My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve our lives through research based on our interests. What will we learn? What message will we share? This is a log of our learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Making Thinking Visible

It took me a few months, but I just finished Making Thinking Visible: How to promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all learners by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison (2011).

I let a lot of these ideas percolate, and my classes even tried two of them ("See - Think - Wonder" when we read Where Children Sleep and "Chalk Talk" renamed "Marker Talk" prior to trying gamification).

Here's the gist of what I KNOW I need to do with these thinking routines:

  1. Prior to trying any routine, let students know the reason WHY.
  2. When sharing the goal for the day, or activity share the THINKING goal, not the ACTION goal.
  3. Choose a routine and content you BELIEVE in, and be INVOLVED in the process.
  4. Have a student (or facilitating teacher) document the learning (notes, photos, videos...).
  5. Use the language of thinking and reflecting throughout the day (make the language just as routine as the routines themselves). Continually notice and NAME the thinking.
  6. Keep asking, "What makes you say that?"
  7. Take the time to reflect on the process, while setting goals for next time.
  8. DOCUMENT this learning, reflection, and goals so it's all visible to the students.


Favorite ideas from the book that I'll need to keep addressing...

  • Group success is dependent on the group’s ability to listen and respond to one another’s ideas. Successful groups engaged with the ideas of the group members, echoing back the ideas that were presented and asking clarifying and probing questions of one another. p36
  • When teachers capture students’ ideas, they are signaling that those ideas and thoughts have value and are worthy of continued exploration and examination. p39
  • These thinking routines help students to find their own voices and value and respect the voices of others. p213
  • I want my classroom to be a place “where a group’s collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted as part of the regular, day-to-day experience of all group members." p220
  • ...without the benefit of others, our thinking would be severely curtailed. ... Our individual thinking benefits from being challenged, from the need to articulate ideas clearly and concisely to others, from the presentation of alternative perspectives and insights through others’ presentation of logic, the raising of questions, and so on… p220
  • The kind of modeling that creates culture is more subtle, ubiquitous, and embedded. It is the modeling of who the teacher is as a thinker and a learner. p242
  • Understanding benefits from listening to and taking in others’ ideas and viewpoints, evaluating them, making connections to one’s own thoughts, and then presenting one’s thinking to others, knowing that it, too, will be challenged and must be backed by evidence and reasons. p245
  • Learning is an active process that entails getting personally involved. p262

Online Resource for Thinking Routines

My Notes from the Book

Feedback for ME: End-of-Year Surveys

It's the end of my 21st year of teaching and I still will not end the year without getting feedback from my students. Their feedback helps form my teaching! Instead of waiting to blog about how they responded, I thought other teachers might want feedback as well, so I'm sharing the documents now. I decided to not put student surveys on a Google form this time, as I didn't know if I'd have the technology available in class. (I also like to sit on the living room floor organize the papers into certain groups when I start looking at the feedback!)

Many thanks go to Aric Foster (the survey he shared is HERE), Jarred Amato (his survey is HERE), and Adam Schoenbart (his survey is HERE), for sharing their surveys via Twitter in the past two weeks. These acted as the catalyst that got me modifying my own. I stole many questions from them (all high school English teachers), and merged them with questions I've had from previous years.

These are on Google Docs - feel free to copy and modify to make one your own.

(If you have a co-teacher, make sure you put his or her name on a version of this, as well!)

There is one question in this EOY survey that asks about students' favorite books. The day I hand out these surveys, we'll spend some time looking at the books we've read (I collected them HERE from our in-class independent reading log). We'll talk about our favorites and come up with a few to recommend to next year's seventh graders. I'll either cut out or type up their explanations on this survey for their favorite books, and add a photo of the book to go with it for our first bulletin board of the 2016-2017 school year.

(this one is a Google form I email)



I'm excited to pour over their brutally honest answers, and learn from them once again.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Gamifying CRASH

Crash by Jerry Spinelli...

An "easy" read. Short but sweet. I think reading it at the beginning of the school year would be better than now, but... I decided to read it now because I'd like to try out a few new things with this familiar book... Notice & Note review of ideas, Making Thinking Visible ideas, and I'd like to dip my toes into aspects of gamification...

Plus, we needed more work on how the author develops theme, and this book would be a good way to pursue that.

Preparation:
I didn't want to spend all of Spring Break on creating challenges or quests for the kids, so I waited. What I did do was to create teams - three teams per class. I have at the most 21 students (I am so very fortunate, I know!), so the groups are of six to seven students each.

I was very familiar with Crash, so I just took a copy home to look through while I prepared. I'm also pretty familiar with Notice and Note, so I just updated the notes sheets I'd had already created on those. A quick FYI - The notes I've written here are not our entire plans. We had more going on in our 80-minute blocks than reading Crash.

Introductory Day:
We started with an activity called "Chalk Talk" from Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchart, et. al. I wrote a different question on four pieces of construction paper that I would place on four different table groups. I prefaced this activity by explaining that we're trying something new... We're calling it "Marker Talk," because we're using markers (have them available for everyone), and we're not talking with our mouths. We're only writing in response to the question, then responses to each other - all about the topic at hand. ("What thoughts or ideas come to mind when you see the word 'team?'" "What thoughts or ideas come to mind when you see the word 'points?'" "What thoughts or ideas come to mind when you see the word 'competition?'" "What thoughts or ideas come to mind when you see the word 'game?'") When they heard the signal, they would move clockwise to the next question, and respond to it and the other responses. I'd decided that we'd start with four minutes at the first station, then move down to three, and then try two for the last two questions. (Next time, I'd put the word "lose" on one of the questions, and then recap by talking about the differences between "game" and "competition.") Click here to see a video of how "marker talk" went.

We then read this introductory article on gamification, annotated, and asked questions to each other about it (student-driven). This got the ball rolling on what we're going to try, and I got a feel for how students would enjoy it (or not).

Day 1:
After reading the first three chapters of Crash, we had this challenge:
Names included "Milkweed" (a book that Jerry Spinelli wrote), "Party Crashers" and "Crashinies."

Day 2:
After we had a few facts from the book, a game of "Crumple and Shoot" was in the plans. This game, explained by Jennifer Gonzalez (@cultofpedagogy) here, is one that is conducive to facts. I realized as we went on that many of the gamification games themselves are more conducive to memorization or review. This doesn't bode well for the teacher who likes discussion questions more than facts.

Day 3:
Observations: Today the kids decided they could not ask for points. THEY decided this. One thing we all noticed was that they were asking, "Can I get points for this for my team?" for many things. It sounded much to me like, "Can I do this for extra credit?" I guess their peers didn't like the sound of it either, because they nixed it from class themselves. :)

Teams of 6 or 7 may be too much. Today we had a couple of kids absent, and the groups that worked the best together were groups of FIVE. Our challenge today: Choosing the most significant events and putting them in order.

Day 4:
I loved today's challenge - finding similes and metaphors. I thought I made a mistake in not telling them what the challenge would be before we read our chapters, but they played so very well! I then realized that it was a GREAT review of these terms. The teams that split up the chapters performed the best.

Day 5:
We didn't have a group challenge this day. We did have a comprehension check, however, so I used the scores on these questions to add points to each team. Not having a group challenge was easier for me to handle during class, but harder to add up points after class was over. I decided to take the top five scores from each team, since there were a different number of players in each team.

Day 6:
Today our group challenge focused on character traits. One thing I love about gamifiying at the end of the year is that I can review literary terms and ideas we've been hitting all year. This challenge hit the spot, as students really dug deep to describe the characters. They also were given the option of challenging a trait if it was not obvious to the class why one team chose a particular word.

Day 7:
We did not get the results of this group challenge (coming up with a title/name for an important chapter in the book) until the next day, when all classes voted for their favorites. I liked this one, even though it took a bit of planning. While the students were voting, there seemed to be a sense of power in the room. I think they liked deciding which were the best from the other titles. They knew their votes had weight.

Day 8:
This challenge was my favorite, as it helped us to write about the theme the next day.  The mini lesson went well, and their answers reflected their learning.
Bonus Points: I was excited to have them create paper footballs and flick them through goal posts (which we made), but it never happened. Students wrote about the theme choosing from all of their answers combined, but they never had the thrill of flicking the paper footballs.

Overall Reflection...
I'm glad I waited until the end of the year to try this. This way, students don't expect me to try these all year long. When motivation was lacking, this came at just the right time of year. I don't know if I can do this for every unit, but I think group challenges throughout the year for review of what they've learned in 6th grade could be worth it - with SMALLER groups! Groups of four would be what I'd try next.

I didn't like how kids started wanting points - much like they want grades. The good deeds that suddenly came about (with eyebrows up, asking for points - without saying a word!) reminded me of Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn. What was good, however, is that when this unit was over, students just accepted their group's ranking and moved on with life.

We did try side quests - They were somewhat received well. The first one was searched for more than the last two, for sure.

One challenge I never got to - one that seemed just like "beer pong." My middle class really wanted another "throwing" challenge ("Crumple and Shoot" was a favorite of theirs), and so I told them I'd try for our next novel. Weeks later, it still hasn't happened. I've got it on my list of to-dos, and need to figure out when before the end of the year.

Questions I still have... If I tried this more, I'd create the groups again. However, does there ever come a time when I can let them create their own groups? Should teachers tie this into behaviors (plug in computer, push in chair, no complaints)? I can see the points being a pain to keep track of. Also, tying it to behavior doesn't seem right. I get a bad feeling in my stomach when I think of gamifying behaviors. I'll pass on that.

Plans... Find a way to incorporate more of these ideas. I don't need to plan an entire unit or an intricate year-long game. I do, however, see us trying small games every so often to keep kids on their toes and engaged in lessons.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

It's Called "LIVING"

No, I am not having a mid-life crisis.
No, I am not simply "lucky."
No, it didn't cost as much as you think.
Yes, I do deserve it.

My husband and I will forever be madly in love. You can't help it when you're soul mates. However, we've both been enjoying an affair with this hot chick...

I keep asking my seventh graders to think before they speak. Consider before they judge. And yet, I feel like many adults need these same reminders. I'm not writing this because I'm upset. I'm writing it because this car is just one way I'm really living this life I've been given.

"You must be having a mid-life crisis." 
I looked it up...
"Early middle age." I guess that's about right. But do I have an "identity" issue? Not really. I know who I am better than I have at any other point in my life. Then I found symptoms of this "crisis!" Ah, yes. Buying a "fast red sports car" is #11 on this list. Ah, well, then. I must be having a mid-life crisis.
NOT!
I am LOVING life. I am LIVING life. I had the perfect opportunity to purchase a new car, so I considered my options. Hmm... not fortunate to have children of my own. That means no toys, college, marriages, etc. to spend on children. No real need for a back seat, even. We've already got a pick up truck, so why not get something fun, instead of "early middle age teacher" car?

"You are so lucky!"
Yes, I consider myself a lucky person. I am very lucky to have taken the paths (planned or not) I have. These have led me to my soul mate. I am also very lucky that no huge, unexpected bills or tragic events have come my way (so far). However, I'm not lucky to own this vehicle. I worked my fanny off to be able to afford this vehicle. I saved. I have been known to have more than one job. When money is tight, I still make sure I save, and then make PB & J sandwiches for lunch. I do not spend on a whim. I manage my income wisely. And gosh darn it, I've wanted a Mustang since I was a little girl. My dad said, "You want a Mustang? I'll go to the junk yard and buy the horse off of one and put it on any other car you get." I do consider myself lucky to be able to share this purchase with him.

"How much did that cost?!"
First of all, you're not supposed to ask that question. Second of all, I'm happy to tell you how much I was given for my low-mileage five-and-a-half-year-old Escape ($8,000), how much I saved after the Escape was paid off ($7,000), how my husband got us the "A plan" because he is a proud Ford retiree, and how I put enough money down in order to get 0% financing. It's not the top of the line Mustang. It's just happens to be a beautiful vehicle.

"You deserve it."
Yes.
And I'm going to love her until she is run into the ground. I live each day as fully as I can already. Every day I can put the top down, I will. I will enjoy each ride to the fullest. This is how my life is meant to be lived. Suddenly, I LOVE to drive! When asked, "Do you want to drive?" My answer is now, "Of course!"

Oooh! I'm finished with my blog post! I'm heading out for a drive... Want to join me?
(I learned about Bitmoji at EdCampDuPage last week!)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Reflection is Vital

When done right, reflection can make ourselves see the good, the bad, and the ugly. I get that. I try to reflect by way of this blog. How often, however, do I give my students time to reflect? Not enough.

I try to mix things up - I don't like to give the same reflection more than two weeks in a row, or students will just fill it out quickly without much thought. Sometimes we do "thumbs up, sideways or down," sometimes it's sticky notes on a graph, sometimes it's smiley, straight and frowny faces, sometimes it's "Hold your hand up - how much effort out of 5 did you put in today?" Last night I came up with yet another one for this week's genius hour (which was today). We'd pitched our ideas for fourth quarter two weeks ago, and I wanted students to get moving, as we only have seven or so more days worth of work in class.

Today I gave this 1/2 sheet to students - the front half was to reflect on what they've accomplished so far towards their fourth quarter genius hour project.
This was to be used as a guide - so students were focused today on one thing they had written down as a plan.

With the last five minutes of class available, I asked the to use the back of the sheet to reflect on their progress for today.

The last line was added last night as I was putting together this 1/2 sheet for students. I needed just one more thought. It turned out to be the line that gave me the most information about each student's progress. "I feel ______ about my genius hour project because ___________."

Here are those seventh graders that feel "good," because...
     "I have a good start."
     "It's coming along."
     "I'm sure about what I'm doing."
     "I know what I need."
     "I like doing it and I'm doing well."
     "I'm making progress."
     "I'm planning it well."
     "It is fun."
     "It is a topic I like."
     "I enjoy my subject."
     "It's not that stressful right now."
     "I love what my project is on."

Some chose different adjectives that made ME feel good...
     "...excited...I think it could really help people."
     "...confident...I think it will be a unique and effective way to show what I learned."
     "...confident...I have a friend in Utah who is helping me..."
     "...confident...Other people will be able to get a strong message out of it."
     "...proud...I am accomplishing a lot so far."
     "...great...I get to do something without my mom's help." (cooking)

And some were red flags that will get more attention...

     "...bad...it seems boring."
     "...hopeful...It is very difficult to achieve."
     "...bored...I'm getting tired of my topic."
     "...uneasy...It's moving very slow."
     "...IDK...I kinda wanna do something else."

The last line was the most powerful for me. I hope it also got the students thinking, as reflection is meant to do.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

I Lied - My Students Aren't Grading Themselves

I teach 7th grade ELA. I used to write all over students' papers - telling them everything they need to correct. Then I shifted to only leaving one positive comment and one comment regarding a revision suggestion. I then became much more specific with my comments. I thought I was doing well. Now my last class is giving themselves a grade at the end of each quarter. I'm learning so much, constantly reflecting on so many aspects of it!

This year, I began to leave video feedback using Explain Everything or Screen-cast-o-matic during second quarter. I had one student say he really liked the video feedback. "It's like you're right here talking to me." I had another that, when it came time to give himself a grade, didn't know what he has earned because he "never looked at the links" (to the feedback).

I checked one of my videos this morning, and I saw that students had not watched the video feedback I diligently left for them. I came up with this conclusion: I need to provide time IN CLASS for students to watch the video feedback I've given. Here is my proof - NO VIEWS on 80% of this sampling:


Which made me pretty upset. Just ask my husband, who had to spend an hour in the car with me after I noticed these stats.

I've taken the time to create the feedback and upload it. The time it takes to give the feedback is actually the same as the "old" way - leaving a positive comment and a revision suggestion on Google docs or even on paper takes 5 minutes. It's the uploading that makes video feedback take twice the time on my end. And then copying that darn link and pasting it on the student's document, my master document, and in the online gradebook = more time than I've taken previously.

And then I got to thinking some more...

  • If students don't look at the video links I leave for them, do these same students ever look at the Google Doc comments I leave for them?
  • The ones that had been viewed multiple times have been REVISED multiple times (which is the goal).
  • I'm a fake. I say my last class is grading themselves... I lied!

I need to stop here and explain. I figured something out. I figured out something that Mark Barnes in Assessment 3.0 had already told me last year.

** I cannot leave ANY type of "final" "grade" on any assignment I expect them to revise. **

Here's what I do lately...

  • Give feedback on an assignment (video, on a Google Doc, or even in person) - what the student did well, and suggestions for the student to work on / revise.
  • Highlight on the rubric where the student's assignment currently resides ("needs improvement," "developing," "proficient," "mastery").
  • In the box for the grade online, I have been putting the link to the video feedback, or simply copying / pasting the typed comment.
  • ALSO in this box for the grade online, I have been putting the rubric feedback (ex: "Developing: Describes some explicit or inferential parts of evidence, but not both. I have to make some jumps to follow your reasoning.").

That's my problem!!

Students are seeing a "grade" of sorts online and on the rubrics! Why look at the feedback, then? Why do I expect they'll WANT to revise?! As Hubby says, "Revising is hard!" DUH! Every year we have students who revise because they're grade-driven, and then we've got students who really don't care about the grade or doing the work, so they don't revise. What makes me think that would change?! I haven't been able to change their mindsets about grades (yet), and I've been blinded by my own visions.

In order for students and I to truly shift our thinking to "It's not about the grade; it's about the learning," I need to only give them information on what they did WELL, and suggestions for improvement. NO "needs improvement," "developing," "proficient" or "mastery." (Well... maybe I can leave "mastery" on work that is at that level!)

Here is what I NEED to do...

  • Include in our curriculum articles about grading and mindset at the beginning of the year. Really set it up and have students discuss and reflect.
  • In each assignment, give students a summary of what they did WELL. What did I notice?
  • In each assignment, give suggestions for improvement (biggest impact stressed; minor suggestions can wait).
  • Change the feedback loop I created in December. I realize now that that loop was another STEP in the right direction, but still not focusing on learning, learning, learning.
  • Write grade-related information (NI, D, P, M) in my paper gradebook in case the student is not mature enough to grade him/herself at the end of the quarter, or in case we need "numbers" of some sort for problem solving or benchmarks.
  • Ask students to revise all work and turn it back in for more feedback.
  • Leave the summary and suggestions for improvement on the online program that kids and parents see (whether this is video feedback or written).
  • Make sure students know they can come to me at any time to assess together how they think they're progressing.
  • Give time in class for students to watch / read / listen to feedback.
  • Give time in class for students to revise and resubmit.
  • Ask students to reflect on what they learned from assignments - about themselves, their habits, their beliefs, or their learning. (How often would this be needed?)
  • Continually ask -->  "What did you learn...?"
  • Leave a week (3-5 days?) at the end of the quarter for one-on-one conversations with students about their grades (since they will virtually have NONE).
  • Plan for another activity to take place during that week (one idea is to move Genius Hour to one week at the end of each quarter, another is a reading or writing project of choice).

