EARCOS Teacher’s Conference 2017

I attended my first EARCOS conference last week and it was an incredible experience. I took a massive amount of notes during the week and this post is my attempt to bring it all together in one place. For me, this will serve as a means to remember my experience; for visitors to my blog, you can compare my experience to yours or use it to preview what you’re in for next year in Bangkok.

We arrived late on Monday and spent the first two days perusing the city and surrounding islands. After a day in the sun, it was Thursday morning and time to get things started. Most of the attendees enjoyed breakfast in the hotel and then walked down to the conference. That’s great, but they missed out on something. I arrived in this fine piece of craftsmanship. It had the most blue chrome on and around the dash that I’ve ever seen and sounded like it could, with the help of that spoiler, hurl me through time and space and drop me in the Pacific Sutera lobby. In reality, I’ve been on lawnmowers with more git up than this thing; it was fun, though.

The first keynote inspired and left the audience moved. Ms. Phan Thi Kim Phuc  shared her experiences before and after a napalm attack that changed her life forever. Her story of survival, peace, and forgiveness was a great way to start the conference as it encouraged the audience of educators to surmount the challenges they face, no matter how hard they seem.

Session 1

I attended Mary Ryan’s Session I presentation titled ‘Tools and Strategies for Differentiating Mathematics Instruction‘. As an ELL specialist at the conference, I had the freedom to pick and choose the presentations I wanted to watch. The strands this year were mostly Math, Science, Counseling, and IT; this gave me some freedom. I attended sessions I found interesting personally, or presentations that would help me help my sixth grade content teachers. In Mary’s presentation I took away some ideas to help differentiate Math. The first idea was a mathcentric definition of differentiation. I like the simplicity of this model. The teacher can differentiate content, process, and/or product according to readiness, interests, and learner profile; it doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Mary also mentioned textbook ceilings. Often, students in Asia are way beyond their grade level in Math. I’ve taught English to middle school students who were starting college math. What is a Math teacher to do in that situation? While this situation is common in Korea, it’s also not unheard for students to be way behind. The topic of textbook ceilings and floors is definitely salient and is something I will be discussing with my teachers in the near future. Throwing mixed levels of English proficiency into that mix makes for a challenging classroom. Mary recommended a system of tiered instruction that consistently provides the teachers with feedback so they can adjust the course as they work towards their destination. I was delighted to hear her talk about Bloom’s taxonomy – specifically, behaviors that can be elicited through effective questioning – as it overlaps with what I focus on in my own classes. A final takeaway is a class-quieting strategy. The teachers says ‘back to me’ and students reply ‘back to you’. I look forward to giving this a try next year.

Session 2

It’s me! Get my presentation materials here.

Session 3

The next presentation was Tina Quick’s ‘International Parenting: How Global Mobility Affects Children‘. There’s nothing like getting info straight from the source; Tina Quick is just that. She’s a Third Culture Kid (TcK) who has moved 29 times in her life – 17 times before sixth grade if I remember correctly. She’s also a great presenter who gets right to the point. I knew I would enjoy her presentation when she said ‘It’s 1:45 so I’m gonna get started; they don’t call me Quick for nothing!’

Tina took us through the coining and evolution of the term, third culture kid, and made some projections about its future. For me, I was thinking about my own kids and that they are not technically TcKs, but more cross-culture kids (CCRs) – who aren’t fortunate, and were not born on the bayou…ahem… As a group made up of mostly parent teachers and counselors, we brainstormed challenges and benefits of the TcK experience. What I found most interesting were the stages of transition (leaving — transition — entering — re-involvement) she took us through. I was connecting them to the stages of cultural shock that I’m more familiar with. Her personal examples brought each stage to life. A few things that stuck with me are the RAFT. I’m familiar with RAFT as a way to contextualize writing, but her RAFT is completely different; it’s a a way to leave somewhere on a positive, fulfilled note. RAFT stands for reconciliation, affirmation, farewell, and thank and talk. As an international teacher, this is great to know since students leave for life abroad constantly. A final thing that is still in my head is her comment about the transition stage. The transition stage begins as soon as you step foot in the new country. It’s the point where ‘nobody knows how cool you are’, as Tina says. All of her points really hit home personally and professionally – now it’s time to order her book, The Global Nomad’s Guide to University TransitionMy son is 10 years away from high school graduation, but it’s never to early to start prepping.

