I’m Worried

It’s that time of year when schools start back up. There have been many heated debates about how this should happen during the Covid-19 pandemic. I assure you, no matter what you think, it’s a bad idea. Go back with social distancing: teachers fear contracting it, no collaboration, isolation while in the same room as others. Hybrid model: similar issues as going back live with the added stress of creating asynchronous lessons. Keep things locked down: the kids lose in this scenario. Then there is the virtual model. THIS is what our district is doing.

This was like a multiple choice quiz with NO right answers.

A little background. In July, our school board made the tough decision to go back virtually. They were faced with nothing but wrong choices. This was like a multiple choice quiz with NO right answers. This was preceded by several weeks of debates, parents and teachers giving public comments, a previous meeting at which the decision was postponed. My point is that our board took this decision seriously. Then, here in California, the governor created guidelines based on Covid numbers as to which schools would be teaching virtually and which could entertain the idea of going back face to face. Then began the task of figuring out how to do this.

Of all the conversations that were had: how to do all virtual? What will it look like to young learners? How will we do OT? What will intervention look like? How can we prepare teachers in 3 days (all the PD we get normally with the calendar)? How will we get students the supplies needed? How can we get books into kids’ hands? What impact will this have on students’ mental health? How can we keep kids engaged? We also needed to adhere to the compliance pieces that the state rolled out. And so many other questions and discussions. No where in there did we – district or nation – address the mental health of educators. This is probably one of the biggest oversights of this situation.

It will take time and adjustments to get to a place of greatness.

This virtual thing, on such a mass scale, is new to everyone. While districts are communicating, each has come up with their own plan. Some are doing it better than others from what I’ve heard, but I don’t believe anyone is doing it with great success. That is not a criticism, rather an honest statement. How can anyone or any entity do something with great success the first time? It will take time and adjustments to get to a place of greatness. The key will be to adapt as we go along. The districts that stick to their original plan will most likely fail.

This is the schedule our district has adopted. A/B groups for TK – 5 and whole groups for 6 – 8.

Our middle school has done this for four days and our elementary has done it for a day or two. Teachers are drowning. Let me be clear on this. While teachers feel overwhelmed and underprepared, they are giving it their all. There isn’t a teacher in our district that is taking it lightly or giving up. They are all looking for the silver linings. I am in awe of our teachers.

Not only are our teachers struggling with this new model, but our families are too. Many teachers don’t see how this model is sustainable. Our teachers are online most of the day. They are exhausted and then have 1/2 hour to have office hours, check work, give feedback, and contact families, and plan lessons.

Now, let’s compound the virtual learning issue by adding Covid-19 Slide to it. It’s like the summer slide, but Covid related. According to a research firm, “The report estimated that, on average, students could lose seven months of learning during the pandemic, compared to 10 months for Black students and nine months for Hispanic students. ” (Georgia State University). So for a district like mine – Title 1, 100% free lunch, and a high percentage of Latino students – this is even more stressful. That means a 5th grader coming into this is really more like a beginning 4th grader IF they were at grade level before the pandemic hit. If that 5th grader was below grade level before March 13, the gap is even larger. Not only do we need to teach the standards, but we need to fill gaps. Then, there is the dreaded state test. NOW would be a really great time to explore their actual importance to education (Hint: they’re not. They only are important to the test makers because they make money. It’s a racket.) If you worry that your child/student is behind, don’t worry. This is a global problem. All kids are ‘behind’. And let’s face it, they are arbitrary measures to begin with. The kids will be fine in the long run. Point being, the teachers have to teach the standards/content that students have difficulty accessing.

Photo by ATC Comm Photo on Pexels.com

So what can be done? If you’re a teacher, be kind to yourself. You don’t need to do it all. If something isn’t working, speak up. You might not be the only one with those thoughts. Know that it will get easier. Rely on others, collaborate. If you’re district administration, listen to what your teachers are saying. They are the boots on the ground and are experiencing it in real time. Better yet, shadow a teacher for a day or week. Experience what they do daily. Don’t even think of uttering the phrase, “Fidelity to the curriculum.” Reach out to teachers to find out what is working, what isn’t, and where more support is needed. If you are a policy maker, for the love of all that is good, cancel all standardized tests for the foreseeable future! Create policies with actual teacher input.

To all of my teacher friends, I am here for you. To parents, please be kind, forgiving, patient, and understanding. Teachers are human. They have families. They are worried for your child’s education, too. They really are doing their best.

