Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015! Live it with #purpose!

Yesterday on New Year's Eve,  I received an email from my wonderful principal to check out a blog post about choosing a word for 2015. I took a look at it and thought that it was ingenious. I started to think about my word and I thought about that word on and off all day. I was first thinking about going with the word "challenge." I liked that word and almost committed to that word for the year. I was trying to find a word that I could easily use in both my personal and professional life.  Then I came across THE word...PURPOSE! 
As I get older, I want to live my life with purpose. I want to make the most of my days. I've kept a gratitude journal for the last 2 years and it's amazing how it changes your outlook on life and makes you appreciate all of the little things in life! Sun, flowers, green leaves, colorful leaves, laughter, solitude, a clean house, health....the list goes on! 

I want to focus on purpose this year. Purpose to me transcends everything. Purpose allows you to have joy, show gratitude, be challenged, focus on important things, be mindful and present, simplify your life, take risks, demonstrate your strengths, allows you to reflect and breathe and take time for yourself...all of which I need to work on in 2015. 

I want to have purpose with my family. 
I want to have purpose with my daughters.
I want to workout with a purpose.
I want to be healthy for a purpose. 
I want to eat for a purpose. 
I want to teach with purpose. 
I want my professional life to be filled with purpose. 
I want my friends to have a purpose.
I want to spend my free time with a purpose. 

So here's to 2015...and living with purpose

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ten Ways to Use Pic Collage in the Classroom

One of my favorite apps to use as of late has been Pic Collage! My own kids use it at home, though not for educational purposes. I have found many fun ways to use it in the classroom. I love it because the students have choice in how they want to create their pic collage and they can show off their creativity. It is super easy for them to save their finished product to their camera roll and then export it from their. They have uploaded their creations to Schoology, Google Drive, Keynote, Explain Everything, etc. You can send your pic to Twitter or send it via email.  There are just a variety of ways to use your pics!

The one thing to caution you about is that there is a social media aspect to the app. I didn't know this right away. When I found this out, I had my students set their accounts to private to avoid any issues.

Below are some of he ways that I have used Pic Collage in the classroom...

10.  Students created pic collages about their Genius Hour topics and embedded them within their presentations. They would add the image to a keynote or website to showcase their topic. These were a great way for the students to show off their creativity and what they learned about their topic. 

9. A new twist on the old "genre poster." When studying genres, each student was given a genre to research with a partner. They added photos of different texts that matched their genre and added some text that explained their genre to create a genre poster. We then uploaded each genre poster to Schoology so that everyone could access them.  

8. During our read aloud of "Rump-The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin" the students created a settings poster. They added photos of the different settings from the story and labeled them with the text feature on Pic Collage. The students came up with beautiful setting posters for our read aloud. 

7. At the end of the month, students can create a pic collage of the books that they read that month. They could do this at the end of a grading period or even at the end of the year. They could then be saved to their camera roll and then uploaded to their Google Drive portfolio. 

6. Sequencing events in a story! Students can sequence the events in a story by adding pics to show the most important events from a story. They can then add transition words to show how the plot progressed over time. Students could then write a summary about the text that matches their Pic Collage. 

5. #piccollage Another way that we have used Pic Collage is to simply use it as a way to post on Twitter. I recently introduced #5BookFriday in my classroom after reading about it on a blog.  On Fridays, I introduce 5 books to my students and get some excitement going around the 5 titles. I then take a picture of the books or the students with the books and create a Pic Collage to post on Twitter or in my weekly newsletter. 

4. Poetry! Students created poems about our African Dwarf Frog...Squirt... that lived a short life. They wrote odes to Squirt and some students chose to create their poem on Pic Collage. Here is a little sample...they were cute!

3. One of the choices for word study is for students to take their word study words, type them into Pic Collage, and then add pictures that illustrate the words. Students love all of the choices that go along with Pic Collage and they do not even realize that they are studying their word study words because they are having so much fun creating their collages. 

2. Another way to use Pic Collage is to have students find examples of figurative language in their books and create a collage about onomatopoeia, similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, etc. They can then share out their examples with other students in the class and students can check to see if they identified the figurative language correctly. They can save it to their camera roll and then email me the pic that I can easily assess. 

1. Nonfiction Text Feature Posters! Students can find examples of nonfiction text features in books, take a picture of it on their iPad, and create a nonfiction text feature pic collage. They can add text to identify each feature. A great twist on our nonfiction text feature book! 

