Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Classroom Crib Continues To Evolve

Change Is Necessary Again

Back in August of this year, I introduced my newly redesigned "classroom crib" on a blog post discussing a few of the benefits of designing your classroom with a purpose in mind. Well, we are starting the 2nd 9 weeks of school and it continues to evolve and change! I have taken out a couch and have moved a few pieces of furniture to meet the needs of my students and their learning. Floor space and mobility are key components when you start to fill the classroom with little bodies and mobile devices. Its so difficult to know whether your design will be functional until you see students in action on a daily basis. So you begin to adjust and tweak a little here and there until the students begin to move in ways that suits the climate of the classroom. The conversations and environment play a very important role in "building relationships" and collaboration between students MUST be "purposeful". 

What I Have Learned

I continue to learn that "relationships" are what brings life to the classroom. The conversations between students and their peers begin to take a more "purposeful" meaning in a way that students feel safe and happy. These observations, along with other key factors, are impacting student success on a higher level of engagement. Students feel comfortable talking to their classmates and the environment gives the classroom a sense of "purpose". This has been my goal this year to bring this kind of learning into my classroom. I want students to feel "empowered" when they walk into my classroom and that they "matter" to others around them. I believe that designing a classroom with these goals in mind, can help students feel successful so that they can "empower" others in the same manner. I see and hear their conversations and watch their learning begin to unfold in in "purposeful" play!  I continue to learn and grow in my learning each day as I watch my students learn from each other. Their English language is growing exponentially as their conversations are more meaningful and richer. I have introduced new technologies this year, music during transitions, which the students love, to shake things up a bit. They have more time for independent reading with their small pillow while the lights are turned low. They walk around with their iPad with "pride" and hug it like a book, so loved, yet so powerful. This kind of environment has changed my students to be learners of "compassion" and it has changed their teacher to be a "change" agent in her classroom. What a blessing! 










Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Classroom Google In A Primary Classroom...Oh Yes!!!!



Its October and I haven't posted any new learning since school started!!! Its been a rather hectic start to the school year with new curriculum in both math and science that teachers in my district are learning new content at the speed of light!! But the learning in my classroom has been so inspirational that I have enjoyed creating new "digital lessons" that have empowered my students in new ways!

My new favorite tool that I will be discussing on this post is ClassroomGoogle. I first heard about it this past summer as they were getting ready to roll it out at the start of the school year. I began looking at videos on +YouTube to help me get a better understanding of its platform. I was so amazed by its "user friendly" platform that I instantly fell in love with it. So I began "tweeting" out ways other teachers were using Classroom Google and instantly received a wealth of knowledge by my PLN on +Twitter . 

I decided to use it as an "exit ticket" for reading comprehension with the new #GRA14 Read Aloud that started this week on Edmodo by my dear friend +Pernille Ripp. I always look forward to this time of year as the Global Read Aloud kicks off the fall season! Inferencing and drawing conclusions are two "huge" skills that students must be able to do independently if they want to be great life long readers. So Classroom Google was an easy and fun way for 3rd graders to practice these skills and participate in discussions. You can bring in images, links, YouTube videos as short introductions to a specific lesson. Using it as an "exit ticket" is a great way to informally assess comprehension by students when discussing various topics. Also using it in math as a way to bring in background knowledge or flipping the classroom. But the cool thing about Classroom Google is the integration of Google Drive. Students in my classroom have gmail accounts so this makes it so easy for students to upload content created straight into a folder the teacher has created or their very own google drive. Its a "one stop" place for learning to be seamless and fun!! My goal is to move in this direction where the students are uploading assignments to their google drive or a shared folder created by the teacher! The students seem to be enjoying Classroom Google and its "user friendly" platform. Here is the link to my Classroom Google and what kinds of activities the students have participated in. I did forget to mention one very important piece and that is that students and or district must have the GAFE tools in order for you to use Classroom Google or have access to it. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

New Classroom Crib

The Good The Bad and the Old Way


Week one is done and the students have been introduced to their new "classroom crib". You see, I'm not thinking about how many rows of desks and chairs I'm going to have or how these desks are going to be arranged to best fit "my needs". Its not about me and how the classroom will look. Its about what's best for my students and the conversations they are going to be having with each other to have "purposeful" learning. Classroom design is a huge undertaking on every teachers "to do" lists when school begins. Teachers spend hours designing and redesigning desks and chairs over and over to get their classrooms ready for back to school. This summer I read lots of PD books and classroom teacher blogs that "inspired" me to redesign my classroom much differently than last year. One of my favorite books titled "The Third Teacher" was an excellent resource that helped me design my classroom with a sense of "purpose" this year. I continue on this journey of "redesigning learning" and that also includes changing my classroom to be an environment of "deeper conversations" and "out of the box thinking". 

Classroom Crib Challenge

I came across a challenge this summer mentioned by my dear friend +Erin Klein and how classroom design can affect student learning to be more "purposeful" and "fun" all at the same time. So this year, I decluttered my entire classroom after moving to a different hallway, and redesigned with a "purpose" in mind. Erin talks about color scheme, organization, collaboration with peers and how the environment plays a key role in student engagement. Another blog that inspired me was +Nicholas Provenzano and how he was going to transform his classroom this next school year. I can't wait to read his blog and learn from other educators who are taking the "plunge" into redesigning their classrooms.

Classroom Design Matters

How we design our classroom matters and it matters to the students who are actively participating in discussions and project based learning. It matters when I ask them for feedback and what I need to do to make it a fun and inviting learning environment. It matters when they tell me that their favorite learning space in the classroom is the "big joe iCafe" lounge area and how it makes them feel special! This kind of feedback matters so that I can continue to provide a learning environment that helps my students feel safe and take risks in their learning. It matters because ELL learners and all learners need to feel a sense of "purpose" in their lives and how they can connect with other students from around the globe to share their learning. I am so excited about this year and the new challenges brought before us! I hope our new "classroom crib" has inspired you in some small way! I want to thank all those educators before me who have given me a sense of "purpose and change" (my @getoneword) to be a better and more innovative instructor to help my students have a more purposeful learning experience this 2014-15 school year! Here is a small video of my new classroom crib and some before pictures of a "once upon a little bilingual classroom". 

My New Classroom Crib



Once before of what it used to look like.....




Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Comprehension Through Conversations

     Its our first week back in school and it has been a busy one to say the least! This summer I read several PD books to help strengthen our comprehension through "purposeful" conversations. One of those books was titled "Comprehension Through Conversations" and "Writing About Reading". Both of these books were excellent resources to add to my PD shelf and would highly recommend them for all K-8 educators. Our campus is on a mission this year to teach reading comprehension through purposeful conversations by allowing students to express themselves in a more "meaningful" way. This week I read Jamie Lee Curtis' books to model "turn and talk" lessons so that the students could be introduced to how these lessons should look in a classroom. Inferencing skills are very difficult for ELL learners and it takes lots of practice to be able to infer the author's point of view when reading an article or short story. Turn and talk conversations between students will help strengthen their comprehension through deeper questioning skills and allow them to ask questions for a better understanding of the story. These lessons will also be carried out in all subjects to continue strengthening student conversations. The video link below will give you ways to plan and implement "turn and talk" lessons in your classroom to help strengthen student conversations in a more "purposeful" way. Here are several of my students practicing "turn and talk". We practiced modeling lots of lessons last year and established some rules during a turn and talk session. There are so many variables that take place. For example, how do students ask questions, listen to their partner and look at each other during a session? These are all very important skills that must be modeled over and over by the teacher. The conversations need to be "purposeful" so that students can make real life connections to their own lives. I walk around and listen to their conversations. I give them some kind of signal, clapping or counting down, to come together as a group when our time is up. Then I ask for volunteers who would like to share their conversations with the class. Some did not want to share at the beginning but now they all love sharing and talking! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Grab A Seat...Let's Get This Digital Learning Started!

     


     Its August and yes that "back to school" mind set is here in full force! As the summer comes to an end and your mind is filled with new ideas from books that you may have read, classroom designing trends you have seen and new curriculum at the forefront of it all, I still get excited about welcoming my students on the first day! School is just two weeks away and I can't wait to see my students and hear all about their summer. This year, I have added lots more maker spaces in my classroom, some new furniture added to our spaces and a few surprises as well. 
     Last year, I did not have desks and chairs in my classroom and my students LOVED having that kind of freedom! So at the end of last year, I had to pack my entire classroom and move to a different hallway. This allowed for me to think about how I would design my room to meet the needs of my students in a 1:1 iPad environment. I love the design process and I'm anxious to hear the feedback from my students when they enter my classroom on that first day. They will be given the opportunity to change anything that may fit their needs more effectively. Though these are returning students I had last year, I still want to be able to give them those opportunities to share their thoughts with me. After all, this IS their classroom where creative thinking and designing will be taking place all year long. So a few of my followers wanted me to post pictures of the design process. I still have a few more pieces of furniture to add, Hokki Stools coming in October from our first +DonorsChoose.org project that was funded and can't wait for my students to use them and get our learning on! Here is a glimpse into my classroom and the new maker spaces I have created throughout the room for more collaboration and shared learning between my students and connected classrooms around the world! I will post my final design floor plan next week with a short video describing each space. Happy designing!


 My favorite space....Big Joe Cafe
(chairs bought at Walmart and are called Big Joe's, come in many styles and colors, as well as black coffee tables; leather ottoman was bought from a friend. Chairs are like bean bags and can easily move around as needed


Picnic table was a gift from one of my parent volunteers and totally LOVE IT!!!

 Student collaborative space with dry erase board where students can use to write down their thinking strategies, questions, workflow using a certain app, etc. This is more of a "Think Tank" space for student lesson designing. Chairs will be replaced with our new Hokki Stools coming in October...yipee!!!!


Teacher table right in the center of room towards the back for small group math and reading instruction. I have a great view of all maker spaces in my classroom. Chairs will be replaced with stools bought from JoAnn's Fabric (not pictured yet)


Another maker space where students can work and share collaboratively with each other. iPad cart will be stationed next to table. A small mobile dry erase board (not pictured) will be handy for students to use for lesson designing and thinking

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Change Is Empowering

   
      A recent post on my blog titled "Summer Blessings" recaps my summer activities thus far. I talk about my growth as an educator both professionally and personally and the many ways that can happen. My principal +Kyle Chambers  gave us our summer book to read titled "One Word" and I started thinking about what kinds of "changes" were going to take place in my classroom this next school year and how I was going to keep changing and growing as an educator. The word "change" is uncomfortable for most. It brings "unsureness" of what lies ahead. It creates anxiety, fear, less motivation to try new things, peer learning resistance and collaboration but that word has a POWERFUL message when you think about it! So during my long runs (long distance runner) I thought about our campus "one word" which is "empower" and I decided to begin by changing the name of my blog to reflect our campus "one word" so that it has a greater purpose for students, parents and our community! It's a word that all learners can embrace no matter their background or life experiences. But those changes must be reflected through all my social media platforms such as +Twitter+Instagram+Pinterest , +LinkedIn and +Google+. I'm sure there are others but these are the ones I check on a weekly basis. 
     To "empower" students learning, you must "change" the way learning occurs in the classroom so that students begin to embrace and inspire others in their creative thinking process and share their learning on a global scale. I challenge all educators and administrators to find their "one word" so that you also may be empowered to change in some small way! I thank my principal +Kyle Chambers for putting this book in my hands and continue to be a positive influence on my campus for students, teachers and parents. I highly recommend reading it as he "empowers" his staff to make this next school year the best one yet!! So the name of my blog will now reflect my campus' purpose for this next school year, "Infusing Technology To Empower All Learners" and look forward to a great 2014-15 school year! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer Blessings!

   

 Its been a little over a month now that school has ended and I am finding myself with lots of time for reading, swimming, biking and running! Its a time to unwind from the hectic schedule of school and find ways to grow professionally and personally. I have read a total of five books, three are for professional development and the other for a little pleasure reading. Titles include, "Comprehension Through Conversation", which I HIGHLY recommend, "Writing About Reading", "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" and "Gone Girl". My principal also gave us our short summer PD book, "One Word", which has challenged us to look deep within ourselves to find our "one word" before the start of the school year. I am happy to say that our campus "one word" for the 2014-15 school year is "empower"!! I love this word because it has a "purpose" that resonates with me on so many levels of teaching! It brings a strong sense of ownership to learning and gives students a voice to make decisions that will affect them the rest of their lives! 
     Summer is also a time for reconnecting with old and new friends past and present! These friendships sustain us when times get hectic in our daily lives. I'm thankful for my friends that encourage me to dream big and have fun all at the same time. Family of course can help bring back a sense of normalcy whatever that may be. There are no schedules, homework, alarm clocks going off and rushing out of the house to beat the school zones!! When you have teenagers in the house, some who are working, sleeping and eating are summer survival mechanisms that seem to be the only thing important these days! Of course, social media begins to take a higher precedence in their lives from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. More time to text, facetime, @snapchat, tweet and gain new followers on @Instagram and catch up on Netflix shows (I'm just as guilty) to watch. 
     Summer will be gone in a flash and I will be back in the classroom rearranging my furniture to get ready for another exciting year! I have so many ideas stored in my head for this year to continue our digital learning in a 1:1 iPad class. My new "hokki stools" from @donorschoose will arrive in October and I can't wait to get those in my hands. I have purchased some new bean bags to place around the room and will be setting up our new picnic table that was given to me as a gift this past year. This year I would like to add two swings in my classroom. I got this idea from an @instagram pic I saw from my friends @remind. I thought it was brilliant but don't know how I'm going to get that done with a little engineering consulting on the side (tile cork board ceilings). After I had all my desks and chairs taken out of my classroom last year, it transformed my classroom's learning in more ways imaginable and not to mention how that impacted my teaching as an educator. My summer continues with on demand PD at my fingertips through Twitter, blogs, #rscon5, #googlehangouts and lots more reading! Summer 2014 will be in the past and a new adventure will begin in my classroom with lots more new ideas, connections to cherish, classes to connect with and students to "empower" and "inspire" them in their learning!! For this I am blessed beyond measure! Happy summer!