Brooklyn, SnOMG!

Genius time...

Brooklyn, SnOMG!

February 12, 2014  |  Teaching  |  25 Comments

There was a time when nothing ever snowed out in NYC. We went to school, to work, to the park… No. Matter. What. Remember the transit strike in December ’05? Snow everywhere. No train. No bus. We still went walked to work. Conversely, I’ve had more snow setbacks this winter than I’ve had my entire career… It has wrecked my teaching calendar, but I’m not complaining. I’ve gotten good at building snow-people with my daughter… The snow has also bought out a nice little productive streak…

As such, this post is more of a resource-share for a group that I’m learning with at the Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project. I was preparing something to share with them when I realized that I have not shared much the world in a really long time! So here goes some really cool stuff… I hope to share two major things here:

  1. Some recent resources for teaching literacy/deepening inquiry.
  2. Some simple literacy tips to help with content knowledge and using the above resources.

Some recent resources for teaching literacy/deepening inquiry:

I’ve long maintained that the work of teaching is made so much easier if you are in it with a team. Sometimes that community is hard to build in a single school building or district. In 2014, it is imperative to have a personal learning network (PLN) of people with diverse experiences and perspectives on teaching. When I started teaching you had to go visit someone’s school to learn with them. Today’s technology has allowed us to do this much faster. Social media makes it fun. If you are not already on, you need to be using twitter.

Many people have talked about text selection in our inquiry group, and several of you are studying the impact of book choice on literacy in your own schools. Here is a blog post from a member of my PLN about her own shift into allowing students to choose their own books. Like our work, this post is largely written based on her anecdotal experience. Here is a New York Times write-up on the same issue. If you want more solid research on this to aid your inquiry or curiosity, comment this post, and I can upload more.

  • Teachers always ask me, “How do you know good books for teens, if you have not read them all?” Two years ago, I worked with some students on answering that question. They made me a list of books that they liked, and we arranged the books in order of difficulty (from easiest to hardest according to the students) and by genre. This list should help out a lot if book selection is the way you are leaning. Editors Note: You should be leaning this way. 🙂
  • Read-alouds work well in middle and high school classrooms too… That whole-class novel that you abandoned can be divided and read in excerpts, or you can select texts that engage your students. These are brilliant opportunities to teach and DEMONSTRATE reading skills. Here is a document with engaging read-aloud texts for teens.

You all have asked for more tech stuff. Here is an essential link for the top 50 teacher-tech innovations. (I agree with about 42 of these.) Also, here is a BRILLIANT list of things for Special Educators.

Some simple literacy tips to help with content knowlege.

Many of us talked the last time about making sure that our classes are places where students who are English language learners can be successful. I’ve taught all over the United States, and I’m beginning to believe that to an extent, we are all English language learners… The dialects that we speak at home are often not English. (I, personally, speak fluent Brooklyn. I used to speak Atlanta before the official language of the south became “ATL”.) If this is true, then we’ve got a larger question on our hands:

How can we meet the language needs of ALL the students in our classes?

As I learned to confront this, I realized that as a middle and high school teacher, I knew a lot about reading and writing goals, but I did not know much about actual LANGUAGE goals. Here is a convenient document that breaks it all down. Study it and think about how you might integrate specific language goals into your teaching. What might this mean for any inquiry work that you are doing?


There is no such thing as THE way...

There is no one way to success for students. The paths are as diverse as the backgrounds and needs of the families that we serve. How do I account for that in the classroom? Do we need more ninjas?

There is no such thing as THE way…

November 2, 2013  |  Teaching  |  1 Comment

With so many new initiatives and mandates, teaching and learning is beginning to feel more high-stakes than ever. From Common Core to Charlotte Danielson’s framework, the checklist of things in my “Gotta Do” file seems to include everything except for ensuring that students love learning and that they do it consistently.

It’s been a short autumn, but already the weight of the academic year is beginning to get a bit uncomfortable. I’ve been all over the country and in many parts of the world this season, and people keep asking:

“In all of this, how do I keep the focus on student learning?” Bigger still, as we learn more about students and their diverse needs, how can we teach in a way that is inclusive and in a manner that provides as many different pathways as possible to academic and life success?

There are no easy answers, but there is community.

On Wednesday November 6 I’ll be leading a Twitter Chat among teachers, parents, community leaders, and students to discuss creating multiple pathways to student learning. The hour-long chat starts at 7:30 PM EST. (Apologies to Singapore and Shanghai. I owe you all breakfast next time I’m in town.) You can join by searching and using the hashtag #TCRWP. I hope to “see” you there. You can also follow me @MisterMinor

For those of you who are in NYC and want to continue the conversation in person, I’m co-leading an inquiry group with the Inclusive Classrooms Project at Teachers College. You can register for free here.

So Much Teacher Technology, So Little Time.

Back -- And always better than ever!

So Much Teacher Technology, So Little Time.

August 28, 2013  |  Teaching  |  1 Comment

If you are in NYC, school is about to start. If you are in other parts of the world, you are probably 6 periods deep into your 2nd, 7th 0r 12th day of school (Salute, you intrepid pioneers)! I wanted to put together a series of posts to ease you into your first month or so of school. This first topic – Teacher Tech – was inspired, in part, by my colleague, LeAnne from San Francisco.

So this is what I did to prep for 'Back to School'...

So this is what I did to prep for ‘Back to School’… I hung out with Smartt people.

There are far too many amazing apps, programs, and websites out there to keep up with (Peep my twitter @MisterMinor to stay in the know). All that is compounded with the hundreds of ways to actually use each one! As a result, staying sharp on the latest teaching innovations can begin to feel like a second job.

The arduous nature of that task does not diminish the reality that teachers MUST embrace new technologies. Failure to do so in our classrooms can have a murderously negative impact on your students ability to earn over a lifetime of work. If we believe, as Jefferson did, that public education’s role is to unshackle our nation from poverty, then dismissing technology as an unnecessary frill is treasonous to the profession.

So then, how do we keep up with technology AND the 4,080 other things on our teacher to-do lists? The answer lies in another time-honored American institution:

Child labor. (Wry smile.)

Seriously. Let kids help you. Some of the best professional development that I have had in my life has been facilitated by 13-year-olds. Here is how you should work your tech hustle this year:

Form a SWAT Team (Students Who Assist with Technology). This is who needs to be on it —

  • The Enthusiast: this is the kid that is already in love will all things gadgety. Look up from your teaching right now (s)he is probably playing a video game or posting to twitter right now. If properly empowered & outfitted, this kid will save your career.
  • The Boss (Bo$$ or Bawse, if you teach 7th grade — It’s a Miami thing.): This is the kid that is in everyone’s business. This kid knows the who, what, when, and where of your classroom better than you do.
  • The Early Riser: All of us have that kid that shows up for class at 7:40 even though class does not start until 8:10. This kid has the extra time to do your bidding.
  • The Expert: This kid knows everything about something… Cars, Pro Wrestling, Parachutes — whatever. This kid, somewhat organically, has the serious research muscle that you will need.

These kids can do everything for you. Invest 14 minutes a week in your professional learning by working with them…

  1. Once a week for seven minutes, take two of them. Hand over all you gadgets and ask them to show you something impressive. Then have them coach you as you do it. This is how I learned to code. Seriously.
  2. Once a week for the remaining seven minutes, tell the other two an app or program you want to learn, have them go away, tinker, and teach you all about it next week.
  3. You can also have the Early Riser collect digital texts for you (from online or from databases) — (s)he can save them to Google Drive or to Dropbox. The rest of your team can comb through them for formatting, save them into organized folders, and email them out to other students.

Hope this gets you off to a decent start!

— Corn