Tuesday, July 23, 2019

What's in a Name? Chrysanthemum Maker Activity and BOLD Template

This is a great beginning of the year, relationship building, empathy building activity to do with any student K-12. As a middle school teacher I often read picture books to my math/science students as an engagement activity and it was wondrous. You can use the different parts of the activity to teach classroom procedures and expectations from using materials to working collaboratively, to moving about the classroom etc...

Read or watch the video below of the book, 

Reading the book not only sets the stage for the students making their own light up name tags, but it also enables you to do one of a variety of empathy activities such as: (these are just beginning ideas)
  • Quick Think: How would you feel if you were in Chrysanthemum's place? 
  • Quick Write: Do you have an interesting story about your name?
  • Quick Write: What do you love about your name? What is challenging about your name?
  • Have the students voice type their answers to the above question in a Google Doc, or in SeeSaw, or on a Flipgrid
Figure out how to light the LED lights:
Give each student a baggie or paper bag and challenge them to figure out how to light the lights. 
  • 3V battery CLICK HERE  (to buy on Amazon it's a 50 pack but you will use them for other projects)
  • 4 LED lights (blue, green, red, yellow) CLICK HERE (to buy on Amazon)
This is a discovery activity that can take 10 - 30 minutes depending on how fascinated your students are. If you do this at the beginning of the year it is a great formative assessment for the students who are risk takers and jump right in as opposed to the students who are frozen by a fear of failing and are reluctant to try. 

Side Note: I like documenting how the students are at the beginning of the year and then track their growth as learning risk takers using a Google Sheet.

Teacher Note: I encourage you (the teacher) to play with the four colors because as my students taught me last year, the colors interact with each other and the battery in interesting ways.

Here are some examples of possible resources you can use to teach your students about electrical circuits:

Electrical Circuits for Kids - CLICK HERE
The Power of Circuits Video - CLICK HERE

  • Ask the students what they notice about the 3V battery  (they should notice a plus sign on one side)
  • Ask the students what they notice about the LED light bulbs (they should notice that the wires are different lengths)
  • Ask the students what they notice about the different colored bulbs and how they light when you put two on the battery
Image result for circuits for kids

Now it is time for the students to take what they have learned and make a Name Tag that lights up. They will take their battery and pick two LED lights, write their names and use stickers to create their light up Name Tag.

Name Tag Supply List:

3.5 x 5 Note cards (I get these at Dollar Tree)
Cut up stickers (I buy sheets of stickers from Dollar Tree)
Colored Pens for writing name
3V batteries (Amazon - CLICK HERE)
LED Light Bulbs (Amazon - CLICK HERE)
Lanyards (Amazon - CLICK HERE)
Electrical Tape and/or Masking Tape (I get these at Dollar Tree)

If you would like to make a name tent here is a template I received from my AVID training this summer: CLICK HERE

There are many ways to have students reflect on what they have learned and created as well as check for understanding of electrical circuits:

  • Use a Google Form to ask reflection questions and as an exit ticket to check for understanding
  • Use Flipgrid to have the students answer reflection questions and check for understanding questions
  • Use SeeSaw to have students show understanding using the drawing tool and voice explanations and also answer reflection questions
For younger students, I would use sentence frames to scaffold their responses and have the student discuss with a partner first before individually responding.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Evolution of a Lesson Progression Protocol - 1. Introduction

It all started nine years ago in Rocklin, CA. My goal was to make math more meaningful and relevant for my middle school students while also building an argument to get my first smart phone. Since that year, I have been playing with lesson plan/progression design. Below is a graphic I created to show the things I have been playing with and how they relate to each other.

CLICK HERE to access slide deck

My Why Part 1: Real Life Math Problem Solving
I started playing with lesson design back in 2010 as a middle school math teacher. It was the very beginning of CCSS and we had PLC Modays which means the students went home early so our teacher teams could collaborate over data once a week. With this shortened day, I create Real Life Math primitive HyperDocs CLICK HERE to see the first one I created.

I wanted to take some of the math topics we were studying at the time and combine them with the weekend activities of my family so my students could see some connections (yes they were contrived!) After that first one, I created a new one every weekend the rest of the school year. CLICK HERE for the rest of them.

THIS is one of my favorites from our parent math day when parents came to school with their students during their math period and they did math together. At the time I did not realize I was mashing my own lesson design protocol that would change my teaching forever.

The birth of the K. Beck protocol above (2nd column):

  1. SPARK interest by sharing pictures of our family weekend mundane activities
  2. CHALLENGE/INFORM the students to create math problems based on the information I provided
  3. EXPLAIN the students solve the problems and explain/share their thinking and work collaboratively
  4. APPLY students apply what they know about the topics we are studying to create the questions and solve them and show proof of understanding.
  5. REFLECT unfortunately I was the only one reflecting which drove future planning and creating.
I was influenced by many educators I had begun following on Twitter: Dan Meyer @dydan, Scott Ferrand @scott_ferrand, Matt Townsley @mctownsley

From 2010 until 2013 I used Monday's as my Common Core math problem solving sessions and then I left the classroom to become a curriculum coordinator. 

Next post: 
Evolution of a Lesson Progression Protocol - 2. Instructional Coaching

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

An Administrators Favorite Mobile Apps

Our group of AVID Administrators was recently asked what mobile apps we use most often to help me in my work. I provided a list and did not explain my why. So now that she has asked, I decided to put the what and why here. These are the apps I use DAILY in my work as an administrator:

On my phone, I need apps that will do the following:

  • Organize me
  • Let me dump resources easily into spots that are easy to find
  • Keep me on schedule and where I am supposed to be
  • Allow me to easily share the awesome things that are going on at school everyday

Google Keep - This is my favorite app for so many things:

  • The first is the obvious to do list. But Google Keep is so much more than a to do list! I can make check boxes to check things off and share it with others so they can add or edit as we go. My husband and I have our collaborative grocery list running at all times. 
  • Like other Google apps, it syncs with my laptop so when I'm working at my desk I can see all of my google keep notes and to do lists: 
  • When I'm in a classroom, I can take photos from the Google Keep app and put them directly into a note.
  • I can take a handwritten note on my phone if I want to draw a picture of something
  • There is color coding and priorities
  • Notifications and reminders - you can even get a notification by place (when I drive by a certain Walmart, my grocery list comes up on my phone!)
  • Oh and you can voice type into the app to take notes also which is very handy when I leave a classroom walk through
  • I can even dump articles and highlights from Kindle books into Google Keep (I prefer Google Drive for that but it's handy).
  • It is also an organization app that I am teaching my 13 year old son to use to organize himself.
There is so much more when you consider how students can use it also!

Google Drive - As a mobile app, Google Drive has replaced my use of Evernote.

  • It is my dumping grounds for all resources I find online. When I am reading articles, blog posts or looking at links on my phone I can easily dump and organize them into Google Drive folders with a few taps. I get so many resources on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere that I want to save and Google Drive has it available from any device wherever I am am.
  • I have 3 Google Accounts: School, Professional, Personal and I send things seamlessly to the particular one that pertains to the resource I am saving.

Evernote - I started using Evernote in 2007 as my dumping ground for resources. I keep my account because I have so much stuff on it but I barely use it anymore because I use my Google Drives. I don't think any particular app is better, what is important is that you have a place to easily "dump" stuff for future use/reference.

Google Photos - I take a lot of photos at school and around the district and Google Photos allows me to not take up space on my phone because they are uploaded to the cloud. I can organize photos into albums, share with others, easily search for photos, create collages, make basic movies, animations, and then there are the editing tools. Google Photos make sharing photos to school social media accounts so simple.

Google Calendar - This is my number one organizational tool! I would be lost and missing everything without this. I love that when I am standing in a teacher's room and we want to do a collaborative lesson or an observation I am putting it in my phone and inviting her on the spot. Again the sharing ability is key. Our teachers have access to my calendars and they can look and see where I am and what I am doing. We have our School Master Calendar for all staff to see... I can go on and on...

Bitly - Bitly is my go to URL shorten-er that I use when I am sharing a resource that has a very LONG URL. As a Twitter user, with the limited characters, I don't want to waste characters on an URL. Also, when I am sharing with teachers and/or students, I can personalize the URL so that it is easier to type in.

(Twitter, Instagram, Facebook to post school happenings and photos)

I use many more mobile apps but these are the ones I use ALL throughout the day, EVERYDAY!

One thing I tell everyone, think about what you want to do or what you need the app for and then find the app that suits that need. If someone uses Dropbox then they don't need to switch to something else like Evernote. The apps are technically doing the same job just a bit differently. I picked Evernote because it suited a need for me to dump resources and easily share them with students and teachers.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Find Your Line and Hold Fast

When I was in the classroom, I was reminded daily that students love boundaries and to know where "your" line is with things. This past week I read this post CLICK HERE. It brought back 23 years of line drawing memories for my students and also for my 13 year old son who is a line "dancer".

I am a relationship builder with my students and I'm also a line drawer. I make sure students know where my line is and the consequences for crossing it. I also make sure students know the why and how of the line and how to fix something if they cross it.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do as a teacher or a parent is to hold the line. Also, some lines are "flexible" while others are not. Having policies and procedures helps students navigate your expectations as a teacher. Like most things in life some things are negotiable and some are non-negotiable. I was always upfront on Day 1 of my non-negotiables which were directly tied to being respectful, safe and responsible.

Every year there are students who are line "dancers". These students have to test and test and test and test again making sure that my line is steadfast and that if they cross I will respond. Those are the students who need me to stand the line the most. Some days they put their toes right at the edge and other days they boldly cross as if to say, "What are you going to do?" My reaction begins with a calm action such as gently closing and taking a Chromebook away to whispering in a students ear to follow me to their new seat to stepping outside to have a conversation with the student. It becomes a teachable moment where the student will have to look me in the eye as we discuss what happened and how he/she will fix it.

