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Archive for the ‘Digital Learning’ Category

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

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Some weeks a word will pop into my head for a DigiLit topic. Then I’ll mull over it and wonder why.  This is how it’s been with Innovation. Like Blended Learning last week, I am wondering if innovation is happening in my classroom.

I think of my young students who are writing for the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge every day.  Last year I put together a treasure box of writing prompts.  I decorated it and filled it with little odds and ends I found around my house.  One of these was a wishing rock.  Andrew put his hand into the box and came out with this rock.  I immediately thought of this Harris Burdick image.

“Maybe you could write a story to go with this image?”

“I’ve never written a story before.”

Andrew proceeded to type furiously into his Kidblog post.  The next day when he came in, he said “I can’t stop thinking about my wishing rock story.”

This is creativity working hand in hand with innovation.  You can read Andrew’s story here (part 1) and here (part 2).

My student, Noah, created a list post of “Things I Trust.”  Two of the curators of the Two Writing Teachers blog read his post.  They wanted to publish it to give other students ideas for writing.

Creativity and innovation happen in a classroom that is open to new ideas.  The let-me-try-this-out attitude.  I believe in my students.  They are more capable than I am when it comes to creativity.  Just look at Lynzee’s word cloud she created using the root word color.  She went on to write her post and change each word into a different font color.

 

Sometimes I feel like I just stand by and watch the brilliance of my students shine.  They are gifted kids, but more than that, they are open to the ideas floating around in the universe.  This openness will lead them on to produce wonderful innovations in the future, but for now, they are my little wonders.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

I subscribe to the Edutopia newsletter.  When I came across this article, Are we Innovating, or Just Digitizing Traditional Teaching?, I had to ask myself if what I am doing in my classroom is true blended learning or is it just the same ole stuff digitized.  

“True blended learning affords students not only the opportunity to gain both content and instruction via online as well as traditional classroom means, but also an element of authority over this process.” Beth Holland

I watched with renewed interest as my students worked on book talks this week.  I started assigning book talks 10 years ago when I taught 4th grade.  I’ve been using the same rubric.  But watching what my students were doing with the addition of technology, I realized I needed to throw out the old rubric.

In my small groups of gifted students, my students rarely stand in front of the class to present their books.  I can take off the element of “engaging the audience with eye contact.”  I also need to remove “reading aloud a portion of the book.”  While this does show the audience the style and voice of the author, this is difficult to accomplish in an online presentation.

“(An online presentation) is about the visual,”  my student Emily said when I asked her how using the internet changed the work of a book talk.  She realizes that her visual elements play an important role in the presentation.  She wants the viewer to be inspired not only by what she says about the book but also by how attractive her video is.  

Blended learning can mean a step toward agency if we teachers create the conditions in which agency can occur.  I look on my role as more like a coach.  I stand by for any trouble shooting.

A student may say, “I don’t know the theme of this book.”  Then we have a conversation about it.  What are the major events?  What does this say about your character?

“My character was brave.”

“Did he need help? Did his family or friends help him?”

Theme: Family and friends can help you feel brave.

This kind of conversation doesn’t only happen when students are creating book talks; it may also happen during a reading conference, or when a student is writing a literary essay.

Again I ask myself and my students, “What is different when you use technology?”

Jacob said, “It makes it so much more interesting.”

Kaiden said the process of interacting with the graphics is more enjoyable.  He contends that it is more interesting to the viewer, too.

Emily responded with a “Yes!  And it’s so much more fun to do!”

I’m still unsure if I have truly switched over to blended learning. I use technology with my gifted students because it is motivating and gives them control over their product.  They look to the chart on the wall to see if every element I require is there.  When their presentations are done, they call out to me, “Mrs. Simon, come see this.”  They are proud producers of digital media.  This pride of accomplishment is enough for me.

 

 
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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I was just informed that March is SOL challenge month. It’s a cruel, cruel world. We have to make SOL every single day. I don’t know if I will survive this deadly month. Okay, that was a little ( lot ) over the top of the ice cream cone. Yeah, that was a metaphor.

That’s kind of like saying over the mountain but in your mind picture a mountain sized ice cream cone with a ton of chocolate going right on the top and turning it into a chocolate avalanche. Did you do that? Good for you. Now I will grant you as many wishes as you want. NOT!! I am not a genie. But if I had one wish it would be not doing any Slice of Life challenge posts ever again. That is how bad I don’t want to do the Slice of Life challenge.

by Andrew, Feb. 21, 2017

“Andrew, the Slice of Life Challenge is voluntary. Are you saying you don’t want to try it this year? Should I make you a sticker chart?”

“I’m not making any promises. Yeah, go ahead, make me a chart.”

I teach my gifted students year to year throughout their elementary schooling. This is a blessing and a curse. I am blessed to know my students really well. I don’t have to pretest to find their reading levels. I don’t have to do writing prompts to see how well they write. I know all this.  They also know that when March rolls around it’s torture time. Time to write a Slice of Life every day!

Every year I try something new to motivate my students. Last year it was these buttons designed by Stacey Shubitz of the Two Writing Teachers. My students proudly collected badges until about March 15th when the newness wore off.

I also use incentives. One day of the month I hold a commenting challenge. The reward, one Skittle a comment. I soon ran out of Skittles.  I buy a book for each child who completes the challenge.  I usually buy 3-5 books.

Another thing we’ve done is connected with other classes doing the challenge. I’d like to do that again this year.  If your class is using Kidblogs, please request to follow by signing in to Kidblog and posting my URL, http://kidblog.org/class/mrs-simons-sea/. Click on the Follow button. Once I approve, I can follow you back. It’s fun and motivating to connect kids across the globe.

After seeing Holly Mueller’s students’ long slices, I implemented a word count rule. This has been both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is found when my students elaborate and expand their thoughts like you see in Andrew’s post above. The curse happens when they ramble on and type things like, “I’m up to 198 words, just 2 more to go!”

This is the nature of the beast that is SOLC! Blessings and curses! We are going to jump in despite the deep waters. Tomorrow we return from a break. Our challenge will begin. I wonder where this journey will take us.

I wrote a blog post for Kidblogs about the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge here.
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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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critical-thinking-digilit-sunday

Last week as I was reading DigiLitSunday posts, I found these questions on Fran McVeigh’s post.

Do we REALLY want students to be critical thinkers?

Then how are we encouraging “critical thinking” every day in our classrooms?

How are we REALLY encouraging independent thinkers and workers?

Tough questions that I contemplated all week.  Am I really encouraging critical thinking in my classroom every day?  To answer this question, I looked at my various assignments during the week.  On Monday, we watched a Flocabulary video on The Voting Rights Act and answered these questions:

1. Connection to other movements: Think of a historical event or movement that is similar to the Selma marches. How are these events similar?

2. Connection to current events: Are racial equality and voting rights still issues in the US today? How have these issues changed since 1965? In what ways are they the same?

3. Connection to civic participation: Why is the right to vote an important right to protect?

I have to credit Flocabulary because not one of these questions elicits the exact same answer from every student.  When we look for questions that encourage critical thinking, we must wonder if the answer will be the same for every student.  Granted these questions also depend on quite a bit of prior knowledge.  Not all of my students have a clear understanding of voting rights or what race relations are like today.  Some of them are quite sheltered from the news and that’s OK with me.  They’re young.  But my older students, those in 5th and 6th grade, really thought deeply about these questions and offered some thoughtful responses.

What is important to me as a teacher of gifted students is to open up the door for communication and for critical thinking.  I have to be willing to hear different responses, and not always ones I agree with.  Critical thinkers are active, and our challenge as their teachers is to keep them thinking and questioning and wondering.

One way I do this is assigning reader responses.  There is no one right way to respond to a book for my students.  We have a chart on the wall that lists multiple options.  These options include: write about the theme, relate to a character, connect the book to the larger world, etc.

This week a few of my students are reading Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels, Smile, Sisters, and Drama.  One student was appalled that Drama was placed on the second grade shelf because it is at a second grade AR level.  “This book is not appropriate for second graders!”  She explained that the book deals with the sensitive subject of sexuality.  A selection from her reader response:

“This book can relate to the world because just like Jesse people know their sexuality, but can’t tell their friends or family because they’ll be teased or judged. In Jesse’s case his father doesn’t accept his older brother Justin because he’s gay, so Jesse is afraid to tell anyone because they might not accept him.”

She went on to rant about the recent controversy over transgender students and bathroom use.  Reading with a critical eye as well as having an open policy for student responses helped this student not only relate to the book, but also to express her own opinions about the subject.

