Monday, January 15, 2018

A Life Lesson from Dilly Dilly

The other day I was walking by a table of students and heard, “You are such a dilly dilly.” When I thought about the connotation of the comment I realized the student was using it negatively in a way we might poke fun at our peers. I asked the students if they knew what dilly dilly meant or where it came from and no hand went up. Someone said they heard it on the TV and some heard it from parents or siblings, but no one knew what it meant. 

I went home that evening and did some research into the words because like most of you reading this I have seen them on adult beverage commercials. Turns out it is a real word. In class we discussed the power of our words and knowing what things mean as well as the idea of how advertisements can effect our actions.

If you look up the word dilly on Word Central, Merriam Webster’s student dictionary, no entries come up. Students began to question if this was even a word they should be using. We went to the mecca of dictionaries, searching the word in the Oxford Dictionary.  There were two definitions, which we discussed as class. Students were surprised at the first definition in which the word refers to an excellent example of something. Discovering the etymology of the word was a great place to start!

Students were using definition 2 from the dictionary that meant odd or foolish. Digging even further we discovered the reason the company used this phrase, confirming our reading with multiple sources. They believe it does not mean anything, rather a silly phrase. But to our students it has meaning based on how they have heard it being used in their environments.

This phrase has taken the NFL Sunday loving people by storm! However it is important to remember our students are watching and listening and might not be understanding what they are seeing or hearing. I encouraged our students to think about what is happening in advertisements and to look up the words they are using, especially if it is something the overheard and see people laughing about. They should know what they are saying.

When I shared with them which commercial the words came from jaws dropped. Many had no idea of the source. However, we delved into the real source and learned a lot a long the way. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Ok Google: We Are Taking on Google Home in the Elementary Classroom

What can Google Home do for your classroom? This is the question my students and I will be seeking an answer to over the next few months.  I was originally against the idea of having a Google Home in the classroom, envisioning students running to it all day. Hearing a chorus of Ok Google while we were in the middle of a learning experience did not seem appealing.

However, thanks to the Ditchbook crew I was able to see the benefit to having a Google Home in the classroom. So I ordered one. This shift in my thinking took place over a Twitter DM this past week. Already I am modeling the processing and risk taking I want my students to embody.

The best part about this new addition is the process our class will go through to determine best practices for using a Google Home in the elementary classroom. How often have students asked questions that we know can be answered by Google. My rule is ask 2 and then Google before coming to seek my assistance. When I need help I look it up either through a Google search or watch a You Tube video. Students need to depend less on me and more on the tools around them and their own search skills.

When students go to Google something it takes a lot of time. Our computer pods take several minutes to boot up and we do not always have Chromebooks at our fingertips. I already hear students using the Google Assistant when they are using the Chromebooks we do have. This is their world. Learning how to talk with computers and understanding how they work are essential skills for students. It is a form of communication that is new to me but something our students have been doing for years.

Part of my decision making into the process of purchasing a Google Home was the efficiency in which students will get the answers to their questions. The bigger reason was that I truly believe Google Home will encourage students to seek answers and embrace the student centered model that already exists in our classroom.

I plan on capturing our journey, which will begin with developing a responsible use policy item for using this new tool and guidelines written by 5th grade students. They will explore various uses of the Google Home. I hope to see the depths of knowledge being accessed and who knows, maybe one of these students will stump Google Home.

Thanks to Sarah FitzHenry and my pals at #ditchbook for the inspiration! 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Great Unexpected that Truly Matters

I happened to take my students to the computer lab today to test a website for an issue we have been having. I had students log into Google classroom and click the link I had sent to them. All students found themselves on a webpage about states of matter, which happens to be our next science topic.

I randomly asked how many states of matter there were. Students gave me answers that ranged from 3 to 7. I suggested they read the article to figure out how many states of matter existed. Many were shocked to find out there was more than solids, liquids, and gases. Students were engrossed in conversations with peers, asking questions about plasma and Bose-Einstein condensates. I mentioned our science book discussed three states of matter and does not have the most current information in it. Students asked more questions, their curiosities filling the media center.  

