Bringing Literature & Writing to Life

Having a challenging time bringing some life to your literature and writing classes this last month of the school year?

One of my favorite activities to use is a comic strip creator available through PC, Apple, or Android.

We just created our own comics last week in literature class.  The students created their own graphic novel written in the style of the popular thriller series, Goosebumps.  The students loved it, and it has caused some of them to delve into the series further.

Check out this handy graphic organizer, and start your students on their own comic today!

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Boys Don’t Need SuperDad, They Just Need Dad

In my years of teaching, coaching basketball, and being involved in the lives of teens I learned one thing that dwarfs everything else I learned. Boys and young men need dads. Most importantly, they need to know that their dad is “there.”

Being “there” doesn’t mean you have to be at every game, every practice, every up and down, every event. However, being “there” means that they can depend on you. That they know you care. That you love spending time with them. That, when the time comes, you are willing to drop everything just to see or be with them.

First, some staggering and sobering statistics. Most of these statistics pertain to single-parent households where the dad is not present in the child’s life.

  • Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Over half of all children living with a single mother are living in poverty, a rate 5 to 6 times that of kids living with both parents.
  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
  • 72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers. 60% of America’s rapists grew up the same way according to a study by D. Cornell (et al.), in Behavioral Sciences and the Law.
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes according to the National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes according to a study by the Center for Disease Control.
  • A large survey conducted in the late 1980s found that about 20% of divorced fathers had not seen his children in the past year, and that fewer than 50% saw their children more than a few times a year.
  • In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed “greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households,” according to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

Continue reading

25 Professional Growth Conferences for 2016

Came across this great list of conferences in an edchat on Twitter.  Great resource if you are looking to attend a national professional development conference but don’t know where to begin.

I will be attending at least two of these.  In February I will be attending the TCEA Conference.  I also hope to attend the iNACOL conference in October.

I have copied the conferences upcoming for January into this post.

You can find the complete list at 25 PD Conferences for 2016

Keep Growing!

 

JANUARY

FETC-2016-Logo

Jan. 12-15
Orlando, FL

Find us at Booth 2117! FETC provides educators and administrators the opportunity to explore the integration of technology across the curriculum through hands-on exposure to the latest hardware, software and successful strategies.

NJECC_Logo2

Jan. 13
Montclair, NJ

The NJECC annual conference promotes and supports the integration of technology in K-12 education as it applies to student learning, professional development, leadership and instructional planning.

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Jan. 28-29
Atlantic City, NJ

Find us in the exhibit hall! The 21st annual Techspo exhibition and training conference for school leaders, sponsored by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

educon

Jan. 29-31
Philadelphia, PA

EduCon is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas—from the very practical to the big dreams.

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Jan. 30-31
Oxon Hill, MD

Stop by our table! This two-day high-intensity event from EdTechTeam focuses on deploying, integrating, and using Google Apps for Education (and other Google tools) to promote student learning in K-12 and higher education.

Are You Reaching for the Sky in Your Classroom?

Teacher and students b/w

I often tell my teachers that it is never too late in the school year to change something.  While there are a few major items, like curriculum, that deserve our full attention during the summer months, most aspects of classroom instruction can be changed at any time throughout the school year.

If something is not working, why would we continue with mediocrity just because there are a only a few months of school left?  That makes no sense.  Teachers should continually be striving for the best, even with limited time remaining.

So how do we continue reaching for the sky in our classrooms and attain the most out of the few time we have left remaining with our students?

Make sure we are setting and sharing learning goals

Are we giving our students goals for the instruction that they are being taught?  What is the point of this test?  What is the plan for this project?  How are we going to get to this end result?  It is important that we stay on task.  Are we holding ourselves and our students to task by articulating our learning goals for each new unit?

Continual Assessment 

I don’t mean drill and kill worksheets.  With so many months of school in the preverbal bag, we must ensure that we are continually changing up our assessment strategies.  Yes, at many levels tests are crucial to reinforce study skills, habits, and memorization skills.  However, are we also offering other varied avenues for assessment?  Skits, class videos, music videos, clay sculptures, real life math projects, group presentations, are all types of assessments that we can use to invigorate our classroom.  The list is endless, our creativity and drive are the only barriers.

