My school district sponsored a fantastic technology conference this summer with ideas on technology for teachers and students. I was lucky enough to present at this conference, and you can find a video of my presentation in this past blog post. In addition to being able to share information about using technology in math instruction with other teachers, I was able to attend all of the other sessions. The amount I learned from the other teachers was tremendous. So today I'd like to pay that forward and share some of what I learned with you guys.
Here are 10 different tech tools that I'd never heard of before this conference.
1.) Peardeck - This presentation tool allows you to upload Power Point or Google Slide presentations. You can then share these presentations with your students in a format that they cannot edit. However, they can follow along on their own screen. Additionally, you can add questions and polls to make your presentation more interactive, as well as allowing for formative assessments.
2.) Adobe Spark - Getting students to work on graphic design is always a great way to add to research presentations because it increases engagement and exposes students to methodologies that they can use as grown ups. With Adobe Spark, students get to use graphic design to create webpages, images (think pinterest infographics), flyers, photo collages or narrated videos. It's almost like Publisher online! I'm going to have my students start out the year by creating a picture collage about themselves WITHOUT using any pictures of themselves. How could you integrate this?
3.) DeckToys - The big trend at my school for the one-to-one classrooms is hyperdocs. If you haven't checked out hyperdocs yet, they're worth a look and I'll have a blog post coming up shortly that addresses just them. However, at the conference we learned about a took that takes hyperdocs to the next level (and beyond), if you have the time to make them. In a hyperdoc, students use a document with embeded links to guide them through a lesson or a unit (similar to a webquest). With DeckToys, the students do all of the same things, but it feels to the students like they're playing a video game.
From the student side, they see a map with tasks that they have to complete in order to move on to the next task. As a teacher, you can embed videos, create drag and drop games, flash cards and questions as the tasks. It's a fairly straightforward system. I created a game for our first story in a couple of hours. While I probably won't use a DeckToys for every lesson, it's definitely something I want to include in my students' learning. I'd also love to turn the tables and get my kiddos creating their own games for each other!
4.) Scratch and Starlogo Nova - Coding! There are so many ways to work on coding with students, but these two sites were presented at the conference. Both allow students to use "puzzle pieces" to create code for a small avatar. This visual model guides students through boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) and If....then statements. If only as an "early finisher" activity, these are great sites and every class should get a chance to experience them!
Learning & Practicing Websites
5.) Wordsmyth - Unlike the other websites on this list, this website was not the focus of an entire session. It was one of those websites that came up in conversation, but it's awesome. Wordsmyth is a great online dictionary that includes 3 levels of definition for each word, synonyms, pictures, pronunciation and word parts. I completely plan on using this website within my vocabulary instruction this year!
6.) Quizlet - With this website you can create and share flash card sets with your students. These can be vocabulary words or any other matching activity. Students can practice the flash card set in multiple ways including matching, typing, playing games and even taking a quiz. It's a great way to introduce students to a new topic or to review before a test. Students can even take a turn creating their own quizlets!
Google Chrome Extensions
7.) Google Keep - This is one of those tools that will truly change the way you organize your time. I have started using it at home, and it's incredibly helpful! But the truth is it's just a virtual form of post it notes. It's funny how the simple ones are always the game changers, right?
Within Google Keep, you (and your students) can create and share to-do lists or take notes. You can also save specific websites and documents as links into these online post it notes. And you can color code different categories or subject areas.
In the classroom, this means students can take notes on a research topic and share it with their group mates. It means they can create a group to-do list and each check off tasks that get done. It also means YOU can make personalized or group lists and share them with your students. You can then see their progress through the list.
Outside of the classroom, you can create and share lists with your PLC or grade level team. You can use different colors to quickly see school checklists next to at home checklists. I even use it for my grocery list! (It's so satisfying to see items I've purchased disappear from my list!)
8.) Stop Motion Animator - Stop Motion Animator is not actually new to me, but I've only used it on a tablet in the past. I had no idea that there was a Google Chrome Extension that would give you access to the program - as long as your computer has a camera. The presenter who showed us Stop Motion Animator was actually using it with PreK students and the results were amazing. The students used stuffed animals and their Chromebook to create a video re-telling of a story they had read. It was simple to do. They worked in groups, and they showed real understanding of the story. If PreK students can do that, I can't wait to see what my 3rd graders can do when I set them lose on it.
