Are you a Genius? #SOL18

 

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#Thisitheyear

This is the year I will start programs for students.

I started Genius hour yesterday with a group of 7th graders.  My school moved to block scheduling this year which allows the opportunity for remediation and enrichment with students during an Impact time. I am taking advantage of this time opportunity!

I conducted a writer’s workshop a few weeks ago which was successful and took place during a consecutive 5 days. Genius hour will take place over 6 weeks. The group of 10 students meet once a week to work on their projects.

I introduced the concept to the students last week and they were able to sign up. No one had heard about the idea before I spoke about it but they were very excited it was inspired by Google. I told them a few facts and then listed several ideas of projects that could think about.

Genius hour is time for students to pursue a personal interest, make something, and share it with the world. It could be a program, a blog, a game, a video, or anything they imagine. It can solve a problem or showcase a study.

Yesterday’s agenda:

  • Video 
  • Brainstorming
  • Joined Google Classroom
  • Read aloud: The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spears
  • Discussion about perseverance and making things that don’t look like what is in our heads
  • Students took 16 personalities test

 

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This is another video I found helpful about general concepts about Genius Hour.

Results of day one:

  • One of my students wants to make a motivational video to share because she feels it is needed. She is thinking about staging it like a TED talk.
  • Several students are thinking about starting programs or clubs for their fellow classmates
  • Several students are thinking about starting fundraisers for local community organizations
  • One student is thinking about a photography project.

They are all THINKING and wanting to CREATE! It was a glorious day and I cannot wait to see what the end of 6 weeks looks like!

What have you created today, no matter how small?

 

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Mentor Text Monday!

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Any Amy Krouse Rosenthal book is a great read aloud but this book is FUN and is really a springboard for creative thinking.

After reading Yes Day, students will create and write about the events of their special day.

The endpapers of the book provide some brainstorming ideas:

  • Not Gonna Happen Day
  • Never Day
  • International symbol day
  • Talk Backward Day

I have had kids create ICE CREAM DAY, READ DAY, and EAT DAY!

Happy Reading! Happy Writing!

Workshop Wednesday: Questioning

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Questioning

 

DOK (Depth of Knowledge) is a scale for questioning I utilize with teachers and students.

Level 3: Strategic Thinking Characteristics

  • Requires deep knowledge
  • Students encouraged to go beyond text
  • Students asked to explain, generalize, or connect ideas
  • Students must be able to support their thinking, citing references from the text or other sources
  • Items may involve abstract theme identification, inferences between or across passages, application of prior knowledge, or text support for analytical judgment about a text

 

2 Strategies for increasing the rigor and use of questioning

  1. Have students write their own questions relevant to the content of the class using DOK question stems.

Not only is this a great creation exercise for students but it also hyper focuses their attention on the content and what is important to know. The students find out quickly that higher level questions are not always the easiest item to write!

DOK 3 Sentence Stems

  • How is ____ related to ____?
  • What conclusions can you draw _____?
  • How would you adapt____to create a 
different____?
  • How would you test____?
  • Can you predict the outcome if____?
  • What is the best answer? Why?
  • What conclusion can be drawn from 
these three texts?
  • What is your interpretation of this text? 
Support your rationale.
  • How would you describe the sequence 
of____?
  • What facts would you select to 
support____?
  • Can you elaborate on the reason____?
  • What would happen if___?
  • Can you formulate a theory for___?
  • How would you test___?
  • Can you elaborate on the reason___?

 

Questions and ideas should be the ax that breaks open the frozen sea within us.

-Kafka

 

2. Plan your questions ahead of time and WRITE THEM DOWN

No matter how many years you have been teaching this is a strategy worth trying. If you formulate several questions before the lesson using the higher levels then your mindset is changed and you will move forward from the higher level questioning rather than go back to more knowledge or surface level questioning. When we meet students where they are we sometimes rely too heavily on the knowledge-based questions or DOK 1 that only have one answer.

 

My teachers are working on this concept today! I hope that you find it helpful or at least a reminder of a practice you haven’t thought about in a while! As a coach, I have offered to visit classrooms and script just the questions the teachers are asking so we can analyze them later. We often don’t realize the questions we are actually asking!

 

Happy Teaching!

2 Strategies to Increase Happiness!

Permission and Gratitude

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Kim Strobel is a Happiness Consultant that I was excited to hear speak on Sept 15. Her company is called Strobel Education and she talks about a variety of topics.

There were two big takeaways from this session which is relevant to today because there are things that are already starting to unravel! It is too early in the school year for that jazz!!!

 

Increase Your Happiness – Strategy 1: Permission Slips

This one actually comes from Brene Brown – to write your self a permission slip like when you were in elementary school and going on a field trip.

So right now…on a post-it note write:

I give myself permission…

 

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Increase Your Happiness – Strategy 2: Gratitude

On a different post-it note write 3 things you are grateful for – right now! The research shows 3 is the magic number – just like in writing.

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What are your permissions to yourself and your gratitude list?

 

 

 

 

Initial Coaching Meetings

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This is the first week of school and the year is already filled with abundant amounts of adventure and confusion!

This is the email I sent to my teachers 2 weeks before school started:

Good summer to you!
I am sharing a Google Doc with each of you individually with some questions to answer. I will be sharing a separate doc with my own answers as well.
One of my goals is for us to have the most powerful and dynamic working relationship. In order to respect everyone’s learning styles, I am sending this doc this week. I know some of you like to marinate a little longer than others.
I will send it again closer to starting school! I want to meet with everyone for about a minimum of 10 min to talk about the year either through tech or face to face. I will be sending a schedule Aug 13th.
Have a great rest of the summer and I am looking forward to hitting the ground running.

 

I then sent the GOAL SHEET. You can check it out and make a copy here if you like.

I sent a schedule for teachers to sign up for a 15-minute time slot.

At the 15 minute meeting I am asking 2 questions:

  1. What is most important to you right now?
  2. What is your favorite snack?

When I do trainings and meetings I try to have candy or snacks for my teachers. I want to know what they really like.

I plan to use some of the information to make a connection map to show how similar we all are as humans and also to have some stress relief that is aligned to how they take care of themselves.

I am hoping some of this information will help me make stronger relationships!

 

It’s Your Story #SOL18

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“It’s Your Story”

This was the statement repeated over and over at my writer’s group last Thursday. It reminded me writers are writers whether they are 5 or 50 and some of the rules apply no matter the age.

I tell students all the time the writing is theirs and they can listen to the advice in the form of GLOWS and GROWS from their peers and teachers or they can choose not to. They are the author and have the choice whether they want to change the story.

Connecting with other writers is the most important factor of this group for me. The connections are part of the story and the critique is secondary. These fellow adult writers have become part of my life story now.

As I start to think about the new school year and my coaching I am keenly aware of the connection piece. I think that we can foster a much stronger community if we focus on the connectors that are not obvious. We are all part of each other’s School Story at least but the personal factors we find most important are the way we can become a tighter knit community. This is the theory I am working with right now anyway.

In order to gather some data I sent out a goal sheet for my teachers last week. Some of my people have longer processing times and I wanted to give them the opportunity to marinate on their answers if they so wished. (We don’t officially start til the 13th). Instead of just the academic goals and conversation about how we can work together to strengthen their teaching I also included a self care question. I want to be able to facilitate some nourishment so my fellow teachers do not burn out. The profession is hard and I want to nurture the teachers in the way they feel renewed. This document is also only between the teacher and I – no one else.

So my question to you is: What is the biggest influencer of your story right now?

 

 

 

 

 

One Week Countdown and Buckets

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Photo by hitesh choudhary on Pexels.com

I have one week left of summer.

The Literacy retreat I attended at the end of July is still sticking with me. Being a writer causes all my learning to be applied into three buckets.

One bucket is my personal writing which has been focused on short stories and the blog.

The second bucket is writing that applies to teaching students, specifically middle schoolers in my present position. My plan is to start  SHORT STORY CLUB and I am excited to start the project.

The third bucket overlaps with bucket #2 – working with teachers. Although writing is not the only topic I do professional development and coach there is always a strong writing thread in everything I do.

The title of the poem I write at the retreat is What Stories Do I Want To Live By? This title is by no means an accident. It is a reoccurring theme that has been coming to the forefront since May.

The basic idea of story connected to other big ideas keeps coming onto my radar. First, it was with Danny “Sunshine” Bauer and his Core Value Story podcasts. I love this idea and am crafting my own. I am almost there. I have done core value work for years but have been having difficulty pinpointing what I want my focus to be.

The ONWARD book by Aguliar that I am working with professionally also has a core value piece.

Several podcasts that are in my queue have been discussing this topic as well so CLEARLY I am supposed to pay attention. No doubt, core values will be part of a training here at the beginning of the school year for my teachers. I have often used Simon Sinek’s WHY stories and probably will again.

I have known for years that narrative is good for the human brain and helps us to connect to new information. I have strived to make the connections between abstrast concepts to the concrete in my lessons for better understanding for all learners for almost my whole teaching career.

What big idea are you working on personally or professionally? Are they the same or separate?

Smelly Marker Writing Exercise

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Smelly markers – the good smelling kind! The ones that conjure up memories!

I love the Mr. Sketch Markers for anchor charts. They last forever and the smells bring great stories to mind.

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At the end of last school year I was able to order some markers for teachers and myself. I brought them to my presentation on Wednesday and everyone went crazy with “OOO I love those “and “Can I smell them?” I even converted a couple people who were not on the Mr Sketch marker train.

You know your kids have been into the markers when a colored dot is on their nasal septum (that part between the nostrils) even if they claim they have not been sniffing the delicious scents!

My favorite scent is the Brown Marker that smells like cinnamon. YUM!

In my presentation last week, someone said it would be great if there was a marker that smelled like McDonald’s french fries. Broccoli would not be a good scent for green. What do you think? What do you think your students would say?

 

Writing Exercise:

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Go write!

 

Marc D Hans is Amazing!

There have been several times in the trajectory of my teaching career over 22 years that I have questioned whether I am in the right place and doing the right things. I’ve been struggling with this concept for quite a while.

Tuesday my mindset shifted while listening to Marc D. Hans.  He is a man who does a lot and deals in Design Thinking. He is so much more than a teacher. After listening to him, I feel like I am in the right place again. I cannot put my finger on exactly what he said that resonated but overall he was INSPIRING. I needed to be inspired by someone dynamic. During the experiences he led us through I was ALL IN. It felt amazing and everything that he said made sense to me. I will be coming back again and again to my notes for the weeks to come. 

5 Takeaways (there were so many more for me!)

  1. Storytelling – every concept he talked about was connected to a story from his life. We were able to get to know him and he made his point. Even though I know that narrative is how our brains like to learn I often forget. Marc reminded me.
  2. Be Comfortable with the Uncomfortable – Being an introvert causes me to push out of my comfort zone with people all the time. The first activity he did that dealt with our phones pushed me – but I did it and I didn’t die. I have to remember that sometimes the payoff is better than the uncomfortable feeling. This idea ties into me sharing my own writing too.
  3. Make the SUBJECTIVE OBJECTIVE – naming things and examining exactly what it is can give perspective. Our perception of how people might react causes us to not start things because of our own limitations. We talk ourselves out of a lot and get in our own way. It reminds me to ask myself, “What is the worst that can happen?” Usually, it isn’t as bad as I first think.
  4. Humans crave GENUINE EXPERIENCES with others. I vow to stop answering “Fine” or “Good” when people ask me how I am.
  5. “Relationships are the difference between being a teacher and an employee.” How we care about the adults and students around us matters.

The literacy coach and consultant Lisa Vahey has been a jewel in my life over the past two years. There are many reasons for this fact,  but the most prominent in connection to today’s post is that she has introduced me to people that I never would have met any other way.  I never would have met Marc if it wasn’t for Lisa.

I am so glad that I was able to go to the workshop on Tuesday and Wednesday. I really left feeling inspired and I had some great conversations with teachers I work with.

I encourage you to look up these two people – you will not be sorry. You might even get inspired too!

 

Life Bubbles #SOL18

It’s Tuesday! A writing and commenting day I look forward to every week.

Time for the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.

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I am up incredibly early today. It is the second day in a row I am up at 4 am. I have had coffee and I am thinking about the day.

Yesterday was a busy one. Today will be too. I have happily engulfed myself in the laid back schedule of summer which requires minimal driving, lots of reading and writing, rest, and exercise.

Today is different.

Today I have to go to work. I have to tear myself from my new “normal” routine and transition back to “work” routine and I am not happy about it.

It will be fine once I am on the road. I will naturally morph back into my coaching role today at the literacy retreat/workshop today and tomorrow. I will listen to my podcasts to and from work and make notes.

Don’t misunderstand. I love the people at this workshop and will be delighted to spend the days with them but there will be a part of me all day longing to be with my husband and children.

Today will fuel my writing and my plans for coaching for the upcoming school year. I have big plans, but I am not quite so ready to think about them yet.

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I like my bubbles. Most of the time the home bubble and the work bubble only exist next to each other. We will see if they collide today or continue to be friends.