Monday, December 18, 2017

Osmo Grant Winner!

Today I was completely surprised to learn that my grant proposal was funded by the Janesville Education Foundation!  Hooray!  I am so grateful and excited to purchase additional technology for my classroom -- additional Osmo kits and manipulatives, including the new Hot Wheels MindRacers. 🚗

I'm especially excited to get the MindRacers kit, because it allows students to quickly make strategic decisions while competing in a virtual reality atmosphere.  During the game, students have to strategize, anticipate, and react for real-time results, using tokens to control a race car's actions.  I can't wait to try it and get the kids started using it!

Students will also practice dexterity, quick decision-making, as well as social skills and sportsmanship while working together or competing against one another.  This Osmo purchase will also support our kindergarten science curriculum, when we learn about physics with toy cars and experiment with force, motion, and gravity.  MindRacers will totally expand our learning to an exciting new level with virtual experiences!  I plan to loan the kit out to the kindergarten classrooms next door to offer engaging science integration for their students, too!

My grant included 3 new bases among all the kits, so this brings me up to five bases in all for my classroom, so I will definitely be setting up centers for more students now! Osmo Numbers for a while, then swap out for Tangrams or Words.  Or some of each and offer engaging choices each day. I'm just so excited! To learn more about using Osmo in school, visit their website!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas Coding


The "Hour of Code", happening this week (December 4-8, 2017), is a nationwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week and to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming.  My students love coding, with "Angry Birds" on, and with, as well as a few apps I've introduced such as Scratch Jr. and Lightbot.  That's why I was excited to see an awesome Seesaw coding idea on Facebook yesterday.

Facebook is a wonderful thing.  I've learned so much from a little community of teachers who use Seesaw, and the following ideas were inspired by a Nebraska teacher, who asked Facebook Seesaw teachers to try out her coding activity that she made.  It's a template made with tables and clipart in Google Slides, with emoji arrow "labels" added to the template once it's in Seesaw.  Adding and arranging each emoji label in isolation was the hardest part - only because it's multi-step  (Pssssst, Seesaw...... please can we have a "clone" label option?) 

Sharing activities in Seesaw is easier than it used to be, and it's so wonderful that the teacher who created this coding activity graciously allowed other users to take her idea and run with it.   I was so excited to use her idea, that I made a few additional puzzles of my own.  If you click the link below each activity, you'll be prompted to save the activity to your own Seesaw library, and you'll be able to edit the directions or emoji to be however you want (you might want to re-record my voice instructions...  Ha ha).  You just won't be able to change the background since it's a jpg from my Google Slides.

The first activity is from the helpful, creative teacher in Nebraska.  Rudolph needs to pass each candy cane and stop at the stocking.  Kids just use the label tool to manipulate the arrows and write a code to get him there.  Then they can use the drawing tool to write on the iPad (or on the web), to show the path they created.

Reindeer Code
credit: Amanda Fogelman

Here's a Santa coding activity I created, with a few obstacles to get from one corner to the other.  I wanted kids to move around the grid instead of straight over and down.  Again, they drag the arrows, then use the drawing tool to check their code.

Next, I decided to have kids find a way to get Santa to eat all the cookies, then get back to his sleigh.  I incorporated a "collect" command (cookie emoji), just like in activities with the flowers and jewels.  The code has to have Santa pick up the cookie before moving to the next box.

Same idea, with a "grab" command (hand emoji) for the elf to pick up toys to load in Santa's sleigh.

I introduced these activities to students to do at a coding station on our iPads throughout the month, so I'm excited to see how they enjoy them.  Manipulating labels and drawing tools work on the web version of Seesaw, too (the arrows and cookie emoji change a bit when you click on them, but the hand command doesn't show up - maybe you can change that to something else.... see what you think). Please comment and let me know how your kids like them, too.  And feel free to share away, as well as be inspired to make more seasonal coding puzzles on your own and share back.  :)

If you are looking for a fun "unplugged" coding activity this holiday season, I also found this:

Happy coding, and happy holidays!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

What is Osmo?

I am excited to announce that I am the proud owner of some Osmo materials for my kindergarten students!  Thanks to some generous people from Donors Choose, we received a special delivery of two Osmo kits and lots of manipulative accessories.

What is Osmo?  It's a totally innovative device that transforms an iPad into an interactive classroom accessory, able to add a level of excitement that engages students in the learning process.  It's pretty amazing how students interact with an iPad without even touching the screen.  Playing beyond the screen invites students to collaborate while drawing, designing, and manipulating tangible game pieces such as number tiles, letter tiles, tangram shapes, and coding blocks.  Students are enjoying working in pairs to use the kits at choice time. 

I'm really excited to do centers and individualized alphabet and word games with my students.  Watch the blog for new and engaging ways we will be using Osmo.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Seesaw Learning Journal

I am IN LOVE with this Seesaw app!  When we decided to use it as we jumped into being a 1:1 device school, I knew it had the potential to save student work in an online portfolio.  I didn't know it was so interactive, intuitive, and could foster independence and encourage students to showcase their best work!

I started out small.  For Thanksgiving, we made something in another app (Felt Board), and sent it to Seesaw (see this post).  I wanted the students to narrate what their design was about, so  I worked with each student individually to show them how to record.

Later I added ideas such as drawing and telling about a topic, annotating on a worksheet I pre-loaded for them, moving pre-made labels around the image to label a reindeer and gingerbread cookie, and led up to some app smashing with Chatterbox Kids, PicCollage Kids, and more.

Soon was able to give brief instructions for things like:
  • Take a photo of your Math activity in Seesaw and explain your learning.  No problem!  
  • Take photos and make a PicCollage, then save it and send it to me in Seesaw.  I can do that!
  • Find an image online of George Washington and make him talk in Chatterpix, then send it to me in Seesaw.  Great job!  
  • Open Seesaw and copy and edit the rhyming activity and match everything up.  Easy peasy! 
  • Find the sight word page I sent you in Seesaw, open it and click record so you can read those words to me.  Wow! 
  • Since I might not see your work on that math job, take a picture of it and send it to me, OK?  Great!
Sometimes we just send a photo, sometimes we add writing or notes to a photo, sometimes we record our voices or type some text boxes, or sometimes we type new words in a note.  Sometimes I send the students a link to a Youtube video to supplement what we just learned. Sometimes, when a student really wants to embellish something,  it's a combination of all the extras within Seesaw.  And I love it.

Rearranging mixed-up words to make a sentence, tracing the sentence, then recording a dream he had (I have a dream that all the kids can play together.).  *Students rarely choose to use a stylus, FYI :)

Phonetic spelling, creating labels for each picture on this image that was sent to the students

Photographing their math work then writing their addition sentence with digital ink in Seesaw

My wheels are constantly turning, trying to find new ways to make learning happen with our iPads, and save things in their Seesaw portfolio.  Math, reading, writing, science, social studies, health, you name it!  We practice lots of skills with technology, but Seesaw helps us document it all.  Students are excited to create something and send it to me, knowing I can also send it to their family.

Seesaw encourages students to do their best, and sometimes I have them mark their work with a thumbs up emoji or a smiley face to show how they feel about their finished work or how well they understood the assignment.  Seesaw is awesome for looking back through all the work for each child to monitor progress, as well.

Check out a few samples of our work:

Moving teacher-made labels 

Science pretest - which items show a PUSH?

Explaining a science concept (push/pull)

Building and reading sight words

Demonstrating the use of a subject in a sentence.  Photograph your work and read it to the teacher.

Phonetic spelling formative assessment

Sight word practice - she added a thumbs up emoji to evaluate how she felt about her work.

Presidents' Day Chatterpix animation

Matching rhyming emoji.  The smile shows how she thinks she understands the concept.

Documenting work at a math center, using Doodle Buddy + PicCollage Kids + Seesaw

Typing a "note" with new sight words, and using one in a sentence

Being part of the Seesaw Teachers page on Facebook (just ask to join) has been a big help for me to try new things.  The community that group has created is supportive and encouraging.  Seesaw also offers webinars and PD videos you can watch at home, covering a variety of topics for lots of grade levels, from getting started to using specific aspects of the app such as creating folders for saving work in subject areas, even STEM topics.

I'm getting ready to share some great things with district colleagues at a professional development session this week.  It is so hard to choose what to show them first, but I want to inspire these teachers and help them get started.  I just don't want to SCARE them lol! :)

I hope you'll check out this great app and start documenting your students' learning with this online journal.  You'll be glad you did, because it will change your life!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Kindergarten Kahoot!

I first learned about Kahoot! when my high school sons were reviewing for an upcoming test in school.  They told me they reviewed in class using this app on their phones, and felt pretty good about knowing the material.  Then a few months later, while I was attending a training, Kahoot! was utilized to check our learning, too.  It "gamefied" the material for better understanding, and gave immediate feedback, which is always great for the classroom. We logged into the game with our cell phones.  I loved it!  It's not surprising that Kahoot's tagline is "Make Learning Awesome".

I wasn't sure how kindergarten could use it, but I soon found out through Google searches that yes, indeed, some quizzes exist that are kindergarten friendly.  And I jumped in!

Kahoot!  is a free game-based platform that makes it fun to learn.  The website has a catalog of ready-made and teacher-made quizzes, or you can make your own.  As of now, I've not tried to make my own, but have a list of about a dozen that I can pull up and get started.  So far we've tried quiz activities for beginning sounds, ending sounds, rhyming, spelling, addition, subtraction, ten frames, and even dental health.

To play Kahoot! with the class, each student uses a device - could be an iPad, Chromebook, Android device, or a cell phone.  My classroom is 1:1, but a shared version of the game is always an option, or kids can play as a team and pass the device for each turn.  Students enter the on-screen code, enter their name, and when all students have joined the game, we get started.

The game works a lot like the trivia games you might see in restaurants.  The multiple choice answers are shown on the smart board (or your teacher computer), and the student device has 4 symbols and colors displayed with answer choices.  The clock runs down, and students choose their answer and get feedback if they are correct.  The top five students are shown on the "leader board", and points are awarded based on how quickly they chose.  At the end of the quiz, Kahoot! gives the option to download a spreadsheet of scores and questions missed.  This is a list of some recent quizzes we've done and scores I can access.

At first, kids were too competitive about the leader board feature, and some would get upset if their name wasn't listed or got bumped down.  I just tell the kids that I'm not watching for the kids who are the fastest.  I'm watching for the kids who get it right.  Kids get excited to see if they chose the correct answer, keeping them interested in their own academic progress. It's a great way to informally assess the students for lots of concepts!

I hope you decide to try this fun and engaging game-based learning and response tool with your class.  It holds kids accountable and gives them a voice in their learning.  My students often ask when we get to play again, so I'm thinking I could set a goal for myself and do a Kahoot! experience every Friday.  Click HERE for another explanation of the program. Click HERE for an article with links to kindergarten friendly Kahoot quizzes.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Making Connections - Mystery Number Skype

This week my students participated in our first "Mystery Number" game using Skype.  I was lucky enough to connect with another kindergargarten teacher through a Facebook page for kindergarten teachers.  She had mentioned playing the game at one time, so I commented that I'd love to connect.  We messaged back and forth a few times on Facebook about the format we wanted to use. We did a practice call, and set up a day and time.  We also decided on some rules, such as choosing a number between 1-20, and non-verbal signals for yes/no.  Many of our plans were modeled after a blog I had read, so check it out for more information!

Mrs. Lane and her class are in Ohio.  She asked if it would be OK if another class joined in on her end.  Of course not!  I invited my colleague, too, in hopes that the two of them would like to connect with each other in the future.  I'll do anything I can do to foster and encourage the use of technology in kindergarten.  :)  I also invited our Innovation Specialist to join the fun and see our Skype call in action.

Before Mrs. Lane called us on Thursday, we had been practicing how to ask good questions to help eliminate more numbers to make a good guess.  We prepared a number chart on our iPads that we could mark up in DoodleBuddy.  This activity also served as an assessment for writing numbers.  😊 Every time we asked a question, we'd cross off numbers we knew couldn't be the mystery number.

Questions we practiced were along the lines of: 
  • Is your number in the teens?
  • Does your number have a ___?
  • Is your number higher/lower than ____?
  • Is your number between ___ and ___?
  • Does your number have a curve? (this was a fun question!)

When our special call came, we were so excited to "meet" our new kindergarten friends in Ohio.  We asked them a few questions about their school (how many kids in class, what's the weather like, do you have iPads, what else are you going to learn today?), and they asked us some similar questions, too.  Then we got started with our game.

Mrs. Lane's class guessed our number first.  Our number was 16, and her students asked about 6 questions and had it figured out after marking their number charts!  Next was our turn.  We left a little pathway for those asking questions to come forward and be seen and heard by the webcam.  I think we asked about 6 or 7 questions, too.  One funny question was "Is it between 2?".....ummm, between 2 and what other number?  Hahaha kids are funny.  I guess he knew "between" was supposed to be a good question word to use.  We'll get better!

The whole experience was just fantastic!  All the kids were engaged, and it was great practice for problem solving and number sense.  We had a really good Skype connection, too, thankfully! Kids were so interested in how the other students could see us, and where Ohio is on a map, so we had a great discussion about those topics, as well.

I am excited to schedule another call with Mrs. Lane, and would love to try the same with other K or 1 classes whenever we can.  As we get closer to the 100th day, I hope to try a larger range of numbers, such as 1-50, then 1-100.  If we ask the right questions, we'll eliminate lots of numbers and figure out the mystery, no problem!  It also might be fun to tally how many questions it takes to figure out the number, and make it a little competition.

If you want to check out more info about Mystery Skype, try these resources: