"We are living a public life on a global stage, the ones who can express themselves best, will be heard." -Laura Hill Timpanaro, Artist, Author, Educator

Thursday, November 29, 2018

#whatisschool The Interactive Classtroom

#whatisschool Thursday, November 30 6PM EST
The Interactive Classroom

Interactivity in the classroom, building stronger teacher-student 
and student to student relations.

Thomas sits at his desk and picks up his entry ticket, today's question is on whether environmental changes are effecting the local marine life population.  Halfway around the world Maria studies for a test by playing Kahoot with her friends while Adam, an elementary autism student, used Nearpod  to explore a 3D immersive panoramic of a farm and answer questions with his classmates. These are just a few examples of the ways educators are pairing interactivity with education to enhance learning, get feedback and gather data on student learning.

Classroom interactivity increases student's ability to think critically, problem solve and analyze.  It can provide important feedback for teachers allowing them to adjust pacing or teaching style to better engage their student community.  It creates stronger bonds between students and the teacher-student community and allows children to practice team building strategies in low risk settings.

Diversified learning models and technology have increased opportunities for classroom interactivity, but can also leave educators pressed for time and faced with mounting class loads wondering how to most effectively blend traditional and technological platforms  to increase interactivity in the classroom.  

This week #whatisschool explores the interactive classroom.   Join me, Laura Hill (@candylandcaper) and co-host Mark Weston (@shiftparadigm) , as we take a closer look at ways to engage students, foster community and build collaborative classroom platforms using technology. 

#whatisschool Questions

Q1: How can you engage students to foster community amongst peers and with teaching staff?
Q2: What types of interactive strategies (enter/exit tickets, pair/share, debate, role play) have you used, how did they work out?
Q3: What technologies have you employed (Nearpod, Kahoot) to increase interactivity, what were the results?
Q4: How can traditional strategies and technology be blended to enhance lessons and provide critical feedback to educators?
Q5: What tools, training or environmental enhancements would be most helpful to educators creating an interactive classroom?
Q6: How can interactivity foster skills that will help students succeed in school and post school life, and cope with a sometimes isolating technological world.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Why I Write With Children

by Laura Hill

“Everyone says the sky is blue but I know its purple and orange and pink.  I’ve met dogs that can talk and seen diamonds wash ashore because I see what’s there, not what I’ve been told too.” –Laura Hill

When my daughters first asked me to help them write a book I thought, ghads! how do I do that.  I was working under deadline to finish an article for a magazine and I didn’t want to stop.  But Ava and Kayla kept asking me and when children are persistent you know that it’s important.  We brainstormed for three months to write King Arthur and the Werewolves of Camelot, which is the second book in the series but the first one we wrote.  Ava, who was five made up the character of Jilly, a fairytale expert who could solve any magical mystery.  Kayla was 8 and much more mature, she wrote about Penelope a real world minded girl who solved her problems like puzzles with science and logic.

Now, five books later, Ava and Kayla have become experts at story writing and illustration, researching and fleshing out their own story lines that we all collaborate on.  I am left with the task of pulling it all together. It’s been a lot of work but has come with many perks. Ava and Kayla have gotten to meet some of their favorite authors, they have been on a TV talk show, attended big book conventions in NYC and learned the ropes of publishing as well as web design and promotion.

But I think the best thing that’s happened to us is that together we pull this off.  We win together, we lose together and we bring our knowledge and inspiration to children in schools all across America.  We know that if we can follow our dreams and do this, other children can too!  And we are happy our books make other people smile.

I speak in a lot of schools during the year and often times my daughters join me.  When we first arrive at a school we are excited and nervous. So are the students, neither of us knows what to expect.  But we break the ice using our imagination, and sometimes a microphone, to make fireworks explode and birds fly across the room. Then we begin to talk about how we write our books. 

The enthusiasm is contagious but sometimes, in the older grades, the cynicism is palpable too.  But as the conversation develops with humor and self-effacing confessions the atmosphere begins to change.  Slowly the children start to see that we aren’t talking at them about what we have done and we aren’t telling them what they should do.  We are giving them a formula to get their great ideas out into the world, just like we did. 

You can almost hear a click as their eyes light up when they make this connection.  To see my daughters present an author visit is too see themselves reflected on stage.  And we tell them, if we can do this, you can too.

I’ve talked to thousands of children across the United States.  The number one thing they want is for you to believe in them.  We give them confidence that their dreams are possible, and courage to make them come true.  And we do one other thing, we believe that their ideas are great.  This is a hard thing to do.

If I had not really listened to my daughter’s ideas conceding the lead when their concepts were better, we would not have this book series.  If they had not trusted me guiding them through revisions, pitches and press they wouldn’t be the kids they are today.  It takes a lot of vision, guts and trust to work together.

And that’s the thought I would leave you with.  When teachers and parents ask me how I write with kids I would say set up an environment of trust and mutual respect then the stories just flow.  Sure I use lots of techniques to coax higher thinking but the basis is you.  You are the only one who can teach them to take a chance on their own great ideas, and the one who can help them get those ideas into the world.

Laura Hill is an author and producer known for helping children find their voice and talents through creative arts and technology. To find out how you can bring her writing programs to your school email Laura Hill or tweet @candylandcaper. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Motivating Students With “Secret Writing”

by Laura Hill
Previously posted as a guest blog for the amazing @mrkempnz, an education "must follow" on twitter.

Motivating students can be tough.  I talk to thousands of students during the school year and consistently I find that as the students get older they become more cynical about writing.  I think the reason for this is two-fold; on one hand they are less bold about their writing due to experiences that have shaken their confidence like failed tests or poor presentations, on the other hand, they just aren’t motivated.  Since I can’t change their past experiences I try to concentrate on creating a new perspective. So how do you motivate students to write? 

I use many methodologies based on PBL and inquiry learning to get students going, but the most motivating factor I have found is in “secret writing.”  Secret writing isn’t a singular thing it’s more of a realization, an idea that exemplifies what writing is really all about.  This is how it works.

When I stand in front of a large group of students the first thing I typically discuss with them are chocolate chip cookies. Not the store bought kind, but rich chewy chocolaty home made ones that melt in your mouth and stick to your fingertips.  And since most students like chocolate chip cookies it’s not too hard to get them to rattle off the ingredients to make a batch-flour, sugar, water, salt, butter, baking powder, eggs and chocolate chips.  I create a mock batch of cookies letting them cook until someone says “ding!” To the student’s surprise our pretend batch of cookies is usually a disgusting mess.  This is because no one bothered to tell me how much of each ingredient to put in.  Secret writing.

I start to clue students in with a story about the many years I spent working as a television producer.  They are always surprised when I describe the amount of writing that goes on before a shot is laid to film.  Storyboards, set design, lighting, scripting, costumes…you get the picture, secret writing.  I start to relate this to everything they are interested in from cartoons to sports plays, instructions for massive
Lego structures to video games.

Now, if you’ve never written a video game or iPad app you probably don’t realize that these are some of the most complex ideas to put to paper. This is because games are based on rules making it necessary to write a reaction for every possible action while following the game’s strategy.  This is on top of writing about the setting, characters, costumes, dialogue and backstory.

At this point I have the student’s attention, I can almost hear them thinking, so I tell them to look around.  Secret writing is on their shirts, shoes, notebooks; it’s on signs, billboards and posters.  Even more can be found on books, smart boards and on candy bar wrappers. We are literally immersed in secret writing!  All done by people just like them.  This is when their eyes begin to spark. 

When students realize that writing is at the core of almost everything they do it takes on a whole new meaning that is personal.  This is really important because today’s students aren’t going to have the opportunity to avoid writing. They are part of a culture that is living a personal public narrative and the people who are best able to tell their story are the ones who are going to be heard.

We are in an amazing moment, experiencing a shift in social perspective, where we see for the first time some very young people having an impact on the global stage.  They are writing books, championing social good, making films, publishing scientific theory and soon they will be creating technology; it’s just a matter of time and opportunity.  And they are talking to peers around the world.  You have a chance to play a huge part in this.  By creating a culture of writers, thinkers and inventors in your classroom you are giving your students the ability to share their ideas with people around the world.   The kids are up for it, in fact they are more than ready for it, and who knows?  You may be inspiring a student who will one day change the world.

Laura Hill is an author and producer known for helping children find their voice and talents through creative arts and technology. To find out how you can bring her writing programs to your school email Laura Hill or tweet @candylandcaper. 


Read the books I write with my children.