Digital citizenship – You can run, but you can’t hide!

Maybe we are teaching in the trenches of testing, standards, constant change, time constraints, technology hurdles, and funding for our schools. Maybe we always will be. I think if we, as teachers, begin to accept that the to-do lists of teaching will always grow and they will never go away, maybe we can begin to prioritize and find peace in the fact that this is the nature of our job. Accept the chaos because it exists in the hope of a better future for our students.

A recent addition to the education to-do list is digital citizenship. I believe digital citizenship deserves to be moved up and made a priority on this everlasting list. EduTopia demonstrates some of the current weaknesses in our attempts at digital citizenship in the article below. Check it out! It’s a quick read.


PBL number two…Ready? Set? Go!

On Wednesday I will begin a short unit using PBL and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book at X middle school
.  Although this is not my class, I have gotten to know the routines and flow of the literacy block through observations and my work with my tutee and several other students that I have volunteered to tutor while I’m at the school.

Over the past several weeks, I have been helping out with this classroom’s group reading of Neil Gaiman’s, graveyard narrative.  I am almost done with the book and have been struggling with a good driving question that meets the PBL description and the 7th grade ELA teacher’s desires.  Finally, I think the project is beginning to take shape.  Here is an example of what I’ve got brewing so far:

prezi Liza TGB

Please note, this prezi presentation is not completed and it was an opportunity for me to carry out a bit of the project myself, before launching the idea with the students.  I also wanted to give an example of one possible product to the ELA teacher to help our collaboration along.  This was my first go at Prezi and it took me three trashed presentations, before creating this one!  Technology education is a process!

I will launch the project on Wednesday so the students can connect the future project to their final chapters of The Graveyard Book.  I hope to ignite their passion for the book’s themes and author’s process through the use of Gaiman’s website on Wednesday. I hope to give students a taste of Neil Gaiman’s read of the book by projecting Gaiman’s read aloud of chapter six on the smart board as well as some intriguing questions recorded in a Q and A session with Gaiman. I also hope to construct a memo that calls out to all readers of The Graveyard Book to help Neil Gaiman select reader’s favorite characters for a sequel to The Graveyard Book.  We’ll see…lots of ideas, full steam ahead!  Thanks for reading!  I’m finding the blogs are a way of writing through my ideas and helping me to solidify them through the writing / sharing process that blogging creates!  – nice!  :O)



Last week I met with Kim for thr first time after giving her the Anne Frank book.  She was excited to share her ideas and made great use of her journal! I was so happy to see her at ease and chatty with me!  She’s really coming out of her shell and her personality is shining!  She read three chapters and used all three of the sections in her journal which were- word study, burning questions and can you believe that….

First Kim pointed out the word ‘frenzy’ and that this was a new word to her.  We found it in context and discussed why the author chose this word to describe Hitler and his interactions with the Nazis.  We used our computers and looked the word up, then added in our own words what the word meant to us.  Kim had been telling me of how much fun she’d had over the weekend at a fall festival and how she loved winning prizes from the games.  Without prompting, she connected ‘frenzy’ to her weekend winning experiences and how she worked herself into a frenzy each time she won a prize.  It was great to see her make personal connections with new knowledge!  She is a very smart individual!

From there we dove right into what questions emerged from her reading and prior knowlege of Anne Frank and the Holocaust.  I was impressed with her inqueries.  They were:

How did Otto survive when so many perished?

Why did Anne Frank fight so much with her mom?

If Otto was German, why did he and his family have to flee?

These questions will guide our time together today.  I found great resources that tap into her ideas.  I’m thrilled to see Kim’s background knowlegde influence so much of what she’s reading now.  You can really see the new knowledge interacting with her established ideas.  It’s driving advanced questioning,  which in turn is prompting advanced studies during our time together!

Mostly, I’m thrilled to see Kim passionate about what she is learning and her capacity to get involved in discussion more and more as she gets comfortable with me and gains confidence in what we are doing.



Professional Development: Is time on your side?

I have been fortunate to observe and work at x Middle School in Central Falls this semester.  I’ve had a chance to ask questions about curriculum, common core and how x Middle School, as a charter school, faces the fear of getting shut down by RIDE every year.  What I found most interesting was that, although teachers are required to pull longer school days and work a full year, without summers off, the school’s schedule has provided endless opportunities for collaboration among the middle school teachers that make up X Middle School.  Because the teachers worked all summer, each team was able to sit down and align their content standards, common core and technology standards with one another to create a cohesive curriculum across content areas and standards.  While the humanities teacher enters the Progressive Era, the ELA teacher is covering a narrative about immigration told from the perspective of a teenage girl.

What teachers need is time to prepare, collaborate and develop their skills with teaching techniques, technology and the standards that bombard them.  When you have a school that supports this, even weaves it into the day for teachers, what you get in return is more effective teaching and learning.  At X Middle School I see a school that has embedded collaboration and professional development into their every day climate.  And what I see in the classroom is PBL, technology and a cross content curriculum.  Every Friday the teachers gather in the gymnasium for professional development.  Every Friday, there is mandatory professional development and it’s not after school hours.  It is within the school day.

Some day, when I interview for a position, I’ll be interviewing the school, just as they are interviewing me.  I’ll be looking for a school that believes in these very components and supports the teachers in their growth as professionals.

The Launch

Today Ms. L. and I launched our unit on PBL and the Progressive Era.  Ms. L. teaches at X Miiddle School, which is a charter school.  The class is an eighth grade class of mixed ability and like hormone levels! Our driving question was – Did the Progressive Era create a just and free country for U.S. citizens today?

In order to launch with a bang, Ms. L. and I created a museum of past and present day quotes, political comics, pictures and presidential information that was situated around the classroom for students to discuss.  The result was engaged students, peeked curiosity for what’s to come and ideas for change in our country.

Although the launch did in fact prompt the students to think and question freedom as we had hoped, I would like to see what we could have achieved if we had used technology a bit more.  The use of technology could have opened doors to a virtual fieldtrip where Obama speaks of immigration, directly following a clip demonstrating Roosevelt’s ideas on immigration.  Technology could have taken students out of the classroom even more with clips of past child labor issues and those of today.  Because X middle school has two carts of laptops for the eighth grade, it is challenging to reserve them at times.  The reluctance to use technology makes me wonder, however, if there were more professional development surrounding how to use technology in the classroom as well as why its so important, maybe there would be more interest in incorporating it into PBL.  I hope we can thread it through a bit during the unit.  We’ll see!!

One to One – Ready or Not, Here We Come

This semester I have been tutoring in X Middle School.  Although my time has been with one class and one teacher only, I have been very interested in how the teachers and students are finding their way with the new chrome books.  The school has given every student a chrome book.  The four students with whom I’ve been working have told me that they will keep their chrome book until they graduate from high school.  After reading the last chapter of Personal Learning Networks, I am glad that the district went with the one to one rather than have a hodgepodge of different sources brought in by students.  When I read the reasons for one to one I was in favor of having everyone on the same piece of technology, especially in the beginning stages of such an immense undertaking!

I personally have seen the students make use of their chrome books during the literacy block to look up unfamiliar words found in the book, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.  The teacher I’m working with shares that she has been through some PDA over the summer, but that she is concerned with teaching helpful literacy skillls that prepare students for the 21st century learning and online reading.  I’m working with her right now to develop a PBL unit that incorporates a new technology that she is interested in, but hasn’t had the time to explore yet.  She has agreed to allow me time to teach a PBL unit over the course of two weeks, using The Graveyard Book.  I’m excited and hopeful that I can help her explore a new technology tool to use with her students and their chrome books.

As for Kim, my tutee…

I’m meeting with her today and we’re going to see how she liked the book I gave her about Anne Frank.  I’m interested to see how far she’s gotten in the book and what she was able to take from it.  I intentionally gave her a book that is closer to a fifth-grade reading ability because it is the first book we’ve used together and she is tackling it alone at home.  Kim’s word analysis put her at about grade five, so this book was a good starting place.  Depending on how it goes today, I have a picture book (advanced – grade five again) and a more advanced chapter book (more about grade 8 level).  Chances are, we’ll be on her current book for a bit, depending on how far she’s gotten.  I’m also curious to see what she’s added to her journal – interesting words of study, questions and things that surprised her were the three sections we created to journal about.  I have Anne Frank’s online museum tour bookmarked on my tablet and I’m hoping that some of her questions will lead us to this site where we can do some online reading and exploration!  I’ll keep you posted!  Thanks for reading!  Enjoy the day!


Middle school and tutoring

I have connected with X Middle School and a teacher of English, language arts from the seventh-grade.  Thanks to the school and this teacher, I have started tutoring!  I decided to work with a small group of four students twice a week for about a half an hour, in addition to tutoring my one student.  I will work with Kim (I’m not using her real name), who is twelve years old and in the seventh-grade, two to three times a week.  I will work with her, and three of her classmates (all boys) twice a week and hope to meet with Kim to work on her individual interests once a week.

I not only wanted to tutor a student through their interests, but also work with them on their curricular and class requirements to make the best use of our time for both the student, the teacher and fulfillment of my course requirements.  I did not want to take class time away from my tutee to fulfill my course requirements, and not directly supplement the student’s current academic demands.  The literacy block on Kim’s team allowed me to do both – teach to her interests and work with her needs that directly relate to her English class requirements.

Kim’s literacy block meets about three times a week for forty-five minutes.  The first twenty minutes are used for silently reading a book of choice and the remaining time is used to read and discuss the book, The Graveyard Book as a whole group.  I will meet with Kim and the three boys twice a week, where we will use the silent reading time to meet quietly as a group and discuss any ‘burning’ questions or thoughts about, The Graveyard Book and then we will continue to the whole group setting, where I will then help the students in a whole-group setting.

In addition to, The Graveyard Book, I will be working with Kim one-on-one during the silent reading block to break away from the required text, and dive into some literature of her choice – which I am very excited about! 

When I talked about reading and topics of choice with Kim she revealed that she really doesn’t like reading much.  She described The Graveyard Book with the statement, “It’s just not really my type of book.  I’m not really interested in it.”  Thankfully Kim did share that she loves Anne Frank and she talked about her with great passion!  I will meet with Kim next week adorned with a new, blank journal and a chapter book (geared for older elementary grades) on Anne Frank.  I’ll continue to help the group unthread the many themes of The Graveyard Book, but I’m mostly looking forward to working with Kim and getting her stared on her own journal of all that she loves, wonders and finds connected with Anne Frank as she begins reading for the fun of it with her new Anne Frank chapter book and journal.

X Middle School has given every student a chrome book this year.  I hope to work a bit with digital reading skills with Kim as we search for answers to questions that are fueled from the chapter book.  Most of all, I hope to show Kim a way into reading that is full of wonder and enjoyment!  I’m excited to work with her and I hope I can help her find the joy of literacy!  If anything, a glimpse at another time, another world through Anne Frank may provide some comfort for Kim along her own journey through school and home life.

Kim’s Quick Assessment of Reading Ability put her at a grade 5 independent reading level (a great match for the Anne Frank chapter book) and her Star Reading Test Results scored her at a 4.1 independent reading level.  Despite the scores in black and white, what concerns me most is her lack of interest in reading and lack of pleasure in reading.  I hope to inspire Kim and lead her to the many reasons we read!  I will begin by discussing the books we read and making connections that are of personal interest and meaning to Kim.  I will continue to value and show interest in all that she has to offer, so as to connect and learn with her as much as I can!  Looking forward to the journey….

PBL and the Science Gap

When I think of PBL, I think of science and the scientific method.  I can remember taking my science practicum, oh so many years ago, with Dr. Knisely at RIC.  Everyone warned me…This is the worst practicum, It’s so hard, It’s so much work!  Needless to say, I went into the course with hesitation and anxiety.  By the end of the semester I was sold on teaching students to learn through the inquiry or scientific method model.  The questioning, followed by inquiry and exploration all enhanced with student and teacher collaboration was amazing!  The kids in the program were involved, got their hands dirty through the exploration (many smiles and positive student interaction)  and created their own, memorable experience and learning adventure.  I loved it!  The kids loved it.  At the end of the semester the students and I presented our question, our exploration and our findings and concluding thoughts as well as newly developed questions to parents, teachers and peers.

The PBL ideas bring me back to this very way of thinking, learning and teaching that I was introduced to before I graduated with my teaching degree from RIC.  The following link provides evidence that PBL works!  Check it out and tell me what your thoughts are!

With the Right Technology Can Children Teach Themselves?

Check out this post from Mindshift:

The post asks the question- Can children learn from technology without the support of teachers and classmates?  Education views always seem to swing from one side to the complete opposite and this post is definitely demonstrating such!  Technology and education have the capacity to sway heavily in one direction.  It will be very interesting to see what comes of the trial!