27 minutes | Jun 6, 2022
Episode 46: Diversity in Texts
In this episode, I am honored and humbled to be joined by 3 professors from the University Wisconsin Stevens Point to discuss and opportunity that is incredible important to me. Their passion and excitement is infectious. In previous episodes we have touched upon the increasing diversity and adding perspectives of those in our classroom and as the resident social studies teacher. That is my, my life goal. To be sure all people are heard. Amber, Stacy and Jackie provide incredible insight and resources to deliver just that. Check out their bios. Where To Start? The first step "would be to look at your social studies curriculum and see where you think you can bring in additional voices. And I would start small thinking about one unit, whether you're a third grade teacher teaching immigration and you've historically taken the perspective of the lens of European immigration and of 1800s into the 20th century or you're looking at that in a more sophisticated middle school or high school level. Start thinking about what voices are underrepresented. Then look for a text. There's amazing texts that tell the Ellis Island story and they tell multiple voices within that experience. Even now we have a much richer alternate experiences to immigration documented through text. We have access to those people through live interviews we have that we can record for our students. We have access to video. So when we talk about text sets and creating these dimensional resources, we are really looking at text broadly, including visual images, video, multimedia poetry, songs, you name it. The more genres that you can touch, perhaps the more voices you will be able to incorporate. You could even have students interview their parents or interview other community members, and bring that in to get more authentic voices represented in our classroom. Diversity - Know What You Have Get to know your students who are in your classroom. Know them inside and out. Know their backgrounds. Give them that opportunity to share their story, to bring in their experiences, and then look for how to enrich that by asking, what are my students missing? What lens haven't they been exposed to? What are the diverse voices we can bring to them? Picture Books and Where to Find Them I read the book The Journey about a Syrian refugees experience to my eighth graders. Even the nostalgia and the novelty of reading a picture book is effective. What are the resources? What are the approaches to infuse that, especially if you don't have those people to interview or those unique perspectives in the classroom to be the voice on others behalf? Illustrated texts draw the reader in and help them experience it in a different way. That ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes through someone else's narrative. Certainly a Google search is not a bad place to start when you're talking about a theme, a topic or a text. There's a lot of resources that teachers are sharing in this mode and we can see other people's evaluation of texts and whether it's representative, authentic voice. Dreamers by Yuyi Morales is a favorite of my students who have used this as a research text too. Please support TwoTeachersPodcast by purchasing these picture books now from Amazon.com. There is no additional cost to you. Thank you. Evaluation of Diverse Texts TeachingBooks.net has some questions that guide instructors in selecting texts that are authentic, texts that represent a community of voice while doing its best to avoid tokenism. Teachers might evaluate a text and talk about the pros and cons of using that text. For example, if you find something problematic, like does it turn a viewpoint of a marginalized person into a victim? There are some things like that to be careful about when we're selecting texts. This sometimes happens around the topic of the Holocaust and many other topics.
26 minutes | Mar 7, 2022
Episode 45: Authentic Audiences, Blogging and Fan.School
When students write, their audience is typically just the assessor(teacher). If we want to give them meaning in their writing, we have to give them an authentic audience. On this episode we explore R.A.F.T. and specifically the use of blogging in student demonstration of their learning. We will then reintroduce the new and improved Fan.School(see Episode 33). Authentic Audiences
23 minutes | Feb 21, 2022
Episode 44: Book Club Part 1
Lindy and I have begun a long desired journey to provide a book club to the parents of our students who struggle to navigate the complication and challenges of the adolescent journey. We have chosen to read with our parents(of our students) two books. These books are by Rosalind Wiseman. Queen Bees and Wannabees was the basis for the movie Mean Girls and the companion book for navigating the male world is called Masterminds and Wingmen. Both are incredibly insightful for parents but have an even more incredible implications for educators world of all grade levels. We will briefly discuss a few take ways and will often acknowledge that the real lessons is in the book. Read along or just listen for some gems.
29 minutes | Jan 31, 2022
Episode 43: Engaging the Same Old Same Old
In this episode, Lindy joins us to discuss quick adaptations to everyday practices to increase engagement. We will run through a number of strategies that will not cost more time or money to improve the attention of your students. We like many of you find ourselves leveraging the same tasks throughout the years an are always looking to change it up and grad that attention of the students. What is engagement? Lindy describes engagement in 3 categories: behavioral, emotional, and cognitive. Behavioral is student behave in class, they don't act up, the bring their materials to class. Its their behavior in that class. Then there is emotional engagement. They feel connected to the school community. They are happy to be there. They act positively. When you are giving your lesson they are alert and are emotionally invested in what you are saying. And finally there is cognitive engagement. This is their intellectual engagement. They want to learn and think more deeply about the subject. They ask challenging question. Together this is big picture engagement. this is a long term disposition to learn. What happens to engagement over the years? Over an educational career it is normal for engagement to wain. Think of the complexity and specificity of the learning. Think about the general practice of a kindergarten teacher vs. a high school teacher. Exceptions aside the amount of reading increase, the expectation of compliance raises and the length of the learning tasks widens. In 2nd grade the instruction is designed to be quick, fast paced and interactive. With each passing year those opportunities lessens. Emotionally school continues to be described as enjoyable by the younger the students. Change your practice to engage the kids. You can try writing on novel surfaces. Beyond the whiteboard or Smartboard try writing on the windows or floor. They excitement alone is a great a
19 minutes | Feb 22, 2021
Episode 42: My Problem is Your Problem too. Hopefully.
On this episode I have identified 4 issues(my problems) I am having in my classroom right now(Classroom Management). I will share with you my plan for managing and hopefully improving my classroom with some researched and solid solutions. How did we get here? We have reached the midpoint of the 2020-21 school year. It has been truly exhausting. Teachers are battling the ins and outs of learning modes in this pandemic world. We’ve implemented new procedures to keep us healthy and strained our eyes on the countless hours of screen time. Know and Acknowledge your "Problems" What cannot be lost is the routine that I practice every February. I take some time to receive feedback from my colleagues and my students in my class but specifically regarding classroom management. Then I intentionally reflect on the shortcomings of my practice. I analyze how it affects the students I have right now. I find it easy to slide into the way I know what works. I've been doing this for a long time. The reality is that each group of students, each new year brings its new challenges. I get into routines that may not be the best of practices. I lose sight of some of the great things that I've done over the last few years. This year also brings it special challenges as I try to divide the problems that I have because we're in a pandemic with the normal challenges that I would face in a typical year. I believe that this is truly important to separate the two. High Expectations Regardless of Circumstances This year is special. I am trying to divide the Covid problems and the normal challenges I would face in a typical year. This is absolutely important. Many months ago I heard someone suggest we drop the language that suggests our kids just can’t and won’t do as well this year because of the pandemic. I’m guilty of this mantra more than once and that is far too many. We must continue to have high expectations no matter the extrinsic circumstances. I know I’ve seen what I call covid learning apathy in my own class. Some students “checked out” during the pandemic in the spring and may have struggled to check back in. Students developed bad habits during emergency virtual learning(out of our control) and have continued those habits. As we all know, unfortunately, some students might have been barely hanging on to start with. And in reality they may have plenty of justified reasons, but nonetheless. I believe that the problems I'm struggling with are certainly manifesting because of the pandemic world. Students in my world are in person, cohorted and near similar people all day. This certainly has exacerbated the issues I might have seen to be minor in previous years. The behaviors wouldn't have existed because they were able to move about the building or have a different partner next to them. Unfortunately, those realities don't exist in what I still consider to be the fortunate, in-person world that I'm teaching. Problem 1: Student work completion So one of the classroom management problems that has been really frustrating for me is student work completion. This isn't a new issue in my class. Students have not turned in needed practice. Untimely completion has been an issue as well. To be upfront, I don't take off points for late work. The grade for the students in my classroom is standard based and thus based on the assessment performance. This change brings along a whole host of needed practices in order to encourage them to still do some practice. They might say that it doesn't count towards their grade. I've certainly overcome this. I have seen the students rise above the "it doesn't count" language and see the value in the practice. Assignment Notebook I have doubled down on the utilization of an assignment notebook or some other tool that the students might use. This can be electronic or on paper. Typically, my eighth graders come to me and the assignment notebook is something that has worked for them a...
35 minutes | Dec 24, 2020
Episode 41: Interview with a Virtual School Principal
This week we are joined by Brandon. He is Principal and Teaching and Learning Specialist extraordinaire. We hear from Brandon who is full of tips for managing the madness of the virtual classroom now and whenever. "Not to be lost is that this is still a human business no matter what the platform is."Brandon Buchman Background: The district Brandon serves is 1:1 Chromebooks and has implemented the common learning management of Canvas. They primarily use Zoom. He manages approximately 25 teachers who serve about 300 students in the virtual only world. Additional hurdle is the collaboration with in school principals because the district allows students to move in and out of the virtual classroom at the start of each quarter. Teacher Needs The immediacy of needs has changed. The shift in urgency has made the learning demands of the educators to function daily. Providing professional development has become a issue of timeliness. For example, teachers taking attendance or facilitating class discussions has become something to relearn. Regardless of virtual or in person the what and the why have not changed. We want our kids to come to school and love to come to school. We thus have emphasized relationships. Trying to put the work in the front end to reap results in the end. Much of the PD has been around building connection to the kids virtually. Understanding capacity is very important. Each teacher needs to come from their own point a to point b. Maybe mastering the Zoom is the only thing to earn. Eventually these skills become expectations and we can add to the skill set. This progression allows students to get what they need. Teachers Supporting Students Engagement and making learning be fun is important. So many resources(often free) has made our job easier. Attendance Pear Deck templates or waiting room templates that people can grab and use are the little things that go a long way. Teachers have used music pre-lesson to have some fun. Dance parties are optional and can be super cool. It can be another way to take attendance and build engagement. Behavior Management - Virtual Style How do we manage this engagement when you are not in the same space. Non-verbal cues, soft conversation, proximity control are not options like they are in the in person world. So what are we to do? Zoom features can be your friend. You could send the student to the waiting room where you can chat them up to redirect their behavior. This sends the needed message before the "return" to class. Chat feature can be moderated to speak to specific students. Allow them to change their name can be turned on and off. Ultimately a problem solving process needs to be established. We can engage the student and then the family to make the environment more successful. Meetings with all stakeholders are essentially. We've even gone as far as calling the student directly to engage them. GoogleVoice numbers can be very helpful for privacy purposes. Home visits can be a game changer too. DO NOT FORGET to Celebrate the Positives Try creating a Flipgrid thank you. Brandon had the students create a message of thanks for the teachers and then created the same for teachers to students. What will Stick from Virtual Learning Assessment should be the biggest change. How do was assess what students can know and do that they just can't look up on Google. Assessment has to be more authentic to assure they are showing the understanding. You could have your students create podcasts. Having students create TedTalks for example way create that accountability. Offering choice needs to be nonnegotiable. The ownership success can really be quite engaging. We have seen students thrive. This could lead to systematic changes where a virtual platform might be an options. Some kids, for whatever reason, in person is just not their fit. Not to be lost is that this is still a human business no matter what the platform is.
25 minutes | Sep 15, 2020
Episode 40: English Learners During the Pandemic
Today we take a long overdue visit with Jayna who is a long time and exceptional English Learners teacher. She hails from the twin cities and has taught students of 39 different languages and cultural background. She has taught in immersion programs in many countries as well. She joins us to discuss what we could do for our EL students now in the pandemic but also every day in any year. Equity Issues Across the Board Luke and I have discussed this before, but the pandemic has exacerbated the shortcomings of education. Its not our fault, but its true. The pandemic has highlighted a few things. The first hurdle is the communication piece with families especially those who do not have an English speaking adult at home. Scrambling to translate the district website is a good start. However the student loses the practice with the academic language since the practice can not be daily in the classroom. Technological Literacy The families of English learners can often be new to our education system and certainly new (like all of us) to the virtual world we might be teaching in. We are more easily able to address the needs of those with more common language through something like a language line. However it has not been possible to push in to these households during this time to help them with the tech like setting up a hot spot or navigating tools. Now we are in person and are pushing to teach the students about setting up these tools so we are prepared if we go back to virtual. What needs to stick? After the pandemic we cannot just abandon some of these things we've seen. Teachers have had an opportunity to present the curriculum at their level and pace. With EL students there can be pressure in front of peers. In the virtual world they could pause and reflect and then respond. Flipgrid is an example of a way this have been expanded. Learning became more visual which is a common connection among other languages. Things like subtitles in YouTube can be super helpful. Kids can even turn on the translating feature in a GoogleMeet. Seesaw offers some really impressive assistance. The family app automatically translates messages from teacher into native languages. What is good for some students is good for all students.Episode 40 Use Their Native Language They are literate in their native language and sometimes this is forgotten. Provide them with background books to front load content. RazzKids offers some great options. Subtitles could be used in their language too. Provide Audio Direction Audio directions became the norm in virtual learning. This needs to stay. This allows the learners to review what was said on their own time and pace. Some different software can translate the audio. Screencasts can be great for parents to provide that same opportunity. Another app that has been incredible is TalkingPoints. It does not have to be downloaded by the family. It will send a text message in the language that you have selected. They can reply from their cell phone in their native language and it will translate for the teacher. New Kid New Experience Create a warm and welcoming environment. Learn their name and learn it correctly. If possible ask a parent to record their name so it can be practiced. Learn some background about their country or culture to connect with them. So important is to consider their cultural norms. Invite the EL teacher in to prep the class. Give the student the curriculum at their language level. Focus on the "Can Do" and Not the Can't Do English Learners come with many can't dos because of the language barrier. Work to promote bilingualism. They are emerging English learners. You can do this by offering things link sentence starters or even share something they know in their native language. Book Recommendation Someone NewI'm New HereButterfly Yellow
21 minutes | Aug 31, 2020
Episode 39: Preparing for the Unknown
Here we sit usually setting up our classroom for the coming year. If you are like us, you might be in limbo with what is to come this year. Today's episode seeks to discuss things we can do NOW even though we are approaching the unkNOWn. We are both in two different places with our plan to return to school. I am beginning with a soft start to ease the students into the protocols of the new world. I will then be providing instruction for all in-person learners. About a third of my normal amount of students will be learning virtually under the instruction of a virtual-only teacher. Luke is in a hybrid situation where he plans and provides virtual instruction and sees the kids once a week in person in a block like schedule. He is instructing students who are in that hybrid and those who have chosen all virtual learning. Regardless of our approach we are entering a world not like the spring. Our instruction, rather than being an emergency, will be more like the experience we would provide in every other year. As we often do, the focus will be on social emotional needs first and curriculum second. No matter what model you are flowing in and out of, we discuss somethings that you can do now. Health First Curriculum has to be secondary in classroom. Health and wellness and student relationship is really number one. To tackle the biggest issue we suggest blue light glasses or, even better, a blue light filter extension. This is not new science but it one of those things that is easy to say that it is not that big of a deal. I've attended so many professional development sessions that mention the detrimental effects of screen time on the eyes and thus the brain. The effects of blue light research is relatively new. In my research to understand this phenomenon I learned quite a bit about it. It, like other colors in the visible spectrum, is good for you. However much like fluorescent bulbs digital screens emit more of the blue light portion of the spectrum. (Harvard article) In our hybrid or all digital world we naturally will be using an inordinate amount of screen time. We are limiting the distribution of paper and will likely be communicating with our students (and them with each other) on a screen. We need to be conscience of potentially limiting our screen use and also lessening the exposure to blue light. Blue light glasses or a blue light filter extension on your computer could be the solution. Blue light glasses might be the answer. You might also use an extension on Google Chrome. (see suggestions here) Social Emotional Needs We need to be sure that the "getting to know you" part of the school year is not lost in the virtual start. I begin the year with a written dialogue with my students. Inside their name tent there is an opportunity to converse with me over the first three days (see template here). This has been invaluable and I would fear losing this. This personal dialogue can be easily replicated over the computer. Flipgrid is perfect for this opportunity and should be at the top of your list. Padlet, too, could be a forum to have students get to know one another when taking turns on a Zoom just would be too chaotic. Not lost as well would be an activity from TwoTeachersPodcast Episode 1: Teacher 2.0. This could be easily replicated in the digital world. Again, Padlet would be a great place for this. An additional step I took this year was to create a word cloud with the things the students want in a teacher. Give it a listen, you won't be disappointed. Remote learning 101 has all of your answers too. Matt Miller from Ditch that Textbook created this free online course for teachers. You can find that here. And much like everything produced by Matt Miller, this course is teaching gold. Digitize your Classroom This could be a bitmoji classroom but Luke and I enjoy a digital syllabus. What we don't want lost is replicating the classroom experience and a hub for resources.
26 minutes | May 18, 2020
Episode 38: COVID Chronicles – Assessing the Situation
On this episode we address how to grade within the inequity of virtual learning and how to set yourself up to be fair. We stumble upon the solution. It is not about the grade(letter, percentage or otherwise) its about the feedback. All students (essentially) are in this same boat. There will forever be an asterisk on this 4th term grade. Can you get evidence? If not, how can you assign a grade based on the body of work the students have already produced. In the end feedback is king.
19 minutes | May 4, 2020
Episode 37: COVID Chronicles – Student Send Off
We are devastated in this virtual learning world that we do not get to bring closure and celebrate success with our students in our physical classroom. With things so up in the air, we do not know if we will have this chance for months to come. Obviously there are some significant milestones like promotions and graduations, but we are talking about the little things too. Join us in the episode as we brainstorm on how to replicate this farewell in the virtual world. No Closure Makes Us Sad We emphasize so often the connection with the students. We also know that it takes 180 days to make some of these connections. Selfishly we feel like we missed an opportunity to build relationships and maybe have less concern about the academics. In that last month, last week or last day, there are so many opportunities to celebrate that friednship or growth of the students(as a person or academics). So how do we send them off? Brainstorming the "End" How does this look and feel for the students for virtual learning? What do we do to complete the journey? How replicate the milestone of promotion? We apologize because we do not have the million dollar answer on what to do about graduation, but we do offer some ideas to help. End of the Year Party? Many classrooms end with a celebration. As much as I wanted to take the curriculum to the last day, I have learned, that this is clerically impossible. Classrooms need to be shutdown, lockers need to be cleaned, students need to connect one last time. Often these parties may just be a reward day filled with outside time, a field trip, visiting teachers, etc. This is not going to happen this year... What about next year though? Bring the students back to their previous year's teacher for one last day. This doesn't have to be in August or September. It could be in December, but put it on the calender. Send them back for some time to visit, meet and connect. Virtual learning idea: Virtual Yearbook Signing Feasibility is obviously a concern. If you are a k-5 building, then this will work for all students except the former 5 graders, now 6th graders. This applies to the now 9th graders as well. Could they be bussed? It might be worth it. The also inevitably leaves out those we have sent on to college. Plan a party for them too. Colleges start late and end in early December for that first semester. Put a "Senior Return" day on the calender to celebrate those graduates one more time. In all likliehood colleges may not physically return to campus untill January 2021. This gives us even more time to connect with our "former" students. Personalized Thank Yous If you are like us, the last days are spent saying thank you to some students and connecting personally with them to talk about how they changed your life. Send them a letter thank you or a Flipgrid. Luke and I are working on another "Thank You Notes." Think of the surprise when they receive a letter in the mail. Think of the personalization of a video to connect with them. This will be worth the investment of time and money and in a many ways is therapeutic for you too.
20 minutes | Apr 20, 2020
Episode 36: COVID Chronicles – Trial and Error
On this episode we take a critical look at what #VirtualLearning has exposed good and bad about education. Our goal continues to be to provide take aways for now and later. We will discuss things that need to be tossed when we return to school and things that need to stick around. Virtual Learning is Crazy The pandemic of Covid-19 is upon us. Who knew that there would be so much "free" time yet we feel so overwhelmed and busy with our lives? We, like many educators, are striving to make this virtual classroom as meaningful as possible while battling equity and engagement issues. We will continue to provide usable takeways even in a real classroom. That journey continues in this episode as we evaluate what needs to go and what needs to stay. What needs to go? Unfortunately, this virtual learning has exposed some shortcomings in education. We are not suggesting that the teachers or the educational system is inadequate in anyway, but rather somethings have been exaserbated in this virtual world. Multiple Learning Management Systems - It is not the learning management systems that need to go. Whether you use Schoology, Infinite Campus, Canvas or GoogleClassroom, they are all great. Its the fact that it is possible that a single student is being asked to navigate more than one of these systems or more in their day. Not enough instruction is being dedicated to teaching the platform. I, like many, help the student navigate the platform each day in class and take for granted them not needing to truly learn how to use it. This have been exposed because now the parents are being asked to help them navigate multiple platforms and it is causing incredible hiccups in the communication system. Communication is critical to engaging all stakeholders. So what needs to go? Pick 1 learning management system for the student(building). Many buildings may very well have a single platform, other may even require said single platform. This is not always the case. Let's help the student and better engage the stakeholders by settling on one platform in our building. This will come with some growing pains, but how much more effective if they become masters of one rather than beginners of many. Tech Proficiency - It is important to make them more profcient at the tech you do use. Now is not the time to introduce a new tech tool. With that being said, find a handleful of tools that are most effective and dominate that tech. We are as guilty as many others of tech hopping; this week its one and next week its another. Email Communication - How do we better communicate without flooding an inbox. This has gotten worse as we have students who have disengaged from learning and their parents are receiving 5-10 lengthy emails a day. A link to a fluid document that provides detail of communication can help this issue. Collaborating better with colleagues to send a unified message. This is a lot of work and we are trying to conquer this ourselves. A quick fix, but it overflows our inbox, is to CC colleagues so they are aware of what is being communicated. What Needs to Stick? Differentiation of Instruction - New, trendy and unavoidable are teachers providing their instruction using audio and video. This is great, but this is not the takeaway. We keep hearing, be sure you are communicating with your students in multiple modalities. YES!!! We have arrived. This should be how it always is. Even if the students are in front of us having the passage read aloud or a video of us explaining it again for our students is immensely beneficial. Use this time to create a library that can be used now and forever. If that student is absent next year, they can now better accecss what they missed because you are on video. Consider mastering some of these tools like Screencastify to use from here out. Maybe you even take advantage of these free trials to create more than what is necessary for this final month or so of this virtual school ye...
20 minutes | Mar 23, 2020
Episode 35: One Week In: Virtual Learning
On this week's episode we share our thoughts, feelings, and reflections on our first full week of remotely educating our students from home. We take a look at what's worked and what struggles we're having during this time. When we recorded Episode 34: Remotely Educated virtual learning was a coming reality for Tom and a potential for Luke. Here we are days removed from that conversation with some advice and reflection from what we presumed from the start and what we know is most important now. We, ourselves, have done quite a bit of virtual learning. Stay connected, but not too connected. We are ones to be attached to our phones and our thus our email. We welcome the contact from our students at all hours of the day. I am not opposed to checking my email as I lay in bed to reply to a student concern or question. This obviously is our choice and not the choice of others. Separating yourself from email is more of the norm and needs to be with virtual learning. We have found that students are working at anytime of the day. Some students choose the regular school hours others are working in the evening. We have found it beneficial for organization and sanity to limit our "available" hours. We have discovered that creating available hours creates an urgency for the students to communicate and get the work done. If you choose to communicate outside of those hours, that is up to you. Last Minute Virtual Learning? Some of us have been thrown into this situation given little or no notice from our district or state to move toward virtual learning. We reference back to our previous Episode 34 when we discussed non-negotiables for this learning. It CANNOT be just something to do. In the rush we encourage you to focus on reinforcing tasks and extensions of learning to get a handle on maybe how and if you are going to teach anything new in this virtual classroom. At the very least outline the amount of time that your students should be working on a given subject an than offer a set of options for the to fill that time or extend that time if the original assigned task is completed. A BINGO board or menu of options works well. The Parent Perspective - Create Structure Give the students a schedule. Collaborate with others in your school or grade level to create some common routine for your students. In the case of my 1st grader, this comes in the form of a GoogleSlides presentation. Each slide is a separate task for the day. Don't for get to include recess, art, music and brain breaks. These are some of the things that keep hte kids motivated. Instead of GoogleSlides, it might be a checklist or what the students might write down in their assignment notebook. Mandatory or Optional Districts have taken varied approaches with virtual learning. Engaging the students in something new, may not be an option. This reinforces the extension and review approach that we have encouraged before. If you've been mandated to make this an optional opportunity for your students, try to engage them nonetheless. There are plenty of students looking for the chance to grow. Use those successes as modeled motivation for the students who are not quite as interested in jumping at this chance to learn. Engaging the Disengaged When we approached virtual learning last year, it was just one day. Many students took the approach, "its one day, I'll make it up later." This situation is much more complicated. "I'll do it later" approach is not going to work. The students who are not as self-directed and benefit from daily interaction with the teacher are struggling to engage in this learning. We are not physically there to be with them through the process. This becomes inherently inequitable. We are still here and we still care. This is not our choice to have these days off.TwoTeachersPodcast We need to leverage all the stakeholders. Reach out to parents, utilize the experts in your building and in the end contact the student via p...
