School Spirit Banter

I am SO impressed by the creativity of two local area high schools and their students’ videos. As quoted in this Get Schooled post, these ARE examples of what the best “spirit cheers” look like today. You can check out the original video in this “battle” here and the response here.

For me, these videos show just how multiliterate our students are and all of the neat ways in which they are reading, writing, and engaging with the world around them. These videos use rhetorical strategies, rhymes, video angles, music — and this list only continues — all to help show their school spirit. And, I love the fact that they pull in lots of different members from their respective student bodies to be a part of the banter.

No matter which school wins the game, the main point is that these two videos have just under 400,000 hits (combined) in two weeks. Where these students’ voices heard? [I think so!]

Positive Footprints

As you all know, I feel very strongly about helping kids understand how to create and why to create positive digital footprints. I’ve thought about this topic a lot, and yet it’s something that is still weighing heavily on my mind. [Maybe it’s because the means in which we work digitally is constantly changing???]

Anyway, I’m seeing more and more kids not understanding what their digital footprint is all about and how it can/will affect them now and down the road. I know that I stress it a lot when I work with my students and try to emphasize it’s not about culling their creativity, but a way to push them to think critically and post information that is appropriate (and in a way that still gets their point across). So, I’m curious…how are others helping their students develop positive digital footprints? How can we keep kids motivated to produce and stress to them they can still “own” that digital space (without them not being “googled well”)?

Censorship Stinks

It’s funny that I was just talking about Banned Books Week today, and then I happened to see a post from one of my former students regarding censorship. The energy I felt from this student’s writing reminded me just how important it is to value every thing (and every one for that matter).

This post reminded me that the lack of open-mindedness plays a huge role with things that get censored. When people don’t “get” things, things get censored. I also thought about how fear plays a huge role, too. When people fear things, they push them away. Out of sight…out of mind. However, some of those things that we fear might just be the light that another needs.

Though I am sad to know the confusion/anger/pain associated with this post, I am also breathing a breath of fresh air. The fact that there are kids out there who want to make a difference, who want to stand up for what is right, and who have open-minds to appreciate the diversity that surrounds us today is a beautiful thing.

Thus, in honor of the upcoming BBW (and the post I read tonight), I wanted to share with you all (again) beautiful words from the talented Ellen Hopkins. Her “Manifesto” is hanging in my office, and I hope it moves others as much as it moves me. Enjoy!

Digital Essays

I’ve been intrigued with the idea of a “digital essay” ever since Jim Burke posted an example of one awhile ago. When I asked him what his assignment sheet included, Burke said that he didn’t really have a “formal” one and just told the kids to create. I think the biggest reason I’m drawn to the idea of a “digital” essay and what that “format” might encompass (beside my love for rhetoric and comp!) is the fact that I see this format as one that would be more real-world applicable in many ways versus a traditional essay for English class.

When I tried it out with my students Continue reading

Remote School Days

Well, I’m sure most of you have followed along with the news reports to hear about the Atlanta area being on a stand still due to all of the ice and snow that hit our area this past week. It has been unbelievable! [And to think I moved south to get away from all of that “stuff!”] Many local streets are still covered in thick sheets of ice a week later, but we are all hoping for some relief this weekend as temperatures will hopefully raise enough to melt it all away.

Anyway, my school (along with most of the local schools) was closed the entire week. However, we implemented our remote school plan which allowed us to have school for the past three days. Three days that will count for school days and not require anything to be made up. Three days of instruction that could continue outside of the classroom. Three days of creative thinking to truly infuse the content through the technology integration to keep our kids learning.

Overall, I was really excited to see the kids jump right on board with everything. They were so enthusiastic about their work! And in fact, one of my students was quoted in one of the local news resources stating,

“At first I thought it was a crazy idea, trying to control students’ via computers and the Internet. But now, as I sit here and do my homework willingly, I realize that there is a characteristic that pushed me to do this. One that I, and plenty of other Lakeview students obtain, that is respect for our teachers and respect for our education.”

I think the last line really sums it up about the kids’ work ethic during this entire remote school experience. And, for us teachers, it allows us to not miss a beat and continue our instruction…just in different forms. So, what did my kids do? We blogged. We created visual analyses. We read articles. We wrote and recorded. We submitted assignments via Moodle. We took quizzes via Google Forms. We researched. We prepared for our units by watching videos (uploaded via Dropbox). The list continues…and needless to say this first experience of remote school has brought about many new ideas I am eager to try out in the future. (Or with integration into a blended classroom…which is something I am VERY interested in.)

So, here are a few things I’m interested to look into for down the road:

As you can see, just a few random ideas that have been bouncing around! Also, I would love to hear from anyone with experience with teaching in a blended classroom or with reverse instruction!

NCTE Day 2: Everyone has a story to tell

And it’s true. I do. You do. Our students do, too.

The day started off with the opening session highlighting Erin Gruwell which was pretty neat for me considering I loved the movie. Her talk was very inspiring for all of the teachers in the room; she reminded us to never say never and be sure that each of our own stories (and our students’ stories) were heard.

Another talk I visited talked about strategies to get kids reading more and ultimately “reading their lives.” I liked the idea of generating questions from each student’s own life that he/she uses while reading text. I think that it would certainly Continue reading

Safety Nets

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how schools really act as safety nets for our students. Schools really are so much more than just a place for students to share new ideas, find their voices, and learn about themselves and the world around them. The reality is our kids — no matter what their backgrounds are, where they are from, what their parents do — all have a lot going on outside of the classroom. Things that they bring with them to school each and every day.

I mean, I get it. We all have a lot going on in our lives. And we all acknowledge that one way or another, right?

And I know that particularly within the English classroom, we have a great opportunity to push students outside of their normal comfort zones to think more critically about the world around them…while also providing a safety net to balance out questions and problems as they arise. Here we are able to help students make connections and help them see how awesome diversity and differences really are.

Yet, despite schools being a safety net, we’ve recently seen many cases in the news about how bullying is everywhere. And it’s taking place inside of schools — the safety nets — as well as outside of schools, too.

How do we, as educators, combat it?

I know this question could stir discussions all day as I’ve had many myself with colleagues. I know that at our school we are implementing the TalkAboutIt Program that has received great reviews thus far, and I’m really excited to learn more about it. I know that I smiled when my AP kids wanted to write “more thoroughly” about bullying which led to our end of unit essay focused on cause/effect to discuss bullying.

I know that there are no easy answers, but I also know we have to do more.