Tuesday, July 19, 2016

So Many Tech Tools....So Little Time!

There are so many different ways to incorporate technology into the classroom and so many different applications or websites to use. I will never claim to be a technology expert, but one thing my years of experience has taught me is that you just need to jump in. Take on one or two different tech tools during a year. At first start small, you want to become comfortable with the tools you are using. Then start trying out different features or looking up different ways to use the tech tools. I know for me just playing around with something, being hands on, helps me to discover how to use something and how I want to use something. Know that just because it is out there does not mean it is the best tech tool or just the best tool for you and your class. I try to limit the number of websites I use just so I don't overwhelm my students or myself. As teachers we are spinning enough plates we don't need to spin more than we need to.

So with all of that said I'm going to talk about a few tech tools I use the most in my room and which ones I'm going to play with this year.

  1. Google Classroom- Google classroom is amazing and there are so many ways to use it. I have typically just made one class and used it for multiple different purposes. I post videos and ask students to comment or answer questions on it. I post links to games or websites we are using in class for the students to use or reference. I mainly use it as a way for students to open, create, and answer assignments. One of the great things about it is that students can access it from home or anywhere as long as they know their email.
  2. Cami- This is another Google app that you can use with Google classroom. After your students download this free app they can open documents in Cami. I love it because it allows me to scan in worksheets, outlines, etc and the students can write on them with Cami web tools. When I open them back in Google classroom I can grade them on the spot. It's just so awesome! It cuts down on paper and makes planning lessons that much easier.
  3. Classroom Dojo- I won't say much about this app because it's so great that I already wrote a blog entry on it. What I will say is that it is a great app for classroom management and family connection. It allows parents a better view of what occurs in the classroom and what their student is doing in class. Click Here to read more.
  4. Flubaroo- This is an add on for Google sheets/forms. Recently, Google has become more teacher friendly for creating and grading Google forms. Before all of these new features I have been using flubaroo and have loved all the possibilities. This add on allows you to grade Google forms and send them back to students. It can grade multiple choice questions and one word answers quickly. It also allows a hand grading option where you can give any amount of credit you want to the longer answers the students give. I have used them strictly for quick check ins and spelling tests. It has been the easiest and most painless way for me to grade spelling....so of course I love it!
This year I plan on trying just a few different tech tools. 
  1. Class flow- Classflow looks like an amazing way to make lessons and power points more interactive. Students can respond to examples and teachers can pull them up on the board to go over them. Also, the teacher can share slides or the entire powerpoint with the students so they can follow along during a lesson or reference the information. I can't wait to dive into this free tech tool and try it out with my class this year.
  2. Google Expedition- Google is amazing and constantly developing programs to make the classroom an engaging place. This program is one of those that got me sooooooo excited. I had the chance to try out Google Expedition with Google Cardboard at WITcon and it took my breath away. It allows us to take our students around the world on many different VR adventures. The app is free and my class will be seeing the world soon!
  3. Kahoot- I have used Kahoot this past year, but my hope is to use it more. I want to try and create my own Kahoot quizzes for my class, which I haven't done yet. If you don't know Kahoot is a website that allows teachers to create fun, multiple choice, timed quizzes. Students can log in with a code given by the teacher and take the quiz as a whole group online or I have seen teacher give the quizzes on the smart boards with the students showing their answer with a colored piece of paper. The Kahoot website is awesome because they have a library of quizzes you can use or you can create your own. It's a fun way to review for a test or practice skills in class. As a teacher, Kahoot allows us a quick way of seeing who is getting a concept and who is struggling.
  4. Weebly- I have just recently started my first Weebly Website. It is pretty user friendly and a great way to communicate all the amazing things going on in your class. The website will be my digital newsletter, a place to find resources, updates on our classroom, and so much more. I'm excited to use this new website to make my classroom more digital and accessible.
What Tech Tools have you used and liked? What Tech Tools are you going to try this year? 
Let me know your thoughts:
Teaching Power Play Facebook Group
Periscope @mlee97622

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Excitement and Engagement Starting Day 1!

The first day of school is coming up. I know typically for students it's a time to be sad and disappointed that summer is ending. Heck, I know I'm even disappointed that I can't sleep in and relax on a beach chair, but alas all good things come to an end. So even though this is a little bit of a depressing time for both teachers and students it doesn't have to be. It should be a celebration of learning and making school a fun and exciting place to go. If your not excited about something, not passionate, things become a chore. But, if you show your passion and excitement it can be contagious and what was once a chore is now an exciting journey.
It seems like an idea that should be common knowledge, but it took me attending the Ron Clark Academy and learning of their first day activities to really know how impactful the first day of school can be. I visited a year ago and last year was the first year I decided to change it up. Last year, I sent postcards out to every student that was registered for my class. We don't get class lists until about a week before school starts, but I sent them out hoping the students would get them in time. (Which they did, Go US Postal!) I simply found a free postcard template on TPT and printed it on card stock at home. I chose a Dr. Seuss quote, "Oh, All the Places You Will Go!" I thought it meant a lot for 5th graders and he is my favorite author. I wrote hand written notes that were similar to each student, that I tried to personalize, welcoming them to my class and showing my excitement for the year.

This year I am excited to go a little further. I created classroom invitations that go with my hockey themed classroom. On the front is just all the information about the first day and when it is, but on the back is a QR code. Now, I start by saying I don't use QR codes in my class, just because  1. I haven't used them before and I'm not sure how/ when to use them 2. It seems more difficult if the students don't have iPads or IPhones. So creating a QR code was new to me, but I was very excited to try it out. The QR code it's a link to my first ever classroom website that I created through Weebly. Weebly is really awesome and easy to use on the computer. What I will say is that if it's your first time creating one do it in chunks because it can be time consuming if you try and really go big. I was able to make a really great site with a few different pages for contact info, about the teacher, and resource links.
My favorite part is the riddle page I designed. I decided to start the year working on reading skills. These skills focusing on inference and context clues.  I also plan on doing a mystery in the first few weeks of school as a review project for context clues and inference skills. So when creating a website and thinking about engaging my students at the very beginning of the year I decided to have them solve a riddle using inference skills. So one page on the website is dedicated to this first day riddle. I asked the students to solve a small riddle and fill out a google form after they think they have the answer. The Google form also has a few questions that help me to get to know the students better and what they did over the summer.
This is my first time trying this and I plan to send a fun letter with the invitation to explain to the parents and students what the riddle task is and how to use the QR code. We will have to see if and how this all works out but my hope is that it goes well.

Our building will also be having a grand opening of sorts for the school year. The plans are still being made but the idea is still to celebrate the beginning and make a strong impact of excitement for school and learning. We are thinking music, balloons, maybe a performance or something fun after a few words from the principal. Like I said it is still in the planning stages but it will be something different that the students will probably never expect.

How do you plan to start the year? What will you do to welcome your students?

Let me know your ideas on:
Twitter: @teaching_power
Facebook Group: Teaching Power Play
Periscope: mlee97622

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Student Portfolios

This past year I started creating Student Portfolios. It took sometime to begin, but it was SOOO worth it!

I will say I didn't know how to start and I searched the internet for some ideas. I ended up setting up my binders in a way that was the easiest and best way for me, but if you are looking for places to start check out Pinterest. Many of the pages you will see in the pictures are actually ones I found on Pinterest and TPT. I LOVE Laura Candler and she has a great pack to get you and your students started CLICK HERE to check it out.

Ok, my students, as part of their school supply list, brought in 1-2 inch binders. The students created cover pages and decorated them as they liked in their own time.

The first page we completed together. As a class we discussed what a mission statement is and what our class's mission statement should be. Together we discussed the importance of education and what our roles are. Below is what we came up with.

Prior to creating the binders with my class I decided to create three simple sections to start. The first section was the goal portion. Students at the start of each quarter created at least two goals for themselves. I spent sometime each quarter talking about good academic goals and how to create a plan to achieve them. In this coming year, I would like to have check points during the quarter or goal buddies to help students achieve their goals. At the end of the quarter students evaluate their goals and decide if they need to change their action plan to achieve them next quarter or create a new goal.

