Tag Archives: students

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!

Our Interschool STEM Day

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In 2016, two of my colleagues worked together to hold an Interschool STEM Day, to encourage local Year 6 students to work in teams to create a solution to a problem.

Using resources from the IET Faraday website, they adapted and orchestrated a mammoth day for the students to build a device to move one litre of water from the Stadium floor, into a bucket which sat on a platform. It was a challenge designed around pumps, water wheels and water pressure.

This year, one of my colleagues was on paternity leave, so I stepped in to help his teammate. Together, Jodie and I researched a new challenge for the day based around medical engineering – build a device to conduct a remote operation to pick up a ‘kidney’ and a ‘heart’ and place them in the correct place on the body.

We had 75 students from 12 different school register, 24 teams in total. The ideal team number was 3, however a few schools only had 4 Year 6 students in total, which we allowed. The stadium was set up with medical themed decorations, x-rays, lab coats, and medicinal charts. There were ‘Research Stations’, with laptops playing videos on loop with ideas and strategies that may give students inspiration. A hot glue gun station was set up, as was our STEM shop, where all of the building materials for the day were ready to be purchased by the teams.

The day started with a video about medical engineering to put the day into context, how operating theatres rely on robotics and other technology to assist them in procedures. Students were asked to sketch in their Challenge Workbooks a way to move an object from one place to another without physically touching it with their body. We introduced the ideas of forces – push/pull, levers, scoops, suction etc.

Each team was given a budget of $150 STEM dollars. They were required to plan their design, keeping their budget in mind. They were to assign roles to each group member and also create a ‘Learning Log’ using an assigned iPad, to create a documentary-style video of their manufacturing process.

Our school Kitchen Garden coordinator provided us with lunch and students received a small show bag with water and snacks for recess and their workbooks. We operated on a continual scoring system using Google Sheets so that both of us organisers could access to add scores and annotations throughout the day. Students received scores for their design briefs, their sketches, accuracy of their account balance ledger, effectiveness of their design and their teamwork skills.

After lunch, students packed up their tables and we sat down to perform 24 mock heart (ping pong ball) and kidney (ping pong ball) transplants. An iPad was placed above the operating table, where our cardboard cutout body and his foil tray organ chambers lay waiting. This iPad was to live-stream the action on the table, not just for the audience, but for the ‘surgeon’ operating the device. Just like in an operating theatre, the surgeon would be using the large screen to guide his actions while his vision to the cardboard body was blocked by a curtain.

Students had to work around certain parameters – the device must be able to reach a distance of 50cm, it must be able to pick up and drop objects accurately and both heart and kidney must be transplanted in just 90 seconds – it’s life or death for our cardboard body!!

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The winning team was gifted with a set of 6 Makey Makey kits to take back to their school to encourage creative and critical thinking to assist on their STEM journey!

There were many different designs – some more successful than others. There were many levels of teamwork and many different conversations that filled the stadium. The teachers who accompanied the teams from their school were pleased to see such collaboration and skill – not just for those students who excelled in the classroom.

Go Team STEM!

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Using iPads in Literacy Rotations

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Many classrooms use the concept of Literacy Rotations in their classrooms, but struggle to find a way to keep each group engaged while they work with a focus group.

Below are some iPad-based ideas for Literacy Rotations, which of course you would use with a combination of non-iPad rotation activities, we know that just because you can do things on an iPad doesn’t mean it’s better!

  • ReadTheory – free to sign up, create classes and individual student logins. Students start with a pre-test to assess their initial reading level, by reading short passages and answering comprehension questions. By getting questions correct, students earn points and badges and teachers can consistently monitor progress. Fantastic for independent reading time. A colleague has been using this in her Year 8 English class and the students are loving it!
  • Pobble365 – free to use without an account, this website features a picture prompt for every day of the year, with a Story Starter for students to continue, or Question Time for students to answer questions about what they’ve just read. For independent Literacy Rotations, I would use either of these sections for the students to visit on their iPad – they could copy and paste the Story Starter into a Google Doc to continue writing, or create a Google Slide with their Question Time questions and answers. If students work in pairs, they could create an interview using the Camera app & iMovie, with one student being the interviewer and the other the interviewee.
  • Book Creator – there is a web version of this coming out soon, but the app works well for almost any subject! I loved using this in Literacy Rotations after the students had done a Guided Reading with the teacher to create a Book Quiz, for the other members of the group to answer. Students would take photos of the book, insert them into their book and then type their quiz question on the page. I then asked students to use the audio recording function to record the answer, so students completing the book quiz could find out the correct answer if needed. We often talked about Head, Heart & Hands comprehension questions to encourage more critical thinking. I also like the idea of creating an interactive dictionary using this app, by students recording words that are new to them, or really interesting words and using the audio function to record their definition, or explanation in their own words – plus images if they need! Other ways I’ve used Book Creator can be found here.
  • Popplet – I’ve used Popplet in so many different ways, from brainstorming character qualities, to spelling. I love Popplet as you students can use the pen function, insert images from the camera roll and export their finished Popplet. In my lower primary class, I use it to help segment words into their individual sounds.

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  • PicCollage – I used this for descriptive writing, in this blog post, but have also used it to create a collection of words that all start with the same letter, by taking photos, or looking for the same sound in magazines and newspapers.

This is just a tiny drop in the ocean of the multitude of different ways that you could integrate iPads in the Literacy block!

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.

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!

 

 

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!

 

How well do you know your students?

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Last week I spoke to @alice_eliza on the phone and she was telling me about the activity she did with her Year 5 students. I’d heard of the activity, but hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon yet.

She simply asked the students write on a piece of paper to finish this sentence,

“I wish my teacher knew…”

I’d seen lots of photos that teachers had posted using the #iwishmyteacherknew hashtag and after speaking to @alice_eliza, I decided to give it a go on Monday with the Year 4/5 class I taught. I teach this class once a fortnight, so I do have a relationship with them but I thought it would be a good insight for their classroom teacher. I promised them that I wouldn’t look at their pieces of paper…and I would keep them face down until I handed them to their teacher.

So how well do you know your students? As I handed over the stack of papers to their teacher, she was gobsmacked with some of the things she found out – some sad, some concerning, some hilarious and some interesting facts.

She verbally shared a few of them with me (I’d promised I wouldn’t look at them)…and there are two that stood out to me – and her!

#1. I wish my teacher knew…I am afraid of NAPLAN.

#2. I wish my teacher knew…I’m not really a fan of minions. (This teacher has a theme in her classroom – minions! Minion money as a classroom reward system, minion posters, minion pictures…you name it, she’s minion-ed it!)

But you know what? This teacher read every single one – and then proceeded to write a note back to every single student, acknowledging that she now knows something that they chose to tell her.

Personally, if I were in that class, I’d feel that my teacher knows me so much better. Not because I wrote a note to tell her something…but that she wrote back to me and made me feel important.

How well do you know your students?

Do they feel like you do?