A Personal Invitation

I knew at 18 years of age, the profession of teaching was what I was made to do. The passion for education burned through my veins and I was inspired by those who taught me and who had gone before me. As I marched towards my goal of the classroom I used journals, magazines, even one on one testimonies to help give me perspective and prepare me for my classroom. The brave teachers who opened the doors of their classrooms and let me sit front row viewing their strategies, witnessing personal reflections. I gravitated to their vulnerability and strive to learn from their experiences in order for the betterment of my students.

Six years later, I have become one of those people who enjoy waking up and going to work. I am inspired by my students to be the best version of myself. To be transparent on my quest to ensure ALL students are reached right where they are. I cling to the refreshing springs of my fellow educators pouring themselves and their experiences out whether through blogs, twitter chats, podcasts, or other outlets. I sit and ‘drink-in’ the conversations and reflections noting how I can personally take the journey my fellow colleagues have taken and use it to help empower and educate my students. Recently, I find that the spring seems to be decreasing. The same voices contributing, while majority lurking in the shadows, waiting to be called upon and reassured you have something to offer.

This invitation is for you. Today I am asking for you to join me. To join the ranks of teachers who want to improve our craft. The teachers who are opening their classroom doors. Who are prepared to be vulnerable. Who embrace the ideas of transparency in the school setting. All with the mindset that we cannot change the way students are taught if we do not start the dialogue. The education system will remain the same even while our students are ever changing. If we let this occur then we are doing a disservice to the very children who inspire us to stand in the front of the room each day.

Today! This moment! I am inviting you to be a part of a group whose sole goal is to reach, connect, empower, and educate ALL students. Your voice is important. Your perspective is vital. Your lens and experience have the power to shape the methods in which we utilize strategies. Please do not wait till you have reached that “level”. We want to hear from you while you are walking the path. We want to hear from you as you reflect. We want to hear what worked and what didn’t. We want to know what you would do differently. To discuss with you about the results of your choices. If you ask why? The reason is because we are not meant to be isolated. We are better together. We are better as a team of teachers, band together to meet the goals of our students.

Your voice matters. You matter to your students, your community and our profession. I am inviting you to step out of your comfort level and contribute to the NGSSBlogs Project. Our goal is to provide teachers a place to connect, collaborate, and empower to educate. We are walking the journey of applying and understanding the NGSS curriculum so that we can apply it in a meaningful and realistic manner in the classroom. In order to meet this goal we need to hear from you. We need to know what you are doing in your classroom.

I understand, what I am asking of you is risky business. You could be rejected, go unnoticed or be challenged. I am asking you to pour out pieces of your teaching experiences and stand front and center, and that can be scary. Before you make your decision though, think of your classroom and the people you reach. You have an amazing opportunity to mold and shape our future. Each one of us as educators have an enormous role in a child’s future. So wouldn’t it only make sense that we are equipped to ensure that each student, no matter whose classroom they are sitting in; are able to access the curriculum in a meaningful manner.

We have supports for you in place, which mean you will not walk this journey alone. We have a community which we encourage you to be plugged in and dive into the resources. We are here working and all that is missing is you.

If you are interested in joining our blogs project please visit us at  NGSS PLN

If you are interested in taking part in an inspiring book study we are reading and discussing the book “NGSS for All Students” Edited by Okhee Lee, Emily Miller, and Rita Januszyk please visit here: http://goo.gl/forms/7Iz2CZ7MFT

TodaysMeet – Capturing Communication in a NGSS Classroom

TodaysMeet 

Used by:

Students/Teachers

NGSS Practices Addressed

Paired with another assignment/article this tool can address these NGSS practices:

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)

Students can document thinking as the generate questions collaboratively in a Todaysmeet classroom while addressing a scientific phenomenon.

4. Analyzing and interpreting data

After conducting an experiment students can discuss their data and reflect on their experiment as well as share with their peers what conclusions were learned from the experiment.

6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)

Assigning students articles to read and then answer questions related to the text as well as draw real world   relationships. Students would post their answers in the chat box and have the opportunity to justify their responses while their peers ask  questions.

7. Engaging in argument from evidence

Have students choose a position on a topic. They can work in groups or individually. students will add to the forum what their position is and why. They can include links to documents/images/videos that can support their claim. Other students can explore what is presented and pose questions to the student/group that is arguing their point. 

8. Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information

The teacher can give/post a chart or text that the students will evaluate. The teacher can pose questions or perform a  think aloud with the students demonstrating how they should conduct their thinking while working with the artifacts. Students can then explain and demonstrate their understanding by contributing to the chat/discussion

Description

TodaysMeet is an online space that is similar to twitter but not as intense. The teacher creates a “room” that the student will type into their browser. Once students are in the right “room” they will be able to put their names in the nickname box and get started. Any device that is able to access the internet is able to use this site. Here is a tutorial video if you would like to see how to get started.

Highlight

 Easy to use format. Great way to introduce students to online forums as well as discuss appropriate discussion forum behavior. This site allows students to use their devices that they are comfortable with in the classroom and contribute to the discussion. If you have students who do not like to answer orally this gives a different method to answer. Using this site students can answer questions, participate in discussions as well as feel comfortable using a medium they are familiar with. The site also allows the teacher to print the script that was produced to document students thinking and contribution

Drawbacks

Students will have to be redirected to behave appropriately and to make school appropriate comments. Students have the ability to choose the name that they would like to use, so the teacher will have to be sure to address that with students prior to lesson.

Product in Action

In our collaborative class, we used this tech tool to open a discussion about a reading. We had all of the students log in and greet the class. Then, we gave the reading materials and gave students time to read the article. We had the Todaysmeet classroom also projected on the board so that all students could see it on their own devices as well as in the front of the room. We asked students questions verbally as well as in the chat then provided an opportunity for students to respond in the chat. We gave verbal praise as well as praised students within the chat. Students became comfortable with answering questions online and receiving immediate feedback from their peers as well as the teachers. We had students discover if they were using their phones they could attach emojis. Other students realized that they could change their names throughout the discussion. When this happened, we reminded students the expectations in the class for how students were to behave in a forum. Overall the lesson went well and we had students who are comfortable with never speaking in class engaged and answering questions in this format.

Takeaways

If you are looking for a great site that allows you to host discussions in a safe way. Then Todaysmeet is the site for you. Teachers are able to create and use a space in an easy manner to enhance discussions in class as well as encourage students to participate in a new format.


To go straight to todaysmeet click here

Contributing to the Conversation

I am a special education, collaborative (or inclusion) teacher – it depends on where you are from. I work mainly in science classes. As a collaborating teacher, my job requires applying subject standards, working with new teachers and students, all to further the success of not just SpEd students, but all students. All this “new” makes it very easy to feel overwhelmed and retreat back to what I know. I find myself turning a cold shoulder to the enthusiasm and excited go-getters and instead running back to the safety of what I know. But (and this is a big BUT!), no one benefits from that choice. Not me, not the teachers, and especially not students. Which leads me to how I took a risk, embraced a new idea, and began blogging about my experiences.

My blogging serves as a tool for reflecting and sharing. At first, I was apprehensive about my ability to be successful. After jumping in head first, I have grown more comfortable being vulnerable and find myself encouraging fellow educators to join me in blogging. Which brings me to the point of this post, how writing a blog can help you to communicate your thinking and grow professionally. The act of putting your thoughts into words can be challenging. Then to share those words with strangers may be downright scary to even suggest. However, I want to share what motivates me to blog. I blog because (1) blogging is a tool to help others and (2) there are tools to support my writing when I feel insecure.

As an educator, my goal is to engage students as well as empower them to become the best version of  themselves. The same concept can be applied to supporting teachers. I have had many experiences in my education career that have shaped my outlook on teaching and learning. I don’t believe I would be the teacher I am today had amazing teachers not shared their experiences with me. Blogging is my way to professionally contribute to the development of other educators. What you have experienced – your successes and amazing lesson plans as well as your missteps and units that you think should be burned – are all tools for another teacher to benefit from. In a quest to improve student learning, I yearn for knowledge of what I can do better. You and your experiences are avenues for me (and others) to meet that goal.

I am pleading with you to be vulnerable by sharing both the triumphs and disasters. I am asking you to open the door to your classroom and let us in – which can be very intimidating. The overall reaction I have received from teachers is that they want to share, but the actual action of putting pen to paper and then to be judged is what is holding them back. Well, I have been in that situation and I can tell you the way out. If a lack of confidence in your writing is what is holding you back, there are many tools to overcome this obstacle such as, @ProWritingAid (www.prowritingaid.com). 

ProWritingAid is a fabulous editing tool that will check your writing for all sorts of errors. I have been using this tool and I am in love.  It is very easy to use and its design is simple to manipulate. After using it, I am even more encouraged to write my heart out. The first thing is to write your initial thinking. Once your ideas are on “paper”, you can have the site edit your work. First, you will click the “use the editing tool” button. This will open to a page where you can paste your writing. This site also allows you to upload documents from Google Drive rather than pasting. Once it is pasted, you will then click the blue Analyze button.

The program will analyze your work and then divide the errors into categories. You have the ability to review and make changes for all the areas that are highlighted within each category. The program is extremely thorough for being a free tool. Although, there are some functions that come with a paid premium account – which you can do at your convenience. Once you have used the tool,  feel free to have another set of eyes to check it for readability and then post it to a public forum, such as WordPress or Blogger.

Hopefully, by using a tool such as this, you will build confidence with documenting your experiences and be encouraged to share your insights. There is an audience for your ideas. They are in need of hearing what you have learned in order to sharpen their practice and build their classrooms. Go ahead and try ProWritingAid and begin the journey of getting comfortable being uncomfortable.

Allow Us to Introduce Ourselves

Welcome to At Holm with SullyScience!circlebutton

We are so excited you have joined us in our mission to improve inclusive Science teaching. To kick off our blog, we would like to share with you a little background about who we are, why we do what we do, and what to expect from this blog.

Who We Are

Fate brought us together this year as we both moved to NKy from other teaching roles. Mrs. Sullivan came from Lexington, Kentucky and Mrs. Holman came from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Both of us came from STEM schools that served diverse populations of students. As we began to get to know one another, we found that our teaching styles and philosophies of teaching were very similar and we were excited to design more student centered and Problem Based Units. We both believe that everyone can learn and recognize that it may take different strategies to achieve learning. We also identify with the idea that learning can look different than the traditional picture of public schooling. We believe that each day is a new day and a clean slate. We must forgive and forget any injuries for the sake of learning and relationships. We apply this philosophy both to our students, but also to our own collaborative relationship.

Why We Do What We Do

It is because of our beliefs that we both came to careers as educators.

Mrs. Sullivan was on a tenure track path to Scientific research before witnessing the inadequacies of the education system for first generation college students and the need for applicable science instruction. After finishing her Bachelors’ in Agricultural Biotechnology and Biology at the University of Kentucky, she enrolled in UK’s College of Education Master’s with Initial Certification Program. While in the program, Mrs. Sullivan continued to be inspired by serving students who had previously been written off and striving to engage students in Science learning through hands-on and non-traditional approaches.

Mrs. Holman was a senior in high school when she was inspired by two teachers who did more than just taught her about their subjects. They saw her as a person and taught her to believe in herself even through hardships. Mrs. Holman wanted to be that person for others – to help them realize their potential both academically and personally. In order to accomplish this, she attended Winston-Salem State University where she began her studies to become a middle grade RegEd instructor. Only a month into her program, a lecture on special education pulled her toward outside the box instruction. She identified with the message of special education and the idea of not settling for traditional strategies. Mrs. Holman inherited her comfort with technology from her parents, both Computer Science Engineers. This comfort has since transformed into a passion for connecting students and teachers to technologies to improve learning.

What to Expect

Our goal for this blog is to provide readers with resources to implement innovative collaborative teaching both in and out of science content. We will be highlighting some of our favorite lessons in our Lesson Spotlight category and sharing our strategies for collaborative teaching in our Co-Teaching category. We will share some candid observations of journey to implement Problem Based Scenarios and other innovative strategies while teaching EOC assessed Biology and Chemistry. We intend to provide both the RegEd and Special Ed perspective and co-author on all posts.

Stay Tuned!

We hope you will join us as we continue on our collaborative mission to improve inclusive Science teaching!

  Blog Signature At Holm with SullyScience