A Time for a Change…

Please follow me to my new website. I will keep this blog up and running until I can transfer everything over to my new location.

www.riseandread.net 

Thanks for joining me!

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GarageBand in a Math Class

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After completing my Apple Teacher Certification (you can read more about our school’s journey to becoming 100% Apple Teacher certified here), I quickly recognized how under utilized GarageBand is in classrooms. GarageBand is a great way to allow students a chance to be creative, have a voice, reflect, create projects, and so much more. As my teammate and I were prepping to teach fractions, percents, and decimals, we were discussing how we wanted to provide some type of experience for our students that would relate directly to the real-world. After all, fractions, percents and decimals are truly all around us. GarageBand came to mind as an interactive, fun, and most importantly, easy/not time consuming way to accomplish this.

Objective: For students to understand that fractions, percents, and decimals exist all around us and that converting from fractions, percents, and decimals is an important skill to master.

Project: Radio Advertisement

Students were asked to create a 15-30 second radio advertisement in which they persuaded listeners to shop at their store.  Below, you will see the directions we provided our students with in order to accomplish this task. (You can borrow our Google doc to use with your students by clicking here and making a copy.)

 

Radio Advertisement Template and Script

Calling all salespeople and shoppers! You are going to create and produce your own radio advertisement for a product that is on sale. Before you start recording, you must plan out what you are selling, how much it cost originally, what percent (%) the discount will be, and what you are going to say. Fill out the template below as your planning guide. Write your script on the back. Make sure it is written neatly and grammatically correct. We will review your template and script before you begin recording your advertisement on GarageBand.

Who are you in this advertisement and where do you work?

What product are you selling?

What is the original cost (the 100%) of this product?

What percent (%) discount are you taking off?

What is the final cost of the product after the discount has been applied? *You will NOT say this in your advertisement, but we want to make sure you know.

After the students answered the above questions and wrote out their script, we gave them a quick “How to use GarageBand voice recorder” tutorial.

*Helpful hint that we learned the hard way… Be sure to turn the metronome off when you record as it is distracting. Also, GarageBand voice recorder naturally restricts you to 8 bars. The students were getting very frustrated because it kept cutting them off only a few seconds into their recording. To change the bars, click the + sign in the top right corner within voice recorder, click Section A, and turn on Automatic. By turning on Automatic, it will record until you tell it to stop.

Before the students recorded, we listened to a few different radio ad commercials as inspiration and discussed the art of persuasion. When students recorded, we had them mention their name, store, product, original cost, and percent discount. We did not have them mention the final price of the item after the discount. Why? We wanted to take the project one step further and involve their classmates. After all recordings were completed, we listened to each student’s recordings (one per day until complete) and as the students listened, they had to take the original cost and percent discount and solve for the new price.

The project was a big hit! The students were creative and loved the freedom. They even mentioned how much more fun this was than a worksheet. Of course! And did I mention how much we loved it because of the simplicity of it? Projects can be daunting because they end up stealing so much time away from our classroom. We had the students write their script and complete the worksheet for homework one night. We spent about 30 minutes in class recording the ads and then about 5 minutes per day listening to each recording.

Here is a GarageBand sample from one of our students.

Here is a link to our rubric that we used when we graded the assignment.

Wonder Wall

How do we ensure that students are going beyond the “I need to learn this because my teacher told me to learn it,” and into the, “I want to learn how to do this because I can see how I will use this in everyday life,” mentality? One way to ensure that students are moving into the “I want to learn this stage,” or the “I need to learn this so that I can accomplish this specific task,” is to expose our students to as many authentic and real-world connections and experiences that relate to the objectives at hand, as possible. With that said, what does that look like in an elementary math class?
My teammate and I were brainstorming ideas on how we could truly get our 4th graders to see that percents, decimals, and fractions are around them constantly. We use the knowledge taught in our percents, decimals, and fractions units more often than they know, but they still seem to struggle with the concepts. We wanted a way to connect the real-world and everyday life to our classroom. We have had a wall up in our classroom titled “Wonder Wall” with each students’ picture and a speech bubble for some time now. But, as school began and lessons started pouring out, we struggled with how we wanted to utilize this wall. Finally, after digging around in our Everyday Math curriculum, we discovered the idea of creating a Living Museum in your classroom. Essentially the idea is that with each unit you ask your students to bring in examples of math around them that relates to the current unit of study. We decided to combine the Living Museum with our Wonder Wall. So far, it has not only been a hit, but a great way to connect our world with what is being taught within our classroom.

Creativity Takes Courage

A few years ago I joined the blogging nation by creating a blogger account. Visit my blog and read over 300 posts/ideas at www.riseandread.blogspot.com .

I have decided to move platforms from Blogger to Word Press in hopes of finding the best way to create resources for others.

Why blog?

I blog as a way to connect with the world and let others have a glimpse at many great things that are happening on our campus, as well as a way to, hopefully, inspire others to try new things.

