Adventures in bullet journaling

A stack of Post-it Notes and a Sketchbook walk into a coffee shop. Barista says, “Planners are meeting in the back room.”

They order a couple of hot drinks, one skinny vanilla latte and a chai tea, sit at at table and then think, “What else do we have to do this afternoon?” They head toward the back of the shop, where a soft glow spills from beneath a set of swinging double doors…

coffeetime

In the back room, it’s meet and greet time. Several journals are chatting at the far end of the room. A couple of them open their covers to show off their different style pages. Lines, dots and grids are all visible. A huge group of pens are having a scribbling contest on a blank page lying on the floor. They each demonstrate their colors, their smooth flow. Once in awhile, a couple of them flip the page to see how the paper has handled their ink. Rolls of Washi tape are being engaged by a few journals, and, it seems, snubbed by a few others.

Drinks in hand, the Post-it Notes and Sketchbook make their way to the center of the room as the keynote speaker takes her place at what must be the front.

A roomful of office supplies, individually awesome, but often having their qualities overlooked, learn about the possibilities in coming together to build unique organizational systems for people. They know by listening to the inspiring presentation that the life they could have as part of one of these new systems is far better than what they have had – being stuck to computer monitors or tossed in a drawer with colored pencils, only looked at when something else in the drawer is needed. Oh, to be a part of a bullet journal.

*   *   *

OK, it was corny. But I have been seriously corny lately. Doesn’t hurt that in my corniness, I’m accomplishing a few things and playing with my creativity.

A couple of months ago, I ran across a pin on Pinterest that caught my eye. It described bullet journaling, taking a blank journal and creating the pages you need for your own style of planner. The bullet journal combines the ideas of calendar, planner, bulleted lists and doodling canvas in one personalized journal. This person shared her bullet journal pages and I was struck by the neatness, for one. The lettering was soothing to my eyes. Where it needed to be, it was simple, but where it could be, it was fancy. The pages were designed artfully, with headers and banners and framed, hand-lettered quotes. Extreme organization created a hierarchy of information she needed: year at a glance, a monthly spread and daily look. Her habit tracker was something I really liked, and, though I may not track the same habits she does, I took many ideas from hers. I was mesmerized by this woman’s bullet journal. Her name is Kara Benz, and, as it turns out, she is followed by many. Plus one.

During Christmas break, I explored more through Pinterest. I watched YouTube Videos, and I found Facebook groups. I began listing and sketching out ideas on a plain old yellow legal pad for what I wanted in mine. 

I scribbled down every idea I liked from other people’s bullet journals and added a few tweaks of my own. Then I began to storyboard, or plan out the spreads, so I’d know what order I wanted items in the beginning of my journal.

Moleskin and pens

And I ordered an Orchid Moleskin, soft-cover, dot-grid journal, some Sharpie fine line pens and American Crafts Precision pens, .05.

If you would like to take a look at my original inspiration, Kara has a website and several YouTube videos about her bullet journal. But I also found videos by Ryder Carroll. His style of bullet journaling is more functional, not artsy, but it shows that anyone can develop the basic idea in a way that suits him or her. Once YouTube knows what you’re looking for, it will offer up numerous suggestions – because the Cybergods are watching everything you do and often know what you want to look at before you do.

Amid all that nearly obsessive searching, scrolling and clicking, I also discovered a Facebook group: Bullet Journal Junkies member posts now pop up regularly on my feed and, at least for now in this honeymoon period, I’m looking at nearly every post.

I took what I liked of the other systems I saw and did a mashup for what works for me. The beauty is, I can always change it next month if I want. Here are a few of my own pages.

I saw two sets of bullets used in most journals, and I took what I liked in each, realized I wouldn’t use ALL of the ones I thought were cute, so I dropped a few. Still kept more than I’ll probably use. I like adding new pages to my index because that tells me I’m working my plan – or at least building pages about plans.

In most bujos, a full calendar, called Year-at-a-glance, graces beginning pages. I figured it would be handy to have, so I made one, too. Here is where the differences between lined, graphed and dot-grid likely come into play. I chose dot-grid because I want the hint of what I could use for aligning, without the distraction of actual lines. In good light, my 50+something eyes can see the dots, which help me line things up. On the right is the future log. If year-at-a-glance simply tells us what days the dates fall on, future log gives us space to post those dates we know of waaay ahead of time, like birthdays and anniversaries, vacations or business trips planned in advance – or yearbook deadlines, if that’s part of your business.

 

Jan spread

Week spreadI’ve seen the monthly spread in a couple different versions. Some like the block calendar layout, but I thought I’d give the numbers down the side and columns for parts of the day version a try. I note main dates to remember and can put in any of three columns, depending on whether it’s for morning, afternoon or evening.

On the far right, I can note tasks and goals I’d like to accomplish during the month. Getting my bullet journal up and running was first – and it is crossed off the list as done.

This weekend I’ve worked on another project, one where I tackle each room of the house, one per month, to declutter and reorganize. So I also noted on January to tackle kitchen that aren’t part of the regular routine.

The daily or weekly spreads really help me be mindful of completing tasks each day. This is what I’ve always thought of as a to-do list, but it’s easy to toss Post-it notes – hide the evidence. In the bujo, I feel more compelled to get things done and account for them. Even if that means migrating a task to further on in the week. I use two spreads for a week, with four days on one and three on the other. I made a mini-list of items I’d like to add to my closet when I can find them. I see students watch the clock and call out “11:11! Time to make a wish!”, so I figured a clock with that time posted would make a good graphic for a wish list. Unfortunately, I stuck the hands in the wrong place on my first go. So I just made another one. Learning to let go of perfection is another advantage of this form of planning.

I like having my lists in my bujo. I don’t know how many separate notebooks I have all over the place, never mind Post-it notes and index cards, with to-do lists for the day or week, lists of blog post ideas, or tasks I need to do for a bigger project. They get scattered, lost and forgotten. With a bujo, it’s not only a list, I’ve got tasks noted on monthly layouts or on specific days. There’s a PLAN.

But be careful, it’s also addictive if the bug catches you. I should have been satisfied with my journal and that first assortment of pens I got, but a recent shopping trip landed me at Hobby lobby and I added some more pens to experiment with.

A store clerk explained to me the differences between the wetter ink of the marker-type pens and gel pens. I picked up a three-pack of Micron black pens in three sizes: 01, 03 and 05 to add to my colored pencils I already had at home. These were the pens I kept seeing on the Facebook page and in other artsy forums, and I wanted to try them, wet ink or not. They do not bleed through my Moleskin pages, but they do “ghost”. I can see shadows of what’s on the previous page. But I plan to write on this one anyway, so it usually becomes less noticeable. Those three should have satisfied me, but like any junkie, I wanted more. I wanted a template for pretty circles, and I wanted a sketch book for doodling in. So online I went, and there were all these pretty pens, and there were YouTube videos about using these pens. And I just knew that if I had the pens, I, too, could become that artist, make beautiful videos and live in my pajamas if I chose. Not really, but I did want more pens. So I ordered more pens. Now I have too many pens. I’ll stop now.

Hearing terms like “layout” and “spread” is familiar because that’s the language of yearbook. We also like to talk about fonts and pairing plain ones with fancy ones. I have found myself looking at videos about hand-lettering, too. These are my people.

Take a look at what others are doing, and if this is a system you can get behind, try it out for a while in any notebook, with a pen or pencil – doesn’t matter. Just see if you think the ideas will work for you. Share your ideas and questions here. If you already bujo (we can make it a verb, too), share some of what you do in yours. We’re mostly visual here, so show us what you’ve got!

Spark a little mid-break motivation

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR MOOD

hand-814694_1280

image via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

Motivation would be so dope. And, apparently, motivation can be derived by increasing your dopamine levels.

Smack in the middle of winter break, we’ve just finished the highlight of it for most of us: Christmas. That highlight comes at a cost sometimes. The buildup starts before Halloween, and for some it’s positive and merry-making, but for some it’s depressing and anxiety-producing for a variety of reasons.

