Friday, May 9, 2014

Minecraft and the Law of Superposition

I came up with the idea of using Minecraft over the summer for the current school year. I knew I would be teaching relative dating and the Law of Superposition and wanted to develop a fun and interactive way for my students to learn the concept.  (The idea that oldest rock/fossil is in the bottom layer of a given sample) I originally just wrote the idea down with my other notes and ideas that I wanted to try during the school year, but since I wasn't going to teach relative dating until the second semester of the year, I put my idea on the back burner.

As the time approached for our Change Over Time unit, the idea of using Minecraft crept back into my mind on numerous occasions. I began by starting to play the game on my iPad to get familiar with it. (I was well aware that my students would be better at the game than me)
Archaeology Sites

Students were broken up into groups of three. Each group was given at least one iPad to use for the activity as well as an activity sheet that they were required to fill out during the activity. Students opened the Minecraft App and selected one of five designated worlds. (I created the worlds prior with A LOT of help from some of my boys) In each world, the group found an “Archaeology Site.” Each site was fenced off at the corners so the students would know where they were located.

Within the dig site, students were given the task of digging out each of the seven layers. Each layer contained a chest with one or two artifacts from a civilization that lived there before. On their activity sheets, students recorded the artifacts in each layer and the type of soil/rock that surrounded.

Once students were finished with their dig site, they rearranged the rows from each layer to have a side view of their dig site. This allowed students to have a view of all of the layers they dug up in the previous steps. Students were then able to label and answer questions related to the dating of the objects and what information the students could infer from their locations in the dig site.

Ultimately, I think the activity went well. I did run into a couple of speed bumps along the way. There were some issues along the way of determining how to be able to place objects in the holes so they wouldn't disappear and gathering all of the materials needed. I was extremely fortunate to have several students that offered up their own time after school to help dig holes and gathering materials. I truly owe those boys the world to helping me make this activity successful.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Confessions of a First Time iPad Cart Teacher

I will have to admit I was nervous about implementing a class set of iPads in my classroom this year.  Would I use them enough, would I use them effectively, and how would I manage the students’ use of the iPads?  Despite this nervousness I was very excited for this new experience, and am so glad I have had this opportunity.

One of the first ways I used the iPads was for whole group literacy lessons.  Nearpod is a great way for all students to use the iPads and be engaged in lessons.  I found it very convenient to find power point presentations that were already created online and modify them for use in Nearpod or make my own.  Students could follow along as we reviewed setting, learned about character traits, or conflict in stories.  The quizzes, polls, and other feedback Nearpod allows students to give were a valuable part of the lessons as well. 

Students were able to use the iPads for writing in lots of ways.  For our first quarter writing samples students integrated science in their writing through projects using Tellagami, Popplet, or StoryKit.  Once students had a final draft they chose one of the apps to publish their writing.  We had a variety of samples that I e-mailed to our class account, and then printed.  Some students worked to create their own “Gami” with Tellagami and recorded themselves reading their final project, while others made Popplet designs to present their writing.  Still other students enjoyed taking pictures to add to the pages of their books about the moon, sun, and Earth with the StoryKit app.  These writing samples were great.

In literacy stations students used the iPads to record themselves reading and then listened for accuracy and fluency during Daily Five in read to self or read with a partner.  They also used Tumble Books and News-o-matic (a new favorite I learned about at tech tens) for reading or listening to reading.

During reading groups we would always keep an iPad or 2 on hand to look up vocabulary and science or social studies information for topics we were reading about. 

For math some of our favorite apps were Educreations, KidTime, Geoboard, and a variety of apps for multiplication.  Students were so excited about getting to use the iPads through out the lessons.

I have highlighted some of the ways we used the iPads this year.  I know this is only the tip of the ice berg for the ways to use iPads in the classroom and I hope to have the opportunity to do so much more with them next year!  This has been a great year working together as a class to integrate iPads into our daily activities.

Friday, April 25, 2014

iPads in First Grade?

Be Careful for What you Wish For!

At the end of last year I applied (wished) to have ipads in my classroom for this year.  At the end of last year I was teaching third grade.  I found out at the end of summer that I would be teaching first grade this year.  I was really nervous about moving to a new grade with such little people and on top of it having ipads in my classroom!  It has definitely been a learning process, but with a lot of help from colleagues, I did find fun and engaging ways to implement ipads in my classroom.  I am amazed at how quickly the students learn how to use the apps and I am so glad that I did "wish" for the ipads after all!
Whole Group Lessons

I have used the nearpod app this year for several math lessons.  I take the information from our Math Expressions teacher manual and implement it into my nearpod lesson. What has been great about nearpod is that I can use examples from the teacher manual to see how my students work them out. Since they must share an ipad, they also have to collaborate before they submit their work. I love being able to pull up students work for the class to see.  It really lends to the “math talk” that we encourage so much with common core.  Students can comment on the work of other students by sharing if they “agree or disagree”.  It is such a learning tool for students to be able to explain how he or she came to a solution, or even where a mistake was made.


I have also used  Kahoot! this year. Kahoot is a game based classroom response system which is very engaging! It reminds me a lot of the “clickers” I used to use for whole group review.  Students in my classroom have to be partners, but they love creating a team name.  Once all students have submitted their team name, they put in a pin number and the Kahoot begins. With Kahoot, you can create questions for a quiz or as a survey.  In the survey format, it shows how many “teams” chose a certain answer and it lets me know if the majority of my class is familiar or unfamiliar with a certain topic. I have created a survey in Kahoot as a pre-assessment before a lesson on telling time. I have also used Kahoot in the quiz form for a science review.  It is time based and it has fun music that gets the kids really excited. Kahoot is not an app, but I turned it into a QR code and students can just scan the code to take them right to Kahoot!


Small Group Lessons and Stations

In small group lessons, such as guided reading, I like to use edmodo to upload books for a couple of my reading groups.  The students amaze me at how quickly they go get their ipad for guided reading time and log in to get to their book.  I also have used educreations to follow up on guided reading activities by uploading some of the Reading A to Z graphic organizers, such as the Venn diagrams and the cause and effect boxes.  It saves paper and copies and the kids love it!  It is a bit time consuming for them as they learn how to insert the text box and type, but they are getting faster!

In stations, I love, love love using QR codes!  I have created many math stations with QR codes.  Again, since I don’t have enough ipads to go around, they must share which means a lot of collaborating!  My students know they still have to work out their problems in their math journals before scanning the QR code to check their answers.

During the reading stations, one rotation is to read a book, take an AR quiz (also on ipads), RAZ kids or go to Scootpad reading.  I have recently found “free” QR codes for online reading books.  Once a week, I allow them to scan what looks like a little iphone and it takes them to some online reading sources.  I have them differentiated for students.  One of the resources takes them to articles and stories from the Highlights magazine. They can choose to read it on their own or use headphones and it will read it aloud to them.  If time permits, they are asked to fill in a story summarizer to keep them accountable for their reading.

It has been an amazing year of learning how to implement the ipads, I feel the biggest impact the ipads have made in my classroom, is the ability to differentiate for my students.  If I have a student who is really struggling in an area, I can find something or create something that can give that student extra practice during his/her station time.  Everyone is so busy working on “what is best for their own learning” that students respect what each other is doing.

Monday, April 7, 2014

First Grade IPad Happenings

First Grade IPad Happenings

    In my first grade classroom I am lucky enough to have a 1:1 IPad ratio.  This is my first year with an Ipad classroom and it has been such a wonderful learning experience for me!  In the classroom we use the throughout the day in all subject areas.  Below I have highlighted some of the Ipad happenings in first grade!

    Edmodo has become my best friend for guided reading!  The program allows me to set up an account for every student in my class.  The students are organized within the program into their guided reading groups.  Each group has their own leveled reader for the week on the program. After working with the students throughout the week, they take a reading comprehension quiz on Edmodo. 

    While I am meeting with guided reading groups’ students rotate through reading centers.  Three of the centers I use most often are Scootpad, Raz Kids, and Accelerated Reader.  The Scootpad program is Common Core aligned and the students have their own sign in and account in which they can work on particular reading (and math) objectives. 
    In the Raz Kids program students also have their own sign in and  account in which they read books on their assigned reading level.  I use my Mclass data to assign the child’s current reading level within the program.  The students sign into their account and they have a “bookroom” in which they select a book on their level to read, listen to, and complete a comprehension skill activity. 

    The Accelerated Reader App and program has helped my tremendously this year.  Every year, the number one issue within the classroom has been that there were never enough computers for students to take their AR tests.  However, this year students have their own Ipads to take tests as often as they would like.  I have seen a significant increase in not only their reading levels but their attitude toward reading and taking AR tests!


     North Newton has adopted the Math Expressions math program this school year so we are following the program cover to cover.  However, I have had the opportunity to enrich the students learning experiences by incorporating several math apps throughout lessons. Here are a few math apps I use in my classroom: 

        One App I have my students use is Mad Math Lite.  This app allows students to practice their addition and subtraction facts.  It is so important for students to be able to answer simple addition and subtraction facts automatically and this resource allows them to practice this skill.  

        In the Math Expressions program we just finished teaching the students about ½ and ¼.  The math app Pizza Fractions 1 has helped my students practice the skills they have just learned and it has allowed math enrichment opportunities.  The students work with pizza fractions such as 4/5 , ¾, etc. The students love the interactive “shaking” of the pizzas to identify new fractions!

   I have found my students love playing Rocket Math.  This app allows students to practice many different math skills such as identifying numbers, telling time, identifying amounts of money, etc., while they get parts of a rocket to build. 


        All of the information above explains currently how my students are involved with technology within my classroom.  One of my ambitions with my students is to connect with another elementary school classroom from another country. I am just starting to gather information on how to organize this and go about coordinating it with my students.  So far I have found the Skype in the classroom to be one of the most promising options. I will keep you updated on the progress of our new adventure!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Math App for Fractions

If you are working on fractions I highly suggest the app (Thinking Blocks Model and Solve Word Problems, Practice with Fractions). This app provides students with a word problem and they are working with thinking blocks to help them solve the problem.  It does a great job of walking students through the process of solving a complicated problem.  Many times with students visualizing different fraction amounts is difficult, and now with the complexity of word problems they are asked to solve; it is essential that students have a clear understanding of fractions.  Another aspect to the problems that students will be solving is fractions of a whole number.  Believe me when I say this can be extremely frustrating to students.  However with these visuals my students are getting better at solving these problems.  This app would benefit 3-6 graders.  Also online there are other concepts that use thinking blocks.  Just go to

Friday, March 28, 2014

Using iPads with Daily 5 in Room 6

This year, I have implemented Daily 5 into my kindergarten classroom.  Each day, my literacy centers consist of the following: Read to Someone, Read to Self, Listen to Reading, Word Work, and Work on Writing.  My students love learning while using the iPads!  If you are interested in using iPads with Daily 5, here are just a few things that happened in Room 6 this week.

Using ScreenChomp to rainbow write s blends.

Students listen and reading and read to self using Raz-Kids.

Picture Coding Eddy Elephant.

Fun with sight words!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

EDMODO and the Irregular Schedule

What a year. As I reflect about the things we have done this year I must say that Edmodo has been a saving grace by which this school year would not have been possible to survive without. Edmodo is an old buddy of mine which I have been utilizing for going on my fifth year now.
The first year I used it as pretty much a tool to quiz and poll the students whenever we had the opportunity to get into one of the computer labs at the "OLD" Middle School, a few of us "techy" (I am pretty sure that is a word even though it is being underlined in red) teachers even moderated a "chat page" for the students but had to shut it down after a few unwise choices of what to post showed up. The second year I utilized it in each of my classes (as I do now) and I found that it was wonderful to connect with not just students but also parents and I have used it since then much like the web-page where assignments and other pertinent information is posted. Also, I could EASILY link websites we used in class and other files so everyone has the capability to access them even if they have become misplaced in the endless pit of the backpack. Last year was much the same except I had the wonderful experience of having the iPads in my classroom so we were able to utilize the site daily.
Now that brings us to the current school year. A school year in which man y of our students have their own devices and I am now sharing the iPad cart with another class. It is also a year in which we have gone to an "A" day, "B" day schedule for Social Studies and Science so I see my students every other day. (unless of course we have an interruption in the schedule because of weather, assemblies, testing, etc...) A tool like Edmodo is wonderful for this situation. Not only can I post the assignments and/or quizzes I can also communicate even if I don't see them through messaging to either a particular student or a whole class.
In my Social Studies classes right now we are reading a couple of novels (half of my class is reading one and the other is reading another) they both deal with the Holocaust. What even my students do not know yet is I am creating special Edmodo pages for each novel where they can answer and discuss questions and what they have read.
This leads me to probably my most selfish reason for using Edmodo, drum roll please, I don't have to hang on to 170 quizzes, homework assignments, etc... Edmodo makes it possible to collect everything electronically (I know there is Dropbox and other ways to accomplish the same thing) but hey, I am almost fifty and it is hard to teach an "old" dog new tricks so when I find something I stick to it. Well I am finished rambling and for those of you who need to know there are ONLY 274 days until Christmas as of the day I wrote this.