As the former president to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) discussed in one of his blogposts, there is a need to ensure that we, as educators, find ways to allow our students to act as 21st century learners by incorporating the 6 Cs into our classrooms:

  • Creativity
  • Character
  • Collaboration
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication

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As the image above states, “Creativity takes courage.” My hopes and dreams are that this website will inspire others to teach creatively and take risks alongside other educators. Steal our ideas, share them with the world, make them your own. I say steal “our” ideas and not “my” ideas because I will be the first to admit that many of the ideas that come to fruition within classrooms on our campus are ideas that came about due to a group of educators collaborating and creating. Just as we ask our students to take risks, we too must be willing to take risks. With great risks comes great success, and that is what this website is all about. So, I encourage you to read my posts and make these ideas your own by tweaking them to make them come to life and be a success in your own classroom. And speaking of success, are all of the ideas mentioned throughout this website success stories from the get go? No. That is why we speak honestly, reflect, and create solutions to grow. Join us on this journey of collaboration!

Resources:

http://www.nais.org/Independent-Ideas/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=320

We Learn Best By Doing

Why do professional developments, in-services, conferences, you name it, tend to flop? What are they missing and what can we do as educators to better utilize our time during these gatherings?

It never fails. Leading up to an in-service day you hear grumblings of, “Ugh. I wish I could just have one more day off.” Or, “What I wouldn’t give to just work in my room all day instead of attend those dreaded meetings.” It always pains me to hear these comments, even though many times I completely relate. School leaders tend to spend their time pushing new initiatives, going over logistics, but very little time modeling the initiatives, or sharing best practices.

In A.J. Juliani’s “5 Reasons Why Teachers Learn Best From Other Teachers,” blogpost, Juliani states,

In fact, when I look back at my most valuable learning experiences as a teacher, they are almost always with colleagues and other teachers, instead of with an administrator or consultant or presenter.


I mentioned in an earlier post (read about it here) that our school hosted a conference recently. As we were planning for the conference, we knew that teachers learn best from other teachers, as Juliani discusses, so we knew it was imperative that we plan a conference that is centered around teachers leading other teachers. Hence why the idea of fishbowl style learning came about. At the conference, I co-presented with a fellow teacher on “Authentic Learning and Creating a Collaborative Culture” during one of our general sessions. You can read my blogpost about the conference itself by clicking here.

During our presentation, we knew the importance of not only sharing best practices, ideas, and tech uses in the classroom, but we knew we had to involve our audience from the get go. That is what we do in a classroom setting, right? So why not present the way we teach our students? To begin, we pulled the audience in right away by having them take a Socrative quiz in which we posed 3 scenario based true/false questions. For example, “In a 4th grade math class, the students are learning about perimeter and area. To demonstrate the students’ understanding of the concept, the children work in groups to construct a dog house using cardboard. True/False: This is an example of a truly authentic lesson.” (Looking back, we shouldn’t have made the questions true/false. We should have altered the options to a “strongly agree, disagree…” style question.) After the participants answered the questions, we then opened up a discussion on why we agreed or didn’t agree that the scenarios were or were not authentic. This then led into a discussion of professional developments and how they tend to not be led in authentic manners. Throughout the presentation, we continued to engage the audience, discussed how we took a traditional novel study and revamped it, and then ended with having the audience share ideas of how in the past they have revamped lessons to make them more authentic, and shared future ideas.

Upon reflecting on our presentation, where did we succeed?

  • involving the audience from the start and throughout the presentation 
  • sharing our ideas on how to build authentic lessons 
  • began a discussion on the best tech tools we utilize frequently when it comes to authenticity
  • candy – candy always works with kids or adults to get them join the conversation 🙂
What could we change for the future?
  • model a lesson rather than simply talk about it
Moving forward, I would like to focus on finding a way to have the audience actually “do” something/build something/create something in addition to them being a part of the conversation. Since our presentation was built around the novel unit that we revamped, could we have had the audience work on a part of that project so that they could have actually seen it in action? I will keep pondering this thought for now. 
If you would like to view our google slides presentation, feel free to click here

Resources:
http://ajjuliani.com/5-reasons-why-teachers-learn-best-from-other-teachers/

A Twist on Traditional Conference Style Learning

I wrote a post earlier in which I explained a conference our school recently hosted called Lausanne Learning Institute of the Southwest. A conference in which we offered a day of general sessions and a day in which fishbowl sessions occurred on our campus with our students. To read that post, click here.

Day 1 of the conference offered a new twist on conference style learning. I have attended many conferences/workshops in the past that have ranged from sit-and-get to general sessions that actively engage and involve the audience. However, I have never attended, nor have I actually heard of, a conference offering a fishbowl type setting in which students are taught in front of your very eyes.

What did the fishbowl day look like?

