Quick, Authentic…FUN!

Take what you need.

As the end of the school year invariably sneaks up on a teacher in late May, long range plans and curriculum documents come flying out, just to make sure t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted.  In class we have been focusing on wrapping up a Health strand and lessons have been full of discussion and real connections to the sometimes-tough topic of healthy relationships.  All friendships and types of relationships can be looked at from an emotional, interpersonal, and physical perspective.  We have been focusing mainly on the emotional and interpersonal celebrations and challenges that go with friendship, especially as this grade 4 crew moves from childhood towards adolescence.

I love a good mindmap.  It a younger-student version of a sketchnote – visual and text-based.  We have used mindmaps for many purposes over the year and I had one lined up for today as a way to assess the qualities of a friend with whom students have a healthy relationship.  I happened to be browsing through the camera roll on my phone at recess when I came across an image I saved that someone tweeted in my PLN a while back.  Basically it is a telephone-pole advertisement you might see downtown with ‘free kittens’ and a phone number written on each pull tab.  But this version was uplifting.  Then it hit me that I could have students re-imagine a version this advertisement as a way to both assess what they know about qualities of a healthy friendship and to be an anonymous inspiration to other students in the school.   What a neat opportunity – and one that we though other students (in a K-4 school) wouldn’t ‘get’.

Out went the mindmap. In came the 10 minute mini-assessment.  Out came the tape and positivity was plastered on walls of the school.   I was pleased as the students were really motivated to share their work.  I was really surprised though, when after recess students came squealing in the room exclaiming that their poster had only one or two pull tabs left!  Awesome!  They felt they made a difference (and they did)…and I got my health curriculum checked off : )

***I wish I could give credit for the image that inspired these ads. Sadly, as a semi-new Twitter user I can’t figure out how to go back and source this image…always learning!


Movie Making as Digital Retell

Stop Motion Retell – a fun example.

imageIt was sit back and watch time as my 4’s took a second crack at stop motion animation.  We had used the technique about six weeks prior and I was hopeful that today’s lesson would run smoothly.  I was so impressed.  There is something about kids and technology that we sometimes underestimate.  They worked in groups to recreate the most important event from a novel they had been studying (using a ‘digital bookmark’ approach from Learn Like a Pirate).

One period was for creating the characters, speech bubbles and setting.  Period two was filming day.  We danced around an issue with our app and problem-solved a way to import the films into iMovie so we could then add soundtracks.  Students taught each other.  Final products were proudly displayed for an appreciative audience on our smartboard.  Definitely something I will turn to more often as a way to share an idea.

We don’t have the Explain Everything app on our iPads, so this is my lo-fi / high tech workaround.  I can imagine explanatory films on approaches to multiplication or sorting rocks by characteristics…there’s so many fun ways to share thinking with film!


Twitter Chat – Hold Onto Your Hat


I participated in my first Twitter Chat last night on a teaching hashtag.  As soon as I introduced myself in a tweet, I was direct-messaged by two other teachers, both saying “hold onto your hat!”.  Wow – they weren’t kidding (and thanks for the heads up!).  I was literally spinning, clicking, thinking, absorbing, catching up, learning and panicking all at once for about an hour.  Whew.  But yes, I’d do it again.  I’ll get to that.

If you have not participated in a Twitter Chat, it is basically a pre-arranged online meeting that is organized and viewed by all participants using the same hashtag.  Last night was a Thames Valley organized chat.  Using the same hashtag allows viewers to follow all the tweets by everyone else using the same hashtag.  A list of questions is typically tweeted out at an earlier time so you can be semi-“prepared” for participating fully.  There is also a moderator – someone who sends out the reminders and posts questions in a timely manner during the one hour chat.  This is important as teachers like to talk and share and if someone wasn’t prompting the next question we could easily spend an hour tweeting about one topic!  It can become a bit of a rabbit hole.

The rapid fire dings (email alerts that one of my tweets was re-tweeted or liked) prompts further replies and responses, which then means 8 to 10 new tweets have been posted that you need to go back and catch up on to maybe offer your expertise or opinion.  It’s a lot to monitor all at once and I felt like I was never fully caught up or was maybe missing some good conversation.  However, the super-fast pace keep it kind of fun (in a good-stressful way) and the hour flew by!  Once the hour is done, the tweets do not disappear so there is lots of time to go back and revisit ideas, links and re-tweets from others in the chat. Storifying is a cool way to take a twitter chat and turn it into a document that can be saved or forwarded.

Why would I participate again?  I could simply visit a few chat hashtags to examine the posts after the fact and learn from all the brilliant educators out there.  However, over the course of the night, I had gained a number of new Twitter followers and followed some new faces myself.  That means my Personal Learning Network (PLN) grew.  This is meaningful to me.  It is also satisfying to receive 15 ‘likes’ and have your thoughts re-tweeted by others.  It’s a fly-by-your pants professional conversation with people you’d never have the chance to network with otherwise.  It reconfirms the good stuff that is going on in my classroom and inspires me to dig deeper or try new things.

Next steps: participate in a chat outside of my Thames Valley network.  I’d really like to participate in a chat moderated by a favourite author of mine from Illinois.  This Thames Valley chat was my first step in becoming savvy and quick enough to participate in a bigger north american chat.  Time to set up my TweetDeck and get my game on!  Ha ha.  And hold onto my hat.


Students CREATING “worksheets”

Dice ProblemGroup A Sphero bet

A fun flip we did to work on solving probability problems was to have the SOLE system groups create the problems instead of solving someone else’s problems.  A new, interesting set of skills comes into play with this sort of challenge.  I asked them to think like a teacher and create a “worksheet” that looked interesting and incorporated a problem that could be explained or proved with fraction probabilities.  Ten minutes later and voila!  I had a set of six problems that were unique.

As a follow up, we then completed a carousel where groups rotated from SOLE station to SOLE station to identify the fraction probabilities.  They were really interested in seeing what the other groups came up with.

Finally, students used our growth mindset language anchor chart to discuss with each other the ways in which they could improve their problem should they be given the task again.  Groups shared their reflections.  Altogether, this task took about 30 minutes. The bang for the buck made it worth it as there were so many skillsets being developed at once.  I would ‘flip’ a task like this again as it not only had students solidify a curriculum content area, but provided opportunity for usage of cooperation skills, media design, and reflection (self evaluation) skills.

As a side note, I increasingly feel a little pang of guilt every time I have students use a worksheet.  They still serve a purpose, from time to time, in a classroom.  When possible, however, I scan any tasks that used to be paper based and have groups complete the tasks collaboratively and paperlessly.  It generates important conversation and fosters student reflection, dialogue and debate.  Students talking about learning trumps teachers talking about learning.  Having students creating the worksheet really pushes this task up Bloom’s Taxonomy scale! (Nerdy teacher-speak for deeper learning!)