Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Teaching like a Pirate: Funeral for Polynieces

Last week, I began reading Teach like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.  It is a great book about engagement! I immediately connected with the theme because like Burgess, I am told how easy it is for me to be creative (yeah, real easy).  I also subscribe to the methodology that kids need to be up and around in the classroom especially after I attended the Teaching Shakespeare Institute.  Teaching through performance has become a focus for me.  As an affirmation of this, the Speech teacher at my campus told me that the sophomores (this is my second year with them) had less stage fright and were more comfortable speaking in his class (and there are a lot of introverts in the group).  Yippee!

As our beginning to Antigone, I decided to research an Ancient Greek funeral and use our abbreviated schedule on Friday to re-enact the funeral for Antigone's brother, Polynieces.

I made a program for the funeral:

Polynieces Funeral

Then I set about buying props at the Dollar store and getting my room arranged.  We had a blast!  My fellow teachers were super supportive, wanting us to stop in front of their portable for our bouts of mourning.  The students also dressed for a funeral.  One student commented that this was "the weirdest thing she has ever done in school. Ever." Well, thank you.

Here are some pics from the event.

Props for the offering include: water, milk, honey, fruit, and celery

Women pulling out their hair (extensions) in the background.

The corpse laid out with all of the offerings.
I loved how excited the students were and I also loved how the other classes were envious.  The freshman Biology teacher kept telling his students, "you will have her next year."

Dave Burgess notes that our students are plagued by boredom throughout the day.  As teachers, we have two choices: be part of the boredom, or choose to be a respite from it!  I am glad I could be a respite from it.

Blessed to be teaching,

Sunday, August 18, 2013

More Pirating: Gclass Folders

This week, I introduced my class to gClass Folders.  This is a great script from Google docs that enables the teacher to share documents with students via either an "edit" or a "view" folder.  Additionally, there is an assignment folder for each student that work can easily be dragged into.  Sounds easy-peasy, right?

More info here:

The only caveat is that my students don't know how to use Google Docs (I'm at a 1:1 campus!).  So guess who gets to teach them? Me!  Guess who gets really impatient when people can't get technology? Me!  In my quest for greatness (again thanks to David Burgess), I embarked on the lesson of a lifetime.

OK, it went pretty well.  There were some really frustrating moments (Ss putting qmail in lieu of gmail, not knowing their gmail, not checking their shared folder, etc), but in the end, it went really, really well.  The lightbulb started coming on:

"Can we use this when we have presentations together?"  YES!
"This works so much better than Word." YES!
"Wow! I can see all the changes and go back to any one I want?"  YES!

We started with an "easy" assignment.  Easy only in the part that they had done it freshman year many times.  They created a prompt book using Creon's first speech from Antigone.  It is a long-winded fifty line monologue.  We cut it down to the 25 most important lines and add in stage directions and tone words.  Oooh, sneaky close reading!  More on this in my posts below.

The students liked how easy it was to collaborate with Google Docs and I liked getting a bit closer to a paperless classroom (we only have one really horrid copy machine).

I'm leaving this post with another of my favorite quotes by Dave Burgess.  His book discusses how every teacher should aspire to be great because "in our profession, greatness is the ultimate act of unselfishness."  Think about that one. 

Blessed to be teaching,

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Greta tries out Google Scripts

Twitter PLN and Google Scripts

I follow some amazing people on Twitter.  While Facebook is my family and friends site, Twitter is my PLN. I started to see some posts about Google Scripts and how to use them to control grading and paper load in class.  I was intrigued because I have "1:1" technology at my school.  Why in quotes?  The "computers" my students have are 6 year old Dell laptops.  They are fussy, temperamental, slow, broken down, and generally suck (the computers not the kids).

The problem we encountered last year with these devices was their constant affinity for crashing and losing student work. I began to look into Google Docs as an answer to this and soon learned that Google has a whole bounty of scripts to help me (and the kids) out.

