Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Student-Led Conferences...Three Simple reasons why!

As conference time begins to approach for many of us, I would hope that you will consider hosting a student-led conference.  After planning, conducting and evaluating the conference with both students and parents, the positives are quite numerous.  Somehow, I've boiled them down to three great reasons, in an attempt to persuade you!

First, accountability.  By participating in a student-led conference, students gain a whole new perspective into their responsibility as a learner.  Through an evaluation process similar to one that we as teachers use to relate performance in class to parents, students share their success and areas for improvement both academically and socially.  Through ownership, students gain a tremendous amount of insight as to who they are as a learner and what role they play in the classroom.

Next, using those areas of success and an awareness of what areas may need some help, students are then able to set specific goals for themselves.  With parents in attendance, the child can discuss those areas that need improvement with specific timelines, methods, and those that can assist with reaching each goal.  By having all parties in attendance, all stakeholders are on the same page.

Finally, attendance.  Over the past 12 years, parent participation by in student-led conferences has to be in the high 80 to low 90%. range.  Many years, I know that our team has achieved 100%!  When a child prepares their script, organizes their portfolio, and practices the conference in class, it must be hard for a parent to say no to their child's request to come to school and be a part of the program.  Granted, previous communication and precedent of expectations in the school climate over the years helps, but the numbers speak volumes as to how effective they can be.

Formats, expectations, scripts, and types of portfolios may vary, but the common message of giving students an opportunity to gain ownership for their learning, and having the chance to demonstrate that ability is a powerful experience that all students should experience.

Please feel free to contact me @coachyetter if you would like to discuss how you can get things started.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Planning my first Flip - PARENTS!

With so much chat coming out of  ISTE this summer about 'Flipped' classrooms, and after reading Mary Beth Hertz's (@mbteach) recent blog about the Pros and Cons of Flipping , I thought I would begin to plan my first Flip - Parents at Back To School Night!

Now if the premise of a 'Flipped' classroom is to get the concept of the lesson in front of students the night before, with follow up and more time for hands on learning, why not plan on engaging parents early in the year with a 'Flipped' video for them to view prior to Back to School Night?  If I can get all of the policies about homework, projects, acceptable use, and some background about myself out early, then I should have more time for parents to engage in some activities at Back to School Night, where time is at a premium.  More on what I plan for the big night later.

Granted, I don't know who my kids are, what access they or their parents may have to the internet, but why not start some serious planning now, so that when September comes, I will be ready!

The objective of the video has several components;
1.  Introduce myself, Education and teaching background, plus a few personal items.
2.  Take a Walk - Literally walk around the classroom with the video camera and show parents where 
     certain items are located, their purpose, and how/when students may participate.  For example, I 
     have a 'Week At A Glance' segment of my board so that students can see where we are headed      
     each week.  Thought it might be a good dinner conversation if a parent would ask, "What things are
     coming up this week?"
3.  Book Display - Share with parents copies of our textbooks and classroom library.
4.  Homework, grading, project, and acceptable use of technology policy.  Both orally and then in written 
5.  Model log in procedures and demonstrate how to navigate both our Moodle and Edmodo sites.

Whew!  Looks like a lot of info to get out in a short 7-10 minute video.  Hope my editing skills have not atrophied!

Now for the Big Night!  I have several activities that I would like to engage parents with during our time together.
1.  Assess each parent on their ability to access both our Moodle and Edmodo sites to assure that they
     know their child's password and login names.  Perhaps a brief scavenger hunt to monitor their ability to
     navigate the sites.
2.  Blog Comments.  With hopefully a few minutes available, I want parents to respond to their child's
     blog via our class kidblog.org site.  Again, monitoring that each parent can access and knows how to
     post a comment on what their child has written.  Maybe the student can describe what they think their
     parents sixth grade year was like, and the parents can reply with the real deal?!
3.  SmartBoard Interaction - I am still amazed at how many parents come into the room and are deftly
     afraid to even touch the thing!
4.  TWITTER!  Discuss and demonstrate how to follow our class on Twitter!

So there's the plan.  Feeling kind of excited about it.  I'm sure that the plan will change in some aspects between now and then, but the thought of getting parents engaged early with the technology we will be using all year has a ton of merit.  Now this may not be the exact definition of a 'Flipped Classroom' according to Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, but my concept of  a 'Flip Lesson' will be something that I hope to pursue more of this year, as I see need for my students, and what better way for parents to obtain a grasp, then by asking them to participate?

Look forward to your ideas on how to improve my plan!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Twitter Reflections...Six Months In!

Hard to believe that it's been six months that my venture into the 'Twitterverse' took off.  Needless to say it has been one crazy trip.

After I re-entered the classroom following a position as tech coach, my new principal, re-awakened me to the benefits of being involved with Twitter.  Following his discipleship, below are some thoughts and reflections.

