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Showing posts from 2015

Look At All This Muck!

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Last year I had my Woodlake students complete a DBQ regarding Progressivism, where they had to argue which 20th century issue they would invest their million dollars into. As always, I had students finish significantly earlier than others so I quickly threw together another project where they had to create a poster describing a current issue that they felt needed attention. This was meant to keep the early finishers occupied, but turned into a project that the students became excited about:


Unfortunately, because of pacing and an upcoming benchmark, we couldn't invest much time into the project, but I wished that one day I could do this project on a big scale. Then a year later, my wish was granted when I was offered my dream job at Minarets High School, a school dedicated to project-based learning. I knew immediately that one of my projects would be focused on muckraking current issues, but before I even began the project, I cleared it with the principal; there was a potential f…

We, the People of Mars....

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As I was on my way home for Thanksgiving, I was flipping through Pinterest, I came across the image to the right and I thought to myself: Darn it. That's what I should of done for my government PBL...

To back up, one of my first projects as a teacher at a fully project-based school was titled: We, the People of Mars... This project was geared towards my sophomores in World History and the driving question was "How can we as inhabitants of a new planet create a functional government?" The goal was for students to investigate different types of governments around the world to create their own unique government for Mars. 

My inspiration came from the PBL training provided BIE,  where my colleagues and I created a project according to their organizational format. After a very helpful brainstorm with another teacher, they pointed me in the direction of Mars One, an international project that hopes to one day settle humanity Mars that would obviously need a government at some …

To Prezi or Not to Prezi...

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Presentations are synonymous with teaching, especially during the NCLB era when I got my teaching credential. Without question, PowerPoint was an unspoken tool that every teacher needed to be competent in. So naturally I used PowerPoint all the time for my direct instruction. During my student teaching, however, I began to get bored with PowerPoint. My presentations seemed repetitive and boring to me, which  would mean it was incredibly boring for my students. I started desperately looking around for new templates, themes, backgrounds, anything that would jazz up my PowerPoints.

Around that time, I had a classmate use this interesting presentation tool that was so fascinating. It would zoom in and out then flow from slide to slide. In all honesty, the information itself wasn't that interesting, but I was engaged because I wanted to see what would happen next. At the end of class, I found that it was Prezi. I forced myself to learn how to use it and tried using it a few times for l…

Good, But Can You Do Better?

Words are powerful, especially the ones that you find as unimportant or insignificant. Someone saying hi, asking about their day, or remembering a small details about their lives is sometimes all it take make an impact on a person. As teachers, we all have that story of at least one student who you made a deep connection with even though you didn't realize it. It wasn't until the recent GAFE Summit in Bakersfield that I realize there is another statement that is influential to students: 'Good job'. Now, I don't mean this in a students-need-to-hear-positive-reinforcement kind of way. While positive comments are necessary, Brian Hamm, the keynote speaker, challenged me to reevaluate the kind of feedback that I give my students and myself.

As Hamm was getting us attendees of his session ready to experience design thinking, he discussed the significance between 'good job' and 'good start.' Obviously, 'good job' implies that the task the person h…

Minarets Culture Shock

A new job means changes: new colleagues, new classroom, new students, new way of doing things. I knew Minarets High School was different, but that is an understatement. You don't know different until you have experienced full on #mustangpride and after my first two weeks at Minarets I believe I'm finally overcoming my culture shock.

The entire school culture is based around one thing: the students. Its not about test scores, learning strategies, or convenience; its about doing what is best for the students. I didn't think that this would be such a shock to me, but it is truly something amazing to see an entire campus that is focused on the needs and wants of the students.

Because students have a strong voice in the school, they have completely different behaviors. For starters, they are incredibly open and friendly. It must be of the confidence of feeling valued that they are so willing to hug you and tell you everything about themselves or even participate in a dance part…

When I Created Stronger Student Relationships with Remind...

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Last week I was at one of my favorite places in the world: Target. As I was checking out, the cashier and I were discussing how crowded it was because of Back to School shopping and how some schools, including her's, were starting next week. Naturally, I mentioned that I was teacher and starting work in two weeks. Then I got the 'look,' the 'you can't possibly be old enough to be a teacher' look. After a brief second:"Oh, are you starting your first year?" "On no, I'm going into my third."

This conversation, whether fortunately or unfortunately, happens quite frequently because of my young age and my very young appearance. While these conversations are humorous to me, my young age and appearance did affect me in my first two years of teaching, especially with my relationship to my students. Since I could easily go under cover as a high school student, I have always made great efforts to create a clear barrier between the students and my…

When I Named My Blog...

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In retrospect, I may have misnamed my blog. With the craziness of the last few weeks due to the new job, I haven't paid too much attention to my blog or any form of social media. Everything has been focused on resigning from my old position, getting ready for my new position, and finding a place to live in Fresno. Now that my old classroom is packed up, the tearful good-byes have been made, and my apartment is all packed up, I have finally been able to participate again online and noticed the title of my blog: "Celebrating Failure in Room 23." Oops.

 Naturally the title was inspired by  my old classroom; the place where it all began:
In that classroom, I truly discovered myself as a teacher through all my mistakes and successes, but mostly the mistakes. When I named my blog last year, it seemed appropriate to mention the actual room where I was celebrating failure and growing as a professional. Even in the pictures below, you can see the growth I made in that room. In 20…

When I Took a New Job...

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A few weeks ago I taught my students about choices; how unlimited wants and limited resources force us to make decisions. This is the basis of economics and dictates every person's life, whether they know it or not. Just like every other person, I too have to make choices in my life, whether professional or personal. So I'm excited to announce that this fall I will be teaching social science at Minarets High School!

For the longest time, Minarets has been my dream school with their deep integration of edtech and project based learning. I fell even more in love with it when I presented there for the Google Summit in May so when I found out about a social science position opening up I eagerly put in my application. I'm so excited for what the future holds for me at Minarets High School with all the new things I have learn, new people I get to meet, and new students I get to teach.

Despite my joy, I'm heartbroken to leave Woodlake High School, the place of my first real c…

When I Added Pear Deck to my Toolkit...

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Last year I decided to take a chance and create a 1:1 classroom using Chromebooks. With the tips I learned at CVCUE in the Spring, my experiments with various edtech projects, and my Twitter PLN, I was eager and ready to dive into edtech.

During those two weeks, I was trying new ideas every day and I heard about a new app on Twitter called Pear Deck. The logo of Pear Deck, an adorable smiling pear, was intriguing along with the fact that they offered students opportunities to engage directly with the lesson on their own Chromebooks. They could answer formative assessment questions by drawing, choosing multiple choice questions, dragging a dot to various locations, or inputting numbers. So I signed up for the beta testing and was thrilled when I received my golden ticket.

Instantly, my students and I fell in love with the app; students loved interacting with material immediately and I loved that I could ensure every student was participating while also monitoring learning. But my stude…

When Students Became Authors...

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For whatever reason, I have always wanted my students to do a children's book, but never found the time. Then, with the SBAC testing and my department's agreement to try out project based learning, I threw my project idea into the ring and we decided to do a children's book regarding a US topic during the Cold War. I imagined using Storify to have students create their books, since my goal is to integrate technology whenever possible, but with no technology access during SBAC testing we decided to go "old school" and I'm so glad we did. I don't think my students would have been as creative and free to express their ideas if we had used technology.

The first step of project was to have students select their Cold War topic, which they did using Google Forms. I was eager to try the Choice Eliminator, but found out quickly that the add-on does not work as quickly as I hoped so I ended up having to quickly problem solve and adapt the form so students made thei…

When Summer Came Too Soon...

As the school year races to the close, I have reached another milestone in my career by finishing my second year of teaching. With BTSA completed and my tenure gained, I can now smile at the memory of walking down the halls of Woodlake High School in 2013 and realizing that I would be a "real" teacher. Yet with another milestone gained, I can't help but feel a sense of incompleteness. I'm not sure where this feeling is coming from; last year, I eagerly waited for summer to arrive, but this year I'm wishing I had more time.