Here's what I still WANT to do...

  • Make every "assignment" relevant to the world - something students can put on their blogs for the world to see.
  • Give feedback in chunks - which means not one assignment coming in to me from all students at the same time. A year-long project would be great for this. Again... another idea from Mark Barnes in ROLE Reversal...
  • Have students truly grade themselves (since a final grade is still expected).
  • Get my coworkers on board.

Teaching is tough. I just want to know what to do and how to do it right. And yet the challenge is what keeps me coming back for more. I've jumped in to this glorious mess. I am still learning.

My resources so far: "FaR" tabs of our classroom Weebly
                                    Feedback Instead of Grades LiveBinder for parents to inspect
                                    My own reflections on this journey

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Meme Maker Me

Taking my own advice from my last "quick tip," I needed to write about one take-away from EdCamp Madison...

I was sitting in the "Google Sheets" session after lunch. The session had taken such quirky turns, it was entertaining, even if the session wasn't applicable for me anymore. I would stay just for the entertainment alone. One part that made it better was Jason Bretzmann sharing a meme with Andrea Kornowski, and then Andrea sharing another...

Heading into the next session about "Learning Targets" (grades, SBG, how to get kids to shoot for the targets), Chuck Taft heard that I had never created a meme. Why not? Because I don't have anything funny to say! So he created one on the spot, before the session even began.
Finding this absolutely hilarious, I took a screen shot of his Twitter handle and waited to hear this...
The explanation for this is that his learning targets are numbered one through four. Three is his goal for students, as a three means they've hit the target.

I decided to keep trying...
And, because I was encouraged with feedback from Ashley (who was in kahoots with Andrea!) and Trisha who was watching the hashtag from afar... 

...I had to try again.

This morning, I retweeted an idea about inquiry, and Phillip Cowell tweeted me a picture of cavemen, with the words under it "The Inquiry Cycle - (it's not a new idea)" - looked like he created it with theEasyAppCompany.com.

It reminded me of those motivational posters, so I found the motivational poster creation site and created this:

I've seen teachers ask students to create memes for books (such as Lord of the Flies), and I've cracked up at what they've created. I'd love to ask students to create some for our next larger piece of text! I'll be trying to add some creativity, wit and humor to class using memes...

Already making memes? Please leave me a comment as to where we can find YOUR favorite memes and your favorite meme tool! Want to make your own? Google "meme generator" for many free tools.


Quick Tip #20 - Teacher Motivation

Joy headed up to Madison to attend another EdCamp? You betcha.
If I look tired, it's because I had great fun learning with fellow passionate educators!

Full Transcript

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Hacking Assessment

I'm already "hacking assessment" by asking one of my classes to grade themselves. How could this book help me improve? I was excited to get my copy from Starr Sackstein to see what gems I would be able to use...

Validated what I was trying...
     Ask students, "What did you learn...?" (25)
     "How we spend our time in class is indicative of what we prioritize in education" (78).
     "...make sure that all assignments are purposeful and aligned to a standard" (46).
     "...keeping notes about progress...in a grade book that only a teacher sees seems counterproductive" (88). Make the learning transparent! Do this for students and parents.
     "Check in with students..." on a regular basis (91). We are now doing this every quarter of each quarter - thanks to students reflecting enough to be able to ask for it.
     "It doesn't really matter what I thought, so much as it matters what you [the student] learned (29).
     "If the teacher doesn't agree with the student, then a longer conversation needs to happen. ... If in the end, the student really believes he or she deserves a particular grade ... let him or her have it. After all, the grade itself doesn't mean very much" (113-114).
     From Sarah Donovan (who shared a story that sounded SO MUCH like mine!): "...by not focusing on grades, there was more learning and achievement" (38).
     From Aric Foster: "...this process...encourages learners to take risks and challenge themselves, as they know there will be no punitive words or numbers for their performance - only observations and suggestions for revision. ... No longer are learners trying to earn points or 'get a 3.0.' Instead, they are trying to Answer the Question and Use Style and Cite Evidence to Support a Claim" (53).
     We need to change our vocabulary. When I was reading Choice Words by Peter Johnston in 2014, I started shifting my vocabulary to be more precise. Instead of saying "turn it in so I can grade it," I now say "turn it in if you would like feedback from me." Starr writes about a "no-grades vocabulary." I have already started adding these words to my repertoire. Bonus - I then noticed students starting to use the same vocabulary. As Starr states, "...words are powerful, so I am starting by changing the language we use to talk about learning" (41). This is a great place to start.

Made me think of Genius Hour which was the catalyst for all we try in class...
     "...conversations were invaluable" (19).
     "Teachers need to involve students in choices and provide opportunities for them to modify a teacher's assignment or to create their own. When we say 'Yes' to our student ideas, we encourage autonomy and empower them" (44).
     "...their decisions help drive their learning" (45).
     "...honor student input" (45).
     From Adam Jones: "...you've succeeded when you...know the students no longer need you" (93).

Reminded me of why I'm doing this...
     "Grades are [too] often used to motivate or punish..." (114).
     "Grades ultimately end up being a power tool that serves the teacher but not the student" (37).
     "...we were talking to students about a system that they had no control over" (40).
     "All learning is subjective..." (50).
     "The scores, which are often averaged, give a poor explanation of what students know and can do" (121).
     "...just because work hasn't been completed, doesn't mean learning hasn't happened" (115).
     "...there is a deprogramming process that still occasionally causes me to pause" (16).
     "...change is challenging, but that doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile" (27).
     "Attention gets focused on the learning..." (37).
     "...not worrying about grades made them [students] more excited and eager to try things" (30). In my case, I'd say it made them less stressed, and complaints about doing the work were few and far between. They know they don't need to use every piece for proof of what they know, so they feel free to try it without fear of judgment.

