Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Seesaw for Digital Portfolios

At NCTE this past year, I learned about an amazing new tool called Seesaw. I could barely hear what the presenter was saying about Seesaw, due to the crowded room, but I heard the speaker mention something about how parents can view the work at the same time it is posted and it acts as a digital portfolio. I decided to take a look and I happened across the  Seesaw website after some frantic Googling.

The following is taken from the Seesaw website...

I decided to give it a try as I've been trying to create digital portfolios over the last couple of years. I use Google Drive to create digital portfolios, but I always have students who forget to put the work in their portfolio. I thought this avenue might be easier...and it certainly was! I created a class in Seesaw and had my students sign up. It is completely free and very user friendly.  I can not say ENOUGH great things about this classroom tool! Using this site with 1-1 iPads has been so beneficial! 

It is so easy to post a photo of a worksheet, assignment, photo, or link and have the students access it! Instead of making copies of a daily math exercise, I take a photo of it on Seesaw and the students then solve the daily problem. Instead of making 24 copies, I can take a photo, post it, and everyone can see it...no more lost papers.  Some students choose to show their work via video, some choose to solve it on paper and post it, some choose to make a copy and write directly on the problem...students can choose the way that works BEST for them. It is SOOO easy to upload a document, post a link, create a note, add a photo or video, or add a drawing. Push the + button, click what you want to add, and add it! It's done! 

I give students journal prompts to support our read aloud or a topic that we are studying in class and the students post their thoughts in a journal post. An important thing to know is that you have to approve your student's work. You will also want to turn off your notifications or you will be bombarded with notifications when students submit assignments of comments. I warned you!  You can approve it post by post, or approve it all at once. I do both depending on the occasion or assignment,  and this a great feature because I can make sure that nothing inappropriate is posted. I post links for the students to support their learning, our class newsletter, publish writing, post a photo of an anchor chart, or give feedback on a student's post. I have found Seesaw to be a game-changer for me! 

I uploaded a reader's theater script(instead of copying it for everyone) and the students spent a week practicing for reader's theater and performing their parts by accessing their script in Seesaw. I saved at least one tree with that move! 
I post links to Padlets that we are working on and the students can easily access the Padlet and post their thoughts.  They can then go back to the post and see what their classmates have posted.  Parents can then easily access the padlet and see what their child posted as well. It's also easy to grade when everything is on the computer and easy to access. It saves me from carting papers back and forth in my book bag. 

Another great feature about Seesaw is the parent accessibility. I have parents sign up to access their child's work and they can look at what we are doing, like it(think Facebook), or even comment on their child's work. They receive an email notification or a text notification that lets them know that something has been added to their child's portfolio. They really enjoy seeing their child's work throughout the day. This really promotes parents being partners in the educational process. Parents appreciate this because when their child tells them that they didn't do anything in school that day, they can reference the work that they saw on Seesaw. :-) 

Seesaw is committed to keeping their site free. I sure hope that is true! It is such an amazing resource and I definitely encourage you to try it for the rest of the school year. You will be a believer in Seesaw too! 

P.S.-There is also a Blog feature to Seesaw. So check that out too! 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Makerspace Monday

This week I tried something new. I decided to start Monday out with a bang! I decided to implement Makerspace Monday.  I have a whole slew of wonderful makerspace materials from a grant from our school district's foundation. I have used many of the materials in class already, but I wanted to be more consistent about when and how I use them. The 3D printer is a hit! The students love trying to navigate the Sperhos from their iPads. They love tinkering with the cubelets.  They enjoy building with Zoobs and creating new Zoob creations. 

Today, they were able to problem solve with the BrushBots.  Talk about a whole new excitement for learning! I started the lesson by putting together a short article to get them excited about Makerspaces. We read the article and coded it as we looked for new information, things that were interesting or surprising, things that we had more questions about, we circled unfamiliar vocabulary words, and marked things that made us think "WOW!" I was able to clear up many vocabulary words that I assumed that they knew but did not. It was also interesting to hear what students viewed as new information, exciting 'wow' facts, what they viewed as interesting or surprising, and I was able to answer any questions. 

+  New information
!   Wow!
*  I think this is interesting or surprising.
?  I have a question about this.
Circle unfamiliar vocabulary words

This is a BrushBot! 

After this close reading, I put up the BrushBot directions on the document camera and had them read through the directions. I posted the learning target and I had the students write down a few notes in their STEM Journals. I communicated to the students that they would be using their problem solving skills while they created BrushBots. What I failed to predict was just how much my students would actually use their problem skills! 

