Saturday, May 6, 2017

#classroompart2

#Classroom2

After the initial setup of Google Classroom, I continue to use Classroom as the go to hub for all things digital in my classroom. Students know that they login and go to classroom for anything on our Chromebooks.

First thing in the morning I get 4-5 Chromebooks out and use these Chromebooks for students to check in. I have created a Google form which I put in Classroom as an announcement. The google form looks like this:
Check In 2 22   Google Forms.png

After I have signed in the Chromebooks, students get into classroom and fill in the form. I have left the submit another response option on to the end of the form so another student can come in behind them and check in. When finished students come to the carpet have a short discussion time as they wait for other students to finish checking in,and the morning announcements. Following the morning announcements, students start with calendar on the Interactive whiteboard, as I take my Chromebook, check the results of the form and take attendance and lunch count.   

At the end of calendar time, we go into ELA whole group time, which they use their Chromebooks to get into classroom and open their hyperdoc assignments. ( See https://goo.gl/dKu8C7 for information about blended learning and the hyperdoc).Each student is given their own copy through the assignment feature in Classroom.  Each slide represents a day of the week slide one Monday, slide three Wednesday, etc. I recently changed it so that students fill the background color of the square once they have completed the activity.

For those go to websites that students often go to for early finishing, or free tech time, I place those within classroom. These most used websites are located under the About tab. I then have a quick tech talk with my students about where to find these resources, then we practice getting to the sites and interacting on these sights. There are certain times students can and can not get on these sites, as I want to make sure to instill a good balance in their lives.  

In the last couple of months Google Classroom has opened a feature that allows the teacher to differentiate assignments within the Classroom Stream. This has been a game changer for me, when it comes to being able to give students at level text for them to listen to and read. I use this feature in conjunction with Texthelp’s Fluency Tutor. Students are given a passage at their Lexile level, can listen to it as many times as they need and then record themselves reading the passage, which they submit to me and it lands in my drive. I can then do a running record with the WPM and % accuracy is calculated for me as I mark the passage. I can then grade students on a premade fluency rubric and students can see their scores. I can then use these recordings at conferences with parents if I want them to hear something I want them to really work on at home.

I often get asked how I keep students accountable for actually getting work done and not just playing games the whole time. My answer is instilling digital citizenship talks throughout the year. I also use the all to handy teacher institution, you know that feeling you get when you're working with other students and you can tell students are off task, either the look around room sneaky, or they are obviously playing games when they should be typing sight words.

I have shown students how to access their files in drive and tell them that this is how I check to see how they are doing on their work to see if you need help. My main concern in Kindergarten is not to punish students for their misbehavior but to get them use to the tools and help guide them with making digital citizenship choices. Like all other things Kindergarten is setting the foundation for school. I don’t scold students who aren’t doing work when they are suppose to but say, : I see you didn’t get very far in your assignment, can a Google guide or I help you?” This often opens up the discussion so students see, it’s OK to not know and ask for help.  

These are just a couple ways in which you can implement and use classroom to help blend your instructional practices with little's. There are many more, be sure to check out christinepinto.com, #Gafe4littles chat on Tuesdays (1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month), listen to awesome ideas on Google Teacher Tribe podcast or the #gttribe. Look to your PLN for ideas as well.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

#GettingstartedwithGoogleClassroom

#GettingstartedwithGoogleClassroom


File:Google Classroom Logo.png - Wikimedia Commons


Google Classroom was an exclusive feature for EDU license that has now open up within the Gsuite environment. It allows you to manage and push out content to your students, even grade and differentiate assignments all in one stop. No more I lost that assignment talk or my dog ate the homework excuses. But most of all it is the perfect place to get our younger students exposure to all the apps in the Google Suite. A playground where they can crawl, run or leap and land in a pool of soft foam. I am going to start off with the beginning how do we get into Google Classroom (Classroom) and begin using it.


