Reflections of Blending English and Technology in the Classroom

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Our “Edventure” into Standard Based Grading

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Last year a couple teachers at BCLUW decided to implement Standard Based Grading (or a version of it)  in their classrooms. Over the past year and throughout the summer, a small group of staff members, including myself, continued the learning. During one of the early PD days this year, a meeting was held for all those interested in Standard Based Grading. The following is a glimpse into the information gained at the meeting in the form a of an email sent to all staff…

“Last Friday a group of us met in the library to discuss Standard Based Grading. Many of us are at different levels of implementation, some are implementing in multiple classes while others are considering a unit to try it out on. What we all agreed upon was that Standard Based Grading made sense to us as teachers and as parents. I am sure we will form some sort of weekly or biweekly meeting in the near future, but in the meantime, we wanted to share some information that we agreed upon.

1. It is beneficial for students and parents to have a uniformed marking system throughout the classes.. This is what was decided upon, but can be reconsidered and changed in the future.
Four marking phrases:
Below                      Progressing                          Proficient                         Exceptional
1                                      2                                             3                                          4

2. We also felt it was important for high school students to have “Behavior Expectations” that would be reported, not necessarily graded. From the visit with Fisher last year and our own large group discussions at faculty meetings, it is clear that our students need to refine certain skills and characteristics to be productive adults and succeed in future schooling and work. While you may not even be considering Standard Based Grading, some staff members wanted to use and post the same expectations in their classroom. We thought we would share with the whole staff for your consideration. 

BCLUW Behavior Expectations

Student will:
Arrive to class on time
Come to class prepared
Complete work by due date
Consistently show effort
Use class time efficiently
Work well with others
Show respect to others and the school environment

3. Let us know if you have any questions. We will send out an email about our next meeting. Working together will help make these growing pains manageable. Plus, Standard Based Grading fits beautifully with PLCs, as it gives specific areas to address! “

I will update this blog with our progress. I would also like to mention, along with a dedicated staff and supporting administration, Matt Townsley and Russ Goerrend have been tremendous supports throughout this learning!

Written by sfarnsworth

August 20, 2012 at 3:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Conditions to Improve Success of 1:1 Initiatives

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I have been asked many times what one should consider to aid in a successful 1:1 Initiative. The following is a list of the top 4 conditions, I believe, helps to ensure this success:

1. Sustained and High -Quality Professional Development – Provide PD that is research-proven, as well as data-driven by student needs. Allow time for sharing and collaboration throughout the year. While PD may contain apps and tools, focus should remain on pedagogy and curriculum. Apps and tools should never be pushed upon staff or mandated that ALL teachers use them in their teaching.  Allow teachers to grow at their own rate, some may be more skilled/comfortable than others at tech integration in their curriculum.
2. Climate of the Building – The climate and culture of the building should support risk-taking without punishment and places trust in students and teachers. Administration should be fully aware that some things will not always work exactly as planned, but teachers who think outside of the norm or want to try something new in the classroom should not live in fear of being punished for a lesson that fails.  Finally, beware of over-blocking and denying access to teachers and students. Trust in students and staff to utilize what works best for their curricular areas.
3. Infrastructure – If the technology doesn’t work in all areas of learning (in a building) it loses it’s potential and causes frustration. Also, when the comfort level with technology use grows, you will see multiple devices being used in learning. Students and staff will bring and want to use phones, ipods, and other personal devices along with their laptops. Is your building ready to support all of these devices?
4. Focus – Finally, technology will continue to advance, apps will become obsolete as others take their place; remember to make curriculum and pedagogy the main focuses. Utilizing technology in the classroom should not be a separate event, technology should be infused naturally because it is the best option available. Make sure the tech is relevant to learning and their lives, easily replicable for student use and applicable to other areas of curriculum and life.

Written by sfarnsworth

May 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm

15 Teacher Tips to Help Students Finish the Year Strong

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Last week I was contacted by Laura McMullen, a reporter for the U.S. News and  World Report , who wanted to interview me the following day about tips I had for teachers to finish the year strong. She explained that she had searched for “high school teachers” on Twitter and my account popped up. She checked out my tweets and blog (a teachable moments for my students) and decided I would be perfect for the article she was writing.