I put out the materials on the table and students were called up to get their materials and supplies. When I was asked a question, I told them that they would have to use their problem solving skills. It was hard to bite my tongue and not give them more guidance, but I really wanted to see what they could do on their own. The only thing that I did for each student was strip the wires on their BrushBot as it would have been difficult for them to do that part on their own. I heard so many problem solving, collaborating, communication, and critical thinking skills in action. Students were able to get their BrushBots working, move it in the right direction(for the most part), help their friends troubleshoot, and learn about basic electronics. 

After everyone had built their BrushBot, a few boys built a racetrack on the linoleum floor. They used Hot Wheels tracks to build racing lanes for four BrushBots at a time. We added a starting line and a finish line and held a BrushBot race. Not part of the original plan, but well worth the extra time!
The BrushBot track

The excitement and engagement was through the roof. All the while, learning was happening! The discussions, the problem solving, the advice to others, the new ideas, the design process in action...all of these were observed today.  

The finish line

The top four winners raced in the final heat and we crowned our top two winners. After the racing was done, the students wrote a reflection in their digital portfolio on Seesaw. Here is a sample...

"Today, for Makerspace Monday, we made our own BrushBots. We learned how to use our problem-solving skills while doing this. The most challenging thing during this for me was connecting the wires correctly. The most fun thing was watching it in action. What went well for me was direction. I figured out how to make it go backwards and forwards. What went wrong for me was, well... technical difficulties. Something I would keep for this activity would be the racing. I really liked that part. Something I would modify on my BrushBot would be angling the bristles. All in all, I had a lot of fun."

"Brush-Bots-  This was a really fun to thing for me I enjoyed experimenting to make it better. The whole designing process went well for me, except for that time where it non functioned and it went crazy. Then I had some troubles with tying the wires together. If I were to modify my brush-bot I would put more weight on one side so it would go straight. Another thing I might want to experiment with is modifying the bristles on the tooth brush. I loved maker bot Monday and I would definitely want to do it again!"-Shaun

The students loved Makerspace Monday and want to have it everyday. I told them that it will not just be limited to Mondays, but Mondays will be a given and a great way to start the week! That ought to help get them out of bed on Monday mornings! 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Why I Write...

I write as a challenge.
I write to teach my students.
I write to improve myself.
I write as an expression of my thoughts.
I write to share what I do in my classroom.
I write for enjoyment. 

I've never LOVED writing-but I'm starting to enjoy the challenge of writing as an adult. Growing up, I vividly remember writing papers for school(spaced every other line for editing purposes) and having my mom read the paper and then proceed to 'rip it apart.' I remember the frustration of having to make corrections, take out useless words that didn't add value, fix spelling errors(thank goodness I was a good speller), reword sentences, fix sentence fragments, take apart run-on sentences, add description, and improve my topic sentence and conclusions. I would sit there in frustration and think that my mom was the meanest mom in the whole world for doing this to me. Little did I know, this was all part of the process of learning how to write and creating a strong writing foundation. It helped that she was a teacher and knew what she was talking about. Of course, I didn't realize her impact until I was much older. Now, I sit here next to my 14-year-old daughter and read her papers on Google Docs and I experience flashbacks of me sitting by my mother.  Now I'm on the other side of the editing. I can hear my mother's voice as I edit her paper. I see many of the same things that I used to do as a writer.  She gets frustrated...I get frustrated...am I harming her...helping her?  Is there a perfect balance of constructive criticism, feedback, and praise?  I'm not sure I've found that balance yet. 

In high school, my friend Joe encouraged me to write poetry. For fun...
I told him that I couldn't. He assured me that I could. He would pass me a poem in the hallway(you know...notebook paper folded up into a little square) and I would read it and laugh...because he was hilarious. Then it was my turn to try. I would attempt to write a poem, send it back via the same method, and he would say, "Good job-see you CAN do it." We did this for awhile, I don't remember for how long this went on, but I remember being proud of myself and I remember Joe as someone who encouraged me as a writer. 

Fast forward to college-THE Ohio State University! I was 19 and I had a creative writing class during one of my elementary education strands with the coolest professor ever. She definitely wasn't the norm. She was approachable, down to earth, an optimist, she encouraged persistence and resilience, and she wore her long brownish/grayish hair in a ponytail straight down her back. Her name was Carolyn and she made writing fun! We sang operas based off of our writing, had 3rd grade pen pals, and acted out our poetry. She had a cart of writing supplies-it was a teacher's dream! She had papers of all colors, textures, and sizes. She had colored pencils, felt tip pens, markers, and fun pencils. We were instructed to write whatever we wanted. For the first time ever in my life, I had a choice-I could write a poem, a story, a narrative, my innermost thoughts! It made writing enjoyable. Now, as teachers of students, we KNOW and SEE the positive effects of CHOICE and can see how this impacts a child and their engagement. 

