Thursday, October 27, 2016

Engaging Young Minds #tlap

Teaching like a pirate is not easy. It means some planning and longer work hours. Yet the results are well worth it in the classroom! Creative juices flow all day long! Students are engaged and empowered in their learning activities. Today’s student needs learning experiences that get them out of their seats, working with other students, and thinking about the world around them. Before I teach a lesson I ponder how to make the learning come alive for students.

The lesson I was supposed to teach today was food chains and webs. I thought about what I wanted students to know and understand in this lesson. The science textbook explained what this was, but I decided students needed to figure it out themselves. We started with a review of the past few lessons connecting our background knowledge with new learning. The class was going to play HeadBandz Food Chain Style. Each student got a card (click here for cards we used) of something on our planet, but they had NO IDEA what it was. Holding it on their forehead they walked around asking their classmates questions. Am I a consumer? Where do I live? Am I an omnivore? were just some of the questions I heard. Using the answers given to them by classmates, students began to figure out who or what they were.

Once students deduced who they were from their questions they could take the card off. Then they had to build a food web based on their card. We ended up forming many overlapping chains. This brought science to life and enhanced student understanding of vocabulary and concepts of food chains. They were able to see how energy flows by our human food web. We concluded our lesson reading the text, watching a BrainPOP video on food chains, and discussing what we learned. Almost every student had a hand up to share something they discovered through this lesson proving to me when you teach like a pirate, students are excited and willing to learn, and develop camaraderie in the classroom!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Padlet and #GRAPax

Students have been exploring new tools while reading Pax. Over the past two days we have a had a great discussion about the text either with our classmates or students in Connecticut. Our agents have been boldly asking higher level questions to our Pax readers making them think about the story in a meaningful way. Yesterday we had a whole discussion on bullying and power struggles. We debated on whether or not the oppressor, the victim, or the bystander was the worst position to be in. Students had valid points and many talked about the oppressor being in the worse position, as without the oppressor there would be no action. The victim was also mentioned as students showed empathy of that role. I brought up how I think the bystander might be the worst role to be in as it is the most challenging. When we are watching something happen we can struggle with what to do. Do we help? Do we ignore the action? Lots to think about!

In today’s discussion we focused on the concept of home.
“So which is it? You going back for your home or for your pet?"
"They're the same thing, " Peter said, the answer sudden and sure, although a surprise to him.”  Pg. 89

Students were asked to think about what Peter means by this by reflecting on their ideas of home. We used a Padlet link that was placed in the Google classroom. A Padlet is a message board where students can respond to questions from different computers on the same document. There were other answers from other classes we are working with on the Padlet as well! It allows them to create and collaborate globally.

Check out their thinking here! I encouraged students to take a look at it at home as well and reflect on their classmates’ thinking as well. The beauty of the Padlet is it can extend the learning anywhere!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Scope of Going Global with Books #GRAPax

This past week I spent some time at MassCUE’s Annual Fall conference. The theme was about global education in a digital world, which caused me to reflect on the work we are doing in our classroom. Our students have been delving into the world of Pax in this year’s Global Read Aloud. Last year I did some Twitter slow chats with students, but this school year we have already done a Mystery Skype with a class in Connecticut and had two book talks with 7th grade students in Virginia. I am in a Google group with several teachers who have shared Padlet links to discuss the story. We have also shared Tweets about the story using our Fire off a Tweet template created by Suzy Brooks.  I began to think about how these experiences have affected students.

My 5th grade students challenged 7th graders with their book questions. They saw 7th graders being reminded about connections, mood, and tone of story. They had insightful conversations back and forth with older students about a book, engaging with the literature in meaningful ways. My students had to hunt down answers by finding evidence in the story in order to answer the 7th graders’ questions. I watched as my most shyest students proudly walked over to the Skype call and discussed the book with students they have never met. I saw smiles on students’ faces as they had similar answers to 7th graders. What started out as a small idea has built confidence in each and every one of my own students. I have observed students getting better at crafting tweets to share out with their global audience. One student was giddy because Pernille Ripp, creator of the Global Read Aloud, replied to her Tweet. Over the moon does not even give justice to how this girl felt. It made this whole experience real for this child as she began to piece together how big the Global Read Aloud is.  I also had a similar experience when I opened a padlet I created to find several student responses on there about symbolism in the text. I have no idea who responded but my students now have discussion points and can have conversations about their thinking.

The Global Read Aloud is not just about reading a book with other students. It teaches students about others. It helps us connect, collaborate, and learn together. We gain confidence skills, learn more about the power of digital tools, and explore new pedagogical techniques to help reach students. This experience has made me a better teacher and has empowered 23 students to want to read a book they might never have picked up otherwise. The tiny seed Pernille had has grown to encompass the passion educators have for building their community of learners and connecting them to the world.

