We had some "extra" time today after our Bridges Work Places time (we have adopted the Bridges math program this school year...so far, so good. But I'll save that for another post), so I decided to ask my students a question..."Which /math/ activity was your favorite and how did it help you think mathematically?"
One of the things I seriously SUCK at is allowing my 2nd and 3rd graders (yes...I have a combo this year) time to reflect and think about their thinking. I have read/heard hundreds of times how important it is to give students time to really think about what they are learning. I do it myself, all the time. Every day after the kids leave, I think about how the day went. How did the new Math lesson go today? The kids had a hard time with that writing activity, how can I "fix" it and make that lesson better? Should we revisit a concept or move on? Teachers reflect like we breathe...without even thinking about it.
I was actually very proud of myself! I asked my students to think about their learning and even introduced the term "mathematical thinking"! WooHoo for me! Honestly, I wasn't expecting very much. I figured that for this first try, I really wouldn't get much out of my kids at all. Yes, I did get a few "I like the _______ activity because it was fun and mathematical." And I got a few responses that skipped over the whole "mathematical" part entirely..."I liked the pattern blocks because I made a flower and it was fun." Kind of like the journal you see below...Ugh!
But as I continued to read what my students wrote, I found that there were a few who did seem to get the whole "think about my learning" concept! One student wrote about building a tower and using a ruler to measure the height. Another student actually built a tower that was taller than the ruler and asked me "How do I measure this? The ruler is too small!" and as I smiled and said, "Wow...I don't know. What do you think you could do to measure your tower?" Another student came right to the rescue and gave her a really good suggestion (I just LOVE it when they solve each other's problems!).
This student talked about using pattern blocks and figuring out which shape/color would come next!
This student is a 3rd grader and reads at a beginning first grade level but clearly understood the concept of math helping to "grow his brain"! Way to go "growth mindset"!
So after today, I think I will ask my students to reflect and think about their learning MUCH more often! I feel like this was a great way to start this conversation about how we learn best.
I remember being told that I HAD to use a certain textbook and during an early observation being asked afterwards why I chose to use materials that were NOT in the adopted text.
The power of choice...
With the current movement to encourage more STUDENT choice and to try to instill a sense of STUDENT empowerment, it confuses me why TEACHERS are still so devoted to their precious state-adopted textbooks.
Whenever I attend a training or PD day, there always seems to be a statement about how current adopted texts are not aligned with the Common Core standards. There is always an audible sound which means "yes...we agree" that rises from the crowd after such a statement.
I do NOT subscribe to the "I-use-this-textbook-because-that's-all-my-distrct-has" pedagogy!
With the vast amount of resources that are available for teachers today, we can really stretch our creative "wings" and experiment with materials, techniques, activities, modes of instruction and really begin to fine-tune our teaching expertise.
I personally LOVE having the freedom to choose how my students learn and/or "show what they know". I LOVE not being tied to a set of adopted texts/curriculum.
Will I make a screencast for my students to watch?
Is there an awesome You Tube video another teacher has made?
Will I have my students make a video/presentation/poster, etc.?
Will I send information to my students through a Google Doc or our Google Classroom?
Will we ask/answer a question by using TodaysMeet.com?
The choices are practically endless!
This is the blog post that got me thinking about all of this today. Take a minute and read John Spencer's blog. Then stretch YOUR teaching "wings" a bit. Show a You Tube or Vimeo video about fractions, or ask your students to create posters to teach a science topic to another group of students at your grade level. Please leave a comment below, I'd love to hear about how you've stepped out of the textbook box!
My grade level held a Native American Parent night last night. Our students made Native American projects and we displayed them for the parents to come and see. My school district has Parent Conferences in a couple of weeks and I was talking to my teacher/partner/friend about how I planned to lay out a clip board with a Parent Conference sign-up sheet on it and I was going to have the parents choose a conference day and time during the Native American night.
Well, my BRILLIANT partner came up with the idea of putting up some chart paper with Post-Its all over it. On the Post-Its, he said I should write down the individual conference dates and times and simply have parents pull off a post-it, write their name on it and give it to me. I have to admit...at first it sounded like MUCH more work than just laying out a clip board with a schedule on it and lay out a couple of pens.
I had 20 (out of 30) parents choose a conference day/time last night! All I have to do now is send home reminders and track down the remaining 10 parents.
I LOVE my teacher partner/friend! Thanks for your brilliant idea!
The response was insane! The discussion that followed was incredible! Within just a few minutes there were several people all weighing in on student blogging pros and cons and whether a digital portfolio was in fact the same as a blog. The discussion moved on to the idea that student blogs should have an authentic audience and a focus.
The discussion then moved on to worksheets, why some schools still do not have adequate technology and providing feedback on digital assignments! Crazy cool stuff!
Twitter is the best PD ever!
Ok...I know that's a VERY strong statement! But seriously, it's true (at least for me it is)! I have learned so much from the people I follow on Twitter. The educators on Twitter are the best group of people. They go out of their way to share ideas, answer questions and I have no doubt that I am a better teacher because of my interactions and discussions with these people.
On a whim, as I was getting ready for the 2nd TLAP Google Hangout; I tweeted out an invitation to Matt Miller (author of Ditch That Textbook) to see if he'd like to join our TLAP GHO on Air. I expected a very polite, "I'm sorry, I just don't have the time." Guess what? Within minutes, he accepted! Holy cow, was I excited! It was so much fun talking with Matt that for the next GHO, I sent a tweet to Keith Hughes (HipHughes History video Guru) and again I expected a polite "No". He accepted! This was HUGE! For one thing, I am a BIG fan of Keith. I love his educational philosophies, his tweets always make me laugh and his videos are awesome!
You can probably guess what I did for our last TLAP GHO on Air...yep, I tweeted out another invite. This time, Don Wettrick (author of Pure Genius) joined me for the last TLAP GHOs.
Check out the video playlist below. Skip to #2, #3 and #4...those are the videos with my "special guests". We had some really great discussions...well worth your time!
I could not believe that these "famous" Twitter celebs actually agreed to join a "nobody" like me to discuss educational stuff! It was such a great experience to be able to "share" these people with teachers in my district and I had an absolute blast talking with all of them! And it was all because of Twitter! Yes...I LOVE Twitter and I will try my best to convince anyone who will listen to me to join the conversation!
Below are links to some of the books and people I talked about in this post:
@aliceKeeler - Twitter
AliceKeeler.com - website
50 Things To Do With Google Classroom - book
@jmattmiller - Twitter
DitchThatTextbook.com - website
Ditch That Textbook - book
@hiphughes - Twitter
Hip Hughes History - website
Hip Hughes YouTube Channel - scroll down to find his playlist of “Teacher Stuff”
@DonWettrick - Twitter
The Innovation Teacher - website
Pure Genius: Building A Culture Of Innovation And Taking 20% Time To The Next Level - book
As the students got used to their new classroom (which is no ordinary classroom, I might add. Go to THIS POST to see how my room looks.); I chatted with parents, some new and some I already knew. It was actually very relaxing considering it was the first day of school. Don't get me wrong...I was nervous the night before and right up until the kids walked in, I was rushing around like a wind-up toy!
MY Rule For The First Day...
NO RULES! Seriously! I did NOT give one "You will not..." or "No...", not even a "These are the behavioral expectations..." Hint, kids know that "expectations" is a fancy way of saying "rules".
I ended the day by reading the book The North Star written by Peter H. Reynolds. The basic message of this book is that we all have our own journeys to follow. My journal may not be the same as yours, but that's ok. So long as you continue on the "right" path, you'll end up where you want to be.
The message I wanted to convey was that this school year will be like no other. This school year will be filled with curiosity, wonder, questions, explorations and lots and lots of hard work!
After our school day ended, I got an email from the grandmother of one of my students. Her granddaughter had a tough year last year and this is what she told her grandmother when she got home that first day...
How did YOUR first day of school go? I'd love to hear about it. Please leave a comment.
I've never met Ms. Ripp but I feel like if I did...we would be great teacher buddies! Many times her writing makes me slow down and think. Recently she wrote a blog post about Periscope, the live streaming app. (Go ahead, click it and check out Periscope for a minute...I'll wait.)
I just discovered Periscope a few weeks ago and as a self-described tech NERD...I fell in love with it! My mind immediately began working! I was imagining all these great ways to use Periscope in my 3rd grade class this year! I was all ready to live-stream everything from an art lesson to homework help! Then I saw Pernille's blog post...click HERE. Now, don't get me wrong...I still have great plans to use Periscope with my class; but like she always does, Pernille made me stop and think a minute. (Which is always a good thing, as I tend to jump into things with both feet when sometimes one little step is more in order!)
Pernille says, "Let's think for a moment..."
Yes...please. Let's do that. After reading that post, another of her posts catches my attention. "The One Great Idea Promise". Pick ONE idea, she says. And once you've picked that ONE idea (only ONE?? my brain screams!)...run with it! Embrace it! Love it! Nurture it! Make it your focus. Other ideas can come join the party, but keep that ONE idea at the forefront all the time.
Here's my ONE idea...
As I've just told you, I am:
#1 a tech nerd! I LOVE discovering new ways to incorporate tech in my classroom. Both for me, as the teacher and for my 3rd graders.
#2 a little bit "attention challenged", especially when it comes to tech. I'm like that kid in the toy store..."Ooooo, a new barbie, but wait...there's a unicorn puzzle! No, an art set! Yes, that's what I want; but wait, there's a..." You get the picture.
So, I'm following Mrs. Ripp's advice...here's my ONE idea that I'm going to love and nurture and say to myself everyday:
I don't think this idea is actually what she had in mind when she wrote her blog post...I think she meant more of an idea that relates to curriculum or the 4Cs or something like that. But since I know how I can get, I'm choosing this idea for ME. I'm pledging to really evaluate and reflect on which tools I bring into the classroom this year. When I discover some new, shiny tech tool; I'm going to ask myself..."How is this better than what I already use?" I'm going to take it a step further and ask myself this question when I use something I've been using for a while now..."How is this better?" I'm going to try to get the "most bang for my buck" so to speak. If the tool I'm using, or want to use is NOT better than another; I'm ditching it. If the amount of time it takes me (or my 3rd graders) to learn to use the tool outweighs the desired results, I'm ditching it. If the tool is so narrow in focus that it only fulfills one small need, I'm ditching it. I'm going to try my best to NOT get drawn in by the bells and whistles and glitter.
By combining what I've learned from BOTH of Pernille's posts that I've mentioned here, I'm going to really think about HOW to use Periscope in my class to get the MOST impact and I'm going to constantly ask myself..."How is this better?"
I get these harebrained ideas sometimes and then like a ding-dong...I TELL someone about those ideas! This time I told my district's tech director, "Wouldn't it be cool to have a summer book club for teachers?", I say. And he says, "Do it!" which brings me to this post.
A few months ago I read this ridiculously awesome book called, Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess...maybe you've heard of it? Even if you've only been on Twitter once in your whole entire life, I bet you've heard of this book!
It's wonderful! It's easy to read, crammed full of ideas that teachers can use right away and it makes you really think about why you chose this profession in the first place. (Click on the photo above to go to the author's website.)
Here's a perfect place for a Google Form!
I made a google form asking if anyone would be interested in joining the Pirate book club? I sent a link to this form to all of the teachers in my district and I got quite a few "Yes"s! 36 to be exact! I'm excited!
In the google form, I also asked for information such as; email addresses and preferred days/times to hold our meetings. Once everyone had a chance to complete the google form, I opened the responses spreadsheet and I saved all the email addresses. Then I created a group in my Gmail and pasted all the email addresses into this group. Now, I can quickly and easily send out information to my Pirate "crew". By looking at the Summary of Responses in my form, I can see which day my "crew" chose. Cool, huh?
"The Heat Is On..."
Now I'm on the spot! I want to make this book club easy, relaxed and fun...so what did I decide to do? Hold virtual meetings via Google Hangouts on Air! (you get the irony, right?) "Let's make this easy by incorporating super spiffy tech!", I say to myself. Ugh!
The reason I want to do Google Hangouts on Air is that once our hangout is over, it will be automagically uploaded to YouTube. So, if anyone was not able to watch the "live" hangout, they'd be able to watch it later at a time that works for them.
...oh, and I'm totally procrastinating here. I'm supposed to be planning for our first Google Hangout right now! Next Tuesday will be the first of these virtual meetings, so stay tuned and I'll let you know how it goes!
How it started...
Two years ago, my district went to 1:1 devices. We got Acer Netbooks for every student! The change that happened by going 1:1 was amazing, but what I noticed was that my students weren't collaborating as much as I wanted them to. By the end of that school year, I knew I needed to change some things. Over that summer, I started researching how classroom design influences student learning and achievement.
While perusing Twitter, I came across a tweet from Erin Klein about her classroom and the changes she had made to her classroom design. This is a link to her blog with lots of amazing pictures of her classroom.
How did I do it?
I noticed a HUGE improvement in how my students worked together. I started off the first day of school with a fun activity where my students HAD to collaborate in order to complete the activity successfully. Cooperation and collaboration are obviously VERY important to me so I do stress how important it is to work together; but this year my class just seemed to take working together as a matter of fact, much more so than ever before. The kinds of things my third graders were able to accomplish this year amazed even me! There are truly too many collaborative projects to list, so go and check out my class blog to get an idea of the kinds of things my students did over the course of the school year.
Every year we have a wonderful lady who comes in to our 3rd grade classes at my site. She comes once a week and does "Scouts". She does the whole bit...wears the uniform, teaches scout pledge, scout badges, folders, recycling activities, citizenship lessons and much more. She is an awesome lady, but she is very strict and likes things a "certain" way (everyone in their seat, no talking, no getting up, no bathroom, etc). When she first walked into my "new" classroom this year, she had a look on her face that said, "Oh no...this will never work!". By the end of the year, she gave me the BEST compliment! She started off by telling me that she didn't think my room design was going to work at all! But she went on to say that my students followed directions beautifully, were respectful, and in general was a very well-behaved class. She came to appreciate the room arrangement and said that she really enjoyed working in my room.
Now I want to point out...I did NOT get the "primo" class. I had the usual number (30 to be exact) of energetic, antsy, goofy, loopy, needy, un-focused, challenging kids as I normally do. Because "those" kids weren't forced to sit in a desk without the ability to get up and move around; they thrived! During the Fall parent conferences, I had parents tell me that their child was excited to come to school, that they weren't having battles in the morning, they weren't having "homework" fights and that in general their child was happy.
I started off the school year by allowing my students to choose where they wanted to sit each day (and sometimes multiple times during the day)...complete freedom. I did have to change that "freedom" a bit, however. I really fought with myself about that change for a long time. I REALLY wanted my students to learn to be responsible learners and to have the freedom to move about the room as they saw fit. Unfortunately, I found that third graders still need a bit more structure. I did have to go to "assigning" seats; but having said that, the kids were still able to move around the room quite a bit over the course of a school day. They sort of had a "home base" that they started off the day in, but then were able to move to the floor or corner or another "open" spot if they needed to at different times during the day. I finally appeased myself with the realization that it wasn't really a "responsibility" issue, it was a "comfort" issue. Eight-year-olds were just more comfortable knowing that their spot was THEIR spot and that they weren't going to loose that spot at any moment.
I will NEVER, EVER go back to student desks! NOT EVER!