After that creative writing class at age 19, the only writing that I did was for academic purposes. I wrote papers upon papers during graduate school and for post-graduate courses. Then work and family got in the way...and no writing was done unless it was for an academic purpose. 

I started this blog. I started it on a whim. I had been reading educational blogs via Twitter and I felt inspired to start my own. I needed a challenge, I wanted to communicate with others in the field of education, and I wanted to share what was happening in my classroom.  It was uncomfortable at first and sometimes it still is! 
Would people think it was self-centered to write a blog?
Would people think that I thought I was better than them?
Would people think I was annoying?
Would anyone EVEN read the blog? 
Maybe my mom would read it-if I sent her the link via email. OR maybe my close friend would read it if I told her about it. OR maybe someone would end up on my blog by accident. 

I had many doubts, fears, insecurities, and anxieties about putting my writing out there for anyone to read. It was risky...and I don't do risky very well. 

Now, two years later and almost 100,000 hits later, I'm shocked at the smallness of our world.  I can publish a new post and SOME people will read it. Sometimes certain posts are read more than others-and that's fine with me! It's not about the number of hits.  It's a creative outlet, it's a new challenge for me, it's helped me to share my voice, it's helped me to become a better writer, it's helped me to become a more thoughtful teacher, and it's connected me with some amazing people. The best thing is that I am STILL learning how to be a writer(I have a ways to go!) and I have new people shaping me a writer. 

SO...I'm not sure if I should thank my mom for helping me as a writer, or Joe from high school for encouraging me to write poems for fun, or Carolyn the writing teacher from Ohio State, or other teacher bloggers for inspiring me, or my students for giving me topics to write about. All of these people have shaped me a writer and have helped me to be JUST BRAVE ENOUGH to write this blog. 

It has brought me...JOY!   

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Happy 2016! Go ahead and live it with #JOY!

Last year, I learned about #oneword365 and thought that it was the most perfect way to start 2015. I chose the word 'purpose' and stayed pretty focused on this word all year long. I was pretty mindful of keeping this word in the fore front of my mind all year and I even had the word #purpose at the end of my signature on my email.

I had been thinking for the last few weeks about what my word would be for 2016. I had some ideas. I thought about the word focus, or balance, or truth, or listen, or mindfulness, or reflection, or optimism, or persistence. I also thought about the word joy. I decided that I would let the next two weeks play out and the right word would reveal itself to me. Well, over the last two weeks the one word that keeps popping up...all the time...is joy! I see signs for joy everywhere. It's like that new vocabulary word that you teach your students or even learn yourself and then you start to see that word everywhere you look!
I have seen quotes about joy, news reports about joy, Facebook posts about joy, images about joy, I've read books that mention joy, mentions about joy on Twitter,  there's even a movie entitled 'Joy' right now.  The list could go on...you get the idea. I even saw an interview on a local news station about a lady who wrote a book about  finding the pockets of joy in life and created a journal for people to write down their 'pockets of joy.' Guess who is going to buy this journal? :-) I also plan on getting notecards that say the word 'JOY' so that I can send little notes of joy this year. You can read about these awesome notecards here and then purchase them yourself if you are interested at http://noteworthycardcompany.com/shop.html


Joy is even listed as one of the 13 Belief Statements in the book, "The Teacher You Want to Be:Essays about Children, Learning, and Teaching" by Matt Glover and Ellin Keene. Belief 8 is Joy! The belief is stated, "... that learning is based in relationships, and that interactions between teachers, families, and students be joyful, compassionate, and authentic." 

So I plan on focusing on JOY this year. At home, in my personal life, at school, in my classroom...all of these will a place to put joy into daily practice. Next week, I plan on having my students choose their own word to focus on in 2016 and I can't wait to see what THEY choose! As you enter 2016, don't forget to live life with JOY!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

#Cyber PD-Last Chapters...Digital Reading

#cyberPD 2015

I can't believe that this is the last blog post for #cyberPD. This book was a quick read and one of those books that was just easy to read and made a lot of sense. There were many applicable ideas in this book and #cyberPD has taken this book to even the next level through this awesome "cyber-opportunity." :-)
Chapter 6-Assessment: Keeping Our Eye on the Literacy

The quote that starts out this chapter...nails exactly how I feel about assessment in literacy. 

"Assessment needs to be the vehicle that moves us beyond defining our readers as a number. Assessment should not be about defining a reader but about piecing together information to help us design classroom experiences so we can observe our readers learning and understand what each one needs."-Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan

I've always believed that assessment when it comes to literacy should be qualitative. Teachers often think that there is one magic reading assessment that they can give to identify a child's reading/literacy needs, but it really is a bunch of little observations and assessments. I usually conduct the Words Their Way spelling inventory, a writing sample, the Fountas and Pinnell benchmark assessment, reading observations, conferring notes, and an assessment that entails an extended response. I put all of these together to develop a profile about the reader and then I can decide on the direction that I need to go with the reader. As I'm reading this book and reflecting, I realize that I would like to also incorporate assessing digital literacy skills. I need to do some more thinking around how this would look and what is most crucial to assess. I'm almost thinking...instead of concepts of print...maybe concepts of digital literacy to get a feel for what they already know and what they need to learn. 
I love the digital reading survey questions and I will definitely incorporate these questions into my reading survey in our data binders. I'm also looking to expand on using digital portfolios and "beefing" them up. Last year, I created digital portfolios on Google Drive and we used them, but not to their fullest potential. This is something that I really want to focus on this year as a way to collect student work and reflect on it. These are a great way to collect work for student led conferences and to show off the student's impressive digital work. 

Chapter 7-Beyond the Classroom Walls: Connecting Digital Reading at Home and School

As for the connection between school and home, I use our class Twitter account, our class website, and my most favorite tool...smore. This is a website that allows you to create digital newsletters and I love it so much that I buy an educator subscription. The newsletters are sooo easy to create, look attractive, and are "parent friendly." I can add links to articles or websites, have parents RSVP for events, add pictures, change the background/fonts/color, and the list goes on. I always try to add in an article or resource each week for the parents who wish to read them. 

Here are some links to some of my newsletters...

I send out a newsletter ALMOST every week and it's a great way for parents to access newsletters. They can go back to it at a later date and refer to the dates or the information that I have given out. It even has analytics so that you can see how many people have accessed your newsletter and you can even see where people are viewing it from around the world. I have noticed that there are a A LOT of traveling parents out there that access the newsletter.  This is just an AWESOME digital tool that I just LOVE! 
It's important for parents to see the importance of technology in our school and support our 1-1 iPad initiative. That's why I try to incorporate it as much as possible to showcase the importance of technology in the classroom. 
I love the line that says, "Teachers need to offer opportunities for schools and families to connect around these topics and make meaning of them together." This is an important job for each and every teacher! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

#CyberPD-Chapters 3-5: Digital Reading

#CyberPD 2015

Well to start...I decided to change my blog name this weekend. Not sure of the repercussions 
 of doing this but I just did not like the name of my blog anymore. So it is now "Reflections of An Intentional Teacher"...which of course my 14 year old thought was HORRIBLE;-)... but I'm totally comfortable with my new blog name! 14 year old girls think that EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE IS HORRIBLE pretty much all of the time! Hoping that will change soon! ;-) 

Anyway, we've had beautiful weather here in Minnesota, so I've spent some hours by the pool reading this great book and reflecting on this "cyber-opportunity."

Chapter 3-What Really Matters? Authenticity

I loved the quote from Lucy Calkins, "I do not think those readers would tell us about making shoe-box dioramas of beloved novels or writing new endings to published stories. They wouldn't talk about sending make-believe letters from character to another, or about cutting books into sentence strips and reassembling them. Instead, I think that great readers would tell us about weaving reading together with the people and passions of their lives. They would tell us that reading, like writing, is a big thing we do with our whole lives." I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this and I'm pretty sure I've underlined these same words or at least very similar words, somewhere before! As I've matured in my teaching career, I try to always think...do I like to make a diorama after I read a book, do I like to log my reading minutes and write a summary about my reading, do I like to answer critical thinking questions to the book that I just read and write them in a complete paragraph? No, no, and no! Then why do we want our students to do this? Let's make the learning authentic(more often than not) and maybe, just maybe, we can create a classroom of students who LOVE reading! 
I love Franki's connection to the book trailer being similar to the diorama because it wasn't authentic. 
Another reason for giving students choice in the classroom! When students ask me if they can use a different app on their iPad or create something that is even not digital, I usually always say yes. My students have blown me away over the last two years of having iPads with what they can do when given choice. Often times their projects turn out BETTER than what I had originally planned or envisioned and it is because I allowed them to be authentic and have choice. I've seen amazing projects this year with Padlet, Popplet, iMovie, Keynote, Pic Collage, Nearpod, Book Creator, iBrainstorm, Animoto, Prezi...and others that students have found and asked to use and have been amazing!  

I also agree that Genius Hour is a great time for students to explore new apps and tools and allow time for discovery. I've had students learn how to design amazing websites, create iMovies that were so good they brought tears to my eyes, create visually appealing Prezis, app-smashed many apps together to make their product more interesting, created beautiful keynotes without too many annoying transitions, and there are many more. This is why we host a classroom wide EdCamp every year so that students can be the experts and teach the other interested students about what they know. It is one of my favorite activities to do with my students and by far it is one of their favorite activities of the year. This supports the point in the next chapter that, "it's not important for the teacher or the students to be familiar with every tool available." Odds are that someone in your class is going to have it figured out before you can even turn on your iPad. Happens to me all the time! 

Chapter 4- What Really Matters? Becoming Intentional Decision Makers

I like the word "intentional" in this chapter. I love the thinking around teaching our students to be "intentional" with their reading. Is it best to read on the kindle app, borrow from the library, purchase the book and read a hard copy? I find myself being more intentional about "how" I read my books now and have different preferences based on what I am reading. If it is a book that is going to have difficult vocabulary in it, I prefer reading on my iPad as it is easy to touch a word and get the definition. If it is going to be a quick read and I would never want to read the book again, I will borrow it online from the library and read it on my iPad. If I want it NOW...I will buy it through Kindle and send it to my iPad. If I want to reflect it on the SMARTBOARD for teaching, I will buy it digitally. Otherwise, I still prefer old-fashioned books. But space is becoming a problem in our office, sooooo...my thinking may shift to more digital copies. 
I loved the section on page 48-49 on the teacher scaffolding intentionality by text choice! This is so important and something to really keep in mind going into a new school year. There are so many options out there! I LOVE Wonderopolis and I'm always amazed when I find a teacher who hasn't used it before! I love it so much and use it so much that I always think to myself that I should probably work for Wonderopolis! There are soooo many options when it comes to teaching with Wonderopolis and I appreciate the fact that it is free and has stayed free! 

Chapter 5-What Really Matters? Connectedness

I had a "text-to-self" connection when I read about Franki feeling "weird" about not having a device to refer to while reading a magazine on the airplane. I often read a book or a magazine and open up my phone or my laptop and google something that I read about, learned about, or want to buy. Amazon Prime is the best thing to ever happen in my shopping world. I see a book...I can have it in 2 days. It's beautiful. 
I also have found real value in connected learning. I love using Twitter to connect with other classrooms and authors. The students get really excited if an author retweets us or responds back to us and it is exciting to share this with them. I also loved participating in The Global Read Aloud this year and the March Book Madness. Both of these activities provided some added excitement around reading and allowed us to connect with others all around the country. I also enjoyed using Padlet to connect with other classes for It's Monday, What Are You Reading. I'm excited to try this again in the fall and see where it leads. Biblionasium was another favorite tool for the students to record their books and to recommend books to other students in the class. I felt that Biblionasium was way more powerful than a paper/pencil reading log. I love the lines, "one important paradigm shift in this connected thinking is to move beyond the mere acquisition of knowledge; instead, we want our students to build deep understandings around concepts and ideas and then adopt these ideas as they read independently. Connected reading builds this understanding." This is what it is ALL about...the whole reason we teach reading. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

#oneword365 revisited

My word is PURPOSE. I still use it and refer to it...even though it's July. My goal is to make it 365 days with me "purposely" using my word.  I have it as a hashtag in my email signature. I had my students choose their own word in January and they use their "words" all the time. I haven't forgotten my word and it pops into my mind often and reminds me that I need to be doing everything with #purpose. 

In June, my wonderful friend Mandy came to visit me all the way from Ohio with her family.  She brought me a little gift and when I opened this little gift...I LOVED this little gift! It was beautifully made!  This is what it was...

Stationery with the word PURPOSE!

I received 8 greeting cards with beautiful hand drawn mandalas that were sized 5x5, with the word purpose written inside of the mandala! They are gorgeous and the mandala is made BY HAND! Can you believe that!? I can't...because this is something that I could never do! 

"A mantra wrapped in a mandala"

These cards are on beautiful card stock and are blank inside. I wanted to share this artist's work with all of my blog readers as I know many of you have "a word" for 2015...and 2016 is closing in on us faster than we would like! :-)  You can find her work at http://noteworthycardcompany.com and order a set of your own or order a set for a friend...like my dear friend did for me! I love them and will definitely be ordering a new set or maybe sets! You can even custom design your own! Check them out!