As a teacher, I have always tried to communicate a lot with my students' parents. I have a class website with a blog feature where I keep a weekly log of what we are working on in class. I have open conversation with my parents via e-mail and phone calls. However this year I started on a team that uses Class Dojo and I have been so impressed at how much Class Dojo has increased my parent communications.
I know that Class Dojo is not a new website. I know many teachers who use it effectively as a way to help students monitor their behavior by giving out positive and negative dojo points. However, one of my favorite features of Class Dojo isn't the student points. It's not even the instant message with my students' parents (although that's been great for parent communication too!)
My favorite feature is the Class Stories section. This provides teachers with something similar to a Facebook newsfeed about what's going on in class. During the day, I take at least one picture of what is going on. Then, during planning or at the end of the day, I post the picture with a caption that prompts parents to ask their children something. For example after reading the second chapter of The Case of the Gasping Garbage, I asked the parents to ask their students what made the garbage gasp. I have had great feedback from the parents on posts like this. The parents like knowing what's going on, but they also like having specific questions to ask their children that go beyond "What did you do at school today?"
In addition, I can take pictures of important forms that have gone home and post them to the story as a way to remind parents of things that are coming home before they even get there. This helps a lot with papers that get "lost" on the way home from school.
Do you use Class Dojo in your classroom? Do you have any secrets to using it to increase class communication? Let's learn from each other, leave a comment so we can all use this app to the fullest!
You’ve picked out the perfect technology project for your students. You’ve given them a planning sheet with all the steps, and you’ve even given them an advance copy of the rubric so that they know what you are looking for. Everyone lines up and you set off for the computer lab OR you start your center rotation and they are working at computers in your room. The kids get on the computer and ask you – What’s my username and password? That’s when it hits you – you forgot to set up their accounts!!!! Oh the horror of wasted technology time due to missing usernames and passwords! The solution? Take time NOW to create accounts (or have students create accounts) for programs you think you will use during the school year.
Setting up student accounts ahead of time gives you and your students some distinct advantages:
1.) You’re ready for all kinds of projects – planned and unplanned (you know those great teachable moments!)
2.) The kids can play with the programs outside of school, or when they have finished their work, allowing them to figure out the programs BEFORE they have a big project due with this program.
3.) Students can show their parents the types of programs they will be using – helping parents to see that the technology they will use will not just be playing games, but will be using technology for educational purposes.
4.) When assigning a project, you can give students a choice of ways to present their work, empowering students to take control of their own learning. I started this with my Virtual Field Trip Project last year and the results were amazing!
Consider letting students create their own accounts, as long as they report their passwords to you.
1.) Demonstrate HOW to create an account before you ask students to create their own account.
2.) Have students use a password pattern so that they don’t forget their password. Find more details on this at my blog post about 10 Tips to Make Technology Integration Easier.
3.) Keep a record of each students’ usernames and passwords, in case students forget them or you need to get into their account for any reason.
So, what accounts should you have set up in the beginning of the year?
Even after 12 years of teaching, two of which were spent teaching only technology, I still forget some of these basics at the beginning of the year. So, I thought this list might be helpful if you are looking to add more technology to your day.
1.) Model EVERYTHING: I always forget exactly how much needs to be modeled until I start a new school year. At the beginning of the school year, you often need start with “This is a computer. This is the mouse and here is how you click and double click.” Don’t assume they know anything, because someone won’t. It won’t hurt those who do know to sit through one modeled lesson on how to access information, where to click etc. If you have access to a projector, it is nice to be able to show information on a projector. If you don’t, sit everyone around your computer and do it this way. (I’ve done this multiple times!)
2.) Take time to play with new technology yourself: A colleague of mine and I were talking the other day about those lessons where you set up the projector, ready to model a new technology and then the technology that you thought looked so simple does not work the way you had planned. I’ve done it, she’s done it, we’ve all done. Besides the fact that it is a waste of time, it is actually a good example to the kids that we are learning right along with them, lol! However, if you want to prevent this fate, the best thing to do is play around A LOT with whatever new technology you are trying to implement BEFORE you actually implement it.
3.) Teach basic steps – logging in, saving etc.: While you are modeling, be sure to take time to model how students are to log in, how they are to save their work, how they will open it up again next time etc. etc. If you are starting a new interactive website (LiveBinders, Storybird, EduBlogs etc.), give them their first time on the website to practice logging in. I always give students 2 days to create anything, and make it clear to them that if they have an issue logging in, they are to let me know on the FIRST day, so that we can fix the problem BEFORE there is an issue.
