Friday, May 28, 2010

Tag This! Edistorm

I have been playing around with collaborative brainstorming for some time now and have found this new site: Edistorm.

It seems to address some of the issues I have had with other sites:
  • You can have more than one color "post-it" on the brainstorm page - this makes it much more useful for categorizing
  • You can comment on the "post-it" - I envision being able to ask for more elaboration, etc.
  • You can "vote" for your favorite ideas - this is one thing I think is missing from the whole brainstorming process, what to do once you get all the ideas out.  Vote - pick one for an action item.  Do something!
Join in - I started one on Writer's Notebook ideas to get the hang of it.

Tag this!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I love words!

I guess you could say I practice grammatolatry but this is no false worship - I truly love words.  It doesn't  make me creepy or anything - I mean I am not a labtebricole, I have a life and friends.  I just love the way they sound and how we can use them to impart emotion when they are being read.  And when I come across a new word (or two) it is cause for genuine maffick!!!

So imagine my joy when I discovered the new words above via the Geeks Are Sexy blog!! (I know - great title right?)

I know that some of you are thinking this is real floccinaucinihilipilification but before you judge, check out the blog post with some of these fun words and see how many you can add to your next piece of writing.  Go on, don't be an aboulomaniac - check it out!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Common Core Standards

They aren't here.

But it appears there is a new draft here.

If you attended a regional forum to give feedback or filled out the survey - what do you think?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tag This! SpringPad

I am a big fan of delicious for social bookmarking (you can see what I am saving at and it has become second nature for me to save things for reference later.  One drawback is that when I am reading on my iPod Touch and want to save to my account, there is no app for that!! (Or at least not one that I have found and like!)

SpringPad looks like it might be an option! In addition to being able to easily save from the web, you can download an app to be able to access that information from your mobile device! And more than that - you can create to do lists and do other fun notetaking.

Tag this!!

(Thanks to Free Technology for Teachers for the tip!)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Learning Maps

Thanks to my colleagues at Erie 1 BOCES,  my team has been working with Jim Knight on instructional coaching for the past year.  Today, our last day with Jim, we have been spending time on content planning. The collaborative nature of our work has been powerful, but even more than that, we have been thinking about how our work with adults should model the work that those adults in turn do with their students.

The work on developing learning maps today was a big "a-ha" not only for me but for members of my team as we are beginning to plan for our work with districts next year.  While we have always modeled our planning after our own planning experiences in the classroom, making our thinking transparent together as quite the learning process.

If you review the Content Planning handout from Jim (which is very detailed) you will see that we began with developing guiding questions and then developing a learning map that would be used to make the learning transparent with students.  What is very powerful are the samples around writing - and how to create a map for direct instruction of writing.

I say powerful because so many times, I think we make assumptions when teaching writing.  Assumptions about what students can do, assumptions about what they have learned and assumptions about what we as teachers know about teaching writing.

I will be working on more learning maps for teaching writing and post them for feedback.  In the meantime, check out the samples that Jim provides and let me know what you think!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Passport for Reading

One of my favorite Sunday activities is to hit the book store - in person or virtually.

This weekend - if you head out, be sure to pick up the Passport to Summer Reading at your local Barnes and Noble.  Read more here - and encourage your students to read!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cursive Writing : Does Presentation Matter?

I don't want to get into a debate on cursive writing - but I want to prompt one about learning objectives!!!

This post captures a parent-teacher conversation about learning and is powerful.  Really, really powerful.

Post here about learning objectives or post there about their conversation. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

High Hopes!

I can envision a classroom in the future where the teacher makes explicit connections to other content areas, encourages writing and promotes global citizenship.

Lucky for us - it isn't too far in the future!! Read about the work of this great 4th grade class and add your high hopes!!

And thanks to my PLN on Twitter - too many folks shared this one to link it to just one!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Web Based Portfolios

As a writer, blogging has been a natural fit for me to begin integrating technology into my practice.  While I have made many, many mistakes since my first blog post and have had some dry spells, I find the process a great way to think aloud and write at the same time.

I have had some success in working with teachers on the integration of blogging into their classroom practice but I believe that it must fit a need in the classroom.  Technology should never be done just for the sake of the technology.

I am particularly drawn to the work of Jeff Utecht, and in particular his blog posts about creating Web Based Portfolios (WBP).  In this post, he explains why blogs are one alternative for creating WBP in schools:

There are many reasons why blogs as WBP make sense. They are easy to use, highly customizable, allow you to embed almost anything the web has to offer, upload your own content, and they can be installed locally or hosted virtually. Blogs are a natural web-based container for portfolios. Even their reverse chronological order of placing the most relevant ideas, knowledge and understanding at the top is a way to show learning over time.
And don't miss the work of Isabel and her blog as a great student model of what can be done!!

So my blog readers - are you using portfolios in your school? How effective do you think they are? Would the integration of technology make them a better form of assessment? (Or maybe I should say - would the integration of technology make them more user friendly as a form of assessment?) Why or why not?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


New from one of my favorite writers!!

PYROTECHNICS ON THE PAGE helps teachers energize student writing with an in-depth look at the kind of language play commonly used by writers, 24 new craft lessons, and an extensive bibliography of relevant mentor texts. Foreword by Katie Wood Ray.  Read the entire book online!

They had me at play.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Reviewing the ELA Assessment


The changes in the assessment calendar in NYS this year caused us to have regional scoring for the grades 3-8 ELA and Mathematics assessment overlap.  As I write, my colleagues are immersed in scoring for the math assessment and I am slowly trying to recover from completing the ELA.  I thought I would take this opportunity to share some thoughts from scoring:

  • Students are writing. A lot!  Each of the grade levels with extended writing passages (Grades 4, 6, 8) had quite lengthy student extended responses - many of them rich with details and well organized.  This is a huge jump from when we started with assessments and I am impressed with the dedication teachers have to writing.
  • Students are organizing better! Another testament to the work of teachers, we saw much better organization on the papers and even more, better introductions! My pet peeve of "Now I will tell you all I know about......" was rarely found.
  • Students still need to practice note-taking.  The listening passage continues to be the downfall for some students.  Students listen to a passage that is read to them and take notes (generally on the second reading except for Grade 8 when they can take notes at any time.)  Unfortunately - many students are still trying to write every word and aren't using any sort of frame for their notes.  As a result, they were often unsuccessful in answering the questions or were unable to give sufficient details for a higher score.
  • Homophone abuse was much less rampant than in previous years - with the exception of the Grade 5 editing passage in which students often changed the correct "to" and failed to catch a necessary change in "their."  Sigh!
  • We still saw little marking of the text for reading passages - no underlines or highlights, no marking in the booklets for multiple choice questions.  I know the teachers in our region are working with students on this - just not sure why it isn't showing on these assessments.
  • We still need to do a lot of work on inferencing - both in understanding and teaching it, as well as practicing it with students.
  • Teachers really value the collaborative scoring process and are extremely professional.  Districts sent us their best teachers to score and the conversations around instruction and assessment were amazing.  I am grateful to each and every one of them for the time they put in over the past two weeks (and even more grateful for those returning this week for math!)
I know that no one loves the state assessments but I have to say that the scoring process is powerful professional learning.  And I am proud of the teachers in our region!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Tag This! Mouse Mischief

I know it sounds too good to be true, but Microsoft has announced Mouse Mischief - a free download that makes your PowerPoint presentations become interactive with the use of a wireless mouse!

Since being announced, templates for use in classrooms have already sprung up: check here and here.

Given these tough economic times, this is a great way to make use of some materials you probably already have access to!!

Tag this!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Tag This! Voki

I've used Voki in the past to help spruce up a wiki but I love this idea for digital storytelling

How could  you use this technology with your students?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Creativity and Play

I've been spending a great deal of time lately reading and learning about creativity and play.  More specifically - how we can start to use those ideas in our classrooms to create critical thinkers and problem solvers.  This fantastic TED talk with Tim Brown led me to think about writing and creativity.  Some connections I made:
  • After the first activity related to drawing their neighbor, one could hear a lot of "I'm sorry" in the audience.  Tim Brown made the point that as we become adults, we are much more concerned about judgment by our peers and less likely to share our ideas.  This is so true with writing - so how do we counter that?
  • The 30 circles test reminded me a great deal of Not A Box and Not A Stick - two of my favorite mentor texts.  It also reminded me that much of the purpose behind Writer's Notebooks is to generate a large quantity of ideas that we can draw from for writing.
  • "Sometimes we need new rules to help break the old norms and rules that stifle the creative process."  What new rules could we create for writing? 
Spend 30 minutes watching - it is worth it!! And tell me what you think.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Mother always said to write a "Thank You" note!

Love this blog - both as an amazing writing idea but also a fun read to add to your blog reader!!

One of my favorites as relates to writing:

And thanks to Seth Godin's blog for pointing me here!

Monday, May 03, 2010

One Book, One Twitter

It's taking me a while to get back into the groove after vacation, but I am excited to share a great social networking and reading opportunity all in one!!

Jeff Howe over at Crowdsourcing proposed that the world (or at least those with a computer) all read the same book this year.  After some Internet voting, the book will be American Gods by Neil Gaiman and the group read will start on May 5th.

This is a great opportunity to create a Twitter account if you don't already have one and jump on board!