Distance Learning Advice

I originally thought that I would do this post based on what I’ve seen in classes. I then realized that I should put it out to the masses. Thank you to those that responded. This is what they had to say:

  • I’ll start: take attendance and let kids in zoom/meet/teams while playing a song. Super fun! ~ MathReps
  • Brandi Cross Miller – Lisa Nowakowski my daughter’s teacher does this and I have my own little dance party (out of view) as we start our day!
  • Cris McKee MathReps let the kids pick the song. Sometimes it helps to give them a choice between 2 songs.
  • Naomi Harm – MathReps And the best way to amplify that song while you’re waiting are you using Spotify or another resource to ensure the kids can hear the music as I’ve been in a session recently that they should have had background music and they could never get it to work yet I’m assuming that they didn’t check the box prior to going live which did not enable the sound to be embedded into the playback of the webinar.
  • Cris McKee – Naomi Harm I just use YouTube videos with the lyrics in the hope that my 2nd grade friends read them!
  • Marisa PierucciI teach rsp so we only have an hour together 4 days a week – so yesterday I decided to end teaching 5 min early so the kids could just chat about whatever they wanted. They really enjoyed that time to kick back and share about life.
  • Carrie Tibbs I play music while I admit my kiddos and have them do their “bell ringer” check in. They are getting quite the education of oldies.
  • Courtney Butterfield The paintbrush roller for copying formatting in Google Slides!! It’s a total game changer!
  • Sarah Buhler Vierra Using a second monitor
  • Alicia KirbyMengel Second monitor helps so much!!! I may keep my vision!
  • Jan Mathews Remember to share your screen because eighth graders won’t tell you you aren’t.
  • Loretta Wolfinbarger -Jan Mathews, funny. My fourth graders didn’t even tell me. After throwing in an incentive, they now all that out.
  • Susana Rudy – Jan Mathews Junior High Teachers Unite! Lol! I had to make it a rule; they must tell me if they can’t see my screen, and that helps. They have to tell me, as in, unmute their mic! I give extra credit points to the first person to let me know. It’s working.
  • Loretta Wolfinbarger Spending the time reviewing “how tos.” When this doesn’t work, try this.
  • Jennifer HoytDuring our lunch – break out rooms! They want to talk to each other a lot!
  • Veronica Gonzalez Meza Pear Deck add in for PPT (or google slides too)! Total participation game changer for me. I can present and see kids answering/ working on problems. Went from 4-5 kids raising their hand to answer to 22/27 attempting math or writing a response. I love it!
  • Jan Mathews If you see “Sign in with Google” use it—its like the Magic School Bus! It takes you right where your teacher wants you to go!
  • Jan Mathews – Mackenzie Ferreira The credit goes to one of my brightest eighth graders—shout out to Alejandro!
  • Nikole Kempi Scarlett – Jan Mathews yeah, my right hand student is Carlos! Nice to have student helpers!
  • Anila Bowers Change your viewpoint on tech glitches. View them as a normal part of life rather than a frustrating part of life.
  • Susana Rudy – Anila Bowers yes. And a learning experience. Discuss the tech issues with your students. This is the world they will be inheriting.
  • Sandy JohnsonOn Friday we have free choice fun Friday. Kiddos bring toys to the last 20 minutes of class. They get to talk and visit. Some of my kindercuties have become friends as if they were in the classroom
  • Dawna HunterSaving silly faces for the end of our day.Lots of songs!
  • Angela Der Ramos This may be basic but I didn’t know you can share sound directly if you share the tab instead of the window.I put music video on to take attendance, and we’ve had two movie parties already. Think I need an upgrade on the computer though…
  • Gloria McGriff PearDeck- getting students to show their thinking, since we have to track student engagement this saves me some work keeping another form.
  • Gloria McGriff Coffee shop social – allowing 4 students to stay on Zoom call to chat – me with my video and sound off. Has been a hit.
  • MaryAlison Weintraub Trying new tech tools and doing comparison polls in Webex to see what kids prefer. Ex Nearpod vs Pear Deck, prefer Nearpod, prefer Pear Deck, either works for me, don’t really like either.
  • Gloria McGriff I have been inspired to write jingles and song bites and encouraging students to do the same: Zero is my hero, because it SAVES place value! And for exponents It’s all about the base, bout the base, and exponent
  • Angela Der Ramos Leaving video or voice feedback embedded in the kids work on Seesaw. Error analysis and Feedback is a sweet spot that isn’t easy in DL.Benjamin Cogswell showed me this.
  • Ben’s Video
  • Kristan Dm Shared google slideshow is my go to daily place for students and groups to post their solutions to math problem. Assign 1 problem from daily set to each group, let them discuss in breakout room to prepare group slideshow and insert combo of photos handwritten work and typed explanation . After class I switch setting back to view only so kids can only edit during the class period. So simple but very effective as group and class collaborative space

Google Jamboard (The App)

Over the summer I read an article about this. I was intrigued. I contacted my district’s tech person. After several tries (apparently there is a small checkbox or toggle that was causing an issue), he got it working for me and my students!

I had been thinking about potential uses in the classroom. One idea I had was to use it as a collection tool in the same way many of us use Padlet. I love Padlet but I am a teacher. What I mean by that is that I can now only have 5 for free. If I want to create more, I need to purchase the premium version. I don’t use it enough to justify the cost.

Then this week happened. The week before Winter Break. The week we teachers try to keep it together. So, I did a bit of experimenting. Each year I have students create ninjas using Google Draw. I am 1/2 of TLC Ninja after all. This year’s ninjas were awesome! My favorite was the Ninja Avengers. Normally, I would collect and display them on Padlet. However, I decided to experiment with Jamboard. I did a bit of prep with my class. I told them that all this could go terribly wrong. They were up for the challenge and did NOT disappoint.

After creating our ninjas, we downloaded them as JPEG files. I then set up the Jamboard so that 5 ninjas were on one jam, thus creating a total of 5 jams for the ninjas. The class was super respectful of each other’s work. I was so happy!

Ninjas: Featuring The Ninja Avengers That is not to say that the process wasn’t without its pitfalls. First of all, one of my darlings kept selecting the > on the top of the Jamboard which, at one point, created 28 jams. Secondly, all uploaded images upload in the center of the jam. Fortunately, I was demonstrating when a student uploaded hers on the same jam as I was on. This allowed us to stop and see what happens. Great learning opportunity! That happy happenstance helped students to be respectful when uploading.

Overall, I’d say the experiment was a success. I would say it’s an ‘aight’ replacement for Padlet, not great but you can make it work. I can see other uses for Jamboard, too: exit ticket, voting, catch the pulse of the class, and brainstorming. I know there’s more, but like I said, it’s the week before Winter Break.

Fast & Curious Teams

In the first Eduprotocols Field Guide by Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo, they describe one of my favorite EduProtocols: Fast & Curious. I use this daily and the kids love it. Recently, the website I use, Quizizz, made some updates and they are AMAZING!!

battle board game challenge chess
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

First of all, the students are loving the ‘teams’ play. We don’t play teams each time, but when they play it creates a fantastic bonding experience with the groups. The app places students into 4 teams randomly. Now, add in the newest feature: redemption question. This means that if a student gets a question wrong they have a chance to redeem themselves by trying to answer it again. There are so many reasons that I LOVE this feature. Immediate feedback, better retention, and not a ‘gotcha’ situation.

NOTE: There are a few other new features that have enhanced the app. Check it out at quizizz

If all that wasn’t amazing enough, I have implemented ‘Classroom Economy’ in our class this year. One of the bonuses we agreed upon was 100% (on selected items like quizizz) earns a student $50. So the stakes are even higher and more fun. What my class does with this information and teams is beautiful. They sit in their teams and help one another in order to get 100%. If someone on the team needs help, it’s freely given. They are also aiming to get 100% as a class (this comes with a $100 bonus for all).

