollar pencil. Think how you can remix apps and utilize technology in ways that are relevant to your students’ learning from global collaboration to rethinking the way you use Google Slides.

 

 

 

Michael Matera @mrmatera – Teacher, Author, Speaker

Most of what I know about gamification, I learned from Michael Matera. “Gamification entails applying the elements of a game, or mechanics, to non-game situations.” It’s a way teachers can overlay a game on top of already well-developed content and instruction. If you’re willing to give gamification a try, start small: gamify a lesson– then a unit– then a course. Use board games, television game shows and video games as models and mentors for building your own games. Gamification is about building on different game elements – many teachers allow the game to unfold as the school year blossoms. Three key things to think about when implementing gamification: Theme, Teams, and Tasks. As Michael states, “Play isn’t a pedagogy, it’s a way of life.” Bring play into your classroom to boost learning and have fun.

 

Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur – Regional Technology Coordinator

Sarah talked about building a professional learning network. This is key for teachers since teaching can be an isolating job. Social Media like Twitter, Facebook, and Voxer have allowed teachers to connect with like minded people to share, collaborate, connect, and learn from one another. I know personally how twitter has become a game-changer for my teacher and professional learning. There are endless ways to connect with other professionals globally. Authentic connections can change your life trajectory.

Joe Sanfelippo @Joe_Sanfelippo – Superintendent, Speaker, and Author

Joe has amazing positive energy as an administrator that I wish I was around him more to experience his ideas and passion for his school community. Based on his book, Hacking Leadership, Joe talked about the three main components he practices to cultivate a positive school community:

 

  • Be Intentional About Your WHAT & WHY – Share out about the good things that are happening in your school or classroom– there is power in sharing the good intentionally
  • Open Doors – By “sharing the good,” you have the opportunity to change the school narrative and create a culture of sharing instead of a culture of competition
  • Build Staff – Place value on all parties trying things outside of their comfort zones– value on the journey and the growth will reshape school culture. Joe shared that every day he writes 2 positive notes to share. He said that teaching is a thankless job but when someone stops and says thank you it means so much more. Administrators needs to recognize and thank their teachers more often.

 

Dave Burgess @Burgessdave – Author, Speaker, Game Changer

I have to say that I have been a Dave Burgess fan for many years and use his book Teach Like A Pirate with my graduate students as a required reading for Literacy in the Content Areas. I want my students to remember to infuse passion in all of their lessons. Dave promotes doing awesome stuff in your classroom. Teach like a pirate isn’t about choosing one method– it’s about incorporating others’ great ideas into your method. How will you make a first impression with your students? How are you going to get them excited about your content area and school? Be bold and take the best of everything to create a classroom where students cannot wait to return. “We want to educate makers not memorizers.” 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mythology is Everywhere: 5 Ways to Utilize Myths for Teaching & Learning

Words like alma mater, atlas, labyrinth, lunatic  and narcissistic derive from mythology. References to mythology are apparent in many movies and books from Star Wars to Harry Potter and even Percy Jackson.  The mythic hero is not only a Western or popular culture phenomena. Heroes from the Ancient Near East include Gilgamesh, Hippopotamus from the Middle Kingdom in Ancient Egypt. Classical mythological heroes include Achilles, Apollo, Athena, Hercules, and Prometheus. King Arthur and his Knights are considered heroes of the Middle Ages. Every country and region has their own heroes. In fact, mythological themes are timeless.

Hero in mythology is a person who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for bold exploits, and favored by the gods. A hero is also one noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.

What do you think makes a hero, a “hero”? What qualities do we tend to look for in this person? Should heroes be strong, courageous, selfless and charismatic? Could someone still be considered “heroic” without these qualities?  Who are some of your “real life” heroes and how do they stack up against the heroes presented to us by Hollywood and or classic mythology? And what about the Antagonist – can the “bad guy” also be the hero, and if so, why?

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Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey

The topic of mythology and heroes can be brought into the humanities classroom in different ways that allow students to critically read and reflect on this genre. Here are five different literacy assignments that showcase mythology.

  1. Create a Heroic Myth – After reading and examining the hero’s journey across texts, students create their own futuristic hero/heroine whose story addresses a global issue. Students write a short story describing this new hero/heroine. The story should include at least one intervention of the hero/heroine dealing with a major global use he or she was developed to counteract. The hero/heroine can be comprised of the following four components: part human, part animal, part machine, part supernatural. Additionally, students can create a superhero picture depicting the hero in action; fighting against the force the hero was created to fight.
  2. Mythology Collage Box – Students create collages or collage boxes along the lines of Joseph Cornell’s work that includes personal adaptations of mythological subjects. In preparation for their work, students would need to become familiar with Greco-Roman myths and examine how artists throughout history have been inspired by mythology. The collage will represent an event or a character from mythology or can even depict an abstract idea (for example: jealousy, ambition, war, music, love).
  3. Dramatize the Story – Become one of your favorite mythological paintings or sculpture. Speak in its voice, or the voice of one of its characters or objects. What does it feel like to be that person or object? Speak in first person and describe the experience, feelings, and character.
  4. Critical Analysis of Mythology Represented in Art – Students examine paintings, sculpture, poetry, and art that represents mythology. Ask students to think, discuss, and write about why has the artist chosen to paint this part of the myth? How is color used in the painting? What symbols or allegory are presented in the art work? How has mythology been appropriated and inflected with new meaning?
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Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) Ceres c. 1715

5. Deconstructing Mythology in Popular Films – With movies like Thor, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Wonder Woman, mythology is alive in popular films today. Have students view the films and categorize the mythology references in each or one of the movies. Students can present an analysis how the film pulls from different mythological sources and evaluate the accuracy of the mythological references.

For example, thinking of Diana and Wonder Woman. In previous myths, the Amazons were a fierce tribe of warrior women; they scorned men, except once a year when they would seek out men from neighboring tribes in order to procreate. Any male children that resulted from these unions were either murdered or sent to live with their fathers. In some myths, Amazons would cut off one of their breasts so that they could better shoot their bow and arrow. Their brutal and uncompromising toughness frames Wonder Woman in a different light than how she is often portrayed, and how this influence is utilized makes for an exciting film.

 

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Integrating Literacy & Physical Education

This week I went to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum to see the special exhibit “Come Back Season” about the influence of sports post 9/11. The museum states,

“Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11,” a special exhibition at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, explores how sports and athletes helped to unite the country, consoled a grieving nation and gave us a reason to cheer again following the 2001 attacks.

This exhibition illustrates many iconic moments — such as former President George W. Bush’s first pitch during a World Series game at Yankee Stadium and the New York Mets’ Mike Piazza’s dramatic, two-run home run during the first professional baseball game in New York City after 9/11 — as well as previously untold stories that highlight the unifying force of sports in American life. Acknowledging that the world would never be the same, sports provided the opportunity for escape, healing and relief.”

I was moved throughout the exhibit by the photographs, artifacts, and letters that showed how all the major league teams displayed patriotism, support, and unity immediately after the events of 9/11. It is an interesting question, When should the games go on? Looking to history, the NFL played a game two days after Kennedy’s assassination – a regret from the NFL Commissioner, Pete Rozelle at the time. After Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt “assured the baseball commissioner that sports can boost public morale.” The major league baseball teams did not play until almost two weeks after 9/11.

In the exhibit I read a letter written by the daughter of one of the pilots killed in the plane hijacking to Derek Jeter, then baseball player on the New York Yankees, about how much her father looked up to him and the horrible time her family is going through. Derek Jeter invited her and her sister to attend a Yankee game and they still keep in touch today. To see the hats, helmets, jerseys and equipment with the first responders names and insignias on the uniforms shows the respect that professional athletes paid to those who lost their lives and gave their time at Ground Zero. There was recognition for victims of the tragedy while patriotism and solidarity for America was celebrated immediately after 9/11.

I teach a college course titled Literacy in the Content Areas and every semester I have one ore more Physical Education students taking the class. My objective is to help illuminate the connection between literacy and physical education. Literacy in its simplest form means the ability to use language to read and write. In an article for PE Central, Charles Silberman writes, “As physical educators it is now our responsibility to integrate components of literacy into our classrooms. This does not mean we become reading teachers—that would be counterintuitive. This means we take critical elements of the new definition of literacy and seamlessly integrate them into our daily teaching. We do this to not only support the holistic growth of the child but also to help them obtain the knowledge needed to understand what a healthy life is and how to lead one.” PE teachers can infuse literacy by including a story in the game or activity, have students brainstorm what they already Know – What to Learn – and Learned about a specific sport or health concept (recording answers on a large KWL Chart, another activity is to have students select three tactics from a list and explain in writing what each tactic is and how each tactic contributes to successful game play. In James and Manson’s Physical Education: A Literacy Based Approach, “There are several content area literacy strategies that physical education teachers can use to promote the learning of physical education content as well as promote literacy skill development at the same time. These strategies include cooperative learning, graphic organizers, think-alouds, and integrating vocabulary into physical education instruction.”

Sports, physical fitness, nutrition and health are all around us. Using real world readings, videos, and text like the Come Back Season Exhibit at the 9/11 Memorial Museum brings to the forefront the integration of physical education and literacy in our everyday lives. Sports are great for debates, readings, addressing teamwork and character development, there is the history of sports, and even a big push to promote health and wellness.

Check out this video from NFL’s Nick Foles talking about failure and think how you can use this in your classroom as a teaching tool.

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