For myself, it’s a mix. I am blessed beyond measure regarding my loved ones, but I am genetically predisposed to worry and overthink everything. With the main festivities out of the way and no expectation to go back to work for a week, I’ve allowed myself to wallow on the sofa a bit the past couple of days. One could say I deserve it, being a teacher and publications adviser who works crazy hours during the school year and never really stops thinking about deadlines and details. But on the other hand, wallowing begets wallowing. I see others online, too, who just need a lift.

So to the internet I went, in search of ways to raise dopamine levels, and I found this article from Endless Entertainment on the first shot. Glenn Santos writes of 10 Ways to Increase Dopamine to Boost Productivity. Just what I was looking for.

  1. Discover new things, Santos tells us. Well, I can vouch for that. Just searching for and finding the article gave me motivation to share this info. What does he mean by discovering new things, though? Santos suggests taking to the internet and exploring via Amazon or Pinterest, a couple of my personal favorites. He does warn against the addictive nature of those sites. But I’ve discovered such things as rock painting, bullet journaling, lettering, Zentangle and new authors and books, all of which I’ve at least tried, if not fallen in love with.
  2. List your small tasks. The logic here is that completing something, indeed, the act of marking the item off the list as complete, gives you that dopamine pump. So why list one item: “clean the kitchen”, which you may not be able to mark off for a couple hours, when you could list: empty dishwasher, load dishwasher, clean out fridge, wipe down counters & cabinets, sweep floor, mop floor … each swipe of the pencil (or check in a box) gives you a separate dopamine trigger. So if you really want to get the biggest advantage of this trick, do what I’ve always advised: the first thing on your list should always be: “make a list”. Done? Check.
  3. Listen to music. No brainer. What pumps you up? At what volume? Do it for you. It’s medicinal.
  4. Increase your tyrosine, a protein found in common foods.
    Almonds
    Avacados
    Bananas
    Beef
    Chicken
    Chocolate
    Coffee
    Eggs
    Green Tea
    Milk
    Watermelon
    Yogurt
    Almond milk mocha latte with your scrambled eggs, avacado and banana breakfast? Or, heck, just a piece of chocolate about 3 p.m. That’s how I roll.
  5. Reduce your lipopolysaccharides. Your what? Well, if you’re increasing the good stuff, it makes sense to reduce the bad stuff. And don’t kid yourself. You know what the bad stuff is: fatty and sugary foods. They are toxins.
    One way to combat those, according to Santos, is a probiotic diet. He suggests yogurt, which I am familiar with, and kefir and kimchi, which I am not.
    I will, however, put in a shameless plug for Herbalife, and a supplement I can personally attest to: Florafiber. A caplet or two a day gives you fiber, calcium and lactobacillus acidophilus. Message me for details if you are interested.
  6. Exercise often. I hated typing that one. I have an ongoing battle with myself and my personal trainer son about exercise. Intellectually, I know that exercise does good things for me. I know that it not only releases dopamine, but serotonin as well. But, man, I find it hard to convince myself to exercise. This is something I need to work on.
  7. Establish a streak. Santos suggests keeping track of something so you can see progress. Under “new things” I mentioned bullet journaling, something I started last January (Look at me! Did something consistently for a whole year!). I love bullet journaling. It’s a planner, a journal, a sketchbook. It’s any combination in any way you want it to be. Yes, there are original guidelines on which the system is based, but the beauty is that the system is endlessly customizable. Some of the popular features most folks put in their bujos are trackers, graphic elements intended to track behaviors. Bujoers track water intake, exercise, weight loss, moods, housekeeping chores, making their beds and brushing their teeth. They track savings, paying off debt, social media analytics, days without soda or overspending. What would you like to track? Just tracking that I updated my bujo, that I had my Herbalife shakes and tabs, and those evenings I didn’t spend with TV helped me improve in those areas. Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet helped me increase my blog posts or water intake. Always room for improvement. Check Pinterest, YouTube or Facebook for bullet journaling practitioners and get some ideas.
  8. Take dopamine enhancing supplements.
    Curcumin is found in turmeric, a spice used in curry dishes. But there are dozens of recipes on Pinterest using turmeric. I’ve tried it as a hot drink with cinnamon and honey in almond milk (meh.) and I actually loved it sprinkled on sweet potatoes, then roasted.
    Ginko Biloba is available over the counter.
    L-theanine is apparently available in great quantities in green tea.
  9. Make stuff. Love this one. Anyone with an artsy hobby can probably attest. If you’re doing something you love and you get in the zone, time flies by. Is it drawing? Painting? Photography? Crochet? Rebuilding motors? How about just coloring? Coloring has been found to reduce anxiety and lower blood pressure in some people. It’s a soothing, repetitive task that produces a colorfully pleasing result.
  10. Meditate. Look into the proper way to meditate or just take an afternoon for ceiling time, as I put it. Uninterrupted time to just stare at the ceiling and let your mind wander, work things out, feel some feelings and work through why you’re feeling that way can be helpful. In addition, you can set goals and plan tasks to get there or visualize positive situations. I sometimes make up scenes for fiction I’m working on, work out plot details or flesh out character traits.

So is it meditating or is it wallowing? What is it I’ve been doing the past couple of days? The fact that I’m being productive means that it doesn’t matter what I call it.

What can you do to increase your dopamine levels? What can you do for you so that you can be more productive?

Whichever you choose, do it. You deserve to be happy and productive.

To find good, expect good

flowers-229491_1280

This is what I remember from time to time:

One Sunday, it was Youth Sunday, and the MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) were in charge of the service, one of the leaders gave the message. Like the many message-givers before her, she began with a story. The story was about a person in a village who was welcoming a newcomer.

“How are the people here?” the newcomer asked.

“What were the people like where you came from?” the villager asked in return.

“Hateful bunch,” he replied. “I didn’t like any of them. Someone was always in somebody else’s business or starting something. That’s why I left.”

“That’s what you’ll find here,” the villager told him.

Why did the villager tell the newcomer that? The wise villager knew that people tend to see what they expect to see, and that newcomer would be comparing the people in this village to those he had left. You see, he was always seeing the negative, and that’s what he would be looking for.

That message stuck with me more than most messages I’ve heard from adult professionals. People find what they are looking for.

 

This is what I keep seeing in my Facebook feed:

“Why are people so awful!”

“Republicans are just dumb.”

Something about “… effing libtards …”

“My family is the worst … (something about backstabbers).”

“The world is full of sorry people.”

These are paraphrases or compilations of things I’ve seen in recent days. I want to reach out and tell them, “You will find what you are looking for, so go look for good, look for peace. Better still, do good and create peace.”

Is it that hard to look for things to feel gratitude for throughout the day? Or do they not realize they are responsible for their own happiness? Just like anything else, we are not entitled to happiness without working for it. However, this kind of work can bring joy.

I started keeping a bullet journal in January, and within a month or two, I added a couple pages each month for daily gratitudes. And I tell ya, some days I have three or four things to record and try to write concisely so I don’t use up all the space before the month is over, and SOME DAYS, I can think of nothing. I think I may have written, “I got up today.” once, or something to that effect. But I keep recording that stuff.

 

This is what a friend shared on his timeline yesterday, and one of the reasons I don’t give up on social media and the great deal of negativity – there is still gold out there.

Thank you, Mike Peercy:

I saw grace today…
(the last several days really)
…in a team believing in their leader even when he’s not his best
…in lunch with no agenda but brotherhood
…in a family working as a team to simply encourage their neighbors
…in honest talk when polite conversation would have been easier
…in wisdom gained from life and loss shared over a lunch long overdue
…in a gentle rain experienced on the porch with a good friend and a great cup of coffee
…in the faithfulness of a friend to make sure all is well
“And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

However you want to practice looking for good, start now. Find a way to record it. Doing so makes it more solid, more memorable, more real and fixed.