They don’t think I see or hear what’s going on. I do, of course, and I how could I ever stop such wonderful energy?

Words Matter

Tonight was Back to School Night. Our school has done it the night before school starts for over a decade. I like it as it helps everyone’s anxiety.

This year I tried something new. I asked parents to write words of encouragement to the 5th-Graders. The words they write were amazing! The families were so thoughtful. I will definitely continue this tradition. This is some of what they wrote:

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End of Year Gifts

It’s nearing the end of the year and many of us are thinking about giving gifts to our students. Years ago I began creating word clouds for my students.
Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 2.36.17 PMI use Google Forms to collect adjectives from students. The students don’t know why I’m doing it. I ask for three adjectives to describe their classmates. We brainstorm a list of positive qualities that could be used to describe someone. I do 3 students at a time. Any more than that and the students start to repeat themselves and it’s less personal. I take the adjectives, check spelling, and place them in a word cloud generator. I use Wordart. I try to pick images that match each student’s interest, passion, or personality. The secretary at my school is kind enough to print them out for me. I cut them to size and place their school picture on it and put it all in a frame that I purchase from the Dollar Store. Adding a short message on the back of the frame is also a nice touch. It’s a personal gift and easy on the wallet.

I love this gift so much!

Check-In with Flipgrid

Last week I went back to Michigan due to a family emergency. I didn’t think I was going to be out of the classroom, but as it turned out I was. I was out for an entire week. The week AFTER Spring Break. Not great timing especially since I was out the two days before Spring Break. I knew I had to tone set with my students. Some would be thrown off by my absence.

Ms. N's Message on FlipgridThe question became: How am I going to communicate with my students? At first, I thought about doing videos on YouTube. Easy enough. I could record on my phone and upload. Then, after talking to a friend, I decided that Flipgrid was a better option. I could keep it private AND use the students’ names. I wanted to remind O to clean up, remind A to do work and not surf the web, and give shout outs to those who I was sure were doing the right thing. This worked out well. I was in contact with the sub and could customize my message each day. The kids really enjoyed it and LOVED hearing their names in the morning.

How fortunate that we live in this time where we can connect with our students from thousands of miles away.

Kindness Coin

Ben's Bells Kindness CoinAt some point last year at a Google Innovator event I was given one of these. I liked the idea of passing along a note to recognize kindness in others.

I recently ran across it again and incorporated it into my classroom. I introduced the idea to my students telling them that when they saw someone being kind, it could be passed along to that person.

Fortunately, my students have really taken to the idea. Each day I see this being placed on someone’s desk. I love that my students do it without making a big deal about it. At one point it was missing for a few days. One of the students asked where it was and what happened to it. I reminded them to keep it going and it showed back up later that day.

A little kindness going a long way!

Size Matters

Yesterday, Friday, I had 5 students absent. When everyone is present, we have 26 students in our class. They are an awesome group of kiddos. I’m really enjoying them, but when I had 21 yesterday in class, it was so nice!

close up of woman working
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Let me explain. First of all, it had nothing to do with which students were absent. It had everything to do with the number of students physically present. I know 26 isn’t a bad number to have (last year I had 31 – THAT was too many). However, 21 students made it so much easier to squash undesired behaviors before the student had a chance to fully commit to the behavior. It allowed me to target individual needs more effectively. Don’t get me wrong, we had some name calling and general playing around but it was easier to manage.

So when school officials, politicians, or policymakers say that handling 31 is the same as handling 21, they clearly have either never been in the classroom (as a teacher) or have been out of it for far too long. There is a difference. I felt so much more productive and impactful than I have in a long time. I felt as if I really was making a difference and reaching all students.

If you are in a position to make a difference in your community, I urge you to do so. Go to school board meetings or talk to teachers. Because in the end, size really does matter!

And yes, I will be happy to see all 26 of them Monday morning!

Classroom Podcast

I have decided that we should start a classroom podcast. I’m always looking for new and exciting ways to bring the real world to my classroom. Each year, my students become more and more consumed by their devices and apps. Most of what they do is consume, text, or snap; very little creation occurs. I want to help change this and show my students that you can produce more than just YouTube videos. They all want to be YouTubers…

gold condenser microphone near laptop computer
Photo by Seej Nguyen on Pexels.com

So why Podcasting? Well, it’s not something most, or any, of my students are familiar with. They all know about YouTube, but there is so much more to the creative world than becoming a YouTuber. I began by having my students listen to a podcast: The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel. Warning, this is addictive! This is a well-done podcast that the kids, and I, really got in to. I only had my kiddos listen to Season 1 – and bonus, we Sketchnoted each episode. However, I wanted to hear the rest and listened to it on my own. I was not disappointed!

After listening to Season 1 of Mars Patel, I proposed the idea to my class. They seemed up for it. We talked about what we could do. At first, they wanted to do one like that of Mars Patel, but I felt that might be too ambitious for our first go at it. I encouraged them to do stand-alone episodes. They came up with the idea of focusing on the history of our school and town. I was in!

As a class, we posed questions about our town and school that we could research and report out on. Now, I have a group of students who are taking one question at a time and doing the research. We have reached out to school and community leaders to interview. They will begin interviewing leaders soon. They already have questions ready for our school leaders for one episode.

I’m not sure how it’s all going to turn out. I honestly don’t know what I’m doing and am learning right along with my students. Once we publish an episode, I’ll share far and wide!

Hands-On Science

Let me begin by saying that it has been several years since I have taught Science in my classroom; this is because I have ‘team taught’ in this time period. I took care of Social Studies/History while my teaching partner taught Science. This year, due to scheduling conflicts we weren’t able to continue. However, when I did teach Science all those years ago, it was rarely hands-on. And this was a HUGE disservice to students.

This year my school site is trying to focus on NGSS and really having kids EXPERIENCE Science. I love this focus. However, I have found that this shift is proving difficult for both my students and myself. Why? They have rarely done continuous (almost weekly) hands-on work. This is not a slight against my colleagues, I’m right there with them.

The push for all things testing (looking at you standardized tests and those that love them) has left us choosing to teach the testing subjects (mainly Math and ELA) or teach it all. Yes, CCSS has us shifting to more inclusive lessons, but as many districts purchasing curriculums for all subjects it’s not as easy as one would think. However, I digress.

Chemicals Reacting to White SubstancesChaos. That is the only word that accurately describes my classroom during Science. The kids lose their minds when given the opportunity to explore. For example, last week we were exploring different ‘white substances’ (insert El Chapo joke here) and their reactions to chemicals (water, iodine, and vinegar). Before we began we reviewed classroom norms: safety goggles on, observe, take notes, etc. I should have included ‘NO eating anything!’ Yeah, one of the substances was sugar and a few students decided it would be a good idea to taste test the ‘white substances’. Don’t get me wrong, they had a great time! They loved dropping the chemicals on the substances to observe the reactions. They were excited and engaged. That’s what we want, but they weren’t being very scientific. They were so ‘excited’ they observed all the reactions without taking a single note! #FrustratedTeacher Then, they started to ‘play’ with some of the mixtures. In their defense, they were observing what happened when the chemical and substance was thoroughly mixed. They did make some good observations, but still NO notes.

In the end, the lessons was a moderate (that’s being generous) success. And last week at our staff meeting we were talking NGSS. I brought up what I’d noticed. Another 5th-grade teacher noted that some of her students also ate the sugar. A 2nd-grade teacher noticed that her students lose their minds, too. It felt good not to be alone in this. After having a few giggles about our experience, it was nice to hear that everyone is still on board with the hands-on explorations. We know that this year might be tough, but the more we do it the easier it will become. The bottom line is that our students deserve the BEST education we can give them. Experiencing Science is part of that.