Saturday, February 14, 2015

ACT Aspire Timed Writing


Our state just moved to the ACT Aspire test, which students will be taking this year (2015). To say teachers are a little nervous is a huge understatement. The nervousness has to do with the time element of the test (in all the subject areas). Example: a third grade student has 30 minutes to write a reflective narrative piece (that includes reading the prompt and putting together any type of graphic organizer before they write AND no dictionary or thesaurus is allowed). This is a HUGE shift for our students who we have always been told to "take their time". The online reason the ACT folks note for the short time limit has to do with "test fatigue"...as in... if students are given an unlimited amount of time their writing doesn't appreciatively improve - CLICK HERE  for that explanation. I disagree and feel 30 minutes to write to an unknown prompt in grades 3-5 is highly unreasonable and not relevant in today's world (I've never been given an unknown topic and told to produce a gradable piece of anything in 30 minutes...and I am not sure I could do it if asked!). In today's environment of high stakes testing adding a timed element is just CRAZY...and there is nothing we can do about it but try to prepare our students the best way we can.

In that regard I've looked online and I can't find any teacher feedback providing tips for preparing students for this rigorous timed test (in all fairness only two states have implemented the ACT Aspire test -  Kentucky and Alabama and they only took it last year for the first time). We don't even know what the test will look like. The ACT Aspire folks have provided a few sample questions online and offer up RIDICULOUSLY expensive test preparation material but that is not helpful. Our district has tasked our math and literacy coaches to develop an ACT "like" test in each area...not to test student knowledge but to give students an opportunity to experience what the test will be like in April/May and to give them some test taking strategies in a timed environment.

One area I have been looking at is the writing test. I love writing so I started tweaking my writing strategies to meet the timed, and various types of writing, that will be tested in grades 3-5. I've been modeling the strategies in classrooms (specifically Title 1 classrooms) and asked teachers to start having students time themselves using their iPad stopwatch feature (see picture above). Based on the time limit (30 minutes) students have five minutes to read the prompt, highlight the useful information, and slap together a graphic organizer. They then (based on four paragraphs...I use the four square graphic organizer) have five minutes per paragraph to write their final piece. With the left over five minutes they can review and make any changes. Crazy...I know!

The picture above shows one of our district's 3rd grade students using the iPad to time his writing.

I would love to hear from any Alabama or Kentucky teachers about how they test prepped their students going into the test last year (please feel free to leave comments or email me directly).

I am going to end with this picture I saw on Facebook.




Tuesday, January 13, 2015

iMovie Intro Activity

video


When introducing iMovie and all the various bells, whistles, and sound effects that go with it my "go to" activity is the above "How to Blow a Bubble" movie.

The "learning" activity focuses on the use of different transition words with the "tech" activity being the ability to produce a movie using the iPad.

Students LOVE it (Who wouldn't?....You get to chew gum in class!). The entire activity takes about an hour from start to finish and students are required to have seven pictures (includes the title picture), six transition words, their voice recorded, music, and at least one sound effect (in that order!).

They must pair up so that one person can take pictures while the other one goes through the steps. They switch roles so they both make a movie (they make the movie as a solo activity). This takes 10 minutes. I found it incredibly helpful to time them otherwise they take FOREVER to get the pictures done.

Once the pictures are complete they work on the movie.  What I found helpful as a tech coach is to travel with a class set of ear buds with built in microphones (I like the expensive iPad ones...$30 each...isn't that insane?!?! My supervisor approved the purchase and I clean them after each use!!!!). This allows 24 kids in a classroom to record without interference AND keep you from hearing them test out ALL the sound effects and music options.  Really that was one of the best purchases I have made this year!

If you have to introduce iMovie and aren't sure what project will work...I highly recommend this one.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What I am Loving - Promethean ClassFlow





My new favorite "tech tool" is ClassFlow by Promethean. I saw it modeled at the national ISTE conference in Atlanta by the Ron Clark Academy and was impressed at both the product and the students of the Ron Clark Academy (my next goal is to go to one of their teacher institutes!).

I haven't been able to look at it too closely other then my cursory intro over the summer. In my defense we have been pretty busy up until now with rolling out tablets and iPads to students including teacher and student training (our district has 1:1 devices in grades 3-12...we have a pretty great district with lots of people who support technology and training).

I finally had time to sequester myself and watch a majority of training videos that are on their YouTube How To playlist. I am now hooked!!!!

