Saturday, September 24, 2016

Making Daily Connections with Students

As educators, we know the importance of connecting with each student in our classroom on a daily basis.  It is the meaningful relationships we develop with students that make all the difference in the world. Just like we love to share, our students do even more. The beginning of each day sets the tone in our classrooms. 

I have struggled for years trying to find time as students come to school eager and excited to share the important events happening in their lives. I tried using class meetings, and Monday morning meetings where each child had the opportunity to share something about his/her weekend. 

Unfortunately, the reality is there truly isn't enough time in each day. With curriculum expectations, testing, and all the extras, I always seemed to run out of time. It wasn't fair to my students.

So True and Important - James Comer 

This year, I am trying something new that has been a huge success. I have created two separate areas in our classroom. One is "Weekend Highlights" and the second is our "Daily Updates".  Students simply stick a Post-it note to share what they did each evening and on the weekend.  It just takes a few minutes for me to read what each child shared. This gives me the opportunity throughout the day to acknowledge, connect, comment, question, and congratulate students on what is going on in their lives outside of school. As an added bonus, it is posted all day so their classmates can read what they are doing too. I love all the  connections students are making with each other.

On our Daily Update board each morning, students share what they did the evening before. Even if was was just having a relaxing evening reading a book. I have learned so much from each of my students in just a few short days. Students beam when they realize you are interested in what they're doing outside of the school day.  

Our Weekend Highlights give students the opportunity to share what they did over the weekend. It is such a positive way to begin a new week. Every student has a voice to share what is important and meaningful in his/her life.

Beth Morrow Sums it up Perfectly


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Leave Your Mark - International Dot Day

International Dot Day - +Peter Reynolds 
September 15th - ish
The Dot by Peter Reynolds is one of my favorite books. A simple act of kindness can change the lives of the children in our classroom who count on us each day to make a difference.  This picture book beautifully displays the importance of connecting with each child in our classroom. International Dot Day is an awesome way for your students to celebrate the difference they will make in the world and to harness their creativity.  There are so many fun and creative ways for students to celebrate their limitless possibilities. Our students all have the potential to soar, they just need someone who encourages and believes in them. What a great way to start the new school year! 

The Award Winning Book - The Dot by Peter Reynold's

This is an awesome video of Peter Reynolds reading The Dot. He also shares how he ended up creating the Dot

Ready Set Draw-ish - Peter Reynolds - THE DOT
My fourth graders loved this video of Peter Reynolds teaching them the importance of creativity and using your imagination!

The Dot by Peter Reynold's 

Fable Vision Learning - Free Posters to Celebrate Dot Day

The Dot Song by Emily Arrow and Peter Reynolds

Poster Creations "Our Mark on the World"
Students used Notability to create posters. Other apps like Glow Doodle or DoodleBuddy can be used too.

4th Graders "One Word"
Students decorated a dot and selected one word that described them.

Dots Come to Life

Student can color their own dot design, and make it come to life through the technology of augmented reality. It is simply amazing watching their artwork transformed into reality. The app and coloring page are both free.

Dot Day QuiverVision

Blog Posts
Leaving Our Mark on the World
So to celebrate last year, my fourth graders wrote blog posts on The Mark they Would Leave on the World.  They had so much fun, and it was a great learning opportunity. 
"My Mark on the World" Posts 2016

Kaleidoscope Dots
Students can create Kaleidoscope paintings using  Kaleidoscope Drawing Pad.  They can watch their amazing creation in "Movie" mode. You can upload the movie to Artisto -Video Editor app to create a more dynamic "Dot Day" video. 

Creating Braille Collages
Students can create a slide with their name written in Braille and include pictures that represent them and their interests. They can use Braille Bug to convert their names to braille.   Explain Everything is a great app to use for this project, because students can also record their Mark on the World.

Recording our Mark on the World
Students create a Dot in Notability or another app of their choice. They upload their Dot to ChatterPix. A mouth will be drawn on the dot and students can record themselves sharing the mark they will leave on the world.  Their recordings can be sent to iMovie to edit or sent right to YouTube.

Dot Structure Engineering Challenge

What better way to celebrate Dot Day by having students participate in a STEM activity using Dots. Instead of using gumdrops for the activity, simply substitute the activity with Dots.  Each group will need 10 Dots and 20 toothpicks. Students will create a "Dot" structure that can hold a textbook.
Gumdrop Structure Inquiry Challenge Lesson Plans and Activity

Additional Resources

Dot Day Response Activity - Teachers Pay Teachers

Inferring Activity - Teachers Pay Teachers

Response Sheet - Teachers Pay Teachers

I would love to hear how others are celebrating International Dot Day.
Our students are counting on us to Make a Difference!
Leaving Our Mark on the World Every Day

Jane Goodall

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Mystery Hangouts - Bring the World to Your Classroom

Mystery Hangouts 
Connecting Outside the Walls of Your Classroom

It is so important as educators, who connect daily with a classroom full eager learners, that we provide global learning opportunities for our students.  Teaching in a "World Classroom" makes learning relevant and engaging for our students. Breaking down the walls of our classroom helps students develop a respect for different cultures and ideas. After two years of having my students participate in Mystery Hangouts I have learned a lot, side by side with my students. 

