Posted in NCPTS - Standard 4, NCPTS - Standard 5

Ideas for End of the Year Review

It’s spring break this week and I am trying to relax a little, catch up on some blogging, and do some lesson plans. On the topic of lesson plans, it’s that time of the year where it seems everything stops and lesson plans become dominated by EOG review. I was actually able to get a jump on this before the break and started doing some activities in my class that led me to the ideas for this post. In the past, I’ve always thought about what I can do to help the students review, but this year I decided to put it more of it on the students.  

I am letting them create posters, activities, word walls, and anything thing else they can think of to help review standards before the tests in May. I am also having them work on projects over the next few weeks in order to differentiate the review and add some variety to the lessons.

Bulletin Boards

Decorating classroom and hallway bulletin boards has always been a source of frustration for me. I don’t feel very creative in this way, so it is always a struggle to put something together that looks good. It’s gotten even harder for me to get motivated about bulletin boards since so we do so much more work with Google and other apps, and students display their work with eProtfolios.

About two weeks before spring break, I was looking around the room thinking about how I was going to post various topics for review in reading, math, and science. I realized that I had several students that loved to draw and decorate. It occurred to me that they should be the ones decorating the classroom with relevant topics for review.

I decided to set up a discussion post with a few ideas and ask them to make posters displaying concepts or vocabulary. I started with science and math and posted a few ideas of the main standards and topics we covered throughout the year. By the end of our AM work time, the students responded and were already starting their posters. I never imagined they would react this enthusiastically.  Some chose weather, others worked on Newton’s Laws of Motion, and others were busy drawing food chains and food webs. The day before spring break they started asking me when they were going to put them up around the room. Some already had ideas about how to divide the room up into sections for each subject. This is where we will pick up when we get back.

In all my years preparing for EOG review, I always felt like it was all on me. By turning some of this responsibility and decision making over to the students, it  gave them a say in the process. It also gave me an idea of what they really knew about the topic. We studied weather back in September and October and as I looked over some of their posters I realized some things were forgotten, or maybe never fully understood. I noticed immediately some gaps in their understanding when it come to things like warm/cold fronts and and high/low pressure. I realize that analyzing data from assessments is important, but it was so much easier to see their misconceptions this way than from an assessment.

As for the bulletin board in the hallway, I set this up myself and will let the students finish it and maintain it. The idea behind the hallway bulletin board is to make it a daily weather map where the students can track the weather on a calendar, as well as, a map of the United States. I cut the blue border into triangles to represent a cold front and the red border could be used as a warm front. I also plan on having the students create a word wall around the bulletin board with essential vocabulary from the weather unit.

Here is an image of the board so far:

File_000 (8)

 

Project-Based Learning

Another issue that comes up with EOG review is how to differentiate the students and the content that needs to be reviewed. Each student requires different degrees of review depending on the subject.  By using Project-Based Learning, I think I will be able to keep all of the students engaged whether they are working on review concepts or working on a project.

This was something I started about three weeks before spring break. Atomic Learning has two great modules for Project-Based Learning (Project-Based Learning Lesson Framework: Endangered Species and Project-Based Learning Framework: Million Dollar Classroom). I highly recommend checking these two out if you have access to Atomic Learning. We are about halfway through the endangered species PBL in my class and the students are really enjoying it. I have a separate page on this site with my reflections on the endangered species PBL.

One thing I discovered as they are working on this project is that they were so engaged I was able to pull some students into small groups and start reviewing. I plan on starting the Million Dollar Classroom PBL during math class after the break. The other important point about these projects is that they are interdisciplinary, so I can have students working on them in any of the three major subjects for review (math, reading, and science). 

It is my hope that these activities and projects will provide some variety to what can be a stressful time for some of my students.  I hope it also gives them a better sense of ownership over the work they have done this year. 

 

 

Posted in NCPTS - Standard 4, NCPTS Standard 3

Using Jacob’s Ladder with song lyrics

As a music major, I try to incorporate various aspects of music into the class. One idea I had from a PD session at school was creating our own Jacob’s Ladder to song lyrics.

I started using the ladders this year with song lyrics as a way to help students with theme. Determining the theme of a story, poem, song, etc. is a concept that students struggle with when studying larger novels, short stories, and especially poetry.  I thought  with a shorter 3 or 4 minute song it might make it easier before moving on to harder text.

The biggest problem I had with this was that my taste in music is usually different than my 10 year old students. So far this year, I have only used songs that I selected, but I might open this up next year to having students choose some songs and develop ladders around them.

This idea first came to me last year when we did The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. The story is set in a middle school in Long Island during the 1967-68  school year. Topics such as the Cold War and the Vietnam War come up throughout the story and I was looking for ways to teach about these topics and show the emotional impact they had then and now. I was a big Billy Joel fan growing up (still am) and was in high school when his Storm Front album was released. The song Leningrad immediately came to mind and I played it for the class and we discussed the lyrics.  This year I decided to create a ladder based on the lyrics. The other song I played at the end of the novel was Goodnight, Saigon.  I was a little hesitant about this because of some of the lyrics (Playboy and hash pipe), but this really did not come up at all in our discussion. I made a ladder for this to go along with the novel and give us more focus in our discussion.

