Thursday, August 27, 2015

Building Communities

As we start the school year, it is so very important to build that classroom "community" within your courses or grade level. To create those moments for students that allow them to get to know each other, share themselves and find things in common. I really like the beginning of the school year for this reason! I want my students to start bonding and for everyone (me included!) to get comfortable and settle in for the school year ahead!

Ever been to a tech conference? They know how to crank up community building there! One of the favorite places for many at these conferences are "photo booths", a place/area participants visit to don wigs, goggles, hats, and other fun party favors and have some fun. The purpose? Encourage playfulness, snap a selfie and share out with others! This activity taps into everyone's inner child and encourages the spirit of fun and togetherness while learning together. 

How about taking that idea to your own classroom? Go browse the closeout area of party stores or visit garage sales to find any prop or party favor for your own "photo booth" in the classroom. Then, bring your camera, tripod, set up a small corner of your class and take photos of students having fun posing for posterity. You also can share your pics with your students as well- they will love seeing themselves and also will want to share their moment in your class with others on social media! 

For me, it was a success and worth the extra prep work and I would absolutely do it again. I loved seeing the bright smiles and goofy expressions of my students this year as I photographed them. It helped everyone take a break from the material and encouraged team-building, and was a nice brain break for about 10-15 minutes. This activity helped my class gel more as a learning community.

Why don't you give it a try? Setting up a photo booth in a corner of your classroom for a couple of days with your students is a valuable use of class time. It helps cultivate a stronger sense of community among everyone, leads to increased support and togetherness and is a fun way to let kids just be kids! 


Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Gap Is Closing

This summer I had a chance to read Excellent Online Teaching! by Aaron Johnson. This book gives you some simple and easy ways to be an effective online teacher and I recommend it!

But what if you are not an online teacher? Is this book for you? I can answer those questions for you since I teach in both of those learning environments. I am both a face to face classroom teacher as well as an online teacher and I see the gap is closing! Many of the strategies suggested in this book can be used in a face to face school with teachers who infuse lots of technology into their curriculum. For example:

1. As the course begins, send out a welcome email to students and parents, setting the stage and tone for the entire course.
2. Develop and send out a weekly e-mail to students to help them stay on track and foster positive teacher-student relationships.
3. Giving prompt and helpful feedback to students after assignments models the positive interaction you are looking to foster with your students as they work online.

and many more, but I am sure the author would like you to buy his book and read for yourself! 

As I read this book, I said to myself many times "Wow, this tip would work in both of the worlds that I teach in!" I think that you will find it a worthwhile read, offering you lots of tips and reminders on how to better reach out to students as we move towards more technology in courses and curriculum.