State Test & Slime: Perfect Pairing

img_0003.jpgSlime. 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.

IMG_0006One 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?

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Custom Slides Size

I love slides and the flexibility I have with them. I have been using them more and more, in the classroom, for something other than Presentations.  I recently wrote how my students were using them to take collaborative notes. I have also used them as assessments in math and more recently as a version of Hyperdocs. One advantage to using Google Slides is that I have the capability to customize the size of the slide. This means if I want to make it the size of an 8.5 x 11 in paper and print it out, I can. Here’s how:

When open in Slides, go to ‘File’ on the Menu bar and select ‘Page Setup’:

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This will open a pop-out window. The default is ‘Widescreen 16:9’. Select the dropdown menu and find ‘Custom’.slides-page-setup-2

This will prompt another window which will ask the size you want. The default is inches but can be changed to centimeters, points, or pixels. Once you have your desired size, select the blue ‘OK’ button. And viola, you will have your custom size. slides-page-size-3slides-page-size-4

 

Google Docs: Emojis

Last week, my students were writing an essay in their Google Docs. In the middle of writing, one student asked, “Hey, Ms. N., did you know you can insert emojis in docs?”

I was surprised and answered, “Wait, what? No? Really? Cool. Show me how.” So I went over to her table and she showed me. Pretty cool!emoji-1

So how’d she do it?

Start by going to ‘Insert’ in the menu options

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Choose the desired emoji and viola! You have an emoji in your doc. Now, what if we had students summarizing stories with just emojis?!

Thank you to my student, Johanna, for spreading her knowledge!

 

Which One Doesn’t Belong

Last year I was introduced to a great website called Which One Doesn’t Belong by my friend, Nancy Minicozzi. The site is full of visuals in which students must decide which of the 4 images doesn’t belong.

Looking at the following, which would you say doesn’t belong?

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Based on your perception you may have said the heart because it is the only one that is NOT a polygon. Or perhaps you thought the star for the lack of the red outline. Possibly you were drawn to the green arrow as it is comprised of two different shapes. Or maybe it was the last shape because it lacked a color on the inside. No matter what you thought, you were right.

This is a fantastic, low-risk activity for students to participate in. I have done it a few different ways. I have had students study the image and then move to different parts of the room. While gathered there, they talk about why they chose the image they did. Other times I have used tools like Padlet for them to record their thoughts. No matter what method I use, they enjoy the activity.

This year I have 1 non-English speaker. At first, he was reluctant to participate, but now he regularly raises his hand to explain why he chose the image he did. I also have students moving from table to table because they can see how the different images don’t belong.

In addition to the low-risk appeal, I am able to teach my students how to have conversations. We begin sentences with, “I agree with…. because…”, or “I disagree with… because…”, or even better, “In addition to what … said…” Quality language, thought process, and communication skills that are being utilized daily.

Student ‘Ransomes’

This year I have been giving out a few ‘Ransomes’ each week. I know what you’re thinking, no I did not hijack personal objects from students and offer to return them in exchange for payment of Kit Kat minis (my totes faves!) No, Ransomes are little notes I leave for students like this one:

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I do usually put their name on them as well.

I didn’t think much of the habit. I just thought it was cute and a nice way to send a positive message to my students. It wasn’t until Parent-Teacher Conferences last week that I realized how much they mean to the students. Sometimes it’s easy for us to overlook how much a simple gesture means to a child. One of my parents told me that the Ransome I had given her son had made his day. He was so proud of that note, he put it in his room at home. It was something that made his day and the mom’s day, too.

What I Do

Go to Ransomizer and type your message in the box provided. When you’re ready, select the ‘Ransomize’ button. You can customize the font, colors, etc. I then take a screenshot of the Ransome Note and place that in a Google Doc to print. I print 5 per week.

Give it a try. Your kids will love it and it’s a great way to connect with your students.

Makeshift Keyboards

Recently I received a new student in my 5th-grade class. Great kid from India. He has some English, enough to tell me he wants a Punjabi Keyboard. So, we created a Punjabi keyboard for him. First, we selected the correct keyboard on his Chromebook. Then, he pointed out that the physical keyboard was still in English. So then we looked up a Punjabi Keyboard online and I printed it out. Using Google Translate, we affixed them on the correct keys. We used tape. We were in business! Things were going great. Score 1 for me.

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This victory didn’t last long. He then came to me telling me that the paper was bugging his fingers and I needed to tape the tops too. I explained that the keys would then all stick down to the board. So then, I had another brilliant idea: Saran Wrap, poor man’s keyboard cover. Yet another score for me.

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Yes! This worked. He was happy. Until…. He wanted it all off. Yup, it wasn’t working for him. He wanted to continue with the English Keyboard…

(Sigh) You win some, you lose some.