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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Google in our Classroom: Part 1

This is the first of a series of posts focused on Google in our classroom. We have had a blast using technology this year, and I want to be able to share with you our triumphs as well as growing pains. 

Our year began with the blessing of Chromebook carts to share throughout our school. I currently share a cart with two other teachers. We chose to split and keep a portion of the Chromebooks each day so that they could be used all day, instead of only for a segment.  I have been doubly blessed by gracious donors on donorschoose.org, and have now also added 10 more Chromebooks that stay in my classroom. That gives me 17 CHROMEBOOKS each day, ALL DAY! I love it. 

After attending a Google bootcamp over the summer I came into this school year with numerous ideas. 

**And visions of
grandeur as to how each
and every idea would
play out to utter
perfection without
a flaw**  

Ahem...Back to reality. I stepped into my first grand idea with caution. Which was probably a good thing, because it led to the kind of jump off lesson that kindles a love for learning. (WHEW) The title of our first assignment was "Picture This". For this activity my students used Google Slides (preset with a snapshot...taken by yours truly) to apply their knowledge and understanding of pronouns and reflexive pronouns. Below I'll give you a brief play by play of how I rolled this out in my classroom. 

Day 1: Introduction
Day one was very simple and mostly whole group. 
**Before class I had preselected a photo taken earlier in the year and added it to a Google slide.**

To begin our lesson I pulled up my Google slide on our active board. They instantly noticed the photograph (especially students who were in the photo 😊) and engagement was instant. During our whole group lesson I gave a basic run down of how to use Google slides: how to insert text, change the color, insert clipart, and speech bubbles. Very basic, very simple. I chose not to go into great detail, because I wanted this to be a chance for my students to grow and learn through experience. Throughout this lesson I called "AllSTAR" students up to help me add each new element to the slide, so that it was more than just me working through.

Day 2: Debrief and Discuss
This day began with a brief review to see what my students could remember about the basic elements of adding things in Google slides. After our debrief students were assigned to groups and given a Chromebook. I placed them into groups of 3 (mostly because at this point in the year we had only 8 Chromebooks and not 17). Once in their groups students logged into Google slides and opened their assignment to view their team picture. Some groups had their members present in the picture, while others had a picture that did not include anyone from that specific group.

**Quick sidebar: For this first assignment my district, and I were still working out the kinks of having students in elementary log on to use the Google apps. For this assignment they had to log in as me to have access. This is now remedied and they each have an email and have been connected to my Google Classroom!!!! Much better arrangement. If you have any questions about this, or ideas to help you implement Google Apps in your classroom please comment below.**

Day 3-4: Off to the Races

This was probably the most anticipated day for my students. This was the day the actual group work began and teams began building their Google slides. Let me just say......🙌 AMAZED! I stood in awe as they changed the background color, changed the font, added amazing clipart to give their slide a theme, etc. My students ROCKED it! I was proud that they problem solved and just plain out experimented with Google slides. Their projects turned out phenomenal!
(Here are just a few)




P.S. It was National Talk Like A Pirate Day Photos that were the focus of our Google Slides! 😀

Day 5: Presentation Day!

This was the day that teams got the chance to see their work on the "big screen." Each team came up and shared, loud and proud, their work and what they included! I was so impressed by all they did that I printed out their slides, mounted and laminated them, and am turning them into a class book!

Google Slides are now a staple in our room. The students love creating them, and I enjoy seeing all the ways knowledge and understanding are applied!


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Breaking out of the Box

This year just like many others I have tried to step outside of the box. The box of "the typical classroom." The box of "comfort." The box of the "routine." In my previous post I shared with you a little about my switch to alternative seating. Now I want to share with you about two things that have taken a front seat in my classroom, and changed our ways of learning. 

Google. 
Over the summer I had the opportunity to attend Google camp in my district. I learned so much at this training, and am currently continuing that professional development with Google site training. (Another step outside of the box...I will be presenting at our Pioneer RESA Google Camp this summer!!!!!)

This year my school was blessed with several Chromebook carts to share between classrooms. I also took advantage of partner funding on Donorschoose.org and added another 10 Chromebooks to my classroom. I have truly enjoyed watching my students use technology in meaningful ways! I will post soon to share more of what that has looked like in my classroom. 

Breakout EDU.
At the beginning of each school year teachers in my district are given a grant opportunity through our local EMC. I thought long and hard about what to submit in my proposal, and then remembered a product I had researched several years ago. Breakout EDU. I thought "why not?!?!". Long story short my grant proposal was selected and my classroom is now the proud owner of 3 Breakout EDU boxes. The cool part about these boxes is they offer amazing opportunities for learning!! Even better, it allows an outlet for group work and problem solving that my students have flourished with. 
You can visit Breakout EDU's website for more information on the actual product.

Okay, back to business.
The first day I chose to use these in my classroom I tried to keep it simple. Main reason, my sanity. Alternate reason, fear of the unknown. I began the day by placing 2 of our Breakout EDU boxes at the front of the classroom. This started engagement from the moment my students entered the classroom. They immediately asked *gasp* "What are the boxes for?!?!?!". (Insert instant smile on a teacher's face.) 

Luckily for our first attempt I chose our first subject of the day, so we were able to jump in almost immediately. 
I chose to use our word locks 
to safeguard the prizes inside. For this particular activity, I felt that this was the best application. My students had to complete tasks based on adjectives (our current ELA standard at the time) to figure out the word which would open our lock. My students had to find adjectives around the room and bring them to the carpet. We compiled the list of words and then began discussing similarities and differences in the words. The lesson continued with discussion on how these words, if any, could be grouped together. they had the understanding that there would be two groups, because there were two boxes. My students were instantly engaged and learning was such a pleasure!  

I have used our Breakout EDU boxes several other times throughout the year. Each time a little more detailed than the last. I found that the more I use them the more comfortable and creative I can be. 
**On a separate note: Breakout EDU does offer some predesigned learning opportunities specific to various grade levels. You gain access to these lessons upon purchase.**

The latest time was a bit of work, but super fun. My students had to solve math problems and then riddles to determine their 3 digit or 4 digit lock code. Once inside my students were directed to Google classroom, where they watched a video I had developed explaining the measurement tools in their box, and what they would need to do. 
(Note to self and you: In the future, when requiring students to watch a video of instructions allow multiple computers so that they can view the material in smaller groups. :) )

Students then began working in their groups to complete assignments. I watched as my 7 and 8 year olds collaborated, problem solved, and persevered. 





This lesson was just as much fun for me as it was for my students. It did take some time and effort on my part, but for the learning that was produced it was WELL WORTH IT! So glad I took the time to write the grant that provided these materials. TOO MUCH FUN, and even more to come. 

I hope that you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you. If you have been looking for a way to shake up learning in your classroom, consider looking into Breakout EDU. I have loved it, and am excited to adapt and learn more about incorporating this into our classroom routine. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My Classroom: Alternative Seating

The past two years I have stepped out of the "typical" view of classroom setup, and thought about what type of classroom I would have loved in elementary school. Over the summer, two years ago, I did a lot of research into alternative seating. I spent time looking at the pros and cons of this set up and thought through the implications it held for my classroom. In the middle of last year I jumped in feet first, and haven't turned back. 

It began two weeks before Christmas last year. I began giving my students the freedom of choice in regards to seating. We still had tables and chairs like any other classroom, but what happened in response to choice of seating astonished me. My students very quickly learned what choices, good or bad, can do for you in life and learning. My morning ritual began with these simple words..."make a choice that is best for your learning today." With those words a new classroom culture began.

The two weeks leading to Christmas break gave my students a taste of making good choices for THEIR learning, instead of me choosing for them. Now, I still stepped in at times to make the choice. Occasionally students came in only thinking of sitting next to their best friend, and not about what they needed as a learner. In those instances I would chime in with reminders or simply ask..."have you made a good choice for your learning." Many times they would nod avidly exclaiming "YES...this is a good choice." I would smile and let them continue with this choice until it became an issue. In that moment I would step in and ask that student to move. (My students understood from day one that I had the right to step in and help with decision making if they were struggling.) 

I have been blessed to acquire a host of seating options. In our classroom we have: wiggle stools, rockers, wobble cushions, a standing table with "spooners", buckets, etc. My students took time the first week of school this year to test each option to determine what worked best for them. Below are pictures of what our room looks like. (Minus the kiddos!! :) )
 Scoop rockers

 Hokki Stools- We received these through Donorschoose.org as well

 We now have wobble cushions at our floor table instead of pillows.

This process was scary at first, but I have been amazed at the learning and growth that has taken place because of our flexible seating arrangements. It is thrilling to my soul when students now say, "can I please move, I don't think I've made the best choice." !!!! YES I TEACH 2ND GRADE! Children are phenomenal. They are ready and willing to take responsibility if we just teach them the right way to do that. I LOVE the change that alternative seating has made in my classroom. If you use alternative seating in your classroom please comment below and share your story. If you don't use alternative seating, have questions, or simply want to know more, leave a comment below and I will help in any way I can.




Spooner- We ordered through Donorschoose.org

Catching up...A Fresh Start

Starting a blog is so exciting. Keeping up with a blog...harder than it seems. It's been quite some time since I've last posted, and hopefully that changes today. I sit here, spring breaking from my living room, thinking about my classroom and the fun we've had this year. 

Since we spoke last:
*I served as Teacher of the Year
*My district went through some major changes
*I now teach at a different school in my district
(Fun fact- my school houses only first and second graders for the entire district)
*I have moved into my dream home with my wonderful husband
*My family has gone through some deep heartache
*I have mentored and continue to mentor up and rising educators
...

A lot has happened, but through it all my Lord has been merciful. I am truly blessed and hope to continue sharing my journey with you. 

I'm sorry that this post is somewhat long and more of a "gut spilling" than anything else. Please hang in there with me as I try to do this blog thing the right way. 

Blessings, joy, and happiness to you. 
- Mrs. LaHayne