I used to think… but now I know… #IMMOOC

I’m a huge fan of routines. My favorite type of routine is one that can be used in any situation or subject. I think it’s really important for young children to learn to generalize what they are learning and doing at school into other areas of their lives. Some of my favorite routines came from the book Making Thinking Visible. All that to say the title of this post comes from a routine I picked up in that book!

I used to think…

Students needed homework to be successful at school.

But now I know…

There is no research proving a positive relationship between student achievement and homework for young children.

What’s the change?

I stopped giving homework. I now ask children to read daily because reading is power. But other than that, I want families to enjoy life together.

I used to think…

Young children need to be kept busy and worksheets we’re a great way for them to show their learning.

But now I know…

Young children are amazing! They are capable of more than we give them credit for. They are motivated learners and their curiosity drives them. Worksheets don’t build dendrites.

What’s the change?

I look for innovative ideas and practices I can use with them. I use the power of PBL and genius hour to allow children time to explore their curiosities. I don’t give worksheets.

I used to think…

Race had nothing to do with it. I thought being colorblind was a good thing.

But now I know…

Race has everything to do with everything. I take the time to notice differences around me. I understand there is a need for systemic change especially in education to make school equitable and accessible to every student.

What’s the change?

Every student in my room had the opportunity for challenge work. I understand that each of my students needs different access points to be successful in those challenges. I model, teach, and celebrate empathy. I want my students to how into good humans.

Please share your thought changes or favorite routines!

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#IMMOOC I’m a risk taker.

I’m a risk taker. I love to learn new things from twitter, podcasts, books, friends, and even billboards! I enjoy trying new things with my students and helping them find enjoyment in learning. I truly believe that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life! I see it as my mission to help children find a love of learning that will last them their lifetime. My purpose is to help them find their passion and explore it. I teach first grade and I constantly think about my students as adults. What I design for them in first grade will help them in their future.

I #innovate4littles in my classroom because they CAN ! The first time I tried Genius Hour, I did it because I just knew it couldn’t be done with littles and boy was I wrong! At the time I taught kindergarten and they ran with it. Littles are natural risk takers because no one has told them they can’t yet and so they believe they can! That year, my littles inspired me to be a risk taker through their hard work, learning, and application of standards and content though self guided experiences in Genius Hour.

I am a risk taker for my littles because they take risks everyday. I empathize with them because it must be so scary! So, I join in and model taking risks, failing, trying again, and hopefully succeeding. I hope that my risk taking inspires them to love learning for the rest of their lives and become innovators of whatever they choose to have a passion for. I hope that my littles never work a day in their lives!

Why I choose to #Innovate4Littles #IMMOOC

I decided to join the #IMMOOC a massive open online course (MOOC) for educators focusing on the book Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. I saw this hastag flying around twitter and had no idea what it was until recently. I decided to join because it seems to be a transformative PLN. I am super excited to join this community of inspirational and innovative educators.

In January 2017 I started thinking about my teaching and why I make the instructional choices I make. There is a lot of energy right now around being innovative. I worry that this will become a buzz word and lose it’s power. I also worry because there are many who believe young children cannot handle innovative instruction. They are just too little. I had the idea while talking to my bestie, Caitlin McCommons, about this because we believe that littles are capable and #innovate4littles was born! We believe that littles (K-2 students) can participate in the exciting, challenging, fun, innovative learning experiences that big kids get. We also know that these experiences need to be scaled to be developmentally appropriate for our littles. We created #innovate4littles as a way to share and curate innovative practices we use in our classrooms.

As part of the #IMMOOC we were tasked to answer the following question:

Why is innovation in education so crucial today?

I believe that as this world changes, children need to learn to be brave and flexible. There are problems that need to be solved and we need to grow learners who are creative problem solvers. We need to teach children to be brave in the face of a problem and flexible enough to try multiple solutions. We need children to be brave enough to collaborate with people near and far and flexible enough to listen to different perspectives. We need children to be brave enough to take on careers that don’t yet exist and flexible enough to change the careers of the future. In order to teach children to be brave and flexible, I need to be brave and flexible with them. That is why I choose to #Innovate4Littles.

#Eclipse2017

Anyone out there still working on their plan for The Great American Eclipse? In my area we have the opportunity to see about 90% of the total eclipse and I am TOTALLY nerding out! North Carolina just rolled out a new science standard for first grade 1.E.1 – Recognize the features and patterns of the earth/moon/sun system as observed from earth. This means #Eclipse2017 fits in my standards!!!! I’m just now getting my details worked out and thought I would share them. Please share yours in the comments section!

