What Kind of Turkey is This?

Wanting to do some kind of STEM activity with the 4th graders, I did some research and came across a blog post from Angela Willyerd, titled “The Great Turkey Race.” I did buy her packet and am glad I did – love how the design process is incorporated in the lesson!

The Problem: “Farmer Dave wants to choose the biggest and best turkey for his town’s Thanksgiving Feast. He decides to race them, assuming that the biggest turkey will be the slowest. Well, the turkeys get wind of this and decide to create a double because they don’t want to become Thanksgiving dinner!

The Challenge:  The students have to create a turkey “‘double” using some common items such as styrofoam bowls, toilet paper rolls.

Angela has created a fantastic PowerPoint that walks the students through the process so we started with that. I told the class the materials they would have and what had to be included – head, body, feet, and tail feathers. Then, I asked them to sketch what they had in mind. The next step was to decide on a group design – not easy when each person is fond of their own!

The groups set to work creating some of the strangest turkey doubles I’d ever seen!

One group held up pieces of their styrofoam bowl and sheepishly asked if they could have another.

The test track had been marked by masking tape and as groups finished, the asked me to time their turkey.

This one actually rolled quite well but too many turkey parts were missing from the design!

This one was pretty cute but the team couldn’t get it to move.

They changed the design and tried again.

This was such a good challenge for learning that sometimes things don’t work they way you expect and changes need to be made. No one became frustrated; they quickly went back to their place and began to brainstorm how certain changes might affect the outcome.

Was it loud? Oh, my, yes! Were the students learning? Most definitely!

We may just continue Thanksgiving AFTER the break so that other classes have the opportunity to give this a try.

Salvaging a Lesson When Plans Unravel!

You build a great lesson to get students on their Kidblog account for the first time ever and, as soon as kids start logging in, you realize there’s trouble! Weeks ago, I’d uploaded all the students with their passwords and had logged in as each one to get them in their new class. Well, I forgot one major detail – Kidblog now forces every user to change their password when they first log in! Yes, I understand the reasoning behind it. But, really, for second graders?? What happened to the old days not that long ago when the blog administrator could get everyone set up and ready to go for students to log in seamlessly? Sure made life much easier.

So, in a quick switch of plans, I pulled out the QR codes for the class to log into Seesaw. This was as the teacher was saying, “We can just forget lab time today.”

Hey, if a tech teacher isn’t flexible, there are many lessons that would never be taught!

The plan had been to write emoji “About Me” stories in Kidblog. We just moved to a different app to do so. Talk about a quick write! But, the students did a fantastic job and I learned a whole lot more about each student while reading their cute stories.

Despite a rough start where nothing worked as planned, all were engaged and successful with the quick change to plan B!

Halloween Collages

Pic Collage Kids

I came across a fun idea a few days ago that would be a great way to introduce the Pic Collage Kids app to our first graders. Spooky Good Costumes is a cute way to introduce students to several of the tools in an app that is useful across the curriculum.

First, why Pic Collage Kids ($1.99) rather than Pic Collage (free with in-app purchases)? Both have the same interface but there are two very important reasons why I prefer Pic Collage Kids.

  1. The kids app is rated 4+  while the otheris12+. This is a huge help inavoiding the inappropriate “stickers” and images that sometimes pop up on Pic Collage.
  2. Even though there is a charge for Pic Collage Kids, it is not that much considering that there are LOTS of free stickers that come with the app. And, younger children LOVE stickers!!

If you want a more detailed comparison of the two, click here.

Back to the project . . . I followed the instructions from the above blog post and, let me tell you, those first graders did a fantastic job! I told one class that we had only 40 minutes to do something that should normally take twice that long.

We opened the app and students had one minute to take a selfie. Really, if you give them longer, they can’t ever seem to take the “perfect” photo and they end up taking way too many!

I was a little worried about the clip tool – would it take too long to “cut” around the head, taking out the background? The kids absolutely loved this! They had so much fun cutting without scissors!

What concentration!

Look at our heads!

Next step – showing the tools for drawing (doodle), changing the background, and  adding fun stickers. Students were asked to use stickers to create their name.

I love these letter stickers for a Halloween collage. I did impose a limit of 5 stickers (excluding the name). Otherwise, there’s a temptation to cover the page with every sticker available!

There was lots of concentration as the students created their collages.

As the students completed their drawings, they airdropped them to me. The first couple of children who finished became “tech helpers” and were they fantastic (not to mention, proud!).

Here’s the animoto video of the costumed first graders. Enjoy! 

“What is Under the Bed?” Can You Predict?

I love incorporating literacy skills into lab activities and bringing in technology is a fun and effective way to make predictions.

This year, I discovered the book, What’s Under the Bedby Joe Fenton. It’s a quick, rhyming book about a boy named Fred who is trying to go to sleep but hears noises under his bed. He finally decides to check it out:  “One, Two, Three, Four . .  . It’s time to look on the floor!” And, that’s where I stopped!

