Saturday, March 21, 2015

It's Learning Model Time!

Oh, how my Saturday nights have changed...I can remember a time, not that long ago, when I used to be getting all dolled up to hit the town. Now I find myself curled up on the chair, NCAA basketball on TV, a glass of wine nearby, working on our upcoming "Learning Model" for math.
We just finished a unit focusing on adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions. Prior to the final assessment later next week, the students will be spending time on Monday and Tuesday creating their end of unit Learning Model. We use Learning Models in reading and math workshop, as a form of assessment. Our students have a choice in how they demonstrate their learning and proficiency of the standards that we have taught. 
From Powtoon to Educreations...Screencastify to Emaze, our students always put forth incredible effort and they create some amazing work using a variety of platforms! They choose the questions they want to use, create their learning models in their chosen form, and share with others via their digital portfolios! 

To check out our latest Fractions Learning Model, or any of our other unit Learning Model, check out our Teachers Pay Teachers store

~ Kate 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

DocHub- the cure to your PDF problem!

Many of us have used PDFs in our classrooms. They are quick and easy to create. They have the ability to compress enormous files into something more compact. They're self contained, meaning you can preserve the visual elements between computers, across applications, making them visually appealing- a definite plus for most elementary teachers that love their clip art and cute fonts. The list of benefits go on and on...

As much as I love PDFs I have always been frustrated with the fact that they're difficult to edit. By nature PDFs are created so they can not be changed, revised or manipulated. They are not an editable document- they're basically an image of a document, almost impossible to edit, until now...

I have been trying to tackle this challenge for years. I have talked to many teachers and tech. directors and have been mostly unsuccessful. I tried converting the PDF back to a Word doc, but it wasn't pretty. Leave it to my AMAZING students to figure it out, almost by accident, how to edit and save a PDF. 

It all started when one of our extremely responsible students forgot their Genius Hour folder at school. Our kiddos write weekly reflections on their passion project work, and this young lady had left her folder and reflection form in her mailbox at school, but was determined to find a way to finish her homework! Knowing that the PDF doc was saved on our Genius Hour website, she downloaded the PDF to the DocHub app, wrote her personal reflection, then saved the edited PDF to her Drive and printed it for me the following day. read that correctly...she edited a PDF, saved it, and printed it for me! 

When our wonderful student got to school the following day and explained what she did, Angela and I just looked at each other in disbelief. For a minute this young lady thought we were frustrated that she had forgotten her folder at school...little did she know that she had just helped us solve an ongoing frustration without even realizing it. Enter DOCHUB!!

Needless to say, I quickly checked out this amazing website (also an app in the Chrome Web Store). Once on their site, you can easily create an account using your Google Drive or Dropbox.

Upload a file in seconds and let the magic begin! The amazing part of DocHub is that it allows you to edit and share PDF's online. It gives you the ability to insert text, draw, highlight, comment, even insert images. These items are "layered" on top of the PDF. You can save and come back to your edited PDF within DocHub as many times as you like. If that wasn't awesome enough, you can reorder pages, rotate pages, even delete pages you don't want included!! 
Collaboration is key in our classroom, and that is definitely an option with this app! When you're completely done editing, you can share your edited PDF with others via email, link, or save to your Google Drive.

Like I said earlier, two of my students introduced this amazing tool to me a few weeks back. I hope to share it with my entire class next week. Before that, I decided I should play around with it to better familiarize with all it has to offer. SOOO glad I did that! My students will be using it soon, so I'll let you know if we learn any other amazing features! 

~ Kate

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Proud Teacher Moment

Most days our students are asked to bring their composition books to the carpet for the math mini lesson. Sometimes we have learning models to tape in, some days we work through example questions, some days we just use as a note taking tool. We encourage the students to keep their composition books organized so they can use it as a tool during work time or test time.

The students are really good at using the composition book to house the handouts from class, but most kids do not take the time and energy into their own note taking. If we ask them to write something they will write it, but the majority will not take the time to write out their own examples...except for one child!

Meet T! This sweet boy takes it upon himself to write math notes from our mini lessons in his composition book each and every day. T has realized this is how he learns best. During the mini lesson he listens intently, then takes a few minutes before his Must Do time to jot down hints to help him when he's working independently. He does this diligently, without being told. T can also be seen going back to his notes during work time. I am so proud of this young man and his willingness to tackle this project. T understands his own learning style, and has created a tool that he'll carry with him to middle school and beyond!

T has also inspired me as his math teacher to reflect on my own practices and find a better way to organize my students' math journals next year! I spoke to him about his post-it note tabs. T thought it would be helpful for next year's students if the book was organized by math strand. What a fabulous idea, T!! So proud of you! Thank you for being you!

 Just recently T's added tabs to his composition book so he can easily see the concepts. 

~ Kate

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Historical Fiction Launch

Now that our amazing fantasy unit is over, we continue our journey in the fiction world, but this time with HISTORICAL FICTION!! Even though the kids loved our fantasy unit, they were ready for a change of pace. And what better change than to transport our readers back in time!

To launch this unit, we introduced our students to 4 different time periods: Early Colonies, Revolutionary War, Civil War/Slavery, and WWII. We utilized a Prezi to launch the unit.
Click to view our intro Prezi
After they were exposed to facts about the different eras and a few possible book choices, we had our students vote on the era that they most wanted to immerse themselves in using a Google Form.
From that point, we put the kids into era-alike groups of 3 or 4 kids. The best part about this unit, is that we are encouraging all students in a club to read different books. This allowed for our groups to be completely heterogeneous! 

We also created an open-ended packet for our students to utilize as they needed for this unit:
Click to see the packet in our TpT store!
In this packet, there are lots of opened-ended templates for the kids to utilize to house/organize our thinking! Many of the pages match the major touchstone lessons we will cover in this unit. In our environment, the packet serves as a guide, not a requirement. Many students choose to use it. However, many students choose to create their own format. Lots choose a digital format (Google Spreadsheets, Prezi, Google Presentations, etc.). The students like to create collaborative docs where all members in their club can contribute their thinking in one place. I absolutely love the creativity and ingenuity that our students show. They truly know how they learn best and how to best display their thinking in a way that is personal to them!

Next, we got the students immersed in their era using picture books. Each group chose a picture book from their era to work through together. They used sticky notes and marked all over it! They had grand conversations and wrote long and strong thinking's about their new era learning!
The next step was to build more background knowledge about their era. Students self-selected nonfiction books tied to their time period. They, again, dug through them in partnerships, pulling out interesting facts and new learning. They shared their learning as a book club. The final step was to really collaborate and put together all of their ideas into a collaborative long and strong. The goal was to include a piece of everyone's great ideas into one big thinking! It was magical to see them put their heads together! Some groups needed more coaching than others, but what they came up with was remarkable!
An example of an organizer from the packet was time to dig into their new historical fiction books! They were SO excited to see the cart and buckets full of books to pick from! There was something for every interest and era! After our build up of information, all they wanted was some time to dig in and READ!
We are so excited to see where this unit takes us! Check back soon for more unit updates!

Happy Teaching!