My students constantly amaze me. They come up with great ideas and are innovators in their own right. Not only do I enjoy hearing their thoughts and ideas, often times we implement them in our classroom. I also feel fortunate enough that my students feel comfortable enough to share their ideas with me; knowing they will be taken seriously and not ridiculed.
Recently, one of my resource students (one with an IEP for both reading and math) created her own accommodation. We have been reading Tuck Everlasting and using a Hyperdoc to help guide us. While discussing one of the slides in the Hyperdoc, I noticed that the student had written some notes in the ‘Speaker Notes’ section. I found this interesting. It also made me a bit giddy as she was taking full advantage of our discussions. I privately talked to her about taking notes to tell her how impressed I was with her choice. She then revealed that she put on ‘Voice Typing’ during the conversation in order to capture everything that was said. Not going to lie, THIS really impressed me. Honestly, not sure I would have thought to do something like this.
Later, I shared with the class what the student had done. Expressing how I felt it was a good use of technology, but shared with them my expectation that if they used this strategy, it is to be used as a means of note taking and all responses should be in their own words.
The next day, we were discussing the events that took place at Lexington and Concord – studying the American Revolution. At one point a group of students had ‘bug eyes’, began giggling, and pointing to their computer screens. I walked over to find out what was so entertaining. Sure enough, someone in their group had turned on ‘Voice Typing’ to capture the information. All I thought was, “Go kiddos!”
This is one question I try not to ask. This and “Did you have a good break?” When dealing with many students from differing backgrounds, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has a ‘good break’. It’s a natural question for many of us to ask. We come back not really ready to be back. I mean, we all love to sleep in and get things done around the house or hang with family/friends or go on trips. But for many students coming back to school is a welcome break from their home lives. And for that reason, I no longer ask students these questions.
I write this because I was reminded over my break that not all our students have ideal home lives. Some are dealing with the threat of a parent being deported or being evicted from their homes. Others are visiting a parent in jail over the holidays. Some don’t have money for presents. And yet others have had to deal with trauma and situations we can’t imagine. For these students, school IS their safe place; school is a welcome break from their everyday lives.
So what do I do? What do I say to my students when they come back? I’ve found that questions and statements such as: “I’m so happy to see you,” or “Are you glad to be back?” work well. “Are you glad to be back?” allows students to tell me about their trips to Mexico, all the toys they received, or the family they spent time with. While allowing those in less than ideal situations to feel safe to say, “Yes, I’m happy to be back.” Many times they follow that statement with, “It was so boring.” Knowing their lives, I know this isn’t really the case, but rather they are happy to feel safe for 7 hours out of their day.
And it’s not just our students who don’t always have ‘good breaks’. Some of our colleagues have had to deal with situations that were less than an ideal Holiday. Remember: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” – Ian Maclaren.
When a first-grade teacher expressed interest in doing a Breakout, I was thrilled to help. As she had never seen one in action she asked if I could lead. Of course, I said yes!
We worked together to find a Breakout that would work for her and her class. We settled on ‘Number Ninjas’. It’s all about numbers to 100: great for first-trimester first-graders.
There was LOTS of excitement and enthusiasm during the game. The students worked well together after they got the hang of it.
In the end, all the groups broke out.
So, to all those naysayers who think that first grade is too young to do a Breakout, we proved you wrong. This will hopefully be the first of many Breakouts in this classroom. And this will hopefully inspire other early elementary grades to give it a try!
During class today, I assigned a quick summary of what we read together. It was at that point that I pulled a small group aside so that they would be successful and get small group instruction on specific skills.
While working with the small group, I noticed a few students who seemed to not be working. So I pulled out my phone! I quickly pulled up the Classroom App and went into select students’ work to monitor their progress. Needless to say, my observations proved correct. This allowed me to have a quick correction with those students and at the same time putting the rest of the class on notice. Just because I am working with a small group doesn’t mean I don’t know what you’re doing!
Ah, the wonders of modern technology. Used correctly, it can be a powerful tool.
Over the summer, I had the idea that I wanted my students to participate in a Mystery Hangout with a classroom from each of the 50 states. I’m glad I started this journey.
So far we have connected with 3 states. In addition to the Mystery Hangouts, I wanted my students to start sketch noting the information we collected. I’m so glad I included this aspect. It wasn’t easy for them at first. In fact, I still have a few that write lists. But overall I’m pleased with how they are experimenting with becoming more and more creative.
Yup, I’ve got #FlipgridFever along with my students. Over the summer I learned about Flipgrid. I was intrigued by the idea that students could respond using video and their videos would be organized! No messing around with creating and uploading. The whole thing is wrapped up in one neat package.
So the first week of school was the perfect chance to play around with the tool with my students. After listening to a speaker, Steve Ventura, I was inspired to ask my students “What does a good learner look like?” He asked students in a school and the answers were of passive students – “Doesn’t disrupt the class,” “Listens,” and so on. Based on his experience, I wondered what my students had to say. Sadly, much of the same: “Someone who does well on tests,” “Someone who reads a lot,” etc. I plan to ask them again later in the year in hopes that they realize that a good learner collaborates, questions, defends, disrupts (respectfully), etc.
Now I’ll be honest, I had no idea how to use Flipgrid. And I told my students that! They were eager to explore the tool. They had no problem jumping in and figuring it out. And then…they discovered the stickers they could put on their pictures. Some enjoyed the experience so much they asked to create another video. Yes, I allowed them to. I wanted them to play with the tool now so that when we use it for learning they can focus on the learning and not the stickers!
And they couldn’t get enough of watching each others’ answers. They loved that they could ‘like’ or ‘love’ a particular video. In fact, they had so much fun they came in the next day asking if they were going to do it again!
I plan on using Flipgrid for responses in literature, defending a math problem, and self-reflections on projects and work. The possibilities are endless. I know that we will read Bud, Not Buddy this year. It might be fun to have students use Flipgrid to respond as if they were a character. I am so excited to use this throughout the year!
Last night was Back to School Night. We have it the night before school starts. I like it this way. It helps to alleviate a lot of anxiety for both teachers and students – and I’d suspect some parents too.
I’m no stranger to Back to School Night. I’ve done them for over 20 years. However, last night I had a first. And the nerd in me was so excited! A mom came to me with her phone explaining that the father couldn’t be there but wanted to participate. She had him on Facetime! We were able to introduce ourselves, talk for a bit, and have a ‘regular’ Back to School Night!
It’s the little things that make us happy. Being able to stay connected to parents is so important. I’m glad dad was able to ‘attend’. It make everyone’s night!
While scrolling through my Facebook feed, this image caught my attention. Yes, you read that right, “Don’t make copies, make workbooks. Get your curriculum professionally printed for less” This made me sad, depressed, and horrified.
Disclaimer: This is a local business and they do great, quality work. This is NOT against the printing company. They are doing what businesses do. They are not ‘in the business’ of education; that’s you and me.
So what’s wrong with this? Well for starters, a worksheet is a worksheet whether in a booklet form or not. Secondly, worksheets are boring and nicknames ‘shut up sheets’ for a reason. And since this whole thing called education is up to you and me, let’s make it better! Do you enjoy filling out paperwork? Yeah, me neither! So imagine how students feel. I know, your thinking, “But they need practice!” And I agree. But how about making it more engaging and interesting. For example, in 5th Grade, students need to find equivalent fractions. Now, I can either have them do DOK level 1 work via a worksheet – 3/6 = ?/2 OR have them manipulate fraction tiles to discover, and record, all the fractions that equal 1/2. Which would you rather do? Okay, so you might not have fraction tiles, right? But what if instead of printing worksheets, your district took that money and bought manipulatives? It’s all about where the district chooses to spend its money.
So while if I want something printed, I prefer going locally and will use this company. However, I implore schools to think differently. Let’s get away from worksheets and workbooks!
Each Friday our 5th-Graders participate in Genius Hour. This year, there is a large group of students that either create slime – in order to sell – or draw. They hop on either Google Images or YouTube to hone their skills. I have encouraged them to create a website to showcase their work. Silly me, no one wants to do that. BUT, showcasing their work on their Instagram accounts, that’s another story.
Yes, I am aware that Instagram is for 13-year-olds and older. Each time a student tells me they have an account I remind them of this and ask if their parents are aware of their account and do they have the password. If their parents are okay with it the best I can do is teach them how to be responsible: no locations, birthdates, first or last names, etc.
When we were cleaning up on Friday, I watched one student pull out his phone, snap a pic, tag people, and post to one of his Instagram accounts. I thought this was a brilliant way to document and share his work! Now I need to work with the district’s IT department to unblock Instagram so my class can have an account and document our work.
Slime. A craze that is still going strong in my classroom. While many teachers find it the bane of their existence; I do not. Okay, fidget spinners might be the new bane of our existence. I don’t ban the slime, or fidget spinners, mainly because my students seem to understand that each has a time and place. My students, for the most part, have found a balance between work and slime.
This past week, my students began taking the state test. Again, I didn’t ban slime, nor did I encourage it. It’s just a ‘thing’ that exists in the classroom. As I was monitoring the students, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: while taking the test they were playing with slime. Let me be clear. It’s not all students, in fact, it’s about 5 or so and they were completely focused on their tasks.
One student kept the slime in her container, read, and simply played with it by dipping her finger in and out of the slime. She gets a bit nervous because she wants to do well. I believe it helped relieve some anxiety. I took a quick picture and texted it to her mom (our school’s secretary). We just giggled.
Meanwhile, a few other students had it on their tables, off to the side. They poked at it, rolled it, and kneaded it all while focusing on the test.
So if you’ve banned slime in your classroom, you may want to rethink it. Of course, there have been times where I had to confiscate slime because someone was focused on playing with it rather than working. However, if it helps calm students, why not let them play?