Saturday, December 28, 2013

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2013

If you are new to this blog, you may have missed some of these. I'm excited to share the top 10 blog posts from 2013, and I'm ready to bring in 2014! Enjoy!

10 - Five Time Management Tips for School Leaders

9 - Authentic Assessment: Second Graders visit Hoover High School

8 - "Understanding the Moment" - Lessons from Baseball for Leaders

7 - Collaboration in a High School English Language Arts Class

6 - The 7 Habits of 21st Century Teachers

5 - Using Twitter at School

4 - The Speed of Teacher Trust

3 - Praise Referrals

2 - The Moment that Changed my Life

1 - Google Search by Reading Level

Thanks for joining me for a year of learning, friendship, sharing, and reflection. See you in 2014!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Google Search by Reading Level

I'm very excited to share this awesome technology tip with you! I will show you how to do a Google search by reading level.

First, go to Google and enter the topic of choice. 

Since I'm still amazed by our marine science students who recently taught 2nd graders, I chose to enter "marine life" as my topic.

After you enter your topic, click on the Search Tools button. You will then have an option called All results (see picture above). Click on All results for more options. 

After you click on All results, you will have a drop-down list appear. From the list, choose Reading level

BINGO! Now you (or your students) can choose the reading level of the results. 

I love this tip! Have you used it before? I would love to hear how you or your students use it. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Closing the Knowing-Doing Gap

Heard of the knowing-doing gap? It’s a term used in education and in business… it means sometimes we know things, but we don’t always do them. Having a positive mindset and belief system will help us to DO them and narrow or eliminate that gap.

Dr. Charles Garfield is a renowned researcher in the area of high- achieving individuals. One of the main things his research showed was that almost all peak performers are visualizers. They see it; they feel it; they experience it before they actually do it.

Affirmations are positive sentences that you repeat to yourself each day. Over time, you can change your mindset.

Steven Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, says that a good affirmation has five basic ingredients: it’s personal, it’s positive, it’s present tense, it’s visual, and it’s emotional.

Covey uses this example: “It is deeply satisfying (emotional) that I (personal) respond (present tense) with wisdom, love, firmness, and self-control (positive) when my children misbehave.”

To make the affirmations even more powerful, visualize your affirmation in your mind’s eye or create a visual display. Brain research tells us just how powerful visualization is. If you visualize a red apple sitting in front of you, your brain doesn't know if you literally saw a red apple or not. Your brain can’t distinguish between real and imagined experiences.

Do you ever use daily affirmations?

What other suggestions would you give to someone who is trying to reach a goal or close the knowing-doing gap?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Authentic Assessment: Second Graders visit Hoover High School

Below is a guest post by one of Hoover High School's teachers, Sara Taylor. She recently hosted a day for second graders to visit her classroom so that they could be taught by high school students for part of the day. Talk about authentic assessment! Sara was so excited and proud of her students for the incredible job they did that day.... I asked her to write a blog post describing the experience so that I could share it with you. Enjoy!

Ocean Fun Day: 2nd Graders Visit Hoover High School Marine Science
by Sara Taylor

It all started with Open House – one of my student’s parents teaches second grade and asked if I would ever want to coordinate to have our kids work together somehow.  “Yes!” was my instinctual response at the idea, and visions of possibilities began flashing in my mind.  

After many drafts of figuring out the setup, the concepts, and logistics, I came up with something I’d never done before: a plan to host a second grade class during normal school hours, with all of my students and 2nd graders in one classroom.  Chaotic?  Perhaps, but we’ll give it a whirl!  Here’s how it went down:

The setup for the day was to have my students teach the 2nd graders in a station arrangement, staying with their 2nd graders as they moved from station to station.  Since the concepts were all things they had learned this semester, it served as a fantastic semester review for them.  

Here’s a list of the stations:
·         Why the ocean is important
·         Beach safety (stingrays, jellyfish, beach flags)
·         Sand from around the world
·         Sand experiment (how to tell if it has seashells or coral in it)
·         Beach in a bucket (beach discovery sort)

Stations where the students could touch the animals:
·         Seashells
·         Sea stars
·         Sea urchins
·         Hermit crab

The day before the 2nd graders came, I had my students visit each station to feel prepared for the next day and know what they would be teaching at each station.

As a pre-activity for the 2nd graders, I sent Mrs. Galey a brief PowerPoint and video clips.  I wanted to be sure that the kids had some pre-instruction on rules for touching the creatures to ensure they were handled properly, while also cultivating enthusiasm and excitement for the day. 

Here are a few slides:

As soon as the 2nd graders arrived, it was off to the races!  My students took the reins and started teaching right away.  The “little” kids got Ocean Discovery binders to fill in as they went to each station (which, by the way, they were so excited that they were able to keep them!).  When it was time for the bell to switch classes, I noticed some of the 2nd graders were sad to see their high school buddies go.  Several of the 2nd graders watched in awe in the halls as the students traveled to their next class.  When the next period arrived, the high schoolers took over seamlessly where the last period had left off.

It was incredible to see the high school kids so confident and enthusiastic as they taught the 2nd graders.  The 2nd graders were in complete adoration and eager to learn from the “big” kids.  I found myself being impressed and pleasantly surprised many times as I heard my students explain concepts accurately and enthusiastically.  Many glowed like I had never seen!  There were many touching moments when 2nd graders stepped outside of their comfort zone to hold a sea urchin, practice the “stingray shuffle,” or ask an inquisitive question to their high school buddy.
When they returned to their school, the 2nd graders wrote thank you letters to me and my students.  It was heartwarming to see how much they enjoyed the experience and learned.  I couldn’t resist reading many of the letters to my students, and the “awws” and expressions on their faces revealed that they were just as affected.

Chaotic?  Not nearly as chaotic as I had thought it might be.  The 2nd graders were very well-behaved thanks to Mrs. Galey’s magic, and the structure of the station learning provided authentic engagement for both levels of students.  All in all, an incredibly rewarding day for teachers and students alike!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Looking for Wisdom on a Monday

Today was definitely a Monday.

The outfit I was going to wear didn't look right.

Then I picked out a new outfit, and the black hose I was going to wear had a hole in them.

Then on the way to school, I spilled coffee all down the front of my coat and scarf.

My initial reaction, I admit, was this...

Then I took a deep breath, and reminded myself what I always tell my students:

"You can only control what you can control."

I'm usually telling them that they can't control what other people say and do, they can only control how they respond to it.

So after another deep breath, I thought of the serenity prayer. 

I remember my mom having this serenity prayer in a frame in our house when I was in junior high. I've shared it with my husband. I've said it to my sister.

Today I said it to me. 

And when I got to work (and all day when I had a moment), I played my favorite Christmas song.


I think Casting Crowns is amazing... their soulful sound speaks to me! 

My day got better and I tonight I get to end it with a twitter chat with my awesome PLN.  

What are we discussing tonight?

Do you ever have mornings like this? How do you stay positive?