Archive for November 2, 2013

For the Minecraft Fans

I’ve previously written about my struggle to help my oldest son find a book that he likes to read, because I couldn’t find any on his favorite activity: Minecraft.  If you haven’t heard about Minecraft, then you must be wearing ear plugs, because it is a game that many kids are obsessed with playing.

I have spent time at conferences and reading professional books and learned that in order to teach our students to be writers, we need to be writers ourselves so I had the inspiration to try to write a book that my son would read. Thus, Adventures in Blockworld was created.  As I wrote each chapter, I had to do some “research” by watching my son play Minecraft and ask questions about what he was doing in the game.  I read each new chapter to both of my sons, which ended in begging for the next chapter; encouraging me to keep writing.

Then one day during a lunch table conversation about Minecraft with some fourth grade boys, I mentioned the book I was writing and they all wanted to read it.  I printed a copy for each of them, which their teacher said they chose to read during Daily 5.  I was inspired by the feedback these boys gave me at lunch, offering feedback for my revisions.  After 6 months of dragging my heals on this, I’ve finally decided to publish it as an ebook on Kindle Amazon.

For those of you that may be interested, you can find the book HERE.  Here is a description of the book that is geared towards 3-5th grade Minecraft fans:

Adventures of Blockworld cover

Nathan is a 9 year-old boy that is obsessed with the computer game Blockworld…just like any other boy in his school.  His adventures in this virtual game world turn into real-life when he discovers that his little brother, Alex, is somehow actually stuck inside the game and he magically enters Blockworld to bring his brother home.  

Finding his brother was the easy part, but the adventures really started when Nathan and Alex had to embark on three dangerous treks throughout Blockworld to gather the materials needed to get them back home.  Although Nathan has always been annoyed by his little brother and often goes to great lengths to do things without him, he develops a new appreciation for him as he has to protect him to get him home safely.

For those of you that love to play the game Minecraft, you will enjoy the Adventures in Blockworld!

A Discussion with Todd Whitaker

If you haven’t already heard it, here is the Google Hangout PrincipalCast Podcast with Todd Whitaker!  It’s an hour of great discussion with Todd about keeping healthy, teacher morale, What Great Principals Do Differently, Dealing with Difficult Teachers, The Secret Solution and much more!

If you don’t have time to sit and watch the hangout you can find the podcast in iTunes or in BeyondPod (for my android friends).

Fostering Grit

fostering gritI recently finished reading the book Fostering Grit, which is an ASCD Arias book (it is short enough to read in a 1 hour sitting) written by Thomas R. Hoerr.

Every great educator knows that we can not only teach students content; that we must also teach character traits such as respect, responsibility, kindness, etc.  Hoerr wrote this short guide under the premise that we must also teach the virtue of grit, which he defines as tenacity, perseverance, and the ability to never give up.  The author points out that teaching grit can be difficult for educators, because “it runs counter to the caring school environments that we all esteem.”  The author shares that we need to teach our students to respond positively to setbacks and to respond appropriately when things go wrong; as he writes, “turn a failure into a good failure, one from which we learn.”

As I read Hoerr’s book on how grit helps us to be resilient and to persevere when we fail, I made many connections to what I learned when reading Mindset by Carol Dweck.  The concept of having grit goes hand in hand with the teaching students the concept of having a growth mindset.

Hoerr writes that as educators we can help teach our students to develop grit by introducing them to levels of complexity that are out of their comfort zone, to cause frustration and then help students to understand the frustration and how to respond to it.  Students will benefit from us sharing our personal stories with them of how we have overcome obstacles and talking about the importance of grit.  We can also share examples of others we know or famous people such as professional athletes, actors or even former presidents that our students may be surprised (and interested) in learning about the obstacles they overcame and how having grit helped them to be successful.

The author of Fostering Grit shares Six Steps of Teaching for Grit that each have great strategies to foster grit in your students:

1. Establish the environment

2. Set the expectations

3. Teach the vocabulary

4. Create the frustration

5. Monitor the experience

6. Reflect and learn

During Daily 5, students come back to the carpet in between “rounds” for a check-in which often serves as an opportunity for students to reflect on the reading/writing work they did.  Many of our teachers have added other opportunities for reflection throughout the day. As I read Step 6, “Reflect and learn” I realized what a great opportunity reflection can be for students to stop and think about how easy/challenging a task is for them and think about how they felt when they didn’t give up on a frustrating task.

What other ways can you foster grit in students?

fostering grit quote

Innovative Teaching Ideas Using Glogster

We are fortunate in our district to have an XPD program: a variety of scheduled Extra Professional Development opportunities taught by staff throughout the district that staff members can choose to attend what they would like to learn more about.  This week I attended a session by one of our great teachers on how to use Glogster.  I’ve seen students using Glogster before and have witnessed how much fun they have in creating an online poster of whatever topic they were researching, but I learned many other ways Glogster can be used as well.  The only downside of Glogster is that it doesn’t work well on the iPads.  Glogster if you’re reading this…please change that!

As I read 40 + Ways to Innovate Teaching Using GlogsterEDU I discovered many ideas.  I decided to create a Glog that can be used as a flipped approach when I lead an XPD on Twitter later this year and created one for Twitter Chats:

You’ll see within my Glog that there are resources to click on to learn more about Twitter chats. Teachers could do the same for a topic students are learning about. After reading the list of 40+ideas I am always thinking of ways I could utilize this tool on our school website to share information with parents in a much more engaging way than the monthly newsletter that goes home and straight into the garbage can.

Are you using Glogster? I’d love to know how, whether you’re a teacher or an administrator. Please share in the comments.

We Can’t Make this Stuff Up!

School administrators encounter so many interesting situations that they were never prepared to deal. Even graduate level school leadership courses cannot prepare you for what actually happens. So often as we share stories of difficult situations with an administrative colleague we find ourselves saying, “I can’t make this stuff up!” because it is just so crazy.

Now is the chance to share your story. I will compile all of your unbelievable stories into one ebook for administrators, aspiring administrators or even teachers to read to realize what really happens to school administrators. I’m not looking to make money on this, it will be a free ebook for us to all learn from each other.

Please do NOT include any information to identify yourself, unless you’ve got one that doesn’t have the concern of confidentiality for others. Otherwise, change names, locations, etc. Please DO include how you handled the situation–whether it turned out ok or not so that we can learn from what you went through in case we encounter a similar situation. You may want to write your story in your own document and then copy/paste here when you are finished. I will spellcheck, but I will not revise for grammar or anything else.

If you want your story to be included, please add it here by December 20, 2013. Please share the link to this form with other administrators that may have a good story to tell.

Submit your unbelievable story HERE