Archive for the 'Teaching – Reflections From the Field' Category

The Milwaukee Brewers Seek Positive Message Commercials to Strike Out Bullying

By Elizabeth Jorgensen

Objective: Create a commercial with a positive message to Strike Out Bullying. (Your commercial should be a positive message to raise awareness of bullying prevention at school, online or in the community.)

Eligibility: Teachers of students in grades 6-12 (students must be 13 or older) at a public or private school in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington or Waukesha County, WI are eligible to participate.

Entry: The entry period began on Monday, January 23, 2017, at 3:00 pm CT and ends Friday, April 21, 2017, at 11:59 pm CT. Teachers must submit a link to their submission. Submissions must be on a publicly accessible online platform (YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo or some other public video platform), be in the English language and not exceed 2 minutes in length.

Judging criteria: The winning video will be selected by a panel of judges assembled by the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club. The videos will be judged on the conciseness, positivity, creativity and originality of the message raising awareness of bullying prevention at school, online, and in the community.

Prize: One video will be selected as the winner. The winner will receive a visit to his/her school for his/her class from Brewers players, coaches and/or alumni on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The students in winner’s class (grade) will also receive complimentary t-shirts and game tickets for the Brewers home game played at Miller Park on Friday, May 12, 2017, at 7:10 pm, and on-field recognition. One student from the winning video will throw out the ceremonial first pitch (if there is more than one student in the video, a name from the creative team will be drawn at the school visit the day before the game).

Rules:

  • The creative team appearing in the video can be one (1) to six (6) people, but no larger than a group of six (6). All students on the creative team must be in the same grade.
  • No one under the age of 13 may be in the video.
  • A teacher is allowed to submit more than one entry from the same grade at the same school. Each entry must have a different set of students in each video.
  • The video must not exceed 2 minutes in length.
  • Online entry only. No other method of entry will be accepted.

To find out more, check out this website.

 

Technology: Your Secret Weapon at Work!

images (2)By Stephanie Nicoletti

Last month I explained how when used correctly, technology can be your secret weapon. It can, and I am hoping to shed some light on that! I will explain how I used technology as my secret weapon in our first grade classroom.

Writer’s Workshop can be a tough time for young writers since their writing skills are still developing. When we started our “All About Writing” unit I wanted to make this as engaging as possible for my students, because in years past they have really struggled with this unit. Students were paired up on iPads and created nonfiction books on the app, BookCreator. Students selected topics they know a lot about, wrote down at least three details, and then began to create their All About Books. The students had to appropriately use various text features, correct details, and photos that were researched. This was very engaging for first-graders, crossed literacy and writing skills in one project, and finally gave students a sense of ownership for their learning. This is just one way I used technology as my secret weapon in our first grade classroom, with this mindset the learning opportunities are endless for our students!

Check out our published ebooks below!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuAej1ssHL8x989YwttaTsmbWG6VVK303

 

The Wisconsin English Journal: A Call for Manuscripts

getting to the pointBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

The University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop says that “writing cannot be taught” but that “writers can be encouraged.” Whether or not literary creativity can be taught, certain skills can certainly be enhanced. Students can acquire insight into what constitutes effective or realistic description, style, narrative, characterization or use of language. They can also learn about voice, diction, plotting, setting and figures of speech as well as how to craft dialogue that gives clues to a character’s personality, social position, values and character.

In order to initiate this discussion, the Wisconsin English Journal invites you to share successful, inventive instruction, lessons, assignments and perspectives that teach facets of creative writing. For example,

  1. What’s the impact, possibility or pedagogy of teaching and assessing creative writing?
  2. How do you incorporate creative writing into teaching expository writing?
  3. How do you view creative writing in the greater context of literacy instruction?
  4. How do you implement technology or social media into this instruction?
  5. With the recent push toward STEAM education (emphasizing science, technology, engineering, arts and math), are there new roles creative writing might or must play in the rapidly changing landscape of K-12 and higher education?
  6. What do you see is creative writing’s role in the common core?
  7. How do you teach critical thinking through creative writing?
  8. How do you build, run and maintain successful writers’ workshops? What’s their purpose in your classroom?

