Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Power of #positivesignthursday

Growing up I always heard about the power of words. They can lift people up or tear them down. I remember seeing a thumbnail photo from a friend of mine. Marty was holding up a piece of paper with the words You are special and the hashtag #positivesignthursday.

I sent him a direct message asking what he was doing. He explained to me that he and some of his colleagues go around the school on Thursday with a positive message on a piece of paper. Photographs are taken of students and administration holding the sign up and then shared on social media. Each Thursday after I inquired about this I was tagged in #positivesignthursday photos with Marty and our friend who is another champion of #positivesignthursday, Brian.

I began to reflect on what these photos shared with their global audience.

  •    The smiles of the students spoke volumes about the pride they felt as they took the photo.
  •    The administration was building relationships with all students.
  •    Students felt cared for and important, creating a positive school culture.
  • Social media was being used in a positive way. 

Taking a cue from Marty and Brian I started #positivesignthursday with my students. Photos were shared on our class social media accounts. Students looked forward to seeing the new sign every Thursday and had the choice to be in the photo. The signs sparked conversations among 5th graders as they discussed what the words meant to them.

Positive messages were created in a Google Doc and printed out. They could have something to do with what was going on in our classroom that week or something happening in the news. It tied our classroom to the world.

On the last Thursday of school students were deeply saddened that it would be their last positive message to share with their audience. I surprised them the following Wednesday (our official last day of school) with a sign that read We are beginning.

Our students’ journey begins when they leave us. I told them I would post the photo on Thursday. No one ever said the pictures had to be taken on a Thursday.  As students trickled out of our classroom one last time a student challenged me to keep #positivesignthursday going this summer.

I have taken photos at Google, ISTE, The Red Sox Game, the MIT Labs, and restaurants. My friends often ask if I have the sign with me.  It is something we all want to be part of. The other day I received a Facebook message from a friend I used to practice yoga with, Katherine. She now teaches. She told me she was meeting with her principal, and he happened to switch screens. She then tells me that the recent picture of me with Wally, the Red Sox mascot, was on their SMARTboard screen as her principal follows the hashtag. She teaches in Hawaii!

#Positivesignthursday has made an impact not only on my students but also people watching around the globe. It models for students the power of choosing kind words and spreading them like water. This also shows how social media can be used for good. I cannot thank Marty and Brian enough for inspiring me to join them. I hope you will join us this year sharing #positivesignthursday messages with your students! Together we can lift each other up!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Opening and Closing Tabs

As we get closer to the end of our journey in fifth grade I began to reflect on our year. I happened to come across the photo above that made me laugh because it is exactly how I feel. Even today, with a half day left I still feel this way. We have completed our bridges and Revolution Musical. One group of students is finishing their book trailer tomorrow. Students have worked so hard on their STEAM lessons this year. Their inventions that arrived were so impressive! Some should patent them. It is amazing what their inventive minds created! The skills students gained during these activities will resonate with them long after they leave me. They worked in collaborative teams, discovered design process thinking, and presented work to an authentic audience. Our students should be so PROUD of their work as these learning experiences will certainly help others! I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for giving me their best self each and every day. I could not have had all those tabs open without them!

I am getting ready to close those tabs. We packed down our classroom, celebrated our success, and gave our final presentations of the year. Please reflect on the student who walked into our room in September. I promised you all it would be a completely different kid by the time he or she walked out. I hope you all agree that is the case. Our students have grown so much this year and I was thrilled to be part of that!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How can groups work together to be successful?

How can groups work together to be successful? This was the big question students answered today. I happened to ask students what group norms were and no one knew what I meant by group norms. I explained how group norms are a set of criteria that a group can create to help them be successful on a project. Many people in the business world are familiar with developing group norms!

Students had an opportunity to share their ideas about group norms. They suggested things like respecting ideas of others, making sure everyone in the group had a task, compromising, allowing everyone to share ideas, and listening to classmates. Students then had a chance to create a list of group norms they thought should be included on a list to help a team working on a project be successful. This prep work guided students as they met in their bridge teams to develop group norms that they could all agree on.

Students spent time talking about group norms and developing a list of 3-5 group norms for their bridge group. As we delve into our final project of the year having students create group norms will help them through this challenge of designing a bridge to hold a bucket of sand. I learned the value of this experience and will ask groups to create norms starting in September rather than June. Having them be part of the process empowered students to take ownership of their learning in a group setting.

Here are the norms groups’ thought would help them be successful in working together. What common themes do you notice?

Stay on task
Everyone should be working
Respect all opinions
Agree to disagree
Don’t try to take control

Stay on task
Disagree respectfully
Don’t rely on one person

Share work equally
Be sure to compromise
Stay on task
Be aware of other’s opinions
Agree to disagree

Be nice
Share work
Work together

Be open to new ideas
Do not put the work on ne person
Respect other’s ideas
Agree with your group

Equal share of work
Voice volume/focus
Be a good classmate

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Conversations with Students: Building Relationships Via an Online Conversation

Building relationships with students is important to me. This is evident in my drive to stay connected with so many agents. I decided to teach students how to email and embed some critical thinking skills into their work. Students were tasked with the following assignment:

Dear students,

Over the next few nights this week there will be no regular ELA homework. Rather there is a series of prompts for you to answer via an email to me. I cannot wait have some different kinds of conversations with you. KEEP THIS PAPER SAFE!

Monday Night: Email me about an activity you enjoy. Tell me why you enjoy it. Why does it mean something to you?

Tuesday Night: Email me about your thoughts on social media. Should students younger than 13 be legally allowed to use it? Why do you think that way?

Wednesday Night: Do you know what FOMO is? If not Google it. Tell me what causes you FOMO? Send me an email.

Thursday night: This year I started using hyperdocs in reading. What did you think about them? Do you think students would like to use these next year rather than meet in our small groups and read the Reading Street story? How did they help you learn? If you did not like them tell me why you did not. Email me your thinking! 

Ms. Freedman

I reflected each night on the conversations I had with students. Every night I got 24 emails for a week from students. I learned we have many children who love being on a field, playing, and joining a team. Students need time to destress, get frustrations out, and relax. We have creative children who like to draw, dance, and sing. They each have dreams and understand with hard work anything is possible. We also have inquisitive students who ask great questions and use YouTube to answer them.

Students have varying opinions on social media, and most thought it should be legal for students as young as nine to use BUT with restrictions. Some students suggested not to show faces when posting. Others were aware that when a photo is posted the whole world might be able to see it depending on where it is posted. Some discussed the idea that even if a post is deleted it is still on a server. This could affect employment later on in life. Students felt accounts should be private and parents should monitor them. They also should ask parents before signing up.  Other students felt there are harmful, dangerous, and inappropriate things students should not witness on social media. One student and I had a whole conversation about how people have to lie about their age to even sign up for the apps. Many mentioned how students like to brag about their apps and how many likes they get. One student shared that kids will always want these apps, and that they are not bad when used for the right reasons. One student shared it has more to do with responsibility and maturity than age. This led to a conversation about policy the apps have. Another student and I discussed location services, as he had no idea the apps know where you are unless this feature is turned off. I had rich conversations with students, and realized social media is a part of their world whether we adults are ready for it or not.

Most students were completely unaware of what FOMO was, but all admitted to having it once they Googled it. FOMO at their age is caused by
·        friends talking in whispered hushes and wanting to know what is being said
·        Seeing pictures of a party and not be invited
·        Siblings playing with them
·        The “Oh Nothing” response to a question
FOMO can cause students an anxiety, as they begin to think the person leaving them out does not like them. This is something that even happens to adults! Talking to students about FOMO and how to deal with the situation is a great starting point to decrease anxiety and teach students calming strategies. Through emails I was able to work with students on different responses to situations.

I was so glad I asked students about their opinions of hyperdocs. I got 100% positive feedback from our class. As a teacher when you switch pedagogical strategies to enhance and engage students in their learning, you hope students respond positively to the activities. My first hyperdoc was an epic fail, but I have grown to create learning experiences that are used all over the country. Students shared that hyperdocs during our reading block caused them to go deeper into the story. Words like engaging, fun, and creative were used to describe the work being done. Students reported they learned way more than just the story and were really made to think. Several mentioned they liked working at their own pace. Asking for feedback from students is a great way to build connections and creates another experience where students feel like they are part of the process.

I truly enjoyed these online conversations with students where they all had a voice!