My Last PD Books: on Learning and Writing

I plan to teach new material in the final couple of months of my career as an ELL classroom teacher.  To this end I ordered 2 books.

1. So much has been written lately on learning how to learn and how to revise: the myth of the ubiquitous yellow highlighter and simply rereading the texts.  I will present my ELLs as well as my 9th grade Skills class with a compilation of revision suggestions.  In order to create a list of all lists, I have begun reading make it stick: The Science of Successful Learning.

2.  My ELL Writing Workshop includes assignments such as composing a rambling autobiography, a poem to a friend, the perfect focused paragraph,  as well as creating a compelling P.S.A.  I decided that both my students and I need a new challenge – to write an essay.  To help me with this I bought The Journey is Everything – Teaching Essays that Students Want to Write for People who want to Read Them.  I look forward to our journey.

 

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Remember the Reader: a note to our student writers

Many years ago, I heard a talk given by Heidi Jacobs at a NESA Conference in Bangkok.  Before she began, Heidi introduced us to 2 empty cream colored padded dining room chairs behind her on the stage.  Heidi went on to explain that those chairs were there to remind us that our target audience is always our students.  (Today I’d put out a row of them.)

I was reminded of Heidi when I viewed  Daniel Pink’s Pinkast on the empty chair.  He explains that the empty chair represents the “most important person in the room who is not in the room.”  In Heidi’s case it was the student, of course.  Pink then goes on to explain that an empty chair can be useful in our work, especially when we write.

I was intrigued.

So I went online and ordered a  box of plastic miniature chairs.

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The next writing class, I viewed the video with my ELLs but paused it after Pink talks about the empty chair in meetings.  It did not take long for my ELls to understand  that the empty chair represented their reader.

Next, they eagerly and energetically chose a chair and got back to work.

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So now, when conferencing, all I need to do is point to a chair if I am confused or need clarification.

By the way, pease notice one student’s reader, rubber duck , strategically perched on his chair.

Developing a Toolkit for Retirement

Retirement.  How I loathe that word.  It is so passé.  It is not even fashionably retro.

Anyway, my PD this year has 2 paths: my professional development as a teacher and my personal navigation towards becoming a productive, creative retiree.

I am beginning this new journey with Tim Ferriss’ latest book: Tools of Titans.

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Having read the first couple of pages, I already identify with something Arnold Schwarzenegger writes towards the end of his foreword:

“I’ve always treated the world as my classroom, soaking up lessons and stories to fuel my path forward.  I hope you do the same”.

As teachers we are always encouraging our students to be life long learners.

As teachers we know we have to model our mantras as much as possible.

I think this quotation is a perfect bridge between my two paths.  The answers will come from many sources as I continue to fill one toolbox and begin a new one.

I thank the many contributors I will be consulting  and writing about in advance.

The end of something: a reflection on retirement

It didn’t take long for Al Pacino’s definition of retirement: “death with benefits” (Righteous Kill) to put me off the word.   It is not an action verb as far as I’m concerned.  I prefer to think of the following quote by F.Rogers via Time Ferris’ The 4 Hour Work Week

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else”.

However, as a pessimist, this is not easy for me.  But I am trying  hard to believe.

Last month I handed in my notice after over 30 years of teaching.  I am fortunate that I am not burned out.  I have decided to leave because I feel it is the right time both professionally and more importantly, personally. A very dear friend once told me to leave with a smile on my face, and that is just what I’m going to do.

The desire to learn from others, keep up with my YA reading and integrate new activities into my lessons are as strong as ever.

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In my posts, I will continue to reflect on my teaching learning until next June.  However, I will sprinkle the posts with some musings and wishes in preparation for the new beginnings.

I know the transition from the school schedule to my own will be hard.  However, almost everyone I know who has left the classroom is enjoying their new freedom.  As a wise friend who began his retirement by reading War and Peace wrote to me, “I don’t know how anyone has time for work.” I wish that feeling for myself.

 

Technology and Teaching

Technology should be an “agent of change in our teaching.” (N. Chatzopoulos).  Each time I choose a tech tool (what?) , I question my rationale (how? and why)?  I even keep a notebook with ideas on how to incorporate technology into my lessons,  so that my ELLs are creating and producing rather than simply consuming.

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With this in mind, I purchased The Teacher’s Guide to Tech by Jennifer Gonzalez.  I needed a reminder of the great tools that are out there, as well as to learn about some new, intriguing tech possibilities for teaching and learning.  I am familiar with Jennifer’s engaging blog so I was not disappointed with the guide.  It is clearly designed and Gonzalez gives you a comprehensive list of tools divided into categories with easy explanations and links on how to use them.

I often use TodaysMeet and Quizlet, and will continue to do so.  However, while scrolling through the guide, I learnt about so many other great tools students can use such as:

collaborating on the big ideas of an article with Padlet,

engaging in literary discussions on Skype,

and  creating multimedia PSA posters with Glogster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bought The Teacher’s Guide to Tech by Jennifer Gonzalez.

Learning How to Learn

I never thought I’d need my small collection of timers – especially the tomato.

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I have just completed an intriguing, well planned short MOOC on  Learning How to Learn.   Dr Oakley and Prof. Sejnowsky give clear explanations on how our brain functions while ‘chunking’ information  or tips on preparing for tests.   The course is really worth taking since there is so much basic, practical information we can teach our students about test preparation, completing assignments, memory and procrastination.

Not only are the study techniques helpful to our students, but also to ourselves.  I especially connected to the sections on how to reduce procrastination,  and I was thrilled when I realized that I possessed the low tech tool to help: the veritable pomodoro.

Several big ideas were reiterated:

the necessity for focused and diffused thinking, practice, repetition, sleep, exercise, time, study buddies and using the pen or pencil.

Oakley and Sejnowsky stress the importance of teaching others as one of the best learning strategies.  I now have some concrete, research based answers for one of the big questions students ask: How do we efficiently prepare for tests?

I will be redesigning certain units for my Skills9 course.

 

Summertime Reading

I wrote 4 summer reading lists.

  1.  PD Reads

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Texts and Lessons f0r Content-Area Writing by N.Steineke and H.Daniels

Visible Learning for Literacy by D.Fisher, N.Frey and J.Hattie

as well as:

140 Twitter Tips for Educators  which is on my kindle.

I have downloaded The teacher’s Guide to Tech by Jennifer Gonzalez and an e Book Jump In.  Great teaching begins in the Pool by Ruth Ayres

2.  YA Reads

I know that I must do more than just read reviews about trending YA books.  In order to guide my ELLs to books they’ll enjoy;  I will read the books first in order to create intriguing book talks.  So here are my summer YA reads.

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3. Personal  Reads

I cleared my book shelves recently and am still left with 2 shelves (plus a list of crime/thriller, comfort reading books on my Kindle) that I want to curl up with in my armchair.  What a choice!

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Harry Potter is there because I’d like to reread the magic.

 

4.  My read aloud list for my granddaughter

The greatest pleasure. Emily’s book shelves are filling up very quickly.

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