Friday, December 14, 2018

Teaching Thought #67

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #67

The five digital tools I can’t teach without.

Tool #1 – Padlet

I don’t know how long I’ve been using Padlet, but it’s been years.  And I haven’t found anything that works as well for formative assessments, bell work, polling your students, or just getting feedback.

Padlet is like an online posterboard where students can log on and leave feedback, images, and video.

How I use Padlet.

I use it to generate student examples.  One of the most effective ways I have used it is when we read Carmine Gallo’s Talk Like TED.  He has a chapter devoted to using humor in speeches.

To see what students find humorous, I created a Padlet board asking for them to leave two examples of something (video or images or even jokes) that they find funny.  THEN, they have to explain why it is humorous. Finally, students must present their two examples in front of the class.

When I did this a few years ago, it took on a life of its own.  When students put the examples up on Padlet, I happened to be gone that day with a sick child.  (And that is also one of the best ways to use Padlet – when you have a sub). So when I got back, I wanted to push ahead to something else, but the students asked if they could watch what their peers considered funny.  Really? Students wanted to see what their other classmates came up with?!

I was shocked.

Finally, at the end of the week, I promised that we’d look at their Padlet board.  And it was amazing.


1. The students were all engaged.
2.  The students couldn’t wait to share their examples.
3.  The students couldn’t wait to explain and justify their examples.
4.  I learned a ton.
5.  I found dozens of great examples of videos to steal and use in other presentations or Keynotes.

Seriously, give Padlet a try.  It’s amazing.

Bonus content –

Here is a link to the Padlet on humor.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Teaching Thought #66

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #66

Set your sights high.

What if we could design an academic experience that was as memorable as prom?  

This was the concept that an English teacher, Susan Bedford, and a Social Studies teacher, Greg Jouriles.  Bedford was teaching the iconic Lord of the Flies, and Jouriles was teaching about the Nuremberg trials.  Here is more on their story.

One thing they did was put William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, on trial for crimes against humanity.  Did he get the whole concept of Human Nature (Golding’s take is that without stringent rules and order set up by a society, humans will devolve into savages again.  Yes, this is the same thing Conrad focuses on in Heart of Darkness)?  Or is he correct?  That’s the case students in these classes build over the course of several weeks.

Their story is incredible.  But it had to have been a massive amount of work, but the engagement and results are undeniable.

When I began teaching, I never thought I could have students write a six-page paper (let alone have them write it and have it published by the first day), have students create a Linchpin board, have students create and deliver a mock Ted Talk, have students read two ‘classic’ novels and write an 8-12 page paper on them, and so on.

All of those came with a lot of work.  But at least I’m not doing the same thing I did 20 years ago in Communications 10.

I want to design lessons and experiences that are just as engaging as prom and homecoming.  

But you can’t start out that way.  You have to take your time and work up to it.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Teaching Thought #65

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #65

Turn pits into peaks.  

In Chip and Dan Heath’s book, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, the authors focus on two interesting types of moments we all have.

The last teaching thought, focused on how we can reframe our perspectives on our classes to view what kind of ‘pits’ we have.  Remember, a ‘pit’ is a difficult moment, something we don’t look forward to, something that is a serious problem.

An example from my room – absences.  Any time a student misses a class period, it is not just an inconvenience to me, but it’s a pain in that ass.  I have to find a way to re-teach the student what they missed that day in class. Moreover, to look at the ‘pit’ from the student’s perspective, now they have ‘make up’ work to add to all their other work.

Due to technology, I try to turn this pit into a peak.  One way I do this – and I’ve been doing this for years now – is to give out my cell number.  Students can text me 24/7. This way if a student is going to be gone, they can text me as soon as they learn of this, and I can begin filling them in on what they are going to be missing.  

Usually, again, thanks to technology, I can often share the very things we are doing in class with them.  So if we are going to be reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” and filling out reader response starters on it, I can share a link to a free pdf of the story on line and then also share the reader response starters via Drive with the student.  

The next day in class is where we always listen to “The Yellow Wallpaper” again via audiobook.  I have students list all the new things they ‘see’ or realize the second time through the story.  Finally, I choose one student to help me re-enact the final scene in the story.

If a student misses this day, again they can text me to let me know and I can give them immediate information on how to stay caught up with what is going on.  I can send them a link to the audio version of the story and instructions to mark down new things they realize the second time through. And whenever I have my student ‘creep’ about the room, re-enacting the final scene in the story, I have students film it and upload it to social media, so I can refer the absent student to those areas to see the actual final scene.

In this way, I try to transform a pit into a peak.

Think about using technology to do the same thing in your class.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Teaching Thought #64

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #64

How can you fill the ‘pits’ in your classroom?

In Chip and Dan Heath’s book, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, the authors focus on two interesting types of moments we all have.

Peak moments are easy to note.  We have often have ceremonies to celebrate them: graduations, weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, birthdays, and so on.  

Pit moments, though, are not so easy to note as we don’t have ceremonies to celebrate them.  I mean who is going to have celebrations for a divorce, a DWI, a death, a surgery, or cancer?

The authors an interesting way of looking at this.  They note how when someone has a ‘pit’ in their lives, they instinctively seek to fill that pit.

So what are pits?  Okay, we don’t need to focus on the ‘heavy’ pits, like death, divorce, or illness.  

Here is a great recent example, my step-daughter, KoKo, is engaged to her long-time boyfriend, Cody.  She has been searching for places to hold the wedding. She has decided to have her wedding in Brainerd.

A friend of mine, Kelsey, recommended up Pine Peaks Wedding and Event Center by Pine River.  Now, I know this sounds odd to look at selecting a wedding venue as a ‘pit’ moment, but when you think of all the headaches that are involved: massive amounts of money, finding spots for all family members, finding a place for the bridal supper as well as the wedding, having a variety of activities to keep everyone happy – and this is exactly what Pine Peaks Wedding and Event Center did.

Dave, one of the owners, along with his wife, Julie, did everything they possibly could do to fill these ‘pits.’  Massive amounts of money? Yes. Certainly. But Dave went out of his way to explain how and where every cent we were paying went and how he was saving us money compared to other places.  Finding spots for all family members? Yep. He has spots for up to 8 RV’s and motorhomes on his property. He has a deal worked out with a local RV rental shop. He can have them set up and ready for the family for up to four days.  And the price is cheaper than any hotel for four days. Plus, we will be on the property to help KoKo and Cody during their wedding prep. And if you want to stay at a hotel, he had a list all ready for us, with prices and he provided those that offered discounts in advance.  AND he offers a free shuttle service for you. A place for the bridal supper as well as the wedding? This place is a one stop shop. They will help the couple with everything. They have a separate area where we can cater or grill are own supper for the groom’s dinner. Activities during the wedding and dance?  Dave and Julie have a remodeled John Deere A and a hay wagon for the family to take a hay ride around their large corn field. They have two different spots on their property for weddings. They have a large patio area where they wheel in a large firepit and grill up S’mores for the kids. They have swings and fish ponds.  There is something for everyone during the ceremony.

This is a great example of filling pits.

So, how do you fill the pits in your classroom?  Think of it this way, what are the things kids hate about our classes?  I know kids hate slideshows (since most are boring slides full of text), so I work very hard to have the most engaging slideshows in school.  Kids hate busy work. So I try to eliminate as much busy work as I possibly can. Kids hate homework, so I strive to just give kids homework that is going to matter, not busy work . . .

How do you fill the ‘pits’ in your classroom?  Or, just start by asking yourself what ‘pits’ are there in your classroom?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Teaching Thought #63

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #63

I think Lencioni’s article can be applied to the classroom and not just the office.  

Defense is easier to learn. It’s mostly about reacting to the offense.  So when you’re in your classroom are you reacting to your students? Are you responding to emails and student work?  

I think I spend too much time playing defense.  And Lencioni makes a great point about playing defense too much in class, it’s exhausting!

I need to play offense more in my classes.  Unlike defense, offense is harder to get down.  It’s all about timing. It’s about being orchestrated and staying one move ahead of the defense.  

I don’t do this enough in my classes.  I think I’m playing offense for the first few days of every unit, but then I naturally shift to playing defense as the students move their way through the classic concept of,  “I do, we do, and then you do.”

If nothing else, look at your time in class and see just show much time you spend on the offensive and defensive sides.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Teaching Thought #62

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #62

One of my favorite people in education, George Couros, has 8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom.

#8 - Connected Learning – When I first started teaching, I remember really struggling with science.  It was a subject that I struggled with as a learner and that continued on as a teacher.  I now think that if I was in the classroom, that the best person to teach science wouldn’t be me, but a scientist.  With most people that having a computer also having a Skype account, there are many that are willing to share their expertise in different areas.  This does not only have to be via technology, but we should also bring in experts from our community to talk to students.  I know many teachers have done this for a long time, but technology opens the doors to people that we could not even imagine being a part of our classroom even ten years ago.  Even Shaquille O’neal has made some time to  Skype with students in one school.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Teaching Thought #61

Teacherscribe's Teaching Thought #61

One of my favorite people in education, George Couros, has 8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom.

#7 - Self-Assessment – I don’t think that I have ever heard a teacher say, “I can’t wait until we get to write report cards!”  That being said, I think we spend too much time focusing on being able to tell others what our students can do and know, and not enough time helping students understand those things themselves.  Portfolios are a great way to share this knowledge and will actually have students develop their own understanding of what they know.  If you can write in a report card that a student can do something in October, yet they can’t do it in January, is that report card still relevant?  I think that we should spend more time working with students to teach them how to assess themselves and not just do it for them.