Category Archives: Best Practices

PLNs Please

Reflection is a part of teaching. As summer begins every year, I find myself rethinking, reworking, and reorganizing for my students. In response to Margaret Regan’s Edutopia posting Six Steps to Master Teaching: Becoming a Reflective Practitioner, I am dedicating the next several blog entries to these six steps.

Professional Learning Communities have been all the rage in the last few years. These PLCs can be defined by one’s common planning time/conference period, the entire core subject department, the grade level of the department and/or team teaching, but they do not have to be limited to these groups.

Regan suggests in her blog posting on Master Teaching that “teachers need time with their colleagues outside the classroom, . . .” and many teachers and administrators would agree, for how can one mentor another if they do not spend time together outside of the classroom? Too often we hear the quick response, “There’s not enough time!” Here is the clincher; we must make time to mentor new teachers. Moreover, we as veteran teachers  must make time to rejuvenate our teaching practices. It is important to stay relevant and have the ability to connect to our audience.

Collectively, all teachers need to asses their instruction to create better teaching. This is where teaching becomes a craft. Any great craftsman hones his craft, which makes him a better craftsman in his specific field. As teachers we have many options in professional development; however, what is better than analyzing and developing our own craft of teaching? Reflection, discussion and analysis can be great avenues in improving our teaching skills and assessment strategies. Collaborating with our peers and colleagues can allow for success all around – for new teachers, veteran teachers and students!

It is an ideal situation to be able to use our conference period(s) and/or common planning time(s) to meet with our colleagues in a physical PLC. What do you do about developing your PLC, if the ideal situation is not realistic on your campus? For example, what does a teacher do in this instance if her planning time is not the same as her mentor teacher’s planning time (imagine the endless possibilities of variables in public schools that create challenging schedules to accommodate our students, much less our teachers!)?

Professional Learning Networks not only can be far larger than one’s department, but also can be more accessible, more informed and resourceful and very positive. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are just a few networks which allow teachers access to the entire world. I enjoy connecting with other teachers and administrators from other subjects, grades, districts, states and countries around the world via Twitter. There are numerous positive elements of using social media networks for professional learning and networking.

How do you create more effective instruction and assessment in your classroom? In your department?

Mentors and veteran teachers, what suggestions would you share with new teachers about perfecting his/her instruction and/or assessment?

Do you use an effective format for your PLC on your campus? Tell us how it works for you.

If you use Twitter (or any other social media network for your PLC) and you are willing to connect and network with other teachers, please feel free to comment and share your contact information and other resources.

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Core Values project via Animoto

Each spring after the state’s standardized testing, I knew my students would need a relevant, high-interest assignment to remain focused until summer vacation. In a Socratic Seminar fashion, we read selections from Tupac Shakur’s collection of poems “The Rose That Grew from Concrete.” Using Costa’s Level of Inquiry, my students created level two and level three questions to bring to class for discussion. Students also wrote reflections and/or summaries after each seminar. However, the culminating assignment for this poetry unit was a video based on personal core values.

One day we defined each word (personal, core and value), and created our definition of what personal core values were and made an accumulative list. Afterwards, I found another list of common values online and had my students compare it to their list.
The effort my students put into the Personal Core Values Animoto video assignment makes it the best assignment my students have ever approached and completed in my teaching career. The video had to include the following:
• At least 10 personal core values (PCV)
• At least 10 digital pictures, one to represent each PCV
• At least 2 video clips
• Video length must be at least 2 minutes and no longer than 5 minutes.
• Music that supports PCV
Animoto has a collection of music, digital pictures and video clips, but students may also upload their own as long as their media is original and meets Animoto’s guidelines. Animoto offers many features for the student to create their unique video, but the best feature is that Animoto does all the technical and difficult “stuff” for the students so they can remain focused on the assignment. The length of the video is based on the length of the song and/or the number of media pieces included in the project, whichever one ends first.

Animoto is web 2.0 friendly, so students can share their creations via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Photobucket, Picasa, iPhones and many other applications that support embedded codes. A teacher can apply for a code, so students can gain access to special accounts for education. Visit Animoto for education at http://animoto.com/education and use your school email address to apply for an educational account.

Because the account codes generally last for 180 days, my students were able to use their Animoto accounts over the summer for their own personal use. Talk about relevancy! Many students created videos of their prom, vacations, and summer outings. I had two students from last year come back this semester and ask for another code so they could use Animoto for their science project.
http://animoto.com/play/F0h7VUdTb79GqnhaxPKsYg

Do you use Web 2.0 tools in your class? How do you implement them?

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Filed under Best Practices