Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday Teacher Tips - Twitter Power Lunch Follow Up

As a follow up to the Power Lunch we had on Friday, and for the teachers who couldn't be present, I sent out an explanation of some of the things we covered in the session.

Twitter for Educators—Power Lunch—Resource Roundup

In case you missed our Power Lunch on Friday (or maybe you were here, and just need the links), here’s the run down of what you need to get started.
Twitter for Educators—infographic on Piktochart can be found [here].  Get all the basics here, including important vocabulary, chats, and tools that you can use to manage tweeting .
Teacher Training Videos—by Russell Stannard is fantastic (follow him [here]).  Find the videos [here].  The videos will auto play straight through, but if you want to review different topics, you can do that by clicking on specific topic on the left side of the screen.  This is the perfect way to learn about Twitter if you’re an audio & visual learner.   For the most part each video is under 3 minutes, so you could just view them as you have time.
Creating a Twitter Account—Is a handout that I created for teachers who really prefer written directions.  Find it [here] and it will walk you through the beginning steps of creating an account and thinking about how you will use it professionally.
Finding People to Follow—will walk you through the steps you need to do to find other educators to connect with from around the state and world.  It specifically gives you directions for how to use lists that other have made.  Find that handout [here].
Tweeting and Chatting—is another handout that I created that shows you how to tweet and participate in chats using just Twitter.   Find that handout [here].
Educational Hashtags See a list of the most commonly used educational hashtags on Twitter.  Look for specific content areas and interests (like technology or kindergarten).  Find the list on Cybrary Man’s website [here] and follow him (Jerry Blumengarten) [here].
Educational Chats—If you want to get the latest ideas for teaching and learning or technology, there s a chat for you.  Check out the official chat schedule [here].  Chats are a great way to get information and to connect with other educators who have your same interests (see a list of suggestions below).

Twitter Chats you Should Check Out

There are a ton of educational conversations happening on Twitter at all hours of the day, but there are certain times each week where you can schedule out a block of time and focus on having a conversation about your grade level or content area.  These conversations often yield awesome ideas and connections that will prove to save you  time and help to energize your teaching.  Here is a brief list of chats that may be useful to elementary teachers.  Be sure to check out the full list of educational chats listed above if you want something content specific.  Some of my favorites are: #KyLChat, #KyEdChat, #kinderchat, #tlap, and #edtechchat.

#1stchat—First grade teachers chat—8-9am EST
#slpchat—Speech and Language Pathologist chat 2-3 pm EST
#ccsschat—Common Core State Standards Chat 8-9pm EST

#pechat—Physical Ed chat—7-8 pm EST
#4thchat—Fourth grade teachers chat—8-9 pm EST
#tlchat—Teacher librarian chat 8-9 pm EST, 2nd Monday
#edtechchat—Educational Technology Chat—8-9 pm EST
#musedchat—Music Educator Chat—8-9 pm EST
#tlap—Teach Like a Pirate—8-9pm CST
#kinderchat—Kindergarten chat—9-10 pm EST
#21stadminchat—21st Century Administrators—9-10 pm EST

#edchat—Educational Chat 7-8 pm EST
#5thchat—5th grade chat 8-9 pm EST
#KyLChat—Kentucky Library Chat (2nd & 4th Tuesday of the month) 8-9 pm EST
#spedchat—Special Ed Chat 9-10 pm est

#3rdchat—Third grade teacher chat 7-8 pm EST
#edmusic—music teachers 7-8 pm EST
#2ndchat—second grade teacher chat 8-9 EST

#artsedArts in Education Chat—7:30-8:30 pm EST
#escchat– Elementary School Counselor Chat  - 8-9 pm EST
#KyEdChat—Kentucky Educators Chat—8-9 pm EST
#Langchat—Foreign language chat—8-9 pm EST

People to Follow

@MrPiercey—5th grade Google Certified teacher from Kentucky—founder of #KyEdChat—posts lots of awesome stuff. Click [here] to follow Donnie Piercey.
@mattBgomez—kindergarten teacher, #kinderchat moderator—awesome tech integration ideas. Click [here] to follow Matt Gomez.
@KleinErin –2nd grade teacher with a fantastic blog full of ideas for integrating technology. Click [here] to follow Erin Klein.
@TechNinjaTodd—White House Champion for Change and all around technology genius.  Click [here] to follow Todd Nelsoney.