The first day ended with a job-alike session and a welcome reception. We enjoyed the atmosphere, cultural performances, free food, adult beverages, and Dr. K’s wicked dance moves.

Day 2, Session 4

The day began with a stellar keynote by Christophe Galfard, author of The Universe in Your HandThe story and the visuals were fantastic. I remember him saying that scientists ‘find a black spot and zoom’ and that it all ends where it all begins. Needless to say, it was a lot to think about in the morning and I’m anxious to start his book. The next presentation was titled ‘My Brnasa-hs201427a-hubbleultradeepfield2014-20140603.jpgain, My Body, My Narrative: A Scientific Approach for Supporting Students in Healthy Relationships’ by Kate Dore and Rob Newberry. Kate described the approach she and her colleagues take when teaching about sex and healthy relationships. She expertly shared the processes, agreements, and routines that parents, students, and staff go through as they create a safe environment for students. A couple things that I thought were really interesting were students choosing teachers to teach them different things, student created advice/resource columns, and student/parent surveys. Kate came into teaching with a background in neuroscience so it was interesting to hear her describe some of the behaviors I see in my classes every day. Her description of the ‘invisible audience’ in adolescence struck a chord with me – and I was relieved to read that it is not only teens who have that experience. Her discussion also made me think of the role of culture in relationship education. In Korea, there is a thing called nunchi, which is described as a type of emotional intelligence, or a method of gauging the emotions of those around you, that affects your behavior. As an American married to a Korean, I’ve been told I have no nunchi hundreds of times – not better or worse, just different, is my response.  This presentation opened my eyes to the teenage brain quite a bit and highlighted the avenues I need to go do down as I strive to understand the engimatic sixth grade mind.

Session 5

Next up was Dan Long’s presentation titled ‘Cross Cultural Identity of Local Student Enrolled in Western International Schools‘. I learned a lot from this that pertains specifically to my school as it is dominated by host-country nationals, or local students. Dan’s work helped me look at the gates of my school as bridge between two worlds that is not completely Korean, or completely western. As Dan went through his work, I connected to the growth of a third ‘on-campus’ culture to the life cycle of pidgins and creoles. While parts of their own fascinating field of study, pidgins and creoles are types of languages that emerge as a result of cultural/linguistic interaction between groups of people. Pidgins are auxiliary languages made by combining pieces of both languages; creoles are the languages that the children of pidgin speakers speak as their native language. What is amazing is that the creole these children speak has its own grammar that is more closely related to other creoles than the languages the parents of the children speak. I can’t help but think that this describes the uniqueness of my school culture – not Korean, not western, something different. Perhaps, as creoles bear a stronger resemblance to other creoles than their parent languages, the culture of third culture schools resembles other third culture schools more so than the culture of students and teachers. So much to think about and so many questions after Dan’s presentation – glad I got his email.

Session 6

Next, I had to shake a leg to make it over to the Magellan in time for ‘First Steps Towards Transforming Your Classroom‘ with Kim Cofino. The presentation introduced several models used to understand the function of technology in the classroom. The first model introduced was SAMR, which stands for substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition. Reflecting on SAMR, I labelled most of my classroom tech as augmentation or modification. I haven’t reached the point yet where a tech tool allows me to create something that would be impossible to do without tech, but it is something I look forward to discovering. Actually, the use of SNS in the classroom (twitter in the classroom) would be difficult without tech. Is this redefinition? Kim’s slide helped me to visualize where I would like to be as an educator. I’d like tech to transform and redefine what my students do as much as possible, but substitution and augmentation will always be part of my class because they make the class more efficient and save paper. The TPACK visual helped me to gauge my own understanding and think about how it affects my decision making when lesson planning. Kim shared her blog during the presentation and I highly recommend visiting and bookmarking.

