Monday, June 29, 2015

More than just an 'Hour' of Code

In the spring of 2014, our district had our own Hour of Code. I heard about it from our district's Twitter Chat #gcisdchat and wanted to give it a try. I kept it basic because I was unsure about what I was doing. I was told just to give it a try and take a risk, and see what my students would do. Well, I was absolutely blown away. 

We began by watching a video on to get inspired. Why code? I wanted to hook my students (and find out for myself). Thankfully, provides a variety of videos for you to choose from so you can select the one that best suits your students' needs.
Next, we downloaded Kodable and Daisy the Dinosaur. I basically asked them to try these apps and turned them lose for an hour. I tried both at home before when I downloaded them on my iPad but didn't know how to troubleshoot or solve anything. They took over and were hooked!

What happened next was beautiful! They were risk takers. They solved any questions they encountered, both independently and together. The collaboration was INSANE!!

I was so impressed with the risks they took and the collaboration. We were all highly engaged! It was something we added to our Math with Technology station during Math Workshop.

I enjoyed it so much the first year, I hoped to encourage the entire staff to participate. Hour of Code is promoted the first full week in December, the week of Computer Science Education Week. My administration provided time during a faculty meeting for me to share. Here is my presentation.

My students and I were limited on our digital Hour of Code in December (due to our iPads being collected to roll out 1:1 on our campus) so we spent our Hour of Code quickly on Monday then continued to pursue unplugged coding activities the rest of the week. I felt like our classroom environment embraced coding right away. 

We even did some evaluating of the various coding apps we downloaded.
Our classroom is comfortable collaborating and taking risks, so the apps we tested were engaging but they needed the next step (and I needed to find it). So, I signed my students up at and they worked to complete the Hour of Code online.

We used a Symbaloo of coding activities to provide plenty of choice (here) which students enjoyed so they could move beyond what I provided and find a coding activity they were interested in.

Once our computers joined our iPads, we went into the unplugged activities, specifically cups. Students work together in small groups or pairs. One student is the robot (and has to wait in the robot library - away from the coding) and the other student/s is/are the programer/s. The programmer creates a code using arrows (we posted our arrows on the board) for the robot to follow using the cups to create a design. 

The programmer CANNOT speak to the robot so if something doesn't go as planned, the programmer sends the robot back to the robot library and has to 'de-bug' the code. 
This led to a tweet I noticed about the reason it is called 'de-bug'. This is the original notes written in 1947 regarding a bug that was caught in a machine that prevented the machine from working:
We were fortunate to connect with Elliott Hauser @hauspoor, the CEO of the app Trinket. He Skyped with us about the definition and importance of coding. We enjoyed hearing from an expert!
Later in the school year, we were able to hear about coding again during a Career Day presentation from a parent. Coding is EVERYWHERE!

Students code during PLT (Personalized Learning Time) and Math Workshop. They are highly engaged and enjoy working to create and complete the process.

Recently, I attended a workshop presented by at a neighborhood school. I have completed my Hour of Code! : ) Plus, I now have the manual for the unplugged coding activities. I hope to implement these into our PLT in my classroom, as well as begin a Coding Club after school.

Have you participated in the Hour of Code? What are some of your favorite coding activities?

Hour of Code 
My Code Resources on Pinterest

ThingLink, I Think I Like You!

One of my favorite digital options for providing information in one location is by using ThingLink. ThingLink is an easy way to use one image as a central location allowing links to images, video, websites and more!

One of the first ThingLinks I created was last year at iPadpalooza. A few colleagues and I participated in the APPmazing Race competition and we had to create a ThingLink. We used it to show an example of a circle and also added a video. You can view it here. Not my finest work, but it was a start! Baby steps... ; )

Last year I tried to find other ways to model using ThingLink to inspire my students to try it out. 
I used it when we studied the Water Cycle, providing videos and songs on the image that shows the water cycle. Students used this as a support to our learning during our study, then we had a QR Code that they could use to continue to practice in PLT (Personalized Learning Time).
Later in the year, I created a ThingLink on the life cycle of the ladybug. Students worked in collaborative groups to research the details of each stage of the life cycle of the ladybug. This ThingLink provided the livebinder link as well as some observation videos to help them stay on track. They used this along with books to take notes in Google Docs then present what they learned to the class. 

