Sunday, December 31, 2017

Anticipation...It's Almost Here!

Winter break is a great time to rejuvenate and reflect. This year, I had an extra long break because of shifting to B track in a year-round school. I have to admit that I spent a little too much time in my PJs and my favorite blanket curled up reading. It was awesome! Part of my time was spent planning for the next chunk of time with my kids at school. 

While most people will be groaning and dreading going back to school in a couple of days, I'm completely excited! The anticipation is almost more than I can stand! I haven't seen my kiddos for over a month and I miss them! 

Tuesday morning, I'm going to take my kids on a field trip to ancient Greece. Earlier, I sent out invitations to them to come prepared to wear their chiton/toga for the next couple of weeks. I'm sure that they're wondering, "What is Ms. King doing now?" I only had a little over an hour to decorate the hallway and classroom. I don't have everything set up yet, but I'll get there! (A disadvantage of year-round schools is moving classrooms. It's a lot of work!) Things don't look exactly how I'd envisioned them, but it'll be enough for the kids to get the idea.

Here's my plan:

There will temporarily be an empty room next to mine. I'm going to take my kids in there for attendance, lunch count, morning announcements, etc. When everyone is dressed and ready, we'll go next door into our classroom where we'll be on Mount Olympus complete with fog and music in the background. Kids are divided up into city-states. They will work with their polis to complete the QR hunt to build background knowledge of ancient Greece.

When I taught sixth grade, the study of ancient Greece was a five-week simulation. But since I teach fifth grade, I only want the kids to have a little bit of background knowledge. I'm tying ancient Greece in with our study of government, Latin-Greek roots, speaking/debate, Olympics, and science. Of course, reading and writing skills are embedded into all of our learning.

After the QR hunt, we'll play a game to test their newfound knowledge. Our next activity is the one I'm most looking forward to. While sitting on the floor in a circle, eating olives and fish crackers, we'll discuss their off-track activities and the books that they read. It's downtime to some, but I see it as an opportunity to build relationships and get to know my students a little bit better. The day will continue with hands-on activities centered around our science unit of magnetism and electricity. I hope it'll be a fun day. I hope to create a MOMENT to be remembered.

I haven't done this before in fifth grade. I don't know exactly how things will go, but that's the fun part. We'll see!

Friday, December 29, 2017

One Word 2018: Arete!

     The ancient Greeks examined their life and set goals to achieve. They called this quest arete (air-ah-tay) which roughly translated means the pursuit of excellence.

     During 2018, my one word and focus will be Arete.

     Although there is no direct English translation, arete to me is an all-encompassing word that includes many of my values, goals, and aspirations. It is climbing the mountain before me with courage, focus, and grit. Arete is about learning, growing, and improving. This is my quest.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

It's Not Always About Fear...

unsplash-logoDan Roizer 
The speed of change in how we teach our kids has changed dramatically during the last decade! Technology makes it possible for students to learn and create in ways never before imagined.  There is a myriad of tech tools for teachers to use to engage their students. However, it can be overwhelming for teachers to learn and implement everything that's "out there." Each app or web-based program comes with its own learning curve. The learning doesn't stop once the basics are learned because each tool is continuously being updated and changed- sometimes to the point of not being recognizable. And then there's always the issue of investing the time to learn something only to have it disappear. Along with the many pedagogical shifts of the last decade, the age of testing and accountability, and the many school and district initiatives, the plate gets pretty full! Losing focus is easy if the attention is on all of the shiny new tools. Teachers need to keep experimenting and learning new ways of engaging students to avoid becoming stagnant and irrelevant. But, they also should remain focused on student learning outcomes as they plan their lessons.  Just using technology is not the same thing as integrating technology to enhance a learning experience. Great teachers engage students in creating, communicating, collaboration, and critical thinking. Yes, there are many tools to use. It's not always about a fear to not try them. It's more about taking the TIME to augment great Tier 1 instruction with technology. Administrators can be supportive by recognizing the effort that teachers take to learn and implement even a few tools well.

My Favorite Things

Seesaw and Flipgrid
Promote student voices.
All things with Google give people more choices.
Edmodo, Class Dojo, Kahoot and Buncee
There are many web tools for teachers to see.

Remind to get updates and Classcraft gold pieces
Creating with Touchcast the fun never ceases
Newsela and Reflex Animoto and more
Tech tools for teachers- so much to explore!

Plickers, Socrative
Assessment that’s quick
Nearpod, GoNoodle, for learning to stick
Improving our reading with Lyrics2Learn
Hundreds of tech tools wherever you turn.

When the time’s short
When my plate’s full
When I need to plan
I simply remember a few focused things.
And then I don’t feel so bad!

Edpuzzle and Thinglink
Plus apps that are free
QR codes and Augmented reality
Kidblog and Tynker
Powtoon IXL
Using these tech tools
Help kids to excel.

GoFormative, Quizziz,
Whiteboards to write on
Learnzillion for flipping
Math lessons from Al Khan
Storybird, Quizlet to name a few more
Extensions for Chromebooks you just can’t ignore.

Singing with Flocab, writing with Quill
StoryboardThat and 100’s more still!
Smore for newsletters- There’s no end in sight!
SAMR helps teachers use all the tech right!

When the time’s short,
When my plate’s full,
When I need to plan,
I simply remember a few focused things.
And then I don’t feel so bad!