4.) Decide on password pattern and keep it the same: While you are modeling, go ahead and decide on a password pattern. Teaching students that passwords are their own and are private is important. However, in a classroom, I generally keep everyone’s password in a specific pattern (ie. msrakiJoseph123), so that when they forget what their password is, I’ll know what their password is. I also have them use the same password for everything,so that they don’t have 10 thousand things to remember. I do this for students below 6th grade. After 6th grade, you should begin to talk about the importance of having different passwords for different websites, but truly if they can’t log in to a site, they can’t do their work, and it becomes an issue of what skill you want to teach at this time. If you have an issue of students logging into each other’s sites “on accident”, an easy way to prevent that is to put a name into the password – first, middle, last, doesn’t matter, no one types someone else’s name on accident. If you have an issue of students logging into each other’s sites on purpose, then it is time to change passwords to include something like a student number or code word that is individual to that student.
5.) Don’t overwhelm yourself – or your students – choose one new thing at a time: There are so many amazing websites, apps and programs out there, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Generally, when this happens, people do one of two things. 1.) Some people put their hands up and try nothing. 2.) Some people try to do everything at once and then wear themselves and their students out. Choose one cool new thing to try, do it and do it well. Once you, AND YOUR STUDENTS, have the hang of it, try something else. Build your technology base a little at a time, and you’ll be amazed at all your students can do at the end of the school year.
6.) Create cheat sheets: Write out the steps students your students will need to do in order to use their new technology. Use screen shots (print screen and then CTRL V) to help students visualize what they are supposed to do. Here is a link to a cheat sheet I made for my students to help them start their EduBlogs.
7.) Remember that not all students come with the same background knowledge: Just like with math and reading, each student will come to you with a different amount of background knowledge regarding technology. Some students have been playing on the computer and iPad since they were 3 and they know exactly how to do things. Other students may come from a home where kids aren’t allowed to touch the computer. The amount of exposure, and the type of exposure that students have before they come to you will impact how quickly they will pick up new technologies. Give a technology survey, like the one included in my Beginning of the Year Forms, at the beginning of the year – ask students if what devices, how many devices and what kind of devices they have at home (computer, iPad, iPod, Kindle etc.), ask students how often they are allowed to use these devices. This information will tell you a lot about who will need help in those initial days of a new technology.
8.) Be prepared to go over the steps again, and again, and again: You’ve modeled, you written out the steps, you’ve made the cheat sheet, and still you will be asked “What am I supposed to do again?” Don’t lose it, just know that technology is a skill like everything else, and you’ll have to go over it multiple times before you students have it down.
9.) Think about the end product – how will they save? Where will they put it? Before you set students out to create a project, begin with the end in mind. Will they need to save? How and where will they save? Will they need to publish? How and where will they publish? Showing students these skills ahead of time will save you a lot of product when everyone is finishing their projects (at the same time) and they don’t know what to do.
10.) Share the success stories: One of the best parts about using technology is how easy it is to share, so be sure to share student work. E-mail it to the parents, post it on your blog, share it with your class on Edmodo. Students can also add their work to an Online Portfolio, and have a compilation of their work at the end of the year. Show your students how to share their own work and watch how they begin to create new, interesting projects, even after the assignment has ended.
What tips help you make technology integration successful in your classroom? Please feel free to add more tips in the comments, so that we can all learn from each other.
Top 10 Writing Websites for the Elementary ClassroomThere are so many great websites out there for Elementary students that I decided to put together some Top 10 Lists for websites to use in the upcoming school year. For the next few weeks, I’ll be posting lists of sites to use for various subjects. And feel free to leave a comment with any additional sites that might help everyone with this week’s subject – Writing.
Although I still do quite a bit of writing with my students in regular pencil and paper format with my writing journals (I have on for each Genre and you can download the pack for the whole year at my TPT store.) My students also spend quite a bit of time composing writing in front of the computer. I use these sites as both in class activities and homework assignments. In addition to being great publishing sites, most (not all) of these sites allow other students (and me!) to leave commentary on the student’s work, further enhancing the writing process.
