Digital Recording: Counting Strategies

I shared the story of how we have been counting EVERYTHING in our room this week, but there’s a quick story that actually come just before that, as we started our initial journey into practicing counting and recording our strategies.

Kiddos were given a partner and a “mystery bag,” which was full of between 10-35 of something (bags were differentiated for different counters), and asked to figure out how many things were in it.  They were to use an efficient strategy and somehow capture an image to demonstrate how they counted their item(s).  Partners worked together to determine the most efficient way to count their items, took pictures together, talked about their work and added explanations to their pictures via the Notability app on their iPads.

Through the information I received from seeing their images, as well as through observations and conversations conducted during their work time, I was able to more effectively create pairings for later in the investigation.  Partnerships were formed to best challenge and support mathematicians in their continued learning.

Mathematical strategies and digital tools for the win!


What’s in a Name?

We already have done many interesting and fun things as we’ve started this new year together.  And as we get into more “real” learning (yes, I know all learning is important and in many ways the “soft” skills might be more important, but I digress….had to call it something!), I am looking for ways to continue to stress the themes we’ve started with: everyone is valuable, we are different and we are the same, we support each other, we are all starting in different places and that’s ok–we’re all growing and learning together!

So when I saw this unit shared by our friend and AMAZING coach (and I don’t use the word AMAZING lightly) Amy Wessel, I knew I needed to find a way to use it–it matched up with all of those goals I already had in place.  Plus it was interesting and fun and we LOVE those things!

Ok, so I didn’t follow the unit completely as written, but I did utilize the book list as well as the ideas for “homework” to use with families.

Let me tell you the story…

As you’ve already seen from our #classroombookaday tweets and posts, we are a class the LOVES to read and often bases lessons/discussions on a good book.  So of course as we started to talk about our names, I went to the book list shared by Ms. Wessel, as well as some others I had found on my own at my library (which is another AMAZING thing!).

Together we read Hello, My Name is Octicorn (which isn’t so much about names as it is about accepting those who are different than us and making new friends but has NAME in the name LOL) and Thunder Boy, Jr. (which was surprisingly about a boy who has the same name as his dad and wanted his OWN name that told about him).

Then, since I wanted them to get into those iPads that had shown up in our room, we went on a little letter hunt around our room.  They were supposed to find all the letters of their name, take pictures of them, then crop the images and upload them into Notability to build their name (which is similar to the directions from our Outdoor Adventure Writing Outdoor Adventure Writing from the other day, too).  THEN they were to take a screenshot of that image and later send it to me in eBackpack so I could see it (and share it here!).  Oh, and they were supposed to take a selfie to use as their lock screen (which is how we tell everyone’s iPads apart when they’re laying around).  See?  Told you they know how to do LOADS of things already!!

They’re a little messy, but I did write/draw the directions for them, since it really was a long list of things to remember and do:


They did a great job of following the directions, talking to each other when they needed help (I had to encourage this with some friends, as they are still learning that I am not the only one with the answers!), and sharing things they found out with the rest of the class.   These images will become the Home screen on their iPads for now.   Check out some of our creations!

What a great start!  Can’t wait to share more! 🙂

Screens Arrive in Rm. 202!

Remember back in 2012 when I did an iPad Scout with my 5th graders?  Seems like forever ago, and we’ve come a LONG WAY since then.

For instance, I’ve now taught another 5th grade, as well as 1st and 2nd graders with iPads and it’s amazing how much these kiddos know about how to do things, how to troubleshoot, how to help each other and also what ideas they come up with that I hadn’t even considered!

So as we were ready to pull out our iPads for the first time this year, I was interested in how much I would need to explain before we could get going.  So I asked a simple question as our warm-up this week:


I’m not sure if you can read what’s on that chart, but these kiddos came in to Rm. 202 with some SUPER smart thinking about how to be safe, productive and smart with their iPads.  They told me things like wash your hands, put it on a table when you’re not using it (and not the floor!), use your headphones, be quiet, ask the teacher and do what you’re supposed to do.  I mean come on–those are all the things I was going to say!  It was so easy to begin our work much more quickly since kindy had put in so much time and work previously.  GOTTA APPRECIATE THAT!

When my next question got lots of “yes” hands, I was again super happy.  Aside from just knowing how to take care of their new device, they also knew how to do things with it!  Aside from just knowing basics like being able to turn it on, put it to sleep, swipe the screen to get started (when it is sleeping), etc., they knew about apps that I wanted them to use (for example, Notability and eBackpack–the LMS we use in our district) and how to take pictures and then use those pictures to demonstrate learning.  I’ll give more examples of that in later posts (like how we went on a letter hunt and built our names!), but for now we just have two words for our kindergarten teachers:

I really cannot express my appreciation more for how easy they have made my job of getting starting with iPads this year.  They are ready and they are excited!  And I’M EXCITED to see where we’ll be able to go with this sturdy foundation that’s already been built.  🙂

In Rm. 202, Everyone’s in the Geek Squad!

One thing I love about learning how to use iPads–or anything that is new to most kids in the room– is that we figure things out together!  Sometimes this happens when I teach a new skill, and sometimes it happens when even I don’t know what to do and I simply say, “Let’s figure out how to do….”  Either way, someone becomes the expert and then shares that knowledge with a friend.  Then we all become experts!

It goes right along with the saying we have in Rm. 202–that we are all teachers and we are all learners–and it makes my teacher-heart happy!

IMG_4314 IMG_4315 IMG_4316 CAM01818 CAM01819

I think my favorite story yet came the other day when I had to step back, get out of teh way and let my firsties do what they know how to do.  Here’s what happened:  we were learning to use Popplet and Diego wanted to put a picture into one of the popples (the circle parts of the web) he was making, but every time he tried, the screen on his camera came up black.  As I walked by and he was trying to figure out what ot do about it, I saw him get into the settings on his iPad and start to tinker.  Now, mostly because I’ve been working with 10-11 YOs for so many years and I know the havoc that can be wreaked when kids are in the settings on their devices, I had red flags coming up when I saw this.  I asked him what he was doing, he said, “Well I remember one time this happened with another app and it was because the app didn’t have permission to use the camera.  I wonder if that’s the problem this time.”  Then he proceeded to find the settings for Popplet and indeed, the app did not have the right settings to use the camera!


WOW–talk about transferring knowledge!!  I had to apologize for my jumping to conclusions, and congratulate him for knowing what to do.  And of course, when 4 more people had that same problem during our work time, he was the expert I sent them to!  WAY TO GO, DIEGO!!  And the best part of this all?  The stories I could tell like this one keep happening every day!  We’re learning many things that we will use for many, many years to come. 🙂

First Grade Bloggers!: Part 5–Teaching the BIG kids!

Alright….one more time…here are the links to the first four parts of the story.  And this one is probably the biggest and best: this part of the story is about how 20 super smart first grade bloggers taught their FIFTH GRADE BUDDIES about how to blog.  Yup–you heard me right: the little kids taught the BIG KIDS something.  Before I even tell you what happened, I feel like I should start with my some of my kiddos’ words about how it felt.  Wait—maybe that will tell the story better than anything else I could say. 🙂

Evan—“It felt spectacular. I felt good teaching a 5th and I’m only a 1st grader. It was hard. He kept on asking me questions and I wasn’t sure how to answer.”

Peyton—”It made me feel happy. It filled up my bucket to be a good teacher to a 5th grader.”

Lauren—“I felt happy because I got to see my buddy and there were words that were popping up that were funny.” (I think this is about the auto-correct feature on their iPads 🙂 ).

Ella Marie—“It felt awesome. I got to make blogs and I like blogs! I saw something new and I told my buddy about it.”

Sara—“I felt happy because we could make a blog together.”

Charlie—“I felt like I was the most important teacher in the world! I like that my buddies are funny!”

Diego—“I felt so happy because usually big kids but usually little kids were the teachers!” (Doesn’t this one just say it all?!)

Kylie—“I felt good because we got to experience new things that I didn’t know about, then I figured out I did know about it.”

Emily—”It felt good because I felt like a teacher and also it felt good to teach a 5th grader!! Little kids usually get taught by bigger ones.” (Again–what an authentic audience!)

Thomas—“I was really excited because it was my first time writing with a 5th grader. It opened up my grit.”

Amelia—“I felt really happy because I didn’t know how to spell a word, and my LB helped me. It filled up my bucket!”

The assessment we used to tell us we did a SUPER JOB of explaining blogs to our buddies?  Their questions to their teacher as they left our room: “Dr. Grayson, can we have our own blogs, too?”  What more could we ask for??  🙂

We’re 1:1!

A few years ago, I was part of an iPad Scout as our school district made decisions about how best to implement a 1:1 initiative.  Since then, they decided to go with iPad Minis for everyone (well, except for K this year, who is utilizing the iPad 2s the teachers used to have), and now it’s finally first grade’s turn!!

Since we’re a little ahead in Rm. 202 technologically speaking (partly because of my scout experience), we were the first class to get our Minis!  Check out the faces here–they say it all!

CAM01515Ok, but I’m getting ahead of myself…there was much work that happened before we could take this picture.  Let me explain.

As a member of our district’s Technology Leadership Group, I have the opportunity to learn and grow with other tech-minded friends, and share resources for our tech-learning journey.  So as I got started with iPads in 1st grade (which is very different than getting started with them in 5th grade!), I was glad to have help from my friend Jen Bartin, who has had several years of experience with using them well in 2nd grade.  She shared her version of iPad Boot Camp, and it was just what we needed.

So before we even THOUGHT about unpacking the box of bright red goodies, we had to talk about the expectations.  More than anything else, these little friends of mine need to be on teh same page as me about why we have them, how we will use them and how we will be safe as we do that.  The first thing we did, then, was read and discuss the student iPad agreement:

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 12.35.26 PMThis conversation was a bit long, and probably one of the most boring things we’ve done in a long time, but SUPER IMPORTANT to our work.  They seemed to get it, and are dedicated to doing the right thing.  That last line seemed to weigh heavily on them.  They understand their choices and consequences are related. 🙂

We spent the rest of the day learning some logistical things, like turning the iPad on and off, using the lock button for the screen, creating shortcuts to some important places on the home screen, and turning off the clickety-click sounds the keyboard makes.  While it is really important to me not to be solely app-focused, there are some good ones that we will use often, like Raz-Kids, which we have been using already on our class iPads and laptops.  This was an easy one to get them going on and is a great way to build our reading skills.  We also learned how to use the Kidblog app (which is a little different than the way the website works) to work on a post related to our history study in Social Studies.  Dreambox–another app we use regularly–is also our iPads and we checked it out before we had choice time.  It’s not usual that we’re all doing the same thing at the same time, but hey, if we want to, now we can!


Kids checking out Raz-Kids on Thursday!

Yeah, but we weren’t finished there.  The last lesson of the day was how to put these little beauties away and how to charge them so they’re ready to use every morning.  We already had the cart (that our laptops used to go in), and just had to figure out how to best organize the iPads inside it.  I had seen a post this summer that used a dish drainer to hold devices and thought we’d give it a try.  I had one on my table (that I was using for something else), but threw it in the cart to see how it would work.  Empty, it looked like this:

CAM01517I know it looks like a big jumble, but the idea is that every cord (which are all already labeled for each kiddo) is in order and will be available for kiddos to pull out easily.  Right now (until I buy another tray) there are 13 on the top and 7 using the dividers that were already there.  It seemed like a great idea.

And then we started putting them away.  I took time to carefully and clearly show each kiddo (two or three at a time) which cord was theirs and where their iPad went in the tray.  It took about 10-15 minutes to get 20 in there, and it looked like this once we filled it all up:

CAM01518And now I’m not so sure.  Now all I see is a big jumble of cords.  It seems like unless I stand there every time with every kid, it will ALWAYS be a headache.  I’m thinking I’m going to scrap the dish drainer idea and install more of those plastic dividers.  Any suggestions, friends who are already doing this?  I want to have a system that is both functional and completely kid-sustainable.  Like with most everything else we do, I don’t want this to be something an adult has to do for them.  I want them to take the lead.  Thoughts?? 🙂

UPDATE:  After a suggestion from Jen Bartin (remember her smart ideas for iPad Boot Camp?) and a reflection on HOW LONG it took to put them away that first time, I decided to chuck the whole “dish drainer” idea and just use the dividers.  And it didn’t actually take as long as I was told to put them in.  It works better and boy is pretty!  What do you think?

CAM01558So much better, no?  This picture makes my heart happy for so many reasons!  It’s weird, but I think my favorite part is the stickers.  Functional and cute:


Rather than labeling with names, I just put numbers that correlate to our class numbers that we use for almost everything else.  This system works so. much. better! 🙂

Into the Woods

We have the most AMAZING woods behind our school, and it’s such an adventure when we get to go out and play (and learn, of course!) out there!  We have gone several times this year, and just the other day we got to explore with our 5th grade learning buddies.  They had a job (which was given by Mrs. Sisul, our principal, and unknown to me!), but I think it has to do with reasons why the woods are such a great place to learn.  We’re working on vamping up our outdoor spaces, and this is a great example of how important they are to the kids of Robinson School.  The “big” kids used their iPads to take pictures and then create a Keynote of slides that capture the essence of what happened on their adventure in just one image.  Check out what they did!  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE what goes on with our students! They truly never cease to amazing me with their creativity. 🙂

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