Montessori Education, Part II

Yesterday, we started our discussion about Montessori education.   Today is a continuation of that post.  If you missed Part I, click hereWelcome back, Ms. J and Ms. Z, two certified Montessori teachers.....Our e-interview continues....

(Dr. Montessori developed unique materials to teach math and other subjects.
These bead "chains" help young students master math concepts.
With materials like these, abstract subjects - like math - become more concrete and understandable)

How successful, from your experience, are children who leave Montessori environments and transition to traditional education environments?
Most children who have completed a three year Montessori program, and many who have completed two years, and do not seem to have any specific learning disability, have placed at, but usually above grade level in math and reading when they transition to a traditional school environment.

Are all Montessori schools created equally?
No, schools are individually owned and can be each run differently.  However Montessori schools that are affiliated with the American Montessori Society (AMS) or the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) need to adhere to key Montessori principles.

How do you become a Montessori teacher?
A person must have a 4-year college degree and then complete Montessori training that can vary from 1-2 years and requires a classroom internship. There are master degree programs in Montessori education, like that at Loyola College, and advanced certification programs like that at the Barrie School.  There are some online programs as well, however, do make sure they are affiliated with AMS or AMI.

(Sandpaper letters are classic in Montessori schools.  Students can "feel" and see each letter
- making learning letters and their sounds a multisensory experience; Notice the other "works" on their
own individual trays.  As mentioned in yesterday's post, Montessori classrooms tend to be well organized
with defined workspaces and accessible materials)
What longitudinal research or data do you have/know about the success of Montessori education?
In a 2005 study, middle school students in Montessori schools showed greater intrinsic motivation, potency (aka: energy), interest and flow experience compared to middle school students in traditional school settings.

In this 2006 study, five year olds who attended an inner-city Montessori school out-performed their public school counterparts in areas such as standardized testing for reading and math, social cognition and executive control, and displayed more positive interactions on the playground.  Additionally, the researchers noted the Montessori students showed more concern for fairness and justice.  By the end of their elementary schooling, the Montessori students showed gains in many other areas, such as creative writing and having a greater sense of community within their school.

(Like all Montessori "works," students have the materials accessible to them in a neatly, organized fashion
and are taught to care for each work;  Here, little O is learning about the parts of a seed.  True to Montessori teaching,
students are given a lesson about the "work" in either a whole class, small group or one-on-one lesson
with the teacher.  After receiving a lesson,students can then return to that work - as many times as they like - to practice independently.  Of course, if students need additional guidance with a work, the Montessori teacher will provide the lesson again or needed guidance.  I, personally, love how self-directed little O is in her learning.)

How can traditional educators embrace Montessori education in their traditional classrooms and schools?  Could you offer five tips?
  • Use didactic materials that instruct and bring pleasure to children to teach difficult concepts
  • Pursue a child’s interest to allow him/her to cultivate a joy of learning
  • Observe the child – Is the child engaged in what they are learning?   Are they too challenged?  Do they need more challenge?
  • Paperwork (aka: worksheets) for ages 3 and 4 year olds are often a waste of trees.
  • Respect for each other is best taught by teachers who model it.

(Here is another example of math materials in a Montessori classroom;
Notice the materials are colorful and made of wood.  Little O is working on
four place addition in this example.) 

Ms. J and Ms. Z's Montessori analogy:  A child is like the seed that has within him/her a beautiful plant waiting to bloom. The classroom is like the flower pot.  It needs to be the right size and have good drainage.  The Montessori materials are like the rich soil.  The importance of learning and knowledge is as important as sunlight is for a plant. The teacher provides “watering” when needed, observing sensitive periods in the child.
And in the end, Montessori education does just that.  It provides a nurturing environment, built on time-tested ideals, without gimmicks, iTouches or one-size-fits-all curriculums.
No wonder little O is so happy learning in one.
Thank you tremendously, Ms. J and Ms. Z.