The possibilities are endless and FUN! 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Genius Hour...One Year Later!


     I have been madly getting ready for a Genius Hour presentation at the TIES 2014 Conference in MN next week with a colleague of mine and I got to thinking that it was just over a year ago when I started exploring Genius Hour. I was looking for a "choice unit" that my gifted coordinator wanted us to incorporate into our full-day gifted program. I didn't even know what a "choice unit" was, but I had some ideas in my head.
     I had used Envision units in my classroom in the past with a fair amount of student enthusiasm. Some of the students loved the creativity and application to the real world, some hated the work and the organization that went along with it, and some just completed it because it was assigned. All of the final projects were always stellar...(or mostly stellar) and the students would walk away proud of their work.
     I then experimented with Project Based Learning(PBL). I had been awarded an amazing technology grant and had to come up with 6 project based learning projects for grades K-5. I was able to do this using a Project Based Learning framework and I was able to incorporate the use of technology into all of these projects. We studied seasons in Kindergarten, habitats in 1st grade, nutrition in 2nd grade, free choice related to STEM in 3rd and 5th grade, and designing a park in 4th grade. The projects all turned out well, with just a "little bit" of stress along the way, and a total of 18 different in-class parent observations. Yes, it was insane...but I learned quite a bit, and was able to incorporate technology into classroom projects for the first time ever.  
    Then I happened upon Genius Hour. I had happened upon a post about Genius Hour on Pinterest that looked intriguing. I decided to finally take a close look at it in December of last year. I put together a plan and had NO IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT! We started it in January and at first they literally groaned about the thought of another project. I was a bit worried, but I persevered. After two weeks of introducing Genius Hour and working on it in class, the students had done a complete 180! They were begging to have Genius Hour, begging to have more work time, asking if they could work on it at home(yes!), getting together for Genius Hour playdates(not kidding about this), and had a new enthusiasm about learning. I couldn't believe the student engagement and I began to truly see the value about voice and choice. I am now on my 3rd round of Genius Hour since January and I have tweaked it each time. I have learned just as much as the students and continue to grow as a teacher. I have given students even more choice throughout the process, have continually refined my lessons on how to pick a "deep question," conferred with students one-on-one and guided them along the way, created ways for students to authentically reflect on their progress, given students chances to share their work locally and globally, provided opportunities for the students to collaborate and share their knowledge about creating products like websites, Prezi's, Keynotes, iMovies, etc, and continued to stress that this is a PROCESS. I'm expecting to see growth each time they complete a Genius Hour cycle, both from the students and from myself. The students have commented so many times..."I didn't know anything about any of this in September and now I can make my own website/keynote/Prezi/Nearpod/iMovie about my topic." We are finishing up presenting over the next couple of weeks and I'm already amazed about the ideas that they have already for the next round of Genius Hour. This is personalized learning at its finest and it is amazing to watch the students shine as they share their projects. It makes me so proud of them! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

An Update to Student Goal Setting

One of the most popular posts on my blog has been the post about Goal Setting in the Classroom.  I saw this idea last year on Twitter and knew right away that I wanted to incorporate it into my classroom. I created this chart and we used it for the second half of the year.  I was able to see not only the value of goal setting, but the value of having the goals front and center in the classroom. Students were aware of their goals on a weekly basis and were easily reminded of them when they were up and about in the classroom, in line to leave the classroom, or reminded of their goal by a friend(or a teacher)! 

This year, I have also incorporated an ACADEMIC and a BEHAVIOR goal for the students. The students need to create an academic goal and a behavior goal each Monday. They write an A- for Academic and a B- for Behavior. Pretty straight forward! :-) 

We try to focus on writing the goals in SMART goal format, but as you can see, that is a work in progress. Some weeks we do better than others. We will often sometimes share out our goals during morning meeting or "chat" with a friend about our goals and if we met our goals the previous week. Another way to help make them accountable! 

 We have also started a new reflection sheet for our data binders. We started by taking photos of our post-it notes and putting them in an album on our iPads, but I wanted them to have a reflection component. I found this great form and they fill it out each week. They write in their goals and how they will attempt to reach them. The following Monday, they reflect on if they met their goals and any strategies that helped them meet or not meet their goals. 

Here is a link to the site where I found the great weekly goal setting sheet. The parents have loved the weekly goal setting as well and will often encourage their child to perhaps set a goal in an area in which they are struggling. For example, maybe a child is having trouble remembering to finish their online math homework...they will suggest putting that as an academic goal for the week. Or maybe a child is struggling with bringing home their homework each night...that may be a suggestion. 

After using this system for the last 9 months, I highly recommend it as a way to keep your students accountable and encouraging a growth mindset inside of the classroom. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Using Bloom's Taxonomy and Choice to Engage Learners

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been working on a new project. I created a new website for my students in order to provide choice in the classroom, utilize our iPads to their full potential, and hopefully create high levels of student engagement. I created the website around the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy, which we discuss in our classroom on a regular basis. This week when I launch the website, we are going to do an indepth study on Bloom's Taxonomy at the student level. I decided to call the website PLMOSAIC to stand for (Personalized Learning MOSAIC.) MOSAIC is the name of our gifted program in our school district.  Below is the WHY of the website...


PLMOSAIC was designed to incorporate 21st century skills that are necessary in order to be successful and ready for the real world.  We are focusing on integrating the 4 C's(creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration) into our daily classroom. I believe that choice, motivation, innovation, and differentiation should be integrated into daily tasks through the use of various tools - especially our 1-1 iPads.  I am a strong believer in students having academic choice, freedom of creativity, time to think critically, and the opportunity to collaborate in order to demonstrate their learning. All of these ideals lead to strong student engagement. 

PLMOSAIC will help me teach, manage and monitor student learning.  I will be able to check for mastery and incorporate the student's work into a digital portfolio. As the students become more and more comfortable with the apps and Web 2.0 tools that are offered, they will be able to gain a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning. This platform is a great way for them to express their learning with their own creative spirit. Reflection will be key and goal setting will be imperative before starting a project.  All 21st century skills that will help them in the real world and in school!

Using Bloom's Taxonomy, the students in MOSAIC will be able to demonstrate their learning at higher levels. Living in the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy is best practice for gifted students.  Students will have the opportunity to app smash and practice utilizing technology to it's fullest potential. This platform will create authentic learning experiences for the students. 

I will be using Google Forms for students to create a project proposal and also to submit a reflection when they are done with their project. This site is a work in progress, so I'm anticipating some changes as I roll-out this site in my classroom. I can't wait to introduce it this week and get it started! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Student Data Binders

One of the greatest things that I have ever implemented in my classroom was the creation of  "data binders." I learned about these when I taught in Ohio and worked with some teachers who had implemented data binders in their prior district. They taught me about the purpose of data binders, how they benefit the students, the types of data that are beneficial to collect, and how to set them up correctly. 

Purpose: To drive student performance, to teach students about effective goal setting, to encourage a growth-mindset, and to make students responsible for their own learning and reflective about their work.   Research has documented that setting goals and reflecting on them can improve student learning over time. 

Our data binders demonstrate...

-improvement or growth
-mistakes that we made and have learned from
-our interests
-things that matter to us
-what our parents would like to see
-versatility as a student
-a sampling from all subject areas
-favorite books and pieces of writing
-things that we are working on that challenge us
-things that make us proud
-our goals
-our reflections

Teaching students how to set SMART goals is one of the most important pieces of creating a data binder. One reason is that setting SMART goals prepares them for the real world and provides them with 21st century skills. Another reason for teaching SMART goals is that it gives the students a measurable goal that they can assess over time. We discuss the difference between, "I will get better at multiplication this week." and "I will try to score a 95% on my multiplication fact test by Friday." Which one is easier to measure and to tell if it was achieved? 

I prefer to use a view binder for the data binder. Then they can tuck their cover sheet in the plastic view cover.  There are also pockets to hold different papers and extra papers that we may need. We divide our binder into 5 sections: SELF, ELA(Reading/Writing), MATH, CONTENT, and GENIUS HOUR/PROJECTS. Within the SELF section we keep our weekly goal setting statements, interest inventories, learning style inventories, personal mission statements, and other types of papers that pertain to the individual child. 

We also complete academic inventories about reading, writing, and math. We use this data to determine what kind of student we are and we watch for growth over the school year. We reflect on what we see and what we know about ourselves. The Weekly Goal Setting Form is something new that we have started using this year and it is great for getting students to keep track of their goals, reflect on if they are meeting them, and what is helping them or blocking them from meeting their goals on a weekly basis. 

The students love to track their progress for their fact fluency. We practice our multiplication and division facts once a week and graph our progress in colored pencil. This chart really motivates them to go home and study so that their graph goes up each week. I send the data binders home every Friday for the students to review with their parents and share their learning. They are also great to use at student-led conferences. 

Overall, data binders are a great tool for learning and reflective practice. It helps teach organization, goal setting, and reflection.  I highly recommend implementing them in the classroom! Start small and then let them grow as you see the benefits of using them. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A New School Year!

So this Tuesday, I started another new school year! 28 fresh faces entered my classroom...or should I say...entered our classroom, because the classroom doesn't just belong to ME! So one fairly fresh teacher(THANK YOU SUMMER!)  is ready to take on a new year with new ideas! I have done a lot of reflecting over the last few months and have come up with some ideas that I really want to focus on this year. Some of the ideas are things that I loved from last year, some of the ideas are new ones that I have learned about in the past few months, and some are ideas that I have come up with on my own. 
Here are some of the things that I am looking forward to implementing this school year...

1. The new awesome website

I am loving this site and I have JUST begun to tap into it. I heard about it just a couple of weeks ago and it looked like a great fit for my students. You set your class up on this site by uploading their names and their parent's email addresses. They will then receive a username and password to enter the site. The teacher and the students can set up a bookshelf with recommended books, favorites, required books, and wish list books. The site can also direct you to AMAZON to purchase any of the books. (there are parent controls for this as well.) The teacher can set up reading challenges and students can earn badges for completing certain tasks.  We are just getting started on this site, but it seems very promising and well thought out for teachers and students. 

2. Another site that I am going to utilize more this year is KidBlog.  I decided that when the students write about the books that they finish, I want them to have an authentic audience. I dabbled in this site last year, but didn't use it to its fullest potential. I would like to have students blog on our class site each time that they finish a book.  I am also going to 

encourage them to respond to 2 other posts each time they blog.  Over the years, students are always reluctant to write in their reading journals and turn them in after finishing a book, and I am hoping with 1-1 iPads and the availability of KidBlog, we can make their reading responses more authentic and exciting. 

3. I am going to use Google Drive to create Reading Notebooks.  I am trying to go digital this year! I saw a great pin on Pinterest that showed an idea for Reading Notebooks on Google Drive. I played around with this sumer and made a folder on Google Drive with other folders within the Reading Notebook folder. This is going to be a little challenging as most of my students will be new to Google Docs, but they are going to be experts before too long. 

This is what I am envisioning...

4.  Another tool that I use that is a non-negotiable for this year is Student Data Binders. I use data binders for students to set goals, track data, reflect on their learning, show growth, keep work samples, and store interest inventories.  I call them S.T.A.R. binders (Students Taking Academic Responsibility.) This week we have been filling out interest inventories and learning style inventories.  We will soon be goal setting and creating SMART goals. I love these binders and I encourage the students to share them often with their parents. I am starting to look into digital portfolios and how I can create these to complement our data binder. I found a site called Fresh Grade that looks promising and I am going to play around with it once we get our iPads. 

5. The biggest thing that I am going to KEEP in my classroom this year is Genius Hour. I started this last January and it was a HUGE success.  My students loved it and couldn't get enough. I had no idea what to expect and was blown away by their engagement and excitement. It was a wonderful way to integrate the 4 C's-critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. The students created projects that were beyond what I thought  was even possible. Websites, presentations, songs, movies, models, etc. Their enthusiasm for Genius Hour was mind blowing and with each passing week I was reminded of the importance of voice and choice. I can't wait to experience this with a new set of kiddos this year. 

6. The last thing that I want to improve upon is our Interactive Math Journals. I love these tools and I see a lot of value in these notebooks. I am going to add in some more metacognitive thinking and some more higher level thinking. I decided to focus on adding in 2 additional things...

Processing Questions:
1. What did we learn today?
2. How does what we learned today connect to or add to something we learned previously?
3. How can what we learned today help us in the real world?
Thinking Stems:
• The most important thing I learned today was…
• I would explain to an absent student what I learned today like this…
• I still don't understand…
• I first thought…but now I realize…
• I’m not sure…
• Another strategy I could have used …
• I will understand this better if I…
• Tomorrow I would like to …
• The easiest/most difficult part of the lesson was…

I'm anxious to see where all of these new ideas lead our class and to see how they contribute to student success. I'll keep you posted!