Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Executive Function Tip 2: Keeping Track of Assignments

"Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology." ~John Tudor

Keeping track of homework and assignments that are due for multiple classes can sometimes be really difficult for students. Last year, for a few who struggled, I started using "reminders" on the iPad to help them remember what they need to accomplish and when it is due.

The students set up a reminder list for each of their classes. Each class needs to be a different color. If they have a test or project due, we set alarms for two days before so that they know it's crunch time!

I was surprised at how well this system worked for my 7th graders. The only issue we had (after learning how to use the reminders and set alarms) was when students didn't charge their iPads fully the night before so by the end of the school day they were out of juice.  Using the Reminders feature is a simple built in way to keep track of homework/assignments and eliminates the need for a paper planner...which even though I love, is one more thing that students seem to misplace or not utilize.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Executive Function Cheat 1

"We can no more afford to spend major time on minor things than we can to spend minor time on major things."  ~Jim Rohn

We've all had them, maybe we are one ourselves - A lifelong learner that no matter what system gets puts in place at home or at school has a binder, desk, or locker that looks like a recycling facility by the third week of school.

In the past few years there were even a couple of students who once a month or every couple of months I would pull them and a recycling bin aside and go through the binder and the desk and the backpack.  Rewards are offered, tears are shed ( sometimes by parents), conferences are held and recesses are missed, but nothing can MAKE a student who struggles with executive function instantly organized.

Last year as an attempt to jazz up foldables for our language arts notebooks, I "accidentally" ran a set of study guides on hot pink paper. Not wanting to waste the set, we went ahead and used them.  Two days later when the study guide was due for review, little Tommy ( whose binder always looked like the aftermath of an F5 tornado) said he "had it, it was just in the pile of papers"  Before I could even open my mouth, another student chimed in "it's the pink one!"  And lo and behold, Tommy pulled it out and was ready on time with the rest of his group.

It was then that lightning appeared out of the clear cerulean sky, came in through the open window and cracked me on the head. The amount of time that Tommy and a few others routinely spent searching for different things was well worth the cost of colored paper. (My school typically doesn't like paper...we use single sided 'recycled' paper a lot because a parent donated a ton, but even then our principal always encouraged us to go paper free)

I spent the rest of the year ( well halfheartedly, because I lost a prep and sometimes you just gotta make a quick set of something at the copy machine!) using colored paper to help my students, and myself get organized. It was much easier to prioritize grading for myself when I knew that all math tests were light blue.

This year, I am expanding my system. Even though I work with students who have need of extra assistance as well as those who don't, I think all of them will benefit.

This year all of my math tests will continue to be light blue and my language arts tests will be light green. According to color theory, light blue minimizes anxiety and green stimulates thought. Study guides will be burn-your-retinas-orange.  Since the students will be turning in their work at the end of a unit and clearing their binders, there will (fingers crossed) be no reason to have more than one study guide or test in their possession.  White paper will be saved for articles/reading selections so that the kids can easily write on and highlight them.

Making copies on colored paper may not be ideal for every situation, but I saw a positive change in some of my students who struggle and I look forward to seeing that same positive reaction in my new crop of sixth graders! 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

5 Digital Goals for Summer

"Housework is a breeze. Cooking is a pleasant diversion. Putting up a retaining wall is a lark. But teaching is like climbing a mountain."   - Fawn Brodie

TeachHub posted a list of 5 Digital Goals for Teachers. These are things that they are encouraging all teachers to get into the habit of! I'm happy to say that I've at LEAST dabbled in all 5, without hardly any effort at all! 

I have used Google hangouts in the past for professional development and for distance tutoring. I definitely prefer a Hangout for face-to-face collaboration and it's not just because you can work with more than one person. I also like all the extras a hangout provides.

I started my blog ta-dah!, but definitely need to develop it more. 
I have the webinar thing down. If you're not familiar with SimpleK12I highly suggest you check it out! It's a fantastic community of educators. Of all the webinars I've attended, I would say that I've gotten something positive out of 93% of them. I'd love to connect with you, My Sk12 handle is shyrad

I routinely..well daily use ebooks for my personal reading and even for some of my work-related reading. My students also are familiar with using their kindles or iPads etc. I do however sometimes prefer the feel of a book...there's something about adding sticky notes or writing in a margin that can't be replaced by a device.  Last year was my first year teaching in a one to one iPad program. What was remarkable is that by I would say December, half of the students in my class preferred a paper option to using their iPads for reading or note-taking and even projects. Something about that tactile connection that gets missed when we are constantly plugged in, especially for kinesthetic learners.

And of course TpT has my heart! I haven't put up anything I've made yet, but I definitely search for/purchase resources for all kinds of things!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Unity and Grace

"It is in the shelter of each other that the people live. " - Irish Proverb

"Give what you have to somebody, it may be better than you think."  - H.W. Longfellow

The ties that bind us as teachers to our students, their parents, and the community are so important. Even though I knew that power beforehand, the events of the past two days have made it ever more evident.

Wednesday night, I received a message via phone and police alert saying that a woman was missing and endangered. This is a woman whose children I have taught, who is herself a remarkable teacher, and one of the gentlest souls I know. All night was spent connecting with people, trying to find out who knows what and how to help. Because she had been missing only since the afternoon, in the eyes of the public it wasn't "important" yet, but in the eyes of all of us who love her, it was critical.

By Thursday morning we had a large group of parents and staff from three different schools communicating via text and Facebook messenger dividing up hotels to call and credit card companies. My mother, who is herself a teacher, and myself were desperate to contribute and decided to look the old fashioned way.

Using both of our phones to stay in contact with the groups, we searched a former naval base, a beach, a mall, and a school; hoping in vain to find some sign of the car. But also approaching the matching cars with great fear and trepidation at what we would find. Exhausting one place, we started in another location and then truly as an answer to prayer, we spotted another car matching the description parked in the back of a lot. We pulled in and was never more relieved to find that it was in fact her, and that she was hurting and confused, but okay!

She has a difficult road to recovery, but one of the things I can share is that she kept saying, " I can't believe you're here. I can't believe you found me."  That is going to stick with me.

Driving around, looking, wasn't difficult to do. Some people might have even thought it was a waste of time. In fact, midway through, one of the messages received was that the family believed she could be anywhere in California. It was a small effort with big and amazing and wonderful results.

In giving our hearts to the children we teach, we also extend that love and sense of unity to their parents. It is that sense of love and community that makes a school truly successful.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Slogging Away, but wait! There's More!

You know how during the year there are all those plans to do that/make that/find that over the summer?

What about all of those amazing ideas and pins on Pinterest that you save for later?

That's where I am now. It's hitting me that "summer" is really just two more weeks. We have a week of meetings before school starts on the 20th and the last week of July is dedicated to math training through the Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative ( SVMI)

So today , tomorrow, and Friday, I am slogging away! Prioritizing and figuring out just what I want to get accomplished before there is no time left.

I thought I had a good handle on it ( Today was supposed to be math interactive notebook day) but instead I attended 3 great webinars through SimpleK12's day of learning about Digital Storytelling.

In "Create Amazing Digital Stories Easily with Green Screen Effects and an iPad"  I learned about Veescope Live and how students can use it to create some really great presentations.

In "Inspire Creativitiy and Presentation Skills with a New Kind of Puppet Show", the presenter, Carol Nelson, spoke about the app Sock Puppet which seems pretty easy to use and I must say I am having a lot of fun playing around with it.

The last webinar I attended for the day was "Publishing Digital Books: Making Students Work Come Alive" presented by Kim Munoz (techmunoz on twitter) A lot of great resources there although the one we focused on was Wobook which helps teachers and students create ebooks.

So my list of things to create with and plan with just keeps adding! But hey, that's what makes education so wonderful right? The ability to constantly add more tools to our toolboxes in order to help our students maximize their education.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. "   - Gandhi 

In June, I completed my first year at a new-to-me school. Before then, I had taught at the same elementary school that I had attended from K-8, volunteered at while in high school, and then worked at during and after college ( subtracting only 2 years at a different school).

The change was hard because I was so invested in the children and families of that parish community ( the one I grew up with) but I'm so happy that my new community is just as amazing. I am so grateful to have wound up at a school where not only the children and parents are awesome, but my coworkers too!

My school, a Catholic school in the Bay Area, was founded on the Augustinian principles of unitas, veritas, and caritas ( unity, truth, and love) and I really feel that in the day to day interactions within the community.

The first year I kind of coasted to learn the lay of the land, but I'm looking forward to diving right in. Officially my title is Learning Support Coordinator/Junior High Teacher. I teach language arts and math to 6th and 8th grades and coordinate all special needs for student support at both ends of the spectrum. This year I will also get to do something that I miss from my old school and moderate Student Council. So excited!

Monday, July 7, 2014

New Year, New Blog

Only a new year as it relates to me personally! I celebrated a birthday on July 4th. I'm trying to get a consistent and decent handle on this blogging thing! It's my new-birthday-year  resolution!