Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pinterest: A Professional Development Goldmine

If it were up to me, I’d require school every district to provide teachers with professional development on how to use Pinterest in their classrooms.

Why? Because it is the most convenient, most efficient, and most inspirational professional learning community on the planet.

That’s a pretty bold claim, I know. But there’s plenty of evidence to back it up - starting with every teacher’s need to share ideas that change students’ lives and ending with every teacher's ongoing quest to find that next “magic” lesson.

The Unselfish Nature of Educators

Teachers are generous souls.
  • They write blogs about lessons that motivate reluctant learners.
  • They photograph and post student-friendly projects.
  • They make video tutorials of strategies in action.
  • They even create thousands of lessons that fellow teachers can access for free.

What’s the payoff? 

Usually, it’s a small token of their appreciation to honor the teachers whose online teaching tips have enhanced their own craft. It's a way for them to pay it forward.

And what is the most popular place for educators to spread all this good will?

Yep. You guessed it...on Pinterest.

The Top Ten List

These are ten of the most popular ways teachers use Pinterest to support their classroom efforts:

#1   To curate content
#2   To access innovative traditional and technology-based lessons
#3   To find assessments that support standards
#4   To research best practices for teaching subject-specific vocabulary
#5   To learn new classroom management techniques
#6   To “borrow” functional and inspirational classroom decors
#7   To collaborate with other teachers
#8   To keep up with trends.
#9   To download freebies and access for-teachers-only discounts
#10 To find a source of inspiration when energy-levels drag

Here is a short video that showcases all 10 along with three examples of each item on the list:


My Two Favorite Tips for Using Pinterst in ELA Classes

Tip #1  Teach Directly from Pinterest Boards
I have personally created boards which help me teach and review challenging topics like Complex Sentences, Point of View, Power Verbs and Adjectives, and Quotation Writing. 

After conducting a mini-lesson, I simply pull up a Pinterest board and have students practice what they’ve learned.

Since several English teachers use these lessons, I added teacher directions at the top of each board and student directions under each pin. These boards make engaging learning stations and are great for independent work as well!

Tip #2 View Video Tutorials and Demos to Get Quick and Easy Lesson Ideas
Finding that just-right video to use with my students is like finding the perfect card for a special friend. When I find a video that can get my message across in a more memorable way than I could deliver it, I feel all tingly inside. 

This video clip on summarizing is a delightful example of how to write a bare-bones summary. I never get tired of it.  And when I remind students later in the year to summarize like a New York City cop, they know exactly what I mean.

Another one of my favorites on literary devices is hosted by an easy-on-the-eyes host who identifies himself simply as Paul. I don’t know if Paul is a teacher or an actor, but I do know that his presentation is engaging and his delivery is flawless. See what I mean…tingles.

Videos don’t have to be professional to be useful. Here is one I made on Printing with Post Its - after reading a blog post written by a Studio DIY blogger who used Post Its to display a Happy Anniversary message on a wall to surprise her husband. 

Sappy? Maybe. But I still think about that anniversary image whenever I print lessons on Post Its. I had so much fun incorporating Post Its into my own lessons that I made a video tutorial to share my new-found obsession with my online teacher friends. 

Evidently, a lot of teachers felt the same way I did when I realized that Post It Printing was possible - because as of this posting, almost 200k teachers have viewed this one-minute video. 

If you watch it and like the idea, you can download the standard size Post It template here for free

I file all my videos on two Pinterest boards. Then I move the video I need to the top of the board the day before I want to use it. Voila! Easy access. Instant organization. Creative mini-lesson.

So there you have it: my top 2 tips for using Pinterest in my classroom.

If you have a favorite tip for using Pinterest in your classroom, please share it here!

Get more ideas about using Pinterest as part of your teaching practice by checking out the secondary blogs below - courtesy of this blog hop/linky hosted by ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures. 

Until next time…stay committed…teach with passion…and inspire students with who you are.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Best (and Super-Easy) Way to Get Kids Excited about Writing

Grab your free Writer's Notebook lesson here.

If you are a writing teacher, you know the drill.

Each year students are assigned to your class who cringe at the thought of putting pen to paper. These students share the same space with a handful of enthusiastic writers who believe every word that hits their notebooks is destined to be part of the next critically-acclaimed novel.

