Friday, November 22, 2013

Innovations Class - And So It Begins...

Today was exciting!  Thanks to Don Wettrick and his Innovations Class, we began our journey into innovative learning.  I had seen Don share what he was doing in his high school Innovations Class on the Two Guys Show and couldn't help but wonder what this would look like in my 3rd-5th grade GT class. After speaking with Don and hearing the amazing things that his students have done, I decided that this is exactly what I wanted my for my students.

I met with students individually today to discuss topics of interest.  As they came in and sat down, I asked them questions like, "If you sat down at a computer and Googled anything at all, what would it be?"  "If you could sit and talk about one topic for hours, what would you want to discuss?" "What do you think about when you are not working on school assignments?"

Student after student sat in front of me and hesitated as though this might be a trick question.  They gave me the "Are you serious?" look and then sat there...thinking. 

As I watched my students, I realized that this was a new concept to them.  It isn't often that they are asked what they want to learn.  They are not usually in control of what they learn. Instead, they are told what they will learn and when and how they will learn it.

But then it happened, student after student began to share.  They began sharing things that they would love to investigate, explore, and analyze. Many of them lit up as they told me about their interests. Some of them were predictable and expected while others were surprising and refreshing. All of their ideas were welcomed and accepted. 

Our next step is to meet as a group and make some important decisions about how we will carry this out.  I want the students to have ownership in the planning process as well as their projects.  Students will be speaking to experts outside of our school as well as blogging about the process throughout the year.

I know that this is going to be a learning experience for the students as well as myself.  There are going to be bumps in the road but we must remember that every bump will bring us closer to our destination.

I will post often about our innovative learning journey on this blog.   Please feel free to comment and share with others that might be interested in following along as well.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Classroom Power Tools - KidBlog

This is definitely one of my faves!  KidBlog is a wonderful way to introduce blogging to students while working on writing skills.  A colleague of mine used this tool last year and I thought I would give it a try with my students this year.  I have not been disappointed!  They love to write using KidBlog!  I allow them to be creative by changing the font color and size.  This gives them ownership in their final product and they are more motivated to create quality work.  Below are some ways that we have used KidBlog in our classroom.  I hope this motivates you to try this tool in your classroom...your students will thank you!

1.  Digital Portfolios - We write and upload pictures of our work to be shared with other teachers as well as parents throughout the year.
2.  Keyboarding Skills - I encourage students to use correct finger position while typing each day.
3.  Encouraging Others - Students comment on other blogs and give feedback on their posts.
4.  Writing Skills - We focus on sentence structure and punctuation as we blog.
5.  Digital Citizenship - We are able to talk about blog etiquette and computer safety as we write.

This is just the short list of the many ways I have used KidBlog in my classroom.  I love reading my students' blogs and they love receiving comments from me on their posts.  I am able to document their work without saving tons of paper and can share this work with their parents instantly.  KidBlog has truly changed my classroom and given my students a reason to love writing again. 

I would love to hear how you guys are using KidBlog in your classroom.  If you are not using KidBlog and would like more information about how to get started, let me know. 
Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Elementary Student Council

Vote Button

As most of you know, yesterday was Election Day.  We held our own election at our small elementary school as our students ran for Student Council.  They campaigned for two weeks by hanging posters and preparing their speeches. 

Yesterday was the big day!  I was SO proud of them as they shared their ideas and plans for making our school better.  I was in awe of their ability to stand in front of their peers and express themselves freely. 

After lunch, student after student filed into the polls to cast their ballot.  They filled out Voter Registration Forms and turned in a Voter Registration Card in order to vote.  We used cardboard dividers for the polls and even printed "I Voted" stickers given to students after they did so. 

This is our first year to have a student council so while I know there will be challenges, I also know that it will be exciting and meaningful for our students to experience student government.  I will be updating you guys on how this plays out.  If you have any advice or thoughts, please comment below. 

Classroom Power Tools - Socrative

This portion of my blog will be dedicated to sharing some of my favorite digital classroom tools.  Teachers often ask me my favorites and there are just too many to list.  But talk to anyone who's asked, and they will tell you that's a dangerous question because you might have to sit and listen to me share for an hour or more! :)

Okay, so first on the list...if you haven't heard of Socrative yet, let me enlighten you.  It is a wonderful tool that will completely replace the need for a set of "clickers".  This tool has given me the ability to assess my students instantly while integrating technology in a new and exciting way.  My students love using Socrative and it is super easy.  Students do not need to login but instead just enter the "room number" given to the teacher by Socrative.  You have several options including multiple choice, short answer, and true/false questions.  You can also give a quiz, exit ticket, or play a game called Space Race with your students.  This power tool has saved me so much time and the students love responding digitally to my questions.  And the number one reason I love Socrative...IT'S FREE!!!

If you are using Socrative in your classroom, please comment below and share your ideas.  I'd love to hear from you!