Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hour of Code

Hour of Code last week was, hands down, a success!!

The high school coding teacher and I coordinated our schedules for Hour of Code, and my kids got to take a bus over to the high school to code with the "big kids!!"  Oh my goodness, was it ever incredible!

I blogged about our plans here, so head there now and read that first.

Now that you're all caught up, let me show you a "few" pictures of our time.

It turned out a little blurry, but this was our Tweeted picture before we left for the high school.

This high schooler looked at me and said, "This kid is coding at my level!"  That was exactly what I wanted to have happen - for everyone to see that anyone can code . . . and be a rock star at it.

All of the yellow shirts are mine.  Don't you just love this lab?  And look at the expressions on their faces.  Engagement!!

I loved seeing so many girls totally into coding.

I loved how the high school students coached more than anything.  See who's got the mice?   They let my kids take the lead and just guided as necessary. 

This is my favorite picture.  This one seldom smiles.  Just look at that face!!

This was one of my favorite days ever.  We also had two newspaper reporters, the director of our local Chamber of Commerce, and a rep from the organization responsible for the lab grant with us, along with several administrators.  To see the kids collaborating with others twice their age hopefully had a significant impact on everyone there.  I wanted them to see that our kids are capable of so much, and that the 21st century skills of collaboration and problem solving that we talk so much about are not only doable but achievable.  

Of course, it's not too late for you to start coding!  Go to www.code.org, sign your class up for free tutorials, and get them started.  NO prior experience is necessary (believe me).  This was a big risk for me last year, but one that I'm so incredibly glad I took.

Happy coding!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Words Their Way - Assessment

If you missed last week's post, be sure to check it out here.  I've listed all of the supplies you need to do Words Their Way - and why you should consider using it in your classroom.

This week's post about assessment is short and sweet because the ladies at Second Story Window have already done such a fabulous job, I'm just going to send you over there!  Their method and forms are the exact ones I used in my classroom, and they're working wonderfully.

Click here to head on over and read the "Assessment" portion of their post!

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Hour of Code is Here!

I learned about Hour of Code last year and kinda sorta did it with my kids.  I didn't think much would come of it - until I saw them doing it.  Holy cannoli - these kids were writing html and Java like bosses!!  And they were loving it!  They were collaborating and problem solving and celebrating.  In fact, it was so exciting, I texted our principal to just come down and watch them.

So I knew that I wanted to do it bigger and better this year.  I began at the beginning of the year, setting up a class account with usernames and passwords for each of my kids (which is super easy to do, by the way).  Then, I coordinated with the computer programming teacher at our high school (our high schoolers are coding for the first time this year), and my thirders are going to get to take a bus over there Tuesday to code with the big kids!!  I honestly don't know who's more excited - me, Mrs. Colbert, my kids, or her kids.  We've planned some time for the high schoolers to mentor my kids on the Hour of Code site, some time for lunch in the big kid cafeteria, and then more time later for the high schoolers to help the thirders turn their "Naughty and Nice" holiday paragraphs into customized web pages.  

I'm so excited for a lot of reasons.  I can't wait for my kids to see this incredible computer lab - I blogged about it here.  I can't wait for them to see that their skills aren't that far behind those of the high schoolers.  And I'm excited to share the importance of coding with media - we'll have reporters there to join in and see the fun.

It's not too late for you to participate in Hour of Code this week!  All it takes is one hour and a computer lab.  And you do not have to have any prior coding experience - the videos and tutorials take care of it all.  If you do join in, be sure to Tweet and share with the hashtag #hourofcode.  Be a part of this global movement to make sure all kids have the opportunity to learn programming!

Happy coding,

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Words Their Way - Resources

Let me tell you about spelling in my classroom.

My first years of teaching, we had the regular spelling list.  I give it out, you study it, I test you on Friday, and we move on.  I tried to get creative with homework and such, but that was basically it.

Last year, we had no spelling at all, the reasoning being that students don't REALLY learn it, we are already learning spelling within the context of writing, no spelling was provided with our curriculum, etc.  Students - not surprisingly - didn't leave much better in spelling than they were when we got them.

So, this year, back to spelling we went.  I began the year with the standard list, which actually came from an old reading series.  I pretested on Monday, the kids studied, and then we posttested on Friday.

But what was happening was this.  About a fourth of my class aced the pretest - which meant they didn't have to study any words at all during the week.  Another fourth or so of my class STRUGGLED with the words - and regularly failed the posttests.  The rest of the kids were rocking along pretty well.

And I thought - don't ALL of my kids need to be learning words?  And don't these words need to be just right for them - so that they aren't studying for hours and then STILL failing the test?  I mean, I teach how to choose a just right book.  I differentiate my reading materials.  I scaffold their work in math.  What about spelling?