18 minutes | Mar 13, 2020
Episode 34: Remotely Educated
In this episode we address some very pressing teacher needs. What do you do with many days of virtual learning in a row? Remotely educated students have very different needs. Our conversation starts with what to do if your district is not so fortunate to be 1:1 in the tech world. We then share some go to tech and ideas to maximize learning when the teacher is not directly present. This is a difficult but potentially valuable task. School Closings due to Health Related Emergencies Here we are in a crazy time. In attempt to flatten the curve and manage the transmission of COVID-19 many schools across the country have closed for 14+ days. For many this is around spring break and thus lessening the unplanned burden on families and teachers. For others there is no good time for this to happen. We are placed in an awkward situation trying to prove our classroom value in a rather difficult to manage situation of delivering quality instruction to our students remotely for 2-3 weeks. Equity is an Issue In our districts we are fortunate to be 1:1. Our districts have made arrangements to provide Wifi hotspots for students without internet, which is actually a small number. Not so many areas of the country are as fortunate. Expecting a teacher to deliver through technology may not be a luxury. We also worry about those who depend on school for breakfast and lunch. Its been heartwarming to see the many companies step up to provided assistance for those in need. I just saw a tweet where a local cable company is offering free internet for families without. No Tech Ideas What it really comes down to, we must just do the best we can. If given the preparation you may need to put together a packet or documents to guide the students. Maybe there is a way to communicate to the families, but the consistent use of tech is not. This packet may be the only option. There is the possibility of designing a bingo board. Maybe including measuring your room or reading for 20 minutes. Another approach is to emphasize reinforcement of skills. At this point of the year we've taught our students many things. What can we go back to in our curriculum that can be emphasized? Without instruction we worry about poor practice without the opportunity to provide quality feedback. At least in the short term, "Reinforce the things they already know, skill building and sustaining the knowledge they already got rather than building on it." For the long run we can work to build some virtual instruction than can then work toward new learning targets and goals. Non-Negotiables for Virtual Learning It can't just be something to do: Maybe write a rationale to show the purpose. Something similar in the "real" classroom should be practice anyway, but communicate why they are completing what they are. Reasonable amount of work time: We operate in classperiods from anywhere from 45 minutes to 70 minutes. Expecting the kids to replicate a 7-8 workday is crazy talk. 30 minutes is plenty for each class. Afterall this might still be a 3-4 hour day depending on the requirements of other classes. We are thinking a 10-20 breakdown. Start with instruction, a video, a podcast, etc. for 10 minutes. After that assign 20 minutes of work, note-taking, writing, processing, etc.Accountability: We have to be sure that they are doing what we asked them to do or we lose the potential value in these virtual days. In our district we are using these daily checks as evidence to count the students present or absent. We are also hosting Google Hangouts during "office hours." We have a district wide 2-hour window when all teachers are available. Canvas or Google Classroom/Docs are great for electronic turn-in and feedback. This must be frequent; daily or every other day. The kid needs to know "this is real, this is school and this is happening." Luke's Ideas for Access to tech. (personal or school provided) Peardeck - You can put student guided notes and monitor tha...
17 minutes | Mar 9, 2020
Episode 33: March Map Madness
This week's episode is a conversation with Eric Nelson, creator of FanSchool. FanSchool is a platform that gamifies world politics and increases global competence through a fantasy sports type competition. This is an incredibly engaging tool to engage students in world and nation news. It offers games that interact with states, countries or even US congressman. It is definitely worth the time to consider and even pass along if it does not fit your classroom. We enjoy it because it doesn't have to dominate your class time, but is a great reference for talking about the happenings around the world. Or as Eric says in the interview, "If I was the distributor of news to my students, they were not as interested in it." March Madness Style Games Luke is a veteran to the March Madness style games in his class. Tom is more prone to relying on FanSchool to facilitate the game. Luke's creation is one of a kind though. He has created M.A.R.C.H. Madness. For this M.A.R.C.H. is an acronym for Most Accomplished and Revered Citizen of History. Feel free to make a copy, alter the names, and PLEASE share your creations as we would love to make ours better! Good Luck! What is FanSchool? Eric taught 9th grade civics in the Minneapolis area. He was frustrated that he students were super connected but not really learning about the world. He stepped back to reassess what could be done. He discovered the fantasy sports mechanism is the best content distribution and engagement mechanism in existence. Over the years he was able to scale this by using code and open APIs to allow others to do it too. How does it work? There are two styles of games. First there is what are called fan games. These are the fantasy sports games for classroom use. In these you draft countries, states or congressman. Once you have a team, you earn points based on mentions in open API newspapers like New York Times, Twitter and ProPublica. These can be run anytime. Fanschool also runs more timely themed games, like the Olympics. How is this scored? Two types of scoring takes place. Both are operated through machine reading of these publications from around the world. Most scoring takes place through the mentions of a country, state or congressman. Countries can also earn points through what is called tone. Tone is a rating system from -10 to 10. The positive value is assigned, again through machine reading, when a positive event comes out of a country, like economic aid, treaty, etc. This is a necessary part of the system as it encourages students to root for and seek positive news. Its for this reason that my students know where Seychelles is. How is it engaging students Students through this are encouraged to seek understanding of events in another part of the world. They care about who is being mentioned as well as what is be mentioned. It creates an excitement around what is happening around the world. How are teachers effectively using the platform? Eric used the platform to help develop thesis statements and summaries. He "head fakes" them into an engagement in the news. Rather than create a thesis statement he asks for a White House brief. The idea was to brief the president every Friday about what is happening in your country. Another class has the students all draft 1 country from the continent of study. From this they are encouraged to do a deeper dive into specifics in the news. Rather than show a student news channel(sorry Karl), I use FanSchool to drive that conversation. How do I get started? Go to FanSchool.org and click on resources. There is so much to do there including the get started steps. There are tutorial videos as well as resources for using it in your classroom. The best way to begin is to create a league and with a student draft a team. This will show you the ins and outs of it. The free version is enough to get started with a single class of students. FanSchool is incredibly responsive to questions and y...
14 minutes | Mar 2, 2020
Episode 32: Respect The Process(ing)
On this episode we take a look at what is a bit of a new revelation to us as teachers. It is definitely something that should've been (and may have been) explained to us in our teaching education. This revelation is the concept of effective note taking. Furthermore, focusing less on what is written and more on what we ask students do as their post-writing retention process. This is where the episode gets its namesake. After note-taking, or any lesson for that matter, some sort of processing activity or study habit must be completed. This must be done in many repetitions to avoid what is sometimes referred to as the "Curve of Forgetting." (Researched by the University of Waterloo). Need to know more about this curve? This video may help. Note taking: Not new, but important! We know note taking is not a new thing. Over the years of teaching, we've gone back and forth on our note taking. What priority should it be given? How often should we be doing this? How do we teach our students to take notes? What is the best strategy? We have arrived at a conclusion: it is less about the notes and more about what you do with the notes. This is why we called the episode Respect the Process(ing). The emphasis is not just on the process of note taking but also on the processing of the notes. New to us, but not knew to the world is the rate of forgetting. We feel like that this is something we should've been taught in teacher education school. Google the term "rate of forgetting" or "curve of forgetfulness" and you get many results. We came across these two posts: Post 1 and Post 2. Both are variations on how repetition can combat this forgetting that we are all prone to. One of the conclusion is that the brain can forget 90% of what was learned within 24 hours unless repetition takes place. Sometimes notes feel like a tedious unfruitful task, but with these moments of repetition slows the forgetfulness immensely. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/05/whats-the-most-effective-way-to-take-notes/ What do we do to increase repetition? It does not matter as much how the notes are taken. It could be copying from the board, dictating from a lecture or video, filling out a model from science or completing practice problems in math. Each note taking method has its value in and of itself. Some of the formats might be outlining, T-chart, mind map, Cornell notes, etc. Again, in the end, it does not matter. Give the students a purpose for taking the notes. This purpose lies in what you do with the notes when you are done. It can't just be you'll need this to study for the test. It has to be more purposeful especially if they don't know how to do that. The purpose becomes the processing of the notes. For example, in Cornell notes the students write a summary at the end. They write questions and key concepts down the left side. These are the steps that require students to think about the notes. Luke uses a Quizizz to reinforce the main parts of what he had the students take notes on. These are the moments of repetition that even in a couple attempts they will remember more. Another approach to create the first opportunity of the notes, you could have the students pair up and ask/answer self-created questions. This is so simple and so powerful. Students should try to respond to questions without using their notes and highlight the notes they struggled to recall. In doing this, they are essentially checking their understanding. Create "Desirable Difficulties" In the article, Fail Productively..., they describe the challenge that must exist in learning to make gains. "Read through your notes" to study for a test is what I am guilty of saying far too many times in my classroom. The article states there must be some sort of resistance. "It’s like physical exercise: you need to feel a bit of resistance to make significant long-term gains." Turn the notes into a self-quiz. Write a summary at the end.
15 minutes | Feb 17, 2020
Episode 31: New Student? New Opportunity.
On this week's episode, we converse on some equitable ways to welcome a student into your classroom especially in the middle of the year. The statistics on student mobility are just as shocking as the experiences that are causing students to move; some necessary, some unfortunate. We will share some easy strategies to help that student become a learner among your learners. Student mobility is a far too common struggle for many students. Statistics in some cities of the Midwest have 25%-30% elementary students moving at least once a year. Most states do not have accurate tracking statistics, but as Luke points out, knowing how many is not as important as knowing that a particular student has moved. Reasons for moving could be described as unfortunate, necessary, warranted, etc. Some of those "moves" are structural moves. This means that they may even becoming "new" to you from a neighboring school, another hour in the building or somewhere within your district. It doesn't matter why they move, when that student joins your class there are so many things you can do to make that a positive experience for that child. "New Student" Mindset Step one is to be a positive leader of the "new student" mindset. We know, as many do, how difficult it can be to receive a student in the middle of the year. Obviously it pales in comparison to their possible "hidden story." So once we do our private grumble about adding another kid to our classroom that is already overflowing, we have to turn that mindset around. We need to be the beacon of positive for all those that that student will meet to ensure they feel welcomed. We need to be the leaders of perspective and it cannot be just "another kid." The dynamic of adding a student to your class changes depending on the age of your students. Middle school students can tend to be apathetic with a little curiosity where as elementary kids are excited about a new addition. Much like my boys coming home to me after school to announce in utter excitement that a new student is joining class tomorrow. Our age group does not exhibit this same enthusiasm. We accredit this to the disruption to the friend groups and social hierarchy that a new or even returning student might cause. Success is typically achieved in the transition of the new student but this makes our role even more valuable in facilitating this process. Preparing the New Student To prepare our new student it could be as simple as reaching out to the parent or student beforehand to assist in the transition. We like the strategy of training a mentor or buddy. If you know the new student a bit, you can pair them with someone of similar interest. If not, think of the many positive role models and assign them to this role of being a mentor. You may even be setting the new student up with a positive friend relationship. Another quality idea is to simply announce the arrival of a new student. This allows the opportunity to prep the rest of the students. We take this opportunity to use one of the TwoTeachers "go to" words of EMPATHY (See Episode 6). We talk about the feelings of arriving to a new place and potentially not knowing anyone. This is also the opportunity to let the students know where the new student is sitting. This gets you off the hook when that new student shows up and despite your best intentions in the hustle of the day you had forgotten they were coming. Your students, then, take the lead to help the student find their place. Ready for the New Student What is at their desk? That depends on the grade level of the students. We recommend at least having basic supplies for the student. They don't need to use it or take it, but now they are automatically prepared. This might be only a pencil and a notebook. In elementary, where the desk might be a more permanent spot for the day, this might be a box of crayons along with a pen or pencil and other supplies. How do you welcome them as a class?
21 minutes | Feb 10, 2020
Episode 30: Get Board Certified Already
In this episode 30, Luke considers the possibility of pursuing his National Board Certification. In this discussion, Tom, who is NBCT and a certification cohort leader gives his best sales pitch on why this is something all teachers should do and do it now.
18 minutes | Feb 3, 2020
Episode 29: Avoiding SUBpar Plans
Episode 29 shares our thoughts on creating plans for a substitute teacher that will ensure success in your classroom while you are away. We share some of our secrets for sub plans and discuss some potential dos and don't that may go onto your plans. After listening to this, you will deserve a day off. Luckily we got you covered with these recommendations. Obvious and Legal Sub plans should be in a common, communicated and obvious location. Luke's hangs by his door and Tom has a folder on the top of his desk labeled "SUB PLANS." Luke takes i a step further and recruits students who know the procedures and are tasked with checking in with the substitute teacher. Emergency PlansClass Rosters (accurate and up to date)Seating ChartsIEPs/504 - Not the original but rather applicable notes for that day's lesson. The exception here might be a behavior plan that details a certain process for the substitute teacher.Health Information - Unfortunately, this could be life or death.Class Schedule Academic Must Haves You must ensure that you are not wasting a day of instruction, but rather setting the substitute up to be successful in replicating what you would normally in the classroom. Rationale / Context - Set the stage for them. What objectives came before and where are you going. Be explicit.Screenshots / Pictures - With students on tech this allows the sub to see what the students might be seeing. Another benefit is they can better hold the student accountable to being on task on that tech.Behavior Management Explanation - How do you normally handle common behaviors in the classroom?FAQs - You've likely taught the lesson before or assigned a similar task. What kind of questions might they ask? Optional Additions What else might be beneficial for the sub in the sub plans? List of students who could be helpful.Share your lesson plans with the students too.Write-up about the classroom culture. Yes, typically we work in groups. No, students can not have their phone and when they do, I typically just ask them to put them away.A list of "problem" students. DO NOT call it that and do not make it negative. A potentially harmful situation would be to write negative things on paper, display it on the desk and to have a student view that. It may also create a fixed expectation for the substitution. INSTEAD make the "These Kids Could Benefit From..." list. Write comments like, "Johnny could benefit from check-ins throughout the lesson." "Johnny may need reminders to keep him on task." "Johnny has troubles getting started. Please encourage him a few extra times." Ultimate Sub Plan Template - Coming Soon!!!
14 minutes | Jan 27, 2020
Episode 28: The Perfect Parent Email
In this timely episode as we come to the end of the 1st semester, we share our 5 keys to writing the perfect parent email. We share some strategies to be sure we infuse empathy, concern, compliment and even gratitude into even the most difficult to write email. (*disclaimer: a phone call home will always be better*) Create Context - Important to be brief but do not forget to create context. Paint the picture so the parent understands what you are getting out. This might be the 15 minutes leading up to the meat of the email or may be the days leading up to the need to send the email. Regardless, don't just speak about the incident, positive or negative.CC Someone - A third set of eyes can help better deliver the message. Consider CC'ing the student so there are no secrets among the stakeholders. Our favorite is the counselor. This can give them the opportunity to follow-up, provide context, or congratulate the student if the email is a positive message.Sandwich Method for Feedback - Take the "Positive-Suggestion-Positive" approach. It can be difficult to find the positive when the suggestion is one addressing a concern. You can hearken back to a positive from a previous quarter. Then you would explain the changes you've seen. Luke suggests begin sure you have sent a positive email before so the negative is not the first interchange you have with the parent/guardian. Check out Episode 16: Magic Words for more about finding ways to phrase the positive.Goal-Oriented Message - This can empower the parent. Talk about what can be done or what you would like to try to improve the situation. Even if a conclusion is not met say something like, "I look forward to working with you toward the solution."Be Grateful - Parents are working hard. Over the course of our combined 19 years it has occasionally felt like we were not getting the support and follow through at home. We must acknowledge that no matter the degree of support we feel, the parent is trying. They are likely managing different behaviors, battles or hidden stories at home too. Thank them for their support. Its a great way to end the email.
14 minutes | Jan 20, 2020
Episode 27: Discussing Discussion
On our first episode of this new calendar year, we share our favorite ways to get kids engaged into high quality discussions centered around your classroom content. Luke shares what is called "I Wondered, They Wondered." In this strategy you really set the students up for success in asking questions and then sharing questions with one another. A great way to read and process a primary source, text, experiment or word problem. Use the link provided to try this in your own classroom today! Tom shares what is called Philosophical Chairs. Here is a link to a great Edutopia article that explains it. Especially what is called the rules of engagement. Some of my favorites are the "Listen to seek to understand" and "Summarize the previous speakers argument before sharing your own." Those are just 2 of the essential rules to assure fair and safe discussion space that is not a debate but a discourse. Try them both. You will like them.