Thursday, January 30, 2014

Discovery Quests

This year I continued a practice that I used with my team teacher back in Ohio. We had the students prepare a presentation once a month called a "Discovery Quest." My teammate had originally found the idea from somebody else online and he tweaked it to make it work for our classroom. I loved the concept so much that I tweaked it once again in order to make it work for my new classroom. 

Discovery Quests are oral presentations that allow students to learn public speaking skills and independent research skills.  The concept is pretty simple, the students choose from a list of about 4 topics each month to create an oral presentation. If the topics do not interest them, they may choose a current event to present, but it must be pre-approved by the teacher and be educational.  The students are assigned a certain Friday each month and they must be prepared on that day. 

The guidelines are as follows...

Your Discovery Quest presentation should be 2 to 5 minutes long.

You may have note cards to read, but you should not prepare a paper and read directly from the paper.  Make sure that you relay the information in your own words, not something that was printed from the computer.

If you have prepared a powerpoint or a technology piece, you have to be prepared to present your information if the technology fails. You many not read directly from the powerpoint or other technology piece. 

You should speak in a loud, clear, confident voice, and make eye contact with your audience on a regular basis.  You should look like you are interested in your topic.

You speech should be organized, well prepared, and stay on topic.

Be creative. 

Have a “grabber” to open your speech and a conclusion when you end.  We should know when the speech is over.

I try to align the topics to meet the state standards in social studies and science. I also include topics that allow the classmates to get to know each other on a more personal level. Some examples of topics are...

  *Discover where your name came from.  (this could be your first, middle, or last name, or even a nickname)
    *Discover the MN state flag.  Tell why it looks they way it does and what it stands for.  Include any other interesting facts.
    *Discover the design process. Describe the positive and negative impacts that the design process has had on our world. 
  *Discover a famous Minnesotan, past or present.  Tell us about him/her, his/her life, and why he/she became famous.
     *Discover veterans.  We honor veterans on Veteran’s Day, November 11. What is a veteran? Learn about it and tell the class about a veteran that you know and his or her contributions to our country.
     *Discover the word INNOVATION. Describe a situation in which one innovation led to another innovation and how it has impacted our world.
   *Discover one of the many Native American tribes in Minnesota.  Tell us all about the tribe and where they were or are located. 
    *Discover the Civil Rights Movement or one of the lesser-known people involved in the movement. Tell us about their life, how they were involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and how they have impacted our country today.  
     *Discover “Curiosity” the Mars Rover.  Tell us all about Curiosity and what it has learned about Mars.
   *Discover a famous woman in history.  Tell us about her and her life.  What did she accomplish to become famous? How did she impact our world today?
    *Discover probability.  Tell about how probability affects our daily life.
   *Discover flight. Learn about aerodynamics and how/why things fly.
     *Learn about the stock market and explain in 4th grade terms how it works. 
   *Interview someone over the age of 75 and compare and contrast how life has changed over the years. 
   *Discover Daylight Savings time and how it works? Why do we have it? Is it beneficial?

     All of these presentations require the students to use 21st Century skills. They are required to think critically, be creative with their presentation, and focus on the skill of communication.  The students have been very creative with creating PowerPoints, Google Presentations, Glogsters, and other technological savvy presentations. They have learned how to put less words on a slide, use bullet points, not read straight from the Smartboard, look at the audience, and to be prepared for anything that could happen. 

    I share with my students this scenario...that if I have a roomful of parents sitting in my classroom watching my curriculum night presentation and my PowerPoint presentation fails or my Smartboard projector bulb burns out...that I still need to be responsible for relaying the information to all of the parents. I can't just stop and ask them to come back next week. It is important to be prepared for anything that could happen!  It is now January and they are grasping this concept and have shown tremendous growth with their presentations. I am anxious to see how they continue to develop and flourish. 

    If you would like a copy of the Discovery Quest questions or the Discovery Quest rubric, leave me a comment with your email and I will gladly send it to you. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Teacher Book Club

Tonight, our staff participated in their first teacher book club! My friend Lisa and I started talking this fall about some new professional books.  We were getting all excited and giddy while we were talking about them and we both had the same idea at the same time..."What if we started a teacher book club?" 
Why not? 
So we did! 
We chose the book "Reading in the Wild" by Donalyn Miller and organized our first book club!

We had about 17 teachers participate this first time and we are hoping to follow this book up with another book! It was great to get together, eat food and have drinks, and talk about things that we don't usually have time to talk about in school! It's important to use each other as resources because each teacher has so much to add and we can learn so much from each other. 

We were able to talk about building a culture of wild readers.
We were able to talk about how important it is to read books that the kids read so that you are familiar with them and can talk about them with kids.
We were able to talk about the importance of having students have independent reading time EVERYDAY!
We were able to talk about the importance of read aloud and how that can build community in the classroom. 
We were able to discuss the idea of leveling books and giving students a level that they identify with as a reader. We talked about the pros and cons of this and how it is different at each grade level. 
We were able to talk about conferring with readers and how often we should do this and if it looks the same for every student in our class.
We were able to talk about posting our read aloud outside of our classroom and creating "buzz" about books in our school.
We were able to talk about the point that our "avid, voracious readers" are our worst record keepers and how do we navigate that. Do we have to worry about this or just let it be?
We were able to talk about reading logs and their purpose.
We were able to talk about how choice matters when it comes to reading.
We were able to collaborate.
We were able to reaffirm what we do in our reading blocks. 
We were able to laugh.

Excited to start a new book and find time to do this again! 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Using Subtext in the Classroom to Promote Collaboration and Communication

Subtext is an awesome app that I couldn't wait to use when our class set of iPads arrived. I had learned about it in August and sort of played around with it and thought it had a lot of potential.  After receiving our iPads, I promptly started exploring the app again.  
The app is marketed as, "... a free iPad app that allows classroom groups to exchange ideas in the pages of digital texts. You can also layer in enrichment materials, assignments and quizzes—opening up almost limitless opportunities to engage students and foster analysis and writing skills."
I decided to just dive in and try it! What did I have to lose? I figured the kids would help me along the way and probably even teach me a few things! I went out to Wonderopolis, Time for Kids, and the internet and downloaded some articles onto my library. It takes away all of those gross ads and things that kids(and teachers) find inappropriate while they are on different websites.  The students opened their app, typed in the access code, and joined my class.  They were able to then take the articles from "my library" and download them onto their iPad.  I started by having them   read an article about Nelson Mandela from Time for Kids.  They were figuring things out faster than I could process. They were so intuitive with using it! 

"Did you know if you tap right here you can highlight words?"
"Did you know you can look up words on the online dictionary?"
"Did you know that you can change the highlight colors?"
"Did you know you can comment to each other?"
"Wow! You can ask a survey question on here?"
"You can click on this link and see a video!"
"I can change my icon and personalize it?" Me..."okay, do it!"

The students collaborated and communicated by helping each other with unknown vocabulary, encouraging each other to use context clues, affirming each other's thoughts, challenging each other's thoughts, and learning how to communicate respectfully online.  As I monitored the online discussions within our class, I had to discuss protocols for proper behavior, being respectful, not typing in ALL CAPS, and not using sarcasm.  They were surprised that I could see EVERYTHING that they write! 
Bottom line...they love SUBTEXT! They ask to use it, you can hear a pin drop in the classroom when they are using it(my class is not known for their silence), they amaze me with their knowledge that they share with each other on subtext, and they learn so much from using it!  
I've decided to use the "dive right in and try it" approach with other apps as well. Next up is Explain Everything! We'll see what happens!