Before I ever started with Classroom, I sat looking at the upper grades going oh that is such a nice feature for them to organize all their assignments they hand out, and then can grade. As a Kinder teacher I just thought it was a tool I would use some day. I would learn about it during the summer or a break, and then spend the rest of that break finding ways to modify it to fit my Kinders needs. This year I decided to really blend technology into my teaching practice, so I talked with several people and did some research and then decided to quit trying to plan and scheme and just jump! I knew I wanted my students to all login and work on a collaborative doc the first time they logged in. The question then became ok how are they going to get the doc. That is when Classroom came gleaming like a beam of light from heaven through the thick grey Seattle rain clouds.


In an effort to blend technology into my teaching practice I knew I needed to start early on in the year to really give them the most exposure to all there is for them to explore.Before we logged in I as a teacher setup our classroom. I went to Google classroom clicked the + sign and then clicked create class. I named the class checked under the students tab and got the class code. I then created a doc inserted a table that was 4x5, titled it My Name Is. Then I went into classroom and clicked on + sign in the bottom right of the screen and added an assignment. Named the assignment 1 clicked on the drive symbol and added the doc I created. The wonderful thing about this is once the doc was uploaded on the right side of the assignment box I was given options as to if I want students to have edit rights, a copy for each student, or view only permissions. I chose Edit rights, since I wanted all the students to be able to work in the same doc. I suggest that if you use each student can edit that you make a copy of the assignment in your own drive so if something happens you have a backup document. My favorite feature I use the most is the make a copy for each student and then you don’t have to worry about the master getting messed up. For the purpose of this assignment editing rights worked best.

On the 5th day of school I had my students login ( for more information about my login process see my earlier article https://goo.gl/ce1KL7) They then clicked on the classroom extension that was added by the district ( I highly recommend having this extension on your chromes) then they clicked join class and entered the class code that was written on the board. I will admit most of them had assistance from the helpers in my classroom to type the code. Once students were in classroom I had them come to the carpet so we could discuss what they were going to do next.


At the carpet I showed them how to open the doc and how they were going to use the table to type their name. “Each one of you is going to have a parking spot to type their name, see these boxes they are like parking spaces for your writing. When you go to the store or a restaurant can two cars fit into one parking spot?” Insert kiddos response of no or one time my mom/dad tried to fit in a parking spot with another car and we hit the car. Lol we had a quick tell a friend your parking lot story. I told them that they can see the other person’s car based on the different colored lines, they need to be careful of the space they are using to type. Like parking a car check to make sure no one else is in the spot/box you are using.Students were sent back to go ahead and do the assignment. I had the doc projected on the board so I could monitor traffic ( over writings, deletion etc). As I monitor the board I also walked around and make sure students were able to access and find a parking spot in the doc.  The students got to work on the collaborative slide typing their names. There were a couple accidents, “hey you’re typing in my space” or a “ Where did my name go.” But for the most part very few accidents occurred.

After the initial parking lot experience. I make sure to use classroom for all technology activities. Students rarely use their bookmarks bar, but go to classroom to find what they need. Check out #Classroom2 to learn  more about how I incorporate Classroom in my class.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

#Blendedlearning #gafe4littes

As I am preparing to co-moderator with the incredible, fabulous, and wonderfully top-knotted Christine Pinto on the #gafe4littles chat April 4 at 5pm PST, I asked myself what would be an appropriate yet inspiring chat topic. I thought of questions I am often asked about me classroom “Is all your kiddos do is play on devices all day, when do they read real books, are they going to read real books, what about math how will they learn the basic concepts?” This lead me to blended learning. Blended learning is an approach in education promoting the blend of technology and non-tech/ traditional classroom teaching. Check out this video for a brief overview of blended learning. https://vimeo.com/89546618

One thing I always make sure to emphasize in my classroom, is that technology is just a natural part of our classroom environment. Students are aware of what it means to be a digital citizen and how to keep themselves organized with progress charts in their journals. Students love the use of technology, but almost all of our reading is done in actual paper books, students practice penmanship and writing in journals and handwriting practice books, as well as learn phonics electronically and in small group activities.

