Wednesday, June 28, 2017

WITcon17: EdTech Overload

WITcon17 was an Amazing Experience!

I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the Whatever It Takes conference (WitCon) for the second year in a row. This is an awesome teaching conference that emphasizes technology in the classroom. This time my presentation focused on something I love to discuss, engaging students! I had the opportunity, along with some of my fellow teachers, to talk about the different ways we spice up our lessons to engage our students. We went through each subject and shared our ideas and lessons we are passionate about. We encourage others to do the same. We spend so much time in our classrooms that we often need the summer to re-energize and fill ourselves with new ideas. Our goals were to give and encourage new ideas in the classroom.

Beyond our session, there were so many other sessions that made an impact on me. I had the privilege to attend sessions focused on student choice, creating democratic students, Ditching Homework (this one was led by the amazing Matt Miller himself) and much more.

Student Choice is something I try to incorporate into my classroom as much as possible, but it was great to get ideas from another amazing teacher @Oto_4thGrade.
I enjoyed what I heard I wanted to try out Flexible Seating in my classroom. I created a Donors Choose to help with getting materials. I'm hopeful and excited to create a new environment that allows students the flexibility that they really need.

I also had the opportunity to listen to the 2017 Illinois Teacher of the Year and his philosophy of teaching students to be a part of a democratic society. He does an amazing job of connecting the school with the community. I realize that is something that makes a huge difference, especially in tough neighborhoods. I took a lot of notes and am trying to find ways to bridge the gap between the community and school in my building.

Lastly, I got to participate in several sessions ran by Matt Miller the author of Ditch That Textbook.
These sessions not only opened my eyes to other tech resources for the classroom but reassured me of the crazy things I'm already doing in my classroom. I do agree with Matt in that we need to change how the classroom is run and find more ways for our students to be ready for our ever-growing technological world. There are so many ways to integrate technology and put learning in the hands of students. It is scary to think that we might not be the holders of knowledge anymore especially with the use of Google. People can access information at a moment's notice. However, we are the guides for students and need to grow with them, learn with them, and help them use technology the right way.

Matt Miller signed my book!

There are so many different sites and apps I have come across thanks to Matt Miller, Witcon17, and #notatISTE. I'm hoping to be able to utilize some of these in the coming school year. I use to feel like there was not much in the way of free teaching resources online, but now there are more and more being created every day. It takes the time to sort through them all but I realize that there are more than enough for every teacher, their classroom, and their teaching style. You can't use them all, even though I feel like I try to every year. It just isn't possible! The key is to find what works for you and use it. Any technology is better than none, the key is to never get complacent. Instead, build on what you have and improve on what you do not.  Be adventurous, take risks and I promise you even if you don't know how to use it right away your students will help you along the way. This year alone I'm going to look into using some of these amazing sites and resources:

My notes from Ditch That Textbook Session

Now I will say I'm not an expert on these but I hope to be soon. These seem to be easy implementations to my classroom and what I am already using technology wise. I am super excited to be using more video technology in my room. I want to help students tell their story and share other peoples' stories. I have been fearful for a while of using video in the classroom because I didn't know how, but I can't let my fear get in the way of my students' development. In the words of an amazing teacher @MsMagiera students need a way to tell their story.  Just like I took a risk to tell mine with this blog, my students need a way to share theirs. Now I know that there will have to be a lot of pre-teaching and a lot of digital citizenship that will have to be discussed, yet if we don't do that who will? Like I stated earlier, we have to be their guide on their quest through the internet jungle. We can't be afraid of the innovation and the future. We have to embrace it and help them through it the best we can because these students have only lived in a digital age. We might even let them be the teachers and help us along the way. All of these amazing technology conferences have taught me that we have to take the leap. We don't have to reinvent the lessons, but we have to change it up. Embrace the technology that students embrace.

What are you excited to try this coming school year?
Is there any EdTech that you love or are an expert in?
How can you share your passion for EdTech with others?

Share your thoughts with me on Twitter @teaching_power or Facebook.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Our Morning Meeting: Community Matters

Creating a classroom community is important to getting the school year off on the right foot and making the school year more joyous. I feel there are so many ways to instill that classroom community within your classroom. Many teachers, especially in the the primary grades, use their calendar or carpet time as a great way for students to share and learn from one another. Students need to make those connections and have their chance to share their stories so they know that they matter. It also allows students to realize all the things they have in common with each other. Recognizing and seeing similarities can help create a family atmosphere in the classroom cutting down on so many behavior issues. I have had the opportunity to teach primary and upper elementary and students regardless of age just crave the time to communicate, share, and have fun with one another.

