Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Collaboration and Skype

Hey all!

I'm excited about our Skype conversation tomorrow; I missed the last one! Tonia, Nicole, and I are going to have a collaborative meeting tomorrow afternoon, so it will be a great time to touch base.

Just got off of my fall break and am getting back into the swing of things. I attended the Star teacher inservice, which was really interesting in regards to uncovering the standards framework and moving toward consistency in district planning. Be sure to check out my Star Teacher Blog when you have a moment.

It would be really cool if we could have students create SmartBoard presentations on specific topics and then share those presentations with classrooms around the district. A "SmartBoard Exchange" program, if you will. Lots of student-to-student opportunity there.

Happy October!

ZOOM! This Was A Fast Month!

It's hard to believe it's already the end of September. I feel like a I'm in a cave that has been hit by a tornado. Strategic planning and the question of how to move kids pops up constantly in our weekly progress monitoring meetings. The days run into weeks and weeks roll into months. This being my second year, I thought things would be easier. Oh, how wrong I was. Though the struggles are different, it has still been a difficult year. Last year I was concerned about my classroom management and teaching myself to, well, teach. This year, I'm refining my abilities, content, and how I monitor student understanding. I feel I have a better picture of my students' abilities and now the question is, "How do I use the data to help them improve their skills?"

I've used my Smard Board plenty this month but I still need to become more familiar with it's functions other than camera shots and writing on the board. I'm working with other global learners to incorporate virtual communication across the district. I'm more of a wiz with United Streaming and using my laptop and projector as a scaffolding tool. My goal for next month is to prepare my students for blogging.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Struggles with the SmartBoard

This is a cross post with the high school's math blog.
After taking a math technology course this summer, one of my projects was to prepare a tech lesson extending past our comfort zone. With me, it's the SmartBoard. I planned a lesson around congruency shortcuts of triangles because I thought that the ability to manipulate the tools (ruler and protractors) as well as the triangles themselves would be an appropriate use of the capabilities of the SmartBoard. I felt a had a great lesson, with background-building vocabulary, questions with answers covered with the screen shade, sequential topics to investigate which short-cuts work, and conversation topics for each slide--all prepared on the SmartBoard notebook.

However, as I'm sure we've all experienced, the lessons that seem great in theory flop in the classroom. I struggled very hard to line up my ruler and protractor using my finger, so measuring 3 pieces of two different triangles was long and frustrating. Even sorting objects by dragging them around seemed difficult and tedious. If I got a student brave enough to attack the tools, it still left the rest of the class unengaged and bored quickly. I adapted the rest of the lesson in order to cover the main points. Any writing I did was very hard to read since my orientation was off no matter how many times I tried to readjust (and my SmartBoard was against the wall.)

The main points of the SmartBoard that I would like to exploit are the ability to work out problems and record in real time and/or save and the manipulablity. Without these features, I don't see much difference than projecting on a regular screen. I try to be very cautious about using technology effectively and not just for the sake of using technology. However, I do not feel that the ability to save is great enough to offset the difficulties in writing and reading the work. And the ability to manipulate items can be powerful... for the person doing it, but leaves the rest of the class unengaged. It would be no different than me manipulating something from my laptop or with a wireless mouse for the class to view on a regular screen.

With this, I am looking forward to the Global Leaner chat this week, which happens to be about SmartBoards. I would love feedback on how the SmartBoard is used effectively in your classes, especially with secondary students. How does it keep the whole class engages? How does it benefit students who miss class? How can the benefits over projecting on a screen be maximized? And how can all of this be done on a regular basis?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Are we using the Smartboard today?

My students ask me this everyday. They absolutely love it. I have mainly been using if for language and math. I found some great lessons in language on complete sentences and nouns and verbs. I have found that my students really understand the concept and their writing has improved.
I try to find a lesson everyday that goes along with what I am teaching in math. There are great lessons on estimation, rounding, greater than/less than, odd and even, fact families and more. All of these are in our GLETS and the kids have so much fun. They are all participating and paying attention when we use the Smartboard!

Friday, September 26, 2008

New favorite question

My new favorite question that I get asked on a regular basis: "Mr., can I blog today?" I hear it much more frequently than might be expected, and the students who ask are actually blogging, rather than surfing or trying to get on MySpace, etc. This is definitely something I wish I had started a while back. I'm absolutely thrilled that my students want to write on such a regular basis!

For now, the blogs have been pretty basic and have been limited to simply answering a question of the week. As the year progresses, I will be adding expectations to the blogs and get closer to the ideas presented in the Richardson book. We're off to a great start, though!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Podcast Uploading

Just wanted to share an easy and fast way to upload ipod recordings to your blog. All you need to do is download the recordings into itunes. Convert the recordings to an MP3 recording (you can do this with itunes or open and save as using audacity). Once you have the MP3 you are set to use www.booMP3.com. It's a quick user set-up and once you figure it out it takes about 1-2 minutes per student. You can check our responsibility recordings through our blog! You may click on almost any child's name to hear their responsibilities at home, school, neighborhood and the playground.

Enjoy and feel free to ask questions!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Education in the 21st century, part 2

Just wanted to let people know that I've just posted part two of my series on education in the 21st century to the Elephant Journal website. In case you missed it, part one is here. Elephant Journal isn't blocked any more, so feel free to share the articles (and comment, of course!) and pass the links along! :-)

teachers using technology

~cross-posted at: http://mstaylorsthirdgradeclass.blogspot.com/~

I am honored to work not only with fellow Global Learners but many other teachers who make 21st century learning a priority in their classrooms. As teachers in my school get introduced to new forms of technology they are impressed, inspired, and motivated to incorporate it into their classrooms and professional practices. In turn, I am inspired by their ideas and creativity with how to do it!

At Alsup, my team of fellow third grade teachers uses many forms of technology on a regular basis; the laptop carts, Discovery Education Streaming, websites, clickers, and document cameras. They are curious about wikis and blogs and would love their own websites. They find out more about these on their own and even try them out.

Laurie Arnold has created a student blog called Third Grade Bloggers that her students used last year and she plans to use it again this year. Brianna Sealy is always using video clips to support her teaching and she utilizes clickers with ease. Katie Coggin has started using the laptop cart during Writing and utilizes many math web based activities with her class. These are just a few of the many ways these teachers and others at my school have been proactively teaching with techonolgy.

Do teachers you work with utilize technology in their classrooms?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Google is at it again!

Elections tools for teachers
The Mock Election

This year, Google is working with the National Student/Parent Mock Election to get students of all ages excited about the November elections. Students engage in activities to learn about the candidates and issues, then cast mock ballots that are counted along with those of millions of other students across the nation.

This year's Mock Election takes place on October 30, 2008. Enroll your classroom now.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reflections on a week of technolgy

(Cross posted on my teacher blog.)

Happy International Day of Peace, everyone! I read an article in the paper reporting on how various factions that have been involved in armed conflict have agreed to not fight at all out of respect for the day, which begs the question, if they can do it for one day, why can't they do it permanently?? *sigh*

We had the laptops in my classroom for the entire week, which should have been great, right? Yeah, well.... *ahem*.

The biggest frustration was students who couldn't remember their passwords for their blogs and/or their school email accounts (even more so the ones who'd forgotten them from the day before). I expected that the first day would be refreshing memories, but we ended up losing two days to that, and even more for some students. Add to that the various technical difficulties, including Google not publishing posts on blogs even though I watched the student write the blog and click "publish now," and it made for a very interesting adventure, to be sure. There were times when I felt like just saying "forget it, let's just use paper and pen or pencil," but then I remembered that for some students, this technology is completely new to them, and as such, require a certain amount of patience from me. Just because this generation has been called "digital natives" doesn't mean all of them were born in the same technological land (figuratively speaking). The digital divide was very prevalent in the room, and I almost blinked and didn't see it.

I think that by and large, the week was a success. Yes, there were some students who in spite of my watching over them and giving and paying as much attention as I could still managed to slip through the cracks, but most of the students took advantage of the opportunity, so I'm pleased.

This week we go back to the "regular" world of not having instant access to all of the technology we need. I have six desktops in my room now so up to six students can blog or work on their essays at a time, though, so I expect we'll still get a lot done; maybe even more since I only need to watch six instead of twenty-six or so.

I've started reading over some of the personal narratives, and there are some really amazing pieces of writing there. There are some structural issues and the like, but last week was about getting the words down; this week is about making them better. I'm looking forward to the finished product, and I am thinking of asking some students about posting their work to the web, and since Google docs has that as an option, it will be really easy to do, and I can put the link on the class webpage... yet another way to make the writing more "real world."

Mr. Palmer's 5th Grade Blog

My class has begun using our classroom blog for writing:


For this assignment, each student finished the phrase "I have always wanted to know more about _____________". Now, I am going to email friends/family/colleagues/professionals to leave comments about each statement. Also, my students will use their research skills to try and answer their own and other students' posts. So, if you guys get a chance, they would love to read any comments you have about their posts. Thank you, Dave, for the posts already, they have loved reading them (and, by the way, I moved all posts to our blog; some of them were posting on the GL blog accidentally).

Thanks in advance.

Drew Palmer

Friday, September 19, 2008

form 109 professional goal(s)

Hi all. I'm pleased to be able to say that another science teacher has asked me to help him incorporate technology into the classroom and he wants me to be a "consultant' and will list me on his form 109 personal growth / goal as a resource. We will work on clickers, smartboard, google apps and powerpoints etc.

I'm happy to help him and feel that the GL program is kind of infectuous... word gets around & people see how classrooms are different w/ tech goodies... students are more responsive...Cool!

I estimate that this is worth about 15 sec of my 15 min of fame.....

(Andy Warhol RIP, ---> Velvet Underground rules!)


Blogging Away...

I've had many difficulties with my GL computer to start the year, but I think all the glitches are finally worked out, and we are up and running in my classroom at last! We're finally doing our warm-ups on the SmartBoard on a daily basis. We're also about to start blogging as a weekly writing assignment. In fact, we'd love for others to comment on our blog as frequently as possible. Check it out at msspringersblog.blogspot.com. We've invited several classrooms around the WORLD to join us in this project as a way to bring us closer together. Feedback is always welcome!

Parent/teacher conferences

Last night's Back to School night/parent-teacher conferences went particularly well. I made it a point to show the parents the class webpage and talked about the paperless policy of my classroom, blogs, Google Docs, and the idea that I'm using the technology to get the students ready for both higher education and the job world. I also invited them to listen to any of the podcasts or read the notes for themselves if they wanted to. More than one parent made a comment along the lines of "Oh, I like that!" and one parent that I had previously emailed to invite to last night's conference said "Oh, I've already been there, and I read [my daughter's] blog." The student's eyes got big, and she said, "You did??!" :-)

I even used the downtime to help the rest of my team create class webpages on Google Sites, and I even got the math teacher to (finally) set up his blog and link to it on his class webpage.

A great night from a Global Learner point of view. :-D

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Super September

My students are really loving the smartboard. They were timid at first about writing on it, but now that everyone has had a chance they love it. We have been working with voicethread with one of my classes. Tonight is conferences and one of my students asked if tomorrow we could work on the "voice thingy." I am starting to feel like the technology is coming together slowly but surely. I am looking forward to getting back started with the TI navigator system soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

free signup for webspiration today only (Wed 9.17)

Hi all. Just came across this offer. I've signed up. Apparently its free for today only.

"Inspiration" will be releasing in a public beta Webspiration, their online visual thinking tool. (Webspiration will be available to the public this Wednesday for a free sign-up)

More information available (and its also a good blog to rss :)


Signups are here:


enjoy, Doug

Woops.... duh

Yesterday I introduced Google Docs to my students. In my first hour class, I was projecting the Google Docs screen onto the screen in my room, walked over, and tapped the screen to switch the view. Nothing happened. Puzzled, I went to tap it again, then remembered that I wasn't using my Smart Board, I was using a regular overhead screen. Woops, no wonder it didn't work. None of the students noticed, so I got to keep full cool nerd points for block 1.

Needless to say, I switched back to the Smart Board for the rest of the day. :-)

Monday, September 15, 2008

A simple blogging rubric...

Hi all. Here is a simple rubric I am using to evaluate posts / comments left by students on the AP bio blog. In that these are "assignments", I felt the need to put some structure to my expectations. Student responses are graded by this and then students may revise to receive a higher score. Anyway, I modified some ideas on the web and am presently using the following. Comments / criticisms appreciated. Doug


A Simple Blogging Rubric

The following will be used to evaluate your posts / comments to the AP IB Blog.

0 – did not post

1-3 very poor performance: comment / post is limited to a few words, misspellings and grammar errors, does not fundamentally address the assignment prompt. It is clear that little time and attention was put into the post / comment.

4 – poor performance: comment / post is stated minimally with errors in grammar, spelling and syntax. There is an attempt to address the assignment prompt but it is incomplete or at a level below the expectation of the class.

5 – mediocre performance: comment / post is stated concisely with errors in grammar and spelling. The assignment prompt is addressed but at a superficial level. The assignment is completed at a below-average level in terms of planning and completion.

6 – 7 satisfactory to good performance: comment / post is stated and the while the assignment prompt is addressed, ideas expressed are not necessarily original. The content shows a casual writing style with a lack of attention to style.

8 - 9 – very good performance: comment / post is stated and characterized with an above average writing style. The content demonstrates that the student read the prompt and attempts to address it completely but only partially references the original article.

10 – excellent performance: comment / post is well written and characterized by elements of a strong writing style. The comment / post has addressed the assignment prompt fully and expresses his/her ideas clearly showing originality. The original article is fully referenced.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Week 4....

We are embarking on week 4. I believe that my Kinder kids are slowly getting the hang of using the SmartBoard. They are definitely excited about being able to use it (and anything else involving a laptop and projector), so they are showing some great restraint when only a couple of them can practice at a time. I have been developing a few games for them so they can figure out how to trace their ABC's and be able to move letters around so they can match them. Once they all get a chance to use the Smartboard, I hope to really be able to incorporate it all day (especially math). The only thing that sort of bugs me out is that now that we are about to start rotating our students for our literacy block, I will be starting all over with the new students. I am hoping to be able to pair up my students with the new students so they can help each other out.

We will also be starting pen-pals with a class in China and a class in Vail. So with the class in Vail, I'm hoping to be able to do a webcast lesson with them. It's a matter of helping that teacher find a webcam for her class. That should be interesting. Either way, I think we will be doing emails and sending short video messages to each class... still trying to figure out how to fit it all in.

I can't believe we are starting our fourth week of school!

Totally geeking out

The new thing: I wanted to use an excerpt from a book I'm reading in my epistemology class, so I contacted the publisher to copy it and share it with my students. I got the permission, scanned it and turned it into a pdf file, but then started to worry about the photocopy/paper thing before I realized that I didn't have to print it at all. Instead, I emailed the pdf to the students, and tomorrow, they'll log into their school email accounts, get together in groups of three and read it together in their groups, a strategy that worked well with them last week. I love the fact that their class reading is already there, and I didn't use a single piece of paper. No paper, and total access to the document wherever they have internet access. Those that have flash drives will be encouraged to download it to their flash drives, and if I absolutely have to print it out, I can do it on an individual basis rather than multiple copies.

I love technology! :-)

First Grade Internet Workshop

An internet workshop can be a great introduction to working on the web for your students. An internet workshop helps:

develop content knowledge

develop strategies for using web resources

develop skills for working collaboratively

For my class at Walden University I've developed an internet workshop that I will be using with my students.

You can check out the internet workshop here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Using the Smart Board for Phonics Instruction

As a teacher at a Colorado Reading First school with very explicit and systematic literacy instruction I often find it hard to integrate technology during my Core Literacy time. One of the nice features about the Smart Board is the ability to manipulate text and graphics. For many lessons I hand write the words to emphasize letter formation and because the speed at which I write is a good speed for first graders decoding on the fly. For this particular lesson I pre-typed the parts of the words. I wanted to emphasize common end blends. I used the Smart Board to quickly move ending “L” blends to the initial consonant. (GLET 1g: Uses word and letter recognition skills. Produces sounds to common letter combinations. ) Here I've embedded the screen cast from my blog for that lesson.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

CLAS this spring

I've been invited to be a presenter at the CLAS Regional Spring Conference this March. Subject: the digital classroom in the 21st century. I'm psyched but nervous at the same time. I mean, it's obviously something I'm super enthusiastic about: I'm going to talk about Google Docs, blogging, podcasting, and so forth, but still... it's in front of GROWN UPS, not teenagers! EEEEEKK! (ha ha!)

I'm also looking into the possibility of getting up to that other high school I'd mentioned in an earlier post to train their teachers on digital classrooms. I mentioned the whole thing to Stevi Quate (you know her if you've been involved in the UCD teacher candidate program), who, as it turns out, is familiar with that school and their staff; she "knows people" there, and so is going to look into getting them up to speed as well... stay tuned on that one.