On Monday, the article came out – “Three Tips for Teachers to Help Students Finish the Year Strong” – which combines a few of the tips and examples that I gave to her.  During the time I initially received the first email I was collaborating with my friend Tim Hadley, a Social Studies teacher at Pekin High School. He agreed to act as my sounding board as I created a list of tips. Tim also graciously added a few of his own tips to the document. I thought I would share the complete list with all readers…

1.  Make a list of goals/objectives you wish to have students meet before the end of the year, prioritize them, and post in the classroom.
2. Chunk larger assignments into smaller sections; each section having due dates. This helps with procrastination and students waiting until the last minute to finish work.
3. End of the year is a great time to invite in speakers relevant to content studying into your classroom, either physically or virtually.
4. Give students choice. How do they want to demonstrate their learning?
5. Take advantage of the nice weather – reading, writing, geocaching, science experiments. Can your classroom be mobile and outdoors?
6. Provide an audience for your students projects, writing, etc. other than yourself.
7. Remain consistent with the routines and rules established at the beginning of the year.
8. Collaborate – get your class connected with students who are studying the same thing.
9. Reflect on the year and invite students to do the same; collecting responses to what they have learned, skills they have gained, least favorite and most favorite activities.
10.  Spiral review- Connect prior learning from throughout the year with what you are doing currently and have students predict what they will learn about to the end of the year.
11. Don’t fight distractions, feed them. Tie lesson plans into summer plans. Have a student taking a trip? Talk about the places they will go or have them plan the ultimate summer vacation.
12. Get students active. Plan a service project for your community in which students can give back to their community.
13. Talk about the future. Have students give input about the year and the course of study they have been engaged in. Ask them for advice about what and how should be taught to incoming students.
14. Create a classroom survival guide. When students are reflecting on the course, have them create a short survival guide for next year’s students on what they can expect from the course.
15. With the ending of a school year comes new beginnings. Have students create goals and aspirations for what is next in their lives

Please add your list of tips below!

Written by sfarnsworth

April 26, 2012 at 2:17 am

Teaching Tether Free: ipad and the Apple tv

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Three weeks ago I was given an ipad to aid in my teaching. Having never touched one before, I was excited to explore the possibilities and advantages that teaching with an ipad would offer to the students. I was also at an advantage having both an HDMI projection system and an apple tv to air stream my ipad through. (I would recommend both of these additions to maximize use) I have found 2 main advantages while teaching with an ipad:

1. No anchors, unlike hooking my laptop up to the dongle and then projecting from my station, with my ipad, I am MOBILE. Because of the wifi capabilities within our building, I am able to essentially be anywhere in the school and stream into my classroom. It is hard for me to sit still or stand in one place while teaching. With the ipad, I am able to move about freely. Mobility means closer proximity to students, easier monitoring options, and through the app Splashtop, I am able to control my laptop wirelessly displaying any document, program, etc. I might need from there.

2. Student Examples, I will list a few of my favorite apps later in the post, but one that I use most frequently is Noteshelf. Through Noteshelf I am able to draw, annotate, and explain in real time using student work. Take for example grammar, as I am walking around the classroom I notice a common mistake in students’ writing concerning commas. I can quickly snap a picture of their essay, annotate it, and use their own work as an example. This provides relevance and engagement; the examples are specific to their own writing. In essence, my ipad becomes a mobile document camera, when combined with noteshelf it allows me the capabilities to manipulate the document without being tethered to one place.

Must Have Apps So Far:







Written by sfarnsworth

November 22, 2011 at 1:44 am

#BCLUW students on #WhyIWrite

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BCLUW students added their voice to the twitter feed on National Writing Day answering the question – #whyiwrite. Inspired by the challenge posted on the New York Times Learning Network, BCLUW students composed, reflected and tweeted reasons why they wrote. First year BCLUW English teacher, Molly Finkenbinder,  also recorded student messages and a video will be posted shortly.

Here is a storify highlighting their reasons:

#bcluw students,, National Writing Day asks,,, #whyiwrite add your voice here!
October 20, 2011
#bcluw sophomores: Let me know 1 positive thing about writing in class today! Notecards. Pics. Voice Think. Create. Share. WRITE! #whyiwrite
October 20, 2011
#whyIwrite #bcluw I write to speak when no one listens..
October 20, 2011
RT @mitch_mill: #bcluw #whyiwrite I write to communicate with friends
October 20, 2011
I write to feel free. #whyiwrite #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#whyiwrite I write to communicate with other people with something other than my voice. #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#whyiwrite I write because I want to or like to. Sometimes maybe to show my emotions. #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#whyiwrite I write to model for students. To be a better teacher. Add my voice to the mix! #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#whyiwrite I write because it’s all around you and it’s like we’re always doing it, sometimes I write because I have to. #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite I write to communicate with friends
October 20, 2011
#WhyIWrite I write to do my school work. To communicate with others. #BCLUW
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite To help people learn about chevy citations
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite i write to express my feelings.
October 20, 2011
I write because life depends on it #bcluw #whyiwrite
October 20, 2011
#whyiwrite I write when I send emails. When I write I it seems to never stop so I guess i do it for fun. #bcluw
October 20, 2011
I write when I can’t think of what to say…#bcluw #whyiwrite
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite (jacob h.) I write when I sign birthday cards
October 20, 2011
To make sense of the world.. #whyiwrite #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#whyiwrite to communicate with people throughout the world. #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#whyiwrite I write so that I don’t forget what I want to say! #bcluw
October 20, 2011
to communicate without my voice #whyiwrite #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#IWriteBecause it’s the epitome of expressing myself and if I’m not me, who is? #BCLUW
October 20, 2011
I write when the realitivy of the world fails us. #whyiwrite #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#whyiwrite: to put my thoughts in a tangible form #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#BCLUW #WhyIWrite I write to express what I am feeling. To explain what I am thinking. To be heard of what I’m saying.
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #WhyIWrite I write so show i don’t care what others think about me.
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #WhyiWrite I write to tell the world how I really feel.
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite I write to be understood
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite i write to give people my ideas how to get passed monday
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite to leran more things for school work and it is fun to write
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite I write to leave a note on the counter when I leave the house.
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite I write to let people know where I am.
October 20, 2011
#Bcluw #whyiwrite So i can keep thinking of ideas for virtual reality
October 20, 2011
#whyiwrite I write to preserve my ideas and feelings. #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#BCLUW #whyIwrite I can hold on to the memories I know I would forget.
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyIwrite I write because i would like to get better grades, get student of the week in math and get better grades over all.
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite To inform you of what i know!!!
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite to express myself.
October 20, 2011
#WhyIWrite to express my emotions, and clear my head. #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #WhyIWrite when i want to remember something
October 20, 2011
#bcluw#whyiwrite to show that i do have a personality and my interest in photgraphy
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #WhyIWrite to express my feelings
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite i write to tell fun and sad moments in my life
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite because it is a good way of communicating
October 20, 2011
#whyiwrite #bcluw I write because I can’t draw
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #WhyIWrite to express my feelings and to remember something important.
October 20, 2011
#iwritebecause It allows me to express myself. #bcluw
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #iwrite to express my feelings if I don’t enjoy talking about them.
October 20, 2011
#bcluw #whyiwrite To communicate with friends and family, and to express my self.
October 20, 2011
#whyiwrite I write to SEE what I am thinking. #bcluw
October 20, 2011

Written by sfarnsworth

October 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Word Memoir

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Last year creative writing students wrote 6 word memoirs; they enjoyed the exercise but it did not draw the attention that it has this year. With new students, the assignment has taken on a life of its own. I was attending a meeting out of the district  last week when I assigned this writing exercise. Students read excerpts about memoirs, background information about the 6 Word Memoir, as well as examples that have been collected in the past . Finally, students were to write their own memoirs to be shared with their blogging community. Half way through the meeting I started receiving emails from students containing examples of their personal memoirs, as well as added phrases such as “this is fun,” “love this,” and “when do we share.”

Each student will select one memoir to illustrate and submit to be published in a collection. In essence, they are creating the Class of 2012’s 6 Word Memoirs. These memoirs have also been springing up on their blogs, facebook, and twitter; proving that students desire to share writing. Three years ago my students shared their writing within the classroom, now they use social media to share with a world wide audience!

<div style=”width:425px” id=”__ss_9097119″> <strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/ShaelynnFarnsworth/screen-shot-2011-0901-at-92926-am&#8221; title=”Screen shot 2011 09-01 at 9.29.26 am” target=”_blank”>Screen shot 2011 09-01 at 9.29.26 am</a></strong> <div style=”padding:5px 0 12px”> View more <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/&#8221; target=”_blank”>presentations</a> from <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/ShaelynnFarnsworth&#8221; target=”_blank”>Shaelynn Farnsworth</a> </div> </div>

Written by sfarnsworth

September 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Travelling the Globe with a Twitter Connection

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A twitter connection has provided another opportunity for the students at BCLUW. I met Aaron Cretin on twitter a few years ago, and in person at the first Iowa 1:1 Conference in 2010. A few weeks ago I received a Direct Message from Aaron asking if I would be interested in discussing a possible connection between my students and his brother, Brian Cretin.

Brian and I met at  Applebee’s where I listened to his college and career journey, his local connection, and his plan to travel the globe this upcoming year!  As I sat and listened my mind raced with possibile learning experiences for my students, from having them consider ipod apps essential to travel, to Google Earth walks in Thailand.  Brian spoke with excitement as he told me how he was introduced to International travel in college. By sharing this global  journey with students, Brian hopes to inspire the students to consider possibilities and opportunities available to them.

Along with skype calls and blog discussions, Brian is also capturing his travel through photography. His web-site, View From A Cretin  showcases images from past travels. Creative writing opportunities  will flood the senses of the students as they start their journey in London and travel to Thailand. From there, Brian will decide where his travel takes him.

Organically, the connection will grow throughout the year. The students will guide the learning tailored to interests on the country, cultures, and travel.

Thank you  Aaron for the connection! And thank you Brian for the opportunities you are providing to the students of small-town Iowa as they view the world with you!

Safe Travels and Skype you in a few weeks!

Written by sfarnsworth

August 18, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Connecting Students through Video Project

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Every year I teach “The Lady or the Tiger” by Stockton. I use this piece as part of my short story unit; the ending leaves the final decision up to the reader. This ambiguity provides the perfect opportunity to teach narrator and voice. I have the students write their own endings blending their imagination with elevated vocabulary and a consistent voice that parallels the piece. Last year I took this lesson a step further with the new laptops our students now used in all classrooms. After the endings were written, they broke into small groups and selected one to create as a silent video. They could only use music, sound effects, and text. Their actions and minimal words had to convey the intent to the audience.

This year we did the same reading and project but with a slight twist. We partnered with a Van Meter freshman class who was also reading the same story. I still had the kids write their endings, form small groups and select one, but instead of creating a video from their own writing they exchanged with their counter group in Van Meter. They students were excited about the collaboration and it showed in their stellar projects. Finally, a Voice Thread was created to share final projects between the two schools. Voice Thread allows the students to leave comments in various forms and it was quite simple to upload multiple videos.

Students this year were more conscious about their writing knowing that it was going to be read by and performed by people outside of their own school. They also enjoyed the ideas that emerged from the other students, had fun collaborating and creating a final projects, and were anxious to see how the other students interpreted their writing.

Although it took a little extra time for Shawn Hyer and I to develop this lesson, the benefits were great, the students were excited and engaged, and this story will forever be something they remember because of the interaction they had with the piece.

Written by sfarnsworth

September 23, 2010 at 6:40 pm