Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Digital Conferring Notes & Feedback

Over the past month I have been in the process of switching from the Confer App to using Google Forms for my conferring notes.  I loved everything about Confer except that there was not an easy way for me to send my students feedback from our conference.  I was leaving students with post-it notes as to what they were to be working on, but many times they were left behind in the classroom.  Not very helpful for the student to refer back to the next day.

Using Autocrat with my Google form sends my students an email right after our conference with what we discussed.  It is the same way we get feedback from walkthroughs.  I created a template of the items I wanted the students to see.  They see their Star & Stair, which is a narrative comment.  They also see targets from the continuum and which grade level the task or skill represents.  I have a section where I select areas that would be useful for a small group that the students do not see.

So the students get an email, but how do I know they are reading the comments?  This would only be beneficial to the students if they are reading and reflecting on my feedback.  On the PDF the students get is a link to a Student Reflection Form where they answer two questions from our conference.  What helps you to reach your STAR in your writing?  How will you accomplish your STAIR in writing?  Be specific in what you will do.

The students fill out the reflection the next day during Writer's Workshop.  This helps them to remember what we talked about and set them up for success because they are explaining what they will do to improve their writing.

The students keep their conferring notes in Notability and I remind them to look over them before they start writing and to focus on reaching their Stair.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Thankful for my colleagues!

At Waukesha One, a dear friend and kindergarten colleague introduced the SeeSaw app to me and my grade level partner.  It was the best take away from that day, and it happened by chance.  

We did not attend a scheduled session for this app, rather, we met in the cafeteria during the last session to share how we've been utilizing technology.  It was blessing to have that opportunity.  She shared how to create an account and add students.  She explained how she uses the app and showed us her students' work samples.  And we requested that the app be added to Self Service (the app that delivers apps to students and teachers on district owned iPads) so we could begin playing with it.  

I have found SeeSaw to be a very user friendly app.  This app was created by a kindergarten teacher for her students, so I can easily adapt her ideas to use for my class.  In addition, I'm addicted to her "Pd in your pjs." Her ideas are endless, especially for flipping lessons.   However, I just need more time to play.   

It is similar to Google Classroom, but for me, I like the format of SeeSaw.  It was easy for my students to log on and use. They are able to send me completed assignments which I can add comments and send feedback without actually collecting the physical paper.  The voice option is an added bonus for students learning a second language in my dual language kinder class.  I also have the option to share their work with their parents or use the app as a means to create portfolios with their "Wow" work. 

Any grade level would be able to utilize this app, it's not meant for just elementary students.  My goal is to become more knowledgeable and comfortable with this app and all the things my students and I can do with it, so I am able to try student led conferences next year.  That's a real leap for me.  I've never done student led conferences before because I thought it was too much work and too difficult for kinder students.  However, SeeSaw makes it so easy for students to assume responsibility for their learning and share their progress.  I am so excited!!  

My plan to achieve this goal is during summer vacation. I'll modify "Pd in your pjs" to "Pd by the poolside" in the privacy of my backyard paradise!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Closer to the Flipped Classroom with Blackboard!

The Journey Began with BB9

Before I began this journey, I would be the first to say that BB9 stood for the Baffling Blackhole 9. By this I mean, you go in and never seem to find the exit. We began this venture last year, but began small. 

First, we decided what unit would lend itself for independent student navigation. The answer is most units would, but there are a few we can all agree are easier. Then, we mapped it out by simply adding our headings and subheadings in BB9. 
This is an example of our course structure in Blackboard.

Finally, we added content to each subheading. 
We added many types of content, from
 text to videos to links in Google Drive.
The fun part came this year when we learned about adaptive release. This component of BB9 allows us to release content slowly. Students must unlock content by viewing and checking off things they have done in Blackboard on their iPad. This make our lessons differentiated and truly more flipped.

Groups of students were now working at their own pace. They were able to re-watch videos when needed and we were available to work with those struggling. 

Publishing Their Work on the Green Screen

This particular unit we decided to publish using the App Veescope on a green screen. Students were excited and motivated by this to complete their projects. They were to create a commercial that persuaded other peers from different groups to migrate to their country. These videos were shared with students from another school last year, and last year's student videos served as exemplars this year.

Helpful Hints:
  1. Have all apps on iPad ready for when students are ready:
                                   (Youtube Capture)                                    (Veescope)
  2. Practice in front of the green screen
  3. Use microphone and ipad stand if possible

Friday, March 17, 2017

I don't know what to do! What are we doing? There's an app for that!

How often do you see a student who is just kind of putzing around the room with seemingly no direction?  You ask them what they're doing and they say that they don't know what to do.  You just gave a GREAT mini-lesson, checked to make sure that they understood by having them repeat the steps and yet somehow between getting the assignment that they needed to do and their table they somehow forgot everything that you had just said.  That's not frustrating at all right?

There's an app for that!  A colleague of mine in fifth grade told me about how she uses Google Slides to give students their work for the day, links, etc. all in writing.  Well, 1st graders can't all read that well, so I decided that I was going to take her idea and modify it for first grade with pictures.  I literally call it our "What are we doing?" slides.  You can see what mine looks like here (it's all in Spanish).  When a kid is puttering around aimlessly or actually takes the initiative to ask me what we are supposed to be doing, I tell them to go right to our What are we doing slide for whatever time of day it is.  I change it every day as needed, but I still have a copy of my original slide show that I keep the original slides in so that I can always copy and paste the original slides back in to the current slide show at any time in case we have a strange week with a different schedule, etc.

I've put pictures of what they are supposed to do as much as I can to make it more universally-accessible.  To say that it has changed up how I do my day is an UNDERSTATEMENT.

What should we do in this center?  Boom! Check Google Slides.

What's our Seesaw login again?  Boom!  Check Google Slides.

The best part?  It lets me send kids links to work I want them to do really easily!  I have a Google Doc with a list of reading responses that I want them to do that they can pick from, and I just inserted the link into the Google Slide for my Responding to Reading slide.  I have students who were making bad decisions for their learning, so I have the link to a Google Form that I created that lets them reflect on their behavior and then I email their responses to their parents so that they can talk about it at home.  And I'm just scratching the surface!

What are some ways that you use Google Slides in your class?

The Power of a Badge

As all of us do from time to time, I have a particularly difficult class of students that REALLY wanted to learn to play recorders. I know! It is hard to believe! My challenge was how could I keep them interested once they realized a recorder was more than just a way to create more sound.

I decided to allow students to work through recorders at their own pace by using BB9. I spent time putting together learning modules that allowed them to pace themselves. I created tutorial videos. I found another educator had made some great videos that students could use to practice. I added songs to Explain Everything documents so it was easy to assess.....except some students weren't doing anything! We will call them the turtles!


The Achievement feature in BB9 allows you to award students a badge based on a few triggers. You can select certain students, a task they must complete or even just something they need to view. I started by just creating one badge for students who completed the first 4 modules (which meant they knew how to play 3 notes). Once I showed the class that they existed, BAM! Look at my turtles go! 

All but one of my students immediately had something turned in and were working towards the goal. Although the Achievements portion of BB9 is a bit clunky with lots of options, it is worth a try. I am by no means an expert but I know I will be exploring more.