Pelican Ponderings

Thoughts and ideas from another educator

Pelican Ponderings

Spring has (almost) sprung!

March 27, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

4fingers

While it may only be 41 degrees Fahrenheit outside today, the end of winter is definitely within sight; I can see more grass than snow on my JV Baseball field, and we are in full-fledged mud mode around campus. After a long, long winter, it is time to recharge the batteries and forge ahead with a sense optimism that only the spring term can evoke. In this week’s Friday 4, I have a couple of articles, a couple of resources for new lesson plans or ideas, 12 Google search tricks and a final thought provoking piece that should generate some discussion around the water cooler. I have not posted  a Friday 4 in a few weeks so I took the liberty of going beyond four items.

  • The all-school read for the Loomis Chaffee community next year is actually a listen to the “Serial” podcast. There just happened to be a nice piece on the Mind/Shift website earlier this month about how teachers are incorporating the podcast into their lessons. Perfect timing if you ask me! What Teens are Learning From ‘Serial’ and Other Podcasts.
  • Why Kids Need to Move, Touch and Experience to Learn appeared on the Mind/Shift website this week and includes some good reminders about the connection between the body and the brain in learning.

  • Looking for some short but pithy audio clips to spice up your classes? “Listen Current makes it easy to bring authentic voices and compelling non-fiction stories to the classroom. We curate the best of public radio to keep teaching connected to the real world and build student listening skills at the same time.” Signing up for a free account will also give you access to additional resources for using the clips in your classroom. Worth a look and listen!

  • Looking for a new way to introduce or teach a topic that is getting a little stale? Check out Activate Instruction, a free website that contains a wide range of resources from all of the core disciplines.
  • 12 Google Search Tricks You Probably Didn’t Know is a recent post from the Google Guru website. You will certainly impress your peers and your students if you add a few of these arrows to your search quiver.
  • The thought provoking piece is from the recent Atlantic Magazine and is titled The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher. The questions raised in the article are ones that all serious schools and teachers should be discussing if we are to remain relevant in today’s educational landscape.

Enjoy!

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Fed up with February

February 20, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

4fingersI am not sure how much longer I can take the brutally cold weather. I consider myself a “hearty New Englander” but this February has been ridiculous. To come downstairs in the morning and see the thermostat read 49 degrees Fahrenheit is the epitome of depressing. Many educators, particularly those who teach in snowy environments, will confess that the month of February is frequently one of the most difficult months of the school year. Never-ending cold weather, darkness at 5 PM and “cabin fever” all contribute to the challenges of teaching and learning in February. What is a teacher to do? How about slowing down and taking some time to reflect on the things that really matter. In this week’s edition of the Friday 4, I offer up a few pieces that I have run across of late that have helped me to deal with the February blues. Remember, spring is just around the corner!
  • Slowing Down to Learn: Mindful Pauses That Can Help Student Engagement is a piece from the Mind/Shift website that offers some concrete suggestions for ways to address the challenging topic of wait time in the classroom.
  • Students Assessing Teachers: 10 Critical Questions is a piece from the Brilliant or Insane website that I found to be unique in its suggestions about how to utilize students in the assessment of teachers. I am always looking for ways to tap into the experiences of my students to improve my practice and will definitely incorporate a few of the questions from this piece in my end of term student survey.
  • Learning from Failure: Inspirational Stories for Teachers is another piece from the Brilliant or Insane website that was posted this past week that helped me to remember that sometimes we learn the most from our failures in the classroom. We encourage our students to embrace failure but sometimes forget to take our own advice. Be sure to click on the links in this story to see the footage from the Oprah show referenced in the piece.
  • 15 Surprising Discoveries About Learning is from the informED website and includes several good reminders about what really matters when it comes to teaching and learning.

I hope that you can use one or more of these pieces to help treat your case of the “February Blues” and remember what really matters during this the longest month of the year. Enjoy!

 

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“Deep thoughts” from the week

February 13, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

4fingersAs any teacher will tell you, February can be one of the most difficult months of the school year, especially if you teach in New England and have to deal with the never-ending possibility of having your well-planned syllabus blown to smithereens by a snow day or 1-hour delay. As a result, I have found that February can be a great month to take some time to be more reflective about my teaching. I ran across several blog posts in the past week or so that allowed me to stop and ponder some of my practices and seriously reflect on my teaching that I thought you might find interesting as well.