I know this may not be such a shock for many of you, but it really was an eye opener for me.

So, I got to digging.  I found lots of good stuff, but everything I read that I liked kept circling around to Words Their Way.  It had everything I was looking for - differentiated lists that matched kids' spelling development, an emphasis on learning spelling patterns rather than a random list, and a heavy use of sorts to practice spelling.  I also noticed that it was a lot of work, but what's a little hard work, right?


Well, so far, so good, and I'm far enough into it to feel comfortable sharing what we've done, where we are, and what I have planned next.  I'm planning a series of blog posts on Words Their Way so that if you, like me, are a little lost about the best way to implement the whole system, you can learn something from someone who's found a way to make it work for her.

Today I'm going to share what I've bought - which is really very little.  But I'm one of those who likes to have all of my materials in hand before I dive into something.

The first purchase you'll want is this:
Buy this now.  This is the latest and greatest edition.  I have an early edition I snagged for really cheap from Thriftbooks, and it works just as well.  This is your absolute must have.  Skim through it and read the parts that really interest you.  Don't try to read it cover to cover.  You'll find yourself reading chapters here and there later on.

Buy these later.  You won't need all of these, but you'll want to pick up the ones that most match your kids.  They have these books of words sorts for each level of spelling development.  Again, you can snag them pretty cheap on Thriftbooks.  You'll get these after you assess everyone and see where they are.

Buy this now and later.  You'll want to go ahead and get some so that you can get started with making sort cards.  You may need more later, depending on much you like it and how much you need.

Buy this now and later.  You'll want lots of these to use to file/organize your sort cards.

Buy this now and later.  You'll use these to store your sort cards.

Buy this now.    You'll only need one package, so go ahead and pick it up now.  You'll use these to label your sort cards.

These supplies will help you develop your entire spelling curriculum, so even though there may be some initial investment now, you won't need to buy anything else in years to come.  And even these supplies are pretty reasonable.  

But for right now, you want the book.  Get it, skim it, and check back in next week when we talk assessment!

Have a great weekend,

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Instant Student Engagement

This happens.  Not often, but it does.

I got the idea from somewhere - if it was you, please let me know.  But I ordered the stamp from Vistaprint, and when someone does something extraordinary - I mean really, truly, out of this world fantastic - I dance on their desks.

They know what's coming when I go for the stamp.  I stamp their paper, ask them to scoot back a bit, and do a 10 second boogie on their desks.

I haven't fallen.  Yet.

However, if you want to get students paying attention and engaged, this is one strategy I've found that works every single time.

It's not pretty.  But it works.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Techy Tuesday - Chatterpix

I hope you had a wonderful, safe, turkey-filled Thanksgiving weekend!  Mine was especially special because my oldest, who's in the Air Force, got a couple of days at home, and I got to see him for the first time in MONTHS.  I'm so very thankful for that and for the sacrifice that he and all of our service members make every day of every year - but especially at this time of year when we want everyone home more than ever.

Right before we got out for Thanksgiving, our school hosted a Night at the Museum parent involvement evening.  Our second and third graders had spent a couple of weeks researching and writing about famous people, and it all culminated on this evening when the kids arrived at school dressed as "their person."  They were stationed in classrooms throughout the school, a la wax museum, and parents "toured" the classrooms as the "exhibits" shared their learning.  It was a big success!!

To have something in the hall for parents to view student work, we created Chatterpix of their famous people!  Here are just a few of the clips:

Are they not the CUTEST?

I've done researching famous people for several years, and I always have a few kids who drag their heels and don't want to get it done.  But when I told them they could make their Chatterpix only after every other part of the project had been done and approved - well, they were off like a shot!

And it's really easy.  Here's how to make your own Chatterpix!

1.  Download the app onto your iPad.  It's free.  Open it up.

2.  While in the app, take a picture of whatever you want to Chatterpix.  I had the kids draw just the heads of their people on paper WITH NO MOUTHS and then take a picture of that.  Which looked a little creepy.  But we added mouths before they were displayed in the hall.

3.  With your finger, draw a line where you want the mouth to be.

4.  Click the record button and record what you want to say.  Make it quick - you only have 30 seconds.

5.  Review your Chatterpix.  Don't like it?  Redo!

6.  Like it?  Save it to your gallery and then (if you're like me), export it directly to your YouTube channel.

Done!  After that, we displayed their drawings in the hall (with mouths added).  I got the link to each one's video and turned it into a QR code that I printed and glued onto the bottom right of each picture.

We loved working with Chatterpix - and I'll definitely be looking for ways to use it more!

Happy Tuesday,