First, I need to share a bit more about my classroom redesign. I shared some of the early steps in my classroom makeover in September, but I need to post my more recent learning space redesigns. My initial steps to create a more student-focused, student-driven classroom have lead to even more changes. As I spent time reflecting on my educational philosophy, I realized I needed to make a few more changes to my classroom space so that my philosophy was mirrored in my physical classroom space. My classroom is open, with flexible seating in the form of stools, pillows, ottomans (which double as book storage), and a couch. And I'm also happy to share that our classroom is featured as part of the #ClassroomCribs challenge. If you are looking for inspiration for your own classroom makeover, be sure to check out the work of Erin Klein, Ben Gilpin, and A.J. Juliani over at ClassroomCribs.com.
UPDATE: Shortly after posting this I learned that I am one of the Grand Finalists in the ClassroomCribs Challenge!
|Click to enlarge our four essential questions.|
Although I have been pushing my emerging writers to connect with audiences outside the classroom for a number of years now, this semester I have witnessed the pinnacle success of that focus. My students and I used social media to connect with and invite in a number of writers from a variety of genres into our classroom. In the last four months we have:
- heard a Holocaust survivor speak of his experiences in three death camps,
- used Skype to speak with the senior editor of Philadelphia Stories and Philadelphia Stories, Jr., Ms. Christine Weiser, about what editors look for in creative writing pieces seeking publication,
- virtually connected with Ms. Leah Nicholson of the Jenkins Publishing Group to learn about ghost writing,
- Skyped with founder and senior editor of Teen Ink, Ms. Stephanie Meyer, to get some advice for submitting our work for publication,
- invited three talented YA authors - E.C. Myers, Marie Lamba, and Ellen Jensen Abbott - to come to our school to speak with us about their inspiration and advice for writing stories,
- learned with a local psychologist about psychoanalytic theory, the The Kite Runner,
- chatted with musician, actor, and novelist Dave Patten about what it takes to "make it" in a creative field, and
- used Twitter and blogs to connect with students and experts all of the world as we researched our #HavPassion projects.
- poet Cameron Conaway, author of Malaria Poems, who will be speaking with my creative writing students about his inspiration and writing craft,
- Elise Juska, author of The Blessings,
- Christopher McDougall, best-selling author of Born to Run,
- Zachariah OHora, children's book author and illustrator,
- Judy Schachner, children's book author and illustrator of Skippyjon Jones,
- Donna Aviles, presenter and author on the United States Orphan Train Movement, and
- Christina Baker Kline, One Book One Philadelphia author of Orphan Train.
So many of these connections have come as a result of my students and I reaching out on social media and asking. This has been a big take-away that I need to explore more in the coming months. In talking with Teen Ink's founder Stephanie Meyers when we first connected my students with her via Skype, she graciously showed us virtually around her office and said, "No one has ever asked me to do this, and I love it!" In putting myself out there and asking anyone and everyone to come into my classroom - fellow teachers, writers, parents, other students - whether it is done in person or virtually, I have opened up opportunities for my students to connect with real audiences. Very little of their written work is seen by only me. We blog using Blogger and respond to classrooms around the country. Students post their work in online portfolios which can easily be shared with fellow teachers, students, and even parents. And in talking with my students about these opportunities, I have also encouraged them to ask. They are reaching out through their blogs and through Twitter in order to build their own personal learning network (PLN). I hope to share more of this particular adventure both here and in some upcoming presentations.
|Yup, that's me presenting.|
Speaking of which, wow! I need to share more of the presentations I've been doing! In the last few months I have had the opportunity to present at the Pennsylvania Council for Teachers of English Language Arts (PCTELA) as well as at the Michigan Google Summit. I was honored as an Emerging Leader at the recent PASCD conference. In a few short weeks, I'll be presenting at the upcoming EduCon conference in Philly with Christina Brennan on "Mentoring Passion" about how we connected my high school students with her elementary students through passion-based learning. And I need to share more about what I have learned from these fantastic organizations and connections.
So, I'm overwhelmed...but in a good way.