Monday, July 29, 2013

Gearing up for Back to School...

Well, it seems it's that time of year!

Gearing up for back to school!

Although I just finished my stint teaching summer school on July 11th, I am back in my classroom preparing for the 2013-2014 school year.

Yikes! Where did the time go!

Using what I have gaining from my Personal Learning Network (PLN), I am excited about the new year. I have so many ideas I want to implement and try, I am excited to get started!

I started with cleaning up my room. Here is the before:

Here is the after:

Yep! I have collaborative groups ready to go! Each desk will have a card taped to the desk with stem sentences and what letter member they are (for grouping and partner work). My room needed a face lift, so I bought cheap fabric, new boarders, and contact paper to freshen up the room. I LOVE my new bulletin boards (I did another with a chevron boarder in that blank space for "lost" work). Once I started using the contact paper, I went wild! It started on the bookshelves and worked its way to my desk, my TA's desk, some cabinets, and even my door window! I love it! 


I was in my room today working on what seems like an endless list of "to-dos" when I finished my bulletin board. 


It's a new way (for me) to get papers with no names back to students. My "Wanted Wall"! Check it out!

*******End of new Editions********

Once the room was complete, it is now time to focus on my "Year of Epic Proportions"! This year I am going all in. Fail or go home....or more like Fail or Try Again! (and again and again!). With all the amazing Twitter PD I have done, I have created new lessons and curricula to go with what I do already, or old lessons are now revamped, or lessons and activities that are completely new and foreign and I can't wait to see what happens! 

So here is a few of my new ideas that I will blog about in the near future:

1. QR Scavenger hunt: On the VERY first day of school (why not?!) I am sending my students on a "get to know your school & Ms. J's classroom" hunt. This includes stops in our main office; talks with the librarian, principals, and campus monitor; the cafeteria; areas within my classroom, nurse, bathrooms, gym, and more! Students will work in small groups starting at different QR numbers...they will record their findings and riddle questions on Flip Cameras to be edited together and shared on At least that is my hope!

2. Dave Burgess's Off the Island Group Project: I truly loved Teach like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. He (along with others in my PLN) has helped me rediscover teaching and my mojo for teaching. In his book, he talks about a crazy acting-out plane crash and rescue among a group of ten or so survivors. A helicopter pilot can take a few at a time. Knowing the background on each survivor (which I included myself in!), students decided who stays and who goes. This activity not only shows me the dynamics of the classroom, as students learn about each other, but also teaches students how to work together. It isn't about the answer, as there isn't a right or wrong answer, but how to work together, problem solve, and share their results with a supported explanation. My "acting" will be accompanied by Videoscribe I created through Sparkol. You can check it out here. I am sure students will never forget that day!

3. Incorporation of more non-fiction text to correspond to the literature we already read in class. I began this quest at the end of last year, but I have been gathering more. I loved the cross-curricular possibilities it all brings! My ELA classes was reading the novel Flipped and we read manuals and instructions for hatching eggs like Julie from the novel. Students became an eggspert (HA!) in a specific hatching area from turning and candling eggs, to weight and charting, to drawing and more. Students LOVED it! I plan to add more as we begin the year. The first addition is the the short story "Zebra" where the main character, Zebra, befriends a Vietnam veteran artist, Mr. Wilson. So I searched for the perfect text to accompany this story and found and account of a Vietnam vet who goes to see the Vietnam Wall Memorial for the first time. It is so touching and moving as it is a personal narrative, but perfect for "Zebra" as Mr. Wilson  visits his friend at the Wall each year. Text that connects real life and provoke meaning and connection will truly move and motivate students this year!

4. I have created a few flipped class lessons. I have read and participated in chats about the flipped classroom and decided to learn more. So I began with They have a great certification program that not only explains the flipped classroom, but shows you the way to flipping lessons in your own class. Then a lovely member of my PLN, Sean Crevier sent me this infographic on the flipped classroom: 

It was truly eye opening to me as he explains how to think about flipping an activity, lesson, or class period. You can see his blog post here. Amazing way to think! Thank you Sean! 

Well, there are lots and lots more, but those are a few of my big projects. The goal this year is to facilitate my students. Let them be leaders in their education. Dig deeper, be silly, dress up, incorporate more student directed learning (music, videos, genius hour), and just GO FOR IT. It's all about the kids and THEIR future. 

Bring on 2013-2014! Here we go! 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why I do what I do...for Inspiration

Technology has become a very powerful tool in the classroom. I use the word "tool" as it is not replacing curriculum or teachers. Technology simply enhances what I have always been doing.

Engaging and teaching my students.

When I began teaching at Oakdale Junior High School, technology in my classroom began with the overhead. Super tech savvy! Then quickly expanded to a SMARTboard and other SMART products. Of course, I was then intrigued with Google, iPads, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and so much more. About two years ago, I discovered the professional development power of Twitter. Read more about my love for Twitter here.

Twitter has broadened my teaching and professional development in ways I never thought possible. Twitter has brought teachers, administrators, and other passionate educators together to share, encourage, and collaborate. I have developed quite the unbelievable Personal Learning Network (PLN) and I hope that I have brought to members of my PLN (and other's PLNs) as much as they have given me.

Speaking of my PLN, today, I received and email that has confirmed that I am indeed doing what I should be doing. Connecting, inspiring, and spreading my enthusiasm for learning, teaching, connecting, and technology. It truly made my day!

I know that all educators on Twitter are tech savvy and that Twitter to a newbie can be scary. But the simple fact that they are on Twitter, speaks volumes. It can be tough as a newbie on Twitter. I thought Twitter was tough the first time I participated in a chat! There are so many people, so many comments and questions, so many things I wanted to say! It all goes by incredibly fast and furious and Twitter only gives 140 characters to make one's thoughts heard!

So why do?

Why do I do it? Why do I spend my time on chats, moderating and co-moderating chats, and reading chat archives?

I do it for the same reason I began developing a PLN. I want to continue grow, learn, and inspire myself, my students, and others. Enthusiasm is contagious and I have TONS to spare! Ask those who know me or have met me! I may not always know what I am doing, or what I am planning to do next, but talking with other educators inspires me with new ideas, ways to change my teaching for the better, ways to change and develop currently lessons to make them better, ways to engage my students with and with out technology. I am not the best educator, but I am PASSIONATE! I love love love teaching! I love mentoring, helping, talking, chatting, blogging, advocating education and the betterment of my students.

I know Twitter is difficult and faced paced. I know the speed and information is overwhelming. But there is always one tweet, that one connection, that one idea will motivate and inspire you in ways you've never known. YOU could and will inspire people as they have inspired me, and turns out, I have inspired others! As educators, we need inspiration! To give and to get!

So here are some quick tips:

  1. Find a chat that interests and inspires you. I love #smartee-empowering SMARTees and SMART tech users, #tlap- Teach lik a Pirate chat based on the amazing book by Dave Burgess, #ccsschat-discussion about all things Common Core State Standards, #geniushour-all things about the 20% method in the classroom, #flipclass-a new way of increasing face to face time with your students, #caedchat-teachers across California discussion top education topics, and #gr8teacher-this chat focuses on great teachers, methods, and pedagogy. 
  2. Use TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or software to make chatting easy. These allow you to create a column focusing on a specific hashtag, search, or person. 
  3. This advice from the AMAZING Rafranz Davis : Once using one of the above mentioned, during the chat create a column of the moderator. This way you can follow the questions easily! You'll never miss a question.
  4. Follow individuals that move you. You don't have to follow everyone! Follow those who tweet passionately about topics and areas that are important and inspire you! 
For more tips check out Nicole Harrison's blog on "How to Participate in a Twitter Chat".

So dive in! Take the plunge and try out a chat! Just one. Put in a few comments, questions, ideas and see what happens. You too will inspire and move others! Because....