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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

ClassDojo Student Stories

Hey everyone!

ClassDojo is doing some changing and I am pretty excited about it.

The Student Stories tab is a place where students may post pictures or write a little something to their parent.  Similar to an online portfolio for the student.  Well, I didn't use it a ton this past year because...I teach first grade and it was not the easiest for them to do independently.  So, it would end up taking about 3 minutes per kid.  When you have 27 just don't do it because how on Earth are you going to keep all the others busy for an hour and a half!?!  Now it will be so much easier.

Now, I will be able to show the steps to the kids as a whole group and then have them complete it independently.

Check out what is changing...

  • Upgrades to Student Stories! 🙌

  1. Post with any app: students (and teachers!) can post photos and videos to their Story from other apps directly, or by uploading from the camera roll. “App smashing” becomes a reality!
  2. Any device: students can post from any device: iOS, Android, Chromebooks or web
  3. Easy and secure access: no need to remember usernames or passwords - students can log in instantly by scanning their secure class QR code
  4. Journal entries: the easiest way for students to reflect on their work, they can now create written journal entries
  5. Draw and annotate on photos: students can add more context to entries with drawn or typed comments
  6. Record and upload videos: students can record and share video up to eight minutes in length, or upload saved videos from other apps
  7. Drawings: when words fall short, students can let their inner artist shine by creating a drawing all their own!
  8. Filters, frames, and stickers: students can add a dash of fun to their posts, creating portfolios as unique as they are
  9. Voice notes: students too young to type? All they have to do is speak into their device and add a voice note to their work

I am most excited about the voice notes. This will make it so much easier for my little ones to draft up a cute message to go with a picture of their work.

I am excited to get started. I am trying to think of a first day or first week Student Story that we could do....
Any ideas? Our grade is starting the year with a camping theme, so I thought maybe a picture of them in a tent and they could record a voice note like "I'm loving Camp Roadrunner," or something like that.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Monday Motivation, Word Walls

I am joining Jen over at Teacher by the Beach (click button below to join) for a fun weekly link-up.  
Teacher by the Beach
This week is all about word walls.  I missed last week's post on center management.  I may go back and write about that later as I have a lot to say about stations/centers.  That is basically how I teach all day long.

Word Walls:
Well, I read a couple of the blogs that posted on this too and feel similarly about it.  I found that my word wall can be a waste of space.  There are always a good chunk of kids that use it consistently but it takes up such a large space and doesn't feel really useful.

Then, similar to A Teeny Tiny Teacher, I found that I was not proactive about getting the words up on the wall as we were learning them.  The word wall above is on the right...and it is January!!!  We knew way more words than the above by January.  
I work at a STEM Magnet elementary school and this year we are integrating more than we have before.  So, my word wall plan is changing.  I still need to teach the "trick" or sight words from Fundations that our district uses.  I still will have the kids write their words in their "dictionaries."
Related image
The change will come in how I organize the wall area/words and how I will integrate it into our STEM learning. 
During our math block, I will be using STEAM stations.  Each letter stands for a center rotation.  Stem bins (from Brooke Brown), Tech time, Enrichment (hands-on games), At your seat (interactive notebooks), and Meet with the teacher (differentiated lessons from the curriculum that is required of us).  During the STEM bins time, the kids have a science notebook that they will be using to complete an activity or job.  They will need to use the sight/trick words from their dictionary in their writing. 
Image result for stem bins brooke brown
I will also have a small area to post on the wall, just a few of the words that we are learning (maybe a 2-3 week's worth of words) as a resource.  They will need to highlight those words with highlighter (that's the part that will make doing that fun) in their notebooks.   
I will also have a STEM vocabulary area that I will need to organize.  I already have a math vocabulary wall section too!  Phew.  Too much.  I will need to rethink all of those to make them less busy and overwhelming.

Sidenote- I have been purging my house this whole summer.  I'm going through my home, room by room and trying to get rid of as much clutter and unused things as I can to simplify our life at home...because it is really overwhelming for much of the school year.  I am feeling the need to do the same thing at school.  I always have lots of things on the walls and stuff set up in the room to make it "cute" and coordinated.  I am now trying to change that to be more purposeful than ever before.  I want my classroom to feel calm, spacious, and homey.  I need it to be easy to navigate and for everything to have a very specific purpose, use and place...or it needs to go!!!  

Link up with Jen and tell us about your word wall(s).  Maybe it will help people like me who are always looking for new ideas.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Classroom Library Organization

I am linking up with Jen over at Teacher by the Beach for her Monday Motivation.

This week is all about how you organize your classroom library.  I have a large classroom library.  I also don't have a lot of time. If you know me, you know I am a bit over the top with most things...for sure with organization.  But, I don't over organize my library.  Shocking, I know. 
I organize just enough so that I know where to find a book and so that the kids know where to return it when they have librarian job that week.  
I teach first grade, and that means I need a lot of different topics and levels of books.

I use baskets and themed stickers on the spine of the book that match the tags on the baskets.  I got the labeling product from Christina Mauro at A Tale of Two K Teachers.  Although, I can not find her product on the TPT site anymore, she has other great items.  

I DO NOT organize by level!!!  I do not even label levels either.  I teach my kids the 5 Finger Rule- Pick your book, turn to a random page and start reading.  For each mistake or struggle you have, put up a finger.  I tell them that if they get to 4 struggles, it may be too hard.  If no fingers go up, the book is probably too easy.  I do not tell them they can or can't read a book based on that rule though.  If there is a book they want to have in their bin, I let them go for it.  Why not!?  

I use leveled readers during our small group meetings and at other times of the day.  I assign those reads and that is when they get to practice reading on-level books.  They can also come to me and ask for me to give them some specific on-level books (which a few kids choose to do) for their bin.  The books they choose to be interested in, I feel, needs to be completely their choice.  I have book levels ranging from pre-k to about 7th grade.  I have a good amount of science books (as I teach at a STEM school) and those are super hard and full of tough vocab but have really cool and inspiring pictures.  I wouldn't want to tell a child reading at a kinder level that they aren't allowed to read/look through a science book because the text is too hard.  Who knows, maybe they will become the next Bill Gates because of the love of STEM that they grow starting with that cool book!

There are several others who posted along with Jen, Teacher by the Beach.  Go check out some of the other ways people organize their classroom library.  Each one has a different perspective.  Check them out!

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, June 3, 2017

STEM Festival #3

It is June, which means school is out for me and I actually have time to blog!

I teach at a STEM Magnet school in New Mexico. 
Andy's Garden
We are lucky to have a beautiful space around us with lots of room to play, explore and just enjoy.  The forest environment has become a focus at our school.  We began the journey 3 years ago (my first year with this particular school) to become a STEM school.  We have been going along well, but the time has come to really change things.  Instead of being a school that enriches with STEM we are transforming to a school that truly integrates STEM.  The school year of 2017-18 we will have 3 required integration hours of STEM (starting small makes this a very reasonable goal).  I am very excited to get rolling with this and have lots of ideas I want to try out.  It will take a lot of work and reorganizing and changing of thought processes within the classroom but should be a cool journey.

How we work out initial ideas for the festival:
Every school has committees that teachers are supposed to join...because that is one of those unspoken teacher things.  I have been on the STEM committee for 3 years.  The committee works on organizing the festival.  Below I outline how our school goes about the day.  

How we begin the planning:
The festival planning begins long before the actual presentation day (about a month, sometimes more).  Each class is responsible for presenting something they learned during the year to other classes in an inviting and hands-on way.  Kids teaching kids.  It's so great to watch first grade take ownership of teaching 5th graders what they learned!  This year our class presented about defensible space.  That is the area around buildings that can be used to help reduce risk of forest fires spreading to homes/buildings.  They taught about the 3 zones of defensible space.  I made up a song that helped them remember all the spaces.  Click the picture below to find the song.  The kids originally learned about defensible space from a local community organization made up of forest service, fire personnel and scientists that had been working with our kinder and 1st grade kids.  We wanted to honor their teaching and pass it on to others.  
Once the classes at our school decide upon their topic, they begin figuring out how to present their ideas in an engaging way, preferably hands-on.  This year, my class decided to explain the zones by singing the song, displaying the information, and having the guests create their own defensible space with various materials.  The house pictured below was 3D printed.  The rest of the items were easily found in our classroom or in nature.
How we organize the day:
We were each given notice about what everyone was presenting and then could sign our classes up to visit our top 3 favorites, the rest were assigned.  There were 18 possible stations at our school during the festival.  So, no one gets to see all and as you see below each group would see 6 stations in total but they may differ from the other group's viewings.  I feel the hardest part of planning this festival is the schedule.  For us, it is important to assign each group where to go so there isn't overlap of classes and so no one has an empty spot where there isn't a group to listen to them.  

How we schedule it:
Our school starts at 8:45 and the STEM Festival began promptly at 9 a.m.  We get as many parent volunteers as possible and request help from EAs that might be available to walk classes around.  We explained the day to those able to help us travel with the kids but below is the time layout of how it rotated.  The "you" indicated below was the volunteer of the classroom.  The "I" was the teacher.  Each class is separated into thirds.  A third of the class presents to the class guests and two-thirds rotates to other presentations in other rooms.  
You will have group B and C.  I will have group A.
9-9:20                    1st rotation
9:20-9:40              2nd rotation
9:40-10:00           3rd rotation
You will have group A and C.  I will have group B.
10:00-10:20         4th rotation
10:20-10:40         5th rotation
10:40-11:00         6th rotation
You will have group A and B.  I will have group C.
11:00-11:20         7th rotation
11:20-11:40         8th rotation
11:40- 12:00        9th rotation
There is a problem we have found with this schedule.  The teachers do not get to see the other classes present.  The teachers are in the classroom the whole time helping the presenters of their classroom. Each rotation is 18 minutes long and has a 2 minute passing period.  This made the timing snug but no one seemed to have a second to be bored and get into trouble!  Next year, we will try to figure out a different schedule that might allow for teachers to view some of the stations along with their class.  Why does it matter if teachers get to see some of the stations?  Inspiration and encouragement of others makes for a great staff environment! 
Above my students are singing to the audience... yes on a table! Taking after their teacher!!! Ha.

What do student audiences do:
Each student had a passport with 6 squares on the front.  Each station gave a sticker or stamp to the attendees.  Then on the back of the passport were questions about what they learned during the festival.  Once completed at the end of the event all the students turned their passports in to the office for a drawing.  We were able to get donations from Lakeshore of various STEM prizes.  We had 2 prizes per grade level and they were pretty cool.  I wanted several of the prizes!  :) 

What about lunch:
At the end of the event all students got sack lunches and ate on the field for a picnic, weather permitting.  It was followed by a whole school recess (about 330 kids) and then students went back to their classes and wrapped up their days.  The festival happens on a Wednesday, which is our early release day.  It took up most of that particular school day. 

Some of the stations other teachers presented included: pollination of flowers from bees, student inventions, bee body parts, recycled material instruments, local fish (NM Cutthroat trout), magnet experiments, etc. 
Last year, my students presented about critically endangered animals (they researched them and wrote reports about them).  They created a stop motion video about how to help endangered animals.  When students learn about a problem they tend to want to solve it.  I love that because it gets us started on activism and global/local citizenship.  The video we created last year can be found by clicking the picture below.
Next year, I am sure we will change and improve more.  Although, each year has felt successful because students learned a lot, gained skills in presenting to others, and improved their confidence.  

Have a great June!!!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

STEM Learning and 3D Printing

My students and their 3rd grade buddies worked on solving real life problems using the engineering and design process.  Some were wishing to help homeless, some to help animals, and some wanted to help citizens get in contact with the government faster.  They worked as teams to come up with the designs.  They drew their ideas on graph paper and changed the designs after discussions about its effectiveness.

Then, the students were able to take their designs and turn them into 3 dimensional creations using gears, K'Nex, magnetic blocks, etc.  I took pictures of the creations and had the students explain their vision to me.

Next, the student group creations were 3D printed by my husband and myself.  Click on the first picture below to see a short video on it printing.

When the prints were complete, I brought them to school for the groups to see.  They had a good time seeing how they turned out.  We had discussions about whether it looked like what they imagined and how they could have better explained or been more detailed in their design to assist the 3D printing process.

The students then completed an Engineering and Design process rubric.  They were very honest and one of the areas that many of them felt they needed continued work on was "I cooperated with others."  
I used the resource below from Kristin Jones of Elementary Inquiry.
Engineering and Design Process Rubric and Student Self Eva 
Our next and final step will be to have the students present their ideas to other students and write an advertisement for their invention.  Then we will display the creations in the school for others to see.

With May almost here...we are gearing up for our 3rd annual STEM Festival.  My class still has a lot of work to do on our project and it will absorb a lot of our class time until it gets done.  I will post about it when it is complete.  
May your end of year festivities be awesome!

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.