In my classroom blended learning can be seen, most notably in my ELA block. I have decided to take part of my whole group instruction online for my students. If you walk into my classroom during our morning ELA block you will see some kiddos working on hyperdocs, students in a small group with me or a parent volunteer, reading at their level books around the room, or trying to find sight words hidden in a picture.

ELA U4 L20 wk 2 (1).jpg
( All card pictures are property of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Journey’s curriculum. I do not own the rights to these photos, this photo is to show an example of how I integrate my curriculum within a blended learning environment.)

Within the hyperdoc pictures have a short 30 sec - 1min video in which I explain what to do on each section.This allows students to go back over and listen to the instructions whenever they need to. I set up an environment where there are 3 Google Guides in my classroom each week, these are students that can help trouble shoot any problems that arrive. Students know to ask other students in the classroom for help before seeking my input. This goes with my blended learning model as Kinders are having to troubleshoot, problem solve, and collaborate to find a way to get their work done. The ownership, pride and just natural enthusiasm for these activities leak into all the other modes. Kinders learn to work through and communicate when they are stuck in math, or even reading a word.

I think the most important thing to remember when trying to incorporate blended learning into a classroom is to start small. Blend a lesson, unit, or something you are comfortable starting on or a lesson that can use a reboost. Then be prepared to FAIL especially with littles. I readjusted my hyperdocs 3 times before I landed on the format we have now. I took a lot of littles advice until we arrived at this final product. I will admit that initially I put in more time. I have been working with this method for about 2 months now and I can easily copy the basic format over and am able to complete this during my Sunday planning times for the week.

Remember, blended learning can open up so much time for activities. LOL, Step Brothers modified quote. In all seriousness, blended learning enables me to get testing done, and work one on one with my Kinders who are struggling with key concepts. Start small and try just blending a lesson for your kiddos or a themed study unit. You don’t have to go all tech actually that is important to note, blended learning is just that blending technology into the natural learning that takes place in your room. If you want more ideas, hints, tips, and tricks join the fabulous Christine Pinto and myself for a chat about blended learning at #gafe4littles April 4th 5pm PST.    

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Login's and Chromebooks and Kinders OH MY!


The most dreaded words for any Teacher especially Kinder Teachers when it comes to technology is “Logging In”. The running around, the lack of letter and number recognition skills and now they have to do both multiple times, the passwords that are usually ridiculous set up by admin that don’t understand the struggle of a 8+ character password for a 5 year old. Not to mention the motor skills needed to use a mouth or the lack of saliva needed to operate a touch pad. The numerous call outs of “TEACHER” about it not working, asking what a letter looks like, or something strange is happening on the screen and not to mention the time it takes, the list goes on and on.
For most teachers the stress of this event is enough to put them and the kiddos in tears, which results in the coveted phrase, “Never again….or until the next testing window.” Whenever I talk with other teachers about technology in a Kinder classroom the first thing they want to know is about Logging in and if there is a magical spell that can make all the troubles go away. I always make sure to tell them that Logging in is always the hardest part, but I have several tips that can help alleviate a lot, but not all of that stress.


1-GET HELP! No seriously, ask everyone you can think of to come down and help with logging your kiddos in. Librarians, TOSA’s, Principals, Secretaries, Custodians,paraprofessionals, 5th graders, parent volunteers, central office admin. Anyone to help. This makes it so everyone is done in one time slot and will reduce the number of kiddos to adult ratio, so there are maybe only 3-5 yelling at you instead of 10+.  When I log my kiddos in for the first time, I always ask via email, and in person for volunteers to come in and help us out. Additionally, inviting tech admin in to help you gives them a better idea of how their decisions impact students and what they can actually do.


2-COLOR CODE! This is a wonderful trick I picked up from Christine Pinto on #gafe4littles website which can be found at christinepinto.com. Color code your keyboards. This way when they need to type that 14 character username for the 1st time you can direct them with look in the blue row, green row, etc. I use washi tape on the edge of the keyboards to do color coding. This is very time intensive to set up every device, but very worth it, and again ask for help!
Here is what my Chromebooks look like.


3-LOGIN CARDS! Give each kiddo a personalized login in card, with their name, username, password, and computer number on the card. This one was the kicker for me and my kiddos. Huge thank you again to Christine Pinto and #GAFE4littles for this idea as well. I took the idea they had and modified it to fit what my students and I needed. Each card has the student name on it but then the BIG part is the color coded username and passwords. Color coding each letter in their username and password helped my kiddos who did not know their letters and numbers be able to find them much easier. They were able to find the letter in the pink/red row and then look for the letter that looked like the one on their card. Now I will admit my first round of cards I forgot the keyboards were all in lowercase so I had to go back and make sure they were identical to the keyboard they were using, especially to start.


Here is an example of my login cards, you can purchase my template on TPT.
IMG_20170121_200501081_HDR.jpg


4- DON’T START WITH LOGGING IN Lesson 1! Now this may be well weird to be so far down my list, but the other stuff is mostly prep work you will need to do before the kiddos can login. While you are prepping your volunteers, Chromebooks, and login cards get the computers out! I always use my first lesson to talk about carrying Chromebooks, the parts of the Chromebooks, taking them out and putting them back, and turning on and off. I check with my Librarian/Media Specialist before the lesson about what they want this to look like in the school. I then take what they have told me and incorporate in the lesson.


Our first day with Chromebooks, I show the kiddos the cart. I talk about the plug in and how it gives our Chromebook food(power) to keep it’s energy level up. We then talk about how to unplug, take out the Chromebook,carry the Chromebook,how to put it back, and plug it in. I will usually tell students their assigned number at this time. Kiddos come up when their name and number are called practice, unplugging a Chromebook taking it out and then carry it to line up to go on a field trip to the library. We practice carrying our Chromebooks the right way all the way to library, then talk about how to place the Chromebook down first, and then sit at a table. Now, yes they are 5 and this is risky, but I promise you they can do this. I tell my kiddos that if they can not carry it to the library then I can carry it for them, but then I get to use it and they have to sit and watch. This usually makes all my students focus very hard on carrying them correctly.


Once in the library we practice how to open the Chromebooks. Then we look at all the keys and letters. We talk about how the rows have different colors, and we talk about the track pad at the bottom. Now most Chromebooks turn on automatically when you open them, so they don’t turn them on to start. We teach them where the power button is and how to press and hold to turn it off. We call the power button the smiley face with a long nose button. Then we show the kiddos how to turn it back on, both by closing and opening the screen and using the power button. After we are done with this we practice standing, pushing in our chairs, and grabbing our Chromebooks as we walk back to class.


Once in class kiddos make a line at the cart and we practice putting the Chromebook away and plugging it in.


5-LOGGING IN! Lesson 2: Now that your kiddos know a little about their Chromebook, how to carry it and open and close the device. It is time to login, hopefully you have your helpers, your keyboards color coded, and your login card printed ( PS keep a copy of all the login’s and passwords with you, even make copies for each volunteer just in case). Walk your students through the process, having them stop after completing each step ( I usually have them put hands on head or sit on hands when done) this signal tells me they are ready for the next directions. Once they are logged in there are a couple of options you can give them some time on an educational gaming site like STARFALL or ABCYA! or you can just have them sign out. If you have them sign out they need to then practice logging in again and signing off again.  


That is how I help to relieve the stress of logging in with Chromebooks. I hope this helps you as you start to login and use technology with your kiddos. If you have any questions you can reach out to me on twitter @hawkskhaleesi, comment below or email me at technicallykinder1@gmail.com .

Until next time play more, teach passionately,use tech,and be Kinder
Lara

Saturday, May 21, 2016

#PLN

There are many acronyms in the educational world, but one of the most important ones in my opinion is PLN. PLN stands for Professional Learning Network. PLN’s consist of a group of professionals (in our case educators) coming together to learn and grow from one another.


In college I was told about the importance of networking over and over again in every class I attended. Phrases like, “Networking is how you will get a job.” “People want to hire people they know.” “Networking is the key to getting into the educational world.” etc. These points drove me to substitute out of college to help build those connections. I made up my own little business cards, made sure I met the office staff and principal of every school, and made sure I allowed others to come in and see me sub to give me pointers as to what I could improve on. This networking and professional learning eventually is what helped me land a job. To be honest, I can rock networking and interacting with people but when it came to the interview process, I bombed it every time. I remember my principal even saying you were recommended to me by other teachers and principals in the district who have seen you teach and believe you are a better educator than your interview. All I could remember thinking was, "oh thank goodness." In truth, all that talk about networking in college and putting it into practice actually paid off. I did still have a short interview with my principal, but it was in the hallway of a school after a beginning of the school year training. I rocked the questions, at least I think I did. I was much more relaxed and sure of what I was saying and landed the job I have today.


There is all this talk in college about networking to get your foot in the door and networking to get a job, but not a lot of talk about how important networking is once you are in the door. My first year I would have drowned if it wasn’t for the networking connections I made through subbing. I remember emailing and talking to other educators in my school district about what they were doing or how was I supposed to do this or that. I would walk  around and observe other educators in my building and try to figure out how to format what they were doing to meet my students educational needs. This networking within my district, and school, is still a very valuable cornerstone of helping me to grow and learn as an educator today. It wasn’t until I was invited to attend an Edtech Summit in Palo Alto that I learned about the global scale that networking could take on.


Attending this conference introduced me to 2 social media platforms that would allow me to connect with the people I meet and learned from in California. The first platform that has become my life source of information is Twitter. Instructors would show their Twitter handles on the presentations and ask you to follow them. I knew that I would need to stay in contact with several of them as our school was getting ready to adopt GAFE and tablets in the primary grades. The other big motivator for me to start using twitter was to earn a badge from the conference and possibly win prizes, ( I am definitely very extrinsically motivated and a tactile learner). The second platform we were introduced to was Google+. This one I used less, but what I was attracted to was the similarities it had to Facebook and Myspace, which I had used and am still using. I also loved several of the extras the platform comes with, Google hangouts being the biggest one. I took these two networking platforms home with me to Washington and utilized them to see what others were doing in education, as well as to see who was beginning to follow me. My mind was blown, I was now networking with professionals in different countries and states! I was networking, but for a new purpose of learning, not for getting a job.

I took to Twitter and decided to jump in and immerse myself in it. Instead of handing out business cards I started giving people my Twitter handle. This allowed me to gain access to individuals I have never meet in person and learn from them. It was amazing to me the power 140 characters could hold. I quickly learned about something called Twitterchats. These are live networking conversations on twitter on certain days and times. I follow a hashtag and suddenly I am networking with a whole group of educators that had something in common with myself. As I continued to follow people I learned about new ways to continue to network through both Twitter and Google+.


This last summer I was able to learn from a bunch of educators who were in a #NotatIste15 group on Google+ and Twitter, ( You can read all about that in my blog post named #NotatIste15). I learned about a new networking live streaming app called Periscope. Periscope allowed me to follow around a person who was at ISTE and who would talk to people at the conference I was able to send in questions or add comments to what they were broadcasting. I also learned about Voxer, a message recording app, like a walkie talkie system, that also allows you to send voice messaging or text to another individual or group. There are so many more networking platforms and connections that could be told about here. But for my sanity and yours I am going to leave it here.                                                   
All these amazing networking opportunities, which I will admit at times are very overwhelming, have become an integral piece of me as an educator and lifelong learner. The fact of the matter is, is that these apps and platforms are allowing me to connect, collaborate, learn and grow from people I would have never of been able to learn from before. A PLN helps me be the best educator I can be for my students, which are the most important piece of our job. The power of social media and it’s role on networking, especially in education, is something I wish all educators could experience.

