Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Working together: Google Forms, Flubaroo, and Charts

Using Google Forms for quizzes/formative assessment is a great way to organize student data, keep it all in one place, and get both an overview and individual view of how your students/classes are doing.  Below are some highlights of Google Forms for quizzes.

*Create a variety of questions using a Google Form.

*Password protect the quiz by forcing students to enter a "password" in order to get to the next page (start of quiz.)

*Change the destination of where responses go to keep all data in one spreadsheet.

*Use the "add on" Flubaroo to grade all quizzes instantly.  Flubaroo can grade multiple choice, true/false and short answer (short answer: student has to type the word exactly how you enter it on the answer key, so this one is a little tricky.)

*Use "charts" to create charts from the student data to get a great picture of how your classes are doing.

These are just some of the highlights. I encourage you to check it out and explore further!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Kahoot! to raise engagement!

If you are looking to change things up in your classroom and try a new tool, I'd recommend giving Kahoot! a try. Kahoot! is an engagement dream, a way to focus your students, blend game structure, share thoughts and formally assess them. Kahoot! is an audience response system that works on any device that has internet, as it uses a web browser, not just the Kahoot! app. Laptop, iPhone, iPad, Chromebook, desktop, etc. Kahoot! allows the teacher to give a quiz, a discussion, or a survey. The results can be downloaded and saved. The results give question by questions breakdown, as well as individual results, making tracking and documentation a snap!  
After signing up for a free account, create a Kahoot! quiz. You will add questions and then when you launch the quiz, you will instruct the students to go to kahoot.it and enter the game pin. This connects their device with the quiz you are showing on the smartboard. On their device, they see the four options, which are shapes. They select the shape that corresponds with the correct answer. You can adjust the time limit, the audience, the difficulty and also share it with others. 
Application for Education: Kahoot! is just a tool and it's not about the tool. It's about the learning. So how does Kahoot! help learning? Use Kahoot! to do a short, fun quiz to see where your students are at. The game-based feel to it makes it much more engaging than a centeo quiz or scantron. Engagement can not be underestimated when it comes to improving the learning.  Learning rises as engagement rises. It's a fundamental fact of education and of life.  I'm convinced that if the student knows a Kahoot! is waiting for them, they will be more eager to learn the content and get prepared. They will be eager to see their game-based score as they navigate the Kahoot! quiz. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Create Infographics with Photovisi

I'm a big fan of Infographics. I think infographics are a good way for students to learn, review, and share what they know. Creating infographics is not busy work, its work that requires thinking and planning, not to mention writing and reading. An infographic is simply a product that has information and graphics. Some might call this a collage, but a collage is more of a "picture only" type of thing. I by no means invented the idea of Infographics or any of the infographic creating tools. However, I do like to search for infographic creating tools other than paper/pencil. Unless a student is an awesome drawer, computer infographics are way more effective. Photovisi is a great tech tool that students can use to make an infographic. 
Great things about Photovisi: it's free. Students do not need to log in. Students can easily save their project. Students can pick from a wide variety of templates and options. Students can use pictures off the internet. Students can add typing/captions. Students pick up on how to use photovisi quickly, so instruction time is minimal and creation time is optimal. So, find a computer lab and give Photovisi a try. Students will enjoy using it and get something out of it. Photovisi's can be as in-depth as you want to make it. General overview of a topic or a dynamic, in-depth project. 
Application for Education:
-students research a new topic and create a photovisi
-students create a photovisi as a review tool
-students share their photovisi with their classmates to learn about new topics through their peers
-teacher creates a photovisi to present information/new topic