Montessori Education, Part I

My daytime college students will attest to the fact that I love Montessori schools.  Some might say I talk ad nauseam about them.  Though, I wouldn’t argue that point.  More accurately, I love Dr. Maria Montessori’s classic methodologies for teaching children.  Classic because her work began in the uber-late 1800s.   No, that is not a typo – 1800s.  1-8-0-0.  Around 1896, for my history buff readers.

One of my daytime students interviewed me for a class assignment and asked what I would change if I could “do it again.”  It being my career.  Without hesitation, “I would be trained as a Montessori teacher.”  Simple.

(Montessori classrooms tend to be well organized; all the materials are inviting, made of wood or
other natural materials and are accessible to the students)

Today’s post is Part I of a two-part crash course in Montessori education.  Who better to e-interview then two certified Montessori teachers.  Welcome, Ms. J and Ms. Z.

What is Montessori education?
It is a system of education based off the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori for both guiding and nourishing the spirit of a child to help the child reach his/her full potential.  If I may interject:  Did you know Dr. Montessori was nominated twice for the Noble Peace Prize? Incredible.

What age ranges does it serve?
Montessori education began with a class of mixed ages ranging from 3-6 years.  However, many Montessori schools also include separate programs for toddlers, 6-9 year olds, 9-12 years olds and even high school.

(Children learn starting at age 2-3 years how to care for the materials in the classroom;
Children are also taught how to create their own workspaces.  Here little O is rolling up her rug
after using that "workspace" for an activity.  Each activity in a Montessori classroom is called a "work.")

What are the benefits to Montessori education?
Montessori schools have several benefits:
  • For youngest students, the classroom is more like a home than a typical daycare or preschool and includes child size furniture and child-sized materials, or as we call them, “works.” 
  • There is an individual education plan for each child.  Children are not taught in groups solely based on their age like traditional public schools.
  • Within the classroom, there is a mixed-aged group (for example, ages 3, 4, 5 and 6 year olds together) which allows older children to mentor younger children, and younger children to observe older children work.
  • Children are given work choices and can pursue individual interests.
  • Children are taught early on to respect others and the classroom environment.  It is common for Montessori classrooms to have glass water pitchers or other breakables.  Children are taught when they spill, how to clean up. If a glass pitcher breaks, how to sweep up carefully.
  • Children are introduced early to different cultures and countries, as well as, sciences like botany and zoology.
  • Dr. Montessori stressed the importance of creating a classroom that was rich with interest, aesthetically pleasing, organized, clean, and allowed for children to move around easily in the environment.

What are the drawbacks?
  • Most Montessori schools, like other private schools, do not have resources available to them like public schools typically have such as special education teachers and resources, larger gyms, media centers, technology labs, or separate art facilities.
  • For some children, transitioning from a Montessori school to a public school may be difficult.  Children are used to being self-directed in the Montessori environment compared to most teacher-directed, public school environments.  Guess what?  Some states have public Montessori schools!  Yay, (parts of) Colorado and Maryland - to name a few.

(Dr. Montessori was an advocate for peace.  In fact, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice. 
Students in Montessori classrooms are introduced very early to work about culture and geography.)

How does Montessori education compare to traditional education?
  • The Montessori curriculum for 3-6 year olds has both depth and breadth allowing teachers and students to follow the many varied interests of the class. Traditional schools often have a fixed curriculum they must adhere to daily. 
  • Traditional education usually begins at age five years vs. Montessori education begins as early as 2 ½ years of age. 
  • Montessori schools have what is called the “Practical Life” area where children can learn real life skills such as (cooking, sewing, cleaning, polishing, care of self: buttoning, zippering, and tying), as well as lessons in grace and courtesy towards each other.  Traditional schools usually are limited to water play and imaginative play stations or centers.
Thank you, Ms. J and Ms. Z for Part I of our Montessori crash course.

Aren't you, amazing blog reader, wondering if Montessori education is successful in the 21st century?  What kind of research supports or refutes Dr. Montessori's methodology?  Let's imagine there is something magical about Montessori education, how do you become a Montessori teacher?  Could traditional classroom teachers learn something from their Montessori brethren? 

(A close-up of classic Montessori materials - simple, yet engaging, natural materials.  Clean and well- organized)

Check back tomorrow for Part II of this series.

I can barely wait,


PS - If you are looking for a good read about Dr. Montessori, check out this book


Dear Crayola

To Whom This May Concern,

Please send me a case of the following items.  I am a teacher and need them for my classroom.

Window crayons and markers so we can thematically decorate our boring windows.....

Fabric markers as my students and I want to make lesson t-shirts.  They sure would be fun to wear on test days.

I could really use some help spicing up my dry-erase boards.  I think these bold color dry-erase markers would do just the trick.

Multicultural markers so we can....accurately represent diverse skin tones from around the world?  Really?  OK, I will try anything once.

My college students think I am the coolest professor when I take them outside for class on a sunny day .  This sidewalk chalk would be great for lesson review and reflection; Students could visually draw their understanding and the whole campus could walk by and stare and be envious.

Would you say Model Magic smells as good as Playdoh?  My kinesthetic learners would be elated to sculpt their learning. 

I don't mean to be presumptuous, but if there is any room left in the boxes you send, can you throw in a Glow Station for little O?  This looks like a great item for a long car ride.

By the way, little O and I are big Crayola fans.  See your Window Crayons at work?

Thank you, Crayola.



Wolfram Alpha for Tech Tuesday

Howdy.  Ready for Tech Tuesday?  Today's gem is going to blow your socks off.  Or if you are like me right now, your bunny slippers.

Say, "Hi" to Wolfram Alpha - a free, computation engine.  Wolfram Alpha takes data, computations, algorithms, and other information and allows its users, you, me and our students, to access the information succinctly.  You can ask Wolfram Alpha to solve an equation, convert units of measure, or give updated information and statistics like the latest unemployment figures, the weather in Tokyo, the definition of the word "granular," and the list goes on.  Click here to see a plethora of examples; This online engine is incredible.

My college students use Wolfram Alpha to grab fast facts, explore stats and check their math homework.  I like to use it to sound smart on the fly and for personal entertainment.  My colleague, Prof. H, showed me how to type your name into the Wolfram Alpha search window and see all the stats for it.  Did you know "Jen" is an impact crater on Mars and people with the name "Jennifer" total about 1.4 million worldwide?  We could make a whole country of Jennifers and live in Jenville!  See for yourself below.

You can learn more about Wolfram Alpha in this video narrated by Stephen Wolfram, its founder.

I think it's pretty fun to just start typing random stuff in the search window and see what Wolfram Alpha generates.

Greetings from Jen City,

Jen - the mayor!

Digital Footprints

Since we chatted about the iGeneration a few weeks ago, if you haven't had this conversation with your students (or children), do talk with them about the digital footprint they leave behind on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Flickr, etc. 

(Photo by liknes)
This post by another educator, Sean Banville, has a good description of digital footprints and the need for increased awareness about them.

Actually, reading Sean's post made me rethink some of my blog posts.  Especially my sassy ones.



Relate, Create and Donate

Relate, Create and Donate is more of a teaching or lesson planning philosophy, or concept, than it is a theory.  Ben Shneiderman, a professor at the University of Maryland, introduced the concept a decade ago.  This framework for lesson planning, teaching, and maybe even life, has three parts:  Relate, Create and Donate.

(Photo by Andrew Pescod; Photoshopped by Jen)
Let's breakdown each one.

Relate:   Ask yourself, how do students relate to the topic being studied?  How do they relate to the lesson?  Do your students see relevance in what is being learned?  How could technology like news articles, video clips and audio files bring the information to life?

The National Science Education Report (1996) nicely summed up this concept:

"Learning is something students do, not something that is done to them...."

Create:  Once students have related to the lesson and/or topic, now what can they do with the information or new skill?  Can they craft a story out of their weekly spelling words?  Can they apply math formulas to do-it-yourself home projects?  Can they explain why gluten molecules take so long to digest?

