Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Teaching Science with Slime

I love all of the courses I teach, but I have a special affinity for my elementary and middle school science methods course, a course about how to teach science. You see, I was a middle school science teacher for 8 of the 14 years I spent in K-12 schools, so it feels like a big part of my identity. I love science, and I loved teaching science to middle schoolers, and I still love teaching future elementary teachers (who often seem to fear science a bit at the beginning of the semester) about this subject I love so much.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Got Grit?

I was in on #satchat this morning; the topic was "grit," and developing grit in our students.

This is an on-going narrative in education today: we need to foster a little "grittiness" in our students. Helping them learn to persevere, persist, hang in there when it gets tough. Helping them develop gumption or stick-to-it-iveness. Helping them see that learning happens when you take risks, and fall flat on your face, and pick yourself up to try again.

That's admirable, isn't it? Who wouldn't want that kind of student?

It would take grit to move this huge pile of sand (grit?) with that shovel...
Image by Dan Slee [CC BY-NC 2.0]

And I think it's probably a reaction to things we perceive happening in the broader culture: we worry that the kids are getting a little soft these days. They don't have enough chores to do at home. They aren't pushed to achieve great things through hard work. Everyone gets a trophy for participating, regardless of the effort they put in.

In response to all that, we start to think, "Someone's got to do something! This is a generation of softies, and we're in trouble, because they are going to be the ones taking care of us someday!"

So let's get gritty. Let's get them working hard, sticking with it when it gets tough, creating a counter-cultural movement of high expectations for kids!

But I have a problem with this narrative.

Monday, March 9, 2015

This Is How Twitter Works

I recently came across a website (shared via Twitter) entitled "Mom This is How Twitter Works."

A screenshot of "Mom This is How Twitter Works."
(I confess, the lack of a comma there is killing me just a little bit...)

No disrespect to moms is intended; the author, @jessicahische, wants us to know: "This site was not made to be an anti-feminist statement about moms. Jessica was trying to pull her mom away from Facebook (which she wasn’t using much at the time) and toward Twitter."

If you are new to Twitter and are trying to find your way, this site might help explain things. Not all social networks are created equal, and just because you might be familiar with Facebook doesn't mean you'll automatically understand Twitter.

And actually, even if you've been on Twitter for a while but never really thought about how it works, this site might be helpful for clarifying things.

I think I have seen this site before--the site was created in 2010--but when is showed up in my Twitterfeed recently, it struck me as important, because I've been participating in #nt2t somewhat regularly lately.

#nt2t is "New Teachers to Twitter," a chat to help introduce the ins-and-outs of this medium for teachers interested in using it for their personalized professional development. Many, many teachers use Twitter to connect and develop their personal learning network (PLN), but learning any new technology can be daunting. Interesting then, I think, to learn about a tech tool by actually using it. And that's the idea for #nt2t. We meet up on Saturday mornings at 9:00 Eastern time (figure out where this lands you in your local time zone...) to talk about how we use Twitter. 

It's not all newbies, of course. There are great people there who have been using Twitter for their personal PD for years who can help you get acclimated. I welcome you to join in, or even just lurk along if you'd like to learn more.

If you're an educator interested in getting started with Twitter for personalized professional development, here are a few more things I've written about it that you may find helpful:

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Seven More Helpful Resources for Teaching Geography

One of my most-viewed posts to date is titled "Eight Helpful Resources for Teaching Geography." I'm glad this was--apparently--such a valuable collection of teaching ideas, because I think we (American educators) need to do a better job of teaching geographic awareness, frankly. So it's in that spirit that I've collected another seven resources that might prove beneficial for teaching geography...

Image by Kenneth Lu [CC BY 2.0]

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Little Nonsense with Dr. Seuss

Today would have been Dr. Seuss's eleventy-first birthday.

Dr. Seuss held a very important place in my childhood--like so many kids! 

I even performed a dramatic reading of The Cat in the Hat for speech in one of my high school English classes.

And I can't tell you how many times my own kids asked me to read Hop on Pop, and Green Eggs and Ham, and--our favorite--One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Dr. Seuss's wild, whimsical imagination continues to inspire me to this very day. His artwork and lyric prose still bring me great joy.

The quote below came from a list from mental_floss that I saw this morning. I mashed it up with a free-hand drawing by one of my ridiculously talented students.

Here's to a little "nonsense" for your day. 

May you embrace a little fantasy and enjoy extra laughter today!

Drawing by Anna Krygsheld, photo by Dave Mulder, with text from the illustrious Dr. Seuss overlaid.

Friday, February 27, 2015

What's In Your Desk Drawer? Day 20

An empty baggie?

I have this baggie in my desk. It is empty. I can't remember when I put it in there either. But it's a sign of my frugality, and my packrat nature. Because I'm sure I'll find some use for it!

I remember one of my education professors--nearly 20 years ago--telling us that "good teachers are 'scroungers'...they are always on the look out for things that could be used for teaching a lesson." I guess I embody that. I have so much stuff that has made it's way into my desk drawers "because I might use it someday," it's almost ridiculous.

I've been writing each day this month about something I have in my desk. Usually there is a story involved. Almost always there is something I can connect to some part of my teaching practice. Rarely are things just..."there."

I have a bunch more junk I could keep writing about, but all good things must come to an end. This series of posts has been an awful lot of fun for me, and it was a different twist on what I usually do on the blog; this is normally just a place for me to work out my thinking on whatever it is I've been reading about, or researching, or doing in my teaching practice lately. Thanks to those of you who have commented, or interacted with me on Twitter or Facebook, or even stopped me in the hallway to share your reactions to this series. That is the best part of all for me: when I get feedback from you folks on the things I'm putting into pixels here.

So as a thank you, here are eight more weird things I have in my desk, just to keep you wondering...

Do you clip your nails in class? Ewww! (I don't...)

A finger-flinger rocket...that has potential for lots of lessons!

Mmmmm...freeze dried coffee crystals... (I don't drink this stuff.)
Because everyone should have a rubber ear in their desk...

Sometimes pliers come in handy.

A bag of shredded cash...approximately $165 in this bag...

An inflatable microphone should be part of every teacher's bag of tricks. 

Looney Tunes are the best! That Coyote and Roadrunner...physics lessons!

So there you go, teachers. Consider becoming a "scrounger," if you aren't one already. Start stashing that weird junk someplace in your classroom. You never know when a rubber ear, or a bag of shredded cash, or a recycled sandwich bag will be just the thing you need for that lesson.

Keep it weird, my friends.


(This post is part of a series about the weird stuff teachers have in their desk drawers. You can read more about this project here, and I hope you'll share the stories of the weird stuff you have in your desk too!)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What's In Your Desk Drawer? Day 19

Snack time!

I am told--by people who love me very much--that I can be an unpleasant person when I get hungry.

"Hangry" has become a word. Hungry + angry. That is, unfortunately, often the case for me.