Back To School, Digital Style

Back To School, Digital-Style

This year I’m going back to school with a twist – I’m going digital-style with my syllabus and lesson plans!

A few years back I experimented with different ways to engage students on the first day – and first weeks – of school. Building relationships, engaging my classroom and creating a sense of excitement helps me to keep a high energy level – absolutely necessary for teaching middle school – and also sets a tone of exploring new ideas, trying new strategies and risking failure.

Because seriously – we teachers are constantly asking our students to “push themselves”, to step out of their “comfort zone” and present their very best work, right? And yet how many teachers actually walk their talk? I’ve discovered that I build better relationships with my students when I do what I ask them to do, and as a result, we have a more productive, more creative and more growth-oriented classroom.

Last year was the year of hyperdocs for me – I wrote about how to teach narrative writing with hyperdocs, and have begun transforming nearly all my units into a digital-style package of pedagogy. I like that. I’m energized and invigorated and when I see what the students produce…mind blown!

This year I decided to go digital-style as much as I could for the first day, the first week, and beyond.

Going back to school, digital-style:

First, Creating a Digital Lesson Plan Book

To begin, I signed up for planbookedu.com. This is a HUGE step for me – I love tech, but still prefer to read a hardcopy and write in a spiral planner. I decided to switch to planbookedu, however, because in the process of hyperdoc-ing and transferring file cabinets to Google Drive, I found it challenging to access all the lessons that I had written down but had no direct digital link to. Having a digital-style plan book allows me to manage my multiple preps (4), to link my digital files onto each day/period, to copy the lesson for the one class that repeats and to search and save the plans for next year. I can also print it if needed. After researching the cost of purchasing a new paper planner, the fee for planbookedu seems well worth it.

Then, Digitizing My Syllabus

Back To School,digital-style

Next, I decided to digitize my syllabus. I’ve seen this trending online this year, and I found a shared Google Slide template I thought I could adapt. You can get a copy of it on my ‘free teaching and parenting resources’ tab of my website, jenniferwolfe.net. I’m not going to lie – it took me a good 4 hours to fiddle with the template, to fit in what I needed, to edit, revise, and edit some more…but then once it was done for one class, I just modify for my three other preps!

The amazing part of going digital-style with my syllabus was that it forced me to really THINK about how I wanted to present myself to parents and students; my hope is that the syllabus sticks around with them and becomes a reference point during the school year. On that end, I created a new technology and plagiarism policies and linked them to the syllabus for parents to review and return. I add links to my teacher Google site, to my class photo slide deck, my grading policies and my REMIND codes, and because it’s so visual I inserted more information than my paper syllabus ever did!

Finally, Using Google Slides For A Digital Daily Agenda

back to school digital style

Finally, I’m using Google Slides for creating a digital-style daily agenda that can be embedded on my website, shared with students and parents, and easily updated from home or school. This is probably my favorite change of them all. Last year I used a plain slide deck that I switched up fonts and colors every month to keep students engaged – this year I’m going to get a bit more stylized! I’ve almost entirely given up directly assigned ‘homework’, so my daily agenda will follow the ‘must do’, ‘should do’ and ‘could do’ format. I use “due dates” instead of “homework”, allowing students more choice and control over their work. I love using funny gifs or images or quotes to start the day off, and by using a digital template I save tons of time by not having to rewrite everything every day! You can also see and grab a copy of my digital daily agenda template on my ‘free teaching and parenting resources’ tab of my website, jenniferwolfe.net.

back to school digital-style

I’d love to hear some of your ideas about going digital-style with your teaching and moving your classroom into the 21st century – please leave ideas in the comments below!

*This post first appeared on theeducatorsroom.com – please visit this awesome website written BY teachers, FOR teachers!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Something Cool From My Classroom: Presenting With Prezi

Have you ever heard of Prezi? I hadn’t until I started searching for ways to bring my classroom into the 21st century.

I’ve been teaching middle school for 25 years. I’m credentialed to teach K-9th grades, but somehow, I’ve stayed with the crazy, hormone-infused, physical awkwardness times of grades 7 and 8.  And most days, I love it.

When I’m in the classroom with my students, I see so much potential. These kids are ripe for change; they’re still not committed to much of anything, and most of them see their future spread wide open before them. It’s the perfect combination to see real human development.

When I’m in my groove in the classroom, the curriculum becomes a quest to combine not only the California state standards (yes, I believe in Common Core), but also to ignite my students’ passions. That can sometimes be a tricky combination, to be sure.

For reluctant readers, finding some sort of hook is key. This month, I’m introducing our next novel, John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. I’m a huge fan of Steinbeck, but that’s often not enough to get kids to believe that what I’m asking them to read is actually something they will like.

So I’m taking a back-door approach. Using Prezi, my kids are becoming professional researchers.

using Prezi
8th grade students in my classroom doing a Prezi presentation on scorpions.

Before we even checked out the book, I created (actually, updated) a research project designed to get them asking questions, thinking, designing and creating a presentation about pearls, pearl diving, scorpions, John Steinbeck, La Paz, Mexico and the Sea of Cortez. They don’t quite know the connection to the novel yet, but they sure dug into these topics!  Back in the day, we used to do this project creating handmade brochures. But now that I have enough Chromebooks for each kid in my classroom, the possibilities are endless – so we’re using Prezi.com, a cool website that combines elements of Google Slides and PowerPoint. It’s another tool for their educational toolbox, I say.

The best part, for me, is that my students are learning skills that they will take out of the classroom and into their lives. They’re collaborating with a partner online. They’re creating questions about things they don’t know and finding the answers. They’re designing a presentation combining visual and verbal elements, and they’re standing in front of their peers and presenting.

Some of them even dressed up for the occasion.

This is the kind of teaching I love – when I prepare an overarching idea, and the kids make it their own. I love their smiles, their laughter, their frustration, and their pride with what they’re doing. It makes teaching 13 year-olds a real treat.

If you’d like to read more about this project, visit The Educator’s Room using the link below. It’s a great place for all things related to education – great for parents and teachers, too.

http://theeducatorsroom.com/2016/01/inquiry-based-research-john-steinbecks-novel-pearl/

 

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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