Category Archives: Student Response

Living on the Edge – of a Volcano

Long ago – during the first semester – my GT 3rd graders decided that they wanted to do their Genius Hour project on volcanoes.  (My 3rd grade class is only 3 students this year, so they are doing their project together.)  To narrow things down, we decided to learn more about shield volcanoes.  Specifically, Kilauea.

You can probably see where this is going.  After months of research, writing a script for a newscast, dealing with many device issues and lost footage, we finally had everything together.

Then Kilauea erupted.

Actually, of course, Kilauea has been erupting.  For years.  But in the last few weeks it has been more insistent on being noticed.  A neighborhood needed to be evacuated because lava flowed into it, and the toxic fumes aren’t too hospitable either.  In addition, more violent eruptions may happen in the near future.

Our video needed to be rewritten and re-filmed.  Again.  The students, of course, wanted to keep all of their “humorous” sections.  I wanted to make sure it didn’t look like we were making light of a serious situation that has caused Hawaii’s governor to declare a State of Emergency.

I think we balanced things out.

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Click here to see our Kilauea video!

 

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War

One of the sessions I attended at TCEA 2018 was presented by a group from Richardson ISD.  #4CoresonFire focused on some cross-curricular activities using tools that I’ve used before.  However, I got some great integration ideas I hadn’t thought of – which makes the session a success in my book.

One of the teachers described how she had used StoryCorps and Newsela to start a unit about the Civil War.  (Here are my previous posts on StoryCorps and Newsela.)  I starred my notes wildly as she spoke; this is my secret code for, “USE THIS AS SOON AS YOU GET BACK TO SCHOOL!”  My 5th graders were about to read the chapter in The Giver that describes Jonas’ first introduction to the concept of war, and I knew these would be great connections.

In the lesson described at TCEA, the teachers posed the question, “When do the costs of war outweigh the benefits?”  Their students discussed this, and then watched, “The Nature of War” on StoryCorps.  After a post-video discussion, the students read an article about the Civil War in Newsela (you do need to register for free to read the articles).  Then they launched into a study of the Civil War in their history class.

I tweaked the lesson to use with The Giver.  I used Pear Deck to give an interactive, student-paced lesson.  Here is the link.  If you want to use the presentation as intended, you will need to register for Pear Deck.  You can find out more about Pear Deck, as well as a link to get a premium code that lasts the rest of this school year, here.  Also, the StoryCorps video link is embedded.  Do to our district filters, students had to log in to YouTube on a separate tab before they were able to watch the video on their own devices.

I chose to use an article from Newsela about, “Just War Theory.”  Student responses at the end of the presentation varied widely from their initial ideas about whether or not war is ever justified.  Many of them agreed with the quote I posted at the end about war being banished from the earth – until I brought up The Giver.  There is no war anymore in this dystopian world, but there is also no freedom.

Is it possible to banish war without giving up most of our freedom?

That was a discussion that definitely engaged the class!

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Pear Deck

Hello everyone – reporting to you from TCEA 2018 in Austin, Texas!  My partner in crime, Angelique Lackey, and I arrived yesterday just in time to attend a session on Pear Deck in the morning.  JP Hale was the presenter, and he did a great job showing us the multiple uses of this tool as well as how to get started with it.  After we saw his presentation, we decided that it would behoove us to try Pear Deck out on our own presentation – which were giving at 2 yesterday afternoon.

Well, I say “we” decided, but Angelique tweeted this:

The good news is that everything went smoothly and the only regret that I had afterward was that we hadn’t added even more interactive options to our presentation.

What is Pear Deck?  It’s a tool that you can use to invite audience participation as you present.  Anyone with a device and your join code can interact by drawing, adding text, moving icons, etc…  (Some of these options are only included in the Premium version.  Two download a trial copy of the Premium version that will last you the rest of this school year, go here.)  Pear Deck has template slides that you can use, but the great thing is that you don’t have to create your presentation on the Pear Deck platform.  You can import Powerpoint, Slides, and PDF’s into Pear Deck, or you can do what we did- use the Pear Deck Add-On in Slides.

If you have a Google Slides presentation all ready to go, you can just go to “Add-Ons” in the top menu and choose to Get Add-Ons.  This will take you to a site where you can search for and download the free Pear Deck Add-On.  Once it is installed, you can access it through the Add-Ons menu to open a side bar as you work on your presentation.  The side bar gives you buttons to quickly add interactivity anywhere you like in your slides.

As you can see in the image below, we added a Pear Deck feature to the slide that would allow participants to drag an icon to any part of the slide.  During our presentation, we could ask the audience what the hardest part of teaching Design Thinking might be, or what they thought the students would enjoy the most.  We could get instant feedback from over 60 people as each of their icons appeared on our slide. (This picture shows how things looked as we prepared the presentation, not as we gathered responses.)

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Once you are ready to present, you can choose to “Present with Pear Deck.”  Pear Deck will take a moment to process everything, and then provide a slide that prompts the audience to go to joinpd.com and enter the special code to participate.

One thing that I should note is that any special animations or transitions that you may have added in Slides will not transfer when you Present with Pear Deck.  However, that was not a crucial issue for us.

The Pear Deck creator can choose to make the presentation student-paced, allowing everyone to move through slides on their own,  or only allow the audience to see on their devices what you have on the screen.  As you project, you can also decide if you want to show the responses on the screen in real-time by toggling an icon on the bottom right of your screen.  Responses are anonymous, but the teacher can access the names through a teacher dashboard.

We had great fun during a brainstorming activity in our presentation as we scrolled through drawings and text responses. Pear Deck was also an excellent way to give the audience a chance to ask specific questions anonymously at the end so we could respond immediately.

When you are finished presenting, Pear Deck gives you the option to send the entire presentation and responses as a Google Doc to all participants.  This is not only great in situations like ours, but could be wonderful for test reviews in the classroom.

If you want more specifics on Pear Deck, I highly recommend this article by Eric Curts of Control Alt Achieve.  You can learn more about the 21 Pear Deck templates included in the Google Slides Add–On in this post.

Thanks to JP Hale for introducing us to this great tool, and to our patient audience as we tested it out!

 

Loopy

I don’t know how Richard Byrne does it, but he has this ability to suggest technology tools on his blog that fit in perfectly with lessons I am planning for the week.  In this case, I had known about the tool, Loopy, but forgotten about it. Richard recently included it in this post, “Three Good Ways to Create Instructional Animations.”

My 3rd graders are learning about Systems Thinking, which is a pretty hard concept to get across to anyone, much less children who are 8 and 9 years old.  We just completed the book, Billibonk and the Thorn Patch, about an elephant who learns his actions can have far-reaching consequences.  The book portrays some simple feedback loops, so I showed the students the basic ecology loop on Loopy.  Then I let the students try to create their own to represent a portion of the story that we read.

A few caveats before you look at their examples:

  • Loopy was blocked in our district for students, so I needed to log in for them to use it.
  • The Billibonk projects are works in progress at the moment.  Time ran out before they finished, and the text and loops definitely need some revision.
  • I only have 3 students in that particular gifted and talented class, and this is not an activity I would recommend students in large classes do without a lot of scaffolding.
  • These probably won’t make a whole lot of sense to you if you haven’t read the Billibonk book mentioned above.
  • The site does give you an embed code to use on a website, but it unfortunately does not work on this blog.  Therefore, you will have to click on the links below to see the “Loopy” from each student.

The interesting part of this process was listening to my students explain what they were creating, and how eager they were to make complicated loops with many factors.  I felt like they understood systems thinking in a way I’ve never had students “get it” before.  One of my students was so excited about it that he said he was going to show it to his dad at home and create feedback loops to represent other things.  Since my goal is for them to apply this to real life situations, I was happy to hear that.

Billibonk Systems Thinking 1

Billibonk Systems Thinking 2

Billibonk Systems Thinking 3

Depth and Complexity Mats

Sandra Kaplan’s icons for Depth and Complexity are great ways to learn more about topics in every part of the curriculum.  I particularly like the students to use them to help them gather more information when they research.  My 2nd graders are still learning how to apply the icons, so I was happy to see these Depth and Complexity for Critical Thinking Mats on Teachers Pay Teachers.  After downloading these, I printed the colored mats and laminated them for use with my younger students.  They are currently studying the structures of animals.  Before I let them loose on researching their own animals, I wanted to show them the different ways we could look at the information.  I chose some videos about leaf-cutter ants to show the class, and divided the students into groups of 3 – giving each group a different mat with a question about the topic.  As they watched the videos, the students used dry-erase markers to fill in information that applied to their question.  At the end, we put all of their information together into one PDF to share their learning on Seesaw.  (By the way, there are more than 6, but I chose these specifically for this topic.)

This was the first time I had tried this, and I felt that it went really well as it helped the students to narrow their focus and take notes.  Next week, we will synthesize what they have learned about leaf-cutter ants using those notes.

I would recommend this activity for any class being introduced to Depth and Complexity, or to use any time you are showing a video or lecture to a whole class.  The students pay more attention when their video watching has a particular purpose, and it’s interesting to see the different ways that you can look at one topic.  Photo Nov 27, 10 10 19 AMPhoto Nov 27, 10 09 48 AMPhoto Nov 27, 10 11 15 AMPhoto Nov 27, 11 10 46 AM

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C.S.I.

I should probably explain right at the beginning of this post that I am not going to be talking about crime scene investigation.  Or television shows.  Or the fact that I couldn’t stand C.S.I. Miami because David Caruso is a terrible actor.  Or the fact that watching too many episodes of C.S.I. resulted in me being less worried about being murdered in my home than about the idea of a team of people being so horrified by my lack of housekeeping skills that they wouldn’t be able to concentrate on solving my murder.

No, this is a different C.S.I.  This one is a Visible Thinking Routine from Harvard’s Project Zero.  I am a little upset with myself that it took me 27 years to discover these Visible Thinking Routines.  It’s good I don’t plan to retire any time soon…

In this case, C.S.I. stands for, “Color, Symbol, Image.”  Students can use this to reflect on something they’ve read, a video they’ve watched, or anything else they have learned.  From the student responses, teachers can really get a great idea of each student’s comprehension of the material.  It is also what I like to call a “self-differentiated” activity because students of many abilities can use this tool at their own level.

I decided to use C.S.I. with my 5th graders to find out how they felt about the novel we are reading, The Giver.  We haven’t gotten far in the book, so I plan to have them do this same activity after they have finished the story so we can compare/contrast their feelings about it.  Before giving them the green light to start, I showed them this example (thanks to Kristen Kullberg for sharing this and the Kinder example linked below on her blog) from another dystopian novel, The Hunger Games.  You can see a couple of their completed products below. (The sticky notes were added by other students when we did a gallery walk and they could put stickies on the “wow” ideas.)

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Here is a link to the template that we used.  If you teach younger grades, here is an example of a Kinder C.S.I. product. This template might be more useful for younger students (less wordy).

This was a good formative assessment.  The students seemed to enjoy it, and I was able to see that they had already developed some interesting insights about the fictional community in the book.  I’m looking forward to using some more of the Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero!

Send Me a Rainbow

If you teach older students who have their own phones, this might be a fun idea for an impromptu writing prompt.  The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has decided to make more of its artwork available to the public by digitizing it and allowing us to text requests.  Only 5% of its entire collection can be viewed in the SFMOMA’s physical building, but thousands more pieces are accessible through this new feature.  You can text the number 57251, and type, “Send me” followed by a keyword or color.  There’s something suspenseful about the whole endeavor that makes it a bit addictive.

I tried it out by texting, “Send me kindness, ” and received the following, somewhat depressing, reply.

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Maybe kindness was too abstract?  So I tried, “Love.”

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Now remember, this is the Museum of Modern Art, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the answer to my next request.

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Not really sure what the museum bot was trying to tell me there…

Anyway,  I soon discovered that trying to use this activity as a “pick-me-up” was a bit too unpredictable, especially after I received a sad portrait of the war in Iraq after I asked for “home.”  However, my daughter and I did have fun using emojis and asking for pictures of bread and dogs.  (It does work with emojis, by the way.)

Not to be outdone by artifical intelligence, I decided to end our texting communication by asking for something that couldn’t possibly be mis-interpreted in a bleak way by a computer. “Send me a rainbow,” I asked.

And it did.

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