This ancient proverb sums up Create well:

"I hear and I forget.  I see and I remember.  I do and I understand."

Donate:  Students are accustomed to the audience of oneYou know, the audience of the teacher.  Why not take advantage of a larger audience base to make learning more meaningful and useful outside of the classroom?  Could students share their creations with another class?  The entire school?  The PTA?  At a conference?  On the internet?

Albert Einstein had a lovely way to discuss donation:

"It is every man's obligation to put back into the world
at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it."

Challenge yourself in your lesson planning to include the relate, create and donate framework. 

I just thought of something....this blog is my personal relate, create and donate example.


The Wheel

Happy Wednesday!  Are you on Spring Break still?  Right now, those of you not on Spring Break - like me - are envious.

No, make that jealous.

Yep, I feel jealous.  I deserve another Spring Break.  (Yes, I already had one).

To keep my posts less-text and more visual this week, I have a download for you.  Why not get your students reflecting on what they've learned in class?  Remember these deluxe reflective tools I shared with you?  How about these paper Twitter debriefs

You would make John Dewey and Jean Piaget proud if you nestled reflection in your lessons.  Apparently, Confucius, too:  "Study without reflection is a waste of time, reflection without study is dangerous."

Click on the above image and download this favorite reflective tool ready-to-go.  When you get back from Spring Break, all you will have to do is make copies.

Sorry trees,


Icon Finder for Tech Tuesday

Hello!  Are you on Spring Break?  Better yet, are you reading this blog post on Spring Break?  If yes to the first question - yahoo!  Enjoy yourself.  If yes to the second question - you are a true rock star!  Reading this blog on your break?  I am blushing.

Since I want you to refuel your mind and spirit, I will make today's blog post lickety-split.  Just about everything online these days has a nifty, little icon that goes with it.  Why be borongo (Spring Break language for "boring")?  Add some life to those icons with Icon Finder.

See?  Aren't these making you hungry and happy?

What about these?  Do they make you miss your students and classroom?

Does anyone want to start a class blog or social media campaign with these fun ones?

To learn about the copyright uses of each icon on Icon Finder, simple click on the "info" link associated with the icon.  To download, choose either a file format of "png" for Mac and Photoshop users or "ico" for Windows users.  For all my online educators, you will need to experiment with which file format works for your LMS (learning management system).  That is way too fancy talk for Spring Break minds.


Now, go enjoy yourself.  You deserve it.


Race to Nowhere: From a student's point-of-view

Way back in February, I mentioned a documentary on education, The Race to Nowhere.  If you missed that super-short post, click here.  I finally, almost two months later, saw the film.  I was so thought full (yes, I just typed that as two separate words on purpose) after seeing the film that my friend and I literally sat in my car in her driveway to almost 11pm discussing it.

Apparently, we weren't the only two moved.  One of my amazing college students, Jasmine, had something to say about the film.  Today's post is brought to you by Jasmine - a sophomore majoring in teacher education.

Take it away, Jasmine.

There are many concerns amongst teachers, parents, and students about the impact of current school programs and high-stake tests on students' well-being. The government and some educators do not realize the stress many children experience during the school year. The impact this stress has on the students not only affects the students cognitively, but also physically and emotionally. After viewing the documentary, Race to Nowhere by Vicki Abeles, I am now aware of the stress that not only students go through, but their parents and their teachers, as well. I have also developed an opposing viewpoint against the way the government influences school programs across the nation.

As I watched Race to Nowhere, I immediately thought of my father. When the students would talk about the heavy emphasis their parents put on them about school, I knew exactly how they felt because my father was the same exact way as the parents mentioned. Throughout the documentary, I began to feel like I was in grade school; remembering all the stress I went through to get where I am today. I began watching the documentary as an educator and teacher and finished watching the documentary as a heartfelt student whose voice needs to be heard.

Personally, I believe the documentary is necessary and should to be shown in every school district. From my point of view, our voice - the voice of a student - is not being heard and that needs to change immediately. There are many peers of mine that stress themselves out to do well on a subject to please the teachers, but not themselves. For instance, a close family member of mine is a devoted mother, who works two jobs, takes 17 credits at a community college and is a member of the college’s honor society. She often experiences anxiety attacks even when the professors mention to her that she is doing very well. Though she receives positive feedback, she somehow feels that she is not doing enough because of the stringent requirements of the four-year college she will be transferring to next. This message, in my opinion, is what the documentary strives to convey. Students are overstressed.  Students need to have minimum school related stress so they can balance multiple priorities in their lives such as their health, participation in activities like sports, work and family. As discussed in one of my education classes, students need recess time in school so they are able to recuperate from sitting in their seats all day long doing seat work. When a student is overloaded with piles of school work and high stakes tests, often times recess is eliminated or lessened.  Without recess or down time, students are unable to reflect on what they have learned and they begin to develop serious physical and/or emotional problems, such as sleep deprivation. Overall, Race to Nowhere is evidence this message needs to be heard amongst everyone involved in education to not only better the students' well-being, but the future of this nation and world.

As a student, I have been impacted by this documentary emotionally. Throughout the documentary, I had an urge to scream out these students are right; what the educators are saying is true; and the government needs to change its demanding mandates that cause undue stress on students and teachers. To do so, one idea involves rethinking homework.  According to current studies, reducing the homework load in half has a positive impact on academic achievement. Perhaps, schools could consider this research and change their homework policies and workload to lesson student stress.  On, there are many resources for myself, both as a student and a future educator. I am more aware of ways to make my educational experience more meaningful and how to adequately manage time spent on school-related activities.

As a future educator, I now am more cognizant of a student's cry for help. I am currently thinking of ways to increase student achievement in my future classroom while reducing my students' out-of-class workload. I am also considering how to incorporate more kinesthetic, hands-on learning.  If students are undergoing stress in school (and possibly at home), I will be proactive and be sure my students are engaged, but not overtaxed.  Overall, the documentary has made me think more about the techniques and lesson plans I will employ to manage my future classroom, as well as, be an effective teacher.
Though the documentary was educational and inspirational, there is still an underlying problem of who places mandates on our schools. Though teachers can slightly alter the students' workload, they often cannot change the local, state, or national mandates. A driving force is the fact that the government, with its laws and mandates, has tremendous power over our school systems. Though the documentary sparks attention, the issue that needs to be addressed is how educators can meet the needs of their curriculum while honoring the mandates and still make school meaningful to the children. In doing so, this will end the race to nowhere.

Race to Nowhere by Vicki Abeles is a valuable resource for myself and many other people interested in improving education. It is time for change in our schools; voices need to be heard. With the momentum of this documentary, many voices can be heard through the petition to “end the race.” Awareness about the nature of our schools is imperative and I am proud to be an advocate. 

Do you see why I love my job?  I teach current teachers and bright, future teachers like Jasmine.

Go see Race to Nowhere.  You can click here for screenings.  If you haven't seen Waiting for Superman, another documentary on education, perhaps you can treat yourself to a double-feature.

Thank you, Jasmine, for sharing your point-of-view.  Your students are going to be one lucky group to have you as their teacher one day.



Marshmallows and Self-control: Theories on Thursday

Probably one of the most entertaining studies conducting in education is Walter Mischel's Marshmallow Test from 1968.  In that original test, Mischel took over 650 four year olds and videotaped them in a room with a marshmallow.  The kids were each told if they waited for the researcher to come back, they would earn an additional marshmallow OR they could eat the marshmallow sitting in front of them; however, by doing so, they would forgo earning other marshmallows.  The original videos from this study are hard to find, but you can see recreations of this study on Youtube.  There are so many Marshmallow videos on Youtube, I couldn't decide which videos were worthwhile to include - so I refrained.

(Photo from John-Morgan Flickr Photostream; Photoshopped by Jen)

What is so interesting about the study was what happened years later.  Mischel tracked down as many of the kids as possible, now high schoolers, and the results were dramatic.  Kids who had waited for the researcher to return and thus, earned another marshmallow (these kids were called the "delayers") showed less incidence of behavioral problems at home and school, less mental health issues and on average, a 210 point gain (over the non-delayers) on their SAT exams.

When Mischel tracked the kids down again in their 30s, the same was true.  The delayers experienced less mental health issues, less behavioral problems (like drug abuse) and the delayers had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) compared to their non-delayer counterparts.

What is it about waiting for a second marshmallow that is so powerful?

One hyphenated word: self-control.

According to Terrie Moffit, a psychology professor at Duke University, and her research associates's 2010 study, self-control is described as "having skills like conscientiousness, self-discipline and perseverance." When kids possess self-control, like Mischel's research examined, years later as adults, they tend to be better at managing their finances (like planning for retirement), have better physical and mental health, experience less substance abuse and less criminal activity and are less likely to be a single parent.

Are you helping your preK-12 students hone their self-control skills? 

Here are some tips:
  • Train your students to take ownership in the classroom:  Can they hang up their coats by themselves?  Begin their work without prompting?  Have freedom to use the bathroom or enjoy a snack when they need to?  Can students clean up a mess or spill?  Montessori classrooms, starting with ages two years and above, teach students how to handle all of the aforementioned.  Certainly, our high school students could be taught how to take ownership (or retrained).
  • Set clear rules and expectations:  Ownership is superb when students understand the classroom's policies and procedures.  Students can then work within those guidelines while enjoying ownership and autonomy.  If you have not spent ample time at the beginning of the school year introducing and consistently following the classroom rules and expectations, you missed the boat ...and need to dock and begin again.
  • Encourage autonomy:  Like Daniel Pink advocates in his book, Drive, we humans like to have choices and control over choice.  What are you doing in the classroom to help students be autonomous?  Read this post if you missed our discussion on the topic.  Students need to feel autonomy over the four Ts.
  • Read the literature:  Read books and articles, like this fantastic article from the National Association of School Psychologists.  Much is being written this century on self-control.
  • Teach HALTED:  Did you miss yesterdays post on HALTED?  If so, start there.  Many educational writers agree that a student must first understand how they are feeling to then know how to control that feeling.  HALTED is a start in this process.
I shall now exercise self-control and not have dessert post-lunch.  Instead, I shall ride my indoor bike trainer (as it is raining outside) as I am blogging from home today.  By the way, for all you cyclists, P has turned me on to this hysterical blog called the Fat Cyclist.  I swear this is me today:  "It is Difficult to Lose Weight When Working From Home."  Read the whole post here.  I almost spit out my lunch in laughter reading it.



Update: Here's another post to support this...the Feelings Wheel.

This one is seriously one of my favorite strategies to teach students of all ages (and adults).  It is a way to describe your emotional state when you are feeling less-than-perfect.  Since I am an adult, I use HALTED to dissect how I am feeling.  My husband will attest to the fact that I am not myself when I am feeling "H" - hungry.  I know I am not myself when I am feeling "T" - tired.  Since little O is young, I think of HALTED when she is acting out-of-sorts or experiencing a melt-down.  I run through the acronym in my mind to figure out what is driving her behavior and in doing so, I am able to better help her.

Ready to HALT yourself?

Are you feeling....

H - Hungry?
A - Angry?
L - Lonely?
T - Tired?
E - Embarrassed?
D - Disappointed?

Some days I think, HALTED-OS might also be helpful:

O - Overwhelmed?
S - Scared?

I would love to give credit to the student who taught me HALT a decade ago.  Since that time, my college students and I have added the ED and OS parts.

Do you have other tools that help humans express their emotions or at least recognize their emotional state?  Daniel Goleman has said the first part of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. 

With HALTED, we are on our way.


PS - I think little O might be ready to be formally taught the acronym.  The other morning she woke up incredibly cranky.  For at least five minutes she was giving me a hard time about nothing.  Then, I ran through the acronym in my mind and said, "Are you hungry?"  I didn't even need to get to the other letters because she agreed, she was hungry.  I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a string cheese, she devoured it and was a new person in minutes.  The rest of our morning was enjoyable.

