School Week Round-Up: Week Thirty-Five

 

It’s definitely feeling like May up in here. A lot of teachers are using their personal days before they lose them, and so our building gets a little more subby than usual at times, particularly Mondays and Fridays. And indoor recess in May is a goshdarn travesty. (This is me, shaking my fist at Mother Nature.)

Lessons:
So I wanted to do something with my classes that tied in with the curriculum from 4-H my afterschool group is using. So I plotted out an open-ended project where students identify a problem or challenge for animals, then come up with a high or low tech solution for them. It involves brainstorming, research, creativity, design, and communication. The only actual requirement is that they create an image of their idea, then write a paragraph explaining it. Some students are writing about endangered animals, others about pets. One student is writing about his own pet, describing the steps his family is taking to identify what they suspect is a food allergy causing their bulldog discomfort. A pair of students started working together on deer; one found the PETA Kids website on hunting, one found an online hobby magazine that lists positives of hunting. Their ongoing disagreement is surprisingly polite as they bounce ideas off each other.

Unfortunately, I took two afternoons off this week (instead of taking one whole personal day). So I didn’t have my Tuesday or Thursday third grade classes. Tuesday was already a week behind everyone else due to the PD day we had the week before. Then, I found out that I also have to do day-long trainings outside my building next Tuesday and Thursday too. So, I will not have them again this week either. (Not something I knew when I planned my personal time off, I assure you.) And that means I won’t have my Tuesday or Thursday afternoons again until… the last week of school.

These classes are also sometimes challenging in the classroom management department; I don’t think a sub could lead them through an open-ended assignment, not without additional support. It’s too much. Or rather, I bet a sub could lead them through, but I want my sub to keep coming back so I won’t ask her to. So I am planning alternate lessons that my sub can do with these kids.

Support: Actually I got really excited when I came back after time off Wednesday, because a sub left a note describing a computer issue a student had. “He figured out to do X,Y, and Z, and I let him, and it worked – I hope it was the right thing to do?” Yessss. A sub who is comfortable enough to let kids try troubleshooting and trust their results. Hearts and stars forever!

Things I Did Well: I got my sub to pick up all this week, and at least one day for me next week. (I am really not super thrilled about missing so many school days in the last month of the year. I think it’s possibly the worst time for subs and sub lesson plans!) I had never met her in person before Tuesday, but I know she picked up for me before. In fact, she remembered that I left her a paper mug and a K-cup of hot chocolate. I joke that I like to roll out the red carpet for subs, because their job is like mine but also harder in some ways. (Maybe easier in some ways too, but it’s not important for me to focus on that.)

Things I Will Do Better: I did not budget my time particularly well on Tuesday, so when my sub came, I didn’t have lesson plans written out. So I scribbled out the schedule and told her about Google Classroom, but I didn’t actually leave the detailed document I would have liked her to have as a safety net. I did better for Thursday. But, I need to do even better next Tuesday because I’ll be gone all day. Yipes!

Cold Prickly: I was the person in charge of giving all the make-up standardized tests. I thought the last one was Wednesday, for a child who had been sick for a week and then came back. He wrapped a day later than most because he had two parts to make up, plus the day he came back there was a class field trip. And who wants to miss a field trip to take a standardized test? If that were me, I would definitely be wondering what my classmates were up to instead of concentrating on math. So we postponed his makeup so he could go on the field trip, which is a reasonable thing to do when you have the time.

But then another student had to make up both parts, and showed up on Thursday to take tests, and it was a bit of a schedule blip that I hadn’t anticipated (no one could have, really).

Warm Fuzzy: So many warm fuzzies this week. First, when I took off Tuesday, that meant I wouldn’t be there for the afterschool program. I got another teacher to sub for me, but the leader of the activity was actually a third grade student. He had pitched some ideas for the afterschool group over the past couple weeks. I shot a couple down because they were too expensive, too time-consuming, or too dangerous, but he didn’t give up. Finally he found a video of a science demo on getepic.com that seemed doable. (In fact, it is something I did years ago at a different school.) He put together a shopping list of materials, I got them for him, and he led the activity in my absence (with adult supervision). He also got rave reviews! I’m so proud of him!

