Monthly Archives: March 2013
I cannot believe I haven’t written about this yet, because I feel like my life has been pretty much Applecentric lately.
Really long story (and if you’re interested in the story you can read my principal’s blog about it here) short, my class (along with Mrs. Hong’s 5th grade class) went 1:1 with iPad minis today!
Before I say anything else, let me show you how they felt about it!
We began the day with this morning welcome screen and my kids knew they were in for a TON of fun, and also a ton of work:
After specials, we headed to the library, where we met Mr. Strecker, our district’s tech guru, who had two big ‘ole boxes of Apple goodies for us. Then we got busy.
We spent most of the next hour working on setting up the iPad so we could start using it–you know, Apple IDs, mail settings, etc. While I knew we could handle it, and we had Mrs. Hong leading the way, it’s really hard to do anything this technical with 40 5th graders! After that hour was over, we headed up individually to our classrooms, to finish our setup.
Upstairs we finished up with a trip to the App Store, where we signed in and did just enough to get them really jazzed about getting started. Then we went to lunch. Ha! (Nice, right?)
After lunch we put the iPads away for a while to work on a math assessment we needed to finish today, but did get our new friends out to scan a QR code that led us to the website where they input the answers to be graded. Couldn’t get away for very long. 🙂
Finally, as the main goals for the day, we downloaded some necessary apps (Kid Blog, Edmodo and Pic Collage) and then used them. Kiddos used Pic Collage to make a display that we put set as our lock screens–now we can tell whose iPad is whose! I wish I’d have saved some of their creations–5th graders are HILARIOUS when you put a camera in their hands and tell them to go for it. Maybe I’ll have them share them with you!
So…nothing “big” officially happened today, but here are my thoughts so far on Day 1 of our 1:1 iPad Scout:
1. I am excited. Really excited! I’ve heard many people talk about how there’s worry about kids being “plugged in” and zoning out, but I’m already thinking the opposite will be true. I know it’s only the beginning, but I LOVED what happened when we started using our Minis for real:
We’re already finding “experts”–they are teaching and learning together about what to do and how to do it!
2. I needed a plan for a safe place to keep them when they’re not in use (because no, they won’t be permanently connected to our hands), so I made tubs. I think they’ll work, and they’re cute. 🙂
3. Eventually there is a plan for kids to take their Minis home (after they participate in a Digital Citizenship workshop with their parents), but for now they’re at school. And I’m already having charging issues. Don’t really want to spend my time plugging and unplugging iPads. This is what we’ve worked out so far. I made another station just like it on the other side of the room on the windowsill:
4. My kids are ready to go 1:1 and I hope I am. I am generally tech-fearless, and am ok when I don’t know it all, and I hope I stay that way. We have a great opportunity in front of us and I want to make the most of it. We’re really lucky around here!
One more thing: be sure to read about what my kiddos thought about today! They used their Kid Blog app to tell the world about it!
So…now I need your help! What advice can you give me as I start this 1:1 journey? How do you best utilize devices with your students for the best learning? Leave a comment and help us out!
Dichotomous Keys, WebQuests and the Zoo–Part 1
We have been busy scientists lately in Rm. 202. Let me tell you about it! (And also let me apologize for not writing about Science very often. This may be one of the first posts I’ve ever included about our lives as scientists…boo. 😦 )
During 3rd quarter we were busy learning about many things. The latest science unit we ventured through was one on Living Systems, specifically animal classification.
One thing we focused on was dichotomous keys. What? You’ve never heard of them? Well before I started teaching about them in 4th grade several years ago, I hadn’t either! Well at least I didn’t know that’s what they were called. Let me show you what I mean:
The goal is for students to be able to use keys like this to identify animals, but we started somewhere else. With shoes. We worked first to CREATE a dichotomous key, so we’d know how it works, and then we practiced using it.
We began by putting everyone’s shoes in a big pile on the floor. Then, we had to decide two groups that we could classify all those shoes into (see, the dichotomy part–two groups). Here’s how we started:
Then, with two groups, we tackled the “boots” pile first. Again, we asked ourselves what two groups we could make. This was pretty easy, and so we decided on:
Next we had a big ‘ole pile of everyone else’ shoes to classify. We started like this:
After that pile was classified and labeled, we could tackle the other side of the “not boots” bunch, which was colored shoelaces.
And so once we were finished, our key looked like a beautiful tree, and ended with everyone’s names. We could now use that key to determine whose shoe was whose.
