Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom

When the Network Betrays Us…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on June 3, 2013
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No internet? The network is down? How am I going to print the worksheets I spent hours creating last night for today’s lesson? How will I give the online assessment I planned? What in the world will I do with my students for 90 minutes? How am I going to keep them engaged?

Some days, progress comes to a screeching halt. As a language arts teacher, I have to take step back, pull open the file cabinet, and switch gears. Technology is an amazing tool, but it can’t become the only tool used when teaching because it doesn’t always work. When the panic begins to rise in my throat because I’ve lost my connection, here are a few things I turn to for help:

1) Picture books for narrative writing.  I have a collection of picture books I keep in my classroom now that my own children have grown beyond that age. My favorites are the “Carl” books by Alexandra Day. I usually put students in groups of 3 or 4 and give each group one picture book. As a team, they must “read” the book and write the story that goes along with the pictures. It’s always interesting to listen as they share their interpretations of the pictures and elaborate on them as they write their version of the story.

2) Engage in some team competition. Postpone the lesson planned for the day and have a little friendly rivalry in the classroom. Two of my favorite go-to games are Lingo Bingo and Horrible Homonyms. The kids enjoy them, even while practicing skills they will see on the state tests. Having a Jeopardy game saved can also provide a great review day when the internet isn’t cooperating. This can be used with literary terms, concepts from a recent novel unit, or any other information you want to review.

3) Act up! One great thing about a language arts classroom, there are always plenty of books around. Sometimes I divide my students into small groups and give each one a short story or a folktale. They have to read the story, decide who will play each part, and then act it out for the class. With little preparation and practice time available, the performances can sometimes be quite entertaining.

4) Round-robin writing using pictures. My students love this activity and always beg for time at the end of class to share what has been written. I usually divide students into groups of 4 and give each student in the group a picture from a magazine (I keep a folder full of them in my file cabinet and reuse them every year). Each student begins writing the story of what is happening in his or her picture. After 5 minutes, I tell them to pass their picture and story clockwise. Each student then reads the beginning of the story he or she receives and continues writing it until time is called to pass it on again. Usually the students strive to write the most outlandish stories they can, and the results are normally hilarious.

5) Get out the marker boards. You remember them, right? Mine are simply plain white paper that I laminated. Hand one to a student or a small group of students with an Expo marker and they are immediately more engaged in the examples or questions I’m presenting. Even though my laptop won’t connect to the printer, it will still connect to the projector in my room. Instead of having my students circle the correct letter on worksheets I created, I can project each item on the whiteboard or Smartboard and have them answer on the marker boards. I benefit from instant feedback plus I won’t have a big pile of papers to grade at the end of the day.

Technology certainly makes our lives easier when it works, but don’t let it ruin your day when it doesn’t. Be creative and innovative. Your students will probably enjoy switching gears for a day.


Seeking Horizontal Approval

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on February 5, 2013
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Today’s society wallows in sexual innuendo (did you see some of the Super Bowl ads??), so some would read the title of this blog and let their minds wander to the bedroom (or a parked car, or a bathroom stall, wherever). But that’s not what this is about. Sorry, but there’s nothing racy here.

Recently, I’ve heard the terms horizontal and vertical approval used on occasion. I understand the concept of seeking approval either from those around me (horizontal) or from above (vertical), but I didn’t analyze the small aspects of my life in regards to the distinction. Until now.

I know many aspects of my life probably reflect my need for horizontal approval. Not always because I thrive on the approval itself but because sometimes it’s easier than seeking the vertical type. But there’s one area of my life that really needs a change.

What I’m referring to is my “connectedness” to other people. Nowadays, it’s so simple to stay connected. I remember while growing up, sitting on the hard, dining room chair next to the built-in desk between the kitchen and dining room, winding the phone cord around my fingers while I chatted with whoever happened to be on the other end. If I wasn’t near the phone or in the house, I simply wasn’t connected.

That was it. No email, no iPhones, no tablets, no Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Snapchat. How did we ever survive?

Sometimes I long to be unconnected again, but I fear I’m addicted to it. Living far from family is a great excuse to be active in online communities and social networks. Texting is a fast, efficient way to keep tabs on Autumn or keep in touch with Mark, friends, and co-workers. Reading blogs and articles increases my knowledge and awareness.

But is it too much? Does it waste valuable time? When I consider my connectedness based on seeking approval, I think so. Here are just a few of my many habits…

When I’m in my classrrom, I check email every time I sit down at my desk.

Rarely a day passes when I don’t read the news feed in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Frequently (very frequently), I send texts just to find out what other people are doing.

I receive over one hundred blogs and articles in my inbox and/or RSS feed every week.

Each of those isn’t bad in and of itself. But when I think in terms of seeking approval, God plays little if any part in those actions. Do I check professional email frequently so I can answer immediately and the recipient might view me as prompt and on-the-ball? When I send a text to see what others are doing, am I overly concerned with their life instead of focusing on mine? Do I check the social networks (and post status updates on them) to feel an inflated sense of belonging?

What might happen if I dedicated a small amount of this time to gain some vertical approval? Could I eliminate a few email checks or Facebook scrolls and instead read a devotion? Say a prayer? Think of a way to help someone? My relationship with God would certainly flourish. My spiritual walk would follow a straighter path. My need to feel approval from others would diminish as I absorbed the approval from the One who matters most.

Awareness is the first step, and now that I acknowledge my problem, it’s an easy fix, right?

Sure it is. Now guess how many times I checked email while typing this. 🙂

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