It may be coming from my recent experiments within my classroom. In the past, I have done versions of project based learning, but I recently embraced student choice and did my first 'official' PBLs. I'm still waiting on my students' completion of the most recent project, but overall I have felt a greater sense of satisfaction and happiness watching my students on their own, rather than my direct instruction. As a result, I'v…

When Students Completed their First PBL…

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“Picture a classroom...the first thing most of us think of is a square room with rows of desks….this traditional classroom space is the product of an industrial-era model education. Just like factories, schools were designed to categorize students by age and (supposedly) ability, then deliver curriculum in an assembly line format.” As a history teacher, this statement made by Kevin Brookhouser in his The 20time Project hit me in the gut.

While my classroom does not look as Brookhouser described, elements of my instruction still did. I was increasing rigor within my content, but I still had to teach my students in way for them to do well on our CST style benchmarks despite the recent inclusion of short responses. This had been weighing heavily on my mind so when I heard this quote at the Google Summit in Minarets, I felt guilty and ashamed that I was not making my students "future ready."

Thankfully, I was not alone in my concerns and convictions regarding the way to teach his…

When Pacing was a Concern…

Dates. Names. Details. Facts. No debates. No discussion. Just dates, names, and details. This is how history was (and probably still is) taught. Due to the expectation of the state testing, teachers had to follow the strict pacing guide in order to ensure that students will absorb the necessary information to pass the tests. Thankfully, things are slowing changing because of Common Core.

Even so, I’m still faced with the struggle of quality and quantity of topics as a history teacher. My department has been flexible and accommodating to the new expectations of CCSS; we are adjusting our pacing and tests almost weekly to emphasize the quality of information rather than the quantity, which has been a big stress reliever.With testing season upon us (CAHSEE this week, SBAC next week, then SBAC again in May), I can’t help but worry that I won’t be able to cover all the major topics with my students. What if I let my juniors out into the world without understanding how various minority grou…

**Revamp RTI Update**

I wanted to update my blog with the results from my RTI for this exam:

Based on the results of this RTI compared to those from the previous RTI, I had a higher rate of students increase their scores. My mastery level compared to the previous RTI improved by at least 10%. It is also worth noting that with the previous RTI I only had students retest with a 69% or lower while this time around I had students with a 79% or lower. But still, more students increased their scores. Compared to my colleagues, I had less students “master” the material with retesting, meaning they received an A or B. I’m not sure if mastery is something to look at when discussing retesting, but still my scores were lowers. At the same time, I had less students eligible for retesting; for two periods of world history I had nine students and for two periods of US I had eleven.

Overall conclusion is that RTI within the classroom was more successful for the students with more students passing. Whether or not Kahoot wa…

When I Revamped My RTI With Kahoot….

In all my years at my school site, which is a whopping two years, we have always done Response To Intervention one way. Two weeks after the set benchmark date, we have RTI week at our school, where we take twenty minutes at the end of the day for three days; Wednesday and Thursday to reteach information and Friday to retest. While this system worked in some ways, we as a school site recognized that this was not in the best interest of the students: Students could only be placed in one subject to retest, which meant that they needed to arrange on their own time to be retaught the information for their other classes. Since we don’t have a large staff, many of us teach multiple classes so that means that students may get RTI for our class, but have another teacher reteaching. This unfortunately was difficult for the students since they sometimes had to adjust to a different style or different presentation of information for only two days. Most of all, student scores were not improving.

So…

When We Did Our First DBQ...

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History has been in a very interesting situation the last two years. With the introduction of Common Core and the dissolving of CSTs, history teachers have found themselves in a realm of possibility with no clear set of content standards. Maybe “realm” is too powerful of imagery for some, but for me I have found Common Core to be a blessing within my history classroom. 

Within the last year, my department has been evolving with finding the balance between old content standards and the new CCSS. Since CCSS implementation has been relatively vague for history, we have began experimenting and one of our earliest experiments was with Document Based Questions (DBQs). The very first DBQ I did with my students was:

Needless to say, the first DBQ was filled with failures, both mine and students'. The biggest failure of all was when I saw how much students struggled to critically think. The Hook Activity, for example, became a painful process when I had to slowly pull the answers of the sign…