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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Educators ARE Writers

“Walking your talk is a great way to motivate yourself. No one likes to live a lie. Be honest with yourself, and you will find the motivation to do what you advise others to do.” ~Vince Poscente

I've mentioned many times in blog posts that I've been a reluctant writer throughout my life. As I look back on my 18 years of classroom teaching experience, I embraced a Writer's Workshop approach to guide students away from being reluctant writers. I had the process in place. Students knew the guidelines and expectations. They were avid writers. They produced some amazing work and were proud to share with others both locally and virtually. We studied a variety of authors and their style in order for students to add to their craft. As I look back one important step was missing at times. I modeled writing, but not enough. I modeled what was comfortable for me. I modeled pieces that I had pre-written and passed them off as writing them for the first time in front of my students. Was I living a lie? I loved learning along with my students and my "enthusiasm for writing" seemed to guide students in their writing, But, I was staying within my comfort zone.

I stepped out of that comfort zone this past year by becoming a blogger. I've experienced the joy and frustrations of a writer. My blogging experiences have motivated me to "walk the talk." I've stared at blank pages, frozen and unable to get my thoughts out. I've sat for hours pounding the keys as my thoughts flowed across the page. I've felt humbled by the positive feedback and challenged by comments that have pushed my thinking. I've learned to use what I know and construct new understandings!

This year, as an Instructional Coach, I've had the pleasure of assisting 4 teachers and 100 5th graders in their own blogging journey. This time as a writer myself. What a difference that has made! We are now working on the same playing field and truly learning from each other and each living our motto inspired by Seth Godin and Angela Maiers:

We are geniuses and the world demands our contribution!

As summer approaches for many of us, my challenge to educators (administrators, teachers, etc...) is to consider joining the world of blogging. The world is waiting for your contribution. Each of you have a special calling and voice in the world of education. By sharing your thoughts and ideas, dreams and challenges we all become stronger educators. The flowchart created by blogger David Wees which can be found at his blog post entitled "Why Teachers Should Blog: A Helpful Flowchart" solidifies my new passion for blogging. My hope is that it inspires you as well.

A few resources to help get you started include FREE blog platforms such as Word Press, Blogger, Posterous, Edublogs, and Kidblog.

There are many resources available to help you get started. Reading other educators' blogs has been an inspiration. You may be interested in checking out the following resources.

As this video suggests, blogging can be an authentic and engaging experience for students. Yet, in order to understand this new genre completely we need to Walk the Talk. I look forward to reading your contributions. Please share your blog URL and journey in the comment section below. Let's all inspire each other to join the Blogging Generation!

Educators ARE Writers, too!
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Kathy Perret is an Instructional Coach for Northwest AEA in Sioux City, Iowa and a Certified Instructional Coach Trainer (trained by Dr. Jim Knight). She is a passionate advocate for students and teachers. She enjoys technology integration, collaborating with others, reading, advocating for ELL and special needs students, and facilitating professional learning. She is a licensed administrator seeking her dream job as an elementary principal. (preferably in Iowa).

She is currently the President of the Learning Forward - Iowa (formerly the Iowa Staff Development Council), vice-chairman of the Sioux City Community Schools District Advisory Committee, board secretary for The Mary Elizabeth Child Care Center, and was Chairman of the Leadership Siouxland's host site for the 2010 and 2011 Chick-fil-A Leadercast Conference.

She can be found blogging at Learning is Growing and gathering a variety of technology integration tools at Learn Grow Lead.


Please Excuse the Duplicate Posts

Some readers may have noticed that there have been duplicate posts this weekend. Unfortunately, one of the Blogger bugs that hasn't been resolved yet is access to my existing post editing tools. In other words, once a post goes live it can't be taken down. I apologize for any inconvenience caused by duplicate posts. As soon as Blogger restores all functions, the duplicate posts will be cleared up. Despite the recent problems with Blogger, I'm sticking with it unless it gets really bad. In which case I'd look for another hosted blog solution like Edublogs (an advertiser here) or Tumblr. You can read my rationale for staying with a hosted solution here.

High School Economics and 4th Grade Collaboration

Marty and Christin Senechal have been married for 12 years and teaching for 11 years.  This past school year, they implemented a unit that connected Marty’s high school economics class and Christin’s fourth grade class.


She said:  About one year ago, I read Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen.  In this short chapter book, Paulsen tells the story of a boy who inherits his grandfather's old riding lawn mower as a birthday gift.  Within a few days "Lawn Boy" has more lawn mowing jobs (and more cash) then he knows what to do with!  He also meets Arnold, a neighbor and stockbroker, who offers to invest his earnings for him in exchange for having his lawn mowed.  By the end of the book, Lawn Boy has multiple employees, sponsors a boxer, and has earned almost half a million dollars!

While I enjoyed the funny situations and unique characters, what really caught my attention was the chapter titles.  Each one was an economic principle, such as:  "The Principles of Economic Expansion" and "The Law of Increasing Product Demand Versus Flat Production Capacity".  I told Marty that this would be great for his high school economic students, and before I knew it, the book was gone, and he was reading it to his students.

He said:  After reading the book, I thought that it had a lot of economic principles that my class of seniors studied throughout the semester.  So, I decided to read it to them.  By the end of their last semester they were ready to kick back and listen to a good story- just like when they were in the fourth grade.  The book was a hit!  The students connected to the story as we read a few chapters a day at the end of class.  Some students even made an extra effort to be sure to attend class so they would not miss out on the plot twists.  I thought that in the future this would be a fun way to connect them with some younger students in our district- my wife’s fourth grade.

She said:  As we planned our collaboration, we wanted to incorporate a variety of technology tools.  Marty and I actually began by using Google Calendar where we created a Lawn Boy schedule to keep us on track. We used this  calendar to schedule our Skype calls, Wallwisher posts, and which chapters we would be reading.  And, we created a Google Spreadsheet to divide our students into their groups.

My 4th grade was in charge of leading the Skype calls.  After reading the allotted chapters, we brainstormed questions that we could ask the high school students.  Each student submitted a question, and I chose 6-7 of the best questions, and those students had the privilege of reading their question during our Skype call.  My students loved asking prediction and opinion questions and always enjoyed hearing what the high school students had to say.  Even after our Skype calls ended, the question-answer session led to some great class discussions.

He said:  Unfortunately, Wallwisher did not work very well in our computer lab.  After a class period of struggling to get a few pages built as many of the kids’ sat in limbo- I decided to scratch that idea and focus on the Skype calls.  My kids did like the idea of having a younger ‘buddy’ to share with regarding the book as we planned for them to journal back and forth.  Next year we will try something more reliable.  For the Skype calls, I organized my class into a panel to answer questions as well as another panel to ask questions.  Each call the students had to change roles.  The kids enjoyed the calls.  Several times I took an impromptu poll of the class over a question about a character or the plot to see what the kids thought was going to happen next.

She said:  Even though the Wallwisher collaboration didn’t work out as planned, the technology was a HUGE hit with my fourth graders.  On the day we learned how to use Wallwisher, I heard more of my students telling their parents about that lesson than any lesson I’ve taught all year!  They immediately wanted to use the tool personally.  I have an exchange student from Korea, and he and his host family decided Wallwisher would be a great way to stay connected when he goes home.

He said: While this year was a good start- which is usually the hardest part- next year we will make a number of improvements.  I look forward to trying some other online collaborative sites as well as improving the partner journal section.

She said:  I agree that we learned a lot the first time through, and we’ll be able to adjust and modify to make the experience even better for our students.  Some additional tools I plan to explore are Scrumblr, Surveymonkey, and Voicethread.  Each of these free online resources can provide another way for our students to share information.

Through our Lawn Boy project, I have gotten positive feedback from both students and parents.  My students would have liked even more collaboration time, and the parents appreciated the incorporation of technology in a safe, learning environment.

He said: This was a fun activity that the kids really connected with.  Through free technology, we were able to make it happen!

Marty Senechal teaches high school social studies at Concordia High School in Omaha, Nebraska.  He also coaches the girls varsity basketball and girls varsity track teams.  Marty is currently leading his school’s exploration into going 1-to-1 with iPads, and he maintains a website for the Concordia girls basketball team.

Christin Senechal teaches fourth grade at Concordia Academy in Omaha, Nebraska.  She helps Marty coach the girls varsity basketball team.  She loves to learn about and try new technology with her students.  Christin blogs about children’s literature at Senechal's Bookshelf.

High School Economics and 4th Grade Collaboration

Marty and Christin Senechal have been married for 12 years and teaching for 11 years.  This past school year, they implemented a unit that connected Marty’s high school economics class and Christin’s fourth grade class.



She said:  About one year ago, I read Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen.  In this short chapter book, Paulsen tells the story of a boy who inherits his grandfather's old riding lawn mower as a birthday gift.  Within a few days "Lawn Boy" has more lawn mowing jobs (and more cash) then he knows what to do with!  He also meets Arnold, a neighbor and stockbroker, who offers to invest his earnings for him in exchange for having his lawn mowed.  By the end of the book, Lawn Boy has multiple employees, sponsors a boxer, and has earned almost half a million dollars!

While I enjoyed the funny situations and unique characters, what really caught my attention was the chapter titles.  Each one was an economic principle, such as:  "The Principles of Economic Expansion" and "The Law of Increasing Product Demand Versus Flat Production Capacity".  I told Marty that this would be great for his high school economic students, and before I knew it, the book was gone, and he was reading it to his students.

He said:  After reading the book, I thought that it had a lot of economic principles that my class of seniors studied throughout the semester.  So, I decided to read it to them.  By the end of their last semester they were ready to kick back and listen to a good story- just like when they were in the fourth grade.  The book was a hit!  The students connected to the story as we read a few chapters a day at the end of class.  Some students even made an extra effort to be sure to attend class so they would not miss out on the plot twists.  I thought that in the future this would be a fun way to connect them with some younger students in our district- my wife’s fourth grade.

She said:  As we planned our collaboration, we wanted to incorporate a variety of technology tools.  Marty and I actually began by using Google Calendar where we created a Lawn Boy schedule to keep us on track. We used this  calendar to schedule our Skype calls, Wallwisher posts, and which chapters we would be reading.  And, we created a Google Spreadsheet to divide our students into their groups.

My 4th grade was in charge of leading the Skype calls.  After reading the allotted chapters, we brainstormed questions that we could ask the high school students.  Each student submitted a question, and I chose 6-7 of the best questions, and those students had the privilege of reading their question during our Skype call.  My students loved asking prediction and opinion questions and always enjoyed hearing what the high school students had to say.  Even after our Skype calls ended, the question-answer session led to some great class discussions.

He said:  Unfortunately, Wallwisher did not work very well in our computer lab.  After a class period of struggling to get a few pages built as many of the kids’ sat in limbo- I decided to scratch that idea and focus on the Skype calls.  My kids did like the idea of having a younger ‘buddy’ to share with regarding the book as we planned for them to journal back and forth.  Next year we will try something more reliable.  For the Skype calls, I organized my class into a panel to answer questions as well as another panel to ask questions.  Each call the students had to change roles.  The kids enjoyed the calls.  Several times I took an impromptu poll of the class over a question about a character or the plot to see what the kids thought was going to happen next.

She said:  Even though the Wallwisher collaboration didn’t work out as planned, the technology was a HUGE hit with my fourth graders.  On the day we learned how to use Wallwisher, I heard more of my students telling their parents about that lesson than any lesson I’ve taught all year!  They immediately wanted to use the tool personally.  I have an exchange student from Korea, and he and his host family decided Wallwisher would be a great way to stay connected when he goes home.

He said: While this year was a good start- which is usually the hardest part- next year we will make a number of improvements.  I look forward to trying some other online collaborative sites as well as improving the partner journal section.

She said:  I agree that we learned a lot the first time through, and we’ll be able to adjust and modify to make the experience even better for our students.  Some additional tools I plan to explore are Scrumblr, Surveymonkey, and Voicethread.  Each of these free online resources can provide another way for our students to share information.

Through our Lawn Boy project, I have gotten positive feedback from both students and parents.  My students would have liked even more collaboration time, and the parents appreciated the incorporation of technology in a safe, learning environment.

He said: This was a fun activity that the kids really connected with.  Through free technology, we were able to make it happen!

Marty Senechal teaches high school social studies at Concordia High School in Omaha, Nebraska.  He also coaches the girls varsity basketball and girls varsity track teams.  Marty is currently leading his school’s exploration into going 1-to-1 with iPads, and he maintains a website for the Concordia girls basketball team.

Christin Senechal teaches fourth grade at Concordia Academy in Omaha, Nebraska.  She helps Marty coach the girls varsity basketball team.  She loves to learn about and try new technology with her students.  Christin blogs about children’s literature at Senechal's Bookshelf.

High School Economics and 4th Grade Collaboration

Marty and Christin Senechal have been married for 12 years and teaching for 11 years.  This past school year, they implemented a unit that connected Marty’s high school economics class and Christin’s fourth grade class.

She said:  About one year ago, I read Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen.  In this short chapter book, Paulsen tells the story of a boy who inherits his grandfather's old riding lawn mower as a birthday gift.  Within a few days "Lawn Boy" has more lawn mowing jobs (and more cash) then he knows what to do with!  He also meets Arnold, a neighbor and stockbroker, who offers to invest his earnings for him in exchange for having his lawn mowed.  By the end of the book, Lawn Boy has multiple employees, sponsors a boxer, and has earned almost half a million dollars!

While I enjoyed the funny situations and unique characters, what really caught my attention was the chapter titles.  Each one was an economic principle, such as:  "The Principles of Economic Expansion" and "The Law of Increasing Product Demand Versus Flat Production Capacity".  I told Marty that this would be great for his high school economic students, and before I knew it, the book was gone, and he was reading it to his students.

He said:  After reading the book, I thought that it had a lot of economic principles that my class of seniors studied throughout the semester.  So, I decided to read it to them.  By the end of their last semester they were ready to kick back and listen to a good story- just like when they were in the fourth grade.  The book was a hit!  The students connected to the story as we read a few chapters a day at the end of class.  Some students even made an extra effort to be sure to attend class so they would not miss out on the plot twists.  I thought that in the future this would be a fun way to connect them with some younger students in our district- my wife’s fourth grade.

She said:  As we planned our collaboration, we wanted to incorporate a variety of technology tools.  Marty and I actually began by using Google Calendar where we created a Lawn Boy schedule to keep us on track. We used this  calendar to schedule our Skype calls, Wallwisher posts, and which chapters we would be reading.  And, we created a Google Spreadsheet to divide our students into their groups.

My 4th grade was in charge of leading the Skype calls.  After reading the allotted chapters, we brainstormed questions that we could ask the high school students.  Each student submitted a question, and I chose 6-7 of the best questions, and those students had the privilege of reading their question during our Skype call.  My students loved asking prediction and opinion questions and always enjoyed hearing what the high school students had to say.  Even after our Skype calls ended, the question-answer session led to some great class discussions.

He said:  Unfortunately, Wallwisher did not work very well in our computer lab.  After a class period of struggling to get a few pages built as many of the kids’ sat in limbo- I decided to scratch that idea and focus on the Skype calls.  My kids did like the idea of having a younger ‘buddy’ to share with regarding the book as we planned for them to journal back and forth.  Next year we will try something more reliable.  For the Skype calls, I organized my class into a panel to answer questions as well as another panel to ask questions.  Each call the students had to change roles.  The kids enjoyed the calls.  Several times I took an impromptu poll of the class over a question about a character or the plot to see what the kids thought was going to happen next.

She said:  Even though the Wallwisher collaboration didn’t work out as planned, the technology was a HUGE hit with my fourth graders.  On the day we learned how to use Wallwisher, I heard more of my students telling their parents about that lesson than any lesson I’ve taught all year!  They immediately wanted to use the tool personally.  I have an exchange student from Korea, and he and his host family decided Wallwisher would be a great way to stay connected when he goes home.

He said: While this year was a good start- which is usually the hardest part- next year we will make a number of improvements.  I look forward to trying some other online collaborative sites as well as improving the partner journal section.

She said:  I agree that we learned a lot the first time through, and we’ll be able to adjust and modify to make the experience even better for our students.  Some additional tools I plan to explore are Scrumblr, Surveymonkey, and Voicethread.  Each of these free online resources can provide another way for our students to share information.

Through our Lawn Boy project, I have gotten positive feedback from both students and parents.  My students would have liked even more collaboration time, and the parents appreciated the incorporation of technology in a safe, learning environment.

He said: This was a fun activity that the kids really connected with.  Through free technology, we were able to make it happen!

Marty Senechal teaches high school social studies at Concordia High School in Omaha, Nebraska.  He also coaches the girls varsity basketball and girls varsity track teams.  Marty is currently leading his school’s exploration into going 1-to-1 with iPads, and he maintains a website for the Concordia girls basketball team.

Christin Senechal teaches fourth grade at Concordia Academy in Omaha, Nebraska.  She helps Marty coach the girls varsity basketball team.  She loves to learn about and try new technology with her students.  Christin blogs about children’s literature at Senechal's Bookshelf.

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