The Hour of Code Returns

hour_of_code_certificate-1

If you haven’t yet figured out how to incorporate Computer Science (CS) into your classroom, than the Hour of Code is perfect for you! And if you already are incorporating CS into your classroom, than the Hour of Code is a fun way to introduce students to different Computer Science programs that they may want to explore on their own.

This year I was lucky enough to be selected to be on the Hour of Code and CS Ed Week Review Committee, so I can tell you firsthand there are many exciting projects to choose from – and more coming soon! Check out the committee here (Shameless Plug)!

What is the Hour of Code?

The Hour of Code is a global Computer science movement that reaches tens of millions of students in countries all over the world. The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week. The 2016 Computer Science Education Week will be held December 5-11. Hour of Code activities are easy to implement and give students exposure to CS concepts. It includes both online and offline (unplugged) activities aimed at making students excited about learning more about Computer Science.

Why Should I Participate?

Computer science is said to open more doors for students than any other discipline in today’s digital world.  It is important that digital natives learn not only how to be consumers of technology, but also producers of technology. As educators, we should equip our students with the skills they need to succeed in the career’s of the future, and computer science does exactly this.

In addition, what I love about computer science is how it teaches a kid to persevere and practice a growth mindset. Things will get tough, they will struggle, and they will learn this is the path to success.

How Do I Get Started?

Check out Code.org’s site to get started! Do not be scared, the highlighted activities were all selected for teachers with NO EXPERIENCE. So pick one and happy coding! Stay tuned for some exciting new updates to be released soon too! Need help getting started. Feel free to reach out to me so I can help.

 

Brain Breaks 2.0 – GoNoodle

GN.png

I have been incorporating brain breaks into my classroom for over 5 years now using my trusty brain break cards. However, last year the Wellness Teacher introduced me to GoNoodle and I am hooked.

If you are a teacher, I probably do not have to tell you about the importance of frequent breaks for learners. But in case you haven’t heard of this new craze, a brain break is simply a break for your brain that incorporates some movement. Although it sounds disruptive, these quick breaks actually increase engagement and stamina in students.The short periods of exercise improve the physical health, mental awareness and educational success of children.

GoNoodle is like youtube for brain breaks. A free account allows you to set up a class and watch videos that vary in length and content. After selecting an avatar, you can make it grow and morph as you accumulate time spent watching videos. Check it out and I know you and your student will be glad you did.

Types of Video

  • indoor recess videos
  • yoga
  • mindfulness
  • guided dance
  • free movement
  • kinesthetic learning
  • calming
  • stretching
  • test readiness
  • zumba

Since it is testing season, I should highlight the video – Take a Breath. My students really enjoy doing this before any test prep activities!

Get Your Tech’ On – NYSCATE 2015

download (1)

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the NYSCATE conference in Rochester. It was of course an amazing experience. I was so happy to get together with like-minded educators using technology in their classrooms to collaborate and innovate.

I learned so many great things and was reminded about a great deal of other things, which I have used in the past but I have since forgotten about. In order to make sure I didn’t let the excitement and learning fade away with the business of running a 4th grade classroom, I decided to implement a plan to try some new things by the end of this week.

Plickers: This has been on my ‘to try list’ for what seems like forever. Plickers is a formative assessment teacher tool that requires only one device. Students are given cards (tip:print them out on cardstock) which they simply hold up in a certain direction, indicating a multiple choice answer. Then all you need to do is scan the room using your device’s camera. How great is that!

Genius hour While not as easy to implement, I am so excited to bring Genius Hour and Passion Projects to my classroom. Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. From their website: It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school. The teacher provides a set amount of time for the students to work on their passion projects.  Students are then challenged to explore something to do a project over that they want to learn about.  They spend several weeks researching the topic before they start creating a product that will be shared with the class/school/world.  Deadlines are limited and creativity is encouraged.  Throughout the process the teacher facilitates the student projects to ensure that they are on task. (www.geniushour.com).

Gafe– Google acts like a second brain to me, so why shouldn’t my kids also use it to empower them? Our school launched Google apps for the teachers last year, but this year I want to make it my mission to get Google Classroom and Gafe (Google apps for education) up and running! I learned so many amazing ways to support my students and their learning that I cannot wait to get started.

Sway– Microsoft is not a company I knew much about prior to the conference, but I was blown away with all they have created (for free) for the classroom. My absolute favorite was Sway. One thing that resonated with me at the conference was how “its not about the technology, but it’s about the work.” Aligning with this mindset, Sway presents itself as a great tool because it doesn’t require a massive amount of training to use. Sway is an easy-to-use digital storytelling app. It allows users to create and share interactive reports, presentations, personal stories, and more. And you and your class can use it (and all of Microsoft’s apps) for free!

Beware the Summer Slide! How to Keep Students Engaged in Math During the Summer

Image

Summer is just around the bend, and I know this because my classroom is slowly starting to resemble a sauna more and more. With only a few short weeks of the school year left, it is time to start proactively planning how to keep your students engaged in math practice over the summer. Let’s be honest, that is never going to be an easy task. Sun, beach, pool, camp and multiplication. It just doesn’t have that same appeal does it? However, we all know too well the dangers of the “summer slide” so it’s up to us to do our best to combat this inevitable evil. Research shows that summer learning loss in Math is an issue that impacts every student, with students losing an average of 2-3 months of math comprehension each summer. Yikes!

Luckily however, this difficult conundrum does have an easy and free solution. So what is this panacea to the problems all teachers face when summer rolls around and student are set free? Well it is technology of course! Below you will find some web based strategies to keep your kids eagerly practicing their math facts all summer long.

Sumdog – A game-based free website that students can practice their math skills in a fun and engaging format. If you haven’t read my previous review of this website, take a look here! Your students will be begging you to let them go online and practice their skills, what’s easier than that?

Tenmarks – FREE THIS SUMMER! (a $29.95 value) All it takes is 20 minutes, three times a week on this site, and your students will be able to reverse summer learning loss. Go to the site now and download the brochure, in English or Spanish, and disseminate this powerful information to your parents! Before you say goodbye to the kids for the summer, get them on the site playing to get them hooked and keep them wanting more!

XtraMath– You know that I cannot sing enough praise for this site and the wonders it has worked to improve math fluency in my classroom. While it is not a game-based learning site, it still remains an invaluable resource for improving automaticity of math. (See my previous blog post here to learn more about this). While the kids might not be jumping up and down to do more XtraMath, I propose that you keep it going during the summer. Allow students to complete XtraMath first, earning them time on one of the other GBL sites. Since it only takes 5-10 minutes tops, they will be able to get through the review fast, making it a win-win for everyone! In your teacher account, you have the option to print out personalized Summer Flyers for each of your registered students. So hit print and keep those kids who haven’t mastered all their facts rocking and rolling! They’ll math scores later on in the year will teach them that hard work does indeed pay off!

If you have any other summer resources, please share! Enjoy the last few weeks of this school year, I know we are!

Image

Domo – Excite and Create with Animation Presentations

Image

I am on a constant quest to find new sites and #edtech resources to integrate into my classroom. Today’s students are digital natives who have the potential to do so many great things with computers and technology. That is why I feel a huge part of my job is to expose them to different types of technology, websites, and ways of doing things. In addition to this, I also realize the potential that technology has to allow students who might struggle with a pencil and paper assignment, to showcase their knowledge in a more appropriate way. I love when these students blow me away with a digital presentation that showcases all the skills and knowledge they have acquired!

Working with special need students over the years, I have learned the importance of allowing students to exhibit their acquired knowledge in a way that was easily accessible to them. As teachers, this requires a shift of thinking while creating a lesson. It requires us t put more weight on what we want the student to know (our lesson’s objective), and less on how we want them to display this knowledge to us (the product). By differentiating the product stage of the lesson, we allow students to show us what they know, without hindering them with activities that involve skills (which aren’t this particular lesson’s objective) that might hinder their ability to express their thoughts and ideas.

One such resource I found is DomoAnimate! My kids always love new sites, because they are “novel”
and the brain loves novelty. However, they LOOOOOOVEEEE this site! We are currently using DomoAnimate for a social studies unit on community (which I will post more about in an upcoming lesson when they are done), to produce group animations about life lessons every kid should know. (#whathekidsneedtoknow)

After what was a brief 5 minute introduction of the different aspects of the site, my students were off and creating. The interface of Domo is super easy to learn; it just takes a few clicks here and there, and you are off creating wonderfully entertaining animations. In fact, my students loved it so much, almost all of them went home that night and created their own (FREE!!!) accounts and made their own animations. This waswithout being assigned any homework to do so. I love it when they get this excited about things.

Brief Overview of DomoAnimate

The site is powered by GoAnimate, and it is a free animation site. Students are able to animate characters of their choice and they can add unique backgrounds, music, and sound effects too.  They can also add speech as text bubbles or add interactive elements for story-telling activities.  The website has a very easy to learn interface, with a drag and drop platform that is familiar to students. The best part is that students can make their characters come to life, as each character has a set of actions and emotions that can be added by simply clicking on the character and selecting from a drop-down menu. Domo animations can be embedded on websites or blogs, and can be shared either publicly or privately.

How Can I Use It In My Classroom?

While the possibilities are endless, here are a few ways I came up with.

  • Book Report
  • Trailer for a Book
  • Biographies – animating a subject’s life
  • Interviewing a character from a book
  • Interviewing a historical figure
  • Public Service Announcements
  • How-to-Videos
  • Bullying Prevention Videos
  • Social Issues
  • Illustrating Vocabulary Words (they won’t forget them after that)
  • Illustrating real-world math concepts
  • Sequencing

Have more ideas. Please share by placing them in the comments below! 

Click here for a video one of my students went home the first day and made. Pretty impressive for only have used in one day!

 

Symbaloo – A Wealth of EdTech Resources

 SymbalooEDU copy

SymbalooEDU

Pinterest is a great resource for teachers that I constantly use, except that this year I found myself blocked at work! Looking for an alternative means to share resources and websites with fellow colleagues, I came across SymbalooEDU. For what I was looking for it worked perfectly and it also had an added bonus- it is already full of tons of EdTech resources!

What It Is

SymbalooEDU is a free, fully customizable, educational tool that allows teachers (or students) to save their online resources in the cloud with access from any device. It is very similar to Pinterest, however it differs in that it doesn’t require an image to pin. User adds “tiles” (sites saved as a tile) to a “webmix” (collection of tiles) and can easily share them with colleagues and/or classes.

Why I Love It

  • Teachers can easily save their favorite Web2.0 sites to a “webmix” with just a few clicks.
  • Registered users can access resources available on any device.
  • There are tons of already great webmixes out there that you can easily search for, and add to your collection.
  • When you update a webmix, even after you’ve shared it, those you shared it with will also see any changes you’ve made automatically.
  • Makes collaboration seamless!

How I Use It

I created a great homepage webmix for my classroom computers, so students don’t waste time typing in long URL’s or searching for a bookmark! It’s also available on my class homepage and Edmodo page, so students can access these sites at home quickly! Last, it has allowed me to store and share many Common Core Resources with fellow teachers, as well as helping me to locate a wealth of new ones.

Boards I Like:

Common Core Resources

K-2 Sites

EDU Tools

SmartBoard Widgets

Elementary Ed Websites for Math

Common Core Resources :

20140116-063350.jpg

Common Core Resources for ELA

As our district, and districts nationwide, dig deeper into the Common Core, the need for supplemental materials is becoming evident. Until our curriculum is fully aligned, we need additional activities and resources to ensure our kids are receiving the instruction they need to achieve the standards set forth in the CCSS.
I have compiled a list of websites that I have shared with my colleagues that are full of great resources. It seems as though there is already a ton of free stuff out there, it’s just that finding it sometimes seems like a daunting task. Rather than pay for these resources, I think if we educators continue to band together, we can avoid some of the already compounding costs the Common Core is forcing our districts to allocate to it’s development.
Please share this list with your colleagues, and please also share any other helpful sites/ resources that you could add to this list, in the comments section below.
Happy Teaching!