Passion

Have you lost your passion in these winter months?  If students see teachers who are going through the motions, won’t they emulate the same?  How are you keeping your lessons engaging?  This is the time of year to put in that extra effort to make sure your lessons remain interesting and mentally challenging for your students.   If they see that passion and enthusiasm in your presentation, that same attitude is all the more likely to transpose into their work.

Relationships

Win their hearts, gain their minds.  I can’t write about achievement in the classroom without concluding with relationships.  Teaching, our calling, is all about relationships.  When students know we care, they care.  It is all the more important, as the school year closes, to make sure we are building those relationships with our students.  This is crucial with students whom are struggling.  This is the time of year in which they prefer to just throw in the towel.  That is if they know their teacher doesn’t care.  Students who struggle, strive for that relationship.  While many teachers may see that student as a student who doesn’t care or is lazy, the teacher who cares sees that student as another soul.  We never give up on a soul.  We never give up on a student.  Build those relationships, show your students that you care not only about teaching but about them.

So have you set that bar high?  Are you reaching for the sky?  If not, there is time to change.  Don’t wait.  Make that change, in your classroom, in yourself, and in your heart, now.

The Three Greatest Words Ever Spoken

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“It is finished.”

To understand the importance of these three, simple words, you must first understand their context.

The context is Jesus’ perfect life, led for us.  The events of Holy Week culminating with the most selfless act in the history of mankind.  The brutality and shame of Calvary.  The grim sight of the cross.  All of this, led us and Him to these three words.  The three words that would display love, grace, mercy, and our future.

Those words speak volumes.  His resurrection was the exclamation point.  The victory dance.  The ultimate celebration.

Those words tell us that there is nothing more that needs to be done.  He has done it all for us.  It truly is finished.  His redemptive work is complete, nothing that we do will earn His favor.

We are completely His, bought by His own blood.

Many of our Lutheran schools have resumed classes this week after Christmas break.  For many, it was a well-deserved and well-needed break from the rigor of school.  It also served as a time for us to reflect on the birth of our Savior, and the life that he was about to live for our sake that would culminate with those words, “It is finished.”

The second half of the school year will be filled with challenges, blessings, disagreements, and struggles that we cannot even imagine.  We live in a sinful world, and we will all have our failures.

When we have those failures, it is then we realize the power of Jesus’ statement on the cross.  It is then we understand the full scope of His love for us.  it is then we humbly fall at the foot of the cross, and realize that all we have is because of Him.

We have His treasured little ones in our presence every day of the week.  We have the opportunity to bring them up in the pages of God’s Word.  We have the fortune to proclaim to them every day, “It is finished!”

Look at the second half of this school year as an opportunity, an opportunity to share that pure Gospel message that is the completion of Calvary.  The knowledge that by grace alone, by faith alone we are saved.

It is finished!  Go forward this school year with the dedication, peace, and knowledge that is found only in Him.

The Most Valuable Feedback in the World is Your Students

reflective teacher

“We all need people who give us feedback.   That is how we improve.”

                                                                                        -Bill Gates

Our harshest critics, are often times the students whom we serve. I have the privilege of teaching an amazing group of junior high students. They may be some of the harshest critics of them all.

One thing I love about teaching children is they are brutally honest. If they don’t enjoy something, they will let you know. The opposite is also true, if they enjoy something, they will most certainly let you know.

Every day that I enter my classroom, I receive feedback throughout the day.   I can tell when my students are engaged. I can tell when my students are anticipating a lesson. I can also tell when my students are bored out of their minds.   This feedback is invaluable.

As teachers, we must ask ourselves, am I listening to my students’ feedback? There is some feedback from students that we can ignore. Decisions we make based on classroom climate, culture, discipline, etc. may be unpopular but needed.

There is a whole stream of feedback that we must listen to, however. We must answer tough questions as educators. Are we engaging our students? Are we meeting all of our students needs? Are we serving our students to the best of our abilities?

This is when we must listen to the feedback our students are giving us. It is invaluable. Furthermore, if we listen to it, it will make us all the stronger as an educator.

My students have called me to task before. My junior high students used to have an inward grown when it was time for science class. I knew I had to make more of an effort to engage them in class. I had to add more hands-on activities, more experiments, and more labs. I had become too dependent on the lecture as the basis for my science class. It was easy. It had become a crutch. I knew I had to change, based upon the feedback of my students.

Now I have students who look forward to science class and the topics we will be learning. While never perfect, my students helped me become a better teacher for them. We must be open to not only identifying our students feedback, we must be open to implementing change based on that feedback.

“We must be open to not only identifying our students feedback, we must be open to implementing change based on that feedback.”

As Bill Gates stated in the opening quote, it is how we improve. As educators, we should be compelled to be reflective. We ought not be afraid of constant evaluation; we shall embrace it.

What kind of teacher do you want to be? More importantly, what kind of teacher do you want your students to see you as? By listening to their feedback and being open and honest with them, it shows them that you care. It fosters a relationship with your students that cannot be measured.

Finally, how can we insist on our students to improve and grow as learners, if we are not continually growing and learning ourselves?

Listen. Listen with an open heart and a reflective mind.

Florida School District is the First to Fully Eliminate Standardized Testing

The Lee County Board of Education voted 3-2 to ditch state standardized testing, despite the objections of the superintendent.

“Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward,” board member Don Armstrong said, according to the newspaper. “We cannot allow the fear to hold us back.”

Click on the link for the full article http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/08/28/florida-school-district-is-first-in-the-state-to-ditch-standardized-testing/

One Down, Who Cares How Many to Go!

student

Many teachers and students are wrapping up or have already wrapped up their first week of school. The first week of school is often filled with endless reviews of rules, procedures, and policies. Typically, students also enjoy activities, games, and some outside time as we are all getting back into the routine of school. 

Most importantly, the first week of school is filled with happiness. While I realize we are not living in a utopia, generally students are excited to be back and somewhat looking forward to the school year. I hope the same would go for the teachers as well.

This is now my 11th first week of school as a teacher. I love that first week of school. While exhausting, it just feels great to be surrounded by children once again. I look forward to my first history lecture, my first science lab, and my first religion lesson preaching Christ-crucified. It is exhilarating!

As our first week of school progressed, I made some general observations about what I saw and experienced.

Kids are happy

There is nothing better than hearing that good ol’ belly laugh and giggle from the children in your classroom. We preach that we are a family at our school, and we want to see our students happy, healthy, and motivated to learn.

Kids want to be challenged

So often, parents and teachers, assume that kids will take the easy way out. While true, at times, it always surprises me the amount of kids that love to be challenged. Many students thrive when challenged and held accountable. They want to do well, they want to please. That attitude is a great reminder to me, as a teacher, to always set my expectations high and to not settle for anything less. 

Kids thrive with structure

Without it, they are lost. There is a direct correlation between amount of structure and academic success. In an exceptional essay entitled, “Promoting Academic Success via Classroom Structure” the author points out, “The role of the educator in contributing to a safe and welcoming environment is critical. We are able, and indeed it is our responsibility, to provide a structure that clearly articulates and supports expectation for successful demonstration of appropriate behavior.” The value of structure cannot be understated, and it must be ever-present in our classrooms and schools throughout the entire school year. 

Kids want to please

It disheartens me when I hear teachers say, “these kids are terrible” or “so and so will never learn.” Kids want to make us happy. They want to be happy. The bigger question we must ask ourselves is are we equipping them with the tools and attitudes to succeed?

I pray that all of your first weeks went well. If you made any general observations during your first week, please share them with us in the comment section! We would love to hear from you.

 

Start the year positive, carry that positivity throughout the entire year.