Posts by Laura R. Farmer

I am a passionate teacher who loves learning, innovation, and making a difference in the lives of my students.

Not Your Everyday Digital Storyboard

If you are like me… you love new ideas and even more…enhancing old ones. A few weeks ago I happened upon a video from the Ron Clark Academy of Kim Bearden offering a lesson on Greek myths. The video was amazing and I thought, “Hmmm..I can do this, too!” Now, as you may have already guessed if you are also a trier, doer, and seeker.. real life never goes quite the same as the picture perfect version. There were some stumbling blocks and frustrating moments, but overall I definitely love the end product and I would do this project again.

So, I am here to make your life a little easier and tell you the nitty gritty of this lesson.

Lesson Outline:

  1. For students to close read a Greek myth from a choice of twelve.
  2. Students must discuss and summarize the story of their choice in groups. Then, decide which one they would like to act out and rewrite as a narrative.
  3. Students will assign each other parts from the Greek myth and then dress as a Greek God, Goddess, or other supporting character.
  4. Students will pre-write six scenes with the narrative writing below each sketch together (but every student must create his own copy). This must be completed BEFORE they are allowed to act the scenes out and dress up for pictures.
  5. Students must have their pre-writing reviewed by the teacher and then put their names on the board to have their pictures taken based on the scenes they created on their paper storyboards.
  6. The teacher will take the pictures. I took one group shot and then six additional shots (one per scene). I only gave them about five minutes once they were dressed in their costumes. They had to be prepared. Then, email the pictures to the group leader who can then share the pictures with the rest of the group.
  7. Once the students have their pictures, they can download them and create their storyboards using Google Slides. We are a Google district and Google Slides is an excellent and free tool to use for this lesson.
  8. One student needs to open the Google slide presentation and then share it with the other group members (that way ALL the students can work on the storyboard at the same time.) For example, one student can work on the pictures and graphics, while another works on the narrative story.
  9. As the teacher, you must continually check on the students for their quality of writing. They can not get so carried away with the graphics that the writing fails to be excellent.
  10. The students had to include figurative elements such as onomatopoeia, alliteration, personification, similes, metaphors. I also wanted them utilizing active verbs and adjectives.
  11. Then, the students had to present their storyboards once completed. They were given feedback on the development of the story and the presentation. I call it “two stars” and a “wish”.
  12. Finally, the students had to fix areas of need for their final graded submissions.
  13. Overall, expect this to take an entire week (depending on time). My students and I took about thirty to forty minutes of class time each day on the project. This was all to support our reading of The Lightning Thief, so we were also reading the novel as well.

Materials:

Greek wardrobes: I made sure that I had enough for every member. That was usually four per group. I went to Goodwill and found curtains for $1.00 each that matched the coloring of regular Greek costumes. I washed them and then cut holes for the head to go through, and then I cut the red curtain into long strips to serve as the sash. I also cut some rope that I had to belts. I did go to Party City and I bought the Greek headpieces. Those were the most expensive at about $5.00 each. I bought two. I also bought a couple $1.00 plastic hats that were gold for the boys. All other items I had on hand from my house of three active kids or from the Dollar Tree.

Camera: I did use my Iphone for the pictures because it was easier. I tried to chromebook camera, but it is hard to navigate and the picture quality was not as good.

Paper Copies of a Storyboard Template: I just googled this and easily found one that I liked for free. I made a copy for every student. Storyboard Template

Greek Myths: Finding Greek myths that were appropriate for 12 year olds and user friendly to read and access was the most time consuming and difficult to find. It is helpful for students to have an understanding of the myths because the novel characters and conflicts are based on Greek myths. For this, I bought a set on Teacher Pay Teachers for $6.00. The stories were for sixth graders and they were no more than two pages long. In addition, they were appropriate for the students to read. Many Greek myths are pretty out there and I worried about finding the right fit for my students. This was a great purchase. Greek Mythology Stories

Chromebooks/Desktop Computers: I wanted the students to take this activity a step further and not just create a paper sketch with the story written underneath. Also, I did not want to utilize programs such as StoryboardThat which creates animated storyboards (often I’ve found that student writing is fairly shallow with this program). I decided that Google Slides would be best because the writing could be stretched and they could also add original pictures with graphics. You could also use Powerpoint as well.

As far as rubrics.. I will leave that to you on how you want to assess this project. You could use a rubric or checklist. I used a checklist of what had to be in the project for the students and then a rubric to grade the presentation itself.

Tips: BE PATIENT. Make sure the students realize creativity takes discipline. It’s not all about the fun, the content and quality has to shine through. The writing must be excellent as well as the presentation. In that sense, it creates relevance for real life. One day, on the job, students will need to be creative–but also disciplined enough to create a quality product.

Here is an example that you can use and share with your students as a model. I always love a visual!

The Golden Touch: A Student Exemplar of the Greek Mythology Storyboard Project

storyboard

I hope you decide to give this project a try!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shake the Mid-Year Teacher Funk: Read The Wild Card

There are times in the school year…especially as testing season approaches–that teachers–can get in a bit of a teaching funk.

Worry sets in..at least for me. I question, “Have I done all that I can do?” “Have my students learned–anything?” This worry can begin to stunt my abilities for creativity. It’s as if I get a bit of brain fog that I can’t shake. This is something that I take seriously because I want only the best for my students. I want to be successful and enjoy my class.

That is why I love following educators on Twitter who inform me of all the latest books that may shake me out of my occasional teaching funk and get my creativity going again.

One fantastic book just came out entitled, The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King. It truly is one of the best books I’ve read for educators and I’m not just saying this because it’s hot off the presses. This book is written for teachers. It’s real and it’s honest. That honesty helps me to know I can truly apply their suggestions in my classroom. It also reassured me that engagement is happening in my classroom. I believe the best educator materials reassure you, but also push you to be better as a teacher.

I would recommend this book for all teachers who desire a boost in engagement and energy in the classroom.

There are many pieces of wisdom and inspiration to be found in The Wild Card but I love the following:

Assess, Accept, Act (Instead of passing blame and pointing fingers: reflect on your practice, accept the reality of what is, and act to create a positive difference). That is such a great way to think about the classroom as a teacher and in all areas of life.

So if you’re looking for a good investment with that last Christmas gift card, I would suggest The Wild Card.

The Truest Measure

kennedy

I know if you’re a teacher who reads, you’ve probably read the rhetoric before about testing and how it affects students. I will probably write nothing new today, but I’m writing to remind myself of what testing will never be able to measure.

  1. Relationships- Tests can never measure the relationships developed between teachers and students. The discussions shared, the laughter, the smiles, and the memories that last a lifetime.

2.  Student Ability- Our young people are amazing, but over testing can hinder them from risking and innovating. Many students have already, by middle school, boxed themselves in as failures if they have not performed well on standardized tests. As a teacher, it can be difficult to develop motivation within students that they are not just a score on a test. Students need teacher advocacy and supports. We, as teachers, need to find greater solutions for the sake of our students’ health, emotional wellness, and future. How could students produce more authentic products to demonstrate learning? How could we remove the restraints of failure and grow and develop innovators and problem solvers?

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We need to find ways to teach, not because we want our students to do well on an exam, but because we want a brighter future for our community and our country. We need students to read and write well because that is what leaders do, and we need leaders–not good test takers. Let’s rise above the status quo and remember the purpose behind what we do. I would also like to encourage parents. Please do not leave your child’s education completely in the hands of his teacher. Read to your child. Spend time with your child, and be present. Learn what he is learning, discover what he is discovering.

Let’s renew our sense of community. We are all apart of raising the next generation, and in that lies the truest measure of success. The results are in all of our hands.

kennedy2

 

 

 

 

Teaching….❤️

I stood in the parking lot, buses behind me, kids coming toward me excited to hop on the bus. 

Then, to my right comes Jon. 

“Hey, Mrs. Farmer.” 

“Hey Jon, how’s it going? Thank you for the kind note you wrote me.”

“Yeah, hey, you want a Kit Kat?” 

“Sure,” I replied. 

Jon reached in his pocket and handed me a piece of candy and then went on toward the buses. 

That was it. Nothing more. 

As a teacher, those moments-spontaneously kind and unexpected-mean more than anything I can think of-because in that moment he offered what he had because, well, he felt like it. 

Last year, I played UNO with him and his classmates, just a few times (after exams) but it’s been a connecting point ever since. Jon always carries UNO cards. 

Isn’t that the funniest part-we all study how to Teach Like A PIRATE or how to Teach Like a Champion but truly- it all seems to come down to the heart. “Do you care about me?” “Do I matter to you?” “Are you willing to invest time in me and what I enjoy?” 

Maybe teaching isn’t that complicated after all. 

Teaching: The Simple Comforts 


“I walked into my son’s room last night, and he was engrossed in a book. My heart leaped out of my chest, and in that moment I just loved him so much!” I exclaimed as I looked unto thirty sixth-graders hungry for lunch. 

I smiled, and they all started laughing. 

“What! What are you saying, Mrs. Farmer? You only love your son when he’s reading?” they all exclaimed. 

I retorted,”Now, y’all are just picking on me. I always love my son!” 

We all laughed together, and then headed out down the hall to lunch. 

Now, it was probably a bit selfish of me to be telling that story to begin with. Really–who wants to hear these boring personal stories from their teacher. Sadly, the one fun part about being a teacher is you always have an audience-may not be a captive one, but an audience just the same. Despite that, aren’t those the most treasured moments in teaching. Laughing and enjoying each other’s company. 

In the world of education there is always a new initiative, procedure, or demand for higher standards. But, truly, the joy in teaching often lies in the small moments. The moments when you catch that one student working harder than ever before, the snide joke–by the “cut-up” in class who deep down really enjoys your teaching and you know it, or the student who comes in every morning with a bright smile ready to help, whatever the task. I love those moments, and that is what I love about teaching. 

So, as we await the end of grade assessment scores, wondering, “Did I really do my job? Am I a good teacher?” I hope we can also remember that those scores will never take the place of those special moments, which make teaching so worthwhile. That our worth and the worth of our students reaches far beyond a number. The heart beat, the sweet souls who show up each day-bravely-despite failed attempts at learning and through victories, too, can come together and keep going with hope for a bright future. 

Last week, I wrote about the simple comfort of drinking coffee from my mom’s teacher mug every morning. I love holding on to that tradition! We all have teaching comforts-and it’s those small comforts like our students’ laughter that make it the best job in the world. 

I’m going to end this post with a scripture, since this is a reflective post. I hope those who read this may gain something from it as well. 

Wishing all teachers a wonderful week of small, joyful moments! 

2 Peter 1:5-7 New International Version (NIV)

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.

The Simple Comforts 

I grew up as a teacher’s kid. I still remember the school my mother taught in, the musty smell of the hallways, the lockers that lined the walls of a once segregated junior high school turned elementary school. The small room my mother kept as a speech therapist tucked behind the library.  I’d pass by her room with my classmates on the way to the library. They’d exclaim, “Mrs. Respess, oh, that’s your mom! Cool!” As an elementary school student, I stood proud, happy to have my mom nearby. 

My mom, calm and quiet, went about her work in a loving and cheerful way. She enjoyed her students and her job. She also seemed composed, organized, and prepared. This created a comfortable stability in my life. One item I remember that she always kept close at hand was her coffee cup. It was white with a flower imprint on one side and a scripture written on the other. I always loved that coffee cup and would study it at times. After my first year of teaching my mom gave it to me. 

Whenever I drink from it now, walking around my classroom or greeting my students for the day ahead, I think of her and an immense comfort washes over me. Like me, she stood in the hallways, greeting students in the morning, fervently working with the same cup in her hand. That brings comfort, but more importantly strength. She did the often hard work of teaching and I can do it, too.

This may seem small or insignificant, but sometimes finding those small treasures can make all the difference in attitude and outlook for the school day ahead. 

What small comforts do you treasure as a teacher? I would love to hear your story, too. 

Wishing all teachers a wonderful Monday morning, one in which you can treasure the simple comforts.  

Never Too Old: 10 Things that Middle School Students will Always Love

  1. Smiles.
  2. Verbal Encouragement.
  3. Written Encouragement.
  4.  High Fives.
  5. Hands on learning.
  6. Make Believe.
  7. Fun.
  8. Mystery.
  9. Collaborative Group Work.
  10. Support and belief in their life dreams.

 

Middle grades teachers can often speak about the importance of “growing up”.

“You’re in middle school, now. It’s time to grow up.”

The problem lies in that they aren’t grown, and they aren’t looking to be a grown up any time soon. In fact, many students express sadness in the loneliness they feel in this high-tech generation. That it’s all a bit fake, really. They want to feel more important than a smartphone.

“Be present, adults, for real,” they say.

The quest lies then, in returning to the good ol’ days, in a sense. Utilize technology, but be conscious of its use.

How can tech be integrated, while also weaving in smiles, verbal encouragement, high fives, hands on learning, make believe, fun, mystery, collaboration, and support?

Can class work be engaging, challenging, tech-integrated, and supportive of the whole child, no matter the content?

It’s a goal worth striving for…

One of the best Twitter follows who seems to always hit the mark on this is the author of Ditch That Textbook, Mr. Matt Miller. Follow him on Twitter @jmattmiller. I always seem to find great lessons and ideas from his website, and his lessons are so easy to implement.

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