One of the changes I wanted to make with my classroom this year was to make sure that they were sharing their learning with others. When you give students an opportunity to share their work outside the classroom walls, they typically will produce better work.
Padlet was one tool that I wanted to use more with my students. We use them a lot for literacy tasks. Students are writing book reviews, sharing current events, as well as keep track of their reading logs.
Students have the ability to type in their response or record videos. If you want to have extra long videos, I would recommend their Backpack package, which is $5/month or $45/year.
With me transitioning from 4th grade from 1st, I knew it would be a good time to switch things up a little bit in terms of classroom design. The funny part about me moving grade levels and classrooms is that my new classroom has the exact same dimensions and is in the same spot, but just on the opposite side of the school (our building is set up with hallways for K-2 and 3-5).
I'll admit that I hate theme. I know that hate is a strong room, but I don't understand why people spend hundreds of dollars to have all these decorations around their classroom. Do lights, crazy furniture, things hanging down from everywhere really help the learning environment in your classroom? Research can always be skewed, but I really doubt it. I believe less is more when it comes to decorations and too much can be very distracting.
Over the summer I heard a quote from Kristin Ziemke that really stuck with me. I'm not a person that is a huge fan of quotes and they hardly ever speak to me, but I knew that I wanted this quote by her to be visible in my classroom. I decided to use Canva to create the poster. If you've never used this tool, it is time to start.
I've been using Words Their Way in my classroom for the last three semesters with my first graders. While I like this program, there are somethings that I cannot stand:
For those that have used Words Their Way and teach a primary grade, you know that it can take a long time for them to cut out their sort. Over the next few days you find tiny pieces of paper on the floor because students forgot to initial their pieces. When they finally glue their sort, you have students that decide to glue the whole page instead of just their pieces.
Those reasons are why I decided to digitize their Words Their Way sorts. Goodbye cutting, gluing, and making copies all the time for your sorts.
I started to digitize the sorts last spring. My students are great at giving honest feedback about trying new tools. After a week they decided that this was the way to go.
The app I used was Corkulous Pro ($4.99). There is a free version, but I use the paid to have multiple boards. For those not familiar with this app, it is a cork board-type app where you can add photos, to-do lists, stickies, note cards, and a few other features.
The process for creating the boards is a little tedious. Once you get the hang of it, it is not that bad and you can create a board in 15 minutes. The file is attached on how to create a sort and prepare it for students. I've also included an example from a sort that you can use on an iPad..
Below is an example from a student. This shows me what they know and how I can support them to better their understanding.
Part Two-Canvas Setup
If you've read my blog before, you know that I really like Canvas. More features are being added all the time and it has become an integral part of instruction in the classroom.
Here is part of my Canvas page. My WTW groups are dessert groups-brownie, cupcake, and ice cream. (Yes, not typical, but I was hungry and already used colored groups for guided reading.) Students click on their dessert picture, which is set up as a button, to find their module and then find their sort. I have video explanations of each activity that students get stuck and need directions repeated. A perk of Canvas is not having the same thing over and over again.
The sorts are set up so that they can Sort, Write, and Check.
Since students can go at their own pace, I make sure that they turn in their activity each day. They can only click on that day of the week because the other days are set up to be locked. I also provide them with a paper copy of the lists of sorts and have them write down the date when they complete an activity. An image of this paper is below.
The sorts are set up into modules based of the sections of the book and each module ends with an assignment, which is the same as the Spell Check in the book. Students have to score a minimum amount of points in order to move on in the modules. The upper modules are locked because I set them up so that the previous modules are prerequisites.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me and I can help you out if this is something that interests you. My students really enjoy it, it saves me time in the long run, and easier than looking through lots of notebooks.
In fall of 2014, my classroom went 1:1 with iPads and was funded by the PTO. Grades 5-12 in my district were already using Canvas by Instructure, so they asked me to use it in my classroom. The video they sent me is the one below. While it showed me how 1st graders can use Canvas, it didn't show me how they set it up for students to use.
I decided to make my main screen the same schedule circles that I used on the board. This allowed my students to easily make connections to what were were doing since they had seen these icons daily throughout the whole semester.
Below is how I set up my Reader's Workshop page. My classroom incorporated some of the Daily 5 aspects. I created a ThingLink so you can view what my students see when they log into Canvas.
Moving to Writer's Workshop, I divided this page into four parts. Student knows that their task is to move left to right as they are writing. I change the group lesson daily, but the anchor charts, spelling, and editing checklist stays the same throughout the whole unit.
