Coding Unplugged – A number sorting computer

I learned an amazing coding activity at the #NCSTA17 conference in Greensboro, NC in October. The activity is from csunplugged.org. The mat works like a computer. It has rules and paths the information must follow. I was mind blown the first time we did it as adults at the conference and I immediately had the idea to use this as one of my comparing numbers introductions. #math1NBT3

The first time I did this, I taped the pattern out on the floor copying it from the photo I took at the conference. I didn’t want to spend the money making the cloth if it didn’t work. I was worried that my firsties wouldn’t get it since they would need to know right from left in order for the computer to be successful. I was so surprised! They did not want the computer to “break” and were very careful to chose the correct direction and help each other figure out where to go on the coding mat.

I bought this drop cloth at Lowes. I painted the pattern with tempra paint from my classroom. I copied it from the photo I took at the conference. It was pretty easy except I didn’t eyeball the paths correctly and ended up with 2 curved ones when they should all be straight. I also had a few cat prints from my dear sweet 15 year old torti cat, Calypso, being nosy and walking across the mat.

The kids DID NOT MIND! They love hearing all the crazy stories about my pets!

The first time we did this, I gave the kids single digit numbers 1-6 that I knew they would be able to compare and put in order easily. I had them line up out of order at the starting end of the mat. I asked the kids who were not on the computer to tell me what they noticed:

  • “They are 1 digit numbers.”
  • “They are out of order.”

So far so good! I explained the rules and paths on the computer and gave reminders for right and left so the knew which direction to move. At each step forward I had them stop and the observers to notice any changes (Nothing changed except the order of the numbers. And they were still out of order.) I slowed this WAY down. One step at a time asking them to compare and decide: right or left? By the time they go to the other end of the computer they were just as amazed as I was at the conference that this unplugged computer WORKED!!!

The next time we did this, I gave them teen numbers which I knew they were familiar with from kindergarten and had 1 or 2 numbers missing (i.e. 11, 13, 16, 17, 18 19). I kept it at a slow pace. Taking 1 step at a time and comparing and following paths and asking the observers to notice any changes. They were less surprised that the numbers ended up in order and more concerned that some numbers were missing in the order. This led to a great conversation about comparing numbers and the numbers that come between other numbers.

We moved on from there comparing more 2 digit numbers. I gave out another set of cards with 2 digit numbers specifically chosen so that it didn’t matter if they only compared 1 of the digits, it would still work out in order (i.e. 12, 23, 34, 45, 67, 89). I anticipated this would be a common misconception with comparing 2 digit numbers. We talked about always comparing with the tens number firs then the ones if the tens were equal.

The next set of cards had more random 2 digit numbers. I had them draw the base ten picture for this number so they could begin comparing both the number and a picture of that number and visualizing each 2 digit number. The last set of cards had just base ten pictures and they compared the images.

Each time I gave out a new set of cards, I called different students to be in the computer so that everyone could have a chance to observe and notice and participate. Each time we worked the computer, they were able to follow the rules and paths faster. Our observation skills even got keener as they noticed mistakes in the right/left stepping and corrected their friends so we didn’t “break” the computer.

Please share other unplugged computer science or coding activities or ideas you have for this activity in the comments!

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Amazon’s Echo Dot in the Classroom

This is not a sponsored post.

I bought an Amazon Echo Dot at the beginning of the school year and have set it up in my classroom as an additional learning tool. The Echo Dot uses an Artificial Intelligence, Alexa, to interact with humans through voice commands. Having an AI in the classroom helps students work on their speaking and listening skills. They have to speak clearly so she can hear them. They have to listen carefully because she sometimes answers quickly.
I have seen a lot of questions around lately about how these are can be used in the classroom. I linked a podcast at the bottom where they talk about the benefits of AI in the classroom. I’m going to share 5 ways I currently use my echo dot and then some of the new skills I just added and look forward to using.

I chose to use AI in my classroom this year because it can help support students with different needs. It takes the pressure off students because they don’t need to read or write in order to interact with the device. I also love that it is a relatively new technology on the market and I love the challenge of making it work in the classroom.

Note – We changed the wake word on our Echo Dot to Echo instead of Alexa since I have a student with that name.

*tips* turn OFF shopping, put it in a spot that doesn’t have a ton of regular activity so she can hear and be heard

1. Muisc

From day 1 I have used my Echo to play music. I have amazon music set up and can ask her to play anything from a specific song to a genre or artist playlist. My kids love to be the DJ for the day as one of our classroom rewards. They get to pick the music for morning arrival, movement breaks, or quiet music when we need to concentrate.

2. Timers and Reminders

I will ask Echo to set a timer for the number of minutes students have to complete a task or remind us of something we need to do that is not part of our regular schedule.

3. Spelling

First graders are really good at phonetic spelling and can stretch and write the sounds for any word they want. However, they start to realize that their spelling doesn’t match conventional spelling and they want to spell words correctly. I let my students use Echo to spell a word for them or check their spelling of a word. At first they needed to ask me before asking Echo to spell a word (I didn’t want them using it for sight words or words we have learned the spelling pattern for). They are good about this now and I’m ready to release control to them (or an Echo Manager – student job).

