Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Connecting Students Across the Atlantic

I was so excited to use technology in my classroom to expose my students to another culture.  With November 13-17 being International Education Week, I wanted to give my students an International experience.  Two years ago I hosted Valeria, an exchange student from Italy.  What a perfect connection to make with my students.  Valeria and I set up a time to Skype with my class to teach them about Italy.   

Valeria talking about the differences between Italy and the United States
She presented information to the students about what it is like in Italy.  She described schools, common foods, climate, and different cities. The students thought it was pretty awesome to be talking to someone all the way across the Atlantic Ocean and that here it was 10:30 am, and it was 5:30 in Italy!  

A few examples from Valeria's presentation
We talked afterwards how the information we learned connected to our Geography Unit.  The students had to explain which of the 5 themes we gained information about.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Recording in GarageBand

If you weren't lucky enough to attend Brian Yearling's session during our August PD, you may not be aware but...

is an app that EVERYONE can use!

GarageBand could help you....
  • Add a song or a soundtrack to Book Creator projects
  • Perform written text
  • Read and record non-fiction texts for others to listen to
  • Create a listening library for students
  • Create a soundtrack for a live presentation or an iMovie
  • Add an audio portion to a “museum” walk
  • Create book reviews/podcasts

Jennifer Guckenberger and I are currently working to combine our expertise to help fourth grade students create their own podcasts. So far, we have started small. In my music classroom, students learned how to record themselves singing a song we had already been working on. Students will be able to use this skill to record themselves speaking in Jennifer's room. 

Once students have mastered this beginning step, students can add other musical sounds (sound effects, pre-recorded loops and music made with the instruments available in GarageBand) which will help them to complete a full podcast that sounds like a radio show, or maybe even better! 

This, like all great ideas, is a work in progress.....

If you are interested in trying some recording along with us, I created this quick guide to help students get started.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The First 6 Weeks of School

In the music room, I have students for 6 consecutive years. Rethinking and reinventing how to teach expectations at the beginning of the year can be a challenge since many students feel like they already know what to do....

I was brainstorming some ideas with my colleague from Rose Glen when she shared an idea about creating iMovie trailers to teach different routines. This was just the inspiration I needed! What could be better than not teaching expectations over and over again? Having the students do it themselves!

Although I was certain that this plan worked for me, I also needed to make sure it worked for my students. I chose to have my 5th graders be the "music room experts.  I found a fantastic iMovie trailer planning resource created by Tony Vincent that helped students focus their ideas, and plan the text and pictures/videos needed to complete their trailer. We finished by having a gallery walk of all the different videos that were created.

Did they turn out to be everything I dreamed of? No....not all of them (turns out it is really fun to show what NOT to do)....BUT students were engaged! They had fun! And everyone reviewed, discussed, and created something they were proud of. Check out of few of the videos I may be able to use for teachable moments that happen throughout the year:

The new year has started and we're already to a halt!

The objective is: I can problem solve when something goes wrong.

My class by this time has already been exploring: Explain Everything, Google Classroom, Showbie, Razzkids, Dreambox, Google Doc, etc. With this said, it does not make us any less frustrated when the ipad does not cooperate. At the beginning of this journey, I would drop everything I was doing to fix the problem. I would literally bring learning to a halt! 

I have changed my thinking on this. The truth is in life things do not always happen as planned. We have to adapt or modify those plans to continue our work and make progress. This is a lesson that can easily be applied to technology. When my students come to me during group instruction and ask to have their tech hiccup fixed, I turn them away. I remind them that they have to problem solve. 

We have discussed in class the various things we can do when my ipad in not working or is not charged. Our learning does not and should not STOP because of our ipads.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Make them the experts!


At the beginning of the third trimester, I had no idea that my team partner was going to be gone for our last field trip. You may ask: It's a field trip, where's the problem? This particular field trip was a bus tour about the history of Waukesha. It is a celebration about what we have learned. 
Screenshot from our co-created iBook on the history of Waukesha.

This teacher always led the tour, providing the rich history found in Waukesha. Students would follow the tour utilizing an iBook that the students helped us to create using iBook Author.

Here is where I had my problem occur. I had never led this tour on my own and I was more than nervous!

iBook Author

Screenshot from our co-created
Blackboard course where student 
work and available resources are brought together.
At first, I decided not to worry about the tour. Students had a few weeks of research before they were ready to participate in the tour. The previous year we had work extensively on uploading materials into our BB9 course. 

When I say extensively, I mean hours. We put together all of our articles, videos, links, and book titles. Then, we spent a few afternoons uploading these resources into a pre-selected list of questions.

