Happy “20CHAI”!

twenty-38488_960_7202000px-hebrew_chai_symbol-svg

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world ~Anne Frank

Welcome back! In case you are questioning my title, 20CHAI refers to the new year, 2018. In Hebrew, the number 18 stands for Chai meaning Life. If you want to get technical and use gematria (pronounced with a soft g like in gem) the two letters that make up the hebrew word, Chai (the CH pronounced like you are trying to tickle your throat), are Chet (CH pronounced as above) and Yud (yood) represent the numbers 8 and 10 respectively and when you add them up you get 18. So 18 is the number that Jewish people often refer to as Chai.

So, I thought that with the new year being Twenty-Eighteen, it would be interesting to think about it in terms of positive psychology (since we are implementing at my school) and ask the following question, what will I do to improve LIFE this year, be it mine or those around me? This first article offers a new way of thinking about getting started.

I am generally not one to make resolutions, but Dr. Lea Waters proposes reframing our resolutions/goals and using our strengths to help attain them.

When we place the bulk of our attention on improving a strength we are starting at a higher baseline, and this is where we really have the potential to thrive.

Next is a list of books on wellbeing and character from the International Positive Education Network that I am looking forward to reading. Improving your wellbeing will have a ripple effect on those around you at home and in the workplace so selecting from here will be a step in the right direction for our 20Chai year.

Over the winter break I had the wonderful opportunity to learn from from amazing educators during #DitchSummit, one of whom is Dr. Pooja Agarwal. Agarwal’s presentation was on improving learning and retention by using non-graded, spaced retrieval practice throughout the learning. As she said in her presentation, it is not just about getting information in, but about getting it out. She proposes many research- and evidence-based ways to do this. You can read about them here in her retrieval practice guide and can sign up on her site to get email updates as new research, resources, tips, and articles come out. Implementing some or all of her tips will be helpful for your students (and you) and improve school and learning life for them.

The crux of positive psychology is “Other People Matter”. This next article, “The Magic of Validation” from the Cult of Pedagogy will help improve your relationship with students, colleagues, family, and friends. In it she discusses and offers ways to change how you listen to and respond to others thereby showing them you are hearing what they are saying and acknowledging their feelings (not necessarily changing your viewpoint, but seeing their perspective). Just the slightest change to how you interact can make a big difference on your relationships. Did you know that the way you respond to someone else’s good news has a large impact on your relationship with that person?

Last up are two resources to enhance your teaching repertoire for writing workshop and teaching least common multiples in math (actually, Kaplinsky’s site is one I have shared before and there are numerous resources for teaching countless other math concepts).

The first is a playlist from TED Ed for writer’s workshop mini-lessons. Here you will find 25 videos that are 6 minutes or less- most of them less than 5- on topics ranging from writing more descriptively, how to make writing more suspenseful, what makes a poem, and word choice.

The last resource is a complete lesson from Robert Kaplinsky and he uses a very funny scene from Father of the Bride with Steve Martin to illustrate the concept of least common multiples.  You will definitely want to check out his other lessons for students from K though 8 including algebra 1, 2, and geometry.

Images from Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons respectively.

 

Advertisements

Happy Holidays: #DITCHSUMMIT 2017

 

happy-holidays-3002092_960_720

Image from Pixabay

Folks, an AMAZING learning opportunity is coming your way in JUST 4 DAYS! Yes, starting this Friday, December 15, the @jmattmiller will be bringing together a host of fantastic educators and thought leaders for OUR benefit in what is called, #DITCHSUMMIT.

Each day for 9 days you will receive a link to the daily video. The speaker presentations will range from 30-60 minutes and will be available until the clock strikes midnight on December 31. After that time, they will *disappear*, much like Cinderella’s magic pumpkin.

Here is the list of speakers.

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 11.55.07 AM.png

If you do not know, DITCH is an acronym that stands for:

Different

Innovative

Tech-laden

Creative

Hands-on

I participated in this last year and LOVED it. You can read my posts on it here and here.

*If you made it to this point in the post, then you can view all the #DITCHSUMMIT presentations from last year right HERE!

 

What’s New This Week

sunrise-1756274_640

Image from Pixabay

I read a great post from A.J. Juliani on Medium today titled, “The Three-Step System for Getting Students to Do the Talking”. We have all been there at least once- standing (or sitting) in your classroom with students ready to have a great discussion and the only one doing the discussing is you and maybe a couple students. Juliani makes a great point when he writes,

In order to get my students to take ownership in their learning, we started where they were at, instead of where I wanted them to be.

Of course we all would like our students to be able to lead and have a discussion on their own with minimal direction from us, but that takes time and practice. Juliani’s post offers three steps to get you going. I personally love the idea of The Discussion Game and plan on trying it out.

For more ways to get your students having great discussions, you can scroll to Let’s Discuss in this post.

This just in! While on Twitter, I saw this: Chat Stations. Of course I had to edit my post to include this additional way to get your students engaged in discussions.

Next up are two things I learned about from November’s Google for Education’s newsletter (yes, it is December, but I hang on to things until I can sit and really read them).

First is the ability to make diagrams in Quizlet. This takes the flashcard quizzing/studying site to a whole new level for you and your students. You may recall I have written about Quizlet here.

Second is a really cool science journal app from Making & Science initiative from Google. Using the light and sound sensors and the accelerometer on their iPhone, iPad, or Chromebook science students and teachers will be able to explore scientific phenomena all around them and record right into their journal. The Exploratorium has numerous activities to get you started. The science journal will offer you a whole new way of looking, listening, and moving through the world around you.

 

“Don’t Know Much About History . . . “

36404305214_75847ae915_n. . . but you will if you follow these links!

Recently I have been working with a colleague who teaches history in middle school. She is starting to teach a new unit on Civics and she and I have been sitting together to make some interactive, blended lessons. We have had a great time working on these lessons and are in the process of starting our third set of Civics HyperDocs that incorporate videos, readings from icivics, and check-ins using edpuzzle and Google docs.

While searching around, I came upon a treasure trove of resources that will make any history or social studies teacher swoon.

First is the Civics Renewal Network with resources for teachers from K-12 that you can filter by resource type, subject, issue, grade, Constitutional Amendment, and teaching method- yes, you can filter by individual, whole class, project-based, and more!

Next is the Annenberg Classroom that has everything you could possibly need to teach civics and the Constitution including games, timelines, lesson plans, links to other civics sites for teachers, discussion guides, today in history, and current events.

I happened upon the next site (60-second civics- see below) while browsing this Foundations and Formations of Government HyperDoc which I found from this link in the April 2017 section of this collection of Social Studies resources that Eric Curts has crowd-sourced and updates monthly. If his name sounds familiar, you may recall I shared some of his other resources here.

60-Second Civics is a daily one-minute podcast on topics related to civics, our government, and issues around the Constitution. 60-Second Civics is housed on the Center for Civic Education website. Here you will find lesson plans for K-12 like this middle school lesson, Why do we need authority?  as well as lessons on Voting, Women’s History, early Presidents, the Constitution, and much more.

The next place happens to be right in our backyard which is lucky for us who live in or near Philly. The Constitution Center happens to also have numerous resources on their site including interactive games, crafts, historical documents, lesson plans, and a host of other amazing resources like these videos.

Common Sense Media has this list of 13 Best Websites and Games for US History and Civics that includes links to PBS Learning Media (you know I love this site!), History Pin, Mission US (my third grade students play the immigration game during their Ellis Island unit) and 10 others for you and your students.

Teaching History has teaching materials for elementary through high school as well as quizzes, links to national resources, an Ask an Historian section, searchable multi-media that includes dramatic readings, podcasts, walking tours, and yada, yada, yada– you’ll have to visit to see the rest!

Happy learning!

photo credit: vandentroost old books via photopin (license)

“Isolation is a choice educators make” #IMMOOC

12160694833I often start my weekly shares with my colleagues with, ” I found this on Twitter” or “I heard about this from so-and-so’s (most recently, “so-and-so” is often Alice Keeler, George Couros, or Eric Curts) post on Twitter.” I say that because at any given moment, one can learn so much so easily and without a lot of effort. Don’t get me wrong, when I say “without a lot of effort” I don’t mean that it is effort-less, I just mean that if you know what hashtags to look at (or even if you don’t and just do a search for a subject), who to follow, and then take some time to scroll through and look, you will most definitely find something new and interesting and with relative ease.

There is a quote by Steven Johnson from his TED talk, “Where Good Ideas Come From” that says, “Chance favors the connected mind.” This is one quote that I always come back to time and again and that I have written about before. I can honestly say that connecting with others via Twitter has been life changing for me as far as my professional life is concerned. Many of the books I read, things that I do with my students, and ways that I share are directly influenced by those I follow on Twitter.

In his book, Couros made a statement, “isolation is a choice educators make.” That is one decision I choose not to make.

 

 

More Highlights from The Innovator’s Mindset, Part III #IMMOOC

23161831786_8dcca35f33_m

The last few weeks I have been a bit slow in sharing out my thoughts. To be fair, I was heading into and then out of an election and my evenings have been full. And then they were not and I was honestly just tired. But I am steadfast in my commitment to complete the book and share the highlights with those who have either read it, and can agree with me how thought-provoking and motivating it is; or who have not read it, and from these highlights will want to pick up their own copy and get reading.

Part III is no less full of quotables than Parts I and II. In fact, I had to be frugal so that there would be text left unhighlighted. With that said, the beginning of Part III is about seeing others’ strengths and dovetails nicely with the Positive Education that we are implementing here at my school. In fact I have recently watched Lea Waters TEDx talk on strengths-based parenting which speaks to parents as well as teachers about utilizing their children’s strengths and building on them as a way to maximize their potential (and moves away from a deficit model). As you read the highlights below, you will see the connection! It also addresses empowering learners (and, as you will read, we are all learners- teachers included), focusing on doing more with what you already have, and being open to sharing and learning with and from others.

Part III: Unleashing Talent

Chapter 8: Strengths-Based Leadership

  • What if we stopped operating on a deficit model that focuses on a learner’s weaknesses and started operating on a strengths-based model that builds on the learner’s strengths?
  • If we are going to empower our students, we must help them find what they love and create learning experiences that encourage them to develop their strengths.
  • Giving people license to take risks by tapping into their abilities helps create a space where innovative ideas and learning flourish.
  • By focusing on strengths first and building from there, as opposed to working from a deficit model that focuses only on where we need improvements, we create an environment where people feel they have a purpose in their classrooms and for the entire school.
  • Do we really think someone will be innovative in an area they hate?

Chapter 9: Powerful Learning First, Tech Second

  • Technology invites us to move from engaged to empowered.
  • Many technology departments, led by obsolete tech directors, are inadvertently inhibiting learning. The mantra of “lock it and block it” no longer works in a 21st-century digital learning environment.
  • What is best for kids?
  • How does this improve learning?
  • How often do we look at the possible reward associated with doing something?
  • Is this serving the few or the majority? This question is essential when we make any policies
  • Any time a new policy or procedure is presented for an entire school, we must ensure it does not punish everyone for the mistakes of the few. Innovative environments should be built on trust, not the lack of it.
  • Learners are the driver; technology is the accelerator.
  • In education, we are all learners.

Chapter 10: Less Is More

  • When educators and organizations feel overwhelmed by the number of requirements they have to meet, the focus in classrooms tends to be on covering curriculum, rather than focusing on the learning and exploring concepts in depth.
  • Living in a world with so much choice can make us miserable
  • In all aspects of education, what we learn is not as important as what we create from what we learn.
  • In education, understanding the community we serve is critical and necessary for innovation to flourish in each of our unique communities.
  • The basics are crucial, but they cannot be the only things we teach our students/
  • “‘Reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling'” ~Yong Zhao
  • As a school or system, when we limit our initiatives, tools, or techniques, we give ourselves time to discover what deep learning can really look and feel like.

Chapter 11: Embracing an Open Culture

  • Today, isolation is a choice educators make
  • It isn’t how much you know that matters. What matters is how much access you have to what other people know.
  • How do we make great learning go viral?
  • Social media is not meant to be another form of email, but, as my brother would say more like dipping your cup into a stream of information.
  • What really pushes our thinking is not consuming information, but reflecting, creating, and sharing our ideas with the understanding that others will read it.
  • Our world today is participatory; sharing should not be the exception in education but the rule.

Chapter 12: Creating Meaningful Learning Experiences for Educators

  • We often create what we experience, which means that to change what happens in schools, the experiences we create in our professional learning must first change.
  • How many of us purposefully and explicitly model the learning process for our children? ~Scott McLeod
  • How many of us purposefully and explicitly show our students what it means to struggle with learning, overcome obstacles, and emerge on the other side more skilled and more knowledgeable than we were before? ~Scott McLeod
  • Understanding the learning opportunities that we would like to create for our students begins by immersing ourselves in similar learning experiences.
  • “‘Working hard for something we don’t care about is called  stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.'” ~Simon Sinek
  • If schools are ever to be truly innovative, leadership must be open to having people question, even challenge, current practices.
  • Challenge the notion of “we have always done it this way” by starting with the prompt, “why do we . . .?” 
  • “‘Does the process of school impede deep learning?'”

photo credit: ShellyS IMG_6668 via photopin (license)

Highlights from The Innovator’s Mindset Chapters 6 & 7 #IMMOOC

11949496616

We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience. ~John Dewey

This week I am sharing my highlights from the chapters 6 & 7 of The Innovator’s Mindset. These chapters focused on learning, particularly engagement vs. empowerment and solidifying learning through reflecting.

Some things resonated for me, specifically the quote from Bill Ferriter about empowerment, and the pages in which Couros juxtaposed School vs. Learning.

At first thought, engagement is something I believe we as teachers look for in our students- we want them to be engaged in the content, engaged in our class, actively doing; engagement is a good thing, right? Reflecting on Ferriter’s quote though, makes engagement more something we are doing to our students to get them to want to learn what we have to teach them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but as Couros said, something we as teachers should keep in mind when our students are with us. Perhaps we can have both. Perhaps our students can be engaged and empowered at the same time- they can engage with our content and be empowered with choice to use their strengths and passions to share their learning, pursue their questions, and learn more.

I’ll leave you with these highlights.

Chapter 6

  • It is imperative that we teach learners how to be self-directed and guide their own learning, rather than rely on others to simply engage them
  • “Engaging students means getting kids excited about our content, interests, and curricula.” Empowering students “means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future.” ~Bill Ferriter
  • If you had to choose between compliant, engaged, or empowered, which word would you want to define your students?
  • “Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash.” ~Harriet Rubin
  • Our job as educators and leaders is not to control others but to bring out the best in them.
  • We need to create the same opportunities for our students as those we would want for ourselves.
  • Innovation cannot be relegated to a one-off event.
  • The shift in our thinking must focus on what learning truly can be, not what is has been.
  • School is scheduled at certain times. Learning can happen any time, all of the time.
  • School is standardized. Learning is personal.
  • School often isolates. Learning is often social.
  • School promotes developing your own questions and finding answers.
  • Thinking you already know the answer can keep you from exploring new options.

Chapter 7

  • Before we decide how best to communicate our vision, we have to establish one; we have to articulate the desired characteristics of our learners and the optimal learning environment.
  • The people who help set the vision and mission are most likely to embrace it.
  • If we want innovative students, we need to be innovative leaders and educators. If we want to create a culture of innovation  we must first focus on furthering our own learning and growth.
  • Providing choice allows students to build on strengths and interests to make learning relevant and fulfilling.
  • DEAR time should be an opportunity not only for reading, but to also “Drop Everything And Reflect.”
  • It is important that “innovation” does not become an event for our students but the norm.
  • Let’s start asking kids to find problems and give them a sense of purpose in solving something authentic.
  • Teaching students how to assess themselves, rather than just do it for them, provides another opportunity for reflection.
  • Portfolios are a great way for learners to share their knowledge and document the learning process.
  • Looking back helps students develop their own understanding of where they have been, where they are, and where they are going.
  • What if we recognized and built on learners’ strengths?
  • Dreaming is important, but until we create the conditions where innovation in education flourishes, those dreams will not become reality.