Monday, September 28, 2015

Liberation and the Recycle Bin

Today, I experienced the most liberating feeling of all.  I needed binders, so I took the contents of 2 binders (both full of worksheets at least 2 years old) and put the papers straight into the recycle bin.  

I didn't look through it.  I didn't save anything.  I got rid of all of it.

It was so freeing knowing that clutter was gone from my closet for good.  I hadn't looked at these papers in 2 years.  They are from a grade and subject I no longer teach. So why did I still have them?  And honestly, if I was ever teaching the same content, I would find new materials.  I am the type who believes that every school year is a new year, and my teaching should be fresh as well.  I can't have fresh lessons when teaching from lesson plans from two years ago!

Want a life changing experience in less that 5 minutes?  De-clutter some of your old worksheets, lesson plans, and outdated materials.  You will feel better and future students will thank you.

-Amy

Monday, July 20, 2015

Success = Work

A song that often comes on my favorite Pandora channel is First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes.  It's a catchy song that I enjoy but never really listened to.  However, today I heard a lyric that stood out and spoke to me:  "I'd rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery."



This fits many of the things I have heard from teachers lately.  They want to use more technology.  They are unhappy with classroom management in their classrooms.  They wish the others knew about the innovative things they are trying. They simply wish to be a better teacher.

It seems, however, many of us are wishing.  We are waiting to win the lottery, instead of getting out there and working hard to make things happen!  Want to have better technology integration?  Don't wait for a magic PD to come along.  Sign up for EdmodoCon or an EdCamp.  Is your classroom management in need of refreshing?  Many successful teachers have shared their classroom management techniques on Pinterest; complete with pictures and free printable  Want others to know about the amazing things going on in your classroom?  Share them on Twitter.  You can create a classroom Twitter account to share all of the wonderful things that are happening in your classroom,

Why are you waiting on someone or something to come along and transform your teaching?  Taking charge of your own professional growth is the key to success. You are the one who determines the success or failure of your own classroom.  Go ahead, read that professional book that you haven't had time for, follow up on some of those ideas you have Pinned, participate in a Twitter chat (the first one is always crazy, but after that you get the hang of it).  After all, the only way to win the lottery is to buy a ticket, and the only way to change your classroom is for you, the teacher, to grow!

Amy

Monday, May 4, 2015

Star Wars Day 2015



As a Star Wars fan, today was one of the best days of the year.  This year, I have a group of kiddos that love Star Wars.  There are several students that are Jedi Masters when it comes to their Star Wars love!





Today we wore our Star Wars shirts and other gear.  Thanks to my teacher friend Nicole Grygar (@nicolegrygar) and some last minute collaboration, we had Star Wars themed lessons throughout the day.  I made Star Wars themed mixed-objective math cards.  Nicole made a QR code grammar activity.  For reading, we watched some great videos on cutting-edge robots and then read a wonderful article on the basics of robotics.   Science consisted of a pic collage activity in which students identified the different types of force.





To paraphrase Nicole, what other profession can you walk around with a light-saber all day?  Days like today are not only fun, but they bring life back to teaching.

*Special thanks to Nicole Grygar for being my partner in crime today and for the PicCollage example.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Why didn't I think of that?!?

The simplest ideas are always the best.  I was amazed when I saw the following tweet from @CCEcalderon:





I couldn't believe that the problem of signing out to go to the restroom had such a simple solution. No more paper and pencil.  No more kids having to figure out what time it is.  Also, the form could be modified to track kids leaving to the nurse or library.

Thanks Ms. Calderon!  I have already put this idea to good use!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Presentations- Taking the time to do it right!

Now that state testing is finally complete, I want to shift the focus in my classroom to presentation skills and making "academically professional" products.  Students at the elementary level simply haven't been taught to create digital posters, iMovies, or presentation slides.  The result is often a cluttered, plagiarized mess.

The first "academically professional" product I set out to teach my students to create was a presentation.  We tied this in with our science adaptations unit.  In our research on animal and plant adaptations, my students found many unique and interesting adaptions that they were wanted to share, so a presentation seemed like the perfect product.

We started by learning what makes a good slide.  I showed a great Youtube video by Tim Bedley.  This video worked well because it was geared toward kids and it had non-examples that really illustrated what makes a good slide.  As we watched, I made an anchor chart with all the tips so my students had a visual reminder as they worked.


