Thursday, March 31, 2016

A fitting April Fool's Post

Happy April Fools! A day filled with pranks and looking over your shoulder.  In light of this foolish day, I thought I would share two tremendously funny videos. The people in these videos are true fools. But they are hilarious so I hope you enjoy. Watch them both. Make sure you listen to the announcers. Scott Sterling is my hero.

Scott Sterling playing Goalie for his Soccer Team

Scott Sterling playing volleyball.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The One Word

In college, you have to come up with this big long philosophy of education, yet you've never been a teacher. When you apply for a job, inevitably you have to discuss your philosophy of education and your "educational motto" if you will. It's a mission statement of sorts. A lengthy paragraph that explains where your head's at when it comes to education. Words, words, paragraphs, paragraphs. Do we need so many words? No. In this time of year, when the winter doldrums have long been established and kids are getting squirrely and weather begins to turn nice, it is only human nature to lose that spark a bit. It's only natural that this time of year causes a slip in our passion. It is because of this, that we need the ONE WORD. Think of a word. A word that epitomizes what type of teacher you want to be and what type of class you want to lead. Not a paragraph, not a sentence, not a phrase. ONE WORD. With that one word, you will refocus each day. With that one word, you will look at it and be reminded of why you are there and the mission in front of you. You don't need a bunch of words. You only need one--that one powerful word that when you look at it, it will remind you of everything that needs to be done.  I encourage you to think deeply. I encourage you to think of a word that clearly states what you want to do. I chose the word "Experience." I posted it above my desk and each morning, when I entered my classroom and walked up the stairs to my computer, I saw it and was reminded of what I need to do. I was reminded that I was here to create as many experiences for my students as possible. Lesson plans, activities, review games, tests, conversations in the hall way---no matter what the task, I wanted it to be an experience for my students. That's when relationships are built and when authentic learning occurs. Some days I probably failed. Some days I probably missed opportunities. But I kept coming back to that word. Kept it in my mind and I believe it did make a difference.  What's your word? "Inspire"? "Creativity"? "Innovate"? "Rapport"? "Passion"? "Enthusiasm"? "Student"? Pick one. Make the sign. 

30 Day Challenge for Teachers

Click the Picture to enlarge it
I saw this on Twitter recently and thought I would share it out in case it is something you would want to participate in. Feel free to use it, modify it or ignore it. However, if you choose not to do the 30 day challenge, hopefully there is something else out there you are doing that reinvigorates and inspires you to be the best teacher possible. Hopefully there is something you are actively doing that allows you to grow as a professional.  If you accept the 30 day challenge, good luck! 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

"Clean Up" Articles for your students

There are so many great articles on the Internet for your students to read. Whether you are looking for current events, non-fiction, fiction, etc, it's easy to find the article. The problem is, though, that most online articles are loaded with other "stuff" like advertisements, promotions, additional links, commercials, etc. The articles can get quite cluttered with all that extra stuff--stuff your students do not need to see. There is a very helpful Chrome extension called "PrintFriendly and PDF" that allows you to solve the problem of cluttered and distracting articles.  When you add this extension to your Chrome browser, you can quickly and easily clean up the articles.

Here's how:
1. When you find an article you want, click the Icon.
2. This will open up the article in a new window which will activate the tools to clean up the clutter. 

3. Click on all the items you do NOT want (ads, links, pics, graphics, etc.)
4. Print it off for your students or save it as a PDF, which then you could upload into Google Drive. 

After you have added the extension from the Chrome Web Store, follow these two screenshots.
Step 1

Step 2

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Observations from a Teach Like a Pirate Project

A book study I facilitated on "Teach Like a Pirate" just ended with each participant sharing their final project. For their final project, they had to create a "pirate" lesson for their students and then tell us about it at our last session. If you do not know what I mean when I say "Pirate Lesson" than please go read the book "Teach Like a Pirate." Here are a few observations I made while listening to all of these "pirate" lessons. 

Rarely did I see kids sitting in their desks. Students were up and moving around. Being active and getting involved. They were exploring and thinking. There was a lot of pretending going on. Students were pretending to be all sorts of things--college kids at a coffee shop reading, detectives at a crime scene, lyric writers, football players, characters from books, victims of social injustice, businessman trying to sell their idea on shark tank and the list goes on. Simulations allow kids to get immersed in the learning and apply what they know. Giving students the opportunity to have fun and pretend connects the learning to emotion and that's when it sticks.  There were many props being used. I am a huge believer in props. It adds so much to the environment and atmosphere of the classroom. It turns a boring room into an experience! Lamps, shark heads, football cards, dragons, army men, ping pong balls, empires, etc. Lots of these lessons incorporated music. There were hooks all over the place! Mystery tugs at the emotions of students and gets them to "buy in" to what's happening. Students get curious and can't help but want to know what is going on! Withholding information is a powerful way to draw students in. Give them a little bit and they will beg to know the rest of the story! One interesting thing I noticed was the amount of money it takes to teach like a pirate, in some cases. Pirate teachers are willing to spend some of their hard earned money to create experiences for students. A credit to them! However, Pirate teachers also know how use what they have and transform it into what they want to do. They can take something that is really easy to get a lot of, let's say Dixie cups, and use that creatively somehow. 
It was a blast getting to hear about all the great things going on throughout these classrooms. A truly inspiring moment!  

Monday, March 14, 2016

Educaplay-Review Tool with potential

If your review game has grown a bit stale, perhaps Educaplay is what you need to inject some new choices into your world. I love the internet for review games because it provides students with a plethora of review games to play, which they can continue to play after the school day ends and late into the night! Though Educaplay is not my favorite review game, it still can certainly serve a purpose in your world, potentially. There are a wide variety of types of games, some stronger than others. I would encourage you to check it out and perhaps you will find a spot for it in your classroom. I would not recommend creating online review games and just letting the students play them for a significant amount of class time-instead, do more interactive review together. Computer review can be very isolated--better for when they are by themselves. But what I would recommend is create online review games and encourage the students to play them when they have free time in study hall or at home. They will. They are drawn to games. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Strengthen your students writing skills

Let's write! Write, write, write. Have your students write. Write non-fiction, write creatively, write instructions, write sequences, write opinions, write feelings, write thoughts. Give your students a pen (or keyboard) and show them how powerful writing can be. Student writing is good, but there's a way to make their writing even better and strengthen those skills. The Hemingwayapp allows your students to enter their writing (sentence, phrase, paragraph) into the tool and find out some important information about their writing. The site will analyze for passive voice, complicated words, poor grammar, wordy sentences, run-ons, etc. It will also tell the student what their writing level is at. 
How to Use after you click on the link:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Stuck on an Escalator

It won't take long for you to get the message with this video. A few seconds in, you will see what it is getting at. Getting stuck on an escalator is ridiculous. Obviously you can just start walking up the escalator if it stops moving. But how often do people get "stuck on an escalator?" I'm not talking about it in a literal sense, but a figurative one. It seems people face problems and think there's no solution. They are too narrow minded and can't see the big picture. The people in the video are standing there, stuck. They are only focused on what is right in front of them-the unmoving escalator. If they were to look up and see the big picture, they would obviously realize that a solution to their problem is right in front of them! Just start walking! They call out for help. How often do people call out for help right away when faced with a problem or challenge rather than try to fix it themselves? I think it happens a lot. They wait for help to arrive, rather than just getting after the problem and working out a solution. They feel that their problem is insurmountable, but it's the exact opposite--something they have the power to fix. They just need to realize it.  People climb aboard the escalator of life but think they are "stuck" because they feel like they aren't moving towards a goal or their passion or some higher calling. There's no such thing as being stuck on an escalator. Don't be stuck in life. Rather than just standing there, waiting for something to happen, put one foot in front of the other and start walking.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Play "SmartyPins" for a fun geography challenge!

"Smarty Pins" is a fun, interactive map game brought to you by Google. Yet another awesome thing Google has done. 
​The game works like this. You start with 1,000 miles. You are given questions. You answer each question by placing a 'pin' on the map. However far away your pin is from the answer, you subtract that many miles from your total. Once you run out of miles, the game is over. So the challenge is to see how many questions you can get through before you run out of miles. You can also score bonus miles if you answer questions quickly. At the beginning of the game, you can select a category or just play the game with all categories used randomly. 
-For each question, the map starts in the general area of where the answer is to help you out a bit, but you can zoom in/out and pan the map for a more accurate pin drop.
This could be a great challenge for kids play in a study hall or when they are done with their class work. It could be used as a "for fun" thing or raise the stakes a bit and make it a challenge. You could also use the concept of SmartyPins but have the students write questions and have their partner try to place the pin accurately on a map. 
Check it out! It's a fun way to pan the globe and learn about a variety of places.