Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

The next school year is about to begin. While sad to say good-bye to the summer vacation, it’s still exciting to see what the new year will bring.  Before our students walk through our classroom doors, there’s a good deal of front-end preparation and planning that we all do. Struggling with technology is not something that anyone looks forward to at this time.  Here are some tips to avoid some of those struggles and help us along the way:

  1. At the beginning of the year don’t try every tech tool that you might have read about or someone told you about. Pick something you feel confident that you’ll use. When you and your students are comfortable using that tool, then try adding something else.
  2. Practice using any tech tool before you plan on using it in the classroom. You never know what problems you might encounter: blocked sites, incompatible software, login issues, tool too complicated for age-level of the user.
  3. Remember that not only are you teaching your respective target language, but you need to teach your students how to use the tool as well.
    1. When working with a new tool that you plan on using for performance assessments, introduce that tool in a smaller assignment to give them experience.
    2. We want the language to be the product, not the technology. We don’t want them to fail because of complications with that technology.
  4. Integrate technology in your lesson planning process, not as an occasional activity.
  5. Some students don’t have the same access to the internet and other tech tools at home. Make sure that there is enough class time available to get these types of assignments done at school.
  6. Technology should always remain a tool and support instruction, not a toy and not the focus of instruction itself. Before using one, ask yourself how this helps your students meet your learning targets.
  7. Always have a backup plan. Technology can sometimes fail. Having a backup plan can save the day and prevent loss of instructional time.
  8. Have a web site. Use what your school provides or try out Google (free). Use this as a place to keep parents informed: Standards, learning targets, unit overviews, important dates, your schedule, links to other sites, policies, class newsletter, etc.
  9. Develop a personal learning network (PLN). Use twitter! There are so many teachers using twitter as professional development and collaboration tool. You’ll be able to learn, ask questions, and share with fellow educators all over the world! Search for the following world language related hashtags: #flteach, #langchat. There are more, but these can get you started. Visit https://twitter.com.
  10. Find educational blogs to follow. These can provide ideas and inspiration. Here are some ideas:
    1. http://mmeduckworth.blogspot.com
    2. http://langwitches.org/blog/
    3. http://zachary-jones.com/zambombazo/
    4. http://community.actfl.org/ACTFL/Blogs/ViewBlogs/
    5. http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/
    6. http://marisaconstantinides.edublogs.org/
    7. http://languagesresources.wordpress.com/
    8. http://deutschlich.wordpress.com/

Why might you put this time and effort into something that’s not the target language or culture itself? Because this is where our students are today. This is the culture in which they are growing up. This is their language and we need to speak it as well. Not only will we identify more with our students, but we can benefit from the world of technology. World language teachers are often isolated (singletons) in their respective buildings. Technology can bring us connections like never before. Through these connections we can become stronger, better informed, and never really alone.

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“If we teach today like we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”

John Dewey

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”

by Socrates

Challenges are good for us, even if we don’t always want to admit it.  For this reason I am thankful for the 30 Goals Challenge. I am thankful for the goals, ideas, and reflections that have all been a part of this. If I am to take this experience seriously, then I can’t ignore this challenge, a global communications challenge, one that I haven’t actively attacked as a World Language teacher. Sounds like a given, huh? It’s not as easy as it seems.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that one of my duties as a World Language teacher is to show my students a glimpse into the world outside their immediate community, outside of their direct sphere of experience. That knowledge will hopefully help them understand other peoples and perhaps themselves a bit more.

Making that actual connection, however, with the global community is a big step. It’s finding the connection, finding a means with which to communicate from both ends, dealing with time differences, school district red tape, etc. There’s a lot to do, lot of hurdles that I haven’t even tried to jump. So, when posed with the challenge of actual global communication my response is: but, umm…

So, once again, I would like to thank Shelly Terrell and the 30 Goals Challenge for posing this to us.  It’s not just that the challenge brings to the forefront something that I have been shoving to the bottom of the pile. It’s that the challenge also provides us with examples and resource ideas to start from.  My first step: start exploring these resources. My end goal: providing my students the opportunity to communicate with someone across the globe.

