I am in a bad spot. I have come to a cross roads in my thinking of how my class should be run. It is not a safe place. I don’t mean my class, I mean my thinking…what is going on in my head. I feel uncomfortable and uncertain, and I do not like that feeling. I like to know exactly how my day is going to go – pencils sharpened, ipods charged, computers ready, students walking quietly in a row, instructions given and activities completed in the same way at the same time. I am a rule follower who is comfortable with consistency and predictability. I also do my fair share of reading, and it has challenged my understanding of what school should be, so I have decided to let go and give my classroom back to the students. Before I elaborate on where I am going, I need to explain more fully what caused the change in direction.
I happen to teach at an exceptional small public school where the administration has been pushing us to think differently for several years. They are creating a vision where the learning is student directed. I also follow the writings of Terri Eichholtz at Engage Their Minds and John Spencer at Education Rethink. It seems the educationsphere is full of the call to change the education paradigm. This post from my district’s Instructional Technology Specialist is just one example. I just returned from an incredible week of sharing at TCEA‘s Annual Convention in Austin, Texas. It was during Kyle Pace‘s keynote presentation at the Tec-SIG luncheon that I became thoroughly convinced I am missing the mark when it comes to doing what is best for my students. I left with my stomach in knots – not due to the food that was served (it was excellent), but due to the conviction I felt over a video and a statement. Kyle showed the video embedded below:
Then he used this word
The video was not new to me…I had run across it a few years ago while researching Rube Goldberg machines for my G/T students preparing for a Innovation Convention. What surprised me was my reaction to his call to EXPOSE. It hit me that all students have the capability to be incredibly gifted students like Audri, but they are not given the opportunity to be exposed in my classes right now. From everything I have read and seen about Genius Hour, 20% Time, Passion Project, or whatever you may call it, this seems to be a great avenue for that kind of exposure. I realize I am also in a unique position to try a new focus in that in that I am not a traditional classroom teacher. My content area is not subject to a high stakes tests. So begins my journey. Next week my students will be introduced to Wonder Weeks. Stayed tuned for future posts.
Today we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, so like a lot of other schools, we enjoyed a school holiday. I spent most of the weekend designing lesson plans and checking my Twitter feed, and I found some jewels. This video by Kid President is certainly worth watching:
This is another jewel I stumbled upon while searching for inspiration for the 4th and 5th grade Invention Projects.
The students will watch this video in Edmodo using the app called Educanon. Educanon allows the facilitator to embed questions in the video. The question will appear and the video is paused until the viewer answers it. This is my first experience using Educanon, but I think it is going to be a very useful way to assign videos for individual viewing while still assessing the level of attention and understanding. I am really grateful that is free and is available in the Edmodo platform.
I found a few other resources that will help my students understand what is involved in the creation process and will enable them to begin asking the questions that lead to innovation and invention, like S.C.A.M.P.E.R. activities and some resources in the Texas Performance Standards Project. I added them as tiles to the Invention webmix in Symbaloo.
The last item I worked on was getting the lesson plan ready for the 3rd graders to create a Voki to embed in their blog. Their Voki will remind viewers of the ten things students do not share online without their parents’ permission. The instructions for the project are in the Moodle course where they take their Web License Test.
image from: https://lifeaccordingtomish.wordpress.com/tag/body-4-believers/
I am officially tooting the horn for Kahoot. Kahoot is a web-based inquiry system where you can engage your students quickly with the curriculum. I first participated in Kahoot at the Region 7 FITT Conference in October in a session with Carl Hooker and discovered very quickly how engaging and fun it is to play. Over the Christmas break, I tried it with my family by choosing Christmas Trivia games that were in the public gallery. The person with the most points chose an inflated balloon out of a gift bag that had currency inserted in it. They popped the balloon to discover a $1, $5, $10 or even $20 bill. We had a blast!
My third graders played a Kahoot created for them called Web License Quiz after the Christmas break to review for their web license test. Every student was 100 percent engaged. I love the aspect of being able to upload images and even video to support the question being asked. I also love the fact that Kahoot not only awards points for the correct answer, but also credits participates for their quickness in answering. To me, this gives the game a competitive edge when compared to similar response systems like Socrative and Poll Everywhere.
It is very easy to create a game in Kahoot. If you are not up to creating your own, there are plenty of games to choose from in the public gallery. The gallery is searchable by title, subject, tag, username, audience, and type of question. If you like one you find in the gallery, you can duplicate it and make changes to it. A good way to differentiate is to take a Kahoot, duplicate it, and then modify it for different audiences. My students love playing so much, they are asking to create their own Kahoot quizzes. Another aspect that I love is students can register for an account and choose the under 16 years of age option. This option protects them from adding their content to the public gallery and browsing anything in the gallery that has not been curated and deemed appropriate.
If you are not familiar with Kahoot, I encourage you to create your account and give it a try!
Last week, all third through fifth grade students participated in the Hour of Code while in the computer lab during Technology. This was our second year to participate. (Click here to see the post from last year’s event). Students chose from two activities: the Angry Bird platform of the Frozen platform. Each activity had 20 stages, or challenges, interspersed with motivational and instructional videos. At the end of the 20 stages, students could print out a personalized certificate.
The event was scheduled to run during Computer Science Education Week, December 8-12. We held our event a week earlier due to interruptions in our enhancement schedule that week. As last year, EVERY STUDENT SHOWED 100 PERCENT ENGAGEMENT! As you can see from the video below, the elements of critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration were natural outcomes.
For the past two weeks, fourth and fifth graders have been reviewing Digital Citizenship by taking the License to Drive quiz in Moodle. As in years past, they have to score 100% to get their license renewed. They keep their license in their headphone bag where they can use it to check out an iPod when they have completed their assignment for the week. The quiz is made up of 20 multiple choice, true/false and short answer questions.
Third graders were introduced to Digital Citizenship by learning about Digital Contact – the ten personal things they should not share online without their parents’ permission. The assignment had students logging in to Edmodo and accessing the WOLab Class of 2024 group. The video they watched is linked here and compared it to this list: topsecretfolder
Students have been spending 10-20 minutes per class period (during tutorial time) practicing their touch typing using Typing Club. This week they will be answering a poll question posted in Edmodo to determine their opinion of the practice.
In my previous post titled “Ready for 2014-2015“, I mentioned my desire to change my reward system from a once every six weeks reward to a weekly reward for each grade level. I mentioned using Class Dojo to keep up with two behaviors (respectful and disrespectful) in the 15 classes I see each week and then using Morning Announcements on Monday to reveal which class in each grade level had the most points. The struggle I have had is trying to come up with rewards that are not too expensive but would be motivating to students. I looked at Teachers Pay Teachers and a myriad of Pinterest Boards. Most of the rewards I found that do not cost anything (hat pass, eat with the teacher, no homework, take off your shoes, etc.) do not work in my setting because the students are only with me for 45 minutes. I finally decided on seven rewards:
1. Skip the keyboarding practice time for free time
2. During keyboarding practice time, choose a funny video from my Symbaloo webmix for the entire class to watch at the end of the period.
3. Choose a small prize from the treasure chest.
4. Choose a large prize from the Prize Drawer.
5. Receive a computer token that can be turned in on any day that allows them to skip the lesson and do a creative project of their choice.
6. Choose a coloring page from the colAR Mix app to color and animate. I will videotape it to post to their blog.
7. The entire class skips keyboarding practice and can check out the iPods.
Then the question became, how to decide which reward the student would receive. I thought about creating videos and generating QR Codes for them. The codes would be printed on cards. When the winning class came to the lab, I would draw a number from my coffee can. The student who was assigned to that numbered computer would choose a card and scan the code to determine their prize. That would require a lot of time to create the videos using Keynote, screen capture them and edit them in iMovie, then upload them to Youtube, generate the QR Code, print out the cards, laminate them…you get my point! I played around with the idea of creating a Symbaloo webmix of the Youtube videos revealing the prizes. I could make the tiles generic looking and easily move them from place to place. The student would click on one tile and the video would reveal the prize. That method would still require me to create all the videos and upload them to Youtube. Then I remembered a roulette wheel I created last year to use in Morning Announcements to choose a Brain Gym activity for the morning, which reminded me of a post on FreeTech4Teachers detailing the use of a random name picker on ClassTools. I headed over to ClassTools.net and typed “wheel” in the search box. Up popped the Random Name Picker. It was very easy to edit and add my list. I was able to increase the chances of certain prizes by adding the name in more than once. You can even edit your list later by assigning a password. Just make sure you write down or save the unique URL generated by your Random Name Picker. I embedded the wheel on my blog. I initially embedded it on the home page and made it sticky (that means it will stay at the top of my posts), but thought it would be better sitting on a page of its own.
This week students learned that repeating muscle movement a certain way over and over will build muscle memory and will make an action automatic. They learned it in conjunction with touch typing. Technology Application TEK 126.7(b)(6)(E) requires that 3rd-5th graders “use proper touch keyboarding techniques and ergonomic strategies such as correct hand and body positions and smooth and rhythmic keystrokes.” I have written here (scroll down to Don’t Go, Keyboard!) about the dilemma I encounter over using precious technology time in the lab to teach touch typing. Due to the fact that it is a required TEK, and the fact that most of my students still do not know where the letters are located on their keyboard, I have chosen this year to spend the time to introduce the concept AND provide time each week for at least 10 minutes to practice. I used the video below to explain the concept.
