Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mindfulness Blog

For those of you who would like a little refresher in mindfulness, I just discovered a blog on Modern Mindfulness that I thought you might enjoy.  I'm passing along a link to one particular post on What's taught in classrooms that resonated particularly with me.  Here's an excerpt:

I have visited many classrooms to teach mindfulness in schools. I have paid close attention (paying attention is my specialty, after all) to what the teachers tell the students. I’ve noticed a pattern, something generally true in all the classes I’ve joined. By and large, teachers teach the same two points most often. They ask the students to focus, and they ask the students to relax. They teach these two subjects more often than any others.
“Focus” is voiced with the phrases,“Pay attention,” “Let’s begin,” “Eyes on me,” among others, and also simply by saying a certain student’s name who isn’t concentrating.
“Relax” is voiced with the phrases, “Settle down,” “Calm down,” “It’s okay,” among others, and also simply by saying a certain student’s name who isn’t calm.
I was very happy to find that mindfulness is already the most-taught subject in public education.
But tellin’ ain’t teachin’.
Teachers rarely teach their students how to focus and relax. No teacher would merely tell their students to understand math. Mindfulness, the basic skills required for learning, must be taught like other subjects, with careful instruction and time for practice.
Explicit instruction - that's nothing new to us, but I liked the framework of strategies for focus and strategies for relaxing - how many times have I heard myself use some of the phrases he quoted!   What are your thoughts on mindfulness for this new school year?

P.S. If you do go to their blog, there's a place where you can sign up for emailed updates.  Also, do think about leaving a comment on their blog (click on an individual post to get to the comment section) - I know from experience that it's an encouragement to those of us who blog!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

De-constructing YouTube: Channels, subscriptions, and playlists

As a New York City suburbanite of the '70's, I grew up with 7 channels on my TV - three were the major networks of ABC, NBC, and CBS, three were local  channels that carried sports (go Mets!) or syndicated reruns (my extensive knowledge of Hogan's Heroes came in handy just this month!), and one was the PBS channel where I faithfully watched Mr. Roger's Neighborhood every afternoon.

The current count of YouTube channels?  505,000,000, according to a 2012 Wired article, and I'm sure that number has increased exponentially.  Check out By the Numbers: 120 amazing YouTube statistics for more jaw-dropping stats.  Here's just one - percentage of internet users age 14-17 that use YouTube - 81.9%  So it's comprehensive, overwhelming, and not going away anytime soon - may as well learn a little bit more about it and make it work for you!

One of my strategies for "working" YouTube is to find channels that I can subscribe to.  Just like TV channels that feature sports or music or history, YouTube channels often have a particular focus and style.  Once I subscribe to the channel, I can go back to it and see what new videos they have posted - I can even get them to email me alerts.
Here are a couple you might like to check out - I'll show you in the tech session how to subscribe and follow a channel.
All Things Animals
Aerial America
Smart Girls  (I particularly liked the Smart Girls of the World series)
Joyce Ostertag
Benchmark School  (Yes, both Benchmark and I have channels!
Image result for ted ed

Another strategy for mastering YouTube is to create playlists.  A playlist is basically a file folder that holds the links to whatever videos you want to associate with that playlist.   I create playlists for most subjects I teach, for example, my insect playlist or my recently created grammar playlist or my tech for teachers playlist.  I'll show you how to create and add to playlists on YouTube as well, so you don't lose track of those great videos you discover.

Of course, there's a dark side to YouTube - it's not specifically for kids, and some material is definitely not appropriate.  So we'll also talk about how to use YouTube material in a way that minimizes these problems.

So I hope to see you there at the session!  In the meantime, any other channels to recommend?

P.S.  Or you can catch up on Hogan's Heroes - YouTube has all the episodes!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

New School Year Blogging Resolutions

Many of you have started a blog with previous classes, and are probably thinking about starting a blog again this year.  Let's see if we can gather our collective wisdom and learn from each others' successes and failures!  Here are my first two tips - look for more to follow!

1.  One class blog or many?  I originally thought that each student in a class would have their own blog, but have realized that a better first step is to start a class blog where students can contribute comments as well as be occasional posts.  It's much more manageable and also more interactive and collaborative.

2.  Build a community of followers:  I would love to see parents as well as other Benchmark classes become regular visitors of a classroom blog.  I just recently read a post on 5 Posts to Jumpstart Your Classroom Blog by Richard Byrne, and he suggested that early posts should have high parent interest.  One idea of his that I really liked was "Tasty and healthy snacks to send in with your child"  I think that both parents and kids would comment on that post!  I think another postcould be something like "Favorite iPad apps for school" in which you could make some suggestions about apps that parents could add to an iPad.
I'm always on the hunt for healthy snacks

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Thanks to YouTube, history becomes a little cooler!

A shout out to Amy Mayer's FriED TECHnology YouTube channel.  When I was watching a google classroom video she made, her "history" playlist caught my eye. When I clicked on it, two amazing history music videos produced by Soomo Learning showed up - I know - history music videos?  You have to see them for yourself!

To Late to Apologize: A Declaration  Image result for too late to apologize soomo publishing

Bad Romance: Women's Suffrage
Image result for bad romance soomo publishing