REAL EDUCATORS SHARING THEIR CLASSROOM EXPERIENCES
FrontRow Teacher Advocates are among the most passionate and progressive educators who truly care about keeping their students’ attention and fostering engagement and achievement. They not only care about what’s happening at their school, but what the future of education holds across the country.
Here, you can meet our Teacher Advocates and see how FrontRow has simply, yet dramatically, changed the teaching and learning dynamics in their classrooms. Through their personal experiences, you’ll learn how FrontRow can enhance any subject, any grade level, and any piece of technology you may already be using.
If you are interested in sharing your experiences through the Teacher Advocate program, please contact us at 1-800-340-9894 or apply to become an official FrontRow Teacher Advocate HERE.
Q. What is a FrontRow Teacher Advocate?
A. A FrontRow Teacher Advocate is a teacher who uses FrontRow – often in creative ways – to make learning more fun and accessible for his or her students. These Advocates are excited about how FrontRow keeps every child connected, no matter where they’re seated or what their learning style. Once these teachers use FrontRow, they don’t want to teach without it!
FrontRow Teacher Advocates are like FrontRow “ambassadors.” They want fellow teachers and school district officials to experience FrontRow too. That’s why they work hand-in-hand with FrontRow to help spread the word on the research-proven benefits of classroom sound dispersion. They also advocate for technology in the classroom to help engage students in new ways.
Q. What does being a FrontRow Teacher Advocate entail?
A. FrontRow Teacher Advocates partner with FrontRow by:
- Providing written testimonials on how FrontRow has impacted their classroom
- Writing ‘how-to’ articles on how they integrate FrontRow with other multimedia (i.e. DVD players, laptops, mp3 players, interactive whiteboards, etc.)
- Presenting at tradeshows, seminars, showcase school events, etc. on FrontRow’s behalf
- Developing photo and video content
- Being a media/press contact for FrontRow
Q. What’s in it for me?
A. As a teacher, you know how important hearing is to learning and understanding. Being a FrontRow Teacher Advocate will allow you to spread this message and in turn positively impact thousands of children.
We’ll also put you in touch with other FrontRow Teacher Advocates so you can learn from each other, collaborate on ideas, and be part of a nationwide-community of educational leaders and innovators all focused on the same goal – improving the future of education.
Q. My schedule is pretty busy. Will there be flexibility in how much I contribute to the program?
A. Absolutely. We realize that as a teacher, you have a lot going on. We will work with you to determine what works best for your schedule, and what areas of contribution you would enjoy most.
Q. If I travel on behalf of FrontRow, will my expenses be covered?
A. Yes. Any travel expenses you incur for tradeshows, events, etc. will be paid for and booked by FrontRow. As well, you will be reimbursed for a set amount of out-of-pocket meal expenses.
Q. What if I don’t already have a FrontRow system in my classroom but am interested in trying one?
A. We offer a free, 45-day trial of our products, which is a great opportunity to experience FrontRow first-hand. Simply call us at 1-800-340-9894 to learn more about this great offer.
Q. I’d like to become a FrontRow Teacher Advocate. How can I get started?
A. To join our team of educational leaders, simply fill out our online application form. A friendly FrontRow representative will be in touch with you shortly.
Each of our FrontRow Teacher Advocates has a unique story to share on how FrontRow has helped foster student engagement in their classroom.
Title or Role: Teacher, Technology Mentor
Grade Level: Junior and Senior Kindergarten (0.50), JK-Grade 8 Resource (0.50)
School: Oak Lake Community School, Fort La Bosse School Division
Location: Oak Lake, Manitoba, Canada
Using FrontRow since: May 2011
Favourite FrontRow Feature: “the fabulous surround sound, the integration with my SMART Board and computer, the student microphone.”
Favourite FrontRow Application with Other Technology: “We use the system for all aspects of the program that require sound, and find it invaluable for video and web conferences that we have with our global partners.”
Biography: Master of Education degree in special education, 2008 Canadian Microsoft Innovative Teacher, 2010-11 Central Canadian winner of the Mindshare 21st Century Digital Classroom National Video Challenge.
