Posts Tagged ‘pinterest’

A day late sorry but as I missed February and March EduBlogNZ challenge, thought I’d sneak in a quick post on @kaiakowilson’s Love-Hate Resources. Mine is not so much a resource as an assessment.  At our school, Year 10s complete units of work on creative writing this term which culminates in an assessment where they describe a character. The hate part of this process for me is repeating the assessment task, the love part is adding to the unit of work to refine, improve and differentiate activities for each cohort. While this helps to enhance the learning process for the students it also keeps things interesting for me.

The first resource/activity I have used is the Describe that Face from the good folks at Read Write Think. I use magazine pictures, paste them to coloured paper then randomly assign. Students write descriptions in their writing journals then, the next day, I put all the faces on the board, take in their writing and read aloud as the students match the words to the face. Lots of laughs. If they find it hard to start, we use the preface that the person has just entered the classroom as a guest speaker. How would they enter the room? What would they do first? What would they talk about? Why? How would they sound?  In a similar fashion, a former associate teacher put me on to Whose Shoes where you give each student a picture of a pair of shoes and they describe the person wearing them – it’s a bit harder then Describe that Face as it requires a bit more imagination but is also fun.

Another tried and trusted skill builder is this strong verbs activity which helps students improve the ways they describe character movement. This is great for classes who need to move around lots as you can ask individual students to act out ways of walking/talking before attempting written work.

Last year, I came across this fantastic powerpoint that really encapsulates teaching Show Don’t Tell. I modified it to include descriptions of people and then bolstered with starters from pinterest where students write down more colourful/vivid/interesting alternatives to dull words such as said, went, good, bad etc. As a starter I get them to write down 3-5 synonyms in their writing journals then put them into sentences. The writing board I’ve compiled also great synonyms, hooks, conclusions, structural tips and heaps of prompts – visual and written.

And this year, I have added The Literacy Shed to the mix, see previous post. This has really enabled me to differentiate core skills for my class which has several students who find writing a real struggle.

Finally, modelling. I’m a great believer in showing students what we need/want them to do. Often with seniors, I’ll write my own trigger narrative (or whatever the task is) and go through the process with them. With juniors, I’ve described a grandparents and shared. I used a photo as a starter and encourage them to do the same with the assessment to assist with brainstorming.

So in answer to the questions that prompted the challenge: Hate the assessment, love the myriad of modified resources that help us to get there. I have complete freedom over the how we get there and base sequences of lessons on the students in front of me. The process is always reflective. This year more than considering what worked well last year, I’ve had to focus more on how to differentiate tasks to develop required skills. In terms of how would I replace the “resource” (assessment), I would like to see the Year 10s choose between setting or character and the Year 9s focus on narrative. At the moment, Year 9s assessment is a setting description, Year 10 character. We discuss options at department meetings and have changed the way we assess speaking for our junior students recently so changing the writing assessment is not impossible. I suppose at the end of the day, it’s about feeding back to HoDs – and being prepared to make changes rather than repeat the same tasks every year.

Read Full Post »

Still thinking about reluctant readers, sometimes it seems the best way to grab the attention of C21 learners is to add a digital element to tasks/activities. This has worked well in the past for writing activities so I’ve started looking for ways to use the digital world to entice (or ensnare – tomato/tomatoe) my reluctant readers.

Philosophically, I’m in two minds.  The debate that all reading is reading regardless of platform is almost passe but It seems a shame that students can’t simply pick up a book and engage with words on paper. Then again, I grew up in a different era with far less distractions so I’ll put that misgiving aside and focus on finding interactive sites and tools to bolster reading engagement.

One thing I hear a lot “I can’t find a good book.” Really?! (You pick your battles and that is not one worth fighting!) Is We offer recommended reading lists to our seniors and I talk about reading a lot in class, often bringing in books from home to create mini displays around themes we’re discussing or current issues. I also put best seller lists on the whiteboard and refer to those to encourage a reading culture while other staff review books on the school website. Last year, I set up a Pinterest page of good reads and promoted that in class. Simple to do and enables students to visually browse titles. (My juniors blog about their reading on Taieri HotReads but those texts aren’t generally sophisticated enough for Level One and Two).

A site worth checking out is Book Drum. The self-described companion site gives additional information on a range of titles so if, for instance, a student is reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, they can visit Book Drum for background information on the setting and events including maps, photos and a range of visual and audio materials. The Bookmarks Section has YouTube clips and interviews that help give context to the issues covered for titles featured.

These days you don’t need a special device or to download an app to read a book online. There are plenty of options for the digitally inclined to read online with texts easily accessible via the standard range of internet browsers.

A few years ago while teaching a media communication course, I discovered that our local public library has a range of magazine titles and newspapers from around the world which you can read FOR FREE online. All you need is a library card and a birth date to log in. Go to the homepage and under Digital Resources tab you’ll find a Newspaper Direct Press Display option (as well as a plethora of other great material ideal for research standards). There are a range of titles with articles suitable for Level One and Two. And did I mention, FREE!

The Dunedin Public Library website also includes ebook and eaudiobook sections. At the eaudiobook section, you can borrow via one of two services. The ulverscroft option features a catalogue of 184 downloadable titles enabling users to listen to books being read. This service can also utilised via a free app for Apple users. You simply download the app and bang, you can access the titles. Brilliant. This should be treated as complimentary activity – it’s still essential in the spirit of the Achievement Standards for independent reading that students actually read a text but for a slower reader, I see potential in having the book in hand and listening at the same time as they are reading.  The ebook section allows users to borrow and read books online, a familiar concept for a generation of people who have grown up around ereaders such as kindle.

At Read Any Book users can do just that, Ebook Friendly has done all the hard work for me listing the top 10 ebook sites (some titles free, others not) while TechSupportAlert lists a whooping 346 sites.


Read Full Post »

Online pinboards

I’ve always been a fan of pinboards as sources of inspiration and motivation. Our kitchen pinboard is jammed with random postcards of favourite spots, appointments, photos and general reminders of family life. The boys have one each in their bedrooms featuring accolades, favourite art work, school photos and other precious memories.

In the past I’ve used Scoop.it as an online focal point for students to find out more information about specific topics. While I love ScoopIt’s easy navigation and interface, I’ve reached the limit of my three free pages so if I want to collate more, I need to pay. Darn. I can still use Scoop.it to follow other teachers as well as source and share material with students but unless I want to delete a site, I’ll need to sign up.

Hello Pinterest. I’ve been aware of this site for a while but steered clear mainly as Scoop.it met the need. Pinterest is based on the same concept – you “pin” photos or pages of interest and group them in folders. So far I’ve got a couple of school related folders plus a personal one. My aim is to link these to the school’s ultranet site to reinforce recent lessons on poetic devices and give my junior students some visual and fun reminders to use as revision at home. It’s also incredibly easy to use and has plenty of potential for students to create their own sites of interest for revision or plain old inspiration. There’s an app for iPads so you can collate on the go. Get pinning! (more…)

Read Full Post »

If you receive the New Zealand Teachers’ Council’s weekly e-letters, you’ll be aware the council has just launched its Teachers and Social Media website – yeeha.  And if you’re lucky enough to be on holiday you might have even had a look at it! The site aims to promote discussion about the relationship between the registered teachers Code of Ethics and social media.

It’s important that all teachers are familiar with the code and being relatively fresh out of training, I’d read it fairly recently. The site is structured around the code’s four stakeholder groups so commitment to learners, parents/families, the profession and society are all covered in relation to social media usage.

Home page of NZTC social media website

The resources section features animated videos that pertain to each of the four groups and deal with scenarios such as texting students, blogging, Facebook and digital footprints. Under the resources tab, you’ll also find guidelines and docs (including a staffroom-friendly social media map explaining what social media is), a presentation framework enabling schools to use the videos etc for PLD, FAQs and links.

True to form, under the reources tab, the guidelines and documents page features a prezi with tips on how to manage and recognise ethical dilemmas when using social media.  A lot of information is repeated throughout the site so what you read in the prezi (don’t set to auto play unless you’re a speed reader!) also features in a downloadable poster. The same page also includes a link to a seminar that was held a few months ago where the site’s developers discussed its content with teachers.  It’s 58 minutes long but interesting to see the initial response to what was essentially a focus group for the new site.  As I’d already explored the site, I found the teachers’ comments in the chat box in the side bar of more interest that the presentation itself.  Some pointed out that their schools still had firewalls blocking the use of Facebook and other social media – these comments were not always picked up on by the moderators but I suspect those and the usual access to technology issues will ensure some of the scenarios discussed are a long way off being reality for many teachers.

My favourite section is  Your Stories under the pink tab where teachers share experiences about using social media tools – yes. That’s what I was looking for!  So far there are only four posts but obviously that will build over time.  I’d used all the tools discussed except pinterest but it’s always good to learn how others are using Facebook, Twitter etc to engage their learners.  The links page in the resources section provides more hands on assistance with the “How do I…?” questions rather than the “What will I do if…?” focus that is the site’s raison d’être.

Overall, it’s a great site and one that is long overdue. I love the resources, enjoyed the stories and have bookmarked many of the links as well as adding #educhats to my twitter feed.

My only concern is the emphasis on the “What ifs…?”.  Because teachers want the best for their students, and possibly due to some of the bad press the profession has received this year, we may be over thinking things somewhat. I’m not trying to be blase about the importance of ethics, a subject I’ve taught most Fridays this year to my aspiring journalism students.   Ethics is all about shades of grey. There’s no way the NZTC can develop a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts to cover every possible scenario that might (or might not) occur.  I guess that’s why the site focuses on linking the existing code to the social media environment so that if members are in a position of having to justify their decision-making, they can refer back to the code to explain themselves.  But surely that’s the same for countless decisions made in every classroom, every day? I guess also for members, this approach provides protection against potential critics.  But should professional protection be at the heart of discussions over usage? Certainly we need to have those conversations but it would be a shame if developing pedagogy that encompasses social media is driven by fear of stuffing up. And that’s ethics too – there is no right or wrong so even with the best of intentions, we might have to accept that sometimes we get it wrong. Hopefully if best professional judgement is applied, those mistakes won’t be career ending, hangable offences.

If we wait for an elusive list of dos and don’ts, we might miss a golden learning opportunity. Digital tools are evolving at such a rapid pace, by the time we work out how to use them ethically and acquire the technology (and skills) to use them, the next tool is here. This results in teachers being in a constant mad scramble to keep up, make lessons meaningful and head off every ethical issue imaginable before it happens.  It’s easy to see why social media ends up in the too hard basket.

It shouldn’t be that hard and it shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of classroom teachers to find ways to successfully embed social media into their schools’ learning programmes. Let’s not forget that social media is all about interactive community building. One teacher in the webinar said when a negative post was made on his school’s Facebook page for parents, before the school worked out what to do, other parents had (diplomatically) shut the negative, naysayer down.

And that’s what it’s all about really – yes we need to be careful and well-informed in everything we do and say with our students BUT we also have to have a little faith that social media, if used wisely, will enhance communication, strengthen communities, engage learners and keep our jobs interesting and personal commitment to lifelong learning relevant.

Read Full Post »