One Student's goal sheet

The same student's review sheet
The second section was where the students monitor their progress on our checkpoints throughout the year. This is where my students kept benchmark scores on AIMs Web assessments, but this can be used on classroom assessments, sight words, timed tests etc.

The final section is the student portfolio section. This is where the students had a chance to compile all of the work they were proud of. Many students kept tests, quizzes, and projects that they completed during the year. Some students even kept assignments that they enjoyed or ones they did better then they originally thought they did. The students would also fill out an entry page to explain why they chose the piece and what grade they thought they would get and what grade I actual gave them.

Like I said I really enjoy using this binder portfolio for my students this past year. It was great way for the students to take charge of their learning and see their growth during the school year. I will say that it does take some time to set up and work through at least twice a quarter, but I think the pay off is worth it. Now, I know that we are starting to move more into technology based learning, with that being said there are some really great portfolio options for students via the internet and apps. Most require tablets, a computer with a camera, or a teacher who has access to a camera/smartphone at the very least.

One option is the Class Dojo Student Portfolio that was just launched the other day! It is an amazing add on to the Class Dojo App that allows students to post photos of their work allowing parents and teachers to view it as well. It is currently called Student Stories and you can check it out here.

Another option is Seesaw. I don't have a strong knowledge of Seesaw because I haven't used it before, but from reading about it and looking into the possibilities it is a strong portfolio option. If you have more information or have used it before please comment or message me, I would love to learn more about it.

How do your students show what they learned? Do they have a binder or use an electronic portfolio? Let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!

As always you can message me on:
Twitter: @teaching_power
Facebook Group: Teaching Power Play
Periscope @mlee97622

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Bags of Good Feelings

Everyone loves to feel good and there comes a point in the year when we really need to focus on the positive...this point might come sooner than we would hope. This activity is a great way to help refocus your class and help build on a positive classroom family. The activity is called Bags of Good Feelings and is super simple to set up. The materials you will need are paper bags, art supplies to decorate with, and scrap paper to write notes on. Ok, to start each student gets a paper bag. They must write their name large and neatly so other students can read it. I have done it where I personally have written them on the bags first or had the students write them on labels of some sorts to add to the bags. The students can decorate the bags as they would like with drawings and colors. I then tape them to a part of the wall so they can be seen and reached. After all bags are completed and taped up you can move to the written activity.

This is a bag I created two years ago during the winter Olympics. 

Students are instructed to write positive notes to one another that are more than,"you are nice." I explain that students need to write complete sentences for each student and that they MUST write their name on each note. The notes need to point out something nice that person did, a personality trait you noticed, or an awesome character trait you witnessed. They should be different for each student and hand written. We do a practice one together on the board based on a teacher in the building (This year I plan on making the practice teacher a real bag and we will drop it off as a class. It might be a nice way to spread positive energy through the building). We talk about how we would describe this teacher and why we would describe them this way. What is special about this teacher? Have they done things for the school? Have they done things for you? Once we brainstorm the students write their own note to  the teacher and we share them aloud. We discuss what we like about the student written notes and ways to improve them. Afterwards, the students get a class list and start working on class notes. I tend to set a due date for all the notes and only set aside maybe 10-20mins on the first day to work on it. I explain to the students that they need to work on them during their extra time after they complete class work and quietly during read aloud time. The majority of the students do a great job at  writing and really enjoy doing them. They also can't wait to take their bag and read their notes.

There are a couple of ways to do a note reveal. I tend to just let my students take their bags home to read, but you could make a reveal party where they can read them in class. You could also have students share one during a morning meeting at random. Students could also read their notes before placing them in the bags during Morning Meeting or just the last 10mins of class. There are so many ways to modify it to your class. I would highly suggest this as a fun classroom, group, team building activity. It might take some time out of the class day, but it is so worth it to see the students highlighting each other's positive characteristics. It definitely helps me as a teacher when I read my own notes students send me. It refreshes our class and gives a positive lift to our classroom.

What do you do in your class to build a positive atmosphere?

Share and keep connected!
Teaching Power Play Facebook Group
Periscope @mlee97622