Sunday, May 7, 2017

Brainstorm, List, and Write!

I have found this method very helpful when teaching writing to our littles.  Some struggle with ideas, others struggle with formation of letters, and some struggle with sounds in words.  This strategy helps those strugglers.  I begin with the whole class and I often start by having the class watch a video about the topic.  For example, if we are writing about pigs, I might show this video Pig Video.

After the video we will brainstorm what the students have learned, or what they already know about pigs.  I have some butcher paper with the topic in the middle ready to go and will record what students say.  Before they begin raising their hands to tell me the answers, I ask them to turn to a partner and share ideas.  This way my students who are learning English or need time to think, can hear an answer given by another student before answering.  When we are done, it looks like this:

From here we begin to make lists.  They have already generated some things when they brainstormed, I put the brainstorm paper next to my list paper.  Now we begin to categorize them by what pigs, "have", "like", and "are".   Again, before I pick students I will tell them, "We are going to list what pigs have, tell your elbow partner something pigs have."  I ask students to answer in a complete sentence. As they say their sentence, I point to the word Pigs, the word have then write the word they are adding.  In doing this we are checking that it goes under the right list.  We do one list at a time.  When we are done the completed list may look like this:

I put the subject in black  and make each list a different color.  Then we practice by reading the sentences we can make.  So a simple sentence that may be made would be "Pigs have curly tails."  I model this by showing students how I write the black word and then I'm going to pick a color and I have to write the word in the rectangle and then pick one thing underneath.  This way students do not just copy everything.  I can now easily teach students who get how to make a simple sentence to make it more complicated for example, Pigs are omnivores, smart, and cute.  I can also teach students to add because.  Many of my student's know how to spell "because", I sing a little song to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star".  It goes like this:  b-e-c-a-u-s-e, I can spell because.  It's simple, but for some reason catchy.   Those students who are ready may write something like, "Pigs are omnivores because they eat meat and vegetables."  I encourage students to sound out all words by themselves.  This gives them sound practice and I can also see where there is some sound/letter confusion.  This simple method has proven helpful to my little writers.  I hope you give a try and it's helpful for your littles, too.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Yay! For Google Forms!

This week my amazing principal, hosted a Tcubed workshop.  What is this you are wondering?  Well, it is Teachers Teaching Teachers and she set it up EdCamp style.  Teachers got to choose their own learning and decided which sessions they would attend.  I was asked to present, I would only have 25-30 minutes.  Another amazing teacher from a neighboring district shared something pretty cool with me.  I have been using it ever since.  So I decided, since, I found this useful so would my colleagues.  (I was a little afraid it was something boring to share)  It was google forms, in the past I've used it to create a quiz and put it in my google classroom.  I've used google forms for quizzes when I want something super quick because the spreadsheet makes it super easy to correct a whole class in minutes.  BUT this amazing teacher found another use for google forms.  Ready for it....he uses it to collect data on behavior.  As soon as he shared this with me, I used it and I was amazed.  My student who I thought was having problems all day long, nope, it turned out most of his behaviors were happening during transitions, because google forms date and time stamps when you enter information you can track when the behavior is occurring.  Ready for the most amazing part?  You can upload the file to your phone.  Did I hear you say "WHAT?  I don't have to follow my student with a clipboard and annotate what just happened?"  No you don't, this is the most amazing part, you can have the form on your phone and then just check a few boxes and data is collected!  The students just think I'm adding ClassDojo points, they have no idea I'm collecting data on a child.  When I presented this, I had a special education teacher let me know I just changed her life!  She emailed me the next day and said she stayed up until midnight creating forms.  :)

OK, so now you ask, how do you do this?  Watch the link and I'll show you how to create the form.
How to create a form on behavior

Want to see how to upload it on your phone?
Upload behavior form to a phone

The very first time I ever created a form for a quiz, I can't remember how long I looked around in my drive, but it was quite a while.  It's not there.  You must go back into your forms app and then you will find it.  On the first line will be the forms you most recently viewed or edited, below that will be all the forms you have ever created.

Now what happens if you've created a google form and you'd like to change it.  No problem.  When I created mine, I had put a place to write in.  I realized I never used it as it took too long to type out a response.
Making change to a form that you already created

So this is great for classroom use.  As a principal, how great would it be to have a form similar to this to check off for walk-throughs?  All data would be right there in a spreadsheet.  Wow!  The possibilities are endless!

I hope you find this tool as amazing as I did.  Who knew google forms could be used for more than creating a quiz or survey.  Yay! For Google Forms!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

How to Fix the One Thing that you Dread Doing in Google Classroom

Use this link to visit my store for the TPT store-wide sale on February 7th and 8th:  TPT Store

What is the one thing that you dread doing, as a teacher, in google classroom?  I don't know about you, but I dread when I have to print student work.  It's this tedious thing to open each student's work one by one and then print.  ARGH!  Well, I attended OC CUE Tech Fest 2017 and learned how to do this in 5 minutes or less.  If printing is something that you dread doing, because you know how long this will take, you've got to try this.

Go to the chrome store and search for PDF Mergy and then add it.  Once you have it on your computer then all you need to do is go into your google classroom and pick the assignment you'd like to print, select all, then merge, doing this will merge all of your students work onto one pdf file. (Since it's a pdf you can not make comments)  Printing is something that would take me at minimum 20 minutes now takes less than 5!  YAY!  

Here's another time saver.  Have you wanted to see your google classroom class list as you are grading each project?  I have.  Well, now you can.  If you add these extensions you can:


These two extensions will allow you to have your screens side by side.  So you can click on each child and up pops their work.  You no longer need to close and open each child's document one by one, you have a second window now that will show work along side your class names.  This will save you time when you want to put their grades in as you grade.  YAY!  Another time saver!!!

Hope these time savers help you out!  They've helped me!  

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The End of Average Thinking

I recently read a book recommended to me from someone on my Twitter PLN #Edchat.  The book is The End of Average by, Todd Rose, I finished it about a month ago, but I keep coming back to it, as it really makes me think about education today.

His main point is that average is not really average, so why do we base everything on an average?  He proves that mathematically basing things on the average is truly not the way to do this.  We find the average and rank things and people.

Another point he made was education was modeled after the Industrial Age, for example, think of the bell system, it was developed to get people ready for working in factories, those factory workers listened to the bell to signal lunch, breaks, and the end of the work day.  Children were then trained in school to listen for the bell for those same reasons.  The author asks, why do we still place students in a grade level by age?  Why do many districts discourage students to be retained or accelerated a grade?  What if every student started school with the gift of time? Instead of all students learning the same concept and then everyone moving on at the same time, what if we gave students as much time as they needed to truly understand the concept?  We know babies don't all learn to crawl, walk, or talk at the same time, why do we expect students to all learn the same information at the same time?  If a student already knows the concept they move on.  Why do we teach concepts to students who already know it?  We wonder why we have so many students with "learning disabilities" and others with "behavioral issues".  Have we ever thought that maybe they don't have a learning disability, instead they just need time to learn it?  Or are students with behavioral problems really students who are bored or so frustrated that they haven't grasped a concept that they are acting out?

I recently learned of a school in Santa Ana, California, Advanced Learning Academy (ALA) that does just this.  In fact, here is their vision statement, "The Advanced Learning Academy aims to provide SAUSD students with personalized student-centered instruction that accelerates learning.  Students and teachers have the opportunity to be innovators and collaborators.  The school is focused around unique instructional methods that support competency-based learning coupled with project-based learning.  Both students and teachers are given the space and support to "fail early, fail, fast, and fail forward", as we learn and innovate new paths in learning.  Students will learn daily iterate continuously and engage in skills that support 21st Century learning." I don't know what kind of results they are getting but this is cutting edge education, this is a new way to think about educating our children.

My own daughter struggled in school, I was concerned she was not reading "at grade level", by 3rd grade she was struggling in reading and writing, upon having her tested we found out she had a very high IQ, but may have had some processing issues.  I beat myself up about enrolling her in school at 4 years old, as she was a late November birthday.  If she could have worked at her own pace, and judged on her individual growth, not on an average, I think she would have enjoyed reading in school.  Although she struggled in school, she graduated college and is doing great, that one poor grade did not define her.

The book End of Average, by Todd Rose made me think.  What if as educators we did what we ask of students all of the time?  Become divergent thinkers and think about how to "rethink" the educational system.   We keep talking about teaching students 21st century skills, but we are still modeling schools after the industrial age.  Something's got to change...

I recently came across a video that talks a lot about the same things as the book, if you don't have time to read the book, watch the video, it will make you think:  Changing Education Paradigms I think it will make you think, too.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


I am currently enrolled in a class.  Last week we had our technology portion of the class.  I learned about many apps, websites, and "techy" tricks, but the one thing I learned that I immediately took back to my school was the Chrome app "screencastify".  I was so excited learning about this, that during the lecture I emailed my principal and she immediately emailed back.  This solves our problem with our morning announcements.  I teach at a school with deaf and hard of hearing students, now morning announcements can be signed and broadcast!   Since our school uses chrome books, it's always exciting to find apps that will work with them and that others have used successfully.  If you are unfamiliar with adding an app from the Chrome store, watch how I add screencastify, click on the link and follow my directions on screencastify, Directions to add Screencastify

After you have recorded you can then get a link to share with anyone.  In the upper corner you will see the share icon.  Click on that.

Once you click on that, this screen will pop up.
You will then get a link that you can either email to people, share in your google classroom, or convert into a QR code!  So exciting!  I have the free version, with the free version you can record as many videos as you like, but each video can only be 10 minutes long, which is enough for me.  Those of you that want more options you might want to consider paying the annual fee, with that fee you have a longer recording time, you also will be able to crop videos, with the free version you do not have that capabiity.  I have students record themselves using the educreations app, explaining how they solved a problem,  I only have 2 ipads for the classroom.  This app will solve the problem, as we have a class set of chrome books!  

So when I was using this, it took me some time to figure out how to see my videos.   This is how:

I can also now record myself explaining something and then add it to my googleclassroom for students to view!  The possibilities are endless!  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What New Strategy are you Trying?

Each year during summer vacation, I read one professional book.  From that book I usually find something new to try in my new school year.  Unfortunately, I just did not get around to finishing the book I started.  I go back to work in 2 days!  ARGH!  BUT upon a colleague's recommendation, I watched this video through facebook: Brag Tags  After watching the video I was sold!  I am going to try "Brag Tags" this year.  They look like this:

Image result for image of brag tags

I bought mine from Lucky Little Learners on Teachers Pay Teachers (there are other sellers, search for the tags you like best).  I also made some myself, that I can edit.  I have been printing and cutting for the last couple of days.  Then today I received my drawers that I will be storing them in.  I'm so excited!  I just can't wait to fill it up!

akro-mils 10164 drawer bin cabinet,6-3/8 in. d,20 in. w
I am going to try to use the brag tags and no longer have students pick prizes from the prize box.  Their prize is their brag tag.  I purchased necklaces for them to add each brag tag to.  I also purchased hook thumbtacks.  I have a bulletin board where I have students display their work they are most proud of for the week, this is where their thumbtack is.  Image result for image of hook thumb tacksIf they play with their necklace they will then hang it on the hook near their work.  Drawers, thumbtacks, and necklaces were purchased on Amazon

As a teacher, we all hope that our students have that intrinsic motivation to do well.  Some do, but not all, I'm hoping these brag tags will motivate those student's that need extrinsic motivation.  I'm looking forward to this new school year.  I will be teaching a 3/4 combo and will be looking for ways to motivate all of my students.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Math is so Much Fun!

When I taught kindergarten and first grade I'd play a song by Dr. Jean, "Math is so Much Fun!"  The kids knew all of the words and they'd sing along.  Students were to be ready for math time by the time the song ended.  I don't know if it was the subliminal message in the song, but all of my kindergartners and first graders loved math.

Now, teaching fourth grade, math is fun for those students who "get it" and for those that struggle, they groan at math time.  I found a website that changes all of that.  It's, the kids love it.  It's designed for first to twelfth grade. It's math put into mystical worlds and battles.  The students have to solve math problems in order to get enough lifes to battle.  In the battle, if the class is playing together they can challenge each other, by solving math problems at their level.  When using prodigy expect the class to get a little noisy as they need to communicate to their peer which world they are in.

I had to see why they loved it so much.  I created a user profile for myself and I logged in with the kids.  It walks you through what you are supposed to do.  I have to admit, it is a fun game!  And what the kids don't realize is they are practicing their math at the same time.

As the teacher, I love that I can create a "plan", for example, if I'm working on angles and degrees, I can set the kids up to work on that.  Over the summer I have the whole summer mapped out, to review the harder items we had in class.  The program is adaptive so it increases in difficulty for students who are getting the problems correct or decreases in difficulty for those who are getting problems wrong.   So, even my "math groaners"  look forward to playing prodigy.  I keep the leaderboard (which you can find on your dashboard) displayed on my smartboard and refresh it every so often.  The kids love to see who has moved up on the leaderboard.  They also have access to it, but they have to leave their world in order to see it.

We have been on summer break for almost a week.  I just checked my dashboard, about half of my class is still playing it.  If they are playing at home they are playing with any other fourth grader who is on the web playing and they can challenge them.  It's a highly motivating game.

If you'd like to give it a try, here is my link: