Thursday, July 26, 2012

More Thoughts from Chapter Four of Choice Words

I really need to get rolling with chapters seven and eight of Choice Words but some thoughts from chapter four keep ringing in my head so I'm going to reflect on them first.

On page 31 Johnston writes,
We hear a lot about teaching children strategies, but we often encounter classrooms in which children are being taught strategies yet are not being strategic (Ivey, Johnston, and Cronin 1998). Teaching children strategies results in them knowing strategies, but not necessarily in their acting strategically and having a sense of agency.
That distinction between knowing strategies and acting strategically is a critical focus and there is such a huge difference there. He continues on citing work from Marie Clay about having students generate strategies themselves. One more quote, on the next page, helps me clarify why this feels so important.
The strategy of arranging for a student to figure something out independently, without full awareness, and then reflecting on it, has been called "revealing." Courtney Cazden (1992) contrasts this with "telling," in which the teacher is explicit up front and then the student practices what he has been taught to do by someone else.
Johnston considers the possibility that revealing is a harder skill for teachers than telling and I think he is probably right. I often feel that doing the right thing as a teacher, for my students, is harder than traditional teaching methods.

As I reflect on things I have learned, especially things I have learned in recent memory, I know that when I have had to struggle a bit, work through things and work them out on my own, I tend to feel more confident in my knowledge or skill.

Reading this reminded me of some recent studies I had learned about. One I read about on KQED's Mindshift blog and it hit on why students should work things out themselves rather than simply be told something.
So important is the feeling of confusion, writes D'Mello, that parents and teachers shouldn't try to help children avoid it, or even simply accept its presence. They should deliberately induce confusion in learners. Not "hopeless confusion," of course, which occurs when "the impasse cannot be resolved, the student gets stuck, there is no available plan, and important goals are blocked." Rather, "productive confusion" should be the aim. It's achieved by helping the student recognize that the way out of confusion is through focused thought and problem solving; by providing necessary information and suggesting strategies when appropriate; and by helping the student cope with the negative emotions that may arise.
This sounds an awful lot like what Johnston is talking about regarding agency. Allowing students to take their confusion and work through it not only helps them truly learn something but it shows them that they are capable of doing so and of solving their own confusion.

EdWeek had an article that reinforced this thinking for me.
Robert A. Bjork, the director of the Learning and Forgetting Lab at UCLA, calls this sort of challenge "desirable difficulties." Just as in physical exercise, the more students have to exert their mental muscles to learn a new concept or recall and idea, the stronger their memory and learning will become. 
The analogy to physical exercise helps this make more sense for me. All of this: Johnston's book, these articles and these studies, reminded me of my husband's (a college professor) mantra: "Uncomfortable, but not paralyzed." This is how he wants his students to be. Pushed out of their comfort zone but just enough so that they work to make these new skills or new content comfortable for themselves.

As I reflect on this I feel that this is something we do both really well and really poorly at primary grades. We work to give students independence and let them solve their own problems, but sometimes we fall into the habit of simply doing something for them or telling them how to do things because it is so much faster. I need to remember the idea of agency and keep myself in check.

The Learning and Forgetting Lab at UCLA sounds like a really amazing place. What an awesome name for a place to work.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Choice Words: Chapters Five and Six

Chapter five in Choice Words is Flexibility and Transfer (or Generalizing). Dr. Derek Cabrera, about whom I have written before, refers to transfer as the Holy Grail of education. The idea is that if we can help students take skills, concepts, or ideas learned in one subject or one setting and transfer them to another independently we have significantly upped our impact.

On page 44 Johnston explains how the language from the earlier chapter on identity plays into transfer:
Once a child incorporates into his identity a sense that he is a writer doing writerly things (or a scientist, mathematician, and so forth), he can ask himself in a new situation (not necessary consciously) what he might do as a writer, since those roles do not stop at the border of a single activity setting.
Another piece that struck me was using the word like. Johnston says on page 46:
This means thinking beyond the literal to the metaphorical, and the word like is very good for invoking metaphors.
If I remember correctly, and I'm being lazy and just going with my memory rather than any research, metaphors were one of the, if not the most,  powerful tool Marzano wrote about in Classroom Instruction that Works. Johnston goes on to talk about the power of metaphor because it allows one to take what is known and stretch to what is unknown. I have clearly not thought enough about how and why to use metaphor in my classroom.

Chapter six, Knowing, struck me as being essentially about creating an atmosphere and community in a classroom that makes taking risks doable for everyone. Johnston starts off with language that offers the students some control and ownership of the learning and conversation. He continues with language that clearly sets the teacher with the students, such as "Thanks for straightening me out." Showing students that we make mistakes or that we don't always know the answer sets up an environment in which they are willing to do the same.

I think my favorite bit is on page 60:
Never believe everything I say. Never believe everything any adult says.
I firmly believe that as a teacher and as a parent one of my jobs is to help my kids question things, not accept things at face value. Actually saying something as explicitly as this has never occurred to me however.

Building a community that allows students the opportunity to grow requires that they feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes. It is no surprise to me that my language impacts that but Johnston's ideas are helping me identify areas in which my language is weak in regards to this goal.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

SNAP Challenge

I've got a ridiculous number of tabs open, many because I wanted to do some more thinking about them or share them. Of course, sharing them requires that I stop to reread and think about them. Hence the still open tabs.

One is Joshua Malina's tumblr. A couple of weeks ago he took the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Challenge. For one week he ate on the average food stamp budget of $31.50 per person per week and wrote about the experience. His family did not join him, although they seem to have been quite supportive. Personally I can't imagine eating for an entire week on so little money.

From this experience he seems to have found that on such a budget fruits and vegetables were unlikely to be affordable, water was about all he drank, and he didn't have dessert. I would guess he also dealt with being hungry more often than normal.

Sadly, that is normal for a lot of people. I have a lot of respect for Joshua Malina for trying this because I can't do it. Instead I'm doing the least possible and spreading the word.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Choice Words: Chapters Three and Four

These two chapters focus on Identity and Agency. It doesn't surprise me that language can impact both of these things, but the extent to which the most basic phrases can make a difference is astounding.

Johnston makes a brief reference in chapter three to the importance of the relationship between student and teacher on language (page 24). He writes of it regarding language about behavior but it seems to me that the relationship is a factor in how everything a teacher says is heard.

My take-away from chapter three on identity is nothing major (although there is plenty of major stuff to get from this chapter). Speaking to students and labeling them as readers, writers, researchers, thinkers, however we want them see themselves does make a difference. That's small and huge at the same time.

In my copy of Choice Words, chapter four, on agency, has a ridiculous number of post-it note flags. The first is on page 30, marking this passage:
To understand children's development of a sense of agency, then, we need to look at the kinds of stories we arrange for children to tell themselves. For example, I expect that a child who has a history of telling himself stories about being a failure in writing is unlikely to face a new writing challenge with, "Yes, I imagine I can do this." Similarly, just as we can put ourselves into stories in which we are the protagonists, the ones with agency, we can plot ourselves in the same story and attribute the agency to another, as in, "The reason my poem was good is that the teacher helped me." Telling such stories in which we relegate ourselves to a passive role is the inverse of agency.
The language around agency should push students to reflect on how they have been successful and plans to continue that way. Not to say that there should never be discussions of things that didn't go well because that is necessary as well. In addition, students should be pushed to think about problems they faced and how they  can tackle problems in the future.

My last post-it note flag in this chapter is on page 39:
Drawing their attention to their effort ("You worked really hard at that") or their intellect ("You are so smart") will not generate sufficiently useful narratives.
I have been fascinated by Carol Dweck's book, Mindset, and this pushes it farther. For some time now I have been conscious of my language in the hopes of using phrases that emphasize effort over intelligence. Now I am going to have to work harder to use language that is more specific about their effort to build agency.

Any thoughts? Am I off base on any of this?

Thoughts on chapters one and two

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

State of the Profession as Seen by NVWP Teachers

We are now a third of the way through the Northern Virginia Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute (ISI) and I have not blogged about it at all. I've done a ton of writing, of course, but not here. One of my goals on the very first day was to blog about it twice a week. I set that goal to help myself reflect. So far I have failed. All I can do now is to give it my best from here on out.

Yesterday we did a round robin State of the Profession. We moved all the tables back to sit in a circle (more like a really big oval, there are thirty of us) and each person shared their greatest concern or challenge. It could be focused on their school, their district, or even broader. Whatever is speaking most strongly to them.

We're teachers from first grade through university, private/independent schools and public ones, teaching students from all socio-economic levels, countries of the world, and colors of the rainbow. In spite of all our differences we felt great connections around the group.

Here are some of the comments that struck me most strongly (in the order shared):

  • fragmentation - lack of ongoing conversations between colleagues and across age levels
  • negativity - we need to focus on solutions and positive thinking
  • lack of control professionally and the sense that we've relinquished that control
  • inability to focus on teaching because of the myriad other demands on teachers
  • need for community in a school, ownership and vision
  • too much emphasis on grades
  • inequity for students
  • national perception of our profession
  • need for teachers to model life as learners
  • culture of complaint - complaining about the teachers who taught our students before us
  • need for meaningful collaboration
  • need for classroom to be a safe place for students - physically, emotionally, and intellectually
  • parental expectations for students and for teachers
  • narrow definition of success in our society
  • teacher exhaustion
  • goals constantly changing from administration at various levels
  • need to support children in our society - food, safety, support in all ways
  • need to question more, to ask why we do things
  • student proactivity vs. parent control - students do not take action due to parents doing so for them
It was a powerful time. Everyone listened in silence to everyone else. In spite of the focus on concerns and challenges it was not whiny. In fact, many people included things for which they are grateful about their school or district. I feel blessed to be spending four weeks learning with these amazing teachers. I firmly believe that our profession would be in a much better place if every teacher had the opportunity to engage in this sort of collaborative learning experience with dedicated colleagues. 

How about you? What is (are) the greatest challenge(s) facing you as a teacher?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

ds106 Audio Assignments

I spent a good portion of one day working on ds106 assignments, just sitting at my computer, thinking, planning, searching, recording, rejecting, and trying again. Somehow, just sitting in that way was rough on my back and by dinner I could barely walk. (I've had lower back problems in the past, but usually for more justified reasons.)

That evening I created a ds106 radio bumper and focused on pain, not shockingly. I opened with an odd monster sound, just because it seemed like an interesting opening and it showed up when I searched for pain. Then I used a sound that was created to simulate someone falling down the stairs. I think, in context, it sounds more like a door opening. Finally, I ended with some maniacal laughter.

Another audio assignment I attempted was the One-Man Play. This was one of the first to catch my attention and I knew immediately what part of which play I wanted to use: the opening moments of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. It may not be a play many folks know, but it is one I love, especially the opening. Stoppard writes brilliant dialogue. The down side to that is I am no actress so I do not do justice to the words. I did have fun trying to make myself sound like both a 13 year old girl and a 22 year old man.

I didn't add much beyond my voice. The scene takes place in Thomasina's home, during a lesson with her tutor. I added a bit of pages turning as the two were working and some pen writing.

I'm still working on the Suess It assignment but Audacity and I are not getting along well at the moment. I'm trying to copy and paste some sounds but when I paste, nothing seems to happen. It thinks it did, because I can 'undo paste' but that's not impressive when the sound isn't there. I haven't given up yet but at the moment Audacity is winning.

Conversations in the Bloggers' Cafe at ISTE12

Conferences frequently remind me of how lucky I am and how much I have to be thankful for. I talked with a number of people in the bloggers’ café at ISTE about their schools, districts, and states, and was quite grateful for mine. Teachers shared situations in which they have to write up scripted lesson plans for the week, page after page of what they will say when and what the students will do. They talked about having to post “I Can” statements on their walls, keeping them constantly updated throughout the year, ready for random checks by administration. This was even true in kindergarten classrooms where the students couldn't yet read the statements! Strict pacing was another issue faced by some teachers. If it’s October 4th then here is exactly what should be taught in each subject that day.

None of those things takes into account the humanness of students or others in a school. 

I think it's human nature to find the flaws and negatives in any situation. However, I'm always grateful for the reminder of how wonderful my school and my colleagues are.

I've also been reading a couple of books that have reinforced this: A Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs and Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Jacobs spends time focusing on how thankful he is for even the smallest things and finds it to be quite a joyful experience. Hillenbrand's book is about a POW in Japan during WWII and his strength and faith through trauma and chaos were powerful reminders of all I have. Both books are fabulous.

Image from Sue Waters' flickr.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jay Mathews' Best Teaching Strategies Contest

This piece by Jay Mathews is a week old, but the writing project summer institute has kept me so busy I haven't had brain space for anything else. Not sure I really do now, but I'm not going to let that hold me back.

A while ago Mathews decided to host a contest to find the best teaching strategies. The reasoning here is quite sound, he wanted to highlight specific positive things happening rather than just vague educational ideas.

The winner with the best teaching strategy is an eighth grade teacher at a private school.
Here’s how her immigration project works: Her students are grouped into make-believe families. They pretend they are immigrating here in about 1900. In language arts, they blog about the experience. In science, they study the diseases that afflicted immigrants. In social studies, they analyze immigration laws. In foreign language, they take a look at countries that provided the most immigrants.
I love this project. It is engaging, builds connections, and allows for student choice. I would love to see projects like this happening all over the place.

I have two problems however. The standards that policy makers love keep this from happening in our public schools. If the project was planned around social studies standards on immigration and teachers tried to include diseases in science class there wouldn't be enough time to teach the required science standards. The way our standards are designed completely roadblocks making meaningful connections in this way.

My second issue is more nit-picky. This isn't a teaching strategy. This is a project. It is an awesome one that I would love to participate in but it isn't a strategy. Highlighting effective, interesting teaching strategies is worth Jay Mathews' time still.

Mathews' posts typically have dozens of comments. This one has only five. What does that mean? Does that suggest that people aren't interested in this topic? 

Choice Words: Chapters One and Two

This summer there is quite a bit of discussion happening all around the place focused on Peter Johnston's new book, Opening Minds. As I am often behind the curve, I'm still reading Choice Words, Johnston's first book (or rereading as the case may be). 

Jason Buell, a brilliant, thoughtful, hilarious middle-school science teacher across the country from me, and I made a plan to read it together hoping to keep each other focused. Our deadline for the first two chapters was today and I made it! Here are my thoughts on those chapters. We (Jason and I) would love to hear your thoughts as well. 

My big thought so far is that I am torn between feeling depressed and feeling thrilled. I feel depressed because Johnston's points about the power of language reinforces the idea that ever little thing I do, no matter how small, impacts my students. I'm thrilled, however, because this suggests that if I am thoughtful about language and use it well, I can get a huge bang for my buck, a lot of impact for a little work. 

On page eight Johnston writes about the thoughtfulness necessary with language:
As teachers we have to decide what to be explicit about for which students, and when to be explicit about it.
Then on page nine he continues this idea:
Language, then, is not merely representational (though it is that); it is also constitutive. It actually creates realities and invites identities.
When we explicitly use language thoughtfully we help students see themselves and their world anew and identify possible futures. Just through the words we chose. Amazing.

Chapter Two is Noticing and Naming. Like chapter one it is chock full of powerful thinking. My focus stuck on two parts: another reason language matters and the importance of the positive.

On page twelve Johnston discusses the way we acquire language, without really noticing what we are doing. The problem, he says, is that
many children graduate high school with little change in their level of awareness, leaving them unprepared to manage the effects language has on them and on others.
It seems that we, as teachers, need to not only be very purposeful about how we use language but we also need to be helping our students recognize that and analyze language around them. A big task.

The last bit I couldn't let go of is on page thirteen and goes far beyond language to me into our beliefs about children and their capabilities.
Focusing on the positive is hardly a new idea. It is just hard to remember to do it sometimes, particularly when the child's response is nowhere near what you expected. Indeed, the more we rely on expectations and standards, the harder it is to focus on what is going well.
He explains that helping students see what they can do well encourages agency. It helps students continue to grow. It is too easy in education to work from a deficit model, to notice and focus on all the things our students cannot do or cannot do well. In some ways it is natural as our job is to help them learn to do those things. It is detrimental however as it means we miss all they can do and often end up setting lower expectations as a result. Focusing on the positive helps them and keeps us moving forward as well.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Start of ISTE (weeks later)

The first official day of ISTE was mostly focused on the awards’ ceremony. Luckily my husband and I wandered out onto the wonderful terrace at the convention center and ran into Lisa Parisi, Brian Crosby, and David Jakes.

Jakes was working on his Ignite presentation for the next day. Somehow this led us to a discussion of the flipped classroom. I have shared my thoughts on this topic previously but Jakes, ever the positive one, suggested that this is a topic around which there is a lot of interest and conversation.  His theory is that we should be using that level of engagement as an entry point rather than simply brushing it off.

He asked us to consider the positives of the flipped classroom. Parisi quickly responded that the engaged lessons happening during classroom time is the one positive. Jakes’ argument is that those of us with issues about flipping classrooms should grab those positives we see as a way to push forward. A new way for me to think about this.

This led to a brief conversation about the idea of ‘yeah, but…’ One argument is that responding to a new idea with ‘yeah, but’ not only shuts down that conversation but makes it less likely that people will come forward with other new ideas. Jakes writes often about how words matter and I completely agree with that. Thinking about how an idea or response is phrased does matter and is something I need to remember. (Especially as I read Choice Words.)

This brief conversation, with so much food for thought, was just proof of the idea that the best parts of ISTE are often the unplanned meetings and discussions.

I hope I haven't misstated anyone's ideas or thoughts here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Thoughts from SocialEdCon

One of my favorite parts of ISTE has always (well, the four years I’ve attended) been EduBloggerCon, this year retitled to SocialEdCon. It’s a much smaller event and focused on conversations rather than presentations. It’s in an unconference style, people throw out topics and ideas, vote on their interests, and a schedule is made. I participated in threesessions out of the four time slots. I was worn out by the end.

The first one I picked turned out to be a bit over my head. It was about open source, something which fascinates me but for which I did not have anywhere near the necessary background knowledge for the level of the conversation.

Next I went to a discussion about making education trend in the media. The conversation was animated and interesting. I was struck by the fact, that while technology can clearly play a role in this, it was not the main topic of the session. Making education trend in the media is not a technology issue. We went back and forth a bit about local vs. national media. The consensus seemed to be that it isn’t that hard to get education as a focus in local media. The difficulty is in making education a national topic in a meaningful, not education-bashing way. I made the argument that education in the local media makes a larger difference than we might recognize. Even simply sharing positive stories on facebook helps people outside of the education world to have a better understanding. Local media, in whatever form, helps to build background knowledge for people and to make it more likely that they will take in national stories with a grain of salt. With that thought, I need to continue sharing on facebook and try to share things more widely in my community.

The final session I participated in was about info-tention, the idea that we have a lot of information at our fingertips and our attention struggles (I think). We seemed to take two tacks in our conversation, one about politeness and one about stamina. Stamina is where our conversation started but it veered around, occasionally returning to this idea. We talked about how well students, and adults for that matter, can read longer, more complex texts. Is our reading on the internet making it harder for us to read other types of text? In the politeness realm, we talked some about connectedness and use of devices around others. When is it okay to be on our computer/phone? When should you shut those things off and focus on other people? Is there a line or does that vary by person and situation? Can others ask that someone turn off or put away their phone and focus on the conversation or presentation? 

I often leave these events with more questions than answers. On the whole, I think that's a good thing but it sure can be frustrating at times.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Random Thoughts from ISTE

I noticed a trend at ISTE that I had not seen before (quite possibly because I just wasn’t paying attention in the past). The title on most people’s nametags was long. Sometimes this was because the individual is a central office person with a long title; sometimes the title involved some sort of consulting or educational business title. Others were teachers whose titles were quite specific: Language Arts Teacher Upper Elementary or such. My nametag (and I certainly wasn't alone) said, “Teacher.”

My first reaction when I noticed this was that my nametag was a bit lame. I should have been more specific, maybe First Grade Teacher. As I thought about it I changed my mind. “Teacher” is my title, it is my job, it is what I do.

I don’t mind the more specific, longer titles. That said, I do begin to wonder if the title of “Teacher” is viewed negatively. Do people feel a need to put more elaborate titles because those will be treated with more respect?

The Northern Virginia Writing Project Summer Institute started today so I'm trying to wrap up writing about my thoughts from ISTE, knowing that soon they'll be lost in the new thinking.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Bullying: A Problem for Children and Adults

Responsive Classroom's blog has featured a number of posts on bullying recently. The newest one, and the one that I have now reread several times, is focused on whose job it is to stop bullying. It starts by discussing how we often ask children to stand up to the person bullying them. The author, Caltha Crowe, then goes on to explain the problem with this:
The problem with this line of thinking is that it's unfair and unrealistic to expect children who are being bullied to address the situation on their own. When all the children involved have equal social power, it makes sense to teach them how to resolve conflicts among themselves, but in situations where there's an imbalance of power, it does not. 
As a teacher I am often so focused on my students' academic growth that I do not pay enough attention to these sort of issues and concerns. It is something I need to be more aware of and careful about.

However, this bit also struck me as an adult. I know of a number of teachers who have felt bullied in recent months and this paragraph struck me. The imbalance of power is a significant issue and one that is difficult to overcome. Reading this did not give me any answers, but it did give me a new perspective on the issue.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

My Contribution to ds106 Radio

One of the recent assignments in ds106 was to work with a group to create an hour long show for ds106 radio. This was due shortly after we returned from ISTE12 so I was a bit concerned about getting it done. However, two and a half hours one evening and I had created my five minute segment (is that ratio normal?!?). My group chose to create a show called A Tourist's World. When thinking about being a tourist my mind immediately went to Istanbul, Turkey. (Our show aired tonight. I'll share a link when it's available on archives somewhere. There were some fabulous stories there.) was a huge help on this assignment. I began my piece with some soft waves of the Bosphorus River. As my visit to Istanbul was on the cruise ship when I worked on it, I wanted a ship's horn. Thinking of Istanbul made me think about the song, Istanbul, Not Constantinople which seemed like a fun bit to include here. When I think back to my (brief) time in Istanbul I think of the busy streets, crowded marketplaces, the call to prayer, and the prayers in the mosques. I decided to close with a bit about Turkish baths and the soothing sounds of the Bosphorus again.

I learned about layering the audio tracks, keeping one quiet at times. I didn't get it totally right, but I am learning. It was fun to plan the segment and to search for just the sounds I wanted.

We also had to create a radio bumper to promote our show.

For this I wanted to create something that immediately suggested travel. I began with the sound of an airplane taking off. Then I snagged the dong sound that happens when an announcement is made on an airplane. I followed that with a bit of the announcements about moving about the cabin and finished up with a bit of the announcement about remaining seated upon landing.

Again, fun to plan and fun to search out the sounds.

Post-ISTE Ramblings

I've got a few things, post-ISTE, I feel a need to respond to. None of these have to do with the conference, they are all in response to others' responses to the conference. Sheesh, that's a bit absurd when I type it.

ISTE always brings out strong feelings from people about technology and its use in the classroom. I get that. Most of the time I enjoy all the debate and discussions about tools vs. pedagogy and how to marry the two successfully. Most of the time I enjoy the thoughts about the value of teaching without technology as well.

However, lately I find myself getting irritated by what feels like superiority and smugness when people write about the negative side of technology and the sheer beauty of life without it. These are people I respect and people who use technology well. It seems like a need to prove something or show they are better than those singing the praises of technology. I don't think technology is a panacea. I don't think it should dominate our lives. I think a healthy balance is important. I don't think life without technology is superior to life with it.

During ISTE I was lucky enough to spend some time chatting with Gary Stager. He's an educator who pushes my thinking. I don't always agree with him, but I think he prefers it that way. He wrote about his frustration with cliches, especially ones about how much teachers can learn from their students.
The motivation behind uttering such banalities is likely positive. It acknowledges that children are competent and encourages adults to learn with them.
However, these clichés suggest a power relationship in which all adults (particularly teachers) are resigned to the role of bumbling TV dad while the kids rule the roost. In education, this often serves as a justification for why teachers irrationally fear computers and modernity or appear to have stopped learning.
Here I agree with Gary about 95%. The only place I feel a need to nitpick is that I think children often have a wisdom born from their youth and inexperience from which we adults can learn. They are not yet jaded and cynical in the same ways as adults and, as a result, see things we don't. When I think of all I have to learn from my first graders, I am thinking of seeing the world from their perspective and learning from that.

Gary also shares a short video clip of Branford Marsalis. I have several of his CDs in my classroom in frequent rotation throughout the day. He is a phenomenal musician. In the clip (worth watching just as Gary's post is worth reading) Marsalis talks about his students wanting to be told how fabulous they are without putting in the necessary effort.

How do we get kids to put in the effort if they don't feel some success with it? They need encouragement but they also need to be held to high standards.

Of course, isn't that true for all of us?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

More ds106 Visual Fun

A ds106 assignment that intrigued me was Newspaper Blackout Poetry. It's a three star assignment and that seemed excessive to me, at first. Turns out, it is pretty challenging.

I looked at several articles and tried to plan out some possibilities. I actually wanted to avoid this one because it seemed to serious, too raw, too painful. But in the end it was the one that worked best for me.

Here's the original article:

Here's the poem once I blacked out a bunch of words.
not usual
critical pain

And with that emotional end, I wrap up the visual assignments piece (a tad late, but it's done!).

First Graders with Cameras

The 2011-2012 school year has been over for two weeks now and I have a bunch of notes in Evernote beginning my reflections and prep for next year. There is a lot more reflecting to do.

Before that happens however, I wanted to share my latest work with I've written previously about our field trip to the Tidal Basin and the pictures my students took there. The amazing folks at went along with us on the field trip and then joined us when we made the video back in our classroom the next week. They then edited this into a series of four videos illustrating the work my students did. 

Watching these videos I am so impressed with my students. They are six and seven year olds using cameras thoughtfully and well. I'm less impressed with myself and have a goal, yet again, to do less of the talking with my students.

Poetry Reading for ds106

The audio assignments for ds106 have intimidated me a bit more than the design or visual assignments. As a result, I started with Poetry Reading because it didn't scare me as much as others. This poem, The Country, by Billy Collins is one of my all time favorites.

If you enjoy the poem, you can also hear Billy Collins read it.