This is one question I try not to ask. This and “Did you have a good break?” When dealing with many students from differing backgrounds, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has a ‘good break’. It’s a natural question for many of us to ask. We come back not really ready to be back. I mean, we all love to sleep in and get things done around the house or hang with family/friends or go on trips. But for many students coming back to school is a welcome break from their home lives. And for that reason, I no longer ask students these questions.
I write this because I was reminded over my break that not all our students have ideal home lives. Some are dealing with the threat of a parent being deported or being evicted from their homes. Others are visiting a parent in jail over the holidays. Some don’t have money for presents. And yet others have had to deal with trauma and situations we can’t imagine. For these students, school IS their safe place; school is a welcome break from their everyday lives.
So what do I do? What do I say to my students when they come back? I’ve found that questions and statements such as: “I’m so happy to see you,” or “Are you glad to be back?” work well. “Are you glad to be back?” allows students to tell me about their trips to Mexico, all the toys they received, or the family they spent time with. While allowing those in less than ideal situations to feel safe to say, “Yes, I’m happy to be back.” Many times they follow that statement with, “It was so boring.” Knowing their lives, I know this isn’t really the case, but rather they are happy to feel safe for 7 hours out of their day.
And it’s not just our students who don’t always have ‘good breaks’. Some of our colleagues have had to deal with situations that were less than an ideal Holiday. Remember: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” – Ian Maclaren.
Yup, I’ve got #FlipgridFever along with my students. Over the summer I learned about Flipgrid. I was intrigued by the idea that students could respond using video and their videos would be organized! No messing around with creating and uploading. The whole thing is wrapped up in one neat package.
So the first week of school was the perfect chance to play around with the tool with my students. After listening to a speaker, Steve Ventura, I was inspired to ask my students “What does a good learner look like?” He asked students in a school and the answers were of passive students – “Doesn’t disrupt the class,” “Listens,” and so on. Based on his experience, I wondered what my students had to say. Sadly, much of the same: “Someone who does well on tests,” “Someone who reads a lot,” etc. I plan to ask them again later in the year in hopes that they realize that a good learner collaborates, questions, defends, disrupts (respectfully), etc.
They LOVED the stickers!
Now I’ll be honest, I had no idea how to use Flipgrid. And I told my students that! They were eager to explore the tool. They had no problem jumping in and figuring it out. And then…they discovered the stickers they could put on their pictures. Some enjoyed the experience so much they asked to create another video. Yes, I allowed them to. I wanted them to play with the tool now so that when we use it for learning they can focus on the learning and not the stickers!
And they couldn’t get enough of watching each others’ answers. They loved that they could ‘like’ or ‘love’ a particular video. In fact, they had so much fun they came in the next day asking if they were going to do it again!
I plan on using Flipgrid for responses in literature, defending a math problem, and self-reflections on projects and work. The possibilities are endless. I know that we will read Bud, Not Buddy this year. It might be fun to have students use Flipgrid to respond as if they were a character. I am so excited to use this throughout the year!
How do you plan to use it?
Websites are great places to collect and display student work. I have used them in Math so that student can document their learning through videos, photos, and examples. In addition to documenting their progress, when students are unsure of a concept they can refer to another student’s page for clarification.
More recently, I have used them to document learning in Social Science. Earlier in the year, we were learning about Pre-Columbian Settlements. Students documented their learning on Google Maps then placed them on a website.
The beauty of doing this is that it allows for easier sharing with the outside world. It has been said, and is most certainly true, that when students know the public will see it they up their game. When my students think it’s just for me, they give me ‘okay’ work. It’s like pulling teeth to get top notch work from them. However, when I say that it will go on a website that will be shared on Twitter and Facebook, they are much more careful and meticulous in their work. Adding to that, I present. I tell them what I am presenting and when. Okay, sometimes I ‘say’ I’m presenting on a topic even when I’m not. I want the best work from them, I have no shame.
Here’s another example from my students. We recently started learning the reasons for the Revolutionary War. There are various tasks that they need to accomplish. Those final products are placed on a shared website.
I have used this method of documentation and sharing in the classroom for over four years. I have never had a student abuse their editing rights. On the old Google Sites, I could give page level permissions for editing but never did. All students have always had full rights on the site. However, this year I have a student who has been known to maliciously edit shared documents (and when caught asks what ‘Revision History’ proves). So said student does not have editing rights. While this makes me sad and I wish I could have gotten through to the student that such behavior is inappropriate, I have decided to exclude him/her from editing until he/she proves themselves to be trustworthy. I figure once in four-plus years is a pretty good record.
Two of my favorite websites were student driven. One was for a ‘business’ where the students created keychains and bracelets to raise money for St. Jude Hospital. They had photos and order forms! The other was a tech tutorial website. A group of girls calling themselves The Techie Chicks created one tech tutorial each week during Genius Hour.
I love this time of year. That time of the year where you’ve hit that ‘sweet spot’ with your class: they know the routines, they can work independently, and they know they have a stake in the success of the class. On Friday, my students wanted to know if we were having a Valentine’s Day party. Personally, I don’t care. I told them that it was up to them. Of course, they decided to go for it.
Then, a group asked if they could decorate the room. Again, I said go for it that it was their thing. This group, made up of both genders, got together during Genius Hour to create decorations for the classroom. They also informed me that they were not done and would continue next Genius Hour. How cool are they?
We also have another issue to decide. We usually have parties near the end of the school day for obvious reasons. However, Valentine’s Day is also First Tee (Golf) day. We go in the afternoon. Our current dilemma is when to have it. On the 14th at lunch? On the 13th? Wait until 17th (Genius Hour)? This was not a popular option. I’m letting them decide. Majority rules.
I just love days like this.
Earlier this week my students started on a group project – Road to the Revolution. I had given them a Hyperdoc with the information on the French and Indian War. I gave them very specific guidelines and some questions to answer. The end product is an Animoto video. As I was walking around and helping, I noticed that a group of students had Google Slides open. I got worried. It took a long time for me to get my students out of the habit of wanting to create a slideshow for presentations. So I stopped and asked why Slides was open and “Please don’t tell me you’re creating a slideshow.” I was so relieved when one of the girls explained that they were using it to take notes! I didn’t even show them this trick. Yeah, proud teacher moment.
One of the girls created and shared the slides with the rest of the group. Each person in the group had their own slide to take notes. I know this isn’t the first time this has been done, but I was really proud of my students for thinking of this. It is so much easier to take shared notes on Slides as opposed to Docs.
I LOVE it when students take learning into their own hands and make it work for them. Go Innovators!
Just another great example of what students will do when we give them the freedom to own their learning.
[url=https://flic.kr/p/r6shHf][img]https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8610/16470630808_ff856fd3bc_z.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/r6shHf]”I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” – Author Unknown[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/]Brian Metcalfe[/url], on Flickr
I’ve been thinking more about Homework and why I hate it so much. Then, I began to look at it from different standpoints: teacher, student, parent.
Why Teachers Hate Homework
No, I do NOT speak for all teachers. In fact, I know several teachers who advocate homework. This is a collection of reasons I have heard several teachers make:
- The parents end up doing it for the kids.
- We have to take time out of our learning day to correct it.
- The same kids consistently DON’T complete the homework. It becomes a (losing) battle.
- If we don’t correct it together, I have to take time out to do this menial task.
- [at middle school] One kid does the homework and their friends copy it before school starts.
- [at middle school] The kids stopped hiding the fact that they copy it.
- The kids who need the practice either don’t do it or do it wrong.
- The kids who don’t need the practice do it – what a waste of time for them.
Why Students Hate Homework
Yes, there are some students who like homework.
- It’s boring
- Who wants to do a worksheet?
- It’s too hard and there is no one at home to help them.
- They are in charge of younger siblings.
- They may have several responsibilities to do once they get home.
- They’d rather be playing (wouldn’t we all?)
- It’s not meaningful.
Some other points I thought of:
- Not all students have a home to complete their work.
- Not all homes have a quiet space to complete work.
- This is an intrusion on family time. As a teacher, I get upset when a parent tries to intrude in my area (classroom).
- If I were to work all day, like the students do, and then were asked to go home and do more work on my time, I’d be a bit put-out.
Why Parents Hate Homework
Yes, there are some parents who request more (and I have my own thoughts on that).
- It becomes a nightly battle.
- There is yelling, screaming, and crying. Who wants that in their home?
- It can take ‘forever’
- Everyone is tired when they get home.
- You have to find the ‘right’ time to do homework.
- There is always something to do – ballet, baseball, etc.
- It’s frustrating
- The higher kids get more homework
Thank you to Amy (Jenkins) Shwartzhoff for her insight from the parent perspective.
I have been doing much reflecting, as most teachers do, upon this past school year. To say that there were many ups and downs would be an understatement. However, one of the best – if not THE BEST – thing I did this year was to have my students write, direct, act, and produce their own movie. With a full-fledged Red Carpet Event!
Thanks to Dominic and his efforts in A Tale Unfolds my students were able to have an incredibly memorable 5th-grade experience. This was, by far, one of the most fun and rewarding experiences in my teaching career. And I can’t wait to do it again! Throughout the process, I had been writing about this (A Tale Unfolds: Part 1, A Tale Unfolds & Writing, Writing and the CAASPP) and aligning it to 5th-Grade CCSS ELA. And here are the results of their efforts:
Red Carpet Event:
Once again, thank you, Dominic, for creating a high quality, rigorous program.