Additional testimonials: As a resource teacher who works with children with exceptionalities, I have observed how a classroom amplification system improves learning for ALL students. I have witnessed growth in students' ability to focus during a lesson, their understanding of new concepts, and their overall engagement in the learning task.
Title or Role: Teacher
Grade Level: 5
School: W. H. Day Elementary School
Location: Bradford, ON, Canada
Length of Time Using FrontRow: 2 years
Favourite FrontRow Feature: “The ability to amplify any sound. I love the “talking stick” (the kid-friendly pass-around microphone), and what it provides for the students in terms of their confidence in speaking and sharing their work.”
Favourite FrontRow Application with Other Technology: “We use the system for all aspects of the program that require sound, and find it invaluable for video and web conferences that we have with our global partners.”
Title or Role: Teacher and Faculty Instructor
Grade Level: Primary, Junior and Middle
School: Brock University
Location: St. Catharines and Hamilton, ON, Canada
Length of Time Using FrontRow: 4 years
Favourite FrontRow Feature: “Ability to use it with my iPod/iTouch/iPhone, with my computer and for creating podcasts. Amplification provides clarity for my students as well. I often wonder if one day, it will be the right for every teacher to be given a microphone. I can't think of any other profession where talking and voice projection is expected, and yet no tool to aid is provided.”
Favourite FrontRow Application with Other Technology:
- Use of FrontRow with Livescribe pen is ideal for sharing
- Use of FrontRow with Podcaster of any type allows for large group discussions to be recorded and later shared
- Use of FrontRow is ideal in the “flat” classroom, where teachers and students are connecting around the world. Amplification is essential for such connections
Find out what real teachers are saying about FrontRow:
“I believe strongly that FrontRow should be in learning or teaching spaces. Being an educator means taking care of ourselves, including our voices. It means giving the best service we can, including a high-quality lesson that is clear and heard by all. Being an educator means using the necessary tools to communicate with community, parents, and the world.”—Zoe-Branigan Pipe
"Vocal strain is completely minimized."—Alberte Jean-Jacques
"I never realized how much effort it took to use my “teacher voice” until I didn’t have to do it anymore."—Melissa Spears
"My voice used to get really fatigued having to yell from across the room and I have definitely noticed an improvement in my voice as well as the students paying more attention."—Dave Elia
"We had the potential to open a world of learning for children who may have otherwise been tuned out."—Lisa Meneghin
"In my own classroom, I loved seeing shy students come alive when they were passed the student mic."—Katie Dunn
"I immediately noticed a change in the atmosphere of my classroom."—Melissa Spears
"My FrontRow system literally opened up the world to my students. My classroom became accessible for all."—Mali Bickley
"I can tell the difference in my students’ grades and how they follow direction. The microphone makes it easy for everyone to hear and understand."—Kathy Hopkins
"Using classroom amplification benefits all. It engages students in their learning and creates less stress on teacher’s voice."—Janice Agnew
"It was at that moment that I realized we had a tool that could reach children on levels beyond just the auditory amplification."—Lisa Meneghin
"I see the children physically sit back in their chairs, knowing they’re not going to have to struggle to hear what the teacher say."—Anna Crosland
"As we build our new Deaf Education program, my goal is to use this technology developed for hearing impaired students to enhance the learning of all students in our classrooms."—Katie Dunn
You already know how FrontRow clearly projects your voice throughout the classroom, allowing every child a ‘front row’ seat. But did you also know that FrontRow can be used in a variety of other ways to make learning more fun? Here are some lesson plans and integration tips provided by our innovative teachers:
Lesson Plan 1: The Power of “Power Words”
Define the word “vocabulary”. You might explain that it is an understanding of words that we teach in our language arts program. Language arts is a large umbrella that covers all we do in reading, writing, spelling, and grammar. New vocabulary usually comes out of our reading program, and is sometimes incorporated into our spelling lists. We introduce and explain novel words as they come up in our social studies and science lessons as well. But, I would argue that we don’t do as good a job of teaching vocabulary as we should. And by “teaching” I mean an overt lesson designed with the sole objective of mastery of a specific word.
Many new words can and, of necessity, will be covered within the context of another lesson. Many of these new words are germane to the specific area of study; words like “peninsula”, or “mammal”. It makes sense to explain what these words mean as they emerge in the course of study of that particular subject. Other words may only need to be properly pronounced for a child to recognize that the word represents something they already know – for instance the word “mustache” or “stomach”. The words I’m speaking of are what we could refer to as “academic language”. These are words that students will need to be able to read and comprehend in the course of their career as students. They appear in their text books and on standardized tests. These may include words like “comprehend”, “evaluate”, “interpret”, “summarize”, “analyze”, or “paraphrase”. Of course these are just a few examples. It is worthwhile to decide on your “power” words – the ones most important for your grade level. You may choose 12 or 20, but they should be the ones you commit to teaching as stand-alone lessons.
I like to start a vocabulary lesson with a self-evaluation. We distribute a vocabulary worksheet. These can be compiled into a notebook, kept in a binder, or sent home as they are completed for review by the student’s family. There are many vocabulary notebook formats available on the internet. Kate Kinsella has created one very well suited to older students .This one I adapted for use with second and third graders from a form created by Kevin Feldman.
I place my own copy of the worksheet under the document camera for a model. After copying down the new word and the part of speech (I give this to them, they don’t have to guess!) the students use the range of numbers in the upper right-hand corner to evaluate their own understanding of the vocabulary word before any instruction is given. If they’ve never seen or heard of the word before, they circle 0. If they think they’ve seen it before, but don’t know what it means – that’s a 1. They can rate a 2 if they think they know what it means and could use it in a sentence correctly. If they give themselves a rating of 3, that means they understand the new word so well that they could get up in front of the class and teach it to their classmates! Many vocabulary worksheets for older students provide a range of 0 – 5, but I try to give the younger ones a little less gray area. I then provide them with a definition, a model sentence, and any synonyms. We record any others the class may think of that are correct. If there are any related forms (_ed, _ ing, _ ly endings for example) we record those as well. The class always has my model projected on the board to guide them.
When this is done, they sketch a picture that will help them to remember the meaning of the word. We discuss how each of our pictures may be different and that the idea is that theirs be something that will help THEM recall the meaning. This can be difficult for some students. I always find a few who confidently dive right in and ask them to bring their own worksheet up to the front, place it under the document camera, and share their sketch with the class, explaining how it help them. Of course they use our FrontRow student microphone so that everyone can clearly hear their explanation. If many are still struggling or uncertain of what to draw, I will provide a sketch and explain how it helps me remember the meaning of the word. The students are welcome to use my drawing as a guide for theirs if they are stuck. This happens more often in the beginning – they really do get better at it. And even when they get to the point where they all quickly sketch a picture, I always take the time to have several students share theirs with the rest of the class.
After the sketching is done, the students meet with a partner to write at least one good practice sentence using their new word. They may each write their own sentence with their partner’s help, or they can create a sentence between them that both will use on their worksheet. I give them a set amount of time and ask them to practice reading their new sentence to each other a few times in case I call on them. I believe in giving them the opportunity to practice so that they can be successful if they’re called on. I pull craft sticks with the students’ names out of a cup to randomly call on students to share their new sentences. They stand and use the student hand mic so that their voices are clear. We discuss if the word has been used correctly or incorrectly. Correct sentences receive applause, incorrect usages go “back to the drawing board”, with a friend or partner if wanted, to be fixed. (Corrected sentences receive extra applause!) I usually assign their “very own” sentence as a homework assignment and ask them to have the worksheet initialed or signed by their parent or guardian.
This all may sound like a lot of work and a lot of time to spend on “just one word”. The thing is - it’s time well spent because it really works. And, once the class becomes familiar with the format, we can complete an entire lesson in about 15 minutes. This is a powerful way to teach powerful words that will reap benefits all across the curriculum and all through a child’s school years.
