The Hour of Code Returns

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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.

 

Book Lovers Rejoice – “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” Movie Trailer Released

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Have you ever had one of those days where it seems just about everything has gone wrong? Well if you have, you probably thought of this book and referred to your day as a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst is a childhood favorite for so many. In fact since its first publication in 1972, Alexander and his book have helped us to remember that while we often find comfort in commiserating over our terrible luck, things are really not that bad.

Disney has released a trailer for the movie, and I was thrilled to see the twist they put on this book! Take a look and let me know what you think about the trailer in the comments below!

Movie Trailer on YouTube

Symbaloo – A Wealth of EdTech Resources

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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

A WBT Freebie : Class – Yes Variations!

Class-Yes Variations Freebie

Class – Yes is one of the most important and effective strategies used in Whole Brain Teaching. Since I use it well over 50+ times a day, I try to keep it fresh to ensure that my kids are having fun. Here are some variations I put together as a poster that you too can hang in your classroom for inspiration! 

Click Here on this link to access my TPT store and download the document free. 

*Check back often as I am going to be adding a lot of WBT resources here.

Biblionasium – Keeping Readers Excited About Reading

Biblionasium

Engaging Young Readers

If you read my blog, you know I am a Pinterest addict. While many (thousands really) of my pins go unread, some of the resources I find on Pinterest are very exciting. One such resource that I stumbled upon recently is a website called Biblionasium (think GoodReads or Shelfari – for kids).

Biblionasium is a great tool to get kids excited and engaged in their reading. Research has shown us that in order to get students to read better, we must get them to read more. Biblonasium is working to do just that in my classroom.

The site is a social network that allows students to share recommendations with one and other, and review books they have read.  On the site, thousands of books are categorized by their Lexile scores (but can also be change to Guided Reading, DRA, or Reading Recovery)  and are displayed in personal virtual bookshelves. As you input books you read, they are placed on your bookshelf with your reviews and recommendations. What I love most about this is that the students are more passionate about what they read. This is because they are given the opportunity to think about how they felt about each book, and then share it with their peers. Where normally, they just grab a new book and move on.

Likes:

  • Has a very simple interface that is kid-friendly.
  • Teachers and parents have access to reports with information including time spent reading
  • Medals are awarded to students for participating on the site
  • Easy to involve parents and share vital information about their child’s reading habits with them
  • Ability to create challenges that engage students and get them reading longer!
  • Pre-made letters and emails to send to parents and get them involved!

Dislikes:

  • Set-up required me to manually input each student’s information. I would have preferred the ability to use a CSV file, which most other edtech sites use.
  • Students have a lot of confusion entering challenges, and so it would be nice if I could just enter them all myself.

Over winter break, I set up a Winter Reading Challenge to keep my students reading over the break, so that they wouldn’t lose all their reading stamina. While not all participated, it was nice to see that so many met the goal’s challenge of an impressive 200 minutes of reading!

Give the site a try, you will be happy you did!

Whole Brain Teaching Explored – The Scoreboard

The Scoreboard

How it Works

The Scoreboard is a great classroom management tool and class motivator! Simply make a Smiley/Frowney diagram on the front board. (Tip- Use Teacher vs. Students in secondary school.)

The students earn Smiley points or Frowny points depending on their behavior; and compete with their teacher for a reward. In our classroom this reward is usually a 2 minute dance break or 2 extra minutes of Mind Soccer.

When the students are on-task, they earn a smiley point and the teacher will place a tally mark on the smiley side of the chart. Once the marker is lifted from the mark, the teacher points to the students and they scream out, “Oh Yeah,” as they clap their hands once with excitement. This Mighty Oh Yeah is introduced to them as a 1 second party! (Who doesn’t love a party?) 

If the students aren’t following expected behaviors, they then receive a Mighty Groan. A tally mark is placed on the frowny side of the chart, earning the teacher a point. Once the marker is lifted the students give out a Mighty Groan – they call out in unison “ughhh” and shrug their shoulders up to the ears and quickly back down.

Keeping score continues throughout the day, or for a predetermined amount of time. It is important to never give out more than 3 frowny points in a row, without giving out a smiley point.  Tip– Never let the difference between Smiley and frowny points be greater than 3. If you reward too much, students lose energy –  the  game becomes too easy. If you punish too much, students become unhappy – the game is too hard! Keep it in balance and you will be amazed at how well it works!

Also, once the Scoreboard is established, work with the kids to come up with the rewards they would like to work towards, as well as consequences for the times that the teacher wins. This way you can create excitement and buy-in.

The Science Behind It

The Scoreboard  is directly linked to the limbic system’s emotions and the amygdala which registers pleasure (Mighty Oh Yeah!) and pain (Mighty Groan!) as students accumulate rewards and penalties.

Why Use It?

Goodbye stop lights, goodbye clip charts, and good-bye classroom management tools that require too much teacher input. The Scoreboard does it all, in a quick and easy to use format. I have found that with the Scoreboard I no longer need individual classroom management behavior plans, and that is why I will always keep it around. In the event you have a student who just will not fall into line, then check out this article on the WBT site which explains how to address these very students effectively: The Guff Counter

Keep It Fresh

The students might not react to the same motivator after it loses its novelty, so it is important to keep it fresh! Here are some ideas on how to switch it up: Scoreboard Variations

Check out the Scoreboard in our 3rd grade classroom!

Nearpod – “App”-tastic Way to Engage and Assess

Nearpod- Free App

Last month, I attended the Edscape conference held in New Milford, N.J., hosted by NMHS and principal Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal). I was delighted to be surrounded by fellow educators who shared a passion for technology and social media (seriously, I got to learn and tweet at the same time… amazing!). After an incredibly motivating and inspiring keynote speech by George Couros (@gcouros) we were off to break out sessions to learn more about specific ways to further integrate technology into our classrooms.

Not knowing what I was in for, I decided to visit a workshop on an app called Nearpod. About 3 minutes into the presentation, I was sold! Last year I relied heavily on the limited capabilities of the Socrative app to poll and assess my students. There is just no comparison between the two, and I am now a happy convert.

What is Nearpod?

Nearpod enables teachers to use their iPads to manage and send out content on students’ devices. This allows the teacher to set the pace and ultimately control what is on the students’ iPad. Nearpod is an interactive presentation that allows for engagement and the use of real-time assessment tools, all in one powerful app.

How Does Nearpod Work?

There are 3 basic components to the Nearpod experience : Create, Engage, and Assess

Create – Teachers login to the Nearpod site and create multimedia presentations with interactive features like quizzes, videos, polls, drawing tools, and more. For a fee, teachers can also access pre-made presentations from publishers and fellow educators.

Engage – In the classroom, teachers use the Nearpod iPad app, logged into Teacher end, to share content with their students and manage the flow of the lecture. Teachers simply provide the students with a short key, that allows the students to enter the session. Students use the Nearpod Student end of the app0 on their iOS devices to download and receive the curricular content, participate in activities and ultimately submit their individual responses.

Assess – The coolest part about this app is  that teachers can see students’ answers in real-time on the Nearpod Teacher app. In addition, to access post-session data, teachers can log in to http://www.nearpod.com and view detailed activity reports!

Take a Look at Nearpod in My Classroom  : Nearpod Video

Get Started Now!

To start using Nearpod you must download the Nearpod Teacher app (free) and create a free account. Next you need to download the Nearpod Student app on each student device. Now you are ready to amaze!

Some Helpful Links to Get You Started:

Nearpod Video Tutorials

Youtube Video : Getting Started with NearPod: Creating Presentations