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Posted by on in Tools, Shortcuts, Resources

needle and thread

It’s been an interesting November and December. While I have been truly blessed with my family, my career, and my traveling, I took a rare step. I did something for myself early in November. I had gastric bypass surgery.

This surgery has been a long time in the making. For most of my life, I’ve been the fat guy.  While I just tolerated it in middle and high school, I took it all off in college. I went from 340 lbs to 208 lbs. How? I was in the gym, every day, for at least 4 hours. In about a year, I took it all off, I was in shape, and even had a social life. It was awesome.

Post college and into the real world, I certainly didn’t have time for four-hour workouts, let alone eating properly and caring about my looks. Slowly but surely, it all came back. I tried every yo-yo diet and fad exercise in between with no results. The past five years have been the worst. I wouldn’t just eat; I would graze, all day. Fast food stops when I was bored or just because. Really bad. I eventually got to 350 lbs again, and now older, other medical conditions came with it. Acid reflux. Diabetes. Fatty liver. All of that bad stuff.

I decided on the traditional ‘roux en y’ procedure versus the sleeve and other methods. My stomach is now the size of a duck egg. While that may sound heinous to some, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I basically can eat about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of food. If I go over that, I’ll get ill. While the recovery has been a bit rocky at times, I am finally able to eat, get out of bed without being in pain, lift, take steps and all of that.

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Posted by on in Tools, Shortcuts, Resources

math worksheet

How can I learn about my students and help them review concepts in a way that is engaging, empowering, and helps them build relationships?

Help students review and practice while observing students’ skills as formative assessment by using a technique called “Answers Around the Room”. Students complete a worksheet-type practice set, and the answers to the problems are posted around the classroom. The students complete a problem and then get up to find the answer. If they cannot find the correct answer, they can find their mistake or ask a friend or the teacher for help.

This simple “hack” for a worksheet gets students moving, creates natural breaks in the work, encourages them to support each others' learning, and is much more need-satisfying for students than to silently complete a worksheet in a traditional way.

Think of ways you could extend the activity to make it even more fun and meaningful:

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Posted by on in Tools, Shortcuts, Resources

get organized

One of the first things to be affected in any chronic illness is memory.  Pain, medications, lack of sleep all can negatively affect one's memory.  Given everything we're supposed to remember as teachers, though, that memory problem can turn into a big issue when evaluation time rolls around.

The good news is that there are many ways to support memory loss.  Since educators are already used to documenting, it just means documenting a bit more and more effectively.  This is also where your phone or tablet can really come in handy, even better than a million sticky notes on your desk. Memory supports I use and suggest:

Evernote.  True, there are tons of good note-taking apps out there now, and you might find that a different app works better for your style, but few come close to the power of Evernote.  You can try it for free before deciding whether or not to pay for a higher level, and many find that the free version does more than enough.  You can take all kinds of notes in Evernote, from taking pictures of handwriting or meeting handouts to making an audio note of a conversation.  It even has scanning capabilities now, so you can scan important documents and have them with you all the time.

The best part of Evernote is the ability to easily organize and find any notes.  You can put notes into notebooks, add tags quickly so you can search on that topic and find the note fast, and you can even stack notebooks.  Evernote even has handwriting recognition software, so you can search picture notes of handwriting and find what you need.  Add in Evernote's ability to take notes on PDFs and even use a stylus to write your note on your phone's screen and then just tap what notebook to put that note into, and it's an adaptable, easy to use way to document what you need help remembering.

I am also a fan of Evernote's ability to work with Google apps.  WebClipper, a Chrome extension, means that you can clip anything you find online to any notebook in your Evernote account.  You can even tie your Evernote and Google Drive accounts.  I have been using Evernote for years now, and I still haven't figured out quite everything it can do.

Livescribe Pens.  I am still new to this one, but what I like is the ability to easily take audio and written notes at the same time.  With pain comes brain fog, and it really helps to be able to take audio notes.  These are great for parent conferences, but just make sure that you get permission to record from all parties, per your state's regulations.

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Posted by on in Tools, Shortcuts, Resources

SCIENCE

To maintain student interest in science it is crucial to keep them involved and keep the science authentic. Let’s look at two programs that give students the opportunity to make meaningful connections with professional scientists. Both are easy to incorporate into existing curriculum or for use in a club or afterschool program.

We’ll start off by taking a close look at a great program called “Letters to a Pre-Scientist”. This program is a collaboration between teachers and scientists that aims to give students a view of science beyond what they may see in their traditional classroom setting.

Students are paired with a scientist pen-pal. Throughout the school year they receive and write letters to this scientist. “Letters to a Pre-Scientist” serves many areas where children do not have many opportunities to see what possibilities are out there in terms of higher education or careers. These personal connections can literally change their lives.

Receiving the letters is not only exciting for the students, but also gives them writing practice. The volunteer scientists hail from all over the United States and the world, which undoubtedly broadens the students’ view of the world. The program served 400 students during the 2014-2015 school year.

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Posted by on in Tools, Shortcuts, Resources

Camera

I recently wrote a reflection about different examples of hands on learning that I have been a part of lately. Although there was no question as to whether these different situations involved learning, what seemed missing was a means of effectively elaborating upon the intricacies of the various lessons and activities.

Take the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Program for example. Students engage in a range of activities, including exploring how to care for a garden, developing an awareness of seasons and learning the different skills used when cooking food. This is done while working in groups of six. The usual practise of reflection involves students (not groups) answering a series of set questions each session relating to the focus on the session, either while the food was cooking or as the various materials were being packed up by support staff.Now this was useful to help fill out the time and provide a point of summative assessment, but often meant that the questions used were one-size fits all and did not necessarily capture what may have happened while learning. For example, one week I worked with a group to cook a stir-fry. Each member shared the jobs, taking in turn cutting vegetables or cooking the food. What stood out to me though was how some members took initiative and helped out others. Sharing their prior knowledge and understanding to help other members in the group. Although the questions at the end may have touched on this, it was not necessarily the focus.  One answer to this dilemma is to incorporate more formative assessment through the act of documentation.

One of the key values of Reggio Emilia, documentation involves learners engaging with artefacts relating to their learning. These artefacts can be in any form. Maybe a conversation recorded, a piece of incomplete work or a video capturing learning in action. It can be easy to dismiss the idea of documentation as just a portfolio of work, collected together. The purpose though is not necessarily to summarise products and projects, but rather develop a deeper understanding and provide a narrative. The focus is not to represent a 'final' piece of work, but rather a snapshot of learning to focus on. This inquiry may involve questioning what has been done, reflecting on the process and critiquing the product. As Mara Krechevsky, Melissa Rivard, Ben Mardell, Daniel Wilson suggest in Visible Learners,

Documentation supports the social principle of learning by communicating the importance of the experiences captured, the knowledge gained, and those who participated.

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