I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Managing Twitter Through TweetDeck

I've tried it. I've tried to not follow "too many" people on Twitter. I tried to keep my "following" list at 300 so I "didn't miss anything." I can't keep track of them all on my Twitter feed! What if I miss someone's tweet that I'm meant to see? What if I miss a gem that could really change my way of thinking about student learning? Ahhh! NOOOO!

My next step - I learned that the more people you follow, the more different perspectives you get about teaching. No longer do I just follow middle school ELA teachers - I follow Kindergarten teachers, tech experts, librarians, principals, superintendents, music teachers, etc. How do I keep up with all of it? I don't, really. However, I do have a way of feeling like I see many tweets that I "need."

In February of 2013, I met Karen Lireneman (from British Columbia) in person - 15 minutes from my house near O'Hare airport! I asked her how she could keep up with all the tweets from all the people she follows - she asked, "You're still watching your feed? You need to watch the hash tags!" Those two sentences changed the entire way I manage all my learning on Twitter. Now, I'm finally getting around to letting you know how you, too, can follow those people you don't want to miss.

Note: There are other tech tools you can use to accomplish this task, but I will be focusing on TweetDeck, since that is all I use.

Step 1:
Create an account with TweetDeck. You should begin by seeing your Twitter feed appear in the left column. Sadly (or not), I really only look at this column now when I'm sick at home in bed... TweetDeck looks like many twitter feeds in columns. It can look kind of crazy busy at times, but no worries. You can make it look as simple or large as you like.

Step 2:
On the left, click "add column."

Add "@Mentions."

This will be the column of people contacting you, using your Twitter handle. This way you won't miss when someone really wants to include you in the tweet.

Step 3: 
On the left, click "add column" again. Time to add your direct messages column.

If someone sends you a direct message, he or she REALLY wants you to see this. Watch for spam, however! Don't click on suspicious links.

Step 4:
Go back to your Twitter account. Have you created any lists? If not, this is the time to do so. If you have already, skip to Step 5.
Go to someone you adore, and click on the gear next to the "Following" button.
Click on "Add or Remove from Lists." If you have not created any lists yet, you'll need to do so.

Here are a few of the lists I currently have...
You will notice I also subscribe to someone else's list (the last one in the photo).

You may also notice that some of my lists are "locked." That means that people in that list do not know they are in this list of mine. I do this for my "first" list - this is a list of the people I truly find precious on Twitter - those I truly do not want to miss each day. I have it locked, so that I may change my mind at any time without hurting anyone's feelings. I currently have 90 people on this list, but I think 50 of them do not tweet regularly, so it's very easy for me to keep up.

Step 5:
Go back to TweetDeck. On the left, click "add column" again. Click on "Lists," and choose one that you'd like to keep track of.

My favorite is my "first" list and my "Met f2f" list. Repeat this step until you have the columns you'd like up on the deck.

Step 6:
On the left, click "add column" again. Click "Search."

In the search bar that comes up, type in a hash tag you love to follow.

Click on "Tweets," then "Add Column."

Now you won't miss a thing about this topic - even if you miss the scheduled chat or don't follow the people tweeting about it! (Sometimes #geniushour has some funny ones - people who tweet things such as "Wore my dirty clothes in the shower this morning. #geniushour...")

Step 7:
If you've gotten this far, why not make your learning even MORE precise? Time to go to the top of one of your columns. At the top right, there's a picture of two lines with a circle in each. Click on this icon.

Once you click it, more options open up to you.

Clicking on each arrow gives you even more options with which to sculpt the tweets you see.

Since my "Met f2f" list has gotten so large during this past year, I have "retweets excluded" so I don't keep seeing the same things over and over. I have an alert on my "mentions" column - only during a chat - just in case I get wrapped up in the chat and don't see who's including me in a message. Have at it - see what you like, and tailor as you get a feel for it all.

I also use this box when I want to "clear" a column - I do this after I've checked out the tweets, and want to clear it so I know I'm "caught up" for the minute, at least.

My TweetDeck looks like this when I'm all caught up.

(Of course, I have more columns to the right of this - I currently have 9 columns on my TweetDeck.)

Other ideas...
Move the columns in the order of importance you'd like. Arrows to the left and right are found under the special options for each column.

Some days certain hashtags or lists will be more important to you than others, and you'll want to move them where you can see them easily.

During a chat, I create a column for that hash tag, and move that column to the left next to my "mentions" column. If it is a large chat, I also add a column for the moderator, so I don't miss the questions in all the great discussion.

I hope this helps you feel more calm about managing your Twitter feed. I still don't catch everything, but you'll learn quickly that if it's great, it will be retweeted and then retweeted again, and you'll eventually see it in one of your columns! Do you use something different to manage your tweets? Any other tips and tricks? Please leave a comment so more can learn from you!

Saturday, April 19, 2014


I am writing my first "blog tour" post! Thank you for this opportunity, Jen Vincent & Meenoo Rami!

On this tour, readers of THRIVE: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching by Meenoo Rami are giving their own thoughts about what struck them from this book. I will do the same, and yet, from a different angle.

I know THRIVE will be very beneficial for new teachers, or teachers who are in a slump and need a boost. I got the most out of chapter five - "Empower Your Students." This has been my focus this year, and I want to look at THRIVE through this lens. How could the ideas in Meenoo Rami's book apply to my students? I will be handing this helpful book to a teacher who feels she or he needs to be reinvigorated, but I'm going to use this book to my advantage to help me empower my students even more. I'm going to look at each chapter through the eyes of my students. How can I empower my students even more by sharing tips for teachers in this gem of a book?

