For my formal evaluation this year, I am recording my experiences as a first year gifted education teacher here in my blog. This will be my third of fourth reflection designed to explore successes, failures, and where I can improve instruction for my students. I spent my third quarter teaching at North Middle School.
To deliver instruction and collect student work this quarter I utilized a tool called a wiki. I will make the wiki public for a short time, so you can check it out. Click here to access it. I now have a complete record of everything we did, and I can modify permissions anytime I want so that I can share my students’ work with others whenever I find the need. I was able to get some help developing many of the activities completed by my students. Dean Groom and Angela Cooke helped me tweak and develop the activities to fit the unique needs of my students. Many of the activities we completed in our Utopia unit this quarter were designed specifically for gifted learners by the University of William and Mary. I utilized many of the resources they provided along with those shared by Dean and Angela.
The first activity we did was called “the Perfect Classroom Project”. Students were given the task of designing what they believed to be a perfect classroom. They worked with a partner or in groups of three to create “The Perfect Classroom”. Each group had to describe in great detail what their perfect classroom would consist of including ideal teachers, rules, curricula, classmates, furniture, and classroom layout. Each project had a visual component and a wiki page. The project wiki pages can be found by clicking HERE. This activity gave students a great introduction to the concept of utopia and also provided an excellent background for the remainder of the unit.
We read the book Animal Farm by George Orwell as students answered literary analysis questions as they read. I did not have enough books for all the students, but the book was available on-line, so I did not have to have a book for each student. Many of the students preferred utilizing the on-line versions of the book. The Animal Farm resource page can be found by clicking here. Wikis are so very simple and such an easy way to share on-line resources. There is also a wikimail component which provided me with a great way to share information with my students. It also gave students a means to share information with one another. Students were even placing links they found on the wiki that they believed would be helpful to their peers.
Each day we reviewed the assigned readings, students would complete a writing activity designed to get the kids’ creative juices flowing. The activities page can be found by clicking HERE. Students did their writing on their own wikipages, so I have a record of these activities and so do the kids (CLICK ME). The kids really liked these activities and did some incredible creative work, as you can see by looking over some of their pages.
The final assessment we created was a collection of short stories which were compiled, shared and edited on the following set of wikipages. Students were assigned the task of creating a short story that somehow incorporated one of the themes from Animal Farm. They created a commercial for their story along with a Power Point slide. They presented their slides to our class and then in a Web conference with Dean Groom which we recorded at the following link. I had been telling tales of Dean all year long, and many of the students believed that Dean was not real and something I made up, as I sometimes fabricate stories to amuse my students. Many of them were in disbelief when Dean led a Critical Friends Session in my classroom from 10,000 miles away and thought it was the coolest thing ever. The adobe presenter conference may have very well been one of the coolest things I have ever done in my classroom.
In order to see the book embedded below you must go to this link to see the book in fullscreen.
We have published their collection of stories using a program called Blurb Booksmart. You can purchase the book by going to the following link. If you would like to purchase a book for one of my students, please let me know. I can provide you with a discount code and a shipping address. To view the book online, you can access it by clicking here.
We continued working in Quest Atlantis where I assigned a mission called the Plague Unit. It is a Persuasive writing unit which fit right in with what the English teachers at North talked about when we met at the beginning of the quarter to discuss what We would be covering in ECS. I provided the students with more structure and a unit guide to help them through the process of collecting information and defending their opinion. And I believe the success of this learning tool continues to increase as I continue becoming more adept at utilizing it in my classroom. The increase in structure and exposure to the program helped students gain a better understanding of how to navigate through the program and the mission more effectively. Also, the fact they were all working on the same mission increased the amount of collaboration that occurred between students. We spent a few minutes line dancing one Friday afternoon. The kids had a ball as you can see below.
Finally, the second component of the grant I won last fall dealt with delivering some type of professional development to willing teachers. I did five sessions covering five applications that I have used in my classroom and in my professional practice. Topics we covered included googledocs, wikis, social bookmarking, second life, and twitter/microblogging. More than 10 teachers reaped some benefit from the sessions, (I hope). Even if they didn’t, I learned a ton about teaching and demonstrating applications to teachers and hope to continue sharing some of the things I have been learning. My PLN has been so kind in how much they share with me. I plan to share some of what I have learned with others in the future by teaching two workshops this summer at the Montana Institute for Educational Technology (MIET). I will also be teaching a class at MSU College of Technology next Fall about virtual environments in education. I have found that I kind of enjoy teaching teachers even though only a few teachers came. I really learned a great deal about delivering professional development. Below is the PREZI I utilized for the session we did on Second Life and Education.
In conclusion, I am looking forward to going into the final quarter of my first year as a gifted and talented educator. I plan to continue utilizing web tools as a means to encourage students to collaborate with others and share their work and ideas with a larger audience. I have settled in to this position and continue becoming increasingly comfortable as I work my way through the year. I am learning and developing new skills each week that help me be a more effective teacher. I hope that both students and teachers I am dealing with are benefiting from some of the concepts and ideas I am trying to share.