Saturday, April 30, 2016

Let Students Struggle

Image by Krissy Venosdale

Last week I visited one of our third grade classes and we used the chromebooks to code using Scratch.  I showed the kiddos a few things as they had used Scratch before to code our LEGO WeDo creations.  When I let the students go, I told them they would have to play and figure things out, and help each other.  I also informed them that their teacher and I would not be able to help them as they worked.  What ensued was interesting and provided a learning experience for all.

It took the students about 15 minutes of working on their own to start getting up and looking at other students' creations.  They were trying to be sneaky like they would get in trouble for moving and working together.  A few students came over to the teacher and I and asked questions.  I had prompted the teacher to say, "I don't know, go figure it out."  It was difficult for her to say and difficult for her students to hear.  I would back up the teacher by telling the student to go ask a friend/classmate.

The room started getting louder as the students shared and helped and worked together, with the exception of one student Greg.  Greg was a gifted student who was used to getting the answer to things quickly and without much effort.  Greg happens to be friends with my son so I knew I could push him.  He came over and asked for help from his teacher a few times and she told him to go figure it out and/or get help from another student.  From across the room I noticed Greg had had enough.  When I walked up, his chromebook was closed and he informed me that he was logged out.  So I started my questions.  Greg, you're done, you give up?  He replied with a long well...  I smiled and said, "okay, put the chromebook away and get other work out.  I'm surprised Greg, I know you and I know you can do this, but it is your choice."  As I walked away, he called out, "I can log back on..."

I walked around looking at what the students were creating and within 10 minutes, Greg ran over with his chromebook and showed me his animation and it was awesome.  I gave Greg a little pep talk reminding him that because he did this on his own, he would now remember.  I wanted to teach him to fish not give him the fish and he figured it out.

There are times that we all need to let students struggle and balancing the fine line of persevering rather than giving up.  If I had not known Greg, I probably would have been more helpful by asking guiding questions.  You also need to know your students and when to jump in to keep them going rather than giving up.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ending the School Year on a High Note 2016

The first thing I think of when I ponder ending the school year on a high note is the Seinfeld episode with George doing just that:

Las week I came across this post by Dave Burgess: How Will You End Your School Year?  After reading it, I started thinking of how to celebrate during our final STEAM class.  I was reminded of a family ritual we have on the Winter Solstice and a Paper Blogging activity I stole from Karen McMillan and I got an idea for how we can combine the three.

Here is the plan: (I'm still hashing out the details...)

We will give each student a blank piece of paper.  They will create an illustration based on how our STEAM time was meaningful to them this school year.  It could be anything, words, pictures, goals for sustaining their passion for STEAM, etc...  This will be something that teaches all who see it about each student's perspective of our year long experiment.

  • We may need to do some sort of brainstorming activity to get their ideas flowing
Then we will do the Silent Commenting using The Commenting Starters.  The students will write to each other silently on post it notes and circle the illustration with them.  Here is the process:
  • Everyone gets up and sits at a classmates illustration
  • They study the illustration and then using the commenting starters (See the link above) they will write a meaningful comment
  • When they are done they will stand up and if there is an empty desk they go and sit there and continue the process until everyone has commented on each other's illustration.
  • We will laminate these so that the kiddos can keep them and remember our year together.
The Paper Blog we did in Math Class

What plans do you have to celebrate your school year with your students?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Accessible Learning for All Post 2 - Leprechaun Lesson

Sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth
I am excited about the ALA tools because they give all students access to grade level content and/or meaningful content that they may not be able to read on their own.  I also love voice typing for all students because it allows the teacher to gain knowledge about a students THINKING.  The students can get their thoughts out and not have the writing get in the way. It is also my belief that using these tools will support independent literacy and language acquisition over time.

I am going to share some of the ways my teachers are using the tools to make content accessible to all of their students.

Leprechaun Lesson:  This lesson was adapted from the global lesson Krissy Venosdale shared:
CLICK HERE.  After reading her blog post, I sent it out to my K-3 teachers and offered a coaching session if they would like to participate.  I had 8 takers and so I created a STEAM lesson that had Krissy's materials as the foundation with the ACA tools and other resources added.  The maker activity (STEAM part) of the lesson was to use recycled materials to build a trap
Here is the link to the HyperDoc I created for the Lesson:

Lesson Plan I shared with the teachers:

The first link on the HyperDoc will take the students to the HyperDoc.  They will have to go to file and make a copy and then the document will be in their Google Drive account or if you are using Google Classroom, you can make a copy for each student.

HyperDoc Tool:

  1. Start with the Spark video: It is a Lucky Charms commercial from the 1970’s (I thought it would be funny for the students to see the commercial I watched when I was their age and compare how the cereal has changed…)
  2. Information:
    1. Click the link and read Luck’s Blog to learn what he likes so the students can plan how they will attract a leprechaun to their trap.
    2. Have the students fill in the table with the 7 things Luck loves using the Voice Typing Tool (this is a link to a screencast)
    3. Have the students continue reading his blog to discover 2 additional things he loves and add them using the Voice Typing Tool
  3. Interesting Facts:
    1. Click on this link then use Readability and Read and Write for Google (this is a link to a screencast) to have the Chromebook read to the students.
  4. My Map of Ireland
    1. Have the students click on the Ireland red marker, then click on “view in Google Maps”
    2. Then click on the little yellow man in the bottom right corner to get street view pictures of Ireland.
    3. Let them explore Ireland in Google Maps for a bit.
  5. Challenge: Go over the project information
    1. Have the students plan their trap and what materials they will bring in to build it.

Here is a screenshot of the HyperDoc:

This lesson was a great way for the students to practice using three of the accessibility tools.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Accessible Learning for All (ALA) Series Introduction

Our district has a team participating in an Accessible Curriculum for All (ACA) cohort this year.  We are learning about accessibility tools for not only special needs students but for ALL students.  As we have learned about Universal Design Learning from CAST, I have integrated the tools into my STEAM and instructional coaching for the teachers in our district. 

I have changed the acronym from Accessible Curriculum for All (ACA) to Accessible Learning for All (ALA) because the point of the tools is to provide equal access to learning for ALL students. This post as an introduction of a series of blog posts I will be writing on the ALA topic.  

The first resource I am sharing was developed from what I have learned and practiced with my teachers and their students.   It is a Multi-media Text Set that has ALA tools with links to videos, screencasts, photos, and/or the play store.  Here is a link  CLICK HERE to access the document and the interactive slide below. 

 The next post will include HyperDoc lessons so you can see the ALA tools in action.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

"Try Everything" Another Great Message from Disney

Last Week Skip, Tater and I went to see Zootopia.  As the beginning credits began to stream, Shakira's song "Try Everything" began to play and as I listened to the lyrics tears formed in my eyes.  As usual the message of this movie hit home with me and where I am in my journey as an educator.

All I can say is that you have to listen to the song, there are too many quotes to include... Okay, I'll try...  (This is only a few quotes)

"Try Everything"
"I won't give up"
"I won't give in"
"Till I reach the end and then I'll start again"
"I want to try everything"
"I want to try even though I can fail"
"I'll keep on making those new mistakes"
"I'll keep on making them everyday, those new mistakes"

The entire song is a quote for taking risks, failing forward, and learning from mistakes.  And the entire movie is about problem solving, critical thinking, failing forward and persevering.

This school year I have tried everything in one of my roles as a STEAM coach.  In some cases I have shifted pedagogy which is my ultimate goal.  In other cases I have created random acts of STEAM, which has become frustrating as we work to shift culture, instruction, engagement... well everything.

The frustration is good because it drives me to think and plan ahead.  As we move closer to the end of the year, I need to think of next steps for the next school year.  That is a good thing.  Another good thing is the student engagement that has resulted from my STEAM coaching this year.  a great example is Leo who is on the autism spectrum:

I visit Leo's class once a week for STEAM time where we do maker activities, learn to code, program LEGO WeDo, etc...  STEAM time brings out the best in Leo.  It is one of the times of the week he can lead, collaborate, learn and find success.

As Krissy Venosdale writes in her blog post: STEAM is Not a Class, A Thing, or a Trend, It's the World we need to remember that we need to educate ALL students and STEAM is the gateway to engagement.