  • 20 educators sat around the perimeter of the room observing while one teacher from various schools chose a topic and taught live in front of the observing teachers
  • Teachers from 53 different schools proposed fishbowl topics 
  • Teachers let us know what grade level they needed, and what prior knowledge the students needed to have before teaching them
  • Fishbowl sessions lasted 45 minutes followed by a 45 minute debrief
  • 4 fishbowl sessions were offered throughout the day 
  • Fishbowl session topics included: 
According to the immediate feedback we received from our participants, the fishbowls were a huge success. Teachers mentioned that rarely do we get to see ideas in action, so this was an interesting way to run a conference. Educators mentioned that they loved the fact that they could see a lesson in action and then were given time to debrief, share other ideas, or ask questions amongst a group of fellow educators. The feedback we received from the students included quotes such as:
  • “Being taught by a new teacher, was weird and cool all at the same time! You didn’t know what to expect.” 
  • “Learning how to use lockboxes was so much more fun than a worksheet. We used math to open the lockboxes instead of just writing our answers down on paper. The teacher who taught the lesson was fun because he not only taught us the lesson, but he connected with us on rap music.” 
  • “I thought it was going to be hard to be taught by someone we didn’t know, but it ended up being a fun experience.”
Planning for a fishbowl setting during a conference was no easy task. We asked the presenters for their topic, a brief description of what will be occurring during the session, grade level, and prior knowledge in order to create the schedule for the day. The challenge, on top of the fact that it was a “normal” day of school with our normal 900 or so people on campus, was that we were adding 200 additional people to a flexible schedule. We ended up silencing all bells for the day and had someone announce on the loud speakers when to rotate. Although the schedule was an ever changing document that took months to create, it ended up being executed flawlessly. 
Participants reflected upon the fact that they enjoyed the fishbowl setting, topic selections, and flow of the schedule. Based upon feedback from participants as well as our own observations, we plan to make some minor adjustments next year, such as:
  • Offer less time during the debriefing periods which allows for more time to network casually
  • Ensure there are topics offered for all divisions as well as disciplines
  • Continue to focus on hands-on inquiry as well as Makerspaces
  • Offer general sessions on tech integration
Some feedback from our participants: 

Professional Development Can Be Hands-On?

When you think of professional development, what do you picture? A faculty meeting that lasts an hour in which you mostly discuss logistics? A sit-and-get conference? During workshops, conferences, meetings, whatever you would like to call it, we spend time discussing pedagogy, cutting edge lessons, engagement and so on, but ironically many times these gatherings are just the opposite of what we are encouraging our educators to do. Educators discuss how to make classrooms engaging, hands-on, real-world, but we do not model that same setting during our meetings. 
On February 23 and 24, our school partnered with Lausanne Learning Institute located in Memphis, TN, to host the first annual Lausanne Learning Institute of the Southwest (LLISW) in which we promoted a conference unlike any other. At the conference, 
   53 schools were represented
   93 sessions were offered (including fishbowl sessions and general sessions)
   over 275 educators attended
Session topics varied from Makerspace, to authenticity in math classes, to connecting a Spanish and French class for verb study, coding, empathy lessons and much more. Sessions were offered for all grade levels from Early Childhood to Upper School classes and the focus of the conference was authentic, innovative practices that allow professional development to be truly authentic – and this conference was just that, authentic.
On Thursday, we offered 4 fishbowl sessions with 9-12 fishbowl options per session time. (I will be sharing the fishbowl details in a later blogpost.)
After months and months of planning, it was incredible to watch the conference unfold. With having never attended a fishbowl type conference, we didn’t 100% know what to expect and were forced the plan the conference in our own terms. To say the conference was a huge success, in my humble opinion, is putting it lightly. This was the first conference I have ever attended where students were involved in professional development and that very factor is what changed the environment. The lessons were real. Educators were able to not only observe a lesson being taught instead of simply talking about it, but they were also given time to debrief, ask follow-up questions, pose ideas, and network with like-minded educators. Our campus was vibrant with life. Happy, engaged kids who were eager to learn from complete strangers. Energized educators who were chomping at the bit to learn new, innovative ideas to steal and take back to their own classrooms. 
After a long weekend filled with many naps in order to attempt to recover from the exhaustion that comes with hosting 275 educators along with 850 students, came reflection. Reflection about why this conference was unlike many others, why we received such positive feedback, and how we can improve for next year’s conference. After thinking it over for a few days, there are 3 distinct reasons that I believe this conference was so successful.
1  The little things make a difference. According to the verbal feedback we heard from our visiting educators, they were overly impressed with our hospitality. They noticed the student ambassadors we had at each and every door greeting them with a smile and directing them to wherever they were headed. They noticed the parent volunteers at the check-in stations, the drinks and snacks that were offered at every division, the energetic music that was played around campus and during lunch, the a cappella choir that sang during our opening session, and our eager students. 
2  The fishbowl experience was unlike any other. Teachers appreciated the fact that they could observe real-life teaching and then debrief the successes of the fishbowl settings and share pedagogy amongst like-minded educators.
3  There was a session for everyone. Many times you attend conferences in which the session topics are heavily directed to math, history, tech, and so on. LLISW offered sessions for Early Childhood teachers to Upper School teachers, makerspace teachers to fine arts teachers, as well as administrators, and everything in between.

Join us next year on February 22-23, 2018 for a hands-on, authentic conference! We are looking for other passionate, dynamic teachers to attend, as well as present. Check out http://llisouthwest.com for more details.