School Week Round-Up: Week Twenty-Two

Three day week last week, five day week this week. My body feels the difference.

Lessons: We worked on our test prep lesson again this week. Four down, two to go, and then for third graders: the actual test. Reflecting on it, I realize that, yes, so much of what had to be done was to help kids with time management; composing paragraphs on a computer; typing; and so on. But there were emotional skills at work too, I realized. The task required a certain kind of endurance that we’ve had to build up over time. And it was a little hard to see the difference month by month, but easy to see the difference when you compared the first time with the fourth time. Students are just more able to work on a task for a long period of time. There are fewer complaints and requests for the restroom or water fountain. They just… got more used to it with practice. (And do not think for a second this is the computer lab alone. So much of the credit goes to third grade teachers, who have kids writing each and every day.)

I think about it like basketball practice. You start by practicing things that are not in and of themselves basketball, like running up and down the court, like passing and shooting and dribbling the ball, like pivoting in certain ways. Then you start putting those things together when they start to feel more automatic to you. You practice dribbling and running. You practice passing and shooting. Then, you actually start playing basketball. You scrimmage, you keep score. Finally, you’re ready for the game. And yes, it is nice to win the game. But I was never good enough at basketball to make a difference in the score. For me, the victory was that I was able to do something that I wasn’t able to do before – play basketball. It didn’t really matter how I did compared to my teammates or other teams, because I was able to do it, so I got to wear a uniform and be on the court for a few minutes.

Anyway, that’s also how I’ve been explaining it to students who ask, “Why are we doing this?” when we practice with prompts. So I’ve put a lot of thought into my metaphor.

Support: First, I appreciate when my colleagues come up with work-arounds for the problems that just continue to dog them. But, those often feel like an inconvenience or annoyance, especially over time. So it is extremely satisfying to find a better fix for that kind of issue. That happened on Wednesday. A first grade teacher had developed a work-around for the fact that a very specific program did not interact well with her Smart Board. Every other thing she did on the Smart Board worked as expected, but this one program with our reading curriculum would not respond to touch. It would still respond on the laptop, though. The issue was, the laptop and Smart Board are so far away from each other in her room, she had to have a student sit at her desk and click the right thing on cue. And it was workable, but she started to feel like the clicking student was missing lesson content, or at least wasn’t experiencing the lesson content the way the other students were. So in I came. We tried a couple different things like updating firmware before I actually read into the particular program’s running requirements. It mentioned which versions of Safari and Firefox you needed… we had been using Google Chrome. And, Google Chrome continues to be the most-often-used browser (we use G Suite for Education, after all). But, we tried everything all over again with Safari and it worked without a hitch.

Things I Did Well:
I had a couple of days where my schedule just… fell in together nicely. One task or commitment wrapped up just in time for another to begin. It happened so conveniently that I should probably not take credit for it. Unless I did something to curry the favor of the schedule gods. Please keep loving me, schedule gods.

Things I Will Do Better: I do not understand why I love my bed so much, and yet I procrastinate so much before going to it. More sleep please.

Cold Prickly: I have a chronic illness. It is one that is extremely manageable, to the point of being almost forgotten about. But, my body will remind me when I start to stretch myself a little thin. Outside of school, I made a lot of commitments over the past ten or so days. I traveled out of state, marched in D.C., slept on a floor during my stay; I also hosted extra trivia nights to cover for other local hosts who couldn’t. So I was dragging a little bit this week. I still haven’t had to take more than one-half day of unplanned absences this year. (Yes, I’ve taken some time for appointments, and a personal day, but those were all planned ahead of time so I could make sure I rolled out the red carpet for my sub.) So I’m going to recharge my batteries this weekend and hopefully keep anything creeping up at bay.

Warm FuzzyA kid farted in class the other day, and her classmates laughed, but more importantly, she laughed to. “It happens a lot,” she explained. “She does this all the time!” one classmate said. I felt such a kinship with all of them in that moment, because deep down, we were celebrating one of the fundamental truths of life:

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School Week Round-Up: Week Twenty-One

Today I am actually taking a personal day, so I only made it through three days of a four day week. It feels like I’m taking a shortcut with this round-up.

