Sunday, April 28, 2019

Authentic Writing You Can Do ... with your Students!

I've shared several times that as a Technology Integration Specialist, I do not have my own classroom of students. Nor do I have any kind of regular teaching schedule. This allows me to work any teacher and any group of students! My goal is that I anything/everything I do supports classroom instruction and I love when teachers come to me and ask me to work with students. Sometimes, what we set out to do morphs into something else ... and it's always a good thing!

At the beginning of March, Mrs. Laura Counts approached me to help a group of her students. These 5 students had read several books by Sandra Markle (@Sandra_Markle) and had decided they wanted to write their own book, in her style. Laura asked if I would help. Wow! They wanted to do the research, the writing, AND the designing of the book! 

The overall task was this: the students were inspired after reading a non-fiction book to write their own book. As a group, they decided to research bird feet and each selected a bird. They would use their research to write in the style of Sandra Markle. Meanwhile, I would work with them to take their writings and make it into a book.

We set to work. I met with the students a couple times a week to work on the actual book design and on the other days, they would do their research. I had such fun talking through the design process ... we had a LOT of decisions to make! Which tool do we use? Book Creator? Google Slides? Something else? We settled on Slides. Then we poured over every detail ... the dimensions of the book (we literally pulled out a ruler to measure!); making the wooden sign; which font(s) to use - this was a BIG conversation ... do we all use the same? does each author use a different one?; whose page goes first? last? order?; gathering the credits for the images we used; and many more! I have to hand it to these 5 kiddos. They did an AMAZING job! They put forth their very best. It really shows!

A very interesting conversation we had very early on was whether or not Ms. Markle would

Sunday, April 21, 2019

#PodPeeks: Educational Duct Tape

I've not featured a podcast in awhile and do I have a good one for you today!!! I love listening to podcasts especially learning while I'm driving. Now that spring soccer season has begun, I have hour and half long practices twice a week. Perfect opportunity to listen to even more!

A new-er addition to my podcast rotation is Educational Duct Tape by Jake Miller (@JakeMillerTech). You may know him for his #EduGIF's (I'm in the hard-G club). I've been following him for quite awhile. I also find it super cool that he is also from Ohio! He's relatively new to podcasting, with just 16 podcasts published to date, but once he joins your rotation, you won't want to miss future ones. The combination of his soapbox moments, his humor, his all-start line up of guests, and just his way of sharing is incredibly relatable and fun. 

Obviously, I'd recommend all of the episodes, but I know how precious time is, so, if you are only going to go check out ONE, I recommend Episode 10 with Matt Miller. I'll be honest - I was super impressed to hear who his guest was, but what really took me by storm was Jake's "soapbox" moment on this episode. Jake takes a few minutes at the beginning of each episode to highlight/share something that has been impactful to him in some way. This episode, he shared about "adjacent possible theory" by Stuart Kauffman, and I was BLOWN away! Yes, yes, yes a million times! I immediately shared it with my curriculum director and she was just as taken with it. I love when I share something that speaks to me and know it makes a difference to others.

Ross meeting
The adjacent possible theory Jake shared completely altered our small group meeting later in the week ... to the point, I found out later, that the meeting was completely altered and  the adjacent possible theory became the focus. Becky - our curriculum director - "blamed" me. (I'll own that!) She played Jake's soapbox moment during our meeting and I kid you not, it seemed to impact everyone. I snapped this picture of our meeting and Tweeted it out so Jake would also know how much of an impact he made on us.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

During Testing Time, Two Activities You Can Do

Here in Ohio, we have entered "testing season" ... ahhhhh, the smell of spring in education.

Leading up to this, I've been going into classrooms and going over the test tools - which, while helpful, isn't the most fulfilling experiences for myself or the students. I know it's an important and helpful time - I never want the tools to be hurdles for the students. I want the students to be comfortable with the tools and how to use them so it's not a problem when it comes to the test.

Now for the upcoming weeks, my classroom visits will consist of "fun" activities. Trying to balance the focus of testing with lower key - yet still learning rich activities. I can't take credit for the basic idea - but I've taken some good ideas and made them my own. Both of the activities I share below can be used at ANY point in the year, as well as provide students an opportunity for "freedom" when there is time in your schedule. Both activities can support classroom activities if you are willing to stretch your thinking and allow students a bit more creative stretch.

I never claim that my activities are perfect, and often, I leave a classroom with a post-it note full of ways I can improve, adjust, add or subtract, or otherwise alter the activity. What you see below is version 2.0 of both. I created them & went into two separate classes, and walked out with my notes. I spent some time this weekend - around my daughter's soccer tournament games - adjust and updating. As always, please take what you find, and modify it to better suit you and your students.

Leveling Up with Pixel Art in Google Sheets ↬ a 2nd grade teacher asked me to come in and show his students pixel art. We did it last year and his students enjoyed it very much! (Several of them have reminded me of that this year as 3rd graders.) I decided not to reuse last years activity from Eric Curts "Pixel Art Activities for any Subject with Google Sheets" (it's a really good one to use!). I wanted to create something for 2nd graders that would allow an easy entry along with leveling up a bit, while at the same time being able to teach a bit of Google Sheets. I'm happy with the results and judging from their reaction, they were too!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

A Twist You Can Do

For me, inspiration comes from all places. While I sometimes have a very clear idea of what I want to share, other times, it's blurry. Today, it was blurry, border-line non-existent - but I found inspiration as I was helping my youngest do a project for homework.

She brought a project home a week ago, but with soccer practices and regular homework, we hadn't yet touched it. It's a scavenger hunt focused on finding math in our everyday lives. [A really good idea to help little learners that math IS all around us.] The directions stated we could do this as a family and as the complaining mounted about how much work this was going to be (from my daughter, not me 😁), I threw out the idea to use snack sized baggies to collect each item. That was met with a quick, "No!".

I didn't give up and suggested she make a small book to display her findings. She stopped, quickly agreed, and asked, "On the computer?" - because she knows I like to "tech things up". Nope, instead I suggested we find some card stock and cut the pieces to make a small booklet. She lit up and happily started thinking how to make this happen.

Working on her scavenger hunt booklet.
Oh, how this little suggestion went a LONG way in changing the mindset of my youngest! She excitedly helped me pick out the colors for the inside pages, as well as papers for the covers. We looked through some of my scraps from years ago when I did scrapbooking and she chose ones that she liked. She helped me cut them to size. Then we talked through options on how to bind it together. We settled on hole-punching and using ribbon. When we had the book put together, she got to work crossing off the 12 items she needed to find.

She wasn't in favor of putting them on pages in order - she clearly thinks a little more creatively than I ! - and then had to figure out how to label them so her teacher knew which item was which. She's pretty clever, and suggested writing a sentence about each item. She even wrote each sentence in a different color pen, to "jazz it up" (her words). She worked on it next to me, stopping every so often to talk through a thought or problem as she created her book. At this point, she isn't 100% finished, but she still has several days  until it's due and she will have no problem completing it.