Existentially STAAR-Crossed

Welcome to STAAR Season 2017! For those of us teaching courses with EOCs (end-of-course exams administered by the state), this is the most stress-filled, anxiety-ridden, headache-inducing time of year, and that’s not just my allergies speaking (hello, Spring!).

A little background for any readers not in or from Texas: STAAR stands for State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. High schoolers take English I, English II, Biology, Algebra I, and US History. They must pass all five tests in order to graduate, and they can retest every time it’s offered (December, March, and in the summer) until they pass it. Every state has their own version of the STAAR test, and as with everything else in education, those tests are constantly changing. Even the STAAR made a significant change this year, removing the short answer response (SAR) questions from the test (which is a whole debate in itself!). Continue reading

I’m Still Here!

Hello loyal followers and passersby! It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve last posted. Spring Break was amazing, even the getting stuck a couple extra days in Ohio when that lovely winter storm got our flights canceled, and I’ve been working hard to get myself caught back up on work and life – graduate classes, STAAR prep (T-minus 3 school days until the test!), a suddenly non-functioning washing machine, etc etc etc…

I promise to post something wonderfully entertaining, informative, and hilarious before the week is over, but for now, in case anyone is interested, I’ve updated my About Me page to include some information about my personal life, in additional to my educational life (including pictures!).

Gamify Me, Captain!

Badge earned in Instructional Design

As a part of my Masters program, I am taking a class in Instructional Design that is gamified. About two weeks into the class, I realized that I am 100% the target audience for gamification. I’m a very competitive person, and this Masters program has made me realize how much of a perfectionist I am as well. When I saw my avatar in first place on the leaderboard, I grinned for days. I texted my mom, my friends, even my department head to tell them that I was in first place.

Gamification is one of those edtech buzzwords that has been floating around in the peripheral of my educational experience. I’ve heard of it, but I hadn’t really seen it done.

Now that I’m experiencing it, I’m in love. Continue reading

Pop Quiz!

Schoology Quiz Question

Ok, ok, maybe that’s a little delusional. Let’s be real, Miss Frizzle is way cooler than me. I’m certainly not the best teacher ever, but goshdarnit, I try!

And trying includes coming up with better ways to quiz and test students. They get enough paper and pencil with the state testing. We’ve got to get a little bit more interesting for the day-to-day quizzing.

Today, I’d like to discuss my three new favorite ways of tormenting… ahem… I mean quizzing my students: Quizlet, Quizizz, and Schoology (I told you I’d be coming back to Schoology). Continue reading

No One Will Notice If I Nap During My Conference Period, Right?

Let’s talk about a little thing I like to call “Teacher Tired.”

As we wave goodbye to February today and say hello to STAAR testing season, I’ve fallen into the slump of being perpetually Teacher Tired. Teacher Tired is a very unique experience (although I do imagine that nurses probably have their own version of it that is admittedly most likely worse).

Teacher Tired is a state nowhere close to sleepy, well beyond exhausted, and quite often mixed with sleep deprivation silliness.

Teacher Tired is the feeling of being beaten by 130 freshmen with questions that could have been answered if they’d just read the directions and knowing you still have an unbelievable amount of work to do when they’re gone.

Teacher Tired is staying up until 11 (an ungodly hour for me) finalizing the station rotation for class and waking up at 5am already exhausted and still somehow putting every ounce your coffee-induced energy into those stations. Continue reading

Tweet Tweet!

twitter

If you’d told me five years ago that I would be saying that Twitter is my professional development best friend, I would have laughed in your face. But here I am saying that Twitter is amazing and I have learned so much from the past couple weeks of use.

I’m a current masters student at the University of Houston, taking a class on Integrating Technology into the Curriculum. Part of this class required participation in a Twitter Slow Chat put on by ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education). I’ve heard of Twitter chats before. Plenty of my undergrad professors at Kent State encouraged us to participate in chats put on by NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) or other similar professional organizations. I was reluctant because I was just never super comfortable with Twitter. I know Facebook. I like Facebook. Honestly, I’ve only in the past year gotten into using Instagram. (Yeah, I know, I’m a bad millenial.)

I do have a smattering of experience with Twitter before this class. I created an account during the election with the hopes of following news organizations (and my husband’s live debate tweets), but that fizzled out quickly. I tried in my first year of teaching to create a class Twitter to send reminders to my Twitter-obsessed students, but after seeing some of their Twitter pages, I decided that was a bad idea. A very bad idea. *shudder* Then I discovered Remind anyway. Much less frightening.

But, hey, now it’s a class requirement. No more putting off Twitter. It’s time to give it a real go. I didn’t know what I was missing. I think my problem with Twitter in the past was simply that I never really knew how to utilize it. Continue reading

Let’s Get These Kids Moving!

quote quizlet.png

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a clear theme to my methodology lately: student engagement. You can be the best teacher in the world, but if the students aren’t listening, you’re wasting your effort. And I hate wasted effort.

I’ve found that technology is a great way to increase engagement. It, like all things, has its drawbacks, and I, like all teachers, have struggled to use it effectively. But these past few weeks have really been eye-opening to the possibilities of using technology beyond simply having students submit their work through Schoology (though Schoology’s discussion posts can be great for getting those quiet kids to participate freely in discussion, and they’re perfect exit tickets).

The second way I’ve realized that I can really get students engaged is just getting them up out of their seats. Now, you can’t just tell them all to stand up and move around without a purpose, but giving them a task that requires them to move around, even if it’s just relocating to a new part of the room, gets them engaged and leaves them no ability to hide at their desk. I’ll be honest, I am only one teacher and they are many students. When we’re doing deskwork, there have been times that a kid managed to get away with not actually doing any of the work, and I didn’t realize it until after school. Getting them up and moving around makes it more obvious if kids try to not participate. Honestly, from what I’ve seen (especially in my Persuasion Matchup activity) when the students are moving around, they don’t want to not participate (sorry about the double negative). They want to work!

Taking these two major ideas, technology and movement, I decided to try a new tool in my classroom today: Quizlet Live.

It is AWESOME.  Continue reading

Let me tell you about my friend, Schoology

I’m going to warn you up front: I LOVE Schoology. It is safe to assume that this will be the first of a series of posts about the wonderfulness that is Schoology.

Let me also preface this by saying that my district has purchased Schoology Enterprise, so I have access to a buttload more features than Basic. However, for the purpose of getting some screenshots of the totally amazing resources available in the Basic version, I’ve created a demo account. I’ll focus on the Basic features for now, but I will get into some of the Enterprise bonus features as well.

Let’s start with a little bit of a get-to-know-you with Schoology. Schoology is a Learning Management System. It’s a place where you can create courses and store course materials for students. Anyone who’s taken college classes relatively recently, especially online, is probably familiar with Blackboard Learn. Schoology is very similar, but geared more towards middle to high school. There are test/quiz features, discussion boards, media albums, pages, abilities to link and embed other learning tools, plus more. It’s a great tool to organize classroom materials and online tools and it can even allow you to (get ready for the edtech buzzword) flip your classroom. Continue reading