Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Online Grades: A Beautiful Thing

Our school district has launched an online portal allowing parents (and students if they have the log in info) to check grades and attendance.

I was already used to this, from my student teaching experience, and now as a teacher I'm loving the potential implications for our district.

This transparency potentially eliminates uncertainty, while streamlining communication. It also bolsters accountability - parents and students with a Net connection are able to gauge the student's performance with a few mouse clicks.

No surprises, no excuses - it's all online.

Attitude of Gratitude

I was asked to reflect on what makes my days at school exceptional and energized, versus those days when we come home feeling tired and defeated.

To answer my fellow Pinnacle team members, it's really a simple formula. I begin the day with an attitude of appreciation, realizing how lucky I am to be in a position to change lives and make a difference.

I spend quiet time in the morning, in reflection and a state of calm, gathering strength for the day. Listening to one of my favorite songs, thinking, reflecting, praying, I seek that special peace that transcends all worldly things.

Then I teach as if no one is watching: No peers, no administration - just me and the students. I know if I've done well not through evaluation tools, but by the simple and ultimate test. I can stare at the man in the glass, and he lets me know.

Teaching is a gift, and realizing this seems to help unlock my own gifts. This is all easier said than done, but it's what I'm committed to do ... no matter how often I fall short of this goal. With failing comes humility and the chance to grow, but that's another post entirely.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Audacity: Bringing Lord of the Flies to Life

Lord of the Flies is a book students seem to dread reading, and teachers also complain about teaching (me included). The wording / language in this novel is sometimes as thick and dense as the book's jungle setting.

Using Audacity, the extremely simple audio program, I was able to breathe some life into this book - and actually get a group of seniors excited at 8 a.m. in the morning. Our assignment intro is below, along with a link to the entire lesson ... which culminated in a discussion about careers in marketing.

Students complain a lot about Lord of the Flies being boring. You've just been hired by Bank Marketing and Design to change all that.

A new Lord of the Flies movie is coming out, and you are writing the radio spot. Work alone or in groups - and make a 30 second spot to really pull in potential movie goers.

Time it out - this is tricky and challenging!

Next, go over to the recording studio and create your spot using Audacity.

You aren't done yet ... next get with your art department, and create a compelling movie poster to accompany your radio spot. Advertising works best when many pieces are working together, such as print and radio.

Before we get started, let's look at some tips for great radio commercials.

Remember we'll want to focus on sounds! adjectives! emotion!! Your voice is your tool here.

(Entire lesson here)

Student Work Examples:

note: MediaFire was used to host these files ... it's a free file hosting service. Audacity files cannot be opened by anything except Audacity (I discovered).

So, I exported them as MP3 files. These should open in Windows Media Player or your default media player. Just click "download" and click the file that downloaded in the corner of your screen.

This is a free service, and annoyingly - to share them publicly - MediaFire sometimes puts a commercial on top of the audio track. Just let it play and rewind. (You get what you pay for).