This past week, I was able to participate in the most recent #edtech Twitter chat. The topic: How can pre-service training be improved? A decent part of the discussion focused on tech training.
I’ve decided we’re asking the wrong question. Three questions should be asked:
- What knowledge and skills do the teachers already possess?
- What are the next steps?
- What can we learn from them?
Aren’t those the same questions we ask of any learner?
If I were to prioritize goals for teacher training, I would focus on the following (in this order):
- Skill: Classroom management and engagement
- Knowledge: How do learners learn? Universities tend to focus on this question.
- Knowledge and skill: How do I manage the boatload of additional expectations (i.e. grading, school politics, parent communication)? Only experience can tackle this one.
Why did I not mention tech training? Because I learn tech stuff from them.
This past week, I had the pleasure of providing Professional Development to 20-something teachers. The experience was one of the most rewarding and humbling of my career. I’ve spent the past ten years learning to create classroom websites, ePortfolios, movies, and blogs. I showed a few 20-something teachers examples of classroom sites. They have since created blogs that I suspect might be powering the International Space Station.
In the future, I will ask pre-service teachers How would you teach x using tech?. I’ll learn tons.
In the style of one of my favorite books:
If you give a Gen-Y a computer (and an objective), he’ll ask for time.
If you give him time, he’ll want to show you something.
If he shows you something, you’ll want him to show the class.
If he shows the class, the class will learn more.
If the class learns more, students will become more engaged.
If students become more engaged, they’ll beg for more resources.
If students beg for more resources, they’ll want to use Gen-Y’s computer.
If students use Gen-Y’s computer, Gen Y will need another computer.
But it you give a Gen-Y a computer…
At the risk of showing my age, I’ll venture that one of the most underrated scenes from the 1990 Movie Pretty Woman involved Kate de Luca (Laura San Giacomo) talking to a potential new roommate. She looks at the potential subletter and says, “Do ‘ya have a goal?”
If you work at an international school, overseas purchase orders are due in early March. Do you have a plan? a goal?
Really??? you say? It’s only February!
Yep! I counter. It’s February. Time to dream!
Please don’t throw your Coke at me. It’s time to begin looking toward the next school year. What has worked? What has not worked? Will units next year be the same as those you taught (or will teach) this year? Are there one or two units that need revamping? Will you scrap some units and start again?
As a self-proclaimed curriculum junkie, I take pleasure in planning themes and units for the upcoming school year much like I take pleasure in choosing the type of macaroni and cheese to order from Portland’s Montage. I begin with a chart that looks something like this:
Then I move around the lines, merge a few cells, and fill in ideas for units within which can incorporate curriculum standards (Common Core or School-specific).
It’s even more fun when you work with fellow curriculum enthusiasts who like to dream of what might be.
Some of your teammates might even get fancy – publishing a template that is fun for parents and students to see at the beginning of the next school year.
This is just the first step. Units must be written or refined. But a map like this gives you a place to start when ordering resources and collecting online materials.
- By such-and-such date, I will identify nonfiction trade books on the topic of x.
- When I see resources on Twitter or blogs, I will bookmark them according to…
- By the “end-of-overseas-requisitions-date”, I will submit a proposal for…
- I need to do coffee with so-and-so. Not only do I like her and want to hear about Bali, I’d like to pick her brain on ways I can enhance x unit.
Do ‘ya have a plan? What’s your plan?
When I taught second and third grade, Valentine’s Day had a certain buzz about it. The buzz went beyond the sugar high. We turned the classroom into Valentine Town.
If you allow students to bring in paper valentine cards, you can turn the activity into an opportunity for students to learn about street addresses and mail delivery. A few days before Valentine’s Day, do the following:
- Arrange desks in clusters so that “streets” run between desks.
- Students make “mailboxes” and tape the mailboxes to the fronts or sides of their desks. Whichever side of the desk the mailbox is placed (front or side) becomes the student’s street.
- All students on the same street get together and give their street a name. Encourage them to pick a short name (see #5 and #6).
- Students then decide on a “house number” for each desk. The house numbers should be in ascending order from front to back or side to side. You can also have odd- and even-numbered sides of streets.
- Street addresses are written on students’ mailboxes.
- Students address their valentine cards. They include the name, the address, V-town, the state and zip code. The objective is for students to learn to properly address written envelopes. If time runs short or you have students with fine motor difficulties, you can print out address labels.
- Throughout the day, students take turns playing “Mail Carrier.” They put on a hat and deliver valentine cards to proper addresses.
Valentine Town can be as simple or as complex as you’d like to make it. It can kick off a larger unit on cities or public service jobs. It can precede a field trip to the local post office.
Other Valentine Card or Message Ideas
Have students use candy hearts to write valentine letters. Students glue the candies to paper, arranging the hearts so they make a message. They will need to handwrite some of the words, but these letters are great presents for parents.
Older students might need a self-esteem boost this time of year. Print out a half-sheet paper for each student with his or her name in the middle. The cards are passed from one student to another – each student writing a compliment or kind message to the person whose name is on the paper. Encourage them to get past the “You’re nice.” If students are afraid to get sappy, they can simply write “I like how you can…” or “I noticed when you…[something nice they die].”
Candy hearts can also become math lesson material. What fraction or percentage of each box are the heart colors? The messages? What is the probability a student randomly draws…?
Many worksheets, picture book read-alouds, and craft ideas are available online. The ideas above can reinforce common core objectives and are equally engaging for students.
What do you do on Valentine’s Day?
My school has assembled a focus group to answer the following question: What would a model classroom look like?
I’m both fascinated and overwhelmed by the question. I’m hoping that you can help.
This kind of project is perfect for a Pintarest board display. For those of you unfamiliar with Pintarest, the site allows you to “pin” interesting photos from websites – and the websites get credit links to the pictures. For a more detailed explanation, click here.
I’ve started a pin board for desks, chairs, and general design.
Can you help?
Please send me links to pictures of furniture you’ve appreciated in your school. Some considerations:
- Spaces are relatively small, so we prefer items that are mobile and/or stack-able.
- We use workshop models of literacy instruction. Therefore, we need classroom library areas and places for grade 3-5 students to assemble for mini-lessons.
- Math lessons are differentiated. Small groups should be able to assemble easily.
- We have a 1:1 Macbook Pro environment. Desks/tables should be flat so that computers can be used safely.
- Good ergonomics preferable.
If your school is asking the same question, perhaps we can share the idea boards. Let me know if you’d like to contribute to the Pintarest board.
My most recent post has been featured on The Edublogger. The post is entitled Picasa Slideshows: Giving Parents a Glimpse of School.
Here are the highlights:
For a more detailed explanation of each step, please visit The Edublogger. And, consider subscribing to Edublogger site posts – especially if you want to start class blogs or student blogs.
Here are some great posts to get you started or take you to the next level:
Five steps to starting a class blog
Setting up student blogs
64 Ideas for class blog posts
14 steps to meaningful student blogging
Blogging can help teens who suffer from anxiety
Getting parents involved in blogging
While I’m still in the beginning stages of class and student blogs, the Picasa slideshow inserts have been a big hit. One step at a time…
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