Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A New Way to Read

First graders just wrapped up a unit that focused on elements of fairy tales and writing.  Part of their unit was to take a familiar fairy tale and change the setting.  They then created a diorama of the new fairy tale, and wrote their own versions.

It's a really fun unit, and it gets the little ones writing more than they would have thought they could!


You know me.
I always have to have a technology component.

So when one of the teachers invited my Thinkers to be an audience for her first graders, of course, we happily accepted!  As I watched the first graders proudly read their stories to the third graders, I had a brainstorm.

Last year I started a website called For Kids, By Kids, where I've posted student work in a format that anyone in the world can download to read on tablets or kindles.

Why can't the first graders have their stories a part of this, too?

Yep.  That very next week my third graders met once again with the first graders and typed the stories for them.  The first graders recreated their cover illustrations, and voila!  They became published writers!

Check out the first grade stories, as well as bunches of other pieces written For Kids, By Kids!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tech Lab - Take 1

This year, one of my second grade colleagues and I decided to try something new.  We created something called "Tech Lab" and with this, comes a 30 minute "class" once a week where my third graders and her second graders get together to work tech.

Backstory - Two years ago, Ann and I had an awesome experience using an app called ToonTastic to create cartoons with our classes.  I was in fourth grade at the time, and she was in third.  Both of our classes were working their way through an economics unit, so we had the kids work in groups to create cartoons with economic problems.  As this was our first year piloting iPads, what a great way to incorporate technology into the writing process!

Anyway, fast forward to this year.  We were hoping to do similar projects this year, except I was moved down to third grade.  So instead of doing project based experiences with our classes, we created Tech Lab to give the kids weekly learning experiences.

So far we've created our Essential Agreements for when we meet, and we've explored different games and apps on the iPad.  We participated in Dot Day with the ColAR app.  Right now we're in the middle of creating App Review videos.  Each group had two weeks to explore different educational apps on the iPads and pick one that they wanted to review.  They then spent week three completing a written app review.  Next up is to find photos of the app and create videos using Explain Everything.

So far, the highlight of Tech Lab is the reflection piece.  After each meeting we gather back together and talk about the day's activity.  It's been quite insightful, as it's our first experience, to hear what the kids think of how things are going.  And it's going to be quite exciting to see where things go the rest of the year!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I Like to Move It!

This week I've found my kids to be rather antsy. The weather is changing, we are between. Halloween and Thanksgiving, whatever excuse fits- they need to move.

I love Go Noodle. Love, love, love it!  It's perfect for when it's too cold to go outside for a four stop obstacle course or a quick recess. The songs are fun, the track and field events are energizing, and on the whole Go Noodle gets kids moving and gives me a bit more focus time afterwards.   And while Go Noodle can't conquer curriculum as much as I would like, it's a great jump start into creative thinking!

Part of our math experience for the week was exploring arrays. Students built array posters, they drew arrays, they created arrays with counters, and, most actively, became arrays.

Using their dry erase boards, we headed to the open area in the Fine Arts Wing to spread out in arrays. With 18 Thinkers in math class, we were easily able to build arrays for 18, 16, 15, 14, 12, 10, 9, 8, 6, and 4.  Yes, we threw in a few prime numbers as well.

Giving the kids the go ahead to actually be crawling around on the floor? Let's just say they have quite the solid understanding of arrays.

This week also brought out the food chain. Literally. We started by playing a food chain game using pre-determined and created food chains. It was a nice introduction. Then we kicked it up a notch. Each Thinker was given a mini poster with the name of an living thing on the top.  Their job was to use the resources we had in the room to create a poster about that living thing.  Basic needs, habitat, and adaptations were required (and even though we hadn't studied adaptations yet, well, they figured it out and gave themselves the front loading for next week!)

Them we got to move. The living things, while the kids thought they were random, we're carefully plotted parts of four food chains. Their job? Figure our how to create those chains. This got them moving and talking and problem solving and reasoning, and most importantly, learning!

There are so many ways to make movement an everyday part of learning, the more ways we use, the better!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Granted! Again!

You may have seen the post earlier this year about the BHS foundation fair, and the request my class made for a second grant.  The first one, Let's See What We Can MaKeyMaKey, brought us Chromebooks and MaKeyMaKeys.  We love them.  As the classes are all going to get Google emails later this year, and they'll even be more useful.  For now, though, it's come in quite handy for gaming and scratching.