Lesson Plan 2: Group Think
I love assigning group projects. The students enjoy working in a different way and at a different pace. And the end product is so often more than just the sum of its parts. But, learning to work with others is an important skill that comes more easily to some than to others. Group projects can engender cooperation that results in a terrific product, and it can devolve into arguments, power struggles, unfair division of labor, and hurt feelings. All of these, positive and negative, provide learning opportunities. In order to help students learn to work together as a group it is important to be very clear about the expected outcome or product, provide them with models, give them time to develop problem-solving strategies for disagreements, and provide them with a “stage” to present and celebrate their end results.
One of my favorite group project assignments is for the students to create posters related to our current area of study. It allows them to dig a little deeper into the subject matter and become an “expert” in some aspect of the curriculum. The students especially enjoy this for Social Studies. Social Studies, at least in an elementary environment, is usually an afternoon subject. It can be difficult to focus many young minds during those after-lunch hours. A more hands-on approach nets better engagement and understanding. After a basic preface to the topic, usually using the text book and/ or videos, I introduce the project. I distribute the assignment sheet, and the rubric that will be used to grade it. One of my favorites is the Petroglyph Poster Project that I’ve used with my sixth grade classes when we are studying early man.
I put up posters from previous classes. (Once you’ve done a project with your class, you have models for future classes. I’ve actually made my own models for the first time I’ve assigned a poster. It’s a lot more work, but it really helps the students to understand what is expected. I find that students are usually flattered if I ask to keep an excellent model poster at the end of the unit. I try to collect models that cover a range of scores.) As a class we review the assignment and then use the rubric to grade a couple of model posters, discussing what we consider the poster’s strengths and shortcomings.
Only after clarifying the assignment and discussing what makes an excellent project do we start breaking into groups or teams. I’ve made teams ahead of time when I know there will be gross inequities or conflicts within a class, (you know when you need to, right?) But often I try to let them form their own teams with some management from me. We brainstorm different techniques they can use to solve conflicts within their group; Roshambo, majority rule, consensus, etc. I have each team pull a topic, or in this case the name of a famous petroglyph site, out of a hat. As a first challenge to see how they will work together, they need to decide which member(s) of the team will be responsible for which aspects of the assignment. They need to neatly write it down on paper and turn it in to me, along with a rough sketch of their poster layout, before the end of class. We agree on a timeline for the project and it is posted in class.
Now that they have their jobs and their plan, they can start their research. I provide them access to books, magazines, and the internet. They need to show me their research is complete before I distribute poster board and art supplies. I provide time in class for all work on the project. If they fall behind the timeline, they need to meet with me to explain why, and their plan for catching up, which may involve work outside of the class time I provide. I’m available to help with locating research materials, art supplies, and conflict management. I remind them to check their posters against the assignment sheet and the grading rubric to make sure they haven’t overlooked anything. As each team completes its poster, I display them in the room. The students check them out, and it’s not unusual for a team to ask me to take a poster down so they can add something to it once they’ve seen what another team has done. (Doing some work before hand on the idea of “inspiring” versus “copying” can really pay off here.)
When the time is up (4 – 6 class sessions depending on the assignment), we present and celebrate. Each group is given time to practice their presentation. Then they take the stage and the student microphone. Each student is responsible for explaining some aspect of the poster. They pass around the FrontRow hand mic so that everyone in class can hear them clearly. The class has an opportunity to ask questions of the team about their poster and their research. We invite others into our room to see the posters.
Projects like this are a lot of work, but they produce much more than the sum of their parts. The students have all worked together and created something together. They’ve deepened their understanding of the curriculum at hand. They’ve weathered artistic disagreements, complaints about who’s working hard and who’s not, and they’ve all been heard. I love group projects.
Lesson Plan 3: How Many Ways are you Smart?
Is there anything sadder than a child who’s given up? The student who has decided they are “stupid” and never going to get it? We’ve all wished for some magic that would allow us to simply transfer knowledge directly into our students’ brains. It is the stuff of much science fiction writing and I know I harbor some of these fantasies – especially around the time standardized testing is upon us. If I could just pour what they need to know directly into their cerebral cortex, wouldn’t life be grand? (Of course, then I’m out of a job!) Alas, we know that knowledge retained is knowledge that was acquired through a hierarchical process probably best detailed by Bloom’s Taxonomy. It has helped us realize that we should incorporate a variety of activities and use different levels of questions in our lesson plans. Reinforcing this is our understanding of Howard Gardner’s theory of “Multiple Intelligences”; different students learn in different ways and inherently possess differing styles, skills, and abilities. In response to this, the classroom needs to include a variety of different kinds of learning opportunities. Of course our day-to- day reality in the classroom often falls short of this admirable goal. Not because of ill intent, but because this job of teaching is a difficult one with many, sometimes conflicting, demands.
