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.

Notes on Google Slides

Earlier this week my students started on a group project – Road to the Revolution. I had given them a Hyperdoc with the information on the French and Indian War. I gave them very specific guidelines and some questions to answer. The end product is an Animoto video. As I was walking around and helping, I noticed that a group of students had Google Slides open. I got worried. It took a long time for me to get my students out of the habit of wanting to create a slideshow for presentations. So I stopped and asked why Slides was open and “Please don’t tell me you’re creating a slideshow.” I was so relieved when one of the girls explained that they were using it to take notes! I didn’t even show them this trick. Yeah, proud teacher moment.
download One of the girls created and shared the slides with the rest of the group. Each person in the group had their own slide to take notes. I know this isn’t the first time this has been done, but I was really proud of my students for thinking of this. It is so much easier to take shared notes on Slides as opposed to Docs.

I LOVE it when students take learning into their own hands and make it work for them. Go Innovators!

Just another great example of what students will do when we give them the freedom to own their learning.

Homework: We STILL Hate It

homework [url=https://flic.kr/p/r6shHf][img]https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8610/16470630808_ff856fd3bc_z.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/r6shHf]”I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” – Author Unknown[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/]Brian Metcalfe[/url], on Flickr

 

I’ve been thinking more about Homework and why I hate it so much. Then, I began to look at it from different standpoints: teacher, student, parent.

Why Teachers Hate Homework

No, I do NOT speak for all teachers. In fact, I know several teachers who advocate homework. This is a collection of reasons I have heard several teachers make:

  • The parents end up doing it for the kids.
  • We have to take time out of our learning day to correct it.
  • The same kids consistently DON’T complete the homework. It becomes a (losing) battle.
  • If we don’t correct it together, I have to take time out to do this menial task.
  • [at middle school] One kid does the homework and their friends copy it before school starts.
  • [at middle school] The kids stopped hiding the fact that they copy it.
  • The kids who need the practice either don’t do it or do it wrong.
  • The kids who don’t need the practice do it – what a waste of time for them.

Why Students Hate Homework

Yes, there are some students who like homework.

  • It’s boring
  • Who wants to do a worksheet?
  • It’s too hard and there is no one at home to help them.
  • They are in charge of younger siblings.
  • They may have several responsibilities to do once they get home.
  • They’d rather be playing (wouldn’t we all?)
  • It’s not meaningful.

Some other points I thought of:

  • Not all students have a home to complete their work.
  • Not all homes have a quiet space to complete work.
  • This is an intrusion on family time. As a teacher, I get upset when a parent tries to intrude in my area (classroom).
  • If I were to work all day, like the students do, and then were asked to go home and do more work on my time, I’d be a bit put-out.

Why Parents Hate Homework

Yes, there are some parents who request more (and I have my own thoughts on that).

  • It becomes a nightly battle.
  • There is yelling, screaming, and crying. Who wants that in their home?
  • It can take ‘forever’
  • Everyone is tired when they get home.
  • You have to find the ‘right’ time to do homework.
  • There is always something to do – ballet, baseball, etc.
  • It’s frustrating
  • The higher kids get more homework

Thank you to Amy (Jenkins) Shwartzhoff for her insight from the parent perspective.

 

 

Movie Premiere

I have been doing much reflecting, as most teachers do, upon this past school year. To say that there were many ups and downs would be an understatement. However, one of the best – if not THE BEST – thing I did this year was to have my students write, direct, act, and produce their own movie. With a full-fledged Red Carpet Event!

Thanks to Dominic and his efforts in A Tale Unfolds my students were able to have an incredibly memorable 5th-grade experience. This was, by far, one of the most fun and rewarding experiences in my teaching career. And I can’t wait to do it again! Throughout the process, I had been writing about this (A Tale Unfolds: Part 1A Tale Unfolds & Writing,   Writing and the CAASPP) and aligning it to 5th-Grade CCSS ELA. And here are the results of their efforts:

Red Carpet Event:

Cast Interviews:

Movie:

Once again, thank you, Dominic, for creating a high quality, rigorous program.

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.

Classroom Success

Today I experienced a moment that made me proud to be a teacher. It was one of those moments that makes you look around and say to yourself, This is what a classroom SHOULD look like. 

This afternoon, after an hour of morning State Testing and an hour of afternoon testing, my students were focusing on finishing their Boston Tea Party Tasks (part of a larger hyperdoc). They needed to discover the events, people, and reasons for the Boston Tea Party.

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Yes, that would be 2 green screens, several groups collaborating, and a whole lot of learning going on! They are posting final videos this week on our website.