Lessons: Third grade tried their hands at some simple animation using Google Slides this week. I left the assignment very open-ended; I did an example of a rain cloud but I made it clear that they could do whatever subject they wanted. The only real rule was that they couldn’t use Google Image Search.

I was blown away by their creativity.

Many students spent ages trying to make the screen manifest what they saw in their minds. Sometimes they asked me for help, and I couldn’t help them, sometimes because they couldn’t communicate their idea, sometimes because I didn’t know how to get them closer to their goal. They had to try new things; the situation necessitated it. For example, students couldn’t just grab Minecraft screenshots from Google Image search, so they tried creating their own Minecraft-style characters by manipulating shapes.

 

 

Other students happily rushed through, making simple animations, which was also perfectly serviceable. They understood the concept and fulfilled the prompt nicely; I had a sponge menu ready for them to choose an activity to soak up their extra time.

Support: Report cards go home today, so because I’m not there, I needed to print them by Thursday at the latest. It took entirely too long for the printer to cough them out. I restarted it once and it went a bit faster for a little while, but it soon slowed back down to a crawl. It really through off my other plans for my time, and I stayed quite late to get it done. Ugh.

Things I Did Well: 
I think this week’s lessons were more engaging for me and for students alike. Hard to teach a lesson when you yourself find it boring…

Things I Will Do Better: Oh my gosh. I print so rarely that I take it for granted what a pain it is. I appreciate that more about my colleagues after today, how one printer not working or going slowly can throw you totally off your timetable. So, short term, try to keep printers up and running. But long term? There’s gotta be something I can do to bring about the end of our tree-killing culture.

Cold Prickly: I didn’t actually walk to school at all this week. One day was really rainy, which is more bothersome to me than snow and ice because my boots soak up the wet. The next day, I had a midday meeting in another building I needed to be able to drive to. And Thursday, I simply did not get ready with enough time to walk, so I am pretty disappointed in myself for that.

Warm FuzzyPersonal day! A little more time to myself, and I have to admit, my bed feels extra comfy lately… zzzzz…..

On Blogging as a Teacher

I have had some sort of blog, off and on, since high school, when I had a Xanga but coveted getting a code to start a Livejournal. I spent a lot of time navel gazing, deep in the grip of  adolescent crises. Writing about my problems helped me work through them; writing publicly about my problems sometimes created more of them.

I write now, mostly related to my job, because I find it does help me reflect on my practice. I understand that I will not always have the most polished, pretty products to present to my audience; that’s actually very important to me. Part of my audience is me from the future. I want to be able to, when facing new challenges, revisit old posts to help me illuminate my possible paths.

Back when I was student teaching, my budding professional life sometimes found its way into entries. At least once, I had to edit or take down some information because it came too close to violating my students’ rights to privacy. Besides, the audience of my personal life blog? A few friends, none of whom were also studying education. Any feedback they might have provided would have been emotionally supportive but otherwise lacking insight.

My first year teaching in my current position, I was paired with an experienced teacher who mentored me. Our content areas were not quite the same, more like an overlapping Venn diagram; our schedules coincided even less so. But, we use Google Drive at school; it became very easy to keep a Google Doc journal and share it with my mentor. This was several years ago, so I would write in one font; he would leave feedback in a different color and font. I didn’t need a wide audience; in fact I’m relieved I didn’t have one. Much of what I wrote was, well, self-indulgent or downright gossipy. But, it was a phase I needed to work through, a phase where I was resisting genuine reflection and genuinely needed to be coached through it. As Descartes wrote in Meditations on First Philosophy:

I am like a prisoner who is enjoying an imaginary freedom while asleep; as he begins to suspect that he is asleep, he dreads being woken up, and goes along with the pleasant illusion as long as he can. In the same way, I happily slide back into my old opinions and dread being shaken out of them, for fear that my peaceful sleep may be followed by hard labour when I wake, and that I shall have to toil not in the light, but amid the inextricable darkness of the problems I have now raised.

Reflecting is difficult, multi-step work, and I was always that kid who loved finding and taking shortcuts because I thought that meant I was clever. And the learning process for it was not a good look, just like being woken up when you want to sleep in is not a good look. I needed some time to make myself somewhat presentable before I shared more of myself with the world, imperfect as I (still) am.

Now I use my blog for longer form reflection, and the principal audience is still mainly me. When I crave participation and feedback, it’s much more instantly gratifying to hop into a Twitter chat. But I am a little older now, and I’d hope a little wiser — and much more comfortable in my skin, blemishes and all.

School Week Round-Up: Week Twenty

So, this was a choppy week. Today was a teacher work day, so no students; earlier this week we had a snow day. So it was a three day week for kids, and those three days were not consecutive. Always a treat.

20170112_183237Lessons: Because of the choppiness of the week, lessons went a little funky monkey. I think I did different things with every second and third grade class. But, I did hit on a first grade lesson that went so well, I’m pretty sure it’s what I would leave for a sub in the future. I picked three videos from Art For Kids Hub on Youtube, and posted them in Google Classroom. I provided students with pencils and papers, and they chose a video to watch and draw along. After they were done, they could color their picture (I provided crayons). Then they could add more detail, or try another picture, or move onto a menu of sponge activities to soak up the rest of class time. I wanted to make sure students knew how to pause a video, replay a video, move forward or backward in a video, and so on. I also wanted to use the crayons that never seem to get used in a computer lab. Kids “got” it with minimal fuss or directions, and it wasn’t so tech-heavy that a sub would be totally lost. I used the cartoon butterfly, cartoon octopus, and cartoon pegasus videos. Butterfly was easy to do, octopus was medium (more detailed), and pegasus was most challenging (no symmetry). I also chose those three because they could be any color kids wanted; I expected there’d be fights over yellow crayons if I’d posted the cartoon banana. I’m curious about their easy origami videos too.

Support: I got a Donors Choose project funded (my first!) so this week I was able to distribute 6-port desktop chargers plus lightning cables to teachers who got hand-me-down iPads to use in their classrooms, but not enough chargers to go with them. Plus, the multi-port chargers are going to be so much more convenient for teachers and students, since they don’t have to choose between which devices to charge.

Things I Did Well: 
I have been fine-tuning my last RESA task that I need to pass. It’s not due anytime soon, but I don’t want to leave it til later and stress about it. I feel like I’ve worked really hard on it. If I manage to fail at it this last time, then perhaps this just isn’t where I should be right now in my life.

Things I Will Do Better: I feel like this week was a little experimental, lessons wise. I kind of put out some ideas and strategies to kids without being fully invested in all of them. I wanted to pay attention to how things played out. I know some elements need to be tweaked, and one of them is my own engagement with the students and the content.

Cold Prickly: I’m glad it’s a three day weekend, because I think I’ve got a cold coming on.

Warm FuzzyIs it wrong to admit how excited I am about the Nintendo Switch?

(No) School Week Round-Up

This week was a break, that lovely end of the year confluence of major winter holidays. Hooray, hooray, hooray! It has been incredibly relaxing. Obviously, I can’t write my normal weekly round-up, because we had no school. No lessons, no tech support issues. Wins and losses, perhaps, but of a distinctly more personal nature. For example, I took charge of the matching family pajamas this year. I began conspiring with my mother and sister-in-law in November to order t-shirts and jammie pants from a vendor local to me, printed with our family crest on the shirts and our name down one pant leg.

I have a large immediate family, so rather than everyone buying gifts for everyone else (which would devolve into an expensive, time-consuming hassle), we do a family Secret Santa facilitated by DrawNames.com.  This year, I got my youngest sister, who participated for the first time. I got her a sweatshirt of the university she currently has her sights set on (Tulane, but she’s got three years left of high school so who knows if she actually ends up there); plus some of those pickle-flavored candy canes. (She loves pickles.) My brother’s wife, Brittany, got me. She got me a few years ago, too, and she knocked it out of the ballpark with pencils engraved with my last name that I still have in my classroom. Pencils with the teacher’s name are like boomerangs, because no matter how far away they go, they still end up coming back to you. This year she outdid herself, though: she conspired with my spouse to send and set up a child’s wading pool filled with potato chips. CHAAAAPS!

Another good thing of this season is that my first Donors Choose project got fully funded! The items I asked for will be arriving in January. I’m very excited. I asked for cords and charging stations, since our school received hand-me-down devices from other buildings but didn’t have enough cords and accessories to charge them. The new accessories will make it much easier for teachers to keep devices charged for use in classrooms, rather than remembering to unplug some devices in order to plug in others, and so on.

So not only is today the end of the week, it’s also the end of the year. I intend to go into 2017 with open eyes, clear head, and full heart. Let’s go!

School Week Round-Up: Week Eighteen

WE MADE IT TO WINTER BREAK!

Lessons: I used this activity from from Eric Curts for most lessons this week. The kids really enjoyed it, once they got the hang of it! They had done clicking and dragging before, and they had added images to Slides before, but copying and pasting from one slide to another was a new trick for them. Once they got it, though, they really got it.

Here are just a few that got done:

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Support: This past week I came across this piece written from the perspective of an NPR IT specialist. It touches really well on my support struggle from last week.

Almost everyone I’ve ever helped through a computer crisis has been in that frame of mind, and in more than a few cases fixing the computer problem was much less challenging than fixing the user.

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Not everyone can be a technical expert, but if you’re going to trust the important pieces of your life to a computer, you owe it to yourself to know the basics of how it does all the wondrous things you wouldn’t want to live without. To do otherwise invests those magical black boxes with more power than they deserve. And it leaves you open to being prey for people who don’t mind exploiting your ignorance for their own gain.

To me, it’s always better to understand why doing something a particular way is the right way — rather than doing it just because you’ve been told it’s the right way.

Michael Czaplinski’s job is to help people with the problems that they have with their technology, whether that problem originates with the technology or with the user. The way I see it, my job is to teach the “magic” – the how and the why the technology works, and what you need to know to work well with it. I want my students and colleagues to become the wizards, or at least know enough to trust only the wizards wearing pants under their robes. (I like this metaphor. It makes me feel like Professor McGonagall from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry).

Also fun, on the last day of school before break started (the day when many teachers are showing movies while students enjoy hot cocoa and cookies as a reward for cleaning out their desks and lockers) our building’s wi-fi went down. And not just our building’s, a couple other buildings in the district were affected. The IT guys spent hours working on it, to no avail. Our improvisation skills were tested!

As for me, I had to do a test-like task with third grade that we missed last week during our snow day. The assignment was on Edcite and sent out to students on Google Classroom… well, at least it was supposed to be. Without internet, that wasn’t happening. Luckily, I had printed out a blank master copy for some reason. I made copies for students, gave them pencils, and had them go at it old school style. It wasn’t ideal, but neither would be waiting until January to do this task… we already have another similar tasked scheduled for then! To their credit, not a single student complained about having to use pencil and paper instead of the computers. Santa, if you’re reading, Mrs. Dawson’s third graders from Parkway Elementary probably each deserve an extra treat this year!

Things I Did Well: 
Improvising. Always, after, I come up with so many other possible solutions I could have run with. But, in a time crunch, I came up with some solutions that I was able to pull off. So did things go perfectly? No. But sometimes “good enough” has to be good enough.

Things I Will Do Better: I was not able to help everyone to their satisfaction this week.

Cold Prickly: This kept coming up in my brain while the wi-fi is down. (For all I know, it’s still down.)

Warm FuzzyOne of the bus drivers is truly a light. (The other bus drivers are probably also very nice, but I usually take the same kids out to the same bus at the end of the day, so I know for a fact that that particular bus driver is the absolute best.) A school bus driver deals with a lot of difficulties — class management, but on wheels! — in addition to weather and traffic hazards. They are not compensated the way I wish they were. It’s a challenging job. So, for a bus driver to be someone else’s light at the end of the day astounds me! She’s got a smile on her face, always, and I hope we help it stay there.

School Week Round-Up: Week Seventeen

Only four more school days until winter break, only four more school days until winter break…

Lessons: Back to our AIR Test Prep Prompts this week. In many ways, kids are improving. Many third graders are starting to write multi-paragraph responses.

Support: So, there is the way technology works… and then there’s the way we expect it to work. The second one is a bit of an issue. A coworker brought her students to the computer lab at a time when I couldn’t also be there this week. She was frustrated at how long it took for the kids to log into their emails… because she thought our Mac desktops worked like our Chromebooks. I don’t know how to bridge this gap between reality and expectations, especially when expectations are often taken for granted and thus left unspoken. How do other people address this when it comes up in their workplace?

Things I Did Well: 
I was much more engaged in our  district Twitter chat this week and I think I was somewhat helpful to other teachers. The idea was that different folks would take turns share their teaching challenges, and everyone else would come up with ideas and resources to help. I really, really, really enjoy that idea, because so many of my slumps happen at times when I feel “tapped out” and unable to come up with creative solutions. And so often, when you ask for help, you either feel like you’re imposing or giving up or complaining. I hope we do that kind of chat again soon, and that more elementary level teachers participate. I would love to get some ideas for myself when it comes to teaching students about writing responses to passages they’ve read!

Things I Will Do Better: I fell behind with the grading of those AIR Test Prep Prompts again. I caught up with one grade level, one more grade level to go. If procrastination was an Olympic sport, I would medal.

Cold Prickly: “Cold Prickly” is not quite the right term for this, but I spent more time this week reflecting on Sandy Hook than I have since that day four years ago. It is a difficult subject to think about. I remember that actual week. I had a fifth grade reading class, and the students started asking about what to do if an intruder came into our classroom with a gun. I told them of the spaces we would hide, but they all imagined they would be tough and fight an intruder successfully, the way we all imagine we would if we were heroes in an action film.

I don’t know for sure how they would have reacted in that actual scenario. In fact, I’m not sure how I’d react. I know how I’d want to react, and I imagine sometimes the best course of action based on slightly different circumstances — where I am, where kids are, which kids are with me, what weapons an intruder might have, whether or not they were a stranger — it’s a weird rabbit hole I kept mentally revisiting.And that the easiest thing to hope for is also statistically the likeliest (that such a thing never happens) feels like a cop-out.

Warm FuzzyWe had our first snow day! Okay, so technically it was a “cold” day, since it was called more due to wind chill than accumulation. But I’m not complaining!

Also a first grade student gave me a Christmas present, which I don’t get as often as a homeroom teacher does. It should give a little insight into my actual teaching style that I’m not sure comes across in blog form.

I also dressed like a Christmas tree, because my reindeer sweater has electronic components and can’t be washed, so I have to let it air out for a few days between wearings. I’m a sense-maker like that.

School Week Round-Up: Week Sixteen

I keep intending to write posts during the week, about a variety of topics. And I’ll start. I just don’t finish. So I have something like thirty half-done drafts. I need to work on my follow-through, or on writing conclusions, or both.

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Lessons: We had our winter holiday concert this week, and we practiced in the gym during several of my regularly scheduled classes. So, lesson planning and lesson teaching were on the light side this week. But, that also meant I felt a little free-er to try some resources out with students without feeling like I needed them to work perfectly well. Also, I did Hour of Code with some classes (specifically Candy Quest, with most students) and it was, well… it was extremely chill. It’s normal in my room for kids to talk and ask one another for help and be out of their seats within reason, but for whatever reason, when they were doing Hour of Code, it was the quietest my lab has ever been outside of i-Ready time. And i-Ready time is quiet because we enforce quiet at those times; not so with Hour of Code. Kids were still out of their seats and talking with one another, just… more quietly than they usually are. Maybe they were really tired from the concert.

Support: So, I really like our new tech guy, John. Maybe it’s because he’s married to a teacher and is therefore not unfamiliar with our trials, but he strikes me as super not-judgey and really willing and able to suss things out in my style, even if it might be more time-consuming and less convenient on his end. Yesterday we had and email back and forth where we were trying to figure out why a particular desktop… well, it was doing this:

Mysterious, no? We went back and forth, trying to remote him in, though in doing so I realized this only happened when a particular student logged in. So the easiest solve? Switch the student’s seat. It doesn’t happen when he logs into other computers, so whatevs! A delightfully non-technological way to solve a technological problem. (Although John did come back and make it so the computer stopped doing the flashing thing, in the end.)

Things I Did Well: 
Pretty proud of the video I made to play during the holiday concert, during a transition time when students were getting on the stage behind a closed curtain.

Things I Will Do Better: I fell asleep halfway through the district’s weekly Twitter chat. I… should make sure I get more sleep.

Cold Prickly: I missed a PLC meeting because the coverage I had arranged fell through at the last minute. Shucks.

Warm FuzzyWe hosted a program called Donuts for Dads yesterday. We had donuts, we had dads, what more could you ask for in life?

School Week Round-Up: Week Twelve

Week 12, what a week of ups and downs.

Lessons: We tried our first HyperDoc in second grade. They understood pretty quickly how it worked, but their feelings on it are lukewarm. This is probably largely because it’s not the world’s most incredible HyperDoc; it’s very training-wheels-style. That says more about me than it does about them, I think. But since we have so many devices in our school now, I think other teachers could start to incorporate HyperDocs as a tool more and more in other subjects. Plus, it seems like a good idea to have a library of HyperDocs on a variety of topics, to pull out when needed. I might even make a couple to post on Google Classroom in case I have any unexpected absences; if kids understand HyperDocs pretty well on their own, then they can probably walk a tech-challenged substitute through it.

Support: “It’s like this week is the week where all my technology just decided to go crazy.” A first grade teacher made that remark to me as I was re-setting up her SmartBoard after she decided to switch from pairing it with a desktop to pairing it with her laptop. It was funny to me because technology does sometimes seem to have moods and issues that can’t be explained logically. Really, there probably are logical explanations, we just aren’t fully aware of them.

I’m also a little nervous about students taking the AIR test on Chromebooks next week. I hope we have few issues. I need to re-read a lot of the directions, to feel better about it.

Things I Did Well: This week the principal came and observed one of my classes. And… I got probably the best evaluation I’ve had in a long time, possibly the best since I’ve come to this district, possibly the best of my career. Did I do a perfect job? No. Not by a long shot. But my principal had reasonable, achievable feedback for bringing up the parts that were weaker for me. And, not that her feedback has to meet this particular metric, her ideas for improvement were ideas I got excited about.

Things I Will Do Better: Well, I’ll start with incorporating my principal’s ideas into my lessons and professional practice! She also had good ideas for better harnessing my strengths, too. For example, she acknowledged risks while agreeing that backchanneling can be a powerful tool, and had some ideas on how to sharpen students’ focus while using it.

Cold Prickly: I am having a difficult time dealing with election results, and the domino effect they have had. I am not referring only to the presidential election, I am referring to elections on my state and local level too. Out of every candidate, all the way down the ballot, only three I voted for won their race; out of those three, one ran unopposed, and one’s headed for a recount. I also had two issues on my ballot, and only one ended in the result I voted for. So, I definitely feel like I was on the losing team this time around. But I still have every intention of holding my elected officials accountable, whether or not I voted for them.

More than that, I feel heartbreak over reports of hate crimes. For example, my sister and her husband saw a swastika and “kill [slur]s” spray painted on the grass on the bike trail they used to get to their polling place. They contacted authorities immediately. They live in a community where that is less of a threat against a minority, and more of a call-to-action aimed at people who agree with the sentiment; so while I worry over who might have seen it, it’s not because I think someone’s feelings may have been hurt. It’s more because it emboldens people who think that idea is okay. 

I have also read stories shared by teachers on social media about assuaging students’ fears. My heart goes out to these school families.

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Additionally, I’m reading some of the president-elect’s actions as counter to some of the things he said on the campaign trail. For example, “drain the swamp” was a repeated chant at many of his rallies, symbolizing the removal of “insiders” from Washington, D.C. Yet his transition team seems filled with many such insiders. My concern there is for his supporters, who voted for him as the change candidate, believing that it was time for someone with an apolitical background to be in charge. What I see is someone who was not a politician very quickly becoming a politician. Obviously that was going to happen to some degree; but I wonder where the line is for supporters. We are all of us willing to forgive in our own candidate what we condemn in the other, but I wonder what will be the point where supporters do decide to hold their candidate accountable to things said while campaigning. For example, I am very skeptical of there ever being a physical wall on the Mexican border that Mexico pays for. If that wall does not materialize, what will the peoples’ reaction be?

A resource I’ve enjoyed is this NPR critique of Donald Trump’s plan for his first 100 days in office. It’s a helpful reminder of the limits of presidential power. Some of these things cannot and will not get done unless others go along with them; the suggestion of congressional term limits stands out as an example.

Warm Fuzzy: This week I am thankful for my supportive husband. For example, this week a local church group provided dinner for teachers at our parent-teacher conferences. But, by the time I got to eat, the options were rather limited. I remarked to another teacher that I was okay with it, because I could simply text my husband and he would have dinosaur-shaped macaroni and cheese waiting for me when I got home. Well, I forgot to text him… but he still had dinosaur-shaped macaroni and cheese waiting for me when I got home! That was just one of several examples of why I love him this week. He is such a great helpmate and I love him so very, very much. </mushy stuff>

Method to Morning Announcements

einstein-1173990_1280This is how we make our morning announcements at our school.

First, I downloaded free, no-attribution-necessary videos from Pixabay to make into our Intro and Outtro stings, as well as our regular announcements like birthdays and weather. I added free, no-attribution-necessary music from Youtube to them, to make it more fun.

Next, students record clips of themselves doing the daily changing announcements using Quicktime. Usually they use my laptop, since it’s faster than the lab computers. Sometimes they eat lunch in the computer lab and work on them days in advance, since things like the lunch menu can be figured out in advance. They name the clips something like 1027lunch, 1027news, 1027history, so that I can import them into iMovie all at the same time. I also only change the Outtro every couple of weeks, since that script is more permanent. I will have students re-record as we start rotating new kids in this month.

We do have one student records audio and not video, so I download pictures to go with that report, either from Pixabay or Wikimedia Commons. I try to get ones that I don’t need to attribute, but if I do have to attribute, I make sure I copy and paste the necessary attribution into the video description when I upload it. (Thanks Creative Commons!)

Then, I put the clips in the order that I want them. And I make sure visual images sync up with audio where necessary. This is something I’ve turned into a template. I hope that by the end of the year, the students will be doing much of this behind-the-scenes work. But, we’ll see.

Next, I make sure the “titles” are updated. I use titles to identify the students reporters, to credit news sources for current events, and to overlay changing information over videos that stay the same. For example, I just click on the weather title and re-enter the forecast info for each day.

Finally, I share the project to Youtube, altering the date and making sure it’s set to public. I linked my Youtube account to iMovie to do this. I also set up a Youtube playlist that automatically grabs any video I upload with “WPKY News” in the title. I also usually shoot out a reminder email to teachers with a link to the announcements.

I really liked how we did announcements last year on Google Hangouts, because teachers could tune in live if they wanted, and our efforts were automatically uploaded after. But I like this way too. We can do more in advance (like recording Monday’s announcements on a Friday during lunch if I have a meeting in another building). We can re-do individual bits if we have to and change them out (I expect this will happen to the lunch menu sometimes when we have snow days). We can try and try again when kids stumble over pronunciation.

But it is a work in progress. There are days when I thought I updated a clip but I didn’t, and send out a video with yesterday’s birthdays or lunch. Sometimes when I add a new clip, I forget to delete an older one. I tried to get it going on a lab computer so that kids could do more of the editing independently, but the machine was so slow that both the kids and I got really frustrated with it. I want to incorporate regular segments like “Tech Tip Tuesday” but scheduling is a pain.  But some mistakes stay in on purpose. For example, when kids struggle with words but self-correct, I like to leave it in because I think that’s good modeling for younger students still learning to read.

I’m uploaded the pre-produced clips to Google Drive, so you can use them if you want, or get a sense of how to make your own. I really do encourage making your own, or having students make them, to go along with your school culture!