Monday, October 16, 2017

Discovering Responsible Use of Technology- Make those Mistakes!

During social studies students are working on creating a timeline of an ancient culture (Mayan, Inca, or Aztec) in Google Draw. Working with 7-8 students can present a challenge, especially when they are all on the same document! I have watched these groups evolve over the course of a few social studies classes and wanted to share some of my observations of our successes and what we need to work on.

  • Many students knew what a timeline was and got to work creating it.
  • Students used the comment feature to communicate with one another when they felt they were not being heard.
  • Students grabbed images to support their words on the timeline.

Need to Work On
  • Using the comment boxes for educational purposes only. Saying, “Hey WHAZZZZZ UP!” is not an appropriate use of the comment box.
  • Talking to classmates BEFORE deleting work individuals do not agree with. Students need to learn to politely discuss things when they disagree rather just simply erase it.
  • Planning the work before jumping into Google Draw. This will help with time management.

Towards the end of today I heard a group breaking up into committees. Sharing the word and distributing it equally among group members is a wonderful solution to collaborative work. Once I announced this to the class I heard another group deciding who would do what. We talked as a class about how this one learning experience is teaching us all so much about being an individual member and contributing to a group.

They are also learning what our Responsible Use Policy truly means. I invite them to make these mistakes so we can discuss them. It are these moments students are discovering how to be a responsible user of technology.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

We Need to Keep on Reading

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending an event with Jack Gantos, Jeff Kinney, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jon Sciesczka, and the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene LuenYang. These talented authors spent some time talking to a group of educators and parents about how to get boys reading and keep reading. They shared that adults should be role models for this, reading with and in front of children.

Hearing how each author wrote or drew as a young child was empowering. I learned that without Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing there would be no Greg Heffley in the Wimpy Kid books. Jarrett shared a memory of having Jack come into his school to speak, and the audience felt the bromance moment as these two authors connected as a mentor and mentee. Jon told us stories of growing up, which had some influence in his writing.

I left the event feeling encouraged! Students need to read, and they can read any material. I wish I had teachers who let me choose the books I wanted to read or allowed me to read cartoons and graphic novels in elementary school. Therefore I have changed our reading homework to say READ instead of read for 20 minutes. Who am I to tell students when to read and how long to read for? This should be their choice. I hope students develop a love of reading, and choose to read a variety of books in our classroom library.

Books are food for the soul. I will never forget this evening, as I was able to laugh, live, and learn with these gentlemen. I hope boys and girls pick up books with both female and male protagonists. There is no such thing as girl or boy books. In my mind, there are just books- adventures to be shared with our young readers. Others might choose to read poetry, non-fiction, newspapers, online articles, etc. The printed word helps us grow! The message from my special evening was powerful- that we need to keep reading!

Jon, Gene, Jarrett, Jack, and Jeff are like the new Beatles for authors. 

Two literary heroes (Jarrett and Jack)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How Far Would You Walk for Water?

Two big questions drove our kick off for the Global Read Aloud literature circle work: Can a children’s book change the world? and How far would you walk for water? We spent some time hearing from Linda Sue Park, author of A Long Walk to Water. Her words captured a story of bravery, compassion, and strife beyond what many of our students hopefully will ever have to face.

Students learned about life in Sudan, being plagued by Civil Wars. Using Google Earth and Google Street View we paid a visit to Sudan. Students captured the differences in our location and Sudan using vivid words. Being able to bring the world to our classroom makes stories come alive to students.

We know there are two protagonists, Salva and Nya, whose stories are told decades apart yet connect somehow. Students discovered both characters had a long walk to get water, and once they found their drinking oasis it was not clean. They learned about why people in Sudan were fighting and had empathy for those living there.

Students were engaged from the minute we started reading. I firmly believe you hook readers with the presentation of a book. It is in the voice used for characters, background knowledge discussed, and connections made. After finishing one chapter no one wanted to stop. The groaning sound students make when told to put books away was music to my ears.

We learned it is the readers who change the world not the story. The words can inspire us to act. Students also discussed how they did not want to walk far for water. They are lucky they can walk to the fountain in our classroom or a sink in their home or get a bottle of water from a store or fill a glass from their refrigerator. How long would you be willing to walk for water?

Watch this UNICEF video to decide the answer to that question! 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Imagine You Are the Only One in the World To Do Something: Our Maiden Blogging Voyage

Students started learning about their blogging voyage during our writing block. They helped me craft the blog post below, editing and revising the writing. They discovered they could choose a topic of interest and write! Several learned about how to use word count to keep their blog succinct and insert hyperlinks into their blogs to enhance their piece. I modeled how to create a blog post based off some of our class discussions about my cousin Eric.

Imagine you are the only one in the world to do something. My cousin, Eric Freedman, knows what this feels like. He is a rare gem. He won the coveted Shipley Award, given to one gemologist in the world each year, in 1992. His work, including being past President of the American Gem Society which when founded were the elite members of Gemological Institute of AmericaThis led him on an exciting journey.

            Eric was a jeweler in New York that was lucky enough to be the one person in the world to appraise the hope diamond. The diamond weighs 45.52 carats and is currently housed in the Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Though he will never tell his secrets of how much the diamond was worth, he was the man who put a price tag on the most famous diamond in the world.

            Eric was also known to go with Diane Sawyer of Primetime Live, doing segments about gems. They worked together, sometimes in disguise, to figure out if jewelers were selling synthetic gems versus genuine gems. They used a microscope and a special solution. View another video here! What you might find will shock you! Sometimes the gem’s color would disappear right before their eyes!

            Cousin Eric also worked with pearls. I learned from the video you could put the pearl in your mouth. Then you rub it against your tooth! You want to see if it feels gritty. If it is gritty this is good! Some of you might be running to your jewelry box now to check the quality of your gems. He also evaluated the entire worldwide inventory of Tiffany and appraised the 128.54 ct. Tiffany diamond. 

            I am proud of my cousin and his work. I have learned a lot about gemology from him. I do often wonder if he realizes the scope of being the only person in the world to do something. He even set a world’s record for the distance traveled in a water filled cave (no air pockets), diving 15,680 feet in 11 hours underwater with friend of his. He is a shining example of what happens when you follow your passions.

Hope Diamondf.jpg

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Building My Own Math Mindset

This year I decided to go on an odyssey in math and so far the journey has been rewarding. Going from whole class lessons and students working in partners to a guided math model has been much smoother than expected. Students start the math lesson reviewing the concept from the day before and then either does a number talk, notice and wonder, or my favorite no (a tip I picked up when trying to make students’ thinking visible) all together. This introduces the concept before we break into three groups.

Students have been working on building their mind mindset, creating math memes and discussing what it means to grow as a math thinker. At the next station students play a math game (either online or face to face) or solve a word problem. Sometimes they work with whiteboard practicing problems, creating their own problem, or delve into the world of mathematicians. With me we are diving into the common core standards, practicing math concepts in a small group setting.

 I have been truly enjoying these math conversations I am having with students. I am able to better get to know individuals as math thinkers. I can see where their strengths and struggles lay and build on individual skills to guide them towards mastery. Breaking down lessons into two days to really deepen understanding has proven to be beneficial too. Student confidence is starting to increase. They are more likely to share their thoughts, take a risk, make mistakes, and talk math with seven students versus 22. 

One thing noticeably missing are those speed drills and homework with a whole lot of practice problems. I felt it more important to have students process through their math, reflect on their math thinking, build strategies that work for them, and see math for all its beauty. After all, math is everywhere we look!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What do Scientists Look Like?

What does a scientist look like? We kicked off our science lesson drawing sketches that answered this question. Students had diverse responses ranging from a male with crazy hair, a lab coat, and goggles to themselves.  Students mentioned tools like beakers, test tubes, and chemicals. Words like experiments and predictions were also discussed. Many of our students’ pictures of what a scientist looked like were similar. One student shared her relatives were scientists and they look like us. Another student told us she was a scientist.

We watched a short Ted Talk about our exact conversation, discovering more about scientists and their work. Then I asked students to write down what a scientist is. The conversation shifted to a person who is curious, makes discoveries, tests things, takes risks, and could be like us. Reshaping the question changed the dynamic of the discussion.

On Friday our class will be Skyping with scientist! His name is Filipe, and he works for the Finnish Museum of Natural History in Helsinki, Finland. Filipe studies "Biodiversity conservation." He currently creates small virtual ecosystems to aid him in predicting which species might fall into extinction in the near future, so that we know (as a global society) with more certainty how to invest our money into conservation. He is an adept of organisms that are often under-represented in science and conservation, and that often includes insects, mites, and springtails.

Students had time to write down questions and many wanted to know what a springtail was! I look forward to removing stereotypes, bringing science to life and showing how we are all scientists every day!

Monday, September 18, 2017

An Internet Minute: Stats Over the Years

 The Older version of the Internet Minute

I remember when this original image came out, and I was stunned at some of the figures of what happens in an Internet minute; however, when the 2016 image was released I laughed. I was not surprised to see Google search has grown by 4 million as this is part of our life. This is why I teach like Google exists. Think about what we would do if Google did not exist?  If a student asks me a question that Google can answer, that is where I sent them. Our young minds need to learn to use this tool in an effective and efficient way. 

Twitter continued to jump as well, and I can say when the original image came out I was not a Twitter believer and now I cannot imagine my life without it. It is used to reach out to colleagues to get ideas, some who I have never even met! It connects my classroom community to experts. It validates student work. Twitter has also become a tool for my students to share what they are doing, have discussions about books, and seek answers to questions Google and their teacher cannot answer. 

Social media apps had huge growth. Check out the Snapchat facts! 104 thousand to 1.8 million! Snapchat is how we reach people these days- the jump in snaps created is proof of that. Filters on snapchat are the new form of advertisement. 

Go and ask students today if they are on Facebook or Instagram and many will tell you Instagram. I have been told Facebook is for people in their 40s by students. It is also a great tool to form groups where whole towns can ask questions in an easy format whereas Instagram is where the students build their community. I am still not sure what is so amazing about a picture of breakfast or the duck face over and over again, but our younger generation loves these photos so we need to be appreciative of that. I also am aware some students use Instagram to learn more about photography and show off their unique style. I do hope these students are learning how to use these tools in positive ways to spread messages. 

In an Internet minute a lot of powerful things can happen. Things are also changing. Netflix was added to the circle. Streaming movies is making way for new technologies as we said goodbye to the VHS player this year. Soon our students will not know what a VHS tape is. Show them a floppy disk and see what they think it is! Tinder swipes continue to increase too, showing the power of people connecting and meeting. Of course You Tube use has doubled! This shows how much has changed in a few years. Imagine what will be in 2018? Maybe one of your students will create something we can do on the Internet in a minute. I would swipe right to that!