I hope that you find one or more of these pieces as thought provoking as I did.  Enjoy!

 

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Pre-Super Bowl Sunday “Snacks”

January 30, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

 

4fingersWant to add a little “mind food” into your pre-Super Bowl snack lineup? Try a few of the delectable items on this week’s Friday 4 menu before hunkering down for your marathon session of watching TV commercials and an occasional pass of a partially deflated pigskin by local hero, Tom Brady.

Enjoy your weekend!

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A snowy day = shovelling and reading

January 24, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

4fingersThe snow has just about stopped, at least for now, which means that I will soon have to pull on my boots and go out and shovel the driveway. I actually truly enjoy days like this, ones during which I balance a little aerobic exercise clearing the snow with time reading in front of a toasty fire in the fireplace. Sounds pretty good, huh?

If you are looking for something to read between shovelling sessions, I present this week’s Friday 4 for your consideration. I know it is not Friday, but it is close enough! ;-)

  •  I found this opinion piece Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others from last weekend’s NYT interesting as I thought about how I create collaborative groups in my classroom and contemplated ways in which I could better teach effective collaboration. My wife was certainly not surprised by the third characteristic of the smartest teams!
  • On a somewhat related note, the following piece crossed my Twitter stream this past week and caught my eye so I clicked on the link and actually read it. Student Success Better Predicted By Personalities Than Intelligence; Why Being Smart Isn’t Enough
  • Smartphones Don’t Make Us Dumb is a piece that appeared in the NYT recently that was written by one of my favorite authors and cognitive psychologists, Daniel Willingham. The piece addresses some common misconceptions about attention spans and electronic devices. The bottom line for me as a teacher is that I need to keep stepping up my game if I am going to capture and keep my students’ attention in class.
  • After reading the Willingham piece in the NYT, I realized that I had not checked out his blog recently and decided to stroll over and see what I may have missed of late. Daniel’s latest post was a perfect piece for this week’s Friday 4: Five mini book reviewsOf the 5 books he reviewed, I had already read 2 of them but was intrigued by the last one on the list, so I ordered it from Amazon using my school-provided professional development debit card. Too easy! I may not be able to read the book today, but in 2 days thanks to Amazon Prime, I will have another book to add to between-shovelling sessions in front of the fireplace. 

Enjoy!

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A Multi-tasking Friday 4

January 16, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

4fingersI am sitting in an afternoon session with our PRMT fellows down at UPENN and all of a sudden realized that it is Friday…where did the week go? I missed my Friday deadline last week and am determined not to miss another one! The past week has been a particularly busy one for all sorts of reasons and I have been leap-frogging from one meeting to another and feeling a bit disjointed. In this spirit, I present a Friday 4 with no real common thread or theme…sort of like my week. ;-) I hope that you find at least one of the pieces interesting and worth discussing with a colleague.

Enjoy!

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Is it really 2015 already?

January 10, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

4fingers

Friday 4: Another year to get better

I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions since I am not good at keeping them. I do, however, take time at the beginning of a new year to reflect on the year past and set some personal and professional goals for the upcoming year. I like the word “goals” rather than “resolutions” because, in my mind, goals can evolve and change as the circumstances change as opposed to resolutions that seem so rigid and unforgiving. Goals are also a desirable destination unlike many resolutions which are simply a laundry list of bad habits that one resolves to not do during the new year…too negative for me. I certainly hope that you have taken some time in these first few weeks of 2015 and thought about some personal professional goals that you are working towards. As teachers, we should all have things that we are working to improve or add to our educator toolbox. If you have not yet committed to some goals for 2015, perhaps this week’s Friday 4 will give you a few ideas to consider. Enjoy.

  • Using video to improve practice is a piece that appeared recently on the Teaching Channel website that makes a good case for why you should routinely videotape yourself in class. I am a huge believer of the power of videotaping and would encourage everyone to try it at least once in the coming year.
  • Top 10 Evidence Based Teaching Strategies is a piece from the Pinnacle Education website that I ran across that is spot on when it comes to impactful teaching strategies.
  • Why Understanding Obstacles is Essential to Achieving Goals is a piece from the Mind/Shift website that may be helpful when working with students or advisees who are in need of some motivation.
  • The Power of a Teacher is a piece from the Center for Teaching Quality that is a good reminder of the incredible responsibility we have as teachers, coaches and dorm folks in the lives of adolescents.