Read Full Post »

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

by Peter F. Drucker

The next challenge in the 30 Goals Challenge is to reflect on my best and worst lesson of this week or last semester. I’m really having a hard time with choosing those and that’s not because I had continually average lessons, but because the last week and the last semester have been a bit unique.  A little background might be helpful here.

The last week has really only contained about 2½ days of instruction: we’ve had 2 “cold” days (days with temperatures and wind chills too cold for students to walk to school or the bus stop), 1 snow day, and I personally had 1 pullout day for District meetings.  The days around them were preparing for absences and re-grouping from unplanned days off.  Last semester I semester I started becoming ill and ended up having major surgery. I wasn’t myself for months due to circumstances out of my direct control.  I can say that I had good days and bad days then, but I was really relying on time and procedures and relationships banked. That’s what I would really like to share today.

Relationships.  The best and the worst of a lesson, unit, day, week, year, class are all affected by the relationships established between the teacher and the students.  With positive relationships established, the best and the worst all become just another learning point from which to go from.  If we want our students to learn from the process even when the result fails, we need to not fear modeling that in the classroom. We need to not fear taking a new direction if something isn’t working: formative assessments and reflections are just a couple of tools for this. Having positive relationships with our students allows us to use these moments and turn them into something positive, maybe even the best moments. The best moments, well those are the ones where we can capitalize on that relationship building process.

Relationship building. It takes time, not in length, but effort.  It takes listening and allowing the students to share their voice. It requires respect. This foundation is a necessary building block in order for the curriculum to take shape. This foundation can make the best days and the worst days all just learning days.

Read Full Post »

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Plato

Today’s 30 Goals goal is “Leave it Behind.  Make a list of ways you can leave your stress behind and not carry it with you into the classroom. To take this a step further, try one of these stress relievers today and share the experience with us.”

I read today’s goal and laughed to myself. This is something that those around me have been after me to better work on for so long!  For 15 years I was a single-parent and worked full-time. To be everything that my child needed, my students needed, my building needed, and that life demanded was more a heavy burden that I was struggling to carry than part of a journey.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve taken a closer look at that journey and made some gradual changes. Let me emphasize that these are gradual changes and that the journey continues…

  • Family. When it comes down to it family lasts longer than our students, our curriculum, our administration, our buildings. They are our foundation. Give them a hug before you leave for work every day and tell them how much you love them. My new husband keeps me in check with this every day. J
  • Prayer or meditation. Open you heart and mind at the beginning of each day to set your focus and remind you of what’s really important.
  • Walk. Walk to relieve the stress, lower the blood pressure, get your blood flowing and stimulate your brain activity.
  • Reflect. Reflect on your day – your day with your students, your class successes and failures, your choices, your direction.
  • Collaborate and Refuel.  Find your PLN! If not at your school or even your District, try online. There are so many out there and I am thankful for all those that all me to lurk, participate, or both.  See this link for information on Personal Learning Networks.

I am not perfect at implementing all of these as regularly as I should or you may even think, but I have seen the positive effects that they all bring: positive for my students, my health, me career, and my family. I’m still on the journey and wish to thank all those that have helped me!

Read Full Post »

“The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn. ”

by John Lubbock

Some quick thoughts about learning and online professional development:

  • Everyone can learn
  • Not everyone learns in the same way
  • Learning is a life-long process
  • I hope to inspire my students to want to learn
  • As a teacher, I should help my students learn how to learn
  • I need to model learning for my students
  • I need to show my students purpose
  • I can learn from my students, too
  • I hope to establish an environment of trust and safety in our classroom
  • Learning has changed with innovation. As educators we need to not only acknowledge this, but embrace it. Our students have!
  • Professional Development has also changed with innovation
  • Online professional development has allowed me to stretch beyond my own community and learn from so many other around the world
  • Online PD allows me to see many more perspectives than just those I see around me
  • Online PD has motivated me so much more than I thought possible!

The long-term challenge: In what ways will I ensure that my beliefs about how students learn are reflected in the classroom?

