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!
A co-worker and good friend of mine, Pam Cranford, is a Keynote master. She not only uses Keynote for presentations, but she uses it as a virtual scrapbooking tool as well. Most of the teacher blogs have her handiwork incorporated somewhere, and you can bet Keynote was used at some level. She is the one that taught me how to animate objects on slides as well as include transitions between slides to create a beautiful visual effect. When our principal, Danieli Parker, suggested we start creating video announcements for teachers to access each morning, Pam created an intro and exit feature that you can view here. This year, I took her instruction and example to create a new intro and exit that fit with our theme for the year: White Oak Intermediate Rocks. You can view it here. I introduced students to the concept by having them create Countdown to Christmas clips to use during the month of December for Morning Announcements. Here is an example of one student’s creation (at 2 minutes 47 seconds in), but when a student takes a concept and incorporates their own ideas and creativity, magic happens. That is what happened with this instruction. A fifth grade student of mine, Ryan B., spent his free time in the computer lab to create this amazing video entirely in Keynote. It took him weeks and weeks of fine tuning, but he truly created a masterpiece.
After seeing the excitement and engagement of my students when they participated in the Hour of Code, (see the related post here), I talked with my principal, Mrs. Parker, about finding a time students who wanted to continue could participate in the 20 hour coding course offered by code.org. I created a quick survey in Edmodo for students to let me know their interest. We decided the 30 minutes each day of tutorial time, before their 45 minutes of enhancement, would be the perfect time for those students to come to the computer lab and work through all the levels. Code.org, in participation with DonorsChoose, was offering the first 1,000 schools that had 15 students complete the course a $750 grant from DonorsChoose. If half of the students were female, they included another $250. I had to admit that was the motivation I needed to set up all the students with usernames and passwords that wanted to participate. I began with 47 students in 3rd-5th grade. The course got very rigorous around about level 15, and some students chose not to continue. I had 28 students complete the course and received the DonorsChoose grant. I purchased an iPad mini for the classroom. Students used it to make their drawings come to life using the colAR Mix app. I learned so much, and I know my students did, as well. We celebrated with a pizza party. I am thinking over summer break how I can incorporate coding in my curriculum next year, at least for all the 5th graders.
I had six students submit their ideas for the Doodle for Google contest. The contest theme this year was: If I Could Invent One Thing to Make the World a Better Place. One drawing will be chosen from each age category in each of the 50 states;
- Grades K-3
- Grades 4-5
- Grades 6-7
- Grades 8-9
- Grades 10-12
The Guest Judges and Google doodlers will select a State Winner from each state. These 50 State Winners will be displayed in an online gallery on the Doodle 4 Google website for public voting on April 29th. On May 9th, public voting ends. On May 21st, there will be a final awards celebration for the 50 state winners at Google’s Headquarters in Mountain View, California and the overall winner will be announced.
My third through fifth grade students recently completed the Hour of Code hosted by Code.org. I initially heard about this opportunity by reading about it on one of my favorite blogs to follow: Engage Their Minds by Terri Eichholz. With the approval of my principal, I signed my computer lab students up. I have to be honest and say the promise of 10G of free Dropbox space for signing up a class was a definite draw for me! In addition, there were other prizes being awarded to schools who registered the entire student population. I registered without realizing I would not have them all in the computer lab during the week of December 9-15, 2013 when the events were to take place. (We had some benchmark testing days and early release days in December). The week we returned from Christmas break became our Hour of Code week. There were seven different platforms to choose from. I “test-drove” several before deciding on the Tutorials that Teach Beginners module with Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. After the first ten minutes of my first class of third graders, I realized it was a winner! I had over 60 students a day, (I have a class of 3rd, 4th, then 5th graders each day for 1 1/2 hours in the computer lab) for a total of 300+ students participate. Every single day yielded the same results – 100% ENGAGEMENT. Some students completed all 20 puzzles in the time allotted, and wanted to do more. The students who did not finish all the levels wanted to get back on the website. According to Hadi Partovi, the purpose of this endeavor was to introduce students all over the world to the discipline of computer science. According to Computer Science Education Week, over 23,000,000 accessed the Hour of Code resources. I polled my students through Edmodo to get their insights about the experience. Here are the results:
These results tell me that even though over half (57%) of the students rated the activity as Medium in difficulty, almost 87% said they enjoyed the activity. In other words, it posed a significant challenge for them, but they enjoyed being challenged.
Image from http://learn.code.org/users/sign_up.
So, what now? The code.org website offers activities for going Beyond the Hour of Code. One of the activities is a 20 hour coding course called K-8 Intro to Computer Science. My principal is giving students the opportunity to participate by coming to the lab every day for 30 minutes until they complete the course. I had students indicate their interest by filling out a Google form I posted in Edmodo. According to the data from the form, I have 36 third graders, 35 fourth graders, and 42 fifth graders that want to learn to code thirty minutes a day! I am so thankful for people like Hadi Partovi and the opportunity the organizers of the Hour of Code have given to so many, young and old alike, to discover an appreciation for computer science and its place in our world.