Students responding to questions from our friends in VA!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Future Leaders in Today's Classroom and The Edward Kennedy Institute

There are some life experiences that you have to pinch yourself to make sure you are really there. Last night was one of those times for me as I sat in the replica of the Senate Chamber at the Edward Kennedy Institute listening to Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom, Jr. The two men discussed teachers who inspired and encouraged them. Daveed shared a tale of having to memorizing a poem each week (I had flashbacks of reciting Oh Captain My Captain by Walt Whitman). He decided instead of reciting the poem he had been assigned to share he would act it out. He fondly remembered his classmates laughing when they were supposed to which set him on a creative path towards being an entertainer. We were fortunate to hear about the evolution of how they ended up on Hamilton. More importantly we learned about the revolution our children are part of and how they can make a difference in our world.
The Edward Kennedy Institute is a destination for anyone! Here visitors learn about civic learning and engagement. Students are exposed to our government in an awe inspiring way. They become a future senator the minute they walk through the doors. The interactive exhibits draw guests into the world of Edward Kennedy and his legacy. With the election on the horizon there is an election wall tracking progress of candidates. There is also a place where visitors can learn things like how a bill becomes a law. When guests are ushered into the Senate Chamber they literally feel like their world has been transformed, as you are standing in such an important room. Thinking about all the decisions that have been made in a room just like this is astounding. The Institute offers a rich history, as well as a place for our future leaders to learn and grow.
As I listened to Daveed Diggs rap his own songs and Leslie Odom Jr., sing his from his new jazz material I was also reminded that creativity empowers us all. Our young leaders need time to explore, make decisions, collaborate, speak publically, and take risks. This is what the classroom of today needs to offer.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Admitting To Our Students or Children When Things Do Not Work Out As Planned

One of the most humbling things we can do as educators or parents is admitting to students or our children when things did not work quite the way we expect them to and apologize to them for that. I did exactly that yesterday during reading. I had spent a lot of time working with students as a class on routines and procedures for reading stations over the course of our first month together. Yesterday I decided it was time for groups to start so I could work with a smaller subset of the class on Pax. I created Reading Street activities for a station in Google Classroom, which offered explicit step-by-step directions for students. Using the hyperdoc model, students work collaboratively and independently on activities I created that go along with the story in their Reading Street books. Learning is self directed and experiences are engaging, giving students access to a variety of learning tools to show their skills and strategies. At the third station students were to finish creating a Facebook profile for Karana from Island of the Blue Dolphins and then transition to silent reading. I organized the class, modeled what was expected from the Google Classroom activities, and then sent the class to their stations. The room got real noisy, students were hesitant to try new things without being told to do so, some did not read directions and then got confused. So my station plan was a bust.

We came together as a class, and I apologized to students as I missed a key step of modeling what all three stations look like that day. We reflected together on how the first round of reading stations went. Students shared the room was too noisy, and it was hard to concentrate. Others admitted to rushing and being excited to get to activities without reading directions carefully. One was talking about how he could not find a buddy and instead of asking a group of two to join he just sat there. We talked about trusting our gut, taking risks, and trying things ourselves.  I stressed that is it okay when things do not go as we planned and that nothing has to be perfect. We need to let our perfection go in here and just be happy with what is. We need to work together to develop solutions and compromise. Building a community of learners where students feel comfortable to grow, take risks, and admit fault is what I strive to do. We discussed what each group should look like, carefully modeling each station in various areas of the room. Role-playing gave students a chance to see what things should look and sound like. They felt like we could do a do over today and that was exactly what we did.

Today our stations were not perfect but much better than yesterday. Students were able to get work done in each station and felt more confident about what they were doing. They enjoy having choice and voice in our classroom. They feel empowered to make decisions, yet still need to be given the wings to fly. I know someday real soon they will take that leap. I cannot wait for that to happen for each student in here. I also hope they begin to admit when things do not work out right. I modeled that today and will continue to do so.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

#GRAPax and our First Mystery Google Hangout

Today we had our first Mystery Google Hangout (otherwise known as Mystery Skype) session for the Global Read aloud. I was not sure what to expect but we were armed and ready with learning tools! Students are reading Pax all over the globe. To see where students are reading the book click here to see the map I created for teachers to pin their location. When I started the map I had no idea how many miles it would reach. It shows you the power of social media and sharing links! The students were shocked at how many kids were reading this book! 

The Mystery Google Hangout allows us to communicate with other students who are reading the book and break the walls of our classroom. Students had to ask questions to figure out where this other class was in the world such as Are you in North America? What ocean are you close to? What landmarks are by you? Where is a good pizza place? The answers to these questions helped our students work together to decipher where our mystery class was from. They also asked us questions to figure out where we were.

The whole class was engaged and excited. Jake S. started us off as our greeter. It is always nice to welcome others to our classroom. Jake W. was our observer, making sure everyone was on task. Julia took photographs (to be posted later). Anthony, Archith, Charles, and Katie were our Google Mappers. Using Google Maps they began to hone in on where our class could be from. They figured out a close range and then were able to zoom in. Quinn and Alexis were our Google researchers and were able to quickly locate the landmark and the pizza restaurant to determine exactly where this class was from. Shawn and Stella were our moderators, asking the questions, while Ryan, Emma, Iniyan, and Josh answered questions. Marissa, Rayyan, Dylan, and Maddie had giant flat maps and sticky notes to determine where the class could be and worked hard to narrow out places they were not. Zoe and William took notes on the answers we got to our questions. It took about a half hour to figure out where exactly in Connecticut they were and they figured out where we were near before deciphering our hometown. Students were jumping up and down at their feat! Charles then figured out we were 150.9 miles away, bringing some math into our lesson. Olivia closed the activity out by thanking our mystery guests and letting them know we hope to talk to them about Pax soon. Next week we will be discussing the book with two classes from somewhere on the globe! I wonder where they will be from!