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Tuesday
Feb242015

With A Purpose ...

Since one of my goals is to stretch the thinking of my students, I think reflection is a good way to help my students think about their thinking …

So I have started asking questions to start conversations about the thinking strategies and skills used that day in class …

With my 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students …

And anyone else who happens to be in the room!

I made these signs to display in my classroom

I have goals for skills and strategies to encourage and support each day 

But there are many times when students come up with so many more than the ones I expect!

In order to keep students from just listing things that they think I want to hear (or what I call “making a grocery list”), I ask follow up questions so students can work on using details to support answers.

But not in a boring way 

Many times I have wished I was recording those learning conversations we have at the end of class since I never know what is going to be said

Most of these times these conversations lead me to smile!

We do some fun activies …

But fun activities with a purpose!

Monday
Feb232015

Changing Excuses to Reasons to DO!

Last week I shared that I thought I had a breakthrough with one of my groups of students:

  • Then it was time for my 3rd grade group. I haven’t felt very connected with this group (been meeting with them twice a week since middle of January) but things seemed to CLICK today!!!  We did a creative writing activity using a task card from the Wacky Writing Prompts mini pack.  Students had an object, a place, and a person that they needed to include somewhere in the story. We brainstormed possibilities and then I just let students write. I really tried to stay quiet to not interrupt the thinking and writing process. Seeing student ideas unfold and float out onto pages just made this writing teacher’s heart sing! 

Since we were out of school due to snow and ice, I did not see those students again for a whole week …

So in some ways I thought I might have to start all over again today …

I was wrong!!!!

And that is a good thing!

I managed to find some laptops that were not being used during the time I meet with this group, so while home due to snow, I was trying to figure out what I could do to keep the connection going with that class and possibly find a way to use the laptops.

As an instructional technologist, I shared with teachers the benefits of having students blog, so that crossed my mind, but …

The excuses for not doing that crossed my mind too …

I don’t meet with these students every day. I don’t know what they can do. I was afraid it would be too much for me to handle. That group of students is not a small group.

But then I realized that those were EXCUSES and not REASONS for me not to do something …

Those actually should be reasons for me TO DO something …

And since blogging is the way I started with technology and using technology in the classroom, maybe that would be the best way for me to start again …

So while all those thoughts were spinning around in my head, my daughter (8) was doing more than just thinking ideas …

She was posting on the blog her 3rd grade teacher set up for the class …

Her teacher attended one of the sessions I did on using KidBlog in the classroom, but I learned more from her example (as I saw through my child) that she learned from me at that session …

My daughter posted more on her blog last week than I did on mine!!!!!!!

Her teacher had instilled confidence in her to know what to do and be inspired to do it  …

Even when not in the classroom!

So I chose to take that plunge too!

Yesterday my 3rd grade group began blog posts sharing the stories they wrote last week (using a prompt from the Wacky Writing Prompts mini pack)

And even though I often say that our students can do so much more than we (teachers) think they can, I am excited to say how pleasantly surprised I was at the WONDERFUL job that group did!

Towards the end of our time together, I told students that they could follow the same path we took to get to the blog (went through the school webpage and then my teacher page) if they wanted to work on their post from any computer with internet.

As the group was leaving, a few students came over just to make sure they had the correct usernames and passwords in case they wanted to get back on the blog to work …

This smiling teacher gladly shared that info!

And one girl asked me if she could start another story on a new post after she finished the first one 

Can you guess my answer?

:)

 

I admit that I was scared and was not sure things would go well.  I guess that is a pretty bold statement for someone who spent the last 5 years encouraging teachers to take chances and try things with students.

So I decided to follow my own advice …

And couldn’t be happier!

I have a feeling this small step will encourage my students to want to do even more …

And I need to follow their lead!

 

Friday
Feb202015

What Can We Do Today?

It is COLD!

There is ICE outside!

So what are we doing inside … we are creating!

Last night I showed my daughter this step-by-step video tutorial that was made by kids for kids!

She loved the project and wanted to get started right away!

So we gathered supplies and took over the kitchen table!

Here is her creation:

My little one had a great time following the instructions to create as well as coming up with ideas to make it unique!

She also started asking questions about making her own video giving instructions on how to make something …

It sounds like she was inspired … not only from the end result but also by the whole process

Which gives this teacher some ideas for the classroom …

  • write instructions
  • activities for following instructions
  • create video demonstrations
  • simple materials for projects (all this one took was a cereal box, yarn, scissors, sharpies, and aluminum foil)
  • math discussions … types of lines, shapes, angles

 

You never know where you might find ideas and inspiration …

 

By the way, after my daughter finished this creation, she was determined to teach me how to finger knit!

 

My daughter has had more practice, but I think I am starting to get a little better …

Since my aunt asked my daughter to teach her too, maybe that is a video demonstration with instructions we can do together!

Monday
Feb162015

STEM, a Book, and Wacky Writing ... Makes for a Great Morning

I had a really good day today …

And it is not because students got out 2 hours early due to a winter weather forecast!!

The 4Cs (Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication) as well as lots of thinking skills made an appearance in my classroom today!

Here is a quick overview of a few things that really made me smile today:

  • My morning began with a group of 4th and 5th grade students. I let students vote whether to do a creative writing activity or a STEM activity. It was a good thing I had the needed materials since STEM won the vote today! Bring on the toothpicks and mini-marshmallows as we embarked on the Three Billy Goats Gruff challenge found on Starfish Education. (I took lots of pictures and made some great observations, so be on the lookout for me to share more soon)
  • Next came a group of 2nd grade students. Over the weekend, I got to visit my favorite little bookstore (Quail Ridge Books). I don’t normally look at the children’s books there (I know that is not a think you expect to hear from an elementary school teacher), but one book caught my attention: The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock. I loved the books so much when I read it this morning before school that I just knew I had to use it today! After doing a read aloud (which I love to do) and a think aloud where we discussed the things we noticed both in the story and in the illustrations, we did a listening activity inspired by Elizabeth Peterson’s book Inspired by Listening
  • Then it was time for my 3rd grade group. I haven’t felt very connected with this group (been meeting with them twice a week since middle of January) but things seemed to CLICK today!!!  We did a creative writing activity using a task card from the Wacky Writing Prompts mini pack.  Students had an object, a place, and a person that they needed to include somewhere in the story. We brainstormed possibilities and then I just let students write. I really tried to stay quiet to not interrupt the thinking and writing process. Seeing student ideas unfold and float out onto pages just made this writing teacher’s heart sing! 

I want my classroom environment to be welcoming for the 4Cs and other higher order thinking skills to be frequent vistors or maybe even move in …

My morning reminded me of why I do what I do!

Tuesday
Feb102015

Not really something I wanted to do...

Greek Mythology …

What is your first thought?

I have to admit Greek Mythology is not at the top of my favorite things to teach …

Or at least it wasn’t …

At one of the school I started working at in January, there was a Gifted Education group meeting once a week. The students in that group were beginning a Greek Mythology unit. After spending a few weeks building background knowledge, the students were really excited about the mythology project that includes lots of different types of thinking activities as well as group work.

And now I was taking that over …

Eeeeekkkk!

Even though it probably would not have been my first choice of projects to start wtih, I wanted to try to continue and provide some continuity …

And I am having such a great time!!!!

Student excitement and engagement is through the roof!!

I am just the facilitator and provider of supplies …

Learning is taking place and it is student-centered!!!

Yay!!!

One of the activities we did last week may have looked simple first at first but was so much more …

Students in small groups read a portion of the Echo and Narcissus myth. Then students worked together to decide which words from a list could be used to describe each of the two characters listed.

Just from listening to some of the discussions, and even a few disagreements, I could tell students were digging deep and using the myth to justify their reasons!

One group told me that at the beginning of the myth one of the words applied to a character, but then towards the end of the myth, a change happened so the opposite word applied.

Look at the skills and strategies used there!

This type of activity was also a great way to introduce new vocabulary words.  I did not pre-teach the words at the beginning.  If students needed some help with a word, they asked me. I tried to provide examples and connections rather than just providing a definition. 

And you may notice from the picture that students decided to add a few words to the bottom of the list that they felt should be up there …

I have been trying to think of ways I could use an activity like this to introduce, support, and encourage the learning of vocabulary in the future …

While the Greek Mythology unit may have begun as something I was not really sure I wanted to do, I sure am glad to be a part of it now!