I am reminded every year as I watch my line "dancers" move from challenging me to working with me that I MUST HOLD the LINE. They do not lay down and become compliant, together we find a place where they can be their incredible selves without constantly testing me and the line. Usually at the end of the school year they are some of my most grateful students. For whatever reason they are thankful that I drew the line and stuck to it.

Last year I had a hard time building a relationship with April. I tried, she pushed and "danced" on the line. I held fast to my lines and held her accountable for her crossings. Most days I felt frustration as she left the room but always gave her a fresh start the next day. Then one day in the spring, she wanted to eat lunch in my classroom with a couple of friends. Then at Open House she brought her parents into my room to meet me. After promotion on the last day of school (I couldn't be a part because I was with my 7th graders) she came to my classroom to give me a hug and thank me for an awesome year. I'm not sure if it was because I held the line, but I think it might have had something to do with it.

Holding the line has ALWAYS worked out for me with my students. I've never been worried about whether or not they like me as long as they know that I respect them no matter what. Holding my line is respectful and it is something that as a parent of a teenager I find more challenging than ever.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Coding in the Content Areas - Makey Makey Interactive Learning Board

Four yeas ago when I worked for a different district, I stole an idea from Brad Gustafson of creating Mobile Makerspace Carts for his elementary school. Back in 2015 I read THIS POST by Brad which became the foundation for creating STEAM classes at each of our elementary schools and purchasing LEGO WeDo, Spheros, Makey Makeys, and other STEAM tools to integrate into our elementary schools with coaching and support provided by me. (I have quite a few posts about integrating STEAM and the tools here on this blog). 

This year, I found Brad's updated post on his Maker Carts - CLICK HERE and shared it with my new district's leadership and we took our first step in getting the carts started in our 7 elementary schools. The first tool is the Makey Makey. Each school will receive a STEM Pack of Makey Makeys. We chose Makey Makeys to start because we have Chromebooks and we thought this would open doors for teachers to see innovative uses for integration of technology and making into their learning environments.

My first project is pictured above The Singing Christmas Tree. First I found a teacher who was willing to experiment and play with the idea I found on the Makey Makey Facebook group. Mrs. Rennie has a second grade class with a very diverse population. Here is what we did:

  1. Hour 1 - Introduce the Makey Makeys to the students (How To blog post here: CLICK HERE)

  1. Hour 2 - Use Scratch to teach the students how to code sounds then transfer that code to the Christmas songs (Watch this HOW TO video 1 Students Code Sounds - CLICK HERE and watch this HOW TO video 2 Coding Christmas songs - CLICK HERE)

  1. Put the tree up and connect the Makey Makey and Chromebook

The best thing about collaborating with April and Kelly was the ideas they thought of that use this activity as a foundation. One idea is a Growth Mindset bulletin board where students record growth mindset quotes into scratch and then use code to play them when the bulletin board is touched. Each student can read and record their favorite quotes and then open their Scratch code and connect it to the Makey Makey and bulletin board. Another idea is an interactive student of the week board using the Makey Makey.  There are many other projects in all content areas which can incorporate coding, physical computing and reading, listening, and speaking skills. The possibilities are endless and I'll be sharing more here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hour of Code 2018 - One Slide

Here is the One Slide Hour of Code Newsletter I created for my district teachers: CLICK HERE

There is a cheat sheet with links for the grade bands that you can access on the one slide or you can CLICK HERE

Happy Coding!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Whiteboards: an Administrator's Tool

Guess My Picture Drawings

Last year in my math class I put whiteboards up around my room and it changed the learning in so many impactful ways. When I moved into an assistant principal position this year, I did't want to give my the whiteboards up. I wanted to figure out a way they could help me help students.

Way #1 - Whiteboards to calm a student down

The other day I got called to the playground to pick up a misbehaving first grader from afternoon recess. By the time I got out there he was in complete meltdown mode. As we walked to my office, he continued to cry uncontrollably and I knew that there would be no discussion of the problem while he was in this place.

When we got to my office, I grabbed the basket of whiteboard markers and invited the student to draw a picture or scribble or do something on the whiteboard to help him calm down. He grabbed a black pen, looked at me and said, "let's play a game." I asked, "what game?" He quickly replied, "guess my drawing." I replied, "start drawing!"

He began drawing and as he drew, I would state the obvious: "it's a rectangle." Each time I stated the obvious, he would get a huge grin on his face and keep drawing. His first picture was on the left - a spider web and the second was a robot.

The process of drawing allowed me to observe and watch this first grade boy's personality come out. He went from hysterical to smiling, creating, problem-solving and calming himself down. Our game of "guess my picture" provided the student with the opportunity to get himself into a place where we could discuss his behavior. The whiteboards allowed for relationship and trust building which carried over to our conversation about appropriate behavior on the playground and in the classroom. They are becoming my go to empathy, social/emotional and conflict resolution tool for helping students.