Wonder

One of my goals this year is inquiry based instruction. I’m going to begin our day by collecting questions my firsties have about the eclipse. I’m sure they have heard people talking about it and I want to gather what they know and wonders. This may require some last minute scrambling to make sure I address misconceptions and questions I’m not prepared for.

Video

Discovery Education has gathered some great video and image  resources for the eclipse. I’ll start with the one titled “Solar Eclipse.” We’ll watch it once and then I’ll have my firsties write one thing they learned on a sheet of paper. We will use the DE Spotlight on Strategy (SOS) Snowball Fight to review our learning from the video. Students will crumple their paper into a ball, throw it in the middle of the circle and on my cue pull one sheet of paper out and read it. We’ll then watch the video again. After a second video, students will pull 2 snowballs from the circle and add an idea from the video to their friends’ snowballs. We’ll then have some share time to discuss what we noticed from the video. You will probably be able to find a few good videos on You Tube if you don’t have access to Discovery Education.

Article

Reading A-Z has some great science content on Science A-Z. Their July issue has a short 1 page article I’m going to have my firsties read in pairs. After reading, they will use Flipgrid to share a selfie video of the most interesting thing from the article. If you don’t have access to this great resource, they offer a free 2 week trial! Also, Front Row is free and they have a few different short, leveled articles about the eclipse you can share.

Model the eclipse

I have a handful of flashlights and quarters I’m bringing to school tomorrow. Students will use these materials to work in groups of 3-4 to make a video of what they think will happen during the eclipse. They will post this video on Seesaw.

Eclipse Observation

I have this amazing observation sheet from my EDU buddy Bill Ferriter. I have made 5 copies for each student. We will go outside to observe for about 30 seconds. Then we will come inside to work on our observation sheets. We will go out for observation 5 different times during the eclipse so my firsties can see the changes in the sky and environment. Each time we come inside to reflect on observations, we will discuss what we saw and make a prediction of what it will look like next. I’ll have a student share their drawing  and together we will draw our predictions on a portable dry erase board.

Extras!

I just bought a Google Cardboard and they have a Virtual Reality App for the eclipse. It costs $0.99 but I think that is worth it! I only have 1 cardboard so they will have to take turns. I’m doing this before the eclipse will help curb their desire to look at the eclipse outside.


Discovery Education also has a bunch of other videos I can use for my firsties to gather more information. They are also streaming the eclipse live on the Science Channel if it is cloudy or something happens that we can’t go outside. We can also view this when the eclipse is over as we reflect on the experience.

If we have time, we will make this to help us act out the movements of the earth and moon around the sun and try to make it show a solar eclipse.

Mystery Science also has a great activity with all the content you will need!

Reflect

I’m going to use another DE SOS for students to reflect on their experience. I’ll have them recreate the eclipse with art materials then tell about it with the “3 truths and a lie” SOS. I’m going to have them start with 1 truth and 1 lie and add to it time permitting. We’ll write the truths and lies flipbook style so we can hang them in the hall and others can guess which is the truth and which is the lie and flip it up to see.

I also have other reflection ideas so this may change or, better yet, I’ll give them a choice. It’ll depend on how everything goes tomorrow.

  • SOS 6 Word Story
  • Another FlipGrid
  • Chatterpix
  • Seesaw

Note: It is NEVER safe to look directly at the sun! I have parent permission and NASA approved eclipse glasses for each of my firsties. We are going outside to view the eclipse. I will (obviously) be very strict about making sure they know the damage that can be done if they do not leave their glasses on their eyes. I’ve done my research and know that if they look with a naked eye they won’t feel pain because the retina doesn’t have pain receptors and they will have blurry or even lose their vision permanently. I’m going to be very up front and honest with my firsties and I trust them to follow my directions.

PS – I’ll take pictures tomorrow and edit this post after!

My Flexible Classroom Journey

About 2 years ago I moved from a traditional classroom set up to a flexible classroom. I’ve learned some things along the way and made some adjustments. I noticed that different groups access flexibility differently. I’m going to share with you my growth process for flexible seating. For reference, Year 1 and Year 2 are years that I taught kindergarten. Year 3 is the current school year and I am teaching first grade. Year 1 was the year I began BYOD as well. You can read about that here.

Year 1:

My school purchased hokki stools for each grade level. They were evenly split between the classrooms. If you’re not familiar with these, they have a rounded bottom and when you sit on them you have to use your core to balance. I got 3 hokki stools and spread them around the room for my kinders to sit in. At this point, all I had were 3 hokki stools and chairs. I made a plan for students to take turns sitting in the hokki stools. My kinders had assigned seats so I had to move the hokki stool to a different kinder’s assigned spot each day.

Once I saw the benefits of the hokki stools for some kinders, I was interested to try other things. Our school had a staff PD about flexible seating and we talked about ways we can add things to our rooms with out spending money and then we were challenged to write a grant for the PTA to fund more flexible seating options.

Free options: raise tables for students to stand at, lower tables so students have to sit on floors, old crates turned upside down are strong enough to hold littles. I had pillows and cushions in my room already so I moved them to the floor tables and put them on top of the crates so they were more comfortable. My kinders also asked if they could go under tables to work and… YES! why not?!

Things our PTA funded for us: scoop chairs, more crates, seat cushions, tall stools, and yoga balls. These were spread around the room at different tables.

I transitioned from assigned seats to home bases. My students had placemats with their name tags on them and every week, they would choose a new table spot for their home base.

I made my own basket seats with my husband with plywood, cushion, and fabric. I followed a DIY I found online. I used these instead of upside down crates with cushions. Cassidy helped! 😜

Year 2:

I had all the same furniture in my room. My big shift year 2 was to move to daily home bases. Kinders chose a new seat every day. This would be the spot they go back to for independent work time. It worked great until a kinder went home sad because he didn’t get to school early enough to have lots of choices in his seat. Mom emailed me to let me know and I developed a plan to make sure each kinder got a turn in each flexible seat type. I had a chart with each seat type across the top and all the students names listed under. Once kinders chose a spot for the day, they had to cross off their name. They couldn’t choose that seat type again until everyone had a turn. This worked fabulously!

Year 2 I also made the decision to explicitly teach each seat choice. I made an anchor chart with diagrams and labels to show how I expected my kinders to sit or stand. I also had kinders model the right way and the wrong way to use the flexible seats. This was great because the had the chance to play with the seat choices. I revisited the chart and modeling as I observed patterns of kinders using seats in unexpected ways.

Year 3:

This year I made my expectations chart with the class and had them act out the right and wrong ways to use the seat choices. I love how the anchor chart serves as a daily reminder. I no longer use name tags as home bases. I have moved to a completely flexible option. Firsties can choose a different spot each time they need to go to the tables to work. I find a lot of my firsties like to lay on a pillow with a clipboard. My centers don’t have assigned areas, firsties bring the materials they need to whichever table or seating area they want. This year I plan on using some of my morning meeting time to talk about why we have each type of seating and the type of learner it supports. “If you ___ the ___ would be a great choice for you!”

I have come to the realization that there is a difference between having flexible seating and having a flexible classroom. Flexible seating refers to the furniture in your classroom and students get to choose where they sit (daily or weekly). To me, a flexible classroom includes student choice in more than just their seat location. It includes, their choice in how to complete work (digitally or paper), what they are learning (interest driven or options), books they read (shout out to my PLN buddy Allie Bond for inspiring me to move away from leveled readers!), and more! What do you do that makes your classroom flexible ?

5 Lessons Learned from BYOD with Littles

3 years ago my principal, Dr. Sandy Chambers challenged our staff to participate in a district pilot program in which students would bring devices to school from home (Bring Your Own Device – BYOD). This included a lot of push back, a lot of challenges, and a lot of awesomeness! I’m not gonna lie – I didn’t think it would work in kindergarten! They couldn’t keep track of their jacket! How would they keep track of a device!? It took a few years but I think I have learned some lessons that might help others get going on BYOD with littles!

Lesson #1

Set Expectations 

My school has a contract for each family participating in BYOD. If students don’t follow the guidelines they can lose the privilege of BYOD.  You will need to teach, model, and repeat these expectations with both parents and students frequently. Expectations include:

  • Use the device for learning.
  • Carry it with 2 hands.
  • Only the owner can use it.
  • Devices come to school charged.
  • How often the kid should bring their device.
  • Apps or settings kids need.
  • Digital Citizenship

Lesson #2

Procedures, Procedures, Procedures!

Procedures are what keeps your classroom running smoothly. Teachers have procedures for everything from going to the bathroom to solving student disagreements. BYOD needs its own set of specific procedures. You will need to teach, model, and repeat these procedures frequently. My procedures include:

  • Sign in devices daily so you know what is in your classroom. The sign in let’s me know what I have available each day.
  • Our devices are to stay in student bookbags until we need them.
  • I have a call out to check what students are doing. When I say, “device check!” Students immediately hold their device above their head facing in my direction. If they take a long time or you can see them tapping their devices they are most likely off task.
  • When instructing or giving directions I ask kids to put their devices in “listening mode.” This means they are upside down on their lap.
  • Kindness matters! When responding to other’s work digitally, be kind.