 

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We made it!

December 19, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

4fingers Phew! As I sit down at 9:20 PM to craft this week’s Friday 4, I can finally put my feet up and breathe a heavy sigh of relief…I made it through the “gauntlet” that is known as the post Thanksgiving/pre winter break stretch of the academic calendar. The students have all scattered to the corners of the state and globe for vacation and the faculty holiday party is in the books. A perfect time to share some of this week’s finds with colleagues!

This time of year is replete with “Top 10″ lists and “Best of 2014″ posts and articles that afford me a chance to “find” some reads that I might have missed during the year. I actually look forward to these recap articles since during these next few weeks I actually have some time to get lost in reading without feeling that I am avoiding more pressing work. This week’s Friday 4 includes two such lists.

  • The Faculty Focus website recently published their 14 most popular articles from 2014 which can be found here and here. Regular readers of the Friday 4 will certainly recognize a few pieces that I have linked to in the past year.
  • The Ten Best Classroom Q & A Posts Of 2014 is from Larry Ferlazzo (@Larryferlazzo) on the Education Week website.

  • How ‘Deprogramming’ Kids From How to ‘Do School’ Could Improve Learning appeared recently on the KQED Mind/Shift website and has the added bonus of being in both print form and available as an audio file for those of you who would prefer to listen to the article being read.
  • The last item for this week is a plug for an upcoming CAIS (CT Association of Independent Schools) Commission on Professional Development event on January 29 “What Works is Worth Sharing: Teachers Helping Teachers – Plugged, Unplugged…Whatever!” The event is one our most popular and boasts a great lineup of sessions that can be seen here. Why not make a commitment to your own professional learning for 2015 and join me on January 29?

Enjoy the break!

 

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How many days until vacation?

December 12, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

4fingers For most educators, this is that crazy time of the year between Thanksgiving break and the winter holiday break. You know the drill…try to balance the desire to get a complete “unit” in before break with the inevitable onslaught of obstacles such as special schedules, holiday events, weather related cancellations of part or all of the school day and the general craziness that surrounds the holidays. If you teach seniors, you can throw in the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the release of early college acceptances.

Regardless of how frenetic the next week or two get for you, you have to remember to take time for yourself and recharge your professional batteries. To that end, I have 4 items this week that may serve as your elixir. I have two neat tools that recently crossed my desk that you may find could add a little pizzazz to your lessons in 2015. Why not spend some time over the winter break playing with a new toy (er, I mean “tool”)? The final two items are more reflective in nature and may help you to focus on the big picture for a bit and not get so caught up in the day to day rat race that teaching can sometimes feel like. Without further ado…

  • Have you ever wondered how you or your students could create those snazzy looking infographics that you frequently see in magazines or online? Well, there is a free online tool that can help you or your students actually create your own infographics. Piktochart is a website that will walk you through the steps to create visually appealing presentations that “make information beautiful.” Thanks to my colleague Meg Blunden for sharing this cool tool.
  • Tour Builder is a new way to show people the places you’ve visited and the experiences you had along the way using Google Earth. It lets you pick the locations right on the map, add in photos, text, and video, and then share your creation.” Think “virtual field trip” and you have a sense of what this tool allows you or your students to create. There is a brief video on the site from a history teacher who uses Tour Builder in his classroom that can be seen here.
  • Fostering Reflection is a piece from a past issue of Educational Leadership, the professional journal of ASCD that is a good reminder of a frequently omitted aspect of professional learning.
  • Golden Rules for Engaging Students in Learning Activities is a piece from the Edutopia website that will allow you to put your “reflective hat” on after the last article and put it to use.  ;-)

Enjoy!

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Pre-Thanksgiving Friday 4

November 21, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Every educator’s pre-Thanksgiving day ritual should include some head-scratching, thought-provoking reading about the craft of teaching to counterbalance any exam correcting that may also be on the docket. It is my hope that this week’s Friday 4 can serve that purpose for you.

I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends and that you find some time to peruse a few of this week’s items. Enjoy!

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