It's that time of the year when my mind is in my classroom quite often and I'm at my computer preparing for the upcoming school year. I'm in the midst of learning a new curriculum for a new position, which I'm really excited for. In saying that I need to reevaluate how I "share the learning" with families as to what's happening in our classroom.
In the past, I've used a variety of tools and techniques to attempt opening a window into my classroom, from the traditional newsletter, too blogging, to my YouTube channel. Each year modifying, dropping or adding a tool to meet the students and families where they're at as they consume the information I'm sharing. It's very unrealistic to keep doing it the same way as I've done it for the past five and ten years.
What I've learned is parents love to hear and see what's happening in my classroom with their child. It doesn't matter what the tool is as much as the experience. Giving parents a window into our classrooms opens the communication lines at home to an otherwise answer to “school was just fine today”, by their child.
My informal poll from last year started at our spring parent-teacher conference. I had families representing over 30 students come to speak with me. Three-quarters of those families went out of their way to thank me for creating my YouTube channel and sharing what we were doing in my classroom. Fast forward we had two more field trips with parent volunteers after those spring conferences. 100% of those parent volunteers knew my school YouTube channel and also thanked me for doing that.
Teachers are doing some really amazing things in the classroom. So many effective teachers feel like they're boasting if they share these experiences beyond the four walls of learning. That was the way it used to be but things have changed. Teachers need to market the student growth that is happening and build a stronger triangle of learning, students, families and teachers.
With that in mind, I plan on being much more proactive in how I share with families because I’ve seen how important such communications are. Especially this year with over 225 students each semester coming into my classroom. That does seem a bit overwhelming yet worth every minute of energy put into sharing our classroom journey.
I plan on sharing the tools as I use them during the course of the year and hopefully some feedback as to how families are consuming them. From one way posts to interactive tools and of course video. Before selecting the tool, it's time to think about how my audience is going to be consuming my updates.
This entry has been testing my writing skills for some time. I’m troubled by how many use social media to speak “At Each Other”, instead of “WITH Each Other”. This has become a common practice, from our country’s leaders (both parties) to those that report the news and celebs from all walks of life. It is very easy to send one’s chest pounding feelings over twitter other such means.
As a lifelong learner and educator, this has brought me to some inner wrestling of emotions. My parents and grandparents taught me to be a good listener. Whether they knew it or not, they were teaching me the art of caring empathy. My grandfather’s quote always made me pause before talking: “No one will know how smart or dumb you are until you open your mouth”. I guess that works with social media too.
It is easy to go down that rabbit hole of criticism and judgment. People somehow feel smarter when being negative, throwing shade on others. Regardless of your political views, there's plenty to be frustrated with our leaders currently. Beyond listening, there is a missing element of asking WHY one feels that way.
So I'm personally choosing the path of going back to listening and speaking WITH empathy. How's that going? Well, it's early, yet refreshing. To share the power of the entire conversation is a challenge. I must throttle back on jumping in with my two cents worth, to better understand what is being said. It is a journey to speak with empathy.
There have been a couple of encounters with people that I care dearly about, who have polar opposite views. Previously I would avoid those views like a plague with those who in the far side of their beliefs. That is definitely not speaking WITH someone. The value of knowing that no one is trying to change others views, but asking WHY with empathy. Speaking at someone takes on a bit of a mob mentality, that most would never endorse.
I truly believe most people in our country will help others in need. Be it face-to-face or other means, regardless of their political views. We all need to cherish this caring skill. Human nature generally wants to see the good in people. Listening with empathy is definitely helping others.
As frustrated as I am with those that loudly speak hurtfully at others, I can do nothing about it. However, I can be a better listener, as I speak WITH my family, friends, students, colleagues or anyone. As we do a better job speaking with each other, maybe others will do the same. Pause before you speak or post.
Each year I like to reflect on the chrome extensions and apps that work well for me. I will share these tools I use routinely, if not daily. Some I have used for years others I just added to my tool box recently. It is amazing how they make my regular teaching life more efficient, effective and sometimes get taken for granted. Here is my list and no prioritized order, just the way they sit on my browser.
There are so many great digital teaching tools to pick from for my classroom instruction. Some have so many features that make learning better for students. Of course, the tool can be simple and effective. That is what I landed on today.
Tab Scissors and Tab Glue are such tools. I've been extending my monitor screen for years, posting the lesson agenda, learning examples, etc. Even with the extended screen, I find myself toggling between multiple tabs during a typical class. Tab Scissors fixed that problem.
The most recent usage was having the lesson agenda on half and our concept notes for the seminar on the other half. This option makes so much sense, due to the students completing their assignments at different rates of speed. From there the student can still see the next agenda item on the screen. Each learner feels empowered to work at the pace fitting their learning profile.
In the world of personalized learning, the split screen has been nothing short of amazing. For a typical notes session, the student can choose seminar or independent. The seminar lesson with me is using half of the screen for live notes. The independent learning choice can work ahead or join seminar as needed, for all the information is right in front of them. When the lesson is over, I can click Tab Glue to return to a full-screen option.
The only setback with scissors and glue is bringing them back together when using 3 screens. Tab Glue brings ALL of your tabs back to one Chrome browser. I never lose anything, yet I can have many tabs open at any moment of teaching. So I’m careful when I use this tool.
If a basic split screen isn't enough, I have used Tab Resize. This Chrome Extension can do a half/half split, thirds and even quarters. I have used this a few time when I need just one more screen to assist students. Why not four sections when I need to share four sections of content. Finally, add the site Classroomscreen.com for even more functionality. It runs light with timer, clock, calendar, noise monitoring and much more. So much simple power in easy to use tools.
There are many review tech tools to prepare students for quizzes and tests. In most cases the class is definitely motivated to use these tools, especially when there is some sort of competitive Finish Line. I use three online review learning tools to prepare my classes for their science vocabulary quizzes and concept tests. They are Kahoot, Quizizz, and Quizlet.
For over 2 years I have used Kahoot in my classroom. It is very straightforward and it doesn't matter what the content is, students love to play it and engage in it's game. The nice thing about using this review method, is that it's very fast pace and you can build it into the end of your learnings time together. I use it in single classic Mode as well as table mode, where there's peer to peer collaboration before answering. I've recently started to use it as a homework tool that I assign in Google Classroom.
The one thing that gets challenging with using Kahoot, is the faster students click, the higher the score, if it’s the right answer. “Quick Clicking” is definitely a challenge with those extremely competitive students. Sometimes students overlook the review content that we are hoping to drive home, in hopes of the top score.
A few months ago I started using Quizizz, recommended by a colleague down the hallway. She said it would fit perfectly in my science classroom to reinforce standards and prepare students for the concept test. The teacher setup was extremely easy and moving my content from my final assessment to this practice review tool went very smooth.
One the the best features about Quizizz, is the ability to track scores of specific questions, as well as overall class effectiveness. We do a classroom game where each individual answers their random questions compiling the overall data. I can review each student on their overall effectiveness as a review assignment. Students love using Quizizz.
I've used Quizlet for the longest amount of time to help students learn key vocabulary words to set the foundation for each chapter. From the beginning, Quizlet had so many different options for students to use to study, such as flash cards, write the answer, spell the term, take a test and even matching. Students love to use Quizlet to prepare for our vocabulary tests.
This year I noticed that Quizlet added a study feature called Quizlet Live. So like Kahoot and Quizizz, Quizlet has a competitive component. However, this review method is simply amazing. Once students enter the code to start Quizlet Live the fun in learning begins. I start the game, and Quizlet then shuffles the students to group them with three or four other students in the classroom, creating their learning teams. They collaborate to enter the correct answer, competing to be the first team to answer all of their questions.
The really cool part of Quizlet Live is how it levels the playing field socially in the classroom. Once I hit shuffle mode, students look at their screen to find the other two or three people that they have on their team. There's no time to look for my friend they want to be with or someone they don't want on their team. Groups come together in such a beautiful fashion allowing all ability levels to participate. Each student has their screen open, physically coming together at a table to compete. The class just can't get enough of this review game as well as how they meet other people on their Learning Journey. By the way, they score higher on their vocabulary quizzes.