Anyone who has read my blog knows I am always up for taking risks in the classroom. Yesterday was the culminating activity to another one I am excited to share with you. About a year ago, I read Dave Burgess’s blog post, A Deep Dive Into Creativity. It was all about using the Oscars as a way to get kids talking about the books they were reading. I loved the idea but didn’t go anywhere with it at the time. Fast forward to a few months ago (and a podcast reference to his idea), and I was suddenly totally into trying it NOW.
I started by having the kids come up with categories that they thought represented the best parts of books. I had a few of my own ideas and a few of Mr. Burgess’s to back us up just in case they struggled. Not only did they come up with the same ideas I already had (without my prompting), but they came up with a few more that I had never even considered. That part right there would have made this activity worth it. They were talking about books in a new way. Of course we didn’t stop there though.
Once we set up the categories, the kids got to work. Each student created a minimum of two presentations for their nominations. Most of the kids used Google Slides, but others also chose to use Prezis, Microsoft Sways and Flipgrid videos. Students’ were able to use whatever means they wanted to be able to share their enthusiasm for the nomination. I loved watching a few of them step out of their comfort zone to create using a new tool. To go with their presentations, each kid also had to share 5 reasons why they picked that book/character/author/etc… for their nomination. Once again, students were talking about books! They weren’t being forced to answer a worksheet of questions or take a quiz on what they read. They were sharing their favorite parts about being a reader. Even the reluctant readers were getting into the activity.
I wanted this to be a full-on student centered event. I just needed to help with a few logistics and organizational elements. So, while they were creating their nominations, they were also designing the winners’ certificates and making trophies in our Makerspace. Students also created an acceptance speech. Since they didn’t know if they were going to win, everyone took it very seriously. We talked about what kinds of things should be said and why they were important to talk about. Now, the kids were also writing about the books and some would be talking about them in the ceremony!
After they had enough time to share their presentations (through a Google Form set up so that I had an easily accessible location for them all!), they chose their classmates as a formal “Nomination Committee”. The only rule was that they could not vote for themselves and they had to choose people from their own class. Since I was doing this for two separate classes/grade levels, I felt it was important to make sure we had a committee that wouldn’t favor anyone specifically. The Nomination Committee had the difficult job of narrowing each category down to the top 5 to become finalists. They gave up their recess time for about a week to be able to do it. Once they were done, I felt we had a pretty good selection for the classes to vote on.
The finalists’ presentations were shared with the classes through another Google Form. Each student in both of the classes voted on their favorite for each category. I was able to split this into three sections so we didn’t take a lot of class time to go through each of the finalists’ nominations and vote. Some of the categories came down to 1 or 2 votes to determine the winner. Watching the 100% anonymous (this was very important to me) votes as they came in was exciting!
The morning of the awards ceremony was impressive. I had convinced 11 other staff members to dress in formal wear (not an easy feat!) to be our presenters. Students were encouraged to dress as their favorite book characters or in something “fancy”. Boy did some of them dress to impress! We even had a professional photographer and a few parents act as paparazzi to take their picture as they walked the red carpet! As each adult announced the finalists and finally the winners to the audience (parents and other classes), there was lots of clapping and cheers. Each winner received the student-created trophy, certificate and a prize bag (where I had given them a few things to make it more special.) I loved watching not only the winners, but the anticipation of the audience as each award was given.
There were so many moments of this activity that made it all worth it. One of them came from a parent who commented that this made his son’s love of reading more evident than taking a book quiz and earning points could ever do.
This was our first year doing the event (which it truly became!). It will not be our last!
Just a few pics from the event with student-created certificates (shown on the screen) and picking up a trophy.
There is a lot to complain about in education and teachers do it regularly. To “celebrate” my blogiversary, I decided it was time to change things up. Two recent events helped form the idea of today’s blog post, sharing What’s Going Right. A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine (@CoriOrlando1) shared a post by Dr. Tony Sinanis from his blog, Leading Motivated Learners, giving 44 practices that are changing education. Then my Facebook feed reminded me of a George Couros quote I blogged about last year: “make the positive so loud that the negative becomes almost impossible to hear.”
Over the last few weeks I have come in contact with several new and veteran teachers who want to try doing innovative activities in their classrooms, but they are overwhelmed with where to begin. So I decided to share a few of the resources that helped me on my journey, many of which I use regularly even 4 years into this.
1. Twitter - This is one of the greatest untapped source for many teachers. I am fairly active on Twitter. I only follow those with ties to education. I participate in chats (#ditchbook #tlap #learnlap #svtchat #cvtechtalk are a few good ones, but you can find ones specific to your grade/subject/interests). Some of my friends tell me the chats are too hard to follow because they go too fast. I agree, at times. However, the great thing about Twitter is that you can read the stream AFTER the chat to get all the great resources without having to rush through it live. Because many educators are tweeting out what is going on in their classrooms, you can get ideas that spark a change in your own. Another thing I love is that when I have a question about an activity I am doing or an idea I can’t fully form, I just tweet it out the the twitterverse. I usually get responses within a hour from educators all over the world. Where else can you have such a great PLN at your service 24/7?
2. Books - As teachers were are always encouraging our students to read. However, a lot of us don’t use books for our own professional learning. I was one of those until a few years ago. That is when I found some great authors sharing what they have used in their own classrooms that I could apply to mine even though they weren’t teaching the same grade levels. Most of these tend to come from Dave Burgess Consulting. As a former teacher, he gets what teachers want and need to grow because he has been there. Another great source to check out is EdTechTeam Press. Just of a few of the books I have read and loved (not in any particular order): Ditch That Textbook by Matt Miller (great blog as well!) , Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, Kids Deserve It by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney, Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solaris, Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, The Writing on the Classroom Wall by Steve Wyborney , and Shift This by Joy Kirr. These books all have Twitter chats that continue the conversation beyond what is in the book.
3. Conferences - Up until a few years ago, I had only attended less than 5 (over 15 years!) professional development opportunities outside of my own district. Part of it was because of the cost. No one was going to pay for me to continue my learning and I certainly didn’t have the extra cash. Once a little money came into my district for this specific purpose, I jumped on it. Now I realize I should have been doing it all along. Between the innovative practices that are shared at conferences and the networking (meeting Twitter peeps in real life!) opportunities I try to get to as many as I can. My students are better off when I am learning to do new things on a regular basis. If I am stuck in a rut in my teaching so is their learning. As I write this I am getting ready to head to the CUE National Conference in Palm Springs. While there may not be as many sessions that will bring new ideas into my classroom, there is always something I can use to make what I do better or that one idea I hadn’t yet thought of. That alone makes being out of the classroom worth it.
4. Visit other classrooms - So often the only teachers I see outside of their classrooms are the first or second year teachers that are checking out what is happening in other schools as part of their beginning teacher trainings. This is such a sad thought. So many teachers are doing great things, a lot of them on our own campuses. We need to find a way to get out to see it. Ask your principal if there is someone who can cover your class while you watch another teacher on your own campus doing something different. Team up with a co-worker and cover each other’s classes. While we prize our sick/personal necessity days, taking a day to visit other schools is totally worth it. There is no longer a reason to hide in your own classroom cut off from the rest of the educators.
These are just a few ways you can get started in changing up your teaching. The great thing about education right now is that there are so many educators who are sharing what they are doing because it’s about the students not about the teachers. Let’s make schools better for all of us. Choose just one new thing and give it a try.
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching