Periods of Reflection

Just random musings from an elementary perspective. Views are my own.

We’re So Connected, We’re Disconnected

109623

This post has been brewing my mind since attending my past few educational conferences, so let me get right to the point.

I will preface what I am about to express by stating that I am an enormous believer in the principal of connectivity.  I would not be close to the educator I am today if I was not connecting with more talented and skillful educators than myself around the world.  My pedagogical ideas are pushed and challenged, and it consistently keeps my on my toes.  At this point, I just can’t see how educators are not connected.  It’s a non negotiable for our own professional growth, as well as our students. I am well aware of the hurdles and challenges with those who are less tech savvy or have a fixed mindset, but it’s time to more on from excuses and  fear into embracing tools that can reignite your career and passion for what you do to help kids become successful.  The amount of sharing and collaboration is unprecedented and will only benefit our students.

With that being said, I’m concerned the human element of interacting face to face with others is missing.  Too many times, I see people roaming through the hallways, heads down and immersed in their devices.  Am I part of that as well? Absolutely, 100% yes. There is most certainly a time and place to be utilizing Twitter.  That’s part of the power of the tool.  However, sometimes the constant attention to our Twitter feeds or other social media tools can create missed opportunities to collaborate face to face.  In the spirit of full disclosure, this is what I noticed at ISTE in Philadelphia.  I could be speaking to someone and their attention would be partially on me and partially on their device.   This happened multiple times to me, as well as some colleagues from my district.  That lead to a conversation about the high touch humanistic approach that seemed to be fleeting.  How can we create a shift?

While I am extremely outgoing and can strike up a conversation with anyone, I still feel challenged when speaking to fellow educators.  I have doubts about my opinions or thoughts, and often question what I am saying.  But that’s part of pushing yourself.  Don’t be afraid to share ideas and strategies that are effective with others. At best, they may challenge your idea and push you to think in different ways, which is always a good thing.  The risk is worth it. It’s all part of having a growth mindset, operating under the premise that you can FAIL, reflect, and grow.

Before phones.  Before social media. We interacted by conversing. Let’s not lose that!  Having the ability to have those face to face conversations should not become a lost art form.  Sure, relationships and connections can start on Twitter, but it’s important to not neglect the importance of putting your device away and focusing on conversations and being present in the moment.  The same goes for presenters.  Of course, you should utilize tools like Today’s Meet, Google Docs, or Padlet to back-channel, but allow time for participants to interact with one another.

I often find, especially at Edcamps, that the interactions I have with educators in the hallway at or in between sessions, sitting on the grass outside, or enjoying lunch together, are the most powerful and profound.  I try to hold that premise with me when I travel to attend or speak at conferences.  At that point, we exchange social media contact information to continue to grow collaboratively.  It would clearly be a missed opportunity if I was immersed with my device.  While I would never change how I grow professionally using Twitter or social media, it’s essential to remember the high tech/high touch approach to learning and growing professionally.

So next time you’re at a conference, try it. Put your device down and find the balance. Sit with someone you don’t know. Ask them about their classroom and what’s effective and what strategies they employ. The results might surprise you.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching.  I am nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

Please Don’t Follow the Herd

Photo by: Dale Anne Potter

Photo by: Dale Anne Potter

These days in education, it’s all about pacing guides, companies selling “quick fix” programs, and teachers covering as much curriculum as we can, without diving deeper into content in creative and engaging ways.  I believe this shift can certainly be related to the enormous focus on standardized testing.  Can we blame teachers? In many circumstances, I’d like to say no.  Administrators are under intense scrutiny to close the achievement gap and to raise school test scores. The billionaire reformers want to see progress.   Because, after all, that’s all that matters, right? (((rolls eyes))) Never mind the fact we are creating robots as learners because so much time is used teaching to the test. Let’s not rob our students souls by the dreadful nonstop test prep.

We should be inspiring creativity and an enthusiasm for developing a sense of life long learning!  We must create a shift.  We must not follow the herd of the quick fix reformers in education.

How can this be done?

Planning Systematically:


We must get to know our students.  We must get to know their learning styles and tendencies.  This information will help drive how we go about creating lessons that will make learning meaningful and memorable.  You can easy create a survey using google forms to dissect each student’s strengths and areas they can improve. Utilize and high tech/high touch approach to learning.  Be sure to talk to parents about their child’s learning tendencies as well.

Relationships:

This is paramount in any classroom.  I can’t stress their importance enough. We must build the foundation with students and create an environment of trust in your classroom.  Talk to your kids.  Allow a few minutes each day to ask them how they are doing.  Read their signs.  This is a simple, yet effective way, to show kids you care.

Unpack the Standards:

The common core standards are not going anywhere anytime soon.  To be honest, I don’t hate the idea of having common standards.  If teachers unpack the standards and get to know them, you can attack and teach each standard in a way that is best for your students.  I know the argument to this by some teachers is that we have pacing guides and recommendations from the district how to teach standards.  They are just that, a guide. I’m confident if your administrator walked into your classroom and students were focused, engaged, and demonstrating learning, they can’t really disagree with your decision to make the lesson your own.

Student Voice and Choice:

 Technology and choice can go hand in hand.  Utilizing the many tools at our disposal, students have a multitude of ways to demonstrate understanding in creative and engaging ways.  Remember, technology is just a tool and pedagogy should always be thought about first! Some creative ideas for students to demonstrate understanding using technology are…

  • Animoto trailers
  • Green Screen Videos (great content creation app, regardless of subject)
  • Blog posts to connect with authentic audiences using Write About
  • ThingLink App Smash (great content creation app, regardless of subject)
  • Educreation/Explain Everything videos (great content creation app, regardless of subject)
  • Comic book creations.
  • Collaborative Google Slide presentations
  • Blogging with an authentic audience
  • QR code scavenger hunts

This list can go on and on.

Think Different, Take Risks, and F.A.I.L:

Don’t be afraid to try new things in the classroom.  There are times when we will plan a lesson that we think will be amazing, but will be a complete failure (First attempt in learning).  Accept this and be honest with students. This shows them that you can model taking risks, reflect, and grow from your experiences. An end goal would to have students be as reflective as possible to augment their social and academic growth.

Work WITH your team, but challenge them:

We all work on teams.  I believe we are stronger as a unified, collaborative group who have the students best interests at heart.  Will we disagree from time to time? Yes, but this can be done in a constructive and positive way.  If you respectfully disagree with something you team has asked of you, explain your reasoning, and offer a solution.  Brainstorm together.  Ensure all voices are heard.  This can lead to a positive working team, as well as a team that works together for our greatest stalk holders, our students!

It’s All About Purposeful Feedback:

This summer I read Assessment 3.0 by Mark Barnes. This book reaffirmed my believe about the importance of focused feedback and reflection to help students grow.  Students and parents have been trained since pre-school that grades are the end goal.  I disagree. For my students, I want to instill the value of using feedback, both from peers and teachers to grow as learners.   Set learning goals with your students.  Conference with your students.  Allow them the opportunity to re-submit work based on the feedback given.  Keep in mind the feedback must be explicit and not generic. This will show true growth over time and build an intrinsic motivation to learn. An easy way to keep a digital portfolio of learning for students and parents is Seesaw, but I’ll save that explanation for another post.

Genius Hour and Passion Based Learning:

Much has been documented about Genius Hour and it’s benefits.  Read this guest post I wrote on Angela Maier’s blog for more details.  It’s helpful to also follow Joy Kirr on Twitter.  She’s an amazing resource for Genius Hour.

I hope this post provide you with some ideas about way to not follow the herd.  Our kids deserve better. What are some ways you don’t follow the herd?

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching.  I am nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

Building a Reading Community

Reading Warrior Day!

Reading Warrior Day!

That moment before the first day of school.  The moment when you see your new scholars walking down the hallway.  Some with infectious and enthusiastic smiles.  Others with looks of apprehension and nerves.  As an educator, I experience them all.  Will they like my class? Will they develop a passion for learning? Will they respect my energy and love for reading? Will they respond to having more freedom and choice? Will they leave my room as a voracious reading warrior? Thousands of questions roam around in my mind. I love this challenge.  It drives me.

In our learning lab, we are surrounded by books.  Books in cases, on shelves, on counters, on designated coffee table surrounded by pub tables and exercise balls.  Books. Are.  Everywhere. How do I go about building a reading community?  Here are some simple steps below.

Relationships:

It’s my duty as a teacher to engage students in creative and interesting ways to help them develop a love and passion for reading for enjoyment.  The first step to building a reading community is relationships. Without this foundation, I truly believe we cannot harness a child’s true potential.  We need to think of kids as humans, not as DRA scores or lexile levels.  Those are a very small piece to a gigantic puzzle. How can this be done?

Talk and Conference:

We need to talk and conference with them as much as possible.  We need to ask them about themselves and their reading lives.  We need to connect with parents to learn about reading habits at home.  Invite kids to have lunch with you to have informal conversations about books. Steal 3 minutes in the hallway to ask them about what book they’re reading. Display books that students are currently reading on lockers.  When you buy a new book tell a specific child you had them in mind when choosing it, then watch their faces light up. Create a reading graffiti wall for students to recommend books.  (Thanks to Donalyn Miller for that idea!)

Surveys:

I use surveys to find out this information.  This is the springboard to in-depth, real conversations about book.  I usually administer a survey 3 times a year to ensure I value student voice in the process of buying books, let them reflect how they’ve grown as a reader, and to have an up-to-date pulse about their attitudes toward reading.
Choice:

It’s a non-negotiable that students have choice to read what they would like in my classroom. Sure we have many varying levels of types or readers, but using information from a survey can go a long way with working with students to ensure they have great books in their hands. Do students always make the best choices? No, let’s be honest.  But if you notice a child is reading a book that is too easy or too hard for them, conference with them, help them choose a book, and then set a goal in their readers’ notebook about wanting to read a specific book.  This can lead to intrinsic motivation for them to work harder to met a goal.

Model Strong Reading Habits:

One of my favorite days in class are our “Reading in the Zone” days.  I got this idea from the wonderful and amazing Nancy Atwell.  On these days, students read uninterrupted for 30 minutes or so, then we come back to the carpet to just have conversations about the books we are reading.  It’s so powerful for kids to develop deep questioning and listening skills, as well as a great way to recommend books to others.  During this time, I also read in the zone with students to model my passion for reading.  I also display current books I’m reading in class, as well as the book I’m reading next to show my scholars I set goals and have a plan for reading.

Technology: 

Technology and choice can go hand in hand.  Utilizing the many tools at our disposal, students have a multitude of ways to demonstrate understanding in creative and engaging ways.  Remember, technology is just a tool and pedegogy should always be thought about first! Some creative ideas for choice after reading a book are…

  • Animoto book trailers
  • Green Screen Videos
  • Creating an exemplar summary and QR to paste into books for other students to read
  • Blog posts to connect with authentic audiences
  • Voki
  • ThingLink App Smash
  • Educreation videos highlight major plot lines in story, character analysis, etc.
  • Using Edmodo for book clubs
  • Skype with authors
  • Global Read Aloud!!!
  • Comic book creations.
  • Collaborative Google Slide presentations
  • Create Shelfari Widget for classroom website to display books I’ve read
  • Integrate Twitter and Instagram into classroom website to share books

Book a Day:

Jillian Heise shared a great idea about a book a day on Twitter. I immediately loved this idea and have been participating in this.  The end goal for me is to read about 120 picture books this year, both as mentor texts and for enjoyment.  I then display the books we’ve read on our “Book a Day” bulletin board outside the classroom. I also plan on having students do weekly reflections using our green screen room to discuss what books we’ve read.

Engaging Books:

This year, with the help of my amazing and generous parents, as well as supportive administrative team, I have been able to get at least 300 new books for my classroom library.  Sure, this is more money than I can even think about right now, but students need access to highly engaging picture books, graphic novels, and informational text.  A really creative way that I introduce books is by becoming the reading warrior.  Click here for some pictures from this lesson.  I bought a shirt from Pernille Ripp’s web store, borrowed a cape and sunglasses from my brother, and became my alter ego. Needless to say, it was epic.  Don’t be afraid to embrace your inner pirate!

Read Aloud:

I can’t stress the importance of a classroom read aloud.  Please read this post that I wrote a few months ago about its benefit.

One more thing, JUST SAY NO TO READING LOGS.  Nothing robs a child’s reading soul more then this outdated practice!

These are just a few ways to I build a community of readers in my classroom.  Be on the lookout for part two of this post coming soon.  In what ways do you build a reading community in your classroom?

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching.  I am nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

Google Doc Link

Ripp Edcamp Agenda

I “Disliked” Reading and My Vow to Students

photo by Very Best Quotes

Today was the official start for my new scholars. The slate was perfectly clean and open to creating magical and memorable learning experiences for my incoming fifth graders in ELA and Social Studies.  They walked down the hallway, some stoked, and some jittery beyond belief.  This excitement and nervousness never gets old.

As my students entered my classroom, I immediately heard them talking about how the books were displayed.  A few students mentioned the organization of our library.  A few students said, “Hey, I’ve read that book,” upon seeing “Wonder” on display.  The hook was immediate for some kids, but not for all. This was to be expected.  I would have been the latter when I was in fifth grade.

I called the students to the carpet to read “First Day Jitters.” We discussed what jitters meant and proceeded to make predictions about what the text might be about.  As I was navigating through the book, I kept my eyes on students, some of which were very engaged and some that were not.  Many students expected the ending to be about a new girl not wanting to attend a new school and were shocked that it was the teacher who had jitters.  The conversation was ignited and off we went.

This was the moment I was waiting for.  My chance to talk about how passionate I am about reading.  My chance to start their transformation from being readers to reading warriors.  We toured the classroom library with great enthusiasm.  I stopped to book talk my favorite books from the summer.  I talked about my passion for picture books and incredible message they can contain.  Then I stopped talking.  I stood in silence for a minute.  The students were perplexed and anxiously awaiting my next sentence. I had them hooked again.  I calmly asked them to walk back to the carpet.

As we sat down I told them I was going to be honest.  I explained that throughout the year this will become a normal practice. It was time to be real with them. I said, “I really disliked reading growing up.” “In fact, I read very little.” At that very moment, you could see the look of confusion on their face.  Some nervously looked around at each other and some turned their attention to the floor.  It was the moment I was hoping for.  Suddenly, a student burst out, “You’re a teacher.  How can you hate reading?”

All eyes turned to me. I said, “I disliked reading because I was always forced to read what the teacher told me.  I disliked reading because I was not really good at it.  I struggled terribly. Very few teachers really took the time to get to know what types of books I enjoyed.  I never was encouraged like I should have been by my teachers.  It made me really, really hate books.  Most of the reading I did was from textbooks and we had to read aloud. Since I was not a fluent reader, I became self conscience about my skills.  I was not confident.” You could have heard a pin drop in the classroom.  Then I smiled big and proud and told them I am making a vow to them.

I will honor their reading lives.  I will honor their right to have choice and voice in how they go about choosing books and demonstrating understanding in creative ways.  I will honor their independent reading time. I will honor their hard work and effort in striving to become reading warriors.  I will honor their time to make peer to peer recommendations. I will honor their work by writing focused, purposeful feedback in order for them to get stronger with written responses to text.   I will honor their time to Skype with classes around the globe to see reading in a broader context.  I will honor them by thoroughly looking over their reading surveys to ensure I can get books in their hands that would surely inspire. I will honor their time to have “Reading in the zone” days to read for pure enjoyment. I would honor our read aloud time everyday.”

Our attention then went to our “You Matter” board inspired by Angela Maiers.  Student could not help but smile.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching. I was Stamford, CT 2014 Teacher of the Year.  I was nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

choice

voice

surveys

book talking

peer to peer recommendations

Genius Hour!

I am super honored to have my Genius Hour posted featured on Angela Maiers’s blog.  Please click the link below to read it.

Genius Hour: “An intrinsic motivation to learn and grow.”

Do You Say I’m Sorry to Your Students?

The other day was one of those days.  Let’s be real.  We, as educators, periodically have them.  A number of requirements can trigger a reaction of frustration, resentment, or negative energy.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to deal with a multitude of “issues” that arise in the classroom or directives from the district.  There are some days, no matter what you do, it’s hard to shake.

This led to me being “short” with my students.  It was obvious to them that it was one of those days.  Every little action made me frustrated.  Some students kept trying to push the limits and this made me more upset.  My students have a significant amount of “freedom” in my class, but when that is pushed or abused, I will create a more controlling environment.  This goes against my educational philosophy, but it’s essential from time to time.

So after repeating simple directions and students not following them, my patience was waning. I realized I needed to take a break and a few deep breathes outside of the classroom.  This simple, yet effective, strategy goes a long way to calm the nerves and refocus your energies.  It gave me a few moments to gather my thoughts and decide what to do next.  It became obvious, that what I need to do was apologize to my students.  Now, were they at fault for not following simple directions.  Yes, no question about it.  But my reaction was a bit harsh for the situation.

I reentered the classroom and called students to the carpet.  I said “I’m sorry.”  I’m sorry for being short with you, I’m sorry for reacting how I did.  I’m sorry I took learning time away from you. I admitted my fault.  I showed them I am not perfect.  I showed them that teachers make mistakes, too.  I showed them that it’s important to take responsibilities for your actions, learn from your mistakes, reflect, and move on.  This apology led to an interesting conversation because a few students said they never had a teacher who apologized to them.  This statement was quite surprising to me. This led to powerful conversation about how everyone makes mistakes, even teachers.  A student approached me after class and said “I’m sorry I was not following directions and it won’t happen again, but thanks for apologizing and being honest with us.  This is why we love your class.”  It was a comment that was real and from the heart.

We have all been guilty of having one of those days and probably reacted to students in a way that was not the norm.  Isn’t this a chance for educators to be real and honest with students? Are teachers too proud to say I’m sorry? How often do you say you’re sorry when your wrong in the classroom? I’ve heard teachers say apologizing shows weakness in the classroom. I have to respectfully disagree with that! It can go a long way to create a positive, loving, honest, and real environment in your classroom.

I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching.  I am nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

Why Reading Aloud Matters

Photo by Shelley Davis

Why Reading Aloud Matters

One of the most important times in my classroom is our read aloud time.  It is known to my students as a non-negotiable time.  It’s a time to summon your alter ego and get lost in the story.  It’s a time for students to find a comfortable spot in our classroom.  It’s a time to celebrate the written word by demonstrating passion, admiration, and respect for it. Reading aloud is a lost art in many schools, and it’s time to resurrect this sacred time.

Let me be blunt, contrary to popular belief, read aloud time is instructional time.  A teacher can purposefully weave and scaffold many strategies and skills taught throughout the year.  This takes systematic planning and focus on the teachers part. Have a pacing guide? No worries. You can find a chapter book that aligns to standards being taught. Books used as a read aloud should be chosen with great care and as closely aligned to your student’s interests as possible.  Exposures to various types of genres is imperative, as reading aloud is a chance to open up new worlds of language and knowledge for our students.

At the start of the school year, I give students this interest survey.  This has been modified from the many surveys I’ve found online from my PLN on Twitter.  By giving this interest survey and using the information, it provides me with a road map for the books I will be reading aloud throughout the year. Can this change, absolutely, but I highly encourage you to have a “soft” scoop and sequence with regards to books and the places you want to take the kids through the magic of a read aloud.

For the spirit of honestly, I usually start the year off reading picture books. Why? Because picture books rock! Many picture books have significant messages, themes, character development, etc, that can be used to deep a students understanding of basic skills, as well as modeling the importance of how powerful a picture book can be for instructional purposes. This year I read Pete and Pickles, What To Do with an Idea, The magnificent Thing,  Bluebird, and Thank You Mr. Falker to name a few. This is a springboard which leads perfectly into The Global Read Aloud.  Here is my post from the 2013 Global Read Aloud, as well as a post from our building wide read aloud.  Suffice to say, The Global Read Aloud is one of my favorite projects each year.

Every year, without fail, I have the majority of my class either borrowing or purchasing the GRA book to read in school and/or at home with their parents.  Nothing makes me happier as an educator than students who are genuinely stoked to read a book because they are intrinsically motivated too, not because they have to.  Some of the chapter books I’ve read this year were Fish in a Tree, One for the Murphys, Terrible Two, The Crossover, Locomotive, and Lincoln’s Grave Robbers.  Each book provided some very rich, meaningful conversation that is inspiring to watch, especially when we get out of our students’ way and let them share their voice.  But that’s a whole different topic.

So, without further adieu, here are just SOME reasons why I read aloud to my students.

  • builds community and nutures a love of reading
  • exposure to complex vocabulary
  • improved syntax
  • improved listening and written comprehension
  • improved predicting and inferring skills
  • shared experience that “equals” the playing field
  • stop at key points of the text to build suspense
  • opportunity for discussion and students working collaboratively
  • exposure to a variety of different genres
  • introduce a range of high quality books
  • FUN!
  • creates a community of readers and foster loves for written text
  • models a love of reading
  • immersion in language, text structures, themes, etc.
  • integrate technology purposefully and connect globally to discuss books using Skype, Kidblog, and Edmodo
  • can lead to parent engagement – Post books on Shelfari Widget, classroom website, Remind, Instagram, Twitter
  • increased fluency, expression, voice inflection, rate, accuracy
  • visualization and creating a movie in their mind
  • Can be very low tech, too. It’s all about bringing passions and enthusiasm as you read.

I’d love to hear from you.  What are your books favorite books to read aloud? Why do you read aloud?

I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching.  I am nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

How I Use Idea Paint in my Learning Laboratory

Updated: June 1st, 2015.  

In my ever present chase to push the limits of what’s possible in the classroom(please read my learning commons post), I decided to paint most of my desks white using Idea Paint.  I was fortunate enough to receive a grant from our amazing PTO at my school, so because of this, the paint was bought for me. I applaud their efforts to support re-imagining what a 21st century classroom can look like.

How Will I Use the Idea Paint:

I teach a Humanities course, which falls under the academic subjects of Social Studies and English Language Arts.  My immediate thought was to use it a place where students can;

  • write down vocabulary words and use them in a sentence in context
  • making predictions/inferences about characters, plot lines, etc
  • write down character traits from independent reading and read aloud books
  • work collaboratively as a table to answer essential questions of lessons
  • share work by participating in a “gallery walk”
  • use as formative assessment tool to quickly check for understanding
  • exit slips to check for understanding after a lesson
  • have students write written response to text – After response is written, they can upload to Evernote to place in their digital portfolio (goal for next year)
  • take a photo of their work, individually or collaboratively, and use Airserver to mirror to IWB
  • fun and engaging way for students to learn
  • draw their visualizations
  • creating timelines of historical events
  • fosters creativity
  • brainstorm for writing
  • paperless and saves trees 🙂
  • note taking

  

   As you can see, these are just a few ideas of what’s possible.  Of course, some ideas will work better than others.   I am sure, based on feedback from students, there will be many new ways to use Idea Paint in the classroom.  I am a proponent of student voice, so their feedback is invaluable for me.  Rest assured, when the Idea Paint is used, just like purposeful technology integration, it will be used to enhance the student’s learning. Please let me know what creative ways you use Idea Paint in your classroom!

I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching.  I am nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

_______________________________________________________________________________________________
NOTE: This original post from 2014.  It’s my old classroom.

I first heard about Idea Paint from a couple of teachers in my professional learning network.  Idea paint can transform many surfaces into a dry erase surface.  Simple premise, with an enormous amount of potential to revolutionize how students can work collaboratively in a classroom.

I moved forward with my vision and created a Donor’s Choose project.  Before I knew it, I was fully funded by the generous donations from parents in my classroom, as well as other parents of students who attend my school via a post on our PTO Facebook page.  In addition to the Donor’s Choose donation, another parent from my building caught wind of this project and donated an addtional can of Idea Paint! Score!!

How Will I Use Idea Paint?

As I stated above, I am looking to augment how scholars work collaboratively in my classroom.  Looking around my classroom, I realized that there was so much valuable space in my room that was under utilized.  This is our time to think outside the box of what a traditional classroom can look like.  Check out the photos below for before and after examples of my classroom.

BEFORE:

ImageImage

AFTER:

ImageImage

Throughout my years of teaching, I’ve learned an unbelievable amount of information about how to run a classroom.  The list can go on and on.  One of the most important lessons I’ve learned was to talk less and allow scholars to work collaboratively in a purposeful, concise manner.  The impact of such a collaborative classroom has impacted my scholars because I have more time to work with groups and individuals to meet their specific needs, leading to greater academic success.

My scholars are changing by using this model because, as I stated above, scholars learn by doing, not just by listening. I have started to use this model with math, because I use a centers based approach, so scholars can learn and help each other because of the increased collaboration and flexibility of the model. Scholars collaborate with different types of learners, which will benefit them as they proceed through their educational career and into the workforce.

I am also using Idea Paint during Reader’s Workshop and small group instruction.  After modeling a specific skill that day, scholars are asked to demonstrate that skill during the work period.  If the lesson calls for group work, Idea Paint is the way to go.  I can easily monitor scholar’s progress, while working in small groups, because of the size of the surface.  I can provide easy redirection to get scholars back on track, if needed.  I can then snap a photo and upload it into their digital portfolios using Evernote for future reference, when I remember.

Here are a couple “Vine” videos Demonstrating the use of Idea Paint.

Solving Multi-Step Word Problems

Identifying Author’s Point of View

While this is only my second week of full implementation, my scholars and I feel really enthusiastic about its potential.  My hope is that with the second can, I will be able to paint many desks in my classroom, with administrative permission of course!

As a proponent of student voice, I have heard and listened to my scholar’s feedback about how to best use Idea Paint.  I look forward to continuing to look for creative ways to use Idea Paint in my classroom.  If you have any feedback or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

If you’d made it this far, feel free to follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

Summer – The Good and The Bad

images

As summer approaches, it is met with great enthusiasm by most students, teachers, and parents. It’s a time for families to get together, take family getaways, go to the park, curl up and read an amazing book, and just connect as a whole. I vividly remember my summers with my family growing up and cherish all the memories we created. It’s wild to go back and look at old photo albums of our adventures.

Summer for educators is a great time to reflect on the past year and to keep growing, both personally and professionally. This can be done by reading, attending conferences such as EdCamps, connecting with others in the PLN using Twitter, Google +, as well as many other tools. It’s also a great time to recharge your batteries and not do anything education related. This is perfectly acceptable, and quite encouraged.

Most students depart from the last day of school with relentless excitement. Many kids have talked about all the camps they will be attending, vacations they will be taking, and books they’ll read (my personal fav). I share in their excitement for what’s the come. There is no question about it. However, not all kids are as enthusiastic about their departure from school.

You see, for many kids, school is a sanctuary. It is their safe place filled with routines, consistency, and teachers who love and support their academic and social well being. It is the place where they are greeted with a smile everyday and eager friends ready to socialize and work together in class. It’s the place where they can have a hot meal that’s always guaranteed, as well as a snack. Think about this. When summer arrives, students who do not have consistency at home are left in limbo. They are losing the one consistent piece in their lives, school.  Unfortunately, many kids don’t know where their next meal will be coming from. Their parents work 2-3 jobs and are never around to be the role models they hope to be for their kids. It’s not a happy time for some. Some kids can’t play outside or meet friends because of lack of transportation.

I know we can only control what happens in our classrooms, but before you think about creating a countdown of remaining days of school, think about the less fortunate kids. Think about the daily struggles they will face when not in school. Additionally to not knowing where their next meal is coming from, they can receive little to no academic support. Everything I mentioned above is absolutely heartbreaking. But there are steps we can take as educators to continue to make a difference.

Post on your classroom website and recommend books. Be sure to try and reach out connect with parents and students over the summer. This can be done over email, quick phone call, using Remind and Edmodo, attending a child’s game, and writing a letter to students, to name a few. Let them all know you are thinking about them. These small steps can and will go a long way to maintaining a positive influence in all of your student’s lives. Students need us now more than ever. Be the positive, consistent presence in their lives. How will you maintain relationships with students and parents over the summer?

I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach