Thursday, December 5, 2013

Podcast stuff

Here is the podcast I built with Emily Newton. It's about how she uses Twitter in the classroom. This particular podcast was modeled after 99% Invisible (which has an emphasis on design).

Here is a great episode about money design.

For all the pop-culture and comic fans, I give you Superman.

And this is a student favorite about a broken window.

Another big podcast that I go to on a consistent basis is Radiolab. This podcast tends to delve into science topics more so than 99%.

Here is one about Beethoven. It's an inquiry about the tempo markings in his music. How fast did he really intend for the pieces to be played?

Here is another one from Radiolab about Noel Blanc. He's the voice for Bugs Bunny, Pork Pig, and Tweety.

Podcast Episodes

1) Names---- "Say My Name, Say My Name"
2) Outside interests and conversations--- Getting personal----rapport
3) Creating a Safe space (use of language)
4) Mindset--- Effort based praise
5) Outside resources--- parents, teachers, students---- creating community outside the classroom

Drop Resources Here: J:\NHS\Fitch_Katherine\Drop

Early Release Brainstorming

To go with the visual that was provided below of the last time we met, here is the list we came up with:

Teachers Should
  • Learn each student’s name
  • Have a personal conversation with each student every six weeks
  • Learn at least one outside interest of each student
  • Tell other teachers about students’ success
  • Create a safe space
  • Avoid derogatory language
  • Give students specific praise about effort
  • Make positive phone calls home
  • Share their own interests/learning styles

Students should
  • Call each other by their given name
  • Call the teacher by their name
  • Feel comfortable asking questions
  • Honor the safe space
  • Avoid derogatory language
  • Not be afraid of wrong answers

**For our next early release meeting, we will be evaluating the items we brainstormed above for importance in the classroom as well as decide on a final product we will create. See you soon!**

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Productive Meeting

I know we typed it up, but I thought everyone would want to remember the work we did on the white board.

I realize that creating a infographic might in the end be too difficult, but if you were still at least interested in what an infographic is, check out my Pinterest board of infographics.


After reading the book "Mindset" by Carol Dweck, I have been continuing my search on ideas that get people and students in a growth mindset. Growth mindset being the idea that through effort and hardwork we can continue to grow out intelligence and ability.

One of the reserachers I have found doing this work is Angela Duckworkth. Here is a link to her TED talk on grit.Angela Duckworth: Grit

I pose these questions to our group:
How can we be grittier in our work?
How can we set up a classroom culture where grit is part of the culture?
How can we help our students to become grittier?

Here also is a picture of the conversation I had about grit with my AP Chem students:

Thursday, September 26, 2013


To help students increase their confidence it is important to praise them.

How you praise them is just as important.

If you praise them for their intellect or physical ability, what happens if they start to feel they are losing that characteristic?

If you praise them for their effort, the perseverance, the improvement (which is what they actually did) they can do these things even in difficult situations. This sets them up for success in spite of their circumstances.

I researched two books on this subject.

How to NOT talk to your kids  Carol Dweck

How to Talk  Faber, Mazlish

I also tell my students to NEVER EVER GIVE UP! It's a motto I'm using this year.

The Texans (football team) won a game in the last 2 minutes of the game. The next day I asked my students - What did the Texans do to win the game? They all rolled their eyes and said the motto. At least they said it!

Self esteem

So after reading several articles about increasing/ fostering self esteem in the classroom several simple strategies seem to be mentioned over and over again. 
1- Give students specific praise - this should be done in front of the class as well as individually
2- Make random calls to the students home to praise what they are doing in class
3- Post students work around the classroom or in hallways
4- Put positive post-it notes around the room - make them specific to students randomly
5- Greet all students at the door.
These all seemed so simple, basic, routine - and what many of us do already.
Another strategy I cam across was using self - affirmations.  Making a list of qualities or attributes you know you have and believe are valuable. 

Establishing music culture in the classroom

Northbrook orchestra program is moving in the directions to establish the music
culture education that is appropriate for all students in the classroom.
Students were approached to diversity style, music area, composers, music history, instrument techniques development and performances. Creating the instrument practicing ethic, participating in all sectionals and rehearsals after school, is challenge for all orchestra students that we will have to work for the coming months.

Self advocacy and Reflection

Self advocacy is knowing: who you are, your strengths, your weakness.  Also, knowing what you want, what you need, and how to get what you need.

As others have posted, i also use many of the tools that others use: calling students by name, being a community where everyone counts, letting students learn by failing are a few of them.

Confidence through the Individual

In the choir classroom it is important to create an atmosphere where they feel safe to sing alone.  I've worked hard to build up students through individual interaction.  I explained how much I need them to model and demonstrate for the other students.  This had the greatest effect in giving them the confidence to sing for themselves.  And the class sings better and more confidently after the individual sings.  My goal is to eventually help all the kids to feel confident to sing by themselves in class.

Culture In Progress

In my classroom I am currently changing the classroom culture.  When we were charged with examining what our classroom culture looks like I didn't necessarily like what I saw.  I did not like being driven to the point of anger by my students behavior, so I made the decision not to get angry.  I no longer elevate my voice and what I have discovered is that the students will reduce the volume of their voices to match mine.  This has cause a tremendous shift in my attitude, in the students attitude, and thus the overall culture of my classroom has changed.  This began a conversation with another teacher about how classroom culture is something that is created and if the teacher is not intentional about their culture the students will create the culture based off of previous experiences because that is their default setting.  There are many aspects of my culture that are in the changing process, and I am excited about how these changes will impact  student learning as the year progresses.

Classroom Culture with Respect

One of the things that I try to incorporate into my classroom culture is respect. Students are to address any adult that comes into the classroom as "ma'am" or "sir". I also address them as such. Students are also taught to listen (not talk) while someone is talking in the classroom, whether it be myself or another student. They are reminded to show respect to fellow classmates and teachers throughout.
I believe that respect is something that many students have lost, no matter their socioeconomic situation.

Identity in Classroom Culture

Finding and developing identity is, in my opinion, the most crucial aspect of student development through their middle and high school years.  I believe that identity in the classroom has two major aspects:  student and individual.  What type of student are you?  What type of person are you?  I think the goal should be to have both of these questions as the same.

Students should see their academic and personal lives intertwined.  That's what I'm attempting to do with the implementation of an expansive independent reading revolution in my classroom that changes how students think about reading, not only in school, but also outside of school.

My classroom, for the most part, has a positive classroom culture.  I post student work, motivational quotations, and use bright colors to keep kids engaged.  There's a purpose behind where everything goes.

In regards to identity in my classroom, I allow students to explore their identity to the fullest extent...that's the basis behind my independent reading revolution. Students are able to make their own choices and "choose their own adventure" when it comes to independent reading.  Students are aware of their backgrounds in some regard, but also learning about other identities is vital for the continued development of their own.  Through reading books from perspectives other than their own (whether gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, etc.), so they can better solidify who they are, while appreciating others' identities.

This was last minute--my apologies.  I just kept on rambling............

Thoughts from Band World

Classroom culture in band starts from the beginning, usually 6th grade when the students first learn about band.  From 6th grade up until they stop playing, from one year to fifty years, musicians do things the same way all the time. We are creatures of habit.
Students are held to a very high standard and they have to work at it, some more than others.  But, the foundation is; you have to work at it, practice many times, to achieve your goals. It is good to make mistakes while we are still learning, that is how we fix things. But, the end result should be as close to perfection as we can, the final performance.
We talk to our students everyday about using these tools in all areas of their lives, education, family, work, and wherever they may need it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Setting up a classroom culture: Solidarity

One of the big things that I use in my classroom early on is the notion of solidarity. I tell the kids early on and try to emphasize that everything I ask them to do in class, I do with them or have in my handwriting. If they are writing in journals, I write in my journal. If they take an AP multiple choice passage, I show them the passage I've taken. If I require them to read a book, I show them the book I'm reading.

In doing so, there is a sense of community that, I feel, cuts down on behavior issues. In addition, by writing and reading with the students I'm telling them that what we do is important. It's important not because I said to do it, but important because I'm taking the time to do it. Does it mean that I have to structure my day differently to get the grading in? Yes. However, it cuts down on discipline issues and makes me more aware of the cognitive processes that I require of my students. It provides me with a greater sense of timing and problems in my lesson design.

Positive Classroom Culture

Setting the tone or culture in the classroom is something we all do, whether we realize it or not.  Everything we do to set up our classroom before the students ever walk in the door impacts the culture.  As a teacher, our behavior and attitude while on this campus leads to the level of comfort students will feel when sitting in our room.
In an attempt to establish a positive classroom culture, I start by greeting all my students at the door and having their materials out for them to pick up.  I call students by name and ask relatively shallow questions about things that are relevant to their world.  When the bell rings, I immediately step into the room and begin class. I try to give everyone an opportunity to speak during class and make sure each student knows it is unacceptable to talk or laugh when another student is speaking.
These are just a few things I do everyday to establish a positive classroom culture!  What do you do?

My Reflection on Mindset by Dweck

Mindset by Carol S. Dweck.

The book had some really good things about mindsets. Some of it got a little cheesy, but overall, I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to implementing it in my classroom with kids, relationships, and various other aspects of my life. Some of this stuff is ripe for teaching and education. So much so, some chapters of the book hammer away at that idea; how this plays out in education. Again, some of it feels forced, but I’m willing to try it.

Early in the text, Dweck discusses how the “fixed mindset” makes itself prevalent in schools. “They granted one test the power to measure their most basic intelligence now and forever. They gave this test the power to define them. That’s why every success is so important.” Although we're a long way from this now, I can see it starting to show up in the AP classes. The house of cards that some schools have build around GPA and AP scores is beginning to collapse under the weight of a shifting paradigm. So many kids are starting to worry about a GPA and such that they don’t have a self, and that’s sad.

Two good journal topics from the text:
    When do you feel smart?
    Do you think intelligence is fixed?

One of the things that I’ve got to tell my kids is that they have “the luxury of trying to grow.” There were some students I had last year that felt that “one evaluation can measure you [them] forever” (29). It’s crazy. I’m capable and understand that I can grow and that I can learn new things. Sometimes I look around at systems and feel that so many things are operating under a fixed mindset. Maybe that’s what is causing some of the cognitive dissonance with the young teachers. Perhaps they are feeling the rush of the future and everything around them is telling them that things are fixed. The power points, the need to just get through the next day, the idea that “you can’t save them all”. So, the dissonance is kicking in because so much of the living business of teaching is wrapped up in a fixed mindset. As such, there is a discordant notion between what they are seeing and experiencing and the feelings that are rushing through them. The buzz of teaching, creating, interacting with the very state of human identity and evolution. What a weird, weird, thing we do as teachers.

“How do we teach a growth mindset when the grading system is setup to perpetuate a fixed mindset?” is something that kept coming up in my annotations. How can we foster the love of learning in an authentic and safe environment when grades are due and for the kids at least, they are permanent? How can we teach them to take control of their own learning when they don’t even have control of their own schedule?

She says not to label kids. It perpetuates a fixed mindset. I’m only X, or Y.

"In our evaluations, we mustn't judge the students, but allow them to grow and learn" (188). I should definitely think about that in terms of the annotations I’m making. What does that look like in a class? Retaking tests? Conferences? Some would argue that we don’t have the time to enact those types of things or string them along. They would say, “what about the real world?” and I would respond, “If we want to change it, we have to change it.” We are sculpting the world right now. Every day.

The last 20 or so pages, I was just ready to finish it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Zen Pencils

I am fully aware that hanging posters in your room will not fix the problem that we are charged with. I am also fully aware that perhaps cutesy quotes are overused in order to try and solve major problems. However, I thought these posters and motivational quotes from Zen Pencils would be something that this group would enjoy. These are free posters available on the artist's website:

This one in particular is one of my favorites. This one is a paid one, and I want to buy a large print of it:

The artist also specializes in turning famous speeches or quotes into comic strips. Here is one of my favorites from one of the people I admire most, John Green:

These are just for fun.

Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk

This video relates I think to fear of failure. I'm not sure how workable her solution is in the classroom, but it's a interesting way of thinking of the fear of failure for the creative process.

Hey group. Here is an article that Quinton tweeted last night about finding meaning in your work. For me, the most salient part of the article is here:
The skill mastery she described and demonstrated provided her with meaning, as did the way in which she incorporated this mastery into her identity as a helping professional. Knowing that she was capable of reliably producing a result that she cared about amplified Joan's experience of her work as meaningful. In other words, Joan's recipe for work meaning was self-efficacy mixed with concordance with her personal values, seasoned with connection to and feedback from the beneficiaries of her work.

The person observed found meaning because she was successful and her tasks were aligned to her personal value system. How do we do this in our classroom?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Early Release Plan...

  • Before September 26-
    • Define your personal research component
    • Post a reflection about your classroom culture
  • On September 26-
    • Talk about what checklists look like
    • Working meeting to search/read/research/talk/post
  • Before October 31-
    • Surf the blog
    • Come up with 5 items you would like to add to the checklist
  • On October 31-
    • Share each others items
    • Create a rough draft of a check list
  • On December 5-
    • Establish a protocol of how to evaluate our rough draft check list in the second semester
  • Second Semester-
    • Collect data
    • Reflect and analyze data
    • Tweak and refine check list


One important key to success is self -confidence. An important key to self confidence is preparation. Here is the link to Quotes about confidence

Before September 26th!

Before September 26th, please do the following:

  • State your research topic for the group in the comments section below
  • Create your own post reflecting on how you have begun establishing your classroom culture since the start of this school year 

Classroom Culture - Pacing

Classroom pacing is one of the tools we believe will help set up a positive emotional classroom culture.

Fear of Failure

Many students and adults alike walk into everyday situations with fear. Fear of failure is one that has plagued our society for centuries. Students within our classrooms are no exception to this.
Self advocacy should be incorporated daily into our lives to produce the desired results we want to achieve as we extend ourselves beyond our comfort zone.
This is the first post for the classroom culture blog. Here we will be able to create a space to collect ideas, research, photos, links, and other salient content for the group to share.

The book Mindset by Carol Dweck is something that will be part of our discussion.