Our wish was granted again!

I think this year I'm more excited than the kids, though, as I can not wait to get my hands on a 3D printer!  Even better is that the Chromebooks will be a HUGE support, as the programs I'm currently exploring for 3D printing are web-based and work with Chrome.  That means I'll have eight computers in my room for work time, so technically, teams of three will be able to print in 3D to their hearts content!

The prize patrol this time around was much more of a production, and yes, this time there was even a film crew (albeit the district TV station crew!)  Last year, the kids kept buzzing all day long.  This year, we were all buzzing!  I  mean seriously, how may 3rd grade classrooms have their very own 3D printer?!

This one soon will!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Downside to the Cloud

I love the cloud.  I've had a Dropbox account forever, and continue to find it indispensable.  All my photos are stored on Shutterfly, which makes bragging about my little niece super simple.  The Evernote suite has been indispensable for note taking for the past several years, and when you throw Penultimate into the mix, the ability to type OR write in my cloud-based notebooks?  Awesome.  To add to my wonderfully cloudy sky, I started using Google Drive for everything that I don't have in Dropbox.

I love the cloud.  Or maybe two.

Conferences and Report Cards.
(yes, that's two.)

Because I store all my records, notes, lesson plans, units of study, student work, files for projects and activities, and just about everything else I need to do my job, which includes writing report cards twice a year, and preparing for conferences twice a year...... well, I can't exactly shut off my wi-fi to keep me from being distracted online like I did in the olden days.

Which I desperately need to do.

I spent the entire weekend prepping for conferences.  Or should I say, avoiding prepping for conferences.  It's not that conference prep is all that challenging.  There's a sense of accomplishment in seeing the growth from September until now, and, if growth isn't on the menu, adjusting goals and interventions so that growth is achieved in between now and second quarter.

Getting started, though...... that's what's impossible, thanks, in part, to the cloud.

I spent my weekend playing gin and cribbage with others on Yahoo, window shopping on Zulily, adding to my amazon wish list, building a new Shutterfly book for my niece, researching virtual field trips connected to classroom content, predicting weather patterns, diagnosing my dog's cough, diagnosing my most recent spell of headaches, looking for recipes that I'd actually eat, reading up on favorite movies on IMDB, and shopping for couches.

In other words, since I couldn't turn my internet off, I couldn't do any prepping for conferences.

Darn you cloud computing.......

Guess it's a good thing that I work great under pressure!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Stop, Drop, and Goal

Remember that fire safety tip we all learned as kids?  Stop, drop, and roll?  Considering I remember the lessons quite well, it's safe to say that the learning stuck.  (Or, it could be because we review fire safety every October.  Who knows?)

The idea of stop, drop, and roll is so catchy, the idea of "stop, drop, and goal" popped into my every-active brain.  It's been my motto in dealing with behaviors in the classroom this year.  Third graders (and yes, this applies to my fourth graders, too) often bring quite the drama to otherwise simple situations.  That's meant getting a bit more creative in reaching the desired outcome of calm(er) kids.

Stop, drop, and goal has been surprisingly useful.  It also helps me keep things in perspective myself, as I tend to overreact sometimes (I know, kinda hard to believe!)

Whenever kids come up to talk to me, whether it's to ask a question, or, more likely, tell me a story, I always stop what I'm doing so I can give them my full attention.  Sometimes that involves me telling them that "I want to hear what you have to say, but, I can't fully listen right now, please tell me later." which surprisingly goes over well.  Sometimes I can stop whatever it is I'm doing and give them my full attention.  That focused listening is really important to me, especially in this ever-busy world of go-go-go.

While I never thought about applying that to trouble spots in the classroom, it's become quite the handy reminder.  I've got a few live wires this year that know just the right buttons to push in their peers, which results in tears on a fairly regular basis.  I've found that if I stop what I'm doing completely, drop down to their level, and ask them what they would like to do to remedy the situation, it completely stops the tears.  In fact, I think that it gives the kids a sense of control over a situation that often feels out of control.

While we aren't always able to "fix" things completely, we are able to put things right enough so that the involved students can get back into a more learning ready mindset.

Stop, drop, and goal.  Might just have to make that into a poster for my room!