“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you are singing the song and thinking about the holidays, then you are partially correct. While this is not a post about the winter holidays as it is only nearly September, it is a post that brings “gifts”. These gifts, however, are in the form of great tools you can use and connections you can make right off the bat for the new school year ahead!

First off is the All New Educator’s Guide to Flipgrid 3.0. In early August, Fligrid launched a slew of updates including making it FREE to educators everywhere! Now you and your students can share your voices, connect with other classrooms, become epals, and co-pilot topics safely, securely, and easily. Just imagine using Flipgrid on one of the first days of school for students to share something they want you to know about them, goals for the start of the year, or a favorite poem.

Speaking of sharing, flattening classroom walls, and connecting, the 2018 Global Read Aloud will kickoff in just over a month on October 1. Join with over a million other students and teachers in reading one of this year’s selections.  Then use Flipgrid to share reflections, favorite passages, and messages about the book with other classrooms from around the globe.

Richard Byrne has recently released his Practical Ed Tech Handbook for the 2018-2019 School Year that you are free to view, download, and use in your classroom and schools. In it you will find tips for staying in touch with parents and students, ways to use online quiz platforms, tools for making stop-motion and documentary-style videos, and more.

As my school continues our implementation of Positive Education under the Positive Psychology umbrella, and schools are realizing the importance of promoting and facilitating a growth mindset in their learners and faculty, Learn Storm and Khan Academy offer these growth mindset lessons and activities for elementary, middle, and high school students that you can utilize with your free Khan Academy account.

Day one is coming or for some is already here. Here are three options for one-minute of retrievals from Pooja Agarwal you can use with your students to get them primed and ready to learn. These are simple, quick warm-ups you can easily implement that are research-based ways to deepen your students’ learning. You can subscribe for weekly updates, read about the research and download free guides and follow Agarwal on Twitter.

Lastly, while you are setting up your classrooms, taking a walk in the beautiful weather, or just like to listen to learn, then take a few (usually hovering around 5 – 10) minutes to listen to Matt Miller’s DITCH podcast. This will take you to a podcast about more ways to use Quizizz and if you scroll down, you can hear about Fliphunts (a mash up of Flipgrid and a scavenger hunt), changes to Google Classroom, Educator Goals and more.

Taking Time to Learn

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Taking time for learning is one of the ways I use my signature strength- Love of Learning. It is something I enjoy and often feel like I am missing something if I am not reading or engaging in some sort of learning whether it be a course or webinar. I recently participated in one hosted by Modern Learners‘ Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon. These webinars are thought-provoking, interesting, and leave their participants pondering things like grading, success, and questions like, “what matters” over “how”. When you subscribe to their newsletter, you get the free download of The Modern Learners Reader, a collection of essays on educational change. It is definitely worth the time to read it and would be great to read as a faculty.

As mentioned above, one of the webinars I participated in was with Scott Looney of the Mastery Transcript Consortium. In it he talked about his schools’ need for moving away from traditional grading and finding other ways of showing skills that students were learning and displaying that could not be assessed with letter grades. This recent article from Edutopia, “Will Letter Grades Survive?” offers a taste of that conversation.

“The purpose of education is not to sort kids—it’s to grow kids. Teachers need to coach and mentor, but with grades, teachers turn into judges.” ~Scott Looney, The Hawken School

As part of the Ditch Summit, Pooja Agarwal shared her research-based strategies for improving learning and retention through the use of retrieval practice. You can read about that in my previous post here. Last week Kate Jones, an educator I follow on Twitter shared her retrieval practice challenge grids that she created for her classroom along with images from numerous teachers who have adapted and shared her original challenge grid to use for spaced retrieval practice of their own content. Ah, the power of Twitter!

One of the sites to which I subscribe is the Global Digital Citizen Foundation or GDCF Ninjas for short. They have a fantastic blog as well as excellent resources on all topics including STEM, digital citizenship, formative assessments, writing, rubrics, and lesson plans (for premium users), and professional learning articles. It really is a site that has something foe everyone. One of the posts they shared is on formative assessment that includes several non-technology based ways to check in with your students. They also have a downloadable and printable pocket guide with over 70 different fun, quick, and easy ways to formatively assess your students. Pair these with or use for spaced retrieval practice as recommended by Pooja Agarwal, for a great way to ensure your students’ learning retention over time.

If you would like to find even more great articles, videos, tips, and tricks, check out this week’s Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School Edition.

photo credit: Anne Davis 773 learning via photopin (license)

Happy “20CHAI”!

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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.