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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Lego Transformation and ClassFlow

Part I
My kids came to school last Friday to find that it was a surprise classroom transformation.  If you don't know what that means, you need to follow Hope King and Kim Bearden from The Ron Clark Academy.  They are EVERYTHING!!!
My kids walked in to see me looking like this....
The room was decorated in Lego colors and in a way that would help transport my cute little mini-figs into the land of Lego!

There were lots of ewwwws and ahhhhs.  I heard the phrases "This was is the best day ever!" and "I love this!" a lot.  It made my day.  I had a lot planned and a big need for serious rules.
When you go about a day like this, especially for young students, you have to be really tough.  I promise, the kids will still go home and say they had the best day...but you have to be very strict or you WILL lose control of the room and it will be a free for all with no learning.  Start off (just like the beginning of the year) super tough and loosen the reins as they perform better and better through the day.
I began by reminding the kids of my expectation, "If you can't handle the fun, you won't get to do the fun."
I give super boring packets to those who get too loud at inappropriate times, who lose control of their bodies, who talk while the speaker is talking, or who ignore my directions.  It usually only takes once for my students to figure out that I mean business.
I always have a new cheer/chant to go with the day.  A call and response that connects with what we are doing.  I do that for the holidays too, why fight what they are excited about...use it to your advantage.
For this Lego Day, I said "Mini-Figs" and they responded with motions of robot arms 3xs and then stopped and stared at me.  Normally I have them say something, but this one was cracking us we went with it.  I use ClassDojo for behavior management, but I added another level this day.  For the "house" or team that earned the most points by the end of the day, they would win a Lego themed notepad.  They were hyped and they worked hard for it!  I got a pack of 24 on Amazon for $7.  Although I have 26 (27 as of this Monday), so got 2 packs.  Turned out they tied!  And not because I gave all groups the same pts because I didn't want a group to feel sad....I am ok with that.  It's how people learn to work harder... but they really tied.

For each house, dependent on the amount of points earned the people in the group would earn "bricks" of Legos to create with at the end of the day.  So, if a house had 5 pts by the end of the day, all the members of the group would get to pick 5 Legos and then the group would create something as a team using all the pieces chosen.

We also had brand new STEM materials that I had ordered that we were going to use at the end of the day if all houses hit a certain number.

 During the day, we were working on hard concepts in math and this fun day allowed them to persevere during the hard lessons.  We discussed topics such as how to create an equation out of word problems, how to create a subtraction equation by looking at a picture, matching a story or word problem to an equation, and comparing double digit numbers.  In reading, we worked on understanding setting and how it may change in a story, vowel team ea and long e, and numerical lists (text feature) in a story.
I used ClassFlow as the delivery system for our math lessons...see below for info about ClassFlow.
After one of the hard lessons, I had embedded the Lego movie song, "Everything is Awesome" for us to dance to for a brain break and a reward for the hard work.

Part II:
Have you ever used ClassFlow?
It's a web based program that has a lot of flexibility in presenting to students or adults.  It is like a really awesome version of Powerpoint but WAY better.  It allows you to "shoot out" slides you have created to students, they can annotate on it and then "shoot it" back to you.  You can take immediate polls.  You can insert music, Youtube clips, etc.  I really like it but find I don't use it very often because I teach 1st and we have 1 iPad in the room for 26 kids.  I do use it whole group, but to really use it to the full potential, the kids need a gadget in their hands or per small group.  To use it the way I want to, I have to bring the whole iPad cart that belongs to the school into my room.  I am working on simplifying that process by getting more tablets in the classroom through a Donor's Choose project.  That would allow me to have a few more tablets to use in small groups with ClassFlow and several other programs we use in the class.

Well, last week a ClassFlow Ambassador randomly contacted me!  She emailed me (on my school email) mentioning that she "noticed I use ClassFlow" and offered to meet me to support any needs I might have.  She was super flexible with her timing, as I didn't want to take off work.  She let me meet her later in the day after work hours.

When we met up we discussed some ways I could use the program in the class that I hadn't thought about.  I will be trying several of the "learning activities" such as flash card and categorize soon.  Looks easy and fun!

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

New Year, New Possibilities To Engage Students

2017 is here and the possibilities are endless.  I love beginning a new year because I feel the joy of starting things over.  Fresh new possibilities are on their way to all of us.  We never know what that may look like until it happens.

I returned to school after holiday break on Wednesday, and I had a room transformation waiting for my students!  Apparently, a blizzard hit our classroom and we had a LOT of challenging work to get accomplished upon our return.  Before break, we had completed a math and reading unit but didn't have time to get the unit tests completed.  So, I knew we would have to review and ensure that all students had good understandings of what was needed before we took the tests.  To do this, I incorporated the theme of the blizzard and took the most difficult work and made it fun with games and challenges.

I greeted the kids in a penguin costume!  It's funny, I guess my kids are used to me being a dork because I got the biggest reactions from students who aren't in my class!  Ha!
I created a ClassFlow lesson and Kahoot quiz to use with our iPad cart that I was able to check out for the whole day.  We used the lessons to review the concepts I felt they needed practice with and the concepts that were the most difficult.
 I used a download with a pretty snowy video and music as background for our blizzard work times.

It wasn't a very involved class transformation but it did the trick and made our review fun instead of boring and tedious.