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. 


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!

Monday, October 6, 2014

October - Anti Bullying Month - Song

This is one of my favorite videos/songs sung by 14 year old Rachel Crow. Since October is Anti-Bullying Month I thought I would share how you can use it in your classroom (as an excuse to show it :).

You can have students write down what they think, "I'm just gonna comb you out of my curls" means. Explain how figurative language can be used to paint a picture (have them draw a picture of someone combing mean girls or mean words out of their hair - post in the hall). Teach students what pronouns are and then have them count the number of pronouns in the lyrics version of the song. (Lesson idea came this website).

Math Facts Poster

This poster was up in the hallway of one of the schools I go to. I thought it was pretty cool. Student's get to sign their name in one of the numbers once they have mastered that specific fact. The banner is in the younger hallways as well with 1-10.

The poster was made using one of the school's colored poster maker (Staples might be able to make it as well if you don't have a poster maker). 

Here is the link to the adobe files of the numbers (1-12 and 1-10). 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Parent/Teacher Conferences - Online Sign Ups

With parent/teacher conferences coming up you can use Google Docs to manage your conference schedule. Using Google Docs will allow you to create a schedule template where parents can view and sign up for available time slots online (none of that dreaded paper and shuffling of time slots).  Please note you will need to still manage it and send out confirmations. 

I put the time slots into 20 minute increments. Our district has late conferences the Thursday and gives students a day off school on Friday for teachers to meet with parents. I usually tried to get all my parents in before the Friday so I could spend that day catching up on classroom "stuff" (we weren't allowed to have it off if we were done). The template is geared with the district schedule in mind but you should be able to edit it easily.

If you are interested in trying it out this year I created a signup template that you can import into your Google Docs - Parent Teacher Sign Up Form Link

1. Sign up for a Google account if you don’t have one and then login
2. Click on link below to go to the template
3. Click on “file” and then “make a copy” (this will give you a copy of document that you can then use as your own)
4. Put your name on the file and change the times you are available
5. Click on “share” (top right)
6. Under “who has access” click on “change”
7. Click “anyone with link” and click “allow anyone to edit” (no sign in required)
8. Copy the link and send it to parents via email or newsletter.

Parent Teacher Conference - Forms

Parent teacher conferences are coming up here in our district (October). Pictured above are two forms I would always have during those conferences. 

The first is a student self-evaluation form. It is a two page document (only one page shown above) where they rate themselves with easy to fill in faces (first page) and then write answers to questions on page two (i.e. what do you like about coming to school, what is an area you do well in, what is an area you need to improve in, etc.). Children are remarkably honest on these forms and it helps guide the conference. One year I had a child say that they needed to work on their anger management issues (which was true but I wasn't sure how to bring it up to the parents!). 

The second was a conference checklist. Inevitably I would forget something and it would annoy me so I developed the checklist to help me remember. I would make parents sign it for my records and cut off the bottom part for them (it contained helpful websites and passwords). 

I put both of these forms on line. To edit you need to click on "file" and then "make a copy".

Visual Seating Chart - Sub Idea

For those of you who didn't read my September tech newsletter this was one of the fun suggestions I included for the early childhood teachers. They tend to get a bit overlooked in the newsletter (lots of tech ideas for third graders and above less for below).

The idea is to take a picture of your class, put it in Word and then add text boxes with the student names. Print a copy and leave it in your "Sub Tub" so substitutes would have a visual seating chart of the class. I took the picture above with an iPad standing on a chair. I was impressed how well the kindergarten student's sat for the picture (I think the teacher was too!).  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fun with Flags

Today's post is called "Fun with Flags" (after Sheldon Cooper's webcast in The Big Bang Theory...yes I love the show!). 

The school is Coosa Elementary School and they have a great art teacher (Donna Sams) who creates these classroom flags each year. They line the entrance going into the school, on both sides of the road, to create a fun drive in experience for parents and visitors. They seem to be made of sturdy canvas and are zip tied to the pole to keep from flapping. Not being an art teacher I have NO IDEA what kind of paint she uses but it holds up pretty much the entire year...even during the most severe thunderstorms!

