From Texting to Teaching

Hyler & Hicks cover Today I am both humbled and excited. Tomorrow my second co-authored book, from texting to teaching: grammar instruction in a digital age (Yes, I know the title is not capitalized, that was intentional) will be released to the world. Troy Hicks again, was my co-author and it was an interesting journey to write this book and bring it to educators.

Though I could never put myself in the same category with grammar greats like Jeff Anderson and Constance Weaver or even be published by giants like Heinemann or Corwin Press (No disrespect). Quite frankly, I am content where I am at with the work I have done. On the other hand, Troy and I have created a resource where teachers and educators can see some benefit to this book. Not only will educators see the historical struggle of how grammar has been taught, but also that the challenges teachers may face with technology today don’t really have to be challenges. Those challenges can be turned into opportunities for teachers to help their students see the difference between formal and informal writing spaces. Furthermore, students will have a greater appreciation for grammar when we use their spaces and work with them in the worlds they live in day to day.

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(Image Courtesy of Ohio University Linguistics)

Grammar instruction will always be challenging and I am positive that others will develop new and exciting ways to reach the students they come in contact with every day.

It was a pleasure and challenge to not only write this book, but to write it with someone who has become one of my closest friends and colleagues. Troy continues to challenge me both intellectually and personally in ways that make me a better educator and person.

So, without further delay, we give you our book and hope you find some helpful information to improve your students understanding of grammar. Please let us know how we can further help you and please visit our companion site with the book.

 

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Not Too Much: Slowly Approaching the 21st Century Classroom

Moodle, Google Docs, Glogster, Edmodo, WordPress, Blogger, Vimeo, Diigo, and Wikis. Are you out of breath yet? If your not, you are one of the 21st century educators who are implementing digital tools into their classrooms. If you are just laying foot to path and beginning your journey into all of the wonderful digital tools that have the potential to transform your classroom, the choices can be a bit overwhelming. This is just one of the many thoughts I had yesterday attending the pre-conference sessions at MACUL. As I sat through a moodle and a web publishing session, I began to wonder what my prospective would have been if I was new to all of this. Rocking in the corner with my arms wrapped around my legs came to mind. It wasn’t that long ago when I went through the summer writing institute and our director Troy Hicks gave us a plethora of digital tools to use. There were days I had anxiety, but everything in the end worked out. I get excited about challenges and persevered through it all. I honestly believe teachers can transform their classrooms into 21st century portals where the students can once again be excited about learning.

So, how do you begin with this barrage of digital tools being thrown at you? First, simply start by picking just one tool to implement into your classroom. A great colleague of mine Kevin Hodgson commented to me about students and technology users alike are leaving “digital debris”, meaning we try new things out and think it is great, but then we never use that tool again. Students and users have created accounts, used it one time, then never go back. I know I am guilty of doing this very thing this year with Edmodo. By choosing just one tool, you can use it over and over during the school year. Essentially, by the end of the year, your students and you will be become an expert on that tool. Furthermore, you as the leader in the classroom, won’t feel so overwhelmed. Then, the following year you can stretch your zone again and try something new.

Next, after you have chosen the digital tool you want to implement, ask yourself two questions. First, why am I using this in my classroom? Second, why is this tool valuable to my students? The first question was an eye opener for me. I have to thank Troy Hicks again for pushing me in this thinking. Now, I am passing it on to you. Simply using a digital tool because it looks fun or the students like it, aren’t the most important issues here. Some tools are geared towards a language arts classroom, where another one might be more science oriented. In addition, some schools may not have up-to-date technology capabilities that support the tool you want to use. More importantly, with increased rigor and higher order thinking wrapped around the Common Core, it is essential to stop and think about how the tools we are using are helping to develop these very traits within our students.

I leave you with the the advice to go slow, find what is easy and works well for you and your students. We all have to shift our learning styles and our minds to the 21st century and how our classrooms are going to look.

Cheers!


Motivation: For Teachers

The last few days of break have been very cumbersome for me. I have felt weighted down, not very energetic, and somewhat irritable.  Nevertheless, I knew the alarm would go off at 5:50a.m. this morning and I would have to be ready for my students. A very perplexing issue that has risen to the top of my thoughts over the past few days is the term motivation.  Yes, I truly believe as educators, we come back from Christmas break re-energized and ready to teach our students to the best of our abilities. 

 On the other hand, I know as a teacher in the great state of Michigan, we pray for snow days too.  Or at least I know I will be wanting a snow day. Why?  In my school district we don’t have another break until the start of our Spring break which is April 2.  Now, I know some school districts have a mid-winter break in February to try to break things up, but I do not.  So, I had to ask myself the last few days, what is going to keep me motivated to get me through this long stretch.  Because to be honest, mother nature doesn’t look to be on my side.

The first idea that came to mind was professional development.  This is a great time of year to be a part of some sort of professional development that your district or local university may be hosting.  I might suggest finding some professional development on the Common Core Standards.  I recently enrolled into a professional development book club about the Common Core and Project Based Learning.  I am looking forward to attending.  In addition, I am helping our Writing Project Sit with professional development about informational writing and the Common Core.  Needless to say, there should be plenty of opportunities for any educator out there to imerse themselves in PD.  I find PD does two things for me.  First, it obviously gives you a break from your students and your classroom where the stress can mount quickly.  We all need adult interaction once in a while.  Second, I always get that refreshing feeling that we all need. I become armed with strategies to use in my classroom and it almost feels like a coach has given me a pep talk.  Once again, I am ready to go!

Besides professional development, I encourage anyone to write.  Writing has helped me so much since being part of the National Writing Project. Troy Hicks, our site director, was intense and challenged us all.  I am the writer today and the teacher I am today because of him and the National Writing Project.  Writing is a great outlet to express your feeling and your ideas.  In addition, it makes you feel better when you are done getting your thoughts down on paper.  Writing can take the form of a poem, journal, song, etc.  I even encourage you to enter a writing contest.  There are plenty of them out there.  Figment.com is a great website that hosts plenty of writing contests. 

If professional development and writing don’t sound the most appealing, I encourage you to start a book club with friends or colleagues with a New York Time’s bestseller, or any other book that may be of interest.  If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea or might be too time consuming.  Befriend a colleague and go out for a nice dinner and perhaps vent to each other about the challenges you face in your classroom. 

Whatever avenue you choose to take to keep yourself motivated and doing your best as a teacher in your classroom, I know this time of year can be challenging.  Lean on each other professionally to help!

Cheers!