There are many awesome people to follow, and I can't possibly list them all here, so check out my:  Kentucky Educator List [here] Educators List [here] to find tons of great people to follow.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Beginner's Guide to Twitter in Education

Shortened URL to this page: 

This is something I put together for a Power Lunch session for teachers in my buildingSessions last about 15 minutes, which is really only long enough to talk to them about the benefits of Twitter - the handouts and resources here, will help them get started later, when there's a little more time.

If links aren't working, you can find the information at Piktochart, [here]

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Library Centers for Kindergarten & First Grade

Center Inspiration

After much debate at the end of last school year, I was able to get 10 extra minutes added on to each of my classes for this year boosting class library time from 35 minutes a week to 45 minutes a week for my fixed schedule.  For me, 35 minutes a week, just wasn't enough to pack in all the awesomeness I wanted to achieve.  It seemed like we would just be getting started into something great when it was time to go. I was thrilled to know that this year I was going to have the extra time to work with my classes on research skills and technology projects while working in more time to allow them to browse the shelves and look at books.  That being said, truth be told, I was completely freaked out about what to do with my kindergartners for 45 minutes.

Did I mention in my former life, I was a high school English teacher?  Four years ago, my first two weeks in an elementary library were a complete culture shock to me. I was used to walking into a room and just saying "get your notes out from yesterday".  Now all of the sudden, there were small little bodies all over the place; the expression "herding cats" suddenly had all new meaning to me.  I had to do weird stuff like clap my hands to get their attention and say things like "put your bubbles in".  (The only reason why I knew to do these things was because I called my cousin Megan, a preschool teacher, and she gave me the magic).  I figured out how to establish routines eventually, but have always struggled a bit with fully engaging the attention of the really young ones.  The prospect of adding ten additional minutes with them was, in short, daunting. 

At my previous school, where I had 45 minutes with older grades only, I had done a lot with centers, and they had worked like magic in keeping the kids moving and engaged. I was hoping that I would be able to introduce centers for my younger kids with as much success. I had been collecting ideas for Library Centers and Short Activities for quite a while on Pinterest, in the hopes that I would some day be able to implement centers again - or at the very least design some "I'm finished what can I do now" strategies, so I figured this was the perfect time to try to put it all to work. Check out the board below or find it on Pinterest [here]

Designing the Centers

As I was setting out to establish which centers to use, from previous experience, I knew it was going to have to be something easy to manage daily and the activities were going to have to be simple to explain and simple enough for students to be self-directed. 

Last year, I had read The Centered School Library by Cari Young, and found that I really  missed centers.  I loved the ideas in the book so much I suggested it to the other elementary TL's in my district for a book study this past summer.  I wish, when I was first getting started with centers a few years back I would have known about her blog.  There is no end to the creativity that Cari has and I would love to be a student in her library!  You can find Cari's blog [here] (the blog moved - her old blog was [here]). You will also find a link to purchase her book on her new site - please don't miss that book if you're just getting started with centers!  Cari is also an incredible resource on twitter, follow her [here].

For my own purposes, I wanted consistent themes to my centers to help establish routines with the little dudes, and I was stuck on what would be appropriate.  I sent out a plea on Twitter to Matt Gomez, a pretty inspiring Kindergarten teacher (follow him [here] and don't miss his blog [here]).  Thanks to his retweet and some great Twitter brainstorming, I was able to settle on these centers for kindergarten and first grade: Read, Retell, Write, Computers, Words, and Explore.  

