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.