Differentiating Using Curriculet

Curriculet is an eBook company that provides Common Core aligned questions, quizzes, and annotations for popular and classic texts. I know, because I not only use the website all the time in class, I also work part time creating the eContent.

Why do I use Curriculet in my classes? It allows me to differentiate for students. Students that read faster than others can speed ahead, but those who need to take it slower can do so. If they already know how to find themes, they can breeze past the annotations, but if they struggle, the annotations are there to guide them through.

And it’s not just pre-created content; Curriculet lets me import my own texts. When I do my unit on “music as poetry,” I can tailor the content to fit my students’ needs. With the data reports, I can tell which content standards need addressing as well.

As a content creator, I am assigned a variety of texts (currently I’m working on Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz), from current novels to classics like 1001 Arabian Nights. I find crafting Common Core aligned assessments really rewarding, because I have a better grasp of what the standards are asking than most of my fellow teachers.

Try out Curriculet: some content is free, and other content is inexpensively rentable, making for some awesome literature circle opportunities.


OTES and ISTE: Acronyms for the win!

Every teacher I’ve ever known is busy. There are always six things I could be doing right now, and I have to decide which of a laundry list of things is the most urgent. Am I giving meaningful feedback to my 99+ students? Planning lessons based on formative data that’s aligned to state standards? Collaborating with baby teachers new to the profession? Helping my six year old practice his spelling, or coaxing my ten year old to practice her flute? Bedtime stories? Twitter? The occasional face time with my spouse? Laundry or dishes? Play with the dog, or pet the cat? None of these choices is new, to me or any other adult that I know.

What is new to me is the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES). Because we took a pay cut and then a pay freeze, we maintained our old contract well beyond the start of this new “better” system for evaluating teachers. I won’t go into the specifics of the system, sufficed to say that it is more time intensive, and sometimes I feel like writing up what I do on a daily basis just takes away from the little time I have.

In a lot of ways, I am a doer, and I’m too busy doing to reflect on the job that I do. So when both my principal and my community college partner came in to see me on the same day, while I was (and am, BTW) sick, I refused to “pretty up” my lesson for them. The most I had time to do was the extensive, 35+ question “pre-assessment” that OTES required.  It was gratifying to have the community college partner, who was checking to see how well I compare to other college adjuncts, say that I was meeting or exceeding their expectations. I still don’t know what my principal thinks. Sigh.

So here comes the International Technology Society for Technology Education (ISTE) for the reflective win. Last summer, I was invited to reflect on how well my teaching meets their standards, as part of a pilot program. I agreed, because I know how much I hate reflecting, and I knew that the summer was a great time to begin this reflective process. It was a long, drawn out process for me, but I felt confident that in reflecting I would improve my teaching skills. And it worked: I successfully completed the requested two parts of a four part portfolio for the project.

Now the school year is in full swing, and I still have the opportunity to finish the other two parts of the portfolio reflection for ISTE. Here’s where OTES comes in: I have to write two goals for this school year that are “SMART” goals. Why not combine the rest of an ISTE portfolio with OTES? If I have to reflect, why not find a way to achieve something meaningful?

If you made it to the bottom of this post and didn’t TL;DR, are you a doer or a reflector?

Image attributed to https://www.flickr.com/photos/twenty_questions/

An outstretched hand

I’m not from around here. I grew up in NE Ohio, in a very diverse and liberal college town. Needless to say, I struggle to understand the animosity between our two high schools. You see, although our district serves around 3500 students, we have two high schools. If that doesn’t give you a clear picture, my school has around 700 students, and the other high school serves around 400. And the two schools don’t get along.

It’s not super clear to an outsider that the two high schools see each other as rivals unless you go to a sporting event where the two high schools play each other.  All of sudden, it’s a sea of gold and brown (our lovely school colors) versus red and blue (theirs.) To hear the students talk, my school is a hotbed of loose morals and wild behavior, since we’re “in the city,” and the other school is full of farmers with mud and cow manure on their cowboy boots.

Anyway, when I started teaching American Literature this fall, I knew I wanted to read The Crucible by Arthur Miller after we finished discussing The Scarlet Letter, their summer reading assignment. But when I asked the librarian if I could borrow the classroom set of plays, she informed me that a teacher in the other building had already requested it. Later, I found out we had the play in our textbook, so we read it anyway.  But in the meantime, I emailed the other teacher, to say that I had some play materials and see if she wanted to collaborate. To my pleasure, the other teacher, who is new to district, was excited to Google Hangout with me after school one day. We happily exchanged ideas and assignments, and talked about the idea of our students getting together and maybe performing the play.

After LOTS of wrangling between the two principals, we have our play coming up. The students will perform the play for each other, with volunteer actors. I’m a little nervous. Will they be polite to each other? Will it go well, or will it be a disaster? The kids are excited, though.

What do you think will happen this Friday?

Photo attributed to https://www.flickr.com/photos/gtmcknight/ (note: this photo represents “school spirit”)

Brief Bio

I love technology, but my day job of teaching composition leaves me very little room to indulge my passions. Because I am always on the lookout for new ideas, I joined the International Standards for Technology Education’s (ISTE) Project ReimaginED group last spring. ISTE pushes me to address best practices in my teaching, which is very helpful.

Well, I have been invited to participate in a ReimaginED webinar as a speaker, and they want me to write a brief bio. Since I’m a couple blogs behind, I thought it’d be a good idea to kill two birds with one stone, as it were.

I graduated from Kent State University with a dual concentration in English and Spanish in 1998 and began teaching almost immediately. My first nine years I taught primarily Spanish, with a little English on the side. Along the way, I earned my Masters of Education in Instructional Technology, also from Kent State (what can I say? I lived in Kent.)

After taking a year away from the classroom as a Technology Integration Support Specialist in Athens, Georgia, I returned to teaching in Ohio, this time, mostly English. I also teach New Media classes for Clark State, a local community college.

Because I teach in a tiny district in Southwest Ohio, I find my professional learning network (PLN) on Twitter and often reach out to others on WordPress. I work part time for Curriculet, an online e-book company for which I create Common Core aligned questions, quizzes, and annotations. I am also a Touchcast Ambassador, because I love to incorporate video wherever I can into the classroom. I hope I never stop learning.

Internet Leadership

If Parks spoke through her actions, and if Moses spoke through his brother Aaron, today another type of introverted leaders speaks using the Internet.–Susain Cain

How can we engage the introvert in our classrooms? We need to provide avenues of leadership beyond who speaks the most in class. By allowing our students to think and write for themselves online, we encourage them to demonstrate their knowledge to an audience beyond the classroom.

Are you an introvert? Do you find solace and leadership opportunities online? Reply in the comments.

Image attributed to http://www.lantabus.com/2014/02/07/rosa-parks-remembered/

The Yin Yang of Self Reflection

It’s 4:00 a.m., and I’m awake. Thinking to myself that I might as well get up, I head upstairs to start my day. It’s a Saturday, so I should be able to sleep in, but anxiety about the week ahead prevents me from falling back asleep.

Why be anxious about next week, you ask?  Well, next week represents some high stakes visitations, as both my principal and a college professor are coming to observe me. I’m not a baby teacher; this is my 17 year, and you’d think this stuff would be water under the bridge. And before our observation model changed, it would have been. Heck, normally I wouldn’t care if my principal or this college professor (who’s certifying I’m good enough to teach community college English to my high school kids), came in and watched. But it’s this self reflection that’s keeping me awake.

As I labor through the “pre-observation” forty question extended response pre-assessment, I am forced to explain all the things I do every day. This lesson isn’t “special”-I’m not changing what I do to make the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System happy. I always try to engage my students, to evaluate using multiple methods, to assess what they know and build upon it. This self reflection forces me to write it all out, to justify the wherefores and the whys. And it’s painful.

Dig out your “pre-assessment’ scores. Find the “self-assessment” spreadsheet. Add up the number of students who x….I am not a numbers girl, but I understand the underlining reasoning. We are supposed to be data driven, to show with numbers the reasons for our instructions. It feels tedious, and 2.5 hours later, I’m arriving at the end. My Yin is freezing (as are my toes-the temperature dropped last night.)

And then I reach the moment of Yang: where the fires of heaven start to heat up. The last question asks me to demonstrate my professional responsibility. Why would this heat me up? Well, the truth is that my principal has no idea what I do in my teaching life, outside of how many parents (if any) call him to complain. He doesn’t know about the book chapter I’m writing for Touchcast. He doesn’t know about my ISTE pilot participation. He doesn’t know about the Twitter book club I’m running, or how many Twitter chats I participate in. He doesn’t know about the conferences I attend, or all the millions of things I do as a professional teacher. This one question lets me tell about all the things I do; the things that get other principals to say on Twitter what a great teacher I am. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally be more than a prophet in my own land.

Even if my principal doesn’t care, this self reflection has helped me to see that I am a great teacher. Now let’s hope that these two people who have been out of classroom teaching for a while can see it.

#TBookC Reads Quiet

Spring semester, I joined an amazing group of teachers as a participant in a book club on Twitter. We read lots of different books, such as Teach Like a Pirate, Fish in a Tree, Wonder, How Full is Your Bucket, What Connected Educators Do Differently, and Drive. I found #TBookC to be super motivating, because we met three times a month, and I frequently read books I would never have read on my own.

During the summer months, we took a break from readings books. I was raring to go in the fall, excited to see my friends again, and suggested we read I Am Malala. I was so excited, I volunteered to lead the chat, the first time I’d ever lead anything but a slowchat on Twitter. I had a fantastic co-moderator, Nilmani Ratwatte, a teacher from Canada, to help. As the end of the chat loomed, I asked the founders if they planned to run another chat. Since we had no list of books, I asked the participants using a cool new tool on http://www.tricider.com. We picked Quiet, by Susan Cain, to read on Nov. 12 & 19, at 9 EST. You don’t have to be a teacher to join us!

In anticipation of Thursday, Nov. 12’s chat, here are the questions:

Q1  React to this quote from the Harvard Business School: “If someone doesn’t speak by the end of the semester . . . it means I didn’t do a good job.”

Q2: Have you ever road “The Bus to Abilene”?

Q3: How well do you, as a passive or proactive employee, succeed with your school leaders?

Q4 Where are you most comfortable: online or face to face?

Q5 How and where can we give Ss opportunities for practice in solitude?

Q6 Where do you do your creative, best work?