Sunday, December 11, 2016

The End of Average Thinking

I recently read a book recommended to me from someone on my Twitter PLN #Edchat.  The book is The End of Average by, Todd Rose, I finished it about a month ago, but I keep coming back to it, as it really makes me think about education today.

His main point is that average is not really average, so why do we base everything on an average?  He proves that mathematically basing things on the average is truly not the way to do this.  We find the average and rank things and people.

Another point he made was education was modeled after the Industrial Age, for example, think of the bell system, it was developed to get people ready for working in factories, those factory workers listened to the bell to signal lunch, breaks, and the end of the work day.  Children were then trained in school to listen for the bell for those same reasons.  The author asks, why do we still place students in a grade level by age?  Why do many districts discourage students to be retained or accelerated a grade?  What if every student started school with the gift of time? Instead of all students learning the same concept and then everyone moving on at the same time, what if we gave students as much time as they needed to truly understand the concept?  We know babies don't all learn to crawl, walk, or talk at the same time, why do we expect students to all learn the same information at the same time?  If a student already knows the concept they move on.  Why do we teach concepts to students who already know it?  We wonder why we have so many students with "learning disabilities" and others with "behavioral issues".  Have we ever thought that maybe they don't have a learning disability, instead they just need time to learn it?  Or are students with behavioral problems really students who are bored or so frustrated that they haven't grasped a concept that they are acting out?

I recently learned of a school in Santa Ana, California, Advanced Learning Academy (ALA) that does just this.  In fact, here is their vision statement, "The Advanced Learning Academy aims to provide SAUSD students with personalized student-centered instruction that accelerates learning.  Students and teachers have the opportunity to be innovators and collaborators.  The school is focused around unique instructional methods that support competency-based learning coupled with project-based learning.  Both students and teachers are given the space and support to "fail early, fail, fast, and fail forward", as we learn and innovate new paths in learning.  Students will learn daily iterate continuously and engage in skills that support 21st Century learning." I don't know what kind of results they are getting but this is cutting edge education, this is a new way to think about educating our children.

My own daughter struggled in school, I was concerned she was not reading "at grade level", by 3rd grade she was struggling in reading and writing, upon having her tested we found out she had a very high IQ, but may have had some processing issues.  I beat myself up about enrolling her in school at 4 years old, as she was a late November birthday.  If she could have worked at her own pace, and judged on her individual growth, not on an average, I think she would have enjoyed reading in school.  Although she struggled in school, she graduated college and is doing great, that one poor grade did not define her.

The book End of Average, by Todd Rose made me think.  What if as educators we did what we ask of students all of the time?  Become divergent thinkers and think about how to "rethink" the educational system.   We keep talking about teaching students 21st century skills, but we are still modeling schools after the industrial age.  Something's got to change...

I recently came across a video that talks a lot about the same things as the book, if you don't have time to read the book, watch the video, it will make you think:  Changing Education Paradigms I think it will make you think, too.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


I am currently enrolled in a class.  Last week we had our technology portion of the class.  I learned about many apps, websites, and "techy" tricks, but the one thing I learned that I immediately took back to my school was the Chrome app "screencastify".  I was so excited learning about this, that during the lecture I emailed my principal and she immediately emailed back.  This solves our problem with our morning announcements.  I teach at a school with deaf and hard of hearing students, now morning announcements can be signed and broadcast!   Since our school uses chrome books, it's always exciting to find apps that will work with them and that others have used successfully.  If you are unfamiliar with adding an app from the Chrome store, watch how I add screencastify, click on the link and follow my directions on screencastify, Directions to add Screencastify

After you have recorded you can then get a link to share with anyone.  In the upper corner you will see the share icon.  Click on that.

Once you click on that, this screen will pop up.
You will then get a link that you can either email to people, share in your google classroom, or convert into a QR code!  So exciting!  I have the free version, with the free version you can record as many videos as you like, but each video can only be 10 minutes long, which is enough for me.  Those of you that want more options you might want to consider paying the annual fee, with that fee you have a longer recording time, you also will be able to crop videos, with the free version you do not have that capabiity.  I have students record themselves using the educreations app, explaining how they solved a problem,  I only have 2 ipads for the classroom.  This app will solve the problem, as we have a class set of chrome books!  

So when I was using this, it took me some time to figure out how to see my videos.   This is how:

I can also now record myself explaining something and then add it to my googleclassroom for students to view!  The possibilities are endless!  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What New Strategy are you Trying?

Each year during summer vacation, I read one professional book.  From that book I usually find something new to try in my new school year.  Unfortunately, I just did not get around to finishing the book I started.  I go back to work in 2 days!  ARGH!  BUT upon a colleague's recommendation, I watched this video through facebook: Brag Tags  After watching the video I was sold!  I am going to try "Brag Tags" this year.  They look like this:

Image result for image of brag tags

I bought mine from Lucky Little Learners on Teachers Pay Teachers (there are other sellers, search for the tags you like best).  I also made some myself, that I can edit.  I have been printing and cutting for the last couple of days.  Then today I received my drawers that I will be storing them in.  I'm so excited!  I just can't wait to fill it up!

akro-mils 10164 drawer bin cabinet,6-3/8 in. d,20 in. w
I am going to try to use the brag tags and no longer have students pick prizes from the prize box.  Their prize is their brag tag.  I purchased necklaces for them to add each brag tag to.  I also purchased hook thumbtacks.  I have a bulletin board where I have students display their work they are most proud of for the week, this is where their thumbtack is.  Image result for image of hook thumb tacksIf they play with their necklace they will then hang it on the hook near their work.  Drawers, thumbtacks, and necklaces were purchased on Amazon

As a teacher, we all hope that our students have that intrinsic motivation to do well.  Some do, but not all, I'm hoping these brag tags will motivate those student's that need extrinsic motivation.  I'm looking forward to this new school year.  I will be teaching a 3/4 combo and will be looking for ways to motivate all of my students.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Math is so Much Fun!

