"I feel so stuck. Nobody seems to get my ideas or feel my passion for teaching."
If you are like me I am sure you have said this at least five times a day. What is a lone nut to do? I was surrounded by others who were great teachers, but didn't want to change. I was stuck. That was until I found the magic of a PLN (Professional Learning Network) and since then I haven't had to utter those words anymore. I finally feel accepted, understood, and supported by amazing educators.
How can you do it you ask? Easy. Here are the ways that I built my PLN, just take the first step and you will never want to go back!
1. Twitter: Sure, some merely think of Twitter as a website used for those who want to stalk their favorite celebrities' every selfie and food habits, but the site has take a new turn for educators. Using Twitter in an educational setting for the past year has been my best asset. Whenever I have a question, need help with a lesson plan, or need to find the coolest thing to do in my class, Twitter is where I turn.
Once you are on the site, go find some of the educators you look up to (and tweet to them), find companies you use in your school (tweet to them as well), and join an "edchat". There are "edchats" for just about everything in education ranging from state-specific discussions (Like #NVedchat for Nevada educators) to edtech (#edtechchat) and grade-specific. There is bound to be a chat that you can join and learn from.
The golden rule with Twitter is you don't have to follow everyone, only follow those who will help you become a better educator.
Sign up right this second (Seriously, stop reading and go sign up).Don't know where to start? Tweet to me @MsGeekyTeach and I will help you out.
2. Meetups: Meetups are a great way to connect in real life with friends from Twitter, emails, and more. Meetups can be anything from a small meetup like BrewCUE, CoffeeCUE, or EdCamp, to a large conference like ISTE, NCTM or the annual CUE Conference.
Some are free, while some you have to pay for, but I'll tell you this--it’s well worth your money and time if you get to connect with other educators, especially those you otherwise would have never come across.
3. Voxer: Voxer is, simply-put a walkie-talkie application. Why not just text or call, you ask? Well, Voxer allows you to ensure that your question or comment gets the love it deserves. With the Voxer app, you can send text messages, photos, and instant voice messages to individuals and groups.
My PLN, I use this with many other educators to throw an idea around or to get feedback on a failing lesson plan. Since my message is there for them to listen to when they get the chance, I don't have to worry about my message being forgotten about. This also ensures that I will get a thoughtful response once my PLN members get the time to respond.
4. Point: How about sustaining your PLN by sharing articles? Point is a newly discovered favorite Chrome extension of mine. You can share articles with friends, highlight parts of the article that you find interesting, and with the extension you can easily retrieve your favorite reads.
This has changed the way that I read articles, but it's even better for my PLN: I can now share the coolest new edtech findings with all of my edtech friends with one, simple extension. It's like sitting next to another person and chatting about the latest newspaper article!
These are just some of the ways that I stay connected to my PLN. I challenge you to check out new ways to connect, and if you find one, let me know in the comments section below!
NOTE: This article is part of EdSurge's Fifty States Initiative (representing the state of Nevada). Interested in representing edtech in your state? Apply here.
It's over. How is it over already? In a flash it is gone.
"You should really plan an Edcamp for Las Vegas" or something along those lines is what got me started. I was hesitant but promised I would have lots of support. Flash forward to yesterday, August 2nd, 2014 and who knew it would all come together?
I woke up at 5 am after not being able to sleep for the past three nights, butterflies and a slight feeling of nausea decided to join the party. I loaded up the car and was only having a slight freakout as I pulled into SWCTA.
I was surprised to see so many volunteers there at 7 in the morning. We unloaded and started setting up right away. Craig and David started on the session board while everyone else did things from opening up rooms, hanging signs, setting up food and even starting to register people who showed up at 7:30.
The event got rockin' and rollin' really quick, folks were talking, brainstorming ideas, checking out Twitter, and of course jumping on that free coffee and bagels. As the session board was made, I tried to get the 200+ attendees excited for this new experience. Once we went over the basics I let em' loose.
As session 1 and 2 were going on, I was interacting in the sessions, loving the ideas, hearing great discussions from tech in the class to Genius Hour. It was a lot of fun! During session 3, Craig and I decided to do a Things That Suck session and it was awesome! We talked about Las Vegas Buffet (Great idea Craig!), Frozen, School Uniforms, Unfiltered Wifi, and so much more.
Finally it all came to an end once everyone was back in the ballroom. We did a raffle with amazing prizes from our sponsors, announced that Nevada FINALLY has and EdChat (@NevadaEdChat), and my good friend Devin told everyone they needed to take a selfie with me. All in all it was a whirlwind of a day. I got the feeling that you get when your student has an "Ah-ha" moment and your heart swells, tears of joy come to your eyes, and you see your labor of love transform into a reality. This is by far the most stressful, exciting, invigorating, and amazing thing I thought I could never do. Thank you so much to those of you who helped out and those of you who attended. I hope that if you didn't go that next year you will be sure to join us!
Check out the pictures below!
I have never been one to stay super organized and that includes my multiple inboxes. That is...until I stumbled upon Unroll.me. This website is amazing and will change your inbox forever.
Every time you go to just about any retail store they always ask for your e-mail address. Don't you love getting those great coupons especially when you really need them? What about when you get them every single week? Maybe you are too busy to unsubscribe or maybe you are like me who suffers from fomo on those great deals when I really need them. Well, unroll.me has answered your inbox prayers.
When you sign up for unroll.me, you can not only save those fabulous deals but you can even unsubscribe from those annoying e-mails you get day after day. When you first sign up you simply put in your e-mail and it gives you the list of all websites you are subscribed to. From here, you can decide to do the following: Add to Rollup, Unsubscribe, or Keep in Inbox. Then once a day like magic, all of the items you decided to add to your rollup appear in one beautiful e-mail. I can now take a quick look at all of my steals and deals instead of archiving them like I normally do.
Ever had a crazy ex, junk mailing grandma, or just wanted to block someone? Unroll.me also allows you to block specific contacts that are driving you nuts. The insanity is gone!
Now what happens if you delete your rollup in your e-mail you ask? Unroll.me has your back and you can go into the archives to find the missing e-mail. You can also go and find a previously unsubscribed website and resubscribe to your desire. Also, you can decide do you want your rollup morning, afternoon, or evening as well as a grid form or list form.
I have used this will all of my e-mail accounts and will never go back to the old way of getting my inbox cleared out. I get to keep all of my favorite subscriptions and sanity as well, what more could I ask for?
Have questions about Unroll.me? Feel free to comment below and I will be happy to assist. You can also check them out on Twitter and Facebook as well.
Happy Rolling Up!
Ahh my PLN, my Professional Learning Network. How near and dear I hold you to my heart. My PLN is my support team and has grown immensely over the past few months.
I have always been interested and up to date with the latest technology (so I thought). I had a Myspace page, Blogger, G-mail, Hotmail, Twitter, Facebook, and so many other accounts I thought I was in the know of things. When I started teaching I was using Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers. I would go to Professional Developments and write down the coolest new thing and think about how to use it in my class. I would read about 40 app in 40 minutes and suck up everything I could. I would also reach out to other teachers and see what they use. I thought I was doing a great job and was awesome.
Then, thanks to my friend Jon (@ipadsammy), I soon learned that I was indeed not as nearly as advanced as I thought I was. I had a regular Twitter account and Jon urged me to get one for educational uses. I quickly obliged and am glad that I did. A few months past and I still felt great at learning more about technology. The big change came when he added me to an amazing group on Voxer. I had used Voxer but never in this way. Since then, life hasn't been the same (so corny but so true).
I have this support system to learn from including @ipadsammy, @tedrosececi, @MsVictoriaOlson, @LS_Karl, @classroom_tech, @MrMacnology, @WhoIsGoldberg, and so many more amazing people. Whenever I have a question, concern, a bad day, or even something I am really excited about they listen (most of the time). Everyday I look forward to hearing their great ideas and conversations about education to Oreos. I feel so lucky to be part of a great learning network. Without know it, they are pushing me to be a better teacher everyday. I am trying things I would have shrugged off last year, I am not afraid to ask questions (no matter how silly), and I feel accepted. Without my PLN I would be in the dark ages still. I know it is past Valentine's Day my dear friends but I hope you accept my late love letter. You guys seriously rock my socks and everyday I am so thankful to have you guys to lean on. Thank you for being my biggest support system. I love you guys.
Who is in your PLN? What is your favorite part of having a PLN online and offline?
Happy Sunday and Belated Valentine's Day.
All my love,
I was recently looking through some old files on my computer and stumbled upon my teaching philosophy from September of 2011. I instantly had to click onto it to see what I had written. Did I have the same philosophy? Did I feel completely different from just a few years ago? I HAD to know... so I clicked and learned quite a bit about my former and present self.
First off, I found out that I was soooo cheesy! "We need education like we need air; and allowing it to be free and plentiful is one of the greatest gifts that our students can take advantage of," if that isn't cheesy I don't know what is.
Secondly, my philosophy of education hasn't changed though my view of education has. I still enjoy the classroom and think that it needs to be about the kids. Little did I know in 2011 that education wasn't all it is cracked up to be. I wanted to use the latest and greatest strategy, be the best at grouping my students, and teach the important things.
While I do those things and so much more (as all teachers do) I didn't realize just how draining and exciting it would be. I wish that I could go back though and tell my 2011 self that it isn't as easy as I thought since I thought student teaching was a breeze, no worries or cares here ladies and gentlemen. Just an ordinary student teacher who thought she was all that HA!. Teaching has been one of the toughest things I have ever done. It could be from bouncing from grade level to grade level or for being a scatterbrain. Whatever the reason is, I don't care since it has all been worth it in the end.
One thing hasn't changed though and I hope never will. My former, eager, and overenthusiastic self said "In the end, it has always been about the students and it will always be about the students. From the moment I start until I retire I promise myself it will always be about them. "
Have you ever been so excited to do something with your students that you just jump in? And after you jump in, the kids have fun but what you thought would happen didn't and the product you get is a failure? Yeah.....that is what happened when I jumped into blogging with my students. So here is my tale of how I messed up and how I am fixing it.
Over winter break I was so excited to blog with my students. I couldn't WAIT for school to come around and so the first week back from break I told them we would be blogging the next week. They were excited, I was way more excited then they were and so we jumped in. I used Kidblog and signed up all of my kids, sent home a letter with information about Kidblog and how we would be using it in our classroom.
My students were working on silly animals stories and I was silly enough to not go over the rules and procedures of blogging. I let them loose and they started typing away not really knowing why we were blogging, they just knew that we were going to share our stories with family, friends, and other people online. I didn't go over procedures for how to leave good comments, or that whatever you put online is stuck online. The kids had fun though but the product was not up to my expectations.
So what do you do when you mess up and feel like the worst teacher in the world? I decided to start again and ask my PLN (Professional Learning Network). Man oh man did I find some great things from fellow class blogger Victoria who did a GHO (Google Hangout) with me and broke down how she successfully blogs in her class. She referred me to Pernille Ripp and her fantastic tips on blogging. After all the talking and reading I knew I was ready to start again.
Next week, my class and I will be using paper blogs to start our journey, we have been going over internet safety rules and how to be safe online from Common Sense Media. I felt so disappointed that I rushed in, but my kids are excited to blog again. Sometimes you have to mess up to figure out how to become a better person (or teacher).
Hope you have a great school week this week!
Let me know in the comments or on Twitter if you have ever done a lesson that was a flop and if so, how did you fix it?
We all have that great intention to make resolutions that we will keep throughout the year but come on.... our great intentions last all of two months or longer if we are lucky. I decided to change the world resolution to goals this year and that being said, I have five big goals that I would love to accomplish. Three are educational and two are personal so here we go...
1. Ramp Up My Patience-
I love my students, I really do. Just ask them and they will tell you that I care so much but sometimes I may or may not lose my cool. No screaming, yelling, or going crazy but I just lose my patience with them. I want to in those times, step back and realize they are in second grade, seven to nine years old. Such sweet little kids that I love oh so much and the brief moment of my losing my cool will be gone if I just take a deep breath. =)
2. Use More Technology-
I feel that I use a lot of technology in my classroom but I would LOVE to use it more in my classroom and use it consistently. We already use our Chromebooks daily for typing lessons, printing our AR reports, and for listening to stories. We also use Educreations on the iPad to work out our math problems. In the next year, I would love to have my kiddos to blog, type up their stories, listen to stories with Storia, and use so many of the great apps and websites out there!
3. Be More Productive-
Being a crazy extrovert and a passionate teacher, I tend to spend a lot of time focusing on my classroom and how I can improve. I am not trying to toot my own horn but I spend so much time on my classroom and thinking about my kids that I never get me time. Or me and family time and this is something I need to change. I am going to stick to my strict 4:30 rule; Leave at 4:30 (exceptions include report card time and sub plans).
4. Connect With More Educators-
I love connecting with educators but once things get crazy with school, I tend to stop blogging, stop using Twitter, and also stop listening to my favorite podcasts. I want to dedicate some time each day to take a break from the norm and spend more time connecting with my fellow educators.
Lastly, I'm sure that a lot of people have this goal/resolution so I won't go into detail ;)
5. Budget My Money-
I know this is a popular one but I want to become better at balancing my money. I am in the process of getting a house, growing up, and all that jazz (Being old stinks sometimes). I love using Mint.com as I have tried many other ways of budgeting and this is the only way that seems to work.
These are a few goals/resolutions that I figured I would be able to keep.
What are your goals for this year? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section!
Lots of love and I hope you celebrated the coming of the new year in style!
Here are my top 10 strategies to use in the classroom when you are reviewing. Have any other strategies? Please fire off in the comments what you do!
Tic-Tac-Toe, What Do You Know?
Have subject & review questions ready
Create a tic-tac-toe board on the board or chart paper
Divide the class into two teams
If a team gets the answer right, have them fill in an X or O but if they get it wrong, the opposing team gets a chance to steal the point
The first team to tic-tac-toe wins.
Teacher Vs. Student
Have subject & review questions ready
Seat students on the floor with their whiteboards
Ask students a question and have them answer with their whiteboards (I find that students love this game during math time)
If almost all of the students get the right answer, I give them the points :)
If a lot of the students do not know the answer, the teacher gets the point and then walks the students through to get the correct answer
Have subject & review questions ready
Seat the students in a circle and have a ball ready to roll!
The teacher will ask a question, when the student knows the answer they put up a “personal thumbs up” (Thumbs up by their chest when they have the answer instead of raising their hands)
The teacher rolls the ball (for older students, you can throw the ball and have them sit on their desks) to a student who has the answer and the student answers
If the answer is correct, the teacher asks another question and the student with the ball rolls it to another student who has an answer
If the answer is wrong, the teacher can have the ball rolled to another student or review the question.
*Tip- When reviewing math, ensure that they have manipulatives or whiteboards if needed*
I Have Who Has?
**See attached handout for full rules, example and template. There are a lot of different subjects for this game on the internet**
Use this when reviewing vocabulary words, spelling words, or any other words you want your students to know how to spell.
The class forms a circle or line
The teacher says a list word.
The first student says the first letter of the word
The next in line says the second letter.
The student next in line says the third letter. This continues until all letters of the list word have been spoken.
The student in line AFTER the last letter, then says the list word.
The next student in line says "SPARKLE"
Anytime a student says the wrong letter, he is out and returns to his seat.
Whoever is left is the winner
BINGO is a great game that can be used from K-12 in any subject. There are a lot of templates available online for any subject from art to history! Check out Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) and Pinterest to find some great templates and already done BINGO games.
K-5 Math Teaching Resources
This is a great website that has a multitude of math games for K-5. These games can be adapted for high grades or even review for higher games. The best part is each of these games has a standard linked to it so you will be sure to know exactly what standards you are reviewing.
Trophies Game Boards
Trophies (The reading series) is not the only place to get blank game boards but I have found they copy the best. With these blank game boards, you can review spelling, phonics, math, history, art, and any other subject. I first write and copy as many game boards as I need for the week. Next, I glue them down onto a file folder and put the topic(s) and standard(s) on the outside for future reference.
Table Top Blogs
This is a favorite in my class. I will write review questions on a piece of chart paper either on the top or in the middle. I will separate my students into groups of about four to five. Next, I take the chart paper with the questions and put them around the room. My students do a little walk around the room and answer the question. The best way for me to keep track of who is writing and who is not is by having the students pick different colors (of markers) for each group they are in. I give them about two minutes per paper and then switch.
**You can view my blog for more detailed information about this strategy.**
This is a great way to review with students. I usually present a topic and have the students use sticky notes to write what they know and what they want to know. At the end of the unit, the students will take another sticky note and write three or so things they learned. This is a great way to review and also formatively assess the students
Bonus…. QR Codes and Augmented Reality are amazing ways of reviewing with students. They bring the classroom to life and make learning and studying more meaningful, informational, and engaging. I highly suggest checking these out and using them in your classroom!
Hopefully this list will help you find a trick or two that can help you review with your own students.
Leave a comment below letting my on any trick or tips that you have of our own, I can't wait to hear how you review in your own class!
I remember the first experience I had with differentiating in a classroom and man was I horrible at it. Three weeks after graduating college I was put into a second grade inclusion classroom with students who had already had three...yes three teachers before me. It wasn't easy and I got a lot of support from my team. In those six months that I was there, I learned that differentiating isn't easy but is necessary for every child.
Now enough of that, what I'm sure you want to know is how am I making it work now? Now differentiating is easier for me, while it is still not flawless, I have developed a system that has worked for me. Be forewarned, we don't do math rotations every single day. If my kids are struggling with a concept, we do it whole group and just nix the rotations.
Back to the rotations.... I'm sure that most of us have heard of the Daily 5 Reading and if you haven't, it is essentially a different way of looking centers and you let the students have their own choices. Really cool stuff if you ask me. I use the ideas from Daily 5 Reading to create my own version of Daily 5 Math. As you know, I am super geeky so of course there is technology included.
When first starting out, I assessed my students using a variety assessments; AIMS Web M-Comp, 3-minute math quiz, Discovery Education Assessment, and my own simple observations. Once I had decided where my students were at when it came to math, I created the sacred chart. Students were grouped depending on their scores from all of these different assessments. Once the groups were made, the fun began!
Typically, we do a Number Talks for the first part of our math session. My kids sit on the floor while I write a problem for them on the board for them to do mentally. After that, we usually go into a mini-lesson of what we are learning this week. This can range from 5 minutes to up to 20 or so. I just gauge where my kids are at and some days we end up skipping our math groups because I feel that they need more time.
On the days that we do our math groups my students have four rotations: Meet with Ms. Boucher, Sumdog.com (Computers), Math Worksheet/Math Facts, and Math Games.
When going on Sumdog.com (Computers), the students get to play for 10-15 minutes participating in contests, reinforcing their core skills, or practicing the standards that I have picked for that lesson. I can go onto Sumdog and decide how long I want my lessons to last as well as what standards I want my students to work on.
Meeting with Ms. Boucher is the most flexible of the four rotations. We will usually do a math problem in our math notebook (and more recently using the Educreations Application- Free on iTunes) and then reinforce the mini-lesson that we did that day. My students in the past two sessions have learned how to use the iPad and have even recorded their own math problems. (If you would like to see examples, please feel free to contact me).
Math Games come from K-5 Math Teaching Resources and are easy to use. Each game is linked to a standard, has instructions, and even has the materials needed for the games. The kids love to play these and have 2-3 games to pick from each week.
Math Worksheet/Math Facts can be done independently or with a partner, this is really when the students show what they know. The math worksheet is whatever we have learned about that day and should only take 5-10 minutes. I wanted to keep all of my rotations under 15 as I have 11 boys who are bored after that amount of time ;)
When they are done, my students do Math Facts which is just flash cards that I have made out of construction paper. They get a new set every 2-3 weeks, one to keep at home and one set to keep at school.
After I have rotated with all of my students, they get ready to transition into the next subject. I have found this system to work much better than typical lecturing and doing everything with the students. When learning a new skill like we did this week, I kept the students at their desk majority of the time and we used manipulatives and went through each problem together.
I am not opposed to doing this when needed, but I have found that I can really see where my students are struggling when they come back with me that I never want to go back to the old way. I love my math groups, I love the technology used, and I also love the independence that my students are learning.
How do you structure your math time? What works for you and what doesn't?
I would love to hear what you use in your classroom!
Have a great rest of the week and
Today I am thankful for...
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
Sending lots of mashed potatoes love your way!
Sara Boucher is a Robotics and Computer Programming Teacher in Los Lunas, NM who is developing her own set of super geeks.