Monday, September 14, 2009

Pick One and Give it a Shot

For all those teachers with whom I with on a daily basis, you already know that I am a pain in the butt. This used to bother me. There was a time when I would often reflect and ask myself, "why are you such a pain?" Those days are far behind me. I've not only accepted that I am this way, I've embraced it. In fact, I do believe I am one of the top pain in the butt people in the state of Illinois. If you don't believe me, just ask anyone with the last name of McPherson in Genoa, Macomb or Bloomington, IL. I am sure they would be quick to confirm my lofty status.

I am aware that educators are currently inundated with a ton of stuff. And I am aware that more and more is being asked of teachers. And......teachers don't have enough time to do it all. That is why I am asking teachers to pick one, just one, of the following items and try to implement it somehow over the next several weeks. I know it will be difficult for some, but I wouldn't push so hard for this if I wasn't sure that it would have a positive impact on our students. So....pick one and give it a try. And after that, maybe pick another and give that a try.

  • Google Docs-Create a survey on Google docs and ask students to respond. (Gmail account necessary) Great example. This can be a great time saver as the responses are tallied/graded for you.
  • RSS Feed Reader-Have students set up a feed reader for a particular subject. Utilize this as a research tool.
  • Wiki-Create a class-wide reference list for a topic you are studying through wikispaces (free to educators).
Social Studies:
  • Online Map Puzzles. Great for review of states, capitols and/or countries.
  • An example of Youtube videos describing history. This one is on Railroad history. Also, a great blog.
  • Eyewitness accounts to many events in history. Great resource for kids to supplement texts. Maybe use to compare how history is told by different resources?
  • Learn the Periodic Table through Tetris.
  • In addition to other things, Tutor-USA offers math tutorial videos.
  • Need graph paper? Over 40 examples here.
  • Fun math games at all different levels.
The Red Sox have taken a commanding lead in the wildcard. Still very concerned about their pitching, although Dice-K and Bucholtz have looked great lately. I am confident that Jay Cutler will bounce back and lead the Bears to victory this weekend. (Cutler and I are tight, I follow him on Twitter. Pretty sure we're on a first-name basis.)

Tunes to consider: Tiny Dancer, Elton John. (Great clip from the movie Almost Famous.) Get Back, Beatles and Bird Song, Jerry Garcia Band.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Legends of the Fall

Fall is upon us. So many great things are going on this time of year; the Bears are undefeated, the Red Sox are planning another playoff run, kids are smiling at school and my Saturdays are spent at football games watching my daughters cheer. (You know you're a dad of cheerleaders when you walk through your middle school cheer practice and you know all the cheers by heart. Some guys are busy this fall building things, or working on cars, or taking motorcycle rides. Me? Just doin' a few cheers in my head. I actually own my own pom poms. I own my own pom poms! I've really got to re-evaluate this whole "support your kids in all they do" notion.)

Ok, so maybe not everything about the fall is great, but's just an exciting time of year. By the way, Legends of the Fall is ranked number 8 on my all-time favorite movies list. Along with Roadhouse and Shawshank Redemption, it's one of the few movies I'll watch every single time it's on. article review for all you crazy kids out there:

In the Classroom with Deirdra Grode

ASCD, Sept 2009
Education Update, Volume 51, No. 9.

Formative Assessments can create great opportunities for kids to reach high levels of achievement. Additionally, it's a great way to improve instruction. Benefits, according to Deirdra Grode:
  • Frequent evaluation lets the teacher know when re-teaching is necessary.
  • Frequent evaluation also projects areas of instruction that should be improved to increase student learning. This gives teachers immediate feedback as to what can be done differently next time.
  • Surveys make for an excellent tool to gauge the needs and understanding of students. (Google docs!)
  • Examples of formative assessment that can be used in the classroom: Ongoing testing, multiple draft submissions, student conferences, quick surveys, using individual white boards and writing workshops.
It's occurred to me recently how truly test-oriented we really are. And when I say we, I mean we. When my kids at home have a test, we make sure they study for it. We review with them before bed and the next morning over breakfast. But if they have a project that involves creating something? They are on their own and mommy and daddy take the night off. This is twisted, right? On this subject.....

Will Richardson weighs in during an August blog entry on the focus of schools. For instance, instead of asking our kids how their spelling test went when they get home (or kids in your class), consider asking your kids some of these questions:
  • What did you make today that was meaningful?
  • What did you learn about the world?
  • Who are you working with?
  • What surprised you?
  • What did your teachers make with you?
  • What did you teach others?
  • What unanswered questions are you struggling with?
  • How did you change the world in some small (or big) way?
  • What’s something your teachers learned today?
  • What did you share with the world?
  • What do you want to know more about?
  • What did you love about today?
  • What made you laugh?
These are great questions to ask our kids. The last two may very well be the most important questions you can ask your kids or students. After all, harvesting passion and joy will lead our kids to happy lives.

Finally, the subject of social media and it's place in the world has been a hot topic of conversation. As stated many times in this blog, I have found social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to be extremely useful when used properly. Whatever the possibilities are, its tough to ignore the influence of social media on our kids. The video below goes so far as to call our current era a revolution. Maybe John Lennon was right after all...

The Red Sox are holding steady at 3 games up in the wild card. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games. I'm still very concerned, for a team that had a ton of pitching depth, we are down to basically 3 starters. But hey, Billy Wagner can pitch every 3rd day for 1 inning, so we got that going for us, which is nice. Can't wait to see the Bears and Jay Cutler on the 13th.

Tunes worthy of your exploration: Chicken Fried, Zac Brown Band, California Stars, Wilco and one of my all-time favorites, Flowers on the Wall, The Statler Brothers. If you haven't heard this one in a while, call it up on youtube and enjoy.