Thursday, January 28, 2016

Want Critical Thinkers? Try ThinkCERCA

As an ELA Coach, it is usual for me to receive many forwarded emails. I received one from my building principal last week. I am so glad that I took the time to read the email. +ThinkCERCA
"is a flexible critical thinking and literacy framework that empowers whole school teams to improve student growth across disciplines by engaging students," according to their website. Intrigued, I asked our wonderful Freshman teacher, +Andrea Moser  (#shoutout!), to try out the platform using the FREE trial items. I was awed by her enthusiastic reply and actions.

Andrea replied immediately and began learning how to use the system. She read background information and watched videos. The very next day, she implemented +ThinkCERCA  with her Pre-AP Freshman. This particular group of students grasped the power of the platform and is excited about using the full cycle in class. Andrea and I talked about how helpful it could be if the platform was used across the disciplines. Using a common platform and a common language for the details of writing could really empower a school! 

While this platform would not replace our current Common Core-aligned curriculum, it could be an advantageous addition to our ELA lab classes. All of our middle school students receive ten hours of instruction in both ELA and Math. +ThinkCERCA  could be useful as it is possible to group students by ability or by grade level. These groups then work through a CERCA cycle. 

             The CERCA Framework teaches students how to: make claims, evaluate evidence, explain                   their reasoning, develop counterarguments, and choose words that will appeal to their                           audience. What’s more, the framework strengthens speaking and listening skills through                     peer-to-peer discussion and debate."  

Teachers can receive a FREE poster just by visiting their website!  Click here  
Signing up is FREE and takes less than 30 seconds. Try out the free close reading and academic writing items and decide for your school if helping your students to think critically is worth the expense. I know that I am intrigued.

Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Power of Google Classroom as a teacherleader

The Power of Google Classroom

Google Classroom is simply a godsend.  As a teacher leader,  I am a teacher and an ELA coach to 6 teachers.  Google Classroom is a tool that I easily utilize for both positions.  As an ELA Coach, I can schedule meetings, share professional development and request feedback and other responses using Google forms.  As a high school AP teacher, I need a way to interact with my students easily. The writing demands and the constant contact require both a way to receive papers and a way to provide assignments, feedback and various messages.

As an ELA Coach,  Google Platform uses the power of Google Apps to power our department. Anything in Google Drive can very easily be shared through Google Classroom as a private or public post.  Private communication is enabled within the department. I also like that teachers can more easily return to a suggested resource. Our school email accounts can quickly become overwhelming.
Google Classroom allows us to concentrate only on departmental work.

As an AP English teacher, Google Platform provides a secure way to provide access to assignments and a secure way to receive the return of assignments. The very best part of Google classroom is the ability to provide feedback DURING the writing process rather than merely AFTER it is turned in.
When students access and create an assignment during class, I can immediately begin to click on papers and provide feedback and encouragement to the students!  Students are always surprised the first time they see my icon on their Google doc. I can type on their document and help along the way.
Communication in this way is much more private than oral conversations during writing workshops. Once students submit their papers to me I have full ownership and they can no longer edit their paper. Google keeps track of all changes and the date and time of those changes, just in case there should be parental concerns. Most recently, we learned the power of sharing one set of Google Slides and allowing each student to create their own slide. They can all provide feedback and encouragement to each other safely within Google Classroom. As the teacher, I can see all the work easily.

Additionally, Google Classroom allows me to post messages such as essay contests, ACT dates, opportunities, and last minute school reminders. The students receive notifications via their phones or email regarding each post within Google Classroom. Students can respond to the whole class or me privately, but cannot privately message another student.

Having tried numerous LMS over the years, I currently find Google Classroom to be preferable due to the ability to connect not only to Google Apps but also to so many other websites because it allows me to manage more easily two of the hats I wear at school.

Please DO comment and share how you use Google Classroom!

Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed
I have taught in private, public, and public open-enrollment charter schools

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Freedom of Speech and the importance of civil discourse in public schools

In 1644, the notable English author, John Milton, appealed  to Parliament for the liberty of free speech in 1644 when he said, "Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties."  As a United States citizen, my freedom of speech is  protected by the First Amendment. The United States Department of Education recently clearly clarified that Freedom of Speech is to be protected in our schools while protecting and promoting the safety of students.
Protecting free speech means protecting the ability of your students, faculty, staff, and members of the public to hold and express views that may be at odds with your institution’s strongly held values. Schools should not ignore the dissonance that this creates, but should instead consciously use these moments as opportunities for reflection, discussion, and increased understanding.
Free Speech is integral to our democracy and to civil discourse. I am comforted that our early American leaders were in favor of free speech. George Washington in 1783 when speaking to his army officers said that without the freedom of speech "we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter."  Likewise, Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Edward Carrington suggested that he would prefer to be without government  rather than without free speech.

When discussing the importance of free speech, it is also important to promote civil discourse. Teachers must ensure the physical and psychological safety of all their students at all times, but especially during class discussions.  Teaching Tolerance provides useful FREE materials to teachers to help teach civil discourse.  These materials have won  two Oscars, an Emmy, and numerous publishing awards due to the excellence of the materials through the support of the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

Follow the links below to these free materials to help promote free speech with civil discourse in your classroom.

Civil Discourse in the Classroom
Additional Classroom Resources

Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed
I am an AP English teacher, ELA Coach, and a PD facilitator.
I have taught in private, public, and public open-enrollment charter schools.