Sunday, June 11, 2017

Embracing the Fidget Spinner Fight



This is a combined blog effort with English Middle School Mania

The 2016-2017 school year is officially over for us! We are so beyond ready for summer. For weeks we’ve been fighting the “fidget spinner battle” and that combined with trying to keep students engaged during the last week of school got our wheels turning. As teachers we tend to understand the last week of school is often something the students aren't going to put much time or effort into, they're "checked-out" and so are we. We were both undecided going into the last full week of school (That's the beauty of teaching for a combined total of 21 years, we could pull something together over the weekend!), then I said, "Wanna do a project about Spinners?" Of course Andi’s answer was “yes.”

Our Eastern Hemisphere teacher also got in on the action. So, we started creating it on a Thursday, and continued adding pieces over the weekend. However, we’re really proud of what we came up with:


Learning Objectives
Math
Students will:
  • Collect data.
  • Graph and analyze data using circle graphs, scatter plots and box plots.
  • Calculate mean/average.
  • Convert time (minutes to seconds) using proportions.
ELA
Students will:
  • Collect evidence for and against spinners as fidget toys
  • Present an argument to:
    • Persuade your teachers and principals to accept and see the benefits of fidget spinners
    • Convince your peers to stop spinning and to see the challenges it causes for others
E.H.
Students will:
  • Research toys through the 20th-21st centuries
  • Generate a list of the top 20 toys of the 21st century
  • Design a toy

You can find the Math piece here and the ELA piece FREE here. The projects were actually pretty great! The students loved working together for the four days, and even though we only had four school days left in the year, a lot of the students really worked hard to create a solid presentation for our last full day. They took ownership of their learning and their projects.

For math, I wanted to focus on applying useful math skills in a meaningful way. I also wanted students to apply skills that they had learned this school year. I not only wanted students to take ownership, s wanted them to answer that age old question, “When am I ever going to use this?” Students were given opportunities of choice and were able to share their opinion of this hot topic. Although the ELA focused on the debate of the topic, students had to take a stance and develop a survey question for their position of “To spin or Not to spin?” with statistics in mind. The math of this project focused on collecting and analyzing data to back up their argument and test the quality of these overnight sensations. The price of these little gadgets range from $5 to $40 and are made from a plethora of materials. After gathering all the data and creating displays, students were expected to analyze their data in such a way to decide if price and materials plays a role in how well a fidget spinner spins.

For ELA, Mrs. Adams wanted the students to focus on one last argument piece. Articles were chosen to outline positives and negatives of spinners as a useful fidget. The students also needed to create a survey to track their argument. Some of the groups were surprised. They thought everyone would vote yes in favor of spinners in the classroom, however about half of the students they surveyed were against them. After gathering all the data and creating displays, students were expected to present their math data and their argument showing evidence to support their stance on spinners.


This brought us to this blog post today. I thought of how we embraced this item that has become the bane of teacher's existence. We took something that challenged us and turned it around on the students. As many say, “if you can’t beat them, join them.”

What we as teachers need to do is help our students take ownership of their learning. We need to help them make that shift. I think Ownership is the biggest shift in education. Ownership is by definition the “fact of being an owner.” This may not be true for all but when you own something, you have a sense of pride about it. You want to show everyone and you sometimes brag about it. When you think about all of the buzzwords and phrases that have been around for the past 10 years: project-based learning, one-to-one, flipped learning, blended learning, flexible seating, flexible spaces, genius hour, makerspace, growth mindset... What do they all have in common? We're trying to put the student in charge of the learning. All of these things were also created with the student in mind and tend to promote a student centered environment.

Why do we get so frustrated over small objects spinning in our peripheral vision? It's because we feel like they are distractions from the learning. They usually are, but that's because the students are taking ownership of everything in front of them instead of their own learning. It is also frustrating to see the way fidget spinners are being marketed. Let’s face the fact that they are indeed toys.

If you want to continue teaching the way you were taught and the way your parents were taught, stop reading NOW. If you want to embrace this shift: Try, and really do it, don't just say it, but try to focus on one of those phrases from above. If you already do one, add in another! All of these practices are meant to help students take ownership of their learning. Which should be the ultimate goal, to get the students to care equally or even more than you, as an educator, do about their learning or education.

