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.

Students As Teachers

We know that learners make effective teachers. However, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised when my 9th grade ELLs created a compelling introductory lesson to the plight of the refugees.  This was part of our broader unit based on the purpose question of ‘Why do some people survive?’

I gave the students some relevant links as well as guidelines for designing an effective lesson such as a hook and  engaging activities.  They divided themselves into groups with each one taking responsibility for one part of the lesson.

They introduced the topic with  a TED ED video, and continued with a slide show.

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They concluded the lesson with  a handout of a Venn Diagram to check whether we understood the differences and similarities between refugees and migrants.

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The students exceeded my expectations, and I told them so.

I will close our long unit by reading aloud the powerful The Journey, by Francesca Sanna,

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and the stunning, award winning book hiding behind it, Shackleton’s Journey.  Actually, it has occurred to me as I finish this post that this book will make a powerful paired text to London’s The Call of the Wild which we have read as a class novel: dog/man against nature.

Chat Stations

This is a gallery walk of chat; a great activity to deepen understanding of a text, or as Kelly Gallagher would say, ‘2nd draft reading’.  In addition, this task promotes group discussions

I got the idea from Jennifer Gonzalez from the Cult of Pegadogy, a direct approach to student engagement.

My ELLs are in the midst of our ‘text tour’ of a unit on survival.  One of the texts is on the survival skills of the cockroach (an idea I got from Jeff Wilhelm).  To deepen their understanding of this complex article, I generated a few questions. By the way, I copied several questions from this excellent blog post.

We then reviewed the protocols for respectful group discussions.  (I have written about this in more detail in a previous post).

I then simply followed Gonzalez’ clear directions.

Next time, after learning about generating high level questions, the students will come up with their own questions.

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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Final Review – Incredible Shrinking Notes

I don’t know where I first read about the shrinking notes strategy for summarizing.  It was our final lesson and my ELLs just wanted  finals to be over and for school to be out.  I needed an engaging activity to review the themes of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and remembered the shrinking notes.  In groups, students wrote the big ideas of the novel on a large sticky note, narrowed them down to a medium sized notes and finally chose the three most significant ideas on a small post it.  We then had a short discussion on each group’s choices, supporting ideas with textual evidence, of course.

Summer Slide and How to Prevent It

IMG_6252My Skills9 class goes on one field trip during the course – to the library. Summer is upon us and it is very tempting for many students to ignore reading.  So Ilana, our librarian, discussed the summer slide and its consequences.  She then went on to present the students with a creative, hands on activity.

We divided the students into groups, and gave each one a quotation about the significance of reading during the summer break.  

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Each group had 5 minutes to create a Public Service Announcement on summer reading and had to embed their quote into the script.

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The results were persuasive and humorous.

In preparation for this activity, I had asked the students which genres interested them.  As a culminating activity  the students dipped in to a wide range of books which Ilana had arranged on tables according to their preferences.

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A few even checked out their favorites.