When I taught kindergarten and first grade I'd play a song by Dr. Jean, "Math is so Much Fun!"  The kids knew all of the words and they'd sing along.  Students were to be ready for math time by the time the song ended.  I don't know if it was the subliminal message in the song, but all of my kindergartners and first graders loved math.

Now, teaching fourth grade, math is fun for those students who "get it" and for those that struggle, they groan at math time.  I found a website that changes all of that.  It's, the kids love it.  It's designed for first to twelfth grade. It's math put into mystical worlds and battles.  The students have to solve math problems in order to get enough lifes to battle.  In the battle, if the class is playing together they can challenge each other, by solving math problems at their level.  When using prodigy expect the class to get a little noisy as they need to communicate to their peer which world they are in.

I had to see why they loved it so much.  I created a user profile for myself and I logged in with the kids.  It walks you through what you are supposed to do.  I have to admit, it is a fun game!  And what the kids don't realize is they are practicing their math at the same time.

As the teacher, I love that I can create a "plan", for example, if I'm working on angles and degrees, I can set the kids up to work on that.  Over the summer I have the whole summer mapped out, to review the harder items we had in class.  The program is adaptive so it increases in difficulty for students who are getting the problems correct or decreases in difficulty for those who are getting problems wrong.   So, even my "math groaners"  look forward to playing prodigy.  I keep the leaderboard (which you can find on your dashboard) displayed on my smartboard and refresh it every so often.  The kids love to see who has moved up on the leaderboard.  They also have access to it, but they have to leave their world in order to see it.

We have been on summer break for almost a week.  I just checked my dashboard, about half of my class is still playing it.  If they are playing at home they are playing with any other fourth grader who is on the web playing and they can challenge them.  It's a highly motivating game.

If you'd like to give it a try, here is my link:

Sunday, January 3, 2016

End of Winter Break

Image result for teacher meme on break is over
ARGH!  I go back to work tomorrow!  I don't know if you are anything like I am.  I LOVE teaching, but I also LOVE my time off with my family.  Here it is the Sunday before going back and I just sat down and graded my ELA tests and spelling tests.  What's wrong with me?  I had 2 weeks to do this.  I also brought my science curriculum home and today sat and planned my new unit for science.  Am I the only one out there that does this?  As I'm sitting here planning I'm dreading having to set my alarm.  It's been so nice to sleep in for two weeks.  Of course, anyone not in our profession, (like my husband) thinks teachers are spoiled.  What other profession do you get 2 weeks off at Christmas time?  A week off in the spring?  And so many 3 day weekends?  AND the summer off?

I am also not looking forward to the weather, living in California we are lucky to have so many sunny warm days, but because of this many schools are designed where students eat outside and PE happens outside.  In many Southern California schools there is no gymnasium.  This means, we (the teachers) keep our students in our classrooms if it is raining during recess and PE.  Well, they are forecasting a weeks worth of rain, starting tomorrow!  My husband says, "What's the big deal?  We need the rain, we are in a drought."  He just doesn't understand what it's like to be contained indoors all day with 30 10 year olds, who have not gotten to go outside and let off some steam.  When we have indoor recess my students always want to play, "Heads Up, Seven Up", I dislike this indoor game for several reasons.  It's too easy for students to cheat.  The same students get picked over and over.  But most of all, not enough physical movement.  I love my students and have the sweetest students anyone could ever hope for, but it's supposed to rain all week.  They will need to move!  I'm going to hope and pray that the rain goes away right before recess and right before lunch.  If it doesn't I do have some back up resources.

Have you tried

If you haven't it's a website that students dance/exercise to.  When I taught kindergarten my students LOVED it, when I taught first grade, they LOVED it, I was a little hesitant to use it in fourth grade, but they love it, too!

Also, this website has some great ideas for indoor recess games:  It's open, so add your ideas, too!

This site gives some ideas that make staying indoors fun for your students: 

And if you are in the mood for a quiet recess, you might want to play a movie.   There is always youtube, but I watch those movies before they play, as you never know what advertisement will play, or if it's appropriate.  Instead my go to, is edpuzzle.  Teachers have added movies to this site and most of them have the advertisements taken out of them.  Some even have a quiz embedded in the movie. I find this site helpful when teaching a new concept.  I can put a video in my class then tell parents that I've uploaded a new video.  I don't know how many emails I've gotten from parents thanking me, because now they understand how to help their child with the new math concept.  Or it gave them more background information in the science unit.

I hope your transition back to school is a happy and pleasant experience!  And those of you that have three weeks off for winter break, well, I don't want to talk to you!  :)