In an effort to nip some of the “I’m just stupid” stuff in the bud, I like to start each school year with a unit on Gardner’s theory. I’ve taught this to kids from grades second through sixth and they all “get” it. It just makes so much sense to them. They already know who the “best” in math is, who spells like a whiz, and who can kick, throw, and run the farthest and fastest. They know who draws beautifully, who wants to be a veterinarian when they grow up, who can play the piano, and who is a true and loyal friend. So when they see Gardner’s “Kinds of Smart” up on the board, they are immediately intrigued. The areas of intelligence the theory cites include the following (with more “kid-friendly” terminology in parenthesis) : Visual- Spatial (Picture Smart),Verbal-Linguistic (Word Smart), Logical-mathematical (Number Smart), Bodily-kinesthetic (Body Smart), Musical-Rhythmic (Music Smart), Interpersonal (People Smart), Intrapersonal (Self Smart), and Naturalistic (Nature Smart). I have adapted and used an excellent lesson plan available at DiscoverySchool.com. That plan is designed for grades 9 -12, so I’ve tweaked it to meet the needs of elementary age students, but the objectives remain the same; to help students understand Howard Gardner’s theory, to compare that with how we usually think of what it means to be “smart”, and to think about what that means about how each of us can learn in school and in society. The idea is not for kids to think, “Well, I’m good at this, but I just don’t have the right kind of smarts to be good at that!” To the contrary, the idea is to help students understand how they can use their strengths to help them learn new concepts that may be difficult for them at first. For example, a student who is “Music Smart”, might find that singing their spelling words may help them better recall them. A child who is “Body Smart” might be able to remember his multiplication facts if he bounces a ball while practicing them.
As we wrap up the lesson, the students come forward, and with the help of our FrontRow student microphone, explain to the class what they think is their strongest kind of “smart”, and how they think they might be able to use it throughout the school year. (They often realize that feeling comfortable with getting up in front of the class to speak is a trait shown by those who are “People Smart!”) They post their paper doll on the graph (good for those “Math Smart” and “Picture Smart” kids) and we leave them up all year to remind us that we are ALL SMART, in many wonderful ways.
Lesson Plan 4: Where in the World…?
Students in school spend a lot of time learning about the world around them. They start by learning about their immediate communities – home, school, town, and then move on to study the history of their state, their country, and the world. It is important for them to see how these larger communities relate to them and their place in it. One of the best ways to do this is by giving them an opportunity to study their own family genealogy. A study unit designed to this end can provide engaging lessons in geography and the immigrant experience, open lines of communication with and within their families, and create an opportunity for the class to get to know each other better and to realize and value the variety of background and experience they all bring to our classroom community.
I like to start this unit by reading some autobiographical stories, usually picture books. Many books by Patricia Pollaco work very well. Her story The Keeping Quilt is one of my favorites and ties in nicely with the bulletin board quilt that I like to make using all of the students’ family tree squares. Another favorite is Tea with Milk by Allen Say – particularly because of its California connection. I share these books even with my older fifth and sixth grade classes. There are numerous titles that address this topic, and I try to include some that I hope will speak to the students I have in my class in a given year. Many are written at a level that makes them engaging to all ages and provide vocabulary to challenge even the older children. After reading, we look at maps and figure out where the characters in the stories have come from and gone to.
When our reading is underway, I send home a letter and interview form to the families explaining our project and asking them to help facilitate an interview with a family member. I often try to time the project so that it coincides with Thanksgiving or another holiday that may bring family together and provide opportunities for interviewing. I’ve had many students interview a relative long-distance by phone, Skype, or by email or instant messaging. I also include a template for a basic family tree. Parents often thank me for giving them this chance to tell stories, contact and reconnect with cousins, and to talk with their children about their family history.
