Welcome back September

Welcome back September.  And what a spectacular summer it has been – Olympics energy, warm sunny weather, family and friends laughter.  Though it’s always great to get away and get recharged, I look forward to the start of each new year.  A new year to test out some crazy ideas (yes I’ve read and reread some 13 books and most likely there will be future posts reflecting these ideas), a new year of possibles, a new year of adventures…

On the staff development side, I’m excited about a host of opportunities to engage in conversation and experiences. And I’m really excited about the varied entry points for our educators:  hands-on experiences in gathering places rich with deep conversation, blended online interactive webinars [yes I’m expanding this due to the response from last year], small group experiences as a shared approach to inquiry, self-directed or guided by our blog content.
So what’s on the horizon? Since this could be long, I’ve broken it down to multiple posts. This one will focus on literacy (reading, writing, communicating in all content areas). [Details of how you can be involved is on the SD calendar.]

Blogging or having some web presence continues to be a mainstay.  If you haven’t considered how this can help you enhance your curriculum, please talk to me or check out our many class or professional blogs (click on Blogs) hosted on our server.  You will see a variety of ways that our teachers and administrators have used the platform (eg. Literature/Information Circles, math problem-solving, critical thinking, parent & community global sharing, class newsletters, extending student voices, homework reminders, research support links, deepening professional conversation).  If you’re wanting to hop on board (“begin at the beginning”), our first group starts at the beginning of October. If you are thinking, “how am I going to take this to the next level”,  consider joining one of our ‘next steps/advancing’ gatherings.

Writing, whether in general or content areas is part of the literacy process. We are continuing our pilot of Google Docs through our Google Apps for Education. In fact, the response received from last year’s Writers Workshop group was beyond what I expected so I’m hoping to dive in with both feet.  Google Docs is an online tool, which allows teachers and their students to collaborate and revise in real time.  Critical to the writing process is timely support, which this tool has in its commenting feature. What types of questions and writing scaffolds can increase writing skills? How can you reframe comments to strengthen writers? Great questions lead to great conversations.  How does this open up the possibilities of peer support, parent engagement, as well as teachers targeting specific areas?  Many of the teachers have shared how the writing has changed, how students have changed their personal view of writing and how editing/revision is more accessible over paper/pencil. And a big side perk of no more hearing “I forgot it or lost it”.  If you’re thinking to change your writing program, consider joining our series.  If you are one of our advanced writers [Writers Workshop-year2], we have a an entry spot for you too (deepening the conversation of writing strategies).

Oral language and Communication rounds out the general literacy components.  Grouped in this is communication (eg. strengthening speaking and oral language through consideration of audio/video, and visual supports (eg. photography, graphic organizing).  The tools we use fall into categories – easy,  really easy, and supremely easy.  Depending on your goals, audio recordings are a great way to encourage oral language, reading fluency, or ongoing assessment via tools as simple as the audio recorder on a computer, audio on ipad or itouch or online through Vocaroo.  If you’re looking for a bit of splash, online avatars add personal pizzazz without driving you crazy (Voki, Blabberize).  Of course you’ll need a blog or wiki or other web presence to showcase them.  In video, our ‘go-to’ is Photostory or Movie Maker.  And all of these can be strengthened through developing our ideas with the use of graphic organizers (Inspiration, Kidspiration, Webspiration (online), Popplet for ipads). For those interested in the role of visual images, consider how digital cameras can provide a voice to the world.  I’ve watched students gain confidence and increase their vocabulary through the power of images.

Where can you find more information on these opportunities?

  • Staff Development Calendar lists opportunities ongoing through the year (stop by often)
  • our blogs provide a history of all of our content including learning, instruction and process
  • email our Learning Technologies team

Blogging Tips for Communication and Organization

Sometimes a bit of practical tips are helpful to add to your toolbox of blogging ‘know-how’.  So here we are…

Custom Menus:

Using custom menus provides another layer of organization not found in ‘categories’.  For example, if you wish to have a list of your students located in a specific category, you can use the Custom Menu option to define another grouping.  This works well for projects like literature circles, student writing or collaborative group problem solving. These groupings can be kept outside of the list of other grouping like news, or homework.

New Plugin – “Hide Post”: 

You may have noticed a new little box in your dashboard-Post.  This is the “Hide Post” plugin.  You now have the ability to select where your posts will show up (eg. on the front homepage blogroll, on a specific page or category grouping).  This is especially for those of you who asked “how can I have certain posts NOT show up on my homepage area”.

Adding Calendars: 

This really depends on your intended use.  The simple calendar widget found inside of wordpress is very simple – highlighting the posts that are published.  Another option is Google calendar can be embedded on the navigation bar – you will need to adjust the code to fit the size.  Or for a full view, you can embed the code in the footer navigation bar, which will expand to the width of the website.
For those of you wishing a paper-type calendar, consider using the templates found in MS Word.  Click here for instructions.

Kurzweil 3000 – Session 3 Writing on the Calendar

This  third session of Kurzweil 3000, which deals with writing supports has been rescheduled on the Staff Development Calendar to Wednesday February 23 (3:30-5:30) at Schou – TLC.

Questions such as “How can Kurzweil support students who find written output challenging? What about the writers workshop process of braining, organizing, and drafting?”   For more information, please see the Staff Development Calendar.