Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wait . . . Someone Could be Reading my Emails?

Do you ever stop and wonder who else is reading your email? When you work in an office or school and are assigned an email there is usually some policy letting you know that your employer has the right to access your emails. Stop and think about this for a moment. Every time you send an email from your place of employment someone else has the right to read it. Also, if you are given an email from an employer that email is technically supposed to be used for work related purposes.

In a school system we have a responsible use policy that clearly spells this out. I happened to see students had a group chat using their school email. I asked them if this chat was for educational purposes. Would they want anyone else reading it? Would they tell their grandma what was in it? I got the deer in headlights look, which prompted me to discuss the difference between personal and professional email accounts. Parents should always be monitoring a child’s email as they navigate the online world; however, we all need to remember when we use a work related email others can read it. The written word can be powerful and can come back to haunt you later on in life. I hope students are learning about choosing kindness in the online world and pausing before they post.

I heard many students say they would be switching their group chat to a non-school related method. Please always keep the lines of communication open with your child about digital skills. They are growing up in a world very different from us. Those of you who are my age might remember looking for Carmen Sandiego or gathering items for your family to trek on the Oregon Trail. These students are building whole words in Mine Craft and creating their own apps. They need to make the mistakes and learn. Today my students learned the importance of using school related emails for school related topics.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"Play is Necessary"

Today I asked an important question to students. What is play? Quizzical looks filled the room as I began to discuss Kevin Carroll, the man who reminded me that play and passion is important to infuse in the classroom. Students pondered over the concept of play, discussing their childhood play and how their play helps them in school.

 Julia shared that play helps you improve in academic areas. Josh and Charles mentioned it helps you think quicker, as in sports you have a quick second to size up your opponent. Iniyan added play releases stress. Stella discussed how play gets your imagination going. Sophia said that when you exercise chemicals in your brain are released and help with some of the negative feelings you might have. Ryan talked about how being active helps the body be in shape. Maddie told us play gets you excited and energized for the day. Play can help you work well with others was a comment Marissa added to the discussion. Jake W. mentioned playing helps you focus more on the task. Emma said it could help you concentrate better. Fresh air does you good!

Our students think play is:
Being free
Exciting and fun
Totally awesome
Having fun outside or inside
Releases stress and movement
Exploration of the imagination
Exploring new things
Hanging out with friends
Getting energy out
Learning new strategies
Learning new skills
Fun way to exercise
Cures boredom

Our students know best. Play is and should be an important part of their lives. Is it part of yours? I encourage you to watch his Ted Talk above! Tag your it!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Exploring Sources

Learning about social studies concepts I remember reading out of a textbook or watching videos. I never thought about how I was shown one point of view- the publishers. Students today need to think about who is giving the information and keep that in mind. We started our study of explorers and began discussing Christopher Columbus. I asked students to think about who this man was and jot down some notes. Watching a BrainPOP video on Columbus, students then added to their notes about who he was. I reminded them we saw BrainPOP’s point of view. Then we read out of our History Alive books, and we talked about how this was the point of view of the textbook company. Students continued to add to their ideas of who Columbus was. Students and I discussed how it is important to read various points of view on something before making an informed judgment. Next week we will read Encounter.

When you present varying points of view to students they start to develop opinions and question things. Students started with the notion that Columbus discovered America and now questioning how he did this, as they were surprised people just claimed land for their country. Others are wondering if Columbus was a good man vs. a selfish man. They are developing ideas and stretching their thinking about how he was a catalyst for change. Students should be aware that when they are reading textbooks it is one side of the story. Same thing with watching the news, depending on the station you are on.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sketchnoting- Dare You To Try It!

Who remembers taking notes? How did we learn to take notes? I just remember being well skilled at taking bulleted lists on college ruled paper. I had stacks of notebooks with handwritten notes from textbooks organized by heading and subheadings. Not all my classmates found it easy to pull information out of course books and put information into note taking form. 20 years later I am not sure what was in those notes. I do not remember writing them or studying them for a test where I regurgitated information. What I do remember are the notes I took in my global history class in 1993 and 1994. Chief told us we could figure out a way to get all the book information on a piece of paper and use it on tests and quizzes. I remember drawing the dynasties out, separating them like puzzle pieces. I used an umbrella to sketch out the different religions, sketching ideas and words in the raindrops. Little did I know I was doing something called sketchnoting at 14 years old, but it was a valuable way to synthesize and share information.

Not all students benefit from writing down the facts. Some do better at sketching it out, so today our class embarked in a sketchnoting activity in social studies. After reading about why explorers traveled and discovering the Silk Road existed, students were asked what motivated explorers to explore.  They were given some choices (because students need choices) to show their information. One child wrote a paragraph explaining the reasons for exploration, and twenty-one students opted to sketchnote. We viewed a video to help us better understand sketchnoting, as You Tube is a great learning tool.

Observing 5th graders sketchnote is fascinating. They all had different approaches, which helped them capture their answer to the question. Students had an opportunity to share their work with collaborative groups, and they were tasked with thinking about how their work was similar and different from their classmates. During our reflection discussion one student told us color was important, and it was okay to color outside the lines. Another discussed how he thought more about including important details. A student created a map of explorer and trail and every time he had an idea he wrote it in trail. Someone else started with a single thing in middle went around it with reasons. One classmate made a treasure chest filled with gold and silver in it because the Spanish ventured for it. Someone else sketched a plant and a + sign and a human face with an equals sign with addiction. We had ships, flags claiming land, and religious images too!

Students began asking other questions and realized they could answer them in a blog or discovery quest. Students should begin to think about which form of notetaking works better for them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Why Do People Explore?

Why do people explore? That was the question we started with to kick off our next social studies topic. Now I could have went into the school textbook and did some reading with my students, but I remember being bored to tears with my teacher just throwing information at me. So I decided to connect the students to the topic to grab their attention and engage them in the topic of study. I sat down and began telling a story of exploring my front yard. I tend to people watch there because I live behind a lifestyle center with restaurants, the movies, bowling, and stores galore! I discussed my observations of parents yelling at their child who was crying over leaving a trinket he really wanted at the store. There are people who walk so fast across the street they do not look for oncoming cars so often I hear brakes screeching. Listening to the excitement about the latest movie can often inspire me to go watch something. Students hung on to every word, so I asked them what they like to explore. I discovered one classmate has a backyard that used to belong to a former hoarder and recently found a broken slide. Another student shared she loves to go into the woods while another studies animal footprints left behind in the snow.

What motivates people to explore? I was informed it was because people want freedom, are curious, and have a need to discover. We then spent some time exploring our classroom, seeking things we did not notice.  I told the students sometimes it is how we look at things. Maybe spend some time looking up or looking under something. Repeating this exercise I heard a lot of I never noticed . .  . Did you know that door was there? Wow! There are a lot of little lights!  We came back to reflect on our exploring. I found out I have a lot of photographs in our classroom; there are whiteboards in our bathroom, and a ton of rulers all over the room. This exercise might seem simple, but there was a lot of depth and learning going on. I encourage you to explore with your child. We are ready for our voyage of exploration in history! I hope our agents are inspired to explore their world, as this is how innovation might happen! Maybe they get into something that does not even exit yet!