The problem is clear: How can you motivate resistant writers and challenge gifted ones without having to create multiple assignments?

The solution is simple: Use Writers' Notebooks!

A Writer’s Notebook is a blank book in which writers record lists, generate free writes, and practice writing strategies which may eventually serve as the basis for more formal writings.

So how can you use a blank book to consistently motivate resistant and prolific writers?

You engage them with three types of magic lessons that...

   ...bring out the list lover in them. 
   ...let them dramatize every single writing session. 
   ...get them to gobble up grammar.

Let's take a look at how each of those lessons work, and why kids love them.

Bring Out the List Lover in Them

The first part of the notebook – the Collection Section – is reserved for list-making.

Everyone loves lists, right?
  • Fallon has his Pro/Con lists.
  • Letterman had his Top Ten lists.
  • Magazines feature What’s Hot/What’s Not lists.
  • And internet experts offer Pro Tip lists on almost any topic you can imagine.

Lists. We can’t get enough ‘em!

Why? Because a quick scan of an interesting list can pique our curiosity, organize our thinking and stimulate our creativity.  

So if we keep active lists while we read and before we write, the payoff is that it will help us to read like writers and to write like readers. That’s quite a hefty benefit for such an easy and enjoyable task.

Here is an example of a character list in progress:

Let Them Dramatize Every Little Moment

The second part of the notebook – the Free Write Section – is where writers craft short pieces of timed writings.

Let’s be honest.

We all need to have a little drama in our lives - whether we'd like to admit it or not. A conflict (real or imagined) pushes energy through our bodies and makes us feel alive.

When there’s a problem to solve - and short time to solve it - our creative juices start flowing and we feel compelled to bring that situation to a satisfying resolution.

Free write sessions combine all three components necessary to satisfy this compulsion: An assignment is announced, a timer is set, and a 3-12 minute writing frenzy begins.

Simply put, the components are: Get ready. Get set. Go!

Why is free writing so effective?

Here are three reasons:
  1. As we listen to the assignment, several problem-solving strategies swirl in our heads.
  2. The time restriction adds a sense of urgency that forces us to sort through ideas quickly.
  3. And because everyone knows that this drafting session will produce very rough (and often very messy) pieces of writing, nobody expects them to be perfect.

Bottom line: Sharing free writes is non-threatening and engaging for both readers and listeners.

Here is one example of a free write assignment and a video of a 5th grade teacher - who attended one of my seminars this summer - sharing his story:

5-Minute Free Write
Have a male character go though a door at a specific time.
Write three things that happened to him on the other side of the door.

Get Them to Gobble Up Grammar

Last third part of the notebook – the Target Skill Section – is the place to play with grammar, mechanics and language.

Sound boring?

It doesn’t have to be. Just look at some writing techniques used by a few popular authors: 
  • Example 1:  Prepositional Phrases, Adjectives and Ellipses: "I stared into his hooded, close-set eyes...” (One for the Money by Janet Evanovich)
  • Example 2: Complex Sentences, Proper Nouns and Hyphens: "When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting - 7:00 PM at the Grand Central Station in New York.” ("An Appointment with Love" by SI Kishor) 
  • Example 3: Dialect and Short Sentences for Effect: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” (The Help by Kathryn Stockett  )

Here is an example of a visual reference page on prepositional phrases, created by an eighth grader:

Prepositional phrase webs can be used as pre-writes and reference guides.

Thanks for stopping by. If you are a Writer’s Notebook fan, check out the Writer’s Notebook offerings in my store.

Quick Writes

Visual Writer's Notebook

If you have a favorite Writer’s Notebook lesson, please share it here!

Until next time…stay committed…teach with passion…and inspire students with who you are.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Hey there! I’m Janice and I’m happy that you are here.

The goal of this blog is to share the best teaching strategies I’ve learned…

…from my experiences as an English Language Arts teacher,

…from observing some amazing teachers as a literacy coach, and

…from ideas that educators share during my professional development seminars.

I already know that my favorite posts will be the ones about getting kids excited about reading and writing.

Next in line will be simple organization tips that would have provided me with hours of free time - if I’d only learned about them sooner (sigh).

And what would a decent teaching blog be without some quick and easy photo, audio, and video tutorials?

So that’s the plan. I’ll be shooting out my first, official blog post on my favorite writing topic tomorrow. I hope to see you back here soon!