Sunday, May 31, 2015

Conclusion to Inspired Writing 2014-15

The opportunity to work with the innovative and like-minded teachers on our Inspired Writing cohort this year has truly been a privilege.  I feel overwhelmingly grateful to teach in a district that values cohorts like this and gives us the support to push our teaching to a new level.  This year's work with Inspired Writing has challenged me to think of my students and teaching methods in new ways.  I tell my students to take risks every day and this cohort gave me the opportunity to do the same.

My classroom dynamic has changed with the implementation of CoverItLive, Kaizena, Movenote, Blogger, ExplainEverything, and many more.  I've revamped my approach to assessment and feedback and as a result have been more inspired in my teaching this year than ever before!  I know that this excitement and enthusiasm is contagious because my students have jumped on board to try every new idea I've had and we grew as a team.  The collaboration that we practiced as a cohort during our IW meetings transferred to the collaboration that I expected my students to practice in the classroom.

I'm so thankful for the opportunity that LPS offered through Inspired Writing and the networking with other teachers in the district that it provided.  Thank you to all of the teachers who have shared their resources this year and challenged me to think in new ways, and thank you Dana for leading us in the direction of growth!

Teamwork Idea for Peer Editing

I loved this blog post from Two Writing Teachers on "Guess Your Feedback"  Their suggested activity is to give strips of paper with teacher written feedback/comments to a group of students.  The team's task is to figure out which feedback comment matches which of their pieces and how they could fix what needed to be revised.

Giving freedom while also providing structure during peer editing is always a challenge.  My students thrive on the opportunity to look at each other's work and to put in their two cents on how it should look.  As wonderful as this collaboration can be, it can also spiral quickly into social time and irrelevant revisions.

I've had success with my students using SnagIt to record their peer editing meetings.  This holds them accountable when they know that their discussion is being recorded and it also gives them something to reference back to.  I love the idea of pairing this with Two Writing Teachers idea of giving teacher-created feedback on strips of paper for them to match to their piece.  I predict meaningful conversation if this activity was extended to also include, "find this same/similar area for improvement in your partner's piece" after they've made corrections in their own.  Providing students with this activity to guide their peer editing not only gives them structure to their meeting, but also models different areas of improvement to hunt for in their writing.  I can't wait to try it!

Thoughts On Classroom iPads (2:1)

Thanks to a grant written by a fabulously talented former 5th grade teacher, my 5th team has 16 iPads and the ability to use them on a 2:1 ratio.  My opinion on best practice with iPads has changed drastically after attending many trainings and conferences on iPads, as well as talking with other teachers.

I originally viewed these devices as just a new platform for students to work on in an engaging way... i.e. trick them into doing the same work but on a distracting new device.  I searched for apps that were relevant to what we were studying or for data collection.  I found that the students enjoyed the novelty of a new device, but weren't really doing anything that they couldn't do on their ChromeBooks.

Reading Lisa Gurney's article "The Smart Way to Use iPads in the Classroom" helped solidify my thinking on how I plan to introduce and use the iPads in my classroom next year.  Gurney references observing the use of iPads in a Swiss classroom. "Teachers I talked to seemed uninterested, almost dismissive, of animations and gamelike apps. Instead, the tablets were intended to be used as video cameras, audio recorders, and multimedia notebooks of individual students’ creations. The teachers cared most about how the devices could capture moments that told stories about their students’ experiences in school. Instead of focusing on what was coming out of the iPad, they were focused on what was going into it."  Reading this observation confirmed my trial-and-error gut instinct that I needed to inspire my students to use the iPads to document their understanding in unique ways.

The app "Explain Everything" has changed my classroom.  Not only are students able to articulate their understanding of content across all subjects and submit the video file of this evidence to me over Google Drive, but they are constantly asking me if we can record more instructional videos.  They're using the iPads in ways that have helped them to view themselves as teachers that are capable of sharing their thinking.  This is HUGELY important to me for 2 reasons 1: I'm getting meaningful feedback on my student's understanding of a topic (in their own words)  2: My students see the meaning in the activity  and want to use it to help others.

My brain is churning with innovative ways to inspire my students to capture and document their learning and thinking using the iPads next year!

"You Matter" (What Students Need)

I love my job and I am so thankful for what I get to do every day.  Planning the curriculum is intellectually stimulating, collaborating with teammates is reinvigorating, and trying innovative new ways to teach my students in inspiring.  Despite all of these amazing elements of my job, what keeps me pushing through exhausted mornings has nothing to do with anything I could document in lesson plans.  The relationship that I have with my students fuels everything I do in my classroom.  The number one most important aspect of my job is showing my students that I believe in them and that I see them.  It is so important to me that my students know that I see their unique strengths and talents, even if they are too quiet to show that side to their classmates.  I'm driven to show up in my classroom every morning because I know that my students trust me to see them for who they are.

Watching this video of Angela Maiers at a conference in Iowa hit me on a personal and professional level.  Half a million children surveyed in this study said that all they want is to know that they matter.  Don't we all?  I've been reflecting once again on the students in my class and what they ask for directly or silently.  In this presentation, a panel of students vocalized their requests from their teachers.  They said:

-smile at me
-notice me
-love me
-believe in me
-imagine with me
-trust me
-hear me
-inspire me
-help me ("let me ask questions, let me try hard things, show me how, don't tell me how")
-empower me
-honor me

My purpose as a teacher is so much more than to deliver curriculum.  Angela Maiers said it perfectly when she said, "'You matter' is not a statement to make someone feel good.  Mattering is a necessity, it is not a nicety... we were created for significance."