School is back into full-swing for many schools by now. Amid back-to-school supplies, carefully-designed units, and seating charts, remember to maintain a vision of those things that are most important. Here are a few of our favorite reminders.
#1: Brene Brown’s Leadership Manifesto
(and while you’re at it, perhaps her “Engaged Feedback Checklist,” too. Both of these come from her latest book, Daring Greatly, which is definitely a worthwhile read for any educator!)
#2: Bill Ferriter’s essential technology reminder
#3: Ann Lander’s wisdom on child autonomy
#4: Dr. Haim Ginott’s realization on a teacher’s daily influence
#5: And this.
Or maybe just a poster that says, “Serenity now!” Have a great 2014-2015 year!
Featured Image: (only visible on mobile devices with current layout) Nick Amoscato
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change” (Eckhart Tolle). That’s why we’re contributing to the dialogue on gender differences in education.
#1: Challenges exist for both genders
Author and literacy advocate Pam Allyn has written several powerful articles that rally the public to recognize educational barriers to girls’ education across the globe, such as this one here, here, here, and here. She urges us to take action on terribly serious realities, including the fact that two-thirds of those who are illiterate are female. She has established “LitWorld’s girls’ LitClubs that meet around the world, sometimes in secret, to read together and write together” (“For These are All our Girls”). With all this action on behalf of girls, one might expect that Pam’s work is limited to that sex. But it’s not.
She has also written Best Books for Boys, in which she highlights several obstacles to boys’ reading, including the following: “the testing mania and the idea in our culture that learning is symbolized by children sitting quietly in their seats has been, in some cases, defeating for active boys” (p. 21). She regularly writes articles about all children, and the stories they have to share (such as this one, or this one). She even founded the Books for Boys literacy program.
There’s an important pattern here: one of recognition and action for all children. Those of us involved in children’s education must be willing to acknowledge that academic barriers exist for boys and girls alike.
#2: The challenges for each gender are different
Evidence of the unique educational challenges for both genders is mounting. We list a few points below.
Girls often receive cultural messages that undermine their self-images as learners, explorers, and thinkers. A recent commercial by Verizon illustrates this:
In the developing world in particular, girls are also faced with lower rates of enrollment due to a variety of cultural reasons. GirlEffect.org released a powerful video highlighting that cycle:
Boys often receive cultural messages in the classroom that passions and dispositions common to their gender do not belong. A recent video by Prager University summarizes the way this impacts boys’ education:
The rates for post-secondary degrees are consistently lower for males than females. Some of these numbers are shown in the infographic by National Student Clearinghouse below:
#3: 76% of teachers are female (source)–and that really matters!
Author Leonard Sax extensively researches gender differences, and has cited several ways female teachers might pay closer attention to the differing needs of their male students. One such difference lies in what’s more visually appealing to females than males. Says Sax:
“…boys are more likely to draw a scene of action, such as a monster attacking an alien; girls are more likely to draw people, pets, flowers, or trees, with lots of colors. The people in the girls’ pictures usually have faces, eyes, hair, and clothes; the people in the boys’ pictures (if there are any people) often are lacking hair, clothes, often the boys draw mere stick figures in one color. How come? The usual answer “Because that’s what we teach them to do” is unpersuasive, as I explain in Why Gender Matters. On the contrary, many of these boys insist on drawing these pictures not because teachers tell them to draw such pictures, but in spite of the teacher’s repeated pleas, “Why do you have to draw such violent pictures? Why can’t you draw something nice – like what Emily drew?” (source)
Another difference he discusses is hearing, even citing it as a possible contributing factor for the more frequent ADHD diagnoses for boys over girls. “…the average boy may need the teacher to speak more loudly–roughly 6 to 8 decibels more loudly–if the average boy is to hear the teacher as well as the average girl hears” (source). Teachers need to be aware of such differences to ensure they do not unintentionally favor their female students.
Awareness Point #4: Comparing which gender struggles more is unproductive to progress
As author William S. Wilson wrote:
“Comparisons deplete the actuality of the things compared.” (from “Conveyance: The Story I would Not Want Bill Wilson To Read”)
Articles like Bryce Covert’s “Enough Mansplaining the ‘Boy Crisis’ — Sexism Still Holds Back Women at Work,” offer criticism when concerns are raised for one gender, because they feel the other gender is more victimized. However, such comparisons undercut our collective efforts for children; we need “all hands on deck” in order to address the educational struggles facing all our youth. With objectivity and compassion, let us endeavor to understand and improve the state of education for children everywhere.
No one likes dedicating time to an unproductive, thankless task–especially if you’re a teacher maintaining a class blog that no one checks! Here are 10 of our time-tested strategies to improve your blog, and to encourage your students and parents to visit.
Some teachers see this word and want to run for the hills–after all, the list of educational strategies with this recommendation could probably stretch for miles. However, the good news is that this doesn’t have to be a time-intensive commitment when you employ one or more of the following tips:
Maintain a regular post structure so you don’t need to design a lengthy, creative piece each day. For instance, start each post with some quick highlights from the day, followed by a list of homework, and ending with upcoming school/class events. See my old class blog for an example.
Copy and paste content from the previous day and just make changes as needed. With the above example, you can just edit the highlights section and update any homework/events.
Download the app for your blog’s platform if it’s faster or simpler for you to post from your tablet or smartphone!
Use the post scheduling feature (included on both WordPress and Blogger) to publish at an exact time each day (that way, you can prepare it whenever you have a few minutes, but you won’t have to worry about hitting “publish” at a specific time after school).
#2: Use Tags
Add a tag or two to each post to help students and parents easily navigate your archives. Be sure to remember to add the tag widget to your sidebar as well!
#3: Share Pictures
Students of every age love seeing their pictures, and parents love seeing their kids in action at school! The result: an effective way to draw in your audience. This is where your platform’s app may come in handy as well so you can post directly from the device with which you took pictures. Of course, you may find you’d prefer to microblog your pictures using Twitter, but you can always also add a Photo Gallery section to your blog for students to explore. For posts with pictures, remember to add a “pictures” tag!
Creating a few drop-down menus of organized student and parent resources is a fantastic way to increase your blog’s usefulness and traffic! If you’re an elementary school teacher, you can make one page for each subject area that’s packed with links to relevant games and tools. However, be sure to screen every link, both for safety and for quality–even young students are tech-savvy enough to see through an arbitrary list of “games” that aren’t actually fun! Check out our list of student favorites!
#6: Don’t Get Discouraged!
It may take a few months before your class blog catches on with a regular traffic flow. Just keep looking for ways to make it as useful as possible for your students, soliciting their ideas to find out what resources would help them!
#7: Layout: Go for Simple
Ask yourself: do YOU enjoy looking at busy web pages with patterned wallpapers of dogs or bright bubbles that make the words difficult to discern? Keep the colors solid behind all words, and play with fonts, sizes, and text colors to ensure easy reading.
In all the back-to-school paperwork, be sure to promote your class blog link as much as possible! Let parents know the link is in your email signature, and remind them as necessary throughout the year!
#10: Throw in Intermittent Rewards
A fun way to encourage visitors is to periodically throw in an incentive. Give students a “Secret code word” in your post every now and then, telling them to write it on a slip of paper and to covertly hand it in the next day for a treat or bonus.
Whether you are looking for games to add to your class blog or to your class computer bookmarks menu, we have compiled ranked lists based on games most visited and praised by 5th graders over several years! All the games are free and kid tested. Be sure to check out other ways to improve your classroom blog here! (All links last checked for safety and functionality on July 29, 2016).
Class meetings are more than about discussing logistics or class management, although those are benefits, too. It’s about creating an environment where everyone can feel comfortable to speak their minds & learn from each other!
#1: Develop as Risk-Takers.
“Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller
We all develop inhibitions through the years as we become fearful of failure. This kind of mentality, however, is absolutely stifling to any real learning. We must find authentic ways to show students we welcome risk-taking, rather than just telling them we do. Class meetings are a perfect way to do so! Because of their low-pressure settings, they have the capacity to help even the shyest students to slowly build their confidence over the year.
#2: Cultivate Relationships with Students.
In the blur of lunch count, P.E., and grading, it’s easy to get caught up in the logistics of school, neglecting personal relationships. However, most of us began teaching because of people–as it should be! Class meetings provide an appropriate, dedicated environment for sharing personal experiences–ones of celebration, loss, anticipation, anxiety, and just plain silliness. Such sharing renews and strengthens our most important priority: the students with whom we work.
#3: Social Skills.
Listening, turn-taking, appropriate responding, articulating ideas–these are just a few social skills developed in a class meeting environment. As teachers, it’s easy to react to apparent deficits in these social skills during instruction time with consequences–but what students often need more is additional practice and examples of people effectively using these skills!
#4: Opportunity for Meaningful Discussions.
This benefit is best illustrated with an example from my classroom. On my first day back at school after a week-long illness-related absence, we gathered in our circle. Students quickly began to report that behavior was not always at its best with our substitute teachers, which led to one student volunteering the statement, “Some kids think, ‘Well, I’m not going to get anything for it, so why should I be good?’” This led to one of our most animated and earnest conversations of the year. As they explored and debated this question, the class eventually came up with the following thoughtful answers, among others:
No matter how smooth your classroom management or arrangement, the fact is, issues invariably arise each year with each group of students. From desk arrangements to concerns about homework loads, students will pick up on small details teachers overlook. When you give them the opportunity to voice concerns and then to discuss them as a class during regular meetings, the classroom starts to truly become a shared, democratic environment instead of one run by one imperfect person. While a class meeting should by no means be the only opportunity for student voice, it is one helpful medium!
5 Set-Up Tips
#1: Establish rules and routines first!
No matter how old your students are, it’s essential to start by discussing expectations. To help them understand the shared nature of class meetings, make sure these are not your expectations, but what the class truly expects from one another during the meetings. Make a shared list, have students sign it as a contract, and post it in the class meeting area for a visual reminder. Have a couple of practice trials that emphasize the expectations, and model some of those skills by role-playing with students!
#2: Start With a “Talking Circle” with a “Talking Object.”
“Talking circles are more successful when the participants have trust with each other. Taking time to share stories, build relationships, explore values, and create guidelines for participation helps everyone feel physically, psychologically, and emotionally safe in the circle and creates a foundation for courageous acts of sharing.” (Winters, A.)
Have students start by sitting in a circle, and one-by-one, passing a “talking object” that declares that they have the floor for sharing. (My students have always loved using a Koosh ball for this purpose).
#3: Put out a Suggestions/Compliments Box.
Place this box in an accessible location to give students the opportunity to share compliments for the positive acts they notice from classmates, or for suggestions to help the classroom run more smoothly. We recommend making and printing your slips to provide a template that includes lines for names, solutions, etc. Remember to model to students what quality compliments and suggestions look like (which will avoid excessive “You are nice” slips, or complaints without ideas for solutions)!
#4: Establish a regular weekly meeting time.
If it matters to your students, it should matter to you! Set aside a regular weekly time, even if it’s only 15-20 minutes. If assemblies or field trips shift the schedule, discuss with students whether they’d like to reschedule that week to help them know it’s still a priority!
#5: Allow Flexibility.
During the Talking Circle, we suggest that you leave the sharing open-ended, rather than giving students a prompt. We also recommend that you give them the choice to “Pass” on their turn to keep it from becoming a stressful, pressured situation.
If teachers want to truly prepare students for the future, we must accept that social media is not going anywhere. Read on for tips on getting started in Twitter as an educator!
“Isn’t Twitter just another mundane way to micro-share everything in your life?” “Twitter just seemed too complicated with all the symbols and rules.” “Even if there are educational resources on Twitter, I just don’t have the time to join another social media website.”
Do any of these thoughts sound like you? If so, you’ve come to the right place, because we’ve been there, too! This article is designed to help you understand its benefits as an educator, as well as to provide basic steps and ideas to get started–all from the perspective of a fellow educator!
5 Reasons You Should Join Twitter As an Educator
#1: Professional Development:
We very purposefully place this reason first! Resources like Twitter are the reason professional development is increasingly becoming a personalized experience at schools. Once you establish yourself with few educational hashtags combined with tools such as TweetDeck (see Simple Steps below), you will instantly have a wealth of current topics and resources to explore. For example, check out the screenshot that I randomly took of my own Twitter feed below:
Just glancing at the feeds, you can see resources and conversations ranging from math fact apps, to tips for using QR codes, to ideas for supporting inquiry! Many professional development days at schools currently involve the entire staff listening (often halfheartedly, especially if it doesn’t apply to them individually) to a couple of admin-selected trainers. Envision PD instead becoming days when the staff breaks into groups to spend the day truly exploring their areas of professional interest/needs–reading/discussing articles and contacting experts online with questions. Twitter has the potential to revolutionize each teacher’s development as professionals not only on a school-wide basis, but on a personal basis as well!
“The Twitter shift puts each educator in control of her own professional development with self-direction and personalization of content at any time…during planning periods or outside of the school day…If I want, I can get a daily dose of professional learning to go with my early morning cup of Joe. Through the Twitter platform, I discover best practice, research, solutions and ideas delivered to me in 140 characters or fewer, for just in time learning.” ~Meg Ormiston [source]
The relevance with regards to using Twitter goes beyond just relating to our more tech-savvy students (although that can be quite significant as well)! It goes back to what we described in professional development above. Twitter is an incredible vehicle for teachers and other educational experts to quickly and effectively share their most innovative and valuable ideas. If we continue to “go it alone,” despite the ready availability of such a goldmine, we will quickly lose touch with the growing possibilities within our own field.
“Social Media is here to stay. Its form may change, and certainly the applications we use will not remain the same, but the idea of openly exchanging information in whatever forms it is produced is not going away. As educators we can use it or lose it. If we don’t start to understand and use this technology soon, we will lose the opportunity to harness it, because we will be irrelevant. We don’t need social media to teach, as much as we need it to learn.” ~Tom Whitby [source]
#3: Help Students Recognize Global Society
As long as our discussions regarding current events and issues throughout the world remain within the confines of our own classroom, such ideas will continue to seem remote to students. Once we use Twitter to communicate with individuals actually involved in those issues and/or living in those places, students will begin to see themselves as real participants in a global community.
“Educators who participate in Twitter networks are well placed to support students in the use of relevant digital technologies because the Twitter community shares knowledge, resources and expert advice.” ~Tania Sheko [source]
Resources like Twitter provide educators with heretofore unheard of levels of genuine, global collaboration. We are perfectly poised now to share what works and what doesn’t, to seek and receive feedback when we’re stuck, and to showcase examples of great student learning. This last ability in particular can create increased community connectedness as parents truly witness and participate in their children’s learning. Classroom learning today looks drastically different than it did a generation ago–it calls for increased focus on process over product, on problem solving skills over memorized facts, and on student ownership over teacher control (see more ways learning has changed). Parents, administrators, and fellow teachers need to see the benefits of such changes in order to cultivate understanding and support; in other words, we need transparency across the board to further improve teaching and learning practices!
“…they started with the why, and then created a vision for sharing beyond the walls of the classroom. Their purpose was to share with the community the great things happening in classrooms in the three-building prek-8 school district.” ~Meg Ormiston [source]
#5: Professional Development
Wait, did we say that already? Yep. It’s that important.
“Imagine if every teacher shared just one of their best sources with other educators, who in turn could tweet them out to the tune of 700,000 tweets in a half hour. Everyone would benefit. The idea here is to get educators familiar with the concept of connectedness and its possibilities…” ~Tom Whitby [source]
Simple Steps to Get Started
Twitter is less simplistic than other social media platforms when it comes to maximizing its use, especially in a professional capacity. However, it is well worth the time invested in establishing your own Professional Learning Network (PLN–check out our article on building PLN’s here). We have included some simple steps below to help you get started! Also, be sure to check out the 13-page Handbook from plpnetwork.com, which breaks down definitions and steps in easy-to-follow detail.
Set-up a username using the @ symbol (called your Twitter handle)
Upload a picture and short bio to help potential followers know who you are!
Download TweetDeck! In our view, this is an essential tool to manage your time on Twitter, because it allows you to easily scan through happenings in your favorite hashtags, as well as your own notifications and news feed. Just add columns by hitting the + icon, or by searching for individual hashtags/people and clicking “Add Column.”
Start following individuals and leaving comments to grow your network.
When you start creating Tweets, if you want to share a link, be sure to use URL shorteners such as Bitly or Owly to conserve your precious 140 characters!
Start participating in educational Tweetchats, which are scheduled at live times for people to have discussions. Many hashtags schedule regular Tweetchat times for their followers to have live discussions (ie, #pypchat schedules every other Thursday at 7pm Eastern Time), and keep an eye out on educational blogs you follow for their scheduled chats!
Check out the Infographic to the right for additional information and details, as well as the PLP Handbook!
Practical K-12 Uses
If you teach at a BYOD school (Bring Your Own Device) or in another circumstance in which mobile devices are 1:1, the ways for students to use Twitter in the classroom are broader. Below are some specific ideas.
Debates: Your students can engage in a voices-off debate in which they must articulately craft their responses into 140 characters.
Research: The possibilities are endless in collecting both secondary and primary resources on Twitter–particularly since experts on virtually every topic are available to give short responses to tweets.
Build their OWN PLN: Students can begin networking with other individuals and experts who share their interests, well beyond just a pen-pal capacity.
On the other hand, if your students are very young, if your school does not use BYOD, or if, for any other reason, you are the only person with access to Twitter in the classroom, there are still incredible and practical ways for you to use it!
Microblogging: Download the Twitter app to quickly snap photos, upload videos, and post Tweets on amazing classroom happenings with your mobile device! Add your own classroom hashtag to each post to keep them organized in one place! (Read our article on when and how to blog vs. microblog!)
Parent Involvement: Not only can you boost parent involvement through microblogging, but you can also host your own regular Tweetchats using your classroom hashtag! Simply share with parents the above steps to get started on Twitter, and then give them the date and time for your chat! You can either set the topic in advance to generate interest and ideas, or you can have an open forum for questions on homework, school events, projects, etc.
Facilitate Student Research: You don’t have to let students’ inability to personally tweet hold them back when it comes to their research! When students generate their own questions and consider who would be knowledgeable on the topic, you can act as their Twitter research facilitator by sending tweets to experts on their behalf!
Seeking feedback for student work: This is similar to the above idea, but with the additional idea of sharing all student work! Using hashtags such as #comments4kids–designed specifically for sharing student work with other classrooms–you can share their essays, questions, blogs, and more, with the added benefit of receiving feedback from other classes around the globe!
Happy Tweeting! We’d love to hear your success stories in the comments!