Posted in Edublogs

Take A Look, It’s In A Book

book-863418_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #21 (#20 was a catch up week):

Prompt: Write a post about a book, books, and/or reading!

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • What has been the book that most impacted you or your teaching? Why?
  • Share the story of a time when students responded in a positive way to a book used in class.
  • Share your favorite book about teaching that’s helped change your approach to the classroom.
  • Create a reading list for other teachers either to use with students or for themselves.
  • What books do you wish you had time to read and why?

I love reading, I always have. Maybe I was lucky I grew up in a time before there was Internet. Sure there was television when I was a kid, but there wasn’t the kind of television there is today. I remember what a big deal it was when we finally got “cable” TV, which was called “On TV” or “Select TV.” Essentially it was a flip we switched to get some additional content, it may have only been one channel at the time. [I am really making myself feel ancient right now. 🙂 ] There were video games too, but it was Atari or Intellivision. We had both, and I was never overly engaged with either of them.

I don’t remember having an extensive collection of books, but I do remember a lot of time at the school library or the public library. When I was in high school, I practically LIVED at my local public library. When I became an elementary teacher, I thought back on what I enjoyed about my experiences. One of my most memorable elementary school memories is around read alouds. My 4th grade teacher at Hurley Elementary School in La Puente, Californa was Mr. Delgado. I think he was the first male teacher I ever had (and one of the few for sure) and I thought he was so cool. One of the things he did was after lunch read alouds. He would turn off the lights, have us put our heads down and read to us. He read us several books, but the one I remember most was “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by CS Lewis. Those after lunch read alouds were such a powerful memory for me and helped to foster my love of reading that I just had to do that with my students.

I have read all kinds of books to my students, but I have never dictated which ones. Another powerful experience for me as a young student on the whole was the lack of student voice and choice in most of my elementary years. I remember how much I resented that as a student and I made sure that my students would have a voice and choices in my classroom. Read aloud was certainly an area where my students had both. My students make suggestions for read aloud and we decide together. I love when they want a series read to them. I remember reading the Percy Jackson series to a 5th grade class I had, and loved the discussions we would get into while reading. In my most recent 3rd and 4th grade classes they were very much into the Creature in my Closet series and I read them several of those books. During my read alouds I would use my document camera to project the book so students could follow along, eventually I started getting the books on my Kindle and projected that. I would also make sure to have a paperback version  available in class for students to check out and so many students wanted to follow along with their own copies that they would check out the book from an area library or ask their parent to purchase them a copy. Its memories like these that really make me miss my time in the classroom.

I am currently in the process of starting a similar process with my son. He is in the 7th grade and due to a few reasons (which I will likely discuss in future posts), we decided to remove him from the district I work for and enroll him in an online charter school. We are only on week two of this new learning adventure and I am creating new routines to support him. I have to admit I am really enjoying the online charter school experience so far, as is my son. I am essentially his co-teacher and support the work he is doing with his online teachers. One of the areas I have to support him in is his independent reading. I am a fan of GoodReads and provided him this list of books recommended for middle school. He has selected “The Diary of Anne Frank.” We will be reading that together and I hope to recreate the magic of read alouds for him.

What is a fond memory you have about reading and books? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Social Media

tree-200795_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #19:

Prompt: Write a post about social media

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • Do you use social media to share with parents or your school community?
  • How have you used social media in the classroom with students?
  • How do you use social media to make you a better teacher?
  • Do you have guidelines that you use with students?
  • Have you experienced a story related to the use of social media?
  • What do you think is next for the use of social media in education?

I just recently noticed that my Twitter account is 10 years old this month. I smiled when I noticed that, and proceeded to tell my husband who simply looked at me with an expression that conveyed “So what?” For me, being on Twitter for 10 years and having over 3,000 tweets seemed to be a milestone. While Twitter isn’t the only form of social media, I have to say it is my favorite for getting news and information related to my interests as a mother, educator, and voting member of society. I had long found traditional news sources unappealing. Newspapers and local news broadcasts always seemed to highlight the tragic crimes people commit against one another, instead of spending more time highlighting the good things happening in our local community and beyond.

I had to pause a moment as I wrote this post to reflect on what it was that got me on social media 10 years ago. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was my involvement with the Discovery Educator Network. (I just visited that link and my photo is still on the home page! 🙂 ) It was just over 10 years ago that I came to work at my former school site. I had transferred sites craving the opportunity to work with passionate and innovative educators, and I was not disappointed. Within the first year at my former school site I was introduced to the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) and my world exploded…in a good way. I had an incredible amount of access to educators outside of my immediate site and their wealth of edtech knowledge. I learned about Web 2.0 tools and was able to go to summer institutes where we learned all about the latest and greatest app or program to use with students, and how to use it effectively. It was because of the DEN that I bothered with Twitter at all. It was because of the DEN that I was taught the power of social media and how I could harness it for my own professional development. I had a virtual PLC before I even knew what a PLC was. If you have never heard of the DEN, I highly recommend you check out their website.

My Twitter account is something that has always been open to parents for the following, but I don’t recall any parents ever following me. I think that was largely due to the fact that I taught elementary school and many parents were not thinking about social media much, and the few that were and were on social media were not interested in following their child’s 3rd grade teacher. For the longest time I tried to keep my Twitter strictly education related, but over the years I have allowed it to represent more of who I am as I share and retweet things related to non-education things.

I don’t like creating multiple social media accounts as they get overwhelming to manage very quickly, but I did use my own Twitter account on several live virtual field trips I took my students on in order to participate in the discussion. I would live tweet and project the hashtag for my students to see and they were always excited to see themselves as a part of the global discussion, if only through my Twitter account.

Being that I taught young students and knowing the importance of teaching them digital citizenship, I embarked on using Edmodo in my 4th grade classroom. It was my hope to use it as a safe school pseudo-Facebook. I used it for everything. We had discussions there, we all would post things for discussion, respond to one another, etc. It amazed me how quickly a couple of my 4th graders became “trolls.” It was a very valuable learning experience for everyone involved. The experience opened up a real dialog on what it means to be a good digital citizen. My school district does not have an official learning management system (LMS), but Edmodo is the closest LMS tool that we have.  I would highly recommend that teachers of any level use something like Edmodo or their district’s LMS to be able to safely mimic social media and teach their students valuable lessons in digital citizenship.

How do you use social media in your personal or professional life? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

Posted in Edublogs

Art, Poetry or Music

desert-749692_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #18:

Prompt: Write a post that uses art, music, or poetry.

Write a poem or song, draw a picture, create a meme/gif. Get creative!

Or write a post that shares how you use art, poetry, or music in the classroom.

I love art, music and poetry. I remember the few classes I had in those categories over my K-16 career with much fondness. I wish I had received more formal training in those areas and that they had not been treated like fun “extras.” It’s that sentiment that has me rather hyper focused on the arts for my 7th grade son. He had expressed an interest in music from a young age. In my school district, students are not provided any music education until 4th grade. So I asked around and eventually my son ended up at a local university for their community school of music. There he spent a few years learning piano, which served to be an excellent foundation for him picking up other instruments as he got older, including saxophone, trombone, and guitar.

In elementary school I remember being so excited to be a part of the choir. I had wanted to learn how to play the oboe, but family finances prevented that from happening. I also remember enjoying dance, but again, money stood in the way of any extensive lessons. In middle school, I remember balking at home economics (it was the young feminist in me) and signed on for art. I enjoyed the class, but felt I was rather bad at it unfortunately. In high school, my interests turned more toward writing. I really enjoyed my English Composition and AP English classes. I recall enjoying the depth that we dove into various texts. Then during my undergraduate years I remember loving my humanities courses, especially art history and philosophy. It was in college when I finally became a published author, it was a poem I had written for our local literature publication. I could not find it in time to share with this post, but it had been called “La Gitanita” (the gypsy) a poem I wrote in both English and Spanish to represent both sides of my life experience.

There seemed to be little room in my life for art after that. I have to admit I rarely did art in my own classroom for a few reasons…one of the big ones being the fear that doing too much art would be frowned on as the connections to state standards wasn’t strong enough, and the other main reason being having to manage 30+ elementary students excited about art and doing whatever they wanted with the supplies instead of the intended task.

I wish my students would have just been allowed a time for art, just to explore and create, without having to be held accountable for standards. The maker movement makes me think that education is finally coming around to allowing students to just explore, without standards needing to be a major factor.  They key is being at a school with an administrator who supports student exploration. I was at a school like that, and I was allowing my students to explore. While my experiences with traditional art were not strong, my experiences with technology are. I soon realized I preferred my art creation digitally. I ran an after school Minecraft Club, and while I tried to focus the students in my club on activities, I found they just wanted to be free to explore and build. They produced art digitally in Minecraft, and that is not any less valuable than traditional manifestations of art.

This leads me into what the prompt actually asked for, a sharing of art. While I can’t paint or draw or sculpt, I don’t play an instrument, and only sing in the car with the music turned up so loud I can’t actually hear myself, I can take digital photography in a virtual world that I consider art.

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How does art manifest itself in your personal and/or professional life? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Project Based Instruction

idea-1876658_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #17:

Prompt: Write a post that discusses using problem-based or project-based learning in the classroom.

Have you had your students complete open-ended projects or answer open-ended questions? Share your experiences, lesson plans, student work, or reasons why you haven’t yet. We can’t wait to hear about it!

Project Based Learning (PBL) was just coming to my classroom when I left it to become a teacher on assignment. I had heard little bits about it and had purchased “PBL in the Elementary Grades: Step-by-Step Guidance, Tools and Tips for Standards-Focused K-5 Projects”. Since then I know some of my district leaders have attended PBL World and that our district plans on moving in the PBL direction. Aside from teachers doing it on their own, throughout the district, I have not seen an organized move in that direction. As a matter of fact, a small team of teachers and the principal of my previous school site went to PBL World this last round, and I must admit I was a bit jealous. I would have loved to have gone with them. I will have to check in with them to see how they have implemented PBL into the innovative work they do at their school.

I had never had the chance to dig much into the book I had purchased on PBL, due to my new position and my own studies, but it has been one of those things I really have wanted to dig into. I wish my position would allow me to learn it and coach teachers through it. I know if I was still in the classroom I would enjoy a instructional coach helping me implement it.

I listen to a lot of podcasts (as I have mentioned in other posts). PBL is a hot topic in education, so I am not at all surprised that I would have a PBL themed podcast in my listening lineup. It’s an 10 minute episode of the “10 Minute Teacher” by @coolcatteacher called “#146 Get Motivated to Do PBL Right #MotivationMonday”. Give it a listen. Are you looking for motivation to start PBL? Are you already doing PBL? Share your PBL experiences with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Tell A Story

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EduBlogsClub Prompt #16:

Prompt: Write a post that tells a story. 

Tell a story about a time in your career as an educator that you want to share. It can be a positive memory, a time you wish you could change the outcome, a student you remember, or just a class lesson you want to share.

(The following post was written as I was flying back from from Arizona. I had just completed my second and final residency week @ Grand Canyon University in mid June 2017.)

Hello, my name is…

“…Dr. Melanie Ruiz, and my area of expertise is online learning.”

That was how Dr. Mark Schmitz had us close our weeklong second residency. He warned my 16 classmates and I that he had a powerful 5 minute exercise that could bring us to tears. He walked us through 5 cleansing breaths, and then had us write our names on a blank sheet of paper. He instructed us to leave some space at the front of our names. I jokingly whispered to my neighbor “I want to put Dr. there!” Not to long after that Dr. Schmitz had us do exactly that. He then had us silently read our names with doctor in front 5 times. Then he had us introduce ourselves that way to our classmates and state our area of expertise. Then everyone in the room had their turn. He was right about the tears. I was not the only one tearing up a little at the idea of introducing myself this way. I have only ever referred to myself as Dr. Ruiz in jest. I have even repeatedly reminded my dad that I am not a doctor yet when he calls me Dr. Ruiz on Facebook.

“Hello, my name is Dr. Melanie Ruiz, and my area of expertise is online learning.”

I tried to hide the quiver in my voice when I said that out loud, but I know my classmates heard it. Even writing about it now brings tears to my eyes all over again. Dr. Schmitz encouraged each of us to keep the paper with our names on it and write more papers with our name written like that and post them all around us, to remind us that this is real and it is possible. This week of my second residency made me really understand the work ahead. My dissertation is not just an idea in my head, it is a very real and valid research project that will make me Dr. Melanie Ruiz and a scholarly writer.