When it's challenging, I need to remember...
     "With daily informal conversations and formal conferences, assessment and feedback loops naturally develop" (85). And then we start all over with a new group of learners...
     "...routines facilitate success" (81).
     From Adam Jones: "All assignments are opportunities to practice, receive feedback, and refine" (95). "It is an essential component of enduring learning that students revisit their work" (96).
     "If we are going to tell students this is an important activity, we can't assign it and expect them to do it on their own. Make time for students to work independently, with classmates, and with the teacher to ensure a more successful experience" (124).
     They know I care about their learning. (85)

Pushed me further...
     When introducing reflection, find out what students already KNOW about reflection! Ask THEM what it looks like and what it should include! Take time in class to allow them to create or add to a checklist to be included in a reflection. (101-102). Then make reflection time a routine. I've just started to implement this with D.I.R.T. (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time).
     Portfolios, Joy. Portfolios. I need to stop using the excuse of not having 1:1 tech for not having students organize their work. (Oh, how spoiled was I last year to have that iPad cart?!) I need to reserve those laptops and give students TIME in class to gather and organize evidence. Yes, using a class set of iPads and something like Fresh Grade or Seesaw would be a dream, but I can do without - since I need to - and it's good for the kids. With that being said, "Teacher comfort is important; it's a matter of finding a tool that will easily collect and transfer artifacts each year" (123), and a tool that teachers in grades below and above me would use. Even though portfolios are not for the teachers, students in middle school probably won't revisit them unless the teachers ask them to.
    Do you know Mike Stein? (Meaning - Are you connected to this teacher via Twitter or some other media?) He teaches English at the high school level. His students experience Genius Hour. His students grade themselves. He's now considering adding a gamification piece to his year. What if? What if? What if? How could it all go together?

This text, along with Mark Barnes's Assessment 3.0 and my original favorite regarding grades, ROLE Reversal, shows teachers WHY and HOW it CAN BE DONE. Yes, there will be pushback, and yes, it will be tough. Why not try it anyway, if you know of the affect it has on learning?

Go ahead - make the process transparent. Let others in on the conversation. It's how we grow.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Explore Like a Pirate

Michael Matera, a great EdCamp adventurer and cohort, finished his book about gamification. I have told him - repeatedly - in person, no less - that I could NOT attend one of his gamification sessions at edcamps until I was READY to implement it in my classroom. I knew, just from the type of teacher he is, that his wealth of resources and his passion for doing this in the classroom would push me over the edge and into the high seas. If I was not ready to practice my swimming all summer (planning for an extensive year-long game), I would NOT attend one of his sessions. (I did attend a TINY session at USM Summer Spark last summer - right after seeing Dave Burgess in action!)

Well... I guess he was done with me not attending his sessions.
He sent me his book!

I have read the book, marked it up, asked questions, added sticky notes, and dog-eared the pages.

Now what?!

My brain is reeling.

I'm steeped in students grading themselves this year, and still on the Genius Hour bandwagon, of course. I'm still trying to figure things out with these two HUGE ideas. And now? Now I want to offer experience points (XPs) to my students for doing side quests. I want to have a big jar of water in the room with a small target at the bottom so kids can drop pennies in. I want to have teams in the class. I want to have more...... fun.

My kids are always up for trying new things. (I think that's why we're pretty loud - we're still figuring things out.) I believe I can incorporate my first efforts when we read The Outsiders at the end of the year. I've already switched those plans to work the Whole Novels way. I know what we're doing for that unit. Just think about it - the Greasers against the Socs... Girls against the boys. I could do it up right. I have enough time to plan (??), and we could end the school year with something they'll really remember. Stay gold?? Hmmm... Golden sunsets? Blue Mustangs? There's a lot I could do here... I hope to see Michael at EdCamp Madison this February so I can pick his brain, and then again in April at EdCamp Chicago so I can update him with my progress and get tips!

Until then, I think I'll get that big jar and some pennies ready... Or should I pack the golf ball, putter, and cup? You don't have a clue why I would? Time to pick up Explore Like a Pirate... Not too intrigued - yet? Time to join the weekly Twitter chat #XPlap on Wednesday nights at 7pm CST to catch the sparks so you can ignite those ideas.

And, no. I don't get paid to review books. Michael is a caring, innovative teacher who loves to share his ideas - in person, and now in paperback.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hacking Silent Reading Time

This school year, I tried four new "hacks" to get my 7th graders to read even MORE. These are in addition to TONS of book talks, reading alongside students, passing around a clipboard each day so students can write in what they're currently reading, and having set non-negotiable times each week for students to read independently for 20 minutes (in my beautiful 80-min. block) at a time.

Here are four types of students I have that do not exhibit habits of readers... yet. I have then listed the hack I've tried. I've experienced success with each one, and that's why it's time to share them with you.

The Great Pretender
She says she reads. At home. Each day in class, she chooses a different book. This book is usually one from my "browsing" shelf - Guinness Book of World Records, The Big Book of Gross Stuff, picture books such as Jumanji... I wouldn't keep these books on my shelves if I thought they were bad books, by any means. But this child exhibits all the habits of a non-reader. She'll try to fool you into thinking she reads. She might go so far as to give a book talk about a book the teacher read last year in class.

Hack:
Get the audio version of books, and download them to the classroom laptops (if you have them). I have six old laptops in our class (and two chargers that work - I rotate which get charged each night). On the top of the laptop, put a picture of the cover of the book. Book talk it, and let students read along while listening. My experience -- every time we read in class, my "Great Pretender" quietly gets a headset, opens iTunes, and is engrossed for 20 minutes.


Forgetful Frances
She's disorganized. She reads at home. (This is evident in the books she knows and her spelling, vocabulary, and grammar.) She doesn't remember to bring her book to class. Ever. She chooses a different book off the shelf almost every day, but then leaves it somewhere in the room and it takes me awhile to find it to put it back where it belongs. She can't find it the next time she wants to read it, so she chooses another book.

Hack:
Check out books you love(d) from your local library. Put a sticky note in them that says, "This book stays in room ___" so students cannot check them out. (I've been burned and had to pay for a book that never returned.) If this type of child is truly disorganized, she will not mind that the books have to stay in the room, because she would forget to bring one home or back to school anyway. Place them on the whiteboard (chalkboard?) shelf or another display. Make sure the covers face out - just like the end caps at the grocery store - make them VISIBLE! Have bookmarks on hand so she can save her spot in the book. My experience -- she's reading one book at school and one at home. In the books pictured below, there are THREE bookmarks (one for each of my three classes) in Fuzzy Mud (thanks for the rec, Sandy!). One bookmark is simply a corner of a piece of notebook paper. Now that I'm returning the book to my library today, students have said they'll check it out of their own library. (I will probably renew this copy, however... Am I an enabler??) I purchased a copy for the class, and it's currently checked out, with a sticky note inside of students who want to read it. 

