We recently started our unit on electricity in 5th grade. To start the unit, we invited GA Power in to do a lesson. If you teach in Georgia and have not utilized this phenomenal FREE resource, you absolutely must!
The presenter did a great job of introducing the idea of an open and closed circuit. The students got to participate in an experiment to test out a human circuit.
When students held hands, we were able to make the magic wand buzz with lights and sound! The circuit did not work if students were covering their hands with sleeves. We brainstormed what might be the cause.
We tested out different materials and sorted them onto the red and green pieces of felt. Red was for insulators and green for conductors.
We continued our unit in science lab the following week. We first built a simple circuit using a batter, a light bulb, and some wires. We tested out different materials to see if the light would shine when the circuit was closed. We found that most materials were either an insulator or conductor. One item - a pencil- could be both.
As we waited for all the groups to finish, we discovered that we could build more complex circuits. We combined two basic circuit kits to create one larger one with two batteries and two lights.
What would happen if we only used one battery? Would all the lights shine?
Thank you to our wonderful parent volunteers that helped support our investigations!
Over winter break I stumbled upon the White House Film Festival contest for students about technology use in the classroom. The contest was for K-12 students to produce a 3 minute video about technology use in schools. I immediately thought of a former student and sent the e-mail off to his mom.
I heard back from the student pretty soon after as he was traveling back home. He promised to come by my room when we were back to school the following week. He was excited!
He arrived at my door ready with a plan! He wanted to create a scene in a classroom from a long time ago. He went on to explain his entire idea. I tried to coach him into how the movie could focus a bit more on technology, but being the creative genius he is - he politely chose to ignore my less creative ideas. What I have always adored about this particular student is his passion and enthusiasm. If this was what he wanted to produce, then who was I to tell him no?
If I had to choose a single
app that I would download
onto every student iPad in
elementary school, it would
The app is an interactive white board which allows the user to record his/her voice while writing or drawing onto the screen. Students can capture photos with the camera, from saved photos, or from the web.
I have considered the use of twitter in my classroom for some time now. This year I moved to teach 5th grade and the importance of teaching and modeling digital citizenship became even more evident. Students are already on social media websites. They are interacting with others and constantly sharing content - pictures, messages, videos, etc. I decided that this school year I would investigate the use of twitter again.
The year started and it seemed like just a few weeks later it was already time for winter break. I again committed myself to the exploration of twitter and collected suggestions for a twitter handle from my students. I decided that right before the holiday break was not the best time to begin to implement this new tool. I did set the account up, so we would be ready to begin in January.
Over the break, I procrastinated on all of the to-do list items which I had saved for the break. These items were on the list because I didn't want to do them earlier. I still did not want to attack the list of daunting tasks.
Instead I picked up my iPad and looked into Twitter again. As in the past, I found lots of wonderful educator resources and decided that I wanted to rebrand my own digital footprint. I created a new account which I am using to expand my professional network and engage in professional development. (@mareenakohtala)
My first tweet when live on December 29th. I had 0 followers. I searched for users in educational fields and built my list to follow. The purpose was developing myself, so what did it matter if no one followed me?
Then on December 30th, I posted a link to my blog posting on coding. This is when everything changed for me.
After the post, I checked out some tweets under the #HourOfCode. Those of you famliar Twitter will understand why hours later I found myself far from the coding feed I had started on.
and then I found the #edtechchat three hours after the live chat was over.
If you have an interest in technology incorporation, this Monday evening chat is an absolute must! The chat is 8-9 P.M. Eastern time. I created a three page word document of screen shots, web links, lists, and users to follow up on from my first chat.
I found a post about a live broadcoast of a concert from school. I had considered the ability to do this just this fall when we held an informational session for parents, when I was unable to attend the chorus concert because of my book club cookie exchange, and when I was considering options for sharing information via video to other teachers after school hours. The answer to what I had wanted to learn - here on Twitter! Not only that, but a connection to someone that I could reach out to if I had questions. (Thanks Chip Williams!)
As if these experiences didn't confirm my love of Twitter already,
the moment I realized I had just hit the nail on the head came January 5th.
I posted a link to a blog post I wrote. I quickly saw a rise in hits on my website. Someone is actually reading what I wrote?
Then came retweets and favorites by other educational users. A comment on my activity came in from Canada, copying another 5th grade teacher that had retweeted my post.
I felt like I had contributed something of value for other educators. Perhaps my writing isn't worthy (yet) of book publishing, and maybe I haven't hit thousands of followers, but someone else read what I wrote and liked it.
I was transported back to my elementary self, beaming after receiving positive feedback from my teacher. Why did I feel this way? My words meant something. What I made was valuable.
I want every one of my students to share this same feeling.
Today we posted our first tweet of our New Year's Resolutions. After some class discussions and expectation set up, we are going to go live with student contributions in the next few weeks. I also added on the ability of students blogging through my teacher website (thanks to Paul Solarz - psolarz.weebly.com). My students will be given the ability to create posts sharing their learning and projects. Periodically, we will use our twitter account to share some of the posts to give my students an audience.
I cannot wait for the reactions as my students share with their new audience. I will be sure to share those via twitter!
My second year of teaching, I taught Kindergarten. This wonderful opportunity reignited my creative side and challenged me to engage students even further. The attention span of active 5 year olds is much different than the third graders I had worked with the year before.
For anyone that thinks Kindergarten teachers have got it easy, you could not be further from the truth. The preparation and planning to keep these young minds learning and busy is beyond any grade level I have worked in.
