Thursday, August 8, 2019

Pen Pals Who WRITE! Using "Snail Mail" to Connect Our Students!

What is the Pen Pals Who WRITE Project?



I decided to create this project because of my wonderful experience exchanging letters with pen pals in another state. One year my class had two sets of pen pals, one in California, and one in New Jersey. In 2013-2014 school year, we were pen pals with a class in Spain, last year, Russia.
While we had fun doing projects using tech, receiving letters was even more fun!
​Sooo... I thought if I could get teachers who were interested in having their class write together..... the rest is history!
Last year, we connected with a class in Australia. The kids got to "meet" each other via Flipgrid. A previous year, we met our pen pals through Skype. So, if you are into integrating tech, you have the best of both worlds.
Every year, I connect with a different class. I make sure I get permission from parents before a child is able to connect. No permission, no pen pal. 
We only write once a month, so that it doesn't feel overwhelming. I usually start my students off with a template we created as a class and it includes a smaple of a Friendly letter.
However, every child's writing strength is not the same, so they do their best. I do proofread their rough drafts, and have them fix any errors. You want the other class to be able to read it. I also read the letters sent to them.
There is so much excitement when the letters arrive!:) LOTS of excitement because letter writing is a thing of the past. You should see my kids' faces when their letters arrive!:)
If you are interested, fill out the Sign Out form to add your name to the Teacher Connection form. Click on the Teacher Connection form and reach out to a classroom. Teachers must use school email addresses. 
Hopefully, you find a class to connect with! ๐Ÿ˜Ž



Monday, August 5, 2019

PLEASE "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!" Using DonorsChoose.Org!

TUESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2019 is a MATCH DAY!
Many times people bemoan and lament about teacher salaries, how educators don't get paid enough, that no teacher should have to pay for anything out of their own pocket, and than they do nothing.

Well, here's a way for those who can, to do. Put your money(๐Ÿ’ฒ)where your mouth is!

DonorsChoose.org is an amazing non-profit whose sole purpose is to "connect the public to public schools." In other words, get financial help so that teachers can continue the great things that are happening in their classrooms. Read their About Us page to get some background on how and why they began.

I have had over 20 projects funded, and I am looking forward to funding many more. (Hint, hint)I have received mice, headphones, Ipads, a rug (Do you know how much classroom rugs cost?), wobbly chairs, and just recently, a mini studio creator so that my students could create podcasts. I believe in DonorsChoose so much, that I am a DonorsChoose ambassador, letting teachers know that this resource is available to them.

Teachers request many things, like basic supplies, clothing, sports goods, tech, professional development, anything and everything that will help them provide what is needed for their classroom. The items are funded for the teacher, but, they belong to the school, so teachers are not making requests for personal items. A special bonus are the personal Thank you's you will receive from the students!

DonorsChoose gets funding from the public and from corporations who collaborate and provide funding for thousands of teachers. There are groups on FB (e.g. Caring Classroooms), Twitter etc... whose sole purpose is to get teacher projects funded.

If you want to give, go the website. You can choose teachers you know, teachers in a particular state, school, there are many options for giving. Any time is a good time to give, but the BEST time to give is when projects are being matched. For example, you give $10, the project gets $20, because a company is matching all donations. In 2018, Ripple funded every single project on DonorsChoose. BestSchoolDay. Literally. That's what it was called.๐Ÿ˜Š

Please, put your Tax-deductible๐Ÿ’ฒ๐Ÿ’ฒ๐Ÿ’ฒwhere your ๐Ÿ˜ฎ is, and help out a teacher today! ๐Ÿ˜Š


What if Teachers Just Stopped...?


This was a FB post and I had to share it.
After being attacked online by some troll who thinks I only work 8-3, and always have 3 paid months off, and who thinks I request school supplies for myself and not for my students, I had to write this rant. I'm getting so sick and tired of how teachers are viewed and treated. 


Teachers in all fifty states should stop using their own money in their classrooms. Just stop.
If the children don't have supplies, go hungry, if the room and supplies get broken down and dirty, whatever, let it happen. Then people can truly understand how much work and money teachers put in behind the scenes. If you paid for any of those decorations, books, science lab supplies, furniture, lamps, pillows, remove them from the classroom; let parents see how bare bones a classroom is without a teacher's input. 


Also, teachers should only work their contracted hours. Mine is 7 am – 2:30 pm. Imagine if I didn't contact parents, didn't grade, didn't lesson plan, didn't sponsor clubs, didn't volunteer to chaperone after 2:30 pm. Imagine if all the teachers stopped doing all of that. Sorry, I didn't call that parent about their child's grade because it was 2:31. Sorry, I can't sell concessions at the Friday football game; ask for parent volunteers. Sorry, I can't sponsor Future Business Leaders of America because it's an after-school club. Sorry, I didn't get that assignment graded yet; I used to grade from 3-4 or 5 pm nearly every day, but I stopped doing that. 


Again, unless we stop making these personal sacrifices, then people will keep expecting us to bend over backwards and take it. And they will never understand all the time, effort, money, and work that we truly put in unless we force them to see it.
What if we just stopped?
We are a profession that is taken for granted.
That "teacher as martyr or Superhero" syndrome has allowed us to be taken advantage of.
That "it's for the kids" line gives people the right to pay us very little, but expect so much.
They uses phrases like, "All in" to make you believe that if you don't participate in everything outside of your school day, even though if you have your own life, that there is something wrong with YOU.
At the same time they are spouting "self-care", they are putting 28+ students in our classrooms.
The list is endless.
What if teachers just stopped?
Think about it.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

I Am A Warm Demander: Caring and High Expectations Are Not Exclusive


If you listen to the late Rita Pierson's TED talk, you have a perfect example of the term, "Warm Demander". 

As I was perusing the latest Edutopia articles, the title  "The Necessity of Having High Expectations" caught my eye. We, in the education field seem to have moved away from this mindset. The mindset of holding our students accountable, expecting the best, their best, from them.

We have led ourselves to believe that because our students are dealing with trauma, living in poverty, or any of the myriad of issues that they have to deal with, we should lower our expectations for them. If anything, as mentioned in the article, we should do the exact opposite, but in a caring, empathetic, manner.

I had never heard the term "Warm Demander" although this term seems to have been around for years.  When I read the definition, I knew it was a description of how I see myself as an educator.

This Warm Demander T chart  places educators in 4 categories, The Warm Demander, The Technocrat, The Sentimentalist, and The Elitist. And while it is not perfect, each category sums up educators I am sure we have all witnessed, some because of their deliberate actions, and some because they believe they are doing what is best for their students.

We can be better for our students. We have to make sure, that no matter what our students' circumstances, we meet their needs, but at the same time, hold them accountable and let them be successful without lowering our expectations.

 It is possible to do both. Be a Warm Demander. 

Warm Defender T-Chart Credit: "Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain" 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Podcasting in the Classroom! Giving Students a Voice!




One of my classroom goals last school year, was to have my students create a classroom podcast.
It was literally the end of the school year when they worked on making it happen Literally, maybe two weeks left, and not even full days. But they did it!



I asked who would be interested in working on a podcast. I chose a leader and they put together a committee of willing workers. I was the facilitator, and provided them with samples of podcasts and articles on podcasting. They developed their own format, which included an interview with our 2020 Teacher of the Year, original content, and a brainteaser.

I ordered a Tascam Mini Studio Creator from Amazon through DonorsChoose. I have to be honest, I did not have a clue what to do with this equipment, but my kids did! Not right away, they taught themselves, and of course, then they taught me. They used Audacity to record it and I, yes I, uploaded it to Anchor. (I learned this at ISTE).We also got some help from soneone I know in the communications field who was willing to come out and guide the students as they worked on the podcast.

Watching my students, who had never done any podcasting, work on this was amazing! The way they put it together, added sound effects, developed intros and outros, figured out how to edit it,was such a learning experience for them and for me. Imagine what they can do with this knowledge in the future!

I attended many podcast sessions while I was at ISTE2019, and realized I didn't know as much as I thought I did about podcasting. Jeff Bradbury has a site called Educational Podcasting Today that you should check out, it's full of information that can help with your classroom podcast journey.

My eyes were opened to the various ways we would be able to produce the podcasts and share them, Synth, Anchor, and Garageband are just a few of the tools out there.

I wish I could share everything I learned at ISTE19, (International Society of Technology and Education), but this post would go on forever.:) Hopefully though, the information provided leads you in the right direction!