Here is Natalie in action, proving how she knows who shoe she has in her hand:
After we had practiced with this dichotomous key that we built, kiddos had a go at the one from the top up there, where they had to identify the silly scientific names of these common items:
1. a die
2. a small paperclip
3. a large paperclip
4. a piece of chalk
5. a popsicle stick
6. a colored marble
7. a white marble
8. a sharpened pencil
9. an unsharpened pencil
10. an eraser
Could you do it? Use this dichotomous key and tell us what you think the names of each of these items are. Good luck!
Missouri is one of those places where the weather NEVER makes sense. It’s so true how the saying goes: If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.
And so, I am completely surprised to be showing you these pictures from outside my windows today. Reminder: today is March 24. Yes, it’s SPRING.
And so the questions have begun in earnest: will we have a snow day? I’m not entirely sure what I want the answer to be. Personally, I want a SPRING day!
Life Lessons I Learned on my Treadmill
I am a thinker. If you know me, you probably know that I ask a LOT of questions, and that I am always chewing on something. It’s great to know that if you’re ever in a meeting with me, too, because I will often not have any answers for you on what I think about the topic right then–but if you get back with me the next day, I’ll have a big, long list of things I want to talk to you about!
I’ve shared some of that thinking here before, related to me as a reader and a writer. I’ve even wrote about things you should know about me as a runner.
And so that brings me to this post here today: Life Lessons I Learned on My Treadmill. Surprisingly, even when I’m running and sweating on my treadmill at night, my brain is working. I’m thinking. And usually I’m thinking about what I’m going to write about next, or what I will write at my next Facebook status (weird, I know. 🙂 ).
Hope you’ll enjoy what I was thinking about during my run tonight:
1. Just do it. Even if you don’t want to. There are times in each of our lives when we don’t want to do something, but know it’s good for us, or maybe that we have to do it because someone’s told us to, or is expecting us to. Tonight was one of those nights when I just wanted to sit on my couch and veg out–to check my email and Facebook, hang out on Twitter and blog. But what I needed to do was run. It was a running day (every other day is), and it shouldn’t matter if I’m tired. And so I had to ignore those voices screaming in my head for me to be lazy and just. Do. It. And you know what? Once I got started, I was SO glad I had made that decision. And just like with running, sometimes you just have to stop thinking about how much you DON’T want to do it (a project, homework, the laundry, whatever) and DO it. Usually that takes less time than the whining part anyway.
2. Take someone with you. In this case my “someone” is not a real “someone,” but is instead a music playlist. Many times when I run, I watch TV–shows that no one else in my house cares about, that I can watch while I’m alone and exercising. Tonight, though, I took my friends from Pandora with me instead, and it made the time pass much more quickly. Instead of paying attention to the clock or the time I had left in my workout, I was singing along (yes, at the top of my lungs!) and not even noticing the time. Many things are like that–having a friend (real or on the radio) there to chat with, laugh with, learn with makes the whole thing much more enjoyable. You might even learn something new without knowing it.
3. You just feel better when you’re moving. This one might be a personal opinion rather than something I’ve learned, but I can definitely say I feel loads better when I’m moving than when I’m not. There were some
weeks months when I wasn’t doing anything in terms of exercise. I had started running a year or so ago, and was loving it and what it had done to me and for me physically. And then school started again. And I started my Masters program. And I had a little one start kindergarten. You get the idea. Suddenly I looked up and it was JANUARY and I hadn’t run a single step since August. And I didn’t feel very well. I was sluggish, run down and just felt plain icky. And yes, I had gotten a little larger than where I was at the end of the summer. And so just after the first of the year I started over and relaced my running shoes. And am feeling so amazing again. Now it’s hard NOT to run because of the fabulous way it makes me feel when I do it. (I’m not really sure how this one relates to learning specifically, except for I guess that your brain works better when you’re active than when you’re a couch potato. It’s a muscle, right?)
4. You will make time for what’s important to you. This one is true about whatever it is in your life that you want to do, but for me it’s running and writing. People often ask me how I find time to keep up with this blog, do what I need to do as a wife, mother and teacher, running, etc. and the short answer is that I make it. Ok, really I tell them that I don’t sleep. But that’s not at all true because I love me a good nap! We all have the same number of hours in the day; it’s about how you use them. Instead of watching TV or playing a game, I choose to write on my blog or read a book I want to share with my 5th graders. Instead of watching TV (or WHILE I’m watching TV) I run. And so I guess another part of the answer is that I am a master at multi-tasking. I don’t do much sitting. I do many things all at the same time, because I want to make sure I have time to do them all. Doing the things that are important to you first is another strategy I choose to employ, too, and then I make sure there’s time for them. If you want to, you will.
