Tuesday, March 31, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 50- Doug Robertson

**This is 100% in character from THE Teaching Text (You're Welcome). That means it's satirical.**

Let's face it- I'm pretty awesome. I think this is generally accepted as fact. If you disagree with that statement then the rest of us have one question for you- "Shut up, it's true."

With that established all you really need to know about the chat this week is that we'll be worshiping at the alter of me. All you need to do is make sure you bring all the teachers in your building who are not currently on social media to twitter by Weds at 7est or Weds at 7pst. Remember, if your colleagues are not on social media they aren't really trying.

For the rest of this blog let's look at pictures of me.

Hmmm, I'm thinking about your question

Excuse me, this breeze is to die for

Say what?

Oh, I know what you want

Are you wanting what I think you're saying?

You're welcome in advance



*steam noise*

Phantom of the Opera Selfie proves I'm cultured

Monday, March 30, 2015

THE Teaching Text (You're Welcome)

You are so happy that I'm announcing the release my next book- THE Teaching Text (You're Welcome)

THE Teaching Text (You're Welcome) is everything you ever wanted in a book about education. Every topic, subject, theme, and musing about education that a teacher could have is covered in this brilliant piece of work. *

What more can I say about THE Teaching Text (You're Welcome) except go buy it! Now! From one of these many fine retailers.

amazon.com (paperback and kindle)
Barnes and Noble (Nook)
Createspace (paperback)
Smashwords (kindle)

Still not convinced? You foolish, foolish person. Here, this commercial will sway you.

*totally satirical. All of it

Thursday, March 26, 2015

#AussieED- Empathy

Really me, my sister and my dad really dressed up to
really go to a Star Trek convention

Empathy is the most important tool in a teacher's bag of tricks. It's more important than tech know-how, more important than pedagogy, more important that recess duty. Empathy is the core of what makes a great teacher great because empathy means you are trying to reach your kids. You're not talking at them, you're not teaching to them, you're reaching them.

Tonight I want to talk about empathy. Where it comes from, how we build it, and why we should have it. If you've never done one of my chats here's something you should know about me- I encourage side conversations, silliness, and irreverence. There is learning in silliness. The opposite of Funny is not Serious. The opposite of Funny is Not Funny.*

What that means is I want you to loosen up and be honest. Trust me, trust your fellow teachers. Have fun. My questions are (hopefully) layered in a way that encourages you to answer them deeply while still having a good time.

Empathy is a rich vein and I want to mine it as much as we can in the hour we have together. Let us see if we can figure out what we know about empathy and how best we can wield it in the classroom.

*stole this from Neil Gaiman talking about Terry Pratchett. Watch it. Cry a little if you're like me and Terry Pratchett meant a lot to you.  Then read everything they both ever wrote.

My #AussieEd pre-chat interview with Brett Salakas (special guest Weirdling Number One)

My #AussieEdcast podcasts pt 1 and pt 2

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 49- Phrasing

I've wanted to write an Innuendo Chat for a while. Looks like this week is the week.

Kids say unintentionally funny stuff all the time. They misspell things that end up spelling other much funnier things all the time. I've said, "Uh, country has an o and an r in it. Go fix it. Please. Now."

I'm not grown up enough to deal with this. Neither are you.

Fair warning, this is going to be full of dirty-without-being-openly-dirty jokes. Because this stuff makes me giggle. And the kids make us giggle. And it's funny.

Easy test. If you laugh at the below gif you'll be fine. If you don't, see you next week.

Friday, March 20, 2015

How Ben Franklin Stole the Lighting- Kite Biographies

This week's story was How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning. I do sometimes give the selection tests and I often hate them but I also don't have the time to create assessments for every single story. As often as possible we'll do something that accomplishes the same goal without all the bubbles and questions. This week was one such week. It's the week before spring break. Everyone is crazy and antsy. It's time for some art.

I googled "Ben Franklin Art" for ideas and a kite popped up. Perfect. I don't think I followed what the kite was about. That's how I work. I find someone else's idea and then change it so it fits with what I want to do. Often all I need is the kickstart and then it's off to the races.

We quartered (I know it's not really quarters, math teachers) the kite first as a rough draft on small paper. In the top two quadrants they were to write two things Ben Franklin did in his life. In the bottom two they were to illustrate two things he did. In the bows on the kite string they needed to talk about some of his inventions. And on the key they needed to write the title of the story.

I encouraged the rough drafts to be rough but good enough to give them an idea of what they'll be writing, a place to check their spelling etc, and a way to judge drawing within the unusual shapes. The original plan was to work with the 4th grade teacher next door to me and the kites would be flyable, but after a little experimenting we realized what a nightmare that was going to be so they are indoor kites. That's why the big kites are done on light paper. The cross beams are Popsicle sticks because not having dowels is the mother of invention. Sticks are glued and tail, bows, and key are taped.

The finished products got to fly on the walls and ceiling of the classroom. Who says teaching in America today is all testing and test prep and crying children?

Some students got the chance to reflect on the process on our Kidblog.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 48- Speed Dating

I want to try something a little different this week. This chat will have very little to directly do with education. "So what else is new?" I hear you ask. Hardy-har-hat Mr/s Funny Pants.

I think chats are about building connections, and those connections are where the real learning happens. A chat is a springboard. A place to meet. It's Mom's Group for teachers craving adult human interaction. So instead of a normal Q1/A1 kind of chat I'm going to run #WeirdEd Speed Dating Services. (aka #WeirdEd Ice Breakers But Not As Lame Because It's Not Eating Valuable Meeting Time)

Here's the idea: I'll post a commonality. Your favorite movie/band/food/whatever. You have to go into the chat and find someone who shares that thing with you. Or is close. Digressions are encouraged. I want you to digitally mingle. I have no idea how well this is going to go. I think what's going to happen is a few brave souls will have to tweet out their likes/dislikes/answers and then you gravitate to that and respond and build. I think (read: hope) the chat will branch like a wild tree. We'll start with a trunk which will be my guiding questions/topics, and then you all will take it over and branch it out to who knows where.

Every question you'll need to pick a new person. You can't be a perfect match the whole chat with Sarah Thomas even though all of us wish we were. I want you to drag people into the chat. Who cares if they aren't online? But I also want you to talk to tweeple you've never reached out to before in a safe environment.

The focus is building human connections so that later when you have a question about How To Teach X or What Do I Do About Y you know the humans responding to you. It's not building your Professional Learning Network. It's building your Human Connections, which is more important.

Or maybe this'll burn down, fall over, and sink into the swamp. It's always a possibility.

Be brave.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Charlie's Gumballs

My kids need more problem solving practice. Everyone knows being able to do the calculations is only a small part of math. The real math is seeing problems and determining the proper way to solve. A few days ago someone (I don't remember who, I'm sorry!) shared Charlie's Gumballs with me.

I loved it. It was just the kind of problem my kids need. Today to start math I switched on the video, told the kids we were watching a video and that's all, and played it. They were immediately on board and started doing the next step before I prompted them.
"Ok, what questions can we ask using this video?"
"How many did he start with?"
"How many did each person get?"
"Can I have some gum?"
I listed the (good) questions on the board and said, "Ok, that's your assignment. Go." Then I stopped talking, sat back, and watched the groups work.
I have to say I was impressed. There was a lot of gnashing of teeth and even more too quick too flip answers that they didn't double check, but once they figured out it wasn't as easy as they thought they got to work with an industry rarely seen with, "Do page 267, #2-24 even only."
There were math conversations happening, problem solving, team work, trouble shooting. I loved it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Terry Pratchett

I first visited Discworld in Small Gods. I had heard about this Pratchett guy because he and some guy named Neil Gaiman, who I also didn't know past this one book, wrote a book I liked called Good Omens.

Small Gods was a revelation. People talk about how pieces of art change their lives so often it's a cliche. Small Gods changed my life. I couldn't believe you could be this smart and this funny and this deep all at the same time while telling an engaging story with fleshed out characters. It was too much. It was impossible. It was perfect.

I'm a completionist and anal enough that if there's a series I have to start at Book One and work my way forward. Discworld was way too intimidating for that. There's no reason to read the books in any order. Sure, some come before others and you get a little more out of them if you read them in order, but you don't have to. You can jump into Discworld at any point and understand everything.

Because Terry Pratchett was a genius.

We lost Terry Pratchett today. I had no idea how much he meant to me until I saw the news. Someone had tweeted something about when they first started reading his books. That's never a good sign. Google confirmed it. He'd died at the age of 66 from the Alzheimer's which had been embuggering him.

I knew about the Alzheimer's, of course. It seemed like a nightmare. A writer of his skill and wit losing his ability to think like that?

I cried when I saw the news. I don't mean that metaphorically. I didn't feel like crying. I mean my kids were working away on a reading project and I saw the news and I turned away from them because tears sprang to my eyes unbidden. I collected myself enough to keep teaching and helping, but the black cloud was suffocating. I had no idea I would feel like this. Sure, I loved his work, but crying? The way the people who took over his twitter account told his followers was both perfect and heart-breaking.

Anyone who has ever visited Discworld knows only one character who speaks in all caps. Death. I still can't look at this series of tweets without crying.

Discworld was a vacation spot. Any time I had a hard group of days, any time I read a really difficult book, I'd turn to Pratchett and Discworld. He was so good that I could pick a book at random and be happy, if not utterly in love, with it.

Reading Terry Pratchett sometimes made me mad. Mad that he was so brilliant. Selfishly mad that he could be so great at this and make it seem so effortless. I know it wasn't, writing never is, but it feels like that. It feels effortless. The satire of Discworld is sharp and cuts deeply. The humor is often laugh out loud funny and made me shake my head at the absurd connections he'd make that made perfect sense in his world.

He comforted me when I needed it. He constantly inspired me. He was more deeply important to me than I recognized.

My favorite Pratchett books are Small Gods and Night Watch. Night Watch builds the background my favorite Pratchett character, Sam Vimes and is an examination of the choices we make and how they ripple. Commander Vimes (reluctant Duke of Ankh-Morpork) will never walk the streets anew, but I have so many tales of him walking those streets it feels selfish to want more.

That's the thing about losing an author, especially one as prolific as Sir Terry was. We have a record that we can always go back to. The well is deep and I haven't yet plumbed all the depths. Still, knowing that we'll never get more is painful.

It feels weird answering, "You ok?" with "Not really. One of my favorite authors died today." I've done that a bunch. It's hard to explain if you've never read him.

I took a few minutes today to talk about him to my class. I told them about him and my connection to him and tried to explain why I was so upset. I'm sure I rambled and went on too long but these things are hard to explain and harder still to explain to fourth graders. I left them with, "Find an author who you connect with so deeply that you feel you know them," or something like that. I wanted them to see what books could do. What authors could do.

I'm in the middle of an excellent book but tonight I'm stopping and revisiting Discworld in Small Gods. Brave the Librarian and find one of his books.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 47- Big Hero Six

I love BIG HERO 6 so much. It's not perfect but it's damn near. It's science-positive, the team is more diverse than any other Marvel team (or superhero movie team we're going to see for some time) both in terms of gender and race, the emotional beats hit hard, and it's funny as hell.

I might like it better than THE LEGO MOVIE. And I looooved THE LEGO MOVIE. I'm not going to spoil the movie here even though you already should have seen it. Go see it.

In BH6 school is an awesome place. The Nerd School is the goal in the first act. It drives our hero Hiro to push himself. The experiments there are fun and science-ish. The team comes together not because they need to fight a Big Bad but because they already were together. The BIG HERO 6 don't have a Nick Fury because they don't need one. They were friends first.

I can't wait to find an excuse to show this to my class and talk about it. I want to bring up GoGo's catchphrase, "Woman up!" and see how my kids react. I want to watch them laugh at Fred being Fred. I want to see who cries.

Baymax. Let's talk about Baymax. I love Baymax. He's perfect and in the tradition of Marvel superheroes he's cooler outside of his suit than in it. Armored Baymax looks cool but that's not who he is. Baymax wants you to rate your pain and wants to give you a sucker. Baymax is huggable.

I'm going to try to write this week's questions so that you don't have to have seen the movie to participate. I'm not trying to exclude people. But stuff will really make more sense if you do see it.

Here's a Character Key because these pictures are awesome and that's pretty much the only reason

Honey Lemon- Science Specialty/Power: Chemical reaction balls that explode/color/burn/stick/etc
Very empathetic

GoGo- Science Specialty/Power: Speed enhanced by maglev wheels
"Woman up!"
Wasabi- Science Specialty/Power: Plasma cutter
Everything in its place

Fred- Science Specialty/Power- Mascot (also fire-breathing and super jump)
The fanboy 

Hiro- Science Specialty/Power- Computer wiz, microbot designer
The leader and reason for team formation

Baymax- Science Specialty/Power: Medical care robot modified for fighting and flight
"Are you satisfied with your care?"

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 46- Dr Seuss

This week of course can have but one topic
You'd have to break my fingers, toes, and nose to stop it
I can't write about anyone but the good Doctor Seuss
(and if you asked him it would rhyme with rejoice)
At #WeirdEd this week we'll gather with glee
And talk up his characters, like the one in the tree
And the one with the egg and the one with the street
And how they sing out to us and make our hearts beat
For Seuss is the best of the best of the best
A champion for children and the repressed
A master of wordplay and the silly mixswirld
Making up words that are used 'round the world
From imagination to loyalty
From war to up to royalty
Suess tackled them all with the greatest care-olity
I have my favorites, and you do at home
For reading to students and all all alone
What ego it takes to write a Seuss rhyme!
I should get out now while I still have the time.
So in #WeirdEd let's visit the Whos and the Sneetches
Oh, the places we'll go should include their warm beaches
This week we'll have joy but also we'll glean
Seuss knew about fun but that fun could well mean
That learning is happening without a bash on the head
Happy birthday, we cry, to the patron saint of #Weirded!