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!

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: 

We Love Dot Day!

What a whirlwind week we had as we celebrated International Dot Day 2017! As students are beginning the school year, it’s such a fun way for them to remember that we ALL are creative in our own way and we can also “make our mark” in so many ways.

I’ve compiled quite a few Lower School activities in Thinglink, TVS Celebrates Dot Day 2017. Below, I’ll provide more detail than you’ll find in the above link.

Design Thinking and Dot Day in Grades 2 – 4:Like last year, I used The Launch Cycle, as a framework for a Dot Day Design Thinking project. Students were given a blank circle on a paper and partnered with a classmate. They were to interview each other and then design a dot for their partner that described that person. My goal in doing this was to get students to look outside of themselves. Sure, it’s easy to create something for yourself. It requires good listening skills to create for another person! (Click here to get a much more detailed explanation of the process.)

To be honest, I was a bit concerned that the children would complain that they did this last year and wouldn’t want to do it again. Over and over, though, I discovered that not only were they excited about repeating the activity, they remembered exactly WHO their partner was last year. AND, they could describe precisely WHAT their partner designed for them! I was amazed!!

One pair had worked together last year and somehow managed to end up as partners again. When I discovered that, my response was, “Oh dear! I’m so sorry that I didn’t catch that!” In a very matter-of-fact voice, one of the two replied, “That’s okay. We’ve changed in the past year so we’ll have different answers!” WOW!!

Another class came in rather loudly and I was having a some trouble getting their attention. I told them that we didn’t have to do the Dot Day activity. From the back of the room came a small voice, “Noooo! We have to do this!” I was amazed that one activity from a year ago made such an impression! 

Making Dots Come Alive with the Quiver App:

Our first graders used the Quiver app for their Dot Day activity. Because it’s difficult to color the dot and use the app in just 40 minutes, the children did their coloring before coming to class. When they arrived, we talked about how to use the app and I demonstrated with a dot I’d drawn. As the quiver app brought my picture to life, there were lots of oohs and aahs and they couldn’t wait to get started! I asked the children to do two things:

  1. Take a photo of the dot.
  2. Video the dot moving around.

Both are really easy to do within the app. Later, we uploaded the videos to their Seesaw portfolio to share with parents.

Flipgrid:

A latecomer to Flipgrid, I’d just started exploring it when International Dot Day rolled around so I really didn’t get to do as much with it as I’d hoped.

A few of our fourth graders added a video telling what they liked about Dot Day.

“Hi, my name is Julian and I loved the dot day project because you get to meet new friends and learn more things about them.” ~ comment from a 4th grader on our Flipgrid Dot Day grid.

Día Internacional de Puntos:

Once again our Spanish teachers incorporated Dot Day in their lessons. Sra. Ross worked with first graders creating Maya Spirit Animal Shields.

Using an idea from the Painted Paper in the Art Room blog, Costa Rican Oxcarts, Sra. Nedrelow guided her fourth graders to design oxcart wheels. Third graders designed beautiful flores!

Kandinsky Dots in Art:

Mrs. St. John, our art teacher, even had students create dots based on the work of Wassily Kandinsky. Her bulletin board displays were gorgeous!

There are SO many more activities that were done by our teachers! Be sure to view the Thinglink, TVS Celebrates Dot Day 2017, to see videos and more!

We LOVE celebrating International Dot Day!

4th Grade Fun with Ozobots and Dr. Seuss!

I’m not sure why but I hadn’t pulled out the Ozobots for the fourth graders this year so when they arrived at the lab and discovered Ozobots set out, they could hardly sit still to get instructions!

Needless to say, I presented the instructions in record time! Their job – add color codes and paths to the outline of the Cat in the Hat’s hat. iPads were set out so students could video their Ozobots. A few did that and then air dropped video to me so that I could add to what I took. Here’s a glimpse at what happened.

4th, Seuss & Ozobots from Trinity Valley School on Vimeo.

I would hear groans from students who couldn’t get their Ozobot to follow the code they thought they’d drawn. Then, I’d hear from someone else who announced that their code worked and they were more than happy to share tips on how to better draw effective codes.

Lesson learned for me – I need to do MUCH more of the exploration time for the students. Yes, there are times when I need to do direct instruction but watching the fourth graders interact reminded me how important it is to allow time for uninterrupted learning to occur.

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Blogging with a Twist

img_6687Although our students have been blogging since first grade, I always like to have the fourth graders start off with a paper blogging activity. After working with this age over a number of years, I’ve discovered that many become lax in their posts and comments; submitting writing that isn’t their best!

The paper blogging idea is not my own but comes from a post entitled, Workshop Activity: Paper Blogs, by Leonard Low. He used it with teachers to show that blogging is a “powerful strategy for empowering and engaging learners.”

Usually, the paper blogging takes two 40-minute sessions but I only had the students for one 30 minute class so it was a challenge to fit everything in, but we did it! We began with a quick review of what is okay to share and what should be kept private.

From the time we began blogging in first grade, I’ve discussed penny vs dollar comments/posts so the children can quickly tell me that just as a penny is worth hardly anything, penny writing is just as worthless. A penny comment might be only one word. Or it could be something like “great” or “wow” – words that don’t really tell anything to the writer. Penny posts lack detail or don’t make sense. Dollar posts paint a picture for the reader; adding details that help the reader make connections. Dollar comments ask questions, make specific compliments, keep the conversation going.

Using the food idea from Mr. Low’s post, I asked the students to think about their favorite food. What was it? Where was the best place to get it (home, restaurant)? What made it so special? I gave them 10 minutes to write and most were able to finish.

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We then discussed tags. Everyone could tag this as “food” and then they could add additional tags.

The next step was commenting. Each student had 3 sticky notes. They were to move around the room till I told them to stop. Once at that spot, they were to read the post then write a comment on the sticky note.

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Normally, we’d have time for 4 or 5 comments but with our shortened class period, two was the limit. The third sticky note was for each student to return to their post to respond to one of their comments.

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An important part of the lesson is to discuss the quality of comments. I asked for volunteers to share what they considered to be “dollar” comments. And, there were many! We then moved on to “penny” comments with the rule that no names should be shared. As this was discussed, we also brainstormed how to transform a penny comment to a dollar one.

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I’m eager to see if the quality seen in the paper blogging transfers to our online blogs next week!

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Sharing Our Book

Recently the fourth grade classes worked in small groups to create a Lego ABC book to share with kindergarteners. (Click here for post about making the book.)

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Our sharing took place on a beautiful afternoon so we gathered the iPads, the kinder students chose a “big” kid for a partner, and off we went. The little ones were enthralled with the 4th graders but what surprised me is how well the older students did with their young charges!

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While the big kids weren’t too eager to hold hands with the little ones (that was my suggestion that fell flat!), they were great at keeping them entertained with the book, talking to them, asking about their interests.

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The only problem we encountered was getting too far away from buildings and then we’d lose Wi-Fi. But, that was an easy fix.

We returned to the lab with a few minutes to spare. That allowed time to finish viewing the Lego Book and share other apps.

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It was a really good experience for our oldest Lower School students to interact with our youngest ones! Looking at the smiles on faces makes these kinds of activities worth every minute.

 

4th Graders + 1st Graders + Ozobots = Great Learning!

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased 8 Ozobots. Ozobots are small robots that can be “programmed” by using a series of color combinations (OzoCodes) drawn by markers on white paper. These were introduced to a 4th grade class that just happened to have some skilled Ozobot users!

After watching a couple of the students, I decided to ask their teacher if they could share their knowledge with a first grade class who happened to also have some college student observers from TCU.

We got permission and I presented the plan to two students who were absolutely thrilled to be asked! They suggested two others so we ended up with a fabulous group of four! I was a bit concerned that they would be somewhat intimidated by the college students. Didn’t even cross their minds – one boy told me, “No problem! I can teach the college kids.”

The fourth graders arrived before class started. They had spent their weekend drawing Ozobot paths to share with the younger ones!

The first graders were in awe of the older students! One little girl stated, “I just love these 4th graders coming to teach us Ozobots.”

What leaders these older students are! Our four young teachers were amazing! They all walked around providing tips and offering any guidance needed to make sure the little ones (and the college students) were successful at drawing codes for the Ozobots.

At one point, one of the fourth graders pulled me aside to share, “Uh, Mrs. Arrington, that little boy is getting marker on the table. What can I use to clean it up?”

And, as the older students left, I was asked, “Can we come back next week and teach?” We will definitely have to make that happen!