Wednesday, August 9, 2017

New Year, New Eyes

New backpacks. New shoes. New, sharpened pencils. New bulletin boards. New schedules. New software.


New eyes.


Wait, new eyes? Where the heck am I going to get new eyes?  


Before that one kid says something rude. Before that other kid stops showing up. Before a different kid refuses to put her name on her paper.


Let’s start fresh and new. Put on new eyes for tomorrow.


Each kid today is checking his new backpack, putting on her new shoes, checking out an outfit in front of the mirror. Each kid is nervously thinking about the new school year.  Each kid is taking a deep breath before tomorrow.


Each kid shows up hoping THIS will be a great year. Maybe even the best. Each kid’s parent or caregiver says a little prayer or thought that this year, hopefully their kid won’t struggle so much.


You have done a lot of preparation in the past week and a half. You have had meetings, trainings, room set-up. You have learned new software, new textbooks, new procedures, new content, new colleagues.


Now know that not much of that matters if you don’t believe that your kids can learn and grow. Those meetings, trainings, software, and set-up don’t matter if you don’t believe that each student can increase his or her capacity for learning and growth.


Go look at your class rolls. Look at each name. Think about how this year you can increase each kid’s brain power.


Your job isn’t to fill an empty bucket of a brain with content. Your job is to grow the bucket. By the end of the year, I hope most of the kids you teach have “bigger buckets” and a larger capacity for learning.


In case you’re wondering, one of the best ways to do that is to get to know your kids. Kids will grow their capacity for learning more when they feel safe and have a solid, dependable teacher-student relationship.


When you see them on the first day, have them fill out something to help you get to know them. Whether it’s their own paper, your handout, or digital forms, ask them for their name and interests. Ask them who they live with. Ask them what kind of music they like. Ask them their favorite book genre. Ask them what they like about school and what they don’t like. Ask them their favorite subjects or teachers from the past. Ask them what extracurriculars or hobbies they have.


Then, be diligent and purposeful in using that info to get to know them. Group them based on their favorite music, or similar hobbies. Group them based on neighborhood or favorite subject. Help them to get to know each other so you and they have better class dynamics and better behavior.


Use your new eyes. Every kid who walks through your door tomorrow is hoping for a great year. Every kid is hoping that this year, they will be academically and socially successful. Every kid is hoping that this year doesn’t suck.Every kid wants this year to be good.


Take a deep breath before you walk in tomorrow and do two things.
  1. Expect the best of each kid (no matter what you heard) and
  2. Get to know your kids so you can grow their capacity for learning.
Oh, and
3. Rock your first day!


Have a great one! I love to hear from you! Emai lme at newmantr@pcsb.org
-Tracy


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Summer Reads! Makes Me Feel Fine!

Summer READS ... Makes me feel Fiiine. Blowin’ through the Jasmine in my MIIIIII-IIIIIND.....

It’s about that time, y’all. After today, there are six more student days. And then....

Summer.

Ahhhhhh..... The time of year when teachers find they can read for fun and learning again. Beach time. Family time. Frosty beverage time. Travel time. Go-to-the-PD-you-actually-choose time.  DIY house project time. Free-time, time.

With regards to reading, I like to send out my summer reading list. I’m sure you have one, too. If not, feel free to borrow any of mine!

I plan to spend some hammock time and maybe some couch time with my ...


(sing it now!) “Summer Reads.... Make me feel smart! Flyin’ through the book stack on my NIIIIIIIIGHT-STAND!”

Ahem. (cough).

Sorry. That note was a little high for my voice.

Anyway. Here’s my reading list. What’s on your list?

  1. “Why Students Can’t Google Their Way to the Truth” article by the always-brilliant Sam Wineburg, rockstar in the study of students and historical thinking. To discuss how students look at news and the internet and information at their fingertips... http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/11/02/why-students-cant-google-their-way-to.html
  2. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari -- a “Big History” book  about the history of humankind from the beginning through the age of Empires. I need to broaden my perspective of World History. This might do it for me. https://www.amazon.com/Sapiens-Humankind-Yuval-Noah-Harari/dp/0062316095/ref=lp_9_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1493385541&sr=1-4
  3. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space by Margot Lee Shetterly.  I haven’t seen the movie -- and I tend to not see movies until forever after their theater release -- so I really want to read the book. Fabulous history story I didn’t know much about! https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Figures-American-Untold-Mathematicians/dp/0062363603/ref=sr_1_16?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1493386070&sr=1-16
  4. Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day...No Matter What by Angela Watson  I know teachers have incredibly frustrating jobs. I know how easy it is for teaching to stop being fun. I want to hear how other teachers keep or bring back the fun and enjoyment in their own teaching careers. Maybe it will help me when I encounter other teachers who are feeling that way. https://www.amazon.com/Unshakeable-Enjoy-Teaching-Every-Matter/dp/0982312733/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1493386107&sr=1-1&keywords=teaching
  5. Mindsets in the Classroom: Everything Educators Need for School Success Those of you who know me know I’m really into Growth Mindset. But how can a teacher create growth mindsets in his or her classroom? This book looks like it will give some practical, tangible ways. https://www.amazon.com/Ready-Use-Resources-Mindsets-Classroom/dp/1618213962/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1493386204&sr=1-3&keywords=growth+mindset
  6. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys  I love a good historical novel! This novel is about WWII East Prussians trying to flee to freedom. The author was here in Largo a few months ago and I missed her. But the book has been on my digital bookshelf since then. Supposed to be powerful and amazing!  https://www.amazon.com/Salt-Sea-Ruta-Sepetys-ebook/dp/B00YM34WM8/ref=lp_17437_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1494960371&sr=1-4
Image result for what's in your bookshelfWhat’s in your bookshelf? What are you reading this summer (it definitely doesn’t have to be work-related!)