Students were able to take an online typing test and test their words per minute before beginning practice. Students were using BBC’s Dance Mat Typing and Peter’s Online Typing Course, but there were several roadblocks to using those sites. Dance Mat Typing has a lot of dancing and singing animation that takes up time students could be using for practice. Pete’s Typing Course is more to the point, but I kept getting pop-ups from cbs.com and shows like The Big Bang Theory, so I deleted both of those sites from my symbaloo webmix (embedded below). I discovered a great site called TypingClub that allowed me to create accounts (I simply importing the information from a cvs file I already had) for all my students. The free version allows you to create up to three classrooms with an unlimited number of students. Since I have three grade levels, I used a classroom for each grade level and imported the student lists with names, usernames, and a password they are familiar with. Now students will be able to log in and start where they left off the week before and continue their practice. I will be able to see their progress from my dashboard. It is a WIN-WIN!
The new school year is just around the corner. Oh how I love the beginning of a new school year! Coming back from summer break feels like coming home. I love the weeks leading up to students returning when all my school family is together, preparing our classrooms, minds, and hearts for a new group of students. On our first day the district had the wonderful opportunity to hear Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate, prepare our hearts to reach every student in our class by making our content engaging. The second day we had Austin Buffum with Solution Tree prepare our minds for committing to teach every student by understanding the right questions to ask regarding our curriculum. The rest of the week was spent preparing our classrooms and lesson plans. Our theme for this year is TEAM, because we are all on the same team. No matter what subject or grade level I may teach, every student in the building is MY student. One of the things I did this year in my classroom was get a different desk. The desk I had was a metal one that was not flat across the front. I received a poster of my grandchildren for my birthday, and wanted to prominently display it. Our maintenance guru, Barry Henson, graciously hunted down the perfect desk.
One of the changes I wanted to make this year has to do with my treasure chest. I see 3 groups of students in the lab each day for a total of 15 a week. In previous years, I would draw one student from each class to choose something out of the treasure chest every six weeks. This year, I want to do a weekly reward by choosing a class from each grade level. I have decided I can use Class Dojo to determine which classroom to pick. I tried using Class Dojo in the past, but it became a little cumbersome with over 300 students enrolled. This year, I created a class on Class Dojo called Mrs. Peery’s TEAM and added each classroom as students. I have only two behaviors: respectful and disrespectful. Using Class Dojo in this way will allow me to assess quickly and easily which classroom has the most points.
This week third graders will be learning the procedures for the computer lab. They will choose a color of balloon to go on the outside of their fidget.
What is a fidget, you say? A fidget in the lab is a balloon filled with rice with another balloon on the outside. Students keep them in their headphone bag and pull them out to squeeze whenever I am giving instructions. This gives some students the movement their bodies need so their brains can focus on instruction. You will find a how-to video here. I cut the neck off so they can stretch it over the balloon that is filled with rice. The third graders watched a video I compiled from a few commercials I found on the internet to understand the concept of TEAM. Click on the picture below to see the video.
Fourth and fifth graders will be reviewing procedures. They will be broken into groups of three or four to discuss suggestions for procedure changes or ideas for rewards. After 10-15 minutes, we will agree on procedures and rewards. They will then choose the color for their fidget. After completing their fidgets, the students will watch Kid President’s Pep Talk to Teachers and Students embedded below. The fourth graders will log in to Edmodo to complete this assignment: Tell me one thing you want me to teach you this year, and tell me one thing you would like to teach me. Fifth graders will log in to Edmodo to complete this assignment: What will you teach the world? Using their responses in Edmodo, I will prepare their answers on a sheet of paper for them to hold so I can snap their picture with my iPhone next week. Using my Groovebook app, I can print all the pictures off as 4x6s to create a bulletin board. This idea came from this article that was posted by my friend and colleague, Pam Cranford on Facebook.
Or… SAY GOODBYE TO THE SAGE ON THE STAGE
Public domain image from:
I love my job. I love being a teacher. There is a popular saying I have seen on everything from coffee cups to t-shirts that says, “The top 3 reasons for being a teacher: June, July, and August.” I use to think that was offensive to teachers. It offended me, because I am always disappointed when the end of the school year rolls around. I want to say, “Wait a minute! I have just now gotten in the swing of things and have SOOO much more to share!” But what those two and a half months give me is perspective…time to reflect and reformulate and renew my vision. I always come back to a new year with a renewed hope of correcting my mistakes of the past and creating a better learning environment for my students. This year I am trying something new. This year my students will be teaching each other. Rather than me being the “Sage on the Stage”, my students will be working collaboratively on EVERYTHING, beginning with the first day they walk in the computer lab. Generally the first week of instruction is one of my favorites, because it gives me an excuse to use the entire enhancement time to stand at the front and introduce the rules and procedures. I love that part of my job. I do not like to put things in written words, but give me a captive audience and a subject I am passionate about, and I can talk for days. That does not serve my students well, though. They learn best when they discover for themselves and teach each other. (I will have to find a different venue for the sageness :roll:) There will be times in the computer lab when they will post individually to their blogs or create their own Animoto or Voki, but the process of getting the information and posting will be with the aid of at least a partner. I believe my students will enjoy the process much more, and they will retain what they have experienced much more readily. I am also making a commitment to myself to document their learning on this blog at least bi-monthly, so check back often. I cannot wait to see how it is going to turn out – for my students and me!