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