Submission Guidelines

  1. In general, manuscripts range from shorter articles of 1,000 words to longer pieces of 5,000 words prepared following guidelines established in the publication manual of the American Psychological Association.
  2. Submit manuscripts to the editor, John Pruitt, and the guest editor, Liz Jorgensen, of Arrowhead High School, at wi.english.journal@com.
  3. First Drafts Requested by August 1.

 

March –  A Mission That is Not Impossible

sunrise-1634197_960_720By Peggy Wuenstel

You often read about an athlete, a performer, or a politician wanting to go out on top, at the height of their power, or the peak of their performance. I just don’t think that is how it works for teachers deciding to retire. We wait to leave the classroom until we feel that is time to go because we cannot perform as well as we have in the past. The knees give out, the memory fades a bit, the patience is shorter, and the reaction time is longer. This is a completely different feeling than leaving the profession because we are angry, frustrated or burned out. There is far too much of that going on in the profession now, and it is one direction I sincerely hope can be reversed.

I read somewhere that burnout comes, not from hard work or facing a daunting task, but from the lack of control that keeps us from doing our best work, the right thing, the best thing. There is plenty of that kind of angst in education today. Along with the financial insecurities that come with changing contracts, vanishing benefit packages and uncertain political realities. We leave before we are truly ready to protect pension earnings and insurance benefits. Some districts are happy to see their experienced teachers go, replacing them with younger teachers at lower salaries and without retirement programs that are being phased out at the district level.

Sometimes the universe sends you a sign. I attended the same school district from Kindergarten through high school graduation. That elementary school is being razed this year. I came to Marquette in the mid-seventies, greeted by the strains of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run blaring from the windows of multiple floors of McCormick Hall. That venerable building is also being replaced this year. My school is also one of eight nominated by Dr. Tony Evers for this year’s Blue Ribbon designation. I got to play a large part in the writing of that application, a virtual love letter to my school, a chance to go out on top.

One of the things I realized in writing this profile of the school I am so proud of is the commitment to a “Mission Possible” makes us who we are and drives what we do for kids. Borrowing from TV producer Shonda Rimes’s “Yes to Play” philosophy, which turns the things we are in love with into the things we are good at, our school strives to love our students into being learners. It doesn’t diminish our desire for our students to do well academically. It multiplies it into knowing they can do well socially, physically, and emotionally as well.

That mission has taken some interesting turns for me this year. Wisconsin educators use new terminology in the educator effectiveness system to change to conversation about improving practice. We have professional progress goals, and this changing of the language we use gives us opportunity to focus on the way we interact vs. on the work that must be done. My practice goal was to increase the frequency and quality of my conversations about and around books. This is true with both colleagues and students. When learning about the word artifacts, students were asked to write about an artifact in their homes. One student discovered for the first time that her mother collected carnival glass, and another brought a preserved puffer fish to class, spikes carefully wrapped in several layers of old t-shirts. We’ve asked questions like, “What makes you special?” or “How did you step up for someone?” as a result of a shared reading experience. We address students’ emotional needs and development as well as their academic ones because we read together and talk about what we read. When our children – at home and at school- ask us to read with them, what they are really making is a request to come, sit, and be present with me, and help me understand the world. I’m still grateful when someone takes the time to do that with me, as my book club buddies will attest.

These are the things that must be learned but can’t be taught. They are not part of the Common Core or any curriculum, but essential for students for students to see demonstrated in their school experiences. It is the way that we become wise vs. remaining merely informed. It is our chance to weigh in on what matters and what does not. It is also learning in action, what I have seen described as both “the knowing and the going.” It is also the mission that public education makes itself absolutely indispensable to the kind of society that most of us want to live in, one where we not only profess concern for each other but put it into action.

I’ve also been cultivating the skill of “observant stillness” as a teacher. Now as I am preparing to leave, I am becoming aware of how much I have missed because I was talking instead of listening, doing instead of being, and teaching instead of learning. It seems to be true that kids who feel loved and safe at home come to school to learn. Those kids that don’t feel that way come to school to be loved. That is the ultimate mission possible and one I am so grateful to have accepted.

 

 

When Senioritis Hits

books-927394_960_720By Elizabeth Jorgensen

As the high school seniors in my classroom fall ill with senioritis, complete with their own symptoms of tardies, apathy and excessive bathroom breaks, I remind myself I can keep students engaged. Although Urban Dictionary says “the only known cure is a phenomenon known as graduation,” I disagree. After over a decade of working with seniors, I rely on these three principles to keep seniors engaged:

Provide choices and purposeful classroom work. Allowing students autonomy and choice brings engagement. I encourage students to submit their writing to writers’ markets. I often present three different writers’ markets and allow the students to complete and submit a piece to the one that most resonates with them. I also bring in guest speakers—professional writers, current college students or college professors—and I’ve found this also excites and engages students.

Relate to them. I’m honest with my students about how I felt as a senior. I validate and listen to my students’ frustrations, anxieties and eagerness. I greet disappointment and fatigue with, “We’re in this together,” and “What can I do to help?” and (probably most importantly) with patience and a smile. I also connect what we’re learning to college and career readiness.

Allow privileges. My students want to be prepared for what’s next. To prepare students for the college environment, some classes are offered as hybrid (which allow seniors to choose when they want to work online and when they want to meet face-to-face). During study halls and work time, Arrowhead seniors are allowed to gather, socialize and collaborate in the commons. Privileges also remind my seniors (at the cusp of adulthood) that we trust and believe in their abilities.

As my seniors continue to suffer from senioritis, I remain hopeful: they can cure themselves of this temporary illness. And at semester’s end, I’m confident they will appreciate their time in Creative Writing, knowing they improved their ability to write, communicate and collaborate.

 

Technology in the Classroom: Your Secret Weapon!

snBy Stephanie Nicoletti

I recently just finished a class on educational technology. We discussed, learned, and even implemented different ways to use technology in the classroom. Through these discussions and reflection among staff, many often see educational technology as “just one more thing to do.” I am here to argue that it should not be that stressful to implement technology into the classroom, try to change your mindset and see technology as your secret weapon! One of my favorite quotes states, “Technology does not work when the technology is basically just worksheets on steroids.”  You won’t use technology for every, single, lesson, but if you can incotporate it, it will provide:

  • More engagement with students
  • Efficency in your classroom
  • New experiences students could not get anywhere else

I am not here to say technology is all students should be on at school, but when they create when using technology the opportunities are endless! Next month I will show off some of the things my first graders did with iPads that support this very argument and maybe give you some inspiration. Let’s just say writer’s workshop got much more engaging!

Worry. Lose Sleep. Be Anxious.

By Claudia Felske

Worry.   Lose sleep.   Be anxious.  It means you’re doing something worthwhile. 

anxiety glassLately, I’ve been feeling anxious, I’ve been losing sleep, I’ve had daily, probably hourly misgivings. And yes I’m a teacher, so this is all a bit par for the course, but I’ve been a teacher for  24 years—I should be well past the nervous, sleepless, anxiety-ridden stage.

So, what’s going on? I’m trying something in my classroom that I’ve never tried before. Something uncertain, something risky, something unpredictable. And I’m in too deep to turn back.   

I am writing a “class-sourced” novel with my Freshmen English students. It’s a concept I ran across at a conference in last summer. Jay Rehak, writer and English teacher in Chicago Public Schools, has collaboratively written several novels with his high school students.  

“He did WHAT?!” I asked myself this past August, scrolling through the list of conference offerings.