9.) Snap & Read - Another Chromebook Extension that will change the lives of your students, especially your struggling readers. This extension allows your students to have any website or PDF read to them. Read that sentence again - an extension that will read aloud to your students ANY WEBSITE, ANY PDF, ANY DOCUMENT. It also has a feature which will simplify texts, define terms and translate texts into languages.
Think about how much easier it will be for a student with dyslexia if they can have their exit tickets given to them in PDF format and then have this extension read it to them, as many times as they like. They can do research just like the rest of the class and they won't feel like they're different. Honestly this is the tool I got the most excited about because I had 4 students this year who could have benefited greatly from this tool.
10.) Co-Writer - This Chromebook Extension is the opposite of Snap and Read. Instead of reading for your struggling students, it will write for them. Students speak into a microphone and the program writes out the sentences they say. It will read it back to them and allow them to change their spelling and grammar as needed. But the idea is that students can go ahead and write out their essay without stressing out over every single word.
I know this is a long, somewhat overwhelming list. It's a whole conference full of materials! But please bookmark it so that as the school year begins you can revisit the list and see which of these tech tools will best help your students. Also, feel free to share it with your PLC or teaching team. The more we learn from each other the better we all do for our students!
Beyond Word Processing: Why We Should Replace Typing Time with Technology Infused Math Lessons - and How We Can Do It Without Losing Our Sanity
This summer I had the opportunity to present about math technology in the elementary classroom at my district's Technology Conference. We have a wide range of technology in my district, ranging from a couple of computers to one on one Chromebook classrooms. So I needed to present ideas to these teachers which would help them learn about technology and math in elementary no matter what technology they had.
Technology at the elementary level is often used for typing essays and doing research. My presentation was about why and how we should be using it for technology based math lessons too! After the presentation I had multiple teachers stop and thank me for the information and ideas I had shared with them. So I decided to share a similar presentation here for you. I have recorded my presentation and below you will find the video, as well as the links to websites that I discuss in my presentation. I hope it will help you to infuse technology into your math lessons, making your technology time more impactful.
SAMR Technology Model
In my presentation, I use the SAMR model for technology. This model encourages teachers to look at the different ways they are using technology. It explains that technology can be used as a:
substitution for what you are already doing, like using virtual flash cards instead of paper ones or typing up something that could easily be written on paper.
augmentation to what you are doing, where the technology gives the assignment a little boost, but isn't irreplaceable. For example, websites like Khan Academy help us differentiate and using formatting tools makes our essays look better, but neither can't be done with paper/pencil tasks.
modification of an assignment that begins to take the task to the next level. This is where the assignment begins to NEED technology in order to work. You can do modification tasks like creating presentations or completing complex projects without technology, but it would be a lot more work. Modification often allows us to be willing to try out more complex tasks with our students because the technology is making the task easier for us and our students. A lot of project based learning and connecting with other classes falls under modification.
reinvention of a task into something unheard of before technology. These are the tasks that you wouldn't be able to complete WITHOUT technology. This is where coding and video making start to come into play and this is where students start to truly immerse themselves into the technology. This, of course, is also where some of the highest levels of thinking happen.
In my video I make it very clear that although we should all aspire to use technology as a reinvention tool when we can, teachers and students should be working at all levels of the SAMR model, just as we work at all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Here is the video with specific examples on how to do just that:
Links and Resources
Within the video, I discuss a wide range of websites and technologies. Here are quick and easy links to those resources:
- Websites for "online flash cards": Math Magician, Sumdog
- Google documents
- Online Math Games
- Math teaching videos and activities with Khan Academy
- Math practice websites that track student data and allow for specific differentiation:
Free: Prodigy Zearn
Paid: IStation IXL
- Google Forms
- Google Sheets
- Presentation Sites: Prezi, Google Slides
- Video creation websites: Powtoon, Screencast-o-matic, IXplain
- Video game creation websites: Tynker, Scratch
- Website creation and online portfolio websites: Google Sites, Live Binder, Weebly
The challenge from my video is also a challenge for my readers: Come up with a way that you can use technology in your math lessons at least once a week (once a day if you have a one-to-one ratio) during the upcoming school year. Please feel free to post your ideas here i the comments so we can learn from each other!
In the meantime, here are a few resources from my Teachers Pay Teachers store that may help you along the way:
Math and Technology Project Matrix (Free)
Technology Integration Bundle
Tutorial Video Creation Planning Sheet
Have a great day!
Any veteran teacher will tell you that classroom management affects learning. If you don't have some tools in your tool box for managing the behavior of a challenging class, all of the amazing lesson plans in the world won't help you. Classroom management can include classroom reward systems, raffle books, treasure boxes, blurt beans, beat the teacher competitions and so much more. However, management must be more than just rewards. It also must be about relationships and expectations.
Classroom Management Ideas - the Basics:
Successful Classroom Reward Systems
Not every reward system will work for every student, so it is important to have a variety of ways for students to earn rewards and a variety of rewards they can earn. Here are some ways students can earn rewards that have worked well in my classroom:
Classroom Reward That Don't Break the Bank
Classroom rewards are wonderful, but even when you're using the dollar store and oriental trading, they add up! So here are some ways to have rewards without spending your entire paycheck.
Most third grade teacher and students are familiar with Google Slides. My students LOVE creating slide shows about their research or about other topics that interest them. (I can't tell you how many slide shows I've read about dogs!) However, this year I stumbled on a cool upgrade to Google Slides - the collaborative slide show!
In order to create a collaborative slide show, you create a slide show that has at least one slide for each student and you share the slide show, on edit mode, with the entire class. This way the kids can each work on their slide seperate of their friends, but they can see the work their friends are doing. This works great with a one-to-one device situation like having Chromebooks in the classroom, but I have used it in a classroom of just 3 computers. Students do not all have to be working at the same time, they can simply go to the slide show when they go to the computer center.
A few management tips:
- Students need to know in advance which slide is their slide. In my classroom the students have numbers, so I often just have them work on the slide that coordinates with their number. However, students can choose a number from a hat or be assigned which number slide to work on, depending on the needs of your project. Some projects they may even need 2 slides.
- Students will lose the link, so make sure that you post the link to the editable version in some place accessible to them - in your Google Classroom or Edmodo or even on your class blog, just some place they can access easily.
- If someone's work "disappears", try going to File - Version History. You can then make a copy of the old version and copy and paste the deleted work back into the slide show. (This happens more than you think with 24 students all working in one document!)
- When you are done working, it is possible to change the share settings so that students can no longer edit. This comes in handy if you want a finished product!
Collaborative slide shows have a lot of uses, here are just a few:
1.) Create a class book or "online magazine" where each student's slide is their writing on a specific topic. For example, my students each researched a different rock using my rock project. Then we used their informational writing to create a rock magazine.
2.) Create a problem of the day (math word problem) slide show where each student's slide has the same problem (or different if you want to differentiate). Students can work on their problem, showing their work with sentences and drawings (insert drawing or insert shape). Then students can compare their own thinking with the thinking of their classmates.
3.) Create a slide show to completely explain and explore a story you are reading in class. Each slide can have a prompt or question about the story like characters or connections. Students can each complete one slide, and then as a class you have a full slide show explaining and describing the story.
4.) Create a vocabulary slide show for any subject. Type one vocabulary word in the title section of each slide. Each student explains their vocabulary word using sentences and images. You may give them a list of what needs to be on each slide (definition, examples, non-examples, etc.) or you may allow them more leway to describe the word in any way they see fit. Once all of the words are described, the class can review the slide show and add or subtract if necessary.
5.) At the beginning of the school year (or any other time your students need reminding) have your students create an expectations slide show. In the title section of each slide, type an area of the classroom or school, or a material they will use. On their slide, the students define what the expectations are for using that area or material. Then as a class you can review the slide show and add or subtract if necessary.
How else could you use collaborative slide shows in your classroom?
The end of the school year is one of the hardest times to engage our students. One way that I engage my students at the end of the school year is with room escape games. At the beginning of the last month of school, we write ESCAPE ROOM in bold letters on our calendar for one of the last days of school. Students know that misbehavior can keep them from the Escape Room, so this helps give them a carrot to work towards during those difficult to focus spring days.
The Escape Room itself takes us about 2 hours and it's a very engaging 2 hours for the class. Even those who do not escape tell me they had fun trying. I have tried to make the experience as similar to an escape room puzzle that you would pay for as an adult, while still making it educational and appropriate for my kiddos.
For the escape room, I break my class into 3 groups. Each group has colored clues to follow. The clues I use are all math problems for topics they should have mastered. Once they solve the clues, they use them to unlock envelopes. Inside some of the envelopes are harder problems. The answers to these problems help students to unlock other envelopes, which have brainteaser type problems in them. These brainteasers lead them to the prize, which unlocks the classroom.
Students work on so many skills with the escape room. They do math. They work as a group. They strategize. They divide and conquer. I love watching the real thinking that happens. I also love that they think it's a party when they're showing me their thinking much more than on any test I've ever given!
Right now I have escape rooms available for 2nd grade math review and 3rd grade math review in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I hope to get some more made up during this summer vacation. What type of escape room would you like to use with your students?
It's that lovely time again - test prep season, especially with PARCC right around the corner. Apparently the monthly iStation test, the three times a year NWEA/MAP test and the curriculum's unit tests are not enough to inform me as a teacher who in my class needs help. (Never mind the fact that as a teacher, I can tell you who is struggling with what simply by reading with them or working through a math problem with them.) Now, they need to prove their proficiency on the PARCC test. Whatever. I normally don't care. I don't like standardized tests, and I've written before about how the time we spend testing (and prepping) for standardized tests could be better spent elsewhere. But, I don't normally feel as resentful of the tests as I do with PARCC.
This is only my second year administering the PARCC, as I was homeschooling and teaching overseas when Common Core and PARCC came into fruition. (And let me say I'm actually a fan of the idea behind a common set of standards and a common test, I'm just not a fan of THIS test). This is also the first year I really looked deeply at the "proficiency report". I was astonished to realize, by using the NWEA to PARCC relationship scale, that the PARCC is set up so that students must be ahead of the pack in order to be considered "proficient".
The NWEA is a norm referenced test which allows us to compare our students to the thousands of other students who take the same test (My students at an international school in Morocco took the same test.) and see if they are doing better or worse than the average. PARCC is a standards based test which only tests if students can do exactly as they are asked, which as a side note wouldn't be a bad thing except that PARCC overtests certain standards (such as the ability to write an essay comparing and contrasting two texts or the ability to find one specific quote in a story that justifies your answer to a question) and undertests other standards (such as determining the point of view of the author or using text conventions).
Now, the word proficient means that someone is competent. It means they can do what we ask of them, but maybe not go above and beyond. It's equivalent to "average", but apparently not on the PARCC. According to the NWEA's website, in order for a student to be proficient on the PARCC, they have to be scoring in the 65th percentile or better in 2nd grade. By 8th grade, they have to be scoring in the 75th percentile. This means that only the top 1/3 to 1/4 of students will be considered "proficient". Let that sink in for a second, we are purposely telling the majority of our students that they are not proficient.
This means that the majority of students who score at the "average" score on NWEA/MAP will score "approaching proficiency" on PARCC. This, in my mind, changes "proficient" from meaning "average" to meaning "perfect" or at least "advanced". We are expecting perfection, or at least advanced skills, out of every students and then telling them that even if they achieve this, they're only average. How defeating is that? Additionally, this means that struggling students will never reach the "proficient" level. They will grow up their entire life feeling they aren't good enough.
Now I'm all for realistic goals and high expectations. I DO NOT believe in giving students gold stars just for showing up. I think that students need to be pushed to read harder and more challenging texts and to think critically in math. But I also believe in developmentally appropriate activities. The PARCC texts and questions are not developmentally appropriate. It's like asking a Kindergartener to read a chapter book. Just because a few Kindergarteners can read chapter books doesn't mean that everyone should be able to, or that they should be looked down on if they can't. And if our students don't score well on the PARCC, they will be told they aren't good enough. They aren't proficient.
And because I'm their teacher, if they aren't proficient, it's my fault. My evaluation will be linked to their scores. So we are expecting perfect students and perfect teachers. Gee, I wonder why morale is so low in our schools.
I'm not sure how to change the system without personally creating a more fair assessment, but I do feel if we all stand up and say this system makes no sense, then we can work towards a better future for our students. In the meantime, I have told my students that all I expect out of them is their personal best (especially since I won't see the scores for the test until they are no longer my student). I refuse to stress out my students (or myself) over a test that expects perfection out of 3rd graders.
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