Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Animoto-and a Win

I like Animoto. It's easy to set up an all-access educator account and then create some engaging items for your classroom.

My last week with Animoto was really pretty good. I used it to make "senior salutes" for the students who stuck with us through 12th grade (Latin V) and began with us in the 6th grade. That's a lot of classroom hours to get to know them, not to mention still like them!

The only tricky thing was downloading the Animoto video, which is an Mp4, into a format that would go with the rest of our hour-long presentation during which four teachers distribute 200 Latin awards.

It needed to be smooth and foolproof, no using two programs clicking back and forth, that was NOT going to work. We switch off who is speaking/presenting, distributing the awards, taking pictures, and keeping the show moving, so it's a tightly mapped hour.

Here are we four, imagine us dancing around each other with awards and ushering groups of children in and out of pictures to the applause of parents and grandparents.

It has to go well.

Here's how I solved the problem:
1. Download and save Animoto to hard drive.
2. Try 8 different programs and formats over three days to get it into a format that will play in ppt. Fail.
3. Eat potato chips and think how the crunchy sound is not unappealing.
4. Upload Animoto videos to private status in YouTube and then watch as it still doesn't work when I try to convert it back because, well, they're private.
5. Upload Animoto videos publicly then use atube catcher to convert them to video files that DO WORK!
6. Delete videos from YouTube.
7. Test-view presentation 5 times the day of event, save it to thumb drive and a copy on school server. OCD much? (Don't even ask me about my cohort who created the color-coded filing system for the awards that was cross indexed by the students names and likelihood of where they would be sitting in the event-if I think they're in the back, it will take them longer to get to the dais, so I can put their award further back in the stack.
8. An hour before event, test sound and all connections in event space. In our case, High School with a movie-sized projection screen and my sweet little tablet giving the input.
9. Enjoy presentation with no glitches. Wow. What you thought something was going to go wrong? Nope. All is well in IH Latin-land.
10. Receive thank-you notes next day from parents for keeping things moving and keeping everyone involved!
Until next year. . . .

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wordchamp Wednesday

Another great success (that originated in failure) occurred over the last 7 days. My 7th grade students had been making great strides with neuter nouns, even to the point of writing their own stories. Matthew Webb once shared a terrific story about monsters and rocks (monstra et saxa, which are neuter nouns) and last year my classes wrote the second war of monsters and rocks with their own graphics. This year we continued the tradition with a third war in which the students could incorporate more characters of their choice. The grammar was coming along beautifully and I thought all was well. Well it was not.

The evaluation asked the students to examine sentences from the stories that they had written themselves and identify subjects (nominatives) and direct objects (accusatives). We had an epic fail. 3 A's, 2 B's, 18 C's, 21 D's, 2 F's.

Not what I anticipated. So, re-teaching was necessary. I designed three wordchamp exercises that isolated the problems separately: English knowledge of subject/direct object, Latin recognition of nominative/accusative, Correlating the term nominative with subject and accusative with direct object. Students completed the exercises until they were scoring in the 90's (it took some 11-12 tries). They recorded on paper their starting scores and final scores in the exercises and reflected upon what they now understood better about the concept. Then, we re-read stories in small groups to practice the skill in context, and I retested (and held breath).

Results? You bet. New scores: 28 A's, 14 B's, 3 C's and 1 D. Targeted reteaching works. What had gone wrong? The idea of English subject and direct object was not clear for a portion of the students, and this combined with a lack of understanding of the Latin terminology for cases compounded the problem. Students were writing the Latin correctly, but didn't know WHY it was correct. Now they have the concept with the terminology and will be able to transfer it to new situations-that's what I wanted, it just took a side alley to get there.

What will I do differently next year? After I pre-test with an English sample that is similar to the 6th grade English curriculum on subject and direct object, I'll have a follow up assignment with an unfamiliar topic to make sure I'm getting consistent results about what they know (in English), not just what they memorized. Also, I'll have activitites prepared for the students who need reinforcement of the basics, and extension ready for the ones who have it mastered. Yes, they had the skill at one point, but it didn't stick and it didn't transfer, so that's what I'm now prepared for.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wordchamp Wednesday

Wordchamp is all about WANTING to crunch the data that you get. It gives you so much to work with, it makes me ask the question, "what motivates a teacher to make changes based on this data?" Well, I was in a meeting Monday, and was screen-reading over the shoulder of an anonymous colleague who was multi-tasking /perusing this article,

Enthusiastic and Growing Teachers: Individual Dispositions, Critical Incidences, and Family Supports

about enthusiastic teachers and I was really interested. So, she sent it to me later and it really grabbed me. Here's the quote that turned the key:

"I don't want to be a veteran teacher who's not 'with it'. I want the students to keep learning until I walk out of here. I keep looking for new ideas. Times are changing, students are changing and I'm changing."

I'm lucky to be surrounded by like-minded colleagues, or at least often associate myself with them, so I feel inspired by their growth. Many thanks to my IH comrades who are grabbing everything offered!

So, maybe Wordchamp isn't for you. If you're happy with doing things as usual, and you really don't want to use a new tool to improve student learning, go ahead and ignore it. The rest of us will see you in the 21st century.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Well Thank Goodness It was Friday

Friday was interesting. The students were burnt out, I was impatient, and it seemed to be permeating the building. No one was hurt, but there were moments when I was stopping for "breathing" and had to take a few students aside to explain, "there is a line you have crossed, and it's one that will earn you a detention if corrections are not made." Luckily, we all held it together and accomplished the day's goals, yet, it was NOT pretty, and it should have been enjoyable.

Not so in other parts of the building where there were student walk-outs, a few instances of disrespect, (students using their words against teachers), and more than a little physical checking in the hallways. Everyone I talked to seemed frustrated and isolated, then relieved to hear that the same thing was going on in other places, and it wasn't just them.

Sometimes I wish I had an emergency valve that I could spring in those situations and "tag in" a fresh teacher who could bring a fresh approach to the situation. Not for the BIG emergencies like fights and injury, just the little smoldering times (impulsive child can't control comments) when one is about to lose it-so that learning can continue for the main group, but the problems can be isolated and corrected without breaking the flow. Why should the whole class have to stop for one student's discipline contract?

Seems like we know which classes need this, and maybe if we had a buddy teacher who was grading right outside the door, and we could say, hey take over for a minute. . . then we could work through those moments more efficiently. Does such a system exist?

Monday will be brilliant, as usual. Everyone will be rested and ready to go, like it is in the adult work world. The difference for schoolchildren and teachers is that they are absolutely stuck when those anti-productive environments hit-there is no escape to the break room for anyone.

Keep breathing deeply.