Social media is ever changing and advancing and the opportunities to network with others will continually change, but do not fear it. I think that often times in education, change comes and everyone gets upset, I’ll admit I know I can be this way. The thing about social media and creating a PLN is finding what works for you. Using it to create a group of people you can learn and grow with,and to let you know that you have a support system. That is what a PLN is all about in my opinion, a group of people that you know can support you and help you grow as an educator and person. Yes, it may take you out of your comfort zone at times, but we can not grow as educators and individuals if we are always living in our comfort zone. It is not good for us as a person and not beneficial for our students. I hope you are inspired to find and embrace your PLN.

Until next time Play more, teach passionately,use tech,and be Kinder,
Lara



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Global School Play Day 2016

Global School Play Day 2016

I initially heard about Global School Play Day (GSPD) on the Techlandia Blab show. Where @mrsfadeji mentioned how her whole school was participating in the day. She went on to describe the day, as a day with NO curriculum and promoting the importance of unstructured play. I was interested, so I opened a new tab and looked into Global School Play day. On the website I found a great TEDx video of Peter Gray talking about the decline of play with students over the last 60 years. In today's world with the raise of technology we have been able to utilize and play with great new resources in the educational world and beyond. I will be the first one to praise the use of technology in all classrooms with all students.  Technology has also has brought forth a shift of how we play and interact with others, leaving students who come to school not knowing how to interact with others in a social face to face environment that is often associated with interactive play. If you have read my previous post or follow me on Twitter you will see how important I think play is in my classroom.

I emailed the link to my principal saying I am thinking of participating in this day and seeing if any other classes would like to join me. I then sent the link to my teaching team ( other Kindergarten teachers at our school) saying hey do you think you would like to do this in Kindergarten. They instantly responded back saying YES. My principal came in and talked to me the next day saying, “ so this play day thing is for 30 minutes in a day, right?” I said, “ No. it’s suppose to be a full day of unstructured play.” He asked what if an administrator from district walked in, how would you justify not using the curriculum. I told him that we would still have targets for that day related to ELA, Math, and Social Skills. He then said ok, we will use you guys as the test run for our school this year, see how it goes and then maybe invite more people to do it next year.  

As a team we came together to make the targets for the day and discuss how we would justify the day if admin walked in. Our targets included: I can take turns, I can play nicely with others, I can follow the rules, I can read,say,and write sight words, I can count by ones to 20, and I can add numbers together to find a total. As a team we decided that this being our first GSPD, we were going to have a very loose structure to the day. With Kinder classes of 24,24, and 25 students we were a little worried about giving up all control. So we decided to have designated loose schedule here it is:
AM
Board games, Sight words, alphabetical practice games
Outdoor instructional learning through play time
Snack/Recess
PM
Habitat walk, talking about what makes its habitat in our own backyard
Playdough and Craft time
Free play time
Mathematical instruction with addition games
Possible learning through movement in the gym
Guest reader

The schedule helped to give us a little structure also be able to get to everything the students brought in. Notice no times, just kind of a feel the crowd moment for us as teachers. When we started to see more kiddos bored, tired, or saying I’m done we would adjust to something else on the schedule.

To prep for GSPD we decided it would be easiest to have Ziploc bags for each student to bring their toys and games in. We attached a letter outlining the basis of Global School Play Day and a piece of paper for them to write what they brought to school. Here is the letter we sent home that was attached to the Ziploc baggie :


The day finally arrived I was really nervous and really excited. My students came in super excited. I explained to the volunteers how we were going to start with board games, and activities that had to do with Reading, Writing, Grammar, or Phonics. I had pre-printed some wonderful signs I had gotten in Tara West’s Math Centers Super Pack 3 on Teachers Pay Teachers, it included signs for how many people can play at each center,we used it to tell how many students could play each game. I found this helped right off the back as lots of students rushed to one or two games, and the students had to count and look at the sign and problem solve who was going to have to leave for the time being. The students had a wonderful morning of play. When we went to specialist, I asked what did you learn this morning. The student’s piped up and answered, “ How to share and take turns.” “How to solve our own problems.” “That I like center times when the class is quiet.” “Yeah, when it is quiet I can do my job better.” At this point my jaw was on the ground! My 5 and 6 year olds verbalized exactly what I was wanting them to learn that morning. The bonus of them finally seeing the benefit of voice level during centers blew my mind. I swear these are all real things my class said, just WOW! I thought this was awesome, very powerful, and that was only with a hour and a half of play.

