Lots of Bang for Your Buck

8700093610Being an educator on Twitter is a daily learning adventure. Each day I find something new to read, try, think about, and share. It is what makes me feel connected to both my virtual and my local pln. It is also part of what motivates me to continue learning.

This week I have four great things to share. While four sounds like a small number, each of the four has hours worth of learning included. It’s a lot of bang for your buck!

The first is an article from one of my favorite thought leaders, Alan November. I have shared many thoughts from previous articles and with each one, I find myself questioning, reflecting, thinking, and rethinking. This article is no different. “Crafting a Vision for the $1,ooo Pencil” challenges us to hold a mirror up to our use of technology and ask ourselves several questions, one of which is, “are we applying new tools to do old work.”  This article is about transformation- using technology to transform teaching and learning, “What have we never done before that technology uniquely enables to enhance teaching and learning?” November offers a framework of six questions that will help educators decide if technology has brought a transformative value to instruction. As always, Alan November gives us a lot to think about.

The next article is from another favorite, the oft-mentioned Alice Keeler. This time it is a guest post on Keeler’s site from another fantastic educator, Shaelynn Farnsworth. In this post Farnsworth suggests six alternatives to traditional reading logs that you can begin using with your students right now that offer your students different ways to engage, celebrate, connect, and share what they are reading.

Speaking of reading, last week the amazing 5th grade teacher Paul Solarz tweeted this link to a video library from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. If you have ever been to the reading and writing project in person, you know how exciting this is. If you have never been to the TCRWP, then you also know how exciting this is. When I was a self-contained classroom teacher, Lucy Calkins was one of my teaching idols. I read her books, attended her summer workshops, and implemented the reading and writing workshops. I can still remember hearing her speak and asking if as adults, when we finish reading a book, look over to our partner, friend, or spouse and say, “I loved that book so much I am going to make a diorama.” This library of videos is a treasure trove of learning for anyone who implements or wants to implement the reading and writing workshops in their classroom. What you will see are 59 videos and 17 collections of Kindergarten through 8th grade reading and writing videos. These are actual teachers in actual classrooms teaching mini-lessons, doing pre-conferences, and more. There is some serious professional development in this collection! By the way, the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project site is also an incredible resource for educators, students, and families. Just check out the resource and clearinghouse pages to see what I mean.

Last, in terms of collections, this next series of videos put out by Rich Kiker of Kiker Learning, gives you everything you need to get started, use effectively, and feel confident and competent about using Google Classroom. There are 21 step-by-step videos that can take you from “novice to master in no time” so you can begin, or enhance your use of this incredible- and -keeps -getting -better workflow tool from GSuites.

First Days of Spring, Time to Share

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“The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a multi-tab week on my laptop with many articles, tools, and thoughts to share with you.

First out of the gate are two posts on an oft-discussed and debated topic- homework: one from Time titled, “Why Parents Should Stop Making Kids Do Homework”,  in which it talks about the age groups homework actually is shown to benefit and how homework has become the “‘new family dinner'”. The other is from Alice Keeler titled, “Stop Giving Homework”.  Keeler gives many reasons why we as teachers should stop giving homework including kids should have time for other activities, it takes time to grade and go over homework so by not giving it, you are buying back instructional time, and often times there are gaps when some students’ parents are able to help with homework while others are not. She offers many other reasons in this thought-provoking post.

The next is a new digital storytelling tool I recently learned about called while reading about this Earth Day global collaboration opportunity, Buncee Buddies.  EduBuncee is a multi-media, drag-and-drop canvas that combines drawing, animation, slides, video, audio, images, and QR codes into one neat little product. EduBuncee is free to sign up and the paid version offers more options. For the Earth Day project, classrooms will be paired up with Buncee Buddies and all will be given the paid version of EduBuncee for free for the rest of the school year. So why not sign up to share how you celebrate Earth Day in your part of the world and try a new tool at the same time- two great things for the price of none!

We have all been there either with our school children, our personal children, or other’s children- they have just completed something, tried something, accomplished something and we are ready to offer our accolades. What can we say beyond the usual? This article gives us 25 Things to Say Instead of “Good Job”.

This next post is absolutely fantastic. Mrs. Lifshitz, a Fifth Grade teacher, has engaged and empowered her students and altered the way she is teaching writing (and so much more) as you will see when you take a look at Giving Writing Workshop Back to Our Writers: Choose Your Own Mentor Text and a Student-Led EdCamp. The post is lengthy because Mrs. Lifshitz has painstakingly described and documented how she transformed both her thinking about teaching and how it all went down in her class and the result- a Student Wonders site akin to their inspiration, Wonderopolis. It is a worthwhile and mindset-shifting read.

Finally, many of you– hundreds of thousands of you- participate each year in the Global Read Aloud. Well, it is time again to sign up for GRA2016! Don’t be confused by the header when you land at the site as it still shows the 2015 book pics. Scroll down to the form which has been updated for this next school year. If you have been part of it, you know what an amazing experience it is for your students; if you have not, take the leap!