*Side note: I have taught every grade except first, so I can comfortably make the above statement*
As we got into planning our winter theme unit, I found images of some brave teachers that had built an igloo inside of their classroom. I immediately printed out the plan and approached my principal.
After *some* hours collecting and assembling, the igloo finally came to be! We used it as a reading nook. I placed a blanket on the floor and we agreed to a limit on the number of students that could fit inside. The students loved it!
How did we do it?
First, students collected empty milk jugs. We graphed the number of milk jugs as they came in. (Ensure that milk jugs are rinsed well! The cap should also be intact.)
We made a goal of 200 milk jugs. The number of jugs you will need will depend ont the size of the igloo. You could also incorporate some math and measurement to calculate an estimate of how many you would need
Once we had reached approximately 100 milk jugs, I created the base with the first two layers. We were then able to adjust our milk jug need and design.
The milk jugs were attached to each other with hot glue. I also stacked the jugs so that they did not sit directly on top of another jug. Imagine building a pyramid with cups. The way you would set each cup on top of the two beneath it is how I attached the jugs.
After collecting more milk jugs, I moved into enclosing the igloo. This proved to be harder than I imagined. I would highly recommend having a second set of hands to do this.
I started to slightly tilt the jugs down to achieve the "dome" at the top. I also attached a few together and then hot glued the entire piece to the igloo.
The end result did not quite fit the entire class inside, but we did all get to enjoy it! The igloo stood for quite some time, until an odor resulting from some of the jugs which were not cleaned as well. Disassembling and getting the jugs out to the car for recycling proved almost more difficult than the construction.
Well worth the effort!
Last fall, I posed a question to my 5th grade students. "If you could describe your perfect teacher, what words would you use to describe him or her?"
I wasn't sure what sort of response my students would give me. This particular group that I surveyed is my afternoon block. Composed of 27 students from three different homerooms, the group is quite energetic. The students are very high achieving math students, some even taking 6th level math. Every day is unpredictable with these 27 inquisitive minds. I adore the group and love their passion for learning. With the afternoon setting, students are sometimes visibly restless before they even enter my room. Sitting quietly and completing work is out of the question.
So back to the original question, "If you could describe your perfect teacher, what words would you use to describe him or her?" This is what my students had to say:
(The image was created with Wordle - one of my favorite free online tools!)
I was pleasantly surprised by the students' honesty, as well as effort for truly thinking about the qualities they valued in a teacher. Some other phrases that I could not include in the wordle are listed below.
"Interacts a lot with students"
"Likes to learn in a more fun way"
It is important to "be able to communicate with a teacher"
"Provides clear directions"
"Encourages people a lot" and "doesn't criticize people so much"
"Doesn't compare you to other people"
"Someone that isn't serious EVERY single second; can be funny and interactive"
All of this confirmed some general expectations of a teacher: kind, supportive, caring, etc. I was surprised by the fact that these students not only desire teachers that are academically challenging, but emotionally and physically, too. The students want a teacher that understand them and is relatable. They want a teacher that is unbiased in her views and understands theirs, even if it is not always the same. Students value the health and involvement of the teacher, both in and outside of the classroom.
As we begin a new year and vow to stick to our resolutions, how many of us considered the role we play in the classroom as we made those resoutions?
During the 2010-2011 school year, I had the opportunity to participate in Fulton County's Technology Leadership Forum. Several teachers in the forum were already utilizing the inspired classroom model. I had learned about the use of classroom wikis to communicate and share work from those teachers. Then we learned about a tool which resembled a social media website very familiar to most of us and that would streamline classroom communication. The tool was Edmodo. I quickly created an account and played around with the website (the best part of technology PD is the ability to "mess" with the tool yourself). I was intrigued, but dismissed its usefulness. We were already well into the school year and this did not seem like a worthy investment of instructional time.
The following summer, I had the chance to attend an advanced inspired classroom training where I had a lot of time to investigate tools and plan for the upcoming year. I had found the use of a wiki very useful, but the concept of editing the page to share content was a bit difficult for 2nd grade students. While they quickly learned the necessary skills, I worried about the upcoming school year. I then remembered Edmodo and thought I would give a second look.
I put Edmodo into full use with my second graders and have not looked back! The tool creates a safe classroom community for students to discuss, share, and connect. The uses for Edmodo are endless! I started by utilizing it for small reading groups. Students that were in the same novel study discussed the book, completed assignments, and shared ideas with each other. I then connected a group of students from my classroom with a group from another class that was reading the same novel. We used Edmodo to share links for students to access, so that they would be saved for easy access later or from home. Edmodo provided a way for students to give feedback to each other.
If you are interested in incorporating Edmodo, the most important thing to consider is teaching your students appropriate use of the tool. I have all students sign an internet contract which varies from year to year, but gives me the ability to remove students from the website if necessary. We also spent a lot of time discussion internet safety, online communication, and cyber bullying before ever going into Edmodo. Your students are going to be excited to try out the website and harmless postings can quickly turn dangerous. It is extremely important to take the time to set up the experience, so that everyone is safe.
As a teacher, what I love about Edmodo is the ability to easily connect with other teachers. On the left are just a few of the communities which I follow. The numbers indicating new postings for me to explore.
Through these communities, I have connected with other teachers to share ideas and strategies. I can quickly ask for help or ideas within a given topic and receive feedback right away. In a search for a particular internet safety video, I received responses within 10 minutes which included the exact video I had described as "the girl receives a text messages and then you get to choose what happens." I also received links to lots of other wonderful resources related to internet safety.
To connect with me on Edmodo, click the image to the right.
Based in Doha currently, I am a technology-advocating learning junkie.