  • Put it in the form of a poem, like Mike did.
  • Write it down and post it on a mirror, so you can see it.
  • Draw a representation of it in a sketchbook.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Note gratitudes on your calendar, digital or analog.
  • Record it with an app. Heck, create a podcast.
  • Make a construction paper chain with gratitudes on each link. How quickly might it grow as looking for good becomes a habit?
  • Write a weekly blog post about things that make you happy, like another friend of mine does.
  • Tell the person in whom you found the good.
  • Tell others you found good.
  • Post the good stuff on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.
  • Leave notes for others with real compliments or thank yous.

The list is really endless. Go find the good in people, in your community, in your family and loved ones. Ain’t none of us perfect, but we all are worthy.

Reflections, first round

Harbor seal by skeeze via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

Harbor seal by skeeze via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

The kids are varying in their first round of written reflections. Most are treading water, looking for where they need to go. Some are swimming a few strokes, pretty sure of the direction they are headed. Some feel the water closing in over their heads as they are overwhelmed with either how to evaluate themselves critically or understanding what it is I’m asking them to do.

Some appear to have simply left the beach.

Some backstory

I asked for and received permission to provide narrative feedback on assignments this year instead of grades, with the exception of grade reporting time at the end of each semester. At that time, I will conference with each student who will have had a chance to write a reflection regarding the assignments and how well they met the standards.

My process, figuring it out as I go

So here we are, working on the first set of reflections, which should address the assignments we’ve had so far and the standards each falls under. Times five different classes.

Early in the semester, we “unboxed” the standards. I gave them copies of ISTE and Oklahoma ELA standards and asked them, in small groups, to read and summarize the standards, rewriting into “I can” language.

In order to scaffold the reflection-writing process, I created grids in Google sheets with the standards across the top and the assignments down the side. Where an assignment and its appropriate standard intersect, I marked a bullet. In those cells, I asked the students to comment briefly about what they did on the assignment with regard to the standard, showing how close they came to meeting the standard with the tasks involved in the assignment. After taking these “notes” on the spreadsheet, they should have a pretty good idea of where they stand with each standard.

Next, I described writing reflections and showed an example. I posted reflection expectations around the room and answered questions, and soon the first few attempts were shared with me through Google folders. On a couple, I added comments asking them to describe the assignments more, or to be sure to say what the standard was or discuss their process. With the example I provided and the verbal and written comments, the narratives in my Introduction to Journalism classes began to look a bit more like I had hoped, and I was encouraged.

In the Reading for Fun and Digital Communications class, I soon realized I hadn’t been specific enough, so I re-addressed the process. This is where I saw the widest variation of how students were following the directions. Some were really trying on both the spreadsheet and the narrative, looking for the right direction. Some did one or the other, not quite understanding how they related, treading that water. Some were doing other work, and some appeared to be surfing other sites, hence, my “left the beach” comment.

Getting to the conferences and feedback in gradebook

In the reading class and the intro to journalism classes, I began the conferences though students weren’t as prepared as I’d have liked regarding their reflection narratives, and they went well. They went too long, but the conversations were valuable to the students and to me, I felt.

With a few conferences under my belt, I have a better understanding and now have an idea what to anticipate so that we can accomplish things a little more quickly.

I also posted some narrative feedback in our online gradebook. I’m getting better and reducing all I want to convey into a message the size of a tweet. I leave the option open for improving all but the very best work. It felt good to be able to comment on these very individual assignments, what was good, what could be made better, without having to compare them to each other to come up with a value in the form of a percentage, a set value of points or a letter – just feedback for the individual so he or she knows where the growth is and what else they can work on. And I did see growth.

Earlier in the week, I’d given out Post-it notes to students who needed to make corrections to an assignment or update to include a missing element or even catch up on a missing assignment all together. I pleasantly surprised to see, as I looked over the online work today, that most everything had been improved upon and updated since I looked last. Feedback works whether it’s verbal, comments on a Google Doc, hand-written on a Post-it note or recorded in a brief comment in the online gradebook.

Parent-teacher conferences are coming up next week, and I’d like to be able to show parents what we are doing and that there really is value in this more individualized method of assessment.

The Plan: NFIG?

My first try at Google Draw

My first try at Google Draw

I’m not a risk-taker. I plan. I envision. Before I set anything in motion, I learn all I can, and I imagine, play out all the possible scenarios in my head. I want it right before I begin. That’s not to say I don’t handle failure well. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, actually. Failure can be part of the planning process if you look at it in a bigger picture kind of way. It didn’t work that way; let’s try it another way.

In that way, last school year was planning and trying out small changes in order to transition to “The Plan.” I want to use narrative feedback instead of grades. But I’m afraid to ask.

The directive at my high school for the past several years has been “two grades per week.” I did express to my principal two years ago that I did not like that rule and explained that it didn’t work with my classes. And I’ve learned so much more since then.

Last year I implemented a few things I knew I could:

  • No zeros. A 50 is an F, and that only happened when no work was turned in.
  • No reduction in points for late work.
  • I quit making students feel guilty for needing to go to the bathroom. If you gotta go, you gotta go. Just let me know. Guess what? It was not abused.
  • I had my publications students (newspaper & yearbook) grade their own production weekly. This involved setting goals, keeping a log, reflecting and assessing. Frankly, they didn’t like it much.
  • I provided written, narrative feedback (and taught students to peer edit), so that they had multiple chances to improve work before they turned it in. I had kids thank me for this service.
  • In some cases, I mini-conferenced with students to arrive at a grade on part of an assignment. I need to build my confidence on conferencing.

These changes did make some improvement, but where I really wanted to see improvement – more student participation and assignment completion – well, these changes weren’t enough to effect the kind of improvement I’d hoped for. They weren’t enough because the biggest change I needed to make was still a glaring problem. There were still grades. Kids were still labeled “D”, “F” (I can’t win. I don’t know what to do.), even “A” (I don’t need to work very hard; I’m already there).

Now I need to go full throttle: No grades. Well, I’m calling it “Narrative Feedback Instead of Grades.” NFIG? Not as pretty as TOG, but I think Throwing Out Grades gives the wrong impression, and I have to worry about that as I pursue The Plan.

I spent a huge chunk of yesterday writing up, in narrative form with lovely bullets and bolded parts, my proposal as I plan to present it to my principal – soon as I gather the courage and he has a chunk of time in his schedule. School starts in three weeks. What I produced yesterday was five pages, but I included links to reading material with summaries and a page or so of FAQs so I’m prepared for what he/they might ask me.

For you, dear readers, I will try to be brief (but it’s hard. You see how I wordy I am?)

The Plan

  • I will use narrative feedback instead of grades. On assignments, this will look like Mark Barnes’s SE2R formula (Summarize, Explain, Redirect and Resubmit). This feedback will be on their Google Doc in most cases. In cases where there is a hard copy, I’ll (egad!) handwrite it, being careful to remember that students now have little training in cursive (omg). In the online gradebook (we use Infinite Campus), I will check the “Incomplete” box and write a brief (I swear I can) version of the SE2R in the comments section. When the student turns in his/her final version, I will check the “Turned In” box and make a new note (leaving the first in place, each with dates), that the goals were met or exceeded. I think this can work. An administrator or parent should be able to see this through the online portal, and wouldn’t this bit of information be more informative than a 72?
  • I will “unpack standards” with the students, an idea borrowed from Starr Sackstein. I do have to decide WHICH standards. Oklahoma repealed Common Core and is in the process of finalizing new standards, so we are one more year with what we used before, PASS. I “invented” journalism standards to use last year by doing a mashup of what I saw from other states. So my options are: CCSS ELA + ISTE or the new Oklahoma standards in draft form + ISTE. My journalism standards were too tedious, I decided, and they don’t apply to digital communications. Either way, the “unpacking process”, as I will apply it, means the students and I will learn them, simplify them, tossing what we don’t need, combining some, and putting what’s left in their language. Through all this, they should have an understanding and ownership of them. How to do that with five classes of four preps (2X intro to journalism; newspaper; yearbook; digital communications) still puzzles me. Input? What we come up with will be the categories I use in the online gradebook where my peers use “daily work”, “quizzes”, “homework”, and “tests” or something along those lines. As I create an assignment in InfCamp, I will note which standard it applies to. When it hits two or more, it’s entered that many times so that we focus on each standard; i.e. a writing one and a tech one. Whew, I gotta work on brevity.
  • I will teach reflective writing. I learned last year (and, really, before that) that it isn’t common sense. Few “get it.” Reflective writing, especially as it has to do with self-assessment, standards and evidence, has to be explained, modeled and feedback given, just like other work. Hopefully by grade reporting time, they’ll be used to it and will be able to manage reflective self-assessment with evidence for the grading period. I plan to use Starr’s book on reflection as my Bible for this. It will be published in October. She has also written about reflection quite a bit on her blog.
  • Students will create digital portfolios to curate their work, track their progress and do their reflection writing. Intro to J and DigiComm have always had blogs on WordPress, and I’ve encouraged newspaper to have blogs also, but the whole thing needs fine-tuning. Here’s what I’ve come up with: Choice. I love that idea. All my students use Google Drive. It’s the one thing they all have in common. So – eportfolios can be as simple as a folder in their Drive marked “eportfolio” with obvious organization within. Or, students may choose to create a Google site. I’ve only dabbled in this myself, but I don’t mind learning alongside my students. Absolutely love it when one of them teaches me something and you can visibly see their pride swell as they get up to show the others. Students could also opt for using their WordPress blog, though to me, that may be too public to be reflecting on their progress and grade, but it’s up to them. And if they come in telling me they have experience with Weebly, that’s cool too. Gimme the link. If one starts with a Google folder but after a few weeks gets brave and decides to create a site, well, we probably have a tech standard he can tie to for some reflection on progress. The goal is to curate work and track progress so that they can be ready for self-assessment at grade-reporting time. And that reflective self-assessment? I’ll probably go the “choice” route again: written in a Google doc; screencast; video; Voxer; whatever; but a conference will happen too.
  • In each class, I’ll have One Big Ongoing Assignment, handy for when some finish a project early and others are still working or reworking. Also great for sub days or THOSE days when I just don’t have my stuff together. For newspaper and yearbook, it’s obvi: their publications and anything extra they want to put into them. For DigiComm, I’ve had them do Passion Projects (just bought Don Wettrick’s Pure Genius and can’t wait to dig in), but I had a tough time figuring out how to do this for Intro. In Mark Barnes’s ROLE Reversal, he talks about having his 7th grade ELA students do a Read All Year (RAY) project with lots of novels and big team goals. There’s no grade attached, but there are different activities kids can do when they complete a book. So I borrowed and tweaked this idea with a little help from Mark. I want my kids to read long-form narrative journalism. That could be feature articles in magazines (think TIME or The Week) or book-length journalism (think All the President’s Men, All the Right Stuff, Into the Wild). Collections of essays and journalist biographies could work, too. Time to go to some used book stores. I’ll contract with each student, just outside his/her comfort zone, but quantifying will be tough. At Mark’s suggestion, we’ll count pages instead of books. So for the first grade-reporting period (9-weeks or semester, I haven’t decided), a student might contract for 150 pages (small book or multiple longish articles) up to 300. I’ll set up some sort of celebration board where kids can post accomplishments, but I also want to encourage them to do something for each piece they read, though I won’t be keeping tabs (they will, in their portfolio). They could write a review, a reflective blog post, a mini review on Instagram or Twitter with a shoutout to the author, discuss the item with classmates in a small group “book talk”, create a book trailer or just Vox about it. I’ll pose it as collecting info for our library of potential reads. Classmates and students who come after will appreciate having another student’s take on a piece to help them make a decision about reading it. One thing I envision is a tab on the class website that functions as our “library” with the book and article lists. Some articles could be linked to their sources online, but in all cases, student responses could be linked beneath each title as a reference to future readers.

So there you go, too many pages, but that’s my plan. Now I just need confidence to ask for permission and to get it all in motion. How can you help me? Can you poke any holes in this? Offer any suggestions for improvement? Suggestions for proposing? Did I help you with anything?