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.


Getting to Know Each Other Through Photography

For the last 3 weeks we've been doing a lot of photography with our iPads as a way to get to know each other.  Since these activities involve pictures of students, I am not including examples.  We are working on the driving question "Who are We", so all these activities support that topic.

First Day of School--  At the end of the 1st day of school students created a 1 box Strip Design or a page in My Story with a photo of themselves showing their favorite activity they had done that day.  This provided a great way to start the Seesaw eportfolio so there was immediately something for parents to see.  I also put students into groups of students who had chosen the same activity and asked them to explain to each other why they had picked that activity.

Who Are You-- The first week of school pairs of students take a picture of each other and import the photo to Popplet.  They interview each other, asking questions they come up with, or from a list of 20 questions I provide to them.  Questions include things like, what is your favorite sport, what do you like to do at lunch, what is your favorite lunch, who was your 1st grade teacher, etc.  The interviewer types in the interviewee's answers (forcing them to pay attention) in different bubbles around the center picture.  Most students have time to add 5-6 facts about their partners before we move on to sharing whole class.  When we share the interviewer presents the info about the interviewee.

Sentence types-- We are discussing telling, question, exclamatory, and command sentences.  Pairs of students take pictures of each other and bring them into a Strip Designer template with 4 boxes.  The photos are supposed to reflect what they know of each other and also provide an example of each of the types of sentences.  For example, if a student likes basketball, they might be pictured holding a ball with the command sentence, "Bring the basketball to recess."

Recess Rules-- We have 4 areas students can use during recess--tables, field, playground, and blacktop.  Students self-select which area they prefer for this assignment (I always have to cross my fingers that the groups come out fairly even, but even if they don't I can divide the larger groups into a few smaller groups).  The groups then work together to create a presentation in Strip Design, Haiku Deck or Educreations to explain the rules in that area.  I encourage them to include photographs of themselves using that area, but that is optional.  If there are 4 or fewer students I have them work as a single group, if there are more than 4 students who choose an area of the school I divide them into smaller working groups that each create a presentation.  There are several purposes to this activity-- students remind each other of appropriate behavior, the understand the rules well enough to explain them, they practice collaboration, and they review how to use an app (most used these apps in 1st grade, but some students might not have).

Personal Goal-- After a discussion about different topics that we'll cover in 2nd grade, I ask each student to create a realistic goal for themselves for the year.  It can be academic or behavioral, but it must relate to our classroom in some way.  Students use the rear facing camera, take a picture of themselves, then bring it into an app of choice (My Story, Strip Design, Educreations, Skitch) and explain their goal, or they video themselves right in the camera app.  This is something we'll be able to look back on throughout the year to reflect on progress, as well as at the end of the year.  It also helps students understand that they have a say in their education.

What are You Like?-- At the end of the 3rd week of school students have had an opportunity to work with everyone else in the class.  There is also a relatively small amount of turnover at my school, so most students have met their classmates in either K or 1st grade.  Pairs of students take a photo of each other in Skitch.  Around their partner's photo they write character traits/adjectives with a specific example.  For example, "helpful because she volunteers to carry the lunch bin"

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Back to School!

Welcome back to the 2015-2016 school year.

We have several new tech sites we're using this year at my school, so I've been working to learn more about them and incorporate them into the classroom.

Lexia--my school is using Lexia this year for language arts topics both in class and as homework.

GoMath--my district adopted GoMath for our math curriculum. I plan to use the iPad app for daily assignments and activties as well as homework

Seesaw--we have switched from Posthaven to Seesaw to create student eportfolios.  The decision was made because Seesaw is really designed for school use, while Posthaven is not, although we were able to make it work, and the developers were very flexible with our needs.

In addition I've been talking with the creator of Edtwist and hope to incorporate that platform in my classroom soon.  More about that as we get going.

My students this year are a very energetic group. They are all big-hearted and so caring, but they LOVE to talk. We have spent a lot of time working on listening to directions and listening to others.  In addition we've had only 10 iPads for 22 students (temporary situation) so students have had many opportunities for working together and flip-flopping assignments.

With all these developments, my 1st 2 weeks of school remained basically the same as far as content and activities as last year.  So, check back to August 2014 and 2013 blog posts for what we've been up to.

In addition to Edtwist I have some new ideas for incorporating Bookopolis more regularly and having Skype problem solving conversations with adults in different careers.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Scoodle Jam Food Truck Project

Scoodle Jam is a fun app with several sections of activities for students to explore. Last week my students worked in teams of 2 and 3 to complete the food truck project. The app makes it very easy for students to walk through the steps of developing a food truck from brainstorming the type of food served (ice cream, pizza, Hawaiian) to a bill for a customer. For each of the 9 steps there's a screen for students to complete their work and drawing/typing tools. Each page is saved to photos. My students then compiled the 9 pages into an app of their choice, which ended up as PicCollage or Pages for most of them.