After reading his session description, I gathered my laptop and my free Google swag (the second best thing about conferences) and headed for Mr. Rehak’s session, hoping to have my questions answered, namely: How in the world did he motivate his students to write a novel? How did he get a classroom full of teens to create an end product good enough to publish? How was all of this managed in the context of a teacher’s life (at school and home)? I headed to Room 309 of Whitney Young High School, seeking answers.

Fifteen minutes later, I found myself back on the conference agenda, scrolling for a different session. I still don’t know what happened to Jay Rehak that day. He didn’t make his first session (full disclosure, he had two more sessions scheduled, but as a presenter myself, I couldn’t attend them). He had, however, provided a link on the conference agenda to his presentation slides which was enough to get me hooked on his idea…a class-sourced novel…and enough to send me, five months later, into my current state of anxiety and sleeplessness: I am writing a “class-sourced” novel with my Freshmen English students.  

rehakSo how DOES one write a  class-sourced novel? In a nutshell, Jay Rehak’s method (generously shared and clearly explained in his How To Write a Class-Source Novel  book) begins with the teacher writing the first chapter of a narrative which teens can connect to. Then, each student writes a chapter which can stand on its own as a short story but also contributes to the growth of novel’s larger narrative. Finally, the teacher writes the concluding chapter. And then, the novel is published.

Easy, right? So where’s the anxiety?   

Let me count the places:

  • The Newness: Imagine trying something new. Now imagine this something is a very challenging something. Now imagine you’re trying this very challenging something in front of a class of 30 high school students.
  • The Writing: Writing fiction is itself anxiety-producing, as are many creative acts. Ask any writer about what it’s like to hand your new work over to your first reader.  Now, imagine that your first reader is a classroom full of teenagers.
  • The Release of Control: Writing fiction in English class requires a teacher to relinquish some control and grant a level of freedom that can be a bit unnerving. And then there’s the assessment of fiction:  How does one quantify creativity? How does one grade a work of fiction? It’s much easier to teach more concrete writing: the research paper or a persuasive essay.
  • The Uncertainty. Having students write is one thing; having them publish is another. Last week it was time to read all of the 1st drafts of the chapters. Doing so gave me some encouragement, but mainly anxiety. We have much work to do. The next day, I wrote on the board: “Author: a writer who hasn’t quit.” I shared my anxieties with them and gave them an anonymous survey. All but one student said they’re excited about the novel and they’ll do what it takes with their student editor and with me to get to the point of publication. I can work with that.
  • The ego. Publish a book with my Freshman English students and there they are, and there I am, for everyone to read and judge. 

eustress
That anxiety I’m feeling? I’m certain my students are feeling it too. Collective stress. But I believe it’s eustress, a term from the Greek prefix eu-meaning good, and stress, literally meaning good stress  This is not a new concept. Endocrinologist Hans Seyle coined the term in the 1930’s, convincing the scientific community that a manageable amount of stress elicits optimum performance and can lead to personal transformation. 

So that’s the story I’m sticking with. This anxiety, this stress, is precisely what will lead us to do our best and most meaningful work.

Rehak himself, in his 2016 TED Talk (yes he gave a TED Talk, how cool is that?) speaks of a similar end game: “I can’t promise you big dollars or a spot on the New York Times Best Seller List,” he asserts, “but what I will tell you that if you do write a book (with students) and you publish it…that the joy that you feel and the community that you create and the pride that you feel will bring joy to you for the rest of your life.”

So that sleeplessness? That anxiety? That stress?  These are trivial entrance fees into the land of the worthwhile. They are signs that I’m alive and that I’m doing things that matter. I’m not counting the days until retirement. I’m counting the days until my students see their names in print. I’m counting the days until our book signing event.  I’m counting the days until they see the connection between struggling with words and communicating worthy ideas with the larger world.

dessertSo, fellow teachers, whatever your grade level or content area, I implore you: go to conferences, read professional journals, and seek opportunities to go beyond your comfort zone, to lose sleep and feel anxious, for it means you’re alive, it means you have purpose, and that students likewise will feel alive and have purpose.

That’s worth losing sleep over.

 


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