Turn to Mentors
     My question: How can my 7th graders turn to mentors?
     Find one teacher who you can turn to when you need assistance - or find multiple teachers you can turn to for different reasons. Have on hand friends who can do the same. Who do you go to when you need to vent your frustrations? Who do you go to when you can't understand your homework? Who do you go to when you need fashion advice? ;-) If you are missing someone in your life who can help you with a question you have, ask around. Use your friends and teachers to find that next resource - that next connection. In turn, make sure you are showing thanks and help in ways you know how. Share with these mentors your own genius - your own unique skills.

Join and Build Networks
     My question: How can my 7th graders join and build networks?
     Do you want to get better at what you love? Start blogging about your passions. Connecting with others who have the same passions will help you access knowledge, create knowledge, and share your own knowledge. Another way to connect is through Your Sphere - a safe place to share your skills with others and even help the world be a little better. From there, you can #Choose2Matter! The best person to help you build a network for helping others - Angela Maiers“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson. You can do this by joining and building networks with others who want to make this world a better place.

Keep Your Work Intellectually Challenging
     My question: How can my 7th graders (who are bored because our work is "too easy") keep their work intellectually challenging?
     You're not "getting anything" out of your classes? It's time to learn on your own. Let's face it - you are not likely to be interested in EVERY class you take, but know that you CAN become more interested (and thus, more invested) in each class by pursuing what you want to know about the subject. Finished with the homework from the most boring class in the world? Time to look for resources related to that topic that will challenge you. Don't want to learn about the different types of rocks? Research WHY knowing these types of rocks is important. Research the rock that might lie beneath the grass in your yard. Is it okay to have these rocks there, or should they be taken out in order for you to have a lush lawn? You can diagram sentences in your sleep? Give yourself a speech by someone famous to try to diagram. What makes this speech so special - can you figure it out from the patterns in the sentences? If you're a big reader, how do the structure of the sentences your favorite author uses make it such great writing?

Listen to Yourself
     My question: I currently try to encourage this with my students all the time, but what else can I do?
     For the student who "plays school..." You get good grades, and keep your mouth shut, yet you're not happy. You just want to move on. If you are silent, you become disconnected from your work and could be wasting precious minutes of your life. It's time to listen to yourself.
     What's the matter?
     Are you bored during school? Let the teacher know. Ask for help as to what can challenge you in class.
     Are you scared or worried about something? Confide in a trusted friend or teacher. See what they know about this anxiety of yours. There are others who have the same fears and worries. Speak up when you believe it will benefit you or your friends/classmates.
     Goethe was right when he wrote, "Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." (p69) Let others know what you're all about - let them know your insecurities and your strengths, and make those connections that will last you a lifetime.

Empower Your Students
     My question: I try to do this for my students, but how can I encourage them to empower themselves?
     There are "no good books to read?" WRITE one!  Class is boring? Ask the teacher why what he/she is teaching should be important to you! School announcements aren't exciting? Make one yourself and show them how it's done! Eighth grade teachers aren't going to give you Genius Hour time? Convince them through a video, letter with signatures, help from the principal, or even going to the school board with the benefits of such time in school! Things aren't right?? MAKE THEM RIGHT! YOU can be the change. As Kid President (aka Robby Novak) asks, "What will YOU create that will make the world more awesome?"

Let's use THRIVE: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching by Meenoo Rami to empower teachers and students alike!

Please visit the other blogs on this tour to learn more about how you can use this book in your life...

THRIVE - by Meenoo Rami - Blog Tour 2014
Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts
Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy
Kira Baker Doyle at Kira J Baker-Doyle, Ph.D.
Sarah Mulhern Gross at The Reading Zone
Christina Cantrill at Digital Is (National Writing Project)
Kate Roberts and Maggie B. Roberts at Indent
Beth Shaum Use Your Outside Voice
Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
Troy Hicks at Hickstro
Joy Kirr at Genius Hour
Tara Smith at The Teaching Life
Antero Garcia at The American Crawl
John Spencer at Education Rethink
Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsberg at Unleashing Readers

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Blackout Poetry

They say to first try yourself those activities you want your students to try...

April is National Poetry Month, and one idea that's been floating around to encourage children who dismiss poetry as being for "writers," is blackout poetry. You'll need a newspaper or a discarded book.

Blackout Poetry is shown quickly in this video:

Jason Stephenson & Lesley Mosher are encouraging everyone to take part in Blackout Poetry Week, which is April 7-11th this year. Since I might suggest it to my students, I thought I'd try it out myself first. It's tough, but an interesting process occurs in your head. Here are my results - I was thinking of the blog post I wrote a little over a year ago about challenging the status quo...

I kept changing my mind, but here's what it says...

"Breaking new ground often means breaking the rules." (Daily Herald, 3/29/14, Section 6)

Safe had gone.
Special plan...
Adjustment in attitudes would be a challenge.
Slow... new vision... goal... enormous project.
To give St(udents!) - 7s (7th grade!) - new power.

(Ultimate meaning - I had a plan to give the seventh graders more power over their learning. It was dazzling. Let's toast!!)
Not the best, I know, but I can only get better!!

It's in my lap as I write this, and I still smell the fumes. But I haven't "colored" like this in a long time, and my head was spinning the entire time (10-15 min?), changing what I thought was important, trying to see a line I could use...

Check out how to get you and/or your students involved in this post by Jason:
     Blackout Poetry
and this one by Lesley:
     Blackout Poetry