Sunday, November 29, 2015

Word Cloud in Google

Excellence in Education, Tech Tip: Creating a Word Cloud in Google Docs
Word clouds have numerous uses, especially when used in conjunction with Google Docs. First, some possible uses; then how you can easily create Word Clouds in Google Docs.

Possible Uses
  • Use for writing assessments to see which words they have used frequently in their writing and challenge them to develop synonyms
  • As a pre-writing or post-writing strategy have students brainstorm/jot down words that they are trying to convey in their writing and then have them use the word cloud to see if they did so
  • Word clouds can prime the brain by having students collaboratively brainstorm words that they think are relevant to the topic of learning. This cloud can then be examined later after the unit of study (perhaps, by creating another word cloud and comparing/contrasting the two clouds).
  • Have students create lists of characteristics of someone they are studying or reading about. Documents can be combined and a word cloud can be created and this can lead to a meaningful classroom discussion.Copy several students writing docs into one Doc to create a word cloud. Then compare/contrast and discuss the differences.
  • Create a group cloud in reaction to a discussion, a reading, a lesson, etc. Students can work individually or collaboratively to create a list of 20 or so words that can then be used to create a word cloud.
How to Add the Word Cloud Generator Add On
  1. In Google Docs, select Add-ons > Get Add-Ons.
  2. In the search box type, “Word Cloud Generator.”
  3. Select Word Cloud and click “FREE.” You will then be prompted to allow it to install.
  4. Once it’s installed, click “Add-ons” and “Create Word Cloud”
  5. You can continually click the “Refresh” button to update your word cloud.
  6. Play around with the advanced features.

Another option is to create a Google Form and then use AutoCrat (another Add-On) to convert the form into a Doc, which you can then create a Word Cloud From.
What are some uses for Word Clouds that you can add to the list?
Need to Knows
Positive Referral Link :

Technology / Website Permission Request Form

Calendar Items
November 30’s #vachat (8et) : Teacher Leadership

December 3: 1st Period, Students Complete Tech Form (more on this later)

December 12: Holiday Social

December 2: Cheryl Cottrell, Gail Epps
December 3: Roxanne Muniz
December 4: Matt Pearman

Worth Your Time

16 Books About Learning that Every Teacher Should Read ….What Would You Add? Possible PD/Book Talks?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thank You

Thank You….
As educators, we sometimes forget the impact we have--lost amid grades, attendance, TPA, lesson plans, small salaries and budget cuts, and SOL scores.

As we prepare for our Thanksgiving break, please take a second to stop and reflect on the influence you’ve had on our students. So while sometime it might seem like we’re over-focused on scores and program, it’s your dedication to our students that makes everything we do at Monticello possible. Thank you for

  • Not accepting anything but our students’ best
  • Comforting a crying student
  • Patience with a challenging student
  • Maintaining professionalism when challenges present themselves
  • Helping unlock each student’s potential
  • Instilling a love for learning in your students
  • Being patient
  • Opening their eyes to the world around them
  • The passion you bring to teaching
  • Supporting all of our students as they grow
  • Empowering your students
  • Seeing the positives in the most challenging student
  • Promoting real-life skills

Thinking about ALL our Students
As we prepare for the Thanksgiving break, our thoughts often turn to time with families, to lavish Thanksgiving spreads, or to Black Friday shopping. For many of our students, however, Thanksgiving break means several days without hot food. Other homes might lack heat. For some it means countless chores or babysitting or, sadly, living in an abusive home.

So as we approach Thanksgiving, please don’t forget that for many of students this is a challenging time, one of tremendous stress and anxiousness. To all of our students, but especially those with troubling home lives,  Monticello is much more than a place of learning.

Below is a blog I wrote several years ago. It’s long but it was one of those seminal events in my life:
During my early years of teaching, I had a student (I’ll call him John) who often put his head down in my class. I had cajoled and spoken to him too many times to count, when one day as soon as class began he began to sleep before the tardy bell even rang. The nerve! I went over to his desk, tapped him on the shoulder and flatly stated, “You need to stay awake.” I turned my attention to beginning class.

As the students worked on their bell ringer, I began to take attendance. By the time I had gotten to John’s name, he was already dozing off. How was that possible? I had spoken to him less than three minutes ago.

As a relatively novice teacher, I was furious. I took it personally. I walked over to his desk, tapped him on the shoulder. No response. I leaned down to him and whispered, “You have work to do.” Again to no avail. My frustration mounted. Many of his classmates were now watching. As a young teacher, I felt I had to prove myself. I couldn’t let a fifteen-year-old show me up.

I knocked—maybe even pounded—hard on his desk.

He shot up! In one fluid motion, he pushed his books off his desk and shouted “Leave me the **** alone you ****!”

Any eyes that weren’t on us before, now surely were. I was stunned. Silence came over the room.

I stood speechless as he stormed out and slammed the door.

I’m sure I stumbled over my next words as I tried to regain my composure and the class. I was furious that a student had just cussed me out, but I knew I couldn’t let my emotions get the better of me (although in hindsight, they already had).

I managed to teach the next portion of the lesson before I stepped into the hall to confront John. John sat on the floor, curled into a cocoon. Stunned, I searched for words, “John…”

He looked up, tears rolled down his face. I stood speechless. How could he go from this maniac who just cussed me out to a timid, fear-ridden young boy?

Changing tactics, I bent next to him. “What’s going on?”

“Mr. G. I’m sorry. I’ve had a horrible night. I shouldn’t have cussed.”

I paused. Again, unsure of what to say.

John opened up, “Last night my mom’s boyfriend was over. They started arguing. My younger brother and sister were scared. The argument grew worse and worse.”

He continued, “He started beating her. Right in front of us! We're in the kitchen and they were in the living room. I tried to pretend not to be scared. But my mom was crying. My brother and my sister were crying. I didn’t know what to do. I just held my brother and sister. I held them tight. I took them to my room.”

“My mom’s boyfriend, he’s such an ***. He's drinking. My mom’s crying. Everyone except him is crying. I’ve talked to her about him, but she says they love each other.”

I stammered, “I’m sorry.”

“He yelled at her all night. He beat her up good. My sister and I never fell asleep. All three of us cuddled up in one bed for the entire night. My mom didn’t get up in the morning to send us off to school. I was scared to check on her when I left. I did though. She got beat up good.”

“John, I’m sorry. Let’s go to guidance.”

Another teacher, walking towards the teacher workroom, crossed our paths and asked, “Everything alright?”

Immediately I experienced an epiphany. If only I had started off the class by asking John, “Everything alright?”

The entire confrontation would have been avoided, but more importantly John would have known that I was there for him.

Instead of my unwieldy attempt to demonstrate power, I needed to open up my heart and soul.

I had succumbed to thoughts of revenge, when my thoughts should have been of compassion and mercy.

As teachers, before we reach our students minds, we must reach their hearts and souls.


John, the guidance counselor and I spent the remainder of the period talking while the teacher who passed me in the hall covered my class.

Social services and the police were contacted.

Over the remainder of the year, John and I had an uneasy relationship. If I saw his name on the absentee list, I worried. I’d check with the attendance office and if they knew nothing, I’d call home.

In class, I tried to comfort John; to be there for him. He never opened up, and I never  pursued/pushed the issue. I told him many times that I was always there for him and would talk whenever and wherever. He never took me up on the offer.

Sadly, I don’t know what happened to John and his family. During the summer, they moved to another county.

I doubt I positively impacted John’s life, but John forever changed my approach to teaching and to life. To this day, I wish it were the other way around.

Need to Knows
Positive Referral Link : With the end of the first semester a while ago, why not refer you top student, or the one who made great progress or you’re really proud of. It’s a great way to Embrace Students and Inspire Learning.

Technology / Website Permission Request Form

Calendar Items
December 12: Holiday Social

November 23: Lauren Williamson
November 25: Amy Hunt

Worth Your Time
How Can We Stop Teaching to the Test and Start Empowering Learning : Vicki Davis’ podcast with Eric Sheninger
Executive Summary of SOL Innovation Committee : OK, it’s not a great read, but it’s pretty darn important

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Extended Discussions and Scaffolding

Intervention Strategy: Classroom Literacy Strategy for Extended Discussions
Guided discussion is a valuable, yet often underused, instructional strategy that enables classroom teachers to demonstrate “habits of mind” and patterns of thinking. Good classwide discussions involve all students and require scrutiny in a supportive manner, and they wrap up with a summarization of the main points.

Here’s a strategy from (Kamil, 2008) that provides the required structure.
  1. Pose questions to the class that require students to explain their positions and the reasoning to support those positions
  2. Teachers should “think aloud’ as the discussion leader to model good reasoning practices such as taking a stand on topic or providing an explanation of why one supports a particular position
  3. Supportively challenge student views by offering possible counter arguments that students must attempt to answer
  4. Single out and mention examples of effective student reasoning
  5. Avoid being overly directive; the purpose of the extended discussions is to more freely investigate and think about complex topics, not to push students toward a pre-determined viewpoint
  6. At the conclusion of the discussion, summarize the general ground covered in the discussion and have students highlight the main ideas covered or respond to the main ideas

Teachers can train students to lead (think Socratic Seminars) and have those students moderated whole group or cooperative learning formats. This protocol, however, is an effective starting point.

A conversation with educators: Scaffolding
One of the things I love about education are the discussions that we, as educators, are able to have. We all share a love for our profession and an unbridled passion for our  students, so even when we disagree--although that doesn’t occur in the below vignette--we know we have the best interests of our students at heart.

Educator 1: “I’m struggling to meet the needs of my lower students. And then when I’m working with them, my stronger students act up.”

After talking a little about procedures, the second educator asked, “How do you meet the needs of the stronger students?”

Reflecting on the question, Educator 1, responded, “They don’t really need my help.”

Educator 2 responded: “Well clearly they do. The problem you’re having isn’t with your lower-level students; it’s with your stronger students. We need to raise the ceiling of performance for all of our students. So for your top students this means they need to be challenged more.”

The above story was shared with me by the two teachers! From this conversation we started talking about scaffolding and differentiation. The highlights of the conversation:
  • Great teachers challenge each student by establishing expectations just beyond the reach of each student
  • As teachers we must support the growth of each student
  • Our best students need us just as much as struggling students, but their needs are different
  • We must use pre-assessments to know where each student is and where they are going
  • Varied or flexible grouping is vital to pushing each student to perform to their fullest
  • Student choice is a great lever

Need to Knows
Positive Referral Link : With the end of the first semester a while ago, why not refer you top student, or the one who made great progress or you’re really proud of. It’s a great way to Embrace Students and Inspire Learning.

Technology / Website Permission Request Form

Shout Outs
Thanks to all our HOSA students and their sponsors, Nurses Hunt and Ramwell, for a successful blood drive. Yes, the lines were long for our students missed some class time, but remember each donated pint saves 3 lives….I think we can “live” without some of our students for a class period.

Two non-VHSL sporting events stood out this past week. Despite several student injuries, the PowderPuff game, organized by Ms. Meade and Ms. Johnson was a great success. Thanks to all the teachers who worked the concession stands and the gates and to Nurse Tomlin for the first aid. The students had a great time and it was for all for a great cause.

And the dodgeball tournament, also for a great cause, was also a rousing success. Great job Coach Hunt! Our faculty teams ended up short-handed...but that’s another story.

Congrats to our Girls Cross Country team for taking 2nd place at the State Meet at Great Meadow!

Missed including this last week but our Marching Band, led by Mr. Coston, earned a Superior Rating, the highest possible.

Gotta’ tip the hat to our Scheduling Committee for their continued hard work as we shift to an alternating block schedule.

Who’s trying last week’s 2x10 strategy? Would love to hear from you!

Calendar Items
Tonight’s #vachat at 8pm features author Douglas Reeves as we discuss Creativity, Assessments and Grading  

November 18: Band Concert
November 19: Faculty Meetings
November 20: 21 Chump Street Performances (all 4 blocks)

A long stretch without any birthdays….

Worth Your Time

The Secret to Close Reading Success The article talks about CCSS but it can be applied to any classroom. Talks with Teachers is a great podcast by the way (where the article comes from).

The 6 D’s process of Solution Fluency-Define, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, Debrief WOW! I wish I had known about this website years ago. A great starting spot for problem-solving, inquiry-based learning, project-based learning and collaborative projects.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Embracing Students Through 2 x 10 and Listening Passage Preview

Excellence in Education: Embracing Students Through 2 x 10
This strategy came to me via Ms. Stacks via Mr. Warren. I believe it was originally from Dr. Allen Mendler.

It’s a technique used to connect with and embrace students, especially tough ones. It’s pretty simple, take 2 minutes a day for 10 consecutive days to engage the student in a personal conversation. Try to avoid talking about school, and definitely avoid anything negative about school (missing assignments, poor test grades, etc.). It’s also important to avoid anything else that might bother the student (for example, several years ago I was trying 2x10 with a student, “Frank,” and I was asking him about his weekend and his brother. “Frank” seemed to be shutting down even more despite my best efforts. The technique wasn’t working until, when near the 10th day--it was probably after the 10th day, “Frank” finally broke and told me that he wasn’t living at home anymore and was essentially homeless. In other words, I had been bringing up all the things that were causing stress for him, but even then, he saw that I was trying and eventually shared his personal story with me.

  • Like any conversation, it should be a two-way conversation but make it mostly about the student.
  • Listen
  • Respond
  • Make the student believe that he/she is the most important person in the world

Give the technique a try with one of your most difficult students, someone who you feel you haven’t connected with yet.

In 2 weeks, I’d love to hear how it’s made a difference.

Intervention Strategy for Reading Fluency : Listening Passage Preview
I think Popcorn or Round-Robin reading should never be used in class but I know there’s value to having students read aloud, either whole-class, in groups, with peers or with a teacher. This is a great strategy to help students practice so they can read aloud later.
  1. Sit with the student in a quiet location (alternatively this could be done in small, similar groups or with a stronger reading partner who the student feels comfortable).
  2. Say, “We’re going to read together. I’ll read first and you’ll follow along.”
  3. Read aloud for a couple of minutes and then state, “Now, it’s your turn to read the same part out loud. If you come across a word you don’t know, I’ll help you.” If you’re working with a small group of students they can chorally read.
  4. Stop for student errors or if he/she hesitates for more than 3 seconds (wait for the entire 3 seconds no matter how hard it is). Correct the word and have the student correctly read the corrected word.
  5. Continue reading until the passage is finished.

Need to Knows
Positive Referral Link :

DART (Dr. Huneycutt) form :

Technology / Website Permission Request Form

Shout Outs
Nurse Tomlin for acting quickly and responsibly to a significant student injury and Ms. Campbell for being a calming and reassuring presence for the student.

Dr. Huneycutt for volunteering to serve as our DART representative.

Calendar Items
Tonight’s #vachat at 8pm is being hosted by Wade Whitehead, a member of the state’s SOL Innovation Committee. Should be a great conversation and it’s an opportunity for you to voice your opinions to someone who can make a difference.

November 10: Blood Drive
 PowderPuff Game

November 11: 10th grade Career and College Expo at UVa (9:45-11:15)
11:00-11:30 - 1st Lunch (9th, 11th, & 12th grade students who eat 1st lunch)
11:45-12:15 - 2nd Lunch (All students who eat 2nd lunch and 10th grade students that eat 1st lunch)
12:30-1:00 – 3rd Lunch (All students who eat 3rd lunch)

November 12: Dodgeball Tournament

A long stretch without any birthdays….

Worth Your Time

Seven Homework Assignments That Guarantee Learning and the Secret Sauce That Makes Them Work  Purely coincidence that 2 of 3 articles have secret sauce, and full disclosure: I occasionally blog for this site.