Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Better Learning Through Technology - Donorschoose Project

I am doing another donors choose project in hopes of supplying the students at my school with 5 iPads in order to enhance their learning. This is my third project that I have written and I know with the support from all of you we can get another project successfully funded! 

Teaching in the Internet age means we must teach tomorrow's skills today. My students LOVE utilizing technology as much as possible, and I want them to be able to access it in order to make learning relevant and connected to their lives.

Neelsville Middle School has roughly 960 students, and of those 960 students nearly 70% qualify for the district's Free and Reduced Meal program, because their families cannot afford the standard cost of $2.75 for lunch.

Out of those 960 students, I teach approximately 130 of them over the span of 5 classes, and my students and I have the same goal in mind-to become strong critical thinkers and problem solvers.

Students will be able to use these iPads on a daily basis! These iPads will be placed in our classroom where students will have access to them when working on collaborative and engaging lessons, when they finish work early for anchor activities, at the end of class, or even at lunch. Students will always have the opportunity to utilize these iPads during class in order to strengthen their individual learning skills.

iPad Minis would greatly impact the students in my classroom by enhancing the learning with technology through hands on and critical thinking activities. My students would be able to perform activities such as: scan QR codes, research, design, and create projects with access to the Internet and free applications like Google Docs.

Please share, comment, or donate (if you can, no amount is too small) in order to give my students an awesome opportunity to become strong critical thinkers and problem solvers. If you are able to donate within the next 7 days use the promo card SPARK and your donation will matched by an outside company (up to $100). Thank you all for your support!!! 

Click this link to go to my Donors Choose Project Page

P.S - Be on the look out for another technology blog post from me very soon. I'll be posting on the new blogging journey that my students recently started!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Feels Good to be Back!

Greetings All!

Let me first apologize for the sudden disappearance of The Superhero Teacher, but have no fear for I have returned!  It has been a very busy few months,  which I will be catching you all up on over the next few blog posts. My goal from now on is to get back to blogging along with collaborating with everyone like I was over the summer.

Over the last few months of being MIA I have obviously been very busy with teaching, but also with running the after school activities program Monday - Thursday with another teacher, teaching Saturday School,  applying to graduate school for next year, and working on developing a curriculum for two new technology courses I will be teaching next year (which is what this post will mainly focus on, TECHNOLOGY).

Being that I will be teaching all technology classes next year, I have started getting more invested in checking out new applications/websites and being a risk-taker by experimenting with them in my 6th grade English classes and my 7th/8th grade elective classes.  

As many of you might remember from previous blog posts, I have a class set of Google Chromebooks that completely change the game of teaching.  Having these Chromebooks has been a complete learning experience, which is why I want to share anything I possibly can about them in hope of assisting anyone else that might be looking for advice, or just a new app to try out.  Below, I have made a list of the most useful apps and websites that I have discovered over the past year of using the Chromebooks on pretty much a daily basis in my classes, but please note: I will try any app once, however I have become very picky with the apps I introduce to my students or share with others because there are a lot of great apps out there, but they are usually surrounded by some not so great ones as well.  

So, here it is...My list of the most useful apps I/my students utilize on their chromebooks on a very regular basis.  

1.  Socrative - This has been a daily part of my classroom since day one of this school year.  This is an awesome app that allows teachers to assess, pre-assess, and poll students quickly at any point during class.  The main reason why I love it so much is because students don’t need to waste time creating an account.  The teacher sets up a teacher account and all the students have to do is type in a 6 character “Room Number” to log-in and answer a question.  Socrative also allows you to view student responses on the board without showing student names, and gives you the option of receiving all of the data in spreadsheet form for quick grading.

2. LucidPress -  This web-based design application has been the foundation of my 7th and 8th grade elective course.  On a daily basis students log-in and work on the current design project our class is focusing on.

3. Adblock (free edition) - This is a great extension that allows you to get rid of all those annoying advertisements that pop-up while surfing the web.

4.  ShortenMe - This is another awesome extension that allows any web link to be shortened and cleaned up, along with having it automatically generate a QR code for the website you’re visiting as well!  

5.  ReadandWrite for Google - Amazing extension that gives students an extra toolbar where they can utilize the ability to highlight text, look up unknown words quickly, play and pause text that they are reading, and etc.

6.  Edulastic - This is a new app that I have been investigating, and unfortunately haven't been able to utilize as much as I would like to, yet.  Basically, this app allows teachers to design questions for warm-ups, exit tickets, or any sort of comprehension questions that are similar to the structure of PARCC.  It seems like a very beneficial app being that testing is upon us.  I will update everyone later after I use it more.  

7.  Symbaloo -  A great resource that I need to utilize more often because it allows you to create and share a board of website links that students can utilize for anchor activities, or for entire lessons.

8.  Newsela - Probably one of my favorite websites at the beginning of this year because it allows students to choose a lexile level and read news articles at their individual reading ability.  Also, some of the articles come with extension quizzes that can be utilized to measure comprehension.

9.  PearDeck - This is possibly one of the best slideshow apps that I have found because it engages the audience through various types of assessment questions that they have to answer on their device during the presentation.  This app really makes any type of direct instruction much more engaging.  

10. And finally, the always wonderful, ClassDojo - I love using this for the first couple of months in the beginning of the year to set the tone for behavior in the classroom.  Having the chromebooks make it easy for the students to log-in at an appropriate time and monitor how they are doing.

Well, there it is, folks.  My top 10 apps, extensions, and websites I utilize and my students utilize on a regular basis.  If you have any questions about anything technology, feel free to ask away and I will get back to you ASAP!  

Feels good to back to my blog and I look forward to catching up on everything that I have missed during my hiatus!

Have a great rest of the week.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

One Month Down, Nine to Go!!

Let me begin by stating that I now understand the challenge of keeping up with my blog, Instagram, Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and TpT during the school year, but I promise I am going to get better with updating everything!

Now that the first month of the new school year has come and gone, and my new 6th graders have reached the halfway point for completing their first quarter of middle school, it’s time for a new blog post! 

Over the past month we have explored our theme of foundation, created new words with affixes, built characters through characterization, started our literature circle novel, and even added some new books to our classroom library through (and this is just an overview of my 6th grade English class!). 

Above:  A picture of SOME of our new books added to our classroom library this year! We added over 50 new non-fiction and graphic novels.

As many of you know, I also teach 7th and 8th grade Journalism, which has gotten off to a great start as well.  My young journalists have started researching, taking notes, interviewing teachers and students around the school, and even started writing their first articles for the first issue of our school newspaper.  

Above:  These pictures are from my favorite lesson that I’ve taught so far.  About two weeks into the school year my young journalists were presented with a CLOSE reading activity of a newspaper article.  After reading the article, students were given the opportunity to move around the room with their groups in order to answer all of the critical think questions relating to the article.  After everyone had a chance to answer the questions, we discussed them as a whole group and then discussed the article in further detail, along with the many different elements that a newspaper article contains.  This lesson completely exceeded my expectations and showed me early on how creative my students are!

Beyond teaching, this year has been packed with some other AMAZING moments, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Above: Pictures taken from both of our community outreach BBQs that some of our amazing staff members put together in order to connect with some of our families outside of the school building.  The outcomes for both of these events were awesome and the families definitely appreciated all of the hard work and dedication that our teachers were doing for them and their kids.  We had a lot of fun at these events by grilling up some hotdogs for everyone who attended, one of our teachers brought their DJ equipment for entertainment, and we were able to connect with families through great conversation.  We were also able to help students gain access to their grades online, provide students with school supplies, and get the word out about some new changes that have been happening at our school.  These events were truly remarkable and I am so glad to have participated with both of them!

We also had a marvelous Back to School Night where parents were able to interact with all of us through some inquiry based learning activities modeled from lessons taking place in our classrooms.

Above:  This is a picture taken from our BTSN where parents were given the task of labeling a blank plot diagram with the different parts of a story that we read to them, along with labeling the different elements of a plot diagram.  Oh, and they completed this activity with everything being written in either French or Spanish.  We did this activity in order to not only represent the diversity of school population, but also to represent all of the different classes within our English, Reading, ESOL, and World Language department!  It was truly a magical evening of collaboration, high expectations, and inquiry-based learning.

Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start off the school year, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next with my amazing students and their families through the remarkable things our staff does for them on a daily basis! 

Hope you all have a great day! :) 



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Four Wheels to Four Walls!

I know it has definitely been awhile since my last blog post, but it has been a race to the finish line with getting everything ready for the first day of school, WHICH IS TOMORROW!!!!!!   It still shocks me that I am about to embark on my second year of teaching; however, I can confidentially say it’s going to be a great year, and I am beyond excited to get it started.

One of the reasons for why I am so excited to be starting this school year is because I have one room that I am in that I share with another teacher. Last year my classroom had four wheels and three shelves, which I now look at as a very fortunate experience to have during my first year of teaching. I look at last year as a complete learning experience that made me a stronger teacher because being on a cart taught me more than I imagined as I established myself as a first-year teacher fresh out of college.  I didn’t have the time, money, or the experience of knowing what I needed for an entire room just two days before the school year started.  After spending a year in and out of classrooms throughout, I gained the knowledge of what I wanted and what the kids needed for when I had a classroom of my own. 

Top 5 Tips for Teachers on a Cart:

5. Just go with it.  Chances are the reason you are on a cart is because your school has more teachers than they do rooms and that is something that no one can control (especially you).  You have to come to terms with the fact early on that no one in your building thinks that it is an awesome idea to have teachers on a cart because it just isn’t. With that being said, you need to stop wondering how in the world you are going to do your job on a cart and just do it.  Once you realize that it isn’t a punishment and start teaching you will be much more successful, and happier.

4.  Pick and choose your battles with the cart.  One thing to definitely keep in mind is that it is a cart, not a room.  I made this mistake multiple times last year because, I would put anything and everything on my cart that I thought I might need, and this caused problems, because the clutter will just kept building up.

3.  Don’t be afraid to ask for some space in the classroom that you are teaching in.  This can be difficult sometimes (especially as a first year teacher who doesn’t want to step on any toes), but remember, you are the one entering the classroom, and at the end of the day, you are sharing a space with another teacher, which means you should be a part of that room as well since your students will be learning too.

2. Find an organizational technique that works for you.  Whether you have one prep or three (like I did), finding the correct way to organize your cart is key to having a successful year on wheels.  Personally, I used one bin for completed work.  The bin had a folder for each of my classes and the only work that went in the bin was work that was ready to be graded.  The bin didn’t take up a lot of space, so it was perfect.  

1.  And finally, the number one tip that I have for a mobile teacher--Have fun with it.  You might be dreading being on a cart, but the more positive your attitude is during your time wheeling around the halls, the better the experience will be as a whole and the better your teaching will be.  I definitely recommend decorating your cart so it becomes more personal.

Another reason I am excited to start off the school is because you are now looking at one of the after school activities coordinators for the 2014-2015 school year.  I am beyond excited to be starting this leadership journey because if you were to ask me what are my favorite things about my school, our after school activity program is on my top three (along with the technology we have and our amazing staff).  I am so happy to not only be a part of the after school program, but also share the leadership role for the program with a great teacher in the building as well. 

I’m going to end this post with a poem that I received from a fellow teacher this weekend. I hope you all have a fantastic year! 

"Twas the Night Before School Started"

Twas the night before school started
when all through the town
the parents were cheering
it was a riotous sound.

By eight the kids were washed
and tucked into bed
when memories of homework
filled them with dread.

New pencils, new folders, new notebooks too,
new teachers, new friends, the anxiety grew.
The parents just giggled when they heard of this fright
and shouted upstairs-GO TO BED-IT'S A SCHOOL NIGHT!
- Author: Unknown