Tuesday, July 31, 2012

South Korean Students Study in Howard County

Last week, I had an opportunity, along with my son and daughter, to eat lunch with 24 middle schoolers who were visiting from Iksan, South Korea. For the seventh consecutive year, students were selected by the local school system in Iksan, South Korea to travel to Howard County to improve their English speaking and listening skills and learn more about American culture.

During the first three weeks of July, the visiting students were enrolled in classes at Ellicott Mills Middle School, where they spent five days a week in a five-hour English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, class. They worked on reading, writing, listening and pronunciation. During their classes here in the states, Korean was not spoken. Again this year,  there was an emphasis on both the written and spoken English language skills.

When the students were not in school, they were spending time with their host families. The host families are from Howard County, Maryland. It was really touching to see how attached the students had become to their American families during their three week stay.

This three-week cultural exchange program mixes classroom instruction and field trips. During their stay here in the states, the Korean students were able to travel to Washington, D.C. to visit the Smithsonian and the South Korean Embassy. They toured the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and the Goddard Space Flight Center as well as taking tours of the Howard County police station and fire department, which are not permitted in South Korea.

This past Friday, the closing ceremony was held to celebrate all of the learning that had taken place as well as a time for the Korean students to share their talents with Dr. Foose, Mrs. Perkins and other top officials of the Howard County Public School System.

Cassie, Ben and I had such a great experience being apart of the closing ceremony. My daughter said, "It was so cool to meet students just like me, but from so far away."

Here is a link to some pictures: 2012 Iksan Partnership Closing Ceremony

Monday, July 30, 2012

Lessons Learned from our South Korean Exchange Student

This past week, my family and I had the honor of hosting a teenager from South Korea. She spent the week with us here in Maryland learning about our culture and in exchange we learned a lot about the Korean culture. Subin is a wonderful young lady with a beautiful smile and great sense of humor. She demonstrated really good English skills and was a joy to have here in our home.

During the week, we took her to see the Maryland beaches, the monuments and the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., the sites and sounds of our small town and the various malls here in our area. She had the opportunity to eat Maryland-style crabs, pizza, hamburgers from Five Guys, ice cream, hot dogs, and Americanized Korean and Chinese foods. However, she truly enjoyed eating chocolate and ordering Starbucks' coffee drinks.

During our time together, we learned a lot. Below are some of the lessons we learned about having an exchange student stay with us:

1. Middle schoolers are pretty much the same all around the world. With the exception of the language and some food differences, Subin and Cassie were really similar. Both enjoyed laughing, shopping, eating sweets, and avoiding the camera.

2. Keep it simple. Subin seemed to enjoy the time we were together as a family the best. While we planned many exciting (from an adult perspective) events, she seemed to like listening to the music on the radio, laughing with my daughter, watching movies and soaking in the sites and sounds of a "so-called" normal American family.

3. Don't worry about the possible language barriers. While Subin had the ability to understand a lot of the English we spoke, whatever she didn't understand in words, she picked-up by observing our routines and customs. She was eager to participate as a member of the family and wanted to experience everyday routines.

4. Open-ended questions are hard to answer. During the first part of the week, we asked Subin what she wanted to experience here in the Maryland area during her short stay. We thought our questions would be helpful. What we found is that Subin didn't know how to answer open-ended types of questions because she was not aware of all of the options that were available for her. We learned to provide choices for Subin and have her select from two or three possibilities.

5. Remember fun is universal. As a former history teacher, I do get great joy in sharing my knowledge about the area in which we live and taking visitors to historic places to see. So, naturally, I wanted to share some of my favorite places with Subin and my two children. Quickly, I learned that seeing Washington, D.C. was interesting, but only for a short time. My daughter shared with me that. "Fun is more important than knowledge." While I don't subscribe to this completely, as the week progressed, my wife and I found ways to mix fun, learning and exploration into each day's itinerary.

5. Take lots of pictures. Enough said...

I feel very blessed that Subin could visit our home and be apart of our family for the week.  I know this experience will be remembered by my family and Subin for the rest of our lives.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Quote of the Day

“Machines never come with any extra parts, you know.  They always come with the exact amount they need.  So, I figured that if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn't be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.” 

Hugo - Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Happy People DANCING!

Sorry for the profanity in the title (I didn't name it)...but I think it is worth watching.

David Thornburg on the Evolving Classroom

Edutopia's Big Thinkers Series

Monday, July 16, 2012

July: The Ultimate Planning Period | Edutopia

Terry Heick
Terry Heick is interested in learning innovation in pursuit of increased social capacity. He is Director of Curriculum at TeachThought, and a regular blogger for Edutopia.

July is traditionally considered leisure time for educators and the educated -- teachers and students alike. Beaches and books, pools and picnics.

And for good reason. The workload of any teacher or administrator can be difficult for those outside of education to fully appreciate.

That said, there's a thin line between two months of respite and losing ground in your craft. Slumbering for the summer and then expecting to flip the light switch that turns everything on for the first professional development meeting at your school or district can do more harm than good. And since June itself is often full of close-outs, meetings, and general exhale, that leaves . . . well, July.

Though it can be tempting to put the next school year off until last possible day, it doesn't have to be that way. You can still relax, make your own schedule, and "play" enough to free some creativity from the vise grip of a taxing schedule.

While you likely have your own checklist for opening the school year, below are five ideas to help you stay on top of your game without completely spoiling the oasis of summer.

1) Review and Refine Instructional Design

While classroom management, grading tips and collegial relationships get a lot of ink, instructional design is a teacher's real best friend. The opportunities you provide for learners to understand and master new content are the very heart of what we do as educators, and nowhere else is it as accessible as July.
The school year itself is full of grading, reporting, refining and communication. Matters of design are best tackled when you have both time and a bit of spark. No matter what you use during the year -- thematic units; project-based learning; direct, genre-based instruction; online learning; a flipped classroom -- now is the time to look at what you've done and tweak it. Differentiate it, personalize it, make it more authentic, offer more learner voice-and-choice, increase the potential rigor, alter how you activate prior knowledge -- whatever it takes to evolve your craft.

2) Verify Curriculum

Academic standards change -- and recently, they've changed often. Whether you’re operating from the Common Core or working to fold in NCTE, P21, or other local learning standards, knowing your curriculum is (obviously) critical. And this goes past keeping up with whatever changes have been handed down from above -- it's about looking at the content you deliver with fresh eyes, which can be difficult.
Find a different way to read the standards this time. For example, highlight them with three different colors: one for standards or specific language you might have missed in the past; one for potential power standards; and one for standards that may offer collaboration opportunities with other content area teachers.

3) Check-in with Your Digital PLN

Whether you're officially checking in with your personal learning network, or simply pinging the PLN you use every day via Twitter or your favorite blog or Ning, ongoing involvement with other educators can help with suggestions #1 and #2. For example, get a teacher from another grade level, state or content area to have a look at one of your units or assessments.
And when you do, be open to their thinking.

4) Building and District-level Collaboration

Team meetings can help ease the anxiety of starting a new school year, no matter how relaxing it is to have your toes in the sand. Classroom management, rewards, scheduling and other areas that can really obscure the curriculum and instruction -- e.g., the learning -- can be taken on at the local Starbucks, or even via Edmodo or Google+, so that when you do show up at your local brick-and-mortar, there’s less on your plate.

5) Visit with Incoming Students

Home visits are incredible ways to better understand not just the "city" your learners come from, but the specific neighborhood and house. And it can be eye-opening.
Home visits by educators usually begin with a district or school-level initiative. Postcards sent out a week or so ahead of time let families know when to expect you, and you'll usually go with at least one other teacher, if not two or three. This is probably not the kind of thing to jump in your car and try on a whim. (That's more than a little weird.)
But if it's on the summer agenda for your school and you've never done it before, this is something to look forward to. Visits like these can establish relationships that will go miles in the classroom.

This Won't Be on the Test

However you spend your summer, don't forget to relax. The numbered items above aren't supposed to be another stressful checklist. They're just big ideas to help you make sure that, come opening bell, your classroom whirs on like the rigorous, personalized, digital and authentic machine it is.
If you can start with the big ideas first -- instructional design, curriculum, collaboration, and the learners themselves (especially if you can reach out to them in an out-of-school context) -- it's much easier to swallow when four out of your first five planning periods are brutalized by meetings, phone calls, and enough paperwork to keep Dunder Mifflin in the black.

Give it a shot for 90 minutes a day. The sun and sand will be there when you're finished.

July: The Ultimate Planning Period | Edutopia

Rethinking How We Grade Students

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Common Core State Standards: Math Instructional Shifts

David Ginsberg, from the Coach G's Teaching Tips blog, shares the following:

The fate of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics will depend on how we teach more so than what we teach. It's great, for example, that teachers will now have time to explore topics in greater depth. But unless they're prepared to go deeper with those topics, the extra time will be spent reinforcing algorithms and formulas rather than deriving them. 

School leaders and math teachers must therefore understand the instructional implications of CCSS in addition to the content implications. This is why I begin Math CCSS training with a discussion of six shifts in instruction associated with CCSS: Focus: fewer topics covered in greater depth Coherence: connect learning within and across grades Fluency: perform mathematics with speed and accuracy Understanding: use mathematics in complex situations Application: know when and how applying math can solve a problem Dual Intensity: achieve fluency and conceptual understanding/application Check out this video in which CCSS co-author David Coleman explains the six shifts in more detail:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

WLMS Pride: Learn2 Tri Program Highlighted

The latest HCPSS Parent Teacher Connection program has a feature toward the end of the program on the Learn-2 -Tri pilot program. This T. V. program highlights the partnership between Tri-Columbia and six Howard County Public Schools including Wilde Lake Middle School. WLMS students can be seen swimming in the Wilde Lake Swim Center as they practiced one of the three events that make-up a triathlon event.

Check it out at : http://hcpsstv.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=881
(It starts at about minute 24-25 minute mark.  You can drag the button on the bottom of the screen to that point)

Thanks to Mrs. Lyons and Mr. Tiffany for helping to implement this new program.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

In honor of our country's birthday, here is a cool video that deconstructs one of my favorite American landmarks.

Check it out:

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Power of Title IX!

Title IX is a law passed in 1972 that requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding. I am so glad my daughter was born after 1972!