Saturday, September 28, 2013

Today's Technology Tidbit: Horrible Histories on YouTube

I haven't done a technology tidbit in awhile, so I thought I'd share something I showed to my juniors in American Lit. this week.

We are about to read an excerpt from Of Plymouth Plantation, and to supplement it, I found a couple more modern articles that discuss the REAL first Thanksgiving, not the stuff many little kids are fed about top hats, buckles, turkey, and a friendly meal. The real first Thanksgiving involved half the Pilgrims not even surviving the trip over to the New World, no top hats, and most likely, not even any turkey. They probably ate seafood like mussels, as well as wildfowl like duck.

The two articles I found were this one from that is a more serious, factual account of it. And this one from Parade magazine, which is a humorous account of one man who decided to host Thanksgiving with his family like the real first Thanksgiving. The students will write an analysis comparing and contrasting the two articles looking at things like author's tone, content, etc.

But anyways, to kick off this unit, I had the students brainstorm what they think of when they think of the first Thanksgiving and I wrote a list on the board. As I expected, most said turkey, pumpkin, Pilgrims, top hats, cornucopias, etc. So then I showed them this humorous (but factual) rap video on YouTube that gave them some inkling of what really happened, and afterwards we talked about how that was different from our list on the board.

Horrible Histories actually has a ton of YouTube videos that range from William Shakespeare to Rosa Parks. I have only checked out the Shakespeare one briefly, and it was funny as well.

The kids found it silly and goofy, which I expected, but they also picked out a lot of the facts that they hadn't known before about the first Thanksgiving. I thought this was an excellent way to get into our Pilgrim/First Thanksgiving literature unit.

And, since the real first Thanksgiving most likely happened in Sept. or Oct. and not November, this is the perfect time of year for it, too.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

1:1 Classrooms: Who Has 'Em?

Pretty soon, my school is implementing a 1:1 program, which means every student in our school, and eventually the district, will have an electronic device of some sort. It could be a laptop, a tablet, an iPad, etc. 

We are piloting next year with our Freshman Academy [boo, I don't get to pilot :( ] so this week, they have four devices in the mail room that are up for debate and we can take a survey on them.

I won't describe all four devices for brevity's sake, but the one I liked the most and that I voted for was a Lenovo Hybrid (it's called a Yoga).

It can be a tablet OR a laptop. This pic sort of shows all the ways it can twist. You can bend the keyboard back to just have a tablet (it is touchscreen) or use it like a laptop with a keyboard (my preference--I hate typing on a touchscreen).

I tried using it for a bit and really liked it, so I HOPE that's what we go with. Our other options were a Chromebook, a regular Lenovo laptop, or an actual tablet that we could purchase a separate keyboard for (HATE!) I am old school and like having a keyboard.

Do any of your schools have 1:1? I'm honestly excited about it because I can do so much more in class, don't have to worry about getting into a computer lab, students who don't have computers at home can take these home, we plan to go to online textbooks, etc. I know there are drawbacks and concerns with 1:1 but I feel the pros outweigh the cons. Some of my students that I have asked off-handedly have not been in favor, though, which kind of surprises me.

What has your experience been with a 1:1 classroom? Is your classroom flipped or traditional? Any cool things you have done in a 1:1 school?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Peek at my Week

I am linking up with Mrs. Laffin for a peek at my upcoming week.

1. In my Senior Lit. class, I am post-testing on Monday and hopefully my students show growth from the pre-test they took at the beginning of the year. Then we are continuing with reading Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes (LOVE this book, but there are some sexual situations and strong language, plus it is about a school shooting, so I only recommend it for upper high school). 

Then on Friday I am discussing bias, and we are beginning to watch Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine, which we will examine for bias, as well as use it as a supplementary material for our novel to spur some discussions. It discusses some possible reasons our society as a whole has become more violent over the past few decades. I always teach the term bias with this documentary and have students fill out a handout writing down examples of bias in the film, because it is very one-sided (as all of Moore's stuff typically is). But it is a great discussion-starter and brings up a lot of relevant issues. After we finish it in a couple weeks (we don't watch it every day), students will type a response to it.

2. With English III, they are also post-testing Monday. I will have SO many short essay tests to grade this week and still have about 40 junior essays to grade from last week. Ah the life of an English teacher!

Then I am incorporating some more non-fiction by bringing in a supplemental article that discusses some myths about Christopher Columbus (this is an American lit. class and we are at this time period in our books). We'll do some pre-writing/brainstorming about what the students know about Columbus, then they will read this article and fill out an annotation chart. {I have tried getting them to annotate the actual reading pieces, and they are not. They will highlight random things willy-nilly to try and get points, but aren't taking it seriously, so I am now having them fill out an actual chart.} 

I have them number the paragraphs of the article and break it down into chunks of about 4 or 5 paragraphs at a time. For each chunk, they need to list and define unknown words, summarize in 2-3 sentences, and write a question or comment they have on those paragraphs.

Then, I will put them in groups with ten discussion questions regarding the article and each group will answer their questions in a PP, which they will show and discuss with the class the next day. I'm always looking for new ways to do discussion questions and class discussions, rather than just giving questions on a worksheet, so we'll see how this goes! Never tried it this way before.

3. On Wednesday of this week, students have an 11:30 dismissal and are testing in the morning. As a junior homeroom teacher, I am proctoring the practice ACT test. Then in the afternoon I have ELA CC committee stuff and some meetings at my school.

4. On a personal level, I am SO excited for tomorrow! I am shopping for fall clothes, and we also have a couple we're good friends with visiting our city with their two little girls and we are meeting up for dinner. Yay! Besides that, I will be busy grading, grading, grading.

So what's on tap for your week?


Friday, September 6, 2013

Numbered Heads/Desks

Back in May, I attended a two-day Common Core conference with a co-worker (wow, love the alliteration in that sentence!) and walked away with my head swimming with new techniques I wanted to try. The first one I knew I wanted to kick off this year was Numbered Heads (I call it Numbered Desks).

I would love to meet the teacher who has kids JUMPING out of their seats to answer questions, discuss, and share the responsibility of learning amongst their peers. Students who hold intelligent discussions with one another without much prompting from me and always listen attentively while peers share and then can't wait to respond themselves.

But if you're like me here is how it usually goes: You ask a question. There is silence that stretches on awkwardly. Finally the same few kids who always answer questions raise their hands and their peers sit back, knowing they're off the hook because so-and-so always has the answer.

Well that's not how I envision my class. ALL students need to take responsibility for responding, sharing, and discussing. But I also want to avoid kids saying I'm "picking on them" or putting them on the spot. So I have adopted Numbered Desks in my room and so far, I love it.

I numbered all my desks 1-4. I did this pretty low-tech with colored squares of construction paper, a permanent marker, and clear packing tape. Most likely I'll have to replace the numbers each year.

I introduced this concept on day 1 and my students knew I would use it regularly. I don't do it with every single question I ever ask, but I do it with questions that involve critical thinking, planning, and where I want a discussion to ensue.

I pose a question verbally and put it on the SmartBoard (or have it on a sheet the students are given). This way, they can go back to that question if they need to re-read it. I give them a couple minutes to jot down their own response individually. This way they have time to think and can have something to read off of if necessary. Then I have them share with a partner near them. I don't allow them to move around the room; it has to be someone close. If they were totally unsure of their answer, they can run it by a peer and hear what they have to say also.

Then we come back together and I randomly call a number 1-4. Those students have to stand and I hear from them one-by-one. This way, students know their number may always be called (I will sometimes call the same number twice in a row to keep them on their toes so they don't start slacking if they were already called once), and they know they share the responsibility of class discussions. I am hearing from them more rather than me always talking.

When students have their numbers called, it is OK if they agree with what has already been said. But I ask them why they agree or to expand on so-and-so's answer. "I don't know" is not acceptable and they know this. They have a couple options: they can ask me a question for further clarification or help, they can ask for another minute to compose a response, or they can ask to "phone a friend" and get help from a peer. This does not mean the peer answers instead. It means they are allowed to ask a specific question to one peer to aid in their understanding. I always go back to the original student to hear from them.

So far, I have had success with this. I am hearing AWESOME responses from students who would never raise their hands and volunteer on their own. I am hearing from my whole class, not just three or four kids. And they are actually having a discussion with each other. They know the onus is on them, as a class, to learn the material, share ideas, and think through things; it shouldn't just be on one or two students. I will not lie; some students groan if their number is called and aren't thrilled or jumping for joy, but they still stand and give it the old college try. I have yet to have a student be disrespectful or outright refuse to share when their number is called.

What techniques do you use in your room to spur class discussion and shared learning?

Monday, September 2, 2013

September Currently

Linking up with Farley.

1. I am at the bookstore right now typing this, for reasons I'll explain further down the page. I am not a happy camper (but at least I get a pumpkin spice latte!)

2. No school today holla! Loved the day off to hang with my dog, see my parents, and just veg.

3. So yeah. I am seriously considering applying to an English Studies PhD program. I would love love LOVE to teach at a university and I love being a student and learning more about my subject matter. There are a lot of logistical and financial difficulties with going back to school right now, but it is something my husband and I are seriously discussing. So that's exciting and scary.

4. My nasty cold from last week is on its last leg. I am feeling much better but not 100% back to normal yet.

5. So yeah. Yesterday our Internet and cable conked out and Comcast said it was an outage in our area. Our cable came back, but Internet never did. After spending an hour on the phone with them (worst customer service ever, by the way), they have to send a technician out tomorrow because the problem should be fixed, but they show that our house is getting a really weak signal, too weak to start up the Internet. Fun stuff. So no Internet for me since Saturday night. Womp womp.

6. The last one is pretty self-explanatory. Can't wait to pull out my fall decorations again!