One step towards this goal is reflecting in my blog and another is participating in the online community for this challenge. The blog provides a place for me to reflect on my goals and review them as necessary. The online community provides a place for me to collaborate, share and reflect with others on the same journey.  While the connection to the classroom may not be blatant, it is still there. The connection is me.  The classroom, the blog, the community – I am a part of all of these things and all of these things are tools to be used to keep the focus when the educational demands become overwhelming.

Read Full Post »

“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

by Albert Einstein

I think I could end my blog post there.  Einstein says a great deal about grading without ever knowing it would be taken as a discussion point for us.  Our challenge today in  30 Goals 2011 is “to assess one assignment or project … in a way that doesn’t add a numerical value but has the student seek value in the progress made, the learning achieved, or the work put into it.”  I watched the video (click on the link), read the challenge, and walked away from the computer for most of the rest of the day.

My thoughts and emotions are mixed regarding this challenge.  One side of me laughs at the challenge: how am I going to get my students to even try something if there is no grade to put in the grade book.  Therein lies the problem. Our society has placed such a high value on “the grade,”  the GPA, and the class rank, State testing, ACT, SAT, AP and so much more that learning for the sake of learning and the pride that comes from within is lost. The real loser is the student.

Back to my initial moment of laughter: how am I going to get my students to try something that doesn’t have a numerical value attached to it?  First, I’d like to train them in appreciating “the process” of learning. I want them to see that there is learning in each step of what we do.  My first step began today.  One group of students are finishing a project this week.  I’ve spent time with them setting up their foundational skills, presenting examples, modeling the information, making the theme authentic (in theme and product), presenting the project, and giving the project purpose. Their final leg of the assignment has 2 steps: they are to post their Glogs on edmodo with a comment/abstract plus respond to other posts (with guidelines provided), and complete a google docs evaluation.  The edmodo post allows them to boast about their product and provide positive feedback to others.  It’s an affirming experience.  The google docs evaluation is designed to illicit information about their experience all the way through.  It’s a self-evaluation about their successes, failures, needs, and wants from this project and for future ones.  In the end, my goal is to provide the students opportunities to show value in themselves and others; and, to be able to talk about their experience as something that is valued as much as the end product.

I tried to apply the challenge to something immediately, so it wouldn’t be just a topic to blog about, but one to put into action immediately. I want to find the value in the process just as much as I want my students to do.  I may not fully accomplish this goal for some time, but I’ll be working on it as the challenge continues.  The numbers aren’t going to go away for some time, but there’s still room for value in the process of learning.


Read Full Post »

“You cannot force commitment, what you can do…You nudge a little here, inspire a little there, and provide a role model.  Your primary influence is the environment you create.”

by Peter Senge, suggested by John Evans

And so it begins… What? The 30-Day Challenge. It’s a personal challenge with an end goal of better engaging us with our students. The link to the challenge, should you choose to be curious is : Teacher Boot Camp – 30 Goals 2011 .  Those participating will use various media to reflect and support each other with and through various goals. Today’s goal:  Be a Beam.

Shelly Terrell, the foundation for this challenge, describes a beam as a strong, hidden structure that offers support.  She tells us that every day we have the opportunity to approach students as a support or as a wall.  What do we choose? What do I choose?

It’s my hope that I choose every day to be a support to my students. Some days are likely more successful than others.  Do I, however, extend that to my colleagues as well?  It’s easy to do that with the various social media that I participate (twitter, Facebook), because one can choose like-minded professionals to follow/friend.  Colleagues aren’t always those people.  I am hesitant to even say that, because comments have already been misinterpreted and misrepresented from my own Facebook page and spread through areas of my building.  (Really, my FB page is not all that exciting or dramatic – someone, for some reason just found it so.)

With that said, my goal today (and the next 30 days) will be to become that unseen beam for those people with whom I work.  Keep reading, I’ll post at the end of the challenge what I’ve tried.  Will I notice any difference in my colleagues?  It doesn’t matter. I hope I’ll be setting the foundation for better, improved collaboration and collegiality.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »