A New Year Awaits

The start of a new school year is always exciting and exhilarating.  Teachers are filled with new ideas.  Goals are being determined.  Plans and activities are being formulated to achieve the goals and dreams that every teacher has spent the summer dwelling on.

Students & parents have goals and dreams for the school year just as teachers do.  Parents may want to be more involved in school activities. Students may want to make better grades or have more friends or investigate a new interest.

We all, teachers, students, and parents arrive at the beginning of a new school year with success as the ultimate goal.

There are so many wonderful additions to education.  Changes and innovations occur daily.  The advent of 1:1 technology in my district brings many new ways to achieve the success in which we are all invested.  Online student portfolios, digital assessments, Hyperdocs, blogs, Google Classroom, learning management systems, YouTube channels, iTunes U, Twitter, Instagram, and the list of tools available for success goes on and on.

Some of my favorite tools for my elementary classroom are:  Seesaw, Common Sense Media, and Epic Books.

Seesaw  is a learning portfolio that is student driven.  Students can showcase their learning in a variety of ways with Seesaw.  They can use and annotate photos.  Students can create video, take notes, upload files, create a drawing, and add links.  Learning journals for each student allows work to be shared not only with teachers, but family members.  Seesaw also has a blog feature.  As a new Seesaw ambassador, I have learned so much more about Seesaw and I can’t wait to use what I’ve learned to empower my students with skills that will transform their learning experience.

I am also a new Common Sense Media ambassador, as well as a Common Sense Media Certified Educator – Digital Citizenship.  Common Sense Media is free to teachers and parents.  The K-12 Scope and Sequence enables me to teach Digital Citizenship to my students in ways they can relate to and embrace.  For teachers, Common Sense Media offers tech reviews, professional development, and lessons to enhance the multifaceted role we facilitate daily in our classrooms.  For parents, Common Sense Media offers a variety of book and movie reviews, as well as tech reviews.  Common Sense Media should be a trusted and go to resource for every teacher and parent.

Epic books is a favorite with my students year after year.  Epic is free for educators.  There are literally thousands of books, videos, and quizzes available for grades K-6.  Epic also allows teachers to create groups and assign books.  My students always enjoy Epic just for the sake of reading.  I enjoy the love of reading that begins for many of them with Epic books.  I love the fact that I can assign books and use Epic in reading groups.  Epic is not free for parents, but well worth the investment to have 25,000 books at your child’s fingertips.

These are some of my favorite technology tools with which to begin each school year.  These tools allow myself, my students, and their families to begin accomplishing our goals right away.  As I look forward to all this year holds I know we will find the success we are all committed to for our young learners.

Math Makers: Fraction Flags

A few weeks ago we were learning about fractions in my 2nd grade classroom.  We don’t do worksheets or workbook pages very often, but this unit offered a worksheet that allowed my students to create a flag.  They were offered various boxes divided into halves, thirds, and fourths.  I knew my little artists would enjoy creating flags so I gave them the worksheets and let them design colorful flags.  I was right.  My 2nd graders thoroughly enjoyed this activity!  They enjoyed it so much that they requested (over and over again) to make the flags they designed.

Fridays at my school are devoted to enrichment.  We have Genius Hour.  We don’t do RTI on Friday.  We try to allow our students to chase their passions and discover new talents.  On a recent Friday, I handed back their flag designs and provided various types of colorful paper for my 2nd graders to create their Fraction Flags.

After they were finished creating their Fraction Flags, we headed for the iPads.  We used Educreations to take photos of our flags.  They used the pen tool to write the fractions portrayed on each flag.  My students were then able to record themselves explaining the fractions they created in their flags.  Explaining their reasoning addresses 2nd Grade Texas Math TEK 1.D.  We do this often in a variety of ways.  Second graders love to use the iPad and record themselves explaining their math thinking and reasoning.  They solidify their own learning and help others learn at the same time.

Some of my friends chose to use Seesaw and our class blog to showcase their Fraction Flag.  Others chose to use Shadow Puppets Edu.

Check out our Fraction Flags.  They are as diverse as the learners in my classroom.  That’s what makes being a teacher fresh and exciting every day.

Scan the QR Code to view some of our finished products on Padlet.

Are your students Makers?  Share your ideas in the comments section.

Teaching Students to Blog

I’ve been teaching my 2nd graders to blog.  Although, we didn’t actually start blogging until the second semester, I started the process of teaching my students to blog the first week of school.  There are some basic internet and online safety concepts I want my students to have an understanding of before we begin to blog.

My favorite site for teaching Digital Citizenship is Common Sense Media.  I use their phenomenal K-2 Scope and Sequence to begin lessons on digital citizenship.  Brainpopjr.com also has some great video lessons that support teaching students to blog.

We spend some time learning about online safety and what we should and shouldn’t share online.  The kids developed some Blog Safety Rules based on what we have learned about internet safety.

The most important lesson I hope to convey to my students is that they must not share personal information online.  We spend quite a bit of time learning what personal information is and why we shouldn’t share that information.  We spend some time developing concepts that teach once something has been shared online it is no longer in the blogger’s control.

We also begin to learn what a blog is and what we can blog about.  Most of my students had a rudimentary understanding of blogs.  I have some digital savvy students, many of whom spend time online daily.  They were thrilled with the concept of having a class blog.   We came up with some basic topics we would enjoy blogging about.

There are many formats and websites available to blog with students.  Many learning management systems allow for class blogs.  Kidblog, Edublogs, and Seesaw are my favorite sites for blogging with students.  I chose Seesaw for my class blog this year.

Seesaw allows me to add students to our class blog.  I can also add parents so that they can view their child’s blog posts.  Parents must request to join and login with a password.  I control what gets posted.  Students submit posts and I approve them and post them to the blog.  Seesaw also allows me to approve parent and student comments to the blog.  I also receive weekly updates informing me of our blog activity.

My 2nd graders are absolutely loving the opportunity to blog.  It has changed how they view journal writing as blogging is just another way to journal.  They have several options for how they want to blog.

Most of my kids love the ability to post video.  We are currently obsessed with How To video.  They love to post (with the help of a friend) a video showing how to make paper airplanes and various origami art work.  Some of them love to draw, and a few even love the “old-fashioned” type/text feature.

Blogging has become the most engaging response to learning my students have experienced this year.  They love to share what they are learning and how they are accomplishing that learning.  I’m not going to share our login information, but scroll down to see some images of our class blog.

I am proud of my students and the connections they are making to the world through blogging.  Do you blog with your students?  Please share your success stories in the comments.