As educators, we should focus on only what you can control. This means if you are the only teacher embracing student ownership, so be it. You can't control the others in your building or on your grade level team. You can also say over and over that you wish the parents would instill this concept themselves, but you can't control that either. You can only control your classroom.

So, when the next annoying fad comes in, embrace it. Your students will love you for it and will learn so much from it. Show your students how they take ownership of that fad, and they can take ownership of their learning too. Enjoy the end of the school year if you are finishing up. Rest, Relax, and Rejuvenate over the next few weeks. Tell me below what your students were obsessed with and how you could have incorporated it into your instruction.

Until next time,








Friday, June 9, 2017

Flipping over Math


For the past year and a half I have embarked on a journey to flip my 7th grade math class. Since I have officially end the 2016-2017 school year, I thought it was fitting to reflect on my process, achievements, and struggles. As I sit here, I think about:


















  • What went well?
  • What can I improve? 
  • How to use the feedback I received?

I guess I'll begin with the basic question, "What is a flipped classroom or flipped learning?" Flipped learning is when content is delivered electronically prior to the class before the content will be applied. Students take notes or study the lesson on their own and come to class with knowledge of the topic. There are tons of layouts but I personally like to use: 1) videos to deliver the lesson, 2) a quick assessment to show prior knowledge or area of need, 3) quick mini review at the beginning of class then, 4) application or further instruction in small groups depending on student need during class.


What went well?

Given that I began transitioning to a flipped class after 1st Quarter in 2015, I feel that I was better prepared this year and the students received the idea of flipped learning better than my previous students. Students knew exactly what was expected since the 1st 2 weeks was dedicated to practicing what flipped learning would look like and the parents were clearly communicated with about the process. Last year I used a Google Site to house my content while this year I used Schoology to hold all the videos and quick checks in a single assignment. I found that this change simplified the process for my students.
This is from last year. I used a Google Site, Videos (Youtube, Learnzillion
I posted the assignment in Schoology, my school's LMS, then added a link to
to my site. Even though the link never changed, I would drop the ball and
forget to post the link in the assignment sometimes. Students would use 
that as an excuse. That would drive me bananas but I could be angry since 
I forgot the link.
This screenshot is from this school year. I gave the students what to write in their 
table of contents of their notebook, the essential question(s), and instructions. I 
posted the video, notes, and questions in a Schoology quiz. This automatically 
graded the questions and students are also able to submit their notes directly in 
the Flipped Lesson. I stressed to the students that notes are most important and 
answer the questions to the best of their ability came second. It was more important 
to me that they had solid notes than correct answers. I used a rubric to check notes.
Students received a participation grade for notes.

Here is my generic "Rate Yourself" question that was included in every 
quick check. When grouping for the lesson, I would look at student 
performance on the questions first and at the self reflection questions second.
I would build tiered groups:
  • Level 1- Small group with the teacher
  • Level 2- Additional practice with a group or partner
  • Level 3- Extended practice or application
I am also excited to report that about 80% of my students would complete the flipped learning nightly. That is a great improvement considering the 30% of students completing it the year prior. My goal for next year is to have at least a 95% completion rate. I am not sure how to go about achieving my goal at this time but I'm working towards targeting parental support.

What can I improve?

There are several things I would like to improve. To begin with, I'd like to use videos made by myself almost exclusively. There are some YouTube channels that I love so I will probably use some 3rd party videos but using mostly my own is the plan. I plan to record a majority, if not all, of the videos this summer. Some of my favorite channels include: Don't Memorise, Khan Academy, PBS Math Club, and MashUp Math. I am hoping to build my own channel up so that my channel can make another teacher's list one day. I'd also like to improve the parental support. Our math textbook is not the best resource for parents when it comes to helping their student at home so I'd like them to become an ally. The videos are for my students but parents will find them help when they are trying to help their students navigate math standards. I'd also like to improve the in class activities to apply concepts. I'll like to set up centers and have student assigned to two centers each day.

How to use the feedback I received?

