Guest Post: Engaging Students with Snapchat Stories

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Image courtesy Flickr.com

Goodbye, Facebook character profile; hello, Snapchat story.

In my last post, I described some of the benefits I’ve reaped as mentor to my student teacher, Leo Spengler. In today’s post, I pass the mic to Leo to share about the innovative Snapchat lesson he conceived and implemented as part of our sophomore English course’s argument unit. Many teachers have relied for years on the fake Facebook page activity (“Fakebook”) as a “hip” and relevant way for their students to think about literary characters. Facebook, now, has been passé to my students for about five years, so I’ve been without a good social media-based lesson for as long as I’ve been a teacher. I highlighted this Snapchat lesson in my last post and share about here today because it captures the innovative thinking that a student teacher can bring to a mentor’s classroom and illustrates how just about any social media platform can serve an educational purpose. Please read on to see my questions about the lesson and Leo’s responses concerning the overview, background, and reflection on his lesson. Continue reading

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Planning for the First Day of School

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As a teacher, there’s a lot of pressure to have the perfect first day of school. After all, this is the day you make your first impressions on your new students, and it’s the day you set the tone for the rest of the year. If you’re like me, the first day of school also the only specific day of the year you have nightmares about.

It’s no wonder that one of the best-selling teacher books of all time is called The First Days of School (co-written by Harry and Rosemary Wong, the book is now in its fourth edition and has sold nearly 4 million copies).

I spend more time planning my first day of school every year than any other day because I know what’s at stake and because I know how anxious I will inevitably be on that day each time a new group of 25-40 students walks through my door for the first time that school year. As a student teacher four years ago, I was lucky enough to observe five different teachers’ first day lessons and found the experience invaluable in planning my eventual first first day of school. So, in today’s blog post, I want to offer you a glimpse into my first-day routine and the way I approach planning for the big day. Continue reading

“Monitor and Adjust”: Changing Course Mid-Unit

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As part of a group research project for an education policy class I took a few years ago at UC Irvine, some classmates and I interviewed Tim Jamison, who was the president of the Irvine Teacher’s Association. My most salient memory of that interview is still the suggestion he gave us as new educators: “Monitor and adjust.” I didn’t appreciate the profound importance of his pithy advice at the time, but I’ve since come to understand how central those two verbs are to the art of teaching.

I monitor my students’ learning and adjust my practice to various degrees on a regular basis. For example, I’ll notice that an explanation of a concept is met with confused faces, so I offer my students a new analogy to help them understand my instruction. Or, I might see from a formative assessment that more than half of my sophomores are struggling to integrate textual evidence into their expository writing, so I clear a few days to spend an entire class period each on two methods, breaking the skill down into small steps, modeling the process, and giving students plenty of practice and individual feedback. Very recently, I had occasion to put this mantra to use on a larger scale: substantially revising a six-week unit a week into teaching it. Continue reading