4. Brain Breaks

Echo can play music, tell a joke, or play quick games to help with brain breaks. We can ask her to play a song for a quick dance break, tell a joke to lighten the mood, or play a quick game. We love to play the Animal Game (one of the skills you can add). It works like 20 questions about animals.

5. Genius Hour

We have an (almost) weekly genius hour in my classroom. When students are ready to choose a topic or question to work on for their genius hour, they need to have their idea approved by Echo first. The purpose of Genius Hour is for students to spend time exploring their own curiosities. Part of this is in coming up with ideas that are not “googleable.” Alexa, being and AI, works like google. My students need to ask her their question and get an, “I don’t know” response from her to know that their question is going to take some time and work to reach an answer.

Skills I like or will be using soon

  • Invisible Dice
  • Ambient Sounds
  • Animal Game
  • Flip a coin
  • Kids Affirmation
  • Kids Mad Libs
  • Laugh Box
  • MathFacts
  • Mother May I
  • Rock Paper Scissors
  • Translated
  • Would You Rather
  • Word Look Up
  • Weather

Do you have and Alexa or another AI in your classroom? How do you use it? Please leave ideas in the comments!

Google Teacher Tribe Episode 31

Building Relationships …a work in progress…

Author’s Note: I’m not proud of the post below. Actually, I’m embarrassed by it. But learning and growth must be shared! This is about to get real………

I started reading The Curious Classroom by Harvey “Smokey” Daniels. And of course it begins talking student relationships. I have good relationships with my kids. They know I love them and they love me. I try to get to know my kids outside of school and academics. I share my life outside our classroom with them.

In the first chapter, Daniels brings up a quote I’ve heard many times before by Donald Graves,

You are not ready to teach a child until you know ten things about her life outside of school.

It got me thinking. I actually went back to that quote 4 times in the time it took me to read the 18 pages of chapter 1. Do I know 10 things about each of my Firsties??? Of course I do! ……… WAIT! Do I REALLY know 10 thing about each of my kids? I decided to make a list.

I left off names and things I know to keep some privacy for my students. Below reflects what I was able to come up with after thinking about my students for a short time. The number on the left represents a student and the number in parenthesis is the amount of things I could come up with.

1.  (5)

2.  (5)

3.  (7)

4. (4)

5. (5)

6. (8)

7.  (4)

8.  (4)

9. (2)

10. (3)

11. (2)

12. (3)

13. (5)

14. (6)

15. (3)

16. (3)

17. (4)

18. (3)

I have a lot of work to do. I’ll update this post as I work toward my goal.

Passion > Stress (3 blog posts under 250 words – post 3) #IMMOOC

Stress:

  • Requirements I don’t see the value in
  • Paperwork
  • Last minute changes
  • Meetings on meetings on meetings

Love:

  • Learning
  • Connecting with educators
  • Reading
  • Shareing

I work a lot. I work all day at school and most nights I come home and work more. I spend countless hours on weekends working. My husband tells me I work too much. But the thing is I love what I do. I’m passionate about learning (mine and my students). I never feel like I’m working because I enjoy it and I’m passionate about it.

I’m passionate about learning. I seek out learning opportunities. I attend EdCamps, look for local educators conferences, read books,  read blogs, write, and  tweet. I seek out new ways to teach my students. I seek out ways to connect standards to their interests.

I’m passionate about integrating technology in learning experiences. I’m on my phone a lot. But I use it as a tool for learning. I connect with others through my phone. I take pictures of what I’m learning and what my students are learning to share. I seek out new technology tools to integrate with my students. I’m currently learning how to integrate coding into my curriculum (please share if you’re an expert!) I recently tried coding unplugged to teach my students to compare 2 digit numbers.

I know the things that stress me out are must dos and they aren’t going away. M y love and passion greatly out weigh the things that stress me out.

Strengths Based Approach (3 blog posts under 250 words – post 2) #IMMOOC

Feedback is the most influential, powerful practice teachers can implement in their classrooms. Research (Hattie) shows that no single other practice in a classroom has a greater impact on student learning than feedback. However, how often does feedback come in the form of negatives.

  • “You need to start your sentence with a capital.”
  • “Did that sound right? Try a different strategy.”
  • “Check your counting. You made a silly mistake. “

I’m guilty of this type of feedback myself. I think I’m helping my students. But what message are they actually hearing? I worry that it could be:

  • “I’m a terrible writer.”
  • “I can’t read.”
  • “I’m not good enough.”

I have to be mindful daily to focus on my students strengths. It’s a decision I have to make every 5 seconds: tell them what they did great or what they need to fix.

I find that I get my fristies’ attention and interest when I start with something they did great. They love to hear how amazing they are. I try to make a point of telling each of my firsties something I love about them every day. They need this positive affirmation.

Today on flipgrid, one of my firsties was WAY off in her response but I didn’t even address it right away. I started by telling her how amazing she is at selfies (and she’s better than I am!) She lit up and hung on my every word after that! We hit her grow area after she was able to glow!

Purposeful Focus Areas (3 blog posts under 250 words – post 1) #IMMOOC #ObserveMe

I try to pick 2-3 areas I want to improve on each school year. This summer I was introduced to the #ObserveMe challenge. Teachers post a sign outside their door, share on social media to invite others into their rooms to observe them and provide feedback.

This year my focus areas are:

  1. Student collaboration
  2. Evidence of inquiry based learning
  3. Positive student relationships

My action steps include:

  1. Regular opportunities for students to collaborate combined with direct instruction on how to collaborate effectively.
  2. Professional Development and book study on inquiry based learning, and Project Based Learning. My goal here is to teach all my science units as PBLs and my challenge is to try at least one PBL in another subject area.
  3. Read the Morning Meeting book and practice and improve upon morning meeting daily! My goal is to never rush morning meeting because that time together is so powerful for relationship building.

I chose to participate in #ObserveMe in the hope that I could collect feedback from peers, parents, and administrators frequently. Then have the time to reflect on that feedback and act on it. I’m struggling with actually getting people to come into my room. I would love to hear your ideas for getting people in my room!

Below is my #ObserveMe sign! I challenge YOU!

#NCSTAlearns #NCSTA17 #NSTA17

I just got back from the North Carolina Science Teachers Association (NCSTA) annual conference and my heart and my mind are full! The links below are to my notes from each session I attended.

I learned to code with out a computer or device. And immediately knew how to bring it back to my students. We’re going to do this exact activity with 2 digit numbers next week as we start our comparing 2 digit number unit (NBT1.3).

I’m a Harry Potter nerd so naturally I went to see a real Madam Trelawney show me the science behind magical creatures, levitation, and potions!

I shared my resources for the new to first grade science unit – Earth in the Universe (E1.1). And while at the Elementary share-a-thon, shared the table with a new friend – Lindsay Rice. We stuck together for the rest of the conference and it was so nice to wander with a familiar face!

We learned that you shouldn’t go to sessions by exhibitors. They’ll want you to buy there stuff. And their stuff is expensive!

I learned about the benefits of graffiti for vocab learning and was inspired to make visual vocabulary displays! (coming soon to my classroom!)

I connected with some other educators after day one of the conference.

I’m inspired by Lindsay to have my students cross their mid-line to improve brain function and make vocabulary fun, engaging, and artistic.

I shared my learning on PBL and technology tools that support inquiry to a group of educators. It was my first time presenting and I’m pleased with how it went, but I have a lot of room for growth! My goal for my first presentation was to get at least 1 participant to join twitter or seesaw and I got 2 for each! Whoot whoot!!

I ended the conference building hinge joints, solving a problem like an astronaut, and attempting to build a balanced mobile (fail). I have to teach that last one soon so I’m going to get some practice in!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference and to attend some meaningful sessions. But I’m even more thankful for the connections I made with educators from Union County, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, Wilmington, Durham, and the community college network. I’ve heard that the people you meet at conferences are more important than the sessions you attend. This being my first conference on my own. I’m thrilled with the connections I made. Any conferences I attend in the future (alone or in groups) I will 100% form bonds with educators I don’t know!

Thanks to everyone who attended #NCSTAlearns. I’ll see you next year!

“I failed my way to success” #IMMOOC

I teach little kids. Modeling EVERYTHING is important. I model reading strategies, writing conventions, counting methods, steps in a process. Every. Single. Day. Multiple. Times. A. Day.  Modeling my learning is just as important. I preach growth mindset, the power of yet, and the miracle of mistakes all the time. I try to see into the future and predict the mistakes my littles will make then plan ahead to make those mistakes as I’m teaching my mini-lessons. These moments can be powerful for them. But I’ll tell you what, those kids are smart! They can see right though me! They know I made that mistake on purpose and they know I know better!

It is far more powerful to make natural mistakes in front of students. I don’t play those off as if I meant to. I model the process of how I realized there was a mistake and what I’m going to do to fix it and learn from it! My kids help me realize my mistakes and they cheer me on as they observe my process to improve.

My littles know I’m on twitter, they know I blog, they know I read books about education, they know I go to teacher conferences and workshops both to teach other teachers and to learn from other teachers. My kids know that teaching that their learning is my passion. During our morning meeting time we share what we’re learning, mistakes we made, and our curiosities. It’s important for me to be open and honest with them. I don’t tell them kid friendly things. I share the real things in my life that I’m learning, my actual mistakes, and what I’m actually wondering about. My kids know I just bought a house and I’m struggling to work my front garden to make it look nice and keep the weeds out (they even offered to come help).

When kids see the adults near them learning, making mistakes, and improving they will realize that’s what life is all about. My goal is for my students to learn to enjoy the struggle and lean into it. Our favorite quote is from Thomas Edison, “I failed my way to success.” It’s our mantra.

What are you learning right now?

#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.