Getting to Know You: Back to School Activities Using Technology

Sunday, July 26, 2015 No comments
As I get older, time passes faster and faster! I cannot believe we are entering the last week in July. Before we know it, another school year will be upon us.
Two years ago I wrote a grant, along with my teammates, to secure a chromebook for every student in 5th grade.  When students come to us from 4th grade they are so excited to have their own chromebook and can't wait to get busy using the technology.  Because they are so excited, I try to find ways they can use the technology while I get a chance to get to know them.
Here are a few ideas I have come up with for this coming school year... (I have also included Ipad alternatives for those of you who have Ipads as resources)

1. Kahoot- Teachers could make a Kahoot about themselves and students could try to answer questions about their new teachers in a fun and interactive way! If you have never used Kahoot you are MISSING OUT! I love Kahoot, the fun background music, the count down, and the leader boards.  Kids love Kahoot and will ask you to play again and again.  Another wonderful thing about Kahoot is that you can use any device, phone, chromebook or Ipad to interact with the quiz. 
As an extension, students could create their own Kahoot about themselves and then take turns quizzing the class.  To do this, the teacher could create a generic log in, different from the one the teacher uses, and provide students with the generic log in.  
To get your own Kahoot go HERE

2. I have lockers in my room.  These are occupied by my homeroom.  Last year I created generic name plates that students wrote their name on using an expo marker and then I put them on their locker.  This was a little boring and at the end of the year, the students didn't want to take them home.  
This year I plan on students taking a "selfie" and then surrounding the selfie with clip art or pictures of items that represent them as a person.  
My favorite way to achieve this is by using PicCollage on an Ipad.  This is a free app and it is by far the easiest way to make photo collages with text and images from the internet.  I plan on sending the PicCollages that the students make to a local Walgreens to have them developed and printed like photos.  You could always print the PicCollages yourself.  To get the free app, visit the Apple App Store and search PicCollage.  
If you do not have access to Ipads, you can use the chromebook app PicMonkey to do the same activity.  PicMonkey is also free and can be accessed through the Chrome App Store.

3. I learned about these sites in a professional development about using technology to encourage writing.  I teach Math but I can't wait to forward these sites onto the writing teachers in my school. These sites are super easy to use, save and even come with free pre-writing handouts.  These sites are free to use and are able to print versions of the cube or trading cards for students to keep.  
The first one is a Cube Creater.  The BioCube would be a perfect way to get to know your students. There is a planning sheet you can print for pre-writing or brainstorming.  Click HERE to visit this site.
The second one is a Trading Card Creater.  Who doesn't want to see themselves on a trading card? Students can take a photo of themselves and upload it into the trading card.  Then they can put the requested information in to complete their card.  Teachers and students can save cards and even print them.  Click HERE to visit this site. 

4. Another idea I had for locker name plates, was to use Word Clouds that students create about themselves using ABCYA Word Clouds for Kids.  This site is so easy to use and can be done by any grade level! Students can change font, colors, size etc.  You can save and print.  I would have students put words or phrases that represent who they are.  You could even print up questions or display questions on the board to have students answer using the word cloud.  To visit the site and create your own word cloud, click HERE

5. This year I want to create a Google Form so that I can get important information from my parents.  I plan on creating a form using google forms and then creating a QR code.  This way when parents arrive for meet the teacher, sneak a peek or the first day of school they can scan the QR code and fill out the google form.  The google form can be shared with all of your teammates so that everyone is privy to the information.  There are many QR Code generators to use, but I use the one found on the Chrome App Store. 

Start of school will be here before you know it! I wish everyone good luck! 
If you use any of these sources I would love to hear from you! I would also like to hear any technology "get to know you activities" that you may use in your class! 

Peace, Love, Math- Jennifer

Activity Based Approach and the Success in "Doing Math"

Thursday, July 23, 2015 3 comments
Happy Summer Everyone!

I was just reading an article from NCTM titled, Discovering the Greatest Area of Need in a Mathematics Classroom by Derek Pipkorn.  This article focuses on a middle school classroom, while I teach a fifth grade classroom, but good teaching practices are good teaching practices regardless of age or grade.  Here is a link to the article: NCTM Article

I love this article because it reminds us that good teachers do not lecture or give formulas, instead we provide experiences so that the students can derive their own formulas or approaches to solving a problem.  Towards the end of the year my fifth graders learned about Volume of a Rectangular Prism.  In Texas, this concept and math formula is new to fifth graders.  This was one of the last concepts I taught before the STAAR test (our state wide high stakes test).  I could have shoved the formula down their throats and then done drill and kill until they "mastered" the concept.  I chose not to take the easy way out (and really is it that easy?) and instead provided opportunities for students to derive their own thinking and explanations and subsequently the students found the formulas V=Bh and V=lwh, all on their own.  When students take ownership of their own learning, the learning becomes significant and put into long term memory.

Unlike Mr. Pipkorn, I have a longer class periods and I work in a school where 57% of the students are economically disadvantaged and 50% of the students are considered At Risk.  Despite these differences the theory behind the article rings true.  Students who DO MATH are more successful then the students who passively learn math.

Mr. Pipkorn refers to students learning through the struggle, for which he and NCTM refers to as Productive Struggle. I couldn't agree more with the concept of Productive Struggle.  The article provides a chart about what teachers and students should be doing while learning through the struggle. Here is a copy of that chart below:

Source of the chart:

In my experience students often times rely on the teacher to "spoon feed" the solutions or formulas to be successful.  This year was my first year to have an inclusion classroom.  This means I had regular ed students in with special needs students.  To say I was scared would be an understatement.  I was terrified until I realized that a student is a student regardless of ability.  What I noticed was that the special needs students were just as scared as I was to be in the regular class.  At first I felt compelled to hold their hand throughout each lesson.  Around October it hit me that they were not progressing like the others.  I self evaluated and knew that the spoon feeding had to stop! The learning is in the struggle! This was a rough transition, moving from constant support to very little.  One student in particular really had a tough time and often times refused to work.  I kept encouraging her and she eventually came around.  Last year (2014) she didn't pass the modified version of the fourth grade STAAR Math test, however this year (2015) there was not a modified test so she took the regular fifth grade STAAR Math test.  She received a 64% on this test! This is miles from where she started! In fact I had 8 special needs students who I taught and all of them except for one did substantially better than the year before.  Even the one student who did not officially pass made huge gains in his ability.  

As teachers, our role is to provide activity based lessons in which students can construct their own meaning through productive struggle.  When students take ownership of their own learning students will retain more and become more successful.  I love when articles hit home and remind you that you are on the right track! Thank you Mr. Pipkorn and NCTM! 

Peace, Love, Math- Jennifer