The backs of the flag have the student's hand print and name. They are generally made the first week of school and are up within the second or third week. 

I thought it was a super cute way to make a school entrance appealing and student friendly.  

Tech Newsletters - August and September

Sorry for the delay in posting. Our district is rolling out 1-to-1 tablets and iPads to students in grades 3-8 and it has been a crazy start to the new school year! You can check out the August and September tech newsletters HERE. Most of the information is specific to the district I work in but there are general ideas as well that might be interesting to readers. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Long Range Plan - For Parents!

I follow a blog - http://gingersnapstreatsforteachers.blogspot.com/ and she posted her long range plans this morning and I LOVED the format...which she provides for free (you do have to download some fonts to view it correctly but I believe those are free as well). 

My favorite was the "Year at a Glance" that she provides to parents at the beginning of the year (which is what I really liked and think it's a fabulous idea). 

I'm pass it along in case folks are working on their LRP's this summer :) 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back-To-School Presentation

Last year I made an “about me” presentation that I used when introducing myself to teachers and students. The goal was to show teachers and students how they could easily create one on their own using the Promethean software our district has.

Since a lot of my readers do not have Promethean software I created two tutorials highlighting how to make this easy back-to-school presentation. The first is using Promethean’s ActivInspire software and the second using PowerPoint - both are around 5 minutes.  

As you can see, it is a fairly simple process. I've done this project with third graders on up and they catch on fairly quickly (and they like it a lot better then being forced to write a paper about their summer vacation). I do make them type details about their picture (so there is some writing involved) and I limit them to one piece of clipart from the internet…otherwise the process gets bogged down by picture searching. When they are done I either let them share whole group or within their table groups.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment area below and I will do my best to answer them.

Enjoy these last few weeks of summer!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Goal List to Research Template

I saw a goal list on Pinterst (see first picture) and I thought it would make a good research collection template for students (what student wouldn't love working with post-it notes!). I created a template for upper grade levels (collection of six facts - using 11x17 paper) and a template for lower grade levels (collection of four facts - using 8 1/2 x 11 paper). 

I printed out 24 copies of each on card stock and laminated them. I worked with third graders using them to collect biographically information for a black history project and with first graders collecting facts about habitat specific animals. 

The idea, in my mind at least, was that these collection boards would allow for more research and collection opportunities in the classroom...other then the typical 1-2 a year. 

Here is what I learned...

1. The third graders really didn't know how to gather pertinent information. They were a bit all over the board with their facts so I had to direct them a bit (see 3rd picture). I posted sample collection boards ranging from grade of A - D and we went over how what made each one better then the next.

2. Kids argued about the color of their post-it notes (should have seen that one coming!). It's best to give them only one color.

3. The post-it notes came off over time. Since this was a project over time this was a problem (they had a couple of days to collect their data and then a couple of days to sketch out their rough draft and then a couple of days to finalize their project). I worked with 3rd graders first and decided fast that it wouldn't work with the 1st graders. For them I just printed out the sheets on regular 8 1/2 x 11 paper - no post-its for them (they liked the boxing of information so it wasn't a total bust - they also needed a "how to" of collecting facts lesson). FYI - The earlier finishers were then able to turn over their paper and draw a picture of their animal in their habitat which they wouldn't have been able to do on a laminated template. 

Overall I would use the templates again primarily as a "fun" way to collect information. If you are interested in the templates I created they can be downloaded for free on my TeachersPayTeachers site -  11x17 template or 8.5x11 template

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Classroom Management - New YouTube Favorite

Classroom management is the hardest lesson that teachers learn...and sadly it can't be learned in college...it is certainly "talked about" but the only way to learn this one is on the job (sorry new teachers...on the plus side it gets better :).

It has been my experience that new teachers can learn any content with some degree of confidence...find a lesson and support material without too much difficult...and deliver it with authority. It is when you throw in the kids where everything gets tripped up :)

My first year as a science teacher with no science background I felt pretty good about if I could stay one day ahead of my pacing guide... for example, I had no idea what a dichotomous key was until the week before I had to teach it...um...let alone pronounce it :) but I powered through the content like a champ however, I struggled with the students. I invited seasoned teachers (that I like and respected) to come in and give advice and I went and observed them during my planning periods. It was a rough first year. FYI - sometimes you have other teachers offering up help that do not match your teaching style so its important to find those "like and respect" teachers quickly and know how to get rid of the others.

With several years under my belt and lots of classroom experience I can pretty much walk into a classroom and be fine...for the most part...sometimes the universe likes to remind me not to become too complacent :).

I recently ran across this classroom management video through a blog I follow and I loved it!!!!! The teacher is funny, engaging, and best of all...realistic. I would make this mandatory viewing for all teachers.

The points from the video that resonated with me were:

1. Model the "craycray" - I do that in the classroom during my first days of schools and the kids LOVE it (The teacher acting crazy?!?! What?!?!). My favorite craycray skit is simply titled "the bathroom". I model what I don't every want to hear/see when someone exits the bathroom...I was lucky to have one in the room and you can imagine what came out of fourth grad mouths.
2. Be careful of the "spill over" - I was a departmentalized teacher and often my troubles were "spill overs" from other classes. I learned quickly to engage students THE MOMENT they walked in the classroom.
3. "Snitches Get Stiches" - If I had to call a parent or write up a child you can pretty much guarantee that I exhausted every possible means in my power. Not because I was afraid of the parent but because most things can be handled "in house." Teachers who are ALWAYS calling a parent or writing up a child pretty much scream "I can't handle them" to everyone else.
4. "Hall-acostations" - This was just a cool term for quizzing kids in the halls between classes to keep them on their toes.
5. Don't take it personally and don't engage in a power struggle - I've seen grown teachers argue with 10 year olds (it happens to the best of us and I'm not going to lie... it is super easy to let your inner 10 year old come out). If you find yourself arguing with a child...stop...stop immediately. You.will.never.win. The moment you engage you have lost. I know several teacher who are unable to recognize they are even doing it...and it is painful to watch...for them and for the student.

There were lots of other good things in the 11 minute video...so pull up a chair and prepare to be entertained!

Direct link to the video can be found by clicking HERE.

Professional Development Grant

I recently had the opportunity to attend ISTE's (International Society of Technology Educators) national conference in Atlanta. One of the perks was chatting and meeting new people. I happened to meet the teacher pictured above while waiting for a session on how to create games/advanced actions in PowerPoint (great session by the way!). We bonded over her nails (hence her hand position in the picture - they were Jamberry Nails and a friend of mine started to selling them so they stood out :)

While we were chatting she said that she wrote a grant to attend the conference (she was from Oklahoma). Apparently this grant (Fund for Teachers) paid for EVERYTHING...including her laptop, laptop bag, etc. She wrote everything she would need for the conference into the grant (I want to say the total grant she wrote was for $3,000). This was super impressive. She said in the grand scheme of things she thought small. Apparently a person wrote a grant to study programming using Scratch software...in Spain! 

She is blocked for applying for another grant for three years but she said watch out in year three :).

Sadly I am ineligible to apply for a grant because 50% of your direct instruction time needs to be with children. I'm close to that number as a tech coach but not quite there. At the moment (and I know I am thinking "small" in terms of location) I would love to attend the professional development offered through the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. They were featured in the Promethean booth at ISTE and I was super impressed by the demonstrated lessons and use of technology (one day...sigh! #ihatebudgetcuts).

The grant cycle opens up in October but I thought the summer was a great time to start thinking BIG in terms of what might be of interest to teachers (Galapagos anyone?). 

Here is the link to the site for anyone interested - http://www.fundforteachers.org/

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Door Decorations

I thought these two classroom doors were too cute not to share. This is in a school with a school wide nautical theme and the top one was for Browder's Beacons and the second was for Porter's Pirates. 

For the pirate one she used contact paper for the black parts and a plastic table top for the bandanna. 

For the beacon one she used yellow and red bulletin board paper outlined in black electrical tape. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Power of Positive Thinking Activity

I ran into this project walking the halls at one of the schools I go to. It was done in Leslie Larussas' fourth grade class as a creative writing piece. The students were to take one negative thought they had and find three positives within it. 

I love love love this assignment! What a great way to teach children to turn their thinking around (I know several adults who need to do this assignment...on a daily basis :)

She took pictures of the kids thinking and they created speech bubbles around themselves. She let the kids color it...which made some of them hard to read but they were all really good negative-to-positive examples. 

Since I am a technology coach I looked for a way that the project could be done on the computer hence the last picture (FYI - our district is going to 1-1 iPads in grades 3-5 next year so the last project was done using an app called educreations as an example.)  It was inspired because I had just finished the couch to 5K app and was heading to a school sponsored 5K. I took my negative thought about running in it and turned it into the three positives that you see written above. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Fun Foldable

I'm always up for a fun foldable and I got one from a friend of mine. She got it from a museum course she took with her daughter and snagged a couple of templates for me (Yay! Thanks Nichelle :)

It seems a bit complicated with all the mountain and valley folds but I have used it with several fourth grade classrooms and they got the hang of it pretty easily.

It can be used with any topic. I choose magnets because the finished foldable reminded me of a bar magnet.

To get a  free copy of the foldable template check out my GOOGLE SITES HERE.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Blabberize Explorer Tech Project

I recently worked with two teachers helping to put together a research project using www.blabberize.com as the presentation method (the subject was explorers - grade level 4th).

Blabberize is a free website that allows you to manipulate the mouths of pictures to make them "talk" with your recorded voice. Click on the picture to see how the site works and a sample of an "explorer interview" or CLICK HERE)

The first group of children used two pictures - one of them and one of their explorer and recorded their voices. They turned out fine although we had a lot of problems with the microphones.

Based on my experience with the first group I introduced a change to the project for the second group. Students had to conduct an "interview" with an explorer. The program can handle a total of 10 scenes so that meant that five questions could be asked. The teacher and I had to explain and model good interviewing skills. The kids did extremely well and if it wasn't for identifying names I would link copies of the finished interviews :(

Students used an interview sheet (see my google sites HERE for a free copy of it) and used it as a guide when conducting their research. The recording was a bit of a nightmare until we switched to audacity (a free microsoft recording software we have on our computer). Students pre-recorded their ten scenes (saving each one as #1, #2, #3, etc.) and then uploaded it when they got into the Blabberize program. It wasn't that hard and once I showed the students they were recording and saving like pros. I contacted the Blabberize folks and they suggested looking at the flash player we were using or the settings related to the flash player. I never did that since the audacity thing worked very well...but I was happy with how fast they got back to me!

I showed this project to some fifth grade teachers and thought it would work within their standards interviewing key folks during WWI or WWII. If I get samples from them I will post.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

February Tech Newsletter

Two posts this week! My February tech newsletter is up on my google site - HERE. Lots of good ideas for how to present research topics. Enjoy!

Reading Tables/Graphs Practice Idea

Every Monday and Friday I would pull up the weather channel's 10 day forecast for our city. I would have dry erase markers and boards at the table and would ask a series of questions based on the data.

- What day will have the highest temperature?
- What day will have the lowest temperature? Or what day are you going to have to dress the warmest?
- What is the difference between those temperatures? (math!)
- What day(s) has the greatest chance of rain? Or what day are we most likely to have indoor recess?
- What day(s) has the lowest chance of rain?
- What day is going to be the windiest?
- What day is going to have the greatest drop between their day and evening temperature?

I always look at the weather so I figure why not make it a classroom thing! Luckily we studied weather in the fourth grade so it was easy to incorporate it in my lessons but even if I taught a "non-weather grade" I would still do it.