When I started teaching 5th grade three years ago I wanted to find a way for my students to create bonds and for me to learn more about them. I knew that the calendar time that I did with my 3rd graders would not be the right choice for fifth graders.  So I did a lot of research. I picked up the Morning Meeting Book by Roxann Kriete and Carol Davis. I also talked to a fellow teacher who did Morning Meeting in her classroom to get ideas. I ended up with a hybrid that worked for me and allowed me the chance to build a community while balancing curriculum time that always seems to be cut down. I wanted to try and keep as much teaching time as possible because my students truly needed it, but I recognized the need to build a caring and respectful community. So I decided every morning for the first quarter we were going to have a Morning Meeting.

Within the first week of school I started teaching my students about Morning Meeting expectations as well as the schedule of things so that I could have student leaders. I realized very quickly that the Morning Meeting Book had some great ideas, but I knew that some of them were not going to work for me. I wanted my Morning Meeting to last between 15-30mins tops. I also wanted it to be more open and fluid for the students to have the opportunity to share at will. I went with a schedule that worked for me:

  • Good Morning Greeting
  • Teacher's News of the Day
  • Student Check-In & Share
  • Activity or Game
I really chose to focus on the students having the ability to share their life with others and the chance for students to bond over games or stories. I think student voice and movement in general is a great way to start the day. It gives students the time they need to settle in and get ready for the day.

Now before I get into my morning meeting schedule I want to preface this by talking about rules. Every year when I'm introducing Morning Meeting to my students I talk about what it is, why we do it and the schedule of things we do. Following that discussion we create a list of rules. Students share what rules they think will be important to follow during Morning Meeting and I write them on a big piece of chart paper. Everyday, for the first few weeks we start our meeting by reviewing the rules. During the meeting time I give reminders or talk to the students about what rules we need to work on and we work towards that goal. It's important that the students have a voice in the rules so they take them to heart and monitor themselves as well as one another.

A fellow teacher's Rules and Expectations 

My Morning Greeting changed daily but revolved around the students learning each others names, greeting one another in different ways, and working on acknowledging one another. I had simple things such as shaking hands and saying good morning to people by name. Yet, I also have them high five as many people as they can in 30 secs saying good morning. I try to switch it up as much as possible to keep my students on their toes. I also want them to recognize each other and realize that we are family here. My favorite greeting is when the students pick a name from a hat and say good morning to that person, but also compliment them on something they have notice they have done in class. Students acknowledging other students allows them to build a bond between each other that that means more than any that come from me. It also helps the students see the good in others and feel personally recognized.

Teacher's News of the Day is just a chance for me to share with my students all the different things that are going on that day or later that week. I let my students know all of the school events, share any national holidays, or even promote any new books being placed in my classroom library. I try to use this as a quick time to share with my students and get them excited about anything going on in our classroom or in the school. You could use this time differently such as focusing on a classroom standard, review a skill, or sharing a challenge of the day.

Student Check In & Share is of course the favorite time of the students. During this time the students check in with me about how they are feeling that day. They rate themselves on a scale from 1 to 5, 5 being super excited and happy, while 1 is seen as having a rough day. This is a tremendous opportunity for the students to reflect on their feelings and for me to gauge how my students a coming into the school day. When I say "Check In" the students hold up their rating using their fingers. I take this moment to scan the room seeing everyone's rating before asking if anyone wants to share their reason why they are feeling that way. This is the moment that students love. They get to explain that they went to Fun City last weekend and had a great time swimming or that their birthday is coming up. You also have students who share that they had a hard time sleeping because their baby sister cried all night . In these conversations students laugh together, ask questions, and share common experiences making them feel connected. I  often  tell the students I am only going to call on 5 people to share, but then I call on different students the following day. It saves time and provides some restrictions. I spend time at the beginning really coaching my students on proper ways to share and proper ways to respond. We want everyone to feel included and that if they do share they won't be disrespected. In adolescence students number one fear is not fitting in or just being made fun of so sharing can be hard, but with the right coaching and rules students will surprise you.

One thing that the Morning Meeting Book really helped with was all the different games. I had a bunch from my time as a camp counselor, but this book has so many other ideas that I just loved using with my students. Games seem to some teachers to be a waste of time, but truth be told that is where students engage the most, especially when it comes to building on teamwork and communication skills. Now at times I subbed my games for more educational ones or stem activities that still brought students together. Regardless of what you choose the key is to sell it. You have to make it fun and don't be afraid to play along with them. Students regardless of age will look to you and will have so much fun if your playing along with them.
If you are looking for activity ideas, games, or projects there are so many free ideas online. Check out  Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers for some ideas.

Students Working on the Perfect Student Activity
Students Final Stem Project
What I have realized is there is no one way to do a Morning Meeting. That as long as your giving students a chance to form a community by interacting with each other  you are doing it right!

What are your thoughts on Morning Meeting? Do you do one in your classroom? How do you run yours? What are your favorite activities?

Share your thoughts on Twitter @teaching_power or on Facebook!