Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Podcasts in the Classroom

Podcasts are so popular and I am obsessed with so many that I wanted to find a way to bring them into the classroom. You may be thinking about the popular true crime podcasts and wondering how you could ever bring something like that to students. Well, keep reading because I have a couple of ways that I am so excited to tell you about!

Just in case you haven't jumped on the bandwagon, let me tell you a little about them and how to listen. First, there is a genre to suit anyone from true crime to radio shows to teacher learning, it is all there! You probably never even noticed the purple icon on Apple devices but it unlocks the magic! Spotify has joined the crazy and has a platform to listen as well as places like Google and Stitcher.

There are many ways podcasts can be used in your classroom. Just be warned, once you get students listening, they will want more!

1. One of my language arts teachers was looking for something to engage her students in that tricky time between testing and spring fever. A podcast was the answer! She spent two weeks doing pretty much everything you would do for a novel study, but for a podcast. We used the serial podcast Six Minutes. We did all the things you would do for a novel study: summarize, character development, plot, conflict, author's mood, point of view, and theme. Students were able to imagine the characters and it was great for listening comprehension. It also allowed for deep discussions because it didn't matter what reading level students were. Students were so eager to hear the next chapter each day that predictions and inferences were happening naturally and they were loving every minute of it! Here are a few of my favorites with one for adults thrown in for fun!

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel
Welcome to Night Vale
Six Minutes

Up and Vanished

2. My Creative Writing teacher, who also fuels my creativity, had a vision of her students sitting around an old fashioned radio and listening to shows. She wanted them to experience what it was like with no television to help with their writing. As unthinkable as it seemed to students, it would be a great way for them to hear stories and use their imagination! I knew immediately that podcasting would be the perfect way for them to tell their stories! It took a couple weeks of tweaking and bouncing ideas around to come up with the logistics since she teaches six sections of Creative Writing. We knew we wanted a series and originally tried to have each class add on with an episode of the same story but that worked out easier in our plans than real life. We settled on a series of different murder mysteries and Ms. Grant's Middle School Mysteries came into existence! Students were grouped together and wrote their own murder mystery complete with computer sound effects. Then they stepped into the "recording studio" to record their episode using different voices and their sound effects. Students enjoyed taking a day to listen to their classmates episodes after the series was published. Here is the link to their podcast!

I am always looking for ways to build the community and schoolhouse relationship. I want families to feel like they are a part of the amazing things happening around campus by getting a look at the day in the life of their students. Over the summer, I began researching what it would take to have a school podcast. I told you I love them oh so much! There were so many things to consider: equipment, recording software, finding a media host, the focus of the podcast, guests, the list went on and on! I came up with an interview wish list. I thought of all the people that could have something to say about our community and what we would talk about. It was a lot of lists! But Toros in the Middle THE PODCAST became a reality and all the prep and recording and lining up guests was worth it. I have loved the way it brings voices into the community and the feedback has been very positive. Well, except for my teacher who said, "I have prayed all quarter you wouldn't ask me to be on the podcast!" Ha! She did an episode for me and it was great! Listen to a couple of our top episodes.

Podcasts are an amazing asset you can incorporate into your classroom or schoolhouse. I encourage you to take the plunge and listen to a few and I promise the ideas will start flooding in! 


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Chopped Inspired Professional Development and Lessons

I love professional learning! I know not every teacher shares my love so when it comes to professional development I try to get creative. Our district PD focus this year is writing quality standards-based assessment items. Item writing is not the most glamorous topic of professional learning! So I started the session with this video.

On Chopped, chefs create a delicious offering on the spot using ingredients they're given. In my version of this concept, I provided teachers with three ingredients: a standard, a DOK level, and a template.

There were three rounds: appetizer, entree, and dessert. Teachers could also use items from the "pantry" such as Item Specifications, the Course of Study, their computer, flip books, DOK Level guides, or Google!

Teachers were given a "basket" for each round and a time limit of 10 minutes to create their assessment item. We focused on having a rationale for answer choices, not just trick questions, so you can see what student misconceptions are. 

Each teacher then presented their "dish" or assessment item to their content group. Unlike what happens on the show, no one was "chopped!" Whenever I facilitate professional learning, I try to deliver it in a way or use a strategy my teachers could take back to their classrooms and use with their students. And that happened with Chopped

One of my English Language Arts teachers used Chopped to practice summarizing and paraphrasing paragraphs. Her baskets contained a paragraph, oversized note cards, and rubric. She also gave a time limit.

The ELA teacher had celebrity judges come and judge their paraphrasing and summarizing! It added so much excitement to the writing to have their principal, assistant principal, counselor, fan fave previous teacher, and SRO come to judge! 

Another one of my teachers was inspired to do a Chopped lesson with her Civics classes. She also had a three course, timed challenge. Jurisdictions Sampler was her first course. Students had to know how many Federal District Courts are in our state and find information about them using the QR codes in their basket. The next course was the Dual Combo Entree. Students completed a scavenger hunt on the Dual Court System using our county Circuit Court website. The last course was Dessert Supreme. Students created 45 second skits acting out how each court tries a case. 

She also got into character with an apron and chef hat! The possibilities are endless with this Chopped inspired strategy. You could make baskets with ingredients for any content area. It really engaged the students and my teachers! 


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Personal Narrative in Your Head

Creative Writing is an elective at my school that 6th graders take. The teacher is amazing and she asked me to help her come up with something fun for personal narrative writing. We talked through how students would be thinking and writing about themselves for their writing. I immediately thought of a DoInk video I had scrolled through on Instagram. DoInk Green Screen is an app for iPhones and iPads that has endless possibilities using green screen technology. 

Students made movies with images about themselves in iMovie. We set the pictures to flip every 2 seconds so it would look like the thoughts were moving through their head. We used green paper to create a green screen for our heads. The app did the rest!

DoInk uses layers allowing you to choose videos or images or a combination of both or you can even record live from the app. For this project, we added their iMovies on the bottom layer. We used the video on the app to record their head with the green screen on it.

Students were nervous about sitting there for 30 seconds "thinking" and kept asking what they should do during the videoing! I would say make the face you have when you think! 

You had to get up close to make the video fit inside the "green screen" so be sure to make students comfortable with that!

The Creative Writing students are now ready to write their personal narratives! This was a super fun project. This green screen app makes my head swirl with ideas of what I can do with it next! 


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

RCA Inspired House System

I am starting my second year as a curriculum coach so over the summer I was able to plan all the back to school things! I have had the mindset with this position that I want to treat my teachers just like I did my students. So I am always trying to build community, make professional development fun, and build my street cred! Ron Clark is my teacher idol and his house system is amazing. I thought having a house system would be a great way to create camaraderie with my teachers. We tend to stick with our grade level and/or our content area in the secondary world so I wanted to mix things up! And bring on the competition for motivation!

Look at that super fun wheel! It is not the Ron Clark 47' wheel but it was made with a lot of love. We {and by we I mean my husband} started with a trip to Lowe's for lumber and paint. But it was a day date and we were in my car so this is what that looked like! 

I created the wheel in PowerPoint and printed it poster size. We found a piece of plywood already cut in a circle so I just had to measure. Then it was ModPodge for days! I love the way it turned out!

For the first day back, we rolled out the red carpet, played loud hype music, dressed up in house costumes, and got ready to greet the teachers! The House Sort started and each teacher took their turn spinning the wheel. My administration went wild when someone landed in their house and it was oh so much fun!

After everyone was sorted, we explained how the house system would work and what they could earn points for. Everyone sat with their house and enjoyed breakfast. Then, we sang the Welcome To My House {to the tune of Flo Rida's version} school-wide song to give them an example of what we would be doing at each faculty meeting.

The point system has been a little controversial because admin are our house leaders and some like to make it rain with the points! Also, we have two houses that are tiny, a medium sized, and a ginormous one. The luck of the wheel! Points are given to teachers for teacher-y things using Class Dojo and I keep house totals posted in the workroom. 

The added competition has made it a lot of fun so far! We have had two faculty meetings and at those we have one person from each house spin the wheel for points and we all do our house chant or song. 

I hope this continues to bring us together and gives us something fun to look forward to each month at faculty meetings! I also hope we can expand it to our students next year once the teachers feel comfortable with it. I love my teachers and how they go along with all my ideas. I am so lucky to have this dream job with these people!


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Classroom Community Building

I recently presented at the Gulf Regional Innovative Teaching Conference that my school district puts on each summer. It is an amazing un-conference with many, many different instructional strategy sessions offered from coding to the dark web. I was honored to present four different sessions this year including a FONT class! My fave! With back to school festivities in full swing, I wanted to share some community building things that have worked in my classroom.

I found this idea from Sara Van Der Werf a few years ago and it immediately became my all time favorite way to get to know my students. The first year, I found my students were having a hard time coming up with comments on their own so I added questions for each day. I had them tell me their baseball walk-up song, what they looked for in a teacher, what they are passionate about (hello Genius Hour!), their strengths and ways we could use them, and what success would look like for them. Students answer the questions each day and I comment on them each night. You get to know so much about your students and it is a great way to connect their names to something you can remember. It does take a bit of time each night to write back to each student but is sooooo worth it! 

Team work is a BIG deal in my classroom. We work as a team in everything we do from math problem-solving to taking care of our space. So it is important to set that community and team vibe from the very first day. One of my favorite back to school team building activities is the cup stacking challenge. You may have done this before by just stacking the cups but this is a series of six challenges. They get progressively more difficult and my students love it! 

You can find the challenges from this website and I have linked directly to them at the end of the post! It is a great way to build community with very little prep. Another great activity is the 100 numbers task. I have used it for several years and it always shows students the expectation of what group work should look and feel like.

Yes! Classroom jobs in the middle school are amazing! Students love them and I love the ownership it gives to our classroom community. I love that my teacher assistant remembers to take attendance since I never do! 

Job applications are taken at the beginning of each quarter. Students can fill out the paper version or the Google Forms version. The application includes a section for them to explain why they would be an asset to the class at the position they are applying.  

When students enter the classroom, they grab their badge to wear during class and return it at the end. They take a lot of pride in their jobs! It really gives them a sense of belonging and purpose in our learning community. You need to have classroom jobs!

Having conferences with my students is one of my top priorities. I love the one-on-one interaction with them to really dig deep with their learning and how I can make instruction better for them. Even with these conferences, I found I was letting a couple of the perfect, quiet students slip by without my attention. To help me ensure I was reaching EVERY student I created a calendar and designated 4-5 students each block, each day that I made sure I spent time with. It was easy to look at right before the class started and to target those students. This helped me reach everyone and gave me another way to create connections with each of them.

Yes we gather like kinders on a carpet! Yes they love it! Yes we work out so many problems! Community meetings happen every couple of weeks or as needed. We discuss things like work ethic and taking care of our classroom when things aren't going quite the way we want. We take care of social and emotional needs. When students were scared of being deported or losing their family, we made it a safe space for them. Community meetings are so powerful and can serve such a big purpose in your classroom. The best 10 minutes you can invest in them!

Middle school students have needs! And it is our job to meet them. Even the small ones like being hot and needing a fan in our super hot classroom so you can do math!

This play table always has someone at it! Maybe they needed a brain break or they finished early, it was a space to create or solve riddles. I changed out the materials every week or two to keep it fresh. 

I did a post about my auction and paper plate awards here. Students earn "JRICH Dollars" for going above and beyond what is expected of them. At the end of each quarter, they use their dollars to bid on items at our auction. I have junk and my fave, Mountain Dew. I also give out Paper Plate Awards that are tailored to each student and the connection we made. You can read all about it here!

On Mondays, we do "One Good Thing" from the weekend or the week before. Students get a sticky note and write down something good. It could be anything from got new shoes to grandmother cooking their favorite meal. I wrote about this in detail here. It is the one small thing that really made a difference in knowing my students outside of school. From their one good thing I learned who played sports, who danced, who participated in tractor races or worked on cars with their family. It was a great way to invite every student's voice into the room on a Monday. They could share or they could say pass but every student spoke. 

Creating a positive classroom community is all about the little things you do to let your students know you care and love them! A growth chart so they can see how much taller they are than their teacher and how much they grow in the year. Positive words all over the room that let them know they matter and are welcome. Having supplies available so they can do math and not have to worry about a pencil! All the little things matter!

I hope you try some of these things to build a community or let me know the things I can steal from you that you already do! 

Everything can be found at the link below!

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