As always, I love to hear! Email me at newmantr@pcsb.org

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Survey Says?

It’s the week before exams. 12 School days left.
Right now your students have one thing on their minds.

Grades, Grades, Grades.

Those “greedy” kids. They’re all about their OWN grades.

At this time of year, the kids are taking tons of tests and exams and trying to cram 10 months of work into the next two weeks to “make up” work (or even beg for extra credit) so they can pass your class.

What about the TEACHER’S grade?

Don’t you want feedback on how YOU-THE-TEACHER did this year too?

Give yourself your own teacher-version of end-of-year feedback.

Give your kids a survey about your class.

I say this every year, so I hope you’re ok with another annual reminder.

Survey. Your. Kids.

Make it anonymous. I promise that 95% of their feedback is useful. (There are a few goofballs in any class/crowd, I admit it). The kids really can tell you what no one else can about your class. They can actually help you with useful information, no matter how many times you caught them with their phones out this month or how many bathroom passes they asked for.

Their feedback is still helpful to you.

You don't have to share it with your administrator if you don't want to.

Make it paper-and-pencil or make it digital. Print it out or have them answer on their own paper.  Do it on an index card! Use the iPad lab or have the kids use their phones. The HOW is up to you.

The what  you ask is a little trickier. Here are a couple of thoughts...
  1. Ask a question, with a question mark. People are more honest with a question mark for  some reason.
  2. Ask them about pedagogy, environment, expectations, engagement, and support
    1. HOW well they learned in your class
    2. How kids behaved in the class
    3. How much encouragement they received in class
    4. How much the student participated
    5. How does this teacher help you
  3. Ask kids to rate how they felt about class activities, homework, projects, the subject of the course.
  4. Leave a few open-ended questions, like
    1. What was your favorite part of this class?
    2. What did I do to help you learn this year?
    3. What could I have done to help you learn more?
    4. What could YOU have done to help you do better?
Then, read their answers. I am a big fan of anonymity. Kids answer more honestly if they don’t put their names on it.

After you read their answers, jot down for yourself a few major takeaways. They can be trends, specific comment or answers unique to a specific class period or group.

Use their answers to reflect on your year and set some goals for next year.

One of the most reflective and honest and helpful things I did all year was to survey my students. Try to catch them before they disappear in an exam schedule craziness.


Try using one of these for inspiration. Then, make your own.

Questions, thoughts? As always, email me! newmantr@pcsb.org

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gosh Yarn It! Wool You Play?

So this is Teacher Appreciation Week! I want you to know how much I appreciate you. I know how ridiculously hard you work. Please know how amazing and powerful I think you are!

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, today’s WW email

One of the best ways to review for exams is to use fun & engagement with higher order thinking. The fun and engagement make the content memorable and make the info “stick” in the kids’ brains and the higher order thinking helps the kids apply their content and make connections.

One of my favorite review games is the “Yarn Game”.  (All props to my colleague JK, the inventor of this review game!)

You may have come across this game as a kid as part of an ice-breaker game or maybe a team building activity.

But I LOVELOVELOVE it as a review activity.

Here’s how you do it.

Prep:
  1. EITHER create notecards with vocabulary terms on them OR use your Vocab Sticky Note cards from a previous activity.
  2. Make sure each student has ONE vocab term card or sticky note.
  3. You-the-teacher should have a term, too.
  4. Depending on your students, do this either whole class or in two larger-sized groups.
  5. Bring a ball of yarn (or two) to class. Available at Walmart for $2-$3.
  6. Have students look up their term ahead of time and jot down a few key terms or connecting words on the back.
Play:
  1. Have students stand in a circle around the room so they can see each other (or two big circles)
  2. You-the-teacher should hold the very end of the yarn.
  3. Explain to the students that each person in the circle will hold on to a part of the yarn and then throw the ball of yarn to another person across the circle, effectively linking one person to another.
  4. The person who throws it has to explain how their term relates with the term of the person to whom they throw it.
  5. For example: Devonte’s term is “Impeach”, which is related to Jasmine’s “Judicial Review” because they are both ways to check the Executive Branch.
  6. Then, that person holds on to part of the yarn and throws the rest of the ball of yarn to a new person and explains how his or her term relates to the person they threw to.
  7. As the yarn is passed from person to person, a web should form within the circle.
  8. The last person should throw the yarn back to the teacher and explain how that last term relates to the first term.
  9. You may want to ask the students to explain (or defend) their connections “How do those terms each check the Executive Branch?”
  10. Formatively assess -- by asking kids afterwards to reflect on two or three connections they learned in the game that they had not previously thought of.
Benefits of Yarn Game:
  • Student collaboration and discussion.
  • Students are active and out of their seats.
  • Students have to make connections between unlike terms in the same unit.
  • Students will see how many terms in the unit connect to each other.
Watch Out For:
  • Kids dropping the yarn and letting the web fall apart.
  • The last few people often have a tougher time. You may allow the rest of the circle to help them out.
  • Differentiation. Choose more concrete terms for struggling kids and more abstract terms for more advanced learners.  
  • If terms are from a long time ago (first semester?) then provide a word bank on the board or screen, so they don’t have to squint to see that term way across the circle from them.

Let me know how it goes! As always, email me! newmantr@pcsb.org
-Tracy