Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Super Bowl & Writing!

Yes, an unlikely yet fun partnership. As one of the country's largest social/cultural spectacles - let alone a championship football game - it always provides many things to talk/think/write about during the following days.

We are embracing this spirit in Language Arts, and doing a 2-part digital writing exercise of 'favorite' Super Bowl commercials. Part 1 will be this week, featuring students' favorites up through 2011, and next week will will focus on this year's commercials.

So what's the angle? Social commentary, and how much advertising influences our choices. The kids are very excited about the prospect - shocker - and my hope is while we continue to develop our writing skills - developing topic sentences, establishing main ideas, providing supporting details, reflecting on cause-effect relationship - students will also develop a keener eye for media and advertising.

Of course, I had to eliminate 1/3 to 1/2 of potential Super Bowl commercials by saying "no beer commercials," but I know they will still have plenty of good things to choose from. What can I say? After all, this is a school-related assignment, and we need to keep things appropriate. Here's one from last year that the students have laughed at as we've done some research:

What's a favorite of yours from over the years?

Friday, January 27, 2012


That's where we're heading! Crazy that as of right now, the school year is half-over. Actually, it feels like it goes almost too fast. Almost. This may be a symptom of aging, the influence of constant multi-tasking and technology immersion, or how much I'm constantly on the go with my own kids. Most likely, it's a fierce combination of all three.

A few days ago I wrote about never ending lists; those seem to play a huge role in time flying so fast as well. It really makes me wonder/hope that I'm able to accomplish everything I'd like to with my students during a year. It all just moves so quickly.

Here's to making the most of every day; relishing in the accomplishments we do make; soaking up the good times, all while looking ahead to continue getting better. That's about all for now. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


My students often have difficulty reading, understanding, and executing written directions found on tests, quizzes, and assignments - especially those found from a textbook & materials writter 10+ years ago.

I typically find this mildly frustrating. The fact that so many kids can completely miss a key direction, thereby ruining any chance they have at performing at a high level, can take a lot of wind out of one's sails.

And I think this will always be a little bothersome as a teacher, and I will certainly always teach & model the importance of reading & interpreting directions, but I think there is another factor besides typical pre-teen attention deficits.

That, of course, would be the natural 'intuitiveness' - or lack thereof - of so many written directions found in older tests and textbooks...and here's the key: to my 21st-century 'digital native' students.

When I think about it (and I did quite a bit yesterday), so much of what my students interact with is intuitive: devices, games, software, etc. So, what does this mean for me? A couple things, I think: a.) it is incredibly important for me to write clear, understandable directions when developing my own tests, rubrics, etc. I mean, we're not far away from intuitive technology shaping most of our lives, right?

b.) continue to teach my students and model for them strategies on deciphering directions so they may execute them properly. This will only grow more and more important as students interact with more and more intuitive technology in the future.

There will probably never be an absolute cure for pre-teen attention deficits and general apathy, but at least I can have some control and influence when it comes to directions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Endless List

Today I had a couple goals:

-Finish updated all the completed digital storytelling projects, and create a page on my class website to display the projects.

-Write a more thorough, thoughtful entry.

Neither of these are going to happen. At least not right now. Why? Because today is a perfect example of how a teacher's to-do list never stops growing on certain days. Today - updating grades, talking to parents about possible class changes, helping students with projects, grading quizzes, etc.

This is completely fine; in fact, it's been a rather productive day. Sometimes, however, the unplanned production gets in the way of what you were shooting for...

Oh well, this is the business I'm in. One sending thought: an interesting article/essay on Higher Education. What will my kids be facing in 13 years? I can only imagine...

That is all; carry on.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Flipping the Script

I use up the majority of space on this blog to reflect on what's happening in my classroom, with my students, or in my own learning. Today I want to shift my focus to my own kids, because a corner was turned this weekend, and in that moment I knew there would be no going back.

My own kids are 5 years old. They will be 6 in July. They are currently in Kindergarten, loving every minute, thriving in their own classroom. A HUGE reason for this is their fantastic teacher! Their class is large - 25 kids - with no other adult in the room. My kids have bounded off the bus every day this year, and on Sunday nights are excited to go back to school. I can't overstate how much of a blessing this is, and how happy it makes me feel. If you're a parent, you totally understand. If you're a teacher, that's your goal for all students.

Anyways, back to that corner being turned. Here's what happened: last night, for one of the first times - not officially, but certainly the greatest volume - our kids read 2-3 bedtime stories TO us. My wife and I would read a story to them, and in turn they would read a story to us. Not one of their leveled readers sent home from school by their wonderful teacher mentioned earlier. No, these were books they picked off the shelf on their own and powered through on their own! After my son finished reading his second book to me, my wife - who's a 1st grade teacher - looked at me and said "that's a mid-2nd grade book." And that's when it hit me: not only do my kids love reading (YES!), but they will forever be reading to me as much as I will to them. My wife and I have read bedtime stories with them every night since they were about 4 months old, and I look forward to countless future story times reading together.

That's all for now...it's a great winter day in MN - grab a good book, get comfortable, and read!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Challenge Accepted & Digital Storytelling

Well, it's about time I start to exercise the type of writing passion I typically expect from my students. It's time to strive to write every day (at least during the week, with the occasional weekend bonus)! I understand this can be a daunting challenge, but I need to throw the gauntlet down on myself - so to speak - as a way to drive myself forward.

My students have been working on some creative storytelling over the past few weeks. What started as a simple task - choose an object, find 10-15 facts about it - has turned into a full-fledged creative writing piece, focusing on "A Day in the Life Of..." Once that was finished, we turned our focus on digital storytelling. The requirements were simple: tell your object's "Day in the Life" story, be creative, have fun, and use a web-based technology. We spent a day in class talking about options:

Then students were off and rolling! A class session in the computer lab was provided; otherwise, students did this work outside of school. The results have been great so far - the rest will be presented Monday - and I will share one video as a taste. Sometimes, this teaching gig is pretty fun & rewarding. Go figure. Enjoy, and have a great weekend!