Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Meet Minecraft

I was first introduced to Minecraft at an EdCamp.  I knew nothing about it at all, but was intrigued.

Last year at an EdCamp, I facilitated a session on Minecraft solely because I wanted to learn more about it.

And in September, I put in a request for a Minecraft Server for my class.

Which was loaded in December.

And I was afraid to open it up and see what awaited me, even though I knew something good lay there.

Good?  Well, I was wrong about that.  It was FANTABULOUS!

Seriously, Minecraft has made Michigan History enjoyable to me for the first time, ever.  I mean, sure I taught it for a few years when it first went to third grade, but I never really liked it.  It's content that I don't think is appropriate for third graders, and I find it quite dry.

Enter Minecraft.

I introduced it to my class in early January.  Our first two days were spent "exploring" our world.  But really, it was set up that way so that I could learn a bit about this unknown educational phenomenon.  It.  Was.  Awesome.

After exploration, we tackled our first project.  Building scale models of Native American Longhouses.  It was quite the undertaking for our first project, but I'm positive it will turn out fantastic!

We spent the first few days researching Longhouses.  We gathered all sorts of information, including size, building materials, what tribes used them, and so forth.  It was a great way to explore various text types, too, as we used text books, articles, magazines, and the internet.

Then.  We created our first rubric.

Rubrics are awesome.  Writing them with third graders?  It's gonna take some practice.

However, the motivation and engagement level?  Never been higher!  And now, this teacher who knew nothing about Minecraft?  I'm not going to admit to how much I've played....

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Camera, Meet Skitch!

I love fun words.  Snurky was what my supervising teacher used to call words that didn't fit the typical spelling rule.  I  named one of my pony's Widget.  And the word gnarly has always held a spot in my brain, even if it's not used much outside of Bill and Ted's world.

Skitch is one of those words.

Even more, though, Skitch is an AWESOME and FREE app!

I've played with Skitch before, and it's come in very handy when sending my order to my brother on family dinner night.  I just take a screen grab of the menu, open it in Skitch, circle the item I want, crossing out the toppings I don't.  Then I save and send!  (Sounds like way more work than just sending a regular text, but with my food allergies, trust me, this is much easier!)

Back to school.  (To prove to Daddy that I'm not a fool.  Sorry, can't pass up Billy Madison.)

We are currently knee deep in a measurement unit.  In the past, I've given my students a record sheet and clipboard and sent them on their way in search of items that are exactly one foot long, or between 20 - 24 inches long.  They then record the items they find on the record sheet and we have a jolly good comparison.

This year, I invited Skitch to the experience.

Each team was given a scratch sheet of paper and clipboard.  They were also given an iPad.

They they were sent around the school, as usual, but instead of writing down what they found and the measurements, they snapped a picture of the item, and jotted down the measurements on the scratch paper.  Once they found five items (all with specific requirements) they returned to the classroom and "Skitched" the pictures!

What do I mean?

Take a look!

They opened the images in Skitch and annotated right on top of them to show the measurements.  Slide show assembled and we were left with a colorful and engaging look at perimeter and area measures!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Stem The Gap

Well, well, well.  Seems this year is bringing a bit of luck to my Thinkers and me!

Waaayyyyy back in August, our new principal (whom I hadn't yet met) sent us an email for a grant opportunity through Dow.  It wasn't a complicated process, actually.  There were three short answer questions and the basic information to be provided, and that was that.

So, I did it.

I really wanted a 3D printer for my classroom, and maybe a few more Chromebooks, or there was a new tech toy I wanted the class to have (these really cool mini robots that followed your pencil/marker lines!)

Then I forgot about it.

Like completely and totally forgot.

Until now.

This week, my principal walked into my room and said "I need to talk to you."

That always, always, always makes my stomach drop.  And I usually reply with a "what did I do this time?!"

Except this time, I didn't do anything.  (And usually, I haven't done anything either.)

Except submit a grant application.  Back in August.

Which I was awarded.

That's three grants in twelve months.  I don't know about you, but maybe it's time to play the lottery?

Anyway, the Thinkers homework next week is to brainstorm ways we can spend the funds, that way, when the check arrives, we'll be ready to shop!