Monday, August 29, 2016

Cool Things in Schools

I love my job...I get to go to a bunch of different schools and I always like checking out what other teachers have posted or have done in their classroom. Here are some of my back-to-school finds.

1. The "You Decide" poster. It was located outside a nurses office and when I saw it, I stopped to look at it (which is always a mark of a good display). I loved its simplicity and message.


2. The "stage". I delivered a class set of iPads in this classroom and and literally said, "Shut the front door! You have a STAGE?!?! With a RUNWAY?!?! Can I walk it?!?!?". It was ridiculously cool (#everyoneshouldhaveastage). The teacher made it over the summer after visiting the Ron Clark Academy last year and he did an awesome job (side note: visiting the Ron Clark Academy is on my bucket list). There were other Ron Clark touches that I need to take pictures of but it is the stage that I really loved (the kids loved it as well and laughed when made a big deal of walking it). I told the teacher that I need to come back and model a lesson JUST to be on the stage :)



3. The "Cafe Room". I was doing iPad rollouts at this school when someone told me about their Cafe Room. The media assistant, who had gotten the grant and did the bulk of the decorating, was happy to show it off. It was seriously cool. It was in their old drama room that had been painted black (walls and ceilings). The media assistant hung empty frames around, had brick wall decals, the room had painted iron tables and chairs, cool curtains around the Promethean board with paintings behind it, and a faux chandelier in the center. The room is available for teachers to book with their students. I would definitely find excuses to use it as much as possible!  





Sunday, August 14, 2016

Back-to-School Activity - Twist on a Pair/Share




I was recently in a training class where the trainer used a “divide and slide” activity to get us up, moving, and sharing. It was a lot of fun. I thought it could be used for a back-to-school activity along with another strategy I’ve used with students before called a “Six Word Story” (this strategy is part of the Discovery Education Spotlight on Strategies series).

In this activity students would come up with a six words sentence to highlight something they did over the summer. They would then share with their classmates during the “divide and slide”.

As a teacher, you might need to model writing a six-word sentence (this type of writing is also referred to as micro-writing). So on the board I might model writing a six-word story:

- I worked to rescue sea turtles.
- I geocached in five different states.
- My mother-in-law fell breaking her hip.

Give students a reasonable amount of time to write their story (I would cut up paper in fourths and give each child a sheet to write on. Once they were done have them get in the “divide and slide” lines to share. They have to introduce themselves to the person across from them before starting (i.e. “Hi, my name is Eve”…then they share. When it is the next person’s turn they will say “Hi, my name is Jason”…then they share. This way they start to get to know each other’s names.) If a child says they did “nothing” over the summer…challenge them to come up with a six-word story that indicates they did nothing.

You can even grade it as an easy ELA/Writing grade. To get a perfect score the story has to have six words (no more/no less). It would be fun for the kids to go home and say they got an “A” in a writing assignment the first day of school.

If you have time, have students share the most interesting/attention grabbing six-word story they heard (it can’t be their own!).


I use to keep short stories (similar to this) in the student’s writing folder because it can be used later as a jumping off point for longer writing pieces. 

If you try it...let me know how it goes!

Educational Ambassador Programs



I recently applied and was selected to be a ClassFlow ambassador for the coming school year. I heard about the position when I attended ISTE and volunteered to be a part of their focus group (see blog post HERE). I have done numerous training within our district on how to use ClassFlow (we went 1:1 with devices in all grade levels last year) and for the most part I was self taught (they have a lot of great getting started videos). I applied hoping to get more detailed training with all their new changes (which I will) and first dibs on any new product launches (and I also have secret fantasy that I will get to visit the Ron Clark academy since they are a large sponsor...no word on that happening but my fingers are crossed).

Apparently there are a lot of Ambassador programs with various educational companies...because I heard of two others while I was at ISTE. I'm actually shocked this was the first year I heard of these types of programs. ClassFlow is free (you can sign up here) and is a place you can build interactive lesssons that can be pushed out to student devices. So instead of you being at the front of the room teaching from your board, calling one student up at a time, to interact with the lesson...you can send out your lesson to the students and they can interact with it. It is pretty cool and I have done a lot of modeling in our district using the software. (See my first ClassFlow blog post HERE from 2014). 

ClassFlow was an easy company to decide to apply for...mainly because of our districts use (and it helps that it is a product I love and promote in our district all the time).

I actually didn't know what becoming an ambassador meant so I applied blindly. I was thinking I would get a free t-shirt, maybe some free stuff to hand out during training, a field trip to schools using the product well, co-teach at a conference...those sort of things.

While I haven't got any free t-shirt (yet) I did get a list of things you are asked to do as an ambassador which does include attending training and webinars, respond to posts within the community, help promote the product on social media, etc. It helps that I have no obligations this year for me so I am free to jump into being an Ambassador (last year I was in an intense Master Naturalist class for the full school year). I actually signed a contract (scary!) that said I would do all these things and a spreadsheet each month where I attach and send in proof. The person in charge is really nice and used to be a classroom teacher so she understands "life" happens. I think the contract is in place to help remind you to do all the things you are supposed to do. There is an "escape" clause in the contract for both the ClassFlow folks or you...if you need an out.

FYI - Another random Ambassador fact (at least for ClassFlow not sure of other companies)...I have to have a background check and a drug screening.

If you really love and use an educational company I would definitely check to see if there is an Ambassador program that you can apply for. I have a friend who runs a lego lab in one of our schools and I told her she should check with the "Legos for Education" folks to see. She knows I would make a HORRIBLE Lego Ambassador since I am terrible at building things and cleaning and sorting legos is my idea of torture. 

If you are interested in becoming an ambassador, but not this year, think instead about starting a blog or being active on social media as your goal for the school year. I think having both (a blog and being activity on social media) is what pushed me into the "accepted" category when I applied.