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

Make It Ourselves!

We have been working on division with and without decimals. To help my students gain experience with the computation, I found a game (Four in a Row) in Georgia Math. They enjoy the game, but you always have those few who get board because it’s too easy. And yes, I had some of those. However, these 3 boys didn’t complain. Instead, they asked if they could make their own.

 

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Credit: J-Jey, Julian, and Adan

The boys chose the numbers and did the division to fill in the boxes with the quotient. This week, the rest of the class was able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. It was a hit.

Now, this same group has decided to recreate another game. It was a multiplication board game, also found in Georgia Math. They are pretty excited.

Why was this so important? First of all, we talk about differentiation but aren’t alway great at it. This allowed my more proficient students to be challenged yet work on the same goals as the rest of the class. Secondly, and more importantly, my students took control over their learning and thought of a way to challenge themselves. What a powerful lesson for all.

 

State Reports – 21st Century Style

Today – more accurately starting last week – I feel like a genius. I know that will all change by Wednesday. Actually, that feeling started to change this afternoon when someone thought Canada was a state.

State Reports in 5th Grade

We all do them, students for decades have done them. Little has changed. Students get an outline of what is expected, they write, roughly, a 10 page paper on a state, and the teacher must read all reports. I HATE it! I don’t want to read 47 state reports – I teach 2 classes of Social Studies this year. They are painful to read. They are formulaic – partly the fault of the teacher (yes, I know that would be me). And they are BORING!

Time for a change!

So this year, I’m challenging my students. Their reports will be on a Google Map that they create. They will still have to research all the same information, but the presentation will be different. For example, the directions state that they are to find the state capital (of their state) and mark it with a yellow star. Then they are to find other major cities and mark them with an orange star. The students are then free to insert photos of those cities to further enhance their map. Their maps will look something like this:

Below are the complete directions. Like I said, I feel like a genius today, but by Wednesday, it’ll be a different story. And in the end, I will compile all their maps into 1 map using Thinklink. In addition, I even allowed students to work with a partner. Yup, different from the norm!

How did the students react?

They LOVED it. They couldn’t wait to get started. I have a few email me questions already. When was the last time that happened with a written report? They were so excited. I just need make sure they stay focused and write the necessary paragraphs.

Minor issue

It has been a while since we’ve used Maps, and many of the students had questions about some of the specifics. Fortunately for us, the Techie Chicks are in our classroom. And they have a tutorial on how to create a custom map!

The future

I’m sure there will be tweaking along the way. The students will feel free to give me input, and even come up with better ideas. I’ll keep everyone posted. I’m really excited about this.

1 Week Later

Here’s an update.