Monthly Archives: March 2013

National Poetry Month: Host a Poetry Slam

My favorite poetry activity that I did in my classroom was a Poetry Slam for 5th graders. I was inspired by Sarah Kay’s TED presentation.

After watching that video I was determined to show 5th graders the power of spoken word poetry. I did find it a little challenging because there was not a lot of appropriate examples for kids, but I was able to find enough to get the kids excited. Once I got them hooked we talked about what a good performance included, the kids wrote poems about something important to them and they  practiced, practiced, practiced! The day of the Poetry Slam, we got a set of risers(our stage), a portable microphone, and a lamp to act as the spot light. We also had hot chocolate and cookies to make it feel like a cafe. I video and audio recorded the performances, which allowed me to easily share on our class webpage and within our school. spokenword Here are some resources to teach kids about spoken word poetry and holding a poetry slam of your own!

Standards that Spoken Word Poetry meets: ISTE NETS:

  • 1. Creativity and Innovation: Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. b. Create original works as a means of personal or group expression. 
  • 2. Communication and Collaboration: Student use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively  including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. b. Communication information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.

Common Core Anchor Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Please feel free to share students work or other resources you might have for Spoken Word Poetry.



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April is National Poetry Month!

I loved teaching poetry…which is kind of ironic, because when I was young, I hated poetry. Well I shouldn’t say I hated poetry, I hated the work I had to do in school that was related to poetry. As a teacher I strived to

poetrymonthmake sure our poetry lessons were interactive and creative. While we did learn the different forms of poetry, I also incorporated activities that allowed the students to write poetry without any requirements, where they either wrote free form poetry or chose a form that they enjoyed. I wanted them to see that poetry was a creative and personal process.

My goal over this next month is to share quick resources and ideas for making poetry fun, creative and interesting for students.

Here are some resources to get started: Introduces the idea of National Poetry Month and includes 30 ways to celebrate poetry month. They have several projects that students can participate in as well.

Poetry 180: A list of 180 poems for everyday of school, poems have been gathered by poet Billy Collins and is aimed towards high school students.

Poetry Archives: Has many poetry recordings and resources for teachers and students, including a section just for kids. 

Instant Poetry Forms: Forms that students can complete to help guide them through writing a poem.

Shel Silverstein’s Official Webpage: There is a kid section with games, printables, downloads, and a section atticwhere kids can send an ecard. There is also a teacher section that includes lists of poems and books, lessons and activities, and event kits. You will even find a Poetry Workshop Kit that has been developed for poetry month.

Jack Prelutsky’s Official Webpage: Similar to Shel Silverstien’s there is a section for kids where they can see several Poems and another section for teachers that has some activities.

Resources from Readwritethink. Includes websites, activities and lesson plans.

44 Ways to Celebrate Poetry all year long from Kristine O’Connell

The Learning Lab from The Poetry Foundation

One of my favorite poems from Taylor Mali, who is the author of the famous poem “What Teachers Make”.

What are some of your favorite poems? 


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Reading List Update

At this point I have finished one book and taken a break from another. Unfortunately The Core Six doesn’t quite fit with my goals right now. I do think it would be an ideal book for a teacher looking for specific teaching strategies to help them meet the Common Core. They are very explicit in their explanations, have classroom examples and provide the research that backs the strategy. The strategies are ones that I’m sure many teachers are familiar with, but the book also ties them into the Common Core and explicitly shows how these strategies can help teachers meet the Common Core standards.
The next book I want to try is Using Common Core Standards to Enhance Classroom Instruction & Assessment.   After looking at the preview on Amazon though, I think I want this book in hard copy, which means it’ll have to wait until I can get to the bookstore this week. It seems to have a lot of charts and might be the type of book that I’ll want to flip through for specific topics. In meantime, since I have Connected Educator, that’ll be next! 

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Connected Coaching: Self Assessment

Now that the Connected Coaching Course is coming to an end we were asked to reflect and self-assess ourselves. In the beginning of the course, I created a simple learning contract. I had almost forgotten about these questions that I had assigned myself in the beginning….

Have I been an active participant in the online discussions and webinars?

  • I think I was, it took me a while to speak out in the actual webinars, but as I started feeling more comfortable with the content and my colleagues I started to speak up more. I tried to participate in all discussions on the discussion boards and responded whenever someone commented on my post. I think I could have engaged with other participants though and responded to their individual posts more often.

What new knowledge/skills have I gained? And do I feel confident in my understanding of it?

  • I learned a great deal from this course!
    • active listening
    • paraphrasing
    • questioning
    • utilizing protocols to bring groups together and help them move forward
    • Connected Coaching Wayfinding
    • Webinar ideas that I can incorporate into the classes that I will be teaching

In what ways have I incorporated my knowledge of educational technology?

  • For me, I think it has been incorporated throughout because that is how I have approached everything. I started this course because I wanted to develop more skills to support teachers as they transform their teaching. I think that definitely includes the concept of educational technolog and TPACK. 

Have I had an opportunity to apply my new skills yet? If so, how did it go?

  • I have posted a few messages in the PLP lite community, I found it challenging to jump in. I wonder if it would have been easier if we had been with them from the beginning, because I almost felt like I was walking in on a conversation and didn’t want to step on any toes or ask a question that had already been addressed. 
  • I enjoyed practicing my new skills when we had a chance to verbally practice with colleagues during our webinars. It was definitely a safe environment to practice our new skills.

The rest of my reflection….


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Reading Reflection: Understanding Common Core Standards

I started my reading list this week with Understanding Common Core by John Kendall. I’m currently developing my course for Powerful Learning Practice on using Common Core and integrating 21st Century skills, so I’m approaching all of these texts from that perspective.

After completing the first three chapters, I have to say I agree with a lot of Kendall’s points.

  • I see a clear need for a common plan. Kendall talks about the benefits of everyone being on the same page and how important it is for our students. It allows teachers to know what to expect when students come into their classroom which allows them to use their time more efficiently. 
  • I used to worry that the common core would tell teachers what exactly to teach and how to teach it, but Kendall points out that this is not the case. He says “…it is more important than ever for teachers to creatively engage students with effective instructional strategies and adapt content to the needs of individual learners. If standards establish the “what” then teachers determine the “how.”” 
  • Another benefit that Kendall points out is this: “…Common Core State Standards are specific enough that districts will not need to rewrite them.  Thus, more effectively a lesson plan addresses  a Common Core Standard, the more valuable it is and the more exchangeable it is.  As a result, educators’ support networks will expand considerably”. At a time when more and more teachers are turning to the internet and creating personal learning networks, I see a wealth of information being shared and teachers having many places to turn for lessons that will work in almost any classroom. 
  • The Common Core has also been set up to cover 85% of the total standards that states my put into place.  This allows the state to add content, but Kendall points out that states might want to wait to add extra content and allow teachers to use that “extra” space to transition from previous standards to the Common Core. 
  • According to Kendall the Common Core also allows schools to move from Carnegie Units(measuring achievement by hours spent in the classroom) to a more individualized plan for the students, that allows them to move on as they meet certain standards. He provides an example of a school that is doing just that and states “Clear, shared descriptions of expectations enable schools to personalize the learning experience for each student while showing that the students have reached a standard expected of everyone.”
Some things that stuck with me through the second half of the book: 
  • Assessment, for some reason I had envisioned that high stakes test would stay the same, that kids would be tested once a year on all of the standards that they were supposed to meet. (Which I do not like at all…) While reading though, I learned that there are two consortiums are currently working on assessments, the Partnership for Assessment Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Each of them are approaching the assessment in a different way. After quickly looking into both consortiums, it looks like they have each begun piloting the future assessments, and have sample questions available. (PARCC Member States, SBAC Member States). There is so much information available for these different consortiums and I want to learn more, so I’ll probably try to do separate posts on each. 
  • The Crosswalk activity and transition documents, I think these activities would be helpful to teachers as they make the transition from their individual state standards to Common Core. As a former classroom teacher, I have in the back of my mind that feeling of..another thing to add to the to-do-list…but I think these are ideal activities for professional development, where teachers can work each other and talk about what they are seeing and brainstorm together.  I think they would be more powerful if it was a collaborative effort and not something assigned to teachers. 
  • Kendall pointed out several organizations that have developed supportive materials for educators implementing Common Core. 
I finished the other half of this book fairly quickly. I had been kind of skeptical about reading a book about Common Core and honestly, I thought I would struggle through it. That wasn’t the case at all, Kendall is straight to the point and clear with his explanations. I also discovered a wealth of resources that I will be able to use as I develop my course. I think any teacher that is working on the transition to Common Core would find this book helpful. 

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My Reading List

As I’m jumping back into education I have several books that I want to read.

I’ve decided to put them here to hold myself accountable and get going on this list. I’m hoping to also write responses to these books as I’m reading. I find for myself it helps me make connections, pull out what is important, reflect and remember what I’ve read.

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Connected Coaching Reflection

My 6 Word Story from the
 first week of class

These past few weeks I have been taking the Connected Coaching course through PLP network and it has really been an eye opening experience for me. At first it was a little rough, I was trying to do too many things at once. When I took a step back from other commitments and really focused on this course, it began to click for me. I’ve learned that I need to be patient with myself and not try to do it all at once.  By doing that it allowed me to really jump into the content and think deeply about the connected coaching process.

To help me reflect, I decided to take all of my responses(or at least most of them, I think I got them all) and put them into a wordle…here is what I came up with…I’ve obviously been doing a lot of thinking, lol. I’m happy with some of the “big” words (although I’m not sure about really…or like, but I think like has to do with me saying “I like this…or I like that, so apparently I’m liking the content and how I’m learning), but the rest of the words…coaching, think, brainstorming, questions, people, teachers…are to me all important words in the connected coaching process.

 We were asked to talk about some of the coaching standards below…

Persevere in exploring ideas and concepts, rethinking, revising, and continual repacking and unpacking as they build upon and assist in uncovering strengths of those they coach.

I have really seen this first hand in our experiences through the course. Many of our discussions have required us to go through these steps, which has given me a greater appreciation and understanding of how it would affect someone I’m coaching.

Engage in discussions on difficult or messy topics from an appreciative inquiry perspective to increase confidence and self efficacy.
After learning about and practicing appreciative inquiry, I can see how this would be an ideal way to approach difficult or messy topics. It requires you to see the topic in the most positive way as possible and utilize that to find a solution.  I do wish I was aware of this concept and practiced it when I was in the classroom. While I always strived to focus on the positive things my students were doing, I feel like AI takes it one step further in using that positive energy to move forward and be successful in other areas.

Use activities to create a connection to the content and context, to oneself, and to those who are part of the learning community at school and online.
Once again, I see how valuable this is because this is what we have been doing throughout the course. I think the tool kit that we are creating as a class is going to be very helpful in planning my own activities as I begin to teach and coach. 

Collectively review and analyze with an open mind and without judgment all and many perspectives on coaching.
While I’ve only been exposed to the perspectives that we’ve talked about in class, I feel that I have gone into this course as a whole with an open mind and that if I was approached with other perspectives I would continue to have this mindset.  
What surprised you? What, if anything, has significantly influenced your thinking around coaching?

Photo by Sand_and_Sky

What has surprised me is that coaching is much more intricate then I thought it was, I have great appreciation for the process and how supportive it is. I wish all schools had someone in their building with these skills…or even if all teachers went through training like this, I feel like it would counter act a lot of the negativity that surrounds education right now. 

I chose to add a picture of an intricate lace project(not one of mine) because of the complexity of the pattern and the patience it takes to knit a lace item….the complexity represents the purposeful steps of the coaching process and the patience is a reminder to not rush change, change takes time especially if it is going to be a lasting change. 


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