I am very lucky to have the support of my principal, my district's Tech Director, and our Superintendent.
DO IT! Jump in with both feet! Research classroom design. Draw pictures. Make plans. Hit up anyone you know who might be looking to replace furniture. Check out your local Craigslist. Talk to teachers at your site or in your district. Talk to your custodians...they may know of unused district furniture. But by all means...change things! I promise, you will not be sorry!
Here are a few more resources for you:
Classroom Cribs - 4 Finalists
Alice Keeler - Rethinking Class Design
An Article about Innovative Classroom Design
Tim Bedley's Unusual Classroom
This is a quick post about my Top 5 EASY things to do with Google Forms (ok, the #1 way is a bit more involved, but still crazy cool!). I hope some of these will give you an idea or two to use in your classroom. I'd love to hear about what you are doing with your students...please leave a comment down below!
Google forms has a very easy way to see the results of the voting. By clicking "Responses" and then "Summary of Responses", you'll be able to see a graphic representation of the results. This is also a super spiffy way to talk about data collection and how to represent data in more than one way (CCSS MD.3)
Voting for which book to read aloud next...
#4 Entrance/Exit ticket
Sometimes teachers just need a quick 1 or 2 question assessment, using Google forms to make Entrance or Exit tickets to get a "picture" of how the class is doing on a specific skill. I can quickly see the results the same way I mentioned above ( by clicking "Summary of Responses"), which helps with my planning.
#3 Practice typing a short response
#2 Students recording data
We learned to play a game from Kenya called Shisima and the kids recorded data while they were playing so we could analyze it afterwards.
After we looked at the data, we then talked about strategy for this particular game. I asked the kids, "Was it better to be the first person or not? How do you know?"
#1 Assessing Content
I think this is the way I use Google forms the most with my 3rd graders. I make some sort of google "quiz" for them almost weekly. I make the majority of the questions Multiple Choice or Checkbox and use Flubaroo to grade them. (Flubaro is an awesome Add-On...see THIS post for more info)
When we took the CAASPP this year, I noticed that my kids needed no help with navigating the test. They all were comfortable with the split screens, scrolling up and down, clicking circles to choose their answers and typing in explanations. Because of their comfort with navigating within the test, they were able to concentrate on the actual TASKS of the test.
Here is an awesome blog post by Alice Keeler about how to make a Google form.
I hope I gave you a few ideas for using Google Forms in your classroom!
Now, let me scramble some eggs and I'm all over that! Add a little cheese, some salt and pepper, maybe even sprinkle some chopped avocado or green onion on them and now THAT's something I can do!
Fried eggs and education?
I'm not entirely sure where the connection is between sucking at frying eggs and my teaching, but if you bare with me; I'm sure we will both come across the point soon!
I think the point is, I don't do ONE thing at a time hardly EVER! I'm always doing at least a couple of things simultaneously. Now, hold on! I am NOT one of those super organized, centered, calm people that CAN do more than one thing at a time and not go insane. That's absolutely NOT me, but what I am saying is where in life do we do JUST ONE THING at a time? Anywhere? If there is, I haven't come across it yet. It's the way our brain works. Our brain is trying to take in all this information around us and it tries to figure out what to DO with the information and where to store it. Our brains are hard-wired to observe, analyze, understand and organize a bajillion (yes, I know that's not a real number!) bits of information every minute of every day.
Get ready, here comes the point...
Just like I suck at frying eggs, I suck at teaching ONE standard at a time. I couldn't stand teaching synonyms this week and teaching antonyms next week and following with compound words the week after that. Every year after weeks of teaching one thing isolation, and practicing that ONE thing and doing worksheet pages practicing that ONE thing; when it came to testing or looking at my students' writing, they would never show their understanding of that ONE thing! They almost always got that question wrong on the test, or when given an opportunity to use that skill in their writing, wouldn't. It drove me nuts! "Why did they get this question wrong? I taught that skill!", I would scream!