Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Diary of a Teacher: #3 Developing a Good Question...and Finding the Answer

I've always thought children were naturally curious and so therefore inquiry based learning would be a great fit for my first graders.  It turns out that young students are curious but lack the life experience to really develop good questions that will lead to some great inquiry.  In short, we have to teach students how to wonder.  This is where the fun begins!

To really hook students in deep I like to teach inquiry skills using animals.  Young students tend to have a somewhat large knowledge base on animals and there a lot of resources/material out there for elementary students to use.   At this time of the year such animals as bats and spiders are pretty popular.  This past Monday students in my class watched a time laps video of a spider spinning a web on Wonderopolis.  Just this one video was enough to get them all talking about our creepy crawly friends.  We also will do a modern day KWL chart on Padlet.com where students can put down what they think they know about spiders (great time to talk about fact and opinion).  Check out our Padlet wall on Spiders.


The next thing I like to do is have students move between different stations where they can explore the topic we are wondering about (I mentioned doing this with maps in the last post I made).

Station 1: iBooks
Great non-fiction books that can be read to the beginning reader.


Station 2: The "old-fashion" book
I clean out the public library and school library of every spider book I can get my hands on.  Our school library has worked hard to have a selection of beginning reader books.  Students love looking at the pictures if the books are too hard to read.  I try to get a volunteer during these stations to help read books to students.  

The table was full of books awesome spider books
Station 3: Question Modeling
This is where the magic happens!  I take a group of students and show them a video or something hands on (for spiders I had two spiders to let them look at).  Then I start to wonder out loud for the students to hear my thoughts. I let them know that we aren't trying to come up with an answer right then and there, just questions.  Younger students like to try to make up answers or give their opinions.  No pressure to answer questions, we are just talking and wondering together.  This is why I became a teacher.
These girls are just full of wonder!
After stations we all come together and help each other come up with some questions.  I put as many questions on Twitter (later in the year students will put their own tweets out) as I can before we head for lunch.  When they collaborate with others in the room they feed off of each other.

The next day students work in pairs to come up with a question.  They then write it on at sticky note and place it on a piece of chart paper that says "I Wonder...".  My intent for this activity is two fold; students will create questions for research and it will help those that are "stuck" to find a question to answer.  After the questions are posted I have students try to find answers to their questions.  Prior to all this we have talked about how to search on the internet and have set up a "research" folder on our iPads (KidRex.org, Twitter, Time for Kids, Wonderopolis, National Geographic for Kids).  I have showed students how to search for videos or pictures (ex: spider, videos) and how to have the iPad read text to you (settings, general, accessibility, speech, speak selection). We also create a Word Wall of words they will need to spell correctly to search successfully.


After students can find answers to their questions or other interesting facts we start taking notes on all the new facts we've learned.  Students can write or draw the facts out.

The last piece is to share out what they have learned.  For now we are just posting a fact or two on our KidBlog site.  In the future we will turn it into a book, Keynote or Explain Everything video.



**Please contact me with questions, comments or ideas.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Diary of a Teacher: #2 Developing Inquiry in the Elementary Classroom

Have you ever had a day where everything goes wrong and nothing comes easy?  Well that seems to be the beginning of this school year for the last month.  Skipping over the boring details, things have started to fall into place now so let the blogging begin. :-)

When we think back to our own school days most of the time what remember are the projects.  It could have been the classic egg drop project or something much more unique.  Maybe it was a project you poured your heart into on your own or one where you learned the meaning of team work with a group of your peers.  Whatever the case may be you connected to and remembered these projects in a much different way than everyday learning.  Why?  Projects often leave a much greater opportunity for choice and voice in a students learning.  Students connect deeper with the material because they invest the time into learning about what interest them in a way that works best for them.  Call it Project Based Learning or Inquiry Based Learning, the name is not important.  It is the results that count.

Come along with me and my quest to change the way I teach and my students learn.  To be clear, I  teach first grade so I'm not going to abandon everything I do so we do projects all day (that does sound like fun though).  My goal is to take as many of the Science and Social Studies standards, as I can, and create inquiry based projects.  While at the same time weaving reading and writing throughout to strength those skills.  I will keep my station time (Daily 5) and 90 minutes of math (this is a post for another day) as is.

Here is where I'm starting....

Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels have created this great resource for anyone K-12, who is looking to implement any type of inquiry based learning.  I highly recommend you purchase "Comprehension & Collaboration" as a guide.


One of the first things I do in my classroom to help support this style of learning is to build a community of caring and teamwork.  We talk a lot about what it means to work together and what it takes to be successful as a team.  Such things as patience, consideration, understanding are put out there for students to learn about.  We do easy team building activities such as completing a puzzle in a group without talking and working together as a class to color a mural.  Young students need a lot of practice at working and learning together.

The next thing we work on are the inquiry skills.  Students aren't born knowing how to ask a good question and many don't even have enough experience in life to know what to wonder about.  Daniel  and Harvey's book has great ideas and activities to get students thinking of the "what if" and "how does that work" type of questions.  Even something as simple as watching a video for information vs. watching a movie for pleasure is a learned skill.  They have filled their book with great lessons that can easily be modeled and practiced in whole group.

I work on the skills needed to learn in an inquiry/project based classroom as we work through different projects and standards.  So lets get started...

We were studying maps for our social studies standards.
1 – G1.0.1 Construct simple maps of the classroom to demonstrate aerial perspective.
1 – G1.0.3 Use personal directions (left, right, front, back) to describe the relative location of significant places in the school environment.
1 – G1.0.4 Distinguish between landmasses and bodies of water using maps and globes.
1 – G2.0.1 Distinguish between physical (e.g., clouds, trees, weather) and human (e.g., buildings, playgrounds, sidewalks) characteristics of places.

I always like to start projects with some kind of hook to get students really interested.  If I can make it hands-on I will because young students connect deeper to things they can touch.  In the picture below students are looking at Google Earth, a topographical map of the USA, Globes, giant floor maps and different types of maps I've collected along the way (map of our town, a ski resort, bus route map, etc.).  Students loved it and couldn't wait to learn more!  

Next we started to learn about where we were on a map.  I created a collection of videos students could watch after they completed their morning work.  If you haven't checked out Blendspace.com you are missing out!  It is a great way to share resources with your students and colleagues.  Here is the link to my "lesson" on maps.  After students have free choice to watch any of the videos we watch the video "My Map Movie Digital Story" together and I model how to watch a movie for information.  I stop and point out important facts in the video and then show how we can rewind to watch parts again if needed.  (In the next lesson we will watch the movie and practice taking notes.)

We also read the book "Me on the Map" to help explain all the different layers of where we are from (USA, Michigan, Boyne City, etc).  I found a mini book that students could make to fit themselves.  On the last page students try to make an ariel map of their bedroom...it didn't go as well as expected.  My students just didn't get the ariel view thing.  So another project was developed and we created our own maps with 2D and 3D objects.
Students worked in teams of 4 and hand to communicate with their group to explain their ideas.  They all had to compromise and work together to create their map.  Once they were done I helped them each take a picture standing over the map to show an ariel view.  
Students had roads, buildings, stores, ponds, a compass rose, etc. to their maps.  Once they had their picture they put it into the Explain Everything app and recorded an explanation of their map.  Checkout Chelsey's recording of what is on her map.

video



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Diary of a Teacher : #1 Flipping Multiply Yourself!

I think everyone would agree that the world of education is changing in many ways.  Technology has played a huge part in this change.  What teachers and students are capable of doing in (and out of) the classroom is radically changing due to this technology.  As teachers it is our responsibility to embrace this change for the sake of our students' future.  This series is documenting the attempt to make these  changes.

#1 Flipping Instruction Inside the Classroom: first attempt 

After attending the MACUL conference in Detroit flipping instruction within the classroom seemed like the answer to so many problems; I needed 5 more of me, I wasn't differentiating like I wanted, math was boring, students didn't have any choice on how to learn, etc.   Here are the first steps...

Students were divided into 3 groups.  These groups are mixed and not tracked by ability.  Originally they were tracked but it was difficult to help all of the students that were struggling in one group.  It seems easier to spread out the students that will need extra support.  For each math unit/chapter, student groups can be formed from the results of a pre-test.


The stations are as follows: 
  • iPad: math apps and/or IXL 
  • Math Games: hands on math games that can be played with partners or alone.  
  • Teacher: Videos created by the teacher and posted on Educreations.  
iPads
Students are either given free choice within the different math folders or they are given certain standards to work on in IXL.  We have divided our math apps into 3 different folders: 
Math 1 - math facts
Math 2 - other (fractions, time, etc). 
Math 3 - number sense

Math Games
These are hands on games that students can play with a partner or alone.  Everything from Addition War to HotDot pens to pattern blocks.  Check out the Math Centers and Games on Kids Count by Shari Sloane for some great games.