1.) Storybird – This website allows students to choose from a variety of art sets and use the images to create online storybooks. I have used this site with Kindergarten through 5th grade, always with success. On a free teacher account, you can have up to 60 students and 3 classes under you. There are paid accounts if you need more than this. Students can order pdf and hard copies of their storybooks as well – for a free. The images the students use help to guide their story and provide ideas for details. My ESL students especially love having the pictures to draw from. The only downfall I have found from this site is that once you choose an art set, you are stuck with it for that story (there are generally 15 – 60 pictures in an art set), and if you can’t find the picture you want, you don’t have other options. (Find more info on how I use Storybird HERE.)
2.) Edublogs – This website allows you to set up student blogs for free if you set each one up individually. (If you want your class blogs connected, I’m pretty sure you have to pay for a premium account.) Students have access to a wordpress – type format, where they create blogs that are available for all to read. My students shared their blogs with other students in other countries (Bermuda and Wales) this year and swapped comments on the various blogs. It was a great way for them to learn about writing and about other countries. Check out the official blogging project at Global Teacher Connect. (Find more info on how I use Edublogs HERE.)
3.) Kidblog - Simillar to Edublogs, Kidblog allows you to create a blog for each student, but the blogs are not available to the public. Instead, you have a class space, and only students from their class can provide comments on student blogs. This provides more security, but less flexibility when it comes to sharing student work.
4.) Story Jumper – Similar to storybird, Story Jumper allows students to create online storybooks. The program is slightly more primary in appearance than storybird, but it has features storybird does not have, including allowing students to use a variety of clip art and even their own photographs. Students can order a hard copy of their book, but I haven’t found anyplace where they can comment on each other’s stories.
5.) Voki – While voki is generally thought of us a speech software program (Students design an avatar and record their voices to have the avatar speak.), it can also be a writing tool. Students can type in their writing and the avatar will “read” what they have written exactly as is. This is a great way for students to “hear” their writing read aloud, and has been an especially powerful tool for my ESL students. With Voki, as with most sites, there is a free edition and a premium edition. Free editions require each student to sign up separately, and give you less options on avatar choices.
6.) Little Write Brain – Like storybird and story jumper, Little Write Brain allows students to create online storybooks. However, Little Write Brain allows students to create characters, and gives them multiple “starter stories” that they can then add on to. Little Write Brain does not allow for printed books, but they do allow unlimited e-book creation. There is also nowhere for commentary, that I have seen.
7.) Google Docs – Many teachers use Google Docs for themselves, but don’t think to use them with their students. Google Docs can be an easy and efficient way for students to publish pencil and paper writing, or to simply compose new stories. However, Google Docs is even more powerful if you change the privacy settings. If you change the “edit” settings to allow just you and the student to edit – it provides a great commentary method, or could provide a virtual journaling format. If you change the “edit” settings further, you can allow students to all type on a story together, and create collaborative writing. This could also be a great format for peer editing.
8.) Prezi – Although Prezi is technically a “presentation” tool, I also use it quite a bit when it comes to writing. If you are writing speeches for any purpose, or informational or persuasive writing, Prezi is a go-to tool where kids can easily work on separating out their ideas. The arrows in Prezi help with connections or transitions between ideas, and fact that you can adjust the “path” helps kids identify which ideas link to which other ideas. I have had students create Prezi presentations as an “add on” to a paper they have written, and I have had them break up their ideas into a maneuverable Prezi, and then write a paper to go with it – using Prezi more as the brainstorming technique. (Find more info on how I use Prezi here.)
9.) Edmodo – Although Edmodo is technically a digital classroom space, it has provided a great space for my students to work on writing skills. Each time, my students have to “respond” to posts that have to do with what they read, what they learned from videos they watched, what stories they were writing etc. Their responses (think short answer questions), gave them a quick way to practice conventions and grammar on a daily basis. Based on their responses to nightly homework, I shaped grammar and vocabulary mini-lessons. This was especially important for my ESL students who, in addition to responding to nightly homework questions, also spent a lot of time “chatting” and sharing videos in the “chat room” group that I created for that purpose.
10.) Read Write Think – Read Write Think has many printables that teachers use to help students organize writing, but they also have a great resource called Student Interactives. These interactives provide students with interactive organizational tools for various types of writing, including biographies, comparing and contrasting and even poetry. Using these interactives before writing can help students to organize their thoughts.
For more resources to integrate technology into your classroom, check out my Technology Integration Kit.
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