Day 3

I showed up to the Saturday morning keynote unsure of my plans for the day. After listening to Aaron and Kaitlin Tait’s ‘Edupreneurs: Changing the World from the Classroom’, I decided to follow them the rest of the day and attend all three of their presentations. I learned so much that it all belongs in its own post.

I’m still mentally unpacking all I’ve learned during the conference and already looking forward to next year.

Thanks for reading!

Flipboard Magazines with Google Docs

Two years ago, our language arts class tweeted photos explaining text-to-world connections while reading The Giver. That was an eighth grade class well versed in social media. This yescreenshot_2016-12-12-23-20-47ar I teach sixth grade and though Twitter doesn’t enforce their age requirement of 13, other social networking services like Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Instagram do enforce theirs. As a result, social media is still a few years away from most of my sixth graders – I’m not complaining!

Creating a Flipboard magazine from the student tweets was simple. All I had to do was assign a unique hashtag for the assignment, search for the hashtag in Flipboard, and flip the results – simple.

It’s not so easy this time, but I’ve found a solution that I want to share.

  1. Clean up the Google doc: Things like paragraph spacing and picture placement can make the post look odd if it’s not done right. What I’ve found is that tabbiscreen-shot-2016-12-12-at-11-26-28-pmng the beginning of each paragraph and keeping pictures in line with text work best. Make sure the title of the document is the title of the article and that student last names are removed.
  2. Publish: Click ‘File’ and ‘Publish to web’. This will open a window that gives you a link to the published document. Copy and paste link to open the published document.
  3. Flip it!: To complete this step, you’ll need the Flipboard + Flip It Google Chrome extension – get it here. Once you’ve added the extension to Chrome, click the extension to add the published document to your Flipboard magazine.
  4. Enjoy: Now that your published Doc has been added to your Flipboard magazine, you can share it with your students and colleagues.

Our students wrote newspaper articles loosely based on research they had done to create a video for the worldof7billion.org student video contest. Since they submitted their articles in Schoology via Google Drive, I can make a copy of the original documents to ‘clean up’ and then publish.

 

Differentiated Writing Instruction with Google Docs (Schoology Workaround)

**Update: Schoology has added a Google Drive Assignments application that allows students to work from Drive within the Schoology site itself. Thank you Schoology!

Details can be found here.

 

Quick post here – In the spring I wrote about how much I was enjoying writing instruction with Google Docs. I began this school year at a new school anxious to support my sixth graders during the writing process but hit a small hurdle when I learned that the LMS in middle school was Schoology. Schoology does have a Google Drive app that allows students to submit work from Drive. It does not, however, provide a way to collaborate on documents.

I manually went through the steps that Google Classroom automates and was happy with the results. Here are the instructions I gave students:

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-1-28-00-pm

The document titles tell me the period, student name, and assignment name – as it would be in Google Classroom. I used five minutes in the beginning of class to get this set up. All of the files that students share with me are easy to copy and move from ‘shared with me’ to a specific folder for this assignment. This makes it simple to organize assignments by period or class and assignment.

At this point, all of the collaborative writing with synchronous feedback that I love so much is possible.

 

Differentiated Writing Instruction with Google Docs

Google Drive and its integration with Google Classroom has made a huge difference in my classroom. One of the biggest advantages I have seen so far is the opportunity to provide differentiated corrective feedback on student writing synchronously. This means I can give students (a whole class of students) comments and suggestions, and highlight errors as they write. The comments below show the range of support a teacher can provide based on the level of each student. Each comment asks the student to self-correct or clarify, though the effort required to make the correction varies in each comment, matching the ability of the student. As you look through comments, ask yourself what each comment requires the student to do to make the correction. In the past, differentiating writing feedback was a time consuming, ink-draining process that seemed to have little or no effect. Now, I feel like I can support the students appropriately while they are in the process of creating writing. Going through these processes with the teacher will help students retain what they learn.

 

Guide to Edublogs Menus

Hi guys, in this post I’ll describe how to set up the menu in your blog just the way you like it. It probably looks something like this:
basic menuThis is boring! It doesn’t give visitors to your blog an opportunity to easily explore all the great content you’ve published.

It will take a few steps get everything organized. Here they are:

  1. Add new categories: Categories are a way to organize your posts. Each time you post, you will select the most appropriate category, or create a new category.
  2. Create a menu: We will get rid of the default menu and create our own.
  3. Add categories to the menu

The categories are a bit hard to find in your dashboard. Drag the mouse over ‘posts’. This will present you with a series of options (all posts, add new, categories, and tags). Click on ‘categories’. From here you can create your categories.

categories

Add new categories for whatever you like. For most of you, you might just want to add subject specific categories like Art and Language Arts. It all depends on what you’re going to publish on your blog.

The next step is putting the categories on the actual menu that shows up at the top of your blog. First, click on ‘appearance’, then ‘menus’.

appearance1

To start, your menu editor will look like this. The first thing you want to do is remove the ‘sample page’. Click the drop-down arrow in the ‘sample page’ box, then click ‘remove’.

basicmenuNext, we’re going to add the categories you just created to the menu. On the left side, you will see pages, links, and categories. Click on ‘categories’. addcat

It’s important that you click ‘view all’. Now, check the boxes next to the new categories you’ve created and then click ‘add to menu’.

Now that we’ve added your categories to the menu, all that’s left is to organize the menu structure. If you look at the structure of our class blog below, you can see how I’ve divided up menu items and sub-items. Home, Who We Are, Gallery, Our Work, and Forums are the main menu items. These are what you see at the top of all pages within the blog. The other items here appear when the mouse is dragged over the item above it in the hierarchy. For example, if I want to see pictures from art class, I must drag my mouse over ‘Gallery’ first, then ‘Photos’, then ‘Art Class’ will appear for me to click on.

menu structure

For right now, you do not have to create a menu like this. All you need to do is remove the sample page and replace it with language arts. Here is an example of a simple menu structure and the actual menu:

simplemenusimple exampleHere you can see that dragging the mouse over ‘Language Arts’ brings up the ‘poems’ sub-item.

Once you have the menu set up the way you like it. Click ‘create menu’. Also, click the two check boxes and save it all one more time.

This is the first step in customizing your blog menu. Please ask any questions you have in class, through email, or tweet them to me @tesolwar.

Tips for using Edublogs forums

Edublogs provides a massive amount of support through its support blog, TheEdublogger. Recently, I used it as a resource when setting up my class blog. While it provided all of the information I needed, a lot of it was scattered around the site, which resulted in me searching for things within and outside the site. In this post, I will explain some of the difficulties I had, and how I worked around them to set up forums on my blog.

A few notes before I start – I used the forums plugin, which is available with Edublogs Pro only. I found that it’s much easier to work with than the forums described here.

forumsplugin

First, make sure you’ve actived the plugin, then you should see a forums label on your dashboard.

What I found most challenging while setting up forums for my class was the hierarchical structure of the forum. What I originally wanted was a menu item ‘forums’ that would drop down and show individual forums, which could house topics and replies. I also wanted a list of forums to come up just by clicking the ‘forums’ menu items as shown here.

forumslist

Initially, I tried creating a page called ‘forums’ that I could post my forums inside, but it left me with an empty page. What I learned through trial and error was that the forums plugin already has a ‘home’ for forums (in the above picture) and there is no need to create a ‘page’ that stores the forums. The forum home is located at http://yourdomain.edublogs/forums

In my case, it’s here: http://thegreateights.edublogs.org/forums. This is exactly what I unsuccessfully tried to create as a page. I found that adding a link to the blog’s main menu was much easier.