After watching videos here:  Doctopus

Now I am not, nor profess to be a computer genius.  This stuff was pretty daunting to me, but I decided to go for it.  For the Creation Myth presentations, I decided to give this little Doctupus a trial run.  I also added in Goobric to give the students instant feedback.

I started with a Google Form and ran the Doctupus script.  It did involve installing Chrome on every one of my devices, but I muddled through it.  I showed the students on the IWB how I would bring up their presentation and then grade it.  They were amazed!  Here are some screenshots of my "conjurings" with Doctopus and Goobric. It worked really well.

 Screenshot showing how I bring up a student's link and then click on Goobric (upper right).  The rubric is filled out real time with comments and then sent to the student immediately.  I can re-grade as necessary as well.

Here is a screenshot of my results spreadsheet.  I can see the average score on each category and evaluate this data for areas to address.  I also have the Doctopus script drop down showing.  A few steps, but definitely worth it.

I would like to thank Jay Atwood for answering my email about the script and giving me advice on how to use it for large assignments.  

This weekend, I experimented with another few scripts called GClass Folders, DocAppender, and Flubaroo.  Introductions to these can be found here:

For the upcoming week, we are going to do a Folger Shakespeare activity.  We will be doing prompt books with Creon's speech from Antigone.  I discussed this activity in a previous post. It is one of the best close reading activities you can do.  I plan on having the kids use Google Docs for this so I can introduce them to the sharing capabilities of their Gdrive.

Let's see how the week goes!

Blessed to be teaching,

Sophomore English:Small Group Presentations

Back to School!

I am now about to begin the third week of school with my sophomores. I have one great advantage with this group--I had them last year for English I. It was nice to not have to learn names for a new group!

Since I knew I would have the same group again, I gave them a short summer reading assignment which would introduce them to Creation Myths. As sophomores, they are taking World History and I always like to do interdisciplinary planning with the Social Studies department.  The World History teacher and I went through the Scope and Sequence for W. History, and I plugged in texts that would compliment both of the SEs for English and the SEs for W. History.

Robert Barker helped me quantify student expectations for the assignment, and I gave the students the lesson via Edmodo.  You can find it here:

English II _World History Summer Assignment

Last week, the students presented their projects in small group rotations. I am a big fan of this method for several reasons:

  1. It allows students to present more than once. I grade them on their 2nd or 3rd presentation when they have honed their time, pacing, and poise.
  2. It is easier for the small groups to pay attention to the presenter than if we were to have one presenter in front of the whole class.
  3. For introverted students, it is less daunting than doing a full group presentation.  
  4. Students are more apt to take notes during presentations because of the close proximity to the presenter.
Admittedly, it is a logistical nightmare with varying class sizes.  I assign the groups and it is easy for me to forget from class to class who was presenting (I now teach 7 of 8 class periods!).  Also, if you have 4 students presenting, they will not see each others presentation.  There was overlap in this assignment, so it wasn't a problem.

Here are some pics of the assignment in full bloom.  My principal loved it!  It really is one of those class dynamics that pretty much guarantee 100% engagement.

Five Presenters with four audience members at each station. I can walk around and remind about poise, volume, and pacing.
Students who used Popplet, Voicethread, GlogsterEDU or other 2.0 tools instead of PowerPoint or Prezi got extra points.

Presentation using Popplet

Students needed 2 instances of audience interaction. Here they complete a phone poll.

Using PollEverywhere for audience interaction.

It was definitely an energetic week. I saw so much growth in my sophomores. The introverts have learned how to come out of their shell for presenting and give it their all.  I also attribute this to the many instances of Performance-Based Learning activities we do.

We are off to begin our unit on Antigone now as they begin Ancient Civilizations in World History. We will do our engagement activity with my own version of a 32-second Antigone (a take-off of the 32 second Macbeth from the Folger)

Keep me in mind this week:  I submitted a proposal to get a sponsored for a classroom redesign! Fingers crossed!  I got the idea from here:  Rethinking Classroom Design  (This teacher has some amazing information on her site!)

Blessed to be teaching,