PSS - Here's the link to the Feelings Wheel.

Poll Everywhere: Tech Tuesday

Last week, I made a pleasant comment about cell phone use (or non-use) in schools.  It seems, even in the 21st century, these little handheld, microcomputers filled with a zillion cool apps has no place in education.


Why not harness the power of cell phone use in your classroom for educational purposes?  Poll Everywhere might be a step in this direction.

Poll Everywhere is free (for up to 30 participants a poll) and oh-so-easy to set-up.  When you visit Poll Everywhere, you choose from three polling options:
  1. Multiple choice - You ask a question and provide the answers for participants to choose from.
  2. Free text poll - You pose a question and then participants can text in any answer they want.
  3. Goal poll - Participants text in numbers and a visual thermometer shows how steadily your group is reaching their goal (I have not found a use for this type of poll in my classes, yet).  Maybe to track how many candles your class has sold for fundraising?
My favorite option is the multiple choice poll because I can preset the responses.  Let's play with it below.  I have enabled multiple ways to respond to this poll (just in case some of you don't have a cell phone). 
  • To text in your answer, text a code to the phone number 22333 (yes, I know....this phone number only has five digits). 
  • To tweet your answer, tweet to @ poll + a code 
  • To use a computer, go to and input your code.  The question and codes are down below.

Answer this question:  Which genre of blog posts on Upcycled Education is your favorite? 

Answer choices - Only submit the numerical portion of the code:

179062:  Tech Tuesdays (where I highlight interested web-based tools)
179063:  Bonus Wednesdays (these posts usually contain teaching strategies and ideas)
179064:  Theories on Thursday (where I highlight and explain a theory or concept)

Go text in (or tweet or use your computer) to submit your answer.  Remember, you are only submitting the numerical code - not letters or words.  Since this poll can only accommodate 30 users, if you try and submit your response and it doesn't let you, we've probably hit our max.

Play with Poll Everywhere yourself.  Some of you might also want to try Wiffiti - it is another free, cell phone polling tool that is popular at concerts and nightclubs I've been told by my college students. 

I'm a Poll Everywhere gal, myself.


FISH Philosophy for Theories on Thursday

Have you ever been to Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, WA?  If you are mature older like me, you might remember the fish market from the Levi's commercial in the early 1990s - A bunch of (cute) fishmonger guys wearing Levi jeans, throwing fish to be weighed as customers ordered them?  Ring any bells?

Well, it does for me.  In fact, when I was at Pike Place in the 90s, I felt compelled to watch the fish market/entertainment for almost an hour.  Evidently, I had a sixth sense seeing those Levi-wearing mongers in action would one day prove useful for blogging.

Years later, a FISH philosophy was documented using the organized fish market mayhem.  Though some ex-employees from Pike Place say the philosophy is...smelly....many businesses and schools have adopted the FISH philosophy and its four tenets as everyday practice.  See what you think?  Could your classroom adopt these tenets?  For parents and assorted others, could your family or business?

Tenet #1Be there.  Focus on your students and what is going on in the classroom; not all the things you have to do when you get out of work that evening.  Ask students to do the same.  This creates mindfulness and encourages being in the present moment.

Tenet #2:  Play.  Teaching and learning is more fun when educators and students are having fun.  How can you encourage play in your classroom and still balance tackling your daily learning objectives? 

Tenet #3:  Make Their Day.  Little acts of kindness can go a long way.  How can you show students they are valued in your classroom and welcomed there?  Can you make their day collectively or individually?  I've been known to go down my roster and make a different student's day each day.  It does take a splash of creativity and effort to pull this off sucessfully.

Tenet #4:  Choose Your Attitude.  Life, as we know, has its ups and downs. The attitude we choose to get through those ups and downs is what makes good folks great.  Which attitude will you choose today?  How about your students?  My friend, D, writes down on a sticky note a word describing the attitude she chooses for that day.  That way, if she needs a reminder, it is visually there for her.

The FISH philosophy and organization has many resources for you to learn more and make your FISHing most meaningful.  I highly recommend their books - Fish, Fish Sticks and Fish Tales - to name a few.  If you click on the bookmark above, you can download a whole page of bookmarks; a great reminder of the four tenets.

Off to make little O's day,

(Deluxe) Reflection Tools

Most teachers and educational theorists agree - "real" learning involves reflection.  Thus, save a bit of time after a lesson to provide ample time for students to reflect - five or more minutes is ideal - depending on the complexity and familiarity with the topic.

(From Leo Reynolds Flickr Stream; Photoshopped by Jen)
Here are some easy-peasy reflection tools; I've gathered these over the years from other educators, conferences, and workshops, thus no citations are included:

Symbols – Using playdoh, pipe cleaners, and/or art materials, have students create a symbol representing what they learned that day.  My favorites are the giant piper cleaners – look for them at craft stores near you.

Weather, Geography or Landscape Report – Ask students to connect what they learned in class that day to a weather pattern, geographic location or type of landscape.  For example, a student might say, “The story of Romeo and Juliet to me is like a partly sunny day with severe thunderstorms in the afternoon.  The sunny part of the day is when Romeo and Juliet meet.  The thunderstorm happened when Juliet died.”

Switch-off - Create a thoughtful, open-ended, higher-order thinking question for students (you should be thinking of Bloom's Taxonomy right now, yes?).  Allow students time to reflect and write their answer.  Then, have students switch papers with a classmate and react to what their classmate wrote.  Do these switch offs as many times as you see fit.

Headlines – have students generate a newspaper headline to represent what they learned in class that day.  Also, use this activity to assess students’ energy levels, emotional states, connections to material, etc. 

Thermometer of Learning – This one takes the least amount of time.  Post temperatures on the wall by the door.  Ask students to touch the temperature that represents how much they learned that day. 
Photographs – Ask students to reflect on the lesson that day.  What stands out in their minds?  Now, ask students to take a photograph (in their mind) of that part of the lesson.  What does it look like?  Who was doing what?  What was their role in the photo?  This might be a fun one to recreate with cell phone cameras.  Oh, does your school still ban cell phones used educationally?

If you missed the tweet exit ticket from last week, click here.  It, too, encourages reflection.


Animoto: Tech Tuesday

Why have I waited so long to share this fantastic, free web-based tool?  This one is a crowd pleaser with students (and grandparents alike - believe me, you can make personal videos, too).  Who doesn't like a well-paced, photo-laden, music-toting video? 

Case in point, check out the video below I made especially for you.  I chose photos from Animoto's photo library (though, you could upload your own), added a handful of text slides, chose a snappy song (Animoto has many to choose from though you could upload your own favorite) and clicked "done."  Animoto mixed it and did all the rest while I folded laundry - yes, the life of a blogger and mom.....

One of my graduate students who I virtually adore, Anamika, created this Animoto video for her middle school science classes.  Click on the image below to learn about physical changes, Animoto-Anamika-style.

Anyone can join Animoto for free and make 30-second videos.  However, educators can apply for a free educator's license and make unlimited, full-length videos - which is my favorite (and Anamika's) as we like our videos longer.  The educator's license is good for up to 50 people (students and the teacher) and lasts for six months.

BUT, I have a gift for you, ready?  Animoto sent me my educator's license.  If you want to be one of my fifty people, use the following code when you sign-up for Animoto "Plus."  The code is:
a4elara2fb082; be sure to select the "Plus" plan.  All students, educators, parents, grandparents, non-profit types and assorted others are welcome to be part of my fifty.

Remember I said you could make personal videos, too?  This one, last Mother's Day, was a real tear-jerker.  It stars my whole family including little O and P.  I uploaded the photos, added a few text slides, chose the heart-wrenching song and the "winding vines" background - Animoto did all the rest.  My family now thinks I'm a rock star.  My mom said this confirms I'm a rock star.

Go Animoto it up,