August 31, 2014

Happenings in Hodgensville: Instagram

Happenings in Hodgensville is me sharing a piece of my non-reading self with you. It's usually related to what's happening in my classroom or my sharing my latest StitchFix with you.

Today, I want to talk Instagram in a secondary classroom. I received an email asking me for tips on how to use it in a secondary classroom, and I responded. I decided then to create a blog post about it as well.

Use Instagram in my secondary classroom?! Absolutely.

I love social media for a lot of reasons, but most especially for the way I am able to communicate with my students.

Instagram is something I love using. Pictures tell stories on many levels. I use my account to share a bit of myself, my classroom, my interests, etc. While some have very focused accounts, mine is a bit of a hodgepodge of life. 

If you’re on Instagram and are a secondary teacher, you’ve probably noticed that there seems to be an absence of us. There are some of us sharing what we do in our classrooms, but there could be more.

If you’re on the fence on using Instagram to enhance your own classroom, let me share a few ways I use it for my students.
  1. Create a hashtag for your students to follow. For my kids I use #hodgensap, #hodgens12, #hodgensmyth. The hashtags allow students to not have to follow you, but can see how you celebrate your classroom.
  2. Selfie with your students and other teachers. It allows students to see that you understand the point of selfies, and it models for them how to do it in a constructive way. I will have students who will ask me, “Are you going to put me on your Instagram?!” It excites some. But before I take a selfie with a student, I ask, “Do you mind this going on Instagram?” I will have an occasional student say yes.
  3. Share classroom happenings - last year I took a picture of my midterm review sheet and posted it on Instagram with the class hashtag. I had several students tell me they thought that was cool. And it shows them how we can use Instagram for pictures of more than just ourselves, and our food.
  4. Take humorous pictures of yourself. If I’m feeling overwhelmed with grading, or if I’m having a rough day, I will day a selfie and post it with my class hashtag. This allows them to see that I can have a sense of humor, even on my roughest days.
  5. Take pictures of students working in groups - I try to get them when they are looking down. I have to remind them to “not look” while I’m taking pictures. But it lets them, and their parents, see what they’re doing in class…and how comical some of their faces become when they’re working really hard.
  6. Take pictures of student work that is impressive…and not so impressive. I like to make collages of projects my students complete and post it to Instagram. It gives students a defined sense of self in a new way; I’m not just hanging their work in the hall but sharing it on social media because I am proud of the work they put into their assignments.
  7. Relax. Have fun. Be yourself.
I don’t have all the answers, but I hope the above tips help nudge you to start using it too.

Do you use Instagram for your students? If so, share tips below you would like to add to my list.

Happy Teaching!

          - The Hodgenator

August 16, 2014

Happenings in Hodgensville - Pinning

Happenings in Hodgensville is me sharing a small piece of myself with you—sometimes it will be classroom related and sometimes just a, “Hey! Here is what is happening in my life right now” post.

Today I'm writing about pinning.

This summer I was fortunate enough to work with a lot of teachers to help them challenge their students’ reading, writing, and thinking skills. What I learned while working with these teachers is that several are not on Pinterest.

I was surprised because I just assumed that everyone was on and using it to help them with classroom ideas.

This is not the case.

So, I want to make a case for using Pinterest in your classroom.

First, I call Pinterest a place of magic. A lot happens there—it is not just a place to “pin” things. It is an inspiration. I use Pinterest to pin all kinds of decorating ideas, style ideas, and classroom ideas.

I also can share my love of books, Marilyn Monroe, Star Wars, and more…

But here is how I use it to help me grow as a teacher.

1.    I have a board titled “Hodgensville.” This is what I call my classroom, so when I see something that may inspire something I want to do in my classroom—from decorating to seating arrangements to handouts—I pin it to this board.

2.    No matter if I have taught something for fifteen years or am about to teach something for the first time, I turn to Pinterest first. I search for what I am teaching, and I scroll through ideas. Any that I really like, I “pin” for later use.

3.    Confession: I hate teaching poetry. I have never enjoyed reading and studying it. I struggle with the idea of rhythm in poetry. With senior English, I have no choice but to teach it. (I can get away with not teaching it in AP Lang since we are a non-fiction class.) So, I turned to Pinterest for ideas on how to help me bring it to my classroom (1) without torturing myself and (2) engaging my students. Through Pinterest, I found a great YouTube video that teaches students how to properly use TP-CASTT. I found two different version of TP-CASTT to use with my students. This inspired me to teach TP-CASTT to my students using Dr. Seuss books. I broke them into groups of three, had one read the book to them while the other two worked through TP-CASTT together. This allowed students to practice the strategy without overloading them with “scary” language and gave them a foundation to use TP-CASTT on an assigned poem.

4.    With Pinterest, I don’t have to “bookmark” everything and then lose it when my browser updates, which has happened a few times. I know I have an idea pinned on my Hodgensville board, so it does not take me long to find it.

5.    It gives me a common language with my students. They are social media mavens. They use social media for so many things. The first time I ever mentioned Pinterest, they were surprised I knew what it was. I told them, “I was on Pinterest back when it was new and no one really knew what it was.” That always surprises them—and it allows me to appear hip and tech savvy in a world where being those two things at my age are getting more difficult.

6.    Pinterest really is a place of amazing professional development. Many of us have joked about earning PD credit because we spend so much time on the site, but truly, it is a site that I find so much inspiration and new ideas and development, that it really should be considered PD.

How many of you are on Pinterest? How do you use it in your classroom/PD?

Leave a comment below and let’s talk about what inspires us as educators, what helps us grow our craft? Pinterest is just one small and simple example.

Happy Teaching!

     - The Hodgenator

Review: Still Point

It has been a while since I’ve blogged about anything—between teaching workshops for two weeks before school started to surviving back to school, I have been pooped.

But, I am back. And I am reviewing the final novel in one of my favorite YA dystopian series.

Title: ‘Still Point’
Author: Katie Kacvinsky
Pages: 345
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Available: September 2
Source: Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the final installment to the trilogy begun with "Awaken, " Maddie returns home to make her final stand against Digital School, and uncovers deeply guarded secrets about her family an new truths about herself.

My Thoughts:

‘Awaken’ is one of my favorite dystopian novels for teens—it reflects a world they currently live in a hyperbolic way. It is one of the few dystopian novels I’ve read where I thought, “I can see this in twenty years.” So, I am a fan of Kacvinsky’s writing and world-building.

With the final installment of the series, I was a bit surprised. But in a good way.

Maddie returns home and agrees to abide by her father’s rules, as long as he is home.

But the world is crumbling around them, and Digital School is in danger of being toppled. Maddie’s father is in the center of it; after all, he is the founder of DS. This gives his character a reason to be absent, and a way for readers to see a relationship between Maddie and her mother.

This whole series has focused on the strain between Maddie and her dad—so it was refreshing to have mom step in instead. A lot of times I do not enjoy parents being involved in YA tales because they tend to get in the way of the storytelling. That is not the case in this novel. It offers a softness to the hard, technological world in which people are living.

While Maddie is living home and fighting DS in her own way, I must not forget the other half of her heart. Justin.

Oh Justin. He is heartbroken that Maddie left without saying goodbye, but she has his heart. He is a fighter, not just against DS but FOR Maddie.

That is about all I feel I can say without giving away any important plot points.

Kacvinsky brings her series full circle with a satisfying ending. She builds on Maddie’s character development, and it is refreshing to see Maddie grow on her own, on her own terms.

If you have read ‘Awaken’ and ‘Middle Ground,’ you have to read ‘Still Point.’ The final showdown against DS happens; but be warned: there are prices to pay when something greater is at stake.

There is no ‘Allegiant-style’ ending here—but I still needed a few tissues.

Do I recommend this book?

Absolutely! This is one of my favorite dystopian series—and I reference ‘Awaken’ a lot when I work with teachers and with students. This series is one of the dystopian series that will open a lot of discussion into a classroom because some students are already living a life very close to what is being portrayed.

Let’s talk about books—what’s your favorite dystopian novel/series?
Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator