Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Favorites

Took a couple of weeks off--not because I didn't have any favorites, I just didn't have time to write a post! Lake time has been jammed packed. So Friday Favorites this week is all about the lake...

1. Our cabin....

Which is actually an old camper with an addition. It has two small bedrooms, a small kitchen/dining area and one long addition. In the addition we have added a sleeper sofa and a futon, so we have a little more sleeping space when the boys and their families come to the lake. They have both come at the same time, with their dogs, and somehow, we make it work.

2. Quiet Mornings......
A long summer day, with nothing that has to be done. The possibilities are endless. Read a book, swim,  a little golf with friends, walks with Chloe, watching paint dry. It could all happen.

3. My view from the deck...

4. Special Moments with family...

This is our youngest son and his daughter dancing to "Hey Baby! (Won't You Be My Girl?)" We get to spend a lot of time with them this summer and it's so fun to watch them grow and learn. K is growing into a young lady at 8. T is a golfer extraordinaire and will soon be beating Grandma and Grandpa. Little Max won't be little much longer.

The other three grandkids are doing their own share of learning and growing. A got herself some pretty pink glasses and think she looks pretty sharp. B is loving the Captain Underpants books and Baby H is not a baby. Dad says he is walking around saying, "Chloe", so we are planning a trip down to see them.

5. Time to read!
I've read two professional books--"Flip Your Classroom" by Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams, the gurus of Flipped Learning. "Teach Like a Pirate" by Dave Burgess.  This is a great book about teaching with passion and enthusiasm. There are several Twitter chats going on about this book also. Follow along at #tlap.

I've also read some books from my classroom: Delirium and Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver, Night Road by Kristen Hannah (not really YA, but my girls will love it) and a new FAVORITE: The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancy. All I can say about it is WOW. I read it in two days. Action Packed. I'm planning on writing a review of it for my class blog, so maybe I will share that on here when it gets written. Thank heavens for my Twitter PLN who kept talking about this book. I may never have picked it up otherwise.

Well, that's it for this Friday.

What are your favorites this week?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Confession of a Connected Teacher

Confession Time

I have not left school behind this summer. Usually I can. Usually I don't think about school until mid-July or even the beginning of August.

Yesterday, I peeked at my class lists for next year. I looked at names, at combinations of kids.
I look forward to some and dread others.

I'm planning lessons in my head all the time (I do need to get them on the computer!)

I'm reading professional books and participating in Twitter chats like it's my day job (which it is, but not in the summer!)

Oh, I'm doing summer things

I've golfed
Gone to concerts
Watched the sun set
Spent time with friends
Visited my family
Spent time with 1/2 the grandkids
Read books

But I feel like I'm not really present, like it's a weekend and I go back to work on Monday.

Maybe all this connectedness isn't a good thing.

I need to find some balance.

Monday, June 24, 2013


One of things I promised myself after attending FlipCon13 in Stillwater, Minnesota, was that I would be more intentional on reflecting and sharing my flipping journey. In their final "chat" with us, Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman asked us all to write down what we would be doing in the next 5 days, five weeks, five months, to move our flipped classrooms forward. And then, we did we see ourselves in five years.

That's a lot of thinking.

And it's been in the back of my head since last Wednesday.

Now it's time to put those thoughts into the universe.

These past five days....

It's been percolating (that's what I call prewriting in my little universe)

I've looked through notes and visited blogs
I've gone back to presentations. Watched them. Remembered the excitement I felt as I listened to those who are flipping with success.

And one keynote, one person, stays with me.

Ramsey Musallum.

I've seen him twice--once in April and again in June. I love his passion for learning and teaching. Here's his TED talk video.

This resonates with me because I want to be a "curator of curiosity", not a "disseminator of knowledge". I want my kids to be passionate about their learning. I want them to figure out things on their own. I want to be their mentor, their guide, their partner in learning.

When I saw him in April, Ramsey shared his "Explore, Flip, Apply" method that he uses in his chemistry classes. This just clicked with me. It made so much sense to have students explore a bit before they started new learning. This is what I want my students doing in class.

How will I work this Creative Writing and English 9?

Well, that's what the next five weeks will be about. I'm going to start with a unit on Why People Write. I think I will use it with both classes. So I'm going to be collecting pieces of writing for students to read and think about. They'll discuss, together and as a class, about the purpose of those pieces. Why did someone feel compelled to write the piece?

They'll write themselves--what are the reasons that they write? How do they feel about writing?

And then we'll move into the real work of class (not that the above won't be real work). My units based on Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle's work will include examples of the genre, to be followed by discussions, practice, and writing their own pieces. They'll also be blogging and creating an online portfolio. Hopefully, I can get a good start on these ideas over the next five weeks.

English 9 is a little different. I'm still thinking about this one. Writing units will be similar to Creative Writing, but the reading and the lit I need to think about a bit. Background knowledge will be relatively easy for me to flip, but the reading of the lit is what I need to consider. I don't want to send them home to read and discuss in class. I believe kids need more support than that. So I'll keep thinking....

In five months, Thanksgiving break or thereabouts, I plan to have this up and running. I also plan to be writing about this journey more, reflecting on my practice (something I haven't been very good at!). I'm thinking I need to pick a day of the week and schedule that blog post in. I seem to work better that way.

In five years...well, that remains to be seen. I could be retiring by then, although this concept has me fired up about teaching, so we'll see. I will be a "curator of curiosity" and there may be something new that has me fired up and ready to teach!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Most Important Take-Away

This simple tweet pretty much sums up the best take-away from the first day of flipcon13. In fact, it pretty much sums up teaching in general, don't you think? At least for me it does. I've never been able to  teach a kid anything if I didn't have a relationship with them in the first place. That's why I've always spent the first few days of a school year getting to know my kids. I use some silly activities (but not many, because as an adult, I hate touchy, feely get to know you activities), kids give little speeches to introduce themselves,

and we talk.

We talk a lot.

We talk about summer.

We talk about sports practices
play practices
swim practice

We talk about jobs
We talk about cars
We talk about friends

And snuck into all that talking...
We talk about books and writing and homework and school

And I learn a lot.

Now, don't get me wrong. I learned a lot in all my sessions. There was a great one just for English teachers and we just talked about how to go about this thing called flipped learning. At first it seems like it can't be done, that it's just for those science and math people. But then little ideas start creeping in--what if I have students get their background knowledge in some other way, in some other form, without me lecturing?

What if there's a way to teach/reteach grammar rules, writing rules, without drill and kill worksheets?

What if I can figure out more ways to give them choice? Do kids have to take a test to show what they have learned? What if they have a better way to share their learning?

Do they have to complete the activities I have come up with?
What if they have something else they want to try?

What if....
The possibilities are endless.

And there are two amazing English teachers who team teach their classes....
one in California...
one in North Carolina.

Cross country, team teaching. Revolutionary.

So even though I will flip entire classes instead of units next school year, I won't cheat myself and my students out of that community we build each year. In fact, that community, that family, will be more important than ever. We will have to learn from each other, depend on each other, share with each other.

And if that isn't 21st century learning, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Concert in the Park

My favorite thing of the summer--concerts with friends. Last Saturday dawned with the summer smell of the lake--fresh, with a promise, a promise of new memories. Saturday night we went to see 3 Dog Night (yes, the same group you remember from your teen years if you are anywhere close to my age) at an outdoor concert in "The Park", as we call it. Amazingly, four members of the original band are still together and they have been playing together for 44 years.

44 years!

Isn't that amazing?

There's always an interesting mix of people at these concerts. Those who come for show, because it's the place to be and the real ones who come for the music.

And there are those who must not have anything else to do....they plop down their chair, open a beverage, text their friends,


It's a rock concert. How do you not move?

I grew up with live bands. I have many friends who play in live bands. Live music requires you to MOVE, to let the music take you to memories of who you used to be (or who you want to become), so how can you just sit and not move

I am a heckuva chair dancer, just so you know, if I can't get out and dance...

And to those women who wear heels and a dress to a grassy area

What are you thinking? Especially after all the rain Iowa has had...

And that's all I have today because I have spent the last two days at flipcon13--the flipped classroom conference--and my brain is full and ready to explode. Amazing conversations, too much to think about. I'll be writing about it soon.

Until then, peace out. And dance like no one is watching!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Thoughts on Tiggers and the End of the Year

So here we are. The last full real day of school. Tomorrow is a half day of handing things back, an awards assembly, and then they are gone. And, so of course, like most teachers, I look back on the year and think about what worked, what didn't, what drove me crazy and what gave me JOY.

There is a lot of end of the year craziness going on. My trusty yardstick disappeared. I looked everywhere for it. I mentioned it the other day in my 8th hour speech class.

"Well, yeah, about that....."

And the story came out about filming commercials and hitting a ball and, well, let's just say that now I have a half a yard stick. No telling what happened to the other half. Gotta love my SSB's.

And my freshmen boys, well they are another story. They are done with sitting still and being quiet (not they ever really did those things). A few days ago, Katherine wrote about how being the parent of boys helps you in the teaching of them. And I have to agree. I think you are used to all those strange behaviors. I tweeted her on Friday and told her my freshmen boys weren't acting like puppies--they were more like Tiggers (you do remember Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, don't you?).

Watch this and imagine several of them in your room...

And then there are the procrastinators.

I don't believe in zeroes. I don't give much homework, so the work I  assign is important in showing me how kids are doing. I won't give a zero until all avenues are exhausted (or the last day of a semester, whichever comes first).


Now those "I don't care" attitudes have turned into "What do you mean I'm going to fail?" incredulousness.

Now I'm getting work.

I'm also getting, "I turned my work in at midnight, why don't you have it in the gradebook yet?"

Now don't think I'm all negativity. Really, I'm not.

I'm having lots of fun today talking with kids and sharing why I will miss them.

I'll miss the randomness of the conversations in my first hour Creative Writing class...
      Who'd win in a fight between Batman and Superman?
I'll miss the kids who sit in the little square outside my room and avoid work like the plague...
     Mizz Day, I gotta get my music going first or I can't concentrate
I'll miss quiet freshmen girls who are planning their reading for the summer.
      I want to read all the Nicholas Sparks books this summer. I hope I can find them all.
I'll miss the silly ones who stop in to visit in the middle of a class period
     I'm your favorite, right Mizz Day?
I'll miss "Father" B and his speeches
    We made a deal with the devil and won the golden fiddle
I'll miss the competitiveness of some and the passiveness of others,
I'll miss the noisy hallways and the silliness.
I'll miss my kids.
But not enough that I won't enjoy my too short summer vacation.

And, by the way. Batman wins every time. He's the keeper of the kryptonite, you see.

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