5. Think before. I was going to make that title say “Think before you speak,” but then I thought about it (ha!), and really I’d say it’s a great thing to do before you do LOTS of things: think before you speak, think before you write, think before you act, think before you eat, think before (and while!) you read, etc…thinking is just a good thing in general, and there are many people who just don’t do it! They move and do and go, without really knowing where they’re going or why, what they’ll do when they get there, or the process they’re going to use while they’re there. I mentioned already that I am always thinking. The whole time I was running, I was drafting what this blog post would sound like! See? Multi-tasking.
6. Smile. Smiling just makes everything better, and can even fool you into liking something you didn’t think you would. Plus it makes your face look nicer. 🙂
7. Don’t listen to Adele Radio. That Pandora station doesn’t play enough Adele. Pick the Sara Bareilles station instead. Much better stuff.
Your turn: what life lessons have you learned lately? Where or when did you learn them? Share your ideas with me and my students! We’d love to learn from you!
The Best of Kirkwood
Robinson’s 2013 Art Show, called The Best of Kirkwood was held tonight and was a FABULOUS event. Many thanks and kudos to Mrs. Maldonado, our most amazing art teacher, for pulling together another showcase of the creativity of the artists of our school!
I wish I had more pictures, and I wish you could have been there, but I had my own fabulous artists (my kindergartener, Riley and my 2YO Allie) in tow and could only visit for short time! Here are a few highlights:
Read Around Revisited
I wrote about the Read Around strategy yesterday, and how it was a great way to get new books into the hands of my kiddos.
This week at our staff meeting, our principal (Jennifer Sisul, @grrprincipal, and a FABULOUS leader) took us through the same activity with our library’s professional library. Let me tell ya, the great ideas are always flowing around our school! And what great timing–Spring Break is next week and we’ll all have time to read.
So, just like our kiddos did, we took time to peruse some titles (some new, some old) and I found some great ones. While I didn’t get a chance to get to everything, here are some interesting reads I’ve added to my list:
I also have at least a nightstand-full of kid novels I still want to read, too! Hopefully my children will let me have some time for that next week!
Your turn: What’s on your to-be-read list? How do you find time to read when you’re a busy, working parent?
A few months ago, our librarian shared a phenomenal strategy with us for exposing readers to new (and sometimes old!) books–a Read Around. The directions were pretty basic:
Mrs. Meihaus’ purpose was to (re)introduce older readers to books they may have missed (or overlooked because they have old covers) and encourage them to try some new things. In the 40 minutes we spent in the activity, we were able to peruse (which was a word she taught us the meaning of and how to do) over 40 new (or old!) titles that we were previously not on our 5th grade radars! What a gift! It was great to hear how many kiddos found some fabulous new try-its–even the ones who only read certain titles or series. Impressive, really.
Well…I liked the strategy so much, that I knew I had to do it in my own classroom library. Just like in Mrs. Meihaus’ library downstairs, I have books that are FABULOUS stories, but may be a few years old, or have a worn cover. Classics, really, that need a second chance.
So we tried it for ourselves.
Have you ever done a Read Around? How did it go? Did you find a new book you didn’t think you’d read? Tell us about it!
The Art Show is Coming!
Changing the Norm
We began our year together talking about norms, and about how we would treat each other as learners. We ended up creating classroom norms and personal standards to live by:
We come back to these norms all the time, calling each other out (including me when I don’t turn off my cell phone, which is a norm they wanted to put on that list) and reminding us of what we’re supposed to be doing.
Well, we’ve added some new norms to our classroom recently, based on new things we’re doing together. And just like the last ones, we brainstormed together and then narrowed down our favorites. And we’re so good at that. I wish I’d have recorded the conversations around these norms, because they are such great examples of respectful, civil discourse leading to consensus. LOVE IT!
Ok, here’s what we’ve got:
The second group of norms is related to our work on Edmodo (more on exactly what that is sometime soon). We started out without an specific “rules,” just the basic ones that we follow every day in our room. But as we got better used to collaborating and working on Edmodo, we started so have some concerns about how it was going. For me, the best part of this list is that all I had to say was, “I’ve noticed some things about Edmdo lately. What are you thinking about it?” and they thought of the same things as me!
There was an in-between list where they then proposed norms related to each of these concerns, but I don’t have a picture of it. 😦 Fortunately, I think they all ended up on our final poster:
But just like with any expectations, rules or norms, the bid deal is following them. And we’re doing such an amazing job of that! I really do have the best bunch of 5th graders around!
How do you use norms in your classroom? Do you norms look like ours? If so, how so? Thanks in advance for helping us learn!