I received feedback from parents, students, and colleagues. I was told that the doodle notes and notes outline was very useful for the students. A parent should concerns that here students never knew what to write down in their notes. I plan to have outlines and doodle notes ready to go at the beginning of the school year. A student told me that the notes without the quick check question was less stressful for them. I was told that the questions created pressure for them. I don't think that I will eliminate the questions since I use the results for planning and instruction. I been told by parents and students that they like the flipped learning model as well as be others who much they dislike the model. Parent say that I am expecting the students to teach themselves by utilizing this model.

I plan to take this summer break to relax and unwind. I also plan to use this time to improve my classroom practices.

Until Next Time,




Getting "Social" in the Classroom


Getting "Social" in the Classroom
Students are always eager to make connections with school and teachers outside of school, but there is a spotlight on keeping those connections appropriate. This year in my class I've incorporated social media into my classroom to allow students to make those connections outside of school. I have a class Instagram page and twitter hashtag that I've been using. Students can share with me or see what's new by following the hashtag. It took me almost the entire school year to relinquish some of my control a bit and allow students to post to the class social media outlets.











My job tags. The coffee cups are seat numbers. Jobs are assigned by seat locations. Job assignments change daily.

Allowing students to somewhat "run" these accounts were always the plan but sometimes it is hard for me to let go of some of the control. I created nifty tags to assign different jobs daily to students. Tweeter and Instagram photographers are included on the possible jobs list. This year I utilized the Tweet Master and Instagram Photograph. I set up a team Youtube page that I plan to use next year and I'm thinking hard about a class SnapChat. SnapChat will the hardest for because I do not fully understand it's purpose but my students love it and it given the opportunity to teach me about something. My Tweet Master is supposed to summarize the lesson, pose a questions, or tweet something that they learned or thought was pretty cool. The Instagram Photograph post cool pictures from class with a caption. When I post, I post about the lesson, inspirational repost, and I pose questions and give prizes to the students who comments with the correct answer first. I'd love to do more student create video as review, explanation, or a Vlog.

Check out my class social media feeds:
  • #mathinroom202 on Twitter: I used a hashtag instead of setting up an account. Students will be to use the hashtag from their own accounts.
  • @MathinRoom202 on Instagram: I actually created an account on Instagram. I sometimes post questions and give prizes out. I also post student work and notes for the day.
Other examples for classroom uses of Social Media:
  • A book talk twitter chat.
  • Twitter chat study session OR chapter review.
  • Instagram survey with using emojis for different responses.
  • Weekly/Unit rewind Youtube video to wrap up the content and highlight the most important things

What does this look like in a classroom?
  • Of course I post things but in class students access to a "Master" that I have social media apps on. 
  • They know my expectations and what is appropriate/inappropiate. 
  • Students what the last 5-10 minutes of class to post if it is their job in place of the exit ticket that the rest of the class is completing.
  • Students end each post with their first name and last initial.

Things to keep in mind:
  • Parents must be aware and kept in the loop.
  • Students must be taught your expectations and the guidelines. You may have to model what this looks like.
  • Students must see examples of what to do AND what not to do.
  • You must trust that your students will make good choices.
  • And if your students do not make good choices, you must have consequence already outlined.


In closing, I've got awesome feedback from my students about the Classroom Social Media outlets.

"I really like the class instagram page, because it is fun to follow and answer the questions that you post." -Gabby

"It's cool" -Jhay

"I haven't really kept up 😬 Sorry, I've just been grounded, but otherwise for what I have seen of it, I feel like it's fun." -Jessica

"I feel like it is a smart thing to do because kids like social media and that is a way to put school into social media." -Connor

"It's a good idea because then we can see how others do their work and we can learn from them." -Micheal


Until Next Time,


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Quizizz vs Kahoot: The battle of the Game-Based Response Systems

Quizizz and Kahoot are both game-based response systems and I love them both equally for different reasons. When my students arrive to class and I reveal that we will be playing either Quizizz or Kahoot, my students immediately become excited.

Quizizz is a game-based response system that may aid in the gamification of your classroom or to just get your students excited about learning. You could easily search for a ready-made quiz,  create your own using the Quizizz database of questions, or create a quiz with your own questions. Even if you choose a ready-made quiz, you could edit the questions, delete questions, or add questions of your own. You can also set time limits, as little as 5 seconds and as much as 15 minutes, for each question individually.


