Category Archives: Education

How to Disagree

As we watched the Presidential Debate the other night, I thought a lot about the art of disagreement.  So many people allow emotions to control the argument when much more could be accomplished by having a civilized discussion about the facts.  As I tweeted that night, even my dog was discouraged by the evening’s event.

This Debate is Unseemly

(To be fair, he reacts that way whenever anyone dares to disturb his sleep with raised voices.)

I’m sure that it is no coincidence that Kid President recently released a video giving advice on how to politely disagree. Hopefully, some of the people who would benefit the most from watching this video will actually make the time to view it…

No Man is an Island With Pineapples

Our state has a new appraisal system for teachers, and goals for professional growth are a huge part of it.  Within 24 hours on the Twittersphere I came across two great suggestions for helping teachers with this process.

First, I read a post by Jennifer Gonzalez on “Cult of Pedagogy.” Jennifer describes something called a, “Pineapple Chart.”  This chart is displayed in a central location at the school such as the lounge, and gets its name from the tradition of pineapples representing hospitality.  Each week, a blank chart is hung, and teachers can fill in spots to invite the staff to observe special lessons that they are doing that may be of interest.  No one is required to invite, and it isn’t mandatory to attend.  If one does choose to (inobtrusively) pop in on one of the lessons, there is no minimum time and no responsibility to take notes.  If you think what you are teaching might be of interest, put it on the chart.  If you want to learn about something in particular, visit a teacher who can model it for you.

Not quite as casual as the Pineapple Chart is Robert Kaplinsky’s “Observe Me” sign.  (H/T to Jodi Harris for sharing this!) Teachers who hang these on their doors are also inviting people into their classrooms, but they are asking for feedback on specific goals they list on the signs.  If there isn’t time for enough people to do live observations, there is even a sign version that offers a QR code that links to videos of the teacher’s lessons.  Along with the “Observe Me” sign, some teachers even include a clipboard with copies of the rubrics used for appraising the selected goals.

Watching our colleagues teach gives us new ideas for improving our own teaching.  Getting feedback from our colleagues is also invaluable.  Both of these suggestions are wonderful ways to promote professional growth and are probably far more effective than the traditional staff development model.

picasso

The Boy Who Learned to Fly

Ever since watching “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” I have been a huge fan of Moonbot Studios.  In this video for Gatorade about Usain Bolt, Moonbot once again captures the imagination with vivid imagery and animation.  In seven minutes, the story of Bolt’s journey from a young boy in Jamaica to a world champion unfurls.  It’s inspirational and a fitting tribute to a man who literally lives up to his name.

For more inspirational videos, click here.

Screen Shot from The Boy Who Learned to Fly
Screen Shot from The Boy Who Learned to Fly

Why Don’t Ants Get Stuck in Traffic?

My students are always fascinated when I have an ant farm in the classroom, and there is a lot to be learned from these insects as we observe their organized frenzy.  Joe Hanson of “It’s Okay to Be Smart” recently published a YouTube video that answers the question, “Why don’t ants get stuck in traffic?”  After watching the video you may second guess your feelings on self-driving cars…

Bring on the Dementors!

So, apparently the thing that I’ve been missing in my life is a patronus.  Without one, it takes no time at all for the ever-increasing numbers of Dementors (otherwise known as “standardized testing companies”) to gorge on all of your happiness – leaving you in complete despair.  A patronus can save you from this misery.

Not being a fictional wizard in a Harry Potter novel, I had no inkling I even have a patronus.  But the lack of one pretty much explains the last forty years of my life.

Thanks to the newest quiz on Pottermore, however, I have identified my patronus, a white stallion, who I intend to summon the next time the Dementors threaten to sabotage my incredibly joyful personality and/or the next time I get stuck in traffic which, come to think of it, would be a particularly efficient use of my patronus as both a warder-offer and a better method of transportation…

See what your patronus is and share in the comments below!

white stallion

Ada Twist, Scientist

Andrea Beaty and David Roberts have outdone themselves with their latest book, Ada Twist, Scientist.  Beaty (author) and Roberts (illustrator) made their mark in children’s literature with their two previous books, Iggy Peck, Architect, and Rosie Revere, Engineer. Demonstrating the sometimes exasperating, but always creative, personalities of inquisitive and innovative children, these books have become favorites for those who champion maker education and S.T.E.M.  They are also great examples of growth mindset and passion based learning.

Ada Twist, Scientist tells the story of an adorable young girl whose curiosity knows absolutely no bounds.  Her parents fondly support Ada’s intellectual investigations until she decides to throw the family cat into the washing machine in an attempt to find the origin of a terrible smell, at which point Ada is exiled to the “Thinking Chair.”

You will have to read the book yourself to find out how Ada handles her isolation and whether or not she solves her stinky mystery. Suffice it to say that the book has a happy ending and will inspire parents and children to see questions as exciting learning opportunities rather than as time-wasting obstacles.

For a teaching guide and links to other related activities, visit the Ada Twist website.

You can’t resist Ada Twist, Scientist!

image from Ada Twist, Scientist
image from Ada Twist, Scientist

Genius Hour Digital Resources

In my never-ending quest to refine Genius Hour for my students and make it meaningful, I have created a few new digital resources that I intend to use this year with my 3rd-5th grade students.  We will be using Google Classroom, so I decided to design some Google Slides presentations that the students can use for collecting research and keeping track of what needs to be completed.  Here is the link to the folder of resources, which you can copy and edit to suit your needs.

My plan:

  • Assign the Research Planner as a copy to each student.  Reflections 1 and 2 are to be done at certain points as students progress through the Research Planner. The Research Planner also has links to some other helpful resources, and a great activity from Ian Byrd to help write good research questions. This slideshow is not their presentation – just a collection of notes.
  • Assign the Exit Tickets presentation as one copy to be edited by the students in the classroom at the end of each Genius Hour.
  • Include the Skype Interview and E-mail templates as assignments for students to complete when appropriate.
  • Once students finish the Research Planner to my satisfaction, they will be allowed to continue to the Presentation Planner.  This includes links to “What Would Steve Jobs Do?” and “The Worst Preso Ever,” both of which are great to show students before they design their presentations.  It also includes links to two TED Talks given by students.
  • After students successfully complete the Presentation Planner, they will be allowed to make their presentations, create interactive portions to follow up on the information given, and rehearse.
  • Finally, they will present!

If you’ve followed my Genius Hour adventures at all, you know that this plan will not work as hoped.  I am pretty sure that it will be an improvement over what I’ve done in the past, though.

Maybe…

Genius Hour Digital Resources
Genius Hour Digital Resources