Friday, April 29, 2016

To Seesaw or Not to Seesaw?


This year, we are 1:1 in 5th grade with iPads. One of the apps my students have come to know is Seesaw. We were using Kidblog until it was no longer a free service. This bummed me out for a solid two days. However, I'm moved on and living life just fine without it. 

Read more about all that Seesaw offers here

One of the features I really like on the website are the Activity Ideas in the Teacher Resource bank. These gave me an idea of how to get started using Seesaw.  

Here are some Pros and Cons of using Seesaw:
(Please note these are all my opinions based on my experience as a classroom teacher)

The positives:
  • All posts require approval. These gave me an opportunity to review all posts before they were viewed by my students. 
  • Parents can login and view posts, comment on posts, and see what their kids are blogging about. I had several parents leave comments, like posts, and view content each day.
  • Seesaw sends a "This Week in Review". You can see the traffic on your site, parent visits, student logins, etc. 
  • Students can upload pictures, record video, draw something, add links from the internet, etc. The feature we used the most was "Note". 
  • Students can upload a picture and annotate on top of the picture. This is great for labeling diagrams or working through math problems.
A few Cons:
  • In the "Note" section (where we blogged) there are no formatting tools.  They couldn't change the size, make proper headings, officially indent, etc. 
  • If they don't finish an activity and they log off.. Poof! It's gone. (This has been our experience..)
My Wishes for Seesaw (is anybody reading this?):
  • Give students an opportunity to upload a photo and type text with it. Similar to Kidblog or another blogging platform.
  • Add formatting features in the Note section so we can take our publishing up a notch. 
  • Save drafts! Please let us save. Sometimes we have to take breaks with projects on our iPads and don't always finish in one setting. 
  • Let us save! Sometimes we want to keep the work we publish on Seesaw. It would be GREAT to be able to save those things to our camera roll for future portfolios. 
To wrap it up, I'm a big fan of everything that Seesaw offers. I think you should jump on board and give it a whirl.


P.S. Some of "My Wishes" may actually be a reality on the app... and I may have not figured them out yet. :)





#AprilBlogaDay

Whew - It's been a while sweet blog. I'm in a bit of a bloggy funk and can't quite find the direction I want to go with my sharing.  I'm a bit of an over-sharer in my personal life, so it's a bit surprising that I can't figure out my why for sharing here. At home, my husband is reading the book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity. While he's been reading, we've chatted about different things in the book and one of the topics is mind-mapping. 

Humph. 
I use mind-mapping all of the time in my classroom, but it never occurred to me to apply this logic to my own life outside of school (What? Life outside of school!? Just kidding...) 

The other night, I began to mind-map my summer plans and my blog ideas. Before long, I had a laundry list of things I wanted to share in all aspects of my life. 

So - I'm back! 

Our morning procedure is a bit rushed due to specials beginning at 8:15 and kids arriving at 7:50ish. We have a small window of time to unpack, write down daily assignments, and get prepared for the day. As the year is winding down, I noticed the kids are quite savvy with their morning procedure and had quite a bit of free time in the morning. While, of course, I encouraged morning reading.... that was not always the popular activity in the morning. I get it... they wanted to chat, catch up with friends in the 15 hours or so that they hadn't been together.

Enter... #AprilBlogaDay!


Using the online journal, Seesaw my students wrote one blog entry per day in the month of April. I asked for student suggestions on topics (or hashtags) and I created an anchor chart to display. It was one brilliant student idea to make Fridays a "catch up" day. 



As a class, we created a few ground rules. These ground rules really set the pace for our blogging experience. Since Fridays were "Catch up & Comment" days, we even had great discussions on leaving positive, specific feedback to our peers. It was amazing to see how students were helping one another edit and proofread their post. Plus... they are really good at finding the perfect emoji for every.single.occasion. 

While I gave my students the opportunity to submit ideas for the blog, I, of course, had to add in a few of my own. After a morning of blogging about #chicken (I heard about all kinds of chicken.. baked, fried, grandma's, KFC, using it for fish food....) I asked the students to blog about reading. A student piped up, "this was your idea wasn't it, Mrs. Robertson?" :)

Something I really enjoyed about my student's blog posts was what they chose to share. I learned so much more about my students through their blog posts. Some blogged about school, family, siblings, weekend activities. While they were blogging, I was able to "talk" to each one of my students because I could comment and ask them questions after they published. 


Today, I created a Padlet for kids to submit ideas for our "#EndofSchoolBlogaDay". I'm excited to see what they come up with!

Check out my blog post on the pros and cons of using Seesaw in the classroom. 



Saturday, February 27, 2016

Thinking Caps ON! STEM Challenges in Science

What happens when you give students a random assortment of materials (rice, popsicle sticks, straws, tea bags, glue, jelly beans, and toothpicks... to name a few) and challenge them to create something? Magic! Magic happens! This year, I've really embraced STEM challenges in my science classroom and I strongly believe you should do the same.  I can't take credit for these incredibly creative challenges. SmartChick Teaching has been my source of inspiration! I highly encourage you to check out her TpT store here

Here's a recap of the there projects we've competed in 2016:


While studying animal adaptations, students were challenged to create a bird's beak. Their beak could be designed to pick up rice, beans, lentils, or seeds. As you can see below, some groups wanted to "be the bird" and truly experience this STEM challenge!

