Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Want to improve your students' writing? Go Google.

Hi all!

Well it is almost spring break.  Here is a little tip to look into while you are resting on the beach, or skiing the slopes, or watching Netflix on the couch.  I don't know about you, but trying to constantly conference with my students about their writing is overwhelming.  I have discovered a trick.  I wish I knew where I first heard of the idea, but it changed writing time for me forever.

When your children are writing, have them write in google docs.  They should set the document up to share with you right away, right when they set up their document.  Then from that moment forward, you can comment on their writing as they type their stories.  You can conference during class, but you can also conference during your down time or prep time.  And, I find the students love coming to writing to see if their teacher has left any comments on their writing.

For example, right now, we are working on our student autobiographies.  We decided to do it in google slides, so that it will print and look like a real book, but could also easily be turned into a movie.  Here is a screen shot of my student's writing, and my comments.  She has already started editing based on my comments below her slide.  It's easy and powerful.  Give it a try!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mini-Golf, Math, and Me

So, I have continued my robotics/coding journey.  It just keeps getting better and better.  The kids are really starting to understand the language of coding.  And, it has been amazing to see who has stepped into the expert texspert role.  It is not the usual student leaders.  I have found that coding is a leveled playing field.  Some kids that are gifted at school are not gifted with this required "thinking outside the box."  I have also watched gifted students struggle with perseverance issues.  Since they have not had to work hard at school, they do not have their grit muscle strength like some students that have to persevere every day.  Fascinating to watch.


video
It has also forced students to really understand angles.  To give correct instructions, the students have to inform the robot at what angle it should travel.  A lot of discussion, trial, and error have brought a greater depth of understanding than any curricular math lesson.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Coding and Kids

videoI did it.  I made the leap into robotics.  I was terrified to fail.  I kept putting it off-finding reasons that I couldn't make it work right now. But, the kids asked about when the robots were coming.  So, I jumped.  And I regret nothing.

I do not know how program or code.  At all.  But, the good thing is that code.org and sphero and other coding groups know this.  They have your back.  They have created lesson walkthroughs for the teacher, or you can just show the tutorials to the students and have them follow along.  I relied on that and the fearlessness of my students.  We had a blast as learners together.

Ok.  I am sure you know about the Hour of Code.  And I am sure some of you are on the bandwagon. But, I have an idea that some of you hear it and think--not one more thing.   I can't do one more thing. And I hear that.  I am a classroom teacher, but I promise once you try it, it will remind you why you became a teacher.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Do you Kahoot??

Ok, so this may be old hat to some of you early adopters out there, but Kahoot has added such a fun element to my classroom.  It is an educational version of adult pub trivia.  The students are asked a question--and need to answer that question in a hurry.  The faster they answer, the more points they get, but to get any points, the answer must be correct.  My students love it so much, they even chose Kahoot for a class party.
One great thing about Kahoot, is that there are zillions already made by other amazing educators.  For example, my district uses Wonders as their reading adoption.  Some amazing teachers have every grade level's weekly vocabulary already created.  Done and done.  But, it is also super easy to make your own. 
My favorite way to use it is in Team Mode.  I have the students work in pairs.  I love that it gives them time to chat before they answer.  And then, they have someone to high five.  Just be prepared, your classroom is going to become a noisy excited place!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Grit...

Our students need to learn a little perseverance.  And so do we.  As a teacher trainer as well as a classroom teacher, I find that teachers want to give up when they hit tech roadblocks--or they assume technology just isn't for them.

The first thing I say to them is that you will hit roadblocks.  We all hit roadblocks.  Even those of us that play on computers for fun.  The amazing modeling point for students is that we as teachers show we have grit as well.  We celebrate our failures and use them for learning.  I love to show this Disney video clip to my students, but I watch it myself from time to time when I have hit a particularly frustrating spot in my own journey.   Keep Moving Forward!!!

Why teach coding or programming?

So, if you are anything like me, you are overwhelmed.  The different ability levels in your classroom, the demands of testing, even the sheer number of students can make adding one more thing put a teacher over the edge.  But here is a secret...teaching programming is fun AND it hits quite a few standards of the common core.  Here, I will prove it.



4 REASONS TO START PROGRAMMING/CODING NOW:
  1. It is fun and exciting!  We need more of that!
  2. It teaches important future ready skills such as:   
    1. Problem Analysis/Solving
    2. Logic
    3. Growth-Mindset
    4. Experimentation/Creation
    5. Team Work
    6. Communication
  3. It is a leveler--you don’t have to be “gifted” to be a gifted coder
  4. It could lead to an amazing job for students in the future.  Check out this inforgraphic.

How long has it been since you have Hopscotched?

The Hour Of Code (presented by code.org) has taken the world of education by storm.  But, there is a free app, that allows your students to take block programming to whatever level they are able.  It is a natural differentiator, which as teachers, we desperately need.  Hopscotch is also does not require a lot of reading, so it allows normally struggling students really shine.


It is also highly engaging.  I had several students, on their own time over a weekend, work together to create Pong.  Yes, that pong. The world-rocking video game of our youth.  10 year olds figured out how to block code it in two days.

The most amazing part about it is that as a teacher you do NOT need to know how to program or code.  The tutorials are built in---and students naturally start to figure things out.  They become the leaders of the classroom, while you get to sit back and learn from them.

Want to learn more about the FREE app?  Check out the Hopscotch Tutorials.