Jammin’ on Jamboard

Collaborate on Jamboard

Oh, my, word! I have been a fan of Jamboard this year. I played around with it pre-Covid-19 times. Nothing major, just getting a feel for what it can do. However, I have really started using it during this distance learning thing we are doing. Now, this picture may not look like anything special. Until you realize that two students are writing on it at once.

I had a few students stay after virtual class today. They wanted to get some extra help with math. Okay. I gave them editing rights. We discussed how to find a common denominator. Then, I had two of the students write the multiples. They each took turns finding equivalent fractions and finally, added them. The writing isn’t super easy as they were using a touchpad on their Chromebooks, but it was enough to be able to collaborate and solve.

I also enjoy the laser feature. While I am explaining or correcting, students can see exactly where I am. I was elated to find that I could assign a Jamboard to each student in Google Classroom. This really is an underutilized tool.

There are some drawbacks. It doesn’t track revision histories. So, if several people are on it, issues can arise. Not that 5th graders would ever do such things. Jamboard is not in Google Drive. You need to go to jamboard.google.com to create them. This is also where they are stored. However, if you recently opened one it will appear in your ‘Recent’ in Google Drive. It was pointed out by Melissa Hero that Jamboard is indeed in your drive. Another thing to watch out for is if several people are writing on a post it or dropping an image, they will all drop in the same location. Unlike a tool like Padlet where each new response is in it’s own location. This can get messy. I recommend when setting it up, assign students to a page using the post it tool.

Overall, I really do like this tool.

92%, Say What?

92%So what’s the big deal with 92%? A lot when it comes to having 3 weeks off and the likelihood that none of my students practiced their multiplication facts.

Monday was our first day back after winter break. As we do every day, we practiced our math facts using the Fast & Curious Eduprotocol. I had an anticipated drop from our usual 96% – 98%. I predicted, to myself,  it would drop to around 89%.  I wasn’t too concerned as I knew that they could easily get it back up to our normal within a week.

Well, to my surprise, my class scored 92%. Seriously, I was happily surprised that they really didn’t lose as much as I had feared. YES! The continuous rep practice has worked. The facts are sticking.

I was so giddy, I needed to write this quick post to celebrate the success my class is finding. I was sold before, but now I’m a believer for life!

Math Facts with Fast & Curious

Resistant

I will admit, I was reluctant to use any sort of ‘timed tests’ for math in my classroom. The research does not support it. However, my students were sorely lacking in their multiplication skills, a skill they should have mastered by now. At conferences in September, I spoke with each parent about the need to practice at home and easy ways they could help their child. After a month, there was little improvement. THEN, I had a conversation with Jon Corippo.

Jon suggested I use the Fast & Curious Eduprotocol with math facts. I knew he had convinced Cori Orlando to try this with her 3rd graders previously. She balked at first then became a believer. I still held out. He gave me the same spiel he gave Cori. I begrudgingly tried it. It felt too much like timed tests. At first, the kids loved it; it was something new. But then, they kept asking for it day after day. This lasted a while. Several months later, they STILL beg for it.

Does It Really Work?

Simply put, yes. The data speaks for itself. In the beginning, we were averaging around 56% as a class. That’s 56% correct on a 10 – 20 multiplication question quiz. As a class, we could only score 56% on a quiz. And some quizzes we were a bit lower (48%). YIKES! Within two months, as a class, we score between 96% and 98% no matter the quiz I give them. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t have kiddos who are struggling, I do. I still have kiddos who take an incredibly long period of time to complete it. Some day, I have to end the quiz before everyone can finish. But let’s face it, going from 56% – 96% is a drastic difference. I’ll take it!

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Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

My Process

I use Quizizz, a computerized gaming review system. It’s a mouthful but if you’re familiar with Kahoot, it’s very similar. I choose a multiplication quiz. No need to make your own, just do a search and you’ll find one. Set up the quiz in classic mode and have the students sign in. On day 1, we take the quiz twice. The first time is cold, we write down our score (Quizizz is great that it’ll average your class score for you), review the questions, then take it again. We keep our first score then we record our second score to see how much we’ve improved. For the rest of the week, we take the same quiz. If our score goes up, which it should, we erase the last high score and replace it with the newest score. We repeat this process with a different quiz the following week.

Because students can consistently score in the 90% range on the first go-around no matter the quiz, I only do the quiz once on Mondays. I have some added bonuses you can read about.

Cheating

I have teachers ask if students cheat: help each other, start the quiz over again, tell another student the answer. The answer is yes. But I don’t care. The kids who are getting the answers are clicking the correct answer and reinforcing it. Those that take it again are practicing twice as much as everyone else. It’s really a win-win.

I’m a Believer

Based on all that I have seen in my classroom, I am now a believer in this protocol. The kids still love it months later. The information is transferring. The data doesn’t lie. Even if you’re still reluctant, give it a try. I did and so did Cori!

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!!

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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?

Arm the Teachers

As with any ‘hot button’ issue, we all have our own opinions. And we hold on to those opinions tightly, maybe too tightly. One thing I can say that I truly believe, not a single one of us holds the answer; at least not on our own. Another thing I feel certain about is that a single solution approach ISN’T the answer either: banning guns or arming teachers/schools.

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.

As a teacher, I have enough on my plate. In many districts things like paper cutters, hand sanitizer, air freshener (I agree with this one), and many other household items are banned; now someone wants to arm us with a lethal weapon? Yes, I understand it would be voluntary, yes the gun holders would be trained. But who is going to do the training? Will there be extra pay for the teacher carrying? Where’s the money coming from? We just had a massive tax cut; that’s where the money comes from. We are already underfunded. What happens if an active shooter is on campus? Police come in looking for a person with a gun. Now they have to decide if the person holding it is good or bad? And who’s paying for the guns? Will the teachers be held to a higher background check standard? Districts can’t afford to hire the staff they have, requiring them to hire armed personnel will make class sizes larger and limit resources for kids. Will armed personnel be able to help in my classroom? Will they be visible (meaning will we all know or suspect who’s packing)? If visible, what psychological impact would that have on students who come from traumatic backgrounds (of which I see more and more of each year)? Fighting fire with fire has never been an answer. In addition, the accuracy of a handgun is low in a situation against a semi-automatic. Then there is crossfire. So instead of bullets coming from one shooter, we have them coming from two, possibly coming from two different directions. What happens if said teacher shoots a student in the crossfire?

pexels-photo-264109.jpegThis is a complex issue with many moving parts. The solution will have to be multifaceted in order to address the many components that make up this issue. Simply arming teachers (dumb idea, I’m hired to educate let me do my job) or placing law enforcement in schools isn’t the answer. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the perpetuation of the school to prison pipeline – locked & fenced campuses with armed guards.

I also want to ask where was the outrage when we got rid of PE? Music? Arts? Shop Class? Auto Class? When we began overtesting? When our classes were filled to the brim? When students were sitting in broken down classrooms? When students had to share books? When we started looking at teachers and questioning their ability? Which led to legislators mandating what to teach, when to do teach, and how to teach? Where was the outrage when we begged for psychologists in every school? Maybe if we had a bit more of that support we wouldn’t be where we are today. The defunding and dismantling of public education goes back decades. Maybe it’s time we start putting kids first, REALLY putting them first. And before anyone jumps all over me telling me that simply by funding education won’t fix the problem, you’re right. At least in part. It won’t fix it now, but it will fix it for the future. It didn’t get this way overnight and it won’t get fixed overnight.

As I’ve stated, this is a complex issue. There are many stakeholders. I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s out there. I believe that it will be a combination of several factors.

Go forth and be good to one another.

Google My Maps: 13 Colonies

Social Studies is a natural place for My Maps to appear. This year I created a HyperMap. This is based on the HyperDoc method. The students are given a map with information they are to know. This information will also be used to create a final product. Sometimes I have them creating a video on Animoto, other times it might be flyers/pamphlets, or some other creative way the students show what they’ve learned.

For the 13 colonies, I created a HyperMap with a few different layers: 13 Colonies, Current 50 States, and Colonial Regions. The students were to take notes and create a final product: a ‘billboard’ for their state. You can view their final products here. (NOTE: The billboard idea came from Los Virgenes School District via a teacher Nancy Minicozzi@coffeenancy – works with).

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I did NOT create all the outlines. A Google Mapper created a site with some great resources. I downloaded the KML File and then uploaded it to my map (see video).

Using My Maps in this way allowed my students to become more familiar with the territory and they had ownership over their learning. I’m clearly a fan of HyperMaps!