It was amazing to see how difficult it was for the kids to find the information at first and when I asked them to calculate the difference between the highest and lowest number I could hear the class grind to a halt. I'm happy to report that with practice the students got use to the drill and became very proficient at finding the information quickly.

Here were some of the side results of doing this activity:
1. Students started looking for how the weather was going to effect their weekend plans or week day sports practice schedules.
2. They started discussions as to what sites provided better weather forecast (particularly if their parents used different sites).
3. On rain days they wanted to see the radar map.
4. If children were traveling out of town they would ask to pull up those locations for packing purposes (mostly done on Friday).

I loved it because it gave students real life practice reading tables and graphs and then applying that information to their lives outside the classroom.

If you didn't want to do it whole group you could always make a sheet that you printed as morning work on Monday and Friday and leave the forecast on the board and then reviewed the answers.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tech Project - Spinning Acrostic

I was looking up different techniques for digital storytelling using PowerPoint when I came across this cool video onYouTube.  I liked the spinning effect and thought it could be used for an animated acrostic.

I talked a teacher friend of mine into doing it with her class (4th grade) during their colonial unit and they turned out pretty good (the ones that finished). The hardest part was getting the kids to pre-make the acrostic! If you click on the video above you will watch a 6 minute tutorial on how to make the effect happen (or you can click on THIS LINK to go directly to my YouTube video).

I tried something new with this class. Normally we go through all the steps together but I wanted to see if students could follow a detailed tutorial so I could just be there for support. I made a 9 minute video and told them that if they followed all the steps they could do this project. I had maybe a total of five students in the class who finished with little or no help from me. All the rest could not, or did not, want to follow the video tutorial. In hindsight I should have done the first part (saving and typing) whole group and then as students finished they would watch a shorter video on how to add the animations. I think 9 minutes was too long for many of the students and they didn't get the concept to pause the video after each section.

I did a similar tutorial with another class and changed it to a 2 minute video and the kids did much better with that (different project but the concept was the same).

Anyway….if you are looking for a slightly different take on a PowerPoint you might want to try this technique. It can be done in any subject area. This one modeled use in a Social Studies class but I've also done it with a science class using the word "Light."

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Secret Door Foldable

Another one of my goals this year is to complete 52 pins on Pinterest. So I went through my pins to see if I could isolate the ones I wanted to try and a video I had pinned last year about a secret door foldable jumped out at me. The video can be found HERE.

I decided to try it out using 8 1/2 x 11 card stock (the teacher used larger construction paper) and I tried it using half of the card stock (kids love things in miniature!). Both turned out cute and were very easy to do...although I might pre-cut the strips for students.

I choose the topic "The Moon" for both. I have a friend who is going into Astronomy in the next quarter and thought I could talk her into trying it with her students if she saw the samples. I was also thinking that a child could do a large one for a larger topic, i.e. The Solar System, and a smaller one for a part of the larger topic, i.e. Earth (I also thought the larger one could be a habitat and the smaller one an animal in that habitat).

Because the foldable flips open to a secret picture it really can't be glued into the notebook. You can easily slide them into a plastic bag that then gets taped into the book (I have done that several times).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Classroom Management - Bathroom Breaks

I was in a fifth grade classroom just before the holidays and saw a boy put a hand sanitize bottle on his desk with a timer taped to it. I asked him to explain and he said that if they want to go to the bathroom they pick one of the two bottles on the shelf (see second picture), set the timer for three minutes, and go to the bathroom. They have to make it back before the three minutes is up, use the hand sanitizer, turn off the alarm and put it back on the shelf.  

The teacher said that the three minute alarm is her indication that someone might be playing or taking too long in the bathroom. 

Clearly all the kids knew the bathroom procedure. There are two bottles for the boys and two for the girls. Apparently the boys lost one of the bottles before the break and they can only go out one at a time.

I thought this was a clever way to manage bathroom procedures so I thought I would share.