Not sure that I can break Twitter into separate categories, (ie - classroom, pln, personal) because it all seems to flow together so easily.  So, pardon the wanderings.

Flat out....Twitter has made me a better teacher.  By following so many talented, enthusiastic, creative educators, I can't help but want to make my classroom, lessons, culture a more student centered place.  For example, after participating in several chats, (#5thchat, #ptchat, #elemchat) I can talk with other educators about what fun and interesting activities they are planning in their classroom.  I learned about Mystery Skype and the various ways to play.  We even finished the year with a Mystery Skype with Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Topic for a future blog)  I see TED Talk updates and share with my students those that are motivating and inspiring.  New web 2.0 tools are reported and evaluated that I can then use with my students. (ZooBurst, Sumdog, etc...)  One of my students was somewhat obsessed with 'Angry Birds' this year, so when I saw a Tweet that discussed a NASA video on 'Angry Birds - Space Edition', you can bet that I showed it to the class.  Was great watching that child beam as his classmates learned more about Angry Birds.  Power of Twitter!  I was also asked to participate in a Edmodo book study this summer via Twitter connections.  By following Twitter I can stay up to date on the latest in tech and other engaging lessons for my classroom.

Speaking of Twitter in the classroom I set up an account for my class.  We tweeted pictures from field trips, activities in class, and other events.  Students would scribe to me what learning took place so that they could share with their parents.

Twitter gives me a voice.  I can express my opinions to anyone that want to listen.  My ideas for the classroom are validated by participating in chats with other like-minded teachers as we discuss a variety of topics each week.  Kind of makes you feel that you are doing the right thing by your kids.  Lord knows you won't get that from the top admins!  Not sure why almost 400 people are following me, but guess I am saying something right.  Granted, that dimly pales in comparison with @cybraryman, but it does make one grateful that someone is listening.  Twitter levels the playing field in that I can express my thoughts to those that are considered national experts, and get timely responses.  Getting a #FF from a nationally recognized educator feels good.  From time to time, I throw out a question asking for help, and get many responses back with sage adv ice.

Finally, the personal side of Twitter, believe it or not, has helped in my classroom as well.  Believe it or not, I am kind of a closet foodie.  After following @mariobatali,  @anthonybourdain, and @thefoodnetwork I can share recipes and ideas with my wife.  Often we plan our cooking extravaganza via Twitter ideas.  Was fun this year to also share those interesting food tweets with one of my students whose father was a chef, and she loved to cook as well.  News updates via CNN, Fox News, and our local paper keep me updated to the latest happenings in the world.

So six months in, I am hooked.  I look forward to what Twitter will bring in the next six months.

Think about it, I am writing this blog about Twitter on a sunny summer day.  It must be doing something right!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Figure It Out For Yourself...Continues

Figure It Out For Yourself!  My classroom motto for the past umpteen years.  This year as I ventured out of the classroom into the short-lived world of Tech coach, I often wondered what would happen to the FIOFY award that our grade level would hand out each year.  Would it continue, would others look for this trait in children, would the motto live on?!

Happy to report that the legend continues.  But, before I get into the who and why, let's chat for a few minutes about the whole concept of Figure It Out For Yourself. 

As a classroom teacher, I am always impressed with those students that seem to have a slight edge over their peers.  Why?  What is that edge?  How did they acquire it?  How can I help those that are not figuring it out start to get that edge?  To me, the student who is able to FIOFY is one who really has just some of the basics down.  They have a pencil, and are not asking for a new one every hour.  They know where their books are.  No need to call Mom or Dad to bring in the proverbial forgotten instrument.  They seem to have figured out how to play the school game and are comfortable with the game and who they are in the world.  So, I felt, and still feel, that not being able to FIOFY is a skill, along with adding appositives to one's writing, that is a responsibility  I have as a classroom teacher. 

Granted, genetics probably are great part of the equation.  Parenting?  Certainly can't dismiss that one.  Intelligence, maybe, but I have seen some students that are identified as gifted that couldn't figure their way out of wet paper bag.  So how do I help?

This fall as I start another year, my students will be inundated with the phrase, concept, and modeling of FIOFY behaviors.  Taking the 30 seconds to sharpen one's pencil prior to class.  Preaching the 'Touch It Once' concept when it comes to being organized with paperwork.  Discussing how to 'Watch the Show' and face forward while others are talking.  Oh they WILL get the FIOFY concept!

So the award continued without me.  This years recipient, from what I hear, was a student whose home life was one for NBC Dateline, but he figured out how to get his work done, how to be prepared for class, and what it means to play the 'School Game'  Word on the street was that when he heard his name called, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

FIOFY.  Not an award or concept that we can measure on a standardized test, but one concept that you can bet this classroom teacher will continue to preach this fall and all year long!