Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Better World Ed Lesson Plans

I've taught several lessons now using the content from Better World Ed.

They have a repository of videos, stories that accompany the videos, and lesson plans to match.  The videos are about people from different parts of the world.

I've taught 2 lessons in the last couple months as well as one back in December.

The most recent lesson was about the story "Ghani Grows Rice".
A quick run down of how I ran the lesson for 2nd/3rd graders.

  • I showed a little of the video and then stopped and asked students to brainstorm what they thought the main idea of the video would be.  Answers included plants, forest, water, farmer. 
  • I read a little of the story and pairs of students shared their experience with rice--different varieties of rice they had seen or tried and their opinions about them.
  • We went over vocabulary words sow and yield and talked about weather here in California and how drought has impacted their lives.
  • I tied this part in to 2nd grade social studies and the concept that price rises when there's less supply.
  • We watched the rest of the video.
  • We talked abut the amount of water mentioned in the story.  I related 1 kg of patty to be about 1 pineapple or what would fill a 1 L water bottle (which I showed). 
  • Math: the fraction of water saved with the new growing system.
  • We related overall water need to school-size swimming pools.
  • Students did some math to determine how much rice their family eats each year (measuring cups were helpful) and then how much water would be needed for the amount of rice their family might eat in a year.
  • They did a partner project at the end to brainstorm ways they could conserve water in their own life.
In February I taught a lesson about the story "I am Touhid".

  • --Start with a reminder to students of books I had read aloud (Blue Tarp School, Malala's Pencil, Beatrice's Goat, The Water Princess) that were part of our Change For Good unit.  We reviewed on a map where those countries were located.
  • --We watched the "I am Touhid" video until he starts to fix the fuse
  • --Discussion about the problem that just happened, how that has happened to me and what I have to do to fix the problem in my house in California, and has that ever happened to their family and if so what did they do to solve the problem.
  • --I read the story through "joyful lives" and tell them there's info about a problem that we'll return to later
  • --I finished reading the story, also skipping the specifics about $, telling them there's a 2nd problem we'll return to later
  • --I showed the rest of the video
  • --I mentioned that in US it's a law that kids have to go to school, students talked about why that's a law
  • --Students talked about character traits they say in Touhid and evidence, the themes from the video that were also in the above books, and similarities between themselves and Touhid
  • --Students individually wrote a reflection about theme, one of Touhid's character traits with evidence, and what motivated him
  • --Pairs of students worked together to determine how much it cost to go to school for a year (2nd problem from earlier in the lesson)
  • --Pairs of students worked together to re-arrange Touhid's schedule so he could spend time with the elderly (1st problem from earlier in the lesson)

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Student Goal Setting and Reflection

Yesterday I had the opportunity to present at SV CUE.  I talked about the importance of student goal setting and reflection as well as my ongoing journey to include this in my students' day and improve the quality of their reflections.  The goal not being better reflections for the sake of better reflections, but better reflections as a tool leading to better learning.

If you'd like to see the slides you can find them here.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Epic! for Readers Workshop Information Book Clubs

I've enjoyed Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop model so much that this year I decided to switch my reading block to reading workshop.  My school has not purchased Lucy Calkins' curriculum, so I've been creating the teaching points and lesson sequence on my own.

Having access to Epic! and all the amazing fiction and non fiction books in their FREE school library has been incredibly helpful for this switch.

My students and I are just about to start an information book club unit that will last for the next 6 weeks.  I gave the students several general topics and asked them to vote on the one they wanted to learn about during this unit.  The winning topic was habitats/ecosystems.  To start, each student will choose a habitat they want to focus on, and students who have chosen the same habitat will form a book club.

I've been busy creating collections of books for each habitat so that when we have reading time the students will be focused on reading rather than searching for books on their own.  This will also ensure that when book clubs meet they will have a common set of resources that they'll be discussing.  For each habitat I found 6-9 books that span the range of 1st-4th grade reading level, thus meeting the needs of all the readers in the class.

Here's the collection I created for the wetlands habitat.

Initially students will spend a few days doing book walks and diving deeper into learning about their chosen habitat.  After that, each student in the group will choose a specific subtopic to research in depth, becoming the expert in their book club on that topic.  It will be their job to find facts and photos about their subtopic.

Following review lessons about copyright, plagiarism and citing sources, students will gather information, either by taking notes on paper or in an app on their iPad, or by annotating screenshots from the books.

Here's an annotation a student did when research US symbols.

Having Epic! as a resource will make it easy for my students to be successful readers and researchers as we start this new reading workshop unit.  I won't need to visit multiple libraries to gather enough paper books, students won't have to wait their turn to read a book that I only have 1 copy of, and I won't have to spend a lot of money on book purchases.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Reflective Conversations About Student Thinking

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in 2 conversations regarding students thinking about their own learning.  Both were excellent reminders of why it's important for students to participate in such activities and strategies to make it happen.