If there is so much work, why did we do it? The truth is that like in many other areas in teaching, there were very few resources. Getting a copy of an original historical document to each student was not easy. We loved the idea of having BB9 warehouse to collect, organize, and distribute the resources. It is a way for all of our kids to see all of the resources, take them home with them, and access them any time they like. And when you are ready for it, adaptive release (a feature in Blackboard that includes rules about when students can see specific content) can make sure your students get just enough material. 

Problem Solved!

Students explore Prairie Home Cemetery as part of their
historical tour of Waukesha.
After students began their research, I became more and more concerned with the tour.

Then, I had one of those "lightbulb" moments. Students were already researching the material I would be summing up. Why not have them lead the tour?

Stops on the Waukesha History tour outlined in the iBook
students helped to create.
And they did. The students led the bus tour, stepping up to speak at "their stop" on the historical tour of Waukesha.  They spoke with authority and enthusiasm -- this was their area of expertise.

The truth is that this ended up being one of the most memorable tours, I have ever planned. 

Students not only summarized their learning for me to assess, but they now had the responsibility to be the experts. It brought everything together. Students were able to see their classmates learning and celebrate beside them!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Prescription for May Headaches: Technology


It's May, which means "Get ready to not see your juniors!"

Below is an update that I sent out to the governance board, WAHP teachers, and professionals in the beginning of May. It tells the general story of what was going on in my PLTW class called 'Medical Interventions.'

As we get into the busy month of May, Waukesha Academy of Health Professional juniors find themselves increasingly busy with AP exams, field trips, forums, and an overall hectic nature as their year comes to an end. Because of this along with preparing students for an increase in responsibility, we enter a completely self-paced unit in Medical Interventions looking into designing alternative treatments for cancer.
Similar to online portions of college classes, we will be utilizing technology via BB9 and Google Apps to complete this unit. ​BB9 will act as a means for students not only to receive direction and information, but a place for them to complete formative check ins in the form of conclusion questions and discussion boards. Students will showcase their collaboration skills through this self-paced unit via Google Classroom and Google Slides. The entire unit will culminate in a scientific poster presentation where they research a nanotechnology, connect it with a specific cancer case study, create a treatment plan that follows ethical board regulations, and present their plan to their classmates.
This flexibility of pace allows students to practice their higher executive processing skills as they must schedule their time and effort properly as they are in and out of class frequently during this busy May schedule.

What isn't seen in this update is just how successful this unit was because of my work with technology. I attempted this self-paced, free-flowing class structure last year, but I saw a wide variety of challenges and successes amongst the different types of learners. This year, though, I saw many more successes than failures! Some of my work included:
  • Adaptive release on BB9, pushing students towards work completion in order to gain access to the next step
  • Better formatting of the online pages, alluring student interest in the most simple yet psychological way
  • Test questions on BB9 serving as formative practice instead of conclusion questions they would answer in their notebooks, which I would never see. This also allowed me to grade and give feedback immediately upon submission.
  • Discussion blogs between their classmates on topics throughout the unit
  • Collaborative work with Google Slides
All of this made my expectations crystal clear as students progressed on their own pace throughout the unit, and as my post implies, it was the best medicine for that May Headache!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Adventures in Thoughtful Logs

Along with my SLO for 3rd grade students, I decided to adapt the idea of thoughtful logs into the music room.  I had been to a session at the Waukesha One conference presented by the specialists at Bethesda in which they used Google Docs. This session really got me thinking about how I could make this work in my own classroom. I decided to use Book Creator as I felt that this app allowed students more options and tools to organize their thinking and record their learning. We worked together to document their learning using writing, drawings, photos, recordings, and screen shots from other apps like Brain Pop.  Students are also super savvy with this app!

Getting started was pretty easy. I created a simple template based off a note value worksheet I had used with students in the past as a "Vocabulary" section and then added the oh so important "My Thinking" section by just labeling empty entry pages not knowing what we might need to add as the year progressed. Then, I  Airdropped it to my students.

By the end of the year, the thoughtful logs were an awesome collection of their learning. Take a look at some samples of their work:
Students were able to screenshot their work from the Brain Pop writing activity to add to their "My Thinking" section

Students took pictures of measures they created. They were asked to think about what time signature they were composing in and then had to choose the one they wanted to play in our drum circle.

A view of our vocabulary section

Students created a new rhythm based off a song called "Tennessee".
How would we get our state to fit into a song written in 4/4 time?
How do you know your solution would work?