We had an assembly
at my school today. If you’ve ever been to a school assembly, you know that it’s essential for the presenter to be able to manage the crowd, to get students back under control and focused after a joke, trick, or part of the presentation that causes (or tempts) students to talk. This morning I saw the presenter use an amazingly simple-yet-effective technique to keep the students focused and engaged. He called it “making a waterfall.”
Here’s what he did. He told students that when they heard him say, “Waterfall,” they were to make a waterfall with their hands and fingers. Watch the short video below where I demonstrate what he did.
If you’re an administrator who frequently speaks in front of an audience of students (especially at the elementary level), this might be something to try. If you’re a teacher, this might be a technique to use in the classroom to get students refocused after a group activity.
UPDATE: I used this technique two days later at grade-level awards assemblies, and it worked amazingly well (better than I even thought it would)! This is a keeper that I'll definitely be using in the future.
If you've read my blog before, you know I'm a big fan of Google Forms. In this post, I want to share how I'm using this powerful tool to help me be more productive in the area of parent communication.
This year, I have created a Google Form that I use as a Parent Contact Log. Each time I speak with a parent about a student or school-related issue, whether initiated by me or the parent, I document our conversation with this online form. The fields in my form include the date, parent's name, student's name, and a section for brief notes about our conversation (the form automatically time stamps each entry, but I manually enter the date of the conversation in case I make the entry at a later time). What I love about this form is that entries are automatically populated in a Google spreadsheet attached to the form. I could document these conversations in an old-school notebook, but by having all the entries in a spreadsheet, I can then sort conversations by parent, student, or date. I speak with a lot of parents, so having an easy-to-reference log of these conversations is extremely helpful. Below is a screenshot of the form I use.
Whether you're a teacher or administrator, you know that speaking with parents is a common part of the job. If you're not already doing so, give Google Forms a try and see how they can help you be more productive. If you're not sure how to create a Google Form, you can easily learn how by watching my Google Forms tutorial videos
Well, it’s been a while. With my new position, I’ve had little extra time to blog. Shoot, I’ve had little extra time, period. But that’s a post for another day. While I typically write about teaching and educational technology, this post will be a little different. Consider it my attempt to discuss something close to my heart, to inform others about a common misconception.
I like to be organized. For those who know me, that is not a surprising statement. A structured, organized environment contributes to my productiveness and peace of mind. My classroom was always this way. I didn’t like clutter, and everything had a spot. My bulletin boards and the student work displayed on them were always straight and level. I used to endure friendly ribbing for using a level to make sure my bulletin boards looked just right (which I thought was funny, because those who initially teased soon became the ones asking to borrow the level). Now that I’ve moved into administration, I like my office to be the same way – neat and organized, two things that help me be more productive.
Over the past several years, when commenting on my neat classroom or office, I’ve had many, many people say things to me like:
“Yeah, I have to be neat too. I’m totally OCD that way.”
“I need to clean off my desk. My OCD is kicking in.”
In our society, I think there’s a large misconception about OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). It’s a term that gets casually thrown around without much thought being given to what it actually is, because people don’t know what it really is. On the other hand, consider mental retardation (now known as intellectual disability). That’s a term that doesn’t get thrown around too often, because most people have a general idea of what it means. Think of it this way…If you made a mistake while completing a task, would you say, “I’m so retarded” to those around you? I don’t think so. Why not? Because you know what intellectual disability/mental retardation is, and you know you’re not a person who has that impairment. Plus, you know (hopefully) this is a comment that would be highly offensive to those individuals who do have this impairment, as well as to their families. So why then do people off-handedly say they have OCD, when chances are, they don’t? Wouldn’t this be offensive to those affected by OCD?
So, what is OCD? Many use the term to describe people who like things neat and organized, but this is the misconception. Just because someone likes things to be tidy (even really, really tidy), it doesn’t mean he/she has OCD. OCD is an anxiety disorder. People who are affected by it are plagued by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry. They engage in repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated fear or anxiety, even when the fear, anxiety, or behavior is irrational. Having OCD means so much more than being a “neat freak.”
You see, I have a personal connection to this subject. I have a loved one who has been diagnosed with OCD. For several years, I have struggled to support this person who has suffered from crippling anxiety, fear, and worry. I’ve watched as the person’s mind gets “stuck,” obsessing about things that rationally don’t warrant that kind of worry, and feeling compelled to behave in ways that won’t take the worry away. I’ve seen how this disorder can absolutely paralyze a person. Thankfully, with prayer and the aide of family and an excellent therapist, my loved one has learned to manage OCD.
So why did I write this post? To make anyone who has ever incorrectly used the term OCD feel guilty? Absolutely not. I’ve put my foot in my mouth, made comments without having all the facts more times than I want to admit. No, my goal is simply to educate, to let others know that OCD is more than a propensity for order and neatness. It’s something individuals and their families all over the world struggle with on a daily basis. I ask simply that we grant the condition and the people it affects the respect they deserve.
What's in a name? This is an expression we've all heard before, but what's the answer? Are names important? In this fourth video of my "What I've Learned" series, I share two of my experiences, one from a teacher's perspective and one from an administrator's point of view. Through these short stories, you'll see that a person's name isn't just important, it's powerful.
If you haven't yet watched the first three videos in the series, you can do so by visiting the "What I've Learned" page
. If you've already seen them, I welcome your feedback.
By now, most in education have heard of “flipping” the classroom, the concept of the teacher creating instructional videos that students watch at home, freeing up time in class for deeper learning opportunities or reteaching. For example, if students in a science class watch a teacher-created video at home that introduces a scientific concept, the teacher can then use class time the next day to engage students in a hands-on lab that makes the concept come to life.
I think this in an amazing idea that is transforming classrooms all over the world, but what about those teachers who aren’t quite ready to jump into the flipping pool? What about those who don’t have the time, equipment, or expertise to create all the videos required to flip their classrooms? What about those who like the idea of flipping but need to take baby steps?
One of the key aspects of flipping is that it opens up time during class that, if used effectively, can increase student learning. What if teachers could gather feedback from their students on a homework assignment, before
class the next day, finding out which parts of the assignment gave the students difficulty? This would enable teachers to design lessons that focus on what the students really need, rather than what teachers think
the students need. Is this possible? Can teachers really get this type of information that would enable them to tailor their lessons to students’ needs? Through the magic of Google Forms
, the answer is "yes."
By creating and posting on their classroom website a simple Google Form like the one shown below, teachers can quickly and easily find out how their students fared on a particular assignment and plan the next day’s lesson accordingly.
The procedure might look something like this. The teacher creates and posts on his/her website a Google Form asking students to give feedback on the night’s homework assignment. Students fill out the form (which would take less than a minute) and responses are collected in a spreadsheet for the teacher to view. If, for example, the majority of students indicated they had difficulty with #’s 5 and 13, the teacher then knows to devote time the next day to going over those particular problems, and not necessarily on ones students didn’t have trouble with. Or, perhaps the class grasped the entire lesson quite well, when the teacher anticipated spending a lot of time the next day reviewing the lesson. No more guessing or spending time on problems the students already “get.” Plus, by using Google Forms in this way, students are able to communicate with their teacher anonymously, eliminating potential embarrassment by having to raise their hand in class to say, “I didn’t understand how to do this problem.”
So, if you’re looking for an easy way to more effectively use your class time to maximize student learning, but you aren’t quite ready for flipping, give Google Forms a try. Thanks to Shannon Augustin
, who has successfully been using Forms with her students, for sharing this amazing idea with me. If you’re not familiar with how to create a Google Form, be sure to check out my Google Forms Tutorial Videos
As if Google Forms weren't awesome enough already, Google has just introduced a brand new feature that takes this already-amazing tool to the next level -- the ability to add images to a form. In my opinion, this is a game changer. Teachers now have the ability to create online quizzes for their students that aren't limited to text only, allowing educators to create richer, more visual online assessments. For example, by including pictures in a form, a science teacher can now create a quiz asking students to identify the different parts of a cell, or an art history teacher can have his/her students identify famous works of art.
Want to see how easy it is to add images to a Google Form? Watch the video below, and you'll be spicing up your forms with images in no time!
While at the 2013 CUE Conference, I learned about an awesome search tool provided by Google. Ever had your students do a research project where you wanted them to use primary sources as part of their research? Well, Google makes that a snap.
Over the years, Google has archived tons and tons of newspaper articles. By visiting news.google.com
and using the advanced search feature, you can search for articles from a specific time period. For example, if your students were doing a research project on Pearl Harbor and you wanted them to find articles written around the time of the 1941 bombing by Japan, Google can easily put primary sources at your students' fingertips.
Watch the short video below to see this amazing tool in action. Happy searching!
This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the annual Computer-Using Educators (CUE) Conference in Palm Springs. While at the conference, I was able to present a short, 20-minute session on Google Forms and how school administrators can use them to increase their efficiency and productivity. I showed how these forms can be used for things like classroom walkthroughs, discipline reporting, student/teacher/parent feedback, and much more.
If you're interested in learning how to use Google forms, I've posted my presentation slides as well as a set of tutorial videos on how to use this amazingly simple yet powerful tool. I hope these resources are helpful to you!
Ever have one of those moments when someone says or does something, and you think to yourself, Did that just happen? Did he really just say/do that?
If so, you'll be able to relate to this new video in my "What I've Learned" series, where I share a couple of my experiences and the good lesson/reminder associated with them.
If you haven't yet watched the first two videos in the series, you can do so by visiting the "What I've Learned" page
. If you've already seen them, I'd welcome your feedback.
Last week, I received an email from one of my website hosts reminding me that it was almost time to renew the domain name for my former classroom website (mrcoley.com
). As I was going through the online checkout process, I noticed the date that I had first purchased the right to use mrcoley.com
-- January 24, 2003. While I first published my classroom site back in 1999 as the culminating project for my master's degree, it didn't go by the name mrcoley.com
until 2003 -- 10 years ago today.
I'll admit, I got a little emotional when I looked at that date. What began as a simple site containing only basic subject matter pages, student artwork, and an "About the Teacher" page became, over the course of the decade, so much more. It was my passion. As a youth, I wanted to be a computer programmer. In college, upon realizing I couldn't do calculus, I changed my major and studied to become a teacher. With my classroom website, I was able to combine two of my loves -- teaching and technology. I loved working on my website. People would often ask me, "Doesn't that take you a ton of time? Isn't it a lot of work?" The answer was yes
. I did invest a lot of time and energy in my website. But to me it wasn't work. It was fun. In their free time, some people knit. Some garden. Some watch TV. I built my website. And I loved it.
If you are one who visited my website over the past 10 years, this post is my way of saying "Thank You." Thank you for taking the time to view the things my students and I were learning and wanted to share with the world. You don't know how much it meant to my students to know that their artwork, blog posts, and podcasts were being seen (and heard) by people around the world. Talk about authentic learning and a global audience! There was nothing better than showing my students a "website visitors" map showing them their work was being seen by people all over the world. My pupils always wanted to put forth their best effort on their artwork, writing, and ColeyCasts, because they knew I wasn't the only one who was going to see and hear their creations. And if you're one who took the time to email me regarding the site, I cannot adequately express the gratitude I have for your messages. Your words of encouragement and feedback were so appreciated, especially on those discouraging days when I asked myself if it was all worth the effort.
10 years. It's been a fun ride. And if you're wondering, even though I'm no longer updating it, I plan to continue keeping the site online. Thanks for following me on my journey!