The Storm Front ladder is something I use as a way to introduce the music and lyrics of Billy Joel to the class.  I also use it as a way to discuss theme. I remember when I first heard this song I took it in the literal sense and thought it was strange that he would be writing about going out fishing.  It wasn’t until I heard an interview when he explained the metaphor behind it. The urge to shrug off stability and ride off into a storm despite the dangers. I realize my students might not get this concept, but at least it gets them thinking on a higher level.

Posted in NCPTS - Standard 4, Professional Development

Atomic Learning Training

In my last post about Atomic Learning I said I would continue the discussion later about some of the training modules I took and what I thought of them.

Coding in the Classroom

If coding is new to you, this is a training module you need to take. It gives some important information about how coding can help students and why it is important for them to learn. It also has a variety of sources and ideas for how to learn it yourself and how to incorporate it in your classroom.  There is also a follow up to this course called, Moving Forward: Coding Grades 3-8. This is on my To-Do list for training in the next few weeks.

Another point about coding in the classroom is to take them time and do the offline, paper activities that can be found on Code.org. These are great for getting students to think about algorithms and connecting it to what is done with coding online and how they use these aspects like algorithms and functions in their everyday lives. I made the mistake of jumping right in to the websites and now I am backtracking and doing the work offline.  Next year I know to start with these activities and really spend time with them.

Canvas LMS Training

There are a few of these on Atomic Learning. In the screen shot below, you can see what they offer.

screenshot-2017-03-05-at-11-48-33-am

I completed the Canvas Instructor and Grading & Assessment Training. I am currently going through the Mastery Gradebook training. If you are new to Canvas and thinking about using it, then the Instructor training session is where you need to start.

I enjoy using Canvas, but I realize it can be a little overwhelming because there is a lot you can do with it. I started using it last year and learned the hard way to take it slow.  At first, I tried to do all the subjects I taught.  This was a bad idea and I backed off and took it one class at a time.  The first class I used it for was Language Arts. For me, it was easy to lay out the design for this class by using modules for novel studies, writing, EOG review, etc.  I would suggest doing the same and taking one class and really working on how you want to lay out the material and present it. I hope this helps.

Posted in NCPTS - Standard 4

Use of Storify

Storify is a great site for creating stories and linking to outside sources like Twitter as a way to communicate with parents, students and other public forums. I am still a little unsure about how to use it in the classroom. When I researched samples on the internet, I saw that it is used almost as a running news story of a particular event.  Some people used it as a way to post moments throughout a concert and others used it as a way to post recent developments in a news story.

One way I plan on using it in the classroom is to create an online record of an event that we have at school for parents who might not be able to make it because of work or other commitments.  I think this will be a great way to keep them connected to the class and their child. We have two events coming up where I might explore this site.  I hope to make use of this for our class trip and Science Olympiad event coming up in April and May. I think this will be a great way to keep parents informed about what we are doing throughout the day.  If anyone has other ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them.

Posted in NCPTS - Standard 4, NCPTS - Standard 5, Professional Development

Using # to keep a running record on Twitter

This was another NCTIES session with George Couros on March 3, 2017. I got so much out of the one the previous day, that I attended both sessions he had on March 3.

The title of this session is Creating a Blended Learning Environment. #nctiesgc #ncties17.

There was a lot of information in this presentation, but what I took away from it was how to use Twitter and #’s as a way to organize your posts, docs, and tweets.

Unique #’s for your tweets.

Using specific #’s in Twitter can help to keep your tweets organized and easy to find.   If you set a specific # for a class or a topic, then the students can just search that # to find information.  However, be sure to check if that # is already in use. Can also use # to tweet out to parents. An example of this for my school would be me using #nasifeBAC17. by doing this, parents or students can search this particular hashtag and see all the tweets I sent out, or they sent out with this tag.

One area of technology that I am always struggling with is the amount of emails I receive in a day.  With this idea of tags on tweets and docs it seems like a great way to eliminate some emails. Parents and students can just search the tag and see any information that might be posted.  By using 17, it is a way for me to distinguish the year this was used and make it an archive for that class. This way I can look back and see what was done in previous years and have a record.

Hashtags in Title for Google Apps

Hashtags in the title of docs, forms, sheets, etc. are important. This is a more cloud based way to organize instead of putting things in folders. Hashtags create a way to search easily in Google Drive.

Other Points from this Session

  1. Use bit.do as a better way to shorten links and customize them. It allows you to customize the title of the link.
  2. Instead of searching for videos for students, have them search for it.  Create a form for them to label it and place it and explain why they think it is important.  Teaches them to access information online. Can also do this as a way to check in with them and see how they are doing academically or socially.
  3. Don’t spoon feed others with the basics of technology.  They need to learn basics on their own, so we can collaborate on the big ideas and bigger themes of collaboration in the classroom. This was something that really impressed me.  This was a session about how to use Google Apps, Twitter, etc. effectively in your classroom. There was an assumption that the basics of these apps was already known.  It was not a session to learn how to create a doc or a form, how to title it, or how to share it.
    • There was also a discussion about how to pass this information along to other teachers and how to get them to buy into it. “Try to recreate the experience you want to see with your students when you try to get other teachers to do this.” – George Couros. This quote made a lot of sense to me and something I need to consider as I try to get others involved in this.
  4. Set the bar higher for students.  Don’t always tell them stuff they should NOT be doing on Twitter, instead tell them and show them the great things they can do with it.