Before class, I created a template and air dropped it to our shared iPads. When the students arrived, we worked together to add a name to their page and set up the drawing feature. After doing some predicting by discussing the title, I told the children they could illustrate as I read. We read till we reached the page where Fred was about to look under his bed. At that point, the directions were to:

  1. finish illustrating your prediction,
  2. write your prediction, and
  3. record your prediction.

Instead of giving all the instructions at once, the students drew for about ten minutes. As they began to wrap up the drawings, I showed how to record. Soon all were off to various corners of the room, using our “telephone’ mics or the recording cubes.

When everyone had completed their one-page book and air-dropped it to me, we finished reading. What is great about this book is that there are visual clues to what is under the bed. It’s several pages back and you have to watch to catch it. This was a great way to discuss how important it is to look at ALL clues – in the text as well as in the illustrations!

Making Predictions with Second Graders from Trinity Valley School on Vimeo.

The class ebooks can be read on an iOS device (iPad or iPhone) by following the directions below. This eBook will NOT work properly on any other device (i.e. Kindle, Android tablet or phone).  However, the books have also been saved as a video that can be seen on any computer or mobile device.

Instructions for Viewing Books and Videos:

If you are downloading the ePub books, remember that you need to click on the book link while on an iPad or iPhone that has the iBooks app. Choose download and open in iBooks.

Click on the word “book” or “video” to view the projects.

I Wonder??

Recently, I purchased Design Dots from Ellen Deutscher. These are Design Thinking activities for grades K – 12.

For this activity, I chose “I Never Noticed That!”

I adapted this to include technology by having students search for 6 to 8 items that they had not noticed before OR that they might have seen but had questions about. They were to photograph these, make a video that included their questions or “I wonder” statements, and post to their Seesaw (digital portfolio) journal.

Telling the students this was an individual search for the unusual, we headed outside. With about 10 minutes to take 6 to 8 photos, they wandered around, searching for just the right object. 

Once they completed the search, they were to start cropping their images. Many discovered the new feature in iOS 11 that allows the user to draw on photos.

I’d thought we could complete taking the photos, cropping, and uploading to Shadow PuppetEDU in one 40 minute session. It turned out that the group had such a good time exploring things they’d never seen before, that we were lucky to finish just the photography and the cropping! But, the activity was designed to focus on observation skills so that was fine.

The following day, I introduced the free Shadow PuppetEDU app; a video-creation app in which narration, text, and music can be added. (*Be sure to get the EDU version of Shadow Puppet which is licensed for educational use.) This app works seamlessly with the Seesaw app which we are now using in the Lower School, so I had students sign in to that before we started working with Puppet EDU.

We then worked together to add photos. I demonstrated how to record, save, tap the Seesaw icon, and automatically upload to their Seesaw journal. Before dismissing the students, I shared expectations:  They were to ask thoughtful questions about the objects they found OR create “I Wonder” statements.

Below are some sample recordings.

To wrap up, students shared with their table groups what they’d discovered. The area we explored isn’t that large so there were many who had similar or the same photos. It was fun listening to the children as they participated in their own brainstorming session, trying to determine the purpose of some of their findings!

Perhaps this appears to be a “simple” activity for 4th graders. Before heading outside, some of the students stated, “I’ve been out there a lot and already know exactly what is there. I won’t find anything new.” Guess what? They did! That is, once they decided to really search! Were all of the videos what I’d hoped to get? No, some were silly but, some of the students did ask great questions!

Learning to observe is an important skill that we sometimes assume students have no trouble doing. After all, little ones are very observant. Think about the never-ending questions from toddlers and pre-schoolers. However, it seems that the older we get, the less we question. This activity was a fun way to get children to go back to their observing and questioning days that they first thought they were too “old” to do! We’ll definitely do an adaptation of this again.

Book Talks!

Today we did Book Talks with one of the 4th grade classes using Flipgrid. I asked the children to choose a picture book, read it, then post a 30 second review on Flipgrid. We’ll share these with our younger children to help them discover new books to read.

Here are some samples:

I LOVE flipgrid! What a quick way for students to share content, books, what they’ve learned, and so much more with others. I purchased the paid version so that I could have different grids. If you discover that you’ll be using this often, that is the way to go!

Can’t Stay Away from Emojis!

I’m not really fond of emojis (except for texting) because I think words are much more effective. Does that show my age?? My rule to students when writing online is, “No emojis!”

Recently, I came across an activity from a teacher using Seesaw and the Note feature where young students wrote an “All About Me” story using words along with emojis. Since we are in the process of implementing Seesaw for Schools, I’m working with all classes to introduce them to the many features of the program. Knowing that ALL children desperately want to use emojis in any kind of work that requires typing on an iPad, I thought this would be the perfect way to incorporate writing using the Note choice.

Oh my! Were they excited! I wrote some sentence starters on the board along with a word bank that we added to as needed and off they went.

I learned a lot more about the students and their families just by reading their stories.

Was it hard for first graders to find letters on the keyboard? Yes, but because they were going back and forth between the emojis and letters, no one was frustrated.

Could they have used more time than we had? Of course! Kids can always think of more ways to use emojis in their stories.

