Featured Post

How to Keep Fidgets from Overtaking Your Classroom

This fidget would do more to distract me than to help me focus. How to Keep Fidgets from Overtaking Your Classroom First, I need t...

Monday, June 20, 2016

Slowing the Summer Slide

Slowing the Summer Slide

The loss of learning that students experience over summer vacation is a well established phenomenon in education. So let’s take a look at some ways  beyond traditional summer programs, summer learning packets, and welcome letters to slow the Summer Slide and gain valuable teaching time in the fall.

Walk it, and Talk It-First, model ways that you continue to learn during the school year and the summer if possible.  Share a picture of your group in professional development. Post a video of you watching a YouTube video about “How to Build a Fence” or a fire pit.  Just let them know that you are a learner, and learning does not have to be silent reading or math drills.

Don’t Forget Tech- Make sure your students, and their parents, know about your online learning tools that are available for use through the summer.

Think Social-Use established social media connections to send learning resources or problem based learning projects to families.  Just be sure the delivery system you choose is approved by your building administrator and never communicate privately online with a student.

Appeal to the Students Interests-Some of the biggest Summer Slides come from students that are not interested in traditional subjects. Use what you know to get them hooked into doing, creating, and thus learning. Whether you send snail mail or electronic communication, personalize the two or three you need to in order to get those students thinking about their unique interest and wanting to know more.

Create a Summer Challenge-Challenge your students to learn to do something new over the summer and report it with photographs or video when they return in the fall.  Students may learn to play an instrument, build a fort, make a movie, or write a story, the ideas are endless.  

Become a Summer Learning Coordinator-School districts are getting innovative and creating positions to reduce summer learning loss.  These coordinators share information about summer learning programs and stay in touch with the most vulnerable families to encourage learning projects.

Hopefully, by slowing the Summer Slide, we can regain the weeks of teaching time spent remediating each fall.  As I tell my sixth grade students every fall, “I know you learned these things last year.  We just have to dig deep down where they are buried under countless episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, endless hours of video games, and pounds of s'mores, and drag the math, language, and collaboration skills back to the surface. You know this!”  

Allen Hancock
6th Grade Teacher
Centennial Elementary School
Lewiston Independent School District

This post was featured in the IEA Reporter (see the link below)

Yes, I Remind

Yes, I Remind

I didn’t choose to teach.  Teaching chose me.  And with that, I have always known that my most important partners are my students’ families.  Somehow, in a need to become “Professionals,” we teachers had created a chasm between us and them.  I longed for the connection between home and school that took place during Little House on the Prairie time and I found myself teaching in a Fast Times at Ridgemont High system.

That began to change with my first cell phone.  I was a rebel when I gave parents my personal number.  My fellow teachers were appalled.  They just knew that I would regret it.  And yes, I received calls at weird hours.  But, the unthinkable began to happen.  My parents began to see that I was really willing to do whatever it takes to help their child succeed, and that I really, really cared about their academic success and emotional well-being.  With this revelation, every conversation from then on was predicated on mutual support and understanding.

The natural progression led to me soon receiving text from parents as well as calls.  So, I asked parents if they would like to receive text reminders from me.  I took down their numbers and, even though they still had my number and they knew they could call me any time, I could now easily send the “group”  text reminders.  “Field trip tomorrow. Don’t forget your cold lunch.”  “Our math ISAT is tomorrow morning.  Remember to get a good night sleep and eat a great breakfast.”

As you can imagine, I was once again that crazy teacher, and the other teachers said, “I’ll never give parents my personal number.”  Yes, I got some weird text and learned a lot about my student’s families from pocket dialed calls, but the benefits far outweighed the headaches, for awhile, at least.

Soon, with phone upgrades, came some interesting problems.  First, my new phone would only allow ten phone numbers in each group.  By this time, I often had over 40 numbers in my texting group including: moms, dads, grandparents, and stepparents (I never included students in my groups).  As a result, I would have to copy and paste the text many times to send to everyone.  Then, an even bigger problem raised its ugly head.  Conversations! When text conversations became a feature, I made the early mistake of not turning it off.  Yep, when a parent replied to my mass group text, their reply now went to every one in the group.  What a nightmare!

Enter REMIND!  Remind was a lifesaver.  Parents could opt in.  One text could be sent to all.  I could even schedule delivery.  I can even send to students now.  It was a lifesaver.  Since then, I have looked at other texting options, but Remind remains the simplest, easiest, purest text option available.   Now, I’ve set up our PTA’s Remind account and give presentations on “Parent/School Communication with Mobile Technology” and recommend Remind often.

I now have Remind classes set up for the “Class of 2021” as well as my current “Class of 2022.”  I’ve heard that my “Good luck starting seventh grade tomorrow; you are ready and will do GREAT things” text to last years class meant a lot to both the students and parents.  I can’t wait to send their “Good luck at the high school” and “Congratulations on Graduation; I knew you would do it” texts.

Allen Hancock
Remind Connected Educator  

Why I Brought My “Ditched” Desk Back

Why I Brought My “Ditched” Desk Back

    Over the last year I’ve seen the “Ditch the Desk” movement gain momentum, and I’ve seen a lot of reasons that teachers have “Ditched.” They often include one or more of the following.

Reasons to Ditch
  • I don’t use it anyway
  • It takes up too much room
  • It’s just a place to pile things
  • It creates a separation between me and my students
  • I can really use the space for other things (stations, centers)

So, after much thought, I “Ditched.”  I wanted to use some of the space for makerspace activities and replaced my desk with a small square table for my computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

That was August, just before school started. Now, early October and the last day of first quarter, it’s back.  My first quarter of school was a difficult one. My sixth graders in our self-contained classroom weren’t particularly difficult, but I never really felt settled.  I was continually searching for things.  The parent permission forms were always in my lower desk drawer on the left side.  Discipline referrals were always in the top center drawer.  IEP, LEP, GT, and 504 information was in the top left.  My snacks, bottom right. Now these things were scattered across a poorly designed and foreign file folder system on a counter.  There were piles everywhere and no place to put them. That’s when I realized, I hadn’t just “Ditched” a desk.  I had ditched 5 drawers that were an important part of my organizational system for years.  

Furthermore, as I reflected on my lost space and organizational structure that those five drawers provided, I realized that the “space” that I thought I would gain by “Ditching” didn’t materialize.  In fact, the small table I placed where my desk used to be was only about 18 inches shorter that the length of my old desk.  And, it had no built in storage like the desk had.  So, my dream of using the space for other things was never realized.

However, that was just part of my decision to “Unditch” my desk.  As I sat looking around the classroom, I thought about the many late nights of “Data Evenings,” School Carnival, Halloween party preparations, curriculum meetings, and Technology Focus Teacher meetings, and early morning faculty, IEP, STAT, and 504 team meetings. Then, with the students working on one of the makerspace activities I designed, and I purchased.  Researching with the iPads that I spend evenings managing. I realized that everything, and I mean everything, from the games in the closet to the posters on the walls is for them.  I realized that I had given up the one thing that was completely and uniquely mine.  My comfortable grading area, my computer area, my snack drawer, my organizational system and it didn’t help my teaching or their learning at all. I know it may sound selfish, but no one spends more time in that classroom than me, and I’m the most valuable resource my students have.  I deserve to be comfortable, happy, and have a small space that is mine.  

That final day of first quarter, I brought back my organizational system, my space, my sanctuary.  By “Unditching” my desk, I got more space back than I ever gained by “Ditching” it in the first place.

Allen Hancock

****If you are a desk “Ditcher,” and it has worked for you, congratulations.  This is just my story of trying to ditch and is not a judgement about ditching in general. My only intent in writing this is to share my story and hopefully give those thinking of “Ditching” their desk a chance to prepare for the issues that I hadn’t considered if they choose to try “Ditching.”

About Me
  • Sixth Grade Teacher in a k-6 elementary school teaching all subjects
  • Over 20 years of classroom experience in grades 3, 5, and 6
  • Former Interventions Specialist specializing in behavioral interventions
  • Technology Focus Teacher implementing 1:1 iPads for the last 3 years
  • Just in Time Trainer
  • Presenter (Idaho Core Days, Technology Showcases, Idaho State PTA Convention, and Idaho Educational Technology Association conference) on “BYOT-Making it Work in Your Classroom” and “Parent/School Communication with Mobile Tech”
  • Remind Connected Educator
  • Class Dojo Mentor  
  • Contributor to the IEA Reporter

Twitter @ahancock516