 

My students are currently in the midst of their American Revolution unit. I wanted to join in on the fun in science... so we created structures to keep tea bags dry when dumped in the Boston Harbor. Originally the task was to create a "crate", however... I was flexible with different designs that were presented. I couldn't crush the creativity happening in the room! 



We even had a live stream of the Boston Harbor playing through our Apple TV.  We decided it wasn't the best idea to stand in a semi-circle around the table for the rest of the day, so we played a live feed and continued about our business. 

By the time the end of the day rolled around, all of the tea bags were still dry... we had to sink them. It was very exciting! 

Our latest project was building geodesic domes out of jelly beans and toothpicks. Students had to build the strongest structure. To find the winner, we put chapter books on top of the structure. The current champion held 13 chapter books! It was incredible.



During this project, I felt like I was the host of a cooking show. Bouncing around from group to group, channeling my inner Giada De Laurentiis, asking each group to tell me about their project and asking, "why did you decide to use a jelly bean that way?" 

At the conclusion of each project, we've debriefed and had great conversations about what went well, what didn't work out so well, and what we learned about engineering. After every project, each class has commented how powerful it was to work as a group because everyone offered great ideas and contributed to the genius of the project. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Arkansas? CHECK!

Before I was a homeowner, I had the great pleasure of renting a duplex from an amazing couple. They are both living the dream of retirement, but you would never know because their day planner is quite full! 

Among the countless hobbies they enjoy as a couple, they also have traveled the entire country together. Throughout their marriage, they have visited (almost) ALL 50 states together. I find this feat rather remarkable and I challenged my husband to do the same with me. 

Don't get me wrong... I could go for another week in the Dominican Republic, but I'm ready and willing to check out good 'ol U.S. of A's beauty as well. 

For Valentine's Day, we checked off one of our neighboring states and officially visited The Natural State. 


May not seem like most to some.... but boy-oh-boy, I enjoyed every minute with my Valentine and two best friends!

More to come on our Eureka Springs trip in a future post. 

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hear Us Out! Subscribe to our YouTube Channel!

Do you ever have grand ideas for a project and then step back from your incredibly elaborate ideas and think to yourself, "how in the heck am I going to pull this off?" 

OR! 

Have you ever continued with the incredibly elaborate project idea.... and then when you're in the thick of it you think, "Oh crud. How are we are going to pull this off?"

Luckily, this was one of those times were I took the advice of my co-collaboraters and we took the project down just a smidgen and it's been in-cred-ible. 

Instead of attempting to manage a full fledged newsroom, we decided to have our classes create original "Opinion Talk Shows".  Our writing focus for this quarter is opinion writing, so what better way to share our opinions than to write it AND share it on YouTube?

To kick off the project, we decided as a class to name our show, "Robertson Rivals". Each week, one small group gets the opportunity to take one of their published opinion pieces and transform it into a script for a talk show. 

Behind the Scenes

Small groups collaborate through Google Slides to write their script and decide on specific "parts" for the talk show. 

Our inspiration for opinion topics come from Scholastic News Magazines. Our more popular debates have been...

Should participation count as a grade?
Does everyone deserve a trophy?
Should students have homework over breaks?
Should schools make up snow days on Saturdays?

We invite YOU and your students to subscribe to our YouTube channel and weigh in on these topics. My students love watching the "views" number spike and hearing feedback from other kids (some even in our building) about their talk show!


Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Little Cheesy

The past few years I've enjoyed standing in the treats aisle at the grocery store trying to think of puns for my student's valentines. My husband is the king of punny thoughts so I highly enjoy naming off candies and treats and asking him to come up with something.  A yearly activity I plan to continue for-ev-er. 

Gosh... Married life is the best. 


 Last year I thanked my students for making me "Snicker" everyday...

In the past, I've made things "O-Fish-AL" about my appreciation for my students. 

This year, I'm just plain cheesy. :)




Happy Valentine's Day (week) to my fellow teacher friends! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

KAHOOT!

Looking to try something new in the month of February? My suggestion: Kahoot!

We just can't get enough of Kahoot around these parts! 

Before Christmas, I took the plunge and created a study guide for our solar system assessment on Kahoot's game-based response system.  Since then, my students have been begging and begging to play again! I knew the end of our animal classification unit was around the corner, so I created another study session for this week. 

Engagement was through the roof! My students love the instant feedback and competition. I love the excitement over the content, how easy it is to create, and the feedback I receive from the teacher's perspective. 




So far, I've only utilized the "Quiz" portion of Kahoot.  I haven't used the "Discussion" or "Survey" features yet. 

Do you have any great quizzes to share? I love to share! Share with me and I'll share with you!

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