Sunday, January 25, 2015

Computers in Kindergarten

Classrooms around the country are becoming 1-1 classrooms.  My classroom is no different.

To prepare, I took a course on Blended Learning.  Honestly, I was skeptical.  I could not envision my students nor I using the computer with them on a regular basis.  Although, the course was aimed at older grades, it gave me the knowledge I needed to integrate, set up, and use computers in my class.

We've been using Chromebooks regularly in our classroom since mid-October.  The first few weeks were not easy.  I had to rethink my teaching, how I ran my small group instruction and teach my students the basics of using a computer such as logging in.

I decided to use the rotation model as a way to integrate computers into our school day.

The last half of our day is dedicated to small group learning.  During math time, students work independently on the computer or work with a partner at math centers.  The next day, we switch.

Computer time is embedded within our literacy centers.  While on the computer, they are using web based tools such as iReady, IXL, and Moby Max.  These programs monitor their progress and adapt as needed.

Although, I am 1-1, I rarely have all the students on the computer at the same time.  I would rather they are working on age appropriate skills using more traditional methods.

I think that it is important that my students have the opportunity to learn independently but to also work with others in a social setting.  I purposely try to create or purchase center activities that will make learning fun.  I want them to be just as engaged if not more so while working at centers with their peers.  

I must admit, my students like using the computer.  But, I find that they still want me to acknowledge their learning.  Although they may earn a medal or a congratulations, it is my thumbs up or verbal praise that they seek.

Honestly, that makes me so proud.  Computers may be entering our classrooms but it can not replace me.

Happy Teaching,

Saturday, December 20, 2014

#Osmo Review and Giveaway

Recently,  I was asked to review Osmo; an interactive iPad game that uses real objects within the digital realm.  I have used this with my own child and with my students.  I love how this game is not limited by age or grade. Rather, it appeals to all ages because it uses logic and creativity.

Osmo comes with a reflector, a base for your iPad and supplies for two of the three games. Set up is easy.  I recommend that you install the free apps (Tangrams, Words, and Newton) prior to playing.

My students were very curious as I was setting up our classroom iPad for them to work with me.  First, we tried Tangrams. The objective is to build the picture as shown on the screen. The colored tangrams coincide with those displayed on the screen.  For some of my students, this was a bit difficult but with the help of a friend, they were able to create.  This is a perfect game for developing spatial relationships and learning how objects can be moved and rotated to build.

Next, we tried Words.  Words comes with letter tiles and has preset word games which you can play.  This is perfect for my 7 year old but not so great for my emerging readers.  Thankfully, Osmo  lets you create your own set of words to use; myWords.  All you need to do is upload a picture and add the word.

Artwork by Whimsy Clips.

This was a bit hit!  Not only were they engaged and wanting to build the words.  They were learning.  They literally clapped and cheered after each word we built. They had so much fun that they begged to play the same game over again.  As teachers, we know that it is not often that our students want to repeat the same lesson again.

Osmo is a great tool for the classroom. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to use one of Time Magazine's best inventions of 2014 in my classroom. And, now, you can too! The folks at Osmo have generously offered to giveaway one to you.

Enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hurry so that you can begin the new year in your classroom using this fantastic iPad device.

Good luck!

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Please note: This is open to US residents only.  
I received an Osmo device to use in my classroom for this honest review.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Common Core Math from a Common Core Kid

I have been thinking about this topic for some time now.  My son is a child of the Common Core State Standards.  Good. Bad. Or indifferent.  He is.

Let me tell you a little about him.  He is in second grade at the school I teach and loves it.  He is an avid reader and reads a wide range of texts.  Once he learned how to decode, reading came naturally.  He does well in all subjects and is proud of his academic accomplishments.

But, in his mind, he is not good at math.  Math does not come naturally.  He has to work harder to understand the concepts.  Memorizing his math facts with fluency was a struggle in first grade.  There were many times where he cried when we practiced this skill.  That said, he knew enough to get by.

But this year, it seems to be changing.  He is beginning to "get" math.  How do I know? Well, it's the way he talks about it.  It's the way he has learned to solve a problem.  Both of which are different from how I learned math or how I taught math as a second grade teacher.

Here is an example of how a problem might be solved.

In the olden days, we may have said that this is subtraction by regrouping or "borrowing'.   We may have told our students to "go next door to borrow more."

But the way he tackles the problem shows me that he understands the Base 10 system, number relationships and place value.  Although, there are many more steps, I am amazed by the thought process involved.  He is learning that there is more than one way to solve a problem.

I must admit that as a mom, I struggle a bit.  It takes me longer to see the number relationships.  I want to revert to my ways to get the answer because I am familiar with it.  But, as a teacher, I am beaming with pride.  Thinking, "Wow, this is what common core thinking is all about."

What are your thoughts about problem solving and Common Core?

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Using Educreations in Kindergarten

This school year, I have been trying to integrate technology as a learning tool more often in the classroom. One way I have found is using Educreations.  Educreations is a free iPad app which becomes an interactive whiteboard.  It allows you to record, draw, add text and photos while creating your screencast.

Our textbook adoption has a weekly retell component that goes with our main text.  I have been using these cards to model how to retell the story.  First, we look at each card and practice what to say.  We do this several times. First of all, to help us memorize what to say and to help the 3/4s of my students who are learning English as a second language.  When the class is ready, we record ourselves using Educreations.    Finally, we hear our selves and watch our mini movie.

Here is a sample of our most recent retell.

The Bus For Us

You will notice that it is not perfect. At this time, you can not stop recording and fix mistakes. So, that is why memorizing what we are going to say is important. I will coach and prompt students as needed since the goal is to practice retelling.

Educreations is a powerful app that could be used in a variety of ways.  This week, I am going to have my students record themselves decomposing numbers.  Wish us luck!

Wondering if this is standards based?  This article does a great job of showing how it applies to Bloom's Taxonomy.

Happy Teaching!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rakin' In Learning

Here's a fall themed center that can be easily adapted to meet the needs of your students.

To make
You will need a leaves which can be easily found at your local craft store or dollar store, bags or buckets for sorting and a rake.  I found the buckets and rake at Target.

Next, using a Sharpie write on the leaves whatever concept that you would like your students to focus on.

I created this center for Word Work.  Students had to sort words, letters and numbers.  But it could be easily turned into a math center by writing number sentences on the leaves and having students sort the answers into the appropriate buckets.

To play
Students will toss their leaves up into the air or scatter their bucket.  They will rake up the leaves and sort as they go.

If needed, you could easily add a "worksheet" for students to fill out for accountability purposes.

Honestly, though, my students have loved working at this center.  They love it because it gives them the sensory experience of playing with the leaves.  I like that I can incorporate the sensory and learning.  

Happy Fall!

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Lessons Learned - Not School Related

In life, we will have people who will impact you in many ways. They teach you lessons about life, love and/or career.  Within a month, I've lost three people who have influenced my life. This post is a tribute to them.

Mr. R was my first principal.  He hired me as an intern with only a few weeks of student teaching experience. He was a man of conviction.  He taught me to stand up for what I believed in.  Even if it meant going against the norm.  He believed in teaching first; not better test scores. He trusted his teachers and staff. In fact, I taught his grandson as a second year teacher.

Mr. R did what all great teachers do.  He let you learn; sometimes from your mistakes and then, he shared his words of wisdom. I remember vividly during my first year teaching, he told me that I had the "ganas" to make it as a teacher. When I feel down about myself and my profession, I am reminded of his words and it gives me the courage to continue to have faith that I am doing the right thing educating the lives of young people.  I will always remember Mr. R with a smile on his face and his love of being an educator.

Sometimes, friendships cross multiple generations.  I've known E. since my early 20s.  For almost two decades, a group of us have met regularly for tea.  And, when I say tea, I really mean: tea, crafting, games and a full weekend of fun.

This group of woman have stood by me on my wedding day, handmade the quilt my son used as a baby and comforted me when I miscarried.  Now, our group has suddenly lost one.  It's hard to describe the loss each of us feels.  E. was always the one who organized our games, kept us on time and always had some tidbit of wisdom to share.  What I loved most about E. was her ability to do it all.  Even in her 70s, she managed to have a calendar full of dates, volunteering, and family gatherings to attend.  She devoted her life in helping others as a wife, mother, volunteer and friend.

You can pick your friends but you can't pick your family.  T. welcomed me into my husband's family from the moment we met.  He always had a smile and a joke to tell.  Over the years, we've spent summer vacations together, shared birthdays and holidays with one another.  He lived life to his fullest. He worked in the aerospace industry and was invited to Cape Canaveral to watch a space shuttle launch.  In fact, he has his fingerprints on a machine which is on the moon.  T. was never one to boast and I only learned this recently.  He was like a second grandfather to our son.  Donald drew this for T. while he was in the hospital to remind him of all the great times they shared together.  He will be missed.

In fact, I will miss each one.  All lost their life while battling cancer.  Each lived their life fully.  Each taught me lessons that I will cherish for years to come.  In my heart, I know that heaven is a better place because they are there.

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