By the end of the year, I had a few students test ThingLink. They especially enjoyed using it when we studied Famous Americans - they used it to create a timeline or just display their collection of information. I plan to encourage students to use ThingLink more often next year, plus I will use it as a source of information in our classroom. How have you used ThingLink?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

TCEA Tots & Technology 2015

Earlier this year, I had the privilege to attend TCEA15 where I was able to connect with amazing educators and learn TONS to bring back to my classroom and share with my PLN. I am thrilled that I was able to receive a grant from my district to return to TCEA and attend Tots & Technology in Galveston last week #TCEAtots. This conference appealed to me for their specific focus on early education, prek-5th grades. Spending 16 years in first and second grades, now moving to third, often conferences cover prek-12+ so this was nice to be surrounded by elementary educators.

The anticipation leading to this conference was unbelievable. Several of my educator peers recommended it plus I attended with a few of my Digital Divas (we meet once a month to collaborate and work through ideas and issues together). An added bonus was a few days away by the beach while we reflected on all we learned! We were greeted by a beautiful blue sky and listened to the peaceful ocean waves crash softly on the beach: 
Unfortunately, within 24 hours, the sky turned dark, strong winds pounded the windows, rain blew sideways, water rose before us and the threat of flooding then being stranded in Galveston became a reality. Tropical Storm Bill #TSBill had other plans and forced us to make the very difficult decision to leave early. #OhNoMrBill #HereIAmRockYouLikeAHurricane #YouCanStandUnderMyUmbrella
However, not even Bill could stop our learning as we continued to follow the conference on Twitter and gain information on the long, frightening, rainy drive home. Now I have lots to read through this summer and I look forward to attending again - just hope the weather doesn't interfere next time.

Here are a few things I learned and plan to implement in my classroom:
*I love connecting with educators at conferences. I actually attended multiple sessions by these presenters because I enjoyed their information and felt it was relevant to my students' needs. Check out LiteraryFusions for yourself: @literaryfusions or #literaryfusions One goal I have for next year is to find ways to develop vocabulary for my learners. One of their presentations was on Vocabulary and App Smashing (my students and I LOVE to App Smash!) One of the ideas they had was to use context clues to define a word. While my boys were attending story time at the library last week, I made a few examples:

Another idea is for students to create posters showing good citizenship using famous Americans. Students will use a variety of vocabulary words to describe the citizen and share it on a blog post or display around the room. 
At one point they got us very engaged by sending a beach ball (did someone say BEACH?!?) with a variety of questions on it. The person that caught the ball read the question out loud then you can chat with your neighbor (we call it 'Buddy Buzz') then share with the class answers that you said or heard (which is great practice for those who didn't have an answer at first, for those who need language support or those who are shy and working on their speaking skills)
*Last year I worked with my students during Writing Workshop, WONDER Wednesdays and Reading Workshop to summarize their writing. It proved to be a difficult skill to teach. A fun way to work on that is to use The Newspaper Clipping Generator to work on sharing information in a summary.
*Practice multiplication facts or spelling words with ChatterPix.
*Act out science vocabulary using the green screen affect in iMovie and provide QR Codes to revisit the vocabulary throughout the year.
*I was able to attend Joan and Janet's sessions in February and thrilled to attend another of their presentations. They have so much enthusiasm and energy! I want to be like them when I grow up!! Follow them at @joangore and @corderj. They shared a variety of tools for formative assessment. My students and I love Kahoot! It is a wonderful, engaging way to formatively assess my class. However, since I am looping this year I am on a serious search to find new and exciting things to make this year different. Enter Quizizz! This is similar to Kahoot! (and I plan to use both throughout the year) but it is self paced for each student, students get feedback as soon as they complete their quiz and it shows the question on the students' devices. I'm excited to get started with Quizizz. They also suggested the app StickPick that provides questions based on the level of blooms you select. I've gotta check it out!
*They provided a breakout session where we were in grade level groups. Now, I have NO experience in 3rd grade but I was partnered up with another educator who had little technology experience. She gave me some insight on 3rd grade while I gave her insight on a 1:1 classroom. She even joined Twitter while we sat there! Later, while we were waiting for a session, a few of us connected with some people that attended another session and shared the app cards with us. Here is one:
This is one of my FAVORITE parts of attending a conference - connecting with others and the amazing level of collaboration that takes place. We are all there to push ourselves and gain new ideas! Plus, you get to reconnect with those you have met before. I've noticed at times it looks like a mini-reunion - people that stay in touch on Twitter or via email then get to see each other face-to-face once a year. FUN!

I have tons and tons more in my Google Folder for Tots & Technology - plus all of us that attended shared our notes in the Google Folder, not to mention all the links I gained from those that shared on Twitter - I have so much I gathered from attending! Good thing I have several weeks of summer to sort through it all. : ) 

If you have not yet attended a conference, please check out what is offered nearby and check one out! I am thankful my Digital Coach pointed me in the right direction and now I have several conferences I enjoy! I have presented at a local TCEA conference but I'm trying to convince myself to present again, perhaps at next year's TCEA Tots & Technology! Do you have a favorite conference you attend?

Reading Workshop

Years ago we implemented Writing Workshop into our daily schedule. I've enjoyed pulling from a variety of resources and tools over the years to provide a diverse opportunity for my students to become wonderful writers (most recently incorporating WONDER Wednesdays - or Genius Hour - into our writing workshop) As I move up to third grade this year, I have SO much to learn and soak up! I'm excited for a new challenge and enjoyed attending our district's Humanities Summer Institute to familiarize myself with the curriculum. I enjoyed connecting with several other third grade teachers, who I will certainly call on in the coming years; plus several of my team members were able to attend, which provided an opportunity for us to share ideas. 

My favorite part of any workshop is the collaboration piece. I am not the most creative person when it comes to initiating an idea, but I can borrow someone else's idea and build it into the perfect plan to meet the needs of my students. Our district is filled with educators who are experts, willing to share their passions and ideas with us all (thank goodness). One of the third grade teachers in our district is an expert in Reading Workshop and I had to privilege to hear a few of her presentations. Her name is Amy Henderson and you can follow her on Twitter at @OCTHenderson for more ideas.

Amy was kind to share her Reading Workshop ideas with us and I was on the edge of my seat to hear more! I love to be surrounded by passionate educators. People who are excited to share ideas and learn together is an environment that I thrive in. There is such great energy! I took tons of notes from Amy's sessions and I want to reflect here on a few of the things so I can try to remember to implement them in my classroom this fall:

*Hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for your classroom library - this sounds super to me! Several of my students will be returning to me (we get to loop together) so I am searching for engaging activities that make this year different and more exciting than last year. Amy suggests to cover your library to spark their curiosity and talk about it as much as possible. After building the anticipation, hold a ribbon cutting ceremony to allow students to seek out new books to read and get excited about. What fun!

*Have students personalize their book box - We call our book box our 'B.O.B.' for 'Box Of Books' and they will most likely be the same containers that I used last year. However, instead of me labeling each BOB with students' names, they can personalize their BOB with their own name tag (show off that cursive) and decorate with pictures and words that describe them as a reader - even add to it as the year goes on.

*Book Recommendations - Just like when I am looking for a new book to read and I ask my friends via text, over dinner or social media, students will make book recommendations for each other. Our school participates in Restorative Practices and this would make a wonderful Circle Up topic every week or two! Students can verbally share about a book they have read or heard. To step it up a notch, students can create a product to recommend their book - either unplugged or digital - and post it to their blog. We often use PicCollage to create products quickly so I made an example at the library the other day:
I saw an idea on Pinterest last year for Book Burps and will try to tweak it a bit to work for our classroom - students make a 30 second commercial to interest others to read a book they enjoyed. I'd love for students to post these book recommendations by our classroom library or with a QR Code so others may find new books to interest them. Amy had a great idea to pay close attention to those who have similar interests to set the stage for book clubs.

*Reader's Notebook - Amy's Reader's Notebook reminded me of when I used to scrapbook. I enjoyed that hobby SO much, why not combine it with another hobby - READING! She used a photo copy (or drawing) of the cover of the book and wrote about it. She also had copies of Anchor Charts from throughout the year for students to refer to. Now that our district is using Google Drive, I'd like my students to take pictures of our Anchor Charts and hopefully use as a reference for years to come!

These are just a few of the many, many ideas Amy shared with us. She also shared how to pace the timing of the workshop, use sentence stems (Anchor Chart) to promote book chats, 'Stop and Jot' for students to write about something they want to note in their reading, and more. I look forward to meeting with her again soon to gain additional ideas! I'm so thankful to work with amazing educators that are willing to share and collaborate. 

Do you have Reading Workshop in your classroom? What can you add to help others to have a successful Reading Workshop?