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A CLASSROOM Teacher Goes to ISTE2019!


On May 15, 2019, I received the information below in an email. I had applied for the ISTE
(International Society for Technology in Education) scholarship after a friend posted the information in our FB group. (What would I do w/o my PLN?) Shout out to Regina S!
I was thrilled, because if it was not for this scholarship, even though ISTE19 was only an hour commute, I could not attend. I had no funding, that $500+ registration fee was no joke! I am not a Tech coach, or a Technology insructor, I am "just" a classroom teacher with a HUGE appetite for integrating technology in my classroom, and sharing what I learn with others.

As I sat in workshops, all I could think about was how I was going to USE these things I was learning in my classroom. I thought about how I could share them with my colleagues.

My mind spun with the information that I gathered from each session. Here's the thing. I know a lot about integrating tech in my classroom, but I will be the first to admit, I don't know everything, Each session, whether workshop, poster, or playground, was a chance to "Ooooooh", "Aaaaah", and "Gasp". Oh, and don't forget, "So, that's how you do it!" or "I never thought about using it that way."

All I thought about were the innnovative changes I was going to make when I got back to my classroom. I am already meeting with my admin to discuss two programs I want to bring to our school, not to mention resources I will be able to pilot.

Attending ISTE is an amazing experience for anyone, but it's especially amazing for a classroom teacher!

A special thank you to those sponsors who provided our scholarships,sources like DonorsChoose, and others, who are willing to send a classroom teacher go to ISTE!





Monday, July 8, 2019

Tell Me WHY You're Awesome!

I was at a session and we were talking about getting students' feet wet with podcasting and someone said he tells his students to record themselves via a podcasting tool, explaining why they are awesome.

I haven't been able to get this out of my head.

Not tell me if you think you're awesome, or what you can do to be awesome, but tell me WHY you're awesome. This teacher is not leaving any doubt that the student is actually awesome! LOVE it!

His message to his sudents?

You are awesome. I know you are awesome. I just need you to tell me why.

What a delicious way to start off the school year, having your students believe that you know that  every single one of them is awesome, no matter what happened the year before, or the year before that.
No matter what stories Negative Nellie or Negative Ned whispered, texted, or emailed, to make sure that teacher "knew what they were getting."

When a student is given the opportunity to tell why they are awesome, it's the building block to beginning a meaningful relationship because you trust them to tell what's good about themseves.

No matter what happened in the previous years, this is their chance to describe their awesomeness, and through podcastng, no less! You can even use Flipgrid, if podcasting is not your thing.

I never got a chance to ask the presenter what happened if the student did not believe in their awesomeness. Hopefully, they all do. And if by chance, I come across one who doesn't, I hope I can help them find at least one way in which they are.

Hey Teach, tell me why YOU'RE awesome!:)

`









Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Advice to a Future Fifth Grader... A Letter For My Future Students!

Most years, I have my students write a letter to the incoming 4th graders. As I read the letters, it made me reflect on their viewpoint of our classroom. Your kids will always be honest about how they see you and it may not always be how you perceive yourself! ๐Ÿ˜€

Dear Future Fifth Grader…

I’m K_______, I am a fifth grader in Mrs.Mims class. I'm giving you some information for YOU when you come to the 5th grade. Here’s some advice.

1. FOLLOW RULES! If you don’t, you will have a consequence.

2. Try not to get in trouble.

3. Mrs.Mims expects you to act like a 5th grader, not a 2nd grader.

4. DO NOT LIE! Mrs.Mims loves when you are honest. And lying will get you in WAY more trouble.

5. You can hang out with disrespectful kids, it's not my choice, but be the positive influence.
6. Please try to be nice to any students or teachers.

7. Apologies are nice if you’ve done something wrong.

8. Don't be disrespectful.

9. Don't talk, while the teacher is talking.

10. Last but NOT least, try your best when you go to the 5th grade. 

You’re welcome for the help I’ve given you!
Sincerely,
K

Monday, March 25, 2019

Actions Have Consequences: Letting Students Own Their Consequences!



"You're always picking on me."

Maybe you've heard this before.

I have tried, on many occasions, to explain to some of my students that their actions have consequences.

"I am not picking on you. Your consequences are in direct correlation to your actions." Well, I don't use those words exactly, but you understand what I am trying to get them to understand.

It doesn't help when parents stand behind this thinking, and add their voice to the idea that my day is made when I get to "pick on" a child.

Well, after Student-led conferences I felt that maybe the consequences in our room weren't clear. Maybe that was the problem. They understood there would be consequences, but just felt that they were not dealt out fairly. We do have a brief list of Expectations hanging on our wall, however, that doesn't seem to be enough.

So during Morning Meeting, we came up with a Rules and Consequences form, which I have since changed to Actions & Consequences. We sat as a group and worked on the form. I added two actions, but they came up with the rest. ALL the consequences are theirs. ALL.

We did not list positive actions because no one has ever accused me of "picking on" them for positive things. They know the consequences of positive actions, they experience it every day.

I printed the document. You will notice there is a place for the child to sign AND their parent. They are to bring the document back and keep it in their desk, notebook, somewhere where they can access it if needed.

I have a great group of kids, but, this is a lesson I need them to take with them as they follow their path.

Your actions have consequences.

They can be positive or negative, but our actions, young and old alike, have consequences.

Credits: I found the quote above on FB. Applebaum Training Institute

Saturday, February 16, 2019

"You LIKE Reading"? Is Reading for Pleasure Obsolete?


The other day I was teaching an economics lesson on Supply and Demand.
The students had to write a list of 4 things they like to do when they are home.
I modeled the ist with a list of my own, and I started with reading. (Which I really shouldn't have because the lesson was about getting paid to read, so... but that's how much I love to read.)

One of the students stated increduously, "You LIKE to read?"
I replied, "Yes, that is part of how I got here, haviing this job," or something like that.
He said, "That's not what I mean. You just LIKE to read?"
I said, "Do you mean for pleasure?" Yes, I do, and I'm mad that I don't get to do it as much as I would like because of work."
At this point, he just laughed and shook his head.

Many students don't read for pleasure. Many adults don't read for pleasure.
Why?
video games
Youtube
phones
lack of diversity in books
books are not present in the home or classroom
school has sucked the joy of out of reading

So, what should we do to get our kids reading for pleasure?

  1. have diverse books in your classroom
  2. stop killing books with worksheets (What's the Main idea?)
  3. give kids time to just read 
  4. Let students choose their own books 
  5. allow students to read books, not just passages with questions
  6. allow students to read above or below their "level."
  7. participate in projects like the Global Read Aloud
  8. connect with others in the world who are reading the same book.
  9. use tech to let students "talk" about their book
  10. connect with authors
  11. read picture books
  12. allow audiobooks
  13. let them read digitally with Epic and Readworks.

My kids are tested at the end of the school year, so I am not going to tell you that I never use worksheets or teach reading "strategies." But, I have found that the ideas I have listed above have created students that actually enjoy a book, who read for pleasure.

My best moment of our day is whe my kids sprawl out all over the room in video chairs, the Yoga balls, at a desk, or the round table and read. The room is quiet and and the majority of them are actually reading! Sweet!:)


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Genre Hunt:Using Books For Authentic Learning Moments!


Sometimes kids just want to do something that is fun. Meanwhile, I want fun and meaningful.
I gave them a @Quizizz pre-test on Genres and they bombed! They had an accuracy of about 42%, which told me that they knew almost nothing about genres.

What to do ? What to do? How do I "teach" genres in a hands-on way where they might actually understand what a genre is?

I know, "A Genre Hunt!"

I have tons and tons of books in my room in every genre, so this would be an easy task.
I created a form that included 3 items, the genre of the book, the title of the book ("Use capitals!"), and the author. (Amazing how many kids don't know where to find the author of the book).

I handed out a Genre Overview sheet and we reviewed it. Then I let them go. (Classroom management is a must with this activity.) They worked in groups of 4. It was a learning experience watching them rush around the room gathering books, picking up our most recent read aloud trying to figure out where it fit, deciding who recorded, and who skimmed the books. Collaboration at it's best!

They really, really enjoyed this activity! When I told them that we had to stop, I ended up giving them more time. As a matter of fact, we had a Part 2 the next day.

I wish I could tell you that when I gave the Genre quiz on Quizizz again, they were at a 100% accuracy. However, they did increase to 50%, so learning about genres will continue to be a work in progress.
If nothing else, I did get them to become familiar with all those books sitting in our classroom. :)