Sunday, July 19, 2009

Staying One Step Ahead...

I am really looking forward to the start of this year feeling a little more prepared since I am no longer new to the 5th grade English curriculum. I am also a lot more experienced with implementing technology as I use a classroom blog and wiki as tools for teaching grammar and writing skills. I now have a better sense of direction and plan to take different approaches for helping the year go much smoother. After reading up on blogs, Kelly Hines had a great idea of planning ahead even though there are still a few weeks left before it's time to start back to school. I think it is a great idea to stay a step ahead to avoid beginning the year feeling stressed. The following are just a few ways that I plan to accomplish this:

Make Learning Visible: Not only will I leave space to showcase student work, but I will also use the walls to display information to promote a thinking classroom: hanging banners for thinking strategies, showing ways for developing a growth mindset, displaying a chart for habits of the mind, creating a bulletin board for the language of thinking, and hanging posters/banners that contain relevant information for enhancing writing skills.

Establish Ongoing Communication: I plan to use Glogster, a technology tool, as a way to communicate classroom expectations to the students as well as the parents. This will include the following:

*student responsibility in the classroom as well as homework expectations
*weekly tests and quizzes which will include Quia, an on-line test generator
*uses of technology in the classroom and the agreement they are held to
*procedures for making up work when absent
*List of the main websites used for assessment: quia, wpponline, AR, and ARmath
*Easy access to the interactive classroom blog and wiki that will be used as a tool
for learning and collaborating with other schools around the world.
*Classroom news and upcoming field trips, school events, etc.

Create a Classroom Theme: I plan to create an environment that will allow the students to make connections to what they are learning in the classroom. I am using a common theme that involves "building" complex sentences, paragraphs, essays, vocabulary, character, a language of thinking, etc. This seems fitting for an English classroom where the focus is to enhance verbal and written communication. For the "building" theme, I have used bricks for the borders and background of banners that I have created, and I thought that it was a perfect theme for an all-boys' classroom.

Clean up and archive
: Being new to using a class wiki, I am now faced with the question of what to do with my prior students' work. I have decided that I will create a new home page and store all of last year's assignments in a folder. This will be perfect for referencing great examples of others' work for students to model after.

After finishing my professional development reading and doing my own research, there are many things that I would like to try this upcoming school year:

*Expand collaboration with more schools/countries (so far there are 4 on the list)
*Use Moodle with the students
*Continue my efforts of going paperless
*Implement more problem solving activities for developing critical thinkers
*Use more authentic lesson plans
*Have students to podcast

The technology that I continue to use on a regular basis includes the following:

Wpponline-This is a website where the students submit their writing and get immediate feedback as their writing strengths and weaknesses are described in detail. Tutorials are even recommended based on the needs of each individual student. I love the way that each student has a online writing portfolio that contains a graph that records their progress made over the course of the year. A new feature even allows the student to send a message to the teacher in regards to something specific about the writing piece, a response can be returned, and dialogue can continue as needed.

- this is a wonderful test generator that offers many test-taking format options. Each student has his/her own username and password. Once the test is taken and submitted, the scores are available which mean instant feedback.

Class Blog
and wiki
- I have always wanted to have a classroom blog but wasn't sure how to even begin. Being that my students were extremely technologically advanced, I felt that I needed to engage them in ways that they would learn best. I completely jumped in and immersed myself in all the latest technology tools that could be used to teach grammar. We even began a class wiki and this opened the door to collaborating with other schools across the country. I found my students even working in their free time on the weekends. The students' growth was undeniably impressive, for they had a more meaningful purpose for improving their written communication skills.

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