Friday, December 19, 2014

Taking Action

A huge component of the IB PYP (International Baccalurate Primary Years Programme) is guiding students to take action. Even better when it is student initiated action. With fourth graders, that was a bit easier, as they have a larger picture already building in their brains. In third grade, it requires a bit more modeling before brilliant brainstorms begin!

For Halloween, my class decided to raise money for Gleaners. This actually came about because a few of them were caught kicking an apple around the hallway one afternoon. That led to a spontaneous conversation about hunger and the fact that so many children right here in our own neighborhoods, don't have enough to eat. After showing a few videos from NoKidHungry as a class, we decided to make things right by raising money when they went Trick-or-Treating.

Then December rolled around. And the BHEA (our teacher's union) put out a call for food for our district food pantry.

Yep. That's what I was thinking, too.

This time, the class collected over 60 boxes of food to donate to kids in need right in our own district. I couldn't help but double dip, either, as we used the boxes collected for our perimeter and area lesson that day.

At any rate, I love seeing how much of an impact even the smallest action projects can make on these third graders. That's why each week in their planner, they have to reflect on one kind thing they did that week. Gotta start somewhere, right?!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Animal Discovery!

One of the content areas we study in third grade is living things.  This includes basic needs, classification, adaptations, and the food chain.  It's a fun unit in itself, as it lends itself well to hands on activities and well, let's face it, most kids love learning about animals.

One of the assessments our district requires is one that makes direct connections to this unit.  The premise is that students "discover" a new animal, and using what they've learned about adaptations, basic needs, and classification,  they place their newly discovered species into a category, providing justification for that decision based on what they've learned.

We decided to take it one step further.  I mean, these "required assessments" should be made as useful as possible, right?

So we created a technology element.  Once the kids have made their discovery, and classified their animal, they bring said animal to life.

They complete a story board organizer that includes the following slides: title, classification, adaptations, food chain, and about the scientist.  They take their animal from paper to screen (we used a program called Pixie this year, but next year, I plan on using the iPads for the entire project and will be using something else.) and ultimately end up with a 45 second movie about this new species.

This required that the kids become fluent in Pixie, but also become familiar with some of the more advanced features.  What I love seeing is when the first few students "get it" and are able to finish their project, how willingly they stepped up to help their classmates finish as well!  Collaboration rocks!

To further expand their audience for this project, we invite families in to share in our discoveries!  My intention is to get each animal video up onto YouTube, and when that's done, I'll like it up here so you can also enjoy their discoveries!

That's one of my favorite things about technology, you can always find a way to add a new dimension to a current experience!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Get Kahoot!

You know how sometimes, taking quizzes or reviews can be rather, well, blah?  Sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get the kids to engage in the task.

There is a solution!

And even better, it's a FREE solution!

I found Kahoot! last year, either through my twitter network or at Macul (can't remember at this point!) and took to it like a duck to water.  (Can you tell we're working on figurative language?!) Kahoot! is awesome.  It's like Jeopardy for kids, only more exciting (cue mysterious music!)  It's simple enough to use with kindergarteners, yet, exciting enough to use with 8th graders.

Last year I actually had my fourth graders create their own Kahoot! quizzes that we then took as a class.  They loved being question writers, and I loved watching them pay such close attention to the text to write the best questions.

This year, the class regularly requests Kahoot! whenever we have to take a review or quiz.  Because I am actually 1 to 1 right now iPad wise, it's super easy to indulge that request!  Worry not, though, if you are iPad free, as Kahoot! works on any device that connects to the internet, from iTouch to Netbook.  Even better is that there are hundreds of thousands of pre-made quizzes you can use.  (When I first discovered Kahoot! there were less than 100,000!)

Here's what the class had to say after their first experience with Kahoot! this year -- Tweetwrite: Kahoot!

Don't be scared - this is one of those technology tools that would be a great first step into the world of integrating technology into the classroom, I promise!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Lets! Get! Coding!

Last year, Hour of Code spurred on an incredible journey of coding that lasted for the remainder of the school year.  In fact, it struck me so strongly that this year, coding has become a regular part of our week.  As in, scheduled into our specials schedule, untouchable, dedicated coding time.

Furthering this, is the fact that I have two of the most amazing Thinkers that are helping with this venture.  Leo is now in 9th grade, and I was lucky to spend two years with him in my class.  His younger brother, Barry, was also in my class for a year, and between the two of them, they've taught me more about coding and tech than most adults have taught me!

Working with their schedule, we have set aside time every single Monday from 3:00 - 3:40 for "coding class."  During this time, the third graders are being introduced to coding via and Scratch.

Last year, between January and May, the 4th graders were able to create video games that are playable (some are posted on Tweetwrite!)  This year, while they may be in 3rd grade, my goal is the same - that they create their own video games.

So far?  So good!

We're only seven weeks in, and we're already rocking!

P.S.  In case I haven't mentioned it before, one of my favorite elements of coding is when kids take it off the computer.  What I mean by that is they take the skills they employ while working on code, and apply it elsewhere.  Biggest skill?  Perseverance.  They will move things one pixel at a time until it's correct, but give up in two seconds if a math problem is tough.  After about a month of coding?  The perseverance is much more present!