Category Archives: Teaching Ideas, Stategies, etc.

A place to post ideas, strategies, links, pictures, etc. that will enrich our educational toolboxes.

iPad in Education… annotated bibliography

What’d I’d like to do with this post is to create an annotated bibliography of iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch apps that can be used in education. I want to start a directory of iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch apps that can be used for different content areas and different grade levels.

It seems that the greater majority of the apps available are geared toward elementary age students, which is great, but I’d like to compile a list of apps and potential uses that can be used for primary and secondary students.

If my readers will add a comment with the following information, then I will compile it into an annotated bibliography that can be referenced by everyone. Please include the following in your comment: Name of app, cost, grade levels, content areas, and possible uses in the classroom. Also, try to include apps that can be used in classrooms that have 1, 2, or more devices… unfortunately, most schools don’t provide one computer for all students.

Thank you for your participation!

— Stephanie

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Conferences: the student-led kind

At my school, we hold student-led conferences, in which, the students invite their parents to view their portfolio and discuss their progress in school. I have never heard of student-led conferences before and imagined something a little different. What I want to do in this post is describe how our conferences were conducted and discuss how I think a few minor changes could improve their effectiveness.

First, our students are provided a binder with their name on the spine and dividers within. Each teacher is to provide direction on what should be included under their content area’s section. Now, I have no clue what the other members of my team had their students include or how they went about that process, but I asked each of my kids to include four pieces of poetry from their poetry portfolios that we had just finished. I gave each kid ten different reflection slips they could fill out and staple to the top of the pieces they chose. My only input on this was that they needed to include at least one piece that had a rough draft and a final draft with visible revisions, the other three pieces were their choice.

I really liked the pieces that my students chose and their reasons for choosing those pieces. I was quite impressed by their reflection and how in-depth they went both in the reflections and the poems. The only think I will change for next year will have to do with the poetry portfolio, not the reflections and decision-making process.

On the nights of conferences, we opened up the divider between two classrooms and set up the desks into four seat pods. The students would then grab their binder and take their parent/guardian to a pod and discuss each section of the conference binder. What was supposed to happen was that the students would discuss each portion of the binder, and the parents would then ask questions if there was a pressing concern. Otherwise, the student was supposed to be the leader of the conference process and once they were finished, they would leave.

This is what really happened: the student retrieved his/her binder and took their parents to a pod. They would discuss briefly the binder and its contents. Then the parents would wait until every teacher made his/her way to their pod to discuss that student. So, with maybe ten-ish pods full at the busiest times, each teacher was trying to make his/her way to all parents and discuss the student. Imagine how long that took… and guess what? Most of the parents would wait, and wait, and wait for you. *sigh* It was a long night.

SO, how do I think we could improve student-led conferences? Well, for one, I think the students need to have a script or schedule of items they should discuss with their parents. I think that many of them showed their work and then MAYBE talked a little about it, but that was about it. These kids can’t remember what they need to say or how to say it. So what if this is their second or third year of doing this… they just can’t remember. Maybe even have a little diddy on the cover of the binder about how a student-led conference should flow?

Second, I think that the student should have the choice in what is included in their binders with minor coaching from the teacher. Maybe a few requirements, such as your favorite piece or the work you improved the most on, etc. Like I said before, I don’t know what the other teachers required of their students, but I know it helped my students focus on why they chose what they chose.

Third, I think that each student should have included a SMART goal or something that they could work on academically to improve. Then, each teacher should reflect on that goal and describe what we will do to help the student reach that goal… and most importantly… actually follow-up. After the student and teacher have fulfilled their portion of the goal section, the parent should discuss how he/she will help the student reach their goal.

Anyways, these are my thoughts… for what they are worth. I enjoyed meeting the parents of my student and seeing how they behave in front of adults they are most comfortable with. It was very enlightening! 🙂

— Stephanie

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Gettin’ my groove on…

HA! I love this title, and it’s so true! I’m not having the best day today, but I am having a really great time teaching. I have ironed out as much of my “centers” as I can. We started them today, and the kids love having a “menu” to choose their own activities from. I split the kids into two groups, one for vocabulary and one for 6+1 Traits. They will work from their assigned menu for the week and then next week they will switch. It seems to be going well so far. I will post the menus that I used later  because they are on my school computer.

I have also had a wonderful opportunity to get to know some of my students more. I volunteered to supervise the home football games for the high school that my school feeds into. The first game was awesome! I didn’t realize that so many of my own students were going to be there, but there were a lot who attended. Several of my students realized that we had a spelling test the next day and that they needed to study still. They asked me if I would practice with them… at the game!!! WOW!!! So we spent the second half of the game spelling words, putting them into sentences, and defining them. It was really funny, because one of my kids, “M,” was running up the bleachers. I told “M” to slow down or he would trip and fall, which he promptly did. He was laughing so hard that he was crying… and so was everyone else! It was so funny, but was even better was what he said after. He said, “Mrs. M, I wrangled with the bleachers!” And guess what… yep, “wrangle” was one of our spelling words! It was the most amazing and funny teaching moment ever! So, I have supervised every home game since, and just last week, several of my students asked me if I’d come watch them play football. I can’t wait! The rapport with a huge number of my students, and students who I don’t teach, has really grown. I can’t recommend getting involved in the school community more!

Anyways… this was very therapeutic. I wasn’t having a great day, but after retelling this wonderful experience I am feeling much better. 🙂 Now it’s time to eat, spend some time with my family, sleep, then repeat (and then some!).

— Stephanie

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Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible

At my school, we believe in teaching students how to be better people, which we do by integrating the 40 Developmental Assets into our curriculum. I think this has been really amazing, and I have seen huge improvements in my own classroom because of the 40 DAs.

At the beginning of the school year, I started my students out by doing an “Above/Below the line” activity to determine what are and are not acceptable behaviors in the classroom under the categories “Be Safe, Be Respectable, and Be Responsible.” The students came up with the behaviors, then we narrowed them down to general categories, and then finally to some basic rules for the classroom. Each student then pledged to follow the rules THEY created by signing the posters. Here are some of those pictures:

This was a great activity that I believe has helped our classroom community. The kids have started to correct their classmates, without much interaction from me. They know that our class runs much more smoothly when we are all following the rules. By taking ownership of these rules, they feel that they need to make sure they are being followed. I LOVE this! I really love that they are becoming little cops, enforcing their own rules, in a respectful and responsible way. I can’t wait to see how our classroom community evolves because of these student created rules.

— Stephanie

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From the Lunchroom to the Classroom: Authentic Assessment and the Brown Bag Exam

AdLit.org: Adolescent Literacy – From the Lunchroom to the Classroom: Authentic Assessment and the Brown Bag Exam.

This is such a wonderful idea for an authentic assessment. I think I will use this when I teach “The Giver” this year.

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Classroom Activities

So, I started a search last night on team building activities that can be used in the classroom, when I suddenly realized that I had been sucked into a supermassive black hole! My problem is that I’m certain I should have more information to show for all my time and effort. Many of the activities I have found are riddled with logistical problems (not enough space or resources) or are inappropriate for school aged children — I mean, don’t you foresee a problem with a game called “Lap Sit,” which entails having kids form a circle facing each others backs and then squatting into a sitting position so that your rear end is sitting on the legs of the person behind you? There are no chairs… someone else has their rear in on your lap… and if the person behind you falls, so do you. I get the cooperation/team building concept, but really… can’t we find something a little more educational to use in our classroom as an ice breaker/team building activity?

Here is my challenge… Post a game/activity that has genuine educational value, requires few/no resources, is appropriate in a classroom, and little risk for injuries or lawsuit. I would like to compile a list of activities to use in the classroom that are not time fillers. I believe that we could all use a list like that, right? Also, try to think outside of the box. Let come up with some new ideas or ways to enrich the old ones.

Good Luck!

— Stephanie

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