Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Why is Your Classroom So Noisy Mrs. Hoyt?

There is singing, dancing, clapping, and movement going on in here! How in the world are your students learning Mrs. Hoyt? 

I call this being engaged in your learning. I typically have a messy, noisy classroom where kids are talking and moving. This is not always a comfortable place for adults to be if their expectation of a classroom is this:

I became more adventurous in my classroom management when I realized I was becoming a witchy teacher trying to keep order in the room at all times. I thought I was supposed to have a quiet classroom where students worked alone on their worksheets and quietly read. I thought I was supposed to be in control and in charge at all times! While there is definitely a place and a time for this type of quiet activity, I was having a hard time maintaining this status the majority of the time. So, I started to question where this vision had come from. My answer: probably the same place my concept of what a teacher had to dress like came from- my credential program teachers! Most of them had been out of the classroom for quite a while and were teaching theory, not practice. 

It was a good thing I started questioning why I did things that way, because I started to have a lot more fun teaching. There were still portions of my day that were devoted to quiet, individual work (like right after lunch recess), but more and more of my lesson content was delivered through song, movement and discussion. I really became inspired when I saw two teachers talk about this style of teaching on Oprah. They were from a KIPP school, and I started studying their videos. 

Their classrooms look like this:

This teacher is having fun teaching, the kids are totally into it and they are practicing content. It is loud in there, but it is also controlled. That is not your typical flashcard practice!

When I began my study of Common Core standards, I noticed that a lot of the content involved student collaboration. As I started studying lessons on The Teaching Channel, I noticed a lot of interaction and student talk as opposed to teacher talk. 

This is one of my favorite Teaching Channel videos, not because of what the teacher is doing, but because of what the students are doing.

As I began crafting my own Common Core lessons, I made sure to incorporate speaking and listening standards into every lesson. I resonated with the feeling of being the Guide on the Side instead of The Sage on the StageBlog link to: Is it OK for Teachers to Not Know the Answer?

Students need to have a chance to hear from each other and express their own ideas in order to form the best opinion. When the lessons also incorporate technology, student energy increases as well. Collaboration + technology use = a noisy classroom. 

A well crafted Common Core lesson is not neat, clean and orderly. It involves reading, discovering, discussion, evaluation, synthesizing, and creation. It does not involve one standard per lesson, but includes multiple standards. Sometimes you have no idea what the students are going to come up with, but you go with it as long as the lesson is moving toward your goal. For example: in the 3rd grade demo lesson I have been teaching this year, the question I ask students is: Would you want to live in Antarctica, or not? We explore Google Earth, a Time for Kids article, and watch a video in order to form our opinions. There is always something new to discover on Google Earth, and I can't predict what their reasons for saying yes or no might be. As long as we are keeping our focus on that question, the conversation we generate is right on track. At the end of the exploration, the students are ready to dive in and write about their opinion and they have plenty of reasons from our three sources to back their statements up with. It is fun to teach this way, and students feel successful because they are involved in the learning each step of the way. 

Here is my class from a few years ago practicing their multiplication facts "KIPP style." It's noisy, and the kids are learning.

Monday, April 21, 2014

I'm a Nerd

I’m a nerd, and proud of it. I don’t hide the fact that I love learning, in fact, this probably comes as no surprise to those of you that know me! I am in my element when I am researching, discovering, and sharing what I found. (I might be a bit related to my Dad in that way.)

My favorite hobby is reading. I will read anything: children’s books, murder mysteries, historical romance, young adult novels, blog posts, articles, etc… My husband says I read more than anyone he has ever met.

I typically have at least ten tabs open on my computer and switch frequently between them. I have Facebook, email, Twitter, my fun book, blog posts, my latest tech tool, and the book I am reading to my son, all open and ready for my attention at a moment’s notice. I don’t stick with any of them for very long, but switch back and forth as the mood strikes me. In this way, I am constantly soaking up information, and I am thriving.

Current Tabs:

That is why this current job I am in suits me so well. I have been given the direction to learn as much as possible about the Common Core, and figure out how to help support our district teachers in their implementation. My brain has expanded so much in the last two years because of the time I have had to learn, experiment and revise my thinking. I know how lucky I am to have landed in this space, and I look forward to even more opportunities to grow.

Believe me, I know not everyone appreciates this character trait all the time, and that is fine with me. When I post on Facebook, Tweet or email, I don’t have an expectation that everyone who sees it will soak it up on the spot, or even read it. My hope is that people who see what I share will remember it is there when their own need arises to make use of that knowledge. When I go overboard, people will tell me to simmer down, and I can handle that too. I am the queen of the grand idea that gets revised, and reworked into practicality by those around me. I am good with that. That is a skill I hope to pass onto my own child: adaptability.

I think that being a nerd is cool today. Those of you that have attended a conference recently, or who have jumped on Twitter for professional purposes have seen the evidence of nerdiness in its current state. There are a lot of people out there who love learning just as much as I do, and that feeds my energy even more.

That is why I like presenting or putting on Staff Development trainings. I like to be around other people who are ready to learn. The room is full of positive energy, open minds, and forward momentum. That is a great place to be.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What the Heck Are Screenshots?

Why Should I Use Them?

Screenshots are one of the most useful techniques for communication. A screenshot is basically a picture of what your whole computer screen looks like at that moment in time. 

See? Right now I am writing this blog, in between playing Farm Heroes Saga! 

Screenshots come in really handy when you are trying to tell Tech Support what is going wrong with your computer! If you email them a screenshot along with a description, they will be able to fix your problem faster. 

Use screenshots when you are trying to teach someone step by step instructions for webpage navigation. Dry Creek teachers: You know the Barbara Ferguson specials? She sends you a document every year telling how to enter scores into Datawise, or posts directions on the Teacher Resource Page for how to use the KACE box? All done with screenshots. 

Students can benefit from your use of screenshots when you are trying to teach them how to create a product online, or how to find something on a website. Click here to see a document which teaches you how to create a Glog. All of the pictures are cropped screenshots, and the arrows are shapes added in. 

How do I take a screenshot?

On a PC: There is a button that says PrtScn SysRq. When you press it, your screenshot is captured on your computer's clipboard. I find one of the easiest ways to access it then is to paste it into a Word or PowerPoint document. When you have the image in there, you can crop it. Cropping is a good thing because you don't always want people to know that you are playing brainless games on Facebook! It also allows the viewer to focus on exactly what you are trying to communicate. 

On a Chromebook:
Click Control and the Triple Window button to take a screenshot

A notification window will pop up saying you have taken a screenshot. You can click on the notification to open your screenshot, or find it in your Files folder under downloads. (You can find your Files folder under your apps checkerboard.)

When you open your screenshot on the Chromebook, you can click on the pencil to edit and the cropping button to remove all pieces that you don't want other people to see. Make sure to remove any personal information you don't want others to be able to view. 

After you have cropped the image, it will remain in that format in your Files folder. You can then insert the image into a Google Doc or other application.

I am not a Mac girl yet, but maybe someone who knows how to do this on a Mac will comment below. 

Happy cropping!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Why Popplets Rock!

If there was one tech tool I would recommend that you get to know, it’s Popplet. was one of the first digital publishing tools I discovered when I started researching Common Core Writing standard #6. This standard emphasizes digital publishing and collaboration with others.  

The reason Popplet wins for me is that it is easy to learn, easy to use, and clearly communicates your message. Note to all: It works best with the Chrome browser, not so well with Explorer.

Click here for directions on how to create and share Popplets:  Popplet Directions

It’s basically a graphic organizer online. You can add pictures, videos, maps, text, and then organize it all however it makes sense to your brain. Once created, you can manipulate the popples, print it as a 1 page document, save it as a Jpeg, or share it with others.

Here are some examples of classroom uses:

Research report on different types of ants

Examples of multiplication arrays found around the house


Categorization of quadrilaterals- take pictures of quadrilaterals around campus. Load them into the Popplet unorganized. Work through a system of sorting, classifying, and defining groups of quadrilaterals.

Sorting of animals- On the big screen in front of students- drag popples into two different groups of animals with similar habitats.

Vocab work- Print out and make copies so students can fill in the blanks

Character analysis- After reading Froggy books, have students come up with character traits. As a group, they can type them into popples.

Brainstorm- using multiple sources, including video and text, debate whether or not we should protect polar bears. Do the brainstorm on Popplet.

Synthesis of information - Students learned about ocean engineers. They loaded the teacher provided pictures and typed up an explanation of the pictures based on what they had learned about engineers.

Popplets portray information clearly, and are easy for students and teachers to use.
Popple on!!

To get 2 CE units for using Popplets and other Digital Publishing tools in your lessons, enroll in  EDUO 9116: Digital Publishing Tools for the Common Core

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Journey with Technology

My first memorable learning experience with technology was in college. I had a boyfriend who was a computer science major at Berkeley. Once, while he was in class and I was waiting in his dorm room, I started exploring on his computer. This was obviously the beginning of my tech journey because as I opened window upon window, I realized that I didn't know how to close them. When he came back from class he laughed at me and then broke up with me one week later.

I did not let that experience deter me though, I used it as motivation to figure these things out. The next year I became the TA for a computer class of adults who were returning to college. As I learned how to help them, I started morphing into the educator I have become today. I came to understand that it is better to meet a person at exactly the level of knowledge where they currently exist, and help them move one step forward, rather than expect them to jump in and understand everything.

From 2000-2012, as a 2nd and 3rd grade classroom teacher, I would search for ways to incorporate technology into my teaching. I ran into many hurdles such as Microsoft Office products in the lab not communicating with Open Office products on the classroom computers, sites like Shutterfly being blocked, and YouTube not being accessible during school hours. I did as much as I could though, and kept on learning.

My 3rd grade students made Venn diagrams of their animal reports on

In 2011, I was hired as a Teacher on Assignment for Ed. Services at our District Office. My job description: Learn as much about the Common Core as possible, and teach the teachers. Mission accepted. I figured out how to make my own YouTube video through Animoto, and put this together in response to the question I commonly heard: 

Am I teaching Common Core?

The more I learned about the Common Core, the more I realized how deeply technology was connected to the standards. I found some standard topics I had never taught before like Digital Publishing, and Creating Audio Recordings. This language led me to the discovery of tools such as Popplet and Audioboo.

Click link to see an Audioboo Example

Here is a Popplet a student did showing multiplication arrays around the house. 

I started attending technology conferences like the Google Summit in Roseville, and the CUE conference in Natomas. In those sessions I learned about the power of connecting with other educators and learning from my peers.

This week I participated in my first Twitter chat and was blown away by the collective brain power that was out there. I have discovered a feeling of relief that I don't have to figure all of this out alone.

Currently, my goal is to continue meeting our district teachers right where they are and helping them to take the next step forward in their own personal tech journey. What do you want to learn?

(The best advice I have learned to give them is: When tech isn't working- switch browsers!)