The first conversation was a closing conversation to 5 week activity between CraftEd and Sown to Grow.  During the conversation leaders from each organization and other teacher participants talked about how we had used the 2 products together in our classrooms, what had worked well, next steps, and changes we would suggest to the companies.  Teachers ranged from K through high school and as always it was helpful to hear about experiences from both ends of the spectrum.  In addition I came away with a sentence stem I'm going to use this week with students, "I will ____ (strategy) so that _____."  Hopefully this will encourage students to think about why a particular strategy might be helpful.

The second conversation was a "webshop" with Common Sense Education's Steven Garton and Danny Wagner about formative assessment.  This conversation focused on metacognition and students shaping their own understanding.  It was a great reminder to have students connect learning to past learning, future learning, and their own life and experiences.  Remember to ask students how and why they are learning, not just what they are learning!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Thoughts From Common Sense Education's Teacher Institute

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend and speak at Common Sense Education's Teacher Institute.  The topics this year was Assessment Beyond the Gradebook.  I enjoyed the small conference size (about 100 people) with attendees arranged at tables of 8 and 10 minute breaks in between sessions for conversation.

Here are some brief thoughts on the presentations.

Kari Croft and Erin Whalen from RISE High
  • It must be amazing to have the opportunity to build a school from the ground up and reimagine everything
  • This talk made me think about topics I never imagined would be a problem in school, such as low attendance due to life circumstances
  • Wouldn't it be cool if we could all start teaching from a student's current level of understanding, rather than teaching specific content because of a student's age/grade

Kelly Mendoza from Common Sense Education
  • lateral reading (students read a news article and compare what the read to other sources on that topics)
  •  there has been a significant spike in "fake" news and most students students can't detect the difference between an ad and news
  • media literacy lessons coming in March from Common Sense Education

Adam Bellow and James Sanders from BreakoutEDU
  • learning and fun are not antonyms
  • you can be wrong a lot
  • respect failure
Jeff Knutson and tanner Higgin from Common Sense Education
  • formative assessment should be a green light not a red light
  • formative assessment should be a check for understanding, allow teachers to adapt instruction, and spark metacognition
  • check out their teaching strategies at bit.ly/TS_FA 
 Ariel Raz from the Stanford d.School
  • use the design thinking model to get students thinking
  • to be empathetic you really have to listen
  • Shadow a Student Challenge can really change your impressions on life as a student (my husband, a high school math teacher, did it last year and he learned a lot)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Makers Empire 3D Printing

As part of Silicon Valley Education Foundations iHub program, a co-worker and I piloted Makers Empire in the fall.  It's a 3D printing app we used on our iPads.  I haven't used any other 3D printing apps so I can't make a comparison, but I've been very impressed with it.

With minimal guidance (a 5 minute basic intro from me) my students were easily able to create objects to print.  We primarily used the Shaper and Blocker  sections of the app, although students have had fun with the Toy Tester.  Creation involves easy drag and drop features along with re-sizing and changing colors of items.

After some initial play time, the first assignment was to create a monster to go with our "I'm Not Scared" literature unit.  That was followed by creating landforms (social studies), a symbol of hope, a healthy snack (science) and a plant (science).

The teacher dashboard allows me to check and comment on student creations as well as send them to the printer.  In addition, there's a lesson plan section with lesson ideas for specific grades and tied to Common Core standards.  My students did one of the suggested 2nd grade lessons, which was to create a device that would allow Ormie (a pig) to get a cookie jar off the top of a refrigerator.

We plan to use Makers Empire for the rest of the year and even my co-worker's kindergarten students have independently created spiders and people.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Using FaceTime to Offer Real World Solutions

This school year rather than having my students FaceTime other classes or professionals to gather information, we've been using FaceTime to solve problems.

I started by identifying real problems and decisions that people I know are currently facing.  The key was to choose problems with multiple viable and desirable solutions and problems that could be understood by 2nd graders.

Next, students FaceTimed with the person who had the problem.  This was an information gathering phase in which the person shared details and the students asked clarifying questions.

Students created groups of 2-4 to work out a solution.  They created a presentation, poster, or mock-up of their solution with evidence to support their reasoning.

At a follow-up FaceTime conference each group presented their advice.

So far we've offered advice about

--creating a video game character that would appeal to elementary age students
--how to organize supplies in a college dorm desk
--options for exercise on a rainy day
--options for replacing an afternoon nanny who was moving
--staying in a current job or accepting a new job offer
--which vacation house to rent for a family reunion

These activities have presented authentic topics for my students to discuss and they've had to listen carefully and work on their empathy skills to clearly understand the problem and the pros/cons.