Center Descriptions

My centers are pretty basic right now, but at their heart they align fairly easily to CCSS, and reinforce skills they're working on with their classroom teachers. 
  • Read - students check out their books and then have time to look at what they checked out or to look at magazines we subscribe to in the library.  I would eventually love to have a listening center associated with this center, but the kids have had such a great time just exploring their own books, that I haven't looked into ordering anything yet.
  • Retell - I bought some very small stuffed animals and for this center the kids can choose to retell a story they know together or they can practice reading and retelling what they read to the animal.  I mostly give them "challenges" like "retell the Three Little Pigs" or "retell a story about Halloween" or "retell the problem of the story we read last week".
  • Write - For this center, I requested a list of Sight Words from my kindergarten and first grade teachers and made portable Word Walls, which I discovered in the Scholastic post "A Kindergarten Writing Center in Action" by Sharon Taylor, which you can find [here].  In this center, the kids use their word wall, that has one page of sight words, and another "themed" page of words to write and draw pictures.  Currently the first graders are writing sentences about Fall, and the Kindergarten students are writing their favorite color word and drawing a picture of something that is that color.
  • Computers - Is admittedly a bit of a challenge.  Currently the kindergarten kids are practicing logging in and out of the computer - if they can successfully log in, then they get to choose a student appropriate link from the library web page.  I think it's good practice with logging in and out and using the library page - but it can be a source of frustration for the kids who have a hard time logging in, on the flip side, they're pretty motivated to make it happen, and I'm amazed at how much they are able to remember!
  • Words - In this center students practice with words.  Right now I'm getting my ideas from The Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) which you can find [here].  Specifically, I'm using the Vocabulary Word Knowledge for K-1 as inspiration for activities (found [here])  , but be sure to check out all the center activities which are linked [here].
  • Explore - Students in the Explore center are exposed to a number of different library resources that deal with a particular theme.  Currently the kids have a basket of "fall" themed books to choose from - I have a variety of things from football, to leaves to how to draw books, to poetry books they can explore.  This center is pretty open, and I think that I can potentially expand on the types of materials they have to explore in the future and would like to add a speaking component to the center.

Center Organization and Rotation

Center time really only lasts 15-20 minutes and coincides with student checkout time during their library session. I have all six centers stored in bins and expandable file folders in a "Materials" center in the library.  

Each student is assigned to a table, and I have center signs displayed in the library that I clip tables to weekly.  When the kids come in they immediately look to see which center they get to do.

I glued top-loading page protectors to the outside of legal sized, colored expandable file folders to slide directions into for the Write and Words centers.  First grade center work is located in red folders, and kindergarten is in blue.  This makes it easy for me to see who gets what. The folders are just big enough to fit portable word walls and paper students need to write.

To make it easier, I deliver all materials to students at their tables.  We have been doing this long enough now, that the kids are pretty good about cleaning things up themselves and returning it to the materials center.

At the beginning of library time, I spend usually two minutes telling kids which center their table will be working with and I give some quick directions for each.  Hearing these same directions each week, helps to establish the expectations and routines, which can be difficult because I only see them once a week.  For the centers that are a little more involved - like writing and words, I usually try to sit down with them for a few minutes to get them started.

Introducing Centers to Students

I didn't end up beginning centers with students until about a month into school this year.  By this time, the kids were already accustomed to using centers in their classrooms, so it really helped in making the introduction easier.  When I first introduced the centers, I showed students where to find the center signs ( I still point to those each week), where to find the actual center materials, and then I went over each of the center types.  For the first week, we spent the entire library time working with the center materials.  The next week, I showed them how the center for their table had changed, and we practiced again. It took us about 30 minutes to work with the center, clean up and then hear a story.  By the fourth week, things were really rolling and kids were getting right to work, completing their work and cleaning up on their own in 15 to 20 minutes.  The time investment in the beginning has really been worth it.


Transitions are pretty important for students.  To help with transitioning from center time to library lesson time, I use a lot of cues.  The most effective I have found is using Class Dojo (find it [here]) to not only monitor behavior during center time, but also to award points for students who clean up promptly.  Class Dojo has a built in timer, and at the end of center time, I set it and give students 1-2 minutes to clean up.  I always tell them, that they have 1 or 2 minutes "to get cleaned up and show me they are ready to learn."  They know that means to have everything put away and be sitting with their hands still and eyes on me by the time the buzzer goes off.  It's amazing!

Where I Hope to Go

In the future I would love to include more developed ideas like Cari Young has in her library.  I also would love to incorporate a Maker space where students can gain inspiration from library materials to create!  I also really want to incorporate more technology and make use of our computers better. Currently I only have access to iPads when other teachers aren't using them, so it isn't really practical for me to include them in my center plans.  I will for sure be advocating for more consistent access to iPads so that I can use eBooks in the centers, have QR codes that link students to verbal directions for their center, and design web-based or app-based lessons that help students practice important library and developmental skills.  Currently my 3-5 graders are working through some project based learning (see that post [here]), so there's no time for centers.  Later this year - we may see that center based learning will work for them.  My second graders are working through 9 different activities on an activity sheet, and when they are finished with those, I may begin more of a structured center experience with them - but right now they are really enjoying having the freedom to choose, and they are working so hard, I don't want to disrupt their motivation.

Do you do centers?  If so, how do yours work?


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday Teacher Tips - November 12, 2013 - Attention Getters, Rosemary Wells & EdCampNKY

These were the tips I shared with my faculty today. Links are in brackets.

A Few Classroom Management Tricks and Tools

t’s that time of the year when the barometer is dropping, the moon is full (ok it’s not, but it feels like it) and of course we just had our first snow—in November!  It’s the perfect storm for the kids to be a little more “enthusiastic” (and by enthusiastic we all know I mean wound up).  This might be the perfect time to revisit procedures or introduce some new  things that will get your students’ attention and help them manage their own enthusiasm.

First, check out Angela Watson’s post “How to Get Students to Follow Directions The First Time”, on the Cornerstone by clicking [here]. In the post, Watson suggests, 9 ways to get your students to stop and listen to directions.  Some of my favorites are “the 3 before me rule” and the “magic word”,  which I would likely make sloth or even better the phrase “Goonies Never Say Die” as in: “Goonies Never Say Die!” pause for dramatic effect—”please get out your pencils.”

Here are a few more “Attention Getters” from AtoZ Teacher Stuff [here].  The “Finding Nemo Attention Getter” is probably my favorite on the list.  Say “Shark Bait!” when you need to get your students’ attention, and they repeat “Brew-ha-ha” until the class is settled.

An app for that

There’s also a great  app called “Too Noisy” for iPhone or iPad.  Click [here] to see the website. The app has a noise meter on it, and it allows you to control the sensitivity.  When the class is too noisy, the noise meter will point to red and you will see a smiley face turn to a frown.  You could share the meter with your class by placing your device under your document camera or by using something like AirServer if your computer and device are on the same network.

Celebrate Picture Book Month with Rosemary Wells

For Picture Book Month, be sure to check out some favorites by Rosemary Wells. The Max books, Bunny Cakes and Noisy Nora are all time favorites.

Be sure to check out the Rosemary Wells website by clicking [here].

Read about why Wells believes picture books are important to a child’s cognitive development, by clicking [here].

Find her on twitter [here].

EdCamp Unconferences, a New Way to Get Professional Development

This weekend I attended EdCampNKY hosted by the Northern Kentucky Education Action Council Team 2. It was three hours of professional development unlike any professional development I have ever been part of.  There are no rules and no real formal presentations.  It’s all about what you need, and if you’re not getting anything out of a session, you just get up and leave, and find another conversation to join.

When I arrived at Boone County High School on Saturday, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I checked in and got a paper that described the general format, then saw the schedule of “sessions” projected on the wall.  Sessions run about 30 minutes, and you create sessions as you go.  A few teachers from Ft. Thomas wanted to learn more about RTI, so they created a session, and people showed up and started sharing ideas.  A few others asked me to help them with Twitter, so I started a session and sat with three people and helped them get started.  There were a few somewhat “planned” sessions where teachers shared technology ideas and presented about apps to use (I learned about Too Noisy in one).

Basically, the experience was awesome because I got exactly what I needed, and it was empowering to know that if I wasn’t getting what I needed I could generate my own session so that I could get it.  I love that it embraced the idea that teachers are the experts, and that we have a lot to share, and I really love how teachers from all over the area came together to work together.

Click [here] to see a Smore that describes EdCampNKY, you’ll notice the “Possible Topics” list—we didn’t even get a chance to talk about many of those—but could in future camps. Click [here] to see Erika Bowles Storify from the day (compilation of tweets from the sessions).  Also, follow Erika Bowles (Longbranch Elementary Principal) on Twitter by clicking [here].

The next EdCampNKY is going to be at Highlands High School on December 7, 2013.  Even if you have all your PD hours, you should try to go to see it in action.  And really, you will be surprised at how much you have to share.  Be sure to search the hashtag on Twitter #EdCampNKY to see more of what people are sharing.