I often think back to when I was a child and I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember only being able to think about being a lawyer or medical doctor, neither of which suited me. As an older child I loved reading and do to this day. I remember thinking about being a writer, a notion I dismissed when I figured there was no way I could make a living doing that. I had to be more practical. I went all the way to my bachelor’s degree not knowing what I really wanted to do. The topic of career guidance is a whole other issue I won’t go into here, but it amazes me how life works. I am sure my classmates at Grand Canyon University (a Christian university) would chalk it up to God (like Lynette – my Facebook feed is not complete without a “Love God! Love Fam!” post from her). Maybe it is God or the will of the universe.

After working in finance for 4 years and not seeing a future for myself, I knew I had to do something. So off to the bookstore I went, like I did anytime I had something that needed investigating. (The Internet was young in those days, so the library and bookstore were my favorite places.) I soon was taking a Meyers-Briggs assessment that told me I was an INFJ and of the careers that suited my personality writer and educator were among the top 5. Again I reminded myself that I could not earn a livable wage as a writer and dove headlong into teaching. I have never regretted that.

Over the years since then I have dabbled in writing, mainly in the form of blogging as well as through my virtual reality experiences. In 2014 I took my writing to the scholarly level by enrolling in my first online program with GCU, to earn my long desired second Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction: Educational Technology. It was over in a year and then I began to dabble with the idea of a doctorate. I had never wanted a doctorate before, I had never considered it. But there it was, a viable option. I looked at the higher ups in my district, many of them doctors and thought “I can do that too.”

So here I am in the middle of my online doctoral program and realizing that I am a writer and that me introducing myself as a doctor isn’t a joke.

The universe has a funny way of showing you the way, even if it takes decades. You just have to be open to seeing it.

What story do you want to tell? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Assessments

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EduBlogsClub Prompt #15:

Prompt: Write a post that discusses “assessments.”

It can be your feelings on the accountability climate, informal assessments, assessing student projects, or anything else related to testing, feedback, and measuring learning.

Or maybe a good old-fashioned rant 🙂

I wonder how most teachers feel when they hear “assessment.” My first reaction was to think of the standardized state tests we all need to oversee our students taking as a way to be held accountable to state standards. I personally have mixed feelings on assessments. I do not believe one big standardized state test should be the end all be all snapshot of student achievement, and I feel like I am beginning to see a shift in that thinking, at least in California.

As I have previously mentioned, I am a part of the Career Technical Education (CTE) department of my school district. As many educators are aware, CTE is a big deal right now. It is getting a lot of attention as the focus nation wide is on college and career readiness. I forget where I first heard the following comment, but I agree with it completely: “college and career readiness” should really be “post secondary readiness” as the current naming still makes it sound like college for all. I understand the intent is that we are no longer tracking students into vocational programs or college prep programs, but we are working to prepare them for life after high school. That life after high school can go a number of ways, but it should be grounded in a student’s interests and passions coupled with economic realities.

Prior to being a teacher on assignment in the CTE Department, I was an elementary educator. It might seem strange to some to have an elementary educator in the CTE Department as CTE work tends to be associated with secondary students & secondary teachers, but the idea is that career readiness starts in the elementary grades with career awareness. While many elementary teachers wouldn’t call the career-related things they do CTE, they are.

WBL Continuum

(For a more detailed continuum click here: work_based_learning_continuum )

CTE has often been left out of the assessment equation, because as I said earlier, the success or failure of a school or a student was strictly tied only to the results of that one big state test at the end of the year. While I know that big state test is important, I never accepted it as the end all be all of my students’ success. You cannot accurately gauge a person on one big test. That is not a true snapshot of how that student is doing. Considering MANY factors is a much better way to assess student achievement.

The California Department of Eduction (CDE) has recently introduced a new way to assess students’ readiness for college and/or career:

College/Career Indicator Performance Levels

There are three levels that measure postsecondary preparedness in the College/Career Indicator (CCI):

  • Prepared
  • Approaching Prepared
  • Not Prepared

Prepared Level – Does the graduate meet at least 1 measure below?

High School Diploma and any one of the following:

  • Career Technical Education (CTE) Pathway Completion plus one of the following criteria:
    • Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments: At least a Level 3 “Standard Met” on ELA or Mathematics and at least a Level 2 “Standard Nearly Met” in the other subject area
    • One semester/two quarters of Dual Enrollment with passing grade (Academic/CTE subjects)
  • At least a Level 3 “Standard Met” on both ELA and Mathematics on Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments
  • Completion of two semesters/three quarters of Dual Enrollment with a passing grade (Academic and/or CTE subjects)
  • Passing Score on two Advanced Placement (AP) Exams or two International Baccalaureate (IB) Exams
  • Completion of courses that meet the University of California (UC) a-g criteria plus one of the following criteria:
    • CTE Pathway completion
    • Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments: At least a Level 3 “Standard Met” on ELA or Mathematics and at least a Level 2 “Standard Nearly Met” in the other subject area
    • One semester/two quarters of Dual Enrollment with passing grade (Academic/CTE subjects)
    • Passing score on one AP Exam OR on one IB Exam

Approaching Prepared Level – Does the graduate meet at least 1 measure below?

High School Diploma and any one of the following:

  • CTE Pathway completion
  • Scored at least Level 2 “Standard Nearly Met” on both ELA and Mathematics Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments
  • Completion of one semester/two quarters of Dual Enrollment with passing grade (Academic/CTE subjects)
  • Completion of courses that meet the UC a-g criteria

Not Prepared Level

Student did not meet any measure above or did not graduate, so considered NOT PREPARED

I am glad to see my state moving in a direction that considers multiple “indicators” related to student achievement. I recognize the value of assessment. It is necessary to making sure our instruction is meeting the needs of our students. What I object to is using one assessment as the final ruling on the level of success of my students.

What are your feelings on how we assess student achievement? How does your state assess student achievement? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below! 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Give It Away Now!

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EduBlogsClub Prompt #14:

Prompt: Write a post that includes a “giveaway,” whether that is a lesson, a PDF, or something else. 

Just make sure it is something you’ve created (preferably) or something you have the copyrights to share 🙂

Some ideas to get you started:

  • Write a post about the importance of sharing ideas to create better student outcomes for everyone.
  • Discuss times when you felt you did not want to share your ideas and why “giving away” this one is important.
  • Share a time someone used an idea without permission and why plagiarism in the real world matters.
  • What value do ideas have and why does giving them credit matter?

I wish I had something to give away. I spent a lot of time thinking about it, wracking my brain for anything I have created that I could possibly give away and I couldn’t come up with a thing. That made me wonder though, why don’t I have things to give away? I’ve been a teacher long enough, I should have things to give away. What it boiled down to for me is that I do a really good job of borrowing from here or there to create things for my students. Those mash-ups of resources are very specific to a task and not anything that I feel is worthy of giving away, though I would absolutely credit the sources they came from.

Teachers Pay Teachers always made me feel like I should have something cool to share like the teacher creators on that site. Something that other teachers would find useful. But I turned out to be more of a consumer on TpT than a creator. I think perhaps that has to do in part with thinking that whatever I have created is not worthy of sharing. I know that sounds like I have low self-esteem and I don’t, I just have very high standards for my work and I don’t want to put something up on TpT or even this post that is not something truly significant and unique. I am sure there are some reading this post that would argue that I might be judging my own work too harshly or that someone out there might find something I have created worthwhile, but I really just want to be sure that if I am sharing something in such a public forum, that it is of the highest standard and quality.

In speaking to the first point of the prompt,  (sharing ideas to create better student outcomes) I am reminded of the 3rd grade PLC I used to lead at my former school. Those meetings were rich with ideas on how we as a team were going to achieve our goals and continue to see our students perform at their best. Each one of us would come with our own unique ideas and we would mash them up into something usable for all of us. I created a number of things for my PLC, all things relevant to what we were doing, none of which I would want to post publicly.

Teachers are great at sharing ideas. I love that the Internet has maximized the sharing experience. I have learned about so many cool new tips and tricks that I have incorporated into my practice because of my virtual PLC.

This post definitely has me thinking about what I can share publicly going forward. As a teacher on assignment, my work presently is very specific to Career Technical Education, and once again I don’t feel I have anything to share, beyond cool websites.

Do you share your work publicly? Tell me about it in the comments below. 🙂

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