Monday, December 28, 2015

Writing Our Own Alternate Ending #KidsDeserveIt

Today's guest post is from Mrs. Emilie Garwitz, a kindergarten teacher at Greenwood Elementary in Minnesota.  This is Emilie's first blog post, and she is sharing it with #KidsDeserveIt and the Adjusting Course blog.  Please connect with her on Twitter @MrsGarwitz and throw some support and encouragement her way.  (Emilie and her team are doing some extraordinary work with students.) 

K pic 

We all know the endings to familiar stories: the shoe fits, Cinderella marries the prince, and Harry Potter defeats Voldemort to save the wizarding world. 

We find ourselves often thinking and talking about endings long after we have finished reading. Generations of teachers have challenged learners to use their creative talents to write alternate endings to these beloved tales. But how do we tailor this classic method to our current generation of learners - the next innovators in our world? In what ways can we apply 21st century skills such as collaboration and creativity to the learning experience and standards? And, what if the artifacts of learning lived on beyond the lesson using digital tools relevant to young students?  

Recently, my kindergarteners have been fascinated by the alternate endings to the gingerbread man story. I wanted to take their energy and dive deeper. The classic method would have been to have my students use their creativity to write a new ending. And the challenge was that kindergartners’ writing skills and stamina are still developing. So I asked myself, what motivates them? What tools can I give them to help them be successful when so many of their skills are still in progress?  

  This is when I turned to our school’s mobile Makerspace carts and challenged my students to build alternate endings to the gingerbread man. The objective was kindergarten friendly: I can create a new ending to the gingerbread man using legos. The results were astounding. My students planned, collaborated, shared, built, created, and reflected for over an hour - a long time our youngest learners. 

Their creativity stretched well beyond my highest expectations and the experience was authentic and meaningful. They changed the characters, the setting, and more. One group’s version of the story had a copy machine that the gingerbread man used to make twenty copies of himself in order to outfox the fox.   “We’re engineering!” one student exclaimed. 

This was the moment when I started thinking about the possibilities for their future. I was not just teaching a skill, I was imparting on kids a new mindset - an engineering mindset. Building their alternate endings was cross-curricular. During the planning stages, I looked up how many standards connected to this objective and was blown away.  

While learning to write and practicing writing are critically important, this whole exercise made me reflect on the choices I make as a teacher. Maybe I should not limit their tools in the classroom when it’s time to create. How could using tools that are relevant and motivating to students change the learning experience?  

After an hour of innovating, it was time to take apart the creations - such a hard thing to do for both teachers and students after so much time, effort, and creativity are spent. But what if the learning does not stop when the last lego brick is cleaned up? What if we could make time in the classroom to help students’ ideas and work live on? 

Enter, Google Drive. 

When students take pictures of their own work, upload it, and share via the Drive with their families, they truly own every step of the learning experience. Digital learning is relevant to students and the ability to share learning with families helps connect us. Every teacher savors that moment when her students achieve bigger things than she ever dreamed possible. 

Witnessing 5 and 6 year-olds upload photos of their creations to Google Drive was one of those seminal moments. Most people might hear “Google Drive and kindergartners” and think “that can’t end well.” I guess you could say my class created an alternate ending of our own.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

We Have to Believe #KidsDeserveIt via @benjamingilpin

Today's guest post is from Ben Gilpin. Ben is a Principal in Michigan.

"The future belongs to
those who believe in the
beauty of their dreams"
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Didn't they know I was right behind them?  Weren't they aware that I was "one" of them?  

I stood behind the golf cart and proceeded to clean the clubs of two male members at our local country club.  As I scrubbed the clubs clean I couldn't help but overhear the conversation that was occurring.  "The future is bleak!  Kids nowadays have no respect!" stated the driver.  The passenger jumped in, "Just yesterday I walked into the grocery store and two teenagers had headphones on and you could hear the music.  They'll be deaf by the time they're 30!"  The banter went back and forth for several minutes.  It was clearly evident that they believed the future was in rough hands.

I was right behind them.  Did they not care?  

Years later I hear the same conversations from my generation.  I hear adults talk about kids having their faces in a device.  I hear the obsession with Minecraft.  I hear the negative talk about how the future is in terrible hands.

I choose to Believe in a different future.

As a teeenager I was part of a group that took food to needy families.  I watched many of my friends step-up and support others.  I saw a bright future.

Now as an adult I see more quality than ever before.  I met a group of young ladies that were working on a variety of projects.  They ranged from knitting mittens for the homeless to collecting books for low income families.  

I choose to Believe.  

Every generation believes they are the best.  I'm hear to say, "My hope is that the next generation far exceeds us."  

Let's stop the negative talk about the next generation.  

I challenge you...
  • If you don't like it, do something about it.  
  • If you believe it is really that awful, go check out some of the kids in the National Honor Society.
  • If you fear for the future, it is time to understand that it doesn't have to be the same as it was for us.
  • If you think the world is crumbling, just google Kid Heroes.
I Believe the future is in good hands.  The next generation will be full of people that challenge norms, think creatively and see past the barriers that future generations have put in place.

If you need more proof that we are in good hands, just check out this 3 minute video.

I Believe in our kids.  I dream of a bright future.  I know that #KidsDeserveIt and that they deserve to have adults support them in being the best they can be.  Will you Believe?

Monday, December 14, 2015

KDI Minds Collide #KidsDeserveIt

Kids Deserve It! 

 Writing our last chapter!

Sometimes things just fall into place.  It doesn’t make sense all the time, but it always seems to happen at just the right time. The important thing to remember is - just go with it, there’s a reason it’s all happening!

Who would have known that six months ago, we would have met face to face and hit it off so well at NAESP?  That it would have led to the creation of Kids Deserve It and a book deal?

That the working relationship would turn into a friendship where it was like we’d found our long lost brother.  Where our world’s began to collide on more than just a work level.

This weekend we finally had the opportunity to spend some time in person together since July!  And even more than that our families got to meet as well.

Friday began the excursion.  Todd was able to spend the entire day at Adam’s school shadowing him and meeting a few of his teachers.  We even had two other principal buddies of ours, Brandom Blom and Jesse Woodward, show up!  It was a day filled with great professional conversation.

But the best part came the next day.  On Saturday our families collided and we spent the entire day touring San Francisco.  We visited the Golden Gate Bridge, rode a cable car, walked the streets, saw thousands of Santas, rode on BART,  ran to Twitter Headquarters, and even rode (yes, all 6 of us) in a Pedicab.

And as we sat across the table from each other writing the ending of our book on Sunday morning while Adam made blueberry pancakes, it all hit us.  Look at the world we live in.  A world where when we choose to connect with others and put ourselves out there, we can really find something special.

Over the last six months our worlds have been flipped upside down.  There’s so much awesomeness that has happened.  And this weekend, spending it together with our families, was only a further reminder of even greater things to come!

So please remember - take the time to connect with people in person. With Social Media we all have so many ‘friends’ and it’s the real friends that we believe truly make the difference. They make you a better person for  you, your family, your job and for those around you everyday.

Be awesome, connect with others, practice gratitude and don’t forget to smile - you deserve it!

Writing + breakfast at Adam's house!

 Pedi cab with both families, thanks to Chris for pedaling us!

 Everyone loves a cable car ride!

Golden Gate Bridge

The Welcome's