Teacher
The teacher station is where the flipping within the classroom starts.  Each student gets their own personal teacher and lesson to watch as they work to complete a worksheet.  There are many different ways to get the videos students but the point is is that students are able to watch, and re-watch, the lesson.  Some lessons can complete the entire worksheet with the student and others just complete half of it so that students can try some problems independently.  During these stations the teacher is now able to pull students to work in small groups.  This allows for students to get the attention they need in order for mastery to take place.

Helpful Hint: Keep the video short and don't worry if you make a mistake while recording, just keep going.  


This video was done on Educreations.  It is as simple as taking a photo of the worksheet and then putting it into the app.  Educreations allows you to record your voice and any writing you do on top of the picture.  Students can then retrieve this video from your class website (e.g. Edmodo).  I have my students all logged into my Educreation account and they just watch the lesson from the app itself.  ExplainEverything, Screenchomp or Camtasia are other apps or programs that could be used to record lessons.


What's Next...
Because this is a work in progress the next step would be to record all the lessons for each unit and allow students to move through them at their own pace.  I envision students completing the unit and then taking a test to show mastery.  This will allow them to move at their own pace within each unit.


Helpful Resources:

Monday, May 5, 2014

We Can Write the Rainbow! 1st Grade Color Poems

In honor of Poetry Month, we spent the last week of April writing Color Poems. 

MONDAY-
The lesson is introduced by listening to "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. While the music is playing, students are looking at the pictures in this beautiful book written by George David Weiss:
Click HERE to find it on Amazon.
After being inspired by Mr. Armstrong, students use their Story Buddy app to create their own "Colors of the Rainbow" book. They create six color pages: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. They work with their friends to make lists for each page. 
TUESDAY-
Students choose one color from their Story Buddy book to create a "Color" graphic organizer using their Popplet app. First, we make one as a class using the color black (See below). We discuss how important it is to be descriptive.
WEDNESDAY:
Students use the Popplet they created on Tuesday and write their color poem using paper and pencil. As much as we love using our iPads, this is a great opportunity for students to work on neat handwriting, spacing, capital letters and end marks. 
            
THURSDAY:
As students are finishing their poems, they hand them in to me and I type them with the font they have picked out (Getting to pick a font from my computer excited them more than anything!) After it's printed, they get to illustrate their poems. 
The beauty of this project when they finish one poem, they can start on another with a different color.

FRIDAY:
Students use the Audioboo app to record themselves reading their poems. Then they can tweet it on our class account.  Click HERE to visit our class Twitter account.
We also hung the students poems in the hallway with a QR Code of their Audioboo recording.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Nonfiction Isn't Always Real

Our first graders love reading and writing nonfiction books. They have spent the school year learning how to recognize nonfiction text features and then use them to gather information while reading and to include them in their own writing.

We put a spin on nonfiction writing and asked our students to create a new never-seen-before breed of animal and create a book tetelling about it using the nonfiction text features we have studied.

To start the activity, we read a fabulous read-aloud - "Horton Hatches an Egg" by Dr. Seuss. At the end of the story, Horton ends up hatching an elephant bird. Students used this as inspiration for creating their own animal to hatch out of an egg. There were lots of great ideas: Dog Shark, Cheetah Bird, Camel Elephant.

Students then used Popplet to create a graphic organizer to organize their ideas about their new animal. They used these headings: Habitat, How it moves, What it eats, What it looks like, and Predators.


After completing a Popplet, they wrote a "nonfiction" book about their animal using nonfiction text features- Headings, Realistic pictures with captions, Diagrams with labels, Sidebars, Table of Contents, Maps. They were asked to include at least three nonfiction text features in their book. They also were able to choose whether they wanted to create a paper and pencil book or use the Story Buddy app on their iPad.

Students always enjoy sharing the books they write, so we took pictures of each page (either a picture or a screen shot depending on which medium they chose) and uploaded it into Explain Everything. They created a slide for each page and recorded themselves reading their book. When they were finished we were able to save it in their Dropbox folder so they could either put it on Kidblog or tweet it to their families using our class Twitter account.

Here are links to some of our completed books:

Kitten Puppy  By: Addie
Peacock Cheetah  By: Ruby
Tiger Lion  By: Peter
Camel Elephant  By: Dylan

As a final activity, we created egg art work to go with our books and put them in the hallway. We created QR Codes to tape on the students pictures so readers can listen to their book.


This was a great week long activity for students to be creative AND to showcase their knowledge of nonfiction text features.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Our Very First Virtual Field Trip in Kindergarten!

The idea of the Virtual Field Trip has become increasingly more popular as the use of technology increases in schools around the world. Finally, just a couple of weeks ago we had the opportunity to take part in our very first VFT in kindergarten! Very conveniently one of our kindergarten teacher's sisters is a pediatric dentist in Seattle. One Friday, she graciously arrived at work early, in order to accommodate the time change, and invited us right into her dental office using Google Hangout.



We were able to watch as she showed us all of her equipment, so as not to be afraid when we go to the dentist ourselves, and we were even able to watch as she performed a mock dental exam on her model, "Molar the Monkey". We had an amazing time learning about dental health as well as what to be prepared for at the dentist during our own visits. Before saying goodbye, Dr. Stieber walked us through the steps of brushing our teeth, and after we hung up we wrote about the steps during Writer's Workshop.

It is easy to say that our first virtual field trip was a great success. We can't wait to think up our next one!

Friday, March 14, 2014

MACUL 2014 - What We Learned

This week we were lucky enough to attend the MACUL conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  If you love all things technology in education YOU MUST ATTEND THIS CONFERENCE. 

We learned so much we thought we would share with all of our TECHi TiKE friends. 


THE CONNECTED CLASSROOM


Our good friend Kim Powell is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to ways to implement technology into your classroom curriculum.  Over the last few years she has been working on connecting classrooms with such projects as Mystery Skype, Video Story Problems and Digital Book Trailers to name a few.

Check out the different resources Kim gave us:

  • Skype in the Classroom - Skype with another classroom, take a virtual field trip or host a guest speaker.
  • Cybraryman an overwhelming amount of helpful links for parents, educators and students
  • Skype an Author Network a list of authors that will Skype with classrooms along with some video examples
  • Edu Hangouts Just like Skype but the videoconferencing is done through your Google account
  • TWICE  sign up to be apart of videoconferencing projects with other classrooms from around the world

STUDENT SHOWCASE

 

MACUL always has a student showcase on the Thursday of the conference.  For us this tends to be one of the more valuable learning times because we can see our fellow teachers in action.  One booth we couldn't walk by without stopping was the St. Stephen School (the kids were about as cute as they come too!).  The 1st and 2nd grade students showed us how they use KidBlog to showcase a variety of apps such as Shadow Puppets, Telegami and Puppet Pals, along with web tools such as Storybird, Hour of Code and Discovery Education Board Builder. 

Check out these TECHi TiKES...
  • SS Second Grade Blog Students read their writing using an avatar in Telegami.  Students write code to create their own Flappy Bird game.






FLIPPING THE CLASSROOM INSIDE THE CLASSROOM

Teachers from North Creek Elementary in Chelsea, Michigan showed us how they flip their classroom while in it.  

  • Using apps like Educreations teachers can clone themselves by making "how-to" videos for students to use while they work with small groups. 
  • Ask3 and Educreation apps allows you to record your lessons for when you are out of the classroom.
  • Record your lessons to post/email to parents for examples.

MINECRAFT WITH JENNIFER BOND

"Get to Know Minecraft" by Jennifer Bond

Jennifer Bond is a 3rd grade teacher in Walled Lake, Michigan.  Her session covered all the awesome ways to use Minecraft in your classroom and tie it into your curriculum.  Here are a few...
  • Science: Create and explore different landforms 
  • Social Studies: Design models of Early Michigan settlements 
  • Math: Find the area and volume of figures
  • Language Arts: Write about the different creations in Minecraft

 Jennifer has many great Minecraft resources on her "Cheers to Creativity and Innovation" site, check out the Minecraft Articles and Minecraft Resource Links.  

If you aren't convinced yet to use Minecraft in your classroom check out Jennifer's students when she tells them what they are doing for the day.  The power of using tools that motivate and inspire kids...





Before we started talking about Minecraft the session was kicked off using this great tool called Kahoot!.  Kahoot! is a FREE "game-based classroom response system" for classrooms, universities or businesses.  This tool is recommended for all K-12 students.

 



VIRTUAL FIELD TRIPS

Whether it be the lack of great museums in your area or funds to support a field trip Virtual Field Trips are becoming more and more the solution to the hangups of exploring the world outside of our four classroom walls.  Marybeth Miller from Pinckney Community Schools provided us with a wealth of information on VFT's for K-12 students in all subject areas.  


It is our belief that teachers are better when they work together freely.  If you have any resources you would like to share from MACUL14 please feel free to contact us or post them in the comment section below.  Resources for all the sessions held at MACUL14 are available on their website.