Professional Learning Network - PLN

Today's blogging challenge is to share my contact information so you can find me on social networks. How much time do you have? I am going to try and dig as far back as I can for the numerous sites to which I have accounts. Should be interesting….Here I go!

  1. Plurk lfeld52
  2. Twitter lfeld52
  3. Edmodo feldman
  4. Foursquare lfeld52
  5. Google+ lfeld52
  6. Vine lfeld52
  7. Vimeo lfeld52
  8. Linkedin lfeld52
  9. lfeld52
  10. Skype lfeldman52
  11. YouTube lsf52
  12. Flickr lfeld52
  13. LiveBinders lfeld52
  14. reddit lfeld52
  15. Slideshare lfeld52
  16. Audioboo lfeld52
  17. diigo lfeld52
  18. YouStream.TV lfeld52
  19. Qik lfeld52
  20. TeacherTube lfeld52
I'm sure there are others, but my brain is bent trying to think of them all! 

As you can see I have put myself out there to network. I would say that I network about 90% of the time with educators and technology professionals. In the beginning I was probably more active in posting my technology finds and ideas. But now, I probably am more of a stalker. I like to check out what others post and bookmark them. 

I have been lucky enough to be able to meet many of the people I follow on social networks. I have traveled to technology conventions for the past couple of years. It seems each time I go, I find more networks to sign up!

My advice is…If you have a "screen name" which you use frequently, sign up and save the name just in case you will be using it in the future.

Cooperative Learning Saves The Day!

It seems like I have been struggling to connect students to their math lessons lately.
We are working on percents/decimals/fractions. Specifically the past three days we have been working on percent of change. To say it has been frustrating is an understatement.
There are days which one would think that you were speaking in another language.
But not today! Today (day 3 of the same topic) English became the common language in math. 

Today I used a cooperative learning strategy in which shoulder partners worked together to solve math problems. One partner "coached" the other partner to do the work. For example: If I were the coach I would say something like "the formula is original # - new #, divided by original # so write down 4.50 - 1 and put over 4.50. What is neat about this is that the student coaching is verbalizing how to solve the problem and the other partner has the ability to make corrections as needed. The kids were so engaged. Using this strategy increases engagement because of the interactivity between partners.

I think it also helped that I used ads for Velveeta and Diced tomatoes and connected it to preparing for a Super Bowl party!

After a couple problems the students seemed to get the concept. When we were done with this reteach it was time for the homework assignment. Since we were running a bit late and it was the beginning of a 3-day weekend the assignment was shortened. Yeah right? But what knocked my socks off was when one of the students without prompt figured out the percent of decrease in the math assignment! Hallelujah!

You never know when you are going to find a lesson or trick to make a connection with student. I hope to use cooperative learning in many forms throughout the semester. This day has proven that the effect can be worthwhile!

Classroom Wish List

If there was one thing that I have thought a lot about wanting for school lately would be a large spinner which could be put on the whiteboard with a magnet. This is what I was looking at:

We will be starting a unit on probability in the next week or so and I think this would help a great deal.
Last year I was lucky enough to work with a teacher who used the whiteboard spinner frequently. She would draw a circle with 3 parts labeled evens, odds, all. When the students were writing down their assignment they would one by one spin the spinner and make tally marks. The outcome would be the deciding point of what their homework would be. How fun!
Of course, any variables could be included in the circle. 

My challenge would be to think beyond the basic probability lesson and think of different ways to use it!

Classroom Grants

Today's topic is grants for the classroom. To day, I have received 2. The first grant I received was to support a class trip to a living history farm for the 4th grade at a school in which I was working. The district severely cut funding for field trips; in the past, this was a regular outing. I did not like the thought of the student missing out.

In my district we have grant opportunities via our foundation. It is called Fund-A-Need. Teachers are able to put in grant proposals of any value in hopes a donor will choose to fund the project. Fund requests may range from technology to special programming. 

I was lucky enough to have my grant funded by a group/office which decided to fund my request in lieu of Christmas gifts for each other. This was such a blessing.

My second grant which was funded was for the implementation of an alternative P.E. class. There are some students due to disabilities or injuries who cannot participate in the activities of the P.E. class. My thought was to have a Wii system for which the students could become physically active without risk of injury. To my surprise, one afternoon, I was called up to the office to pick up a package. I had no idea what it could be. When I opened it in the main office I immediately began to cry. There was a brand new Wii system, games, and controllers for my program. The card was signed "from an admirer" Wow. I sure wished that I could thank them directly. Once set up you could come in and watch a student in a wheel chair playing tennis with a student who had a broken arm. No boundaries!

One suggestion I have for receiving these types of grants would be to network through social media as much as possible. Don't hesitate to "toot your own horn", search for sympathy, and generally beg!

Homework. UGH!

I know homework is a part of traditional school. But I guess I am not a traditional teacher.
I think that students should show their learning during the school day.
Schoolwork is for the school day and homework is for home. Duh you say? NO. Let me explain.

During the 52 minute class periods we strive to introduce, reinforce, reteach, etc.
In my opinion we should be able to use our time wisely and work should be completed before the end of class. This is not always possible, but what is wrong with going a day or two without it?

When did we move to automatically having homework in every class? When did we buy into the concept that for core classes there is generally 30 minutes homework for each class? When did we move to having in class assignments and then adding on an additional assignment for home. Isn't that double indemnity?

To add to my rant, we now grade on summative scores only. This means only test/quiz scores count toward the student grade. So how can we require students to do homework ("practice") when it does not count toward their permanent grade? Would you buy into the concept that you work for hours and not have anything to show for it other than a satisfactory or commendable comment?

I know that "practice makes perfect". I know that repetition is necessary to own a concept. But I also know that not all students take tests the same way. Some students freak out during tests. They may freeze/forget/guess resulting in lower scores. In the past, when homework was at least counted toward the overall grade, grades were higher for struggling students.

What are your feelings toward homework. Love? Hate? Horror Stories?


Website Du Jour

My current favorite website you ask?

Hands down:


Songza is an online music site similar to Pandora. What I really enjoy about Songza is the Music Concierge. For example. If I connect to the link in the morning I normally choose a playlist that is "safe for work". Other choices include current music with no lyrics, oldies, etc. As the day goes on, the front page changes. Here is the current front page as of the time of this post:

There are many listening options which are appropriate for different situations.

This site is a keeper!

Brain Breaks

Ironically when I read this topic for the blogging challenge I laughed! I laughed because our team at school decided to implement frequent brain breaks throughout the year to increase student engagement.
We went as far as to using the theme of time for our team focus this year. Excuse the "Outsiders" attire for a theme day…You can see the banner stating our team motto for the year.

With the theme of time we try to use brain teasers, thought shots, and movement to give students a short minute or two to refocus.
We also have Cranium Brain Breaks and a binder full of Minute To Win It activities. Unfortunately, it seems that we are lacking a bit in the area of these two. Hoping to increase this and get feedback whether we are using our time wisely.

If there is one thing I know…I get antsy easily. Imagine students listening to the "Waaa, waaa, waaa" (Charlie Brown teacher) all day long.  No wonder we need a break!

Favorite Idea Part 2

Another week, another blog challenge topic.

This week's topic or idea which I consider a favorite this week would be to use part of my flexible service/plan time to go into student classes to do a planner check and write a priority list at the bottom of their planner page. I draw a small box and then list the class and the assignment to do that evening. I also write reminders for upcoming assignments. For example, if there is a test next Tuesday, I will write at the bottom of the page on Friday noting there is a test Tuesday. I also add information for social events and spirit days. I would hate to have a student feel left out if they forgot to tell their family what was needed for participation.

I have had positive feedback from students after implementing this because then when they come to me after school for checkout, their planners are pretty much filled out. Having their academic connections (a.k.a. specials, exploratories, enrichment, etc.) 6th period helps because it is less likely to have homework in those classes. And for the 7th period classes, I most likely know the assignment already and am prepared to fix/fill out if not complete. Students are not too excited to be checked out; and speeding this up most certainly helps.

Parents have commented that the communication supports the home and school connection. Between checkout and my webpage, they are well informed!

I will continue to use this!

Professional Reading

I sink my head down and admit. I am not an avid reader. I so want to be. But I am not.
I am more of a blog reader. This is still reading. And yes, the blogs I subscribe to are mostly educational. But I can't say I often sit down and read a full book. But there is one book in particular that I refer to often.

Notice and Note by Beers and Probst. I read this in preparation for this school term. The gist of the book is that we need to read more closely. In this strategy, students follow 6 signposts.
The authors describe their strategy as follows:

"Just as rigor does not reside in the barbell but in the act of lifting it, rigor in reading is not an attribute of a text but rather of a reader’s behavior—engaged, observant, responsive, questioning, analytical. The close reading strategies in Notice and Note will help you cultivate those critical reading habits that will make your students more attentive, thoughtful, independent readers."—Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst 

As much I hate to admit it when I was told this would be a part of my professional development requirements. I like it! Yes, I do!

Students are able to stop and reflect on what they read. In the past, I would not see this. Students would just read to get finished. To help the students do this I made paper street signs with each benchmark or "signpost". They are labeled as follows:

1. Contrasts and Contradictions
2. The Aha Moment
3.  Tough Questions
4. Words of the Wiser
5. Again and Again
6. Memory Moment

Here is my wall!

To my thrill, some students have referred to signposts in which we have had very little discussion. We were actually told during implementation to introduce only one (maybe 2) signposts per year. I am sure not going to inhibit a student who is trying to connect to one which we have not featured!

Cooperative Learning

One of my favorite classroom management tools would be to get students up and moving.
I know I cannot sit and focus for more than 30 minutes; how could I expect students to do the same?

Cooperative Learning such as Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures are my favorite.
Aside from increasing student (and teacher) engagement, the structures often involve movement.

One structure that is a personal favorite would be "Scavenger Hunt". this involves taping questions around the room. Each paper has a question on the top, and an answer to a different problem on the bottom. the concept is that students start at one paper and work/solve the question. When they have the answer they look around the room for a different piece of paper which has their answer. When found, they now work the problem on that page. It is important to have a recording page for the students, and of course, an answer key. I would imagine this could be done on tabletops as well.

I have enjoyed the cooperative learning structures so much, I chose them to be a part of my appraisal goals for this year. My artifacts will include student feedback on exit tickets as well as the created materials.

Can I Do a Better Job? Seriously?

Today's blog challenge topic is one thing I wish I were better at. ONLY ONE?

One thing that I wish I were better at would be to know more about how to write computer programs. By this I mean how to write code to create my own apps, games, webpages.

I have described myself as a fairly accomplished end-user of technology. I like to dig into websites, apps, etc. to see what else is there. But, I do not know how to make them.
To do this I will need to learn a new language. I would like to learn Java Script first. Then, who knows.

Unfortunately learning new languages is not easy for me. No, it is almost impossible. I am not kidding. I think the only term I learned in German class was "Keine Ahnung" which basically means "I have no idea"! Yep. That sums it up.

To fight this mentality, I have been taking baby steps. This past month I have been following some of the links for a program called "Hour of Code". Via game playing and brain games I have taken the first steps toward understanding the computational thinking involved in programming.

Who knows…by the time next year rolls around, I may be publishing a link to a program I have written!

Assessment. Not Quite Four Letters...

Yep, you read that correctly!
There are times I think that assessment is like a four-letter word. In fact, I still get a giggle every time I begin to write the word itself and realize it is hard to abbreviate.
Asses…Get it? Yep, I am so "middle school"!

Now back to the topic: My assessment tip.
Hmmmm. That is kinda hard. Why? Because I/we are required to be a part of so many assessments, school isn't quite as amazing as I remember when I was growing up.
We give chapter tests, cumulative assessments, district tests, state tests, high stakes tests, yada yada yada. Tips? How could there be tips?

My tip would be in the mode of preparation. I am a big fan of Quizlet. Quizlet is an online flashcard site in which you can create your own "sets" of cards and definitions as well as images. An example of one of my sets was used to prepare for a vocabulary test for a book unit.

I load these sets onto my school web page as well as my co-teachers pages. To push the effort a bit further, I send the link to my webpage when I have completed updates.

When it is time to test, I can have the students click the test link and complete their assessment online. Students receive instant feedback and possibly print (gasp!) for data gathering if needed.

Will I ever be able to avoid assessments? NOPE.
Will I continue to strive to find a new way to do them? You bet your "asses"
Heh, heh!

Idea Of The Week…Or at Lease a Passing Thought!

Day 4 Blogging Challenge: One topic or idea for using with students this week.

One thing I put in to my plans this week was to re-think how I interact with students who are having difficulties.  It is soooooo easy to get into a power struggle. Who hasn't been pulled in to one?  Even when you are well read, trained, etc. there are days in which it is almost impossible to 100% avoid them.

The strategy that I am using with students this week to avoid the pratfalls of student confrontations is actually quite simple:

"I heard you, and I responded."

This motto was the result of a Facebook post I read that had a link to an article on parenting. In the article titled Child Nagging and Negotiating the statement was:
"Asked and Answered". I put my spin on this to step back and think before I respond with too much dialogue.

I tend to do this better with autistic kids…those who need to be around less talking to be successful. Why haven't I done this in the past??? Oy, is this a lightbulb moment or what?

Now, I will try to take my own advice and say less when I know that doing otherwise will most certainly have negative effects.

My Favorite Website For Which I Cannot Live Without (At least this week!)

Today's blogging challenge asks me to tell about my favorite website and how I use it for teaching and learning. Well…I have to say if you look into the history on my browser, you will see that I use TeachersPayTeachers often. Come to think of it, I mentioned this site in my last post.
This site is so amazing once you dig into it. Teachers upload materials for sale (or free) for others to discover. There are so many amazing lesson plan, ideas, projects, etc. for direct download. Each seller provides at least one free download of a product. There are also sales. Who doesn't like a good sale?
Another feature that I like is if I find a seller that I like, I can follow him or her and receive updates when they add new products.
There are resources from Pre-K up to Higher and Adult Education. Also available is homeschool and staff materials. As a resource teacher I am constantly looking for support materials for co-teaching and or small group teach/reteach. Many of the things I find are free or at very low cost. To me, if it meets my specific needs, I will gladly pay a fellow teacher.
Recently I have posted a few products and have earned a couple dollars. Will this replace my teaching job? No…Maybe pay for a few cans of Diet Pepsi! If you are interested in signing up to be a seller, here is a link to get you started:

I would love to know how many of you use this site. Let me know!

20 Day Blogging Challenge Day Two

Day 2
Share an organizational tip from your classroom. 
What is one thing that you do that works for you?

That is a tougher challenge for me to write about! Not because I am disorganized, but because I do not have my own classroom at school. Thus the "Resource Teacher". I co-teach during the day. So, I guess I will write more about how I plan and make sure I am prepared each day to meet the needs of my students and team.

My plan book is my lifeline. Aside from keeping track of meetings, due dates, classroom plans, etc. I keep anecdotal data as well. I have used mostly school issued plan books through the years, but have not been satisfied. I have also created my own plan pages, but have not used them consistently. At least until this year.

This summer I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what was essential to have with me at all times and made a list. I decided I needed to create my own plan book! Not an easy task. I obsessed on layout, backgrounds, fonts...yup, a long drawn out adventure. I printed the pages and then combined them with the school handouts (calendars, schedules, staff listings...) I even put in student's locker info., usernames, and passwords. I then bound the pages together in the work room. Voila! My own personalized plan book! 

If you need inspiration for creating your own plan book, try looking on TeachersPayTeachers and search for editable plan books. Have fun!

20 Day Blogging Challenge Day 1

Yep, it has taken a challenge to get me back to blogging. The plan is to use a set topic each day to inspire (re-inspire) the joy of blogging. How scary is that?

Challenge 1: Tell about a favorite book to share or teach. Provide at least one example of an extension or cross curricular lesson


CDB by William Steig has always been my favorite book. The first time I read this book is when it was a feature book for the Scholastic Books order at school. Remember those thin booklets with cool books, posters, and gadgets? Who couldn't resist??? Not me! It was fun to figure out the words that were in "code". Of course the line drawings helped quite a bit. Later, it was a challenge to try and write some of my own codes.

Now that I am a teacher, I still use CDB. What better book to use for reading skills and multiple meaning words. A great way to extend this lesson would be to use a Twitter format of abbreviations and hashtags to write a story. The collaborative effort is outstanding. Students need to decide what is "trash" and what is "treasure" as far as content.

I bet you are surprised that a middle school teacher would use such a simple book, but in education, it is how you present the materials that impacts the outcome!

What is your favorite book? Why? How might you extend its use?