Wednesday, July 27, 2016

New Tech Tools!

So, my summer to-do list today is ridiculously long, but while prepping for some upcoming PD work, I got a little excited about some new tools and figured now was as good a time as any to share!

Angela and I love stumbling upon new tech tools that make our lives easier. This summer, after presenting at and attending our first GAFE Summit, we were introduced to a few new ideas that we are excited to use this fall.

Adobe Spark merges graphics, text, stories, and even videos into an amazing visual presentation. It is a quick and easy way to create a video, presentation, parent newsletter or even an invitation to your class Wax Museum. Like many of you, we are also always looking for new publishing options for our students. The templates and font options are endless, and your students will have a blast creating their own Sparks! Check out the newsletter I quickly created to send out to our students and families below.

Welcome Back to School

Our colleague, Michael Mohammad from MoPhysics MoProblems, created a great tutorial video to help his students get started. It's a great resource for students AND teachers! Thanks, Mike!

Collaboration, creativity, critical thinking...these are skills crucial to truly engage and empower our learners to be innovators in the classroom. I'll be honest, initially when I heard about Hyperdocs I wasn't overly excited. It seemed like a Google Doc with a few links embedded throughout. That was something we had been doing in our classroom for years. Then I started following the Hyperdoc Girls on Twitter (my favorite personalized PD option), and I quickly realized the power of these interactive tools. When thoughtfully created, these Hyperdocs will help you shift the way you use tech tools to teach! Give Hyperdocs a shot! 

GOOGLE CAST FOR EDUCATION is a new Chrome app from Google that gives teachers and students the ability to share their screens wirelessly. Screens can be shared out to the entire class, or just the teacher's computer. It's an incredible way to increase collaboration and interaction between students and/or teachers!

Learn more about it here!

And, finally, learn about the new Google Sites update! Not gonna lie, friends, this is a GAME CHANGER, in my opinion! Sites has always been my least favorite GAFE is cumbersome and not user friendly. We went away from it with our digital portfolios in the past due to this. This update is a total overhaul of the old program, and it is now SO easy to use! Check out our buddy, Mike Mohammad's blogpost and his great video to see its ease of use! Thanks, Mike!

Alright, now back to the to-do list! What new technology tools are you excited to use this fall? We'd love to hear about them!

~ Kate

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Now Presenting... Our Wax Museum! I'm a little late on this blog...I actually wrote this MONTHS ago, and for some reason, never published it! So sorry! I don't know what happened there...

So, we have finished the culminating activity for our "Historical" studies that we have been doing for the last few months...OUR WAX MUSEUM!

When we started our Historical Fiction book club unit (previous blogs HERE and HERE), we knew we wanted to tie in some sort of nonfiction writing component. The NEW Teacher's College Units of Study recommend the spiral "Bringing History to Life." This connects to the new reading unit about the Revolutionary War. Since Revolutionary War is sort of a 5th grade "baby" in our district, we wanted to explore other options for topics. We decided to allow kiddos to research an important person that lived during the historical era that they were reading about in their book clubs.

We had kids meet in large "era-alike" groups (multiple book clubs together). They were given a piece of construction paper, and asked to brainstorm a list of important people that lived during their era. At this point, they had experienced quite a bit of nonfiction reading throughout their book club work in order to learn more about their era. They generated these amazing lists:

From there, they picked which person they wanted to really dig in deep with. For some eras, we had to draw names out of a hat (Adolf Hitler, for example...we had about 10 kids that wanted to research him...wasn't ONE Hitler enough for this world? ;)

They, then, began their research. They used various graphic organizers to help plan their ideas and put together all of the rich information they were learning. We discussed reliable sources, citations, strong transitions, tone, and more! It led to some amazing conferences and classroom conversations!
We discussed text features, layout of our text, and all the other amazing nonfiction goodies! To be honest, their final papers were some of their best all year long! We were SO impressed with all of the little "teacher voices" that we read come through!

From this point, we discussed first vs. third person. They were tasked with taking their amazing nonfiction pieces and converting them to biographical sketches that utilized 1st person narrative! They also had to pare down their pieces, as they were given a 3-minute time limit!

Another important feature that we added to this modified piece was a "heart" of their story. What could an important life theme be that could encapsulate their historical figure? Was it determination? Perseverance? Grit? Tenacity? Putting others before themselves? They were challenged to weave this heart like a thread throughout their piece. This was the hardest part for many of them!

Once they had their biographical sketches was planning/practicing time! What props would they need? Would they dress up? Could they incorporate a technology component to support their presentation? A photo slide show? We encouraged all kids to just use what they had at home. We did not want anyone feeling like they had to go out and buy a fancy costume or special prop! In the end, some chose to have these items, and some didn't. We were okay with either!

It was so fun to see what this project brought out in many of our kids. Some really thrived and it bought out sides to them that we hadn't seen before. Some really struggled, which also surprised us. But in the end, the final wax museum was PRICELESS! We invited other 4th graders and our families. It was a truly magical afternoon!

Here are a few examples of the fun!

Have you ever done a wax museum? What worked well for you? We'd love to learn from you!

Happy Teaching!