Friday, October 21, 2016

Students Teaching Teachers-Mystery Skype Edition!

Back in September, I was asked to work with a group of middle school social studies teachers about Mystery Skype.  Instead of just presenting them with the information, I decided to find a class to participate in a Mystery Skype with them.  In my mind, I knew that it would be more impactful, and boy was it! The teachers were engaged, and the questions were powerful!

What is Mystery Skype? Mystery Skype is critical thinking challenge that your class takes part in while Skyping with another class somewhere in the world. Check out this wonderful website to learn more about it!  I refer to Mr. Solarz's site every time I participate in a Mystery Skype!

I shared this experience within a Voxer chat that I was a part of for George Couros' book titled The Innovator's Mindset.  It is because of this Voxer chat (as well as iPadpalooza Austin) that I met Tara Martin!  We began working on a plan for classes in my area to join a group of teachers in her area who were learning about Mystery Skype in Mandy Sikes' first ever PD session for her district!  I could not wait!  I reached out to 2 of my teaching buddies, and they were totally on board!  Instead of Mandy just presenting the information to them, she was creating a "hands-on" experience for her teachers by connecting these classes with her teachers.  The students were becoming the teachers! How beautiful is that!?

Fast forward to today!  I am still on cloud nine when I think about it! My 2 buddies, Nikki Taylor and Lorra Lynch (both teachers at Montgomery Elementary School in Montgomery, TX), did an awesome job in preparing their kids for their very first Mystery Skype of the year!! 

We had a few hiccups when we started, and never really figured out why, but when the connection was made, you could feel the excitement in the room go way up!!

One of the things that I loved most about today, was how engaged the students were!  Each student had a job and a responsibility through it all, and their jobs meant something to them.  There were greeters, and a questioner, researchers, photographers, a think awesomeness!  They owned their learning! I know that they will always remember where Kansas is located because of this experience, and not a single worksheet or quiz was involved!  Check out some of the quotes below!

"It was really amazing."

"It was cool that we defeated some teachers."

"I learned how to narrow things down."

"I liked that we got to use maps.  I learned a lot about where places are."

"I was really nervous at first, but it was fun."

"We had a great experience with Skype!  The students were engaged the entire time and were super excited to guess the mystery location.  The depth of conversation in the room was amazing." Nikki Taylor

"I loved how fast we had to work as a team."

"It made my heart beat fast, and I can't wait to do it again."

"My pulse was throbbing when they asked if the Alamo was in our state."

Me too, friend!!!  It was a close one!

This is an experience that I know the students and teachers will never forget! One of the teachers that we Skyped with today is already looking for a connection!


Tara, Mandy, Nikki, and Lorra...THANK YOU!  Thank you for getting in the trenches today with your students and teachers! Proud to stand beside you all in the joy that is education!!


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Today I Sat In A Class And Read A Book...

Today, I sat in a class and read a book, The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros.  I sat in complete silence while other students sat with their novel groups and read with intent and powerful interest.  One group was on the floor, casually laying on comfortable pillows.  Another group was lounging on a couch in the corner.  There was even a student reading in a bathtub filled with pillows. That's right...a bathtub!  Their teacher was also fully immersed in her book of choice as well!  Every now and then, I would look up from my book, and so many thoughts would fill my head.  One being, that this environment was truly fostering a love of reading.  

That became even more evident when I was invited to have a "book talk" with a group of students.  Another thought I had was that I couldn't wait to come back to read with kids again.  I couldn't wait to walk in a room, find a spot to read, and dive into a good book.  I loved being a part of it today! As I was getting up to leave (I didn't want to!), Ms. Taylor Horn asked if I wanted to participate in a book talk with a group of her students.  I kneeled down on the floor, and just listened.  By the end of our conversation, my mind was made up.  I was checking that book out at the library!  

One part of George's book that I read today was about "8 Things to Look for in Today's Classroom".  One of those 8 is "Time for Reflection".  As a educator, I find that I need time to reflect to grow and evolve into the type of educator that my kids deserve.  I reflect on social media outlets like Twitter and Voxer and as a blogger (I am trying to get better at this!).  The students today were given time to reflect on their reading, and the conversation was so good!  You could hear their passion and dedication to the story line, and how they couldn't wait to read some more. 

One of my favorite human beings to follow on social media is Jen Jones of Hello Literacy.  This is one of my favorite quotes from her.

Just Read.

George says in his book, "DEAR Time should be an opportunity not only for reading but to also "Drop Everything and Reflect".  It is important to give our students a space for enjoyable reading and reflection.  One should not be separate from the other.  Now time to get back to my book!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

#WhatIf I Can't Wait to Blog About What If!

This past summer, I read a book that quickly became one of my favorite books that I have ever read, The Book of What If by Matt Murrie and Andrew McHugh. This book is full of activities and questions for curious readers of ANY age!  A group of us decided to start a What If Book Study in Voxer over the summer after being inspired by the wonderful Marialice Curran, and it was awesome!  We were able to share and converse about all things "What If"!  Matt Murrie even joined in on the conversation! I especially loved reading the book when I was with my niece, Nancy.  One of the first questions that I asked her from the book was "What If Dinosaurs Never Went Extinct?". She thought about it for a little bit, and then the curiosity conversation began! We decided to share her thoughts on that topic by including her in the Voxer chat!  We added her thoughts first, and then the author, Matt Murrie, asked her another question as well as my friend, Jennifer Griffin, about what they should eat to keep the dinosaurs away!.  Check out the dialogue below! 

She loved being involved, and couldn't wait for the next What If question! Another question I gave her was "What If There Were No Books?"  This question bothered her a bit!  I used her response as inspiration to create the Buncee below! I love using Buncee for creation, and used it throughout the book study to design and illustrate my curiosity!!

The point of sharing all of this with you is to paint a picture of pure curiosity! George Couros recently posted about the topic of What If, and included this question:

What if schools always focused on the notion that we should all be “learners” as opposed to “students”?

This question made me think about a part in his book, The Innovator's Mindset, that said, "Kids walk into schools full of wonder and questions, yet we often ask them to save their questions for later, so we can "get through" the curriculum." What a powerful statement! Why are we not embracing a kid's wonder and curiosity each and every day! These are the types of conversations that I want to be a part of with my kids! Please don't let them leave school less curious than when they started! 

This past week, all of the elementary schools in Montgomery ISD started a "What If of the Week" based on and with the support of Matt's book. At the beginning of each week, the What If is announced on the morning announcements and also shared on social media.  We are encouraging students and teachers to share their thoughts in any way that they choose throughout the week on social media!  Check out some of the #MISDWhatIf Week 1 posts below! 

We all make a choice as educators on how we choose to impact the life of a child.  This child is someone's entire world, and our job is an important one. In the words of my buddy, Kayla Delzer, "If it's right for kids, it's right." Words to teach and learn by! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What's New in Flocabulary, and a Super Cool Giveaway!!

I started using Flocabulary last year, and instantly fell in love with what it brought to my classroom lessons and activities.  More than that, I LOVED how much my students LOVED it!

Flocabulary is a website that uses educational hip-hop music and videos to engage students and improve achievement.  The lyrics are on point, and the rhythm is catchy and cool!  We could not get enough of it, and we played some of the same videos on repeat!!  

I loved incorporating it into our fact fluency lessons!  Here is one of our favorite videos from last year!!

Something new this year, that I am really excited about, is the new addition of the Lyric Lab!  Lyric Lab fits right in the Flocab family!  It fosters creativity, student engagement and creativity!!

How does Lyric Lab work?  It is a tool that is built right in within Flocabulary's units.  The students are able to write their very own academic rhymes.  How cool is that!  Check out the tutorial below for more information!

Now, who is ready for a giveaway!! Flocabulary, along with myself, will be giving away 3, year-long teacher Flocabulary subscriptions to my readers! In addition everyone that enters the giveaway will get an extended 45-day, school-wide trial of Flocabulary! You will be able to register and share this access with all of your school colleagues. It will only take a minute to enter!!

Instructions for Entering the Giveaway:
  • Fill out each field below to be eligible.
  • Everyone the enters will receive an email for an extended 45-day school-wide trial.
  • Winners will be drawn at random.
  • You must enter by October 16th at 11:59 ET.
  • The winners will be announced on October 18th.
  • That week, all entrants will receive an email with their access to the special 45-day school-wide free trial.
Good luck, my friends!!