Monday, September 21, 2015

Tackk.com: great teacher tool

I was talking about technology in education with a colleague the other day and we were discussing tech tools that allow students to create. We both agreed that technology in the hands of the students is a must because we want them to discover, create, and explore. We were talking about having students make websites but it's such a time commitment with a lot of explanation so it gets to be a daunting task. I told him that I have a website making tool that the students can learn how to use and make a website in just one class period. He didn't believe, so I said, "Do you triple dare me to show you?" and he said, "No, I quadruple dare you to show me." So I did. I showed him Tackk.com and it blew him away. 
Tackk.com is a dynamic web 2.0 tool that allows you to create webpages quickly and easily (and without knowing any coding). Along with blogger and remind101, Tackk.com is right up there with my favorite tech tools. It is an especially good tool in trying to implement CCSS in your curriculum, no matter what the content. Tackk.com offers you and the students the ability to create permanent websites. This seemingly monumental task is actually quite simple. Tackk.com provides you with only the basic/necessary tools to create your website so you don't feel overwhelmed with too many options. There is no code writing. You do not have to be a tech wizard to use Tackk.com. As with every tech tool, there are two options: you use it or have your students use it. In my opinion, it is always best if the students can get their hands on these tech tools and use them. Tackk.com. 
Application to Education: Create a tackk on a topic that you are studying. Post an article or write the article yourself, then make it available for students to read. With this angle, you can implement Reading Informational text. 
Having students create tackks provides them the opportunity to work on the writing portion of the CCSS. Have the students create a tackk to go along with a short research project, compare/contrast, write opinions, or any number of writing standards.
The great thing about Tackk is that the websites are easy to share, so all can benefit from the projects being created. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Garden of your Mind

Inspire kids to grow ideas, in the garden of their mind. You have the power to do that. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sharing Student Work: The Photo Journal

Students love to have their work put on display. Think about it-a kid goes through 3 hours making something awesome, only for one person (the teacher) to see it. That doesn't seem right! Have students share their work with their class in real life--that's easy. But I also think it's a powerful thing to share their work online. Students think it's cool to be able to see their work on a class website. They can show their parents. They can see other classmates' work, etc. The question is, "How do we do this?" With technology, we can do this in a very fast, efficient way. I have done this many ways in the past, always looking for the fastest possible way to share student work online. One of the fastest ways I have discovered is to use Google Drive. Here's how:
Create a folder in your Google Drive. Label it "Photo Journal 15-16"
"Share" the folder to get the link for view only. 
Post/share the link on a website or some place students can easily access it. 
The efficient part is how to get the images into the folder. 
Get the Google Drive app on your smartphone. Take a picture of their work or whatever you want to add to the photo journal. With the Google Drive app, open the folder you created for the photo journal, and simply upload the image(s) from the camera roll. Once this is done, the images are instantly in the folder and instantly available for viewing.  

Students constantly asked me when I was going to update the Photo journal. It was a good motivator because they would ask if a certain project or task was going into the photo journal and if specifically their project was. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Flippity.net: Google Drive Review Game

Can Google Drive get any more awesome? It seems everywhere I turn, there is something new and innovative being produced by Google-things to make our jobs as teachers more efficient and effective. Flippity.net is a tool that allows you to create review games/tools through Google Drive. Flippity.net provides flashcards, completion certificates, progress meters, and my favorite, Game Show templates. At flippity.net, download the template you want to use, make a copy for your Google Drive and edit it to produce your custom review game. The game show uses the spreadsheet feature of Google Drive. Simply enter your questions and answers, publish to the web ("File"--"publish to web") and then the spreadsheet will kick out the link to share (the link you give to your students). 

Application for Education: This tool/game can be used for all types of content/classes. It's great to provide for kids to use when studying on their own, as it keeps track of your points so you can see how well you are doing or what you are weak in. I've also used it for students to partner up and play against each other. It can also be used as a whole class review game. You can anywhere from 0 teams to 6 teams when keeping track of the score. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

ESPN 30 for 30 Short: "First Pitch"

If you haven't already seen it, I strongly recommend you check out the ESPN 30 for 30 short: "First Pitch" about when George W. Bush threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium during the World Series, shortly after the terror attacks on 9/11. Bush called it the "most nervous time of his presidency." Whether you are a democrat or republican, it doesn't matter. It was a powerfully, amazing moment in the history of our country.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

9/11 Resources

Like you, my 9/11 memory is as vivid as the day it happened. I was a freshman in college and for some reason, decided to wake up before noon. I flipped on the t.v. and could not believe what I was seeing. I picked up the news after the first plane hit and there was speculation but from the news people, it sounded like it was an accident. Then, the second plane hit, then the Pentagon, then the fourth was brought down and that removed all doubt that it was in fact an attack on America. As I'm sure you were, I was glued to the t.v. It was horrific. Seeing the buildings collapse, the graphic video of people jumping out of the window, the first responders rushing into the fray, rather than away from it. The stories of tragedy, the stories of rescue, the stories of survivors.  People talking about how they should have been on one of the four planes that were hijacked. Or they should have been at the WTC that day, but were home sick, or away on a trip, or out for a brunch, etc.  Years pass since that day but the vividness does not fade. Nor should it. 
Here are a few resources about 9/11 (which were gather with the help of the awesome 7th grade geo teachers at PHMS):

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Teacher Websites: A good idea

I am a firm believer that teachers need their own website for their class. Our students practically live on the web, so why not provide them with a website from your class? They will visit your site, as long as there is something on there, and I'm not just talking about your lesson plans. Students love going on teacher websites, so let's give them some! 

There are many great website builder options out there that require you to have zero programming skills. Website builders like blogger, wordpress, weebly, wix, or many others allow you to make a great, professional looking website with a small learning curve. These are all free website making machines. I use blogger to build/maintain Speartip, but have also used wordpress, weebly, and wix. I think they are all solid options for building a website. Perhaps you will find one that you think is better, such as shutterfly and google sites. Yes, making these websites take time, but I'm here to help! The impact they can have on your classes is enormous. Plus, I think once you start building, you will find that it's fun to have your own website. It's like having your own piece of the internet.  I know you all use either google classroom or edmodo, which is great! It is still beneficial to have a website because there are things that you can or want to share that work better on a website. Classroom and Edmodo are management sites. A website is your central location on the internet for all things dealing with your class. 
Why it's a good idea to have your own class website: 
1. Extend the learning outside of your class time.
2. Post lesson plans
3. Post an "assignment calendar" so students and parents know when things are happening. 
4. Create and share interactive assignments, review tools, and learning tools. 
5. Gives students the opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts. (blogging comments). 
6. Gives you another way of connecting with your students and getting them excited about your class.
7. Provides another (strong) communication channel. 
8. Gives students a place to go for anything and everything about your class. They want this. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Remind.com: Great communication tool

As the school year starts and we start thinking about what tools we are going to use, give Remind.com some thought. Remind was built for teachers. It allows you to text message your students in a safe, secure way. I have used it for the past 2 years and students and parents love it. They love getting the messages sent right to their phone. It is very convenient. Students don't always use/check their planner. But it is a guarantee that they will check their phone, usually many times a day. Remind.com has a new look from last year so I posted a video above to help make sure we are comfortable with the new (better) look. If you have any questions, please ask.
Why Remind.com is such a great tool:
-It's free to use.
-It doesn’t require your student to have a cell phone.
-Teachers do NOT see your child’s cell phone number.
-Students do NOT see their teacher’s cell phone number.
-The text message notification counts as simply one text message in your cell phone plan. ----Students can NOT text the teachers.
-Your child’s teacher will explain how to become a “subscriber” to their notifications.
-Cell phone numbers are NOT sold or given out by Remind101.
-Text message option or email option or both.
-It provides a "widget" to place on your website so students can get the messages without being a subscriber.

If you would like some help in getting Remind.com up and running, I will gladly help! 

What makes a good Social Studies teacher?

So what makes a good social studies teacher? In a recent discussion with college seniors, we discussed what makes a good social studies teacher. It was an online discussion so I was able to pull out some interesting statistics about what they said was important. The word "engage" or some form of it was said 30 times throughout all the discussion posts and replies. It was the most mentioned adjective discussed. In second place: Content Knowledge (or some reference to knowing the material)-about 28 mentions. Third place was passion with 10 mentions. 

I was excited to see our future teachers mention the word "engage" the most. I couldn't agree more. To teach social studies effectively, engagement has got to be #1. It is our single greatest weapon to defeat the arch nemesis of a social studies teacher/classroom: the word "boring." It seems like social studies/history and "boring" are always grouped together. Well, I want to break that and being engaging is exactly how we do that.  Engage the students and you can teach them whatever you want!

Every participant said something about engagement, passion, and/or positive attitude. That's awesome! Those are great things to be discussing when talking about what makes a good teacher. The challenge is to not forget those powerful adjectives or lose sight of them as the years tick by. If you feel like you are getting into a rut, I encourage you to seek out new, fresh ideas. Things you can do or try in the classroom to reinvigorate your teaching. Find something that will spark that passion inside of you once again. When we are engaging, it makes everything better! 

Some other keywords that were mentioned in our discussion: connecting, hands-on, variety, challenge, critical thinking, acting out, visual aids, and positive attitude. These are all really good words.

Passion is huge. Hopefully as a teacher, you are passionate about kids (if not, might want to consider a new job). Being passionate about what you teach is also important. However, nobody is passionate about EVERYTHING they teach. I am passionate about Greek Mythology and the Medieval Times, but not ancient India. So what did I do? I would ramp of the enthusiasm for that unit. Passion can not be faked, but enthusiasm can. Enthusiasm and passion will make your classroom come to life!

I found it interesting that so many of the participants mentioned content knowledge. It is important to know the content and to know it well. The more you know, the better/easier it is to think up engaging lessons and activities. However, it is impossible to know everything about the content you are teaching, especially if it is social studies. It's okay for you to say, "I don't know" when a student asks you a question. We are all human, not Google Robots. It's not the end of the world to admit to a student you don't know the answer to a question. Turn it into a positive situation, "Well, I don't know. Let's go find the answer together." Including the student in the discovery of knowledge is a powerful thing. Also keep in mind that you are teaching young kids so you do not need to be a PH.D. level scholar in American History to know what you need to know. The challenge is not knowing the content, it is making it engaging, relevant, and being able to teach it in a "kid friendly language." 

Above all, what makes a great social studies teacher is the same thing that makes a great teacher ina ny content area: building positive relationships with the students. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

First Day of School

Perhaps we, as teachers, should rethink the first day of school and what we do with our classes. Students have spent three months on summer vacation so when they enter the building for their first day of school, they are not prepared to understand, comprehend, and remember a whole bunch of information. However, when students get to school on that first day, that's exactly what they get. All day, students are overwhelmed with rules, procedures, information, etc.  Now, I'm sure all that information is important for students to know, but teachers are just wasting their time because the students are not going to remember. We spend the entire day talking to students about all this important stuff, yet nothing is retained. Students simply are not ready. It would be quite humorous to zoom out of a classroom and have the ability to see each students thoughts as the teacher spends all class discussing rules, procedures, etc.  Students' thoughts would be drifting all over-lunch, who's in their class, what they did all summer, etc.
So if students are not ready to receive important information, what should we do on the first day? Well, I think the answer is easy-work on what's most important in school anyway: making relationships. Start getting to know your students. Start the process of connecting with them and building a foundation of an impactful relationship. There are a wide variety of activities a teacher can do with their students on the first day. I think what's best is to get them doing something. Get them active. Create an experience so they are excited about your class and can't wait to come back the next day. There's plenty of time to cover the important information. Start with something fun.  Perhaps you already do that, which is great! But if you find yourself as one of those teachers who talks about rules and procedures all day on the first day, perhaps rethink your strategy. Save that important information for a time when students have settled into a routine, ready to receive and understand.

My first day: I stood at the doorway and greeted them of course in a very enthusiastic way. Music was playing in my room (inspriational music) and on the board, they had a task. Seat themselves alphabetically by last name, following the directional arrows of the desks. This got them moving and doing. It also got them talking with each other because they all come from different elementary schools, so they do not know each other. After a certain amount of time, I would stop the class and see how well they did. Next, I would give them a brief monologue on what I thought school is and should be. Then, I passed out a can of play-doh to each student and had them make something they were passionate about. Then, of course, we shared out what we made. This started the process of getting to know the students because we all love to talk about what we are passionate about. Students don't remember the rules, procedures, and info the first day--but they do remember the play-doh.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Standards Based grading-Ken O'Connor

Ken O'Connor visited the Sioux Falls middle schools this week and I I had the privilege to listen to him formally during his presentation, but also to talk with him informally while eating some chislic. Listening to him talk about standards-based grading and getting the chance to bounce ideas/questions off him was very beneficial. Getting down the details of standards based grading was very valuable. I am by no means going to regurgitate everything I heard Ken talk about, but just to share a few insights from listening to him, a few things I took away from the day that stuck the most. 
Ken's whole premise is that overall, grades are broken and in need of certain fixes. The key statement to keep in mind when it comes to grading/assessment is a students grade should reflect how much they know/what they have learned. Working off of this foundation, a lot of things need to be rethought: bonus points, extra credit, late work, missing work, group grades, among others. Sometimes, grades and scores are done in a way that does not provide an accurate picture of what the students know. When this happens, the grades are broken. 
Ken O'Connor's wisdom and insight into the world of grading is spot on and needs to be shared. Over the course of the next week, I will be discussing what Ken O'Connor says about fixing grades. 

"A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades." By Ken O'Connor

Bob Ross is Inspirational. Good Thoughts. Happy Thoughts.