Don’t Forget It’s About the Kids

The excitement is palpable.  The rush is on.  Meetings, freshly copied stacks of paper, and endless to-do lists lead to sleepless nights.  North America is headed back to school.  All around our country superintendents, principals, and keynotes speakers are getting ready to deliver words of wisdom, words to start the school year off right.  There is much to cover, much new to unveil, there always is, and yet, I have a plea for you.

Don’t forget to inspire.

Don’t forget to keep it about the kids.

That we are here faced with so many new things, but if we don’t love what we do, and if we don’t love those kids, then new initiatives don’t matter.  Then new ideas will not take off right.  Then a new vision will never take root.

Don’t forget that we have dreams too.  That numbers and data and stacks of information is important but so is the need to dream.  We want to be told that we matter, that our ideas matter, and that we are in it together.

You don’t have to speak for long.  You don’t have to say anything fancy.  But start out with the most important message of them all; we are here for the kids.  And then end with it too.  Sure, show us the data, share the new things, but the kids?  That’s where we need to focus.  Not the new, not the clever, not the vision even, but them.  They are the reason we are here.

H/T to my administration who did just that.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

Small Ideas for Better Readers Workshop

image from icanread

I have been discussing reading and writing almost every day these past few weeks preparing for my new job as a 7th grade English teacher.  I haven’t minded one bit either.  It seems if I am not discussing it, I am thinking about it, and that tends to lead to a blog post or five to get my own thoughts straight.  I started to realize that there are little tweaks that I have been using the past few years to make our conversations deeper and to make it run a bit smoother, couple that with new ideas thanks to my amazing PLN, and I am feeling pretty good about the start of school September 2nd.

So if you want students to actually read…

  • Give them reading time in class, even in middle and high school.  We cannot control what students do outside of our rooms but we can give them the gift of time in our rooms.  So even if you only have 10 minutes like me to give in a 45 minute block, give it to students for independent reading.  Make it sacred and believe in it by not infringing in it.
  • Set up reading routines and expectations from day one.  The students will be coming up with how to get settled into independent reading right away as they come to class, as well as what that looks like/sounds like/feels like.  I am taking the time to build a proper foundation because this is so important for the entire year.  Yes, there is curriculum to cover but it will not be covered well if our routines aren’t in place.
  • Have incredible books.  Don’t just rely on your school library, have an actual library in your classroom.  No, it is not cheap, but the investment we put into getting great books pays off when it hooks a reader.   I also use sites like Donorschoose and Books4Schools to get more books.  And yes, this goes even for middle school and high school.
  • Let students choose their books.  We do book clubs later in the year, but overall books are self-selected, with help when needed.  Students need to develop their own taste in books and need to develop deep reading habits, they have a hard time doing that if we are constantly telling them what to read.  I do not have a leveled library because of this, I don’t want students to feel defined by their level, but rather figure out who they are as readers.  I do whole class books as a read aloud to have a shred experience and a shared text to discuss lessons within.
  • Read yourself.  A very simple idea that pays off tenfold.  If you read and can hand books to students, you set an expectation for continual reading.  It also creates a better reading community because you can really discuss books with your students.
  • Do a challenge of some sort.  I have done my own version of the 40 book challenge with a lot of success; every student read more books than the year before because they were trying to get to 40 books.  This year it will be a 25 book challenge instead, due to the limited independent reading time I can offer students.  There is no prize, nor any competition, but rather an awareness of trying to beat one’s own number of books read.  And no, it is not a public challenge.

So if you want them to develop deeper ideas…

  • Use post-its to mark text and jot down ideas.  Teach students to look for things they want to discuss, not just connections, questions, or unfamiliar words.  Those tend to not to lead to deeper discussion, but rather dead end ones.  
  • Discuss what creates a highway conversation vs a dead-end one.  This is a simple analogy that works well; think of your reading thoughts as a highway.  You are trying to create one where there are many places to go, not on that stops abruptly.  Having students act this out on pre-written post-its can get the point across really well.
  • Re-visit post-its.  This is a great strategy for those students that cannot get past their initial idea.  Have them jot something down and then have them continue reading, at the end of their reading time, have them return to an older post-it and add thoughts to it now.
  • Give students a warning before reading time is over.  I do a 2 minute warning reminding them that they need to take time to think and jot something down for them to discuss with their partner or group.  Everyone knows there is no reason to not have anything written down.
  • Give them cheat sheets.  I am all about scaffolding because asking probing reading questions can be hard eve for teachers.  So we brainstorm cheat sheets that students keep on small rings, these rings also have their monthly reading goals on them (one quantity goal and the other two skills goals) that they write.  
  • Model partner conversations.  Have students guide each other on what they can say or how they can push someone’s thinking.  It is often much more powerful coming from peers than a teacher.
  • Create huge goals for reading.  In our classroom, we don’t read to be better readers, we read to be better people that can carry on conversations by being interested and active listeners and speakers.  Yup, my 5th graders could discuss more than just a book by the end of the year, I was so incredibly proud of them.

So if you want it to be better because something isn’t working…

  • Ask the students their opinion.  I survey them at the beginning of the year for their reading habits, but I also ask them throughout the year what is working for them and what it isn’t.  Sometimes really small things can be the cause of distractions and can be easily fixed but we won’t know that unless we ask.
  • Videotape yourself.  I found out I talk too much and don’t see kids lose interest through video tape.  Film yourself teaching and then watch it with an open mind.  No one is perfect and there is always room for improvement.
  • Ask a colleague to watch you teach.  This can be one of the hardest things for us to do and yet it can be one of the most powerful.  I have an open door policy in my classroom at all times and if people happen to wander in during a reading lesson, I always ask for their opinion.  They always have something valuable to teach me but you won’t know it if you don’t invite people in.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

A Few Podcasts

I never know what to say on  the podcasts I am invited to, and yet, I always have a great time speaking to the amazing educators, hosts, and just generally nice people that invite me on their shows.  I have I had the chance to join a few wonderful podcasts but often forget to share officially here on the blog.  

So if you feel like listening to me speak about my books, the Global Read Aloud, giving the classroom back to students, our just life in general, please take a listen to these.

Larry Jacob’s EduTalk – What Learning Looks Like

Brian Sztabnik Talks With Teachers 

Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis (Some of my favorite people in the whole wide world) – BrandEd – Strategies for Connecting Your Students to the World

Todd Nesloney and Chris Kesler at EduAllStars – Session 22

Project Pupil – This is how learning should look like

The Interactive Teacher – Global Read Aloud and Classroom Transformation

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

I am Home and I am Not Crazy Anymore

image from the glass walrus

For the past 4 years I have felt like I was an outlier.  Like my ideas were not normal, sane, and sometimes unacceptable, even if I knew they worked.  Like I wasn’t quite right in what I believed.  There have been days of doubt.  There have been days of genius.  There have been days where I have gone home beating myself up, dismantling my philosophy; questioning my belief in giving the classroom back to our students.  There have been days I thought I was crazy and was only doing harm.   

It wasn’t that I didn’t have support, I did.  Some people cheered on my ideas, others cautiously watched from afar.  But I was alone in a lot of initiatives.  I was alone in taking some of the risks.  I was alone in defending what I knew was right; that students should have a voice, a choice, and that there is a way to help students stay passionate about school, learning, and their own learning journey if we only push ourselves beyond the ideas of a traditional way to do school.

Today I finally found the place I belong, the place I want to be.   Today I found my people, my home; Oregon School District.

New teacher days don’t tend to be inspirational, even though administrators nationwide work hard to plan them well.  They don’t tend to be filled with people telling you to take risks.  To fail.  To push yourself.  To not worry most about the test scores, but rather to worry about the kids.  But mine have been.  My days have been filled with visions of rooms where students are all on personalized learning paths, where homework is for practice not punishment, where grades are for feedback and not for labeling.  Where risk is applauded and new ideas are supported.  And they don’t just talk it, they walk it.

I never thought I would be lucky enough to work for a district that I envisioned in my book, “Passionate Learners.”  I never thought that I would be surrounded by people who were crazy like me.  I never thought I wouldn’t be alone.  But they are out there; districts that put the kids first, that push for innovative teaching, that don’t believe that the way things have been done in the past 100 years is the way to go forward.  I hope all teachers find their home.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

The Connected Educator Series – First Four Drop Today

via: Corwin.com/connectededucators

via: Corwin.com/connectededucators

Thank you so much to Mark Barnes for writing this post highlighting the incredible series I get to be a part of with my next book “Empowered Schools, Empowered Students.”

Ask any of the thousands of teachers who regularly use Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook about connected education, and you may get an earful about using digital tools as a means to connect with educators and students worldwide.

But if you ask teachers who have never used a social network, blog, or mobile device for learning in their classrooms to discuss connected education, you are likely to be met with blank stares, furrowed eyebrows and shrugged shoulders.

Enter Corwin Press and the Connected Educators Series.

In an effort to connect all teachers, EdWeek author and Corwin editor Peter DeWitt enlisted the help of his professional learning network (PLN) in order to launch a series of books on digital learning, digital leadership, mobile learning, digital citizenship, and everything else that is connected education.

Peter DeWitt, Connected Educators Series Editor”It is our hope and intent to meet you where you are in your digital journey, and elevate you as educators to the next level.

Corwin’s Connected Educators Series features short books, about 70 pages, in both paperback and electronic formats, aimed at helping educators improve classroom practice and educational leadership in the digital world, something that has been sorely missing in the education book world.

The first books in the series will be published in August and September.

[su_heading size="28"]Corwin Connected Educators Series[/su_heading]

The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning, by Tom Whitby and Steven Anderson: Two of the profession’s most connected educators explain how to effectively use social media to build a professional learning network.

Flipped Leadership Doesn’t Mean Reinventing the Wheel, by Peter DeWitt: If we can flip the classroom, why can’t we flip faculty meetings and other kinds of communication with parents and teachers? According to DeWitt, we can.

Connected Educator Series

Connected Educators Series

The Edcamp Model: Powering Up Professional Learning, by The Edcamp Foundation: Professional development has never been so simple than when teachers create it. The Edcamp model connects educators to PD like never before.

Teaching the iStudent: A Quick Guide to Using Mobile Devices and Social Media in the K-12 Classroom, by Mark Barnes: Knowledge is in the palm of learners’ hands, making them iStudents. This book helps teachers understand how to maximize this incredible power.

The Corwin Connected Educators series is your key to unlocking the greatest resource available to all educators: other educators.

Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away, by Spike Cook: In the 21st-century, it’s critical that principals create a transparent school for all stakeholders. Principal Cook shows school leaders how to author blogs, PLNs and more, in order to open up a digital window to your school for parents and community.

All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and Communities, by Brad Currie: The connected educator doesn’t just connect with students and colleagues. She connects with parents and community, using 21st-century tools. Currie shows readers how this is done.

Empowered Schools, Empowered Students: Creating Connected and Invested Learners, by Pernille Ripp: Connecting also means empowering. Ripp shares a variety of methods for teachers and school leaders to empower colleagues and students to help each other build a strong learning community.

The Power of Branding: Telling Your School’s Story, by Tony Sinanis and Joseph Sanfelippo: Connected educators must teach students about digital citizenship, and what better way to teach this lesson, according to administrators Sinanis and Sanfelippo, than by showing students how to brand their own schools?

These eight books are the first in Corwin’s ongoing Connected Educators Series. Several more are currently in production and scheduled for publication in early 2015.

For updates, author biographies and other valuable information, visit the Corwin Connected Educators Series website here.

You can order Any books in the Connected Educators Series here. Let us know what you think and what you’d like to see next.

Would You Like Your School Supply List Paid For? #Greatlist

Greatclips

Every year, toward spring, my team and I would sit down and look at the supply list for incoming 5th graders.  We knew how expensive it was, and yet, those things on the list were things we truly used, and things we didn’t have in our budgets to supply to the kids.  Yet passing that on to parents has never been easy.  Now as a parent myself, I am not looking forward to the day that I have all 4 of my children in school, because let’s face it; school supplies are expensive!  

I get contacted by a lot of companies asking me to share their campaigns with people who read my blog.  Mostly I say no thank you, after all, that is not what this blog is about at all.  But when Great Clips contacted me, I had to make an exception.  After all, as a parent, I would love to have Theadora’s school supplies paid for, so I am guessing a lot of you would to!

So here is how to win: Great Clips is running a contest right now for parents to have their school supply lists paid for and the best part is how simple it is to enter.  Simply go to this link and upload your school supply list.  And if you can’t upload it, you can type it up right there.  Yup, that’s it!  They are pulling winners every day and the contest runs until September 5th.  You can get up to $100 worth of supplies paid for.

I hope you all win.  I know I will be keeping my fingers crossed!  And yes, I just submitted Thea’s list as well.  I would not mind not having to pay for all of those supplies myself.

And while you are at, check out what Great Clips did for two high school teachers in their partnership with AdoptAclassroom.org 

PS: I am sure you guessed it but this post is sponsored by Great Clips, so thanks to Great Clips for sponsoring today’s discussion.

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

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