Written by Andrew Ellingsen, DCSD part-time Instructional Coach following a visit to the 5th grade classroom of Sarah Nowack
Sarah Nowack’s college friend Staci and her family have taken a leap that many of us have only dreamed of -- they’ve put life on hold and will spend eight months traveling the world. Staci and Mason have left their jobs and rented out the house, son Ian is taking a year off of college, and daughter Lily spent her entire summer completing her required coursework for the entire junior year of high school. (Lily will also submit homework while she’s on the road to fulfill some other academic requirements.)
As soon as Sarah heard about their year, she contacted Lily to hatch a plan that will play out over the course of the year. From time to time while traveling, Lily will send the 5th graders in Mrs. Nowack’s class postcards from around the world -- Decorah students will spend the year traveling vicariously through Lily and her family!
The first postcard arrived on Friday from Ephesus, Turkey. In her note to the students, Lily introduced herself and explained that Turkey is home to one of the ancient wonders of the world, the Celsus Library.
In just a few minutes, Sarah had guided students to connect multiple subject areas with Lily’s postcard.
The excitement in the room was palpable -- students are looking forward to tracking Lily’s travels, exchanging ideas with her as the year unfolds, possibly Skyping with her at some point, and even scheduling an in-person meeting when the family returns to the US in May.
Interested in following along with Lily and her family? You can learn more about their plans in this article published in the Des Moines Register or by following their family’s travel blog. As more postcards are delivered and students continue to connect their learning to the world beyond our school walls, we’ll share updates with the Team DMS community, as well.
How have you connected the curriculum to the world beyond? What extensions can you imagine implementing? Join the conversation and post ideas and questions below!
Written by Andrew Ellingsen and Sarah Zbornik, DCSD Instructional Coaches.
When I have a last-minute change of plans and want students to all visit the same website, it can be frustrating to wait for everyone to type in the web address… I know I could add a link to my Schoology course or create a QR code, a tinyurl, or shorten the URL using Google. Sometimes, though, I want to change course mid-lesson…
Google has recently released a new extension for Chrome called Google Tone. This extension allows users to use their computer’s microphone and speakers to transfer a web link from one computer to another. After I installed it, a blue megaphone icon now appears to the right of the address bar in my Chrome browser.
When I visit a website I want to share, I can click on the Tone icon, and a series of notes will play. The microphone on any computer (...in relatively close range...with the extension installed...and the Chrome browser open…) will process the audio cue as an invitation to visit the same website – and the invitation will open as a notification in the upper-right corner of the screen.
Clicking on the invitation will open the web link, and the lesson can proceed without waiting for students to type in the web address.
(I came across Google Tone while I was looking for a computer-friendly alternative to the mobile app Chirp. Chirp allows for the transmission of photos, SoundCloud audio files, short video clips, web links, and other formats by using an audio version of a QR code. This has been a very useful tool with the iPads at the elementary level, but less so for middle school. While there’s an extension in Chrome that allows you to send a Chirp from the computer, they have not yet released a version that allows users to receive a Chirp. Trust me – when they do, I’ll blog about it here!)
What extensions have you installed on Chrome that are helpful? Share them in the comments below!
Note: This is the first post in a series which takes a look at implementation of Close Reading, authored by Heath Kelley
Close reading has been a buzzword since the Common Core standards initiative was enacted. So what exactly is it? Depending on who you ask, you may get a slightly different answer. I would like to share with you what I have learned about what it really means and why it’s a worthy goal for DMS.
Where did the term “close reading” come from?
Dave Stuart Jr. in his article, “Moving Forward with Close Reading” explains that close reading stems from ELA college and career readiness anchor standard 1:
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
An added dimension is the standards’ emphasis on using complex text (see Appendix A). This combination requires that students develop skills to re-read and be able to break down layers of a text.
Christopher Leyman in his blog post “What #CloseReading Isn’t (Or At Least Shouldn’t Be)” gives a definition of close reading to be the following:
Close reading is when a reader independently stops at moments in a text (or media or life) to reread and observe the choices an author has made. He or she reflects on those observations to reach for new understandings that can color the way the rest of the book is read (or song heard or life lived) and thought about.
Close reading is about slowing students down to “smell the roses” and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for life. This can happen in any content area. Students can closely read artwork, historical artifacts, an experiment, a math task, or the lyrics of a song. It is important to note that not every text is worthy of close reading. The text should have layers of meaning and complexity that require multiple readings.
Training Students to Go Beneath the Surface
Closely reading a text is not a new instructional practice. In an article published in the January 2013 issue of Principal Leadership, Fisher and Frey contend that teachers have closely studied complex text for many years. However, teachers have traditionally asked questions that have focused students attention away from what the text actually means, questions that can be answered without the need for close examination. Teachers have also moved on past a text quickly without re-reading. Thus, students miss the depth that is hidden within the text.
On their own, students do not yet have the habits of mind to break down the text and get to these deeper layers. Students must slow down and wrestle with the meaning of text through annotation, rereading, and text-dependent processing tasks.
By setting students up for inquiry and designing tasks that train them to think carefully about the text, they will be in a position to grow - both as a reader and as a person.
What about you? What have you learned about what it means to closely read? In your own life, what texts have you read closely? What did you gain from the experience?
Written by Heath Kelley (@6kelley), DMS 5th-grade, Collaborative Teacher
During last year’s tech inservice at the high school, I overheard Mr. Iban (DHS Art) discussing a Google Drive tip that has saved me (and my students) much time and energy. Additionally, I discovered from Alice Keeler’s blog post some of the details for implementation.
Previously, when I wanted students to edit a Google Drive file, I instructed them to select File > Make a Copy. This was an extra step that often was confusing to students. I always had to give extra assistance each time I shared a Google Drive file with students and expected them to make a copy to edit.
To remove this extra step, teachers should do the following:
After changing the URL, anyone who clicks on the link is prompted to make a copy. This will work for any Google Drive file (presentation, spreadsheet, drawing, etc.). As I share Google Drive files in Schoology with students, I simply embed the new link within my directions.
How about you? What helpful Google Drive tips have you discovered?
Written by Sarah Zbornik and Andrew Ellingsen, DCSD Instructional Coaches
Mr. Zach Fromm starts his class each day with a reading and discussion component. As soon as the students step into class, they log into Schoology and read an article. Mr. Fromm explained that the reading sometimes targets current events and other times focuses on past events. In the first 5 minutes of class, we observed students reading the article (or listening to a radio news story) and posting comments through Schoology. Having this system in place has allowed students to consider and discuss issues raised by the article while Mr. Fromm has the added flexibility of circulating around the room to check in with students while the class is meaningfully engaged.
Within Schoology, you can decide if:
Although within Schoology you cannot make student comments anonymous, other tools exist which do allow for this discussion format. One example is Padlet, a web-based tool in which multiple users can contribute to a digital bulletin board called a “Padlet”. If students are signed into their Padlet account, their contributions will be attributed to them. If they’re not signed in, though, they can contribute anonymously! (Don’t worry – you can change the settings on the “Padlet” to moderate the conversation so all posts have to be approved before being publicly visible.) There’s also a Padlet app, so if you want to moderate the discussion from your iPad and maintain your mobility in the classroom, you can.
Do you start class with moderated discussions? Do you want to? How would this look in your classroom? Join the conversation by commenting below.
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