These are a few of my favorite things…

a-few-of-my-favorite-things-jan-7-2011(Sing this to the tune of My Favorite Things)
Students on iPads and mixed up math classes, comfy class couches, teaching in sunglasses, fostering students to all love reading, these are a few of my favorite things!

Every teacher has their own unique style. Mine is comprised of several pieces, all contained in my song parody above ūüėČ

IMG_0181.JPGFirst of all, for the parody itself, Music: I’ve always thought that music is a powerful teaching tool. You could go up to any 9th graders at my school and ask them how far the sun is from the earth and most of them would sing you “The sun’s about 93 million miles away, and that’s why it looks so small” from the They Might Be Giants Song I taught them way back in third grade. Music sticks in your head better than just about anything.

img_2529Technology: I’m a tech guru. I love trying new tech tools and apps and websites. If I could have a class set of iPads, I’d be in seventh heaven. Google apps are amazing and Tiny Bop Human Body is the most fun science app I’ve found.
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Flexible grouping: I’ve come to realize over the years that I am a middle and high kid advocate. Yes, our low and struggling students need our support, but I refuse to believe that I should sacrifice 24 students for the benefit of 1. So I love flexible classes. I’ve taught the high math class at my school for the last five years and I love it! We finish concepts quickly and then I get to show my students how cool it would be to become an engineer one day. We build Mars rovers and landers, we play Simple Physics, we research careers in math fields, web build structures out of straws. In flexible classes it’s easier to give all the kids what is best for them.

Flexible learning environments: I call this my deskless classroom. My research on this comes from The Third Teacher. It says there are three teachers of students, adults, their peers, and the physical environment. Our classrooms set the tone for their education, why not use that to the best of our advantage?

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img_2089.pngTeach like a Pirate: my parody teaching in sunglasses line was a bit of a stretch, in rhyme and content, but I can make it work. Teach like a Pirate is all about doing what it takes to engage students authentically. So that might be wearing a silly costume (or sunglasses,) or playing a song, or going outside for a lesson. If kids could choose whether they go to school or not, would they go to your class?

Reading: This is my favorite thing to do in the whole entire world. I love to read. My goal for 2016 is 125 books. I’m currently up to 95 as of the end of September. It’s unfortunatley a subject I have a hard time teaching becuase so often too much curricula and programs and stuff gets in the way of learning to love to read. I’m working on that.

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Building Technology Grit

I am SO excited that our school is choosing to now focus on technology. I have my masters degree in instructional technology and this is what I live for! I believe that tech is a vital component of education and I use it constantly! But there are teachers at my school that struggle with the idea of changing how they teach. So we are working to build our teachers’ tech grit! Here are some of our resources that we will be using to help us start this important work.

TPCK 

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Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. (Try to say that five times fast!) These overlapping circles explain that we have the what we teach (content) and the pedagogy (how we teach it.) Lots of teachers live in that little green area (PC) but what we often skip is the technology and how that is incorporated into our instruction. They all work together and need to be planned together using backwards design. You can’t just squeeze it in at the last minute and have it be nearly as effective.

SAMR 

Teaching has #AllTheAcronyms! The SAMR Model falls into the T circle of TPCK. It shows us that we can incorporate technology into our instruction in different ways and in baby steps.b4e25bceb556254f25c542957f8a6654.png

If you are using an activity that falls under the substitution category, that isn’t bad! Every activity you teach cannot be a redefinition! That would be exhausting and overwhelming for most teachers. Baby steps!

You can also take SAMR a step further and align it with the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

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Common Core Student Standards for Technology 

We were trying to come up with things for teachers to work on with their kids to promote technology use in the classroom and instead of reinventing the wheel, we went to the common core standards. These are skills our technology teacher works on with our kids, but if I see that my third graders should be learning how to perform basic searches on databases, I can plan a project to have them work on that in the classroom too.

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ISTE Teacher Standards

When deciding what teachers should be doing to promote technology in the classroom, we went to the ISTE Teacher standards. These are very general but I think they will allow our teachers who are more reluctant to use technology find some strategies that will work for them. Promoting creative and innovative thinking could be just about anything! We will definitely need to come up with some specific examples to get our teachers started and then hopefully they will run with it!

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So this is our starting point. We will definitely have to take some baby steps and support our teachers as much as possible, but I am excited about the possibilities this technology focus has!

Holes!

Shared reading is my absolute favorite thing right now. I’ve done shared¬†reading in the past where I put a piece of text up on the document camera and read it and we talk about it, but there wasn’t any real engagement. So I decided I wanted the text in my kids’ hands!

I started doing some diggin (no pun intended) on Scholastic.com looking for cheap books. Holes jumped out at me right away and it was only $3.50! It is a bit above most of my students’ reading level, so it was perfect for shared reading. I had all my parents order their kids a copy online and we got reading!

Before we started we made a lapbook with some background info, some graphic organizers and some maps. We also included little printable books to take notes on all the characters that I got from this blog. 

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Now, I’m a reader, and I HATE when people tell me I can’t keep reading, especially if I’m hooked. I just want to keep going! So I rarely do that with my kids, but this one time I am doing it: they are not allowed to read ahead. (Lots of them have seen the movie and have an idea about what’s going to happen anyway, but I’m still keeping up the suspense this way.) To ensure they are following along I made each of them a colored notecard with their “Holes name” on it: first name and then first name backward. So it might say Jordan Nadroj or Asher Rehsa¬†(many of which sound vaguely Indian.) They have to¬†follow along with this notecard to prevent inadvertent¬†skimming ahead while I read. It also helps to save their place when we stop to talk about something, which we do frequently. ¬† do a ton of annotating in my class (like on every piece of paper I hand them.) We write question marks when we’re confused, put stars next to important parts, underline when we find the answer to a comprehension question. I’m really focusing on vocabulary right now, so we’re doing a lot of finding our spelling words in our books, noticing when words have prefixes and suffixes and how that changes the word’s meaning, using a dictionary to look up words we can’t figure out.

In general, we do a ton of annotating in my class (like on every piece of paper I hand them.) We write question marks when we’re confused, put stars next to important parts, underline when we find the answer to a comprehension question. I’m really focusing on vocabulary right now, so we’re doing a lot of finding our spelling words in this book, noticing when words have prefixes and suffixes and how that changes the word’s meaning, and using a dictionary to look up words we can’t figure out. We are also adding small doodles at the beginning of every chapter to help us remember what happened in that chapter, like a visual summary.

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We talk about how writing in a book, one that belongs to you, is truly a magical thing. I write in all my personal books, but I usually don’t tell them lest I find doodles in all my class library books. I underline sentences I like mostly. The kids are only allowed to write in pencil, so it can be erased (I write in different colors of pen: orange for vocab, green for figurative language, purple for examples of good/bad character.) Everything the kids write must be for a purpose. They can doodle if it helps them learn about the plot better. They can circle and underline words that they choose as long as they have a reason. I should NEVER see meaningless scribbles in their books. So far I haven’t had a problem.

I also send my kiddos with the para in small groups to discuss comprehension questions and vocabulary words. I got these from Super Teacher Worksheets. This is what they look like.

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This kind of teaching for me is very authentic. I’m not reading from a script. Most of the time I don’t even prep to see what we are about to read that day, I just start reading. And when I come across a difficult word or an interesting sentence or scene, we stop and talk about it. If the kids make a connection and we tangent for a few minutes, that’s fine! The beauty of shared reading is that I am modeling how I read for my students. They can follow along with my thought process, how I work through difficult words, connections I make, things I wonder about as I read.

And the very best part of this particular shared reading is how engaged and excited the kids are about it. They groan and shout NO when I have to stop. When they are chitchatting (which they often are) I just start reading and they all stop talking immediately and begin following along. They are truly getting lost in the book and that is so rewarding for me to see.

What books have you used for shared reading or read aloud with your class? 

VR!

I got to use virtual reality today and it was SO COOL! I was visiting Legacy Academy to talk tech with some of their staff and they had just gotten their VR system. Before now I was like, “ya whatever, VR is probably cool, but meh.” You really can’t comprehend what it’s like until you’ve tried it and it’s crazy. We were in a fairly small conference room, but I was walking on the surface of mars and plotting points on a graph on the x, y, AND Z AXIS! I could literally get lost in this for hours, and it was just my first taste.

You really can’t comprehend what it’s like until you’ve tried it, and it’s crazy. We were in a fairly small conference room, but I was walking on the surface of mars and plotting points on a graph on the x, y, AND Z AXIS! I could literally get lost in this for hours, and it was just my first taste.

Walking around I was aware that I was still in a conference room. Other people in the room were talking, I could feel the cord from the glasses on the ground, I was trying not to run into anything (but they have cool systems in place to help you not run into anything.) But it’s so easy to get fully absorbed in whatever world you happen to be exploring. And I wasn’t even wearing headphones. I could only imagine what that would have been like.

And of course, I’m already thinking about what I can do with my students in this. I teach astronomy and there are already TONS of space to be explored on VR. It is SO HARD to teach little kids the concept of the scale of space when every picture you google looks like this: INACCURATE! (I’m writing in all caps a lot in this post because I’m really excited!)

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(side note, I take my kids to CU Boulder to walk the mile long scale model of the solar system, and this video does a good job demonstrating the correct scale as well.)

BUT with virtual reality, my kids could LITERALLY (I get annoyed when people use that incorrectly, but I really mean literally with vr) walk on the surface of Mars and see the Curiosity Rover. SO COOL!!!

And this is just the beginning. I’m sure that there will be more educational content rolled out as teachers get their hands on this. From solving math problems¬†to drawing. From to astronomy to virtual field trips: I think the possibilities are endless and I’m so excited to see what happens with it.

(I promise I’m not making a commission off this, I just think it’s awesome new tech.)

Tattling vs. Telling

We have had a lot of issues of tattling in my third-grade class lately. It is very difficult to find a balance between we are a class community, like a family, and we need to help each other and work together, and everyone worry about themselves and then everyone will be taken care of. 

So today we talked about tattling vs telling. 83f659b7fe4c0f66a71474bda7a4e881.jpg

I think the biggest mindset shift for my students is going from “trying to get someone in trouble” to “keeping someone safe and helping them.”

They also can handle a lot more problems than they give themselves credit for. When a kiddo comes to me to tell me someone stole their pencil or whatever, my first question is, “well what did you say to them?” Most of the time their response is “Nothing, I came and told you!” I want to get them out of that habit, because¬†9 times out of 10 it was just a miscommunication or accident that can easily be fixed without my help.

Kids also have a very strong sense of justice and they want everything to be “fair.” I discuss that further in an old blog post you can read here.¬†So we really need to switch our thinking and ponder how we can help each other and NOT just try to get each¬†other in trouble.fair isn't equal.jpg

Student Led Conferences

I am SUPER excited to tell you guys about my plan for upcoming student led parent teacher conferences! Many student led conference plans I’ve seen include the teacher spending tons of time making giant portfolios for each student. I am not a fan of that. My plan is much simpler.

During daily 5 rotations the week before conferences I am going to meet one-on-one with each kiddo to go over what they are going to say during their conference. I also emailed the parents to let them know what to expect. They should plan on their child being in charge (I’m hoping to not talk much except to support the kiddos and answer questions. Maybe I won’t lose my voice this time around!) It’s important to emphasize to the parents that if I had any major concerns I would have already contacted them. No surprises at conferences!

Here is what will be included in students’ conference folders:

  1. A poem for their parents:¬†We’re working on free verse, shape poems, and acrostic. They could be about their parents or about something we’re learning.

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2. iReady reports: These take some time for the kids to understand, but I had them write notes on the forms themselves about their scores, their growth beginning to middle of the year, and what sections they did best and worst on. IMG_3657.JPG

3. Goals: After we go over their iReady scores a lot of the kids use those to help them set a goal for themselves. This kiddo chose to work on social studies.

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4. Their last math test. I had the kids pick one problem to explain how to solve it to their parents. It could be one they got right or wrong.

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5. Writing- we just finished our state non-fiction books. This is an example from one of my lower third writers.

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How do you do student led conferences? 

The Power of Music

Music is a super powerful tool for learning. When I was little my mom would put my spelling words into songs becuase that was the only way I would remember them! And this old commercial jingle is the only reason I know how to spell bologna:

When I was in third grade we learned a song that contained all 50 states in alphabetical order, and wouldn’t you know it, I can still sing the whole song today! In fact, I teach that song to my third graders now.

I got a lovely email from a parent about this song:

Christie, I hope you had a nice long weekend! Thank you so much for the 50 state song. We were blessed with our son singing it every day, all day since Friday. We decided to ski yesterday in part so we could wear our helmets to block out his beautiful singing voice. This reminded my wife and I of years ago when Wiggles songs would get stuck in our heads for weeks on end. You can ask him to sing it for the class as he has it down pat!!! ūüėČ Thanks for all you do and caring so much about the kids!

And that same kiddo went home and found a bunch of cool videos about the states to share with our class. Here is one of them!

There are learning songs online about almost everything.

Astronomy:

Long Division:

Ancient Rome:

If you’re about to tell me you’re not really a singer, get over that, your kids will not care, and start singing! ūüôā

Tagxedo

Bone bone bone bone bone bone muscle muscle muscle muscle muscle muscle muscle tibia tibia knee knee Ribcage Ribcage Ribcage Ribcage Ribcage Ribcage movement movement skeleton skeleton skeleton skeleton skeleton skeleton skeleton calcium tissue broken-bone broken-bone patella femur bicep bicep bicep triceps joint joint joint joint ulna ulna radius tendon humerus compact-bone spongey-bone marrow medullary-cavity periosteum carpals wrist skull skull skull humerus collarbone heel fingers shoulder exercise exercise strong strong strong abs spine heads legs legs legs teeth foot hands arms arms heart elbow 

That looks like a very odd assorted blurb of words. I had my kids at the beginning of our human body unit write down any word they could think of that has to do with bones and muscled. (Some of them used their resources. I already had a few posters up on my walls.) And then I put their reponses into a word cloud using Taxgedgo. We’ll do this again at the end of the unit. This is a great visual to show how much we learned!

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There is a slight flaw in this system. It got the text from my blog post, and it included a few extra words like the title of my blog and all the months down the right side of my archives.