To get the forum in the blog’s main menu, you first need to add a link to the forum home. Since it’s a link, it has to be done manually. To do this, click ‘appearance’, and then ‘menus’. You’ll see options to add pages, links, and forums to the menu. First you want to add the forum link.

addlnk

You can see that I pasted the forum link into the url field and titled the link ‘Forums’. Now, when I add this to the menu structure, it will show up as ‘Forums’.

menu structure

When you drag the forum into the menu, make sure it is the placed all the way to the left and is not a sub-item of another menu item. You can see what I mean in the picture. NOTE: You will not see any sub-items in the menu structure as you see in the pic below).

Now the menu on the actual site looks like this:

menu

Since ‘gallery’, ‘our work’, and ‘forums’ have sub-items, a drop-down menu opens when the mouse is dragged over them.

Creating the actual forum that students will use is much easier than all of this. All you have to do is click on forum from your dashboard and create a new forum. In my class, we wanted students to add their own creative writing examples as replies to specific topics. To do this, I created one ‘creative writing’ forum, and then added four topics to that forum.

First, create the forum.

createforum

All I did here was give the forum a name. After this I added the topics.

edit topic

Don’t forget to add all topics to the correct forum. You can do this by clicking the drop-down menu at the top right of the page in the topic attributes section. I did this to create four topics.

Below is what the final products look like. The first picture shows what you see when you look at the topics from the dashboard; the second shows the view from the blog. topic list

tpics on page

The day before spending a class in the computer lab, we had students begin to write short stories based on prompts that gave them opportunities to practice writing the four topics in the forum. While in the lab, they were able to revise, develop, and add their stories as replies to the appropriate topic. The final product looks like this:

sensdetailes

In my next post, I’ll go over the steps we took to have all of our students join the class blog, and create their own. This is my first time using forums in edublogs and would love some feedback, positive or negative.

Storified Twitter Chain Stories

“In the depths of New York City, on top of the Empire State Building, a creature rested.” This is the first line of @ manyvoices, a Twitter story written collaboratively by 140 elementary and middle school students across 6 countries. The story began with Mr. George Mayo, a teacher in Washington D.C., and was eventually edited and published. You can find a free pdf here.

We are using a similar model in our 8th grade language arts class to begin our unit on creative writing. the major difference between @manyvoices and our assignment is that Mayo created one twitter account for all contributors to share while we are using hashtags to collect and present the story using Storify. The hashtag and Storify make it easy to publish the finished stories, but we lose 11-12 characters.

Here are the instructions we gave to students:

twitchain

 

Once all of the students tweet, it’s easy to search for, and individually drag them into the story.

storify main editing page

The above screenshot shows Storify’s main editing page. The menu on the right-hand side allows you to search for many different types of content. For our story, I clicked on the twitter icon, then typed in the the hashtag for the class I was working on.

imageedit_3_7777033612

Here you can see that my search grabbed all tweets containing the hashtag I had specified. Since the hashtags for each class are unique, the search doesn’t grab anything unrelated. From here, you can drag the posts into the main story. I think it’s easier to drag them individually since they show up with the most recent first, which is actually the final tweet of the story.

The next step is publishing the story. After clicking the publish button at the top of the page, you can change the way the story is displayed.

storify1

Clicking the template button brings up this menu. Here you can choose the way your story will be displayed. We chose the slideshow because it worked best with the way we wanted to read the finished story in class.

Here is what it looks like:

storify slideshow

Since most of the students hadn’t read their entire story, or the stories from other classes, reading them together was truly a fun experience, as you can see here:

laughing

Our next step is to do another story with the entire 8th grade. From there, we may ask other classes to join, as Mr. Mayo did. Another thing I really like about this is that we can use the tweets to focus on language. Eventually, we’ll use them to create editing exercises that we can do as a whole class or in small groups.

 

 

 

 

Informational Text teaching resources

Links for teaching informational texts:

  1. Intro to Informational Texts 
  2. Best ever literacy tips for teaching informational text structure
  3. Strategies for Teaching with Informational Texts
  4. The Ultimate Teacher’s Guide – again, long but full of good info and ideas
  5. The power of non-fiction +video