Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Create Global Learners by Connecting with Classes Around the World

For a period of time while I was in teaching in Morocco, I managed a blog called Global Teacher Connect. On this blog, we had monthly collaborative projects where classrooms from around the world could get together to work on projects or connect students in different ways. Unfortunately, life got away from me and  I forgot to pay for the domain name and it was swooped up from under my feet and so the blog is now back to it’s old domain name: In the meantime, I have also kept a Global Teacher Connect Facebook Page, which has been pretty unactive. I’d like to change that and so I’d like to change that by opening up the page as a place where teachers can connect with other teachers for collaborative projects.
Collaborative projects are a way of connecting students with other student around the world. These projects help give students a chance to connect with and understand students from different cultures and ways of life. By doing this, we open our students up to the possibility that there are other people in the world who do things differently than they do. We open them up to the perspective that other people around the world are more similar to them than different. We open them up to see the world from a different point of view. These connections open up conversations between students of different classes, different races, different cultures and different religions. Knowing people from other cultures makes people less likely to believe stereotypes and hateful messages about people who are different than themselves and more likely to try and see the world through the eyes of others. For a long time, teachers have been using pen pals as a way to connect students to other students around the world. Penpals are a great first step, but with today’s technology there are so many other ways to connect students to other students around the world. Here are a few ways you might consider using to connect your students with other students around the world:

10 Ways to Use Technology to Connect our Students to Students Around the World - Ideas in this blog post can be used in any classroom for elementary, middle or high school. You may also connect with other teachers on our Global Teacher Connect Facebook page. Stop by and find out more at Raki's Rad Resources

1.) Skype Chats – When I first moved to Morocco a teacher from Canada contacted me because they were studying Morocco and wanted to talk to a class of kids from Morocco. We sent e-mails back and forth two or three times and then we arranged a chat where our kids “met” face to face via computer screen. Her kids taught us a song and my kids taught them a song. Although the arrangement was to teach her kids about Morocco, my kids learned about Canada at the same time. They were amazed to see pictures with piles of snow and loved their virtual tour of the Canadian classroom.
How else could we apply this?
What about talking to students who live on a Native American reservation during our Native American unit? Wouldn’t that be a great way to show students that Native Americans today live just like we do, even though they had different houses long ago?
What about talking to students who live in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a study of the rainforest? Wouldn’t that be a great way to help them understand that people as well as animals live in these areas?
What about a series of chats with classes from different continents during a geography study? Could your class create a map of where each class was located?
For more ideas on how to use Skype in the classroom, check out my blog post – Bringing Experts into Your Classroom with Skype.

2.) Google Doc Collaborative Writing – My oldest son is currently writing a a story with his best friend. We are in South Dakota. She is in North Carolina. Sometimes they set a time and work together. Sometimes they each work when they have time. Either way they are building a chapter book together without actually being together.
How else could we apply this?
How about letting students do research together. They could add to a list of research questions. Then they could answer the questions as they find them and combine the efforts of different students in different places with different sets of resources.
What about a book review document where students from different classes can add reviews of books they have read?
For more ideas on how to use Google Docs, check out my blog post – Using Google Docs to Aid in Collaboration.

3.) Edmodo Book Groups – Within Edmodo you can create groups of students. These groups of students can work together on various projects. Students can be added to groups from any class. This would be the perfect place to host a student book group. Students can read the book in assigned sections and come to the group to answer questions or chat about the book.
How else could we apply this?
What about an author study group? Students could have a group devoted to a particular author. They could come back and work with the same students on different books throughout the course of a school year – or longer!
What about a non-fiction group based on a topic? Say you have kids that are very interested in the Middle Ages, or dinosaurs, or India. Put together a group, with members from at least 2 classes, where students read a bunch of books on that topic and discuss what they learned.
For more ideas on how to use Edmodo in your classroom – check out my blog post: Edmodo Makes my Flipped Classroom Easier.

 4.) Virtual Problem Solving Challenge – A great way for kids to practice math skills is to come up with their own word problems. Students could then share these problems with students from a different class, somewhere else in the world, by posting them on a blog, sending them by e-mail or even putting them into a Google Doc. Kids build critical thinking skills and global thinking all at once.
How else could we apply this?
Allow students to “critique” as well as answer problems created by their friends. This will be a great time to talk about vocabulary that is specific to a region or dialect. It is also a good time to talk about what makes a good world problem.

5.) Collaborative Google Map of a Monuments and National Parks Near Each Class’ Home – Create a Google Map of monuments and national parks near your classroom and then ask other classes to add their own set of monuments and national parks to the map. Monuments and national parks are great ways of knowing what type of things are deemed important to a culture. For example, in Morocco many monuments have religious importance and you will find important mosques and religious schools preserved as “monuments”. In the US religious monuments are rare, but we have a lot of our natural resources set to the side as special and worthy of preserving. There could be some great discussions from maps like these, and by having people of an area designate their monuments, you are getting a picture with less bias than some other resources we could use for similar discussions. Students will study Geography and culture while learning about people from around the world.
How else could we apply this?
What about creating a map of the places you go to buy things? The types of stores and markets in an area will tell you a lot about the economy of an area and could be a great contribution to a study of economics.
What about creating a map of where the food of an area comes from? Students could mark their school and any farms or ranches that are located nearby. This could be a great way to talk about urban/suburban/rural situations as well as how far your food source is in different countries. It’s also a great time to talk about – do we buy from these local farms or do we buy from supermarkets who buy their food from farther away to save costs?

6.) Collaborative Video Creation Projects – There are so many ways to create videos using technology today. For a few ideas of how to make videos with your students – try my Video Creation Websites blog post or my Video Creation iPad Apps blog post. How about having a collaborative YouTube channel with other teachers. Students can create videos. You post them to the YouTube page. Then friends from other classes can go and watch their videos. The friends will learn from the videos and can even leave comments on the video. 
How else could we apply this?
What about having a specific theme to the videos? One of the Global Teachers Connect projects was to create an Earth Day video. In fact, you can still download the project outline for free at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
How about specifically doing math videos, similar to those at Khan Academy? My kids use this Student Created Video Tutorial Sheet to create math videos to teach each other. Think of how much more we could do with those if we pooled them together!

7.) Create a Padlet to Ask People Questions – Padlet is a website that lets people add their own pictures and notes to your “wall”. Ask a question on it and anyone can answer. Send the question to a “friend” and they can pass it on from there. This could be a great way to gather information for graphs or simply to do a type of “research”, similar to when we put a question out on Facebook to our friends.
How else could we apply this?
How about working on the same project as other classes and asking them to share pictures of their completed projects on your padlet?
Why not ask each class to upload a small video of their classroom and see what classrooms look like around the world?
What about using it as another place to do a book chat? Post questions about a book and ask everyone to go in and add their thoughts.

8.) Create a Collaborative Prezi Presentation – A few years ago I had my students jigsaw information about Ancient Rome. Each group took a different section, home life, government, economics, etc. You can find all of the specifics in this old blog post. Once they had done their research, we put it together into a collaborative prezi presentation. Like Google Docs, you can work in the presentation at the same time, or at different times, but in the end you have one big presentation that everyone has contributed to.
How else could we apply this?
How about creating a research project and grouping students between 2 or more classes based on student interests? Let students break the topic into sections down using e-mail or Google chats. Then each student does some research and adds to a collaborative Prezi.
What about creating the Prezi and ask different classes to post pictures of their classroom or their school into a designated section of the presentation?

9.) Collaborative Research with LiveBinder – LiveBinders are a great way to collect resources together. You can include pictures, videos, links to web pages and words you have typed. There are plenty of LiveBinders out there created by teachers to organize resources for other teachers. Why couldn’t students do the same? Two classes or two groups could work together to research any topic you cover in Science or Social Studies and share the information in a collaborative LiveBinder.
How else could we apply this?
Why not let students create a collection of their favorite educational websites? Sometimes students are better at finding those resources than we are, let them collaborate with others and they’ll double their manpower.
How about creating a series of LiveBinders for different books? Each LiveBinder can include resources used for the books, student reviews or reflections and discussion questions created by the students.

10.) Make Graphs with Collaborative Spreadsheets – On many of the homeschool groups that I am a part of people are asking for data collection questions to help students gain access to “data”. We can do the same thing with collaborative spreadsheets – part of Google Docs. Students can ask the question and send it to a few classes who can record their data. Students can then use that data to create graphs for class. The graphs can also be created in the spreadsheet program and shared with those who supplied data.
How else could we apply this?
Why not use this in coordination with other collaborative apps? Students can vote through these spreadsheets on which novel they want to study, which project they want to use or which type of collaborative project they want to participate in.

On the Global Teacher Connect Facebook page, feel free to stop and put a shout out to teachers (or other parents if you are a homeschool teacher) to see who would want to connect for a project like these. You may also post a link to a google doc or a blog post (no paid products please!) about your collaborative project. Let’s work together to build global learners and greater understanding by all.
Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Tips to Work Smarter, Not Harder This School Year

Main Graphic LaborlessHello everyone!


It is FINALLY here!
Today I am linking with Laura from Where the Magic Happens, Krista from Teaching Momster, and Lisa from PAWsitively Teaching! I have joined forces once again with my bloggy friends to bring you the best, most amazing giveaway on this Labor Day weekend!
All of us have been thinking about  good ways in which to treat our readers and followers for Labor Day. We thought hard, and I mean it! Really, really hard… and decided that we can treat you to our best ideas to work smarter rather than harder… at school and home!

I know what it takes to be a great teacher, the stress, the time, the energy… I could go on and on! I also know that we crave time to ourselves and our families and our families crave time with us. So this blog hop will be all about giving you ways to work smarter instead of harder – both at school and at home.

So here we go!

One of the smartest things I ever did in my classroom was to STOP grading every single paper. Plan ahead for which assignments will be graded, and focus on those. Everything else can be quickly checked over, graded by students or filed away as a “learning activity”. For me, the big projects, big tests and big essays get my undivided attention. I grade them, leave written feedback and conference with my kids about how they did. However, math textbook pages, vocabulary packets, reading response journals, and other daily tasks fall into one of two categories:


Category #1 – There is an answer key at the answer key station. Take a red pen and check yourself. (No pencils allowed at the answer key station.) If you don’t understand why you got a certain problem wrong, come see me and we’ll conference.Grade Fewer Papers by having an answer key station


Category #2 – Let’s look at this quick check rubric together. Did you meet all of the requirements we talked about? What can you do better next week? This takes about 2 minutes for your average student, can be done during independent work time, gives the kids real time feedback and means that you have less papers to grade later. (For a blog post on how I do independent work time that gives me time to conference with individual students check out this blog post – Why I Don’t Do Center Rotations.)Grade Fewer Papers by using quick rubric checks

Now just because I don’t grade every single paper doesn’t mean I don’t regularly look at my student’s work and make mental notes, or add to my Evernote files on each child. (See this blog post on How to Use Evernote for Your Gradebook.) I know where my kids are without having a huge list of scores for each and every paper. In fact the notes I make help me understand where I can help my students a lot better than a bunch of number scores. And when I go home, I take much less paperwork, which leads me to our next topic -

At one time, I was that teacher who brought home a stack of papers every night. I began calling this stack my “guilt stack” because no matter what I did I felt guilty. If I went home and sat down to grade that stack of papers, I felt guilty for not spending more time with my kids. If I went home and never touched the stack of papers I felt guilty for not finishing my work. About the same time I stopped grading every piece of paper I decided not to take home any papers if I could help it. Now report card time sometimes found me bringing home a stack or two, but 90% of the time I left that stack of papers on my desk to be worked on during planning. This actually made me more aware of how I was spending my planning time, and helped lead to my decision to NOT GRADE EVERY PAPER.

Tips to achieving teacher life and home life balance

Now at home without a guilt stack I found myself able to spend quality time with my kids, to make healthier dinners and to exercise. We even started to do fun stuff in the evenings like going for walks and bike rides. Time with your family should not be an afterthought. Teaching is one of those jobs that can encompass every element of your life, unless you make a dedicated decision to have balance. Having balance is hard, but balance is something that we teach our students (and our personal children) by modeling it. And having balance is what keeps us sane so we can continue to be good teachers and good people for a long time. So leave your guilt stack at home at least 75% of the time and spend some time with family and friends.

Reading Journal In section one I talked about using quick check rubrics to give your students feedback. Many of my resources have those quick check rubrics built into them. One of the best examples is my favorite is the Weekly Reading Response Journal. This journal gives students a new reading response prompt each week that can be used with pretty much an fiction book at almost any level. At the bottom of the prompt is your quick check rubric that can be used to help students stay on track. I always print and bind the journals at the beginning of the year and have a ready made reading comprehension independent work station for the entire year. Saves time and sanity in so many ways!








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Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources