Flip the parent teacher conference

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For the last few years our parent teacher conferences have been held during the week of President’s Day. This means there is no school Monday, no school Friday, and two half days. Not surprisingly, a lot of families travel that week and skip conferences all together.  Teachers still have a long week of conferences though.

There are a number of alternatives to parent conferences that schools could try and, after chatting with a friend this afternoon when I swung by my old school, I decided to put together and publish a list of ideas I’ve been accumulating for the last few years – especially since I used to have a lot of time on my hands during the night of conferences.

The other thing I noticed, at least from my teacher perspective, is that the families who attended conferences were usually the ones whose children were successful in school while the struggling students didn’t have anyone attend.

From Alternative Models for Traditional Parent Teacher Conferences, Tammy Jackson’s idea to use the evening as time for student credit recovery is great. “Our attempts to develop non-traditional uses of contractual PTC time were not meant to diminish the importance of communicating with parents. Positive relationships with parents are the single most important aspect of a healthy school culture. Working directly with students is what we do best and should always be our number one priority.”

I love the idea of showcasing some student talent in the auditorium and in the hallways – kind of like a gallery walk or showcase of work from classes. Some of it could be digital or recorded so it will continue to live online.

Invite parents in for a showing of a film like Screenagers or Most Likely to Succeed in order to continue the conversations about school.

But here’s my idea. Last spring I brainstormed a few ways to let parents be more involved in my classroom. I’d already had success flipping back to school night so parents could come in and talk to me instead of just listen to me. In a typical PTC there is very little depth of conversation or of understanding the learning that is taking place. So…

Flip the conference. Parents check grades online with relative frequency and have easy access to teachers through e-mail. Some teachers have websites or learning management systems that parents can check out to view the assignments, or send out regular newsletters with updates on the overall learning that is taking place in classrooms. So why not take it a step further? We may have plenty of rigor and relevance in our classrooms, but we need to develop our relationships with parents and families, not just students.

A week or so before conferences send parents a brief reflective survey on their child’s learning and collect it via a conversation at parent conferences. For parents who can’t attend, or for the purpose of collecting qualitative data, you could collect information electronically via a Google Form. Make sure there is a way to include questions, to make the flipped PTC inquiry-based rather than just an assignment parents complete. If you collect digital work from your students, have them accumulate it into a simple folder in Google Drive or a fancy Google Site as a digital portfolio for parents to check out ahead of time.

You could take it a little further and build in time for students to reflect on their learning (standards, college and career readiness, mindset, etc. would all be great places to start) and then share those reflections with parents so the conversation can center around metacognitive learning.

In my opinion, as both an educator and a parent, this would be more fun and thought-provoking than our traditional high school conferences. Since parents and students are coming off the more dynamic model of student-led conferences at middle school, it could be a great opportunity to build on that collaborative, student centered culture.

 

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Tech tutoring available

I’ve noticed over the last few years that my colleagues have questions about technology integration that can’t be answered well in a few minutes at the copy machine. Or they take a class but it doesn’t really address their pressing needs for how to effectively use tech with students for improved engagement, workflow, grading, creation, etc.

I’m here to help! I created a short page that lists a lot of the basic needs educators seem to have, along with a contact form. Though this was designed to help people locally, I can also tutor over Skype or create short videos that can be watched at your convenience. Best of all, the tutoring session includes email follow-up and support.

This is a HUGE timesaver because you can personalized service so you can be more efficient with your time once you get started with your project.

Check it out! http://wp.me/P1PDYt-7X

Grade all the things!

Seriously, this is the most fun I have ever had grading. It’s WAY more fun if the student has not done well though… I feel like I should find a way to turn that around.

A little while ago I followed the directions on Alice Keeler’s site to start using Bitmoji (it’s a free app that create a cute little version of yourself) outside of text messages. In Chrome, I installed the Bitmoji extension so now I can drag and drop my little avatars.

Since I’ve been using Google Classroom with my seniors, and this great little digital interactive notebook I got from Teachers Pay Teachers, it’s super fun to use Bitmoji as comments on their work. I cannot even tell you how endlessly entertaining I find this. I wish I could make my own in order to customize comments. I bet I can, actually…

Professional Development

Recent Presentations for Professional Development

Literacy Conference 2014 – High Tech Timelines
ASD Literacy Conference 2014 – Flipped and Blended Learning
SAHS Staff Meeting 2014 – Turnitin
ASD Literacy Conference 2013 – QR Codes

ASTE 2012 – Infographics
ASTE 2012 – QR Codes
ASD Writer’s Conference Digital Writing – conference flyer
ASTE 2011 – Flashmob Research

ASTE 2008 – Seminar
ASTE 2007 – Wikis

Flipped lesson – Drive, Grit & Success – creating an Outlier?

In the same vein as my flipped lesson for Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, this is a flipped lesson for AP Language students on Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, Daniel Pink’s Drive, and Angela Duckworth’s work on the importance of developing grit in students. This incorporates the standard WSQ assignment, class discussions (both in class and online), thesis statement building, rhetorical analysis, mind maps (for organizing ideas), reflective writing, formal argument writing, public speaking, and Socratic seminar.

 What is success and how do we find it?

1) WSQ – Rhetorical Modes – read and annotate “How to Read Like a Writer” by Mike Bunn
2) online discussion on Drive video
3) Grit survey
4) WSQ (in-class) – Grit TED talk
5) reflective essay on Grit (using the question from the WSQ)
6) analysis and annotation on chapter of Outliers
7) coaching group on assigned chapter
8) read selection of Drive in class – discussion on the argument and content
9) informal presentation on the chapter of Outliers
10) WSQ & discussion – de Botton TED talk on kinder definition of success
11) read two reviews of Outliers – rhetorical précis for each – how valid and relevant is the criticism?
12) another selection from Drive – read and discuss
13) Mind Map of ideas from all of the sources
14) 4 square discussion – develop a thesis statement
15) question writing for seminar – What is success and how do we find it?
16) seminar
17) argument essay – begin from the class-developed thesis statement

This was created with some collaboration with my friend Amy Habberstad.

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