Saturday, January 23, 2016

New Uses for Sown to Grow

Using Sown to Grow in class has been popular with my students.  In a class vote, they preferred Sown to Grow 20/23 students for tracking math facts and Raz Kids data.

Last week we expanded the use of the website to 2 new applications.  Students are now tracking their writing score on paragraphs.  When they meet with me to discuss their writing they enter the rubric grade they've received.  Based on our conversation they also add a note about 1 thing they can do better in their next writing.  For example, they might need to capitalize sentences, add a topic sentence, turn fragments into complete sentences, or add more varied verbs.  Before they write the next assignment they check Sown to Grow to see their specific goal.

Also, students are tracking kindness.  Each Friday they will either mark "completed" or "not completed" as their status (hopefully never the latter).  In the notes they will describe one specific act of kindness from the week.

Speaking of which, The Great Kindness Challenge starts Monday.  Find more information here.  My class was lucky enough to have Melissa Dyrdahl from Ella Health visit a few weeks ago to talk to students about kindness has impacted her career and they shared their thoughts about kindness with her.

Growth Mindset Lesson

Classdojo has created a series of 5 short videos to teach students about growth mindset.  The videos use the Classdojo characters.  The first video is available and the rest will be released once a week.

You can find the first video here.

My students enjoyed watching chapter 1.  The video is about 2 1/2 minutes and gives a specific example of growth/fixed mindset without being heavy-handed in the message delivery.

After watching the video my students paired up and interviewed each other using the iPad camera (so I haven't included samples).  They worked as a whole class to create 3 questions they though were most relevant to the video.  The directions I gave them were to create questions that would show me they understood the video's message and could relate it to themselves.  We arrived at 3 questions after brainstorming a list of ideas and then voting.

The final questions...

1.  Explain a time when you had to exercise your brain.  Give specific details and tell how you felt.

2.  Give Mojo some advise.  What are 1 or 2 specific things he could do to help him understand math better (pretend he is having trouble with the subtraction regrouping we're learning now).

3.  Who do you think is correct about being smart, Mojo or Katie and why? 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Trimester One Updates

I haven't written much this year.  This seems to be the year of correcting non-compliance issues for my district so there has been a lot of energy spent making changes to get into compliance.  For example, I now have to teach 100 minutes of PE each week rather than having PE taught by a PE specialist.  Since I have never been athletic, and dreaded PE for my entire school life, this has not been something I've been excited about.

I have had my students using GoNoodle more than in the past.  If you're not familiar with the website, GoNoodle has a variety of videos related to exercise and movement that can be done in the classroom.  Most of the videos are 1-6 minutes, although there are some that are longer.  GoNoodle has calming videos, yoga, dance, exercise and more. They add new content on a regular basis and create content that tie to holidays.  For example, before Halloween there was a dance related to different bones in the body, sung by a skeleton.  Recently they've had some thankful songs and a turkey dance.

As far as daily activities we are generally following activities from last year with tweeks here and there that are small enough not to write about.  So, read through my blog posts for the last 2 years and you'll know what we're up to.

Digital GoMath has not gone well.  The students, parents and I have suffered through enough frustrations in 2 months that I finally set it aside in favor of paper and other digital providers such as TenMarks, Front Row Education, Splashmath, and Zeal.  In a recent meeting Houghton Mifflin reps did say they are working hard to improve the experience, so we'll see.  Right now, though, I'd say that the above 4 free companies are all a better bet.

My students and I have started using a digital "data binder".  It's called Sown to Grow and I learned about them at an Imagine K12 event at the end of September.  Right now my students are using Sown to Grow to track addition/subtraction math fact tests and also RazKids reading comprehension progress.  Here are some screenshots to show what I see.  For RazKids the scoring is set up to reflect number of questions answered correctly out of 10 and for the math timed test it's set up to reflect a % correct.  I can set these parameters as well as color gradients.

It's easy for students to enter scores after they complete a RazKids quiz or math test.  Here's what they see when they look at their own progress.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Recently I learned about Zing, an app with free books, by Schoolwide Inc.  I created a class account which my students joined.

Right now I am using the free account.  This week all my students read a book about bridges prior to a bridge building challenge and they read about sound prior to a series of sound and vibration experiments.  As they read Zing gives students the opportunity to take notes and highlight within books and it has a dictionary feature.

There are 1000s of free books I can add to the class library for students to read.  I can browse by topic/category as well as reading level.  Some books have quizzes associated with them.  There's a good mix of fiction and non-fiction books to choose from.

I plan to use Zing throughout the year in combination with Epic to provide my students with a varied set of books on different topics of interest at a wide range of reading levels.

Google Expeditions

Yesterday my school was lucky enough to have Google Expeditions visit to pilot their program.  Students in grades 2-5 all had the chance to experience 1 or more Expeditions.

Google Expeditions is a set of virtual "field trips".  At each location students get a 360 degree view as well as being able to look up and down.

My second graders enjoyed several sessions throughout the day and "traveled" to the Amazon, the ocean, CA state parks, Yosemite, and different landforms.

Students had a fantastic time.  The app made it easy for me to control what the students were viewing.  I could highlight specific parts of what they were viewing by using an arrow/bullseye feature and thus direct everyone's attention to something I wanted everyone to see.  The app included specific details about the location, which I could relay to students.  This made it easy to share facts without having to do any research myself.

Thanks for the visit Google!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

International Dot Day

After reading Dot Day by Peter H. Reynolds, students made their own dots.  Using a variety of tools they created a dot on paper and then using Drawing Pad they made a dot on the iPad.  Each student imported a picture of their 2 dots into Strip Design and wrote a sentence explaining how the 2 were the same and another sentence explaining how they were different.

The paper dots were hung on the wall and students used Aurasma to add a video explaining why they drew each dot the way they did.

How We're "Doing" Math This Year

Math is clearly a significant focus at my school this year.

While I was happy teaching with TenMarks last year, I will be using the district purchased Houghton Mifflin GoMath curriculum this year.  We had a training yesterday on the digital portion.  My students will do most of their daily practice with the HMH Player app and homework assignments will also be online.  One downside to the digital portion is the last of deeper thinking and explaining/showing understanding.  For that reason students will still complete some pages of the paper workbooks.

In addition to daily GoMath, here's what I plan to use with my students and why.

We have math centers with 4 activities each week.  One activity is hands-on and run by a parent, another is hands-on and led by me.  The last 2 are either independent hands-on activities or  a mix from the following apps.

Splashmath--every week or every other week as 1 of our math centers.  Students enjoy the "games" compared to straight multiple choice questions. I like the fact that the curriculum runs grades K-5 and includes most CCS.  It doesn't adapt or differentiate automatically, but asking students to complete 1st or 3rd grade activities is easy.  The teacher dashboard is easy to use, although I do wish that student progress was mapped to the CCS more clearly.  Instead I have to "translate" a skill, such as skip count by 2s, to the appropriate standard.

Front Row--every week or every other week as 1 of our math centers.  The differentiation, hints, and videos provided in this app are fantastic.  I can be very hands-off as far as adjusting student assignments and check the dashboard (easy to follow and several report options) quickly to monitor progress.

Prodigy--every week or every other week as 1 of our math centers.  Math problems are incorporated into a story line of wizards, which the students love.  I can assign the topic they work on through an easy to navigate teacher dashboard, and all of the data is housed there as well.

Osmo Numbers, Osmo Tangrams, Motion Math Match and Motion Math Hungry Fish--every week or every other week.  There are no dashhboards here (my school is not paying for Motion Math Educator this year).  However, a few minutes before the center time is complete I ask students at this activity to take a screenshot and then reflect on their learning using Seesaw, our eportfolio.

Sprinkled in throughout the week...

Zeal--see last week's post

Matific--episodes, worksheets, and playlists, we focus on episodes (games), which I unlock as appropriate to match current curriculum or provide review.  The students love these games.  It's a little harder to read their teacher dashboard, and I would like student data mapped to CCS rather than having to "translate" the skill to the appropriate standard, but the website keeps students very engaged.

TenMarks--much better than GoMath, in my opinion, at deeper understanding of concepts.  I will still occasionally give all or groups of students assignments.

Timed Test--for weekly math fact practice and testing, addition and subtraction facts

Bedtime Math--great for problem solving, easy to differentiate, and provides a connection to real world math

Thinking Blocks--great visuals for solving word problems and does a good job of walking students through the steps one at a time

Then there are other apps, such as Dragonbox, Crackers & Goo, Mathmateer and Math Museum that we use occasionally or as choice activities.  They are student favorites but don't provide a way for me to track progress and understanding.

Now if only there was more time for all these activities I'd be set!