Who am I?

Sarah Allred is the Instructional Lead Teacher at Braxton Craven School, an all 6th grade middle school. She has 15 years of teaching experience at the middle school level. Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education earned at the University of NC Greensboro, National Board Certification in Early Adolescent English Language Arts, and a Master of Arts in Education in Instructional Technology earned at East Carolina University. She has taught language arts, social studies, science, and technology. She serves her school in many leadership roles. Her passion is searching for new ways to use technology to improve student learning. Additional roles she fills are mother of two amazing kids, and wife of a police officer. She enjoys reading, gardening, and digital photography.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blogs as a Collaborative Research Tool

Science and Social Studies teachers at BCS have worked hard to integrate writing and writing instruction into their classroom activities and I recently observed a class using blogs to do this. Blogging is a great way to integrate writing and collaboration into any subject area.

Mrs. H's class was doing research on Ancient Chinese Philosophers, a new topic added to our curriculum by the  Essential Standards.  She provided students with a table to collect specific information about an assigned philosopher/philosophy and students were instructed in how to search online and select information from reputable sources.  Each student was working independently on his or her own research, but as you may know research can be quite a struggle for middle school students, so they often need help.

Mrs.H used a class research blog to allow students to collaborate with each other through writing.  The blog site she used is Kidblog (http://kidblog.org/home.php_) This site allows teachers to create individual student blogs in a password protected environment without students having to have an email address.  Mrs. H introduced the use of the blog by explaining what blogs are, discussing safety precautions, and then describing how she would like the blog to be used.  Students were directed to post comments about their research progress, and questions they needed assistance with. After the comments were moderated by Mrs.H (while students were working) students could go back to the blog to respond to each others questions and see what answers they received.

This was an excellent way to allow student's the use of an online communication tool for learning purposes.  It gave students a chance to feel what it is like to collaborate with others, in real time on a project through the use of technology. This is a real world application of web tools that many adults use in their professional work.  In addition to providing practice in this 21st Century skill, it also assisted students with the research process allowing them to see that others had similar questions and could share strategies to find solutions.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Welcome to Next Year's 6th Graders

It seems strangely early to be doing this, but yesterday we started the tours for our upcoming class of 6th graders.  Since we have 5 different elementary schools feeding into us, these usually run through several different days.  This is for many students, their first introduction to BCS.  So what do we do to make a great first impression, and begin building relationships with our future students?

Groups begin their visit in our school media center.  There they have several people speak to them about what life at BCS is like.  The guidance counselor began by discussing registration for courses. Next, the lead teacher (me) shared some details about how middle school is different from elementary school and answered the BIG questions incomin 6th graders always have. Next, our media specialist showed a short video introducing our school.  This video included interviews with several current students, photos from various school activities, and photos of the faculty and staff.  After the talk in the media center, students were split into small groups and were taken on tours of the school led by Student Council members. On the tour, students got to see all the key locations in the school and ask some questions of current students.

At BCS we feel like it is important to welcome our upcoming students and help make them feel comfortable in the transition to middle school.  Hopefully this visit was a helpful first step in that transition.