What is a Mystery Hangout
I have found most Mystery Hangouts last about 30-45 minutes.  You connect with another classroom from around the globe to guess their Mystery Location.  You can connect through Skype or Google Hangouts depending on what your district allows.  The goal is to have your students guess the other school's location before they figure out yours. Students ask each other yes and no questions.  You can guess their state, country, town, city or even their school name depending on the amount of time you have allotted for your hangout.  

Getting Started 
How to Find Classrooms to Participate in Mystery Skypes and Hangouts
 Google+ Communities - Connected Classrooms
Skype Classroom Website - Skype in the Classroom
Mystery Skype Website - #MysterySkype
Mystery Hangout Community on Google+

Twiter is another favorite of mine to find classrooms to connect with. Tweet Out for Specific States/Countries - You can get a huge response from classrooms around the world.  Also follow @MysterySkype and @SkypeClassroom on Twitter. Use #MysterySkype to get 


Generate a List of Questions
Examples of Questions Students May Ask

How to Contact other Classrooms for the Mystery Hangout
When connecting with other classrooms I use either Skype or Google Hangouts.  It depends on what specific districts allow.

Please feel free to copy and modify as needed.

Greeter - Introduces the class without giving away any clues or information.  My students typical do Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who asks the first question. I also have the greeter answer the questions using Yes, No, and We are Thinking Signs.  I always have them answer and restate the question asked. Example: No, we are not east of the Mississippi River.

Inquires - They ask the questions.

Question Keeper - Responsible for answering questions about our state and coming up with new questions that can be asked. I have students keep track in a shared Google Doc.

Logical Reasoners - This group comes up with questions to ask the other class based on the information already shared. They work closely with the mappers.

Runner - When students have questions the want to ask, they write it down on a stick note. These elevates some of the noise. The runner collects the questions and takes them to the inquirers.

Mappers - I have maps that students use dry erases markers on. Students keep track and mark off states and eliminate places from the questions asked. They keep track of the clues.

Videographer/Photographer - I try to have students create a Movie Trailer for each Mystery Hangout and another student create a Pic Collage. We like to share these with the classes we connected with.

Backchannel - I don't always use this, it depends on the other classroom. When I do, we use and students chat with the other class during our Mystery Hangout.

Mapquester - We were using for students to locate the school we are Skyping with. Now we use Google Earth.

Closer - The closer will share Nebraska history with the other class. Examples: Famous Nebraskan's, Bellevue Facts, Important Landmarks, Information about our School

Lessons Learned
  • Have students practice in the classroom prior to their first mystery hangout.
  • Don't assume your students know proper etiquette. Practice with students. Example: If they can't hear the question from the other classroom. "Will you please repeat your question." We've had other classrooms yell and say "We can't hear you!" At times, they also need to be reminded that the other class can hear and see them.
  • Students love to begin mystery hangouts with "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to see who goes first.
  • This year we started using sticky notes for students to write down questions for the inquirer to ask. In the past the runner would share answer and questions, and it always got too loud.
  • The hardest part for me is to keep my mouth shut. I am always tempted to answer questions for student when they seem to be taking too long. Give them time to research and find the answers to questions. As they gather new information, time is need to generate new questions.
  • You can mute the speaker if necessary to talk with your students.
  • Leave some time at the end to share information and facts about your community.
  • Have students share a Pic Collage or Movie Trailer with classrooms they connect with.
  • Keep track of all the classrooms locations you connect with over the school year.

We also have a map in our classroom on a bulletin board to keep track of all the places we have traveled on our adventures. We learn the regions of the United States in fourth grade. We used color-cordinated push pins for each specific region. Next year I will use a world map.

My Students Created a Movie Trailer a Few Years Ago of the Jobs Involved in a Mystery Skype

Examples of a Few Movie Trailers Students Created

Mr. Smith's Classroom from Australia @mrsmiths56class

Mr. Wigmore's Class from Canada @JayWigmore

Mrs. Boehm's Class from New Jersey @boehmj 

Mr. Flore's class from Kaiserslaurten, Germany

Additional Resources

Most importantly, have fun! I have learned so much along side with my students.  I would love to hear how your are using Mystery Hangouts and Skype's in your classrooms.