Thursday, November 17, 2016

Webinar About Collaboration in the Classroom

Through Common Sense Education I had the opportunity to give a webinar on EdWeb about collaboration in the digital classroom.

To watch a recording click here

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How I Use Epic! in the Classroom

Last week I gave a webinar about how I use Epic! in my 2nd grade classroom.  In case you missed it, here's a link to a recording of the video.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Thank you Edpuzzle, good-bye Zaption

I have been a fan of Zaption for the last couple years and sorry to hear that they're shutting down at the end of September.  I decided my project for the weekend would be to transfer my videos from Zaption to Edpuzzle, the service I had decided to use instead.  Video formatting isn't my forte and I thought I would have to spend hours figuring out how to move my content and retain the trimming and questions I had in Zaption, or even worse yet re-create that video personalization.

I was so excited when I created an Edpuzzle account and discovered that Edpuzzle has made the process easy.  In less than 10 minutes, starting at, I was able to move my videos.  The trimming and embedded questions and comments all transferred beautifully.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Amazon Education Has an OER Platform

A few months ago Amazon Education launched a private beta open education resource platform.  I've been lucky enough to be a private beta participant and I'm enjoying the site.  It's easy to find resources and get ideas from other innovative and effective educators.

Currently the site allows invited educators to post and search for K - 12 resources.  Educators can search the site by grade level, subject area, standard, and creator. 

The open resource movement is a fantastic way for educators to collaborate throughout the world and provides a free way to find high quality teaching resources outside what has been purchased in a box from a school district.

Back in October 2015 the U.S. Department of Education announced the launch of #GoOpen to encourage such collaboration.  Amazon was named as a collaborator in that announcement.  Fourteen states (unfortunately not California) have launched statewide initiatives.

 If you'd like to join the wait list for the platform go to

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Upstander Comments Using MC Squares

The last activity of the year that we did with the MC Squares was to write positive comments about each classmate.  Each student wrote their name in the middle of their MC Square.  We passed the squares around and each student wrote a bucket-filling comment about each of their peers.  When students got their own square back they took a picture of themselves holding the square and had a chance to read all the positive feedback.  It was a great feel-good end of year activity. (no photos for privacy reasons)

Disney Imagineer Lesson with MC Squares

In June 2015 I wrote about a Disney Imagineer lesson my students worked on.  I updated it this year to include the use of the MC Squares.  Students used the squares to map their ride.  When they shared their ride with the class they were able to point to different aspects of the ride on the map as they described it or showed pictures either on paper or a digital presentation tool.  Most groups used 2 squares for their map so they had space for a map key and the details of the ride.

Friday, May 27, 2016

MC Squares reading response

Earlier in the week I read The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague to the class.  I then asked students to  independently create their own shortcut from home to school.  They needed to show their shortcut by making a map, including a map key (missing from some on the initial attempt). Students then had an opportunity to act out the shortcut for the class.

MC Squares to Solve Math

Yesterday my students worked in groups of 3 to solve a math problem.  We used several of the steps that make up CueThink (what do you know, what do you need to find out, what strategy do you want to use, solve, check work, does answer make sense).

Students created a final set of information to share with the class and this was done with the MC Squares.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

MC Squares Just Out of the Box

A 24 pack of MC Squares arrived for me yesterday, purchased as a pilot by my district office.  MC Squares are individual whiteboards about 1 square foot in size that snap into mounting frames.  Students can easily take down a square, draw/write on it with a dry erase marker, and hang it back up again.  Check out their website here.

The mounts won't be installed in my classroom until the summer, so right now the students will lean them against the wall at the front of the room.  Based on a session about vertical learning that I attended at the FutureNow! conference in San Diego last month, I plan to hang the squares in 6 groups of 4 at standing height for my students.

Since I wasn't sure exactly when they'd arrive, I hadn't planned any lessons for this week. However, we had a few minutes at the end of the day and had just finished PE, so I asked students to draw and write a caption showing their favorite PE activity of the year.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Creating Themed Reading Units

Recently I wrote a blog post for Graphite about creating themed reading units that directly relate to student interests.  In fact, I took the unit themes from the results I student polls.

Here's a link to the post.

Monday, March 21, 2016

BreakoutEDU in 2nd Grade

Back in December I heard (from a source I can't recall) about an activity called BreakoutEDU.  The context in which I heard about it was related to high school.  While it sounded cool, and the website looked interesting, it was something I decided not to invest in because I had a difficult time determining the usefulness for 2nd graders.

A few weeks ago I attended EdCampSV and one of the sessions I attended was about BreakoutEDU.  The session participants, in fact, had to solve a BreakoutEDU puzzle.  It was a lot of fun and being able to experience the activities firsthand made it easy for me to see how I could apply the idea to second grade.

In addition, when I returned to the BreakoutEDU website I discovered several games had been created and added specifically for younger students.

Last week my students completed a leprechaun BreakoutEDU from the website (I made a few minor modifications).  They completed the puzzles whole-class so I could guide them more easily through the process of having clues and objects related to several puzzles all available to sort through at the same time.  In general I wouldn't recommend having 24 students all do the same activity at the same time simply because that means that a few students are activitly participating at any given moment while most are waiting for their turn.  However, it was successful in that everyone had a turn or 2 or 3 at different points in the challenge and by the end of the activity everyone understood how a Breakout worked.  Plus, they successfully opened the box and found some candy!

Pictures show items arranged for easy photographing, but in reality the items were spread around and not grouped together as shown.

Today the students completed another BreakoutEDU challenge.  This challenge was basically The Swamp, found at BreakoutEDU, with a few modifications to relate to the book My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza instead, because I had read that to the class last week.

They completed the challenge in a center format with 6 students in a group and I gave them 20 minutes to open the 3 locks.  Three of the 4 groups were successful.

Despite comments I made directing them back to the clues (have you found anything that could help you with that, what do the clues say), many of the students preferred to use a "guess and check" strategy or random searching of the area instead of really thinking about the clues.  That's something I'll have to keep in mind in the future.  Since we were working in centers only a small part of the classroom was used the BreakoutEDU so this method was fairly successful.

I am excited to find time for our next BreakoutEDU activity and I'm very grateful for the creators and all the teachers who have posted ideas.

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?