My students are not just writing for an audience of one.  They write on a blog we share with other gifted classes.  When they write about their own thoughts, they trust that others will read them with the understanding that we are all trying to write in a way that best expresses our own thoughts.  A blog space is just right for experimenting with thinking and writing.    A critical thinker understands that others have different assumptions and different perspectives, so in the blog space, we must make it safe for those expressions.

Thanks, Fran, for posing those questions and for helping me realize that critical thinking is purposeful and intentional every day.

I am off to New Orleans Mardi Gras on Sunday, so I am posting early.  Please link up when you can.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Years ago, my colleagues and I created a monthly enrichment day for our gifted 6th graders to combat underachievement. This year we selected the theme of Communication. Each student or group of students were charged with asking a question about something they were interested in communicating. Emily asked if elderly in resident homes are lonely. She assumed the answer was yes and followed her research to discover that loneliness can actually lead to death. She was moved to do something about it.

Emily decided to set up a field trip to a local retirement home. With a little direction, she called the retirement home activity director, contacted our gifted supervisor for permission, and created a Valentine’s Day activity. I have never seen her so empowered and so excited. The night before the field trip, she hand made 34 Valentines to give to the residents.

My colleagues were more than cooperative in getting their students to the retirement home. The students quickly found an elderly resident to spend time with. As I circled around taking pictures, I was pleased to see these young kids talking freely with their new friends.

garden-view-1

jaci-and-junie

On Wednesday at our monthly Wow (Way Out Wednesday) meeting, Emily compiled the surveys. She also put together a video of one of the residents talking about her life and how she liked living at Garden View. Emily’s presentation about this experience is coming together, but it’s taken on a new direction. She discovered that the elderly at Garden View are not lonely. They live in a community there. Activities are planned for them. People visit often. They are well cared for.

Beyond the original intent of Emily’s project, she has discovered that relationships at any age are important. She discovered that she can influence others and spread kindness. When we as teachers take the lessons out of our hands and put it into those of our students, they can be difference-makers.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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Last week I wrote about an idea I had for digital vocabulary using Tagul. I tried the idea with my students this week. I explained that they could use Tagul to make a word cloud about a vocabulary word. I asked them to explore the meaning of the word by using Thesaurus.com to find synonyms. I wrote a model blog post to show my expectations for their writing around the word.

In their writing, I wanted my students to find a way to connect to the word. Then I asked them to choose a favorite synonym and tell why it interested them. By interacting with a vocabulary word, it will become more integrated into their lexicon. The activity also spurred on some interesting class discussions.

This is Kaiden’s response to the word remarkable.

Created in Tagul.com

Created in Tagul.com

I put remarkable because so many things in life are remarkable. Think about it. Dreams, for example are completely extraordinary. We are able to make simulations while our brains are only half functioning . Even the human brains are remarkable. We are capable of so many things. We can travel almost anywhere on earth. We can travel to places miles and miles and miles into the sky, and break the sound barrier.

My favorite word is incredible, because it is INCREDIBLE. It is enthusiastic, but it can also be used in a sad and sarcastic way. Which I guess is me. Some days, I am enthusiastic and jumping all over (Which happens about 2/5 days). Other days, I am grumpy/sarcastic, quiet, and sad. Sometimes separately, sometimes at the same time.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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I hate to admit it, but I have not been the best at teaching vocabulary.  I’ve tried all kinds of methods from word lists to word walls, but I am still met with groans from kids when I say Vocabulary.  This year I’ve been using a workbook.  This goes against my whole philosophy of teaching, so please don’t tell my students.  This workbook provides an authentic text, so the words are in context.  We also work with synonyms and antonyms and always a writing piece.  But like most work with Vocabulary in the title, my students think drudgery.

It is time for a change.  I have been intrigued by Carol Varsalona’s word clouds.  I tweeted a question to her.  Turns out it was our mutual friend Holly who introduced Tagul to Carol.

This leads me to an idea I will be trying this week with my students (crossing fingers the app works in our network).  I took one of our vocabulary words from last week, essence, and typed it into Thesaurus.com.  I opened Tagul and typed in a dozen synonyms.  Then I looked for a shape that would help define the word.  I chose a water droplet because water is the essence of our bodies.  The image shares common synonyms as well as makes this vocabulary work more motivating.

essence-word-cloud

In what ways are you digitizing vocabulary work?  Share your ideas on your blog and link below.

 

digilitsunday-215

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