ClassFlow allows you to "push out" your ActivInspire flipcharts to students devices (iPad or Tablets in my case). You can turn their devices into student response systems, have them manipulate material they would normally come up to the board to do, watch videos, and so much more.

The teachers I have shown it to LOVE LOVE LOVE it and I am booked with after school training on it pretty much the bulk of January. If you have devices and use Promethean definitely look into it (it is free - www.classflow.com).

I put my Weather Tools flipchart in the community flipcharts area for anyone to use.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Young Adult Book Festival - Charleston, SC




At the beginning of the school year I was chatting with one of the media assistants and she was telling me about a Young Adult Book Festival in Charleston. I went online to find out more information (I am a huge YA fan) and there was an opportunity to volunteer (um...yes please!). I spent two days working the festival (signings, panels, set up and more). I got to met a ton of super nice YA authors (who did not mind my obsessive picture taking).

My favorites included James Dashner (Maze Runner series), Veronica Roth (Divergent author), and my personal absolute favorite... Rainbow Rowell (if you haven't read Eleanor and Park you are missing out on one of the best YA books to come out in awhile). 

I spent well over $100 on books while I was at the festival (which was bound to happen considering the number of nieces and nephews I have).

The festival is in its fourth year and has gained a lot of notoriety on the YA circuit. We had families traveling in for the event from Missouri, New York, Ohio, etc. I am hoping to get another opportunity to volunteer next year. 

If you are in the area early November 2015 look it up!

Weathering, Erosion, and Deposition Activity

I saw this activity at a science conference years ago and haven't had a chance to use it in a classroom until this week (mainly because I didn't teach weathering, erosion, and deposition). It is a great way to reinforce the definition of the weathering, erosion, and deposition in a highly kinesthetic manner.

Basically you break the students up into groups of three. One group is "Weathering" another group is "Erosion" and the third group is "Deposition".



Add tape to the back because you are going to stick them to the forehead of the children in each group.


The "weathering" students get a sheet of paper that is their "rock" they will be breaking down.


At the start of the activity the "weathering" students will start ripping tiny pieces of their "rock" and handing it to the "erosion" students. The "erosion" students will be running their tiny piece of "rock" to the "deposition" students at the back of the classroom. Those students will start making a beach with the tiny pieces on their assigned desk. Their job is to cover the entire desk with the tiny pieces they get from the erosion people.

Note: “Weathering” students can only rip it into tiny pieces and hand it to the “Erosion” student one piece at a time (no ripping it all over the floor!).      


In my activity I made one of the weathering students the "earthquake" student. They weren't allowed to do ANYTHING until 2 minutes were up (I set a timer). Once the timer went off that student, and that student only, could rip a huge chunk of their "rock" off and give it to their "erosion" person. Once they were done I had people rotate jobs.  

Here is what students learned:

1. Weathering breaks down rocks
2. Erosion moves the pieces
3. Deposition creates new land forms with those pieces (in our case a beach)

They also saw:

1. The process would take a lot of time
2. Earthquakes were rarer, hence the 2 minute intervals
3. Earthquakes broke off larger chunks then normal due to their violent nature


The students LOVED running back and forth and wearing name tags on their head. A pre and post conversation showed how much clearer their understanding was of the three terms AFTER the activity. 

Hide-a-Face


Want to blur out a face in a photo? Try http://www.photohide.com/. It is a free website that allows you to upload photos and select certain faces to be "blurred" out. It is very easy to use and allows you blur out students who can't have their face published.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Notebooking, iPads, and Bingo




Our school district has rolled out iPads to all students in grades 3-5 (and Dell Venue 11 Tablets with detachable keyboards to students in grades 6-12). This has kept us (all the tech coaches) BUSY this year! 

One thing I am trying to do is incorporate the use of iPads with the notebooks. One web tool I use a lot is bingobaker.com . It is free bingo game card generator that you can either print out or play using your tablet. 

For students I created a QR code (using QRstuff.com) and put it at the bottom of their science vocabulary sheet that goes in their notebook (see second picture). When we are ready to play students take out their iPad, scan the code and it goes straight to a randomized bingo board (no two bingo boards are the same). Students touch the screen to make the square light up and touch it again to make it go back if they made a mistake. Once a winner has been declared students touch the "refresh" circle and they get a new randomized board. 

The game is VERY popular with students. Just make sure you have some prizes on hand!