Tag Archives: Education

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!

GAFE with 5-year-olds.

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Yes, they can do it!

How? With your help.

This year, I am responsible for helping implement digital technology across the school, including in the Prep/1 classroom I teach in every afternoon. At the beginning of the year, all students from Years 2-10 were set up with their own Google account. After following Christine Pinto on Twitter for the last 12 months, I was fully convinced that students in Prep & Year 1 needed their own Google account too. We have 1:1 iPads, so I didn’t see how it could be a problem!

I asked our IT tech to set them up for me, and patiently waited. Within a week of the Prep/1 students having their own Google account, here’s what I did:

  • I placed all of the GAFE apps into a folder, and positioned it in the bottom bar of the iPad, for easy access. (Yes, I could have taught them how to do that, but at the start, I just needed to save myself some time. I’ll make sure I teach them how to create and move folders when the moment arises!)
  • I signed into Google Classroom for them (after school, the day before I needed it). (I am fully aware that this is not logistically possible for every teacher in every classroom. The class I’m talking about only has 13 students. But there are other ways around it – Year 6 Buddies to help, giving students their email address & password on a card, setting up keyboard shortcuts that inserts your school email address after the @ symbol…problem solve, you’ll get there!)

But how did I get the students to USE the GAFE apps? Well, the beauty of being 1:1 is that each student uses their iPad over & over, so they can stay signed in on the one device – no signing in and out constantly.

The first step was Google Classroom. I learnt from Alice Keeler & Christine Pinto that keeping your assignments numbered is a great way to keep track of them – and for students who can’t read yet. Despite many of them not yet being able to read properly, I still added written instructions for each assignment and I read them aloud for the students. I would ask them to look for the number 1 and press on the number. We would talk about the ‘plus’ button to add different things, like the ‘camera’ button to take a photo immediately, or the ‘mountain’ button to add a photo that we had taken earlier and was sitting in our camera roll.

A lot of the time, I add a Google Slide or Sheet to the assignment and allow it to create a copy for each student, so that each student would have the same template, but could input their own information. In Integrated Studies, we are looking at Friendship and the qualities of different people, so each student made an Introducing Me page in a collaborative Google Slide. They learnt how to find the slide with their name on it (all of the boys slides were green, all of the girls slides were orange), double tap in the text box, place the cursor after the words that were already there, and type their name, favourite colour and age. On the same slide, they learnt how to press the ‘plus’ button and take a photo, insert it and then use the ‘blue handles’ to change the size of their photo so that it wasn’t covering the text. We still had a few minutes left, so they also inserted a shape and changed the fill colour!

Introduce Me 1

Introduce Me 2

Yes, I use the proper vocabulary, most of the time. I talk about the flashing stick line being called the ‘cursor’ and the plus button being called ‘insert’. I talk about the writing that we do as ‘text’ and talk about the ‘text box’. I talk about Google Slides being the white app with the orange square being named ‘Google Slides’, so they’re getting a visual and a name to learn and relate it to.

They CAN do it! I use Google Classroom at least twice a week in my Prep/1 lessons (I’m only in there in the afternoons, and we also have Music, Library & Garden in my timeslots!), but my next step is to empower the other classroom teacher to use it more confidently. I have added her to the classroom and she can see everything that I post and that the kids submit, but so far, she’s just an observer!

I like to tell my colleagues that Google Classroom is another platform for collecting student work, without collecting piles of paper. One of the added benefits (believe me, there are HEAPS) is that students can submit more than just written work – my Prep/1 class have uploaded videos they’ve created using Explain Everything and Chatterpix, so they are learning oral language skills by recording and listening to their own voice.

My challenge is to integrate GAFE into each of our classrooms seamlessly, so that it’s not something ‘extra’ to use or facilitate, but that it becomes second nature to students and teachers!

Book Creator ideas for lower primary

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Let me preface this by saying these are not JUST for lower primary. Heck, you could use them anywhere, but the examples I’m including are from a lower primary perspective.

Story Journal:

I had an ASD student, who brought in his Zhu Zhu pet Zak and treated him like a class member during Term 1. This student HATED writing with pencil and paper and wasn’t overly fussed by using the iPad to write either. Enter the iPad camera and Book Creator. I told him that I thought it would be cool if Zak kept a diary of his adventures at school, so Zak could show all of his other Zhu Zhu pet friends…(bear with me, I know, it’s a bit funny that I was fully communicating with an inanimate object). To my joy, the student went for it and thus, this book was created. You’ll notice that the spelling isn’t correct – we were focusing on the sounds her could hear, rather than perfection, and these words became words we focused on spelling correctly later. You’ll notice that some of them aren’t even full sentences, but as he recorded himself speaking, he was experimenting with expression in his voice. Small steps for some, HUGE steps for this student.

Procedural Writing:

Like cookbooks, procedural texts are often better with photos. This same student (who still hated writing during Term 3) was reluctant to write a procedural text on how to make a Magnetic Fishing Game that all students had created in class. I instructed him to use Book Creator to get the job done, but typing was too much for him. He verbalised all of the wording direct to me while I typed – word for word (and he checked, his reading skills were fabulous). He took all of the photos by himself (except the ones where he featured – I was told exactly what to photograph!), to match the text on his page and then he recorded the audio for each page. This was emailed straight home to mum and dad – he was so proud and shared with the class in the afternoon.

Maths Journals:

This year with my Prep class, I am hoping to integrate technology more into authentic learning, rather than stand-alone lessons. Using Book Creator on the iPads, the task for the Preps will be to create a Nature Number Journal – by taking the iPads outside, creating all of the numbers to ten using natural materials, photographing it, recording the audio and writing the number, to reinforce correct number formation.

If you don’t already, follow Book Creator App on Twitter. They post great lesson ideas and resources!

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.

EdTechSA 1

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!

Bridging to ten for times tables

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Making 7

Are there any tricks to learning the 7 times tables? They were my most hated as a child and are the times tables that my two Year 5 tutoring students find the most difficult. There is no repeated number pattern in the ‘ones’ column, until you reach 7×11 (7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 73, 70, 77) – making it such a difficult pattern to remember that it’s pointless.

It seems that the most difficult part of the seven times tables is crossing into the next decade, going from the numbers in the twenties, to the numbers in the thirties, all while repeatedly adding 7. The girls are confident at adding numbers 1-10 to a number ending in a zero, so I needed to help them extend this skill into their times tables.

So today, I asked the two girls “Give me two numbers that equal 7”.

They came up with the 3 combinations that you would find on two dice:

1+6, 2+5 & 3+4

And then we skip counted by 7, breaking up the 7 into two components if we needed.

Like so:

7 + (3+4) : First, add the 3 to bridge to ten. Then, simply add 10+4.

14 + (6+1): Choose the number that will bridge to the next ten; in this case, 6. Then, add 20+1.

21 + 7. The girls knew what 1+7 was, so this was easy as we didn’t need to bridge to ten.

28 + (2+5). I began to ask the girls, “How many to get to the ten? What do we have left to add?”

As I explained to the girls’ mother afterwards, bridging to ten is such an important part of basic addition, but sometimes we forget that it still applies for repeated addition, that being multiplication.

I’m planning on using the same strategy to help the girls work on their 6 and 8 times tables, as they’re the only tables we are yet to master. Unless there’s some other easy tricks for those tables?

Books for boys…who desperately want to read novels.

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I’ve been doing some research (and by research I mean lots of browsing in book shops!) into books that are at the right level for the Year 3 boy I am tutoring. Most of his friends read short novels, but believe me, he’s not quite there.

Based on his fluency, word attack and comprehension, I’d say he’s around early Year 2 level. So when he began bringing out books like ‘Despicable Me – the novel’ and a few ‘Goosebumps’ newbies, I felt like I was bursting his bubble when I had to tell him ‘I think these are a bit too hard’ and suggest ‘Let’s do the 5 finger test to check’.

So, I bought ‘The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow‘, by Andy Griffiths. Silly, repetitive and obviously boy-ish…it was a big hit. It was such a hit that he was determined to read the WHOLE novel in one sitting. And boy, was he proud.

Here are the books that are next on the list:

The Cat on the Mat is Flat – Andy Griffiths

Barky the Barking Dog – Andy Griffiths

Ten Unlucky Pirates – Andy Griffiths

Hey Jack! – a series of books, by Sally Rippin

Gigglers – a series of books, by various authors (I’ll be at the library, choosing the most boy-ish ones!)

Aussie Nibbles – a series of books, by various authors (yet again, I’ll be choosing the grossest, silliest ones)

I’d love to hear your suggestions for any other books that are novel-like, but have a significantly lower word count on each page!

Gaining insight into your students’ wellbeing

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As many teachers around Australia are gearing up for another year in the classroom, I am sitting on the couch watching tennis, reading books and painting my toenails. This year is all about wellbeing for me. Yes, I am working 2 days a week in a variety of classrooms and will also put my hand up for relief teaching, but ultimately in 2016, I am putting myself first.

In my Year 2 classroom in 2015 I began to think carefully about not only my own wellbeing, but the wellbeing of those in my care. Some of my students had diagnosed learning difficulties including Asperger’s and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, others came from broken families, some had infant siblings and the list goes on.

With a few prompts from our Student Wellbeing Leader, I began to put this concern for my students into action, by creating a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Attendance Roll (using Smart Notebook software) that the students were in control of.  Each morning, their names were clustered together under the ‘House’ icon, meaning they were at home. Once they walked in the door, they dragged their name to the appropriate column on the screen. Those students who were absent were still listed under the ‘House’, meaning they were at home.

Some pages were about feelings – “How are you feeling today?” and featured a variety of visual images to students to work with, to assign their name to one of those feelings. I found that these pages often gave me a chance to do a quick one-on-one chat with a child while they were unpacking their bag, or simply keep an eye on them for any signs of emotional distress throughout the day.

I also created pages for graphing what each student ate for breakfast – we found that cereal was always the most popular – and check-ins for the end of playtime, end of the day, or to see how many stars you would give the weekend you just had?

This Smart Notebook document is available from my TPT store, which you can find here.

I’d love to hear any other feedback about how you cater for Social and Emotional Learning in your classrooms – mindfulness is a huge buzz word at the moment, but it’s no good if we don’t put it into action!

Using Windex in the classroom.

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windex
Image courtesy of http://www.ebritic.com

In the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Toula’s father Gus has an addiction to Windex. To him, it is the solution for everything.

“My dad believes in two things: That Greeks should educate non Greeks about being Greek ad every ailment from psoriasis to poison ivy can be cured with Windex.”

It was his go-to answer. He didn’t think twice about it, didn’t listen to others and didn’t consider any other options.

It got me thinking about how often do you use a ‘Windex solution’ in the classroom?  A Windex solution I often hear these days is ‘just Google it’. Google, Google, Google. Even my not-so-technological father is a culprit for over-using this term.

By just ‘googling it’ we are admitting to students that no, teachers aren’t all powerful, bottomless pits of endless knowledge (even though many students think that!). Yes, we are assisting them in finding the answers to their own questions…or are we?

How else can we find out the answer? Resorting straight to Google is not the answer!
Talking to others, posing follow-up questions, making charts & tables, reading books, using prior knowledge…all valid options!

Let’s make sure we are encouraging other methods and solutions rather than just resorting to the Windex.