Archive for Teaching

Reflecting on Lessons

January 4, 2013  |  Teaching  |  1 Comment
Pen(cil) to paper all day!

Working it out.

I work with some really brilliant teachers uptown at Global Scholars Academy.

We’ve been studying effective teaching together. In that work we have tried to be the kinds of colleagues who are publicly reflective. Yesterday we thought of a few questions that we could use as a protocol to guide that reflection. Keeping in mind that one cannot really get the full measure of a teacher from a short meeting or classroom visit, we’ve used our common meeting time and preps to look at lesson plans and student work together.

Additionally, when we critique each other as peers, it has been valuable to give feedback that is not just based on an isolated encounter but on work, growth, and development done over time. This has helped us to see our teaching as a developing craft, not a product.

Here are some questions that we hope you can use as you lesson plan and reflect in your own school. Nothing too flashy here, just some solid, productive introspection.

When preparing a lesson:

  • What kind of critical thinking is built into this lesson? Where can I expect to see it? — in my connection? Teach? Demonstration? Active engagement? Independent/partner/group work?
  • What data led to this lesson? Why was this what you chose to teach?
  • What specific skill are you teaching?
  • How are you going to model this skill for students?
  • What will you do for struggling students or for kids who have already mastered this?

Here are some things that you can ask yourself after a lesson:

  • How did it go? If you could improve something, what would you improve? Why?
  • How will you use the data from this lesson to influence the teaching for tomorrow?

New iPad or iPhone? You need these applications!

January 3, 2013  |  Teaching  |  No Comments

iPad is my homeboy.

So all our teacher friends came to work today sporting shiny new iPads. I don’t mean to sound like some kind of Apple fanboy or anything, (I’m not… Everyone knows that my MacBook is Bootcamped to run Windows. More on that soon…) but the iPad has been the single most important tool for my teaching since chalk. For real. I have not dealt in paper since 2010. I use it to do EVERYTHING.

Here are the apps that I find most useful. Prepare to have your socks rocked. Seriously.

Dropbox – Dont ask any questions. Just get this app. Sign up for the service. Your life will be transformed. For the uninitiated, Dropbox is the most versatile cloud-based storage solution out there. You can store your files on the internet, so that they are available to you wherever there is an internet connection. Say goodbye to flash drives, Mr. Flintstone. This app is available for phones too. Get it so you can check your curriculum maps instead of playing angry birds. You promised yourself that you would be more productive this year, remember.

CloudOn – This app manages any cloud services that you might use. Including Dropbox. Computer users who have come to the tablet darkside will be happy to know that this app uses a Microsoft Office interface. It’s a little slow, but it gets the job done.

Evernote – Another AMAZING app. It’s a digital notepad that you can sync to all of your devices. The notes you take on your iPad show up on your computer. Look ma, no wires. I use this to house and share all of the notes from my conferences and small groups with students.

Keynote – At $10, this is one of the most expensive applications on my device, but it is worth. every. cent. If you do any public speaking (a lesson is public speaking, folks) or give presentations regularly, this is a must-buy. It is basically an Apple-branded PowerPoint to go.

Pages – The second $10 app on my iPad. It’s the best Microsoft Word alternative on the device. Anything that you can do on a laptop, you can do here. Instant purchase.

Google Drive – The best thing on the internet, now on your iPad. You have access to all of your google documents in real time on this app.

Kindle – All those books you bought for your kindle, you can see and read them here. Perfect. I’ve been reading lots of Junot Diaz. Word.

Twitter – If you are an educator, and you are not on Twitter, shame on you. Join. Now. Follow us. (@MisterMinor and @MsKass1)

Penultimate – For those, who love handwriting, you can buy a stylus and write in this virtual notebook. I don’t really use this, but some people swear by it. Noteshelf is another great alternative. Better still is the genius app, Paper.

Find iPhone – This app scares me a lot, but it has saved my life on two separate occasions. It uses GPS technology to track your iPad. If you lose your iPad, you can go to any computer, and the app will locate your iPad and send a nice/nasty message to whoever found/stole it. Once I left my iPad in a cab, I was able to contact the driver through this app. Safe!

ShowMe – a really fun virtual whiteboard that is awesome to teach with… It allows you to record your writing, and you can play lessons back for kids that miss class… Yum.

ThreeRing – @Kris10_SEA put me on to this app a few days ago, and it seems cool. It allows you to photograph student work with your device’s camera and organize the work online. Yup. No more paper.

So those are my favorite few… There are so many more that I can talk about, but if you’ve got these, you are off to a good start!

Common Core Standards

December 23, 2012  |  Teaching  |  No Comments

New York State has taken the Common Core standards quite seriously. I, personally, love the challenge and heightened expectations associated with a national set of standards, but what I admire most about this recent conversation about college/career readiness is the implications to finally realize the promise of Brown vs. BOE.

For the past two years, people all over the country have scrambled for resources to make authentic reading, writing, and critical thinking a reality in every classroom. I’m honored to work with a team of educators who have been studying this work in communities in almost every state. Here is a collection of videos that were made to showcase what some teachers have been doing in their classrooms to meet this challenge. There are brilliant ideas here that you can use in your own work. Warmest of holidays. We’ve got work to do…