I was a little nervous when I let my students start making their presentations in Keynote, because in the past the slides they created were a mess.  (But, I had never taught them how to make a slide.)  Thankfully though,  I was utterly amazed with their presentations.  Their slides ended up looking neat and professional.  They were not cluttered with stickers and emojis.  They limited the number of pictures they put on each slide, and even more, they ensured that the pictures enhanced the presentation.  I couldn't have been prouder!


Their presentations were amazing too.  I could tell that my students had a strong grasp on the content.  They were able to tell me about the adaptations to the detail I required.  Most faced the audience instead of their iPad and took questions from the audience.  

This day did not go without a hitch however.  As you can see in my pictures, Apple TV was acting up and we couldn't use AirPlay to show the slides.  Luckily the technologist had a HDMI hook-up and we used a cable to hook the iPad to the TV.  Unfortunately, this necessitated having the podium at the front of the room, which meant many of my students were glued to the podium...


All-in-all, this presentation took 2 days.  That includes research, creating in Keynote, presenting, and reflecting on the experience.  But honestly, it was worth it.  I am planning to move this lesson to the first of the year in the future.  I can only imagine all the opportunities my students missed because they were not able to create a presentation, which cause me not to assign them.  In the next few days, I am going to use the same research to show them how to create an academically professional iMovie.  I am so excited!

Ideas for using in your classroom:

  • Give the students a specific academic focus.  For adaptations, I wanted them to be able to tell me the structure and the function of the adaptation.  This allowed the students to know what I was looking for when grading, and it helped them to stay on focus.
  • Reflect, reflect, reflect.  A lot happened in these two days.  The students were able to learn about their own abilities, as well as see the work of others.  The reflections gave them a chance to think about how they did and what they can do next time to be even better.
  • Go over the terms: PowerPoint, presentation, Keynote, and slides.  The video said PowerPoint even though we used Keynote.  Students should know that these terms all refer to the same process.
  • Discuss digital citizenship before you start the project.  Remind kids that images should be copyright-free and they should attribute them to the source.  Also discuss plagiarism and not stealing someone else's words.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Measuring Angles in Pages

In order to demonstrate their knowledge of measuring angles, I had students create the following picture examples in the Pages app.

My wonderful student Miguel created this example on his iPad.


This was very simple to accomplish.  Student took a picture in of an angle they saw around the classroom and inserted that picture into Pages.  The most difficult part was making the protractor transparent. Below are the steps to make an image transparent in Pages:


  1. Insert the image and select it.
  2. Click on the Paintbrush icon, this will bring up your settings.
  3. Make sure the Style tab is selected, and click on "style options."
  4. Move the Opacity slider until you achieve the desired effect.

Nicole made this terrific demonstration using an example from the classroom.

This activity was a lot of fun, and it focused on the exact skill we were practicing in class - measuring with a protractor.  

Tips for use in your classroom:

  • Although it wasn't hard to create a transparent protractor, you can make a blank document with a see-through protractor on it to send to your students as a template.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

You made WHAT?

I admit it.  I am addicted to Task Cards!  I spend more on Teachers Pay Teachers than I would like to admit.  This year however, I am trying something a little different... I am making my own task cards!

The advantages to making my own task cards are endless.  I can make them in black-and-white (who has access to all that color ink anyway!), I can make them plain and without all of the frills (seriously, how do cute, pink owls help my students), and I can add my own questions.

I recently created some sets for measuring angles, which is a new 4th grade standard this year.  I started in PowerPoint.  Many of the great TpT sellers use PowerPoint to make their task cards, and I can see why. It is very easy to use and manipulate.


The first step was to divide the "paper" in half.  I chose to make these task cards bigger so that the protractor can fit on the angle better.  If you want your task cards to be smaller, just divide it into fourths.  This will also serve as a guide line when cutting.  I then inserted a text box on both sides which provides the borders for my cards.  

The images of the angles were purchased from Teachers Pay Teachers.  There is a lot of clip art available.  In addition to content graphics, you can also get the "cute" clip art that many sellers use.  To get graphics on your task card, you simply insert the image, position it, and re-size it to your fit your needs.

I purchased the angle clip art from: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Fun-For-Learning.  She also has some great number line clip art available.

If you are looking for the cute clip art, visit: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Scrappin-Doodles.  Scrappin-Doodles has clip art for all occasions and subject areas.  

I made my QR codes at: http://www.qr-code-generator.com/.  I love how easy technology makes it for students self check their work!  Adding QR codes seems difficult to many teachers who are technology newbies, but they are in fact very simple.  On the QR code generator's web-site, simply enter the text, number, or URL you want the code to display.  The site will create you a QR code with your information.  Then you can save your QR code to your computer.  I personally did not want to save 50+ QR codes in order to make my task cards, so I used the Snipping Tool to "snip" an image of the QR code.  I then copied the image into my PowerPoint. 

Here is a free version of my Measuring Angles Task Cards!  I hope you and your students enjoy them!



Friday, January 16, 2015

Data Tracking with Numbers

My desk is a mess.  I'll admit it, no shame here.  Usually I have piles and piles of paper.  In past years, I have kept individual data folders for my students in order to show them their growth and progress.  As wonderful as these folders were, my sanity couldn't afford anymore paper!  Goal setting is an important part of learning, so I couldn't just ditch it.  By setting their own goals and seeing how they are progressing toward the goals, students are able to adjust their learning.  They can see the correlation between effort and success.  In an effort to keep the good and let go of the bad, I am trying something new:  digital data folders.  

My kids love using the iWork suite from Apple.  Pages has become one of their favorite apps for creating documents.  So, Numbers was a logical place to graph and chart data.  Numbers works just like Pages, except, it does things with "numbers."

This student was able to see how a little extra strategy work resulted in a big payoff.


I created a template for my students to keep track of their data in Numbers.  This way, I could ensure that data would populate the bar graph correctly.  This process is so simple though, next time I will let my 4th graders create the Data Tracker themselves.    It is important on the tracker to have the students list their goals.  In my class, we call our goal a "green score."  This number was made by using STAAR's progress goals as a starting point, and then the student and I adjusted it as needed.  By putting the goal on the data tracker students can look at the trends in their data, as well as, how close they are to their own personal goal.

When I conferred with this student, we discussed the inconsistencies in her scores and then brainstormed solutions.

My favorite part of this using Numbers to track student data is the reactions the students have when they see their bar graphs move!  Having an interactive document makes a big impact on how students perceive the data.  

Tips for using in your classroom:
  • The iWork suite is amazing for upper elementary grades.  The apps are very easy to learn and you will not lose class time "teaching the apps."  Best of all, once they learn one, they know how to use them all.  Pages, Numbers, and Keynote all have the same work flow.  Icons have the same function in all three programs.
  • The students can email a PDF to you or a parent straight from the app. Gotta love simplicity! 
  • My kids immediately started to change and tweak my template.  I love how quickly they caught on to how the app functions.  I, however, should have set some boundaries such as:  you must have a bar graph, or don't make your background a picture.  I think its important to let them tweak and explore, but the document still has to function as intended.  


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dogo Books

I couldn't post about Dogo News without posting about Dogo Books. Dogo Books is a website of "Book reviews for kids, by kids."


Dogo Books is a great place for kids to go to find books to add to their wish lists.  Students can view new books, popular books, or view books by genres.  Most books let the students preview the first few pages of a book!  Along with blurbs and information about the book, some books even have a book trailer for students to view.

My students are voracious readers who love to tell their friends all about the books they are reading. Dogo Books allows them to share the books they are reading with the world!  Kids can leave reviews for others on the site to read.  This is a fun way to introduce students to the world of social networks in a safe environment, while still teaching content.

Go try this site out now!!!  To get to the website go to: www.dogobooks.com, or you can get there by clicking "books" at the top of the Dogo News site.

Tips for using in your classroom:

  • Students can post with or without a login.  Login in using a Google Account is allowed.
  • Teach your students how to write a book review before showing them this site.  This will help to connect the activity to your ELA standards as well as help the site get some well-written reviews.

News Articles for Kids

I recently found myself looking for news articles for my 4th Graders.  I was amazed at the number of news sites there are for kids!  I wish I would have known about all these resources sooner.  A real-life news story beats a test-prep passage any day! Here is one of my favorites Dogo News.


Dogo News is a site I have been using since our school went 1:1.  I love Dogo News because it lets you sort the content by grade level.  This ensures the readability and appropriateness of articles.


Click on "Grades" to change the range of articles you can view.  (See the Red Arrow.)

Other great features of Dogo News:
  • Teacher login lets you store your favorite articles and create classes.
  • Student logins allow the students not only to have access to the site, but to view articles you have select for them.  (A student login is not required for students to use the site.  I will often post the link to an article on Edmodo.)

Tips for using in your classroom:

  • Students and teachers can login using a Google Account.  (You gotta love that!)
  • So far, I have found that the K-8 articles have all been elementary friendly.  I have no trouble saying yes when students ask, "Can I go on Dogo News?"