Math Workshop doesn't look as glamorous as the other pages, but includes all the activities that students will be doing for the day. My district uses Everyday Math. The Canvas page below is a unit review page. I was absent that day, but was able to create a lesson using tutorials from Explain Everything to still teach my students the lesson the way I would want to teach them.
So I'll admit that I almost decided to leave the classroom over the past few weeks. There was a great opportunity with a company sharing a product. This meant a relocation, new environment, and sharing an edtech tool with hopefully thousands of new users. I had multiple interviews with them and even had what was probably the final interview before they made their decision. Two days later I withdrew my application. The problem: I just couldn't do it. Don't get me wrong, I know that at some point I might leave the classroom and be involved with eaducational technology as a Technology Integration Specialist or a similar role, maybe even working for an edtech company, but this didn't feel like the right fit for me. Another reason why I just couldn't do it is that I didn't feel like my time in the classroom working directly with students was over.
As teachers we are constantly being evaluated and critiqued on our teaching. Day in and day out can be a challenge, but we have to keep thinking about why we became teachers in the first place. With burnout rate very high for teachers and around 50% of teachers leaving within five years, There has to be a better way of keeping good teachers in the classroom.
I could have been one of those statistics since I have only competed three years in the classroom. Luckily my district allowed me to travel to Austin, Texas for iPadPalooza. When I first got there and attended some of the concurrent sessions, I wan't totally impressed. A lot of these teachers that were presenting were doing things that were very similar to my classroom and some just weren't great presenters. I know that I'm not the best teacher in the world, but didn't feel inspired.
Two days passed and then on the final day: AAAHHH. Finally seeing presenters that inspired me to make more change within my classroom. Meghan Zigmond, Don Goble, Todd Nesloney, Don Goble, and Richard Wells had me leaving with ideas on how I can improve my classroom. Meghan helped me to realize how I need to have my students creating more. Don helped me show the power of movies to share learning. Todd showed me how I need to incorporate PBL, and Richard gave me better insight how one acronym (PBL, UBL, QFAT) is not always the most effective when teaching students.
After three years of being so hard on myself, I finally felt inspired to make bigger changes in my classroom. The passion I had for teaching was back and I'm excited to see how my classroom will change over the next school year.
This past weekend I attended the EdSurge Summit in St. Louis. I have the privilege of attending with a startup company called BrightLoop to showcase their product with other educators. It was my first EdSurge event and I was excited to talk to others about a product that I have been very passionate about since first using it in its Beta stages.
I had a chance to meet with people from different companies at a networking night, as well as the Summit itself. Educational technology is constantly changing and all these people play a major part in its development. These people care so much about the development of their product and sharing it with educators. You give them a chance to talk about their product and they light up because they love what they do and are so excited to share it with others.
While some might argue that there are so many of the same type of educational technology products, one really needs to hear from each of the companies. Yes, there are similarities amongst products, but each have their own special space in the world of educational technology. Each of the have their own special something that appeals to a different type of teacher. There isn't just one product that meets the needs of all teachers, which is why one might find similar products.
When I talked to teachers about BrightLoop this past weekend, I can't begin to describe that awesome feeling when people shouting with excitement about seeing this product for the first time. We started the trend of people taking selfies with the companies because they were so excited. They knew that this was a product that was going to help them as an educator because they could spend less time documenting notes on students and focus more on the actual instruction.
Finding a startup educational technology company in their early stages allows for teachers to play a big part in its development before it makes its way to the App Store and shared with teachers nationwide. I've had the privilege of working with two great companies recently, BrightLoop and ClassKick, as they prepared to get their product ready for teachers. I met both of these companies from Google searches, Facebook ads, and tweets. Each of these companies had a product that I have been wanting, but knew that there was nothing quite like them. A lot of teacher might say "I had an idea just like that," but this gives them the chance to work collaboratively with these companies to help shape the product for the masses.
As I worked with both companies, trying them out as a teacher and then with my first grade students, they always took the time to ask for feedback. They not only listened to what I had to say, but incorporated that feedback. It's a great feeling to know that some of your suggestions are becoming part of a product that will be shared with thousands of teachers across the country. They know in the beta stages that they do not have a perfect product and are accepting of feedback because they know that teachers are the ones who will get the app or program into the classroom and will share it with others.
When you do research for new apps and programs to use in the classroom, check out Twitter, check out EdSurge's website, do some Google searches, and give startup companies a try. These are products that need your support as they make their way nationwide to support teachers and the learning of students.
Make sure you check out http://brightlooplearning.com
Check out the article from Renaissance Learning in their Extraordinary Educators newsletter that talks about the use of Subtext in our classroom. Happy to share with others this awesome tool. Read this and other articles here http://doc.renlearn.com/KMNet/R00573826269A474.pdf