As I get more traffic, unfortunately, I need to move to a better service. Please continue to follow me at....
So, although this has nothing to do with teaching, I totally think I could make it work in a classroom and eventually be a rich alternative to the in class presentation.
I am a scrapbooker. Back in the day I used to spend hours at AC Moore or Michael's buying the right paper or vellum word art. I would save my photos and memorabilia in a pretty box and spend days on the actual layout. Then I had kids and stuff got real. The dog ate my glue stick. The beautiful, chunky first born son would sit on the paper and rip the embellishments. I actually have a page detailing the day he was born and the dates and times are wrong. This was my first child! I can believe getting it wrong for my pixie girl of a second child because my brain has turned to Gouda, but you remember everything about the first.
I then began digital scrapbooking and fell in love. I used iRemember for Macs and adored that I could use paper and embellishments over and over. Gone were the days of only scrapbooking during the summer.
Our Mac began to die and I acquired an iPad so now I use Coolibah. They have partnered with my favorite scrapbooking artist so that makes me very happy. I also love that I can scrap in bed while watching Downton Abbey....sometimes life is pure serendipity.
Awhile ago I saw this great idea on some link on Pinterest. I obviously take thousands of pictures and videos of the Prince and Princess. In order to solidify the events together, the post suggested I scrapbook a QR code of my video onto my scrapbook page. I usually upload my videos to Vimeo (and larger videos to YouTube but I mark them as private) so this totally made sense. So voila!!!!
Isn't that just darn amazing? I love how they are integrated and long after the immediate memory is gone we can relive these events with multimedia.
Sooo...... Can you see how this could work in the class? I do a great poster project on the inventors of the Industrial Revolution with a major focus on the question, "Which region of the United States most benefitted from these inventions, i.e. cotton gin, steel tipped plow, textile mill, etc.?". Students have to present their poster to the class. Wouldn't it be fun for them to give their presentation and upload it to Youtube and then to embed the QR code into the project? I can even see posting these up in the hall and having the kids experience a talking museum! Oh the ideas that have poured forth!!!
Although I have been teaching the same subject for twelve years, my ADD kicks in constantly and I always feel the need to change how I attack each unit. This doesn't always end in success and many times I've gone back to what I did the year before. Sometimes, though, it really pays off.
Although I have alway been happy with my Bill of Rights unit, I decided to jazz it up a bit this year. I used to give an illustrated explanation of the Bill of Rights but this year I decided to do a foldable. After nine years away from using interactive notebooks, I've decided to launch it again next year. When I first had students keep interactive notebooks all those years ago, foldables hadn't even been imagined. Now Dinah Zike has entire books on foldable activities created especially to fit into notebooks. I've decided to start to integrate notebook activities into my binders this year as practice.
At the end of our discussion on the Bill of Rights, I gave the kiddos a homework assignment that asked them to name the most useless of the amendments and the most important.
When they came in the next day, I had made a grid on the board representing the ten amendments. They were to put a green sticky on the most important amendment and an orange sticky on the one they felt we could live without. I then asked them to tell me what they noticed. In each class, this led to deep conversations mostly concerning the usefulness of the 9th amendment and we continued our discussion on how some of these things seem like nonnegotiables but maybe that's because we have had these freedoms for over two hundred years. My favorite insight was into the lack of stickies for the eighth amendment. One student commented that although that amendment doesn't matter to him because he is fourteen he like knowing it is there just in case he ever needs it:).
After we finished our discussion, we watched a BrainPop on the Bill of Rights and then this very fun video I found on YouTube.
We were able to just start our next activity where the students created law firms and I present them with various scenarios dealing with the amendments and they need to identify the amendment for each case. For each one they get right they receive $100 Wilkins' dollars.
I'm really glad I tried some new activities this year. I think I have improved the unit!!
Ha! Sometimes you try the simplest little things and you get the hugest return. When my kiddos come into class, their first job everyday is to complete the "Do Now" list before we can begin class. The list is in the same place everyday and written in green for consistency. The "Do Now" includes writing down the homework, updating their table of contents in their binder, completing a geography bonus question and taking out their homework. Some of my classes were able to get into the swing of getting this done daily by the beginning December. I have one class, though, that was really struggling and every day it would eat up over ten minutes. I even tried using some Fun Timers and although they loved the timers, it really didn't make them want to complete the tasks.
In absolute desperation, and almost as a joke, I started to look around for a virtual ticker, like those at the Stock Exchange. I couldn't find one but it gave me an idea. I wanted a visual remembrance that moved to catch their eye and get them movin' and groovin'. I decided to go to my one of my favorite tech creators, Animoto. I created one slide on PowerPoint that stated "Complete the Do Now!". I imported that picture, duplicated it multiple times and used the tools on Animoto to add text, (i.e. Do Now! Do Now! Do Now!). I chose a generic rock song (royalty free of course because that's how Animoto rolls). Voila! Instant reminder video!!!!
So although I made this totally on a whim and almost as a joke to myself...... IT TOTALLY WORKED!!!! Holy productivity Batman! My husband told me not to use the music because he felt that would be too distracting. I tried it after a couple of days, as an experiment, and the music made the experiment even more successful! Somehow the music centered them even more and seemed to tap into their auditory learning. These kids come in, now, and really start to get organized and prepared without a single reminder!
One of my classes really doesn't need this reminder but I decided to use the video with them a couple of days after my initial launch. One of my brightest students said to me, "Mrs. Wilkins.... this is a brilliant idea!". I love when I'm brilliant and I really don't try. If you aren't able to h it:)view the embed below, click here to go on over to Animoto and watch it :)
So although I absolutely loooooove iCivics, I have found their sign up process for students to be iffy at best. In one class during one period I could only sign up 2/3 of the kids. To this day I have two kids that can't sign up no matter what email they use. I had wanted to give students bonus points if they played so many minutes a month but that really wasn't possible. I figured out a solution to my problem when iCivics sent me an email last month announcing they were launching a new game called "We the Jury". The game placed students on a jury where they had to collaborate to decide guilt or innocence.
To offer this assignment as a bonus but hold the kids accountable for playing the game for a decent amount of time I decided they could write a review of the video game. To do this, we used Google Drive.
I created a form and embedded it into my classroom website. The students had to reflect on what they learned, whether they would recommend this game to another middle schooler and include information that swayed their decision.
I felt like I got a really good glimpse of the experiences the kids had while playing the game and I think I'm going to email the comments to iCivics. We are in the midst of a government unit right now and I think I'm going to use this method so they can experience some other games and take me along for the ride. Do any of you use iCivics? What results have you had?
When I had finally finished my Constitutional Convention unit I wanted a really great culminating activity to top it all off! I had been trolling the net for ideas on how to use Facebook pages and had found some really great things. Most of the templates I found were wonderful and PowerPoint Presentations but they just weren't for me. The PowerPoint format meant my kiddos were going to spend a lot of time searching for pictures and inserting text boxes. I felt like this would distract them from what they were really trying to do. I decided to give Fakebook a try. My friend had sent it to me a couple of years ago and I had avoided it because of a couple of things:
After explaining the project I had the kids complete a rough draft graphic organizer.
Once we got in the computer lab I was absolutely honest with the kiddos and let them know that I had never used this before and this might blow up in my face. I looooove to use technology and I think the first thing you need to embrace is that things might fail... So you might as well let the kids come along for the ride.
The first day was slightly horrible. Something must have been wrong with the website or our server because we had a lot of glitches... So many that I almost gave up. I'm really glad I pushed through it though because the next day was smooth sailing and the kids produced really amazing artificacts!
When the kids printed it out they had to go through and highlight the fifteen words and phrases they had to use. My three days in the lab turned into five but at least it was the week before Christmas.
On a totally separate but connected note, when we were in the lab we got to try out PollEverywhere.
I used it the first day in the lab and they loved it. Of course I got some stupid comments but I told the kids I wanted them to only post questions that didn't need an immediate response and the answer would probably benefit other students as well. I would work with kids around the lab and in between helping I would answer new questions that had surfaced.
Of course some of the comments were brown nosing but I will take brown nosing everyday!!!
Overall the project was a major success... Now I just need to grade them:(
So although I have gone to school almost every year of my life I have never celebrated the 100th day! I went to Catholic school for my elementary grades and I'm pretty sure it's a sin to celebrate, have fun, smile, etc. Other than that I've always attended or taught upper grades. My fabulous and amazing son is in kindergarten this year and I just don't like to engage my students.... My kiddos are the first midgets I like to engage. In my many post holiday hours on Pinterest I found this:
Which led me to this website:
This tee was totally up my little bubba's mathematical alley. My little man is apnot only a math genius, but he's really passionate about the subject. Not any old 100 tshirt would do. The tally marks just gave him something mathematically to play in his mind. I read her directions and decided I could do it but since I'm a working mom, I was going to rely more on technology and less on crafty. I created this on Google Drive Drawing:
Feel free to download it yourselves!(Just let me know in the comments because I'm not sure if anyone even listens to me;) )
Click here to access
After I played with it way toooo much because I am a perfectionist (and my math teacher husband felt I put the diagonal tallies in the wrong direction), I found a fabulous 50% off coupon at Vista Print.
I uploaded my .png to Vista Print and was able to use their design tools to add text that complimented the design.
This is the finished product!!! All together it cost me just over $14. A tshirt, iron on transfer, color ink(because we never have any) and my time would probably have cost a bit more. The tshirt is ordered and my kiddo was so jazzed by it he skip counted by 5s to 100. I told you my boy's like wicked smart, right?
Although our Constituional Convention simulation was successful, my kiddos lost interest about three quarters of the way through. Some days I really wish we had a block schedule because these simulations really benefit from not being split into multiple parts. I tend to lose the kiddos' interest after two periods.
I left school after the third day knowing that I had to plow through the 3/5 Compromise, choosing an executive, the Bill of Rights and Federalists and AntiFederalists. I really didn't think the kiddos were up for whole group instruction but I had some pretty good resources from History Alive that focused on HOT questions. I promised myself that I was going to get my daughter and drive home with the cell phone and radio off until I could come up with a game plan. How could I have my kiddos works through some reading comprehension and get to conference with them in small groups or individually to help them understand the material? I have had a real interest in gaming in the classroom and decided why didn't I treat the lesson like a video game. The midgets love to earn kudos and rewards! To cash in on this I created Level Up. The reading and questions were broken into seven sections so I created seven levels of this video game. I created a learning target for each section and changed it into a mastery questions, (i.e. I have mastered and understanding of the 3/5 Compromise.). For each mastery concept, I created a title, (i.e. Magnificient Negotiator, Population Analayst, etc.) and I created a nifty badge that I printed out on a color printer.
I set up the classroom in groups but in the center I had set up six desks with a teacher chair in the middle. I roped it off and labeled it with a sign that said, "Do Not Sit Here! Leveling Up Station". That sign got my gamers' attention. They were just buzzing at the possibility of what this lesson might entail.
Students would work in small groups or individually to answer the questions for each section. After they had finished the questions for one or two sections( I did my best to stagger them so I wasn't inundated) the kiddos would come up to the Leveling Station. Here I was able to accomplish the middle school teacher's dream of working with children in very small groups. If students had difficulty with the section I was able to give them redirection and send them back for corrections. If they got the answers correct they got their badge and were able to Level Up. Each badge was pasted onto a sheet and the completion of that sheet was confirmation of their grade which was 70/70.
O to the M to the G .... The kids loooooved it! At first they pretended the badges didn't matter but then they really started to get jazzed by them. The two favorites were "College Graduate" and "I finished the Constitutional Convention and all I got was this lousy badge." Badge. Some of my ASD kiddos were literally buzzing with excitement at this. "Mrs. Wilkins, I can't believe you made these badges. They are so cool!"
In the end I got everything I wanted. I didn't have to do any whole group instruction and kids worked at their own pace. If a kid came up to me twice with wrong answers I was able to do some one on one guided reading with those individuals and sometimes was able to simply explain the concept to them but in a much more casual and useful conversation than a whole group lecture. I had a two really interesting byproducts that I hadn't planned for. As the students moved through the leveling, students that were taking longer and were struggling, felt comfortable asking if they could just stay at the Leveling Up Station and get more intense help from me. Because I was working with children in a staggered fashion, this was totally able to happen. I had other students whose groups were not good influences for them (cheating, too much talking, etc.) and they also felt comfortable asking if they could work at the station. I never could have predicted the station would be an oasis.
I will probably do this activity about once a unit. The kiddos have begged to do it again but I know that they will get sick of it if it is the norm. My proudest badge that I wear was earned because even though 95% of the kiddos really loved it, I saw excitement and pride from that group of boys that a haven't yet decided to be achievers and usually get lost in the larger group. After their friends left the classroom a couple hung back to let me know how much they liked learning this way. One of my quiet tough nuts came a little closer to me and quietly said, "I wish we could do this all the time."
I also know it was a good idea because my husband, the math teacher used it in his class the very next day and another math teacher implemented it in his classroom before I even finished my lesson. Sometimes you come up with the winner!
I have never been content with my pre Constitution unit so this year I used all the resources for the History Alive series and implemented their Constitutional Convention simulation. I've already marked down the things we will change for next year but the kids enjoyed the immersion into the topic.
I love me some simulations! On a dorky tech note, although a lot of people love the Skitch app, I've never found any need for it until now. It has a "blurrer". You know... That tool the blurrs kids' faces so they don't get kidnapped! Awesome and now I will use it all the time!!!
As I've stated in another post, I'm really trying to spread my wings this year with small processing opportunities like Entrance and Exit Tickets. I've had my kiddos make these small little booklets they keep in their binders explicitly for their Exit Tickets. Upon researching on Pinterest (oh Pinterest.... How I love thee:) ) I found some great processing ideas using Twitter as their focus. I have a lot of free space on my rarely used whiteboard so I thought I would turn it into my Twitter board. I loved the idea of thinking like a tech project but completing it in class with nothing but a writing utensil and sticky notes. For my first activity I had them actually tweet out on two separate topics. The kiddos had just finished a Common Core graphic organizer where they read a debate on whether Google was making us stupid. In this activity they had to compose a thesis statement and cite textual evidence to support their claims. On the Twitter board the kiddos had to write down one piece of evidence and then place it in the"Yes" or "No" category. On the second board they had to give their answer to a homework questions, "Do you agree with the Constitutional Convention's rule of secrecy? Why or why not?" The funny thing is that even though only three or four of my kids actually have a Twitter account, they all knew how to hashtag! Some of them were downright masters at it!
The kids absolutely looooved this and it has become a mainstay over the last couple of weeks. They have been begging to use it all the time but I know that as soon as we use it consistently it will turn into a chore. We have retired the hashtag "YOLO" because Mrs. Wilkins just finds it downright stupid:). On the day before Christmas we watched the end of year wrap up on CNN Student News and the Year in Rap for Flocabulary and the kids were given this Tweet prompt: Time Magazine has contacted you about writing the cover story on the Story of the Year. In your opinion, what is the Story of the Year and why?
When given the chance, my kids are kinda insightful huh?