#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!

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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 ?

#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)

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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.

 

#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:

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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!

 

#PBLclouds – the story

In January I participated in a twitter chat #hackingPBL and was so inspired I bought the book Hacking Project Based Learning by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy. I had learned about Project Based Learning (PBL) in college at SUNY Frediona from Dr. Mira Berkley. I already knew PBL is good for kids. If you don’t know what PBL is read this. I’m not going to get into that now. I want to tell the story of the first time I tried a PBL in my kindergarten class. I reached out to Erin on twitter for a little idea bouncing because she has experience with the logistics of PBLs with kinders. She was very supportive! Fast forward to February. I am a member of the Wake County Teacher Leader Corps (#wakeTLC). We meet 5 times a year to improve our own instruction as well as support other educators in our schools. This year’s focus is a self guided group project. I knew back in November at Fall Convergence #WonderWake I wanted to get into trying PBL in my room. So I joined a group working on PBL. At #wakeTLC in February we listened to Erin Gannnon talk about PBL and she introduced me to a resource bie.org. I began searching right away for ideas to get me going on my first PBL. I found one on weather and clouds. A perfect fit for the weather unit I had just begun. So it was time to change gears! It took me about 2 weeks to wrap my brain around it and plan for it. I decided to photo/video document my learning process and my kinders’ learning process on twitter using #PBLclouds.

Day 1: I launched the PBL reading Eric Carle’s Little Cloud and then let my kinders paint a cloud. I of course forgot to take photos on our first day!

Day 2: After launching, I needed to teach my kinders how to collaborate. We created an anchor chart together.

Day 3: Next, we took a pre-assessment of what they already know about clouds and weather.


Day 4: I strategically grouped my students taking into consideration kinders who bring devices from home and tried to balance my talkers and my thinkers. Their first task as a group was to decide on their roles.

Day 5: I invited our school technology facilitator, Molly Harnden, to come collaborate with me because I was about to give my kinders a mission I had never tried before. I asked my collaborative groups to work together to find a video that teaches about the different types of clouds. The task included using YouTubeKids to find 4 different videos about the types of clouds and deciding together which one was the best. This was a very involved task and required my kinders to be critical of the information they found as well as reaching a group decision. Each member of the groups had a role and each role had a specific task for this mission. Leader – listened to each member’s opinion of the best video and decided which video got the most votes. Recorder –  wrote down the title of the video they chose. Digital leader – worked the iPad to show videos. I chose this mission because my kinders were using YouTube already for entertainment. So I taught them to use a safer version – YouTubeKids and how to use it in an effective way for learning.


Day 6-8: Each group shared the video they chose and why they picked it with the whole group using Reflector 2. This took 2 days longer than I anticipated. I had to learn to be flexible!

Day 9-14: We went outside to observe the clouds. Each group kept track of the clouds they saw using a graph. There were protocols for each role during observations. Leader – listened as every shared and decided what the recorder would record based on what they heard. Recorder – recorded on the graph.  Noise Monitor – used a pointing protocol to make sure that the group members were taking turns to talk.

Day 9-10: The groups built models of the cloud types we learned about with cotton balls. I had done this activity for the last 4 years but this year was different! In the past, it was very teacher directed and I had to tell them what to do with the cotton balls to make each type of cloud. This year, they worked with their groups and didn’t need my help at all! They were even able to model 6 types of clouds where in the past we only did 4. The groups even came up with a way to color the clouds black for the storm clouds!

Day 12: This is where karma was on my side! We scheduled a Science Fun for Everyone field trip at the beginning of the year. The theme was meteorology! I was so proud of my kinders being able to answer the scientist’s questions and make connections to what we were doing.


Day 13: We watched a few videos of TV meteorologists and made notes of what we noticed. We watched each video 3 times. The first time was just to watch. The second time I asked my kinders to think about what they saw in the video. The third time I asked them to pay close attention to what they heard the meteorologist say. We made a list.

Day 14: We went over the list we made the day before then the groups decided on what they were going to say in their video and who was going to say it. Each group took a video using a green screen for their weather forecast. Molly was a big help teaching my class to take videos!

 

Day 15: Groups used Kiddle (another great resource brought to us by Molly!) to search for images to use behind their Green Screen video. Molly and I taught the groups how to use the DoInk Green Screen App to create their video and the groups shared their finished products. We critiqued each video using the list we made on day 13.

Day 16: I was able to get a local, self employed meteorologist to come talk to all 100 kindergarteners at #WeAreBrierCreek! Big thanks to Josh Nagelberg for coming out to talk to such a big group of kids! They loved seeing the connection between what they are learning and a real life meteorologist!

Stay tuned for future posts on this PBL. My plan is to write one as a reflection of how #PBLclouds went, another as a reflection of lessons learned from #PBLclouds and Hacking Project Based Learning, and another with my next steps and where I’m going in my PBL journey!

Questions or comments on #PBLclouds? Post below! Thanks!

Hacking PBL – book reflection

I wanted to compile my books snaps and other creations after reading Hacking PBL in an easy to see format. 

Hack 1


Hack 2

https://padlet.com/embed/wxjheok9dr7ohttps://padlet.com/embed/wxjheok9dr7o

Made with Padlet

Hack 3

Displaying Is it PBL worthy?.jpg

Hack 4

Planning PBLs

Things I’m doing that are in the same family as PBL: STEM/STEAM, Genius Hour!

MUST be flexible!

Hack 5


Hack 6

Assessment

On my todo list- try shifting the ownership of assessment to the students. It will look different in kindergarten but I think it can be done. #innovate4littles #kindersCAN

Hack 7

Feedback

Things I’m doing:

2 stars and a wish – students do this with parents at student led conferences but I can shift the protocol to be used by them to eachother. Students share 2 positives or compliments and 1 thing they want to do better.

glows and grows – I use this protocol when reflecting with my class as a whole group. Since they are familiar with it they can use it with peers. I ask for or  share things in a lesson or activity that glowed and things that can grow.

Hack 8


Hack 9

Student understanding can be measure by more than a standard test. Student performance can measure understanding in a deeper way than a standard test. Your assessment should look and feel like the instruction. Understanding shouldn’t be measured 1 way 1 time.

Hack 10

Students should be sharing projects with the world because realistically that’s what people do. This is a good time to harness the power of social media. It’s important to help children build a positive digital footprint early. When using social media it is importanto teach digital citizenship frequently.

Can’t stop… Won’t stop…

I’m already excited to post again. I was nervous about this at first. I feel self conscious putting my thoughts in a public space but a new PLN friend encouraged me – this is for me.  Thanks Bill! Also, I learned a new trick – links in my post (don’t laugh I’m learning!).

My plan for this blog is for it to stand as my portfolio. I want to collect my growth and best work all while growing a positive digital footprint. So today I want to look closely at the standards I’m evaluated on and see if I can understand them better.

Standard 1 – teachers demonstrate leadership – classroom, school, profession, advocate, high ethical standards

I think that leading in my classroom and school and upholding high ethical standards comes easily for me. They’re kind of a given… A duh!moment.  How could I teach and not lead my students or take on some leadership role in my school? I don’t think I’d be effective… Educators have long be held to high ethical standards. We’re role models for our students. The families and community we serve expect a lot out of us. These are the easy sub standards.

The ones that make us stand out are leading in the profession and advocating for schools and students. My goal in life is to grow up to be just like my all time favorite teacher Dr. Mira Berkley. She is my most favorite professor from college. She is a guru of early childhood education. She is passionate and a leader in the field as well as an advocate for everything developmentally appropriate. I want to be all of those things! In my near future I plan to return to school for my doctorate degree then pursue a career in educating future educators. I see this blog as my way of pushing forward to becoming more of a leader in the profession and then advocating for students and schools will come…

Standard 2 – teachers establish a respectful environment for a diverse population of students –  positive nurturing relationship, embrace diversity, treat students as individuals, adapt teaching for special needs, collaborate with families

In my humble opinion this standard needs to be observed overtime and needs to be part of a teachers belief system. This isn’t something you can fake. You have to believe that diversity is an important part of a community. I work hard to create a classroom community each year with my young kinders. We regularly talk about the differences and similarities between us. I encourage them to all be friends and to include each other during play. I reach out to my families to learn about their home cultures and traditions. We include those in our classroom discussions. When it comes to diversity positivity is key. I think that diversity comes in many shapes and sizes. It isn’t all the color of our skin. We also have to look at religions, socioeconomic status, and other cultural aspects. Every student in my class is important to me and so is their happiness and well-being. Of course I care about their academics, but the whole child is in my classroom not just their brain. I give hugs when they need love, food when they are hungry, sleep time when they are tired, and band-aids fix most everything else. 🙂 When it comes to academics, I challenge my students as they need it at their own levels. I differentiate lessons, center activities, and homework. None of this is easy but it’s the right way to do it and it’s what needs to be done for the kids. At the end of the day… it’s all about the kids.

So I’ve come to realize that talking about the standards is going to take me a while and in an effort not to make this post a mile long, I’m going to stop here.  I’ll be back soon to talk my way through some of the other teaching standards.

Please comment with your thoughts on these standards!