After the ease of setting up your quiz, Quizizz gives teachers the option of playing a live game or assigning it as "Homework." Assigning the Quizizz as "Homework" just means the students can complete the Quizizz until it expires. In either mode the students are able to view all the questions on their own device as well as see the leaderboard.


There are also several options that allow you to personalize the Quizizz for your students before giving them access to it. I usually keep everything on but sometimes I turn off the "Show Answers" feature. I find that the leaderboard motivates the students but when it's assigned as "Homework" students believe that they are in 1st place but they can be pushed out of the top spot if someone faster comes along.

I created a Quizizz to allow you to experience it through the eyes of the students. Unfortunately, it expires on April 5th. The expiration of the quizzes is one thing that I wish they'd change. There are some instances that I would like my students to be able to have access to Quizizz quizzes for as long as they'd like for practice and review.


Follow the link below and use the game code provided before April 5th to experience the thrill of Quizizz for yourself.

1. Open https://join.quizizz.com in your browser.
2. Enter the 6-digit game code 986726  , and click "Proceed."
3. Now enter your name and click "Join Game!"
4. You will get an avatar, and then see a "Start Game" button. Click it to begin!


What students love

  • It's fun for all the students. What's wrong with friendly competition? The students play it like it is a video game.
  • My students love the silly avatars. After they put the code and choose a name it amazes me how they look at the screen waiting on their avatar to pop up. 
  • Who doesn't like music? The music changes the entire atmosphere in my class. 
  • Based on my students reactions, I'm pretty sure that the memes are their favorite. It's almost as if they don't even realized that they are reviewing math skills and concepts.

What I love
  • I am not confined to my device whether it be an iPad or laptop to control the questions.
  • The students see the questions on their individual devices.
  • I feel as if I am as bad as the students when it comes to instant gratification because I love the live feedback when we play live and I love the instant results when I assign it as "Homework."
  • I love the fact that my students like it.
  • Quizizz is student paced. Whether it's live or not students can still move at their own pace.
  • I LOVE the ease of creating quizzes. The question search option has me sold!



Kahoot is already loved by many educators. It was the best new thing in our build last school year. The students LOVE to Kahoot and anytime I ask for suggests for reviewing math concepts, they ALWAYS say Kahoot. Kahoot as another game-based response system that helps students get excited about learning and teachers get excited about teaching. With Kahoot, you can also create your own Kahoots, their version of quizzes, or search ready-made Kahoot that are usually created by other educators. Kahoot gives the option of setting time limits of 5 seconds to 120 seconds.


Kahoot offers a little variety. You also have the option of creating discussions or surveys. 


Kahoots can only be played live but I've seen classroom on opposite sides of the globe play together using a shared screen. Students or participants see the questions projected on a screen and answer those questions on their own devices. You, as the teacher, hold the upmost honor of press the button to go to the next question. 


Kahoot also has a new question format. Jumble allows players to put the answers in a correct order instead of choosing one correct answer.


The students will see their own score and rank on their individual devices but the top 5 kahooters will be displayed on the projected Scoreboard.

You can download the results from the Kahoot to see the results and use for grading or instructional purposes.

What students love


  • The students love the game appeal. Kahoots are fun for all students.
  • Students love the music. I can't argue with that either.
  • Students love the Scoreboard. Most of my students are competitive. I even have a competitive spirit myself.
What I love
  • The ease of creating the Kahoots.
  • I like the variety. I like being able to do discussions, surveys, and the new Jumble questions.
  • I can't resist how much my students enjoy Kahoots.
  • I love being able to add videos to the questions.
When it comes to Quizizz, Kahoot, and students it is a win-win. You can create either with ease and the students love it so how could you lose. Both can be used as a preview to content to come, as a review for things already taught, or as reinforcement for freshly introduced concepts. When things appeal to my students, I try to incorporate them in my classroom. In this case, it not too hard to make happen. Drop me a line below and tell me if there is a clear cut winner in your eyes.

Until next time,




Sunday, March 12, 2017

My Classroom 2016-2017

 
I know this is late but here is a glimpse into my classroom. I feel as if I decorate my class each year as a typical elementary school teacher but I don't think I will ever change because I take pride in my classroom's theme yearly and I have so much fun decorating. This year I chose the theme of a cafè using the colors lime green, tan, and turquoise.




Here you will find my door. This year we were not permitted to decorate the outside of our doors due to new fire codes so you could imagine my disappointment. I had big plans for my door this year and I was saddened when I was told to take my chalkboard down. I attempted to transform my door into a chalkboard to keep with my cafe theme. I have my welcome sign from TpT Store: Mindful Matters above my door, and mini chalkboard beside my door for updates and reminders, and my twitter feed from TpT Store: The Tallest Teacher.

Below you will see how I utilized my interior door leading to the classroom next door and my make shift bulletin board. Above the door I have our class policy and on the door there are my conversation expectations. We do lots of discussions and I expect active participations from every student. Beside the door I have a make shift bulletin board created by putting burlap on the wall with border around it. I use the board to display news/announcement, QR codes for passes and when students are tardy, and homework.

Now we have my safe haven better now as "Welch's Corner". I have another make shift bulletin board created with black butcher paper and burlap ribbon for my calendars, schedules, and other things that I receive that may be important. I wrapped my desk in burlap to keep with my theme.






Yearly I label all my desk and groups to make it easier to assign roles and task. I use containers for supplies as well but I am still trying to master a way to keep up with all the supplies, keep the students from abusing the supplies, and keep students from using the containers as trash cans. I used editable labels from TpT Seller: Teresa Lewis.

The large colored numbered posters are used for my scales for learning goals. I usually have 3 sets, for regular, supported, and advanced. I used Clock Minute Labels from TpT Store: Chalkboard Chatterbox and the Classroom Number line from TpT Store: GreatMinds123. My very own DOK Posters for Math. I also have my Daily Grind Board with list the daily assignments, homework assignments, reminders, and expectations. 
I also have student classroom job and seat letters on magnets. The students loved the idea of rotating class jobs that include Instagram Photographer, Board Cleaner, Tweet Master, Office Manager, Errand Runner, Folder Manager, The Closers, Tech Assistant, and Teacher Assistant. I try to remember to rotate them daily. Next year that may become a new job.

Since I have a fully flipped classroom and use blended learning practices in the classroom, I have a small group space to use during the "Work with Teacher" Station during rotations.  In the small group corner you will find Math Practice Posters, Problem Solving Strategy Posters, and dry erase circles. Near by is the Word Wall named "The Perfect Blend" to tie into the Cafe theme of my classroom.


The Community Board is where I display superior student work. With a 1 to 1 classroom, a lot of the displays are pictures of students' products, print offs from Schoology (our LMS), and pictures of students working.
I utilized the doors of my storage cabinet to display grades and house work for absent students when we complete things on paper.

One of my favorite in-class displays is the growth mindset wall. I found a display on Pinterest, my happy place, and I copied it. I projected the brain on the board and traced it on a large piece of butcher board paper.
The "Barista Station" is my version of the students work center. Here students will find a class calendar, rulers, scratch paper, graph paper, cornell notes templates, no name clips, turn in trays, and a return crate that includes extra copies.
This is the notebook setup display. I actually refer to this several times weekly and used it during my lesson for setting up the Math notebooks. I used to borders purchase from Mardel and burlap material I found at Hobby Lobby. I also found inspiration for this board on Pinterest.
Here are the generic learning scales. I tend to use the generic learning scales to do quick check in during lessons.












My front board has labels.


  • Today I will...
  • I will know I have it when...
  • Essential Questions:
  • Today's Specials
I color code each class period's information. You may also see a glimpse of the group roles which are assigned by seat letter and the "Give me 5" sign.


Having a 1 to 1 iPad classroom brings some advantages with passes and signing out or even keeping up with tardies. Students scan the code to sign out and they scan a different code when they are tardy to class. Students know that they are late if they enter the class after I shut the door. I greet students with a hand shake every period, every day.

Thank you for stopping by to check out my classroom this year. I'm already trying to decide what theme I could go with for the next school year. It's takes a  lot of work but I find joy and pride in decorating my class each year. Leave you ideas below or links to your classroom tour.



      Until next time,