Friday, December 15, 2017

20 ways to take care of yourself over the holidays

The days leading up to the holiday break can be event-filled and stressful for educators. I want to encourage everyone to make time for self-care during the holiday break. We have to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others.

Here are some ideas for self-care over the holidays.

Be social

  • Write and send an encouraging email
  • Write and send a thank you note to someone who’s not expecting it
  • Invite a friend to meet you for coffee
  • Bake cookies for a neighbor or friend
  • Call a friend or relative 
  • Visit a nursing home

Nurture Yourself

  • Drink a cup of hot tea
  • Light some candles
  • Take a brisk walk outdoors
  • Read a good book
  • Write a daily affirmation
  • Create a vision board
  • Go to bed earlier
  • Start your day like Jessica

Get creative

  • Visit an art museum
  • Try a new recipe
  • Learn a new dance
  • Do a craft project
  • Create your life soundtrack in iTunes
  • Wake up early and paint the sunrise

Finding time to nurture yourself can be a challenge. It's especially hard if you're not used to making yourself a priority.

How to create more time for yourself

  • Wake up 15-30 minutes before everyone else and meditate in the quiet
  • Get your coffee ready the night before so it is ready for you in the morning
  • Don’t check email until you’ve done your “chores” or “to-do list”
  • Turn off notifications on your phone & apps
  • Create “no electronics” times during the day
  • Consolidate your errands

I would love to hear how YOU take care of yourself over the holidays! Please leave me a comment below or reach out to me on twitter

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Low-prep ways to incorporate writing activities in a lesson

Low-prep writing activities

When was the last time you got to be the student and the teacher?

Recently, our teachers attended a workshop where they got to be the student and the teacher. In the 45-minute workshop, they did 5 different low-prep writing activities as a student. Afterward, they put on their "teacher hats" as we discussed the activities and how they could be used in their classrooms. 

When the "teachers" walked in the room, they became "students." The slide above was projected on the screen as they were entering and signing in.

After I gave instructions for the workshop, I projected the next slide which had the bellringer for the day.

I chose about 10 different words from that would apply to the different subject areas that are taught in our school and created a Word Wall. I asked the "students" to write sentences that included context clues, so that if someone read their sentences, they could figure out the definition of the vocabulary word by using the context clues. 

Teacher tip: Leave the word wall up during the unit or grading period. When you find that there is a word that students use often, remove it from the wall and replace it with a new word.

Teacher tip: While students are reading the next passage, read through the cards for sentences to share at the end of class if time allows. Use the cards to gauge understanding. If a student doesn't use context clues, return the card and ask him/her to re-do the sentence. ("The consequence for not doing the work is doing the work.")

When "students" turned in their index cards, they started reading a passage I had printed for them from After everyone started reading, I posted the next slide (above).

Then, as "students" started finishing the passage, I changed the slide to the one above. 

Teacher Tip: Direct students to read the screen as they finish reading the passage. 

Teacher Tip: Create a free account today for you to use with your students! 

After everyone finished their individual summaries, I asked them to work with the members of their groups to create ONE group summary of 25 words. Each group had a different method of deciding how to summarize the passage. Some started with the person's summary that was the shortest and reduced words from it. In some groups, each person read their summaries then they created a new summary from their ideas. 

Instructions for what to do after completing the new summary were posted on the screen (See slide above.) As a group finished, if they asked me what to do next, I would simply point to the screen. If a group member started walking towards the basket with only the group summary, I would look at the other group members who were seated and ask, "Is your group member forgetting something?"

Teacher tip: We need to teach students how to follow directions. Let the screen do the work for you. Let the group members help each other to follow directions carefully. 

The next activity involved close reading of the passage. will provide questions after each reading passage. I used the questions to help me craft short answer or multiple choice questions and I added the words, "Cite textual evidence for your answer." 

At the bottom of the handout, it read, "When you finish, turn in this paper to the basket and take out your Chromebook to complete today’s exit ticket."

Teacher Tip: Make sure students don't write, "Paragraph ___, Page ___" as their textual evidence. They should quote the sentence or phrase that makes the answer correct so that when they are studying they have all relevant information in one place.
The slide above was projected when all the groups were finished with summaries and started the individual activity of answering questions. 

The exit slip simply asked them to list 3 things they had learned that day. 

Teacher Tip: If there are a few minutes left after everyone completes the exit slip, project students' sentences from the bell ringer activity, but with the vocabulary word covered up. Ask students to complete the sentence and talk about why or why not the sentence used good context clues. 

Teacher Tip: Use the feedback in the exit tickets and the results from the questions about the reading passage to inform the next day's instruction. 

What do you think about these low-prep writing strategies? 

Which one could you use in your classroom tomorrow? 

I would love to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Permission to disconnect

It's Sunday afternoon as I write this, and as I sit on my back porch watching the squirrels play and the leaves fall, I am in awe of the beauty in front of me. I celebrate the past week of visiting with family and friends and having my college-age daughters home for a bit. 

It's hard to believe that the week is almost over... feeling so long at times and so short at others. I feel the Sunday angst and excitement creeping in, knowing that tomorrow is back to the place where lives have an opportunity to be changed for the better. 

I'm so grateful for the students and staff at Hoover High School. They make me a better person and educator each and every day. Last Monday, I sent an email to the staff and shared a recent blog post from David Geurin. I also emailed to simply say THANK YOU. 

In one of the responses I received, a colleague sent me the following words:
I hope you intentionally step away from all things "technology" - unless of course you need to google a recipe or do some online shopping! 
Invest in your beautiful girls and your hubby...and Mom and Dad and extended fam!! 
You work hard balancing so deserve a little break! 
Thank you for being faithful to care deeply and encourage much!   
Blessings abundantly!
It was at that moment that I made the intentional decision to step away from social media for a good part of the week. While I love technology and being a connected educator, I am grateful for my colleague who sent me the email and encouraged me to unplug for the week. 

I can't say that I completely unplugged, and during the week I read an article by Mike Ushakov titled, The Right to Stay Offline. Needless to say, the title caught my attention and the article resonated with me. As I read it, I thought about others who seem to be constantly "connected" on social media. Perhaps they need permission, too. 

It's in today's quiet time of reflecting about the past week that I go back to something my mom taught me a long time ago. 

She said this to me when I got my first retail job in college, 

"The person in front of you is always more important than the person at the end of the phone line." 

That phrase has stuck with me all these years, and I have told it to my daughters, too. 

While my mom could have never predicted then what our world of communication would look like today with cell phones, texting apps, and social media, I think her lesson still applies. 

We must connect with those that are "live and in person" with us. 

This week, I've done just that, and I am grateful for both my friends online and my friends and family that are in front of me.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Are twitter chats 21st century PD?

When we get our teacher or administrative certification, it doesn't mean it's time to stop learning. In fact, for most educators it indicates that the learning has just begun. 

In a school - a teaching and learning organization - having educators who pursue learning is vital. When teachers and leaders actively seek out learning opportunities and apply what they learn about the most up-to-date strategies and information, the result is meaningful change and growth in the organization. 

Traditional, face-to-face professional development sessions can get a bad rap. 

To be honest, I've been to my share of sit-and-get PD that lacked creativity as well as any opportunity for participants to collaborate with each other. In fact, over my many years as an educator I'm sad to say I've attended PD/trainings where the speaker talked the entire time with little interaction with participants. Can you relate?

Because of these experiences, I have been very intentional in planning PD sessions at our school so that they are engaging, interactive, and informative. 

Here are a few examples of PD at our school:

Last week, many of our teachers attended a workshop I led during the school day (they attended during one of their off periods) where the focus was on writing as a literacy and learning strategy. Teachers wore their "student hats" for most of the period, then they put on their "teacher hats" as we debriefed after the lesson. 

By the end of the lesson, they had done 5 writing activities and collaborated with their tablemates. This was no "sit and get" session, and the next day, several teachers implemented strategies they had learned from the workshop.

Also, last week was my week to moderate the weekly twitter chat #ALedchat. (As a team of five people, we rotate the moderators so that each of us have the responsibility of deciding on the topic and crafting the questions only once every five weeks.) 

Twitter chats are interactive, engaging, learning opportunities for teachers and leaders. In one hour, many voices are heard. Opinions, ideas, and links to other research and information are often shared as well as practical ideas. When you're a practitioner, it's very valuable when you can read/see what other educators are doing in different schools. 

Participate does a great job curating the chats. (Click HERE to read the transcript of the recent chat, "All about assessments.") Since we have the ability to archive a chat, the chat becomes a "rewindable lesson" where questions and answers can be re-read and reflected on. 

So where am I going with all of this? 

Isn't it time teachers are rewarded with professional development credit when they participate in twitter chats? 

There are still many districts and schools (and leaders in them) who don't participate in twitter chats or even understand the learning opportunities that are available on twitter every. single. day. No... it's no "face to face" meeting with a neatly printed certificate at the end of the session, but I am a firm believer that sometimes much more professional learning is happening on twitter than in a PD room. 

What do you think?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave me a comment below or reach out to me on twitter.

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