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Chivalry isn’t dead.

galahad

Here is my attempt to help students using the Notice and Note strategies for one of my favorite short stories, ‘Chivalry‘ by Neil Gaiman.

 

N&N

Or:

n and n pinterest

Wait, you know what? I think you might enjoy doing this yourself. I don’t want to spoil the story for you.

I believe there is an example of every signpost in this story. Read it out loud to your students in your best English accent (if you don’t have one already). Enjoy.

This book of short stories is well worth it:

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#TRL

book and earth

Books/Text Recommendations

A Curated, But Never Complete, List

The focus is primarily 6th grade +: if you have recommendations for elementary school age children, please comment!

Make a list. Focus. Read the text/novels/stories first. Make notes. Next discussion: genres.

Rinse. Repeat.

Nine Websites for Readers

Some Favorite Book Club Books for Middle School

Common Lit

Actively Learn

NewsELA

Mackinvia

Artifact App

TeenReads

Smithsonian Magazine

This American Life

Storycorp

The Moth

RadioDiaries

Radiolab

Snap Judgment

 

And bonus points superstar awesome-sauce!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IUfIFbjOsEL292XtDIU4H4EjXkNDIris6idhnJYF-cQ/edit

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Moving through summer…

I wish I could say this post is urgent, but alas, I know the truth: I’m avoiding ‘real’ summer work– the projects and ideas that are supposed to rejuvenate me and get back in touch with my ‘real’ self. So here’s a deal: I’ll write this post, and then go do something. Maybe take the dog for a walk. Maybe organize my jewelry box. Or go find some Pokemon. Who knows? The world is wide open. And gotta catch ’em all.

When the school year starts again, it’s closed, boxed, a hedge maze of navigating rules and schedules. And consistently over the years I’ve tried to shape and refine my teaching practices. Sometimes those practices come at the will of administration and changing district policies, but all in all, I know those are in alignment with my personal teaching values more than ever, and truth be told I am feeling a great confidence of agency. As long as I can honestly say what I’m doing is in the best interest of students as my litmus test, then every decision holds integrity and intention.

The “A” Word

One such is the notion that teachers grade everything. We’ve gotten in this feedback loop of complaining about when students aren’t motivated, even for grades, and then use too many sticks and run out of carrots. In this post about accountability, I should have said ‘punitive’ — but was trying to be too soft-edged, I suppose. I am really starting to dislike the word ‘accountable,’ and I know that bias is all mine. Accountability is an accountant, a bean-counter, a points-shiny-stars-gamificationated-hoop-jumping word. Please– any other word but ‘accountable.’ If, in my book club, the other ladies said, “we are going to hold you accountable for reading all the books” I’d be so out of there my wine glass would shatter from the squealing of tires. We read each other’s book choices because we get to discuss things with those of various points of view. And there are snacks.

The conversation became a bit derailed, but no matter. That's what we teachers do -- talk about it!
The conversation became a bit derailed, but no matter. That’s what we teachers do — talk about it!

The question became side-tracked, naturally. And that’s fine. Let me see if I can get this back on point: the 40 book challenge is meant to create readers. There are multiple ways for students to share what they’ve read.

The post I linked above says many things, but mainly this:

An unfamiliar parent emailed me to complain. She tracked me down on the Internet after asking her son’s teacher about the “outrageous requirement” that students read 40 books and complete 40 book reports this school year. Her son’s teacher said the assignment was based on my work, and this upset mom wanted me to know that I was hurting her son. I responded that while I expect my students to read 40 books, I don’t tie any assignments or grades to this expectation.

Consider this: when doing something like a 40-book challenge, weave in the next two concepts about technology and grading policies. Consider carefully what the goal is. It takes students some getting used to doing something because it’s amazing. Maybe I can do a mash-up between books and Pokemon? Wait, what am I saying?!

Technology:

If you want to know exactly how to best use technology for any student, underserved or not, read this article by Molly B. Zielezinski @mollybullock. What a Decade of Education Research Tells Us About Technology in the Hands of Underserved StudentsThe article provides clear constructs for how to use technology in the classroom. 

Grading Policies

Hope. It’s all about hope. 

Do No Harm: Flexible and Smart Grading Policies by Andrew Miller. Our new admin had their plates full last year; I wonder if a discussion about grading policies will hit the meetings this year? I hope so. As a staff, learning new ways to grade and assess effectively and meaningfully would sure go a long way to help our students we serve. I had a great conservation about grading policies in Twitter at #edchat the other day. It’s on everyone’s minds, and something that the current grading software programs we use don’t provide much in terms of true reflection of growth or stagnation, for that matter. I am going to integrate Miller’s ideas in with my syllabus for this year, along with some of the grading policies and explanations for parents.

Tardy Slips

This is one of those issues I didn’t think was a big deal until I encountered an interpretation I had never considered before. If a student is talking to another teacher, and receives a late pass, but another teacher still marks them down tardy as his/her only means of showing that the student missed instruction, what is the point of this? If a teacher’s class runs over a few minutes, and then asks that those students are not marked tardy, why wouldn’t people honor that? Perhaps, like the word accountable, there needs to be different shades of meaning: if a student is clearly hanging out in the bathroom avoiding class, then yes, tardy. But for those times where students need to confer with a teacher for a few minutes, but another teacher needs to show that they missed the entry task, perhaps a ‘conference’ demarkation would be a good idea? That way they’re not punished or disciplined in any way, and it shows that the student was attempting to get clarification on something, and allows for flexibility for the entire staff.

Rethinking Everything

Many teachers are going to have a hard time with some of the new Washington State guidelines regarding discipline and suspensions. 

Good.

If we truly want this school-to-prison pipeline to be shut down, it’s time.

And now to go read more Nikki Giovanni poetry.
And now to go read more Nikki Giovanni poetry.

Well, I made a deal. This post is done. Time to honor summer again. I felt as if I haven’t gotten anything done, or accomplished, but that’s not true. I made this, and others are going to share it. I hope you will, too.

 

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Match up: texts, teachers, and students

The back of the cereal box of our times?
The back of the cereal box of our times?

This morning I promised myself not to touch either hand-held device, my cell phone or i-Pad, for at least five hours today. So far, so good. Lately I’ve acquired the odd habit of setting up arbitrary goals for myself, little mind games where only I know the rules. For example, in June, I told myself ‘no beer for a year.’ I really like beer, and though not trying to punish myself, just wanted to see if I could do it. Last night it got a little tricky because all I wanted to do was go out for a beer and nachos with my hubby, and instead we went through Dairy Queen drive-through and I traded a beer for a Peanut Buster Parfait. I have about one to two of those a year, so I guess I met my quota. Dang, it’s only July, too.

The other goal I set for myself was to try to do Camp NaNoWrMo. It’s July 7, and that means 6 days of only blog writing, which “doesn’t count.” All that’s happened is I am acutely aware that I haven’t written any drafts of fictional substance for months, and I’m overthinking everything. Too distracted, too grumpy, too much caffeine and not enough water. Focus, woman! Focus!

via GIPHY

This post is born of the fantastic Facebook pages/groups I’m honored to be in, specifically Notice & Note. Subscribers/members tend to post two types of questions: ‘What are some good text suggestions for X age group/Y skill or literary device,’ and ‘Does anyone have any suggestions on how to track student growth?’ I’ve already explored my plans for The Book Whisperer’s ideas, and am very excited about the how/why.

Now for the ‘what.’

I can’t read anymore. If a real, paper and bone book is in my hands, I have misplaced my reading glasses, or the light’s too far away, or I can’t get comfortable. If the text is on my Kindle, no problem, except something is kind of broken right now in my reader brain. Perhaps the paradox of choice is hitting me. I have too many unread books. Or perhaps it’s related to the ideas in this article, Why Can’t We Read Anymore by Hugh McGuire . And now I realize when I was gaming too much or flitting between devices, my brain seduced my actions with dopamine:

So, every new email you get gives you a little flood of dopamine. Every little flood of dopamine reinforces your brain’s memory that checking email gives a flood of dopamine. And our brains are programmed to seek out things that will give us little floods of dopamine. Further, these patterns of behaviour start creating neural pathways, so that they become unconscious habits: Work on something important, brain itch, check email, dopamine, refresh,dopamine, check Twitter, dopamine, back to work. Over and over, and each time the habit becomes more ingrained in the actual structures of our brains.

How can books compete?

Well, this blunt and honest conversation will take place at the beginning of my school year with students, that is what digitalization has done to their brains. All of our brains. Last year, my students who were readers were the ones who tended not to have a lot of television or screen time (remember those hippie parents, back in the day? Who didn’t have TVs? I gasped in bewildered horror anytime I came across a situation like that.)

Is the same thing happening to (other) teachers? Are teachers just not reading as much as they used to, grabbing a few YA novels or short stories, and curating them for themselves? Or it is just a means to share tried and true texts with one another? Probably the latter. But there may be some instances where it’s the former, or perhaps I’m projecting my own failings.

novels

I have my list of books/stories to share. I have an extensive classroom library, both hard copy and digital. There are apps and sites galore to help teachers find texts. There are news outlets, story sites, like This American Life, Storycorp, The Moth, Radiolab, etc. to explore, to name a few. It would take a lifetime to read or listen to all the infinite stories. Sites like Artifact App and CommonLit help educators ask the essential questions to guide reading, too. And there are still libraries, with real librarians, who love nothing more than to talk and share ideas about texts. But that involves getting out of my bathrobe and the house. Hmmm. Tough call. (Oh, like you’ve never hung out in your robe until 1PM on summer break!)

 

Artifact App
Artifact App

 

So what are we teachers looking for when we ask others about text suggestions? We’re looking the same things as when we recommend books to other adults. We want something relevant, that may speak to us, that we can find some universal truth, or help us connect. And this is where the digital dopamine can’t help us: texts, be they on the screen or paper, give us a much more powerful sensation than digital ones. Helping students understand these important brain functions will help them understand when a person hurts them on line, it feels real because our brains don’t know the difference. We want to share stories, and that drive gives me hope, for my students, and for myself.

McGuire writes:

I am reading books now more than I have in years. I have more energy, and more focus than I’ve had for ages. I have not fully conquered my digital dopamine addiction, though, but it’s getting there. I think reading books is helping me retrain my mind for focus.

While on the hunt for great texts, I plan on using my powers of digital organization and keep track, make a list, and add notes. But for the moment, I’m just going to make a sandwich.

 

 

 

 

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#ISTE2016 Unpacked, Unplugged, and Overshared

NEXT TIME DOWNLOAD THE APP FIRST, MORTAL!
NEXT TIME DOWNLOAD THE APP FIRST, MORTAL!

As my cutie-patootie fictional night-elf-turned-demon says, Illidan Stormrage says, YOU ARE NOT PREPARED! And if only I had listened to him when it came to ISTE. But, purpleman, I learned a lot, and had a blast. Now is the time to share the booty and swag I plundered.

Well, one word I heard over at ISTE that I adore is “medium agnostic,” which I’ve been a fan of for a long time. It’s one of those phrases that frames “I knew what I wanted but I didn’t know the name of it” idea. That is good news that our district is turning more medium agnostic — the work is more important than who makes the tools. In that light, KQUE/Mindshift posted this article this morning:

15 Tech Tool Favorites from ISTE:

15 Tech Tool Favorites From ISTE 2016

Google is all over the place. We’re not a “Google” district, but perhaps that’ll shift.

There are great links in this article, like this Google App poster link.

I missed a lot of the convention, but traded it for spending time with friends I hadn’t seen in years. I had hoped to meet up some folks from the district offices, but missed texts, etc. and it didn’t work out. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to share later this summer. I’ve put the invitation out there, so we’ll see. We all manage our to-do lists and idea files differently. This blog is my way of trying to collect those ideas and ‘let’s try this’ stuff. Need to start using my tags better. Put that on to-do list.

Some of my gems and confirmed tech love affairs:

Thinglink

https://www.thinglink.com/

I wish our district would get thinglink for staff and students. It’s interactive: the process of putting one together is engaging and well, cool. I made a point to talk to the Thinglink rep. I tried to get the special 360 deal, but it was being weird. When I have time I’ll write to the company to say I tried to order it with the ISTE code, but it was being buggy. Now that’ll have to wait for next payday, too.

I want to get more involved in 360 stuff.

Kahoot

https://getkahoot.com/how-it-works

How cool that I saw Leslie Fisher speak at the Kahoot booth, and show us all new and fancy tricks?

IMG_3188
@lesliefisher speaking for Kahoot

 

Mackinvia

We were introduced to Mackinvia a few years ago by a former librarian, and it seems to have some new features. I am going to ask our new librarian about it.
Brainpop and Girls/Coding
IMG_3196

Sigh. Okay. One thing. When I tweeted about ‘both genders’ (boy/girl) being discussed at the Coding/Girl Brainpop information, a Twitterbot informed me that perhaps I meant “all genders.” I appreciated the information, to be sure, and it forced to me to think. However, the information presented was binary: boy v girl. And then this was reported this morning:

Sigh.
Sigh.

The Keynote Speakers

Michio Kaku: Overall, it was pretty good. I think he’s great. Some of the information was a bit outdated for this audience, though.

Ruha Benjamin. I don’t know why I missed her talk, but was greatly disappointed.

Michelle Cordy: I missed her keynote address because I was too busy eating breakfast burritos at a restaurant with my friend. Although the burritos were delicious, wish I could have been two places at once.

http://hacktheclassroom.ca/

Hacking The Classroom with Michelle Cordy, aka, “Teacher on an Urgent Quest” from Connected Learning Alliance on Vimeo.

How To Sit at a Table By Yourself, Introvert Edition

Two ladies spilled a coke before I sat down.

How to eat by yourself like a boss.
How to eat by yourself like a boss.

The Artifact App

So flipping cool. 

IMG_3198

This…really.

Twittercasting

I have been playing with Twittercasting, but am not sure I love it. This ‘real time’ live feed video stuff is scary.  I could see its application, or ones like it, being used for weekly communication between students and parents. No more “I don’t have any homework.” I don’t give much homework, but usually a continuation of a project that doesn’t require WiFi/internet. When parents ask if their child has homework, the answer is a dodgy no. No more. A quick live-feed cast would have the students sharing with parents what they did that week. Along with Remind, communicating with busy parents may be a lot easier. The goal is to have students take ownership and use metacognition.

I bought a book

Digital Citizenship in Schools, Third Edition, by Mike Ribble. Time for some reading and making.

I also bought this poster.

digital-citizen_infographic_final

Other awesomeness:

I tried to meet up with Shelly Sanchez, too, an important part of my #pln, but alas, two ships and all that.

And met the amazing Pernille Ripp!

Since I looked tired, I replaced my normal beautiful face with a bear's face, courtesy of Animal Face.
Since I looked tired, I replaced my normal beautiful face with a bear’s face, courtesy of Animal Face.

Would I go to ISTE again? I’m not sure. Yearly membership is over $300, registering for the conference close to $400, and the airfare, etc. around $450. Am I glad I went? Sure! Next year’s is in San Antonio, and that’s close to my folks! So yes, maybe I will. I’ll certainly be more prepared, and curate with greater efficiency what booths I want to go to, presentations, and who on my PLN list I want to see. One lingering question I have is how did those educators get to the other side of the podiums? How do I better serve my students who are creating amazing things and show what they know? Maybe some of these apps and tools will support their thinking. Besides, it is my job to prepare them, night elf demons notwithstanding.