But HOW do I make iPads about learning, not games?

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At the start of my career, I was a self-confessed worksheet girl. I photocopied every morning and every afternoon, had folders for each day with all the worksheets I would need, complete with binders of resources that I’d collected from multiple teaching placements. I probably killed a few million trees…sorry trees.

Since I was introduced to iPads in the classroom, or for that matter any digital technology, my printing and photocopying has decreased.

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But how do I teach maths now? What do I get my students to do instead of worksheets? If we don’t glue a worksheet in their book, or upload it onto a digital portfolio, how will parents know they’ve learned anything and how will we as teachers, assess them?

It’s simple:

  • teach them how to use the technology using simple instructions.
  • focus on creation apps, rather than consumption apps – make the students think!
  • give them time to explore (not ‘play’, explore) what the app can do.

To get you started, I’ve created 4 different task cards which can be used for whole class or small group work in maths. They are based around students creating and applying their knowledge, with a focus on sharing their work with their class and teacher, through taking screenshots, sharing on the big screen, or adding to a collaborative Google Slide. You can download them for free here.

The power of Classroom Connections

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In my second year of teaching, I began a classroom blog. That was my first adventure into classroom connections using modern technology…penpals had been a less than successful experiment in my first year!

In my fourth year, I was still blogging and came across @misskyritsis on Twitter. I have a feeling that we connected our classrooms using a Mystery Skype format and then a few weeks later, we connected with another Year 4 class to discuss and share our Christian Studies presentations about Religious Festivals. We Skyped @misskyritsis again, plus another class to share our Genius Hour ideas and progress. Kids love talking to other ‘real’ kids!

My Year 4’s began participating in the 100 Word Challenge (#100wc), giving and receiving feedback on other students writing. How powerful!

Last year, I was still blogging, Skyping and sharing comments and blog posts with classrooms all around the world. My Year 2s helped me write draft comments, reply to other blog visitors and broadened their geographical knowledge of country location due to the variety of people visiting our blog!

This year, I teach Preps on a Thursday afternoon. We do a poem and craft related to the sound of the week and then visit the library. Throughout the year, I stumbled across a Prep blog, which I showed the class. They loved seeing other ‘real’ Preps’ work and writing, so we began commenting. We Skyped them and their teacher @kaz_phi and talked about the similarities and differences between our school – their school is near a beach!! During our Bookweek, they Skyped us to share a picturebook that they had reflected in their artwork…so we listened to the story and created our own artwork too!

Yesterday was my birthday and the highlight of classroom connections is receiving a gorgeous audio message of a class of Preps singing Happy Birthday to me- we’ve never met in person, but it was so beautiful to hear it!

Why SHOULD you connect with other classes?

  • geography skills
  • authentic speaking and listening skills
  • to share ANY aspect of your learning
  • to learn from another class
  • to widen your audience for class presentations
  • debating purposes

Why AREN’T you connecting with other classes?

Being ESmart

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Part of my current role is to coordinate our school’s journey to become an ESmart accredited school, through the Alannah & Madeline Foundation.

Today I ran a staff induction to bring them up to speed on what the program is about, what we have already accomplished and where we need to go from here.

I’ve been doing hours and hours of research to find videos and resources for students to view to make them aware of the positives and negatives of digital technology, mainly around the concept of a’digital footprint’. I thought I’d share some of the fabulous videos that I’ve come across – some are suitable to show students, others are probably not…use your discretion and common sense. If you have any other gems to share, I’d love to hear your list!

I began today’s staff session by showing Jigsaw, by Think You Know (UK).

As part of our curriculum for 2017, certain year levels will be viewing and analysing the short film, #GameOn, from the ESafety Office. Here it is below.

Building Cup Towers

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Last Friday I was responsible for organising some team building activities to promote clear communication and negotiation skills. I had around 15 students to work with, so I decided to do the “Cup Tower Challenge”, as many of you saw on Twitter.

In all of the links on Pinterest about this activity, you provide each group of students with a supply of plastic cups and a rubber band with pieces of string tied to it (one piece of string per group member). As luck (or poor time management) would have it, I didn’t have time to cut and tie the pieces of string to the rubber band, so I just sat the three resources separately, as a bit of an extra challenge.

Students arrived at their table to:

  • 6 plastic cups spread out
  • one rubber band
  • 4 pieces of string.

My instructions were simple:

Build a tower out of plastic cups without any part of your body touching the cups.

I was interested to see that every single group ignored the rubber band, instead looping the string around the cup and tightening the grip to pick the cups up that way. I will admit, for most groups it was successful, but as the outcome was communication and negotiation, I knew I needed to up the ante.

I watched for a further 5 minutes, taking photos and videos, giggling at those teams who were absolutely lost for ideas and had no collaboration skills to fall back on.

My next instructions were just as simple:

Tie each piece of string to the rubber band. Now, build the tallest tower out of plastic cups without any part of your body touching the cups.

Each team still only had 6 cups on their table. However, I had bought a pack of 100 cups…so I spread the remaining 76 cups out on a table around 4 metres away from the groups.

This time there was more urgency – there was more at stake as groups wanted to be creating the tallest tower. Most of the groups quickly worked out how to use their rubber band-string contraption and were ready to start.

Group 1 decided to collect as many of the 76 cups as they could first – and they did so by stacking one cup on top of another, flipping the cup stack upside down to ensure they were secure, before putting it on top of another cup…all using their rubber band and string.

Groups 2 & 3 chose to stack their original 6 cups first before beginning to collect extra cups.

Group 4 took quite a while to establish how to tie the string to the rubber band. Then the pieces of string were too close together. Someone kept pulling too hard and letting go too early, which meant that cups were dropped and knocked over. Needless to say, a lot of this group’s cups ended up on the floor, which meant they needed to pick them up…using only their rubber band and string.

It was an absolutely fabulous social experiment team building activity…and a great reflection task, especially for Group 4.

What could make QR codes even easier?

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I absolutely LOVE using QR codes in the classroom. There are times when I don’t do a trial run myself and the website or video is blocked or unresponsive, but overall they have saved me so much time and effort.
I’ve downloaded some from other sites, but usually just make my own – I’ve found that http://www.qrstuff.com is the easiest website to use: copy link you want, paste into the blank box, click generate and voila! Then it downloads and you either print it directly, or copy and paste into a document.

What if I told you that you could make that process even easier? At the recent #EdTechSA conference I went to, I learnt about a new extension for my Google Chrome browser – goo.gl url shortener.
To find it, I simply typed the name of it into my browser, followed by ‘Chrome extension’ and it was as simple as that.

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Once it appears in your browser, you simply click on it when you want to shorten the URL of a website.

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But, by clicking on the lowest option ‘QR Code’ – it automatically generates a QR code for you! No copying and pasting website details, no opening up a second tab to create a QR, no saving the QR code somewhere in order to download it…it is seriously so quick!

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If you’re absolutely amazed (like I was)…share it with your friends! Save them all some time!

This weeks absolute gems!

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This last week I attended 2 seminars at my local TAFE – one on Dyslexia and another about supporting readers through the use of phonics.
Both sessions were filled with scary data, thought-provoking questions, numerous definitions and last but not least, lists of apps and websites.
Yes, like always, there are a few different aspects to consider when given a list of resources to use with students:

A) Is it free?

B) If it costs, is there a free trial where I can access EVERYTHING?

C) Does it suit the technology I have available to me?

D) Is it actually going to benefit the student?

There are 2 (so far – I’ve barely had time to check any out!) that I rate quite highly.

  • Oxford Owl is a website that provides free eBooks for students, at various age levels and genres. Yes, they have provided audio (with expression!) and the books are actually interesting! I discovered this site through the Spelfabet website, under a list of decodable book resources.
  • ReadTheory is a website that I also heard about at the seminar (from the girl sitting next to me, rather than the presenter!) – free, online, engaging comprehension texts, with questions to match, based on the Lexile Reading Scale. It does refer to Common Core, but Aussie teachers can still benefit! The girl next to me said her students in Year 4 were loving it, as it strikes up a bit of friendly in-class competition while still being matched to each child’s ability. I did a little bit of extra reading about ReadTheory here.

Double bonus, both of these resources are iPad-compatible! Yay! I’ve linked QR codes to both of these sites, printed them (along with student log-in details for ReadTheory) and popped them up in the classroom I worked in today.

Can’t wait to hear the feedback from the students!

 

 

EdTechSA presentation

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For all those who were at the @EdTechSA conference in Adelaide and were in my workshop, you’ll know we had some technical difficulties – ha, yes – at a technology conference.

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As we all know, flexibility is the key, so after 15 minutes of me talking with a blank screen, various cord changes, menu options, adapter swaps…we had lift off!

If you’d like the links to the resources I talked about in the presentation (ipad resources, apps and websites, please feel free to download the PDF version. You’ll notice that I’ve removed the videos and photos which had identifiable students in them – sorry, I don’t have permission to share them further than the conference.

Enjoy!
P.S. The lovely @JessOttewell actually filmed 11 minutes of my presentation – so if you want to experience some of it…you guessed it, jump on to Twitter, search for (and follow) Jess and you can see for yourself!

Smashing apart my comfort zone.

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Photo credit: Donncha O Caoimh

48 weeks ago, I was ready to jump off the nearest educational bridge (metaphorically speaking), never wanting to enter a classroom setting again. I was broken and had no desire to teach another human being as long as I lived. I resigned from my position effective from the last day of the school year.

But money is a necessary evil and I accepted a position 2 days a week at a local independent school providing extra release periods for their staff. Over the course of 2 days, I teach every single child from Prep to Year 6. I also spent time mentoring their first & second year graduate and I’m currently working on writing some curriculum documents.

And you know what? I absolutely love it. I cannot imagine what was going through my head last year.

So what has changed in the last 48 weeks? A lot. My comfort zone has had a major transformation, almost to the point of not being able to be defined as a zone.

Aside from teaching, I started a new direct sales business which involved public speaking. Not just public speaking, but going into other people’s homes and speaking to their friends…who were to me, strangers. For someone who refused to speak, let alone answer, the home phone until I was around 10…this was huge. That being said, I still hate calling people – email is my best friend.

I began tutoring students in their own homes after school. Dealing with a lot of special needs throughout my time I’ve come to appreciate the hard work that goes in to assisting those students who need it (when you don’t have 22 other students in the room crying out for attention too!!). I tutor 5 students per week, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Do I enjoy it all the time? No. It’s hard. But it’s probably harder for them.

I taught some secondary classes! Yes, the students were taller than me and yes, I survived. Phewf.

Tomorrow I take my biggest leap outside my comfort zone – presenting at an Educational Conference – EdTechSA at Immanuel College in Adelaide. There are over 200 people at the conference, but luckily for me the workshop numbers are capped at 25…so 25 will be the maximum number of educators I’ll be talking to. Well talking, but showing and teaching them some hands-on activities that they can try themselves in their classrooms! I’m actually going to be encouraging other teachers to teach – something I never thought I’d be doing 48 weeks ago. (In fact, I resigned the very day after my pre-service teacher finished her final placement, as I didn’t want to put her off teaching by doing it while she was still there!!) I’m going to be public speaking, to a room of people I don’t know, in a city I’m not from, in a state I don’t live in – here I go!

A comfort zone is something that everybody has. But everybody has the chance to leave it…or smash it apart!

 

Friends of Ten!

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Tonight with my Year 1 tutoring student, we worked on our Tens Facts. Again. It feels like we are ALWAYS working on our Tens Facts…because they don’t seem to sink in!

We’ve played:

Ten Pairs – deal out a 4×5 array of playing cards, keep dealing until all cards are gone. Players take turns to pick up 2 cards that add to ten.

Concentration – similar to Ten Pairs, but cards are turned over to remember where cards are.

Roll to Ten (colour) – roll a die, colour in that many squares on a tens frame using one colour…then count on to get to ten. Colour the squares that you ‘counted on’ using a different colour, then write the equation.

10s frame

Roll to Ten (build) – roll a die, build a tower using blocks that many blocks high of one colour…then count on to get to ten using a different colour block. Write the equation.

10 Frame Fill (app: free) – helpful for creating an interactive visual for ‘How many more to make 10’ and focusing on 10s facts.

While all of these ideas were good, there was no urgency to build on the accuracy and fluency of these skills, so she was dawdling her way through our activities.

So, today we drew a Tens Rainbow, to use in conjunction with a fabulous app I found, called ‘Make Ten‘. It asks students to choose the number you need to add to the number given to get to 10. My student propped this rainbow up in front of her to use with the app and by the 4th or 5th round, she was actually recalling the facts herself to try and beat her high score and going faster.

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Technology isn’t always the answer, or the be-all-and-end-all, but if you’re aiming for speed/fluency – this really helped today!

I also found this Pinterest board for some more ideas – always looking for more!

I would love to hear your ideas for Friends of Ten!

Struggling readers

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Today I used phoneme unifix blocks to help a Year 5 student with initial & final blends. It was a struggle for her and required a lot of repetitive oral language cues. Simply reading through the collection of initial blend blocks brought about an uncomfortable posture as she confidently read ‘ch’ and ‘tr’, but recoiled at the sight of ‘gl’ and ‘sw’.

She can read, but not to the level of her classmates, but her spelling is in a whole other realm. The words below are by no means tricky; we were just experimenting with a range of blends!

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Then I came across this infographic, which I found delightfully interesting – I thought you might too!

Inside the Brain of a Struggling Reader: infographic

See the original infographic at http://www.scilearn.com/blog.