When the family trees and interviews are completed, it is time to share. Each child has become an expert on their own family’s history. They take turns at the front of the room with the FrontRow student microphone in hand and tell us the story of one of their relatives. They show us on the world map where their ancestors came from. After telling their story, their classmates are allowed to ask them a few questions. Sometimes a student will bring their family member in to class and introduce them. Sometimes they are willing to answer questions from the class too. It is wonderful to see how engaged the students are in telling a story unique to their family. And it is wonderful to observe how the other students start to draw comparisons between their families and their experiences. We talk about what causes people to decide to pick up and move far away from all that they know. We discuss how things have changed and how, at the same time, so many things have not.
To celebrate the conclusion of this unit, we often have a party and the students bring in a favorite family dish. In the future I hope to ask families to send in the dish with a copy of the recipe for it. I would like to copy them and make recipe books for the students to take home. There is something special about sharing food. I have had students tell me that this project was their most memorable and favorite of the school year. We’ve all learned a little more about the world, its people, and our place in it. Our stories have been shared and heard.
Lesson Plan 5: Interview with a friend
The art of the interview is a valuable skill for students to learn. It is also a terrific Back-to-School activity. It allows the children a chance to get to know each other better, and provides each student an opportunity to get to know one other child in the classroom very well. Their interviews become the basis for their first, formal, public speaking, presentation to the class.
After randomly pairing up students, (I use color partners or pull sticks) they are each provided with a clipboard and a list of interview questions. We read through the questions together so they can start thinking about how they might answer them. We also brainstorm a few other questions they think would be interesting to learn about each other. The students write their own questions down on the back of their interview sheet. Then they are free to meet anywhere in the classroom, or sometimes we take it outside where they can sit on the grass, or in the shade of a tree to complete their interviews. They need to take good notes and ask for clarification and details.
When the interviews are completed, the students take some time to practice their presentations to the class. We talk about interviews they may have seen on T.V. shows and who some of their favorite interviewers are – Oprah, Leno, Barbara Walters, MTV’s Sway, etc. With the older students, I find short clips of interviews online and show them to the class. We discuss the importance of eye contact, showing the interviewee that they’re being heard through body language, head nodding, paraphrasing, and acknowledgement sounds (“mmm”, “uh-huh”). It may seem silly at first, but it provides scaffolding for later when we talk about “active, respectful listening” in class.
When the students are ready for “Show Time”, they sign up with their interview partner. I provide seating at the front of the classroom and the interviewers each get a FrontRow microphone to use. I give up my neck mic to one of the two, and the other student uses the hand mic. They take turns interviewing each other for the class. I usually get a “ham” or two who like to take on the persona of a famous interviewer. I give them a lot of leeway for this and the interviews are not only informational, but often quite entertaining and fun. When they’ve finished their interviews, I usually take the front seat and let the whole class interview me. It seems only fair and provides a nice wrap-up for the activity.
Pairing up the class for interviews allows us all to learn some more about each other. Having a classmate at your side the first time you speak in front of the class is also helpful for those shy or insecure about public speaking. The skills an interviewer uses to show active listening are those the class will be asked to use all year long. And, experience with the classroom sound field system is only their first of the many, many times they will use our system to present to and be heard by their classmates.
Lesson Plan 6: Mystery Student
Lesson Plan 7: Okodakchiyapi: First Steps to Friendship Through TechnologyAs access to technology increases and new, innovative tools are placed in the hands of learners, it has never been easier to turn classroom walls into windows to the larger world. In my own teaching practice, collaborative projects have evolved into a vehicle for meeting curricular outcomes, infusing technology, and developing 21st century skills in my junior and senior kindergarten (4 and 5 years old) students. Used in concert with my interactive whiteboard, projector, and webcam, the many excellent features of my Front Row Lasso Classroom Amplification System have enhanced these collaborative projects, making it possible for everyone to share their thoughts and learning, and hear and see the contributions and projects of our collaborative partners.
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