Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Learning with @30Hands

So recently I learned about this great free app called 30 Hands.  Essentially what it does is that it allows you to import images into the app and then the kids can annotate over the images and record themselves speaking.

It's very intuitive and easy to use.  So with my 5th graders I had them go outside and take pictures of different things that showed us parallel, perpendicular, and intersecting lines.  Then we came back inside, uploaded our images to 30 Hands and each student recorded themselves speaking about how each picture was reflective of a certain type of lines.  Some of my students wrote on the images using the editing tools in 30 Hands and some even used Skitch (an app I've previously mentioned) to write on some photos, add them to their camera roll, and then upload them into 30 Hands!

Afterwards you're able to transfer the video they made into your camera roll.  So we then used our Apple TV to broadcast each of our videos so their peers could see.  Each video was about 15-30 seconds long probably.  It was a great way to not only use some technology, but also for the kids to find the examples of math in their every day lives.

I definitely recommend checking out the free and easy to use app 30 Hands, and you can see two of the videos my students made with the app by visiting our YouTube Page.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Connecting w/My Students via "Guys' Lunch"

I believe in the power of connection.  I believe in the impact one adult can make.

In my own life, I've seen how much someone spending time with you can make a difference.  I am the product of the time that other adults have put into me.  I will forever be indebted to the time that my two Youth Ministers spent teaching me just how important I was and helping me find a voice.

In saying that, every year I've done a "Guys' Lunch" with my 5th grade boys.  We meet a few times a year, have lunch in my room and just chat.  Am I leaving the girls high and dry?  No, my female team teacher takes on the girls.

In the years past it has just been a time to get together with my male students and connect and learn what qualities a young man should have.  This year I decided I wanted to do things a little differently.  This group of guys that I have this year are incredibly kind hearted and amazing young leaders.  I wasn't going to have to do a lot of the "expectations" stuff I've done before.

This last year I've also learned a little more about myself.  I'm not young, but I've done some serious growing up this last year.  And because of that I wanted to bring more heart and honesty to my "Guys' Lunch".

Today was our first one (I know I'm a little late to the game).

To say I was floored by my male students would be an understatement.  I was also a little surprised by my honesty.

So today we all gathered in my room for lunch.  We spent about half the time just hanging out and building relationships.

The second half of the time we delved into the lunch's topic which was: the family we come from.  I shared my story of coming from a broken home.  And surprisingly I got a little emotional.  I'm not 100% sure why.  I think it was a culmination of looking at the eyes of those kids that related to my story as well as me actually sharing my story.  You see, I've never actually shared with anyone about the kind of environment I grew up in.  Yes, I've said I come from a divorced family, but that's about the extent I've shared because I've always felt that people didn't need or want to hear my story.

But today, I shared a little of my story.  And the boys each shared whether they came from a home of both parents, one parent, or someone not their parents.  We talked about how the home environment we come from doesn't define us at all.  I shared an example about the person I could have become if I had allowed my circumstances to define me.  And we talked about not judging anyone because of the environment they came from and taking the time to see everyone for who they are.  We also talked about how even the people that look like they have the most perfect life and most perfect family have problems and things they wish they could change.

It was a powerful moment when the boys started sharing stories about how some of them deal with things at home, how some see their parents fight every day, and more.  The honesty in the room was awe inspiring.

Why do I share this story with you?  I want to continually show the power of an adult connecting with a child.  Of reaching more of the child than just the academics.  For when you reach a child's heart, you've really reached them, and I can't wait to see what the future "Guys' Lunches" are going to bring because the boys have requested we do them every other week (they wanted every week, but there's too much going on this spring semester at our school, haha).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How Big Is Your Brave?

I've always been extremely passionate about getting to know my students on a deeper level.  But more than that I've kind of made it my mission as a teacher to make sure every student leaves my classroom knowing that offer something of value to the world.  Knowing that they matter.

This past year I had heard about an incredible movement called the #YouMatter movement on twitter.  This was created by Angela Maiers.  I even got the incredible honor of interviewing Angela on my EduAllStars podcast, and you can watch how inspiring she is for yourself by clicking here.

Well, I really wanted to use that as much as possible this year.  Especially since I was also a part of Classroom Champions that reminds kids of all the value they have to offer.

