Tis’ the Season of Giving – 4 Holiday Activities to do with Students Before Break

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With a week and a half left of school before the holiday break many educators take this opportunity to break from traditional curriculum and design alternate activities for students. I, too, enjoyed providing experiences for my students that focused on community and giving back. And even though academic achievement measures weigh heavily on the minds of us all, it is through experiences in which the whole-child is developed, and empathy is understood that we find great joy and remind us that we not only want our students to be lifelong learners but also caring citizens.

4 Holiday Activities that Have Your Students Giving Back to the Community:

  1. Santa Letters – Each year my AP Literature students “played” Santa as they wrote letters to elementary students. During the Community Holiday Celebration, local businesses had parents stop in and fill out forms for their children describing accomplishments throughout the year, holiday traditions, and gifts their children had asked Santa to bring them. And each year my students would craft letters to each child highlighting the information in the forms. Children shook with glee when a letter arrived from the North Pole and my students beamed with pride knowing they made the holidays a bit brighter. This same strategy could be done by pairing with an elementary classroom and would not have to be a community organized event.
  2. 12 Acts of Kindness – Another activity my students enjoyed was based off the concept of “Paying it Forward”. I challenged students to do good deeds for 12 consecutive days for peers, teachers, family members, people in the community, and strangers. The catch was the deed was to be anonymous and they had to keep a log to share with the class of the things they did and their thoughts and feelings on giving back while receiving nothing in return, and at times, not even recognition that it was them that performed the act. From shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk, leaving a gift card for a family’s meal, to a positive note left on a car window; students reveled in the experience, were creative in their good deeds, and felt satisfied sharing their good work with the class.
  3. Volunteer As educators, bringing awareness to our students about the different ways one can give back to others through time and sweat equity allows them to make a positive impact as a young person. From bell ringing for the Salvation Army to preparing hot meals at the local shelter, students are eager to make their world better through action. Don’t forget our Furry Friends as well, kids love animals and the Humane Society and local animal shelters are often seeking volunteers to walk and play with the animals.
  4. Adopt-a-Senior – In many communities the nursing home is in close proximity to the school which makes this activity possible. Adopting a Family during the holiday season is a common occurrence, in fact, my National Honor Society kids adopted a family each year and pooled their own resources to help a family in need, but it is also possible to adopt a senior. Many nursing homes have residents who need to be “adopted” during the holiday season for many different reasons. When students form relationships with the elderly much is gained through the interactions. Rich history is passed down, an understanding of the fragility of human life, and a bond and friendship develops. While some residents have specific needs students can purchase and provide for them during the holiday seasons just like they would through Adopt-a-Family, I have found small acts of caroling,Christmasout christmas cards, or simply sharing some cookies and cider makes the largest impact on both the senior and student!   

Thank You for making an impact on children and I wish you and your family a Happy Holiday Season!

3 Strategies to Support Student Interaction with Complex Text

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Upon graduation, we hope students leave school equipped with skills, strategies, and tools to support a lifetime of literacy encounters. Whether on the job, in college, or informing oneself on Presidential Candidates; students will be continuously encountering text that must be digested and understood independently.

As educators, we must not only place complex text in the hands of our students but also support their learning through modeling and scaffolding of strategies Good Readers use to make sense and solve problems when reading difficult text. Although student understanding content is important, it is a transfer of these skills and strategies we want students to utilize any time they encounter complex text on their own.

3 Strategies to Support Student Interaction with Complex Text

Good Readers…

 1.  Act on the text to support their understanding. Annotation, the practice of making notes for oneself, is one-way good readers interact with complex text to help them make sense of what they read.

Common Annotation Marks – Demonstrate, use, and teach students how Good Readers interact with and mark on text to aid in their understanding.

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Digital Annotation Tools to Explore and Share with Students

2.  Identify difficult words in complex text and use strategies to help them understand meaning. Good Readers work within the word. They identify morphemes to provide part of the definition. Good Readers also work outside the word. They ask themselves what resources can I use to support understanding. For words that are discipline specific, Good Readers use resources, such as “Discipline Dictionaries” to gain meaning of unknown terms which aid in comprehension of complex text.

3.  Finally, educators can model specific strategies during an Interactive Shared Reading. The text is delivered by the teacher while students read along silently. It is typically short and lively and promotes rereading as a way students can make sense of complex text. After the Interactive Shared Reading, the teacher may prompt discussion and support peer interaction about the text. Create a screencast for students to reference for additional support with specific strategies. It is important for students to see the text being read and hear the teacher’s thoughts as they model the specific strategy. Check out these screencasting options.

Resources – Rigorous Reading, Fisher and Frey

 

Digital Portfolios with Bloomz

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As a high school English teacher in a technology-rich school, I realized the importance of digital portfolios to capture and showcase learning. Upon graduation, each one of my former students left with both a digital portfolio and a YouTube channel accessible across platforms and shareable via links .

Can you imagine how powerful a digital portfolio would be if students began capturing their learning as early as elementary school?

A digital portfolio, I believe, holds 2 main purposes:

First, it is a curation of learning and experiences students can use in reflection. Reflection provides cognitive insight into themselves as learners, as well as an account of their learning journey.

Second, a digital portfolio is a living artifact in which students can share their skills, passions, and understandings with a larger community or a potential employer. Having a positive digital footprint is essential for young people. Employers and colleges rely heavily on what they see and read online about potential employees or students, a digital portfolio could help in this area.

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In a few of my more recent posts, I shared an exciting school to home communication app called Bloomz. Recently Bloomz launched another option perfect for students to demonstrate understanding and to enhance digital portfolios –  Video.  This new feature allows teachers and students to share videos via  phone or other previously recorded videos from the library.
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Student Timeline

The addition to the new video feature, Bloomz allows students full capability of creating a multimodal digital portfolio utilizing the Student Timelines feature. The Student Timelines feature allows teachers and students to post to the class feed as well to individuals (parents). Teachers can edit, annotate, and review work that students submit to their timeline before it is posted. Photographs, texts, and now videos shared in a Student Timeline provide a real-time insight into learning and conceptual understanding.

As you can tell, I am a huge fan of this award-winning app. As both a parent and an educator, I love when digital resources are agile in capabilities and serve multiple functions. Every student should graduate with a positive digital presence. Bloomz makes this easy to do with Student Timelines!

5 YouTube Tips for the Classroom

Screenshot 2016-09-10 at 3.43.56 PM.pngWith over a billion users, YouTube reaches more 18-34-year-olds than any cable network. In education, YouTube is viewed as a learning tool and also a creation tool with YouTube Editor, Channels, Subscriptions, and even part of students’ digital portfolios. I’d like to share with you 5 of my favorite YouTube Tips for personal and student use.

5 YouTube Tips

1. Create your own gifs from YouTube videos by simply typing the word gif in video url in the address bar. Select a time for start and stop, add text, stickers, and more. Download or embed to share.

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2. Explore Virtual Reality through the 360 degrees videos found on YouTube. Although you can’t interact in the video, you can change view and direction by using the click and drag features. Check out the  Ballet  video or the 360 Degree Channel  for more videos to explore.

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3. Are you ever listening to your favorite Jam and want to play it continuously? Access the loop feature by right clicking on the video or”alt” click on chromebook. No longer will you have to reach for the mouse to replay the video.
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4. Here are a few tips and hidden features to optimize your YouTube channel. Select “Featured Content” for all videos, place a personal “Watermark” on your videos, or identify and add “Keywords” to your channel description for optimal traffic. All of these are great strategies to share with students to amplify their own content and channels!

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5. Finally, want to try out new YouTube features? Scroll down to the bottom of the YouTube page and click on “Try Something New!” TestTube gives you insider information and access to YouTube awesomeness in the works!

Recap App: 3 Back-to-School Ideas for Student Videos

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Last time we co-authored a blog post, Steven Anderson and I shared Blab. It was so much fun and such an easy app to integrate into the classroom we wanted to share another favorite of ours!

Recap is a free video response app created by Swivl which allows students to reflect, respond, and demonstrate through video. Recap is easy to use as both an educator and as a student. It is also an excellent way to model and use digital literacy modes in the classroom! Simply create a class and assign a Recap to students. Questions or prompts can be teacher-created in the forms of text or video, and can be assigned to individual students, small groups, or to the whole-class. When completed, teachers can share the whole “Review Reel”, or each individual child’s video. Share options include email or weblink!

Here are 3 Back-to-School Ideas that will have your students (and parents) Recapping through video response:

  1. Reading Interest Inventory – At the beginning of the year, giving students a “Reading Interest Inventory” provides valuable information about each students’ reading preferences and how they view themselves as readers. It also provides a launchpad to place the “right book” into their hands that may hook a reader for a lifetime. Using Recap, students could record themselves on their computer or ipad. These video responses would provide valuable insight to climate and culture of literacy in the classroom. Here are a few of unique questions to include on a Reading Interest Inventory: What is your earliest memory of reading or books? How do you choose a book? What do you notice adults reading? When should a person leave a book? What two books or magazines do you wish we had in our classroom library?
  2.  Student Goals and Reflection – Another way Recap could be used at the beginning of the school year is to capture a student’s goals for the year. Part of educating the Whole Child is helping the student see where they are with their learning and where ultimately they want to end up. We know that learning is a continuum. So using Recap students can record where they’d like to see their learning be at the end of the school year. Maybe they want to be a better math student. Or perhaps they want to be able to read more proficiently. What ever their goal they can capture it. Then throughout the school year they can refer back to it. Use it as part of their own personal reflective practice. How are they progressing? What do they still want to do. Have they met their goal and maybe it’s time for another. These videos can become a part of a larger learning portfolio where students examine their learning throughout the year.
  3. Parent Involvement – At the beginning of each school year, many of our youngest learners attend a back-to-school night or an open-house in which they meet their teacher, unpack their school supplies, and explore their new surroundings in the safety of their parents. It is also a time that many parents and family members come to the realization that their child is growing up and “leaving the nest”. What a perfect time to have a “message station” set up for parents or family members to leave a Recap for their student. Imagine the joy in a child’s eye after receiving a message from their parent or family member on their first day of school. Recap classes can be accessed through a pin number assigned to the class, so those parents or family members unable to attend can record their message from anywhere. It is also a great way to demonstrate to parents how you will meet the digital literacy demands in the Common Core State Standards, as well as how technology can be used in a meaningful way even with our youngest learners!

Recap is an engaging and creative way for students to share their understanding through video response! Recap is a free app and is available via the web (so perfect for chromebooks), as well as an iPad app. Coming soon – a  phone app, Recap from anywhere at anytime!