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!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Zeal Tutoring & Math Practice

My school district adopted Houghton Mifflin's GoMath curriculum this year.  We are having an official digital training at the end of this week so hopefully by next weekend I'll be an "expert".  In the meantime, students have used the HMH Player app based on what I've taught myself, the paper materials from GoMath, Splashmath, Tenmarks, and Zeal (practice and exit ticket components).  Each of these provides a different "take" on math and I think help students practice the same concepts in different ways.  One thing they all have in common is data!  I am interested this year to really compare data analytics from different platforms to see how an individual student's results compare.

Toward the end of this week we added a new component, Zeal Tutoring.  It has been very helpful in getting my students help quickly.

With the change in curriculum (both the order content is covered and an official switch to CC from the "old" curriculum) I have found many of my students are not grasping key concepts in as quick a time as they are being covered in the GoMath lessons.  Lesson 1.9, skip counting to 1000 was especially difficult and we needed to add in a lesson about place value including the hundreds place.

Enter Zeal Tutoring...

As with the "regular" Zeal assignments, students answer questions tied to CCS.  Zeal Tutoring analyzes student mastery in the moment and when students are struggling with a concept they are pulled into a live 1:1 online tutoring session with a credential teacher/professional tutor.  Instead of 5 students raising their hand and having to wait to get my help on different aspects of a lesson, they immediately talk with someone.  This interaction happens with the laptop screen turning into an interactive whiteboard and the Zeal teacher/tutor speaking to the student via headphones worn by the student and the laptop's microphone.  It's magic!

So far the students love it and have asked for extra Zeal Tutoring time.  I appreciate knowing students aren't wasting time waiting to talk with me, nor am I trying to juggle sitting at a table with 4 students who all need slightly different re-teaching.  My teacher dashboard has specific feedback from the tutoring session (including recordings) so I can meet with students at another time and check-in with their understanding.  Regardless of whether a student needs assistance from a teacher/tutor, I get feedback about how well students answered the questions.

Check out Zeal Tutoring here

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Tangible Examples of Finding Evidence

As we read in 2nd grade, we will spend a lot of time discussing evidence in stories that support different statements.

To start the year off with some concrete examples of finding evidence, students did the following 2 activities.

First, I set out 7 items from my purse (keys, Purel, kleenex, headphones, gum,  sunglasses, and a foldable reusable bag).  Next, I told the students I was going on a walk at a nearby park and I could only take 3 of the items.  I asked them to work in pairs to pick the 3 items that would be most important and explain why.  They had a choice of the app they used, Strip Design and Educreations being the most common choices.  Students had the option of photographing the items I had set out, which to me seemed the obvious choice, but almost none of the groups did that.  Those that chose Educreations all searched for photos within the app and the groups that chose Strip Design primarily drew pictures of paper or in Drawing Pad and then imported.  I always find it interesting when I leave things open-ended what my students select.

important things for a walk

Next, I created 2 backpacks.  The first backpack had Minion stickers, shin guards, a soccer ball, a Z bark, and a juice box.  The other backpack had a phone, 2 large math books, a computer, water bottle, and keys.  Pairs of students had to determine who owned each backpack and explain why they reached that conclusion.