Monday, February 3, 2020

Not Your Same Black History Month

Though its a short month, February is full of celebrations and observances. American Heart Month, Valentine’s Day, and also Black History Month. It’s important to acknowledge vital moments of the past, but also let students know that we are all still contributing to the narrative of Black History here in America regardless of our backgrounds. In preparation for the month, here are some ideas on ways that you can incorporate and integrate technology and Black History Month into your classroom for the next few weeks.

Quote of the Week/Month

Think about your classroom. What are you currently studying? What are your students interested in? What has held their attention out of the classroom lately? Look for some inspiring quotes from present-day staples in the African American community that relate to any of the questions above. Selecting the right quote can empower them to move forward in their goals. Of course, you can type the quote yourself and print it on white paper. Go beyond that and use a graphic creation site, such as Canva, to add color, images, and dimension to your quote. Enlarge your graphic, print small individual copies for each student, or add to your daily slides to capture your students’ attention. Again, consider pulling quotes from modern influencers and explain their contribution to society. 

Here are some sample sites to pull from:

Got Primary Sources?

Great! There’s an AVID strategy to support the use of primary sources. There are a wealth of photographs, artifacts, and other pieces of art that are staples in the African American community. Give your students an opportunity to take their analysis of these resources to a deeper level by using the AVID inquiry strategy called P.O.S.E.R. When looking at the resource, students use their observation skills to draw conclusions from the people, objects, setting, engagement, and relationships that they see. From there, students formulate and write a summary of their findings. This is a great way to engage students’ prior knowledge, biases, or thirst for new learning.

Get your own copy of the template here.

Social Media Influence
Social media is a modern phenomenon that did not exist for some of the major historical moments in black history. Today, leaders and influencers use social media as a way to spread ideals and awareness on many issues. What would it be like if social media was present for some of the groundbreaking moments that forged our history? Consider asking your students the questions below provided by teacher/author Nancy Barile:
Would you consider anyone you follow on social media to be a leader? What power do they have? Who's bringing attention to important issues, and who's drawing attention away from them? How can social media spread awareness? When your students have their answers, lead a discussion about their main news sources and how informed they truly are. This is an ideal time to point out that, thanks to the internet, it's possible that what your students consider to be common knowledge is something many people don't know.

Finally, have your students write a reflection where they return to the original discussion questions and see how their answers may have changed. Their reflection should include some new ways they can find and evaluate information, and you can stress the importance of being informed, educated, and empathetic global citizens.

Using Images

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This one is a no brainer. As you're giving students an opportunity to create, consider giving them information about famous African Americans to use as a background. Studying a particular reading skill? Have them read about a famous African American here in South Carolina. Counting items? Have students count items (tennis balls) that represent notable sports figures such as Serena Williams. Look for ways to incorporate modern trailblazers in your content. The ideas are limitless!

Because of technology, we have the opportunity to reach further than our 4 walls in our classrooms. Bringing awareness to various backgrounds in our classrooms creates a culture of empathy and respect. Utilize these resources to celebrate Black History Month in February and beyond. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Struggle is Real

I struggle every time it’s my turn to write a blog post because I guess I feel like everything I have to say has already been said.  So in my struggle to write this week’s blog, which is already a week late, I decided to look for something from the conference I just attended.

I just got back from FETC 2020, in Miami, Florida.  The conference was good and often I find some quality piece of information to bring back and share.  Well, at this conference I attended a session presented by Rushton Hurley. Rushton Hurley is the founder and executive director of Next Vista for Learning, which houses a free library of videos by and for teachers and students at  He is the author of a few books and believes anyone has the power to change the world.  

Rushton’s session started out rocky, he unintentionally interrupted the speaker before him and had to apologize for the mistake. The session was titled “Much Better Staff and Team Meetings”. I thought, hmm, this could have a few pointers for making our meetings better, why not?  The session was good, he made some good points about not taking time in a meeting to tell attendees things they can read in an email, make the meeting inspirational, provide something that invokes emotion, leave an impression and highlight teachers doing good things. Well, the power in his presentation was the list of curated resources he provides on his website to use while planning your meeting so the meeting provides a message and has a lingering effect.  His site contains resources for teaching citing sources, in addition to, audio, image, video, and presentation resources.

I came back and browsed the resources on his site, I had no idea that this session was going to provide me with a go-to collection of so many thought-provoking resources I could pass along to you, the readers of our blog.  If you are looking for inspiration, you can sign-up for his newsletter.  Sign up, just do it!

Here are a few of my favorites so far from the collection.

Alike (Wow)

Living on One Dollar Official Trailer #2

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Devices are not a distraction

Teaching in a 1:1 environment is truly a great opportunity for both you and your students. It allows for immediate access to the most recent information, endless opportunities for students to create and demonstrate their understanding of the concepts, as well as personalizing the learning for your students. However, I am often hearing that the devices are becoming a distraction. Students become off task and are on websites or apps that are either inappropriate or unwanted at the time. The first instinct for the teacher is to take the device away. However, it is a learning tool, just as a paper, pencil, and book are learning tools. We certainly do not take those away from our students. We deal with the behavior, redirect students to get back on task and reinforce to use the device appropriately. So, over the break, I took an opportunity to read a book called Classroom Management in the Digital Age: Effective Practices for Technology-Rich Learning Spaces by Heather Dowd and Pat Green. I want to highlight some of the simple, but great strategies suggested by the book. However, I truly recommend you read this for yourself. But, before I share these strategies I do want to make a disclaimer. Just as you teach your students classroom procedures and expectations through a “Teach-Practice-Reinforce” model, it is imperative you do this when it comes to the digital practices too. It is not safe to assume students will understand or follow the first time you teach it.

Teach well-defined and clear technology procedures just as you would other procedures to decrease behavior issues. 
  • Establish a clear “attention-getting” signal. You may have one that you use while students are working on paper/pencil activities and may be able to use the same one. When it comes to devices, you will want to establish
    • earbuds/headphones off
    • screens not visible (clam-shut, 45-degree angle)
    • hands-off devices
    • have students make eye-contact
  • Establish expectations when it comes to the device use and care in your classroom.
    • If you have a classroom set model - how will students access and transport within the classroom? I suggest you assign a device to each student.
    • If your school has adopted the take-home model, devices should always remain in the case and also be zipped when moving around the classroom.
    • Also, consider where students should place a device when it is not being used (where on their desk).
  • When students enter the classroom, have a “bell-ringer” or “Do Now” activity to immediately engage your students.
    • This allows you to take care of attendance or other issues that arise at the beginning of the class while students are immediately getting focused on your content.
    • If this is something new, remember to “Teach-Practice-Reinforce” for a week or two to establish this new routine.
  • Just as you'd never give your students downtime or free time to do as they please in your classroom, it shouldn't be given on Chromebooks. Free time leads to distraction or misbehavior. Create a list of extension activities that are acceptable and appropriate to complete for early finishers.
    • Ensure you add specific instructions and expectations for the tasks to decrease the chances of students getting off task.
    • The more authentic and meaningful the tasks are, the more likely it will be that your students remain engaged and on task.
  • Set expectations, boundaries and support structures.
    • Review the RUP/AUP set by the district/school. This can be the basis for your classroom expectations/rules that can then be referred to if a challenge/unwanted behavior occurs.
    • I would also suggest you display the rules in your classroom for reference.
  • When students are working on the devices, be sure you are up and walking around checking the work with students. Students are less likely to get off task if they see you moving about.
    • A time saver and helpful strategy could be having all links and websites available in one location, such as a Google Doc.
    • Display a timer on the board to inform students of how much time they have remaining for the task.
  • Please do not think you must know everything there is to know about the website, app or software. Technology is ever-changing and it is difficult to keep up with it all.
    • Promote problem-solving skills to get the students to critically think about the technical issues they could be having. Ask the students questions - what have you already tried, what might you try, who could you ask, prompting them to explore the issue.
    • You could also try the “Ask 3 before me” rule and have students collaboratively work on the problem.
There are so many more strategies within this book to help you manage a 1:1 classroom, including managing projects, partnering with parents and digital citizenship. This post was intended to focus on the culture you can begin building to ensure the devices are a critical learning tool in the learning and instruction and provide some quick strategies to address some of those challenges that cause the technology to be viewed as a distraction. It may take time, in the beginning, to establish each of these new procedures and expectations, and then periodically practice and reinforce. However, it will save time in the end with less off-task or undesirable behaviors when it comes to device use in your classroom.

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