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My 50 Days of Happy #Nerdlution

Borrowed from the blog of Colby Sharp

For the past several days I have been lurking on conversations regarding the #nerdlution that starts tomorrow.  What started as a wonderful Twitter chat has spiraled into a mini movement for people to do something great or as Colby Sharp put it “to do something you would like to develop into a habit.”  Right away I knew I wanted to take part, and not so much because I have that many things I want to do, well I do, who am I kidding, but more so because I need a kick in the pants to change some things and I love so many of the people that are part of this.

While many ideas came to mind: laugh more, cook better dinners, read more (yes really!), I finally realized that I wanted my #nerdlution to be something simple yet meaningful.  Something I get too caught up in life to focus on.  I want to focus on being happy.  So for the next 50 days I will be savoring every little moment that makes me happy.  I will probably Instagram the moments, maybe not, but I will focus on the incredible little things that make my life so full of love.

So tomorrow the #nerdlution officially starts.  It runs until January 20th and by then I will be so heavily pregnant that I better be slowing down and focusing on the happy.  I hope you join me and so many others in focusing on something you want to do for the next 50 days.  Then share it with all of us using the hashtag #nerdlution.  Don’t be afraid, just pick something and be proud of it.

 

 

 

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You Got Students Blogging Now How to Get Comments

image from icanread

If you ask my students why they blog, many of them will tell you it is to start a conversation.  Not to showcase their work.  Not to share their thoughts.  Not to brag or boast or share great ideas.  But to speak to others.  So when we blog we focus on how we can start that conversation.  How do we bring people in.  How do we engage others so that blogging doesn’t just become a digital portfolio.

It’s not easy.  Commenting is not a one day lesson, nor is it it a one way street.  So often I have been asked how I get people to comment on my students’ Kidblog and I can tell you it is a process.  However, there are certain things you can do to make it a little easier.

  • Introduce blogging right.  I spend a lot of time (in 5th grade time measurement) discussing why we blog.  I want students to understand the privilege and the investment it takes to create great blogs.  I don’t ever want them to take that responsibility lightly.
  • Do paper blogs.  This is a great way to figure out how to comment without letting them loose right way and also a great step in how to introduce blogging.
  • Showcase other blogs.  I love that my old students’ posts are still viewable so I can showcase their work and ask students what they notice.  Why does a certain post solicit comments and why does another not?  Students start to gain an understanding when they can see how it has worked for others.
  • Act out comments.  This may seem silly at first, but I have students act out their blog post and then try to have another student speak back to them.  This is often the biggest aha moment for students as they see which type of post starts a conversation and which doesn’t.  We call them highway versus dead end conversations.
  • Celebrate their comments.  Comments are a big deal, ask any blogger, so it is okay to celebrate them and then map them.  Students love seeing the connections they make with people around the world.
  • Ask for comments.  Do not underestimate the power of asking for comments from strangers.  I use Twitter to highlight my students’ blogs and the hashtag #comments4kids – one of the most brilliant hashtags ever created.
  • Reciprocate!  This is huge!  I give my students time to reciprocate to comments as a way to reach out to others and to pay it forward.  If you want comments, you have to give comments, simple as that.
  • Keep it up.  We discuss comments a lot throughout the year because it is vital that students continue to understand why they are getting them and what to do with them.  They also need to write good quality blog posts that deserve comments so that becomes an ongoing discussion as well.
  • Take Max’s advicemake it worthwhile.  I loved his honest post from last year and think it is so true.  If you are going to comment, do it right.

No matter what, getting comments takes time as does quality blogging.  Be a role model yourself, leave comments on their blogs and other students’ and talk it up.  reach out to others, be invested, and be interested.  I wish you the best of luck.

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From the Mouths of Babes – My Students Discuss Homework

Note: Some of my older posts did not survive the transfer from Blogger to WordPress, thus these are older posts that still bring up valid points.

Thanks to a wonderful Time For Kids article this week, my students engaged in a 30 minute discussion on whether or not teachers should assign homework (we ran out of time or it could have gone longer).  I started out taping the discussion, hoping to share it, but the camera stifled them, so I turned it off and instead just listened and asked a couple of questions.  And the result?  Well, it was mixed.

Many students believed that homework was a necessary evil at first, and by that I mean, they think they should be assigned it so they can learn responsibility.  However, when I asked them whether they could be taught responsibility in a different manner they all agreed they already were responsible in school.  After that they started changing their mind.  Some highlights for me were:

  • We already work our hardest at school and deserve to be done with school when the bell rings.
  • We are tired when we get home so homework does not represent our best work.
  • Some times our parents cannot help us and we end up more confused.
  • Teachers do not own our time outside of school, but why do they think they do?  They can’t for example order us to go to Target.
  • I want to have a life outside of school and pursue my activities.
  • It is ok to have homework during the week but never during the weekend or during holidays.
  • If a student works hard during the day and is responsible, they should be able to not have homework after school.
  • It is ok to assign reading and special projects but they have to be super fun and have student choice.
  • Homework does not teach us responsibility but instead teaches us to get it done fast.
  • Homework should not be graded since it is just practice.
  • Homework should be assigned because school has to come first and that is our job.

I love the level of thinking I am seeing in these students as they develop their discussion habits. They are figuring out when to speak and reacting to each other’s comments.  I also love how they are evaluating the world and learning to speak their minds.  I believe the camera stifled them because some were nervous in stating their opinion, after all, they are only 5th graders, what do they know?

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We Now Interrupt Our Regularly Planned Lesson

image from icanread

We were supposed to be getting ready for student-led conferences.  I was supposed to also be reading aloud.  we were supposed to be talking writing then.  But all I could think of was the big pile of book sitting on the bean table, screaming for me to introduce them.

The kids had already poked around.  Some had cautiously asked if they were for the library.  One child had squealed in delight when she saw an old friend.

So I stopped everything.  Asked them for their eyes and ears, reminded them to grab their thoughtful logs and flip to their “What I want to read next” list.  And then I began.  12 new Roald Dahl books begged for me to share my love for them and so I did.  Even though I thought they had all read them, how could they not?

After 25 glorious minutes of introducing the 30 new books, one student raised her hand, “Can we take them now?”  “Sure…” and before the last sound had escaped my lips, 27  students were surrounding me, hungrily grabbing that book that they wanted.  Rocks, paper, scissors happened over particular books, other children weren’t quite sure.  So as I pushed one book after another into the hands of waiting students, I knew.  This is why we stop the program, this is why we deviate from the plan, because are great books to be read and shared, and sometimes that can’t wait.

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, 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 Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

 

 

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Should I Teach My Students to Be Better Test Takers?

thea-new

It’s that time again in Wisconsin, time for our yearly standardized test on which schools and students alike get graded.  Mind you, we test for 5th grade in October after only having taught them for 2 months.  Mind you we actually don’t get the results until February at the earliest, at which point we are then supposed to adjust our teaching according to said results.  Of course, all of this will change with the advent of the new test that is being created but that wont be of another year or more.

So why this post from a known anti-standardized testing teacher?  Well, because I wonder if my opposition to these tests and refusal to make them a big deal in the eyes of my students are hurting their test results?  I don’t give them pep talks, I don’t tell them how it can affect their lives, or mine for that matter.  I don’t tell them to do their very best because they should want to show everyone how much they know.  I do the practice one so that they know what the format is but I don’t teach testing strategies for days or weeks.  I don’t teach them what the test makers are probably looking for.  Instead we continue with our 5th grade exploration of learning and what makes us curious.  We spend time discussing and pushing our thinking.  We make time for genius hour and reflection.  We make time to cover the things we should in a meaningful manner that suits us as learners.  But still..

I do tell them that they are a snapshot of that moment in time.  I do tell them that they should try to figure it out as best as they can but that it is not something to be stressed about.  I know their abilities, I know their strengths, and more importantly I  know how to support their goals.  Sure, we have to have silence during the test and no one can leave for the bathroom, but when they feel they have given it their best shot, then they are free to read or to unwind.

Yet I cannot help but wonder should I be taking time to teach them better test strategies?  Should I stop what we are doing so they can spend time becoming better test takers?  Am  I robbing them of a skill they need to “survive” the rest of their education?  Should I be focusing on the gravity of this test and make them aware of how much it determines for our school?  Would they score better if they knew how much the test meant?  At this point, I am not sure anymore.  Should my personal beliefs be allowed to influence the way I teach?

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Why the Internet is Like the Mall – Discussing Online Safety With Students

The poster we created as we discussed
The poster we created as we discussed

Another cross posting from my other blog, this one has taken on a life of its own, with others putting their own spin on it.  When we discuss internet safety, it is vital that we are able to relate it to students’ lives, so that they can understand that being behind a computer does not mean that they are protected.  While I am not in the business of scaring students, there are plenty of other ways that can happen, we can stress the importance of proper behavior.  And thus this lesson came about; linking the internet to going to the mall.

I believe in the importance of honest conversation with the kids, where they supply the answers, rather than me hitting them over the head with it.  I simply started out this lesson by writing the words “Internet Safety” on my whiteboard and turned to the kids.  They volunteered what these words meant to them and then I ventured into the mall analogy; so what would they do to stay safe at the mall if their parents dropped them off?  

Some of the students answers were

  • That they would not talk to strangers
  • Give anyone their information if approached
  • Go only to the place they were supposed to
  • And they wold go straight there, rather than take detours or stop at other places 
  • They wouldn’t give their money to strangers
  • Not get caught by good deals or lured into things they probably shouldn’t do

 By having the students provide the safety rules, taken from their own memory of rules drilled into their heads by their formidable parents, they connected real life danger with things that can happen on the internet.  Sometimes students think they are safe on the net, as we all know, and this brought the responsibility home for them.  

 So as we continue learning proper safety and etiquette, we will keep referring back to the mall analogy, for example, would you walk up to a friend and tell them their outfit was ugly when talking about how to comment?  Today was one of those moments where I was able to make students understand something they have to learn in this day and age.  A lesson not just meant for 4th graders or 5th graders but hopefully something they will keep in the back of their minds when they go on the internet themselves, or maybe even next time they go to the mall.  Once again today I realized how huge my responsibility is for these kids and how glad I am to be their teacher.