Archive for the Educational Category


Posted in Educational on July 30, 2014 by Mister A

I started a road trip this week to check out colleges for my older son who will be a senior in the coming year.  So I had to finish up my diverse learning tools assignment and a few of my discussion posts using hotel WIFI, my laptop, and my iphone.  We checked out Northwestern University and although it is a bit expensive, it is really something to see.  In the little bit I saw in the tour and talking to some of the people here,  they seemed to be on the cutting edge of what everything I read says is best practice.  Ninety five percent of their classes have fewer than 20 students.  The professor:student ratio is 7:1.  They utilize Project Based Learning, Internships, research opportunities, Socratic Method, and learning abroad and overseas, in nearly everything.  The opportunity at Northwestern seemed incredible.  My son became so excited and so did I.  It made me want to go back to college.  Although it will be expensive, I hope my son gets to go to that university, as it really seemed like something special, like I want my classroom to look.  I guess this goes a little with my post in the PD section as I am learning about all kinds of things right now on this trip, and I am also continuing to learn about the materials in this class.  It is always interesting to me when I see connections to what I am learning in this classroom, to what I am learning outside this classroom.  We are in Appleton, WI today, looking at another pretty good Music School, but I think Northwestern may have already hooked my son.  I know it hooked me.


A Simple Change

Posted in Educational, Prime Number Posts on November 28, 2011 by Mister A

I am trying something I have done before but fell away from doing for some reason.  Basically, I teach in a 1 to 1 gifted and talented middle school program and during the first quarter while at North Middle School, I had the kids face the Smart Board/overhead while they sat behind the keyboard as pictured below.

Adam is a Banana

Although I am not usually in front of my classroom, when I was lecturing or presenting, I would be in front of the class, looking at the backs of the kids computer screens, and very often, kids would be doing something other than what I wanted them to be doing. Perhaps playing crazy birds, watching Davey goes to dentist, or translating Arabic into Japanese via Google translate.  Probably more often than I would like to admit. So this quarter, I changed it to look more like the image shown below.  The computers or in a circle around our work space and facing away from the center of our area of the library.

mr. a iz da bomb

Now I have the kids backs to me and the Smart Board.   I can see that each and every one of them is on the page I want them to be on and not playing crazy birds, watching Davey goes to dentist, or translating Arabic into Japanese via Google translate. When I am providing direct instruction, I force the kids to actually turn around and look at me. That way, I can tell who is listening and who is not. Something I hate doing is repeating instructions because someone was googling what the weather is like in Bhaktapur, Nepal. With my new classroom setup, it seems I have had to repeat instructions less often. I have had my room like this in the past, but somehow I went back to the old way. I hope I remember the new way from now on. It seems to have really improved my instruction in a very simple way.

On a personal note, I took the first picture above on Halloween of this year.  The kid in the banana suit actually belongs to me.  I think he was the one who was either checking the weather in Bhaktapur or translating Arabic into Japanese.

Letting the Kids be in Charge

Posted in Educational, PBL on September 30, 2011 by Mister A

I tried something new this week on Thursday.  I knew the kids had to get all the definitions to our Animal Farm vocabulary down one way or another and I have been espousing my belief in PBL principles for a couple of years now.  So here is what I did.  I pulled the first two kids who came into class aside and told them they were going to be the leaders, the bosses, for class today.  Most kids responded in a pretty positive way.  I gave them the task of creating a wikipage that had each of the 40 vocabulary words, their top two definitions, and an image that represented the vocabulary word.  I told them they had a few minutes to plan while I explained what was going on to the other 10 or so students I have each period of the day in my gifted pullout classroom.  I feel a little bad for the first two class leaders, because I had no clues to give them to make things go a little easier, and maybe I shouldn’t have given later classes clues that I did…but it can be difficult for me, and probably other teachers as well to watch their students struggle.  I told them that whichever class created the best page would receive an automatic 100% on the first Animal Farm quiz.  Here are the results.

  1. Period 2 Vocabulary Page
  2. Period 3 Vocabulary Page
  3. Period 4 Vocabulary Page
  4. Period 5 Vocabulary Page
  5. Period 9 Vocabulary Page

Some of my classes finished, others did not.  I know these pages will improve over the next couple of days as well because I know my students.

I set down very simple guidelines including the leaders are in charge and you need to be working on the task the entire time you are in class.  Also, all questions were to be directed to the class bosses.  Gifted kids are interesting in that many of them really feel as though they must be given explicit instructions of exactly what and how they are supposed to do everything…God forbid they should make a mistake.  It is something I work on them with, and hopefully help them improve upon.  Because as I tell them, I believe that their are no such things as mistakes, only opportunities to learn and grow.  My classroom was a little like real life on that Thursday.  Some of the leaders struggled as others really excelled.  My hope is that the kids learned some valuable lessons about working together to achieve a goal…and I think they did.  I plan doing more activities like this in the future.  It was a real Quadrant D type activity, I think.  Do you agree?


Posted in Educational with tags on September 1, 2011 by Mister A

Going through my wiki-mails from the end of last year, I found this message from one of my students. I asked her to send me a message regarding the meaning of life when she said that was what she was pondering when I observed and mentioned that she was not working on the assignment the rest of the class was.

The girl sat in a desk with no meaning to it. Bland. That’s all she could think of as she looked around the room into the lifeless room. Others were laughing and enjoying their day, living as if there was no tomorrow. “When will I have that?” she thought. Slam. A hand with a little to much hair flew down in front of her. “What the bloody bells do you think you’re doing?” The girl’s subconscious thoughts were shattered by his crackling voice. “Get to work.” As she thought, she could only find that what there was to learn in the class, is the meaning of life.

She turned to her inner being. She found that only the meaning of life was inside herself. Not around her or on her but within her. She found the meaning with the smile she flaunted and the tears she cried and the hope inside. Her love for the play Romeo and Juliet, her love for her family. It was all there. Even though the cripple faced teacher was the chainsaw to her tree, she still found learning without a book, or pen.

– Alex J.

I have some talented students I think.  I hope I am not the cripple faced teacher that was the chainsaw to her tree.

2010 – 2011 School Year Final Reflection

Posted in Educational, Professional Reflection on June 11, 2011 by Mister A

Andrew Howe - North Dakotan Farmer/Chinese Teacher

Summer has been happening for about a week now and a post about my school year has been brewing in my mind…well, for pretty much the whole school year.  This post will focus mostly on the second half of the year in which we completed a unit on China.  I met a man last summer who was moving to Jishou, China to teach English to middle school students there and I told him it would be very cool if we could somehow connect our classrooms.  He thought it sounded cool and we shared skype and gtalk details with each other and ended up doing some pretty cool things, I think, with our students.  Much of what we did could have been done better, but it was the first time doing what we did for the both of us.

Jishou Middle School #1

The purpose of this post is to share what we did during the course of the year and possibly get some feedback from people like Dean, Jokay, Angela, Kim, Scott or other people in my PLN who might possibly glance at my blog every now and again.  The best way to do this is to simply share my students’ final projects.  Each student made 5 wiki pages which they linked together via a navigation bar at the top of each page.  One of the best example navigation bars/websites can be found below.  I believe the navigation bar at the top of each page allowed each student to have what was the equivalent of their own web site.

Erica’s navigation bar

4Erica’s Homepage

4Erica’s Blog page

4Erica’s Chinese Province Project

4Erica’s Chinese Pen Pal page

4Erica’s Chinese Language page

Each student created a homepage that had the purpose of sharing with their Pen Pals and their classmates who they were.  The home page was a kind of biography or compilation of their lives up to this point.  Students also created a blog page where they were assigned blogging tasks at various times during the quarter.  The Chinese Province Project page was a place for them to gather research and display their prezi, glogster, or powerpoint that demonstrated the important aspects of the five themes of geography for their chosen province, municipality, or autonomous region.  The next page down was the Chinese Pen Pal page.  Each student created a one-slide biography of their pen pal which they shared at the end of the quarter.

刘容- Maddie B.

They also posted the slide on their wiki page along with the letters that they wrote to one another as you can see if you take the time to look at Erica’s example or any of the students examples.  We used audacity to create the major components on the final page.  Mr. Howe was kind enough to stay up until 2:00am china time a couple of days and teach my students some common phrases that his students used and also help my students prepare questions for two meetups we had via QQ towards the end of the quarter.  Students created audio files on their Chinese Language Pages where they practiced their pronunciation of several of those phrases.  What really impressed the Chinese students was the fact that we made the effort to learn their language.  They (the Jishou students) had a belief that most Americans were too arrogant to attempt to learn something about another country’s culture.  I believe it allowed them to be more open with my students when we held our two meetups.

一中的学生 - Jishou Pen Pals

When I do a unit like this in the future, I will do a couple of things differently.  First I will definitely make the province project more problem based.  Each province in China, faces unique problems that students could use as topics to incorporate the 5 geography themes.  The research they did, did not have as much purpose as it could have had.  Secondly, I will not start exchanging letters until the quarter I begin the unit.  Students were a bit confused when they had to change Pen Pals when I switched middle schools during the year.  I will also take any suggestions of ways I could improve this unit based on anyone’s evaluation of my students’ projects.  Any feedback anyone has on this blog post (I don’t believe I finally made 100) is greatly appreciated.

A student at East Middle School created the Animoto below to share what we learned during the quarter.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

jishoumeetseastmiddleschool – Peace2, posted with vodpod

你们很漂亮 – You are Beautiful

Posted in Educational on April 16, 2011 by Mister A

I have not blogged since October so I guess I haven’t been the most reflective teacher lately or perhaps I have just reflected in other ways.  Blogging takes a lot of time and I guess I am not doing it (blogging) for anyone else but me.  Many interesting things have happened in my classroom and in my life since last October.  But yesterday, I had a guy living in Jishou, China spend the day in my classroom teaching my students (and me) a very cool lesson on the Chinese Language.  Sometimes when you teach, you feel good about a lesson, and you tell yourself…Wow, that was cool.  This was definitely one of those times.  My kids were engaged, enthralled, and spent the day telling all their friends “they were beautiful” in the Chinese Language.

Andrew is my teacher

My friend, Andrew (Howeiyan) told my students a joke about how Americans tend to be a bit self centered when it comes to learning a new language to make a point to my students.  I believe that other countries perceptions of us and understanding those perceptions is more important than ever before for our students.  Having an American teacher in China shed some light on some of those perceptions is extremely powerful (厉害).  He is an extremely good teacher, and not only did he teach my students several things yesterday, but he taught me, many things as well.  I was very lucky on that day last summer in North Dakota when I met him.  谢谢我的 老师。

Blogging from my iPad

Posted in Educational, Gifted on September 18, 2010 by Mister A

This is my first post from my iPad. I wrote this post as a guest blogger on my friend, Gerald Aungst’s blog quisitivity. I titled it “I Don’t Know”.

My name is Jeff Agamenoni and I have been teaching for 17 years in a variety of positions, mostly middle school, in Great Falls, Montana.  I am only in my second year as a gifted and talented specialist and I learned a ton in my first year.  I hope to continue learning about how to be more effective with my students as I move into my second year.

When Gerald asked me to guest blog, he posed the question, “How are we going to meet the needs of the gifted population as we continue moving into the twenty-first century?”  My initial response was that we need to be changing the way we deliver instruction for all kids in much the same way.  I told this to Gerald and he said I needed to think it through more thoroughly.  So I did, and the truth of the matter is, I really DON’T KNOW.  There are a couple of things, however that I am fairly certain of.

I believe the answer lies somewhere within the concept of Connectivism.  New technology, to me, is not about the machines, the applications, or the search engines; but about its ability to connect us to others.  Most experts I have read, talk about the importance of grouping gifted students as a means of providing them with increased learning opportunities.  They also talk about connecting gifted students to experts in their fields of interest.  Not only do current technologies increase our capacity to connect gifted students to one another, but they increase our capacity to connect our students to other great teachers and experts in a variety of fields.  I believe I have begun doing this on a small scale and I believe my job is to continue to try and increase the scale at which I connect my students with each other, to other great teachers, and to experts in a variety of occupational fields.

The second thing I began thinking about last night is sometimes it seems in education we focus more on what we need to be doing differently instead of what we are doing right.  I believe most teachers really want to do what is right for kids, but every year, no matter what happened in the previous year, it seems it has never been enough for some people, usually people who haven’t been in the classroom since last century.  So teachers who are reading this, you did a great job last year and keep up the good work.  I am certain that in some way, you touched a kid’s life.

Finally, I love connectivism and having a PLN.  I connect to my PLN in a variety of places including twitter, blogs I read, and second life, among others.  I believe that without it (my PLN), I would be lost and extremely unsure of how to approach issues like the one that Gerald asked me to guest blog about.  I think it is important to continue looking at and discussing how we can improve the way we deliver instruction to our students.  Having a strong PLN and a willingness to be a little reflective gives us the ability to accomplish that very important goal.