Friday, December 16, 2016

Slamming our Way Through a Winter Storm

The winter storm headed our way wasn't going to stop a group of seventh graders who had been preparing for this day for almost three weeks. Today was poetry slam day, and these students were anxiously waiting to share their poems with other seventh graders from Hillsborough Middle School in New Jersey. After all of the writing, electronic sharing, commenting, and practicing, it was time to finally meet this other group of seventh graders with whom they had been working since the project's beginning.

The project idea blossomed this past fall when I connected with HMS's wonderful technology specialist, Mary Ellen Davis. We began brainstorming ways in which we could connect our students throughout the year across various grades and subjects.  When we both discovered that our seventh graders studied poetry in November, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a collaborative project. 

At DPMS, I turned this activity into what we call a "stretch."  Stretch activities are created for our advanced students who benefit from more acceleration than what is offered in the regular classroom. Prior to this project, each ELA teacher identified a group of students who either expressed interest in writing poetry or who displayed exceptional writing talent. Once identified, students met in the library during part of their ELA class periods to work on specific poetry activities designed by me, our literacy coach, and our talented and gifted teacher. Students completed this work in addition to the work that they were still expected to complete in their regular ELA classes. All participating students were required to write at least five original poems from the bank of activities that we shared with them.

Once their poems were complete, it was time to share. Using Voicethread, students shared slideshows of their poems to a collaborative DPMS/HMS group. Voicethread was the perfect platform for allowing our students to communicate asynchronously with the HMS seventh graders. Students were expected to provide either text, audio, or webcam comments on at least two poems from five different students. The feedback that they received helped them revise their poems in preparation for our slam.

The final part of this project was the best part: the slam! While participation was optional, most students elected to perform a poem of their choice. To prepare, we watched several examples of slam performances and discussed the importance of movement and voice inflection. On the big day, we rearranged our library to look more like a cafe, dragged our TEDx stage out from the back room, and served cookies and hot chocolate. These students deserved a reward! Through Google Hangouts, DPMS and HMS students took turns performing their poems.

At the end, a winner was chosen from each school using a shared Google Form. HMS students awarded Tyler's performance of "The Crossroads" as their favorite.

Our students were buzzing with excitement after I announced the winner. Some students enjoyed this experience so much that they decided to band together and form our school's first ever poetry club! I can't wait to see what they create next!

Now it's time to face that winter storm...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Great NaNoRiMo Adventure

Have you ever dreamed of writing your own novel? For a creative group of seventh graders, their dream may become a reality. Ten students from Mrs. Lambert's ELA classes will meet in the LMC every Tuesday to participate in NaNoRiMo. During the month of November, these students have set goals to write a specific amount of words with the hope of finishing a novel by the end of the month.

To kick off NaNoRiMo, and to help our students think critically about their writing, we Skyped with author Margo Sorenson. Margo began by sharing various tips for our writers. She especially focused on how to create strong characters, the planning process, and the elements of an engaging story. She even shared some of her first and final drafts to remind students about the importance of revision.

Students had many questions to ask afterward. This was a great opportunity to learn some trade secrets from a professional writer! Students wanted to know things such as how to come up with names for characters, where to find story ideas, and Margo's biggest struggles as a writer. After our call ended, students were buzzing with excitement about what they learned and about finally diving into NaNoRiMo.

Stay tuned for updates from our NaNoRiMo group during the month of November. I look forward to seeing what these exceptional students create.

Around the US (and Canada) with Mystery Skype

During the past couple of weeks, seventh graders in Mrs. Krebsbach's and Mrs. Allen's Social Studies classes traveled to different parts of the US and Canada by connecting with other classrooms through Mystery Skypes. Once the game was over, and when time remained, it was fun to ask getting-to-know you questions such as "How many students are in your school?" and "What is the weather like in your city?" We had a GREAT time meeting students from different locations!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Eighth Graders Meet Geologist David Waldo

Eighth graders had the unique experience of being able to speak with geologist, David Waldo, about the controversy surrounding fracking. During their current inquiry unit on alternative energies, students have been researching some of the different energy sources currently used- solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, hydropower, coal, and natural gas, to name a few. To introduce the students to the often controversial topic of fracking, we turned to the excellent service, Nepris, which quickly paired us with industry professional Waldo. Waldo shared his expertise about the fracking process, its impact on the environment, and how this source of energy compares with others. Students were also able to ask questions following his brief overview on the topic. At the end, students had a broad, inside perspective on the topic.

I recommend Nepris to anyone wanting to connect students with STEM industry professionals. A connection was as simple as posting a request and waiting for a response. Best of all, students gained a real-world perspective from an expert in the field.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Teen Read Week- October 10-14

We are excited to officially celebrate Teen Read Week next week! Students can stop in the LMC during SRT to participate in a selfie station (complete with props) and learn how to make a light up bookmark. In addition, we will be taking nominations for the first ever DPMS Top Read Award. Nominate your favorite title to win the big prize.

For every activity that you participate in next week, your name will be entered into a raffle for exciting prizes including: gift cards, posters, and Scholastic Book Fair gift certificates. The more you try, the more entries you will receive!

We will see you in the LMC next week!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

DPMS Kicks Off GRA!

Today we kicked off our celebration of the Global Read Aloud by meeting one of our partner schools via a Mystery Skype. Eighth graders in Mrs. Meyer's and Mrs. O'Hearn's classes used their geography skills to correctly identify our partner school's location. It was certainly fun learning more about the differences between the "big" city of De Pere and the "small" city of Campbellsburg, Indiana (population 573)! We look forward to connecting with them during GRA to discuss Orbiting Jupiter.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

TEDxDePereMiddleSchool videos now available!

A few weeks ago, on May 27, I was able to participate in one of the most amazing experiences of my professional career. Thanks to the brilliance of my coworker, Josh Gauthier, De Pere Middle School hosted its first ever TEDx event- TEDxDePereMiddleSchool. During our event, 20 selected students and five community members gave the talks of their lives from our very own stage in the LMC based on the theme "my unique contribution to the world." TEDxDePereMiddleSchool was a day filled with so many highs as these students amazed me with the passion behind each of their messages. The variety of topics- everything from girls in stem to redefining the word "nerd"- showed not only that middle school students care deeply about the community and world in which they live, but it also showcased the great heights our students can achieve when we push them to discuss subjects that engage them.

If you were not able to view our event via our livestream link, you can still view all of our student and community talks on YouTube. I hope that you will be just as inspired by them as those of us who were physically in the audience.

While preparing for this event was a huge endeavor, it was worth every extra minute spent planning, coaching students, and organizing the day. Our students got to be the stars, and as an educator, nothing could have made me prouder.