Category Archives: Learning

Working in pairs

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On Tuesday, I was sitting in my office, listening to my colleague teach her lesson in the Science Lab. Part of her teaching was to keep the students moving around and interacting with multiple peers. She did a fabulous job quickly selecting pairs of students to work together for short periods of time, before changing partners to work with others.

It got me thinking of a strategy I used a few years ago, both in Year 4 and Year 2, called Clock Partners. I heard about it at a PD that I attended, and used it in a variety of ways across all subject areas.

Simply search for ‘Clock Partners’ or ‘Clock Buddies’ in Google and scroll through the images – there’s some on Teachers Pay Teachers and other paid sites, or some for free. As a last resort you could always draw your own clock!!

The idea is for students to form partners 12 times and write their PARTNER’S name at the specified o’clock number. Ideally, having an even number of students in your class helps with this, however, when I’ve had an odd number I’ve joined in as a teacher.

The script to getting this organised would go something like this:

Teacher: Write your OWN name at the top/centre of the clock.

*wait 20 seconds for students to do this*

Teacher: Find a partner and stand with them so I can see that everybody has a partner. Write your PARTNER’S name in the 12 o’clock section.

*wait 20 seconds for students to do this*

Teacher: Find another partner of the opposite gender/same birthday month/same height (try and mix up the criteria so they’re not just picking their friends). 

*wait 20 seconds for students to do this*

Teacher: Does everybody have a partner that they have NOT had before?

*if yes, write your PARTNER’S name in the 12 o’clock section.
*if no, wait for students to re-mix before anybody writes their partner’s name. This will become increasingly important towards the last few numbers of the clock, to make sure people are mixing up enough to create new partnerships each time.

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I laminate the students’ sheets and they keep them in their desk, or book box for easy access. When we need to do partner work, I simply say ‘Find your 6 o’clock partner’ and there’s no arguments (or there SHOULDN’T be!). If their clock partner is away, I have a designated spot in the classroom for ‘lost partners’ to stand – they either buddy up with another lost partner, become the teacher’s partner, or form a trio.

For those classes that are renowned for losing things, I create a spreadsheet so I have a master copy of everybody’s partners for those students who lack organisation.

Maths in Motion

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My planning this term has been fairly slack given that I’ve been so sick and there’s nothing worse than being sick at home and trying to plan lessons. So, many of my lessons are comprised using the 6-step lesson plan: plan your lesson in the final 6 steps that you take to walk to your classroom!

Today’s Year 4 Digital Technology lesson was meant to be tinkering on Scratch, but I simply couldn’t be bothered collecting the shared laptops for the students to use, so I worked with what we had and we made slowmotion videos instead. I incorporated Maths into the lesson too, so it covered a little bit more curriculum!

I connected my iPad to the projector so that I could give students a quick 45-second tutorial on how to use the iMotion app. I demonstrated how to create a maths-like video using an abacus which built bigger numbers the more photos I took and then I let the kids loose on the Maths resources in the classroom. Given that it was their first experience with the app, there were a few wobbly cameras, a few fingers in the way and the odd blurry photo, but you know, practice makes perfect!

Here’s some of the creations!

 

Comfort Zones are for sissies.

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In 2018, I will be pushed waaaaaaay out of my comfort zone. Why?

I was asked by my Principal a few months ago if I’d be interested in running a STEM class. While I’m not 100% behind the concept of running STEM as a separate class because I feel that it should be fully integrated, due to needing an additional elective for Year 7/8 and a few other staffing conditions, I said yes!

This means that I’ll be teaching a STEM elective for a composite Year 7/8 class. There are 3 different 7/8 classes meaning that I’ll teach the same content for Term 1, 2 and 3 to the groups as they rotate through and then Term 4 will be different, as students opt-in to the elective of their choice in the final Term.

For the Year 9/10 class however, student opt-in to it from the beginning, so I have them all year. This is where it gets a bit scary. Year 7/8 content I feel like I can handle for the most part…but Year 9/10? My High School Science skills are fairly limited and rusty beyond all belief and regarding High School Maths…well, I can add numbers and work out angles and percentages…that’s all I need right? I’m not so stressed about the Technology & Engineering aspects, so that’s my little comfort factor.

To fully push me out of my comfort zone beyond all belief, I’m teaching French. FRENCH.  From Year 2-Year 8. To be honest, I accepted the request to teach it (I had the option to say no…) and I am excited about it, but it’s going to be a steeeeeep learning curve. I know a few French words, like crêpe, baguette, croissant…but they are all foods, which surely can’t take up the entire curriculum? French podcasts, here I come! Plus apps, puppet shows, comic strips…eeeek!

 

Teaching something out of your comfort zone next year? Let me know!

And good on you – the world is a better place for taking on a good challenge!

Coding with Blue-Bots and Bee-Bots

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This year I’ve been doing a lot of work with Lower Primary in regards to Digital Technology, especially with Blue-Bots. A Blue-Bot is similar to a Bee-Bot, however it has enhanced functionality by being able to be blue-toothed to a device and connect to the BlueBot app. You can read about some of the similarities and differences here.

We bought some of these transparent pocket mats from Modern Teaching Aids so that we could create our own mats for the students to code the Blue-Bots around – I found blocks for Rosie’s Walk, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and The Gingerbread Man all from the Sparklebox website, for free. I simply found the matching picture book on our library shelves and sat the book with the cards and the mat so that students could arrange the cards in the mat wherever they liked and then read the story. As they read, or after they read, they take turns to code the Blue-Bot to move to each part of the story pictured. Great idea for using during narratives or retells for Literacy!bluebots

For Maths, there are these Coding Challenge Cards. I like to ask my students to estimate what shape the BlueBot would draw/make with the given instructions, then test if their prediction was correct! I also found these cool Bee-Bot rulers for using Bee-Bots or Blue-Bots for measurement activities in Maths.IMG_4626

This set of resources is courtesy of the Teach YourChildren Well website and is easily adaptable for many different year levels. It has a huge range of challenges and our Year 7 & 8 students used them and referenced different angles on the map, terminology such as ‘as the crow flies’ to determine difference distances travelled and distance conversions using a variety of given map scales. These devices aren’t just for Primary kids!

My students have also loved creating their own mazes for the Blue-Bots to travel through –  a fantastic opportunity for them to explore width of tracks, estimating how long it should be and the types of materials they should use. They used building blocks, stationary, Lego…so many different things!

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I’d love to hear of any other ideas you’ve used with your Blue-Bots or Bee-Bots!

Please note, I have not created any of these resources myself, but have given you the link to the original source!

Setting up your classroom!

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As we approach the end of another school year, my mind immediately jumps to the beginning of next year and what I’m going to do differently, or keep the same…new posters or furniture arrangements, what apps we need on which iPads…

I’m sure I’m not alone.

However for the last 2 years I haven’t had a classroom to set up and I won’t have do do it for 2018 either. But it got me thinking about all the different classrooms that I rotate through and the types of things I would be focusing on as a teacher – if I was staying in the same room, or moving to a different one!

Displays:

  • Do you have a designated wall space for different subjects? Where do you display anchor charts for various subjects? Or key terminology?
    I am a big believer in visual literacy around the classroom, including word walls, a ‘maths dictionary’ wall and I’ve recently introduced a VCOP wall into one of the classrooms I teach in. In the past, I’ve also had a ‘Wall (or Window) of Fame’ for any students who are featured in our newsletter or local newspaper – I simply cut out the article and blu-tack it to the area – a great way to showcase students and make them feel important. Birthday charts are also a way to help students feel valued, as well as a way to remember and plan for any birthday cupcakes that may be brought it!
    I also like to include very clear instructions and guidelines. These posters from First Grade Glitter and Giggles were used quite often in my class, to avoid me repeating myself.
    A few other things to consider: are you going to display a visual timetable for each day, or have a classroom helper display?

Door:

  • Do you have photos or names of all students at the entrance to your class?
    I always had some sort of theme to my class, so in the past I’ve created door labels with their names and our class logo, or ones with their photo. I’ve used similar labels for their lockers or bag hooks and if using set seating, I’ve attached labels to desks.
    If your class has a name, for example the Year 2 Rainbow Fish, I always display that on the door too!

Stationary:

  • Where will your students keep their stationary and books?
    My students have often had their own pencilcases with everything inside. The problem I often found is that even though parents were asked, they didn’t get everything labelled and things went missing and suddenly I had 8 kids in my class without a pair of scissors.

    Sometimes I had pencilcases just for coloured pencils, textas and crayons and I kept the greyleads, erasers, scissors and gluesticks in a communal area for all students to access. I found this worked really well, as students were required to work together to keep all the resources clean and tidy for the whole class to use. Depending on the grade level, I’ve also had tubs on tables with coloured pencils, textas and crayons too, so there were no pencilcases in my classroom at all.

    I created book covers for each of my different subjects (usually an A4 size) and on the first few days of school, we spent a few minutes here or there colouring them in, so that students could personalise them. If students wanted their books covered in patterned contact, I simply attached it to the front of their book using a piece of clear contact. Unfortunately the ones I used to make were made using Microsoft Publisher before I used a Macbook, so here are some other ideas I found.

Notes from home:

  • Where will you collect permission notes, or late slips?
    I used to just have a pile of notes that I’d collect and then potentially lose them. I made myself a little mail box, so instead of giving notes to me, students would just slip them inside and I’d collect them all at the end of day when I wasn’t doing 20 other things and could deliver them to the office without getting distracted!
    I found that it was also important to designate a box in the classroom for Library Book Returns, so that if students brought their books back before our allocated day, there was somewhere to keep them safe.

 

Hope you’ve found this helpful – comment with any extra ideas that you have for helping set up a classroom!
(I could go on and on, but nobody likes to read a whole essay!)

The 3 Little Pigs…STEM Style!

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This term in Integrated Studies, our unit in Prep/1 is Topsy-Turvy Tales, with a focus on creativity.

Last week we watched Walt Disney’s Three Little Pigs and then I read the story from a book. We listed the similarities and differences between the 2 presentations.

We started talking about the ‘materials’ instead of ‘building stuff’ that the pigs used and talked about mathematical terms such as strong, weak, light and heavy. I’d seen lots of STEM-based ideas on Pinterest about getting students to build houses for the 3 Little Pigs and using the hairdryer as the Big, Bad Wolf.

Yesterday, students worked in pairs to build a house to protect one little pig from the hairdryer wolf. I provided the following materials:

  • a blue placemat (the house was required to sit on top of this placemat)
  • a toy pig per pair
  • plastic cups & plates
  • Strawbees
  • coloured magnetic rods
  • craft sticks
  • wooden skewers
  • cotton buds
  • pipecleaners
  • straws
  • coloured paper
  • rubber bands
  • cellophane
  • PVA glue
  • sticky tape

How does STEM fit into this activity?

S(cience): we talked as a group about how strong different materials are, what they are made of (plastic, wood etc) and which materials may blow away in the ‘wind’ from the wolf
T(echnology): following the building, students used Flipgrid on their iPad to reflect on their finished structure
E(ngineering): there were lots of questions such as ‘How can we make this stronger?’, ‘What else could we use instead?’, plus comments such as ‘This doesn’t bend or stand up straight like we need it to’.
M(athematics): students needed to make sure that their given pig fit inside their building through informal measurement, plus lots of chatting about how high the walls should be and how tall the pig was.

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Surprisingly(!) none of the pigs were affected by the ‘wolf’s’ blowing! Some of the houses were more 2D than 3D though, so today we talked about the features of a house that protect people – like walls and a roof! The pair who used a cardboard box to simply place over the top of their pig weren’t supposed to use a cardboard box either – they pinched it from the cupboard!!

Pretty sure the teacher had the most fun too…using the hairdryer to blow down houses was very cool!

Diving into Scratch Jnr!

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Earlier this year, I excitedly mentioned to my colleague @erinlucie that there was an iPad app as a prelude to the coding application Scratch. I whipped my iPad out and opened the app, only to find that I had NO idea how to use it and couldn’t seem to make anything happen/move on it. Fast forward a few months and I have since used the Scratch Jnr app twice. By myself, for about 10 minutes each time. However, it’s loaded onto all of the iPads in Prep-6 at our school, so yesterday at lunch two of my Prep students opened it up and asked me how to use it.

Following my basic instructions, this is what was produced by a very excited 5 year old.

Let’s talk about how basic my instructions were. They went something like this:

Me: Hey, do you think we could make the cat by giving it some instructions?
Her: Ok.
Me: The green flag is the button that makes the cat do what we tell it. So we need to click on the yellow button, to find the green flag button. That tells the cat to start moving.
Her: I found it and I pressed it but it didn’t do anything.
Me: We need to drag it next to the grey cat outline. Now that we have the start button, let’s choose a direction for him to move. Click on the blue arrow and drag an arrow down to connect to the green flag button, just like a jigsaw puzzle.

Aaaaaaand, that was about it. Seriously. The most technical terms I used were ‘instructions’, ‘button’ and ‘drag’. I didn’t even mention the words ‘coding’, ‘blocks’ or ‘algorithm’, that will be the next lesson. After telling the cat when to stop moving (by finishing the instructions with a red ‘stop’ button), she pressed the green flag at the top to start the movements – she was stoked!!

After this, we inserted a background: “Click on the picture of the sky and grass”. Then we added a second character and discovered that by clicking on the paintbrush next to it, you can edit the character’s colours! The final part that we added was some talking – a simple speech bubble – I did the typing, she did the talking!

Today in the Prep/1 class, we all opened up Scratch Jnr and had a go. We followed some instructions step by step (the same ones as yesterday) and then they had some free time to explore the app. Within 2 minutes, a student had discovered how to record her own voice to add it to her instructions. Here’s what we ended up with – the last one is the one I made after talking about the miracle of Jesus calming the storm – I’m pretty proud of the 10 minutes I spent on it and the kids even got to add the sound effects!!

Please don’t be afraid to give it a go! I’m bursting with ideas as to how I can use this in my Term 4 Integrated Studies program – creating narratives and fairytales!

Slow-motion videos with 6 year olds

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Last week I had the brainy idea of teaching my Prep/1 class how to make a slow motion video in our digital technology time. Why? It seemed like something that could be fun, looks at logical thinking and step-by-step processing, as well as integrating some teamwork!

To start, I modelled it. I chose 2 plastic animals from the toy tub, sat the kids in a circle around it and showed them what the iMotion app looked like on their iPad. I showed them how to press ‘New Movie’ and press the ‘finger’ button (for manual image capture, rather than on a timer) and then I asked each of them one at a time to move the little frog a tiny bit closer to the dinosaur. As each child moved the frog, I took a photo. After 15 photos, the frog was at the dinosaur! I talked about stopping – pressing the stop button TWO times, and then how to watch the video. The kids were so amazed that I could speed it up, or slow it down.

I let them go off in pairs, armed with an iPad to share and a range of toys to create scenes to capture. It had varying degrees of success, ranging from tantrums due to partner arguments to not being able to keep the camera still, stealing toys from other groups, or taking photos of our partner’s body as they moved the toys.

Yesterday, I came armed with 3 different mazes drawn on A4 paper. This time, they had to place an object at the ‘end’ of the maze and move another object from the ‘start’ to the ‘end’. Here’s what we got: (the last one is probably the most successful, but bear with me!)

Lessons learnt:

  • Think about some sort of tripod – some kids can’t comprehend the concept of keeping the camera still…fair enough, they’re only little!
  • When exporting the final product, make sure it’s at a speed that is easily viewable
  • Talk about not rushing the photos so that nobody’s arm/face/back/nostril is in the way
  • Explain how to turn the iPad up the right way, so the video isn’t upside down!

Not bad for our second attempt! Hopefully we’ll be able to use this knowledge to demonstrate how plants grow….or some sort of sustainability focus!

It’s flipping contagious!

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flipped classroom

Following on from my first attempt at Flipped Learning, a few other colleagues have expressed interest in seeing how it can be used as a valuable tool. So, I set up a few announcements for them in our staff Google Classroom, to introduce them to the concept and to give them some resources and ideas. I’ve copied the announcements that I gave to my colleagues (which also could’ve been sent via email) for you below.

ANNOUNCEMENT 1:
Flipped Learning: giving your students meaningful teacher time while being able to work with others, usually done through the use of videos. Teachers who are not confident at creating their own videos can use videos created by other teachers!

These are the videos I made for the Year 1 class so they could research their own country. As each group watched and listened to their video, they were writing down the facts on their paper proforma. 
What was I doing for the lesson? Roaming the room, showing students how to pause, rewind, replay and helping them find the correct box for each piece of information.
How long did the videos take me to make? None of them are longer than a minute. By the time I added a pretty filter and edited the captions, and saved to my Google Drive, each video took me about 5 minutes in total. 
What did I use to make the videos? My iPhone! I used the Apple Clips app, which allows you to select captions, so that as you talk the text appears on the screen (as mentioned above, you can edit the captions if your enunciation isn’t clear enough for dear old Siri to translate!!)

ANNOUNCEMENT 2:
A short video and quiz to explore Flipped Learning! Click the Google Form below to check it out!
https://goo.gl/forms/YT9rT192xbyNaPRV2

After speaking to my Principal, we also ordered the Flipped Learning book bundle, and as soon as they arrived, I covered them and handed the out the Flipped Learning for Science and Flipped Learning for English to the relevant teachers.

What has happened so far?
Our primary school Art teacher, who also teaches high school Design, Creativity & Technology thought that Flipped Learning would be a great idea to implement in her sewing units. Instead of her explaining (and repeating, and repeating, and repeating herself) how to sew on a button, or use a slip-stitch, she searched Youtube for 2 videos explaining each of these concepts. Her thinking is that she can introduce it, but while viewing the video, students can pause, follow the instructions and then keep going to finished the process. Her question then was, “How do I get these videos to the kids to watch?”
My answer: Google Classroom. The Primary Art classes already had a Google Classroom set up, so I showed her how to:

  • create a new announcement
  • insert the selected Youtube video
  • type a brief description
  • select the students who she wanted to share it with (only the Year 3/4 class needed to see it, not the whole Primary school)
  • send the announcement

(If you don’t have Google Classroom, my suggestion would to be create a QR code linked to the video, so students can access it. Other options would to be placing the video link on a class blog, or common server, Edmodo class, or email it to each student. It really depends on your technology arrangements.)

I’m so excited to see Flipped Learning being used so quickly after introducing it to staff. I have some time off when she is teaching this class tomorrow, so I can’t wait to pop in and see how it all goes!

 

 

Flipped Learning for the first time

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For the last few years, I’ve seen LOTS about flipped learning in the classroom. I didn’t get it and thought it was way too much effort, for not a whole lot of visible result.
I tried it today. For the following reasons:

  • My Year 1 students are researching different countries from a list that we devised. I wanted them to be collecting information, but they cannot read well enough to sift through kid-friendly geography websites, or books from the library.
  • There are 6 different countries being covered by the class. How do I have 1:1 time with each group of kids, whilst keeping the others engaged, without using meaningless time-filler activities?
  • We have 1:1 iPads, so students have access to video content.
  • The students are researching the these 6 specific questions:
    • What is the name of the country? 
    • What language is spoken in this country?
    • Which other places is this country close to?
    • What is the weather like in this country?
    • What do people in this country eat?
    • What is one interesting fact about this country?

Here’s how I implemented flipped learning:

  • I wrote a short blurb about each country, covering the content needed to answer the questions, plus a few interesting facts including capital cities and sports.
  • I whipped my phone out and recorded myself using Apple Clips, with captions appearing as I spoke. Each video was no longer than 50 seconds. I added filters, to be fancy and disguise the lack of makeup I was wearing in some of them. Ha.
  • I saved them straight to my Google Drive.
  • In Google Classroom (which we use regularly) I created announcements for each group of students researching each country.
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  • Students were given their paper proforma, with 6 boxes to write in. They sat next to their other group members, even though they each had their own iPad and headphones to listen and write independently.
  • Students watched the video once right through. As they finished, I asked them to use their pencils and start to write down some of the answers in the boxes. I showed them how to pause the video to give them time to write, which was helpful as they could copy the spelling from the captions if they needed!

What did I notice?

  • Students were helping each other. They were sharing their answers and thoughts, teaching each other how to rewind and pause and showing their group members which box to write their information in.
  • Every single student was engaged – the only conversation happening was about the videos, or their countries!
  • Every single student filled in every single one of their boxes. Sure, I assisted each of them in various different ways, but even the boy who struggles the most to stay focused and get anything on paper managed this task.
  • They were so excited to share their new information!

Will I use flipped learning again? Absolutely. Yes, it took me probably 30 minutes to make the videos, upload and assign to Google Classroom, plus about 20 to type all my country information up. 50 minutes in total, the same time as my actual lesson. But if I hadn’t done it this way, I would probably have spent at least 3 lessons reading information to them, repeating it 6 times, helping them spell it and driving myself crazy!

Flipped learning for the win!