The Distracted Diva
She only wants to read short, easy books. She starts books, and then abandons them after 20 pages. She'll read half of a graphic novel. She doesn't always bring a book to class. When she does bring a book, it might be one she's read before, or one she in which she's had her bookmark on page 15 for a week or two before she abandons it. She likes to whisper and giggle with a friend during silent reading time, or simply look anywhere but the pages of her book if her friends too busy reading.

Hack:
Create an "article of the week" document that is viewable by anyone. Make a shortened, easy-to-remember link to it. Let students read the articles online using a device. My experience -- Our document is tinyurl.com/KirrAoW, and Scott Hazeu helps me add to it. My requirement if students use this source - they must tell us about the article(s) they read when silent reading time is over. Very few students have used this option, but a couple of them have, and that's good enough for me. Frankly, I think they've forgotten about it. I'll remind them of the link and where it is on our class website on Monday.


The Sports Hound
He loves sports. Sports. Sports. He doesn't bring his own book to class. He chooses fiction books from the sports section of our classroom shelves. He pretends to read. He succeeds at this until I decide to observe and then intervene. (I use this easy system, revised from Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild.) He's got a bit of the Great Pretender in him, because he sometimes gives a book talk to the class based on the information on the back of the book and the first chapter of the book. If you have a good relationship with him, he'll admit that he reads the first and last paragraph of each chapter. "That's enough to know about the book," he confesses.

Hack:
Use the computer at the front of the room for browsing articles. Have the student mute the volume so if there's an ad or video, it won't disturb the class. This student doesn't have to pretend to read anymore during silent reading time. This may even help him develop a daily practice of reading the news - at home. My experience - he comes in, excited for silent reading, heads to the computer, mutes it, finds his favorite sports site, and reads for the entire 20 minutes.

These children still may not read at home, but I'm going to do my best to be sure they DO read when they're in room 239. If nothing else, they know that developing the habit of reading for a solid block of time undisturbed is important to me.

P.S. This is all done without grades attached. Of course.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Second Quarter - Students Grading Themselves

Half-way through the school year??

What I've learned this quarter... 
     - Students need reminders throughout the quarter to look at their evidence to see what they have so far. Many reflections came in later than I requested, because students didn't really know what evidence they had.
     - Students are becoming more aware of what the grade includes. They are also reflecting more truthfully on what they've revised, and they are even coming up with goals they have for next quarter (unsolicited in their video reflections). YES! Students included goals in their reflections this quarter. They are using more of the language I use! (They DO listen!)
     - Take parents' suggestions. This quarter I created a feedback loop for students to know when they need to revise, and when they do not. I also checked in with kids at midterm, and we compared our notes about how they were doing so far.  I hope parents give me more!
     - When reflecting on the "speaking and listening" portion of their grade, they are starting to compare themselves to the rest of the students. I don't know if this is a good thing or not. ??
     - The students in this last class are working HARDER than my other two classes. Truth. I don't have the "proof," but I can tell from their reflections.
     - The kids KNOW what they do. Where they put forth effort. What their grades are. WHY their grades are what they are. I LOVE THESE FACTS. They make this work well worth-while.
     - Here is our end-of-quarter reflection - mostly student-led (the entire reflection is in the video at the end of this post):


Questions I have...
     - Students want to know "what is a reading expert?" On our "reading guidelines" page of our class website, I have this image ----------->
Two students this quarter asked me, "Who is an expert in the field of reading?" GREAT question! I'm still working on this one... Any help from readers?? Please leave your idea in a comment!
     - Should I continue asking students to give themselves comments on the report card? I have the last two quarters, but... it just feels weird. I have no other reasons. I should probably ask the kids.

Plans
I need to...
     ...create a system - on PAPER - for students to collect their evidence. The Google doc on Google Classroom is only being utilized by two students. The rest had difficulty coming up with what evidence they could use to prove the grade they thought they earned.
     ...give more writing options. I believe that, if I'm grading, I should give three times practice, and then one time grading for writing. This belief left us with only THREE pieces of evidence (where I gave written or video feedback) for writing and grammar. Students did not have a choice in evidence for proof of their grade this quarter, because I only gave feedback on those three. Therefore, I have created this document. I will post the assignments under "Independent Practice" on the board, and students will have many more options for writing and turning them in for feedback. I'll be adding more each week, with a timeline for students to turn them in (so I'm not flooded with a bunch at the end of the quarter).
     ...remind students of the flow chart we discussed - so they cannot "fib" and say that they revised something and "did better." ;)
     ...give time IN CLASS for students to look at the feedback I've given them. I'm finding that students don't look at Edline (our online grading system) after they turn in their work. They see the feedback on their Google Classroom documents, but they don't look at the same comments I leave for them on Edline. When I left the YouTube link to their video feedback on Edline, they didn't watch it until it was time to collect evidence for their grades. I'm considering creating an easy chart with possible pieces of proof and the categories they can be used for, so students can collect their work and choose more easily. I'm considering adding more reflection and revision time, calling this time DIRT - Dedicated Improvement & Reflection Time - thanks to this recent post by Alex Quigley.
     ...create a plan for students who collect "enough" proof at the start of the quarter. One student wanted to know what happens then... Great question! Perhaps we need to collect proof from various weeks in the quarter?
     ...give more reminders to students to create their 5 minute video reflection. I had more 1:1 conferences this quarter than last, because students "didn't have time" to create their reflection. Suddenly the five minutes for me became fifteen, and I don't think 15 minutes a student is realistic if/when I'm trying this with all of my classes and not just one.
     ...keep keeping parents in the loop! When the grades go home with students this quarter, an email goes home as well. This note will explain once again how their child has reflected on and chosen his or her grade AND his or her comment(s). I will also keep asking parents for suggestions - they are very valuable!
     ...keep talking about the ideas students have generated. For instance - One student decided his grade should be a B+. The next day, he came to me and asked to change it to an A - so he could be on the Senior Honor Roll. He's never NOT been on the Senior Honor Roll. We had a discussion. It meant a lot to him. I told him I would honor his choice, and that we'd have more check points next quarter for him to see what proof he has, and then he can create a plan for what grade he'd LIKE to have. With more checkpoints (as he'd asked for during his original reflection), he'll know what he's earning early, and not have to scramble to earn that almighty "A."

One of my favorite things to do... Listen to reflective students (sometimes using their phones!), jotting down their quotes and reasonings for their grades...

