Sunday, March 13, 2016

Teaching is Passion: 2016 French Lick Blogger/Teacher Retreat Recap

Passion is more than a fleeting emotion.  It's more than what drives us or carries us through difficult times.  It's just so much more than that.

Passion goes deeper.  It is a flame that both consumes us and ignites us to go beyond the ordinary to extraordinary heights.

In its consumption it can drain us- of time, energy, motivation.  We can become so passionate that it can discourage us to the point of defeat when we surround ourselves with those who don't understand our passion for teaching or when we begin to play the comparison game.

Yet, passion is a great ignitor. When sparked by the right circumstance and the right tribe of people, passion can allow us to feel stronger.  Braver.  Prepared to take on the unique challenges that face us every day we walk inside those classroom doors.

I feel ignited.  Renewed.  Reminded.  After an amazing weekend spent with 200+ dedicated teacher friends, it's hard not to feel ready to conquer the world!
200+ educators, librarians, coaches, and more gathered
to reignite their passion for the best profession on Earth!
For the third year in a row, Brittany and I have been blessed to be a part of an annual blogger/teacher retreat at the gorgeous French Lick Resort in the heart of Southern Indiana.  Holly Ehle of Kindergarten Connections (link below) is the grand organizer of this event, but she is much more than that.  It is plain to see her dedication not only to her students and family, but to those of us who form this amazing network of teacher friends.  She created this event to give back to those who make a daily, positive impact on the lives of children around the country.  Brittany is Holly's co-organizer and does a fabulous job making sure everything runs smoothly.  I just feel honored to jump in and do what needs to be done for these wonderful ladies. 

Thank you Book Creator for personally
donating 30 codes for our FAVORITE app!
There are many reasons why this retreat is incredibly special each year.  Sure there are AMAZING donations from companies who love to treat and pamper teachers.  (Check out that huge list below!) This event simply couldn't happen without their generosity and support.  Of course there is delicious food, ice breaker activities, and a myriad of special touches that make this blogger retreat top notch.  However, it's not these that make this retreat significantly memorable to those who attend.

Teacher friends are fun.  They help us remember that we are
only as old as we tell ourselves!

Simply put, the best part of this retreat is the people. They are the heart and soul of what makes the French Lick Blogger/Teacher Retreat the best professional event I attend every single year.  I eagerly await those face to face connections with my teacher friends around the country and cannot wait to laugh out loud, share frustrations, act like I'm 20 again, and laugh some more! This year we had a like, totally radical 80s party for the evening event, and we had more fun than should be allowed!  I participated in my first ever flash mob and even sang karaoke.  When you are surrounded by people who encourage you, even if it is positive peer pressure, you are more willing to step out of your comfort zone!

Something our roomies discussed at length throughout the weekend was our tendency to compare ourselves to everyone else.  In a world where social media is king, it's far too easy to get wrapped up in numbers. Numbers of followers, or rankings, or likes, or pins on a Pinterest board.

When you're standing in a room with your favorite tPt authors and seasoned bloggers, it is even more overwhelming and easy to feel so small and unspectacular.  However, when you meet these amazing ladies (and gentlemen), you remember that they are human just like you. They feel like a hot mess, overwhelmed, uninspired, and otherwise normal on any given day JUST LIKE YOU.
These ladies are what it's all about to me.
Denying self to help others rise to the top.
These ladies are from our home district and our neighboring district.
They push us, encourage us, and inspire us every day of the year!
We are in this journey of teaching TOGETHER. We aren't competing.  We aren't rivals.  As individuals we are nothing but silos who stand alone in the field collecting and consuming our expertise. When we meet together, we remember that we need to smash those silos and share the love and passion and knowledge we have for our field so that other children can embrace the joy of learning.

This, my friends, is what it is all about.  Connecting.  Sharing.  Learning.  Laughing.

If you have never joined a teacher/blogger retreat, I encourage you to do so.  You will not regret it!

Want to read more?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Stop Motion with the Lego Movie Maker App

*Note: Lego has unfortunately stopped supporting this app and has pulled it from the App Store. BOO! However, there is still value to this post as the idea can be applied to other apps!

For the last three years, I've allowed my students or club members to dabble with stop motion animation projects.  Through our experiments we have used a variety of stop motion apps and programs, but this year- thanks to a great colleague- I stumbled across an amazing FREE app that made the process more practical, less daunting, and more fun! The Lego Movie Maker app can be found on the app store, and this is one you will want to have on every students' device!

This app allows students a lot of flexibility and room to create while at the same time walking them easily through an otherwise tedious process of expertly stringing photos together.

For our most recent experiment in stop motion, the students had a variety of mediums to work with for their animation shorts.  Simple black background stations were created around the room using simple bulletin board paper, but students were free to enhance the backgrounds provided.  This made it easy to sort and separate groups working.  Students were asked to bring in Legos from home or other materials they wanted to incorporate into their work.  I also provided Play-doh which is a relatively inexpensive material that pairs well with stop motion (think Gumby).  Other items I typically have on hand include fishing line, popsicle sticks, glue, scissors, markers, etc.

Students can create with Lego Movie Maker in more than one way. They can either add images (called frames) from their camera roll, or take photos directly in the LMM app. I highly recommend students use the app to take all photos for a few reasons.  1) It has features that help students take higher quality photos such as an auto-focus tool, an "onion mask" which allows students to align photos properly, and a viewer/grid that keeps them cropped similarly.  2)  It's just a lot easier to keep all photos in one place!  One great part of being able to pull in frames from the camera roll though is the ability to pull in pre-made title pages or other illustrations/creations made from other apps.  For example, several of my students used Keynote to make slides that progressed their storyline.

The simple interface is easy for students
to understand and manipulate.
Students have the ability to adjust the rate their photos stream. I encourage students to play with this feature to find the effect they love the most.  Keep in mind the higher the speed, the smoother the finish.  However, the higher the speed...the more photos they will want to have or they will have a very short project!

Another great feature on the LMM app is their pre-made stock photos that really enhance students' creations.  These fun, colorful, comicbook-esque frames really add punch to a project and make it look more professional.  Students can also choose from a variety of filters to give their project a unique look and feel.

A movie isn't a movie until sound effects and music are added, right?  Thankfully the LMM app makes this incredibly easy as well.  Students have a lot of fun mixing sound effects and music with their projects to add that little extra bit of professionalism and whimsy.

If you aren't familiar with stop motion, there are several great YouTube tutorials available including one on the Lego Movie Maker app.  I also show them several engaging stop motion shorts and clips from the Lego Movie to give them ideas for their own projects.

I also give them these three tips when making their clips.

Creating can be noisy and messy, but worth it!
1. More is BETTER.  (The more photos you take, the better!)
2. Smaller is BETTER.  (The smaller your movement between photos, the better!)
3. Consistency MATTERS.  (Keep camera still and at the same angle. Keep your shots tight and on the subject matter.  Move your hand before clicking!)

Stop Motion encourages creativity and fosters
open collaboration with peers.

If you have a small person at home or a student helper, let them play with this app and watch them. You will learn a lot by watching!  So many of my favorite ideas come from watching kids play!

Happy Movie Making!