50 States Mystery Hangout

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.

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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Websites In Class

Websites are great places to collect and display student work. I have used them in Math so that student can document their learning through videos, photos, and examples. In addition to documenting their progress, when students are unsure of a concept they can refer to another student’s page for clarification.

More recently, I have used them to document learning in Social Science. Earlier in the year, we were learning about Pre-Columbian Settlements. Students documented their learning on Google Maps then placed them on a website.

webpage-1The beauty of doing this is that it allows for easier sharing with the outside world. It has been said, and is most certainly true, that when students know the public will see it they up their game. When my students think it’s just for me, they give me ‘okay’ work. It’s like pulling teeth to get top notch work from them. However, when I say that it will go on a website that will be shared on Twitter and Facebook, they are much more careful and meticulous in their work. Adding to that, I present. I tell them what I am presenting and when. Okay, sometimes I ‘say’ I’m presenting on a topic even when I’m not. I want the best work from them, I have no shame.

Here’s another example from my students. We recently started learning the reasons for the Revolutionary War. There are various tasks that they need to accomplish. Those final products are placed on a shared website.

webpage-2I have used this method of documentation and sharing in the classroom for over four years. I have never had a student abuse their editing rights. On the old Google Sites, I could give page level permissions for editing but never did. All students have always had full rights on the site. However, this year I have a student who has been known to maliciously edit shared documents (and when caught asks what ‘Revision History’ proves). So said student does not have editing rights. While this makes me sad and I wish I could have gotten through to the student that such behavior is inappropriate, I have decided to exclude him/her from editing until he/she proves themselves to be trustworthy. I figure once in four-plus years is a pretty good record.

Two of my favorite websites were student driven. One was for a ‘business’ where the students created keychains and bracelets to raise money for St. Jude Hospital. They had photos and order forms! The other was a tech tutorial website. A group of girls calling themselves The Techie Chicks created one tech tutorial each week during Genius Hour.

Student Ownership

I love this time of year. That time of the year where you’ve hit that ‘sweet spot’ with your class: they know the routines, they can work independently, and they know they have a stake in the success of the class. On Friday, my students wanted to know if we were having a Valentine’s Day party. Personally, I don’t care. I told them that it was up to them. Of course, they decided to go for it.

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Source: Pexels.com

Then, a group asked if they could decorate the room. Again, I said go for it that it was their thing. This group, made up of both genders, got together during Genius Hour to create decorations for the classroom. They also informed me that they were not done and would continue next Genius Hour. How cool are they?

 

We also have another issue to decide. We usually have parties near the end of the school day for obvious reasons. However, Valentine’s Day is also First Tee (Golf) day. We go in the afternoon. Our current dilemma is when to have it. On the 14th at lunch? On the 13th? Wait until 17th (Genius Hour)?  This was not a popular option. I’m letting them decide. Majority rules.

I just love days like this.

Drone On

This week I received a set of 4 Mini Parrot Drones, courtesy of CUE Steampunk Mobile Labs  What a GREAT week it’s been. Well, not all great. We finally finished state testing on Tuesday, with 15 days left in the school year.

So it’s a bit of a crazy week with finishing state testing, completing our movie (A Tale Unfolds), and the valley fair begins on Thursday. This week has been the perfect week to have the students code and complete tasks using the drones.

On Monday, we started with me attempting to give them a challenge to complete. Yeah, that was a flop. They were more interested in exploring the drones and programming them to do various tasks. I quickly let go of my idea that they could focus on a given challenge.

TueIMG_0006.JPGsday, they were ready for a challenge. We took them outside to see if we could land them in a target. We had a few obstacles in our way: the biggest one being the wind. This proved to be perfect for their collaboration and problem-solving skills. Using the Tickle App on the iPads, the students programmed their Mini Parrots to lift off, go forward for a specific amount of time, and land. It was pretty cool to see!

Today the students were tasked with programming the drones to take selfies. THIS was a huge hit. At first, there were several random pictures taken. Then once they got the hang of it, they took some great selfies, which they downloaded onto their Google Drives.

(Selfie Photo credit: the students – they gave me permission to post)

It’s nice to have students finish the sentence, “Can we…” with something other than “…play a game”, “…have recess”, or “take a break.” They beg to code and explore every day. They are sad that they will be leaving at the end of the week and truthfully, so will I.

Thank you, CUE and Jon Corippo!

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.

Social Studies Poetry Slam

Earlier this month I wrote about setting my students up for success. We were studying Cortes and Montezuma. The idea was to give students the information so that they could synthesize, analyze, and collaboratively create a writing to be performed in a poetry slam style. Many of the students turned the assignment into a rap – which is fine with me. The idea, after all, was to understand the information. The outcome…Success! Here’s one example – viewpoint: Montezuma