In case you have 13 minutes... Here is our class reflection discussion:

Note that at the end of this video, a student and I figure out how she can turn in any type of writing for feedback. She WANTS to write, just not always what I'm asking her to write. :)


My resources so far: "FaR" tabs of our classroom Weebly
                                    Feedback Instead of Grades LiveBinder for parents to inspect
                                    My own reflections on this journey

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I'm Angry at the System We've Created

My first class was rough this morning.

Groans. Chatting. Complaints. Mean words. Arguing. Rudeness. Blurting. Actual tears.

In addition to all of this, 95% of them decided they didn't have to do the work. They never asked if it was for a grade or if they had to turn it in, because most of the time it is NOT for a grade and they DON'T have to turn it in. Most days they are more intrinsically motivated than they were today. Even the "nice" table in the back decided they'd rather READ than listen to directions.

I ended the period asking them to continue the day by being KIND. I also told them I'd evaluate my own actions and see where I can improve so we can all make tomorrow better. We'd have a fresh start.
From "They're Made Out of Meat" Movie

I came home, and I created a worksheet for this class for tomorrow.

A WORKSHEET.

Double-sided, no less.

WHY?

Because I want them to pay attention.
Because I want to save my sanity.
Because I recognize that they are extrinsically motivated.
Because I grew up in the system and I'm going to use it to my advantage.
Because I'm not perfect.
Because I'm angry.
     I'm angry at what this system has done to our students.

I've been reflecting on our actions in this class all day.

What did they do? What did I do? How did I react? How did they react?

I probably won't go through with it.

This worksheet has the stink of "punishment" instead of an opportunity for learning.

I might make a class set of copies. I might let students know that if they are NOT participating, I will then ask them to complete it. And yet this, my friends, stinks of a threat.

What I'll do for SURE:

1. Greet this class with smiles, like always.
2. Stay calm during class.
3. I'm going to ask students to reflect. After we do our weekly class reflection (plus / delta), I'm going to ask the evaluator (student who facilitates this discussion) to add one more column on the board. We'll have the usual: "What we did well" (plus), and "What we want to change" (delta). Then we'll add "What Mrs. Kirr can do to help us change." I will explain I only want serious answers. I will then stand outside the room. When the bell rings, I'll wish them a wonderful (long) weekend & take a photo of the board so I can look at it over the weekend and reflect once more.

I probably won't give out the darn worksheet. I want to be able to prove to myself - at least - that students WILL work in order to learn. I need to do a better job at giving them the reason behind the work we're doing.

We need to turn the ship around. We need to get more and more teachers on board so the system changes and kids stay intrinsically motivated throughout their school years.

I know it was "just a bad morning."
I just don't want it to happen again.
I'll do my best to keep trying to turn the system around - without using more worksheets or grades.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Using Explain Everything to Give Feedback

I decided to try giving video feedback for one small piece of writing my students did on notebook paper. We only had 10 minutes to write, and the prompt was to explain their "escape," whether it be a place or an action. I let the idea of video feedback stew in my mind, as I only had twelve to look through this weekend, and then decided to use the Explain Everything app. I could draw right on their work, and then could share a private video with each student.

After a few unsuccessful attempts (and successful mishaps), I decided I needed to keep track of the process I'll go through the next time.

Steps:
1. Take photos of all the writing.
     (No need to crop them at this time - you can do that once they're on the app.)
2. Take photo(s) of any rubric(s) you intend to use.
3. Create a document you can toggle to on the iPad. This will be where you will house all of the private links to the feedback you're giving.
4. Open the Explain Everything app.
5. Put a photo of the student's writing on the first slide, cropping when you upload it.
6. Add a slide.
7. Put a photo of the rubric(s) you're using on this slide, cropping when you upload.
8. Optional - create two more slides - exactly the same, just in case you'd like to add something else to your dialogue about the students' writing, or more to the rubric. This is also good if you're working with two standards you'd like to look at separately.
9. Have something else ready that you'd like to be doing while each video is uploading. The upload time depends on how long the piece is, and how long your dialogue is. Average for the few I did today was 7.6 minutes each - for ten minutes of student writing in class. Tip: You could save them all as different names and upload them all after you're done giving feedback, but I didn't want to use the space on my account or on the iPad if I could help it. I'm not sure how much space I have on my Explain Everything account, and I didn't want to reach the end and then pay for more space with this app.
10. If your student's last name is on any photo you've taken, use the pencil tool to cover it.
11. Begin recording - just be normal.
12. Save the recording.
          I named it by the title of the piece or assignment, and then added the child's name.
13. Upload the video to YouTube, marking it "unlisted."
14. When it is done uploading, copy the link.
15. Open the document you have for students' links, and add this student's name and the private link.
16. When you are finished uploading, delete all of the slides, and start over. (This is much more efficient than deleting the audio, your mark ups, and the photos of student work.)
17. Begin at step 5 again. You will be able to rename this project with this new student's name when you upload it to YouTube.

Here is an example of one that was turned in with no name:

Why did I choose Explain Everything?
1. I think it's important to use tools I already like when I'm trying something new.
2. I am very familiar with this app, and wanted to see how it would work for this piece.
3. Student writing was WRITTEN, not done digitally, so Google Doc commenting wouldn't work.
4. I wanted to circle and underline and highlight their words.

What worked:
1. I became more efficient as I went along - with the app, and also with my feedback.
2. I became more precise in using words that focused solely on the skills on which I was giving feedback.
3. I did NOT take the time to go back and hear what I said. If it was a one-on-one conference with students, I would not have that luxury, so I didn't use precious time to go back and re-record.
4. I was personal with students... I let them know that I realized this was only a 10 minute writing prompt. I thanked them for sharing them aloud (if they did so in class). I remarked about their "escape," and thanked them for sharing it with me. I encouraged some to put this piece of writing on their blogs.

What the students said:
My question: What did you think of it vs. Google Doc comments?
- "A little better."
- "Once you heard yourself say something, you thought of something else, so you had more comments."
- "It wasn't bad."
- "Gave some good advice."
- "The highlighting, in my opinion, was a little excessive."
- "I think it was better, because you underlined and circled certain words that were good."
- "It was a lot, but it wasn't too much."
- "It gave some feedback, and helpful advice."
- "It took a long time." (5 min)
- "It felt longer, but you also explained more. It explained your train of thought, so I knew what I should do. You were talking out loud, so I could hear what you were thinking about each thing while you were reading it."

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Chasing Hardware

I'm writing this post for ME.

Feel free to comment, but this reflection is one I need to write about and stick to - for my health and well-being.

Flash back to my previous life...

June of 1996. It started with a phone call. I was still living at my parents' house when I was 23, and when my future husband was getting off of our phone call to "go for a run," I decided to take my dog for a walk. I was not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. That summer, however, I was able to manage my exercise-induced asthma and walking turned into running. I was able to run a mile a couple of weeks later. I wanted to do this so my boyfriend and I would have more in common. Plus, I wondered why I'd never exercised prior to this. I didn't have any weight to lose - I just did it for the challenge. His next gift to me was a watch (Timex - Ironman), and suddenly he was coaching me like he did his clients. Yes. Tom was (is?) a personal trainer.

June of 1998. We were to be married in August. I wanted to run my first 10k under my maiden name. Tom found me a small race in Woodstock, IL (where I worked at the time). My goal = to finish. I ran alongside a woman who had run in a marathon before, but she was not too sure she could run the 6.2 miles that day. I told her I'd stick with her, if she'd stick with me. I held to that, and we were the last two runners that came in. (That race was when I learned about the ambulance that comes as the "sweeper.") My time = 72 minutes, 12 seconds. (Slower than any "run," but I finished!) As I sat down to cool off with my post-race popsicle, my name was called. Huh? Wha...? I'd won third place in my age group!

This was the catalyst for my chase for hardware.

Tom taught me that "hardware" (plaques, trophies, etc. - of which I'd NEVER gotten) was easier gotten in small-town races. I started seeking them out.

August, 1998 - After the honeymoon. Momence IL was about a 2 hour drive for us in the morning, but it was a nice small 5k where I could collect more hardware. Bonus - it was an "out and back" course, so you could see the people who were ahead of you, and "pick them off" one by one on your way back to the finish. Tom usually ran his own races, but ran alongside me for this one, coaching me the entire way. "Look - she's in your age group. You can catch up to her." I won third place in my age group! This was the Momence Glad Run, where winners got beautiful gladiola flowers, as well as hardware.

For the next two years, I strived for more. For the next two years, we took the trek to Momence for this short run, and he ran alongside me, helping me pass by more and more women in my age group. "Just focus on that next runner. Get alongside her..." And I excelled in my quest for hardware, moving from third to first in my age group.
                                             Time: 26:56                                  Time: ??
                                                                     Time: 24:32

And the year I received 2nd place in this 5k was the same year I ran my marathon. In Alaska. For Team In Training. (Running 26 miles when I was 26 years old was very COOL. My time, however, was not - 5 hrs 58 minutes, when I'd been training for 4:30. Oh, what mountains will do to your time...) I was so new to running, that every race - every new challenge - became a personal record. How motivating!

These memories are strong. They came reeling back when I decided to clean out a bin that had been in the garage since I left my "old life" and came to this house in 2010. The bin was labeled "Things I don't know what to do with..."

Last week, I saw a tweet from Russ Anderson...

It was time, too, for me to purge. I obviously did not have all that Russ had - I only had a few from my twenties. I'll keep the medal from the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon in '99 - when I find it. I knew when I saw the plaques, that it was time to toss them - along with the years of running journals I'd pitched years ago - but the memories were so strong, I had to write about them first. What was the message I was going to get from this flood of memories? Where's my lesson that can apply to me now?

I need to stop chasing hardware.

My professional life is so much of my life. And, although I no longer run, I am still chasing "hardware." Notes from students, emails from parents, home-made gifts from students, being asked to present at conferences, accolades on Twitter for blog posts, the chapter in Best Lessons: Literature. I'm currently chasing after NBCT recertification, and I might ask a publisher or two to look at an outline I have for a book. 

With this chase comes disappointment. I am not new to the game of teaching. In my 21st year, it's impossible to get a PR with every action. When parents don't copy my principal on great emails that I hold dear to my heart, I feel a bit deflated. When someone posts something in their blog that I feel everyone already knows, and it's retweeted 20 times more than the post I wrote from my heart, my jealousy rises. This is WRONG. No. This is HUMAN. But I don't like the feeling. I feel like I should know better than that at this point in my life.

The lesson gets clearer to me with a message I received from a student yesterday. He "tagged" me on an Instagram picture of his shoes. (He has a thing for shoes.) 

"2015 wasn't the best year. The Broncos lost in the playoffs, the bulls lost in the playoffs, the packers lost in the playoffs, and the seahawks went to the super bowl. Isis is still here, so that sucks. Richard Sherman is still here, so that sucks too. But some things went alright. Gay marriage was legalized. The world showed that when one country is in need, they can count on another. It also showed that being different is not a wrong thing. I tagged people that made this year worth waiting 12 months."

The fact that he tagged me... that was a stellar moment for me. This young man is following 467 people. He is no longer in my class. Sometimes he pops in for a quick "hello," but I really haven't seen much of him this year. 

I got it.

And suddenly, it will be easy for me to toss out the plaques. 

I believe, as a result of interacting with educators on Twitter, I get too caught up in the "advertising" of our teaching. I get too caught up in "marketing" what we're doing online. I get too caught up in looking for the support, accolades, and recognition. I highlight what others say about the LiveBinder (or an actual quote!) in their books. I save what I produce or present on my online portfolio, the class website, and even a Google doc for my evaluation. I save uplifting parent emails in another Google doc. I save student notes in a scrapbook in my file cabinet. I put home-made gifts up in our classroom. Every school year, I sum up in a blog post what I've "done" that is valuable or precious during the year. Yes, these keepsakes are important to me. Yes, I should be proud and happy of what I've accomplished. BUT...

I need to focus even more on the people in room 239 and the hallways of my school. 

I need to focus on having even more one-on-one discussions with students. I need to focus what they say, not on what I want to say to them. During meetings, I need to listen with the intent to learn, and not as much with the intent to share or teach. I need to give my time, and not so much of my opinion. I need to lend an ear, and not so much advice.

My word for this next year is "gratitude," as it has been for the previous two years. I haven't gotten the most out of this feeling yet. I'm shifting the focus from grateful for all I have, to grateful for all the opportunities ahead of me. All the moments I can use to let others know they matter. I'm tired of chasing. I'll let moments come, and give them all I've got.

I love learning more about life as I get older. 
I now look forward to this new change in mindset.