Lesson #3

Allow for students to become experts!

Pick a few apps you want students to have on their BYOD and use them frequently! Let the kids become experts. These apps should become second nature and a “go to” for responses and reflection. Try to pick open ended apps that can be used for creation. Here’s a list of my favorites:

  • Seesaw
  • Chatterpix,
  • Do ink green screen,
  • Felt board

I use and teach other apps too but these are the ones we use the most. I also use raz-kids/kids a-z daily, but it isn’t a creation app.

I also like to keep a running list of things I want to try. Here is my list of creative apps I want to try:

  • aurasma
  • book creator
  • sock puppet
  • coma coma

Lesson #4

Create!

Devices can add to your lessons in meaningful ways. A true blended classroom integrates technology seamlessly. Think creation and not just playing on apps. Use apps that are open ended and allow students to create: draw, photo, video, and write. Playing games and doing rote practice is not a sustainable way to integrate technology. Creation can be used for students to share their learning, respond to questions, or reflect on their learning. Allow students choice in how they share, respond, and reflect. Remember those favorite apps… They are all choices! Students choose them for different reasons depending on what they are trying to communicate.

Lesson #5

Try!

You will find things that work and things that don’t. Be flexible and take a chance. You’ll be surprised what littles can do with devices, they are digital natives after all! Modeling and involving them in the problem solving process is key to success in BYOD for littles.

Please reach out to me if you have any questions about BYOD and littles!

#FailForward with paper airplanes

Today was a hectic day. Track 2 tracked out and needed a home base for the day so the track 3 teacher could move into her room. So the track 2 teacher and I decided to #innovate4littles! We planned a paper airplane STEM challenge. It was hard. It was fun. It was dramatic. It was challenging. It was busy. It was engaging. It was amazing. It was innovative!

First, we watched this video. (Don’t judge the weird voices. It was the best we could find on short notice.)

And then we challenged them! We asked them to make a paper airplane that could fly far and not catch on fire. 😜 We showed them a paper airplane book (which a friend called out to identify as a how-to book! 🤗#elaKW2 #innovate4littles)

Then we gave them the rules:

  1. make an airplane
  2. write your name on the airplane
  3. the only material you can use for your airplane is paper (no tape, no glue, no scissors, no paperclips.)

We told them they could use youtube kids to search for how to videos, use the how-to books we had or teach each other if they already knew how to make paper airplanes. The kids immediately broke into their own working groups to build some airplanes. We walked around and called out what we saw for some of the lone roamers to find a group. “Chloe is teaching this group how to fold a paper airplane.” “Ian found a video on youtube kids.” “This group is following the how-to book.”


The room was buzzing with students folding paper. I won’t lie, there were tears. A LOT of tears. Teachers sat down with the stressed out kinders to slow down the steps, model, provide extra hands to stabilize paper being folded, and pause videos at the right moment. Coaching, scaffolding, good teaching.


Then they were ready to test their creations. We went outside to fly them. (We didn’t measure distance this time. That will come soon though!) Kinders teamed up to see who could fly theirs farther than the other. They made sure to start at the same standing spot to be fair. They struggled again because the wind blew the airplanes in crazy directions. (#scieKE1 #ssKG21)

​​​
Finally, we brought them together to debrief. We discussed how it was hard for everyone. Almost every kinder had to use more than one sheet of paper to make a successful airplane. One kinder even used 13 sheets of paper before getting a flying airplane! We talked about how you can learn from something not working. How you change to make it work. How struggle makes your brain grow. How even though it was hard everyone who kept trying made it work. How paper airplanes are like reading, writing, and math. Because mistakes are good, not getting it the first time is good, struggle is good. Then we watched a video on Class Dojo about Growth Mindset. And discussed how it connected to the paper airplanes and learning.

Sometimes you need to take a break from your pacing guide and teach life lessons.

Please share a time when you switched gears and tried something like this with your class.

 

#wakeTLC #PBLitsnothard

#WakeTLC was an amazing opportunity provided to me and other teacher leaders by our district. They were looking for teacher leaders to embark on a self/team guided professional development journey. We were given the agency to choose from Instructional Design, 4Cs, and Project Based Learning (PBL). My group of amazing educators (Kara Damico, Betsy Archer, Rachel Gates, Gloria Butler, Ashlee Wackerly, and Kim Collins) decided to focus on PBL. We entered this journey from all different experiences and background knowledge about PBL. We ranged from not even really understanding what PBL is to others who had dabbled a bit in PBL. Together we dove in to the world of PBL and made a pact to each try one in our classroom before putting together the “deliverable” the district asked us to create.

Because sometimes the universe aligns perfectly, Hacking Project Based Learning was published near the beginning of our work together and it gave us just the jump start we needed to reach a common understanding of PBL and begin planning. After reading the book I was inspired to design a flow chart based on chapter 3. At one of our #wakeTLC sessions we used my flowchart to design a self-guided, differentiated, interactive digital resource for teachers to begin the PBL planning process. Please check it out and leave feedback!

#PBLclouds – the reflection

STOP! This is a reflection post! If you haven’t read the story about what happened during #PBLclouds. Click here to read it now!


My favorite thing about doing a PBL with my weather unit is that my students took ownership over their learning and I only needed to provide them with the time and space to discover. Since this was my first PBL, there are definitely some things that went well and things that totally tanked!


BIE was a great starting point for me. It provided a great outline for my PBL. From there I tweaked some things because their unit was for a first grade class and I’m working with kinders. What I found the most interesting about planning with the BIE resource was a lot of the things I had done in this unit before were in the PBL plan! They were just done a little differently.

I’ve always read Little Cloud by Eric Carle and done a painting activity. The difference was I did it at the end as a culminating art connection. This time I did it as an introduction and launch! The other difference is that before I did the painting ink blot style. Where you dab some paint in the middle of the page and then fold it in half and open it to see what it looks like. This time I let my kinders paint the cloud in the shape they wanted. This changed the perspective. Instead of looking at something that was nothing, my kinders were able to intentionally paint a cloud in the shape they wanted it allowing them to connect to past experiences of seeing clouds.

I’ve also always done the cotton ball clouds activity with my kinders. The difference again is that I used to do it at the end of the unit as a calumniating activity. This time we did it in the middle. I used to have to direct the class in how to manipulate the cotton balls to make them in the shapes of different clouds, this time they worked collaboratively and helped each other problem solve to model different types of clouds. My kinders took what they learned from watching cloud videos and we’re able to stretch and pull the cotton balls apart to make the cloud models. They made models of 6 different types of clouds where in the past I was pulling my hair out to get 4 types!


Both of the above activities were improved through the PBL approach. Allowing children to be intentional and connect their learning to their experiences allows them to see the connection. It was hard, but letting go of the reigns for the cotton ball cloud models and allowing my kinders to problem solve and communicate made it a huge success.

My favorite task I designed for this PBL is the YouTubeKids mission. My kinders have been trying to watch videos on YouTube all year. They know they aren’t supposed to because the content can be inappropriate for school but they do it anyway. They got on in the computer lab, they got on in the classroom on computers and iPads. Rather than fight with them about using it for entertainment, I decided to teach them how to use it for research and and a source of information. Because of content, I decided to use YouTubeKids with them. It blocks much of the inappropriate content. Molly Harnden came to help as extra adult hands with my 6 groups. We talked about what would make a good teaching video and what would be just for fun. We talked about what words to use for a good search. And then they were off. The room was a buzz and it was AHHH_MAAAAZIIIING!!! This went so well that I no longer ban the use of YouTubeKids with my kinders. They know how to use it to find information and are not just watching mindcraft videos!


I was thrilled to get this feedback from a parent after all the hard work we put into learning about the types of clouds and the weather associated with them:

facebook

Isn’t that kind of connection to real life and retention of information what all teachers dream about?

 

At the start of the PBL we took a pre-assessment so my kinders could rank their current knowledge of clouds and weather.

The plan was to do it again at the end and let them compare the 2. We’ll we got into this and busy with that. Before I knew it, it was time to track out! I never did a post assessment! Next PBL I’ll be more careful about wrapping up BEFORE track out! This kind of reflection would have been amazing to observe as my kinders realized how much they learned through discovery.

 

I was really proud of my kinders’ use of the Do Ink Green Screen app to create their weather report videos. But it could have been SOOOO much better! We outlined what meteorologists say, show, and do in their reporting. They discussed with their group what they wanted to say. I SHOULD HAVE had them write down their lines and practiced. We SHOULD HAVE done a few takes of the video and viewed and provided feedback with the whole group prior to publishing. I know I SHOULD HAVE done these things because I got everything from this

​to this:

​Another lesson learned: TV meteorologists are SUPER busy! I didn’t have any luck getting a local news meteorologist to come as an expert visitor. I’m SUPER grateful for a parent contact with the self-employed meteorologist that did come as our expert visitor. I learned something from him! Did you know that meteorologists are important for golf tournaments? Me neither! I also didn’t realize they had specialties like his – predicting lightening. Pretty cool!

Questions or comments about our PBL? comment below!