Then an idea hit me like a ton of bricks. I explained that our next science unit is states of matter, and they are going to drive the learning. They were tasked with sending me an email that listed questions, activities, or ideas they had about states of matter. I wanted to know what they wanted to learn and how they wanted to learn it. Students excitedly began typing away, but many were unsure of what goes into sending an email. We had a quick talk about including a subject, a greeting, and a closing.

As messages began to flood my inbox, I quickly saw the ingenuity and dynamic thinking these 5th graders had. We are all excited to learn and discover states of matter as a classroom community. One of my students commented that we went to the lab to test a website and learned more about states of matter than they ever imagined and how to send an email.

If anyone wants to know what we will be covering read on. Here are the ideas of some 5th graders who understand the power of growth, self directed learning, and making discoveries. We will be using all of their ideas to cover our states of matter unit. This will truly be an empowering science study, and I am okay with having no idea where it will take us!

Mia: Could a solid turn into a gas, and then a liquid?

Olivia: I would really like to know what would happen if you combined some states of matter.

Angela: We should see what happens when plasma and solids do when they go together. What does it make?

Ben: Hello quick question Can we make up our own element and describe its proprieties, what it does, etc for a project.  Please.  Thank you 

Zach:  I think we should try to find gas and plasma together. It would be fun to see what it would become.

Vivian: I am wondering can you touch Bose Eisenstein matter? or is it gas?

Owen: I think we should see what happens if we put gas and plasma liquid together.

Hayden: I'm wondering how scientists find and discover the new kinds of matter.

Samantha: I've barley even heard of plasma before and I am wondering how it works. It says if you add energy to gases it turns to plasma. Is there another way to get plasma? If you add energy to plasma, what will happen? I am very interested in this new matter I just found out about!

Addy: I am wondering why all the states of matter turn into each other? I am also wondering if we can do a breakout edu based on the states of matter.

Grace: I was thinking that we could do a states of matter scavenger hunt. Like finding 3 things that are solid, 3 things that are liquid, etc.

Mallory: I think there is over a million states of matter because i looked on wiki and i saw all different things and I was like OHH MA GAAHH. There are 5 main states of matter but there is so much more to discover!

Addison:   I think we should talk about Fermionic Condensate. I wonder why lots of people don't know about it. How is it related to Bose-Einstein Condensate? Can we try and make something that is Fermionic?

Alex: What happens when you put liquid nitrogen in a vacuum chamber?

Taylor: As you know today we talked about matter in the computer lab. I am wondering how many states of matter there really are. I am also not sure what Bose Einstein Condense is exactly. I am so anxious to learn all about our upcoming science lab lessons. An activity that we could do would be to fill a paper bag with air so we can see that there is a type of gas inside.

Lachlan: Can we learn about the state of matter: Gross–Pitaevskii?

Akshaya: Are there more than five states of matter?

Annie: is there a 6th state of matter? I was also wonder if Bose Einstien  condensate  is everywhere and  we just can’t see it? Can you make anything out of plasma? Where would you find plasma and Bose Einstein condensate? What does plasma or Bose Einstein condensate feel like? Can we play that game like the game with when you roll the die and depending on what you roll, you go to a different place but with matter?

Ewan: Can we make ooblec and put it in ice water?

Yei: I think there are 5 states of matter because I looked it up in Google. I would like to know more about this.

Preston: There are 5 known matter - Solid, Liquid, Gasses, Plasma, and Condensates!

Jake:  How do scientist know what is states of matter?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Giving Students A Voice

I hopped on the #flipgridfever train last year, seeing such value for various learners when using it as a tool to enhance instruction. This year I have gone on a Flipgrid Odyssey, trying new ways of doing things. Students left notes for parents on a Flipgrid for curriculum night, and their parents were asked to give a message to their child. Our math specialist happened to come into the room as parents were filming themselves and shortly left, commenting how actively engaged the parents were in the process.

Students have discussed theme of stories, held a book talk for the Global Read Aloud with a fifth grade class in Michigan, and discussed teams and challenges of baseball players after reading Satchel Paige. I can easily tell who understands concepts and who needs more support based on listening to a student’s Flipgrid.

Bright Sunshine - This also provides a voice for all students  when some might feel like  THEY DO NOT HAVE ONE.

Creating authentic learning experiences for students where they can break down the walls of the classroom is something I strive to do. The other day on Twitter I was sharing student thinking about our most recent read aloud book, The Insignificant Life of a Cactus and the movie we saw on a field trip. If you have loved Wonder, Fish in a Tree or those cult classic movies The Goonies or Heavyweights then this book will sweep you into a world where life lessons rule the roost.

Students are brought into a story of someone who is different from them, teaching compassion and empathy for others. We see the protagonist build her confidence and develop friendships when many might have written her off. There is mystery, excitement, and humor written throughout the pages. The author of the book, Dusti Bowling, liked many of the student tweets. She then asked if we would be interested in a Skype class visit, and of course I jumped at the chance to organize this for our students.

I asked students to create a Flipgrid in preparation for our talk with Dusti Bowling. Students were asked to talk about life lessons they learned through the pages of the book. Watching the short clips tonight made me realize the power of connecting with others. Students talked directly to the author, and they were proud to share their thinking. They had a purpose, sharing their thinking with the writer. 

Two years ago I could not image this to be possible. I am glad I discovered Flipgrid as a way for students to collaborate and communicate globally. I hope our students realize the possibilities they have growing up in the generation they are in. Imagine if we could have used a Flipgrid when we were in elementary school. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

It is OK to get advice with how to solve life's problems

It has been brought to my attention that students are still feeling the burn, roasting classmates. Many times this is done in jest, but other times feelings are hurt. When discussing this with students the ones who are being roasted mentioned to me that they feel like telling an adult is “ratting someone out."

I asked them if they can solve all their problems without help. Most said no. I shared that even as an adult I still seek the help of others when I cannot figure out things on my own. It is important to use your network of people around you to grow. 

I explained to students that they were not ratting someone out, rather asking for advice. If they are worried about tattling, they can always seek advice from others without using names.

In our classroom I hope to build a community where students see adults and classmates in here as people who can help them solve problems. We have the bothering box and use of email to make this happen too.

Communicating openly, speaking from the heart, and seeking advice from others are life skills. I encourage you to talk to your student about this, and I hope I cleared up any confusion for students who were worried about seeking advice about how to deal with a situation they are in. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Do You Feel the Burn?

Do you feel the burn? I asked students this question and to then draw me their best fire image. We then sat down for a class meeting with our fire images and discussed what it means to burn. Students talked about fire and friction.  We tested out what friction was and felt the heat of our hands on our faces.

Then we transitioned the conversation to when we burn other classmates with our words. Often times I hear students say, “I burned you.” Or “That was such a good burn.” It reminded me of when my friends would say something followed by just kidding or I got you good! I asked students to think about when we say the word burn in this manner or use words like just kidding are we actually being kind.

Going further we talked about why someone might laugh when they get “burned” by a peer with words. Students used vocabulary like sad, disappointed, angry, and nervous. Others told me they might not care or think the burn is really good. One student even told me confidence is the key to solving this problem. I asked if someone burns you is that person really a good friend? This gave them something to think about.

We decided we were going to put out the fire in here. We blew on our images and ripped them up, tossing them in the recycle bin. I then asked students how they could be part of the solution.  Several said they could ignore it, so I asked if this reaction helps the feelings go away. Others talked about talking to an adult or using the bothering box.

One student wrote, “Just walk away, but first call them out and tell them what is it like to be burned.” YES! Let the other person know what it feels like! Be Bold! Be Strong!  Another student shared, “I can tell the person that it was not funny and it can really get to someone. Some are more sensitive than others.” This is what having empathy is all about.

I did have some students tell me they could get a fire extinguisher.  I do hope the burning with words in this classroom is extinguished.

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.