Monday, January 16, 2017

Presidential Inauguration - Word Search




This week, Friday, January 20th, Donald Trump will be sworn in as our new President. Many teachers across the nation will be showing the event live in their classroom. Unfortunately while teachers are tuning in students may tune out. I developed a "Word Search" strategy that I modified from a teacher on how to engage students while listening to speeches and public addresses.

Prior to the speech ask students what kinds of words they think might come up in the President's speech. Brainstorm 10-20 words and then make a list (i.e. future, working together, hope, jobs). Have them try and think like the President. What might he say to try to motivate Americans from all levels and backgrounds? Have students copy that list on a piece of paper. During the speech have them listen carefully and put a check next to any word that the President uses that is on the list. If he uses it it more then once the word gets checked again. Note any words that seem to come up a lot that you didn't list. After the speech compare your results and discuss why they thought some words were mentioned and others were not. Did the words used help convey his overall message? Could they summarize his speech using words on the list?

I did this with fourth graders during Obama's inauguration and it worked like a charm. All the students were keyed in and checking their word list. The discussion afterward was certainly more engaging then if the event had been strictly passive on the student's end. This is one of those ideas that could be used from elementary to high school.




Two New (and exciting) Technology Upgrades

Exciting Technology Upgrade #1 - Google Classroom




This week Google Classroom announced that they have added a way to assign work to individuals, or groups of students, within Classroom. This is a HUGE deal, as it has been an issue of complaint not only in our district but also in the Classroom community forms. They have a couple of other upgrades as well (but this is the one that made the teachers I work with jump for joy!). You can read about the updates HERE.

What we would love Google Classroom to add is an inking feature for our touch screen tablet users (that would be users in grades 6-12 this year and 3-5 next year).

Right now our 3-5 users have iPads and Google Classroom allows students to open assignments and use the inking tool to write on documents with their finger (very handy!). However this isn't a feature available on our touch screen tablets.


The Classroom developers do allow for teacher feedback and I definitely submitted the suggestion (and asked a bunch of teacher friends to submit it as well). Hopefully, with enough requests, the developers might look into it.



Exciting Technology Upgrade #2 - ReadWorks Digital


For those of you unfamiliar with ReadWorks, it is a FREE site that offers downloadable leveled reading passage and questions sets for use in the classroom. I use it all the time with students. Most teachers typically run off copies of the passage and question sets for students...which, as you can image, uses a lot of paper. I've got several of our teachers putting the material into Google Classroom which reduces the amount of paper but Read Works just announced the launch of ReadWorksDigital which makes assigning reading passages so much easier!!!

ReadWorksDigital allows teachers to make classrooms, students then join with a class code and you can assign work through the site...which also grades the question sets. Students can join with their Google account if you are a GAFE school. To find out more there is a short video explaining how it works HERE.

I haven't tried it with a class yet but I am hoping to this week. I will report back once I have given it a test run. I'm definitely excited though!

Monday, December 19, 2016

FREE - 2017 New Year Goal Foldable




I made one of these foldables years ago when I was in the classroom and thought I would give it another try.

Normally under the last flap it reads "list the titles of X amount of books you will read this year" but I thought that would be difficult for children who aren't sitting around with a list of book titles they are dying to read. So instead I used the "7" to indicate the amount of months left before school starts in August. Under that flap I am encouraging students to set a goal of reading one chapter book a month. Of course I would love for students to read more then that but I thought it was a "doable" goal, particularly for the reluctant readers.

I uploaded the foldable to the ClassFlow Marketplace. If you aren't a member you will need to make a free account.

The foldable packet comes with two different layouts. One is better for three hole punching and keeping in a binder. The other is better if you plan to hang the foldables in the hallway.

I also modified the foldable slightly for younger grade levels (grades 1-2) so there are two different grade ranges in the packet.

The foldable is EDITABLE in case you want to modify anything. The instructions on how to edit it from a PDF is included in the instructions.

Enjoy! (and Happy New Year)


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Family Code Night



Join millions of classrooms around the world December 5 - 11 as they celebrate and highlight an hour of code in the classroom. To find out more go to the Hour of Code website at https://hourofcode.com/us

There are a lot of free resources across multiple grade levels as well on the code.org website.

Last year, in many of our schools, the Hour of Code was worked into students computer lab specials rotation but I have also seen it worked into science lab times, as well as during math blocks.

Recently I found out about a website dedicated to helping schools host a Family Code Night. You can sign up for a free family code night event kit on their site and use that as a tech night focus.

Since the Hour of Code runs in December consider combining it with a holiday night with families (getting the PTO involved to serve cookies and hot chocolate). At a recent conference, I heard of one school hosting a Tech the Halls night where teachers decorated the halls with a technology theme. This would be fun to do in conjunction with a Family Code Night, with parents and students voting for the best decorated hall/wall. A school that I have worked with in the past has also set up green screen areas during a family holiday event where families can have their holiday picture taken with a fun winter themed background (someone suggested working with Walgreens or a local print shop to see if they would offer discounts on reprints of the pictures).