In the afternoon, we played with math games and toys, such as building, shapes, counting games, etc. Students got to experience some amazing games they had never played before. Jenga was popular, and opened a wonderful opportunity for me to play with my students as many of them had never played the game before. It was so nice to be able to just love on ALL of my kiddos and have fun playing a game I love. Here is a picture of some students playing math focused games.
2016-02-06 19.14.41.jpg2016-02-06 19.14.00.jpg2016-02-06 19.15.14.jpg
                      


After about an hour of Math games they were starting to fade, having indoor recess for the 2nd day in a row at lunch time didn’t really help. The rain had let up a little, so I took the opportunity to take them outside and go for a walk. Right outside our door was a HUGE spider (EWW! Mrs. Richardson strongly dislikes spiders!), the student’s pointed it out and said hey it’s house is the school. Hey Mrs. Richardson is a spider’s habitat a wall? I thought, “did you guys read my plans for today?” YAY, for self created learning from the students! We had a wonderful conversation about where we had seen spiders before. As we walked around our conversation continued about what else has a habitat in our own backyard (schoolyard). When we got back into the classroom we did arts and craft activities for another hour. Students painted, drew, colored, built with legos, and other crafty things they came up with on their own. After art and craft time died down a little, we pulled out our toys that we brought from home and had free play time. Then at the very end of the day our school counselor came in and read the students a fun little book by Julia Cook called The Bad Case of Tattle Tongue. This was perfect, it gave me time to check bags to make sure all toys got home and clean up the paint. The students were totally on top of sitting and listening to a story at the end of the day. Then the students packed up and went home.

3 big takeaways from #GSPD2016
  1. It was so nice to be able to have conversations with the kiddos and just sit and play games, do puzzles, or cut paper and not feel the demands of the curriculum.
  2. The students learned so many social skills. They learned how to ask for help to play a game, how to problem solve their own problems, how to work independently with lots of distractions, and much more.
  3. MARBLES is the ultimate game to beat in Kindergarten. This was by far the busiest center. Students had a hard time waiting their turn but did a wonderful job and we got through everyone.

In short, Brownsville Kindergarten teachers will be participating in #GPSD2017. I highly encourage you all to join us by going to http://www.globalschoolplayday.com/ and signing up. If you have a hesitant administrator let others on Twitter know and we will come up with strategies to help try and make this wonderful day of play happen for you.


Until next time Play more, teach passionately,use tech,and be Kinder,

Lara

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Makerspaces

I know it has been awhile since I have blogged, with school starting and life I have been quite busy. I am really excited to be back and blogging. It’s amazing how therapeutic it can be to let others know what you are doing and just to get your ideas out there. So before I get to the good stuff a quick update on an exciting and eye opening adventure I got to experience recently.

This Winter break I took the week before Christmas off ( I know ambitious but only time my husband and I could get off of work) to go to Europe for 3 weeks. It was one of the most amazing adventures I have ever experienced in my life. We were in London for a week, Paris over a weekend, Munich a week, and visiting family for another week. It was very hard to come back to the hustle and bustle that is life in America and teaching Kindergarten. I learned a lot about different cultures and even a little about the educational system in Germany. I would love to go back and just learn about the schooling systems in these countries. To just  see how they teach and be able to connect with other educators. Here are a couple of photos from my recent adventure, you can also see me add some as I update my Twitter account, follow me @hawkskhaleesi   (also if you like this blog it’s a great place to hear about my blog updates, thoughts on education, technology, Seattle Seahawks and life).
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This year I have really been bugged by the amount of curriculum preaching (curriculum driven whole group lecture type teaching) and testing I have been having to implement in my classroom. I was noticing many of my Kinders having bad attitudes about learning. It was very disheartening, I wanted to say I know kiddos I hate this too. So, I changed my teaching to include more centers, shorter sermons, and more movement. This helped immensely with the attitude change in my students and they were more excited about learning. I still was feeling unsettled like I was missing something. I started seeing more and more about the importance of unstructured/creative play time especially in the younger grades in blogs and tweets that I read. I talked to my librarian about the makerspace she was starting to create and thought how cool that would be in a classroom as well. Then winter break came and I went on my trip.

When I got back to teaching, I realized that in all the other countries I saw kids playing more. I came back with a resolution to try and realize that my job is to help students learn, yes, but also expose them to a LOVE of learning. If I am cramming things in to try and get it done for administration, that may not necessarily be what is best for my students. I wanted to incorporate more hands on activities, play, and learning tuned to their needs. Now, it is not like I wasn’t doing this before, just came back more focused to incorporate these changes. I continued talking to our librarian about how it was going creating the makerspace, what is it suppose to look like, how makerspaces worked and what we had read about them. This in combination with my resolution, created my personal classroom makerspace.

In education there are A LOT of buzzwords that fly across a screen in a blog, pinterest, twitter, etc. Makerspace is one of these words/concepts. My definition of a Makerspace is a designated space that holds materials that promotes creating for kids. Materials often include legos, blocks, crayons,paper,paint, scissors,recyclables,knex, etc.  If you stop and think right now, many of you probably already have makerspaces in your classroom without knowing it. Before I started I always pictured makerspaces as these grand areas for creating that were all beautifully decorated and designed. As I started to look into it more I found that this was not the case at all. These areas are easy to put together and have a very low cost. In my classroom I have a designated corner and table where all my maker stuff is located/stored, then students can take their creation to anywhere in the classroom to create. I have snap circuits, goldie blox, blocks, dinosaurs, legos, cars, paper, scissors, tape, and colored pencils to mention a few things.

Students play with snap circuits at a desk or the floor. I have removed the batteries to avoid any potential shock scenarios, but when they are ready to try their circuit I bring the batteries over and we see if what they created works. If it doesn’t work it always opens up great discussion and problem solving where I have to say very little to promote learning. Which is always what we want to see. Students self motivated to work for the FUN and curiosity of learning. Here are the kiddos hard at work on their snap circuit.


In addition to snap circuits we use blocks and pattern blocks. Here are some of the creations they have made.
   


Creating a makerspace is fairly easy, but finding the time for a makerspace can be more difficult. I know that with some curriculum's it can be trying to find time for kiddos to create. One way that I am currently incorporating makerspace time is through extra recess.This is an indoor play time, where students can choose to work on makerspace creations or play with other toys. Additionally, I try to incorporate time to use the resources at the makerspace area in lessons. Using stuffed animals to talk about habitat, then prompting students to build the stuffed animal a home with certain items in the makerspace. I have been thinking about making makerspace a center in my morning rotations starting this next month as another way to promote the makerspace with my students.

This blog was to let you know of what I am trying and give you a couple of ideas on how I am incorporating a makerspace into my classroom. I am by no means an expert or claim to know very much about makerspaces. Feel free to check out other sources on makerspaces. #edtechchat just had a wonderful chat about Makerspaces and MakerEd, where you can find more ideas of how educators are implementing makerspaces in their classroom. Click on link above and then click on the document called MakerEd and Makerspaces with @nathanstevens. I encourage you all to try makerspaces in your classroom. It’s a great way to incorporate play and exploration.

I recently learned of another initiative on bringing play back into schools called Global School Play Day, which is on February 3rd. Look for my next blog on how this day went in my classroom.

Until next time Play more, teach passionately,use tech,and be Kinder,
Lara