Also, when I was on my way to school on Wednesday, I decided to go through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru to get a treat. (Wednesday is the one day I consistently drive my car.) The line was long (what do you expect at 7:30am?) so I was rocking out to some tunes. When I got to the window, the person said, “You can go on forward, the person behind you is going to pay for your order.” WHAT? Usually it’s the person ahead but okay! Every time my day got a little rough after that, I reminded myself about the kind thing someone did for me, and adjusted my attitude accordingly.

donut-md

School Week Round-Up: Week Twenty-One

Today I am actually taking a personal day, so I only made it through three days of a four day week. It feels like I’m taking a shortcut with this round-up.

Lessons: Third grade tried their hands at some simple animation using Google Slides this week. I left the assignment very open-ended; I did an example of a rain cloud but I made it clear that they could do whatever subject they wanted. The only real rule was that they couldn’t use Google Image Search.

I was blown away by their creativity.

Many students spent ages trying to make the screen manifest what they saw in their minds. Sometimes they asked me for help, and I couldn’t help them, sometimes because they couldn’t communicate their idea, sometimes because I didn’t know how to get them closer to their goal. They had to try new things; the situation necessitated it. For example, students couldn’t just grab Minecraft screenshots from Google Image search, so they tried creating their own Minecraft-style characters by manipulating shapes.

 

 

Other students happily rushed through, making simple animations, which was also perfectly serviceable. They understood the concept and fulfilled the prompt nicely; I had a sponge menu ready for them to choose an activity to soak up their extra time.

Support: Report cards go home today, so because I’m not there, I needed to print them by Thursday at the latest. It took entirely too long for the printer to cough them out. I restarted it once and it went a bit faster for a little while, but it soon slowed back down to a crawl. It really through off my other plans for my time, and I stayed quite late to get it done. Ugh.

Things I Did Well: 
I think this week’s lessons were more engaging for me and for students alike. Hard to teach a lesson when you yourself find it boring…

Things I Will Do Better: Oh my gosh. I print so rarely that I take it for granted what a pain it is. I appreciate that more about my colleagues after today, how one printer not working or going slowly can throw you totally off your timetable. So, short term, try to keep printers up and running. But long term? There’s gotta be something I can do to bring about the end of our tree-killing culture.

Cold Prickly: I didn’t actually walk to school at all this week. One day was really rainy, which is more bothersome to me than snow and ice because my boots soak up the wet. The next day, I had a midday meeting in another building I needed to be able to drive to. And Thursday, I simply did not get ready with enough time to walk, so I am pretty disappointed in myself for that.

Warm FuzzyPersonal day! A little more time to myself, and I have to admit, my bed feels extra comfy lately… zzzzz…..

On Reading the Directions

I have started frequently using videos to deliver directions to students. On Google Classroom, it is easy to write a couple of sentences, then attach a video as well as whatever assignment I’m asking students to do.

Before I started blending my classroom, I would stand by the SmartBoard and demonstrate to students step-by-step what I wanted them to do before sending them to their seats. Or, I would stand by the SmartBoard and try to make the kids go step-by-step with me as they followed along from their seats. Both delivery methods left a lot to be desired — kids would forget steps if you told them too many to start with; or computers wouldn’t cooperate and the entire class would get held up because someone needed help troubleshooting. Eventually, I switched to emailing directions (with links) to students, but that wasn’t a perfect system either. Kids would get lost or distracted in their email; directions would get lose effectiveness as they got longer and longer.

Now, with Google Classroom, I am able to give students everything I want them to do… and it’s up to them to use it. They can read the directions, watch the whole video, then start on the assignment if they want to. They can read some of the directions, watch part of the video, then check out the assignment — then go back to the directions or video if they need clarification. They can also dive straight into the assignment, because sometimes you need to become aware of what you don’t already know before you can learn a new thing.

Kids will seek out the information they want. This is not a new concept. Think of Minecraft: it’s a game many play and many more will try, and it comes with no instruction booklet. You learn by doing; or you learn by asking someone else what to do; or you looked it up online; or you saw someone else do it; or you got a book at the book fair. I think the designer may have done this on purpose. It’s not an intimidating game, visually; you certainly feel comfortable exploring before really knowing what you’re doing. But there are so many little things you can’t know unless you look them up, like how to craft a door for your hut, or how best to defend yourself against monsters, or all the steps it takes to grow crops and make food. And this isn’t new to Minecraft. I still dive into video games without more than a glance at any instructions, and that glance has more to do with awesome artwork than learning mechanics.

Kids will seek out the information they want, so I just have to make them want it.