However you choose to recognize an Hour Code know that there are a lot of resources, activities, and lesson plans online so even if you aren't an expert...they will help you look like one!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Baby Steps to Paperless

When I was in the classroom about the first of the year we would all get an email from the principal letting us know that we were making too many copies and using up too much paper. 

This message appears universal as most of my teacher friends from other schools would get the same email from their administrators. 

Some schools, at that point, would put a limitation on the amount of copies you can make per month on the fancy programmable copier machines....and then you would have to ask other teachers on your team with lower copier counts to make copies for you until the first of the month kicked in (I always felt it was really unfair that your unused copies don't roll over to the next month!).

Now that each student has a device in our district there has been a greater push for teachers to go paperless (as much as possible) but a lot of teachers don't know where to start. 

I met with one of those teachers a few weeks ago and recommended she put together a list of everything she makes copies of and then mark if it was non-negotiable or not (in the paperless realm). She did a pretty good job. It was clear anything math related was a non-negotiable for her. She liked the students to have room to work out their answers. She couldn't have cared less about the Words their Way papers...but needed some help moving them to a paperless format (which I helped her using Google Classroom). 

We talked about her science curriculum and one thing she gives her students is a weekly quiz (ten questions just to make sure they were understanding the weekly lessons and were prepared for the end of unit test). I showed her how to make those quizzes in ClassFlow using their stand alone assessment feature (one of my favorites). She liked the variety of assessment types (not just multiple choice).


My favorite question types are:

Cloze - You write a short couple of sentences and then remove some key words (using the [P] in the picture below) and then students can drag and drop the right answer in the missing space.




Creative Response - I gave students a picture of the solar system and asked them to circle certain plants



You can also have them label an image, sort things in order, and match items.

I gave her students a pre-test on planet identification to show her how easy it was for the students to take on their iPad (or any device) and for the teacher to grade (items like circle the right planet and short answer questions have to be independently graded by the teacher). I have the Planet Identification assessment uploaded to the ClassFlow marketplace for free if anyone wants to use it with their students.

ClassFlow has lots of help videos and here are the ones I felt were useful when making assessments

- Creating an Assessment
- Delivering an Assessment
- Reports

Even before our 1:1 days of iPads and tablets I could get creative becoming paperless, We had a set of four classroom computers that I could have rotated students through taking the quiz. The media center had a bank of computers students could use and our computer lab had some open slots that I could book if I needed to.

Becoming paperless doesn't have to be overwhelming. Look at what you currently make copies of, see what resources you have, and find ways you can make your first baby steps!



Sunday, October 2, 2016

My First Mystery Skype - Review and Resources






This week I tried a Mystery Skype for the first time with at 2nd grade class.They have a serious amount of mapping skills in their standards...and the teacher asked for a tech project tie in. I first wrote about Mystery Skype in this post.

In preparation for the activity I had my super nice boss order these place mat maps on Amazon (we ordered 12 based on a class size of 24 so that students could pair up).

This was a two day lesson (the class has a 40 minute Social Studies block and I took two days of it). The first day was reviewing what the class had learned and then (focusing solely on the United States) we taught them the four regions of the U.S. (NW, SW, NE, SE). We had them draw it out multiple times on their map. Once we did that we played a mystery state game. I left the classroom and the students came up with a state I had to guess when I came back in. This was done so that I could model questions a couple of times (crossing out states that I had projected on the interactive white board - Promethean for us). Then I flipped it so the kids had to guess my state a couple of times.

Some of the questions:

- Does your state border Canada?
- Does your state border an ocean?
- Does your state border Mexico?
- Is your state in the South East region?

The second day I had arranged for my mom to Skype in and and they had to ask her questions to find out where she lived (Utah). They did a really good job with the questions and crossing out the states on their map (and they got it).

The students really enjoyed it, and my mom did a great job with the kids.

Next time I would choose another class, that way the students can ask questions back and forth.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Parent Teacher Conference Resources



With parent/teacher conferences coming up, you can use https://calendly.com/ to manage your conference schedule (and it is FREE!!!). Using Calendly will allow you to create a calendar where parents can view and sign up for available time slots online (none of that dreaded paper and shuffling of time slots).  Parents receive email confirmations and have the option to add the appointment to their personal calendar. For an overview of how to set up a calendar in Calendly for parent conferences, please watch this short, step-by-step video (please note that I used the dates of Oct. 20 and 21st as a reference point since those are the dates for our district) -




Looking for a quick parent/teacher conference checklist? Check out this form on Google Docs. The list is a reminder of what might be covered during a conference; please feel free to change the form to meet your needs.
  


Have student’s evaluate themselves and use the information to share with parents at your conference with this Student Self Assessment Form.