Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Digital Data Dilemma

A few years ago, we started individual data notebooks for each student. Through our district's initiative (LEAD 2021), every student would have a PLP (Personal Learning Plan). This initiative allowed students to take ownership of their learning and begin setting specific academic goals each nine weeks. Students tracked their own goals. When they reached their goals, they set off making new goals to reach for. The increase in motivation and growth this caused was unbelievable!

When we began using data notebooks, we decided to do them on paper with our first graders. We used this data notebook from Teachers Pay Teachers. We printed the pages out for each student, punched holes in the side and put it inside a folder with brads. This worked well for the first year, but students would sometimes color their graphs incorrectly. Meeting with each student just to color, took quite a long time, as well. Some students even lost their notebooks (I have no idea how).

Then Amy Phillips created a digital data notebook using Google Slides. We were thrilled that someone took the time to create a notebook that we ALL could use. It was a great digital start, but students still moved the graphs around. They also had difficulty filling in the bars on the graph. If students made drastic growth in scores, we would have to redo the scale of the graph every time. So I thought, "There has to be an easier way."

This past summer, I was asked to present a session about data notebooks at the GCISD Leading Digital Innovation Conference. Prior to presenting, my colleagues begged me to solve this dilemma. So the pressure was on. I remembered that there was a way to make graphs or charts in Google Sheets. I wondered if there was a way to make one sheet that included a table full of data. And then an individual sheet for each column of data. After lots of problem-solving in PLC with my fantastic second grade teammates (I was teaching 2nd grade at the time), we figured it out! Since then I have tweaked it quite a bit to fit the needs of my first graders. Here are a few screenshots from the google sheets data notebook.

As you can see, the graphs are automatically created when students enter the data. Each graph is color coordinated with the column it corresponds to. No more coloring in the graphs incorrectly. Now I can meet with students and set goals much faster than ever before. You can have your own copy of this data notebook here

"But how do I share this with my students?" You ask. I shared it with my students on Google Classroom. The reason I shared it with them there is because you can change the settings to make a copy for each student. It also puts in their first/last names automatically. I'm so glad I did it this way because it saved me a few extra steps. 

I hope this helps you set goals with your students faster. I hope this helps you best manage your time with your students. Let's face it. The one major challenge in our profession is that there is never enough time. Hence, we have to figure out faster and more efficient ways of doing things. #KidsDeserveIt 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

App Smashing Made Simple with Seesaw

I've always been the kind of teacher that likes to try everything at least once and take risks. I keep what works and I throw out the things that don't work. Last year, one of my favorite teacher friends, Meredith Burns, shared the Seesaw app with me. I have to admit, I was skeptical. Could this be an app I fall in love with and later have to pay hundreds of dollars for? Will it work with Google Drive? Is it really worth the time investment? It took me a while to be brave and try it out. And come to find out, really was worth my time. So if you're looking for that ONE special app that will transform your digital classroom, THIS IS THE APP! In fact, I think EVERY primary digital classroom should be using it. Here's why...

1. Kid-Friendly 
Students simply scan a QR code to sign in for the first time. They select their username and that's it!

Below is the screen that students see when they first login. This makes it so easy for kids to begin creating digital projects. 

2. Allows students to share work with an authentic audience
When students post their work, they can see their peers' work, as well. This allows them to learn from each other. Students can comment on peers' work and press the like button. Students are now motivated to put forth more effort in their work because they are creating it for an authentic audience. 

3. Has a built-in blog
Now there is no need to have a Google Classroom AND Blogger. Seesaw does BOTH! You even have the option to turn the blog off until you are ready to use it. Here is our class blog:

4. Includes drawing and recording tools
App smashing used to be so complicated. Create a picture with this app, take a screenshot, use Doceri or Shadow Puppet to record voice and then upload to Google Classroom. So many steps...

Now all you need is a quiet place for students to record. Seesaw allows students to upload photos from the camera roll and record voice to explain. Students can also record voice AND draw with the pen tool at the same time.  

Here is a video that one of my students made. She explained the three states of matter by app smashing the Seesaw app with the Draw & Tell HD app:

Remember to always have a procedure in place for app smashing. I always like to reference the image below for digital workflow. This is from Irene Boynton. You can see her blog post about digital workflow here. Students should be gathering information, processing information and then sharing information. Through this process students are truly making learning visible.

5. Access to free & fabulous webinars
Seesaw has experienced master teachers that present free webinars practically every day. The best part is that they offer these webinars both live and on-demand totally and completely free. I love the sprint webinars because they are short, sweet and to the point! Here is the link to the Google Doc with dates of upcoming webinars.
Remember you don't have to do IT ALL. Just pick one strategy or app each week that you want to use in your classroom. If it enhances learning, keep it! If it doesn't, let it go. But I promise you that Seesaw will blow your mind! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. I'm always here to help you in any way I can! 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Going Digital: Top 5 Tips for Going 1:1

At my campus, this is our second year to be a 1:1 digital campus. The first year was extremely challenging, but also incredibly exciting. Never in my wildest dreams did I think putting an iPad in every child's hand would transform learning quite as much as it did at our campus. We have been VERY pleasantly surprised. I now have such a passion for integrating technology because I see how much more engaged students are in their learning. They want to create, innovate and solve problems. As I hear more and more schools going 1:1, I feel the need to share what I've learned so far. I'm hoping this saves teachers time, money and gives them more time to spend with their families.

1. Have a plan for downloading apps. 

Don't let your students search the App Store. Students can easily misspell an app they are looking for and end up seeing highly inappropriate things.   
    • The ONLY app you will need to add on all student iPads yourself is QR Reader by Scan.
  • Use QR Codes to download apps. Create Google Slides with QR Codes linked to apps that you want students to download. If you have the Google Shortener Chrome Extension, you can easily make QR Codes. Right click on the QR Code, click copy image and paste it right into Google Slides. Easy peasy! 
  • Create a Smore with all of the apps you will be using. Below is a Smore I created for the beginning of the year: 
  • You still want to share this with your students via QR code. However, this is NOT an app. Students will need to add this website to their homescreen. Anytime we download a new app, I tell my students to go to their, "Top 70 Apps," Smore. 
2. If they don't behave, take it away. 
  • Another GREAT advantage to having iPads in the classroom is that you can use it as a reward and take it away as a consequence. Often if a student is misbehaving, I ask him/her to put the iPad away. This usually stops the misbehavior immediately. Later if the child's behavior improves, I give him/her another chance to use the device properly. 
3. When giving directions, tell students they must close/lock iPad screens. 
  • I can't tell you how many times I tried giving directions while their little faces are staring at their iPad screens. They just don't listen quite the same. Always have students close/lock iPad screens, while you give directions. If you always have this expectation, students will listen and you won't end up having to give directions 4, 5 or 6 times in a row. If you see a student open his/her iPad while you are giving directions, TAKE IT AWAY! This sets the stage for the rest of the class. They need to know you mean what you say. 
4. Have a place where you can share assignments with students and they can share work with you.

Google Classroom is a great tool for grades 3-12. You can post announcements, assignments and links to websites. Students can easily turn in work and ask questions via comments. You can also give feedback.  

    Seesaw is a FABULOUS tool for grades K-2. This one is my particular favorite because it is super kid-friendly. It also includes App Smashing tools like a drawing tool, recording tool and automatically creates QR codes for each student's posts. The best part is students can see each other's work and give praise/feedback. You can also use Seesaw as a blog. I pick exemplar products to post to the blog. Students are always extra excited when they know their product made it to the blog. Here is our blog.
    • Below is what Seesaw looks like. My students created dots for Dot Day. Then they created videos explaining what they made and how they would make their marks on the world. 

    5. Don't use students' real names online and teach digital citizenship. 

    When I post student work to the blog, I want all of my students to stay safe. Each student has a username or "safe name." It starts with my name Read and his/her number. Read01, Read02, Read03 etc. Even when they record videos, they don't mention their real names in the introduction. This is a great way to teach students that sharing personal information online is dangerous. We don't mention where we live, what school we go to or our names/family names. Seesaw has great Digital Citizenship Guidelines/posters online here.
    You can also find Digital Citizenship lessons on Common Sense Media.

    I hope this blog was helpful to you. Please leave me comments below if you have any suggestions or questions. In next week's blog, we'll take a look at App Smashing for Beginners.

    Saturday, May 28, 2016

    The IT Book for Teaching Reading

    When Amy Hall did her fabulous sessions on reading workshop last year, she mentioned THIS book. Thanks to our wonderful Liaison, Jennifer Howard, I now have my very own copy of The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo. Is it really that good, you ask? Yes! It is really that good and MORE. Here is a video that Jennifer Howard suggested I watch before reading:

    This book is basically a book of recipes for addressing specific reading skills with individual students or small groups of students needing help with the same skill. Unlike SOME resources, this one lays out short manageable mini-lessons. You won't have to go home and study the lesson the night before. In fact, most of these lessons you have probably taught before using other great resources like Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades by Debbie Miller, The CAFE Book: Engaging All Students in Daily Literary Assessment and Instruction or The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy in the Elementary Grades by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. But my most favorite reason this book is so amazing is because it can easily be paired up with the Units of Study for Teaching Reading by Lucy Calkins. Another added bonus is Serravallo includes pictures of anchor charts in her book that you can use in your classroom. 
    Here is a webinar from Kristi Mraz & #TheEdCollabGathering. Author and presenter Jennifer Serravallo talks about reading strategies.
    Here is a video that Serravallo posted to Facebook. She answers questions sent in about the book.
    Jennifer Serravallo | Facebook

    Here is the Reading Strategies Book Webinar from Heinemann.

    Here is a Blendspace with even more resources!

    If you don't have this book, you can purchase it here or contact the GCISD Humanities Department to see if they have extra copies that you can borrow.

    Saturday, May 14, 2016

    Why I Teach

    I don't often reflect personally on this blog. But I felt the need to share a special moment that I had recently with my students. This moment reminded me why I teach...

    This past week I found myself relishing in the moment more often than usual. My class has finally hit that sweet spot. They are so well-behaved, know our routines and are even more flexible/understanding when our schedule changes or things don't go quite as planned. We had so much fun this week, despite our three mornings of silence while older students were testing next door. This time of year is always so bittersweet. I realize why some leaders and teachers promote looping. As a teacher, you invest so much time getting know every single student and each student's family. You learn their likes, dislikes, strengths/needs and what motivates them the best. You learn how hard to push them and when you have to back off. And you fall in love with each and every one of them every single day. You love them on their good days and you love them on their bad days. At the end of the year, you just want more and more time with them. This week I was able to meet with each student individually on multiple occasions to go over assessments and goals. It was so nice to have that time with each of them. They were so excited and grateful to see their progress. When I talked with them about what they needed to work on, they didn't pout or get upset. Each student thanked me for the feedback.

    Yesterday we were reading, "Ralph S. Mouse," by Beverly Cleary. I laughed so hard while reading to my sweet second graders, that I started crying. In the story, poor Ralph (the mouse) was stuck inside a fishbowl listening to poems the students had written about him. Some were not so nice and some were just plain silly. But Ralph was about to be put on display to run a maze. They were going to test Ralph's intelligence by timing him to see how fast he could run the maze. Ralph was not happy about this. In fact, he had his back turned to the children as they read to him. But the funniest part of all, was when Ralph ran the maze. He jumped up on top of the walls and cheated his way to the peanut butter at the end of the maze. You should have heard my class giggling. It was a moment I will never forget. I almost couldn't read the rest of the chapter because I was laughing/crying so hard. When I finished the chapter, all of my students yelled, "NOOOOoooooo! Please read one more chapter!" I love it. Maybe just maybe...they will read a few more books this summer because of it. Or maybe they will just smile and laugh when they think about the time Ms. Read read to them and giggled so hard she cried. It's moments like these that remind me why I teach...

    Monday, April 25, 2016

    Apps for Classroom Management

    Monica Burns is one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter. She is always tweeting about new apps, websites and tools to use in the classroom. Just recently I watched one of her webinars on SimpleK12 for the 3rd or 4th time. heard me correctly. I have watched it at least 4 times. In the webinar, she discusses apps for managing the classroom. Some are free and some are paid. I went through her entire list and picked my top 3 that were FREE. Below are the 3 apps I find would be most useful in the classroom today:

    Random Number Generator - This app allows you to randomly select a number. You can put in a minimum number and a maximum number. It also allows you to partner two numbers together randomly. Since all of my students have a number, this app works perfectly. It definitely beats pulling sticks to call on students.

    Traffic Light - This app allows students to show you a green light, yellow light and red light. You can use it to check for understanding with students. Or you can use it during reading/writing workshop to see if students need help or need to conference.

    Randomly - This app allows you to put in your entire class list of names. It will randomly pick a student and keep track of which students were NOT called on.

    I love to try new things in my classroom...ESPECIALLY at the end of the year. I want to keep students excited about school, so that we can end the year strong!