Then about a week ago I came across an activity Joli Barker did with her students.  If you don't know who Joli Barker is you need to go learn more about her immediately.  She is absolutely incredible.  Extremely inspiring and passionate.  I am so blessed to get to call her a friend even though we've yet to actually meet in person! haha

Anyway Joli wrote a blog about an activity she did with her students using the Tale of Despereaux.  I loved the idea and decided to try something similar with my students.

We've spent a good portion of our year on character development and learning who we are.  So I just asked my students three simple questions.  I asked them

  1. What is your favorite thing about yourself?
  2. What is your favorite physical feature and why?
  3. How big is your brave?
And I let them loose.  Some kids still really struggled with the answers to these questions and it broke my heart.  It showed me that there's still so much work for me to do to reach these kid's hearts and let them know how amazing they are.  But at the same time there were some really amazing responses that I loved reading later.

Here's some of the responses I got from my kiddos.

What is your favorite thing about yourself?
  • My favorite thing about myself is that I'm really artistic because my mom teaches me to draw good. - Garrett
  • My favorite thing about myself is that I clean up the messes I make. - Chaz
  • My favorite thing about myself is that I choose to always be me. - Cade
  • My favorite thing about myself is that I can draw and paint really well.  It makes me feel like I'm the best at what I love.  - Bella
  • My favorite thing about myself is that I'm able to do things that I thought were never possible like stand up for who I am and what I choose to do with my life. - Audri
What is your favorite physical feature and why?
  • My favorite physical feature is that I'm really tall.  It's kinda like if someone is having a bad day and they tell me their problems, it's like they're looking up to me. - Morgen
  • My voice is my favorite physical feature because it allows me to express myself and what I feel. - Kaela
How big is your brave?
  • I think my brave is as big as half the earth. - Parker
  • My brave is not that big, but I can go and stand up for myself when I have to. - Luis
  • My brave is as high as the empire state building because that's what I would bungee jump off of - Blake
  • My brave is not really big. - Zach
  • My brave is so big that when I get older I am going to China to save pandas and protect them from people who are armed with guns and I will help them for anything.  - Hope
  • My brave is pretty big because I will stand up for one of my friends if she can't befriend herself or if she's not feeling well I will be there for her and I will help her go through it. - Gloria
Reading the letters gave me another glimpse into my student's hearts.  Who they are, what they think.  It provides me with so much more information then some data from a standardized exam.

This activity also lead into an side project we're doing called "I'm going to change the world". We got special permission from Melissa Greene to use her song "Imagine" and we're going to make a video expressing the ways that each of my students are going to change the world around them, because let me tell you something, my students ARE going to change the world.

So, take the time today to bond with your kiddos.  To learn what they feel about themselves.  To challenge them to be different, to think outside the box.  But most importantly to remind them that they matter, and that every single person has something of value to offer the world.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Angry Birds and Skitch - Making Geometry Fun!

Part of what I have to teach in 5th grade math in Texas, is some geometry.  My students need to be reminded of things they should have learned in 4th.  Things like edges, faces, vertices, angles, transformations, and the names of 3D shapes.

Since this concept is one that is a review skill instead of learning something new, it can easily become boring to my students.  Last year I came upon this idea on Pinterest and decided to use it again this year because it was such a hit!

To review Geometric Shapes, I found these Angry Bird geometric grids that the students could color and cut out and put together to make some pretty cool 3D shapes.  So the students colored and cut them and put them together and then we talked about the attributes of those shapes.

Then after building all the figures we had I allowed the kids to work in groups to build their own Angry Birds levels out of these little plastic blocks I have.  After building the levels with their groups they set their piggies on the level, and then proceeded to throw their homemade birds at the their levels to "destroy the pigs".  Oh man the kids had such a blast!  What I loved the most though was that I had several students ask if they could gain ideas by pulling up the game on their own phones!  I said sure and the kids took it and ran with it!  I was so proud of their creativity and thinking! And it was just a really fun way to learn!

We also had to review the different types of angles.  So I let the kids go outside and use devices to take pictures of the types of angles they noticed around our school.  Then the kids came back in, used the app "Skitch" to write on their photos and label the angles they noticed.  I then allowed the students to show their angles up on our board via our Apple TV.  It was really cool to see the areas where my kids had noticed angles that I would have never even thought to look!