Thursday, September 21, 2017

Teaching Tip #16




Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #16



  1. Give a fresh start

This is not hard for me since I get students as juniors who are pretty much totally new to me.  I didn’t have them as freshmen so I don’t have any preconceived notions about them.  At all.

One thing I learned from Mumm and Reese is that if you put a kid – no matter how troubled or underperforming – in the right situation (in their cases in the weight room and on stage), they can accomplish so much more than we think they can.  

That’s why it’s so important to wipe the slate clean at the start of the year.  Maybe that is my favorite thing about starting a new school year or even starting a new class.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Teaching Tip #15


Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #15

Don’t be afraid of Khan Academy.

I see they have tweaked their format quite a bit, now offering particularly tailored experiences to teachers and students and even parents.

For teachers, it allows us to set up our own classes (and even import our classes from Google Classroom. Sadly, I must confess I’m not proficient with Google Classroom yet, but I am going to make an effort to become so this year).

As I work with it and run through it, it occurs to me that this might be resource best used in math, science, and elementary school.

It has very little on the topics and books I teach.

How might you use Khan Academy or videos to supplement what the core knowledge in your class?

Bonus –

Here is a link to a TED Talk given by Salman Khan called “Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education.”

And one more bonus – How can you NOT love the title of this TED Talk from Khan? – Let’s Teach for Mastery – Not Test Scores




Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Teaching Tip #14


Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #14


The article linked above sites a survey here about how students have shifted to using videos to supplement their content knowledge in several areas.

The top subject areas in which students in grades 6–12 watch videos to support their homework, research projects, or studies are science (66 percent), math (59 percent), social studies/history (53 percent), and English/language arts (45 percent).

In visiting with students, many state they use Khan Academy for a variety of classes, particularly math.  I use it for my love of art history.

If your subject area is science, math, social studies, or English what video sites do you share with students to support their learning?





Monday, September 18, 2017

Teaching Tip #13



Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #13


Since we moved to a 1:1 MacBook Air school, we have had to think more about how we deliver content.

Once a colleague at lunch asked, “How can we compete with Google?”  

As they said this, I pictured kids with their laptops open and surfing the net at will, totally un-engaged to what I was saying.

Then the solution hit me, and I told the teacher, “It’s simple.  We have to be more interesting than Google.”

That didn’t go over so well.

But it’s true.

Delivery matters.  Go back to Teaching Tip #5.  HOW we present information must change.  No doubt about it.

Case in point:  I used to teach a highly engaging murder mystery, “Lamb to the Slaughter,” by Roald Dahl, in my Lit and Lang 9R class.  

The story is set in the 1950s.  Of course, kids today have no idea what life in the 1950s was like.  At all.  They think it was just like today.  Minus smart phones.

When I began to pre-teach the setting of the piece, I realized the kids were tuned out and bored.  Thus, I said, “Stop.  Take out your laptops.  Find out what life was like in the 1950s.  Use whatever sites you want.  I’d start with Google.”

Then I put on the board questions to guide them like “How much did a pop cost in 1950?” “What were the popular TV shows in 1950?” “Who was president in 1950?” “How much was minimum wage in 1950?” “What was the most popular occupation for women in 1950?”  “Can you find any videos on Youtube from 1950?” And so on.

Suddenly, kids were more engaged.  I’m not saying they were living the dream, but they were far more engaged than just listening to me tell them about life in 1950.

That’s when I realized the hard truth behind this line from the article linked above -

If your mindset is that a teacher’s main job is content delivery, then they’ve just been outsourced by Netflix and YouTube.

How has your content deliver changed to engage students more effectively since we moved to a 1:1 environment?




Friday, September 15, 2017

Teaching Tip #12


Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #12


If you know, let me know.  Please.

The article linked above focuses on a couple unique factors of this current generation of learners.

First, unlike every generation before them, they are a “Just in time” style of learner.

What this means is that – unlike us, who were a “Just in case” style of learner – we learned things in school “just in case” we ever needed to know it or use that skill.  And there are many benefits to this.  I’m glad I learned how to type in high school, even though I thought I’d never have a job that required me to type.  

But there are negatives too.  But I did memorize a lot of dates and historical figures in social studies and psychology that are now useless to me since I once memorized them but never learned them.

So this current generation of learners knows that since content is distributes so freely across so many different platforms, they can learn what they need not “just in case” but “just in time.”  

Case in point:  When students need to create a blog in my class for a scavenger hunt, if they have never been taught how to create a blog (as previous generations would have), I would just leave it up to them to figure it out and learn it “just in time” for the due date.  They can use blogger, Google Sites, Weebly, or whatever they wish.  And students – using Youtube, texting, Google, or whatever – will go about learning how to do it.

This happens to me whenever I’m doing something around the house or with the vehicles.  If I need to change the headlight on our Highlander, I watch a Youtube video.  25 years ago, I’d have to consult my father and we’d figure it out (probably breaking a few headlights in the process).  But the fact that the content is distributes so freely across so many platforms (I literally have my phones sitting on the Highlander’s battery playing the tutorial via my Youtube app as I change the headlight).

The benefits: I can learn so many things at a moment’s notice.

The negative: I don’t retain nearly as much.  For example: I had to watch the same Youtube video for two years before it finally sank in on my when it came to changing the headlight.  The same is true for when I want to tie a Trinity knot for school.  Way back in 1996 when I had to tie my first tie, I practiced in front of the mirror for hours just to tie the rudimentary “four in a knot” style tie knot, following a long with a pamphlet I had been given at Nordstrom’s in Bemidji.  Now, though, I can just prop my phone up on my wife’s dresser, Youtube the correct video, and tie my Trinity knot quickly.  This has gone on for three years now, and I haven’t yet memorized the process.

This “Netflix generation” of students (and all future generations) has no basis for understanding information that isn’t readily and immediately available. These students have come to expect high-quality content—on demand, anytime, and anywhere.

This drastically changes how I have to present material to the 25 kids in front of me every day in every block.

How do you juggle “just in case” learning vs. “just in time” learning?


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Teaching Tip #11


Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #11

What lesson or assignment could you sell tickets for?

I think my introduction to our film analysis paper would be my answer to this (in)famous question posed by Dave Burgess in Teach Like a Pirate.

Here is how it goes –

Learning Target – students will be able to analyze a key film scene for one of the following film techniques (music, lighting, power of suggestion, dialogue, suspense, and symbolism).

I use Storify to share several key scenes with my College Comp students.  On that site I have numerous key scenes from films.

We watch a couple of famous scenes together (such as how the Coen brothers create suspense in several scenes from No Country for Old Men or how music is used to manipulate the viewers in a key scene from Pixar’s UP).  Here, I try to have students do as much of the talking and discovering as possible.  For example – how do the Coen brothers make Anton Chigurh so terrifying?  What about his attire?  What about his dialogue?  What about his actions?  How do they show us images and details that many other directors don’t?  What is the purpose of those scenes?  Again, I try to shut up and just ask a few guiding questions.

Then I will assign students specific scenes from the Storify site to analyze in a short paragraph that they then share with me via Drive before they leave.

Evidence of Learning – students will share their paragraphs with me as they leave.  Then I will go over them to check for understanding.

Then I will open the next class period by assigning students to different scenes.  I will have them analyze the scene.  Then I pair them up with the student who the day before analyzed that scene.  They will compare their takes on the scenes.

So if Stacy analyzed the conclusion of Donnie Brosco and Kathryn analyzed Samuel L. Jackson’s death in Deep Blue Sea, I will make Stacy analyze the Deep Blue Sea scene while Kathryn will analyze the conclusion of Donnie Brosco.  Then students will share their analysis and see what they have in common and why.  Verbally, students will share their results.

I know this worked well, for when I first tried it, Mr. Zutz was observing me.  He paid me a great compliment when he said, “I had trouble evaluating you because I got caught up watching the videos and analyzing them as part of the assignment instead of evaluating the effect on the students.”  I’ll take that as a compliment!


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Teaching Tip #10


Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #10

A study hack to help kids learn more.  Make them aware of “metacognition.”

Metacognition, as I learned in graduate school, is basically thinking about how you think.  Or thinking about how you learn.  Too often, this article claims – and I agree with it from experience and from watching students struggle to study and learn – students just stumble blindly from task to task without realizing how they learn or think best.

I did this until college.  At the university level – thanks to some study courses I took – I discovered how I learned best: by re-writing and rewriting information down.  As a visual learner, this helped me not just see what I was writing down but it helped me remember the information better too.  This is why when I’m listening to a podcast now, I not only remember the information on the podcast, but I can also vividly recall where I was on the road when I heard the information for the first time.  Or when I read something new, I can often picture where a specific term is on the actual page itself.  So when I have to study and learn new information, I’m aware of this and apply it to what I learn.

But how are our students aware of their own metacognition?  How do we go about showing them this?  Isn’t it just easier to drill information in their skulls so they can pass a test? Yes.  Except – based off of our test scores – they aren’t passing those tests.  Or at least enough of them are not passing those tests.  Thus, we have to re-think what we teach.  Right?