Category Archives: Language Arts

Please Allow Me to Reiterate

I was feeling pretty clever.

As most of you know, that is never a good sign.

My creative, engaging activity for the day turned out to be one of those lessons that makes a teacher ask the dreaded question, “Should I continue this fiasco or give up and find a video?”

The concept was simple: I wanted to use the idea of Hexagonal Learning with my 3rd graders so they could synthesize what they had learned from our systems thinking book, Billibonk and the Big Itch.  One of the online tools for hexagonal thinking is called Think Link.  This reminded me, of course, of ThingLink.  And I thought, “They can make ThingLinks of their Think Links!”

Technically, the students didn’t use Think Link, though.  Instead I used the Hexagons Generator from ClassTools to print out the hexagons with words that related to the book. The students worked in groups to connect their hexagons in deep and meaningful ways that they could explain in detail using an interactive ThingLink.

Well, that was the plan.

The students quickly arranged their hexagons.  Then they took pictures of the groups and started making their ThingLinks.  They liked the idea of using video to explain each node that connected 2 or 3 hexagons, and started to get creative – using newscaster and professor voices.

Then they started to get a bit silly.

Plus I realized that their connections weren’t exactly deep and meaningful.  And some of them didn’t make any sense at all.

And then 2 groups accidentally lost 45 minutes of work on their iPads.

And the third group finished theirs, but ThingLink stubbornly refused to save it – grimly offering that I could “retry” or “delete” each time I attempted to upload it, but making absolutely no effort to offer the preferred third option, “Start this day over with a little less smugness and a little more planning.”

I looked at my giggly group of grade schoolers and took a deep breath.  Despite having to start their projects over, they were all quite cheerful.  And, the truth was that I had learned a lot from listening to their recordings – a lot that I needed to discuss with them to ensure they understood the text better.

We gathered in a circle and reflected on the day.  We clarified lessons learned.

And we decided to try it all again next week.

Earlier in the day, I had talked about “iterative”  with some of the teachers in the lounge.  We  agreed that it seemed to be quite the education buzzword these days, and I looked it up to make sure I was using it correctly.

This was the first definition I found. (Google’s version)

iterativeNot exactly helpful.

So, without any sense of irony, I looked it up again. (Wikipedia’s verson this time)

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Next week, we will attempt iteration #2 of the Hexagonal Learning Lesson.

Hopefully, we will get some things right and all of the mistakes we make will be new ones ;)

Pi Day

Pi Day sneaks up on me every year.  But not this time.  Even though the official date (3/14/15) this year lands on a Saturday during our Spring Break, I am prepared.  My 4th graders are studying “mathematical masterpieces” and Pi Day fits right into that topic. Plus, this is a super special year because the first 5 digits of Pi are 3.1415.  Look familiar?

Looking for ways to celebrate Pi Day?  There’s a website for that, of course – actually a few. PiDay.org has got you covered.  So does the Exploratorium. And there is also MathMovesU.

Personally, I plan to show my students this Mile of Pi video on TEDEd.  They are also going to learn about Pilish and write some Pilish poetry after reading this awesome Pilish translation of The Raven (H/T to Martha at A Way with Words for that idea!). If there is time, they are going to look for their birthdays and phone numbers in Pi using this website.  Knowing my 4th graders, they will probably also get a kick out of these Pi Day e-cards.

Will pie be served?  Maybe if they can solve this Pi Day Sudoku Puzzle

image from PiDay.org
image from PiDay.org

Fairytale Ads

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a GT teacher named Pedro Delgado.  Mr. Delgado was a finalist for TCEA’s Classroom Teacher of the Year.  He shared a link to his class blog, and I stumbled upon a cute photo gallery of a project that his 4th graders did using real company logos in ads with fairytale characters.  The posters made by the students cracked me up!  I asked if he would mind if I shared his idea, and he gave me permission.  This is a fun idea for using the “Multiple Perspectives” icon from Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity.  You could really use the activity with any characters from history or fiction – not just fairytales.  A couple of the pictures by Mr. Delgado’s 4th graders are below, but please check out the rest by visiting his class blog here.

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Twister

Just to be clear from the outset, this post is not about the game that prepares you for a career in Cirque de Soleil – or, in my case, a long stay in the hospital.

Twister, basically a fake Tweet generator, is one of the many fun tools available from ClassTools.net.  (Check out this post from Richard Byrne about Connect Fours, another really cool ClassTools resource.)

ClassTools is the site that also brings you Fakebook. (You can probably easily deduce the purpose of that tool!)  I’ve used Fakebook, and included it as one of the challenges on Brad Gustafson’s ConnectED Bingo Board.  Joelle Trayers has a great post about using Fakebook with Junie B. Jones, and reading her post reminded me that I had been wanting to explore some of the other Classtools resources.

Twister is very simple to use.  You can see the required fields in the picture below.

from ClassTools.net

 

The tool actually pulls images from the internet to use for a background, so I tried a fictional character, Harry Potter, to see what would happen.  Here is what I got when I submitted:

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Then I thought I should try something more historical.

 

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This tool is easy to use and probably works for any famous person, fictional or historical, on the internet.

If you want something a bit more complex, you can try out this downloadable fake Twitter template.  Or, for a simulated Twitter experience, try Tammy Tang’s awesome Google Class Tweeter Template.

Poetweet

Happy Phun Phriday!  It’s time for another completely frivolous blog post that might inadvertently inspire you to waste huge chunks of time on an activity that is not productive in any way.

I actually had Poetweet slated to be a Phun Phriday post a few weeks ago, but the site went down right when I was about to blog about it.  It seems to be working now, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the bazillions of people who read this post won’t break it by trying to access Poetweet at the same time ;)

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You don’t have to have a Twitter account to use Poetweet – but you need to know someone’s Twitter handle.  All you do is type in the handle, then choose what type of poem you would like (Sonnet, Rondel, or Indriso), and the magic happens.

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I don’t really know how it works.  And the poems don’t necessarily make sense – but then again, aren’t the best poems deliberately incomprehensible?  When you are viewing the poem on the Poetweet site, you can actually scroll over the lines to find out what Tweet they were found in.

Here are the three poems I made from my Twitter handle last night. Some lines are weirdly insightful…

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Reflections on our GT Twitter Chat

A few weeks ago, a few of the teachers in our district participated in a Twitter Chat.  The topic was to S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Education.  You can read more about the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. chat here.

After the chat, a few of the GT teachers suggested that it might be fun to try doing the same chat with our students.  So, last week, we decided to try it.

I’m not sure how many schools ended up participating in the chat, but I believe there were around 13 classes.  Some of us had the students respond to the teacher who then tweeted out the answers, and some of us allowed our students to group up and use various devices.  It was not smooth-sailing.  Here were some of the glitches:

  • Twitter and Tweetdeck are blocked under student sign-in in our district.
  • Tweetdeck kept refreshing and losing columns at the beginning of the chat in my classroom (maybe for other people, too).  We surmised that this might be b/c more than one device was using the same account.  However, after we refreshed the page on the 6 laptops it seemed fine.
  • Some of us couldn’t see each other’s tweets because some of our accounts are private.  We made sure we were all following each other beforehand, but that still didn’t seem to help everyone.  Fortunately, everyone knew the questions ahead of time, so even though they couldn’t all see them, they could guess by the responses which question had been asked.

Overall, it was an eye-opening experience for the teachers and the students.  Most of my students (5th graders on that day) had never used Twitter and finally understood the use of hashtags.  Many of them saw ideas that were new to them and got different perspectives on the topics.

For example when we went over the questions before the chat, one of my students was adamant that we should eliminate art from the curriculum.  I told him that he would probably find that many people would disagree and that he would have to be able to support his viewpoint.  Sure enough, others strongly argued that art is vital. This exchange turned out to be an excellent lesson on multiple perspectives as well as social media etiquette.

A student from another school suggested getting rid of free time – which caused a public outcry in my classroom.  However, a few minutes later the writer explained that he or she disliked all of the time wasted when students finish work early and are just “told to read a book.”  Again, another lesson on how important it is to ask people to explain themselves instead of just immediately condemning their opinions – also a lesson that the brevity used in social media can sometimes distort the message you are trying to communicate.

After all was said and done, I asked my 18 students to complete a reflection about the experience.  (Yes, we did old-school handwriting b/c some of their typing can be painfully slow!)  When I surveyed them, most of them gave the chat a 2 or 3 (3 was the highest).  However, there were a couple of 1’s.  Understandably, those students found the whole procedure to be too chaotic and fast.

Would we do it again? Yes, I think seeing different points-of-view is really helpful for my students. I’m still debating the importance of keeping our account private.  I also am considering giving students the option of participating or not.  Those who opt out can consider the topic in an alternative way.

If you are interested in doing the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. chat in your district, here is a link to the document Kimberly Ball (gttechguru) made for us to use to prepare the students for the chat.  And, if you’re not ready to do Twitter, check out this great Google Tweeter Template from Tammy Tang that will help you to simulate the process!

 

 

CommonLit

I was so thrilled to see this post by Richard Byrne (who is one of my favorite Engaging Educators!) about CommonLit.

This is going to be an awesome resource for me to use with my 4th and 5th grade GT students.  I will let Richard tell you the details, but suffice it to say that it is a great way to encourage deep discussion in your class, and offers downloadable texts that you can use to tantalize your students with philosophical questions.

image from CommonLit.org
image from CommonLit.org

I plan to use this with Socratic Smackdown (which I also found out about from Richard).  Socratic Smackdown has been a great success in my classroom and CommonLit will augment it even more.

You might also want to consider using some of the CommonLit themes to enrich your students’ writing if they are participating in this year’s Philosophy Slam (deadline is 3/6/15). The “Social Change and Revolution” theme on CommonLit could definitely help students determine if violence or compassion has a greater impact on society.