What have I gotten myself into?? ;-)

On a side note, I've recently written an article for an online magazine, Elephant Journal, about digital classrooms. It's the first of a series on education that I've been asked to collaborate on with them. If you're interested, you can check it out here, but you'll likely have to do it at home... last I knew, the SmartFilter blocked it at work. And check out the shirt in my pics. ;-)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Slow and Steady

Slow and Steady, steady and slow, that is the way we always go!

First grade is tough. The kids learn how to be students. Then as students they learn! A lot! Patience is needed each day when something as simple as a child blowing his nose can cause an entire classroom frenzy in fear of germs. Upon entering my fourth year, I feel like a new teacher all over again. I don't know if it's the new batch of kids, the accessible technology or the new certificate. Whatever it is, I hope it stays for a long time!

Slow and steady, steady and slow is the way I'm taking my students this year. Slowly students are getting introduced to technology. First it was how to treat our technology, then a few SmartBoard activities, a United Streaming video introducing addition and tomorrow…our first blog entry! The goals I have committed myself to include: improving students’ blogs, experimenting with webquests and increasing and enhancing SmartBoard lessons.

Blog - Tonight my job is to update our 2008-2009 class blog and put in each students name and color choice. Tomorrow my students will produce their first blog entry. A blog is still a far away concept for my students, but they sure are excited about their colors! Keep a lookout Thursday afternoon for exciting news from a first grader's perspective!

SmartBoard - I'm not as far along as I'd like to be with my SmartBoard lessons. Again, slow and steady...So each day we have a math warm-up using our SmartBoard. They include counting activities that must be taught per the GLET's, but often take all year to learn.

Webquests - So I've noticed some teachers have been doing these since 1995. I'm curious to know if anyone out there has made or completed these in the past and what your thoughts are on these. Is there another catch-phrase for these that I have missed? My search continues to look for ideal examples. Perhaps with collaboration, some great ones can be created!

King of Slack!

I am highly qualified… at slack. What is slack you ask? Simple, it is the art of non-work, a life style of chill, and a quantum-like state of existence and absence perpetuated behind a veil of flux. In other words…slack. I have over the years perfected the art of slack; by claiming, no! Justifying its existence with a degree of verbal defensiveness: e.g. multi-tasking, high standards, perfectionism; and YES even casual assertiveness! But what it really comes down to is… procrastination; that vile multi-headed hydra that rears its horned head and spews smoke into the face of clarity and preparation. Alas, I have found a simple cure… technology. The computer will save me… sort of… stay with me as I explain how:

1. GMobileSync: Sync Google Calendar with a Windows Mobile device, you can use this with almost any Smartphone (Shadow, Blackberry, Touch) this lets you exchange info with your Google account. I’m still experimenting with this feature, other programs include: Schedule World
2. Calendar Sharing- View calendars that others have shared with you, and let your friends and family see your agenda. I have synced my Google Calendar with my Google Site and post my daily assignments for all students to access.
3. All assignments, work, reference materials, and curriculum information is kept on my Google Site: http://sites.google.com/site/maxwillssite/ I have my students access this material weekly and remind them that this is a good starting point for further research. If a student is absent I politely ask them to check the calendar and site for needed work. And it’s as good as a flash-drive for saving stuff.

Did this infusion of technology save me from the dreamy shadow of slack? In short no… I fear that I will always be a late bloomerJ but it sure is forcing me to be a lot more organized.

SmartBoard Blues

Hey gang! It's been an exciting time; as many of you know, we've been in session at Hanson for almost two months now!!!!

I have really become comfortable in utilizing the SmartBoard in the classroom. Interestingly enough, I had issues at the beginning of the school year in getting the SmartBoard out of "mouse" mode (blinking green light). It would not let me use the full capabilities of what I knew it could do, so I jumped onto their user-friendly support help site. I followed through with the instructions, but, alas, to no avail (dreaded red light). I ended up reinstalling a driver, and the thing's kickin' up like new (steady green light-Yes!). I also went on ebay and got a fifty dollar wireless presenter mouse for twenty-two bucks; I HIGHLY recommend it for those of you who enjoy the mobility of checking student work while being able to emphasize points and present from anywhere in the room.

I believe that I expressed some of my frustration at the limited access that we had been granted on putting new programs on our classroom computers. We were juggling in the first few weeks just to retrieve our files, which really didn't add to the overall happiness. Still, kudos to the tech folks for dealing with a bazillion open tickets at one time.

I am really excited about being able to mentor other teachers in incorporating technology into their classroom.

Comin' soon to a blog near you...

"Ending the Isolation - Collaboration Rules!"

- Justin

Monday, September 8, 2008

My wiki has been Smart-Blocked at school!! Has anyone else encountered similar problems? The sad part is, I finally got my professional wiki up and running with my team at Central and an actual "taker" who wanted to try it for collaboration, only to have her tell me at lunch that it has been flagged as a "dating site!" Also, my students were just beginning to get used to using our class site when the next thing I knew... you got it... Smart Blocked! Hopefully this will get taken care of, but it is a disappointing bump in the road.
Kudos to the people responsible for getting us our StoryTown passwords. The on-line components have many possibilities! I like the mini-lessons/games that go with our "focus skills" in the Student Ebook edition. Of course, they have to support the all-important GLET's!!! I plan on using the ebook with the SmartBoard if I ever get somebody to mount it on the wall for me.
Today my students loved reading along with the leveled ereaders component of StoryTown. I projected it onto the wall (it will be better with the SmartBoard when it is up,) and in their small groups they took turns pushing the sound icons and using a pointer to follow along. It was good to see them work collaboratively to figure out how to get everything to work and to see them so actively involved in their learning.
I also thought it might be motivating for students to use the SmartBoard as a giant Frayer Model for vocabulary and then publish them on our our wiki... only I don't know how to do that. I thought it would be a good "starter" collaborative technology/content project. The great thing is that I could do it with my Science students and then they can take their new-found tech-knowledge back to their homerooms.
Take Care!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Woohoo! Got another one to blog :-)

So I'm pretty proud of myself. The one teacher that said she would never use blogs in her classroom has started blogging with and for her students. :-) I sat down with her after school one day and worked her through the process. Her next step is setting up a class webpage, which she says she is open to doing also. Yay!

On the other hand, my son's best friend attends Horizon High School and wants to start getting his teachers involved in technology. He asked his history teacher for their email address so he could email assignments to them, and was rebuffed with a rather unclear explanation: "something about the school email addresses not being able to do it for some reason." That may be true, but at the same time I wonder if it again is simply fear and unwillingness to use new technology. I'm tempted to see if I could do a presentation to the district 12 teachers on green classrooms. Perhaps I could get Blake (my son's friend) to see if his teachers would be interested in a training along those lines. After talking with Zach about CSU going green and his instructors use of technology, the idea that teachers aren't using technology when they can is rather disappointing. I've been invited to be a presenter at the CLAS conference this spring around the use of blogs, Google docs, etc., but I would like to get the ball rolling on this sooner... besides, if I can get in to do a training at district 12, then I can get practice before I do it this spring. :-)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Student data worksheets in Excel using conditional formatting

Here's a follow up video to last weeks post on creating a student data sheet in Excel using conditional formatting. I posted an example file in the Global Learner Wiki under Elementary Reading: http://globallearner.wikispaces.com/Elementary+Reading

Cross posted on http://MrFisherGlobalLearner.blogspot.com/


Hi all. The above url will allow you to add a near-perfect "text-to-voice" option on your blog. Click here to see an example from my AP bio blog. Also can be used for podcasts (Todd?)

Lots of possibilities for our students with limited English language abilities. Might be paired up with a language text translator (ex: babelfish ).


Kind of cool...


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Monitor Notes . . .

What are monitoring notes? In my opinion, this is a new buzz word that is making its way into teachers’ vocabulary. To make it simple, monitoring notes are a way for you to quickly assess your students’ understanding of a certain skill or strategy that they must be able to demonstrate at grade level. I learned of monitoring notes through my AP who was giving me next steps.

What does this mean? Let’s take a GLET from the 7th grade Reading Pacing Guide. Standard 4c says, “Students will be able to infer information not directly stated in text.” Ok, so my students need to be able to show that they can “read between the lines” when reading and comprehending texts. In my class, we are reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and in Chapter 2, students should be able to infer why Papa brings Mr. Morrison home. My content partners and I feel that being able to infer is an essential skill that will allow students to reach proficiency. So we posed the question, on a handout, “What can you infer about why Papa brought Mr. Morrison home?” A response that reflects proficiency will include the idea that Papa brought Mr. Morrison home because he wanted to make sure his family was protected from the night riders. Mr. Morrison is a large, muscular man and, therefore, threatening. This information is not directly stated in the text.

What about the other 100 GLET’s I have to teach in this unit? The assessment above took about 10 minutes total from start to finish. I was able to peek over my students’ shoulders and check for understanding. I can tell you that this particular class did not comprehend the inference so I was able to go back and discuss with my students the meaning by asking higher-level questions that made them synthesize the text immediately. I will go back and re-teach this skill, as it needs to be repeated in order for mastery, but I know where my students are without having to guess or await test results. Please understand, my daily activities do include more than one GLET and I do assess for understanding in different ways but when I’m taking monitoring notes, I am taking a snapshot of one GLET that my partners and I have decided to focus on.

How do I keep track of these monitoring notes? This is a great question with a personal answer. I don’t know how you like to collect data but I’ll tell you what I do. I print out a blank spreadsheet from Infinite Campus. I put the GLET at the top along with the date and put three different marks indicating proficiency. If a student does not understand the GLET, I mark a 0 next to their name. If the student kind of understands (and it’s a GLET that allows for that), I put a check mark, and if a student fully understands, I give them a +. There is no “right” way to take a monitoring note so try different things until something finally works for you.

Does this mean more work for me? Let me be honest, at the beginning, yes, this means a little more work in the respect I find myself taking more student work home. However, I can tell you that I have been using these notes for the last few weeks and have no clue as to how I survived without them. I feel like I know my kids better now than when I just knew their MAP and CSAP scores. I can modify my instruction fully knowing what my kids struggle with, I can pull small skills groups to explicitly teach the skill to those who have no understanding, and I have a body of evidence on each student, which, let’s face it, is essential in this day in age.

I encourage you to try monitoring notes if you are at all interested in the concept. Our school has moved to a monitoring note system to enhance our progress monitoring (weekly assessment of student achievement). We are working hard to move our kids to out of unsatisfactory and partially proficient to proficiency and advanced placement and to do so, we have to dig deeper to increase student understanding. I have attached a few links, courtesy of my Assistant Principal. The last one contains actual monitoring notes for math.


Mug Shots Explained!

There has been a lot of feedback about my blog titled “Here We Go!” I’ll start with Mug Shots because they are easier to explain. Mug Shots are D.O.L.’s or Daily Oral Language (sentences with punctuation and grammar errors.) I use these “Mug Shots” at the beginning and end of my Communications classes to ensure my students are using and understanding the correct, complex usage for punctuation and grammar. When my students walk into my classroom, they see a Mug Shot on the board; it is their job to write it down in their notebooks and correct it. After students have had time to ponder and correct the sentence, and I’ve had time to take attendance, we discuss the corrections and students volunteer to correct the sentence on the SmartBoard. Then, a mini lesson regarding the specific skill is addressed.

As an exit slip out, or a monitoring note, my students are responsible for correcting additional sentences with mistakes that were addressed in the mini lesson. For example, we are working with homophones right now. I gave my students a sentence (found in the 7th grade Write Source). They corrected the sentence by choosing the best homophone. They left their Mug Shot Exit Slip with me and I was able to quickly go through all of the papers to determine who understood the concept and who didn’t and what needs to be re-taught.

Stay tuned for more about monitoring notes!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lesson learned

So today I learned that if you want to podcast, it's important to make sure that the battery in the receiver is actually charged. I accidentally left it on all weekend and totally killed the battery. Woops. To paraphrase the Seinfeld Soup Nazi, "No podcast for you!" :)

On a side note, here is the link to my class webpage. It's a pretty basic site, at least for now, but it has links to the subpages I set up for each individual class (including links to the podcasts) as well as links to my teacher blog, my students' blogs, the climbing team website, and even the climbing team blog. Feel free to peruse and comment. The students' blogs still need a good bit of work... I haven't yet had the chance to work with them around various concepts, including what is and isn't school appropriate- I am seeing a good number of "wat's up, yo" entries, but with time, I think they will get it, particularly once I have some exemplars to show them (aside from mine, which I think they don't think "counts" since I'm a teacher and all...). For now, I'm just pleased that they actually want to do it... it was much less of a fight to get them to write than I thought it would be (as I've mentioned before).

Goals met (at least partially) and Smart Board Reflections

(Cross posted from my teacher blog.)

Got up early this morning and really wanted to go on a bike ride, so I pumped up the Cannondale, got in the saddle and off I went. It was an absolutely perfect morning for a bike ride. I headed north and found myself on highway 7 before long, then I headed west. Next thing I knew, I saw a sign that said "Lafayette 6; Boulder 17." I smiled and decided to make the trip to Lafayette. It didn't take me anywhere near as long as I thought it might; an hour or so after I left my house, and I was in Old Town Lafayette. I hung out for a while, then made the trip back for a total of 28 miles in roughly two hours. I was pretty psyched, and it's most of the way towards my goal of riding my bike to Boulder. Since I was roughly 10 miles from Boulder, I definitely know that it's within my reach to finish it out to Boulder. I have to admit that I was glad I turned myself around, even though I was tempted to finish it out to Boulder. I like to finish out the last half-mile or so to my house on a dead sprint, but that just wasn't going to happen today. About five seconds into the sprint, my legs gave me a very firm "Nope, not gonna happen, buddy" response, and I decided instead to do a nice, easy warm down ride instead. Heh.

I've been using the Smart Board quite a lot now, and it's been working out fantastically. We were working on the 11-sentence paragraph in class last week, and what could have been dry and boring ended up being a lot of fun. We spent some time filling out the graphic organizer together on the Smart Board, and I had 100% engagement for 100% of the time in all of my classes; not bad for a Friday afternoon before a long weekend.

I think I've actually perfected the podcasting, too. I recorded each of my classes on Friday, and I'll be uploading and linking them on my class website later on today. (I also plan to upload and link the Power Point presentations I used, though I will likely upload them as .pdf files since not everyone may have Power Point or even Microsoft Word, but Adobe Acrobat Reader is free.) Initially I was going to do all sorts of editing of the podcasts and only upload the "best," but the principal encouraged me to just upload them as they are and let the students fast forward through them as they need to.

Of course, there are some definite implications around doing that, not the least of which is that my classroom walls are definitely going to disappear and there will be full transparency, particularly since not only my students can listen to the podcasts, but their parents can as well. I told my students not to worry... I know how brilliant they are, and now their parents can hear it as well. :-) I do plan on emailing the link to as many parents as I have email addresses for, and while it seems a little scary to open myself up like this, I don't see it as a bad thing at all. I'm really excited about it.

I've gotten most of the students logged on and blogging already, and that has been a fantastic experience so far. The students have the option of blogging or reading during independent reading time, and it's not unusual to have a line of students four to six deep waiting to blog. So far I only have two desktops in my room, though I'm trying to get more put in. If you go to the class website, I've linked to the students' blogs there, so anyone interested can read and comment on their blogs. There is still some tweaking to do around the blogs, but they've gotten started, so the biggest part is done. I'm planning on working with my reluctant colleague after professional development this week and want to have her up and blogging as well.

I hit upon a bit of a flash as well around sub plans. What I hope to do on days when I know I'm going to be out is to upload my lessons as Power Points and record what I want to say in advance, along with a notesheet for my students to fill out and email back to me, then email links to the Power Point and podcast to my students, along with the notesheet to fill out. Then, on the day(s) when I know I'm going to be out, I simply reserve the computer lab for my students, the sub takes them down there, where they then log in, and can watch the presentation, listen to the podcast, and do the work there. Chances are I'll let them work collaboratively, but certainly any student that wants to work alone could... I guess it will depend on the nature of the assignment. I can even check in on them while I'm wherever I am and address issues/questions as needed. They really CAN have class 24/7! Of course, making sure I have access will be an issue, but I think it's one I can resolve (I hope).

The implications for all of this on my teaching is mind boggling. How on earth did I get anything done in the classroom before?? ;-)

Preparing to use technology...

I am off to a slow start this school year with using technology in my classroom. So far the only thing I've done is shown a Discover Streaming video to my students. But I am getting excited and feeling like I am now ready to go for it! My next step will be to use voki during writing. We're learning about statements, questions, commands and exclamations. I will have the students write one of each and then compile them with a voki. Anyone have another idea of how to use vokis with Writing? Thank you Global Learners for inspiring me to get things rolling!