How Will You ‘Make’ This Year?

We are ready to start our second year with our amazing D-Lab! Many of us already have ideas about how to integrate making, creating and design-thinking into their curriculum this year. Just in case you need some inspiration, here is a collection of of some cool ideas I found on Pinterest and other sites. If any of these piques your interest let me know and I will get you more information and start planning with you. Many of these projects can be altered to fit any curriculum!

 

 

 

 

 

Faculty Highlight: Singing with Jaime

We all say things and do things with our students that we might never do in front of a group of adults. For instance, yesterday, I had a spontaneous dance party with the kids because they needed a brain break. Let’s just say there was a lot of ‘shootin’ the moon’. It’s the only dance move I have down.

Jaime, our amazing first grade teacher, wanted to bring one of her passions, singing, into her classroom. So, she decided to turn every lesson possible into memory songs. From classroom management and organization, to grammar and math skills,  Jaime and her kids sing  what they are learning all day long. Here is an exclusive interview with Jaime about how she comes up with her silly songs. She also shared some videos of these songs in action!  #getyourcuteon

Why do you sing with your students?

” I love singing and it makes things easier to remember. I really want to get things stuck in their heads.”

How do you use the songs you teach?

“I start each year in song with classroom rules, and then I use them throughout the year for grammar rules and things that are important to remember about reading. Memorizing might not be as meaningful without a tune!

While they are working, I might sing the song about the rule they are practicing and then they sing along with me. This reminds them of the rule as they work through the activity. I even use songs for classroom rules to remind them about things like putting your name and date on the page.”

How do you come up with your songs?

“I use tunes that I already know and enjoy and then I steal them and change the words. Sometimes, the class comes up with tunes together. First, we decide if the song would work and then I come up with the words for the tune. Giving kids a chance to pick the song means more buy in from the beginning. For instance, the kids really wanted to make up a song to the tune of Star Wars, which worked perfectly with the rule for adjectives. ”

Adjectives: (Star Wars Theme)
An adjective 
is a describing word
is a describing word
is a describing word
for a noun
Two Vowels Together (Happy Birthday Song)
“When two vowels are together
you will only hear the first one
the first vowel will be long
and the second one will be silent
Make It Plural: (One of Jaime’s favorite country songs)
“Make it plural
add an S
sometimes add an es
everybody knows 
an S makes more than one of those”
 If you want to sing with your students, talk to Jaime! She has a ton of strategies. My favorite part is you can really turn any song with a clear melody and chorus into a memory song. If you feel like jammin’ to tunes from the 80’s with your kids, go for it!

 

Lunchtime Chats: An MJS Pilot

Cult of Pedagogy, an education blog written by experienced middle school English teacher Jennifer Gonzalez, should be followed by every educator. Her content is very concrete and can be easily adapted in all K-12 classrooms. You can follow her on Facebook and Pinterest or just follow her blog and get emails when new articles are posted. Recently, she posted a very interesting article about Piloting. This is the new wave in PD. It is a teacher-led, grassroots approach to solving a problem or fulfilling a need in our classrooms and school.  Click here to read the article! 

So, when Lisa approached me about an important need she found: that teachers have little time to really discuss curriculum across a grade level, at least in middle school, I thought maybe Piloting could work. This is where the ‘Lunch time Chat’ idea was born.  Our first Lunch Time Chat will be focused on 6th grade. Lisa will be meeting any 6th grade teacher who would like to participate in P-3 to problem solve how 6th grade can become more cohesive in what we teach. We will open this up to different grade levels next month.

If you see a problem or need you would like to solve, see me and I would be happy to schedule a Keep Calm time for interested people to come together!

#teachingisbetterwithfriends #keepcalmandlearnsomethingnew #mjspilot

 

 

The Case for Doodling In the Classroom

Have you ever been teaching something you find very important and you look down at one of your students and they are deep into a very detailed doodle? You think to yourself: “How could this student not be paying attention? How rude of them!” But, did you know that there is probably a higher chance that the doodlers in your class are actually retaining more information than the student who is obediently staring at you as you speak? Yep, that’s right. As much as we might hate to admit it, doodling can and should be allowed in our classrooms. I fought it for a long time, but I am a fervent believer in doodling today.

According to many studies, doodling effectively aids in executive functioning and multi-tasking. One study concluded that people doodling during a lecture could recall 29% of the the information given while the non-doodlers averaged 5.8%. In fact, they attribute this retention to the fact that doodling does not allow the brain to day dream, which takes a lot of the brain’s energy away from the task at hand. Doodling requires way less energy and keeps the brain focused on the speaker.

So, what if we started class one day by saying, “Students, I am going to share this information. I want you to listen and engage in class discussions at times. But, while you are listening, I encourage you to doodle.” We know that every student will be so excited for this. And, all of us with those fancy white board tables will rejoice at the fact that doodling is actually aiding in their learning!

Now, what if we then said, “Students, not only are you allowed to doodle, today I am going to teach you strategies for how to improve your doodles. Maybe you can even draw what you hear or see in the text.”   Taking notes with doodling even has a name: sketchnoting! It is the new spatial note-taking device that is hitting the education world by storm.

In fact, here is a sketchnote sharing different ways you can use doodling in your classroom!

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Source for this picture

EdWeek: The Power of Visual Note-taking

If sketchnoting interests you, I encourage you to do a simple search for it on Google and you will be so surprised at how much is out there!  Give students who learn spatially a chance to learn their way. Outlining is not for everybody!

Tips for beginners and doodling and the link to my cover picture

 

Google Hack: Use Docs to Design Templates for Individualized Assignments

Did you know that you can type a document on Google Drive and save it in template mode? Students can then use it as a worksheet, only modifying their individual assignment. This is a great strategy for small groups to collaborate on ideas and organize research, or simply work independently on an assignment. Students love this because they can type their work and edit it later. Teachers love it because they can access their work at any point to make sure they are on task and creating beautiful work.  Students also rarely loose their work this way! 

Templates allows for easy differentiation or individualized instruction, as you can share different documents with different students. You can write personal notes, give hints, create scaffolds based on the needs of each student.

Here is a video for how to do this:

To learn more cool Google hacks, come to the Google Help workshop with Larry and Travis at lunch on Tuesday January 17th from 12:15-12:55 in my room.  

Sign up here for this workshop or any other for January

Some more cool links to Google hacks:

22 Cool Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Google Drive

A couple hacks from Teacher Priorities:

 

 

Simple Tips to Manage Technology in your Classroom

As great as technology is for students, it can definitely be a headache for the teacher. We have all seen this scenario: twenty students all focused diligently on their screen not listening to any of your tips and not reading any of your directions. Their one problem solving method is to blurt “I can’t do it” and then repeat your name numerous times until you come and rescue them. By the time 45 minutes is up, you never want to hear your name again. Not to mention that half the students were off-task while you were helping individual students.

I know a lot of us can relate as we tackle bringing 21st century devices into our classrooms. This week I did a lesson using Google’s “My Maps” which is a collaborative tool for annotating maps. I knew I would have to prepare for a lot of hands raised with “Mrs. Wirth, I need help.” But after carefully reflecting on past experiences teaching with technology, I decided to take a different approach to technology. Below are the criteria I used for designing my lesson with the help of Adrienne:

1. Make sure you have students close the computers before giving directions (close lids, push 6 inches in front of you, hands on lap, etc). This way, you know they are at least attempting to listen. 

2. Hand out, display, or put on Schoology detailed the directions that are easily accessible to the students. This way, students can refer to the directions as questions arise and for students who are ready to go ahead. Provide an extra step or challenge for early finishers. This will give you time to really help the kids that need it. 

3. Set the expectations before they begin. For instance, discuss what good choices are and bad choices are regarding the tool. Consequences for going off task? What is considered off task? What does a good researcher look like? Etc. 

4. Provide tools that enable students to solve their own problems. For questions, a teacher’s role in bringing technology into his or her classroom is not to teach how to do everything, but to provide tools for students to discover solutions on their own. For instance, you can remind them that Google and YouTube how-to videos can be used to help them. Encourage them to problem solve by using the Help feature in an application or google their question.  IT and Tech experts do it all the time!

5. Use the students. Enlist helpful or “techy” students to help out their peers. You can even have a lanyard attached to an “Ask Me” sign they can wear, which turns into quite a badge of honor. 

6. WALK AROUND! Technology should never be left unmonitored. The more you walk around the less funny business will happen and the more you can correct misunderstandings about the assignment. You can also give hints for how to do things, even if you refuse to tell them! 🙂

 

Here is my lesson for My Maps. This application can be used to annotate a story that takes place in different settings, create a travel journal, map out empires on a modern map, map a pilgrimage or historical journey, calculate distance and area, etc. Students can work together on the same map from different places and computers. They can add drawings, videos, writing, and pictures.

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