This activity was also done with grades 2, 3, and 4 and was a HUGE success. It’s a great way to get “emoji fever” out of the way as students share more about themselves.

Reflecting: We Have to Make Time!

In July, I was able to attend one of my favorite conferences, Building Learning Communities, by November Learning (Alan November). Over and over, I heard the importance of self-assessment and reflection by students and how that truly enables them to take ownership of their learning.

I’ve taught for more years than I can count but have I ever really encouraged students to consistently reflect on their own learning? Of course, like all teachers, I conference with students and we talk about what they do well, what needs work. But true reflective learning??

This post is how I reached the “Aha” moment of the importance of reflecting, how we’re working with children to get the reflection process to become second nature, and reasons why this is critical to the learning process.

Enter Seesaw! Seesaw is a digital portfolio (app and web-based) that is very easy to use for students and teachers. I did a trial last year with the free version to see how it would work with our first and second graders. The ease of use impressed me and the ability for parents to connect and view their child’s work convinced me to use it again this year. The students uploaded items but it was mainly to share with parents; we didn’t really do any reflections and we didn’t use that term! It was after the many sessions at BLC that discussed how teachers used Seesaw that had me returning to school to share the power of reflection!

Can you only reflect using Seesaw? Absolutely NOT! But, as I’ve mentioned, it’s a quick and easy way for students to talk about their learning. Let me share some examples.

Our third and fourth graders had done some “table blogging” and, when finished, took a photo of their work. After uploading the photo to Seesaw, the children were asked to reflect on their work. Using ideas from Karen Lirenman, reflection sentence starters were provided to students.

I wasn’t surprised that students weren’t familiar with the term, reflection. What DID surprise me were some of the blank looks! However, with lots of modeling,  the “Oh, I get it” moments occurred. The blogging topic was “What is your favorite food?” and some reflected on that rather than focus on the actual writing process. For example:

  • I can eat pizza.
  • I’m proud of eating different kinds of pizza.
  • I want to work on trying even more kinds of pizza.

What I liked about Seesaw is that it took hardly anytime to upload the image and record. Most of the recordings were less than 15 seconds which was plenty of time for the reflection. Listening to their reflections was quick and comments to students could easily be accomplished by typing or recording. SOOO easy!!

Here’s an example of a child who will need a bit more guidance in the reflection process.

The following example is from a third grader and unrelated to the blogging topic. The children were asked to illustrate something they had learned this week. If they wanted to record, they could do so.

This boy gets it! What a great way to check for understanding!

Why reflect?

The following is a quote from Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, edited by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick (Chapt. 12: Learning through Reflection).

“Teachers who promote reflective classrooms ensure that students are fully engaged in the process of making meaning. They organize instruction so that students are the producers, not just the consumers, of knowledge. To best guide children in the habits of reflection, these teachers approach their role as that of ‘facilitator of meaning making.'”

What Meaningful Reflection on Student Work Can Do for Learning says:

“For student reflection to be meaningful, it must be metacognitive, applicable, and shared with others. . . Metacognitive reflection, however, takes this process to the next level because it is concerned not with assessment, but with self-improvement: Could this be better? How? What steps should you take? As a result, metacognitive reflection can be used to develop resilience in the face of a challenge.”

15 Ways to Spark Student Reflection in Your Classroom provides excellent ideas that can easily be implemented into the daily routine.

As we practice more, reflecting will become second nature to our students. What an important skill for our children to have as they take charge of their own learning!

Table Blogging

What is more fun than writing on a table? You sure can’t do that at home – at least it probably shouldn’t be done!. This year, new round tables with a whiteboard surface were purchased for the Digital Learning Lab and the students could not wait to start writing!

To take advantage of the desire to write on the tables, we chose table blogging as a way to prepare for our online blogs.

First, we brainstormed traits that make a post one that people will want to read. 

The topic, because everyone enjoys food, was:  Favorite Food. Students were to consider these questions as they wrote:

  • Why do you like this food?
  • Where is the best place to get it? or “Who makes it”

The students set to work, making everyone hungry in the process!

When all were finished, we moved on to comments. Several years ago, I heard someone talk about penny vs dollar comments. Just as a penny doesn’t buy anything, a penny comment is basically worthless. It may be only one or two words. It doesn’t provide any feedback for the author. What we want to do as a commenter is to continue the conversation. A dollar (and up!) comment provides helpful feedback (I always have to say that does not mean you correct spelling!), asks questions, makes connections. It’s more than just a sentence!

To comment, we play a quick version of musical chairs. The students walk around then sit as soon as I have them stop. They are told to read the post as well as any comments that have already been written before writing anything. We do this about three times. Finally, they return to their seat to read their comments. I ask them to reply to at least one of their comments.

To wrap up everything, we discuss the types of comments received (without naming names). I want the students to determine the “value” of the comment mentioned and, if worth a penny, how it could be improved to become worth a dollar.

We hope this exercise will transfer to online blogs!

Here’s a sample of 4th graders working on their blogs and comments. 

More Table Blogging Videos: